Get Enough Sleep: Your Life Depends on It!

We can all remember our parents telling us how important it is to sleep.  Most of us can vividly remember the cry of a cranky toddler who has not had his or her nap and lets the world know it. Unfortunately, as adults we manifest the effects of not having enough sleep a lot more dangerously then the crying toddler.  As adults not getting enough sleep means having an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Many obstacles get in the way of us having healthy sleep.  To name a few: we have deadlines that need to be met, work longer hours, have “insomnia ,” travel for a living and are constantly in different time zones, and/or we have a disorder like Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  Whatever the reason, the problem of sleep deprivation must be corrected.  This is exactly what sleep physicians do—they get people sleeping.

Recently the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which help support the development of the current guidelines) have recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Getting only six or less has been associated with a decrease in performance, increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.

Although there are many causes of not getting enough sleep, today we will focus on the epidemic of undiagnosed sleep apnea which accounts for anywhere 75% – 85% of cases.

What is Sleep Apnea and how many people does it effect?

Estimates suggest that sleep apnea affects more than 18 million people in the United States. Sleep apnea is when breathing partially or completely stops during sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, is caused by blocked airways in the throat. A person with sleep apnea will awaken, partially or fully, when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. In most cases, the person is not even aware of.  People with sleep apnea may be known as loud snorers and often the bed partners are the ones who bring them in to see a doctor. People with sleep apnea may have excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, insomnia, depression, or secondary hypertension.

What are the risk factors for Sleep Apnea?

  • Increased BMI>25.Around half the people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around the upper airway can obstruct breathing.
  • Narrowed airway.You may have naturally narrow airways, or your tonsils or adenoids may be enlarged, which can block the airway.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Chronic nasal congestion.
  • People who smoke are more likely to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
  • A family history of sleep apnea.If you have family members with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you may be at increased risk.
  • Recent research has found an association between asthma and the risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

In addition, patients who have Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib) should be screened for sleep apnea. There are many risk factors for developing AFib. These include being age 60 years of age or older, having high blood pressure, diabetes, or existing heart disease. Another risk factor that is little known and not completely understood is sleep apnea.

 How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Sleep apnea is diagnosed by an overnight sleep test. The study measures the number of times that a person either stops breathing during sleep or breathing becomes very shallow. It also measures the level of oxygen in the blood and monitors the brain and heart rhythm during sleep.

What are treatment options for sleep apnea?

The major treatment options are as follows:

  1. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight
  2. CPAP or BIPAP therapy
  3. Dental devices for sleep apnea
  4. Nasal dilators
  5. Surgical options of which there are many. Our patients have had a lot of success with the new Inspire therapy.

Dr. Thakkar is the founder and the medical director of Golden Gate Sleep Centers. She completed her Internal Medicine training at UCSF, Fresno, then a Sleep Medicine Fellowship at UC, Davis. She then served our Veterans at the VA in Sacramento / Mather. She remains part of the UC Davis volunteer Faculty in Sleep Medicine and has served as Medical Director of private practice Sleep Labs. Visit her website at or call (925) 820- 4472.


Aging & Osteoporosis

The risk of bone fractures from even small types of trauma increases dramatically as we age. A major contributing factor is osteoporosis or thinning of the bones. The most common bones that are broken are the hip and spine. Unfortunately, older adults’ overall health tends to decline exponentially when they suffer from one of these fractures. An increased risk of death within the next two years is associated with these fractures in the geriatric population, defined as age over 65 with serious health issues.

Fractures can occur if the bone density or strength is less than normal and then subjected to trauma, such as a slip and fall injury. If bone density is severely compromised, fractures can occur with little to no excessive force. In extreme cases, a hard sneeze can cause a fracture.

Bone density is evaluated using a low level x-ray test called a DeXA scan. With this test, a normal score is T -1.0 to 1.0. Osteopenia (lower than normal bone strength) occurs at a T score between -2.5 and -1.0, and osteoporosis (extremely low bone strength) is a T score of -2.5 or lower. The lower the T score, the higher the risk of bone fracture. Postmenopausal women, Asians and Caucasians have an increased risk of osteoporosis. Overall, one in four people, age 80 and older, has osteoporosis.

Diet, exercise and lifestyle changes can prevent or slow down the development of osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D are essential vitamins and minerals for bone formation. Diets that include green leafy vegetables, fish, soy, dairy, and fortified orange juice and rice are high in Calcium. Vitamin D can be found in fish, milk, egg yolks, fortified orange juice and rice. Avoidance of tobacco and excess alcohol also reduces the chances of bone thinning. Exercise, especially weight bearing, increases bone strength and density. Also, the more bone density a person has in their younger years carries through to their older years and decreases the risk of osteoporosis.

Vertebral fractures are especially painful and if left untreated can lead to chronic pain and deformity which can affect other body functions. When the back bone is fractured, even the simplest movements cause extreme pain. This is because the edges of the fracture are moving with each breath and change in position. Some people find that the only comfortable position is lying in bed, motionless. This, of course, is not healthy and leads to more problems such as pneumonia, deconditioning and weakness, and blood clots, to name a few.

A fracture of the spine can take six months to a year to heal naturally. For over 20 years, a non-invasive procedure called a Percutaneous Balloon Kyphoplasty, or PBK, has been available that can immediately fix the fracture and alleviate pain. It involves injecting cement into the fracture line through a small needle. Once the cement is injected, it immediately becomes hard and forms an “inner cast” for the spine. The cement cast also prevents the bone from collapsing. If the vertebra collapses, it causes a humpback type of deformity of the spine that can make it hard for people to stand up straight or take a deep breath. After having the PBK procedure, most patients are back to their previous activities of daily living within two to four weeks, with minimal to no pain.

Once you’ve had one vertebral fracture, your risk of having another one is five times greater, regardless of the treatment. This is why it is extremely important to start a plan that includes safe weight bearing exercise, balance and core strength re-education and bone hardening medications to lower your risk of repeat fractures.

Visit my website at for more information on the PBK procedure and osteoporosis treatment options.

Risk, Reward, and Republicanism

I laced my work worn boots, tightening them more firmly than usual against my ankles and shins for one reason: in case I needed to run. I stood and walked to my dorm bathroom, looked myself in the mirror, and pulled my red hat below my eyes. That will hide my identity well, I thought, but my Ronald Reagan shirt will be a dead giveaway. I decided to throw on a jacket, and let my Republican pride show when I was safely inside. I could hear the news anchor in the background on my laptop. “Students have gathered to protest the speech of Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos. All is peaceful thus far, but the crowd seems to be picking up…” I shut the door and went on my way.

When I arrived at Sproul Plaza (the main UC Berkeley quad), there were hundreds of picketers and protesters. They held a variety of signs with messages that varied from peace symbols and doves to reading “Fascist Pigs Bleed.” I kept my jacket zipped and my head down. I got around the perimeter of the crowd to the entry point where I was volunteering as a member of the Berkeley College Republicans to help run the event. Barricades and armed officers soon stood in my way. I informed them I was a member of the Berkeley College Republicans, and I was ushered in. Pieter Sittler and Troy Worden, two integral members of the club, met me in front of Pauley Ballroom. We gathered outside and tried to communicate via text to the other volunteers, as to where to meet (at the barricade).

Moments later, two officers in heavy gear rushed Troy, Pieter, and me inside the building. As the glass doors of the building closed, two consecutive bangs of M80 fireworks rang out from where I had just been standing. We were under attack by an army of anarchists dressed in black bloc garb. Rocks and pieces of bricks began to hit the glass behind us. Another batch of fireworks were thrown toward the glass doors. Officers instantly moved us behind a stone portion of the wall, and covered us until we were upstairs as the police began to fall back into the building and the anarchists tore down the barriers.

I was now locked on the second floor of Pauley Ballroom with my fellow club members. We peered out from the curtains and witnessed a violent mob laying siege to our school, while members of the student body played music and danced while holding “nazi scum die” signs.

Once the cops found an opening on the west side of the building where they could secure an exit point for the Berkeley College Republicans, they opened the door and wished us luck. We descended the stairs, and became troops behind enemy lines. Cries rang out “You’re racists, Berkeley College Republicans!” with a medley of curses and expletives mixed in. We were identified, and instantly split up to avoid the mob.

My name is Bradley Devlin, and over the past few months, it has been my pleasure to serve as Secretary on the executive board of the Berkeley College Republicans. I study political economy and I’m still the kid with a crazy dream: one day, I want to become President.

When I arrived in the hyper-liberal bubble that is Berkeley and the Bay Area, I understood that my political beliefs would be intellectually challenged daily. When I wore my Republican Party shirt for the first time on campus, and was called a “racist” and a “bigot” without any sort of political discourse or conversation by two individuals, I knew that the attitude fueling some of my colleagues was more malicious than I once thought.

On the night of November 8th, the surprise election of Donald J. Trump proved political pundits across the homeland wrong. Hysteria swept across Berkeley. The next day, classes were canceled in “mourning,” and candlelight vigils were held for “the death of America.” And the political persecution became more abrasive and outright.

November 8th marked an uptick in violence against me, my friends, and other students who held that same political beliefs. It built and built until it escalated even further the night of February 1, 2017, infamously now known as the night of the Berkeley Riots. From then on, members of the Berkeley College Republicans were targeted via social media, on campus, in classes, and on the streets of Berkeley. Being spit on, flipped off, cursed at, and having our private property destroyed is something that has become commonplace.

All of that being said, you must be wondering what on earth could we possibly be doing to invite and encourage this vindictive anger upon us? And who, if anyone, would want to be a part of the Berkeley College Republicans, if all this is true?

The Berkeley College Republicans, at its core, is a group of conservative-minded individuals who represent an array of viewpoints across a broad spectrum of conservatism. From individuals that identify from moderates to libertarians, and some classical liberals, too, the Berkeley College Republicans is the largest political organization on campus with over 1,100 individuals on our mailing list.

Because the hyper-liberal groupthink that occurs in every lecture hall, bar, coffee house, and classroom is so vehement and consistent, it is always refreshing to find a community that reinforces and challenges your political views. Finding a forum for debate and discourse that doesn’t involve a Graduate Student Instructor that may become vehemently biased against you if you air your political views, causing your grade to suffer, is rather refreshing.

Let me be clear, we are not a safe space for conservative students; sometimes we do everything but agree on the actions of Trump or Republican leadership or foreign policy in our discussions. We act as one of the only truly functioning learning environments on campus, and this platform for discourse brings us closer to understanding each others’ views.

No, we aren’t just a room full of trust-fund babies from Southern California. We are a dynamic group of individuals that come from a variety of backgrounds that have created diversity in thought within the club, while reinforcing the importance of Western values such as individual liberties and freedom. From Indiana to India, and from Florida to Russia, our members sing the praises of the United States and the vision of a free people every single day. We work together to brainstorm on how to encourage peers and politicians to join the wave of conservatism that has been sweeping the nation since 2010.

Because we are able to have these discussions, painted in different shades of Republican Red, about the economy, or military, or liberties and the Constitution, we are able to better understand the members of our club and attempt to bring speakers and sponsor events and social events that will please the club and appeal those who thirst to be challenged intellectually.

The Milo Yiannopoulos event was one of the keynote events the Berkeley College Republicans had planned to please its own members, and to intellectually engage with others. As a political satirist and self-proclaimed internet troll, Milo Yiannopoulos is a public figure that retains some controversial views, which would have ensured an entertaining night. Mr. Yiannopoulos is not fully representative of any single member of our club because our members believe in an American society that has blessed them plentifully in allowing them to pursue their own agency. Because of that sense of agency, the members of Berkeley College Republicans do not feel threatened, nor do we cry to the administration and plead professors to draft a letter discouraging an event on the account of the never before legally defined “hate speech,” when Justice Sotomayor, Vicente Fox, Bernie Sanders, or any other liberal speaker comes to speak at campus.

When we invite a figure like Milo Yiannopoulos to come speak on campus, Berkeley College Republicans attend, listen, ask questions, and fiercely debate. Even when the Communist party of the United States (with anarchists in tow) hold a speaker event, we attend.

The intense leftists on campus perpetrate all the previously mentioned tantrums on the checklist. Professors and students, including forces within the administration, put pressure on the administration to minimize the Berkeley College Republicans clout on campus by creating arbitrary hoops we have to jump through every time we want to do something on campus. This has led to a consistent violation of the Berkeley College Republicans’ constitutional right to free speech, assembly, and access to these facilities, without hesitation, by the University of California Berkeley administration. I might also mention that three speakers last spring semester were canceled by the University, and there is a pending lawsuit because these public facilities would otherwise be available if not for our political beliefs.

The abuses are many, but the price of procuring freedom will always be a steep and difficult mountain to climb, but I think I can say for the rest of my friends, that we will not waiver. In the “cradle of free speech,” we pursue a freer collegiate experience not only for ourselves, but for those who may experience the same kind of persecution in the future, whether liberal or conservative. We intend to continue the progress the leaders of the free speech movement procured for us in the sixties.

Decades have passed and the fight rages on, but it is time for a new generation to pick up the torch and fight for liberty with the same passion. We aim to put a stop to the politically-based virtue signaling that is happening in hyper-liberal, public universities year round and challenge the bureaucrats that have made a mint sitting atop once cherished places of higher education, and diluting them into impotent institutions.

When they pick up bricks, we will pick up pens, write and litigate our way to freedom. We will gain the upper hand through faith that the values once cherished by these institutions will prevail, because America has prevailed and endured for almost 250 years.

In the coming months, this column will chronicle our fight from the points of view of several of our members. They will provide analysis and anecdotal experience on the current political atmosphere as a conservative student enrolled in UC Berkeley. As they recount their stories, keep in mind these personal attacks, threats, and events aren’t random or special and extraordinary circumstance. These vulgar and malicious attacks are commonplace, to the extent that we are constantly kicked out of Facebook groups and maligned by our Berkeley peers when our political identity is ousted. I sincerely hope this column serves as an educational opportunity for the readers to understand the plight of conservative students, not just in Berkeley, but throughout the country, who are treated the same way.

May this provide a platform where we can engage one another without the demagoguery of partisan politics and irrationality of groupthink. Let us agree on a key set of values that made America great before, and pursue them together, despite our differences, to make America great again.

It takes people recognizing each others volition and freedoms that make such a society like ours possible, and I encourage you to join us as we go along this journey.

Directing the Braggart Warrior


Murphy’s Law Revisited

Probably most people who read this column—all three of you—have never had the privilege, the excitement, the frustration, the anguish, and the exhilaration of directing a play. Some might even ask, “what the heck does a director do?“  The answer:  Mostly he or she worries a lot because the director is responsible for putting the many aspects of the play into an understandable, coherent, and, hopefully, entertaining artistic whole.

Acting, interpretation of the script, music, sound effects, sets, lighting, costumes, and props all contribute to the finished product, but they all begin with the director’s concept and knowledge, although the actual creations of the individual parts fall to experts in the various fields. Then the director makes certain that all the parts fit together into one unit. The finished product can be the source of great pride, wishing for more time, making excuses, or unfortunately sometimes just plain old embarrassment.In 1963 and 1964 I was teaching full time at a high school in Downey, California, while also working for my masters degree in theater at Cal-State, Long Beach. I was the first person to go through the newly formed and accepted program when I came face-to-face with a primary example of Murphy’s Law:  “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

I wanted to direct a modern, small cast play as the final requirement for the degree, leaning toward Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. The faculty nixed my proposition, informing me that the play must be of classical origin with at least a moderate sized cast. We finally agreed on Miles Gloriosus, or The Braggart Warrior, a Roman comedy from about 200 B.C by the playwright Titus Macius Plautus. (The play formed one-third of the 1960’s musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.)   We  needed a modern English translation for the contemporary American audience.

A faculty member who taught Latin at Long Beach volunteered and wrote the translation. While he was a delightful, kind, gentle person and a fine teacher (I was told), he did not know beans about what is funny to an audience. So I had to spend a great deal of time re-writing with the timing, rhythms, and actors’ abilities in mind. Then things got worse.

My chief advisor and chair of my committee, a man I considered also a friend, was to handle all the scheduling and other administrative details with the university. He had some “minor” surgery scheduled near the beginning of the process. When the doctors performed the surgery, however, they discovered inoperable and advanced cancer, giving him just a few months to live. Obviously my need to schedule time and space for rehearsals, performance, and other mitigating factors became quite low on his list of priorities. I now had to handle those details from fifteen miles away and with no formal credentials.

One of a director’s first jobs is to meet with set, costume and lighting designer(s) to discuss the style and needs of the show. Such factors as basic colors, time period, or important set pieces such as an entrance to the kitchen, a window that lets in sunlight, a desk with a telephone, or whatever. I met with the set and costumer designer assigned to my show, went over the basics, and we agreed to meet in two weeks with him presenting preliminary sketches. When I went to the university to meet with him, I could not find him, so I asked some theater students if they had seen him. The reply came, “Oh, didn’t you hear?  He died last week.”  The young man was 23 years old, obviously a shock to everyone. After a week or two, I was assigned another designer.

Designer 2.0 and I went through the same process with an agreement to meet in two weeks. He phoned me a few days later to inform me that he had had an interview at Disney Studios and they offered him a full time job on the spot. We then went to Designer 3.0. This one worked out well, thankfully. Indeed, she not only did a fine job with sets and costumes, but we dated for a few months after the play.

Now it was time to cast the play. I had auditions scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, November 25 and 26, 1963. Those who were around at that time may just remember that Monday, November 25. Only one thing seemed to happen in the United States that day: we buried the assassinated President John F. Kennedy. All schools, most businesses, and just about everything else came to a standstill in that time period. So I had only Tuesday for tryouts. That Thursday, however, was Thanksgiving, and many, if not most, students simply went home for the holiday. I had five men tryout for seven male roles. I spent Thanksgiving weekend re-writing again.

Because of my chief advisor’s medical condition, no one bothered to inform me that the main stage play directed by a faculty member needed more rehearsal time, so they added two weeks. Those two weeks coincided with my first two weeks of rehearsal, and my two male leads were in the other play. Just try starting rehearsals without the main male parts.     

One week or ten days before the play was scheduled to open, my leading lady came up to me after rehearsal and said, “I decided I don’t want to do this, so I am leaving.”  I now had just a few days left, but I had no female lead. Two summers before I had directed a musical for junior high students at a community center. The center director’s daughter, then a high school student, was my assistant and she was now a stage hand on my production. I told her she did not have to do it, but if she wanted the part it was hers. She accepted, learned the lines and movements quickly, and actually did a better job than the original lead probably would have done. Hey, at least one good thing happened.

My advisor was well enough to come to one of the two performances, although he had little positive to say. When he told me that the play was not really working, I told him, “I don’t care. It is done and that is all I care about.”  He understood. That was the last time I saw him alive.

I naively thought that once the show played, it was over and I would be anointed a Master of Arts. The faculty committee members informed me that I needed to write it as a thesis, including what problems arose and how they were solved. So I wrote some more, all this in the days of typewriters, not computers with word processing.

So I wrote, included pictures and the script, as well as the analysis. I then presented the finished copy to the committee and a copy to the library at the university. The library refused it, however, because I had done their copy on 10# onion skin paper and they wanted 9#. Not only was all this B. C., Before Computers, it was also Before Copiers. I took all 200+ pages to a blueprint printer, paying $.25 per page in 1964 dollars. Fortunately, the library accepted that copy even though it was 20# paper. I gave them the copy and they accepted it exactly five minutes before I would have started losing academic credits faster than I could make them up.

 Did I ever want to say, “The hell with it,” toss the script in the trash, and forget the whole business?  Of course I did. Often. Recently I read some philosophy that San Antonio Spur’s basketball coach Greg Popovich gave reporters regarding his star player’s injuries and the team’s 0 – 3 playoff standing against the Golden State Warriors: 

 Circumstances are such that we could be in a totally different position right now. That didn’t happen. It’s called life. Slap yourself, quit your crying and move on.

Fifty-three years ago I, nor anyone else, heard of Popovich, but his advice seems as relevant to problems with directing a play, coaching a basketball team, or anything else in life where one experiences setbacks. After five decades the tragic, as well as the simply frustrating, events of that four month period remain in my mind as clearly as the NBA playoffs of 2017.      

Summer Writer’s Block, Vol. 4

Yes, if you’re keeping score at home, this is my 4th summer of writer’s constipation. As both of my loyal readers know, I struggle each year with something to write about at the conclusion of my summer vacation season. Sadly, “vacation” this year ultimately means moving my daughters to their respective colleges, (pause for a heavy sigh), and not tanning in my sexy Speedo swimsuit at some far away, yet affordable, sun-soaked destination spot like Lodi or Copperopolis .

At the beginning of the summer, I set three goals for myself; #1, Spend quality time with my daughters (without driving them crazy), #2, Eradicate (painfully) the gopher gang wreaking havoc on my backyard landscape and #3, Try to somehow strike a stronger resemblance to my younger, thinner and more handsome Bitmoji. I had also hoped to craft a Summer Writer’s Block piece that informed and entertained the ALIVE audience with a splattering of offerings related to my current surroundings. This is more a mission statement than a goal.Prognostication

If anyone out there in readerville remembers my 2016 Summer Writer’s Block Vol. 3 piece, I predicted the Warriors would go 81-1 in the regular season and 16-0 in the playoffs. It would appear that I wasn’t too far off. My bookie thought I was nuts, but happily took my money, when I laid down that bet in late September 2016. Granted, I was a little nervous when the Dub’s lost that first game of the season against the Spurs, which then required them to go 81-0 the balance of the season for me to collect, but I didn’t feel it was impossible . Alas, I’m just happy Steph, Clay, Dray and KD brought the NBA championship back to the Bay Area even if I didn’t win any money. Next year, I might wager on 200 points in a game (every game). Unfortunately, my Giants vs. A’s World Series bet isn’t looking overly strong right now, but there’s still time and anything can happen.

Speaking of sports…

A Switch

This month, I’ll be trading in two teenage girls for 40 tween-age boys. Beginning August 1st, I’ll be once again coaching the junior midget (11-13 years old/90 – 150 lbs.) Division of San Ramon Valley Thunderbird football. Along with Head Coach Sean Gann, OC – Scott Harper, DC – Eric Nystrom and position coaches Rob Rutchena, George Schramm and Dave Stallard, (and numerous other coaches at the five separate divisions) we’re out to turn boys into men…or at least into big boys. Full-pad tackle football is a huge time commitment consisting of conditioning, contact drills and playbook comprehension. The players have some work to do too. I can’t give these young men enough credit because when a majority of their peers are glued to a video screen during the last few weeks of summer vacation, T-Bird players are working hard (physically and mentally) in ninety plus degree heat to compete at the ultimate team sport. I am undoubtedly biased, but it’s hard to dispute that football builds character, integrity and camaraderie with your teammates that is hard to match playing Mind Craft or watching TV.

Speaking of watching TV…

Binge and Purge Watching

I just wrapped up binge watching House of Cards, Bloodline and Orange is the New Black. That was preceded by 13 Reasons Why, Stranger Things and old episodes of The West Wing. Now that I’ve digested all of those TV calories, I need to purge something. Perhaps, there’s a television laxative I could take to clean out the viewing bowels. I can’t wait to hurl out Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med. I would have completely blown out Chicago Justice, but luckily it only lasted one season. Fortunately, thanks to counseling, I’m currently digesting a more reasonable serving of Veep, Silicon Valley and reruns of Modern Family. Maybe I should think about reading a book.

Speaking of books…

The Trilogy

People in the street are constantly approaching me, asking when I’ll be coming out with my third book. First, they ask me for spare change or if I want to buy some weed, but then they ask about the book. SPOILER ALERT: The third leg of my trilogy is in the works, but I need another year’s worth of material before I can reach the required 300-pages of dribble/er, content. I always knew my book series wouldn’t be complete until the third installment came out. Much like Hunger Games, Divergent, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the 50 Shades of Gray series, it takes three books to tell the entire story of Mike Copeland. That and I am a sucker for the concept of self-publishing, self-promoting and maintaining my high self-esteem. Now if I could just get my former school library’s to carry my books.

Speaking of school…

Grad Party Burnout

My wife and I attended our share of high school, college and 8th Grade graduation celebrations this summer, not to mention going to a few away/farewell parties. One might say I have a grad party hangover or perhaps a hangover from being over served at every grad party we attended. Now that we are two-time veterans of the grad party wars, I feel the need to share a few valuable grad party tips or grad party Do’s and Don’ts, if you will. Do hire a mobile caterer to handle the food; my recommendation is El Paisa Taco Truck from Oakland. The food is out of this world. Don’t feel the need to throw back a shot of tequila with every guest that walks through the door. Bad choice. Do start making your plans ahead of time and not the night before. Been there/done that = gradtastrophy. I’m trying to talk my wife into hiring herself out as a Grad Party Consultant next year. If you’re looking to outsource the stress of organizing a raging grad party, she would coordinate the food, booze, music, games, decorations and favors for you. She has experience and references (me). Book now for the 2018 graduation season, or by December of 2017, if your child happens to be graduating from trade school, cosmetology school or the exotic dancer academy. You can pay her in taco truck bucks. I love that gosh-darn food.

Speaking of high school…

Heart Felt Home Town Recognition

Alongside telling you about some of the lighter parts of my life’s journey, on a more serious note, I must also mention dear friends who will be missed—all of whom were important parts of that journey.

Sadly, I recently attended a funeral for perhaps the greatest athlete my high school (the original Mountain View High School on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA) ever produced. Denny Mateo was not only an incredible three-sport athlete, he was also an exemplary husband, father, brother, son, teammate and friend. Denny was a larger-than-life quarterback who had just led our small, military-base fed, ethnically-diverse high school to a Central Coast Section (CCS) Football Championship his sophomore year. Denny’s hard working, humble, non-assuming demeanor was something everyone at our high school respected, and it proved to be a leadership lesson for players to come. He truly cared about people and his compassion inspired people. Denny was also the older brother of two of my close high school friends, Chris and Tim, and the son of my former coach (Mr. Dennis Mateo). Denny was someone special and my heart goes out to the entire family for their loss.

It seems I’ve lost too many friends my age the past few years. Joe Baker, Sean Cooley, Mark Fox, Ted Helgans and Pat McCarthy are all missed. It goes without saying that we all need to appreciate the time we have with the ones we love. In the immortal words of Rod Stewart, Life is so brief and time is a thief… and like a fistful of sand it can slip right through your hands. Live, Love, Laugh are good words to live by, especially if you’re struggling with an imaginary case of summer writer’s block.


Night at the Museum

The Blackhawk Museums of Danville, known for their premier classic world class automobile exhibition International Automotive Treasures, has recently launched two new exhibitions; Art of Africa and Into China with a third Wonders of Natural History opening later in the fall. The Spirit of the Old West exhibition that was launched in 2014 illustrates the visual history of the American West through the journeys of Plains Indians, settlers and pioneers which has already attracted large numbers of visitors and thousands of Bay Area schoolchildren.

The popular exhibition takes viewers through the past with a collection of historic artifacts that depict the varied American cultures and how people lived in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the ways the American Indians and the pioneering newcomers interacted during America’s greatest westward migrations. Western History is portrayed through an unrivaled scope of antique and historic artifacts including eagle feather war bonnets, weaponry, apparel, peace pipes, a tipi, and an ox-drawn covered wagon.

Among the attractions and interactive exhibitions that excite children the most are the animal mount specimens such as buffalo, bear, moose, wolf, beaver, and an American eagle. The exhibition is anchored by a 140-foot long topographical diorama with 9,000 hand-painted figures portraying the lives of the West’s settlements, Plains Indians, the Gold Rush, the Iron Horse railroad, and other events  that affected the course of history,

The member-supported Blackhawk Museums, founded in 1988, is one of the Bay Area’s must-see museums offering several diverse attractions on three floors that are continuously evolving with new exhibitions that span four continents with the Art of Africa, Into China, and this fall the Wonders of Natural History that will explore the creatures of the highest mountains to the deepest oceans.  

Ken Behring, philanthropist extraordinaire, is realizing his longtime dream of bringing history and culture to the Bay Area communities through educational state-of-the-art exhibitions.  His longtime connections to China, and several countries in Africa, have led to his involvement in the founding of over 40 Museums of Natural History.  In addition to his expertise in founding museums, his Wheelchair Foundation, a subsidiary of Global Health and Education Foundation, has also delivered over one million wheelchairs to those in need of mobility, has provided fresh drinking water in drought-impacted areas, and also sponsors eye surgeries bringing the gift of sight to many. 

The Blackhawk Museums, in addition to the on-site exhibitions, offer several outreach programs that include the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, ongoing lecture series, and educational and entertaining special events such as Cars & Coffee which attracts car club enthusiasts and as many as 1,200 vintage automobiles that gather the first Sunday of every month. In addition to regular activities for the membership, the museum also sponsors open-to-the-public fund raising events.  

One of the largest annual fund raising events, sponsored by the Friends of the Blackhawk Museums, aptly titled Night at The Museum , offers a live auction, dinner, dancing to live music, costume prizes, and historic reenactments featuring Jesse James, General George Custer, a Buffalo Soldier, and other iconic western characters. Costumed reenactments will carry guests through the portals of time into the Spirit of the Old West exhibition where the Plains Indians and pioneers are recreated amid authentic artifacts in the ambiance of “Cowboy and Indian” Western history.

One of the most exciting aspects of the third annual Night at the Museum live auction is the opportunity to bid on once-in-a-lifetime experiences; a Photo Safari at the Ezulwini Game Reserve in South Africa; Behind-the-Scenes Museum Experience in Washington D.C.; Monaco Historic Mille Miglia Races 2018; Indianapolis 500 Paddock Box Experience for Two; Vintage Land Rover Old Ghost Towns off-road Excursion, and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance VIP Experience.

The state-of-the-art Blackhawk Museums exhibit various collections where visitors can stroll, not only through the past, but across continents. Besides the American Indian and Cowboy experience the visitor can enjoy the stunning Art of Africa featuring Massai and Makonde cultural examples of village  handicrafts of hand-carved ebony, blackwood, and rosewood sculptures, musical instruments, ceremonial masks, apparel and animal paintings representing Sub-Saharan Africa; Tanzania, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria.  

Further down the museum’s West Wing the visitor passes through the Moon Gate and enters Into China pavilion to view a vast collection showcasing Chinese sculptures, porcelains, jade carvings, mother-of-pearl inlaid boxes, silk embroidered lantern screens, Tang Dynasty horses, silken embroidered robes, a Buddhist Shrine altar proscenium, a Forbidden City Golden Throne replica, and artifacts that explore the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western Culture.

The anchor piece in the vast pavilion is a massive carving known as “The Dream”, a monumental work of art inspired by the “Peach Blossom Spring” fable and immortalized in the novel Shangri-La.  The expansive “Shanshiu-style” sculpture is fashioned from 1000 year old fossilized tuchen root wood found only in Burma and Laos. The hand-carved scene of mountain spires, rivers, lakes and seas is where fishermen and contented village dwellers live within a 4th century fantasy Utopian fable.

Mr. Zhang, the art work’s designer and master carver, told me it took four craftsmen five years to carve and who were guided by the fossil’s natural forms that dictated the flow of the art work. In addition to carving the intricate masterpiece it took a decade to remove and transport the subterranean fossilized root wood from a forest in Burma.

The Into China collection represents the cultural embodiment of China through this unique trove of art and utilitarian objects of great beauty. Ken Behring maintains that museums have a special way of uniting people of all cultures and, in addition to donating to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D.C., his vision has come to fruition by introducing the exhibitions  to the Blackhawk Museums showcasing the International Automobile Treasures, and history of the American West, Sub-Saharan Africa, and China.  

The Friends of Blackhawk Museums is the fund raising volunteer auxiliary arm of the member-supported museums that sponsor several events each year to benefit the Children’s Education and Transportation Fund. No large institution can function without the indefatigable services of their dedicated volunteers, therefore Friends of the Blackhawk Museums is accepting applications for interested volunteer docents and guides who wish to share their knowledge on guided tours for adults and children visitors.  Since the program’s inception in 1991, with children’s education as its primary mission, about 190,500 students have visited the museums. The Blackhawk Museums is a not-for-profit corporation with IRS 501 (3) status. As always, museum members attend the exhibitions and lecture series free of charge.

The Night at the Museum fund raising event will be held on Sunday October 15th at 5:30 pm. Guests are encouraged to wear “Spirit of the Old West” attire. The dinner and Live Auction starts at 7:30. Tickets are $90.00 per person. Call: 925.736.2277 x234, or email           

Blackhawk Museums, 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville, CA 94506




De-mystifying a Concert Program

Most concert programs provide interesting reading and information regarding both the composer and the music to be played. But many people, who are not versed in the language of music, open a concert program and are often at a loss to understand some of the words, terminology and phrases they encounter.

The idea for this subject came from a good friend and former colleague, W. Richard Smithousen, a biologist. After going to a Danville Community Band concert he told me he had no idea what some of the words meant and was confused by the terminology. He asked me to clear up and explain some of the mysterious words and phrases in the program.      I can appreciate his confusion and frustration. Many people don’t know some of the commonly used musical jargon found in almost all concert programs.The main part of a program is in English but Italian is the language usually used for musical directions in the vast majority of music compositions. So if one does not understand the Italian language, many musical terms are quite a mystery. Italian is the universal music language but this is not the case in 100 percent of music written throughout the world. The directions for playing, singing or conducting are usually in Italian. This may also be true in music written in other countries by composers who speak other languages.

Some of the words and phrases are categorized according to their function and meaning. Many words denote names of movements that make up the composition, others are directions for volume, tempo, and style of playing.

There are literally thousands of words that could be used to describe some aspects of musical expression. Space does not permit but a few of the most common words and expressions found in music literature. Some of the words and phrases used in music are:


Volume or dynamics, indicates loudness or softness

            Pianissimo pp – very soft

            Piano p – soft

            Mezzo piano mp – medium soft

            Mezzo forte  mf – medium loud

            Forte f – loud

            Fortissimo  ff – very loud


Tempo or speed of a composition

            Allegro – fast, happy, quick

            Allegro con brio – played in a brilliant style

            Allegro con fuoco – played with fire and extreme animation

            Allegro con spirito – performed with spirit

            Allegro ma non troppo – allegro but not too rapid

            Allegretto – slightly slower than allegro

            Andante – a moderate or walking tempo

            Andantino – slightly faster than andante

            Moderato – a moderate tempo

            Vivace – quite fast, lively, quick

            Presto – very fast

            Presto assai – as fast as possible

            Adagio – slow

            Largo – very slow and broad

            Lento – slow

            Grave – very, very slow

Terms used to alter tempo markings:

            Accelerando – becoming gradually faster

            Stringendo – quickening the tempo

            Ritardando – gradually slowing the tempo

            Rallentando – slowing the tempo

            Meno mosso – less movement

            L’istesso tempo – the same rate of speed

            Maestoso – majestically

            Dolce – sweetly

            Grandioso – grandly

            Pesante – slowly, heavily

            Con moto – with motion

            Agitato – agitated

Program Makeup

The components of a concert program vary according to the ensemble, either band, orchestra or choral and what each ensemble deems important and appropriate to mention.

I’m proud to say that the programs of the Danville Community Band (DCB) are very complete in content and scope. When we take sample programs to national conventions they are called exemplary and are quickly sought after.

Our printed programs begin with greetings from the conductor and a list of dates for all upcoming concerts and events. Then the musical selections to be performed and a brief history of the founding of the band follows. Biographies of the conductors and featured guest artists (if performing) are next, then a list of the musicians name, profession and the instrument they play. Corporate and individual contributions of financial donations follow. Also included are

acknowledgments of individuals who help the band in many ways, including the Board of Directors of DCB. Photos of band members are featured throughout the written program.

Program Notes

This section is where you will find some words and phrases that you may not now. These are common words to describe something that is inherent in the music being performed.

            Acappella – unaccompanied

            Bel canto – beautiful singing, associated with Italian opera

            Chorale –         a hymn tune (or a choral group)

            Coda – means tail, a section at the end of a piece

            Concerto – a composition for one or more solo voices and orchestra or band

            Consort – a small instrumental ensemble

            Counterpoint – two or more melodic lines played together

            da capo – go back to the beginning

            da capo al fine – go back to the beginning and play to the end or fine

            Diatonic – major and minor scales

            Etude – French for study

            Legato – play smoothly without separate attacks

            Leitmotif – a recurring theme

            Libretto – text of opera, oratorio or musical

            Minuet – a country dance in triple time

            Monophony – a single line of melody, no harmony

            Ornaments – a little quick note, a trill, grace note or turn

            Opus – a number assigned to the works of a composer

            Overture – an introduction to a musical work

            Polyphony – two or more independent lines combined

            Sotto voce – Soft or low voice

            Staccato – detached, each note short

            Syncopation – accent on the weak part of the beat

            Secco – dry or simple

            Segue – without a break

            Sonata – multi-movement composition for solo instrument

            Sordino – mute

            Subito – suddenly or immediately

            Tacet – be quiet, do not play or sing

            Tessitura – range of a part

            Tutti – all

            Timbre – tone quality or color

            Unison – two or more playing the same note

            Vibrato – a wobble or fluctuation of pitch

There you have it. A thumbnail sketch on how to read and interpret the words and phrases in a concert program.

Many thanks to the very fine members of DCB who produce our programs before each event. George March, DCB’s business manager, who does the leg work and writes the copy for each issue, Jim Ketsdever, of Sara Waters Design Group, who designs the graphics and does the layout and Steve Tom, of Printing by Coast Litho for printing our beautiful programs. These dedicated folks do a superior job, getting the word out to our audience and making us look good.

Hopefully, I have dismissed some of the mystery in understanding what is offered in a program.

Happy concert going.

Submit your questions and comments to Visit our website at for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

Shame on U.C. Berkeley

One of the hallmark characteristics of liberty is the protected right to share and express ideas—even unpopular ones. “Freedom of Speech,” as it is often referred to, is part of the First Amendment to our Constitution; listed among the first “God given” freedoms identified in the Bill of Rights.

To place a value upon this right one must consider the American lives lost in the cause to preserve and protect it. Truly, it is among the sacred rights, bought and paid for by the blood of patriots. We each have a duty to respect, defend, and uphold it, for when we do not, we dishonor the men and women who paid dearly–many with their very lives–to secure it for us.

The full text of the First Amendment is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free          exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Now if you have been paying attention, you know that the right of free speech has been under attack lately. And while it is true that there are certain limits to this freedom (yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is often cited as an example of using speech in a manner that is illegal), there are apparently a good number of citizens–many who likely claim to be well educated–who don’t understand what freedom of speech is or what it means.

In fact, when you read our feature article, Risk, Reward, and Republicanism, by Bradley Devlin, Secretary of the Berkeley College Republicans (page 20), you’ll discover that among the worst, chronic offenders in the assault on free speech is the very administration at what was once a standard-bearer in causes for freedom and liberty–the University of California at Berkeley.

When the controversial, firebrand speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, was scheduled to speak at the U.C. Berkeley campus last February, he was prevented from doing so by a large group of individuals (students and non-students) who became violent, destroying school property and threatening anyone who dared support this free speech event.  The event became an all-out riot, as the campus police simply stepped back and allowed the anarchists to have their way.

Later in the year, conservative speaker, Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak, but the U.C. administration would not allow it because they “couldn’t ensure her safety.”

The real tragedy in all of this is that, while the young students who opposed these event might be excused because they are simply too immature or ignorant to realize their error, the so-called adults in the U.C.  administration surely know better.

Shame on them for not standing up for free speech. Shame on them for dishonoring those men and women– the ones mentioned previously, with courage that they, apparently, do not possess.     




2017 Kia Sorento Camping Wars – SUV/Crossover

With summer upon us, I have found that one of the primary questions around the water cooler is “What are you and your family going to do this summer?” This year, the trophied response was “camping,” followed by my co-water-cooler friends asking me “What type of vehicle works best for camping?”

This question gave me the inspiration for this article, which will be the first of three that will highlight the pros and cons of three vehicle categories along with my personal camping experiences of each. That said, what are our choices outside of renting an RV?

The three most common vehicles, are an SUV (Crossover), a Minivan, and a Truck, where the first two choices offer the security of an enclosed area for your stuff. The pickup’s attributes include a large bed for your outdoor wilderness provisions and perhaps, more off-road capabilities.I enjoy and began the sport of camping several years ago, thanks to “the bug” that I caught from an old girlfriend’s family. They would pack up the tents, coolers, hot dogs and family to recreate their home in the woods for two weeks every year. After joining them for a couple of days, I found that I was hooked and started buying supplies.

In the beginning, there was enough room in my 1966 Mustang for camping gear for two people. Now, however, with the addition of kids and equipment, I need a canyon of cargo space. When my daughter, Cayla, and I started a tradition of camping adventures, my cabinets began multiplying with the essentials needed. The space grew from one half cabinet to two large ones.

A request went out into the universe, and the 2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWD Crossover was delivered. At first glance, I was happy to see that the Kia came with AWD in case a dusty trail crossed our path. The 2017 Sorento comes in four trim levels: L, LX, EX, SX, and SXL and range in price starting at $25,400 to $45,700. All except the L is available in both FWD and AWD.

There are three engine choices that vary on the trim level. They include: 2.4-liter I-4 with 185 hp/178 lb. ft. torque, and a 6-speed automatic transmission, 2.0-liter turbo I-4 with 240 hp, and 260 lb. ft. torque and a 6-speed automatic, and a 3.3-liter V6 with 290 hp and 252 lb. ft. torque, and 6-speed automatic.

Some new features of the 2017 Sorento include and again are based on trim level: Telematics Audio with head unit Android Auto™ , Apple CarPlay®, Advanced Technology Package, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Paddle shifters, and Dynamic Bending Headlamps.

The styling on the Sorento is both sophisticated and attractive. The lines are modern and clean with just enough contour to create the presence of an elegant and bold silhouette. From the front, the signature Kia grille is met with a bank of quad running lights below the headlights to help illuminate your way. My trim, the SXL, embodied a full-length sunroof that furnished a panoramic view of the sky. The roof line flowed downward into the tailgate.

The interior was comfortable with plenty of amenities and legroom. The wood trim touches created an upscale feel and the entire vehicle felt solid. The dash was a mixture of soft touch points and a 7-in LCD display panel. Our model included front ventilated and heated 10-way power seats trimmed in Nappa leather. The two rapid USB charging ports kept our phones fully charged while out exploring. In the back, there’s a third row of seats for two extra passengers.

The cargo area allowed: a tent, three large plastic totes, a medium size cooler, fishing poles, three folding chairs, two medium-sized bags of clothes, a box of wood and other supplies. The backseat alongside of my 9-year old son, Chase, embraced three sleeping bags, three pillows, small cooler and a bag of sheets and blankets. At the back of the center console was a 110-volt power inverter plug which worked perfectly for Chase’s portable DVD player.

Cool Features:

  • Panoramic Sunroof
  • Standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can access popular smartphone features including: maps, text messages and music
  • 110-volt power inverter plug

The 2017 Kia Sorento comes well-equipped with safety features including the following: Vehicle Stability Management System, Electronic Stability Control, 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Hillstart Assist Control, driver and front passenger advanced airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags with rollover sensors, rearview camera, driver’s blind spot mirror. Some of these items are optional safety features for purchase.

In Summary – The 2017 Kia Sorento is a wonderful representative for the SUV/Crossover class. It delivered plenty of power without sputtering over hills with its 3.3-liter V6 motor. We loaded the Sorento up with our camping gear and our vehicle took it without hesitation. I must admit that it would have been difficult but not impossible, to create room for one more person due to my efforts to be overly-prepared and overly-stocked.

We never did feel uncomfortable in the 2017 Sorento, and in fact, we left and returned in a very relaxed state. The verdict – an SUV/Crossover definitely wins over my 1966 Ford Mustang and all sedans as well. Having the enclosed space for our stuff adds a level of security while traveling. Properly organizing and packing your supplies optimizes the amount of people and cargo you can transport. The raised height of an SUV/Crossover improves visibility when driving, and…

Stay tuned for the 4-11 on how an SUV/Crossover compares against a Minivan and Pickup!


2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWD 
Base price:                  $45,700 as driven: $46,595(including destination & optional

Engine:                       3.3-liter V6

Horsepower:               290 hp

Torque:                       252 lb.-ft.

Transmission:            6-speed automatic

Drive:                          AWD-Wheel Drive

Seating:                       7-passenger
Turning radius:         18.6 feet

Cargo space:              154.2 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4,211 pounds

EPA mileage:             City 17/Hwy 23/Comb 19 MPG

Wheel Base:                109.4inches

Warranty:                   10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Jeep Cherokee, Mitsubishi  



Ben’s Favorites

I have been asked which of the many trivial subjects that are in general use are my personal favorites. Most of them are favorites, but because of where I grew up, pre WWII, baseball and the movies seem to be what I gravitate to. So, with that in mind let’s deal with some baseball movies.

1.) My favorite baseball movie is “Bull Durham.” Kevin Costner played Crash Davis, who played the naive young pitcher Nuke Lelouch?

2.)  In “Field of Dreams”, who was the real life player of the 20s played by Ray Liotta who asked Costner to build a field so “they will come?”

3.) Who played Babe Ruth in the movie “Pride of the Yankees?”

4.) What was the name of the mysterious great hitter played by Robert Redford In “The Natural?

5.) Who played Branch Rickey, the man who introduced Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball in the movie “42?”

6.) In the 1970’s film “The Bad News Bears,” who was the sponsor of Walter Matthau’s Little League team?