Weather update 10-29-2019
As you all know, Vicki and I are right in the middle of a weather/financial/political/hysterical vortex here in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
Look it up: Nevada City, California. Area code 95959.
We are up around 3500 feet elevation. The weather is extremely pleasant this time of year. Add to that the exquisite colors of the trees and it is hard to beat. We would love to share an afternoon with you on our deck.
We started our first fire in the big fireplace today. October 29 is a very late date to start, but we have been waiting for the chimney sweep people to do their thing. It adds so much, physically and spiritually. Whatever in the heck that means. I like it.
I realize that sometimes I sound like a broken record. But then I realize that nobody remembers what a record player was, anyway. Except Joe Biden!
Our power has been turned off by PG&E since about 11AM. We spent half the day inside, and half the day outside. Our big job was to continue with our wood-splitting project. Out here, you need to take into account how many days you have left to get this work done before it starts to rain. We are about 3/4 done with the basic splitting. We'll show you the photos. It is a lot of wood. Vicki and I work well together. We are peas in a pod and perfectly happy with working on projects together that put us into a better "position".
That position is to have enough good wood to feed the fireplace, mentioned above. We generally have 2-3 seasons of wood stored up, just to make sure.
When I sent out my last note I was totally involved with my personal feelings of being ignored and cast aside by our elite public servants and others. You got the full verbal force of my indignation. It's important to let off steam occcasionally. My aggravation and contempt has not abated. However, through communications with THIS CLASS, I have grown in my understanding and perception of the overall problem. Hey class, thanks!
As I write this, we are on Westinghouse 9500 Kw generator power. We actually turned it off for a couple hours when we were out of the house and splitting wood, just to conserve gas.
Since we were out and about today, we noticed some rustling in the trees. Maybe 5 MPH gusts of wind, at the most. An old firefighter like me was not impressed.
The high temp was about 59 degrees. This made outdoor work rather comfortable.
How can I explain what is going on? I'll do my best in as few words as possible. I've read maybe 10 articles from various online publications, with an emphasis on the Wall Street Journal. It turns out that this is really all about -- you guessed it -- MONEY. Actually, money and state government.
1. PG&E may be going out of business. Their stock price is around $5 and falling. Many huge institutions are invested in this utility.
2. They are in distress because their liabilities (what they owe) exceed their revenue, by a lot. Each new fire puts them in an even worse financial predicament.
3. Mostly, they owe financial settlements to people who lost property in recent (last few years) wildfires. These debts are accumulating.
4. Some insiders say that PGE favored short term profit over long term safety. I think that it is more complicated than that, but that is an interesting viewpoint.
5. In this dire condition, stock owners (PGE is a publicly traded company) want to make sure that there is something left after everything has been done, financially.
6. To "have something left" you must minimize short and long term losses.
7. To minimize loss you lower risk
8. One way to do this is to shut off electric power to almost everybody. This means that our public is directly exposed to the manipulation of PG&E, who wants to avoid all risk and all "apparent", "possible", or "potential" risk. That's why the power shutoffs seem so arbitrary. They have nothing to do with my needs or your needs. That's the fundamental disconnect in this scenario.
9. On top of that, one way of lowering the cost of damage claims is to show that you are doing your best to minimize risk. The court will likely charge you less if you appear to be a good citizen. That is, lower the appearance of negligence. That is why we rate-payers are all pawns in this game.
10. Conclusion: The company needed to make a decision. What's more important? Short term customer satisfacton or big-time investor satisfaction? They went with the investors. That is a reasonable conclusion but leaves the poor customer holding the bag. Since they are likely going out of business anyway, who cares about the customers? We are expendable. Possibly deplorable.
That is what is happening, from my point of view.
How could this debacle have been avoided? Maybe it could have been. But, as one of our classmates has said, monopolies and free enterprise do not mix very well. I tend to agree. When you get to tense moments like this the customer gets shafted.
Thanks to all who have contributed to this conversation. You are the best.
Despite all the above, I love capitalism. Monopolies, not so much.
No Real Subject Here
I've been retired for about ten years.
I ask myself, "How did I ever have time to run my life before I was retired?"
I do tasks (jobs, chores) all day, every day, and I still don't get close to finishing everything.
Then stuff happens and you need to respond, immediately. The response can take a couple days of single-minded activity.
Like working on the generator that stopped working today. 12 hours of work and still no definitive result.
Or the truck that just stops working.
Or the water cisterns that somehow started leaking.
Or the piles of brush that need to be chipped up before the rain starts.
What about the huge stack of unsplit oak that we took down from the hill this summer?
Or the piles of videos that need to be edited and made into something enjoyable for others?
Then there is all the website related things that I have implicitely promised to you, our cherished audience.
It is pressure, but it is the kind of pressure that I like. Fix things, communicate with others, make somebody smile.
Our overriding concern in the past few days has been with PG&E. They keep cutting out our power, though our temperatures are moderate (low 70s) and the wind is almost nonexistent. This causes major problems for anybody living in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our lives have been disrupted for no discernable reason. This has the feel of lawyers running the show.
So there you have it. I have not been inattentive to this site. I've just become overcome with life.
It happens. Many happy times ahead.
Vicki and I are healthy and doing well. That's all we can ask for, really.
You people are the best. Viva sesenta y ocho.
Over 130 Have Signed On This Year
Want to know who they are and when was the last time they accessed this website?
You will find this interesting.
But here is the best part: you also get a link to their profile page so that you can send them a personal note!
I challenge you to send a measly 5 messages to people of your choice.
I even give you a list of 20 example messages to send, some more appropriate than other.
Or not. Your choice, as always.
Go HERE and make someone happy. Maybe even yourself.
Sally's Father, Skeet Varner
Though Vicki and I no longer have a home in Bakersfield, we keep up with news and obits through the online paper.
We ran across this story a few days ago and it caught my interest.
Actually, one of our classmates sent this to me -- he told me that Skeet was a really terrific person.
There are not many of our parents left in Bakersfield. That generation had so many strong, hard-working, clear thinking individuals.
Have we done a good job of living up to their expectations?
Read about it HERE.
Sorry, You Paid Too Much for the 50th Reunion
Did I get your attention with that headline?
I previewed this message with a few of you and received feedback on it.
Some thought the headline was a bit over-the top and abrasive.
So how about this one?
We Have Surplus Funds Due to Great Turnout for Our Events
What should we do with the money? Who gets to decide?
The purpose of collecting money for group events, like our 50th reunion, is simply to cover the costs of the planned activities and to make sure that the organizers don’t have to cough up their own funds to make it all happen.
That’s it. End of story.
If not enough money is collected then it is up to the organizers to cover the difference. That is, unless they can convince others to help out.
Well, we have an entirely different kind of situation.
We made too much money!
How can that be? We know that the 50th Reunion, at $55 each, is one of the most reasonable (cheap) reunion dinners ever organized! Heck, the class of 1969 is charging $100 a plate the last we heard!
And the Meet & Greet? We charged you the grand sum ot $25 per person to attend and scarf up on a myriad of appetizers (which you chose, by the way).
Even with prizes, extra furniture, payng for teachers and others, big time photography, entertainment, great decorations, cupcakes, and other extras, we STILL ended up making almost $1,500 on the reunion after all the bills were paid!
The surplus funds were generated by this website strictly through your ticket purchases. We didn't even try to sell cool memorabilia. Just "tickets" to events.
Should you, the Class of 1968, have some say in how these surplus funds are spent?
Do you want to save it for a possible 55th reunion? Would you attend such an event?
Should we let a locally based, unelected “new committee” decide what to do with the extra money that you contributed?
Would you choose to put it towards another upcoming event to lower costs and produce a substantially lower break-even point?
Should we just refund a small portion to each person who “overpaid” for the 50th?
Give it to a local charity? Which one?
How about using it as a way to avoid out-of-pocket expenses for event organizers? When it is over, restore the $1,500 to help get the next event off the ground.
A couple people suggested that we keep the $1,500 for the last person standing in our class to help with their funeral expenses!
Getting to the point, you are all part of the new "governing" group, all 165 of you who are online with us. You can vote, answer questions, participate in surveys, ask about things, make announcements, wish happy birthday, contribute to stories, make voluntary donations, and actively be a part of the class in a number of other ways.
And the best part? You don't have to be a local person to help guide this ship called the South High Class of 1968! You can live anywhere in the world and still be a contributing member of the group. Anywhere -- Florida. Oregon. Arizona. Texas. Africa. Arkansas. Oklahoma. Idaho. Washington. Anywhere up and down the Central Valley of California. (I know, I missed a lot of places, like the Sierra Nevada mountains where I live!)
How do I know that you are out there? Here is an example: An interesting story, photo feature or "funny bit" will generate 60-80 direct responses (logins) to the website over 2-3 days. You are out there and you are waiting for something interesting to happen.
The simple fact is, this is 2019, not 1968. This is our current reality, like it or not. This is our exclusive form of social media!! For communicating our thoughts and ideas, inspiring others, making people laugh, sharing our losses, or expressing views, it is a 1000 times better than any form of communication that we have had in the past.
When is the last time you sent a letter to a friend?
50 years ago nobody could have predicted that this type of electronic experience would become commonplace.
But here we are. Congratulations. Welcome to our unique and direct form of democracy. Your vote counts. You are not dependent on unelected officials making choices for you.
Let's make some decisions!
My Reunion Story, Part 2
I told you that there was another part to my story.
It is a bit more difficult to talk and write about.
Much of it was extremely unpleasant for Vicki and I. Just plain uncomfortable.
Do you really want me to tell you what happened, from my point of view?
Or is it best just to say, "Everybody had a good time and let's just leave it at that." ?
I'll go either way. But I am the only person that knows most of the details.
And as you all know by now, I know how to tell a story.
It is your call.
By the way, I could not be happier with the 4 volunteers we have had for "life stories". Each of the narratives is absolutely spectacular. I am so grateful for their willingness to share their life experiences with us. That is not easy to do. Each is special and each so different! Face it, we are all unique.
I'm looking for our next subject. Everybody has a story to tell. This is your chance. You will not regret it. Together, we will make this happen.
So let's vote.
But first, let me be clear about what "anonymous" means in terms of these surveys. It means that I will not divulge who voted for what. You will have to take my word for that. As an administrator of the website (there are three of us), I can see this information. Sometimes I even respond to you in a personal message. But we will not publish to the world anything that we say is "anonymous". And I trust the other two admins with my life. I'm married to one of them. If we had 20 admins I could not promise you anything in terms of secrecy. That's not how people work. Just look at our leaking nation's capital. So now you know. I think the only survey results that we published with names was your evaluation of the reunion. But they were 100% positive, so that did not seem to be a problem.
10-10-2020 is One Year Away!
That's 365 days and counting.
Much needs to be discussed and decided on.
In the meantime, you need to stay healthy and ready to go.
Make it a goal to be there. It's only going to happen once.
Read all about it HERE.
Sara Hitchcock Story
Sara has shared a few recollections with us.
You will enjoy reading about it HERE.
My Reunion Story, Part One
It's the beginning of October and time to take a brief look back.
I hold nothing back in my candid recounting of my experience with the 50th Reunion.
Well, not exactly. But you may get a chuckle or two from reading it.
On the other hand, did you know that there are about 33% of us who have no sense of humor? It's a fact!
I'll just assume that those humorless 33% never read these pages, anyway!
But if you have no sense of humor just consider it similar to not being able to carry a tune. Or having an inability to read a map. Or being color blind. It happens.
Check out Part One HERE.
What Do the Surveys Tell Us About Ourselves?
You will find this interesting.
Please read your responses to recent surveys and other inquiries. HERE.
The Last Group of 50th Reunion Photos
Here they are, almost a year after the fact!
Mostly dance shots, but a few other good ones, too.
Many fun shots in this bunch.
To check them out, go HERE.
What a Great Story!
Please follow the link and read all about Vickie Burke's (Schallock) remarkable journey through life, HERE.
Were the Photos Worth It?
During the early meetings with the former committee, back in March of 2018, I made a couple of “demands”. After all, I was getting ready to dedicate several months of my life to this effort and I wanted assurances that my time was going to be well spent.
Here is what I asked for:
1. This would not be an event where we just invited our friends and that would be “good enough”. If we, as a group, were not prepared to make a committment to locate and invite every former classmate then I simply was not interested in being part of it. I wanted to avoid the “cliquish” behavior others had seen and complained about in the past. Many classmates had never even heard about the other reunions.
2. We would commemorate this “historic” one-of-a-kind event by hiring a professional photographer. I told them that the candid shots of the other reunions were just not very good. In truth, they aren’t. I simply wasn’t going to let that happen this time.
I made some enemies by speaking the truth, as I saw it. Comes with the territory, as all of you independent thinkers surely understand. But I also finally prevailed and, after a rigorous evaluation and interview process, hired a competent photo team.
I received the original quote from the photographer and presented it to the committee. They insisted that we cut it back by at least a third, though they gave no justification for doing so. I told the committee that, according to my break-even analysis, we could easily afford the full price.
So I went back to the photog and we worked out a deal where she shot fewer hours by cutting out early from both events and showing up later at the start. I wasn’t happy but my hands were tied.
The issue of hiring a pro photographer simmered for a few months.
So let’s do the math. Yes, I taught math once. A long time ago.
The photography team cost us $1,200. The final product would be digital images, available free to everybody in the class. Just download what you want. $1,200, by the way, is less than 10% of the total cost of the reunion.
When you count the participants for the two big events it adds up to 318 paid people. Many (most) paid for both events.
$1,200 divided by 318 = $3.77 each. That’s what each of you paid for all of the photos.
How many photos did they take?
They took 954 digital photos with professional cameras and related equipment.
How much did each professional digital photo cost you?
$3.77 divided by 954 = about a third of a penny each.
And now you get to answer one simple Yes/No question. Please jump in here. The answer will be anonymous.
It is going to happen, whether we get 10 people or 200.
The party is on!
The birthday party, that is.
Let’s just call it the South High Class of 1968 70th Birthday Party.
Hello South High Class of 1968!