Overview of the Suisun Bay “Mothball” Fleet

Travelers driving north across the Martinez Bridge are treated to an unusual sight upriver. A number of gray ships, moored abreast in several rows about a mile east of the bridge, patiently await their fate. These ships are commonly referred to by the public as the “mothball fleet.”

Immediately following the end of World War II, Congress voted to establish a National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) to serve as a reserve cadre of ships for national defense and national emergencies. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) maintains this fleet so it can provide surge sealift capability whenever required. MARAD is also responsible for disposing of reserve ships, and other non-combatant Government ships, as they become obsolete.

At its height in 1950, the NDRF (aka “mothball fleet” or “ghost fleet”) consisted of 2,277 ships kept at one of eight anchorages around the U.S. Over time, the NDRF has dwindled to just three anchorages: Fort Eustis, Virginia, Beaumont, Texas, and Suisun Bay in Benicia, California. As of March 31, 2011, there were only 183 vessels left, primarily dry cargo ships along with some tankers and military auxiliaries.

In 1976, an additional Ready Reserve Fleet component was established to provide rapid deployment of military equipment. The Ready Reserve Fleet comprises 48 vessels, some of which are kept with the “mothball” fleet. An additional 28 non-NDRF ships are held in storage for other government agencies. The Suisun Bay fleet contains all of these various categories of ships. For instance, the WWII battleship USS Iowa languishes in row “G” on a donation hold from the Navy until it becomes a museum in California.

Since 1950, NDRF vessels have supported emergency shipping operations during war and national emergencies. During the Korean War, 540 vessels were activated to support the military forces. During the Vietnam War, 172 vessels were activated to support military operations in southeast Asia. More than seventy-five percent of the RRF ships provided support to the U.S. effort’s in the Persian Gulf between August 1990 and April 1991.
In 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) used five RRF and four NDRF ships for relief operations in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The ships provided messing and berthing functions for refinery workers, oil spill response teams, and longshoremen, providing about 83,000 berthing nights and serving roughly 270,000 meals.

MARAD activated six vessels in response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January of 2010. Three of the six vessels played a direct role in the relief efforts, with two providing logistical support from Port au Prince’s harbor. Another operated as a high speed freight and passenger shuttle between the continental U.S. and Port au Prince.

In addition to maintaining a fleet of active and inactive ships, MARAD is the government’s disposal agent for Federally-owned obsolete, merchant-type vessels, and naval auxiliaries that are equal to or greater than 1,500 gross tons. MARAD disposes of vessels through a variety of methods including domestic recycling and sinking for use as artificial reefs. Due to environmental concerns, the disposal process has been accelerated over the past two years. Of the 72 non-retention vessels currently in the NDRF, 60 are in the disposal process or are ready for disposal and 12 are being reviewed for their historical significance.
By 2017, only a few Ready Reserve Fleet ships will remain in the Suisun Bay fleet.

Suisun Bay Fleet – USS Hassayampa

Many of the ships in the Suisun Bay NDRF have made significant contributions to American history, often behind the scenes rather than in the headlines. July 2011 is the 42nd anniversary of the epic Apollo 11 flight to the moon. So it is fitting for this article to focus on a key contributor in the recovery of that first lunar landing flight.

In the early 1950’s, the U.S. Navy needed combat logistics ships fast enough to keep up with aircraft carrier task forces but with the cargo capacity to provision all the ships of that group. To accomplish this, the Navy created the Neosho class fleet oiler. Their mission was to transport bulk petroleum products, minor freight, mail and personnel from shore depots to these forces at-sea, and effect delivery to them while underway. The term for this latter operation is “underway replenishment” or “UNREP” for short. While logistics support is not considered a glorious mission, it is the cornerstone that allows combat forces afloat to maintain peak readiness and efficiency.

Navy fleet oilers are historically named after American Rivers bearing Indian names. The third Neosho-class ship built (of six total) was named USS Hassayampa (AO-145) after an interesting and historical river in Arizona. The river begins just south of Prescott, flows south through Wickenburg and empties into the Gila River. Except during the rainy winter season, the river bed is dry but the water keeps flowing via an underground channel.

Hassayampa was built in Camden, N.J. and launched in 1954. The vessel is 655 feet long, has a 38,000 ton displacement and can carry over 7.5 million gallons of petroleum products including naval special fuel oil (for ships), aviation gas (for helicopters and propeller aircraft) and jet fuel (for high performance jet aircraft). She was commissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Yard on April 19, 1955 with Senator Barry Goldwater proving the primary remarks at the ceremony.

Hassayampa served 23 years in the “regular” Navy with her home port in Pearl Harbor as part of the Pacific Fleet. From 1955 until 1964 she made many cruises to the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. During the Tonkin Gulf crisis in August 1964, which jump started the Vietnam War, Hassayampa supported ships of the Navy’s Pacific and Seventh Fleets in that area. She was recognized for being involved with fourteen naval campaigns during the Vietnam War. In one astonishing two-week period in November 1966, Hassayampa refueled 67 ships!

In July 1969, she was a member of Task Force 130, the small group of ships assigned to recover the Apollo 11 spaceflight. On July 22, forty hours before splashdown, Hassayampa refueled the primary recovery ship USS Hornet in the designated landing area 1,200 miles southwest of Honolulu. The next day, a large storm system affected the area, forcing NASA to move the target site 240 miles northeast. Thanks to the refueling, Hornet was able to steam through the night at high speed and was in position when the Apollo spacecraft splashed down early the next morning. In November 1969, Hassayampa was at it again, refueling Hornet the day before Apollo 12 splashed down in the mid-Pacific.

In 1978, she was decommissioned from the Navy and transferred to the Military Sealift Command (MSC) as the USNS Hassayampa (T-AO 145). Based in Sasebo, Japan as the “duty oiler” in the Far East, it was not uncommon for the ship and its civilian crew to ride out a dozen typhoons every year. In addition to her national defense duties, she handled many special missions. These include the 1983 search and salvage mission associated with Korean Airlines Flight 007 that was shot down by the Russian military. In 1990 and 1991, she was a key member of the naval forces executing the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in the Persian Gulf.

In October 1991, Hassayampa was placed out of service by MSC. Spanning her career with the Navy and MSC, she was the most decorated fleet oiler in U.S. history. In May 1999, title to the ship was transferred to MARAD who placed her into the NDRF in Suisun Bay. As ships are slowly withdrawn from that fleet now, only time will tell what the ultimate fate of the “Humpin’ Hass” will be. Her former crewmen are hopeful she will become an artificial reef rather than being cut up for scrap.

San Ramon Valley residents who are interested in the Apollo 11 recovery or in gaining further knowledge of fleet oilers or the mothball fleet, have a unique opportunity the weekend of July 23/24. On Saturday the 23rd, the Hornet Museum in Alameda will be commemorating the anniversary of the Apollo 11 recovery with special guests and activities. On Sunday the 24th, the SS Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco will hold one of its rare “Ghost Fleet” tours with a cruise to the NDRF in Suisun Bay. O’Brien’s Master Pat Moloney was the longest serving commander of the USNS Hassayampa and is willing to share his wealth of knowledge with anyone who asks

Structure Of The Universe or How to Make Your Brain Hurt


What is the structure of the universe? Scientists are now fairly confident that it’s not simply duct tape and money that holds it all together and so modern-day physicists have been working dutifully to answer this cosmic question for quite some time now, as have I.

I am at an advantage compared with other people as far as contemplating solutions to complex scientific problems goes—I have an unfathomable amount of time each week that I can dedicate to lay-person research and abstract thought-experimentation. Surely it is not everyone’s luxury to have the freedom to ponder, at length, such age-old questions as, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” or, “Where did the universe come from?” while simultaneously watching every single science show that Dish Network broadcasts.

Recent research suggest that dark matter in our universe may form a lattice – grid – scaffold – type structure that branches out like the veins of a tree leaf, which then enables regular matter to form, thus creating the visible universe we know and love today. And we already know that there are elements in our universe that are fundamental, without which the rest of everything else can’t happen. For example, there are chemical elements, like those displayed in the Periodic Table of the Elements on the science classroom wall; there are classical elements, as identified by the Greeks as Earth, Air, Fire and Water; and there are elemental forces, like good ole Murphy’s Law of probabilities.

Everything else that exists or happens in the universe builds upon the fundamentals of the elements. Without Terra Firma, air, fire, and water, life does not seem to be able to exist in our universe. Without the fundamental chemical particles there would be no land, no water, and no oxygen. And without the fundamental forces of electromagnetism, the strong force, the weak force and gravity, there would be no planetary systems with all that incessant spinning and constant movement, which seems to be another fundamental component necessary for existence.

So what useful tidbit can we gain from all these facts? What may be an important link to understanding the nature and mathematics of the universe involves taking into consideration inherent, fundamental properties; in particular one really, really big one that scientist may not have factored in into all their mathematical formulas yet: That our Universe is a duality; that it is one of two—that maybe Universes come in pairs.
I don’t know if scientists are aware that what may be missing from their calculations for a Unified Equation of Everything, is taking into account that absolutely every time one thing comes into being, two things come into being. Inherent Duality may be a fundamental element of the Universe.

On Earth, we certainly experience a fundamental dualism with just about everything, right? In/out; right/wrong; conservative/liberal; privatization/socialization; male/female; traditional/exploratory; one side/the other side, yin/yang—the list is endless and many of the examples are profound. Things like Micro/Macro, and how fractals are the same patterns whether at the biggest Macro level or the tiniest Micro. That’s cosmic stuff.

Physicists already know that when one particle comes into existence it can be in two states or places at once and yet, so far, science has been unable to predict with accuracy which one place it will end up. I think this applies to certain individuals we all know, too, but I’m not naming names. But the reason there is always two potential extreme endpoints, if you will, is because everything happens along a scale between two states or two places of being, and that space in between interacts with time and forces, creating probability and eventual outcome. This is how computers operate, storing logic states of 1 or 0 in registers, based on data-information ‘forces.’ Even human beliefs fall across a wide spectrum from far–leaning one way to far–leaning toward the exact opposite opinion on the other side, and everywhere along the continuum.

This structure of two opposition states – connected by a chord of time, forces and probability, happens at the smallest levels of the universe as strings, in string theory, and also at the largest scale, as in the case of “universes.”

It was mentioned on a science program recently that one theory about gravity is that the reason it is so weak of a force in our universe is because we don’t have very much of it – compared to the magnitude that has been calculated for how much gravity would have existed during the Big Bang; and that there may be just a little trickle of it always filtering into our universe from somewhere else.

So maybe there are always two universes; one filled with matter and dark matter—the visible universe that we see and inhabit, and another universe—one that has all the anti-matter that was necessary to make the Big Bang explosion.
Perhaps it requires a lot of gravity to contain the anti-matter, which could explain why the vast majority of the total force of gravity is not found in our universe, as has been theorized by minds much greater than my own.

Perhaps the reason there is a chord of gravity (if there is one) that siphons from that one Universe into ours, is to enable a mechanism that allows for the two universes to maintain distance from each other, so as to not run into each other. Because that spells trouble for both universes, you know, and us in particular, since when those two universes collide, anti–matter accidentally touches matter and we get a new Big Bang, which starts the process over again.

This is a radical theory, but a lot of it is based on what theoretical physicists are already talking about and proving mathematically, like string theory and membrane universes and that there is not really ever a single point, but rather two places something can be every time you do the math.

So what might be being left out of the grand equation of the universe that physicists are looking for may simply be the other universe. If it were presumed to exist, and if the theory is correct, then it should fit very neatly into the mathematical equations of our universe.

Now this is where I must step aside, since we are going to need to call in some geniuses to apply the mathematical concepts. If scientists haven’t already started calculating the inherent duality of the universe into their “Unified Theory of the Everything” equations, perhaps they will start now.

Hanging out with Tony Hicks The Contra Costa Times Resident Funnyman

Anyone who has ever read Tony Hicks’ twice-weekly humor lifestyle column in the Contra Costa Times, might think this witty, sarcastic, self-deprecating writer would be a cool guy to hang out with, and you would be correct. After months of trading emails and Facebook messages, our mutual admiration society had finally scheduled its first meeting. Tony and I met one afternoon at Peet’s Coffee in Walnut Creek. When I arrive, he is engaged in a whimsical conversation with a political surveyor collecting signatures for a bill or petition. He is casually attired in cargo shorts, Vans and a cool Star Wars t-shirt depicting four Imperial Storm Troopers wearing the very identifiable “KISS” face paint. Tony has a collection of tattoos on his stocky frame and is easily recognizable by his trademark billy-goat scruff facial hair (he was in the process of growing his beard out when we got together to shoot photos for the article) which is visible in the headshot shown above his newspaper column. As we talked about a variety of topics over the course of a couple of hours, Tony reminded me of what the character John Bender, portrayed wonderfully by Judd Nelson in the popular 80s movie The Breakfast Club, might resemble as an adult. He is laid back and affable, but possesses the keen ability to provide humorously insightful observations of people, places and events.

Whenever I’m asked who has influenced my writing style in the magazine articles I’ve done for ALIVE, four names come to mind; Dave Berry, Scott Osler, Rick Reilly and Tony Hicks. When I shared this with Tony, he blushed like a little school girl. While Tony is almost 6 years younger than me, I’ve always admired that he can churn out two columns a week in addition to his twice weekly People Column responsibilities and his occasional feature pieces. When asked where he comes up with the ideas for his column, Tony says inspiration comes from personal experiences (parenting and growing up in the shadow of Mt. Diablo) or things he picks up in the media. “Most of my columns are written at home (often times in bed) and I’m a really poor planner so it’s usually just something that strikes me at the time.” I can totally relate to that as a fellow procrastinator.

Tony grew up in Walnut Creek, but his family moved to San Ramon when he was twelve. After graduating from Cal High School in San Ramon in 1985, despite having rock star aspirations as the drummer for the pop-alt band Nag Nag Nag, Tony left the group before the band relocated to Southern California and enrolled at Diablo Valley College. Tony says. “I wasn’t in any hurry to leave and there was plenty of partying to do while still living at home.” Despite receiving praise for his flair with the pen in a creative writing class at DVC, Tony felt like he had made a mistake by not going to L.A. with his band. ”I decided to move down south hoping the band’s new drummer would eventually quit”. After initially finding an apartment in Korea Town, which happened to be in the heart of rival gang territory, Tony eventually did rejoin the band and find a new place to live. Nag Nag Nag became a recognizable member of a group of promising So Cal bands known as The Alternate Power Source. However, after a couple of years of establishing their place in the club scene (amongst the popularity of grunge and metal acts), Tony left the band again and headed home… to be a writer.

The year was 1993 when Tony re-enrolled at DVC with aspirations of being a sports writer, and in the perfect world, the Warriors beat writer. After signing up for journalism courses, Tony joined the staff of the DVC Inquirer. Initially a staff reporter and later the Editor-in-Chief, Tony would go on to win a countywide creative writing competition sponsored by the East Bay Press Club. “Jake Williams, Deputy Editor at the Contra Costa Times, was a judge for the contest and we hit it off right away.” “I got a call a couple of weeks later from someone at the Times asking if I would like a few hours of weekly work reporting on Caltrans road work and street closures. As dull as that sounds, I thought I had hit the big time.” Ironically, it was around this time, mid 1995, that the band came calling again. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Nag Nag Nag’s lead singer was now playing in a band called Green Jello, which was getting some play on MTV and the group’s drummer was happily honing his craft as a writer.

Working an assortment of jobs at the Times gave Tony valuable experience in record research, city government and real estate editorials. He was also given the enjoyable task of covering sports on the weekends.After reading the book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thompson and following the 2002 Presidential Election, Tony’s interest in politics blossomed. During this time, Tony and his earliest mentor, Jean Dickenson (his advisor at DVC) continued to stay in touch even after he transferred to San Francisco State to earn a degree in journalism. It was Jean the editor for the Valley Times (owned by Lesher Communications) who called after having interviewed Tony for a summer job as a fill-in for the day cop reporter. “I misspelled Lesher, but luckily Jean vouched for me.” Tony went on to fill-in as the Moraga beat reporter for the paper, where he eventually met his first wife. At 30, Tony did become a husband and step-father and by 2002, the two had a daughter, Olivia. Originally Tony and his wife had planned for a water birth delivery and had several false starts commuting from their home in Cordelia to the birthing facility in Pleasanton. Ultimately, the baby was delivered in the more conventional manner. “No, I wasn’t enamored with the idea of a water birth.” Tony states. The couple divorced in 2006, which was very tough on Tony at the time having just bought a new home ten months earlier and not getting to see his young daughter every day.

While his personal life was in state of turmoil, Tony was happy as the music critic for the Contra Costa Times. Having covered the local music scene in 1999, as a six month fill-in for the regular music critic, Tony then transitioned into covering the Berkeley beat for the West County Time in the spring of 2000. “If you can’t find something to write about in Berkley, you shouldn’t be a reporter”. Eventually he landed the dream job of full time music critic in July of 2001. “I worked my butt off covering concerts, conducting interviews and churning out articles”, Tony says. “I loved it.” When asked about his favorite memories, Tony recalls an hour long interview with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, befriending Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, receiving a bottle of Cabo Wabo Tequila from Sammy Hagar and recording a jam session with former Metallica bassist, Jason Newsted. “Jason was getting ready to go on the road with Ozzy Osbourne when he invited me to jam after our interview. That didn’t suck”, Tony proudly admits. Surprisingly, it was a review of a show featuring Chrissy Hynde and the Pretenders that drew his biggest negative reader response. “Chrissy made some disparaging comments during the show about the terrorist attacks of September 11th and people attributed them to me as the writer. It got really crazy.”

Tony does credit his column for finding his current wife, Michelle. “In 2007, after dropping 30 pounds and getting his life together, a co-worker told me that one of her friends really enjoyed reading my column.” Using Myspace (pre-Facebook), they initially connected over the internet. Both being single parents of young daughters, they set up an innocent play date at Heather Park in Walnut Creek. The next day they met up to watch the Super Bowl and have been together ever since. Today, they call Concord home and together the loving couple have a beautiful three-year old daughter, Lucy. Tony is once again attending his favorite community college in Pleasanton Hill as a 43-year old senior. Despite completing the required journalism classes, with a minor in political science, he still needs to finish up a few general education credits to earn his degree later this year. “Yes, yes, yes, life kind of got in my way,” Tony sheepishly admits.

Tony enjoys hearing from his loyal readers and gets email virtually every day, including occasional notes from that dork who writes personality profiles for ALIVE magazine. “I’m actually not as funny or interesting in person,” the big guy confesses, although I would disagree. As long as there are still stories to tell, Tony Hicks will always be a cool guy to hang out with and/or follow in the rags.

When “Inner and Outer” Conflicts Abound… Slow Down and Reach for Peace

Dandelion - Inner Outer Conflict
I’ve wondered lately why the intensity of “the world at large” appears to be escalating on many levels. And amidst this perceived intensity, it feels like time is zooming forward at “breakneck” speed. Whew—just thinking about this makes me want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head! Can you relate?

It occurs to me that maybe we are trying to keep pace with the ever-increasing speed offered by today’s technologies. Could it be that coffee houses are booming with business as we attempt to amp ourselves up and zoom through our days at these crazy breakneck speeds?

Now don’t get me wrong; I deeply appreciate the capacity of my fast-paced and efficient high-tech computer, digital pen tablet, iPhone, and television. However, I am concerned about how the intensity of our ever-changing techno-world…is impacting the peacefulness and the balance of our minds and bodies.

For this reason, in my private practice, I often educate stressed clients about the fight-flight-freeze responses. Fighting, fleeing, and freezing are related to natural reactions to stress that animals exhibit when their survival is threatened. Since we’re animals, it’s natural for our brains to also choose one of these instinctual survival behaviors…when we’re feeling overwhelmed, afraid, angry, or sad.

For example, doesn’t it make sense that in trying to keep pace with the speed of the technology around us…we might not make time to process (or balance) our emotions? Let’s face it; answering cell phone calls, faxes, texts, and emails can become a full time job! As a result, while feeling overwhelmed with the crazy demands of our stressful work and home lives, many of us tend to suppress or freeze our emotions. Unfortunately, for some, emotional suppression leads to anxiety as well as somatic (bodily) symptoms.

Now here’s the challenging part: how do we balance opposing emotions (like anger and sadness) and make peace with our “inner and outer” conflicts? This is no small task for complex creatures such as ourselves. However, when we learn how to allow our emotions to safely flow freely, then we avoid inappropriately “acting out” our anger in unproductive or destructive ways. By allowing our emotions to safely flow, we also avoid becoming stuck (or frozen) in our fear…or in our sadness.

Recently, I’ve received phone calls from many people who feel overwhelmed by the “inner and outer” conflicts in their lives. To balance “inner conflicts,” I offer my clients various tools that allow them to process their challenging emotions in gentle ways. For example, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a powerful tool that helps many people discharge “stuck” emotions, so they can move forward in their lives.

In addition, I also teach individual clients “life skills,” such as conscious communication, which includes active listening. I have to say, as an innately shy person, learning how to communicate assertively and listen compassionately—was life changing for me. The truth is that accessing my “authentic voice” was a turning point in my life, and I continue to feel deeply grateful for this important ability.

Now, as far as moving toward peace in relation to “outer conflicts,” imagine stepping into another person’s shoes in order to invite empathy into the mix. I’ve witnessed, as well as experienced…that empathy has the capacity to serve as a profound bridge to another person.

On this note, I recently had an inspiring conversation with a seasoned mediator, Sharon Tom, about the importance of empathy. Sharon is the Training Program Manager for the nonprofit organization, SEEDS (Services that Encourage Effective Dialogue and Solutions). In addition to discussing empathy, Sharon and I talked about the importance of “active listening”—especially for people in the process of resolving a conflict. She shared the following insights:
Four Factors That Contribute to Our Conflicts:

  1. We don’t listen to one another
  2. We stay stuck in our positions
  3. We make assumptions
  4. We tend to speak…before we think
  5. __________________________________________
    To help encourage active listening, during their two-day “Conflict Resolution Skills Training,” SEEDS offers communication tools to increase participants’ skill levels and effectiveness when dealing with conflict in their personal lives and in their workplaces. For more information visit: www.seedscrc.org

    Finally, if you are experiencing inner conflict, outer conflict, or a confusing combination of both—then consider slowing down and reaching out for support and practical tools. Know that taking positive action is a courageous first step toward…cultivating inner and outer peace.

    Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.

    Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author of the 2-CD Set, Weight Loss: Powerful & Easy-to-Use Tools for Releasing Excess Weight. Her artwork and personal profile are included in Outstanding American Illustrators Today 2. She is the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. She soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Your Passport to Glowing Skin – How to Get That Natural J-Lo Glow for Summer

I have been listening to women complain for years about how they want their skin to look healthier, smoother and youthful. They want their wrinkles to disappear and they want their skin to look radiant. There are natural products we can use to make our skin appear smoother and more youthful and without cosmetic surgery. I have researched the beauty industry, read tons of medical journals, probed in plastic surgery offices and being that I have been a licensed skin and cosmetic professional for over 25 years I have seen a lot, tried a dozen remedies and seen the good and the bad. Here is what I found to be the best smoothing products that work and you can do at home!!

For smooth skin you can achieve this by simply exfoliating the skin with a good and aggressive scrub every day. Some women think that using a scrub will dry the skin, but quite the opposite. Using exfoliants everyday will help take off the top layer of skin that is dry. The moisturizer you apply to the skin after exfoliation will be able to penetrate deeper into the skin. Microderm abrasion is popular but you can achieve the same effect by exfoliating every day. So save your $.

Glycolic Creams

Using a Glycolic Acid cream will dramatically smooth the surface of the skin. Using a nightly treatment of a cream that has 8% Glycolic Acid, will help smooth the surface of the skin and fine lines too. Apply to clean skin nightly for two months, stop for one month. Taking a break from Glycolic Acid Cream will allow the skin to heal. You must allow the skin to heal for optimum cell renewal. Too many chemicals applied to the skin can cause skin to thin and look older than it is. Scientifically researched, Glycolic Acid is in fact one of the safest smoothing products on the market. I have seen incredible results with Glycolic Acid. An even skin tone, a smoother youthful skin and less noticeable fine lines.


Another way to achieve a beautiful and natural glow to your complexion is a good bronzer. Bronzers come in all different forms. One of our popular bronzers, has a highlight on one side and a bronzing powder on the other. It gives the skin a beautiful high light with a bronzed natural glow. We’re Obsessed!!

Skin Shimmers

Skin shimmers are an exceptional way to give the skin a dewy and natural glow. Jennifer Lopez wears it all the time to give her skin that just out of yoga class and youthful glow. It looks so effortless and gives the skin a wonderful sheen. Our porcelain face shimmers are here and ready for you to try.

Theresa Taylor Grutzeck is the owner of the Rouge, Kiss and Make-up Studio, 822 Hartz Way, Danvile, CA 94526. Phone: 925-736-3900 and email: info@therougecosmetics.com

The Jewelry Experience – The Service is Just as Important!

For the most part, when you enter a jewelry store, you are expecting to see jewelry displayed elegantly in display cases with professional jewelry salespeople ready to be of assistance. You browse, touch, ask questions and hopefully, if interested enough, make a purchase on a wonderful piece of creation that simply fits with your lifestyle and wardrobe. Sounds simple enough… however most of us also have jewelry that has been acquired many years ago and still has meaning to us. Is there such a place that caters to the jewelry that is still being used? There is, but you need to find them correctly.

According to jewelry industry statistics, with the economy still in a challenging state of affairs, many customers are making due or reworking the jewelry that they already own. Most of the jewelry that is purchased can be repaired, restored or redesigned into beautiful modern styles. One of the basic problems is finding someone to understand, educate and communicate on what is best for someone’s cherished collection. The line of difference is in what jewelers are committed to providing their customers. Is it selling beautiful jewelry or servicing it? These are two distinct business disciplines. Even though most stores provide additional or complementary services, it doesn’t mean that they are completely experienced or organized in providing the best in professional services. Repairing and restoration work is an art if it is to be done correctly. The jewelry is usually priceless because of the sentiment. The jeweler needs to empathize with the customer’s sentimental collection. This is of utmost importance because it establishes the bond or relationship between jeweler and customer. Constant communication is required to understand what is to be done (if it can be done) and conveyed so that there are no disappointments after the fact. The whole experience should be of confidence, professionalism, completeness and a lasting impression.

Most of the majority of service jewelry work is in the repairing and restoration of jewelry, however, the additional specialty is designing. Designing jewelry is broken up into two sub categories; custom design and redesign. Each are handled similar but take on a difference aspect during the “designing idea phase”. The custom designing presentation is more of a start from scratch, where the designer provides all materials such as the gemstone/s and metal material that will be used to create the jewelry design. The other method is to work with what is provided. This method is mostly used today since many individuals have their own cherished or acquired jewelry or gemstones. This type of designing is exciting because it is very personal and sentimental to the customer. The customer is excited because of the attachment he or she has with the items.

In our industry, we are seeing more and more individuals that want to hold onto what is important in their lives, what has meaning and jewelry fills that void in many ways. In the next issue I will elaborate about how repair, restoration or design services can be handled to get the most out of the services.

For more information, please visit our “Jewelry Stories’ blog at jewelsmithnews.blogspot.com or our website at www.jewelsmiths.com

Microfractional CO2 Laser

“Simply The Best Laser Ever Invented to Rejuvenate Your Skin!” Michael J. Tomcik, MD

In 2009, I began researching cosmetic laser surgery and consulted several board-certified dermatologists to diagnose the best treatment to smooth, tighten, and rejuvenate my aging skin. With all the information available about hundreds of different lasers, it was confusing and I needed the advice of professionals before I could make a decision.

My careful review led me to dermatologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, Michael J. Tomcik, MD, at Advance Laser Skin Care Center in San Ramon, California. His expertise in medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology, and surgical dermatology for over 38 years impressed me. Knowing he has been a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at University of California, San Francisco since 1977, assured me he has access to the latest technology in lasers. Dr. Tomcik said, “People are looking for less invasive procedures that are less expensive, but give excellent results.” Just what I was thinking.

During a one hour consultation with Dr. Tomcik, together we reviewed my health history, skin type, and daily practices of skin care. Dr. Tomcik advised treatment tailored to my unique skin complexion, social and cultural backgrounds, and other priorities. His belief that the Microfractional CO2 laser is, “Simply The Best Laser Ever Invented to Rejuvenate Your Skin!” and that he is a nationally recognized expert in Microfractional CO2 Laser Resurfacing convinced me to move forward with the procedure. The fact that he has performed over 4600 laser procedures, and has the knowledge and experience to handle complications, should I have the need, gained my trust. Besides I liked him…he has a genuine enthusiasm and passion for his work.

Two weeks following the consultation, I met with the surgical nurse on staff at Advanced Laser Skin Care Center. We discussed skin care products (cleanser, skin tone pads, glycolic acid moisturizer, sun screen), and we selected a date for my laser treatment. We took into account I needed between three to six weeks of practicing a customized skin care regiment prior to laser surgery, and approximately a week for recovery. In addition we discussed the actual laser procedure, medications to prevent infection, and scheduled follow-up appointments with Dr. Tomcik.

For three weeks I followed the skin care regiment on my face, neck, and chest, and saw immediate improvement. Having my skin in the healthiest possible condition before laser surgery would ensure better results after laser surgery. In addition, beginning the skin care program prior to laser surgery would establish a daily routine that would be similar to the post laser treatment.

Three days prior to laser surgery, I began prescribed medication.

On the day of surgery my friend drove me to Advanced Laser Skin Care Center, and I was escorted to the surgical room. A nurse gave oral medications to me, an injection of Demerol in my hip, cleaned my skin, and then applied a powerful topical anesthetic (no general anesthetic was required). For approximately forty minutes I simply relaxed and let the medication take effect. Although I could hear Dr. Tomcik and a nurse conversing throughout the procedure, I did not have any discomfort or feel any pain whatsoever during or after the treatment.

My customized laser treatment called Microfractional Plus included both Microfractional CO2 laser and Erbium yag laser. The Microfractional CO2 laser was used on my face, neck and chest, while the Erbium yag laser was focused specifically on my crow’s feet, under my eyes, and around my mouth. Dr. Tomcik said with this combination of lasers he can aggressively treat deep lines, acne or chicken pox scars, and enlarged pores. He reports 80 to 90 percent reduction in these lines and scars with only one treatment.

Once home, I began the post laser treatment. The nurse had stressed washing hands to prevent infection, and to take five to seven showers each day to clean and steam moisturize the exposed skin. She further instructed me to use a clean pillow case nightly, and sleep in a recliner or with extra pillows. By keeping my head elevated above my heart, I would minimize swelling. Finally, she encouraged rest. 

For the next week, I diligently followed the post laser treatment, frequently applying post laser cleanser, gel, and SPF 45 sunscreen. I relaxed, read, ate nutritious foods, drank plenty of water, took my medication, and watched my skin transform from swollen redness, to peeling oatmeal-like skin, to soft “dewy” skin. By the end of five days, my neck and chest were almost finished peeling. Actually, I conducted business on my computer within 24 hours, and was back at work wearing makeup within nine days. With the help of their esthetician, I selected makeup to adequately cover the redness on my forehead and under my eyes while my facial skin continued to heal.

Post laser checkups with the nurse went well. Twelve days after surgery, Dr. Tomcik injected Botox in my forehead to temporarily weaken my muscles so the tremendous amount of new collagen fibers would not be bent by facial expressions while healing. After the skin has healed, Botox injections do not have to be continued.

Dr. Tomcik told me the deep heat produced by Microfractional Plus will continue to tighten my skin up to 60 percent over the next six months. Of course continuing the daily use of SPF 45 sunscreen, wearing a hat, and staying out of the sun are my responsibility, and by my actions I can contribute to the longevity of the results. Some patients have been known to keep their soft skin for 15 years, and for patients with acne or chicken pox scars, some have had life changing results.

I had this procedure to cosmetically rejuvenate my skin, but the amazing secondary benefit is I have also minimized my chances of getting basal cell skin cancer on my face, neck, and chest as I continue to age. By having this Microfractional Plus laser as maintenance when I’m 56 years old, I am adding years of healthy skin to my life.


As a side note…do not confuse basal cell skin cancer with melanoma. Both are types of skin cancer, but melanoma is much more serious. In a recent study by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, it stated educated, high-income women appeared to be at a higher risk for melanomas. The study’s conclusion suggested the increased risk could be due to the use of tanning beds, sun exposure on vacations, and more leisure time spent outdoors. In the past thirty years, the rate of melanoma has more than doubled in young white women, and women from the highest-income areas are six times as likely to have malignant melanomas as those in poorer areas. (New York Times 03/29/11) Regardless of race, income, or education, take action and protect your skin. Wear sunscreen and a hat!

Two weeks after my laser surgery, I resumed attending a Jazzercise class three times a week. A class member approached me because she heard I had “the skin of a sixth grader”… slight exaggeration. After seven weeks, several close friends shared comments, “You still look like you…very natural,” and “you look well rested and youthful.” I also heard, “Your skin looks amazing, but it’s not for me. I’ve earned every wrinkle on my face.” For the record, I too earned every wrinkle on my face. It’s just that with this procedure, I can still look my age, just aging more gracefully.

The entire staff at Advanced Laser Skin Care Center contributed to the warm, inviting atmosphere of dedication to taking care of their patients. Dr. Tomcik’s wife, Connie, is a registered nurse and works closely with the staff to promote the practice’s philosophy of care for Mind, Body, and Spirit. Connie stated, “We work as a team and have something for everyone. Numerous packages are available to fit the customized needs of each patient.”

If you are considering cosmetic laser surgery, remember it is definitely surgery, and should be regarded as such. Knowing a nationally recognized Microfractional CO2 laser expert, Dr. Michael J. Tomcik, practices right here in San Ramon, CA is to your benefit.

My advice…don’t rush. The process takes some planning. Go to the website, www.SanRamonDerm.com and watch the video demonstrating the laser procedure. Then make the call to Advanced Laser Skin Care Center to schedule your consultation.

The Microfractional CO2 Laser is “Simply The Best Laser Ever Invented to remove pigment, smooth, and tighten the skin up to 60 percent.” Now Dr. Michael J. Tomcik is combining the Microfractional CO2 laser with an Erbium yag laser in a procedure he calls Microfractional Plus. This combination allows him to aggressively treat deep lines around the mouth, acne and chicken pox scars, and enlarged pores. He reports 80 to 90 percent reduction in these lines with only one treatment, and the smooth effect lasts up to fifteen years.

Legal Lines – Community Property

Although most people have heard the term “community property,” many people are unaware of what it means and how it affects them. Most of the United States have marriage and inheritance laws based on English law, with the exception
of Louisiana, which is based on French law, and eight states, including California, where our laws come from our Spanish heritage.

Under English law, historically wives were protected in case of divorce or their husband’s death by certain laws such as the right of dowry and the giving of alimony. Under Spanish law, both husband and wife are considered to have
contributed their efforts to better the family, creating a “community.”

The result of this is that all assets earned during the marriage, or purchased with those earnings, are community property, owned equally.

For estate planning purposes, it is important to be aware that there are two different types of property in a marriage. “Separate property” is property that is either brought to the marriage, or acquired by gift or inheritance.

Many of my clients are concerned that when they make gifts to their children, or give assets to their children upon their death, that the assets could be taken away in a child’s divorce. Often a child will automatically add the spouse’s name when inheriting an asset. This makes it difficult to identify the inheritance.

One way I am helping clients protect their children is to leave a child’s inheritance in trust. In this way, the child can have control, and yet it is easy to identify that the asset is an inheritance, which is clearly separate property. This protects the child in case of divorce, while making the inheritance available for his or her enjoyment. If the child truly wishes to make a gift of the property to his or her spouse, it can be achieved. However, it is a decision made thoughtfully, with an awareness of the consequences, rather than a casual action which could have serious consequences.

A Shine of Rainbows – ALIVE at the Movies

A Shine of Rainbow
I’ve was going to write a review on The King’s Speech, but it seems as though every month I find another little gem that received virtually no publicity (unlike The Kings Speech) that I wanted to offer to you. I did notice that on the DVD release category it said ‘Freestyle Releasing’ and that seemed to make up my mind.

A Shine of Rainbows is a very sweet movie with a very deep subject matter…love. It seems that one can never get enough of it. Our story opens with a fresh faced young Irish boy being taunted in his classroom by some older bullies. Eight year old Tomas (John Bell) is shy, introspective and has a stammer. He is also the brunt of all the pranks at the orphanage. One day he walks with trepidation to the office when called but is overjoyed when he finds he has been adopted by Maire O’Donnell (Connie Nielsen) a lovely woman who takes the boy under her wing. On the boat ride back to the island of Corrie where Marie lives, our young lad does everything but throw up over the side and this is his new father’s first impression, a slightly green young boy in a sea environment. Alec (Aidan Quinn) isn’t able to hide his disappointment with his frail new son. Tomas is loved by Maire while trying to understand Alec and live up to his expectations. Maire is someone filled with magic, the kind of magic that could change someone’s life by just allowing them to be themselves.

As he explores his new island home, he finds a baby seal (what Irish movie would be complete without a baby seal!) on the beach, and begins caring for the seemingly abandoned animal, showing it the compassion he’s longed for in his own life.

I was recently talking about A Shine of Rainbows to a friend of mine. Since this is considered to be a family film and he has a young child and a pre-teen we started to chat about different subjects that seem to be taboo in many homes today. Just how old does a child need to be to be able to ‘handle’ the subject of death? I’m definitely not young anymore, except at heart, but death was part of life when I was growing up. Now, we have memorials instead of funerals and parents don’t seem to know how to answer the tough questions. No matter how long we live, our lives are touched by death. Different movies handle it, well, differently. There is death in A Shine of Rainbows but to me it was not sentimental, it was too sincere and real to be sentimental.

A Shine of Rainbows
is a beautiful movie about the transformation of love; a movie adults and children alike will ‘get’. Director Vic Sarin has created a masterful film with quiet yet dynamic performances by Bell, Nielsen, and one of my favorites, Aiden Quinn. One day I may yet review the other ‘stammer’ movie, The King’s Speech but not today. As always, I invite your comments. I love hearing from you at chastings@rockcliff.com.

Real Estate Review – Short Sales Still High

Q. Tom, I heard recently that re-sale homes need to be outfitted with a carbon monoxide detector … do sellers have to comply or is it voluntary?

A. Thanks for asking … you are referring to a new California state law requiring homeowners (not just sellers) to install a carbon monoxide detector in single-family residences by July 1, 2011. It is mandatory – nothing voluntary about it. The detector device can be battery powered or a plug in with battery back-up and must be tested and certified pursuant to AMSU and UL requirements; the cost is between $20 and $200.

Q. We are in the early stages of searching for a home and really just want to familiarize ourselves with the market without needlessly taking up the time of a Realtor or quite candidly without being bugged by an agent wanting to sell us a home before we’re ready. What is the best way to ‘shop’ for a home at own pace without being bothered?

A. Great question! I meet prospective buyers all the time who are in what I call the ‘information-gathering’ stage. They want accurate information regarding homes coming onto the market and occasionally want my experienced perspective but for the most part they just want to view homes online, drive by homes that arouse their curiosity and drop into Sunday Open Houses at their leisure. And they don’t want an agent to bug them! Many times a real estate salesperson will inevitably push too hard and too fast and the prospective buyer will disappear. As a real estate consultant, I recommend the buyers … 1 – download a mobile phone application such as Redfin so that they have a great resource at their fingertips if they drive by a home that catches their eye 2 – log onto my website, sign up for Homes By Email and type in the parameters of their desired home search (community, bedrooms, baths, price range, etc.) so they are emailed every new home listing daily that fits their criteria and 3 – drive by any home that looks interesting or drop into a scheduled open house; if any home really looks like a good fit, then email me and I will report back all the particulars such as pricing history, its last sold price, why the owner is selling, offer activity, builder reputation, neighborhood values, school rankings, unusual disclosures or inspections, etc.. If they want to see the home on a pre-arranged appointment then I’ll set it up but only if they call me first. I sometimes work with buyers for 1-2 years in this manner until they are really ready to buy.

Q. Tom, I keep hearing that ‘short sales’ are still a substantial part of the overall market … how do the number of short sales compare to the number of regular sales in Danville in a given month?

The reality is that short sales still do make up a significant amount of the pending sale transactions in almost every community. The statistics in Danville as of the time I write this column show 149 pending sales in all price ranges of which 47 are ‘pending subject to lender approval’ meaning that they are short sales. That’s over 31% of the market. The good news is that the overall percentages of pending short sales has trended downward over the last six months from 50% levels previously to about 1/3 of the market today. The not so good news is that the current level of short sale activity is expected for the foreseeable future.

Tom Hart

Tom Hart

Tom Hart is a practicing Real Estate Broker and a partner at Empire Realty Associates in Danville. He is a Certified Master Negotiator by the University of San Francisco and a Certified Master Strategist by HSM Harvard Program on Negotiation. He is past president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors (2005) and past president of the Realtors’ Marketing Association of the San Ramon Valley. Tom is in high demand as a speaker & trainer inside & outside the real estate industry.