Weather Storms Pass, Other Types Fester and Grow

The last many weeks in Northern California have been all about rains and fronts cycling in off the Pacific.

Santa Cruz has taken beatings from high winds, heavy rain and waves rolling branches and tree trunks up to and over roads, while Yosemite closed to clear fifteen-foot snow drifts from around cabins and Tahoe saw homes squirreled away down narrow, snow-walled lanes looming over vehicles making nervous exits and entries.

Yet the coast saw mostly heavy intermittent rainstorms, providing just occasional clear days with momentary peeks of sunshine quickly followed by more rain fronts repeatedly topping-up and overspilling Lexington reservoir as local standing ground recesses and holding pools all filled to their rims.

People mostly stayed indoors hereabouts, outdoor activity dwindled and when rain briefly held off a few wandered out for quick walks, bike rides and runs before winds rose again and rainfall returned. But a few still ventured out in all climes and wildlife soldiered on…

In early February, the Great Blue Herons began their mating season as usual, typically some dozen or so gathering on the two highest northside rooves above and east of the bridge crossing Santa Cruz Harbor with its winding inlet-channel filled by docked sail and motorboats. They arrive and stand for hours each day for about a week, like sentries spaced and motionless, acting their parts in some mysterious rite before the nesting part of the breeding season properly begins.

After this portion of the ritual, they fly in and out of the long, eighty-foot-high stand of Eucalyptus just a few hundred yards away directly across on the South side of the harbor inlet. And the colony of nests is repaired and built anew as a few occasional fervent photographers arrive lugging then setting up viewing cameras sporting two and three-foot long lenses to capture the nesting proceedings.

A mile away the sealions on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk Pier go about their business somewhat independent of the storms. I visit them most nights, parking towards the furthest reach of the structure, next to the welcoming, well-lit Dolphin restaurant sporting half-dozen flagpoles with their wind-ripped triangular flags, thrashing in the troubled air.

I park facing West across the half-mile to Steamers surfing point, always arriving before sunset and recently listening to more Peter May audiobooks featuring Enzo MacLeod. There are usually a few surfers enjoying the bigger breaking waves and you can watch their antics through binoculars or with just the naked eye.

And there below, are always the Sealions. As the light dwindles this time of year the waves and swells remain well below the pier cross-members on which the seals rest for endless hours following their return in herds from feeding trips further out in Monterey Bay. Eventually the waters rise enough for them to leap aboard the beams, but often hours pass with rafts and groups of them playing or drifting around, entertaining any visitors who are out-and-about, braving the weather.

There are always a few people milling around watching, leaning over the rails, talking excitedly, pointing to and photographing the antics in the heaving waters below. Young or old, their expressions are priceless. The shenanigans of the sealions usually seem new to them, so they are likely not locals, but off-season visitors, making the most of smallest respites in the storms.

Recently, there was a small boy, pulling towards the rail as his mother tried to better fix and close his heavy jacket for the weather as he called and tugged, “foocas, foocas” (phonetic Spanish for Seals). Everyone loves the Sealions with their endless calls and tumbling antics. 😊

And with this entertainment comes the gulls, wheeling and circling in groups of many tens, even through the strongest winds. Many times, they hang motionless, just feet from the windshield of the SUV, balanced and held perfectly on heavy blows, their heads casually searching about, seeking the next tidbit or feeding opportunity.

When the winds ease large stands of seagulls arrange themselves on the tarmac footing of the Pier, facing in alignment towards any blow remaining, while others sit or stand like statues atop the few vehicles parked about, braving and enjoying the season. As cars move off the attached birds reluctantly raise their wings and lift off into the breeze; some wait longer, appearing like vehicle ornaments.

And with all this, every night brings a spectacular sunset directly ahead into my chosen Westly view; each time is so very surprisingly different.

During rainstorms, the setting light pushes up into the heavy clouds, still providing an impressive show. When it is less stormy or momentarily clear the colors keep rising for a long and colorful 40+ minutes past sundown. Every night offers a unique setting with constantly changing scenes and colors ranging from the blue-black of a stormy, clouded evening to the delicate pastel blues, pinks, yellows and tangerine hues of momentary clearer skies gently brushed with thin and morphing clouds.

From the warmth of my SUV, each and every setting is both peaceful and magical. 😊

Valentines’ Day storms still offered the opportunity to head down to Phil’s (Fish Market) new restaurant location in Castroville High Street, just a few miles South of his previous long-time setting within the Moss Landing Harbor. And it was well worth the trip. The Siete De Mares and Cioppino dishes were washed down by excellent value red wine and followed by a double rainbow sighting immediately upon leaving…

As we headed back the rains and skies suddenly cleared to more fully display two complete and perfect half-circle rainbows that slowed the light traffic to gaze and rewarded us and many others who stopped for the rare photo-op.

To round off the day we stopped at Gayle’s in Capitola Village to be spoiled with their usual offerings of desert, all supported this day with the surprise of a live in-house jazz quartet gently entertaining local customers who either sat about in a relaxed leisurely manner or just occasionally, rose to dance.

The weather hereabouts has been fierce, relative to the norm. A couple of weeks back I ventured up to The (Silicon) Valley, over the hill to attend some appointments in Los Gatos. There were downed road-signs, seemingly numerous Power, traffic light and internet outages with wooden fences knocked-over, branches, even full trees spilled onto streets and cloth screens on temporary fencing loose and thrashing in the winds.

Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz mountains catches heavy rains as the many fronts push through and so it is a constant source of stoppages. The mudslides and falling trees are now less frequent than previous years, but the rains flowing across the winding road cause countless car spinouts and accidents with resulting traffic back-ups occurring many times each day.

In later March, the coastal Highway 1 near Watsonville towards Monterey was closed for around a week after massive mudslides ensued when a levee broke, over-flowed and ran amok. There were countless flat acres of fruit and vegetable crops flooded and destroyed in the area.

I heard of a locally owned motor salesroom in Watsonville that was flooded to the point all vehicles in the yard were written off. My local Auto-repair guy’s home was located near that same dealership, where a distant lake and creek brought so much flooding, he was actually fishing just yards from his fortunately elevated house. His wife caught an eight-pound carp that was swimming over the black-top street; he had good pictures of it, too. 😉

In my neighborhood, Moran Lake has been filling daily and emptying with consecutive tides flowing through the five-foot culvert passing to it from the beach, running underneath the narrow two-lane road. Each high tide reaches the culvert and pushes through to the expansion area of the Lake where countless massive logs and branches now sit exposed upon every successive tidal drainage of its waters.

The lakebed detritus is too large for the culvert so much had passed over the road in the rough storms and high tides that washed across the street during the last couple of months. Protective rails and robust cables that fenced off the Lake from pedestrians walking by have all been ripped away, and the lake’s edge lies unprotected from careless passersby.

But the short (perhaps 150 yards long) storm-thrashed Moran beach remains popular. It has lost five or six feet of sand and now displays an often-pebbled surface, spotted with massive rocks, huge tree trunks and stripped branches. The large tides roll in and the waves lap, more calmly now, but just some 10yards from the crossing East Cliff road.

The search for colored Sea Glass on Moran beach has been relentless. I see locals young and old rummaging in the pebbles for such treasure day and night, often when rain is still falling, and the tides are closing in towards the street.

There was one day a week or more ago when a weather break was forecasted and arrived on schedule, bringing kindly modest seas and clearer skies. The local rowing club out of Santa Cruz Harbor took brief advantage and put out seven, eight-man canoes sporting outriggers which stole past the lighthouse, then slipped by the main Pier while running West heading out near Steamers. They then came about, pushing quickly back towards shelter before the depth of sunset and rainclouds set in.

During lighter rainy evenings on the Pier when the waves have still attracted a few dozen surfers to Steamers, I have been seeing a fairly recent activity emerge. It is the arrival of Foil Boarders. Sometimes just one, never more than three so far.

Foil Boards are a similar length to larger skateboards, but have a small, torpedo-shaped motor sporting what looks like a six-inch propeller all mounted about two feet below the board on a robust but narrow stem. The motor runs, propeller turns, and the board rises a foot or two out of the water with the rider atop.

This is not designed for rough waters or large waves at this point. The skill is in balancing on the board, which offers riders the opportunity to move about calmer areas at what appears to be 5-15 mph. I hear that these Foil Boards cost around $1,000 each.

As quickly as a weather forecast offers respite from rain, the local Santa Cruz restauranteurs around Portola and 41st open their outdoor seating and light their attractive, flaming, propane heating-towers for guests. And the customers arrive on cue, enjoying their evening out even though the next day might again bring rain and blustery winds. And the passing cars get to admire the diners reveling, albeit briefly, in their pleasantly lighted evening surrounds.

Our local businesses are eager to enter the Springtime and hopefully early Summer Season. 😉

Along those lines, the long-standing Stagnaro’s Restaurant on the Santa Cruz Pier re-opened right at the end of March. It was shuttered to Covid concerns for almost 3 years (ouch!) and the family has finally re-entered the market in time for the warmer tourist season. This is a local treasure and landmark. It is a great feeling to finally enjoy a sense of normalcy and be able to visit a familiar haunt, once more.  😊

Over the last few days, the weather forecasts have been showing no rain or storms for ten days out. Temperatures are still modest for this time of year, but warm enough and sunshine is returning.

The signs of Sailing Season are upon us as the first (initially rainy) regattas have begun and boat owners are hauling out logs and various detritus from the waters surrounding the marinas. Shredded and beaten flags and burgees are being replaced and there is activity and chatter on the docks once more.

It seems much or all severe weather is now behind us in Monterey Bay.  😊

On a personal note, I have been following the well-trodden path of many cancer recoverers. This includes the ups-and-downs of semi-annual searches for re-occurrence. My latest tests uncovered a new, different alert, so I will spend the next several weeks tracking down that concern. Such is the lot of most recoverers… sigh.  😉

Now let us consider the News and what else has transpired Locally and about the World during these last many weeks since my last Blog posting.

I have been recording my Log of the many notable (news) events as they have occurred both long before and throughout Covid. This narrative serves as a reminder, chronicle and diary of said events, as seen being prominent from my own perspective and position.

It is necessary to recognize major events. It is prudent to review what has transpired and reflect upon the significance of these events. In some way, we are all ultimately affected by what we see and hear.

Having said that, let me offer a precise-styled update for expediency and ease of consumption…

There is no delicate way to begin this review without the mention of the obvious World ramp-up to War Footing. These events are certain and in Summary the issues are:

  1. Putin has abandoned the START agreement “to protect Russians from NATO actions“ and is building new nuclear warheads at will.
  2. WWIII discussions must be rampant within the White House, but the press is invisible on the subject… just more resultant gaslighting.
  3. China is “ramping their entire Military like 1930’s Germany;” all Air, Army and Naval Forces.
  4. China’s Navy is already on par with the US (by numbers) and will massively exceed its size within a few years.
  5. China is rapidly building Nukes, moving from holding a smaller strike deterrent arsenal to having 1st strike capability.
  6. China is hoarding food that will eventually cause shortages in the US. The US Dept. of Agriculture says China will soon have 69% of World Corn reserves, 60% of its Rice and 51% of its Wheat. Control the food, control the people.
  7. China has taken the role of World Power Broker, facilitating a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran that puts the latter back on the World stage.
  8. China is working on removing the $ as the World Reserve Currency and the Saudis have been flirting with this possibility for a decade. This move would plunge the $ to Devaluation as was seen in 1972 Britain when the GBP lost that footing.
  9. President Xi is now (believed) offering weaponry and support to Russia which facilitates his own proxy war with the US. Xi is the most powerful figure in this relationship, now demanding (of Putin) seven Eastern Siberian cities (including Vladivostok) be renamed on maps with their Chinese names.
  10. Xi has been elected to an unprecedented 3rd term. His position is unassailable and unchallenged in the CCP. He has clearly stated to the Chinese people his job is to fulfil their long-time historically defined Global destiny of world dominance.
  11. In the recent Putin/ Xi talks announcing their Alliance these leaders openly mocked the US financial decline and lack of Global dominance, while lauding the emergence of China. A new boldness is on display.
  12. Putin has announced he will be moving his own low-yield, battlefield nuclear warheads into Belarus to assist with the war in Ukraine.
  13. A recent attack upon US forces in Syria (US has <1,000 troops remaining there) killed one US contractor and injured approx. six more; the US responded with a rocket attack on the culprit Iranian forces. This Iranian-sponsored attack was the +80th such event since Biden took office. Looks like they could not hide this one from the press and continue the gaslighting.
  14. North Korea (NK) recently claimed +800K people signed up in their military, supposedly spontaneously in reaction to regional war-games being conducted by the US and South Korea. All this complements various NK ramps in missile systems testing.
  15. The latest NK defector divulged that ALL negative actions by North Korea are directly and completely controlled by the CCP.
  16. Saudi Arabia is now featuring SNL-like mocking skits featuring a senile Biden and hopeless Harris on mainstream Government TV; not good to see from a supposedly close, conservative ally. In early April, the Saudi’s announced they would be cutting oil production shortly, along with other OPEC members in “a move towards economic independence from the US.”
  17. It is clear that at least Russia, China, North Korea, and (a fully nuclear?) Iran is in global alignment (but not within any circles in which I travel. ☹ ). And the Saudi’s intentions have become far less clear.

So, what is happening on the US front given these alarming developments? The Preparations are:

  1. As of late February, the US has pledged $115B of taxpayer money going wholly unsupervised and untracked to a known-corrupt Ukrainian Government. This is for a US Proxy War with Russia.

Ammunition, weapons and MUCH of the US Strategic Oil Reserve has been heavily depleted in this process.

  • The US has increased personnel from 30 to 100-200 in Taiwan in preparation for Chinese aggression and in response to reported Invasion plans.
  • The leading Admiral of the US Navy is confirming his current priorities are squarely focused on “climate and equity” (as China rapidly ramps their Navy). ☹
  • The Pentagon has just asked for $842B to “prep for War with China.” The argument from Head of Joint Chiefs and Sec. of Defense (those Generals Milley and Austin that thought the disorganized US bail-out from Afghanistan was just fine) is that this is “cheaper than fighting a War and should back China off.” Ah Ha… so brinkmanship is a plan?

What can one say? The preparation and activities look far more substantial in one camp than the other. And I have never heard much about people prepping for war and NOT going to war. Have you?

Putting these concerns aside, it is time to summarize other Spurious Events…

Who blew up the Nordstream2 pipeline? The US insists it is an unidentified, pro-Ukrainian group (still wholly invisible and unknown to Zelensky). Others are reporting US divers laid charges the preceding Summer.

There was a less plausible belief it was the UK and three Governments (including Germany and some Scandinavians) are still investigating the matter. Most widespread and firm belief: it was the US. The only certainty is that this was not the Russians.

Who Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipeline? Suspects and Theories.

Government corruption has been running rampant in recent years. It is a fact that a disorganized, conflicted populace is easier to manage as they are nicely distracted with diffused concerns about matters such as Race, School Teachings, LGBTQ issues, Religion, Politics, Policies, fleeting News Items, Rights, Laws, Drugs, Events, Social matters etc. etc. With such chaotic MSM bombardment nobody is looking behind the curtain.

The Politics of Division is what is sought on every front. It is a proven way to hold unchallenged power and rule.

Today we are left (in the US) facing another major election in 2024. Currently, the most prominent candidates are stated to be Biden/ Harris and recently indicted Trump.

Let us just say all candidates “have issues.” One side is horrible, the other side is terrible, and it does not matter which side you prefer, this is true. The characters of many prominent leaders about the Nation and World are NOT good, reliable or endearing right now. And these are elected officials.

We can live with the flawed nature of Man (or Woman), but when the preponderance of statements made by prominent people are willful, blatant lies and flagrant misrepresentations, you have a problem. If you cannot trust leaders, you stand on very rocky ground.

But the most upsetting twist is that the situation appears to be, inexplicably, culturally accepted and tolerated, there is no speedy, reliable backlash to right the wrongs. The pendulum of accountability swings too slowly to right a heavily listing ship. Such is the recourse and diminished hope we face today.

And examples of Incompetence abound…

When the new Administration arrived in 2020 Julie Su was tapped from CA to a senior role supporting one of the new government secretaries (of whatever). Julie had just lost CA State $42B in fraudulent Covid claims, basically because she saw no need to monitor where these funds for which she was responsible ended up, how they were solicited, by whom and from where.

So, this criminal negligence got Julie a promotion and new National level exposure. Well, Julie has just been promoted again and is now Secretary of Labor. Congrats, we are so proud. Sigh. 😊

Biden taps California's Julie Su to be next labor secretary

In closely related news the Government has just announced that a TOTAL $276B of Covid relief was lost to FRAUD in the US. Knowledgeable insiders say that both this and the $42B lost similarly in CA are massively understated.

Such news is not inspiring and frequent general mismanagement within some States has fueled new discussion of Secession and once again brought this subject to the forefront…

Eastern Oregonians want to join IDAHO as a State and that legislature is now listening and reviewing the possibilities. Crack, Fentanyl and Heroin have been legalized in Oregon State along with much more these Easterners dislike and do not want controlled from Portland. So, they wish to take their completely untapped, massive oil reserves and merge with Idaho.

Now the Blue leaning folks (in Portland) do not want this, though they have little-or-no voting presence in these Counties. Nevertheless, the prevailing laws of Oregon may ultimately still prevent the desired escape to Idaho.

There is a comparable situation in California; San Francisco, San Diego and LA may be bright blue politically, but ALL the lands in CA outside of these cities are overwhelmingly inhabited by Conservative voters. These folks have been wanting out for decades, demanding policies that reflect THEIR interests and concerns. I expect they will watch the progress in Oregon to their immediate North.

And now Texas has introduced a Bill that proposes Secession for the whole State. It seems the perception is that “the current (US) Government antics have gone too far.” Where will this all end?

Not unusually, there seem to be many Troubles all around the World…

Israel is in convulsions regarding Judicial reforms that further empower the Government.

France just cancelled a State visit by King Charles III due to Civil unrest. There is street rioting across the Nation as the Government tries to implement autocratic Pension reforms.

India is thrashing through leadership attacks by old-guard families (Gandhi on Modi) trying to neutralize each other’s futures and all while Global Warming alarmists scream about inevitable catastrophic, decade-ending Climate Target failures.

And there were Canadian Security leaks to (2) UK outlets which confirm China kept Trudeau in power (2021) by running Disinformation and Interference Programs in Canada. This is causing questions about the Chinese liking for Trudeau and indeed Joe (81Million Votes in 2020) Biden.

This brings us to the laundry list of reports about Biden’s Integrity which ARE getting to the Press…

There have been statements about clear records of money and paper trails to Biden’s coffers from sources in Ukraine, the CCP (both through Son, Hunter) and now Saudi Arabia (via his brother).

By mid-February there were strings of reports regarding Biden’s loose handling of Classified Materials found at multiple locations, thus sparking major National Security concerns. Some articles are confusing but some 4 or 5 (as many as 6, now?) locations have unearthed illegally and inappropriately exposed documentation.

Gun licensing (jailable) offences by son Hunter have been stymied for a few years and it is now reported the Secret Service has been actively involved in this suppression.

House oversight Chairman (R-KY) James Comer is on the record stating that the proven, Hunter Biden “laptop from hell” provided “enough evidence to indict (Hunter)… even three or four years ago.” There has been little progress from the US Attorney with no explicable reason.

Biden’s actions regarding TIKTOK and CCP access to data on >>100Million Americans has bipartisan officials quietly questioning his impartiality to Chinese needs.

Joe has spent 40% of his Presidency on vacation and he does not seem to routinely move his office with him on these excursions, as have several previous Presidents.

So much for the nature of Joe Biden. Now let us review some recent California Follies…

CA Leftists want to ban Police Dogs and are calling them racist. If this is because of their training or instincts is not entirely clear.

California is now checking how to provide their Black population (2,000,000 people believed eligible) with a total of $800Billion in Reparations (CA GDP is $300B). This is tough on a State where slavery never existed and many 100,000’s of residents and businesses have already fled the region and their current $200B State debt. But all too often, where goes CA there follows the Nation. Ouch.

Simultaneously, it is openly rumored San Francisco’s countless, post-Covid empty offices, major business and resident exoduses will inevitably drive them into bankruptcy, without a Federal (more Taxpayer money) bailout.

And finally in the Homelessness center that is San Francisco, one of the few local Farmers Markets is being abandoned as drug addicts overtake the streets and vendors feel unsafe.

Just 10-15 years ago San Francisco commonly ranked in the top five cities to visit in the World; often it was top three, and I recall at least one survey placing it as number one. This is a truly tragic, rapid and massive decline.  ☹

Then next is the matter of Earthquakes…

Turkey and Syria suffered a 7.8 quake on Feb 6th that resulted in >50,000 deaths with casualties exceeding 120,000. Victims were mostly in Turkey where civilian outrage is aggressively focused on flawed and unenforced Government Building Regulations as executed by contractors, many of whom have already been arrested.

Alaska if the most seismically active US State, enduring >20,000 quakes per year. They suffered the largest quake in domestic history, a 9.2 in 1964 which saw <<1k deaths in the sparsely populated South-Central region.

The World’s largest known earthquake was the 9.5 in Valdivia Chile, during 1960, which surprisingly resulted in just >6,000 deaths, fortunately much lower than would be expected.

The Loma Prieta quake in 1989 CA was a 7.2 and struck >50 miles South of San Francisco in a lowly populated area.

And then there is the matter of Climate…

In a report issued ~3/20/23, the UN notified members that all fossil fuel usage must stop immediately. This is radical stuff. Other similar warnings have been made over the last 30-40 years.

Needless to say, the preponderance of Carbon emission emanates from the combination of India and China who show little material concern for the matter. Interestingly, in climate-sensitive California as much 25% of their air pollution comes in from China.

In related news, British Columbia, CA, ORE and WA States have formed an alliance to fight climate change. At their recent gathering a blustering Gov. Gavin Newsome (CA) promised $42Million in relief funds for victims of flooding; he delivered $300K.

And then there were the Bank Failures…

The Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapsed first, pursuing woke policies and failing investments, that eroded their foundations. They had only a single Board member with financial experience and no Risk Management professional in place for the nine months preceding the collapse.

At the root, the Feds kept borrowing trillions and trillions (National debt claimed now at $31 Trillion), month after month to fuel spending and debt policies which not only drove up inflation, but Interest Rates; this in turn caused the Fed to raise Interest Rates eight or nine times. Increasing rates cause lots of problems for big banks.

Following the SVB collapse, Signature Bank quickly followed suit, but with government agencies and the Administration itself assuring that all investors will be made whole and with no cost to Taxpayers. 😉

A list of ten more at risk regional banks with similar practices (to SVB and Signature) was published, but as of writing no more have (visibly) collapsed. The mechanism for the (“not a”) Bailout looks to most reasonable people like simple, blatant Taxpayer funding, just by another name. ☹

The UK branch of SVB was bought locally for $1.00 by HSBC, who promptly doled out very large bonuses, I assume to ensure employee retention.

Fallout from the  January 6th (J6) Committee hearings continues…

The new (GOP) House Speaker released the much-protected video footage from the Capitol building that was held close by the Investigating Committee.

There was MUCH more footage (42,000 v the 14,000 hrs.) than advised by the Committee. And unfortunately, the content makes the Insurrection, look more like a calm guided tour for the most-part, which has caused questions regarding the voracity of Committee Members’ claims.

Currently the news is that J6 Committee members may face charges for lying, even as the legal pursuit and prosecution of (close and) actual participants is in practice, expanding.

And of course, COVID-related issues persist in the news…

As of late February, it is broadly known that Dr. Fauci (despite his Congressional denial) personally wrote checks funding Wuhan’s virus research since the Obama era and into the emergence of the pandemic, late 2019. This is fact not theory. The US, China and WHO have lied about this for years.

The REAL question becomes, was this a leak accidental or deliberate? THIS must still be understood and made known.

Effects of the pandemic linger on…

In late March, the CDC finally released data showing that in the first full year of the vaccine (2021), deaths for 1–19-year-olds in the US were up >12x from (no vaccine) 2020. This demographic normally has a particularly LOW deathrate. No explanation has been proffered.

And Socially it has been pronounced that binge-drinking in the US is a lingering affect from COVID Isolation. The problem exploded in 2021 and is particularly prevalent in young women, where they now outnumber men in this category on College Campuses.

Next is the issue of Boarder Insecurity

There are now >100K US deaths each year from Fentanyl. Mexican Cartels are shipping related goods and supplies in from China, mostly through the US Southern border. The question is being asked if Cartels should be designated Terrorist Organizations and treated as such.

More deaths occur each year in the US from Fentanyl than do so in Mexico.

As for illegal border crossings during just the current Administration the rolling monthly numbers suggest >5,000,000 in total have occurred, but missed encounters probably have the real count over 10,000,000.

Issues with Artificial Intelligence (AI) have begun coming to the fore…

Several prominent people (Elon Musk included) have called for a 6-month stay while controls for safety and management of AI Developments are established.

Some experts steeped in decades of development history are asserting that advanced AI will inevitably lead to human extinction. Seems exaggerated (hopefully!), but I have personally read detailed accounts of AI Bots turning hostile towards humans: not much sympathy there while clearly challenging its creators’ opinion and position.

And we still have the Shenanigans of the comical Clintons

As reported in the UK Daily Mail another Clinton Associate has met a questionable end. This one was found tied to a tree with a gunshot wound and an electrical cord about his neck. No gun was recovered from the scene. Death was ruled a SUICIDE. 😉

The scuttlebutt on the Clintons is that they have had +40 (some even say +80?) hard-to-explain deaths closely surrounding their time in politics. New incidents just keep popping up.

Then finally we have Harry and Meghan

Looks like the World (Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, Chris Rock, SouthPark, plus countless authors and pundits) are turning on them. Nevertheless, they do not go away and seem determined to shade KCIII’s Coronation and ultimately “crash the Monarchy, then take over.” Sigh.

Honestly, it is a shame that any two such (mentally troubled?) malicious characters can simply PR their way to such visible levels of constant, now-pointless malevolence. Their malice is long-passed warranted.

But the whole sad affair does have its laughable elements. Pity it just does not end.  😉

That seems to complete the round-up of Personal, Local, National and Global news!

As usual events are mostly more troubling than entertaining and the outlook for much is unclear.

It is the time to enjoy your surrounds and make the most of the outdoors. Severe weather and seasonal disruptions do not need to constantly detract from the joys of living.

Are you getting out-and-about, enjoying your surroundings? Perhaps you should make the time and brighten up all experiences available!

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.

Tales of European Travel & Coming Home

Uncharacteristically, it is a few additional weeks since my last posting. I have been busily occupied by a couple of trips to Europe and overcoming some minor ailments on the tail-end of travels, upon return.

The trips were interesting and typically so, encompassing several countries, involving local outings and offering new experiences.

During recent times and travels I have also been listening to a string of audio-book Detective Novels to simply while-away interludes when enjoying new sights and scenes, further enrich those sedentary times during travelling or when finally, back home.

These have recently included a couple of DCI Logan series by JD Kirk, Comoran Strike tales by Rob Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) and Peter May’s, The Silent Death. Good reading, great listening and recommended entertainment. 😊

In the early part of December, I visited the UK, in-and-out via the SFO-Heathrow connection and after returning for a week departed again pre-Christmas for Sweden. This subsequent travel took in Stockholm (and locally, Hudiksvall), Helsinki (Finland),Tallin (Estonia), Hudiksvall (again), Edinburgh (Scotland), then proceeded down through England with various noteworthy scenic, City, Town and Village visits until reaching an overnight at Heathrow for my return.

The first trip to the UK took in a funeral in the Midlands attended by some new acquaintances and known relatives alike. It was a solemn affair visited with slight drizzles, overcast skies and those in attendance diligently clothed in the traditional black coats and clothing still favored and expected on such occasions in Britain.

This passing means that a regular direct personal connection is now formerly and finally lost to all, and me. A great loss and sad event.

The post-funeral gathering was held in a locally favored pub and eatery (Plough and Harrow, Chester Road) near Aldridge, Staffordshire. A warm, welcoming Inn sometime frequented by the sadly absent guest of honor.

My several days locally were spent nearby at Moor Hall (Restaurant, Hotel and Spa) trotting in-and-out on shopping errands, avoiding rains, overnight snows and freezing temperatures. The place itself provided a warm retreat with 500-year-old wood-paneled features, extensive renovations made through the years, still rather small rooms but unlimited and complete Full English Breakfasts.

On consecutive nights there I secured close, warm, fireside seating in a quiet lounge and enjoyed cross-room chats with first a traveler harboring fascinating (if a little paranoid) conspiracy-theory tendencies and then a father-and-son combo of particularly interesting Indian descent and family history.

My Indian acquaintance was a well-educated ex-RAF, Loughborough Colleges grad who still routinely works for the MOD.

As for driving, the local roads were largely unsalted, but few backroads were slippery and main roads never, even immediately following light, daytime snowfalls.

And then when the time came, I hit the road and returned the couple of hours along the motorway, down to check-in for an overnight at the Hilton (Terminal 2, Heathrow), before returning my car on time, ahead of my evening appointment.

The journey down itself was uneventful but notable for constant sightings of fork-tailed hawks (Red Kites) successfully re-introduced thirty years ago by domestic nature conservationists. Over the last twenty years I have witnessed these flocks spread from somewhat exclusively ~60 miles North of Heathrow on the M40 to now flourish all the way down to London, outnumbering (and dispatching) competing populations of crows. The distinctive tail-fork and wheeling numbers are impressive and memorable. 😊

So next to my evening meeting with my sole remaining, direct-blood Mackintosh relative (a cousin), not seen for many decades…

And I fine evening it was. We met for convenience in one of the decent pubs (The Victoria, Pub and Restaurant) within 5-10 mins walk of Paddington Station from where I had journeyed into London on the Heathrow Express Train.

Arriving first I secured warm bar seats away from drafty doors, in the ornate, traditional Victorian-style pub and soon happily greeted my cousin. Time has changed and aged us both, but the hours passed quickly; we consumed much (6 or more pints of) beer and one good glass of Rioja, catching up on personal and family histories. What a treat. 😊

We parted fondly and separated with renewed, well-defined means of and commitment to, future contact. I wended my way back to the nearest Tube station (the Train option disappeared at 7.00pm when a strike began), quickly purchased my ticket, boarded the Underground, changing in-route to the Piccadilly Line and was back at my Heathrow hotel in what seemed like under an hour.

It was still before midnight for this journey; the Tube itself carried the same stale mechanical operational odors I first encountered while living briefly in London during my early twenties, before returning to University for post-graduate studies. Good-humored, dark-clothed passengers were universally engaged with their phones, girls sitting with made-up sparkle patterns around their eyes and eBikes resting aboard while people came-and-went as stations fell-away. All this brought back fond memories.

As for my cousin, my unfortunate lack of much recent contact is corrected, and I am certain my now-reconnected relative will be reading these very lines. 😊

The following morning, I checked out of the Hotel and in with United Airways. After lounging around and scouring the Terminal 2 stores for potential gifts I indulged my now traditional, pre-flight (from London) Scottish Salmon, Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc feast at the central airport caviar stand.

Finally, I quickly trekked the 15 mins out to the gate, boarded, hunkered down, then drank, ate and slept the arduous fight back to SFO, and endured the wearisome drive home.

And then followed 8-9 days of meticulous preparations required for (and before) the upcoming, almost month-long return journey to Europe to visit family, friends and enjoy familiar and many new sights.

But, before this travel we hosted our newlywed eldest son and his wife for a pre-Xmas, Christmas celebration in Santa Cruz. My wife had the house well decked-out and decorated for seasonal events during my recent absence and this two-day affair went off like clockwork…

We enjoyed our small family gathering, Turkey Christmas Dinner and excited gift-giving. The surprise insertion of the traditional family Treasure Hunt entertained the Newlyweds and the following morning we were spoiled with our typical Boxing Day left-over fare (including bubble-and-squeak) and activities. And all this, just days before the officiality of the actual December 25th.  😉

The following couple of days and remaining hours involved frantic final last-minute packing for travel and the rabid disassembly of extensive Christmas decorations to avoid superstitiously invoking retribution and supposed bad luck incurred from NOT having these removed by Twelfth Night.

Finally, we left Santa Cruz on December 23rd, flying out of SFO, changing in Frankfurt to be checked into our Stockholm overnight airport hotel by late afternoon on the 24th. After a sleepless night I picked-up a rental car early on Christmas Day and by 2.00pm we were unlocking our Airbnb just outside of Hudiksvall after a snowy, four-hour drive North from Stockholm.

The rental place was great. We quickly settled-in, deciphered the lighting, heating, TV, kitchen and electrical arrangements and shopped locally in familiar stores. We relaxed, enjoying the surroundings and shops (happily regularly revisiting Wayne’s Coffee, in town) for a few days until all our extended family group could be assembled. Finally, my (younger) son was recovered from a recent bout of Covid and we reconnected to host a traditional US/UK-style Christmas meal and gathering for friends and family.

This was the second time we have hosted a larger group in Sweden. The gift exchange was great fun and I again set up our personally traditional Treasure Hunt for surprise gifts; this provides an excited treat for both young and older participants and was again thoroughly enjoyed by all. 😉

After a quick clean-up and re-packing for short-term travel, we quit our rental Airbnb, stashed unnecessary clothing elsewhere and set out in a group of four, for a couple of cruise trips we had planned out of Stockholm.


I always enjoy my stays in Sweden; not just because my youngest son and his extended family now reside there, but the environment, climate and culture appeals…

Driving in Sweden throughout this visit is fun, providing you are not a long-term resident, I suppose. The few weeks I am there involve constant snow clearing, de-icing, driving about in ruts that pull the rental SUV about; wipers often brush aside flurries and you wait exquisite minutes for the car to warm up when first entering each day.

Restaurants are fewer and are entered with stamping feet to clean your boots. There is local Traditional, Mediterranean, Sushi, Pizza (endless pizza offerings), Fast-food and other fare from which to choose. Prices are perhaps only 60% of back home. Service is polite, efficient and considerate; people seem genuinely happy when greeting one another.  It is different, experiential. It is not here. This is an easy place to be.


And next, we (four) were on the road heading South from Hudiksvall, anticipating the two cruises planned, both departing from Stockholm…

After remembering how to approach the expansive Tallink Disembarkation Port and Parking Lot, we parked the SUV, entered the Terminal and began the wait to check-in and board. A few hours later were aboard and secured in our (2) cabins along with our minimal baggage for a 2-night, New Year round-trip to Helsinki, Finland.

First night out was the usual dinner service crush, followed by a show featuring a dancing and singing ABBA Cover Band. It was fun. A HUGELY different diversion for me and good entertainment.

After briefly wandering around the large cruise vessel’s bars and shops with howling (+20 knot winds) Baltic weather outdoors, we finally slipped into our berths to later wake for early breakfast to be followed by a full day wandering about the Helsinki Old Town and harbor area where we were to dock shortly.

As for myself, I remained jet-lagged and sleepless, so finally rose to wander about upper and lower decks around 3.00am, peaking out at the blow, finally grabbing some strong coffee and playing with eMail for entertainment in a 24hr lounge. At this hour there were just a few drunken men, wandering around harmlessly and fighting sleep.

As the ship had already passed the curious mid-point stop and momentary docking requirement at Mariehamn, there was no close-by land to be seen outside. The outdoor leeward side of the vessel was still chilly and quite breezy; all there was visible were other occasional, far-off heavily lighted cruise liners crossing the Baltic and intermittent, and sometime lighted buoys bouncing on our wake as we pounded by.

So, I eventually retired for a few hours more sleep, rising with the others to enjoy a hearty breakfast and a rapid disembarkation into Old Town of Helsinki

The Harbor and Town are just 10 mins walk away and the large brick, historic, well-stocked Old Market building is the first port of call for most travelers. Any fish, meat or game you can imagine was for sale here and intermittent Cafés offered appealing breaks, snacks and drinks. You can purchase all sorts of breads, preserves and pastries; varied meats from Reindeer, Bear, Venison, Elk, Boar and more are available. And the stalls, people and building itself offer great photo-ops.  😊

After this we hit a couple of nearby Churches/ Cathedrals, each within 10-15 mins walk and sight of the harbor. The massive white church on the hill that loomed over the annual (just removed/ closed) Christmas Market had Lutheran origins and the other, red-brick, more ornate, domed edifice is now known as Finnish Orthodox in defiance of its Russian-built origins.

Following these visits, we wandered the few hundred yards back passed a busy outdoor sauna / dive pool setup nestled into the side of the sporadically ice-bound lower harbor and then through the year-round grouping of a half-dozen Outdoor Market stalls offering hot drinks, food and souvenirs for the small groups of tourists milling about in the freezing air.

We crossed from here into an adjacent square housing a massive, heated, glass-built (walls and arched roof) café and restaurant to board a bus-tour around the Finnish Capitol. The one-hour tour of Helsinki entertained and provided English-language descriptions of the City and its history for a nominal price.

When this tour was complete, we headed back to the brick Old Market for hot drinks, last minute shopping and respite before hiking back the few short minutes to the Boat. Once returned we readied for dinner, evening show and the scheduled New Year revelries.

Dinner was crowded, decadent with exorbitant buffet offerings of good food and the show was the same Cover band from the previous evening, but this time dancing and singing in a Queen Tribute. They were followed by a four-man singing troop who would give the Righteous Brothers a run for their money. 😉

As we moved about the ship, I had noticed several dozen, well-dressed women wearing ornate black and silvered evening gowns featuring large, stand-out wide-hip structures from which their dresses hung to the floor. Upon enquiry I found these to be Finnish Gypsies who have been uniquely allowed to legally settle permanently in Finland. Their male companions were correspondingly attired in black suits with white shirts and long black ties; all were dressed ready to proudly celebrate the New Year as a group. It was a heartening to behold; something I have never heard of nor seen, before.   😊

Growing increasingly tired as midnight approached, we slunk off to mid-ships on the main central shopping deck, next to a small operational stage and singing concert, where we seated ourselves in an up-scale wine-bar in preparation for the calling of Midnight and the ringing-in of the New Year.

Finally, the count-down was made; hundreds of balloons released from above into the raucous, yet well-behaved crowd all cheering, singing, jumping, dancing, hugging and kissing as mobile videos and selfies recorded from countless outstretched arms.  Overhead, large arrays and strings of colored lightbulbs swung gently in concert with the slight, subtle roll and dipping of the ship. 

Within 20-30 mins that main deck was empty and the previously large crowd dispersed into numerous cabins and bunks. And a great time was had by all.  😊

The next morning, we timed our Stockholm disembarkation to dodge the crowds and went ashore into the terminal to watch over our group baggage until we could check in for our second cruise, another 2-night return, booked to Tallin, Estonia. Two of the group headed into Stockholm to pass the hours; I chose to wait and played games on my cell phone until our boarding.

Our cabin had a sizeable outboard porthole through which to view the journey and usual momentary Mariehamn required mid-point Baltic Ocean docking. The trip itself was uneventful yet pleasant and we arrived to plan the following morning.

And then came the trip around Tallin. It is an older town with much, particularly medieval, history and architecture. The reason for this trip was to see the incredibly special Christmas Market still running (for another week of January) in the Old Town Main Square. It was as picturesque and special as I recalled from a few years prior visit.

We wound our way from the dock to the middle of the Old Town, taking pictures and admiring buildings as we passed. The main square housed several dozen stalls offering hearty hot-food plates, drinks, woolen and hand-made goods and souvenirs alike. I desperately wanted to eat foods from the Market but was spoiled more by a meal in a square-side restaurant after we were heavily courted by an animated and solicitous Maître D.

The restaurant served Venison, Bear and Elk meals. Everyone tried a little of everything including some local beers and good red wine. We then finally visited all the stalls and a few nearby shops but were eventually forced to head back towards the boat for embarkation.

As daylight began to fade the Old Square, Market Stalls and massive, decorated Christmas Tree presented increasingly pretty, photographic opportunities sprinkled with countless twinkling lights.

Along the return walk we made a final stop at an exceptionally large, old medieval Ale (and dining) Tavern. No modern dress or electric lights here; servers and food were the style of >500 years ago and candles offered the only lighting. We quickly indulged ourselves with coffees and snacks then meandered back through the streets to board our cruise ship and depart on schedule.

The return trip was memorable for next-day views of the early daylight winding journey through the Swedish Archipelago into the Port of Stockholm. It is a unique experience; our huge vessel passing within 100’s and sometimes 10’s of yards of the countless snow-covered, frequently forested, steep-sided islands dotted all along the route, exposing their occasional and isolated, very private homes and often ramshackle docking areas below.

Unfortunately, Tallin is in Estonia, where I assume many Russians (and Ukrainians?) might happily wander if escaping the proxy war in the Ukraine. So, unlike our prior journey into Finland which requires almost no identity check when re-entering Sweden, Tallin provides a different proposition. There was major scrutiny of all persons entering Sweden upon return.

As a consequence, inefficient, slow passport checks at Stockholm backed up some 3000 (est.) disembarking passengers in a 250-yard (long) by 30-yard (wide) gangway for an hour. Such Low temperatures, Winter climate and overcrowding has consequences. Upon my subsequent return to Hudiksvall I turned up a Positive Covid test within a couple of days. No surprise, here! My second infection and fortunately, again feverless. ☹

Well, the Covid blight followed the usual track of later viral mutations: seemingly more contagious (certainly in immediate environs) but far less virulent. Within ~72 hours after arrival I was still ploughing through my 5-day course of Paxlovid and already testing negative; the symptoms were quite mild and very similar to my first such infection last August when returning from Alaska.

Before shortly thereafter leaving Sweden, I was able enjoy a few more experiences: First, to drive out to the local village of Hog, wade into knee-deep snow surrounding the local church and get some snaps of a couple of 6’ high Viking Rune Stones stationed outside of the cemetery walls. Next, negotiate my rented SUV out of a shallow, snow-filled depression and finally, go Ice Fishing.

Such Rune Stones are more common in this area of Sweden; these were >500 years old and more recently moved to their current location.

The escape from the off-road snow-bound layby was a really fortunate experience. I was turning around on a narrow country road after seeing a monster snowplow (shovels front and another channeling snow, nearside rear) approaching from ahead; better to move over and let it pass. Consequentially I backed into the shallowest roadside depression that proved too much for the modest, rented SUV. There I sat, wheels spinning, within 250-yds of my latest Airbnb accommodation which loomed above, across the way, perched atop a long, steep, icy gravel driveway.

So, I worked with a local farmer who was fortunately feeding cattle 20 yards away to contact a town tow company, which arrived within 20 mins. It then took less than two minutes to attach a front axle cable hitch from a large flatbed towing truck to underneath the SUV and effortlessly pull it the couple of feet required, back into the narrow road. Problem solved.

And all achieved with aid from a couple of helpful locals, both speaking only very broken English. 

The moral of this story: Do not bother needlessly moving-over for snowplows, no matter how large. 😉

As for the fishing, that was a very typical Swedish experience…

We set out before light and drove around 20 miles, the last seven or so being on fresh, thick virgin powder that had not been ploughed this day. There was nobody ahead of us and the few, long snow-covered hills along the road required some speed and concentration to successfully mount the climbs and stay within the narrow confines of high white berms piled either side.

And then we arrived at our destination.  An untouched, 10” deep snow-covered deserted parking lot, surrounded by pines and deciduous growth; it was deathly quiet with little-or-no breeze.

The lake had fresh powder and the recent fall sat over a foot of ice. We slogged out onto and along the ice to a known, fancied fishing spot.

We drilled a lot of 10” diameter holes that day with a newly re-bladed manual auger.

Beneath the snow upon the lake sat water which appeared to fill every footprint and depression made; this made relocations and finding new sites hard going. No fish that day, maybe a couple of knocks, but the experience was nevertheless spectacular.

This section of lake was tree-lined and perhaps 300 yards across where we fished. At one end it appeared to terminate in shrubs and grasses that quickly blended into the tree line and half mile in the other direction, it narrowed and turned a corner vanishing into the woods. Throughout the hours we fished a heavy mist moved closer, in then out, sometimes settling close and upon the immediate tree-tops, only to later lift a little and slip back away.

In early afternoon the sun could briefly be discerned, trying and failing to peek through the more determined clouds and mists.

With all the gear we wore it was never cold; all day the temperature held -1 to -2deg C. The air was constantly still, and I never felt the slightest breeze. If hands got wet till tested, they were best covered quickly to avoid further discomfort in already chilled fingers.

After four or more hours we trudged back to the lake’s edge breathing heavily, lugging gear up the final few hundred yards through the forest to the SUV, where we quickly shed our heavy clothing, repacked the trunk and wended our way out of the pristine parking lot, retracing our lonely inbound tracks.

No photographs were taken. But the memory of that place and outing will hold strong.

And then the time in Sweden was done. The following morning, we rose early, completed packing, drove to make saddened rushed farewells to local family and barreled South the four-hour journey to Stockholm, finally boarding our late afternoon flight to Edinburgh, Scotland.

We overnighted in an Airport hotel then next day rented a small SUV from Hertz and headed South through Northumberland to catch the major sites and stay two nights in Newcastle-on-Tyne.

This region houses more castles than any other in England and is worth a visit, especially in the less busy off-season. On this journey we stopped first in the quaint fishing Village of Eyemouth during a downpour, then drove a little further, crossing onto Holy Island at low tide, capturing spectacular snaps of historic Lindisfarne, rising defiant and majestically from the watery flats into clear skies.

Next, we ran down to Banburgh Castle and opened the unlocked entry gates, enjoying our exclusive private viewing of Grounds, Buildings, Battlements and ancient Keep. The phot-op and panorama were unprecedented. There were no tourists to disrupt our views and shots as this great edifice was momentarily closed for the Winter season.

A solitary couple later followed us inside to the consternation of an indignant worker who shooed us all off, in a belated bid for enforcement of the current closure. We already had our experience and photographs, so meandered back passed fortifications, cannon-filled balustrades and old stone buildings, politely closing and bolting the gate behind us as we set off into the local village nestled right below, beneath the massive Castle.

The village itself is worth the visit. A Bakery, Michelin Restaurant, Hotel/ Pub/Restaurant and Shop(s) all side-by-side across from a large central Green. Picturesque and a phot-op itself. The pub food and beer by an open fire were well worth the stop-in, too. 😊

We finished the day at Alnwick Castle, made famous for the filming of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter movies. The castle is massive, rambling and in various, mixed stages of aging, from fine condition to notable disrepair.

Here we learned about free local (time-limited) parking in multiple locations throughout the town for the price of a simple, re-usable display disk; this must be set and displayed to indicate time of arrival. The disk costs 1.00GBP (~$1.20) and is re-usable forever once purchased and displayed. What a great deal. 😉

The castle itself presented well for decent photographs, even in failing daylight. We forwarded those to friends and family who are Harry Potter (HP) junkies. There is also a modern HP/ Castle Theme Park attached for those with children who might be interested; this is closed during Winter months.

After cappuccinos and snacks we trundled the last few miles into Newcastle City, its rush-hour and the newly minted, torturous one-way system. After frantically circling the hotel in heavy traffic we finally found ready local parking and checked-in, before heading out to local pubs, late-night Indian fare and a short walk back to the hotel.

The following morning, we again over-ate yet another Full English Breakfast and set out on a walkabout. Newcastle has a long and important history, evidenced by the magnificent, well-preserved 1000-year-old Keep and Barbican (heavily fortified gated entrance) we toured. The Cathedral is right next door and houses an impressive refectory and well-stocked Café.

After teas, scones, pies and biscuits there, we walked the mere 10 mins back to our Hilton Garden Hotel opposite to the grand old Central Train Station, grabbed the SUV and headed out of town.

Next stop was a visit to Hadrian’s Wall (circa 120 AD) and accompanying Roman Town/ Fort ruins. We pay-parked, surveyed the bleak, windswept, rain-lashed exposed walk, read the posted notes about the town remains that we could easily view from our ½ mile distance, then jumped back into our heated vehicle. With some wisdom we drove back a few miles to another, far less-exposed section of the Wall / ditches and took some snaps for the records, just as some brief welcome sunshine emerged. A much wiser choice. 😉

NOTE: Hadrian’s Wall and accompanying ditch-systems was built to keep out unfriendly warring tribes of Picts from further North.  It is visible on-and-off for 10’s of miles in this region. After almost 2000 years it remains discernable, rambling, utilizing erratic natural geographic contours and still present over much of its 80–90-mile length.

Shortly after this photo-op we returned the few miles to a one-lane bridge over the heavily swollen river Sill (?). Alongside stood The George Hotel in Chollerford, where Baden Powell often visited before founding the now world-wide Boy Scout movement in 1908.

It is a nice old hotel with its own docks, sitting along the banks of the river, stretching out towards the solid, stately multi-arched stone narrow bridge. We took drinks there in a warm lounge in front of an open fire. Although aging, the Hotel has great ambiance and offers rooms and a large dining restaurant for travelers.

As the day was fading it was time to head back to our Newcastle hotel.

Along the way it seemed that every time we passed the smallest of villages or towns there were often visible signs of the Strip Farming that had been practiced there by peasants and farmers from >>500 years ago. The characteristic rows of consecutive, humped, typ. 10-15-yard-wide strips are still clearly impressed and exposed upon obviously ancient fields, particularly in the immediate proximity of older clustered dwellings and structures.

These sightings caused me to keep looking for similar signs throughout England as I journeyed South. Indeed, the evidence is there, visible from roads and Motorways even down in the farmlands North of London, but less so. Time does not always quickly erase all.

And so, we returned to Newcastle and deposited the SUV back in the low-cost long-term parking of the main Railway Station immediately across the street from the Hotel. This gave us the opportunity to stop in the station’s Centurion Bar, which has been fully restored by private investors to its magnificence as an exotic, floor-to-ceiling fully tiled, ornate 1839 First Class passenger lounge for early train travelers.

What an edifice. Even today commuters stop in while waiting for trains and it is a go-to place for evenings out, watching televised sports and photo-ops. The bar offers a large range of tap beers, some snacks and was a welcome stop to begin this evening out.

Following this we wandered just a couple of hundred yards along the same street and found multiple attractive pub/ eatery options and settled there for beers, pies, fish-and-chip (French fries) meals before catching the end of a Premiership game and settling in for the night back at the Hotel.

SIDE NOTE: Despite constant sampling of food and drinks I didn’t fare too badly in maintaining weight this trip. Must have been all the walking?  😉

The next day I rose early, got the SUV packed and headed the few hours’ drive South to the familiar, old City of York. Traffic was forgiving along the way; even the rush-hour congestion when entering town favored my route at every turn and I checked-in at the Hilton and parked before the 3.00pm crush of new arrivals.

The hotel entrance stood 100 yards directly across the road from the 1000-year-old Clifton Tower, an ancient Keep perched sedately atop an ~60’ high dirt mound. It makes an impressive setting though oddly does not always photograph well at night, even though spotlighted and illuminated.

That evening we were off around town, checking a few pubs and eateries, enjoying the lighted streets, open stores and historic architectures before returning to enjoy the open fire and drinks in the Hotel bar.

The following day we savored breakfast at the well-run and stately hotel restaurant. After this we hit the well-known and prescribed sites that every visit to York should embrace. Firstly a 1-hour orientation and  history-class tour atop a Hop-on-Hop-off bus around the City, followed by a visit to York Minster Cathedral.

The Minster has its foundations laid in part upon the remains of a more massive major Roman Fort. It is a unique structure with classic English Architecture providing the only remaining example of an expansive, stained-glass-window central tower, whose supporting pillars had to be surgically reenforced with gigantic concrete footing collars secured by innumerable horizontal steel rods, to prevent its weight from crushing its own foundations.

This mighty building is full of light penetrating through enormous stained-glass window structures, making the Cathedral an architectural marvel. Well worth a visit. I recommend making an advance on-line reservation to enjoy a scheduled climb of the main tower to the roof above. That is truly special.  😊

Surrounding the Cathedral are streets and buildings that go back some 700 years. We wandered the narrow street of The Shambles and affiliated street market. There are cafés, souvenir and various other shops to browse. We stopped for a Cream Tea (local jam and clotted cream on scones with a pot-of-tea for two) along the way.

In The Shambles stores offering Harry Potter souvenirs, Ghostly goods and providing Ghost Tours now enjoy much of the excited, busy trade from Gen Xr’s and Millennials alike.

There are always new things and facts that pique my interest when I visit this ancient walled city. First this time was the huge, impressive, fortified gate (Micklegate Bar) where the heads of transgressors were rolled in tar and impaled on high for all entering the City to behold. Second, is the fact that TWO Roman emperors died in York and a THIRD (Constantine) was proclaimed there; the Romans treasured Britain, their most Northerly important conquest.

After the stay in York, we moved down to the lush green countryside of the Midlands and overnighted in my familiar childhood nearby town of Warwick. In the past I have usually favored visiting Stratford (some 10 miles distant) but have been there so frequently that my memories of Shakespeare’s picturesque Town Centre, Tudor buildings, Canal, Avon River and Theatres do not need refreshing anytime soon.

So, there I was in Warwick. We stayed at The Globe, a comfortable place where the off-site parking was a little inconvenient but the Hotel and Restaurant/ Bar itself sat right below the main Old Town Square, just 2 mins walk away and loaded with pubs, eateries, coffees houses and convenient local shops.

That night we wandered around the Old Town then ate out at a local pub in front of an open fire, nestled in deep sofas and warm surroundings. After dinner we sat and cleaned up our aging eMail business then eventually left when a couple arrived and proceeded to spend an hour in increasingly loud, wholesale vocal disagreement. A manager spoke to them to quiet the spectacle, which was apparently a frequent occurrence for this local pair. But we were tired and faced an early morning so moved back to our hotel, grabbed a drink at the bar then turned in.

Pressed for time the next day we quickly visited the Old Alms House and Lord Leycester Hospital (built from 1126AD to late 1400’s) which is currently undergoing extensive repairs and renovation. This is an important historical structure of medieval courtyard architecture and sited on the High Street, next to the old West Gate Town entrance just 5 mins walk from the Old Town Centre. Again, worth a visit, check for re-opening if you are in the area.

And do not forget Warwick Castle, one of the finest, most complete medieval examples in the UK, that I have enjoyed several times before. Its fortifications, battlements, encircling wall, interior buildings, historical displays and extensive gardens are a popular Summer destination. However, we were short of time and so passed on visiting this trip.

After packing I drove the few hours South to my familiar haunt of the Hilton at Terminal 2, Heathrow Airport. As mentioned earlier, the trip down again presented several views of Strip Farming activities, and the now familiar Fork-tailed Hawks made their appearances above.

Upon arrival I snagged a couple of free trolleys from the airport parking areas, loaded them with all the bags, checked-in then returned the rental vehicle to prepare for a last evening out.

Upon Hotel recommendations we took a Taxi to the apparently wildly popular and trendy Pheasant Inn on West End Lane near Heathrow. It is a very different place to dine. The Pub/ Restaurant has a great menu and good drink offerings. Most everything seems to be served in robustly tented heated areas attached to and wrapped about the main building. Most unusual.

After seating by the Maître D you scan the provided menus then take your orders to an ordering position where your choices are diligently recorded. Same goes for drinks, where you approach the bar. Then you sit and wait. Appropriate utensils arrive which are quickly followed by really well-prepared appetizers, meals and desserts, as ordered. The food is great.

Basically, there are no traditional waiters taking orders. Just a well-dressed crew of timely workers delivering food and bussing as required. The interior is modern with simple grey walls and stained-wood appointments. Service is crisp and helpful, and they seem to be insanely profitable. Clientele appear to be well-heeled locals, eclectic diners with a sprinkling of travelers such as we out of Heathrow. 😊

We returned to the Hotel by Taxi, having earlier dropped-off the Hertz rental SUV. The Maître D courteously and willingly arranged this transport home.

The next morning, we left the Hotel, walked across the terminal with our trolleys and labored through the (albethey helpful and friendly people) new, extensive automated check-in and data-entry procedure now required for International Travel with United. Sigh.  😉

After muscling through security checks, we did our own thing with preferred pre-trip dining (Scottish Salmon, Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc again for me), a quick visit to the United Lounge and boarded on time for a 45min delayed departure. The return trip was well-served but seemed grueling, and eventually passed.

Upon reaching SFO I sped through Global Entry in minutes, paid the exorbitant fees ($8.00 ea. ONLY required in CA… sigh) for a couple of trolleys, collected all our baggage, retrieved our SUV from Alamo Parking and drove back to Santa Cruz, quite weary upon arrival home.

After quickly unloading the baggage, I surveyed the garden and house surroundings for obvious damage from the preceding weeks of globally publicized, local California Winter Storms. A few garden furniture coverings were torn-up and those were superficially addressed, to be more fully secured the next day. We were then officially returned.

During these travels I notably greatly benefitted financially, from THREE things: The strength of the US dollar versus more badly struggling currencies (Euro, SEK, GBP), the largely vanishing practice of TIPPING outside of the US and the typically 30% (oft times 40%) lower prices of goods and services in Europe.

Most (non-US) Countries now take payments for everything by contactless Credit Card. This means the option to tip seldom comes up nor is directly inserted into the automatic billing process. I asked people about this in several Countries, and each assured me that tipping is nice (and appreciated) but really neither necessary nor expected with current local pay levels. Wow. This certainly beats the 18% (often 20%) expectation commonly seen in the US, where, as mentioned, prices are also typically much higher than in Europe. 😊

As for using cash, do not ask. I have never seen it expected regardless how inexpensive the purchase. And in many European places (stores, restaurants and Hotels) cash is often unable to be accepted at all.

In the days following my return I worked through the inevitable jetlag and snuffles, a seemingly inevitable result of long-term travel. And there were immediate, scheduled regular medical tests and appointments to attend and local damage to view that had resulted from the extensive storms centered around my Santa Cruz home.

Storm damage was close to, but not at my home. Some 300 yards East, the almost sea-level Moran Lake inlet had lost several feet of sand off the short beach and countless logs and branches, some as long as 30’ feet and 2’ in diameter had washed up to, and over the road. Now annual sea glass hunters have arrived early and search a graveled beach for (often) 100-year-old small, smooth, colored fragments mingled with the pebbles, washed back to land after being dumped off-shore by glass-waste disposal practices common hereabouts, many years ago.

Some 400 yards West, East Cliff Drive falls again to almost reach sea-level. The standing water, sand, trees and branches that had washed in have already been quickly removed and 5’ high sand berms flank each side of the road, holding off further flooding and clearing way for cars to pass.

Some 250 yds from my home the wooden steps descending ~30’ to the beach, winding through the massive seawall of giant boulders were destroyed, and water reached up and onto that immediate area of 26th Avenue.

Amazingly there were few or no signs of fallen Eucalyptus trees. The recent, aggressive proactive removal and pruning of the numerous stands in this neighborhood following last year’s storms and damage has fulfilled its purpose. 

All the beaches hereabouts are strewn with massive logs and driftwood that was tumbled, stripped, then washed in. Now each night there are impressive wood bonfires that light the skies with flames and sparks and slowly help diminish the piles of debris. The beaches are no longer feared after a week or two of calm, and normalcy has returned.

Down in Capitola Village the storms wreaked some havoc, with waves again making progress into the low-lying central Victorian buildings that stand just 50 yards from the short, futile seawall barrier. Several of the half-dozen frontage restaurants had their aging underpinnings, support pilings and even some interiors damaged or destroyed by waves and the debris they bore. A couple are amazingly already open again for business. 😊

The Britannia Arms stands slightly further East, nearer cliffs and on fractionally higher ground, yet only 60 yards or so from the same Seawall; there was no damage apparent there. After a forced evacuation one storm day they were brazenly opened-up for business the next even during continuing heavy weather.

The entire Capitola beach seems lowered several feet by the loss of sand, and the old concrete spit reaching to the ocean from the Creek now stands fully exposed again, protruding boldly on wood-strewn flats.

And the Capitola Pier still stands, but with some 40 yards or so gone of its decking and rails in one place, oddly absent from above the pilings that remain there, resolute. Here, cables and service lines now hang listlessly between the two lengthy, still-decked sections of Pier that live on.

The decking lost was to waves reflecting off the tall cliffs behind the Pier, accumulating height with those incoming on the storm, thence attacking the structure from below; it was much the same location and damage suffered similarly and recorded in the 1960’s.

Out on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk the mile or so of frontage beach is also strewn with massive logs and drift, as is all seafront surrounding much of the Monterey Bay. There appears to be no specific notable storm damage to the Santa Cruz Pier and Boardwalk entertainments.

And the President himself made a brief, superficial flyby to survey the damage, alarming some residents with the enormous din produced from his squad of intimidating, thunderous black military helicopters.

The major storms are now behind us and repairs are well underway.

Following these local inspections, I took enjoyment in a rare visit to the Cinema on 41st to enjoy an evening, 3-D showing of AVATAR: The Way of The Water. No matter your convictions, likes and dislikes, this is a spectacularly entertaining treat for both young and old. It provides a happy distraction from the woes and troubled News that surrounds us all. I highly recommend it for everyone. 😉

In closing, my most recent, happy particularly personal news is a reported clean bill of health. I apparently remain currently cancer-free, as determined by my latest six-monthly checks. 😊

And so, this completes a chronical of (much of) my recent journeys. Time away, travelling, visiting new (and even old) sights is refreshing, enervating and a joy. I do enjoy my Winter, Holiday-Season travels.

How about you? Did you take time out and meet up with Family, Acquaintances and Loved ones? Have you enjoyed recent travels and diversions?

If not, it is a New Year, so why not treat yourself and make some of these choices happen!

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.

Passing Into Winter, Enjoying Local Life and Watching Global Madness Expand

In the last month or so the weather in my home territory of Northern CA has seen temperatures drift from their daily mid-60’s to the lower 50’s with nights falling into the 30’s but still normally holding above freezing. This is typical Winter hereabouts.

Nights see occasional rains, sometimes heavy and persisting as much as an hour, which leaves the following days displaying steaming wood fences, rooves and roads as dampness burns off.

Steam rising from a frosty fence and garden shed in the early morning sun  Stock Photo - Alamy

With this has come spectacular sunsets. Indeed, I have spent many recent fading afternoons on the Santa Cruz Pier, seated behind the steering wheel, parked facing West with beer in-hand watching the sun drop over the horizon behind the famous Steamers’ surfing waters. The gulls swirl above and the post-feeding sealions rollick in the chilly waters below, waiting for the tide to make the lower Pier joists accessible in height so they can launch themselves aboard and finally rest.

Surfing Santa Cruz in Style — Sigma Adventures

The many juveniles and fewer mature sealions return at speed each evening, leaping from the water in multiple inbound groups of 5-10, approaching their final nightly resting spots on beams and planks beneath the Pier as the seawater rises.

As temperatures drop the Dolphin Restaurant at pier’s end bustles with diners seated behind glass windows, intermingling with flaming propane heating towers. And outside, occasional groups wander about, peering through the few, through-pier viewing spots and over rails to photograph and enjoy the antics of resident sealions.

One November evening we were joined here by a rare bird only normally seen far South in Baja or much further West in Hawaii. Excited local press and media caused a stir about the sighting that later attracted interested folks from around the region wanting to see the distinctive young (with still just pinkish feet and legs), Red-footed Booby.

When I first found it fearlessly perched on a rail, it seemed almost open to being handled and posed implacably for close-up mobile-phone camera shots by occasional puzzled passers-by who wondered what it might be. It clearly was not a gull and indeed would aggressively shoo-off other such birds that approached.

It was identified and announced a few days later in local press outlets. There remains the mystery of how it had ever arrived.

Mid November (by The Hook of Pleasure Point along East Cliff Drive) provided a one-night show of rare abundance. Some 1500 Pelicans settled 100-200 yds off the cliffs, strewn over a quarter mile, with a couple of teams of some two-dozen sealions (up from the Santa Cruz Pier, 1-2 miles West) thrashing back and forwards through the same area, just aside of a flotilla of surfers working their usual spots. A shoal of small fry had surfaced and induced a feeding frenzy for diving birds and speeding sealions, alike.

As for myself, these colder days have found me binge-watching multiple TV series and enjoying audiobooks while travelling or just sitting watching the spectacular array of recent local sunsets.

Amazon Prime Video (with included Acorn and Britbox Apps) offers many options for Detective Stories and Intrigues; recently I have burned through multiple series of Red Election, No Offence and Annika (on Masterpiece). All worth watching.  😊

As for Audios, my recent indulgencies include two more detective series featuring DCI Logan by J.D. Kirk and Cormoran Strike by Rob Galbraithe (aka J.K. Rowling).

In late November I made another night boating run around the San Francisco Bay, taking friends along the Embarcadero waterfront, enjoying the crisp evening and many early displays of City Christmas lights on buildings and the Bay Bridge itself. What a great, bracing outing wrapped up with drinks and appetizers after a safe return to the dock.

On the health front I have been paying the price for being outdoorsy in California with my latest six-monthly visit to my now-regular Dermatologist.

When I met this fellow a couple of years ago, he greeted me with, “Ahh, fair hair and blue eyes. We have been waiting for you.”

It appears these Northern European qualities mean you do not belong in the California (or any generally fiercer US) Summer sun between Noon and 4.00pm, ever. And at all other times you best be bathed in high-end, zinc-based sunblock; even then, the odds you will have a Dermatologist in your later life remain extremely high.

It seems my lifestyle of Sailing and Fishing are incompatible with my genes. But we do what we must and manage the consequences. These are: Almost annual chemical facial skin scrubs and 6-monthly, freeze-offs of any precancerous, suspicious specks. These are uncomfortable and essential treatments. ☹

And be warned…  no-one is immune to these specific, immutable laws of outdoor living.  😉

Thanksgiving was a different experience this year. Most friends and family were off in their different directions and with my having extensive personal European travel plans (England, Sweden, Finland and Estonia) through Christmas and the coming New Year, a more solitary celebration was in order for my wife and self. And it was a wonderful day…

The early morning temperature rose from high 50’s to 63F by Noon, so we got in a 17-mile bike ride before an early-evening dinner. It was the usual East Cliff run down to Capitola, back West along Portola Drive, around the Santa Cruz harbor and up passed Aldo’s; but then we added-in an additional run up to and around the estuary, along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and on the Pier. Surprisingly, a few Fairground rides were operating on the Boardwalk, enticing happy squeals of delight from both young and old as we rode by.

THE BEST Santa Cruz Bike Tours (with Photos) - Tripadvisor

We next stopped for beers at the Crow’s Nest Café on the return route through the Santa Cruz Harbor and enjoyed those seated outside under umbrellas, behind the Café El Palomar Restaurant, watching a few festive groups of locals play (including Brazilian-Style, no hands) beach volleyball.

Happily, the weather remained sunny, cloudless the entire day and it felt like temperatures were in the 70’s.  😊

And the traditional, early evening dinner that followed at home was as special and welcome as ever.  😊

Sadly, I lost a good friend recently after his two-year battle with Cancer and will attend his funeral service in England mid-December. He was a good person; just wish tears could wash away the grief.

The 2022 Men’s World Cup has begun with its massive Global coverage and fanaticism. Local Qatari officials angered Sponsors (esp. Budweiser) when they reneged on commitments and in the days before opening games enforced a no-alcohol-consumption rule in Stadiums.  But life went on…

The US team made it out of the Group Stage competition but lost in the Round Of Sixteen and is already returned home. American Pundits and fans alike focused on the real successes the team did enjoy during their participation and run.  😊

In 2026 the World Cup is billed as a primarily US event and perhaps the historically frequent host team successes will play out for them.  😉

On December 3rd, the Annual Lighted Boat Parade was held in Santa Cruz Harbor. It is always a picturesque and happy event. Even after the parade, many docked boats carry their lighted decorations into the Christmas period; there usually remain several dozen decked-out vessels on each side of the bridge which crosses the harbor by the Yacht Club…

Each year we wander down to the harbor to enjoy these displays. This year was a chilly, wet night but as is usual it was brightened by sparkling decorated vessels scattered throughout the Harbor. The Crow’s Nest (CN) and Johnny’s restaurants were packed-out with festive customers following the Saturday Night parade. So instead, we sat away, sheltered from wind and rain sprinkles behind the (CN) Café, drinking beers, listening to Christmas music, gazing over the twinkling vessels, and surrounding decorated buildings.

The Harbor is well worth a night visit this time of year.  😊

On another sad note…

There is still a drive-thru’ food bank operating 1-2 miles from my home, at a Community Center near 17th Avenue on Portola Drive. I believe it has been there many months now, as inflation continues to run rampant and the economy withers. Each Wednesday, cars line-up around the parking lot and one-by-one gratefully seize large boxes of food stuffs and deposit them in their trunks.

It is fortunate that this service is there. It is SAD that it needs be.

And now on to the broader scope of (some) contemporary issues that affect the Nation and World alike and so warrant being recorded…

Let us begin with the elephant in the room. I like to travel, so early 2021 Covid shots and a December 2021 booster were an inevitable and easy choice for myself. I thought little of the ramifications and was not too concerned about what appeared (and was cast) as fear-mongering unproven conspiracy theories about risk tied to these vaccinations.

I was wrong and apparently foolish. There are now extensive proven and well-documented medical facts published by leading experts across the World (> one dozen Countries now have related data published) detailing the now FACTUAL, codified risks and liabilities. If you do NOT believe this and continue vaxxing and boosting yourself, you too are making a major mistake. The supported and proven facts and publications are plentiful and are ignored at your own peril…

Prominent and sough-after Oncology expert Dr Angus Dalgleish (Prof of oncology St George’s University of London) has written that Covid vaccine programs are no longer necessary especially because of known links to myocarditis, heart attacks and strokes now being well accepted. He predicted these risks in his June 2020 QRBD article. Problematic incidents especially follow Boosters, and the pattern is being seen and reported in Germany, Australia and the USA.

The USA (especially prone to NOT reporting such problems and actively still promoting Vax programs) recently published the 2021 data on the incidence of Cancers in the Military, which only began vaccinations that same year. Cancer incidence increased from 3x-8x depending on Cancer-type, relative to 2020 occurrences. This is simply not coincidence.

Medical reports (accepted by Government bodies and appropriately peer-reviewed) in prominent journals about the World have now published data showing proven Vax ties to Heart Disease, Strokes, Blood Clots, Cancers, Comas, Brain Damage, Stillbirths, Infant Deaths and more. The published (in UK Science Magazine) belief is that the result of Boosting vaccinations inherently and inevitably depletes the auto-immune system, and it is well-known Vaxed people contract Covid, anyway.

It is repeatedly stated that longer-term vaccination impacts on human DNA and immune systems have not even begun to be understood.

As a result of many folks now finding and reading these proven and accepted medical reports there has been an inevitable explosion of patients requiring blood transfusions demanding non-vax blood. Unsurprisingly, this demand is proving hard to support. ☹

Pfizer and Moderna are now just starting long-term studies to figure out of there is a link between Covid shots and Heart damage. Finally.

This fulfils my duty of at least reporting items those needing vaccination should at least now research and consider.

Next, the UK is banning Puberty Blockers for under-18’s. Pursue yourself if interested.

As regard to a couple of individual characters…

In a recent Poll it was found that 60% of Americans want Hunter Biden investigated by the incoming GOP. This includes only 30% of Democrats.

The release by Twitter of so much information regarding FBI-supported suppression of the Hunter Laptop-story in 2020 has caused quiet apologies from several media sources, who now are acknowledging an inevitability of an investigation (and the corresponding implication of associated corruption in Joe Biden). We will see if The Big Guy is ever held to account.

A pair of Trump’s minions have been Indicted for distorting Company records to feather their own nests. The push to neutralize Trump himself will continue into next year since his 2024 Presidential run has already been announced.

From acquisition to termination: Everything that's happened post Elon  Musk's Twitter deal | Technology News,The Indian Express

Inevitably, the continued release by Elon Musk at Twitter of information proving biased censorship of Conservatives (esp. the Hunter Biden Laptop Story) has brought him death threats of which he confesses to being disturbed and concerned. By default, he is upsetting both Dems and the FBI participants with these actions. And by association this may bring him into the historically efficient world of deadly Clinton Retribution.

As I write, Poland has reversed course and is now accepting the offer of a Patriot Air Defense System from Germany. If you recall, a couple of Ukrainian-fired missiles recently mistakenly landed in Poland which were maliciously, deliberately and erroneously claimed by AP to be of Russian origin.

Interestingly, in April this year I met a young Polish Hotel worker during my stay in Edinburgh. She told me that even before the Russian invasion, her relatives in Poland who live within 100-200 miles of the Ukrainian border, had already defined personal evacuation plans if any warring spilled over.

Can you spell escalation?

Another corruption and fraud scandal has exploded on the international stage. The largest scheme ever inflicted upon Investors. Namely, the collapse of the giant Cryptocurrency outfit, FTX

What are the troubling facts and background? Consider this:

  • The major Investor in FTX is the Ukrainian Government, who was known as outrageously corrupt until the day of the Russian invasion.
  • The US has poured untracked money (>$91B as of Nov. 2022) into Ukraine in 2022 at a spending rate of 3X the cost of the Afghanistan war. $10B’s have gone in unknown directions.
  • Ukraine poured money into FTX.
  • The FTX CEO is/ was the second largest Dem Megadonor behind Soros over recent times.
  • The Financial Oversight (by an actual Congressional Committee) of FTX was required and was obviously little or none. FTX Donations spilled into Dem coffers. Maxine Waters (on this Committee) is the multi-time winner of the “most corrupt congressperson” award and (again) personally received funds.
  • Generals Austin and Milley (Sec. of Def. and Joint Chief of Staff, resp.) are now pushing immediately for more unregulated $10B’s from US Taxpayers into Ukraine.
  • NY Prosecutors were looking into dubious practices of FTX months before the collapse and belief is that NY long-since possessed proof of same.
  • It is believed that Military assistance funds to Ukraine were used to invest in FTX.
  • Getting fat: Politicians and Military contractors.
  • Getting shafted, citizens of: Ukraine, US (Taxpayers), Russia and power-starved Europe.
  • Seriously depleted:  Arsenals in US and across Europe.

This FTX collapse of Cryptocurrency is the largest loss in the history of the WORLD.

It seems this would need some serious investigation and review. Apparently, nobody wants this to occur, and the foot-dragging has begun. There are clearly a lot of dirty fingers in this pot!  😉

On the (US and Local, CA) Domestic front…

Gavin Newsome is pushing and will close on a Reparations Package that will bring each Black person in CA (who can demonstrate kin to a slave ancestor) a $233K /per head payout. This will generate an INITIAL cost to CA taxpayers of $970B in a State where there never was any slavery NOR were most of its inhabitants even IN the State until after slavery ended AND they also likely have no connection in their families TO slavery.

California Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Opening Door To Slavery Reparations –  Deadline

It is a tough sell to residents, but as its CA it will likely happen.  It is believed that similar laws will be passed shortly thereafter in Oregon and Washington and (possibly) NY. Some say Biden will push for equivalence at the Federal level and make it an issue for (votes in) the 2024 elections. Likely Newsome will be carrying that flag anyway and use it to drive his own personal Presidential bid.

Gavin N. has always found new emerging trends, grabbed them by the scruff and got out in front, claiming them as his own; this is his modus operandum. Unfortunately, there is no known cause he has championed where he hasn’t worsened or destroyed the original situation… a hard reality for the wannabee President and any supporters he garners.

Now in closing let me comically mention Meghan Markle. Apparently, she took the UK and (strangely) the Argentinian Citizenship tests concurrently BEFORE she and Harry bailed on The Firm. These tests are not too challenging, defined for inclusion and to bring a simple level of awareness and familiarity with the Country to new Citizens. Meghan failed both tests. Sigh. This is moronic.  😉

That really concludes my round-up of personal activities and observations. I trust this provided an easy read, useful synopsis of recent events and an interesting diversion?

Hope you are having fulfilling experiences and finding ways to enjoy YOUR life and times.

Recommend you look for such opportunities! They are all around.

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.

Enjoying Local Surroundings and Recording Notable News Events

The last several weeks have seen a lot of activity around both my local neighborhood and the Alameda/ San Francisco areas I visit regularly.

Weather has been mild hereabouts, and the Summer tourists and weekenders have melted away as schools got back underway.

A major sign of the changes was apparent when I recently left my house, turned the corner wandering just a few yards down to the bottom of 26th Avenue to then be greeted by a Hang-Glider drifting back and forth along the cliffs some 100 yards away.

The warm on-shore, <10 knot updraft off the Monterey Bay allowed the glider to lazily move a few hundred yards back and forth some 40 feet above the cliff-face. An easy, lazy day for the pilot and an incongruous view for my solitary self, standing directly below.

Just a few weeks before and 100 yards inland from here I had a 7-foot eucalyptus branch drop +40 feet squarely onto my head as I rode in the bike lane immediately beneath a canopy of trees.

This >2lb. cutting had remained from tree-work done earlier and chose to fall directly as I passed below. What are the odds, and what good luck! Just a knot on the head, scuff on the forehead and I was not even separated from my bike.  😊

Mid October surfing contests show up on weekends for High Schools and other participant events. Temporary canopies and Audio commentary is then set up along The Hook, which stretches along Pleasure Point from the Café down to 41st Avenue. Non-participant surfers still arrive and line up slightly away from the tournament action, either down toward the O’Neill cliff house or the opposite end of The Hook from the competitions.

Capitola recently held its massive annual fireworks display, run from off the end of the old pier. The event is always spectacular, lasts 20-30 mins and is hosted this time of year by local businesses as a Thank you to Residents for their vital ongoing support.

The show is well worth the visit. The Capitola Village is packed, and the East Cliff is lined by pedestrian-only traffic with heads thrown back admiring the creative display reflecting off the Monterey Bay waters and towering into the skies above the crowds. A true spectacular, just a short walk from home.

I ride a bike year-round and normally 5 days a week. Rides usually run about 12 miles/day, with some weeks a couple of 20-milers thrown in. Weekends I save for sailing out of Alameda on the San Francisco Bay, which is just as well as there is always more road traffic around Santa Cruz on both Saturday and Sunday.

And biking hereabouts has changed, even during the week.

Since the pandemic ended, more people ride. In the last 6 months things have evolved from sightings of e-Bikes being <1-in-5 to now being 90% electric. And those bikes fly around!

E-bike safety tips for new and experienced riders - Los Angeles Times

It seems folks who seldom rode have picked up electric versions. Bikes are new and custom, sporting racks, paniers, kiddy-seats and all sorts of adders, often towing or even pushing child and animal trailers. The varieties are endless, and it is uncommon to see any two alike.

Riders seem to peddle little and travel fast. >>20 mph speeds for Electrics seems common-place and users effortlessly cross the 5-10 mile stretch from East-to-West Santa Cruz in just a few 10’s of minutes.

Electric Bike Top Speeds: How Fast Can You Go? | Juiced Bikes

I suppose increased accidents will soon inspire the introduction of consequential new regulations needed to accommodate this major trend. Strangely, cannot even recall when I last saw a new bike that was not electric and in truth this has all occurred in <12 months.  😉

As a warning: if you ride a manual bike for (say) just 10 miles hereabouts, you are going to need to avoid typically 3-5 risky (to yourself) actions by other travelers. Culprits are unobservant vehicle drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists, respectively. And the problem worsens greatly as your average speed increases. It seems speed somehow makes you far less visible to others; we develop a cloak of invisibility. 😉

By early September I had finished the planning for my 2023 trip to Alaska. It is a case of plan early or miss-out on the best Trips, Guides and Facilities for the next adventures. If you wonder what is available there, check out my last BLOG posted September 11th. In a related theme…

During late September, a friend from Alaska stopped by on his annual drive from his home in the Kenai Peninsula to his Summering setup in Arizona. It is a long drive with quick, regular business stops along the way; he is a great guest and welcome company who needed a break from massive daily driving schedules.

On his arrival I was treated with a delivery of bear-meat for my freezer, and we spent our brief available time running around touring my local area and haunts, ending up with evening drinks and music outside, seated by a firepit. There is so much to see and enjoy here, it was a treat for myself to have someone else appreciate what is offered locally.

Following this fun visit, we are now planning a joint Sailfish fishing trip to Southeast Florida next February / March.

Hopefully, we can make this recent stop-over a regular event. Maybe next year I will take the pilgrimage with him and provide some relief on the driving duties?

San Francisco Fleet Week occurred early October. This is truly a Family treat with ships to visit, the town bustling, street vendors everywhere along the waterfront and a unique and special aerial display on Saturday and Sunday.

The Airshow runs across the space between the Embarcadero Piers and Alcatraz. The viewing area is good from Fort Mason even down to the Ferry Building, but best North of Pier 39. Sights include a couple of jet display teams (the Blue Angels are a highlight), aerobatics and a host of one-off fly-bys from both major military and commercial aircraft.

Planes and flights come in from Golden Gate and Bay bridge directions, over Angel Island and even enter the performance area right overhead, from behind the City itself. The display has low, highspeed passes and endless acrobatics; a unique treat to watch and experience. Crowds can revel in the thrill of the event and enjoy a profound sense of pride. 😊

For myself, I have been fortunate to see this Show at least a half dozen times. Mostly from the water, where I usually motor a boat of half-a-dozen passengers about in a clockwise direction around the cordoned-off, low-fly area which runs several miles both East and West between Alcatraz and the Embarcadero. It is spectacular viewing for passengers, but when you are at the helm the heavy boat traffic often demands your complete attention elsewhere.  😉

If you have not seen this or similar displays, try to do so. And soon. I hear a City Supervisor in San Francisco is moving to ban the Blue Angels from their airspace. He is also extremely vocal in complaining about the attention outside press gives to such local issues. I wonder what his true agenda might really be. ☹

The area I live has many splendid features and opportunities. But much is changing. It is good to enjoy the numerous positives that remain available while we can. 😊

Let me now move on to summarize some of the more prominent News items occurring in the last weeks; specifically, those that have possible downstream ramifications of concern…

Over $3 Trillion has been wiped out in Retirement Accounts (401’s, IRA’s etc.) in 2022, alone. If you own such an account, you will currently have seen a >30% and perhaps as high as 40% drop in your accounts’ value. Most investors have now lost around 2.5 years of gains in the last year or so. This is a result of Market confidence in Government and consequential Outlook. Ouch.

Average folks are being abused by reported inflation running 8-9% (at 40-year highs) and constantly spiking gas prices. Retirees are additionally under the gun with Administration promises of Capital Gains Tax increases that will further establish the US as having the largest such Tax in the World.

With Fed Rate hikes already underway and more promised the Housing Market has come under pressure and the Dollar has grown abnormally strong, which severely hampers US Exports.

Dollar strength inevitably brings downward pressure on numerous smaller Currencies and Countries around the World which will consequentially economically decline further, with many not even being able to service their debt.

Fuel prices are exploding all over Europe because of the Ukraine proxy War. Europeans (esp. in places like Germany) cannot fire up Coal Plants fast enough before the colder months arrive. The UK is forecasting that over 70% of it’s restaurants are expected to fail this Winter because of energy costs. Hard to imagine the pain and pressure that will similarly fall on every household across Europe. ☹

10 states now have average gas prices above $5 : NPR

As always, s***t rolls downhill.

The weaponization of Government in the US continues in many forms…

A Federal judge revealed that Biden ordered the raid on ex-president Trump while denying ALL current knowledge of the event. No surprise there. Blatant lies are commonplace.

Whistleblowers have confirmed the FBI is creating a false narrative by classifying the January 6th Capital incursion as separate individual nationwide Domestic Terrorism instances, to be tried in every State possible while simultaneously moving agents off child sex abuse cases. Such priorities and caring. ☹

Pelosi is legally obliged to investigate the Administration for blatantly trying to manipulate the Saudis to delay reducing oil shipments and so momentarily aid US gas pump pricing ahead of November mid-term elections. It seems the Saudis have well-documented scruples about such action which would have produced large global economic downsides downstream.

Joe Biden has personally and publicly threatened dire consequences to the Saudi’s for outing him on this matter. Wow. He may have forgotten about the essential neutralization role the Saudis play in the Middle East, having Iran as neighbors and all.

Apparently, the Administration act of soliciting in-kind actions from Foreign Sources to aid a Partisan political goal is illegal. I am sure Speaker Nancy P will give this all the attention her party requires. Sigh. 😉

On the lighter side, the BBC is reporting Hunter Biden will be charged with Tax crimes. His personal laptop has been providing corruption insight to his activities (in Ukraine and China) for a few years already. It recently additionally turned up his Swalwell-like engagement and dalliance with a new Chinese spy. So far, no charges for Hunter for anything (while Dad holds the reins). 😉

I saw some Poll or other a couple of months back that had ~70% the US General Public agreeing that Biden is both corrupt AND had likely benefitted financially from his corruption. It was implied that voters simply DO NOT CARE this is the case. Wow.

On the local home front, San Francisco was reporting a 25% Office Vacancy rate at the end of September. Looks like Covid Impacts, Out-of-State moves and Neighborhood Toxicity (prices, crime and homelessness) are all in play.

And soon to arrive will be the November Elections. Over a dozen States are on the record with reported major voting fraud issues occurring during the 2020 elections. Yet no significant prosecution, anywhere. How odd. How can this be? Sigh. ☹

France outlawed Mail-In Voting in the 1970’s as being too readily subject to voter-fraud. They conducted their last recent election entirely with a hand-count. In recent weeks Germany announced a re-vote for ~6 million people in one District because of known Polling Machine irregularities.

German Works Council Election Procedures: Changes to Upcoming Elections in  2022 - Ogletree Deakins

The US has a storied history of serious Voter Fraud issues dating back >100 years. I have seen countless Polls overwhelmingly agreeing the US simply needs Voter ID laws to have safe(r) Election Polling.

Yet Voter ID is currently politically framed as Racist, so cannot be allowed. Go figure.

And I expect there will be rampant, approved mail-in requirements and voting misdeeds in many US States and Districts come November, regardless of the outcome. Why would anything be different? 😉

On the Global front we still have Leaders who need wars (that end well) to buoy up their numerous Domestic problems. Putin is in trouble and needs a soft landing and historically corrupt Zelenskyy is spoiling daily for bigger and better action.

Biden has his proxy war and is rattling his Sabre, threatening an imminent Nuclear Armageddon to his citizenry. Despite major depletion of US Weaponry (to Ukraine) and Strategic Oil Reserves (to China and hopefully, Domestically) he has still somewhat prepared, as his HHS has stockpiled nuclear warfare treatment Nplate drugs at $1.2k each. Sadly, for you and I these only have a shelf-life of 18 months and he only bought ~250k units. If he knows something we do not, we are in trouble. 😉

Lastly is Premier, Xi. He is right now entering a new phase of Government Control which brings him unprecedented and unchallenged powers. He is already leaning in to take territories from Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and others; even claims in the heavens (Mars and Moon colonization) are freely mentioned. China believes this now-open New Era is where they will fulfil their promised destiny and Xi is the accepted and anointed one.

NOTE: The New Era is defined as the next 30years, which is to include the successful realization of The Chinese Dream.

And all this comes when US overseas image is at a low. The UK’s Telegraph newspaper (THE major National publication) wrote an October piece referring to Biden’s weakness, endless failures and ways as being more than simple mental decline and senility, referring to him as also being historically evil. This from (a, THE?) major overseas ally and a FRIEND. Ouch.

So, what might actual ENEMIES think, say and be prepared to DO? Historically it is always the weak and inept who become inevitable active targets and victims. ☹

Well, so much for these reflections.

In all honesty they are (just some of the) things that cannot responsibly be simply, totally ignored. These are the troubling chickens in our lives that can come home to roost. Some are much more likely, serious and immediate than others.

We live in sad and dangerous times, both Locally, Nationally and around the Globe.

But nobody should dwell incessantly on such matters. It serves no purpose if no immediate action is required or yet relevant. So, time to move on, but still sleep with one eye open…

Do you track both the small AND large issues that might impinge upon your World? Should you?

It can be miserable to follow all such issues relentlessly but keeping an eye on REAL liabilities that can enter your lives is usually wise.

As for myself, I will now change my immediate focus and prepare for a trip out East to enjoy a Wedding in North Carolina with some Family friends. 😊

Here’s to wishing you similarly pleasant distractions!

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.

Warm Weeks During Summer Months

There have been a few weekends since my last BLOG published mid-June.

A lot has happened around the World, much of it miserable, so I have actively tried to focus my energies and personal time on happier events.

Let me share (in no particular order) some snapshots of experiences and sights enjoyed over this recent month or so…

I have been binge-watching evening TV for many weeks now, having found a treasure trove of Seasons from a comedic Panel-Game; it is called, Would I Lie To You and can be found on Prime TV (in Britbox area) and YouTube.

The series really found its feet in Season Three and has since run though Season 15.  It is a GREAT watch and really lends itself to binging. The show will put a smile on anyone’s face; ad-libs and rants will draw tears of laughter. If you need or just want to laugh, this is for you. 😊

A local Market (Los Pericos) off Portola in Santa Cruz has become my go to haunt for a Numero Uno Breakfast Burrito. I always show up late in the day and beg for my eggy breakfast-menu treat which they have so far routinely obliged. The significant downside is that my diet only permits one or two of these a week. 😉

I have upped my daily (weekday) bike rides over the last month and am averaging >20 miles a day. No idea why I did this, but here we are. As I get a picturesque ride from my house along East Cliff Drive down into Capitola (CA) village, back along Portola and into the Santa Cruz harbor, then up to and around the estuary, back along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk onto the Pier, there is much to see and enjoy.

And the season for Holidaymakers attending the seafront beaches, rides and Fair is in full bloom.

There is also plenty of other entertainment along the way…

A couple of dozen nests are producing noisy young in the towering eucalyptus trees alongside the upper Santa Cruz Harbor, just 100 yards beyond the trafficked bridge that cuts over the inlet. There are giant squawking Great Blue Herons, large Great white Egrets and even a few Cormorants resident in the massive nests planted in the highest boughs.

Great Blue Heron

The recent warmer Summer days have produced higher rolling swells that come crashing down onto the beaches hereabouts, extending from the fully filled Moran (overflow) Lake right along to the Boardwalk frontages; all this noise, despite the lack of significant winds driving events.

And local residents can open their windows to allow the boom of waves to carry their crashes indoors throughout the day with sound levels gently moderated by constantly changing tides.

The large man-made stone breakwater that protects the Santa Cruz Harbor and carries its sturdy white lighthouse has seen early evening swells staging occasional 40’ high spray being thrown up in quick progressions over 200 yards of its length, while concurrent 4–5-foot waves break into the boating entrance.

A few nights ago, several of the half-a-dozen young Holidaymakers cheekily braving one onslaught were summarily knocked down by the spray’s force and then quickly scrambled away towards the protection of the land.

During this same time, I looked out NW to Steamers surfing runs a mile or so across the Bay and could see massive swells surging down the cliffs in crested waves with the most intrepid local surfers aboard. Quite a display of power and human determination.

As I write the local Luckys grocery store on 41st has employees back in masks with several workers out on their 2nd and/or 3rd doses of COVID. There is nobody very sick it seems, but company protocols keep them home, often personally doubting any VAX efficacy.

Like many others, I expect a surge of notices for COVID masking requirements to arrive by October in time to secure Mail-In Voting for the November Mid-Term Elections. Sigh. ☹

I watched the July 4th celebrations from the cockpit of a boat docked in Alameda, looking across to Oakland, barely 1 mile South of Jack London square. There was a (I assume legal) firework display some +4 miles away at the Oakland Coliseum; quite impressive and obviously well-orchestrated.

There were many other unauthorized (and illegal in CA) firework displays in play from a mile or so North, mostly near to and along the shoreline of Oakland right down to the Stadium show. I counted > 15 distinct active venues colorfully lighting up the evening skies.

Perhaps most impressive and prolific was a setup directly across the estuary some 400 yards away from me, almost opposite Marina Village docks. It began around 9.30pm and was still firing off at 1.30 am the next day. The venue lay in a construction site and was left to run unabated for many hours.

Marina Village Docks

Two weeks later I was taking out a sailboat and ran into a female Mallard leading her brood of 10 very tiny, fluffy chicks across the estuary directly towards that very same sterile site. They were formed up in a precise, determined column. So, I halted the boat to let them pass. That was a long paddle for such small, flightless ducklings; I still wonder what attracted them across the way?

Every weekend I go sailing on the San Francisco Bay, out of Alameda. This causes me to regularly pass by the Oakland docks. In later July, the obvious routine back-ups of container deliveries stranded on the waterfront suddenly and dramatically worsened. Now there are acres and acres of 5 and 6 high stacked containers languishing unattended.

Blatant supply-chain issues that have run all this last year have radically deteriorated even further. The issue is the Government imposed Contractor benefits requirements that have spilled beyond upsetting Lyft and Uber drivers to now directly impacting the legal operation of Truckers, >90% of which in CA are subject to the very same restrictions. And we thought it could not get worse. Sigh.

Fortunately, when the docks are passed, sailing begins then the views and experiences on the Bay are as pleasant, distracting and fulfilling as ever. The fogs still roll in through the Golden gate, wind blows down the slot over Alcatraz and the Hills South of the City are washed over by low cloud approaching from the ocean as later afternoon arrives. And in the Summer, skies overhead often remain generally cloudless, with the offshore views of the City allowing it to appear as untroubled as in previous years.

I made another recent ferry trip with a group of friends from Alameda to the Ferry building on the San Francisco Embarcadero. The crowds are somewhat returned, and ferry schedules are similar to pre-COVID times.

The outing remains the same once the Ferry is docked and passengers disembarked. A quick wander through the weekend Outdoor Market stalls by the Terminals, a visit to the (most still remain and are now open for business) indoor stores, meandering through the unmasked crowds. Then along the front up to Pier 39.

The numerous Taxis and bicycle-powered rickshaws are back. People are generally quite mellow in the Summer warmth, milling along the waterfront where clusters of Vendors are set up with carts offering bacon-wrapped hot-dogs or even some surprisingly available alcoholic mixed drinks. It is relaxed.

Some half-dozen well-known restaurants are closed and gone, victims of COVID closures and lost business. A few other stores have closed too, remaining shuttered here and there, but the atmosphere remains lively, and the Wharf area appears largely separate from the plague of Homelessness and Crime centered in the Downtown Center of the City.

The usual walking journey continues passed the Boudin Bakery through the busier parts of Fisherman’s Wharf and up to the Buena Vista on Ghirardelli Square for Irish Coffees and the inevitable light-hearted banter with the bartenders mass-producing their tasty whisky-based hot drinks.

It is a great outing. A low-cost Ferry Trip adventure from Alameda, no parking fees nor hassle with San Francisco’s City traffic and social woes.

Finally, the journey ended with a hurried Uber ride required to make the Ferry Departure times and enjoy the speedy powered catamaran ride back to the Island and waiting (Freely) parked cars. It is a great day out.  😊

And now, back in Santa Cruz the Summer party evenings are well underway. The Harbor features a roped-off-beach musical event each Thursday, hosted by the Crow’s Nest restaurant, and Capitola Village presents a band every Wednesday at their beach-front Bandstand. Both are very friendly civilized events with eating, drinking and dancing activity enjoyed by locals and visiting holidaymakers alike.

As for myself I just got my second, Cancer All-Clear confirmation, following surgery just last September. The check-up regimen includes alternating 6-monthly scans of lower abdomen and then chest, looking for signs of return. This basic routine protocol is similar for many, should they remain fortunate.

If you are lucky then your concerns of recurrence only return as the next tests are done and only escalate as you await the results, several days later. Good outcomes feature a few happy days, hopefully followed by a quickly fading memory of liabilities as the next six months roll by, despite the very real ever-presence of a Damoclesian sword.

Half the people reading this will have cancer in at least one form; likely ALL will have it intrude upon their lives in some way, visited upon loved-ones, colleagues, acquaintances or some such. For all of you I wish the best outcomes and unburdened awareness. 😊

Returning to another stellar and happy fact (providing your finances are US-based) …

By mid-July, the Euro was on a par with the US Dollar for the first time in 20 years. I.e., 1 EU ~ 1 USD. Great if you want to travel in Europe. It is even worth buying Euros proactively if you have some European travel planned in the not-too-distant future. However, not so good coming the other way, of course. 😉

For myself, I have a trip planned to Alaska from the start of August. I visited there a couple of times more than 10 years ago, but this will now be my third consecutive year on a primarily fishing trip.

I first went fishing to Alaska as soon as COVID permitted, two years ago. But this time the whole immediate family will go together. It should be fun.  😊

If you ever get the chance to visit, go!  I hear the Alaskan cruises are great, but ocean travelers tell me they always wished they had been land-based for the duration; this is my recommendation, too.  For myself, although having previously visited the spectacular Denali region, I have kept my more recent fishing, travelling and day-trip adventures South of Anchorage around the Kenai River and Peninsula.

Well, that completes my review of primarily Happy Stuff. 😉

At this point I normally review the last month or so’s list of World, US, Local News, Events and bona-fide Warnings. Indeed, I am sitting with a pile of diligently compiled and trustworthy clippings and notes by my side, as I write. These latest records are particularly miserable. BUT DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH as I intend to PASS on the review, this time. 😊

I am sure most people feel much the same way as I do about current events. Like many, I am tired from the inundation of blatant, self-serving lies, corrupt and insane actions, regardless of their origins.

And with that, I close the book on the last several weeks of disappointing News and Events.  😊

As for my closing message…

Do you ever truly get a break from the incoming storm of miserable News?

Does your family ever enjoy the opportunity to celebrate each other and tune-out negative surroundings?

With Summer Holidays upon us, it is a good time to do just that. So, make time for a true break from the misery and dial-in some positives. Now is as good a time as any to savor life and enjoy your blessings.  So, make it happen.

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.