Tag Archives: California

Trump’s Legal Woes Are just Getting Started

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Watching the right wingers rejoicing at Trump’s self-proclamation of exoneration within minutes of special counsel specifically stating he had NOT been exonerated is kinda sad….for them….but not for America. Because the right only hears news from one or two Trump-promoting websites, they are STILL unaware that Robert Mueller sent most of the obstruction cases were sent over to the Southern District, where Trump is legally helpless to manipulate his way out of them, since he has zero legal jurisdiction. Bwahaha! This will be a real shocker, because they don’t see it coming. It was strategic. It went right over their heads.

The closure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election does NOT mark the end of legal worries for Trump and people close to him. Not by a longshot. Other continuing investigations and litigation are focusing on issues including his businesses and financial dealings, personal conduct, charitable foundation and inaugural committee. This will be that which ends him.

Think about it. Mueller charged 34 people and three companies. Some of those cases resulted in guilty pleas, and one case went to trial, with former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort convicted of eight criminal counts, including bank fraud and tax fraud. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone was indicted in January of this year and pleaded not guilty, but his trial is still pending. There are other cases involving indicted Russians that have not gone to trial. Other prosecutors within the Justice Department will likely take over criminal cases begun by Mueller.

Donald Trump is horrible for America.

Trump will face significant dents in his current jubilation from federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to the legal experts viewing these cases. His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said in Feb. 27 congressional testimony that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is examining Trump’s business practices and financial dealings. Cohen already has implicated Trump in campaign finance law violations to which he pleaded guilty in August 2018 as part of the Southern District investigation.

Cohen admitted he violated campaign finance laws by arranging, at Trump’s direction, “hush money” payments shortly before the 2016 presidential election to porn film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal to prevent damage to Trump’s candidacy. Both women established that they had sexual relationships with Trump more than a decade ago,during his marriage to Melania, soon after the birth of their son, Baron. (As an aside, I have challenged my social media readers to document even ONE DAY that Trump has EVER dedicated to this child since he was born. ONE SINGLE DAY…..and not one person has been able to do that.)

Prosecutors said the payments constituted ILLEGAL campaign contributions intended to influence the election. Under federal election laws, such donations cannot exceed $2,700 and need to be publicly disclosed. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, received $130,000. McDougal received $150,000.

The New York District investigation has involved longtime Trump ally David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper, who admitted to paying McDougal for the rights to her story and then suppressing it to influence the election, an arrangement called “catch and kill.”

Cohen has already said he was in “constant contact” with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and said other crimes and wrongdoing by Trump are being investigated by them. Trump WILL fall, and the Southern District will take him down, but it will be after this one term. Remember, Cohen said he could not testify about the nature of his last conversation with Trump in early 2018 because it was under investigation by the federal prosecutors in New York. They will get him.

A lawsuit filed by the New York state Attorney General’s Office has already led the corrupt Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was presented as the charitable arm of Trump’s business empire, to agree in December 2018 to dissolve, and the litigation continues.

The state of New York is seeking an order banning Trump and his three eldest children from leadership roles in any other New York charity EVER. The state’s Democratic attorney general accused the foundation of being “engaged in a “shocking pattern of illegality” and “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests” in violation of federal law.

Charges stemming from this matter state that Trump and his family members used the charity to pay off his legal debts and purchase personal items. The foundation agreed to dissolve and give away all its remaining assets under court supervision, but the Trump’s have not yet faced a court over this illegal activity. Oh, but they will!

Then come the issues surrounding the emoluments. Trump is accused in a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia of violating anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution through his businesses’ dealings with foreign governments. These are very serious charges that Trump has not been able to beat. The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on March 19 in the Trump administration’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte’s 2018 rulings allowing the case to proceed.

The Constitution’s “emoluments clause” bars U.S. officials from accepting payments from foreign governments and the governments of U.S. states without congressional approval. The lawsuit stated that because Trump did not divest himself of his business empire, spending by foreign governments at the Trump International Hotel in Washington amounts to unconstitutional gifts, or “emoluments,” to the president.

Federal prosecutors in New York are also investigating whether the committee that organized Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 accepted illegal donations from foreigners, misused funds or brokered special access to the administration for donors. The Trump organization seems to have forgotten that Federal election law prohibits foreigners from donating to U.S. political campaigns or inaugural committees, and corruption laws ban donors from making contributions in exchange for political favors.

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in December 2018 that the president was not involved in his inaugural committee, and that the $107 million raised by the committee, which was chaired by real estate developer and investor Thomas Barrack, was the largest in history, according to Federal Election Commission filings. However, there is copious evidence implicating Trump that is on its way back to haunt him.

Under the Constitution, the president, vice president and “all civil officers of the United States” can be removed from office by Congress through the impeachment process for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives acts as the accuser – voting on whether to bring specific charges such as obstruction of justice – and the Senate then conducts a trial with House members acting as prosecutors and the individual senators serving as jurors. A simple majority vote is needed in the House to impeach. A two-thirds majority is required in the Senate to convict and remove.

I don’t think Trump will be impeached, because he has so carefully shielded himself, but he WILL face charges after he is voted out of office in the next election. Just you wait.

How Not to Die

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I am very excited to announce the long-awaited book by my nutrition guru, Dr. Michael Greger.  Folks, this is a revolutionary breakthrough in medical research that will blow your minds!  Pick up a copy by visiting NutritionFacts.org.   This is the book that will change your life forever.  Would make a great holiday gift as well!

Ah, the Conspiracy Theories…..When Ignorance Runs Rampant

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Ah, the Conspiracy Theories…..When Ignorance Runs Rampant

It is a fact that I  have no liberal friends who buy into the notions of conspiracy theories.   All of the liberal friends that I have know how to read research.  They know what reliability and validity mean.  They know that isolated studies do not substantiate anything, and that an empirical body of evidence must exist in support of a hypothesis before one can consider it to be true.  I’m not saying that ALL liberals do….but the ones that I know do, which is probably why we’re friends.

I do have Republican friends and a lot of Libertarian friends who do believe in conspiracy theories, however.  They love to spout off about the “science” they heard someone else talk about at some point in time……with no substantiation, whatsoever.  While I love some of these people dearly, they’re the ones who frequently quote Einstein without a clue about how to interpret his work, the context it was intended for, nor bother to even check up to see if the little Facebook memes they post and attribute to Einstein actually came from the man.

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Take, for instance, the conspiracy theory about chem trails.  The theory is that Bill Gates or, at times, someone else, is spraying the atmosphere with harmful chemicals in order to attain mind control.  Tell me something.  When was the last time you experienced mind control?  I mean…if you’re broke, it’s probably because you can’t manage or earn money…..Not because your mind is being controlled.  If something doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, it probably has to do with the decisions that you make rather than because your mind is being controlled by the government.  Right?    What I don’t particularly understand  about the chem trails conspiracy is this.   Chem trails are made of aluminum, strontium and barium.  Look it up.  That is what they contain.  These things….. Aluminium, Strontium and Barium aren’t even particularly harmful, so my reasoning is that  you are going to imagine a global conspiracy to dose people with stuff you should pick something more dangerous than some random metals.  Right?    You know,  go with drugs or something?

Then, there are the conspiracy theorists who DO go with the drugs theory….saying that the government is putting drugs in our drinking water in the form of fluoride.  Yes, research supports the fact that exposure to excessive consumption of fluoride over a lifetime may lead to increased likelihood of bone fractures in adults, and may result in effects on bone leading to pain and tenderness.  Children aged 8 years and younger exposed to excessive amounts of fluoride have an increased chance of developing pits in the tooth enamel, along with a range of cosmetic effects to teeth.   BUT HOW MUCH FLUORIDE DOES IT TAKE TO DO THIS?  They don’t ever stop to do the research about THIS aspect of the argument.

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The fact is, that the amounts of fluoride used in public drinking water are so small that one would have to consume virtually an entire lake before experiencing the negative results.  The benefits are FAR more prominent, in fact.    Listen to this.  Fluoride exists naturally in virtually all water supplies and even in various brands of bottled water.  IT IS ALREADY THERE.    What’s at issue is the amount of fluoride in water. There are proven benefits for public health that come from having the optimal level of fluoride in the water — just enough to protect our teeth.  In 2011, federal health officials offered a new recommended optimal level for water fluoridation: 0.7 parts per million.  0.7 parts per MILLION!!!  Do you realize how tiny that amount is?

In the 1940s, more than 15 percent of World War II recruits were denied the ability to enlist in the Army because they lacked six pairs of opposing teeth.  The adult human mouth contains 32 teeth, and yet just 70 years ago a large number of 21- to 35-year-olds did not have even 12 good teeth.   Much of the credit for the nation’s better oral health can be attributed to the decision in the 1940s to begin adding fluoride to public drinking water systems. According to the American Dental Association, fluoridation reduces tooth decay in all age groups by 20 percent to 40 percent “even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.”  People aren’t being “dumbed down” by the Federal government due to the addition of fluoride in the water.    I have a friend who keeps saying this, yet when I ask for evidence to support it, all I am told is to look up the website of another conspiracy theorist where there is absolutely ZERO evidence to support this bizarre claim.

Then, there is the whole thing about gun control.  When people quote Adolf Hitler about disarming citizens in order to conquer a nation, they seem to forget that no one has ever turned up a source documenting that Hitler literally said this (or something very similar).   There is absolutely NO evidence ANYWHERE that the man made this statement.  If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to find the original quote….via a RELIABLE source other than that by some conspiracy theorist.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 11.06.33 AM Whether this quote could be considered “true” in the sense that it compactly paraphrases an idea that Hitler once expressed depends upon how one interprets its meaning.

The book Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944: Secret Conversations records Hitler as having said the following sometime between February and September 1942:

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police.

If the term “conquering a nation” in the original quote is interpreted to mean that establishing and maintaining oneself as the autocratic head of a country (as Hitler did in Germany) requires disarming the civilian population, then the Table Talk passage cited above doesn’t really fit — Hitler was speaking of the need to disarm non-Aryans in the parts of Russia that had been occupied by German forces in the midst of a war, not of stripping all Germans of their guns. (And it’s unlikely that Hitler would have expressed such a concept in this context, as the 1938 German Weapons Act passed during Hitler’s rule actually loosened gun ownership rules for non-Jewish Germans.) If the term “conquering a nation” is interpreted to mean that the forcible overthrow and takeover of another country’s government and territory necessitates the disbanding and disarming of even local security forces, then the passage cited above might be considered as expressing the same idea as the original quote.

Gun control is not about taking guns away from American citizens.  It is about using common sense and making it difficult for mentally ill people who are most likely to commit murder, to actually procure weapons.  It is about reducing sales of high powered, automatic weapons that were CREATED to DESTROY HUMAN LIVES and that have absolutely nothing to do with what the founding fathers termed “a right to bear arms” when all they had were muskets that took 5 minutes or so to load with a single bullet.  People who twist the words of the Constitution to include all of these new, unnecessary super weapons are negating the point of what the original framers meant.  I call it cherry picking.

Many of my conservative/libertarian friends still eat red processed meats, drink copious amounts of alcohol and suck on cancer sticks all day long, but will raise issues about how the Federal Government is conspiring against them with this or that “right” being violated.  If they are so concerned about these alleged claims about the government, whey are they doing things to themselves that will, no doubt, end their lives, because valid and reliable scientific evidence supports the harm that these activities cause?  It makes no sense, whatsoever.

The point of all this is that when a conspiracy theorist is cornered and asked to provide substantiation (other than hearsay from other conspiracy theorists), or to present an isolated study that falls apart when tested for reliability and validity, they will try to dodge the question.  Some get mad.  Some claim that they’re not here to do my research for me.  (I love that one….) but, across the board, NONE of them EVER produce scientific substantiation with validity and reliability, that supports a word they say.  Not one.     SO many ignorant people quote science to try to make points when they are not even aware of what the different types of validity and reliability are!  Many didn’t even make it through college and have no idea how to actually read and interpret research.  For instance….reliability.  Here are the different kinds:

  1. Test-retest reliability is a measure of reliability obtained by administering the same test twice over a period of time to a group of individuals.  The scores from Time 1 and Time 2 can then be correlated in order to evaluate the test for stability over time.

 

Example:  A test designed to assess student learning in psychology could be given to a group of students twice, with the second administration perhaps coming a week after the first.  The obtained correlation coefficient would indicate the stability of the scores.

  1. Parallel forms reliability is a measure of reliability obtained by administering different versions of an assessment tool (both versions must contain items that probe the same construct, skill, knowledge base, etc.) to the same group of individuals.  The scores from the two versions can then be correlated in order to evaluate the consistency of results across alternate versions.

 

Example:  If you wanted to evaluate the reliability of a critical thinking assessment, you might create a large set of items that all pertain to critical thinking and then randomly split the questions up into two sets, which would represent the parallel forms.

  1. Inter-rater reliability is a measure of reliability used to assess the degree to which different judges or raters agree in their assessment decisions.  Inter-rater reliability is useful because human observers will not necessarily interpret answers the same way; raters may disagree as to how well certain responses or material demonstrate knowledge of the construct or skill being assessed.

 

Example:  Inter-rater reliability might be employed when different judges are evaluating the degree to which art portfolios meet certain standards.  Inter-rater reliability is especially useful when judgments can be considered relatively subjective.  Thus, the use of this type of reliability would probably be more likely when evaluating artwork as opposed to math problems.

  1. Internal consistency reliability is a measure of reliability used to evaluate the degree to which different test items that probe the same construct produce similar results.
  1. Average inter-item correlation is a subtype of internal consistency reliability.  It is obtained by taking all of the items on a test that probe the same construct (e.g., reading comprehension), determining the correlation coefficient for each pair of items, and finally taking the average of all of these correlation coefficients.  This final step yields the average inter-item correlation.

 

  1. Split-half reliability is another subtype of internal consistency reliability.  The process of obtaining split-half reliability is begun by “splitting in half” all items of a test that are intended to probe the same area of knowledge (e.g., World War II) in order to form two “sets” of items.  The entire test is administered to a group of individuals, the total score for each “set” is computed, and finally the split-half reliability is obtained by determining the correlation between the two total “set” scores.

  Then, there is the issue of validity.   Validity refers to how well a test measures what it is purported to measure.  You have to have validity in research or the research cannot be supported as true.    While reliability, as discussed above,  is necessary, it alone is not sufficient.  For a test to be reliable, it also needs to be valid.  For example, if your scale is off by 5 lbs, it reads your weight every day with an excess of 5lbs.  The scale is reliable because it consistently reports the same weight every day, but it is not valid because it adds 5lbs to your true weight.  It is not a valid measure of your weight.

Here are the different types of validity:

 

1. Face Validity ascertains that the measure appears to be assessing the intended construct under study. The stakeholders can easily assess face validity. Although this is not a very “scientific” type of validity, it may be an essential component in enlisting motivation of stakeholders. If the stakeholders do not believe the measure is an accurate assessment of the ability, they may become disengaged with the task.

Example: If a measure of art appreciation is created all of the items should be related to the different components and types of art.  If the questions are regarding historical time periods, with no reference to any artistic movement, stakeholders may not be motivated to give their best effort or invest in this measure because they do not believe it is a true assessment of art appreciation.

 

  1. Construct Validity is used to ensure that the measure is actually measure what it is intended to measure (i.e. the construct), and not other variables. Using a panel of “experts” familiar with the construct is a way in which this type of validity can be assessed. The experts can examine the items and decide what that specific item is intended to measure.  Students can be involved in this process to obtain their feedback.

Example: A women’s studies program may design a cumulative assessment of learning throughout the major.  The questions are written with complicated wording and phrasing.  This can cause the test inadvertently becoming a test of reading comprehension, rather than a test of women’s studies.  It is important that the measure is actually assessing the intended construct, rather than an extraneous factor.

  1. Criterion-Related Validity is used to predict future or current performance – it correlates test results with another criterion of interest.

Example: If a physics program designed a measure to assess cumulative student learning throughout the major.  The new measure could be correlated with a standardized measure of ability in this discipline, such as an ETS field test or the GRE subject test. The higher the correlation between the established measure and new measure, the more faith stakeholders can have in the new assessment tool.

4. Formative Validity when applied to outcomes assessment it is used to assess how well a measure is able to provide information to help improve the program under study.

Example:  When designing a rubric for history one could assess student’s knowledge across the discipline.  If the measure can provide information that students are lacking knowledge in a certain area, for instance the Civil Rights Movement, then that assessment tool is providing meaningful information that can be used to improve the course or program requirements.

  1. Sampling Validity (similar to content validity) ensures that the measure covers the broad range of areas within the concept under study.  Not everything can be covered, so items need to be sampled from all of the domains.  This may need to be completed using a panel of “experts” to ensure that the content area is adequately sampled.  Additionally, a panel can help limit “expert” bias (i.e. a test reflecting what an individual personally feels are the most important or relevant areas).

Example: When designing an assessment of learning in the theatre department, it would not be sufficient to only cover issues related to acting.  Other areas of theatre such as lighting, sound, functions of stage managers should all be included.  The assessment should reflect the content area in its entirety.

What are some ways to improve validity?

  1. Make sure your goals and objectives are clearly defined and operationalized.  Expectations of students should be written down.
  2. Match your assessment measure to your goals and objectives. Additionally, have the test reviewed by faculty at other schools to obtain feedback from an outside party who is less invested in the instrument.
  3. Get students involved; have the students look over the assessment for troublesome wording, or other difficulties.
  4. If possible, compare your measure with other measures, or data that may be available.

References

American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, &

National Council on Measurement in Education. (1985). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC: Authors.

Cozby, P.C. (2001). Measurement Concepts. Methods in Behavioral Research (7th ed.).

California: Mayfield Publishing Company.

I guess the crux of all this is that if you want to be taken seriously, be able to back up what you say in a way that can be supported by studies that actually measure the thing that is under question (validity) and that have repeatable results whenever a study is repeated more than once.  THEN, I’ll listen to you.

Are you Depressed?

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In my opinion,  psychiatrists should first test their patients for nutritional deficiencies before writing prescriptions for Zoloftor for  antipsychotics, like Zyprexa.  Conscientious doctors send patients to get lab work done prior to prescribing drugs or increasing dosages.  There are times when people do need antidepressants.   However,  other times  spinach would go far to eliminate the symptoms of depression.   Think Popeye.

If you haven’t ever tested your nutrition levels, you might inquire with either your psychiatrist or primary-care physician. Supplements can be expensive, but you can make it back  by not having to see your psychiatrist as often. You should talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re on prescription drugs.

 

Vitamin D

According to my doctor, Vitamin D deficiency is a major epidemic that doctors and public health officials are just beginning to realize. This deficiency has been linked to depression, dementia, and autism. Most of our levels drop off during the fall and winter months, since sunlight is the richest source.   My doctor believes that we should be getting from 5,000 to 10,000 IU  a day.  However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends most healthy adults get only about 600 IUs daily.  Hence, the widespread deficiency and increases in depression.

Magnesium

I am forever extolling the virtues of Magnesium, because this, like Vitamin D, is deficient in most American adults, according to my doctor, and the symptoms are not pretty.  They can, in fact, set off a chain reaction of unpleasant symptoms. Our lifestyles decrease our levels of Magnesium.  Some of the things that contribute are excess alcohol, salt, coffee, sugar, phosphoric acid (in soda), chronic stress, antibiotics, and diuretics (water pills). Magnesium is sometimes referred to as the stress antidote, the “most powerful relaxation mineral that exists,” according to Hyman. It is found in seaweed, greens, and beans. The NIH recommends a daily intake of about 400 to 420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium for adult men and 310 to 320 mg for adult women.  Magnesium Citrate can also act as a laxative, so buy your Magnesium accordingly….and time it well.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I was surprised when my results showed an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency because I eat plenty of salmon and take fish oil supplements every day. That shows you just how much fish — salmon, tuna, halibut — or flaxseeds and walnuts we need to consume to be at an optimal level. These essential minerals reduce inflammation and play a critical role in brain function, especially memory and mood. The body can’t make them, so you need to either eat them or take supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are just one of the supplements I take every day for depression

Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins like vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 can provide some incredible health benefits, including reduced stroke risk and healthy skin and nails. On the other hand, a vitamin B deficiency may impact your mental health. More than a quarter of severely depressed older women were deficient in B-12, according to one 2009 study.

The best sources of vitamin B-6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, and leafy green vegetables. For vitamin B-6, the NIH recommends a daily intake of 1.7 mg for adult men, and 1.5 mg for adult women. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk) and shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and crab. Most adults should need to consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 daily, according to the NIH.

Folate

People with a low folate level have only a 7 percent response to treatment with antidepressants. Those with high folate levels have a response of 44 percent, according to Hyman. That is why many psychiatrists are now prescribing a folate called Deplin to treat depression and improve the effectiveness of an antidepressant. I tried it and it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference; however, I have several friends who have had very positive responses to Deplin. You need not try the prescription form of Deplin. You could just start taking a folate supplement and see if you get any results. Your daily recommended folate intake depends on your gender, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and age. However, most adults need at least 400 mcg daily. You can also get your daily folate requirements by consuming foods high in folate, including dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, and citrus fruits and juices.

 Amino Acids

Amino acids — the building blocks of protein — help your brain properly function. A deficiency in amino acids may cause you to feel sluggish, foggy, unfocused, and depressed. Good sources of amino acids include beef, eggs, fish, beans, seeds, and nuts.

 Iron

Iron deficiency is pretty common in women. About 20 percent of women, and 50 percent of pregnant women, are in the club. Only three percent of men are iron deficient. The most common form of anemia — an insufficient number of red blood cells — is caused by iron deficiency. Its symptoms are similar to depression: fatigue, irritability, brain fog. Most adults should consume 8 to 18 mg of iron daily, depending on age, gender, and diet, according to the NIH. Good sources of iron include red meat, fish, and poultry. If you really want to get more red blood cells, eat liver. Yuck.

 Zinc

This one is SO important!  Zinc is used by more enzymes (and we have over 300) than any other mineral. It is crucial to many of our systems. It activates our digestive enzymes so that we can break down our food, and works to prevent food allergies (which, in turn, averts depression in some people, since some of our mood disruptions are triggered by food allergies). It also helps our DNA to repair and produce proteins. Finally, zinc helps control inflammation and boosts our immune system. The NIH recommends a daily intake of 11 mg of zinc for adult men and 8 mg for adult women.

 Selenium

Like iodine, selenium is important for good thyroid function. It assists the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to the active thyroid hormone, T3. It also helps one of our important antioxidants (glutathione peroxidase) keep polyunsaturated acids in our cell membranes from getting oxidized (rancid). Most adults need about 55 mcg of selenium daily. The best food source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which contains about 544 mcg of selenium per ounce.

Iodine

Iodine deficiency can be a big problem because iodine is critical for the thyroid to work as it should, and the thyroid affects more than you think: your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When it’s not functioning properly, you can feel very depressed, among other things. You can get iodine by using an iodine-enriched salt, or by eating dried seaweed, shrimp, or cod. I take a kelp supplement every morning because I have hypothyroidism. The daily recommend amount of iodine for most adults is about 150 mcg.

Oatmeal, anyone? An Evening with Ottmar Liebert

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When my daughter was small, she would refer to Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert as “Oatmeal”.  “Listening to Oatmeal again, Mom?”  she would ask.

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Last night, we were treated to two hours of this graceful guitarist’s skilled execution of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard.  Liebert was joined by bassist, Jon Gagon and percussionist, Chris Steele.  They had definite chemistry, and put on an ideal show in an intimate Portland venue in the Alberta Arts District.

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© Stacy Alexander

Ottmar Liebert is what guitar playing is all about.  He is in tune with his craft to the point that it seemed, at times, that he and the guitar were one instrument.  He was graceful, and seemed comfortable in his own skin, playing, most of the time, barefoot, with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, riding the waves of his own creations.   I believe he was playing a small DeVoe guitar, but it didn’t have any markings on it that I could see, so I’m not certain that is what it was.

Since 1986 Liebert has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1992 he purchased an “alt-ranchette” just outside the city, with an adobe guesthouse he built as a recording studio.  In May 2006 Liebert was ordained as a Zen monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had a very strong presence….one of peace and goodness.  Both John and I sensed this immediately as we watched him.

(I couldn’t get the video of Luna Negra to embed.  This video (above) is an earlier performance.)

I have been unable to find a video of Jon Gagnon, his bassist, but will post one here, if i do later.  He  was simply put, rock solid in every way.  Jon had a huge presence and voice on a 4 string fretless which sang like an baritone opera singer…or, at times, a French horn.  I couldn’t figure out what one of his bass instruments was at all it.  The one shown here was huge, and had a EB-like headstock and a body shape of something like a JP and a morsh.   Its  tone was full of mwah, but soulful and crying. The  fretboard was  coated with something shiny. I’d not seen anything like it before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.54.47 AMThe drummer, Chris Steele, was not to be believed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.57.15 AMI did find a video of Chris playing, and I encourage you to watch it.  He is truly a unique player, and fantastically talented.

There is a video on YouTube that I couldn’t manage to embed here.  Please look it up.  It is called “Good Drums, Bad Turtleneck” by Chris Steele.  This is the video to watch to really see this man’s talent.  You can find it here:

The Alberta Rose Theater is a sweet little venue….very small and intimate, which was the perfect place to hear a trio such as this.  John and I ate the venue’s delicious  hand pies and sipped Perrier as we basked in the warmth and beauty that these musicians presented to us. We had such a nice evening.   These guys are  true professionals…plain and simple.  They were tight, knew exactly what they were doing, and provided the audience with an amazing show.  ’nuff said.  Well…no….NOT enough said, actually.

As I was sitting there watching these incredible musicians, I though about my dear friend, another musician, and felt so sad that his life has taken the path that it has.  It could have been him up there on that stage last night….but as they say…”When you lie with pigs….”  He has made some not-so-wise choices.   I’ll leave it at that.

Redbird Moonshiner

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My lovely daughter-in-law has the best taste in music.  I am forever learning about new musicians with whom I was not previously acquainted.  She posted this one on her Facebook this morning and I just had to share.  I told her I thought the style was like Eddie Vedder with a soda chaser.

Enjoy Redbird Moonshiner.

The King Returneth… An Uber App Review, Capellini and A Lot of Theatre Talk…

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My husband, John,  returned from the 2014 TCG National Conference in San Diego last night  feeling renewed and excited, having learned a lot more about the play writing arena.  He feels that this conference really helped him elevate his endeavors to a more professional level.   He saw many one act plays and worked with some notable Hollywood writers, such as the guys that wrote the HBO series, “Hung”.

It was fun to see how this conference sparked his enthusiasm and breathed new life into his ardor for play writing.  Can’t wait to see what he does next.  He is now urging ME to write a play and to attend next year’s conference with him.  I hope to be able to do that, but since I still have another year of my grad program to do, it isn’t likely that I will be able to accomplish it just yet.

One can dream, however.

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Global Citizenship is one of TCG’s four core values (Artistry, Advocacy, Diversity and Global Citizenship), underscoring the organization’s  belief that the future of the U.S. professional not-for-profit theatre requires a connection to the international network of theatres, artists and other cultural leaders.   John loved how the group promotes cultural and aesthetic diversity, and learned about many  of those things as they apply to playwriting in this context.

This was a good thing.  I’m so happy that he went, and I love the fire that attending seemed to have lit under him.  His voice sounded so excited as he spoke of it all, and I was glad to hear that. Can’t wait to see what he does next.  He also got some excellent leads toward production deals for his own work.

In other news, I  had a nice meal of capellini with fresh, organic tomatoes, peppers and basil waiting for him when he got home.  I served it with some pistachio-encrusted asparagus and some of the organic zucchini that we picked last weekend, cooked  in a light white wine sauce with Hawaiian sweet onions.  I also made a nice salad of sliced tomatoes, avocado and other earthly delights.  It was delicious, and John was appreciative of my efforts.

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We ate slowly, sipped wine and had a lovely visit after he got home. I loved listening to him talk about his time in San Diego, and I had fun filling him in on everything that has been going on here…and no, this isn’t us in the pic below.  Just illustrating someone else eating FISH, which I, the vegetarian, never eat .

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While in San Diego, John tried out the UBER app on his iPhone for the first time.  He is now quite enthusiastic about it, so I think it will be regularly used during our future travels.  The app is one that enlists a network of private drivers to run a cab service that is a fraction of the cost of regular Taxis….and the experience is much more pleasant than that provided by the usual cab service, so he was happy.

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It is a little hard to explain exactly how this app works, but the concept goes a little something like this:  Users download the app for either iPhone or Android platforms, and then use it to signal their needs for a ride.  Within a few minutes (John reported less than 5 minutes every time he used it.) nice, shiny black cars show up to take users to their destinations.  Since the user’s credit card is already configured to the mobile app used to call for the ride, the payment and tip are both charged automatically, so no cash is exchanged.  John said service was perfect, and that he enjoyed using this app very much.

John and I both love San Diego.  We stay there from time-to-time, in our timeshare near Balboa Park, but this trip was all business, and I was busy here in Portland, so I stayed behind this time.

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I’m glad that he is home now.  He still sleeping this morning, and I am getting ready to make some Meyer lemon pancakes with blueberries.  The aroma will wake him, and when he wakes to the smell of something delicious on the stove, he is in an excellent mood all day…so cooking this morning, is a win-win.

I Saw the Light – Pigeon Point Lighthouse

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We tend to visit Pigeon Point lighthouse every year when we are in the area.  It is located on Pacific Coast Highway #1, near Pescadero, between San Francisco and Santa Cruz and is a lovely beacon for ships in the fog….or at least, it was at one time.    This time last week, I was standing there shooting this little video from my phone.  I saw a big whale pod that day….and seals….and sea lions….and a plethora of waterfowl.  The sun was out and the weather was perfect.  It was a beautiful day.

                                               

built in 1871, Pigeon Point lighthouse, at 115′ tall,  ties with one other lighthouse as one of the tallest on the West coast of the United States.  There are a few small houses there, that serve as hostels.  John and I have always wanted to stay there.  It costs next to nothing, and we thought it would be fun to hang with some of the folks that are passing through the area.  We have simply never gotten around to it yet.  There is a small gift shop and a community barn where musical events and lectures are held occasionally.                                    

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The lantern room of the lighthouse tower is no longer equipped with the original first-order, 1000-watt Fresnel lens, nor is it any longer illuminated for demonstration purposes.  The lens has 24 flash panels, is composed of 1008 hand-polished lenses and prisms and is capable of producing over 500,000 candlepower illumination. It was manufactured by the Henry-LePaute company in Paris and was first lit at Pigeon Point at sunset on what would, one day, be my birthday, on November 15, 1872.  Perhaps this is why I feel such a special affinity for this place.  Funds are being raised to restore it, and at some point, we might be able to walk up the winding stairs to the top.  I hope so!

We always see something interesting when we visit Pigeon point.  This last trip, I saw a fairly large whale pod, but couldn’t identify what kind they were.  This is the only picture I got of their blow spouts, but I did get one ok tail shot. (below)

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We went once during the evening, and as we were leaving, I saw a flash of yellow eyes in the underbrush.  We stopped the car, and I snapped a picture that was completely dark.  However, when I lightened it up with Photoshop, this was what was sitting there!

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Pigeon Point is one of my favorite places to photograph birds, because I can stand on a ledge at eye-level with them, and sometimes above them, and capture some great angles.

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This is the partial jawbone of a young gray whale.  I find it quite beautiful, and love to run my fingers along the cracks and indentations and wonder about the animal…how it died…what it experienced during its lifetime.  I feel honored to touch its bones.

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There are a thousand and one beautiful photo opportunities at Pigeon Point.  In virtually any direction one turns, there is something awesome to photograph.

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We usually see a lot of seals sunning themselves on the rocks below the observation deck.  However, we only saw a couple this time.  They were bobbing about in the water and keeping a look out for one another.

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Being at Pigeon Point always brings a smile to my face.  This day was no exception.

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Waking in the Trees (Watch for the Giant Dragonfly!)

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The road to our friends’, Brent and Susanna’s house is scary at first….but breathtakingly beautiful.  The narrow trail  winds through a redwood forest in the Santa Cruz mountains near Los Gatos, dangerously close, at times, to the edge of the mountain…but the air is fresh and smells of eucalyptus and I get high from the joy of even being there.

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I loved it that our directions told us to “watch for the giant dragonfly”.  I think that summed up the entire experience quite nicely!

Apart from my husband and children, I admire Brent Sumner more than just about anyone…and now that he has married his beautiful love, Susanna, there is another person in the mix to love and admire.   Brent is an artist in every respect of the word.  His entire life is a work of art, and it appears he has chosen the perfect partner to share it all with.  Susanna is a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine and together, they are building a beautiful home on the side of the mountain.

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The instant we arrived, we were surrounded by creativity, art and beauty….not that there is a difference between any of those things.  Brent seems to have mastered the art of living.  He is respectful of the earth, and tries to minimize his impact on it.  He uses things from nature to carve out this incredible existence, and is one true inspiration!

This our car at the beautiful entrance gate that Brent built.

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Their house is a work in progress, still under construction, built into the side of the mountain, almost entirely from recycled materials by Brent, himself.  It is multi-leveled and beautiful and cozy, at once.  When we arrived, Brent was working on the upper level, creating a room for Susanna to practice her Ayurvedic medicine

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The picture above was taken facing the house.  The picture below is of the view from the other direction.  Everything is about nature there.   Everything is beautiful.

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These sweet tempered glass mosaic globes line the walk up the drive to the house.

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They are solar powered.  At night, they glow with beautiful color, lending a magical overtone to the environment.

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There are artful little touches everywhere, such as these mosaics on the steps that were created by Brent’s lovely dynamo of a mum, Dhaj, in her 80’s and currently visiting Turkey.  Dhaj lives in New Zealand, but visits Brent and Susanna when she can. We were sorry to have missed her again this year.  Dhaj is a force to be reckoned with!

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The living room/kitchen of the house is a long, narrow room with a bank of windows that overlooks the mountainside.  Susanna and Brent prepared a lovely dinner for us the night we got there, and a delicious breakfast the next morning.

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brent coffee

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We had cocktails made from the passionfruit that grows right outside their door.  Brent scratched some designs into the fruit even before it was picked.

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Everything about this hobbit house is artful and beautiful.  Brent did a lot of the interior work using his product, Darjit! a sculpting compound that he makes from recycled materials.

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Perhaps the highlight of our stay was sleeping in the treehouse that night.  Brent built this himself, with a little help from his friends.  I think my son, Myles, helped at some point, too.

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It was sooooo wonderful waking up in the forest with such a magnificent view!  The air was fresh and crisp and cool, and the sounds of the forest were incredible!  Brent had warned me that I probably wouldn’t want to get out of bed the next morning, and he was right.  I could have stayed in that spot forever!                              

stacy treehouse bedThe picture that follows is a view of the upper room of the treehouse as seen from the bed on the far end of the room.  As you can see, it is open to the air…(and the lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) on one side.  Delightful!

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This is the beautiful outdoor shower in the main house.  It smells of fresh spearmint and flowers.   This is what it looks like when you face the shower….

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However, if you turn around and let the water wash over your back, THIS is your view!  Nirvana!

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There were happy little hummingbirds all over the place.  They are my favorite birds.  I think I know how they feel living up on the mountain near Brent and Susanna, and I must say…..I am a little envious.

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Feeling deep gratitude in my heart today, that Brent and Susanna are our friends, and feeling very thankful for this beautiful experience that they gifted us with.  Thanks, guys.   With love.

It’s All About Wine! Va di Vie!

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One of the best parts of our recent California vacation, was the food.  We did have some remarkable dining experiences….and Va di Vie in Walnut Creek was one of them.  (I borrowed this photo from the restaurant’s website, because it was better than the one that I took myself.  this is a view of the front and side of the place.)  Had to go a couple of times to taste all of the veggie offerings on their menu.  Va de Vi translates to “It’s all about wine!” in Catalan.  However, at this place, it’s all about food, too!  In this case, small plates, or tapas.  Executive Chef Andy Phillips enables diners to explore and share a variety of eclectic, international small plate portions that are out of this world!  A warm, casual elegance defines the ambiance. Outdoors, diners can take advantage of an ancient oak tree or do as we did, and grab a table in the picturesque interior.

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The rustic Califorina/Spanish decor was warm and inviting….but the service could have been a little better.  There were many empty tables, but it took a long time for us to be seated, as the hostess with the most-ess was chatting on her iPhone.  The staff at this place stood around a lot.  sigh…  However, the food made up for it.

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We started off the show with a cocktail, a mushroom soup shooter and a small cheese plate and pomme frits.

The cocktail was called a Watermelon Crawl, consisting of watermelon-infused vodka, basil simple syrup and fresh lime juice.  It arrived at my table almost room temperature.  Should have been colder, and I wasn’t happy with it at all.  Sounded light and refreshing.  Tasted cloyingly sweet and heavy.  I’ll stick to wine the next time I go…

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The pommes frites were Kennebec potatoes tossed with olive oil, garlic and parsley.  They were light and crispy….but again, fried, so I only had a couple.  Loved the aioli dipping sauce, though.  Very tangy and tasty.   The Burrata cheese plate was delightful!  It was served with fresh, organic berries, grilled bread, crisps, aged balsamic vinegar and sea salt.  Fabulous!  The shooter of mushroom soup was to die for!    It was just a taste…topped with a liquid goat cheese and fresh chives.  So delicious!

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We split the Farro, which is an ancient Egyptian grain.  It was done in roasted cipollini onions, soffritto and  vin cotto, which is a is a dark, sweet dense condiment produced artisanally in the Apulia region of southeastern Italy.  It is made by the slow cooking and reduction over many hours of non-fermented grape must until it has been reduced to about one fifth of its original volume and the sugars present have caramelized. It can be made from a number of varieties of local red wine grapes including  PrimitivoNegroamaro and Malvasia Nera, collected after being allowed to wither naturally on the vine for about 30 days.  One tiny taste sends a bright, cool sensation all through the tongue.  It is fantastic!  A perfectly balanced combination!

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The potato-based gnocci was simply prepared, drizzled with basil pesto and grana padano, one of the most popular cheeses in Italy.  The name comes from the noun grana (‘grain’), which refers to the distinctively grainy texture of the cheese, and the adjective Padano, which refers to the valley Pianura Padana. (The reason this cheese is called “Grana Padano” and not “Grana Padana” is because in this case the Italian word grana is the masculine noun, il grana, describing this specific cheese, and not the feminine noun la grana, which means “grain”).  I have always loved this cheese, and Va di Vie uses it liberally in a number of their small plates.  The gnocci was one of my favorite dishes here.  Just a couple of bites….but oh, so good!

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My all-time favorite dish was the fried squash blossoms.  This dish consisted of ricotta stuffed blossoms topped with pickled shallots and drizzled with a tasty calabrian chili aioli.  Yum-o!  Delightful!  The saltiness of the cheese-stuffed blossoms was perfectly countered by the sweetness of the pickled shallots and the heat of the aioli.  So good!

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The creamed corn is a dish I have already prepared twice since we at at Va di Vie.  It is one of the most delicious dishes ever!   It is prepared by slowly roasting fresh Brentwood corn on the cob.  The corn is scraped from the cob and mixed with diced jalapeno peppers and a tiny touch of whole cream.  Wow.  The flavor is incredible!  Smoky…sweet…hot…All the tastes that I love .

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The chilled chiogga beet salad was another favorite.  The picture above is not one that I took of the salad.  I just wanted you to see what chiogga beets look like.  The one from Va di Vie was pale pink in color and served with grilled fennel, endive, blue cheese and a cider vinegar dressing.  It was light and refreshing and I loved every bit of it!

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This is a picture of Treviso.   We sampled Va di Vie’s Triviso risotto, which was a creamy risotto, grilled Treviso,  caramelized onions, more of the grand padano, and a dirzzel of  white truffle oil.  The complexities of the various flavors harmonized perfectly to create a soothing, comfort food that was beyond belief!  Delicious…but very filling, so we could only handle a couple of bites.  Seemed more like a winter food, but was totally satisfying in every way.  The flavors were just incredible!

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All in all, our dining experiences at Va di Vie were positive.    We tried their  Late Harvest wine, a Williams Selyem, “vista verde vineyard,” gewürztraminer from San Benito County (2011)  and a sparkling wine, the name of which escapes me…it was French, light, delicous, and finally, the Passito, 2002 La Roncaia, Verduzzo from Ramandolo, Italy.  All of the wines were exceptional.  I loved the sparkling wine best, so wouldn’t you know, that would be the one I’d forget?  sigh….

Va di Vie is very expensive….but it is good.   The service?  eh!  Not so great…but with food this good, it doesn’t matter that much.  I do have to say, that bussers who cleared the dishes and brought water were fantastic….always on top of their jobs….but the wait staff seemed a little preoccupied with standing in the corners gossiping or talking on their iPhones, and I felt they were a little snooty…which was amusing, considering they were WAITERS.  ha ha.

Nice place.  Beautiful atmosphere.  Great food…even better wine.  I recommend it!

The Piano

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When I was a little girl, I sat down at my cousin’s piano for the first time and simply played it.

I played actual music, before I had ever taken a lesson….before I had ever seen music written on a page.

I knew which keys to play, because the music was already in my head.  Music was my escape.  I used it to transport myself to wherever I needed to be when the burdens of childhood were too much to bear.  To this day, it plays an enormously important role in my life.

I would often ride my horse along the Canadian River in the hot Oklahoma sun, from early in the morning until just before sunset.   Horseback riding and thinking about music were two of the things that made me happiest.    As I rode along the river,   I remember wishing that I had a piano right there on the sandy river bed.    After visiting the Pacific Ocean, the fantasy grew to be one about playing the piano beside the ocean.  This is a fantasy that I would daydream about endlessly before going to sleep, or during those pleasant, quiet moments that one has when alone.

In  1993, I saw the magnificent film, The Piano, and in my dreams, I virtually became Holly Hunter in this scene.  I would think about playing piano by the ocean endlessly after that.  At the time this film was released, I owned a beautiful Yamaha concert grand piano that I had gotten from Sam Taylor, who was ZZ Top’s video producer.   I went home after seeing this film for the first time, and played this song from beginning to end.  I have always been able to play by ear, and was so moved by this scene that I instantly memorized Michael Nyland’s beautiful song.  Although I sold my piano when we moved to Massachusetts about 15 years ago,  I’m willing to bet I could still play this.

Please watch this little video clip:

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All this, is leading to what happened to me a few days ago near Half Moon Bay in California.  The sun was bright and I was walking along a ledge above the Pacific, shooting some pictures.  A crazy skywriter was buzzing above in the azure sky, writing words of love for all to see.  He was a real daredevil, flying faster than the wind, going straight up, straight down and looping to make the letters of the words he was writing.

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I doubted the  day could be more perfect….but that was before  I came upon a stand of reeds that were swaying in the breeze.  When I looked beyond the reeds, my heart almost stood still, and I was unable to suppress the joy I felt from head to toe.   This is what I saw:

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There, contrasted against the majesty of the Pacific Ocean, was this old piano….waiting for me.  As it turned out, artist, Mauro Ffortissimo and a team of supporters had installed 12 pianos in idyllic oceanside perches on the San Mateo County coast from Waddell Creek on the Santa Cruz County border up to Gray Whale Cove near Devil’s Slide.  At the time, I was not aware of this.  All I knew was that my dream of playing the piano by the oceanside was about to come true.

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This piano had many broken keys and rusty strings, but at that moment, it was the most beautiful instrument in the world.   When I played, the music sounded like nothing, really, because it was so old and broken.   However, this piano became my best friend.  The music came from my heart, and as I played each key, I felt so honored to have been granted that moment in time.  As I played,  I thought of my beloved cousin, Stevie, and how he would have loved his whole scenario, had he lived to witness it.  I thought of my cousin, Daina, who also plays piano, and knew that she would have felt the same kind of joy that I had felt that day.                        stacy piano beachI thought of my old love, and wished we could take time out just to share this moment.  I thought of another musician friend who struggles through life today, but who always manages to find something to smile about.    I thought of Holly Hunter, and felt thankful for the art that is, “The Piano”.

I would just like to say, “Thank you!” to that old piano.  You gave me one of the best days I have ever had.

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Day #29 – IN MY BAG

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Photo a Day – JUNE

Day #29 – IN MY BAG

© Stacy Alexander -2013

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Day # 14 – WATER

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Photo a Day – APRIL

Day #14 – WATER

© Stacy Alexander – 2013

Day #11 – DETAIL

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Photo a Day – APRIL

Day #11 – DETAIL

© Stacy Alexander