To Click or Not To Click

Advice for Meeting Other Seniors on the Web

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single senior, in possession of reasonable health and wealth, must be in need of a partner. (with due apologies to Jane Austen.)

Reality

As a society we’re living longer. Consequently, people in their sixties seventies, eighties and even nineties, aren’t sitting at home in the proverbial arm chair. We may have children, grandchildren, friends, but for some that one important ingredient is missing—a companion. There is a long stretch of life ahead to fill with purposeful activity and a meaningful relationship; especially if you have lost the delight of a spouse or significant other through death, divorce or a debilitating illness, such as Alzheimer’s.

There’s what I call “the empty chair.”

If you are brave enough there are many web sites to peruse in search of new friends and companionship.

But What to Click?

After more than two years of widowhood, I curiously began to investigate some of the many sites. Some are free but encourage you to pay money to upgrade for more options. The best of them require, at a minimum, a current photo, a profile, and a willingness to be verified by the organization.

The profile will ask detailed questions regarding your background, personality and your desires in a relationship. Theoretically, that should limit results. But despite my stating an age and geographic range, I received queries from as far away as Australia and from men decades younger than I.  Don’t they read? Or are some looking for “a nurse with a purse.”

Surprises

If you haven’t had a social life recently, there are some staggering surprises.

The wishes and wants seen on the web are widely diversified. Some want a buddy, gender unimportant, with whom to go to dinner or a ball game or a traveling companion with whom to share expenses. Then there are those who have seriously ill spouses, who would simply like a friendship. Some want “friends with benefits,” the benefits being sex. Others want a long term relationship or even marriage.

No one wants to be lonely. But the web is a scary place to shop. And before you sign up on any web site, ask for feedback from people you trust. Then, if an activity or an individual is of interest, you can pursue by clicking on it.

A Long Time Ago

In your twenties it was easy. Most of us were single. So friends often introduced friends. Or Aunt Minnie would say with great enthusiasm, “You have to meet x.” Or you’d meet at a party or a wedding or even a funeral. Following the respected Ann Landers’ advice you could join a local church or temple. But in all these instances it was face to face and you could quickly get an impression of the individual. But when you become a senior, retired from your 9-5 life, those opportunities are far less frequent. Even with a multitude of clubs and activities, seeking companionship via the web can feel like a minefield.

Signing on

Once you sign up with web sites you are assigned a code number and requested to select a code name. Before you ever meet x, there may be a string of e-mails or phone calls. But is the person honest? Is the photograph current?  Be particularly wary of an absence of a photograph or an unfulfilled promise to supply one and question the snapshot of appealing dog or two darling little boys, with nary an adult in sight.  

Physical Aspects

If physical intimacy is not your prime objective be cautious about any inappropriate virtual overtures with a stranger. Notify the sponsor immediately.  If you consider romance a plus after a deepening friendship, you still may be in for a shock. For some older people, especially males, the diminishing libido is of tremendous and terrifying concern. Add to that the aging process in a woman’s body after menopause. If it becomes “the elephant in the room” medical advice and counseling may be helpful.

Baggage

Anyone over fifty is bound to have issues: medical, emotional, psychological.  We all come with baggage. As with the airlines, ask what’s the limit? Avoid taking on more than you can carry. It’s not that there won’t be difficulties as well as joys. But the latter should outweigh the former.

Issues

Ideally your new found acquaintance lives nearby. But then you don’t pick friends because they live next door. Shared interests are vital and you have to consider financial limitations. If you plan to get a season subscription to the opera or travel to the Greek islands, can the other person easily do the same?

Whomever you meet will have a history, and since you haven’t met through a mutual friend be sure to investigate critical details significant to you. e.g. marital history and current marital status (if it’s an “open marriage” does the spouse know?) level of education, religious affiliation, political leanings, professional career and work in retirement. Unlike a prospective employee, you can’t request references, but you can ascertain if you want to become better acquainted with that person. Yes, it’s possible to glean a great deal from how people present themselves. The expression on the face and the choice of attire all reveal clues. So do puzzling comments, like the following “I am well above average in intelligence but almost all of my friends are not.”  Is that meant to encourage you?

Money

Who pays for what? A thorny issue. If you divide the bill, then you’re not beholden to a stranger. But for some men it’s a point of honor to pick up the check.  If that’s the case you might provide a picnic or home cooked meals. Or buy two tickets to an event. It depends what’s comfortable for both of you. But under no circumstances loan money to someone you just met no matter how urgent the issue appears. Con artists are clever. Consequently, there are zillions of scam victims. Don’t be counted among them.

Safety

You like to think everyone is honorable and upright.  But when you are dealing with cyberspace it pays to be careful. Maybe you’re about to meet someone fabulous. Maybe not. So, meet in a public place, such as a coffee shop. Let a relative know the full name of the person you are going to meet, at what time and where. Arrange to call your relative at a given time to say that you’re home or what your plans are. If you live alone it’s wise to let someone responsible know your whereabouts. Take your own car or public transportation. But if early on if you accept a ride with this website acquaintance, as a general precaution, jot down the license plate and car description and text it to that same relative. If you have the person’s name, age and city you can also check on such sites as Spyfly to ascertain if the person has any legal irregularities.

Also, beware of “crooks,” who steal identities. If you receive a good-looking photo and a note that seems “over the top” e.g. “What are you favorite flowers, so I’ll always remember?” double check.  Was the person registered via your chosen website? Or if you have a full name, what does Spyfly report?  Better to be cautious then caught.

Websites

There are many websites now for seniors to consider e.g. Plenty of Fish, Stitch, Match.com. Some are geared to religions:  J Date,  Catholic Senior Dating.     Some are geared strictly to seniors: Zoosk, Our Time, Senior People Meet.

Angst of Adolescence

If you do become involved with someone, be warned that you can quickly become a teenager all over again. When the phone doesn’t ring or there’s no e-mail or text or the person isn’t on time, what does it mean?  Heavy traffic?  Worse, sickness?  Worst of all, disinterest?  Suddenly there’s an abundance of anxiety, and your self-confidence can be stripped away in seconds on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

And then, lo and behold, the doorbell rings.

And when you answer, you can’t stop smiling.

Why not?

So, why not sign up first for the free plan on several web sites and try each one out? Later, you can narrow choices and, if you wish, pay more to upgrade. If you are brand new to the game, keep your options open. Try going to different group activities at least once.

And should you wind up with two invitations for New Year’s Eve you can have the giddy decision of which to accept.

Sure, there is risk involved in searching for a potential match on the web.

But instead of spending years staring at an empty chair, you may discover a delightful companion with whom to share appealing adventures.

Joanna H. Kraus is an award winning playwright,  Bay Area author and a Bay Area News Group correspondent.   You can contact her atl: tjkraushouse@hotmail.com

 

 

A Modern Dictionary

CYNIC: A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they should be.  (An homage to Ambrose Bierce and “The Devil’s Dictionary,” ca.1880.)

CONGRESS:

1. A political body originally designed to discuss and solve political and governmental issues for the citizens.

2. Now, a political body whose sole function is re-election and avoidance of holding down real jobs.

3. A group of men and women who are convinced that compromise is immoral, illegal, and fattening.

4. Collectors of the largest welfare checks in captivity.

COURTESY: 

Huh?  (An archaic word with no meaning in the 21st Century.)

EXPERT:       

One who does it somewhere else.

HANDSHAKE:        

An ancient and useless method of establishing a contract between two individuals in which they pledge mutually rewarding products or services.  Obsolete.  (Admonition: get it in writing.)

LOOK-A-ME: 

(Known as “celebration” in sports); a procedure in which superbly conditioned, well-trained, strong athletes appear to be self-centered three-year olds simply because they ran a football    for a big gain or touchdown, made a tackle, caught a forward pass or shot a basket, resulting in the athlete jumping up and down, dancing, running with arms wide spread, or other manner which screams, “Mommy, Mommy, look at me.” (Editorial  Note:  This condition could be cured by having the athlete stand  in the center of the court or field and forcing him or her to demonstrate the “Look-a-Me” dance every time he or she fumbles, misses the basket (air ball), drops a pass, or misses a tackle—It ain’t gonna happen.)

 LOYALTY:   

See “Courtesy.”

 NEW AND IMPROVED: 

A label indicating that the producer of goods or services has discovered a way to make the product or service for 1) a cost of 5% less, while 2) charging 10% more , and 3) hoping no one realizes that the product is 15% less efficient or tasty.

ONE DAY SALE: 

A day in which stores, usually large department stores, sell special items at prices not usually available to the general public. The length of time between One Day Sales sometimes lasts as   long as forty-eight hours.

PRIVACY:

Archaic. It disappeared with the development of electronics.

RELATIVITY: 

(You want Einstein in a column that makes an attempt at humor?) The art of dealing with your relatives.  Most of mine live on the East Coast, one of the happiest factors in my life.

SERVICE:      

The offering of information, directions, and expertise to customers by authorized and knowledgeable staff.  Oddly enough it usually disappears as soon as a financial transaction takes place.

S.T.E.M., also STEM: 

An acronym for Scientists, Technicians, Engineers, and Mathematicians about whom the public hears of a constant need for more STEMs to clean up the air and water and to save the environment for future generations.  (One might note that much of the guilt connected with the despoiling of the planet can be attributed to Scientists, Technicians, Engineers, and Mathematicians.)

STOP SIGN: 

A red, octagonal, totally ignored artifact of modern life; many do not realize that is an acronym for the initials S. T. O. P.:

                        S = Slow down Slightly;

                        T = Take a Tiny peek,

                        O = Oh, phOOey, Others will stOp;

                        P = Press and Pound the Pedal.

SURGERY:    

1)  A method of repairing human beings whereby a common Individual allows a highly skilled and specially trained doctor to obtain his/her Mercedes or Lexus. 

2)  Something that is “minor” when another person has it, but “major,” frightening, panic-inducing, and horrible when contemplated for me.

SUV:              

A truck with a really, really, really neat toupee, and a great deal of plastic surgery, but, nonetheless, a truck.

TELEVISION NEWS: 

A fun and entertaining method of presenting information about fires, murders, floods, mayhem, war, earthquakes, stupidity, sports, and weather to a public that is certain those who suffered deserved punishment and revel in knowing that it did not happen to them.  Those who report the “news” are called “anchors” because they sink as  low as possible until they hit bottom. (Whether the stories are real or fiction is totally irrelevant.) 

TRUTH:         

The dissemination of facts as opposed to lies, half truths, and opinion; it is avoided in daily life; it is mostly ignored in business; and it is unknown in politics.

TURN SIGNALS: 

A totally unused, decorative stem on the left side of a steering wheel used mainly to balance the important stem or stems on the right side.  (Use of the device might give important information or advice to other drivers, but “Nuts to them.”)

UNIVERSITY:

A collection of schools and departments of higher learning of the finest quality.  (Universities can be distinguished by athletic teams that consist of 68% students of color, while the general student body consists of 6.8% students of color.)

 

Electronic Music

Perhaps the least understood, listened to and least admired type of music is electronic music.  What is electronic music? You ask. The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines electronic music as music made by producing, magnifying and recording sound, then reproducing it by electro-acoustical means. In other words, electronic music is made up of sounds created exclusively by electronic implements rather than traditional instruments. It includes electronic instruments, synthesizers and recording equipment. 

“In 1955, David Sarnoff, chairman of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and Radio Corporation of America (RCA), unveiled the Electronic Music Synthesizer, that was intended to mimic sounds of all musical instruments,” wrote Alex Ross, in his book The Rest is Noise.

The Moog Synthesizer, an electronic instrument of great versatility and complexity, translates the composer’s desires into actual sound. It creates and manipulates sounds. This machine was probably the most famous of the early electronic instruments. It was marketed from 1965 on. The Mini-Moog, a relatively affordable and widely available instrument, was released to the public in 1970.

The forerunner of electronic music was Musique Concrete. Much of the research and development of this form of music was done after World War II, in the 1940s and 50s. In Paris, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henri were using magnetic tape to record many different sounds that were either non-musical or musical.  They experimented with different speeds and even tried playing them backwards. They cut and edited the sound to create what they termed Musique Concrete.  It consists of electronically modified natural sounds or sounds that already exist in nature.

Around the middle 20th Century, electronic studios first began in Europe and later in the United States. Musique Concrete was started in the studio of the French Radio in Paris. Concurrently, composers in the Cologne studio in Germany were also experimenting in much the same way. The idea was to make pure electronic music. 

A leading exponent of this movement was Edgar Varese (1883-1965, a Franco-American composer, who lived in Greenwich Village, New York. Keen interest in electronic instruments attracted many composers. Electronic instruments included electric organ, piano and guitar. As early as the 1890s, there were experimental electronic instruments in Russia and France. In this early period of development, music was recorded on tape for later exposure and performance. Studios were being established all over the world.

In America, studios at Columbia University, University of Illinois, Stanford and Princeton were pioneers in this new field of technology. There were many others but these were prominent.  The people that worked in these studios were termed “composer-engineer performers.”

Composers of Electronic Music

John Cage (1912-1992), a Los Angeles native, was considered the most radical American composer in this genre. In the 1950s he was involved with “tape music” that was the mixing of both traditional and electronic music. Most assuredly, Cage used as an instrument any object capable of producing sound.  Apparently no other composer came close to using such disparate objects.  He used junk for instruments, like automobile brake drums, anvils and vacuum cleaners. He was more interested in rhythm than melody.

Cage wrote for a strange combination of instruments. His Imaginary Landscapes No. 4, was written in 1951. He manipulated the frequency and volume controls on 12 radio sets. The resulting sound varied according to the programs on the air at that time. Cage was more interested in a dissonant style, rather than consonant music.  He also composed a number of pieces for percussion ensemble.

About his music, Cage said, “I am going toward violence; rather than tenderness; Hell rather than Heaven; ugly rather than beautiful; impure rather than pure.  Because by doing these things they become transformed and we become transformed.” Cage’s writing reveals a glimpse into his character and personality. As early as 1949, Cage encountered several European pioneering technicians of electronic music, who set in motion a campaign against music of the past.

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) was born in a village outside of Cologne, Germany. His musical training was conventional at the Musikhoch Schule and the university in that city. During World War II, Stockhausen became interested in opening his ears to new and somewhat strange sounds. He listened to American military band broadcasts and was intrigued by the jazzy rhythms of the Glenn Miller Band. Stockhausen was also moved by the melodies and overall feel and excitement of jazz.

The new art of electronic music intrigued Stockhausen from the beginning. “In 1955 and 56 he created, Gesang der Junglinge or, Song of Youth, his most original electronic creation and perhaps the most influential electronic piece ever composed,” wrote Alex Ross. In 1960 he completed Kontakte, where live and electronic sounds bounce off each other or blur together.  In 1962 a monumental work was conceived called, Momente. Ross wrote, “This work involved four choirs, soloists trumpets and trombones, a pair of electric organs, a large percussion battery and a Japanese Tam-Tam, (gong).” It was described as the Bacchanalia of the avant garde; a shouting, clapping, stamping liberation of the senses.”

Stockhausen created a two-hour long electronic-instrumental fantasy called Hymnen, in 1966-67, based on some of the world’s national anthems.

Early experimenters in electronic music thought of expanding, not replacing traditional genres. Today a divide exists between traditional and electronic music practitioners. A better understanding can be achieved by including the study of contemporary music with electronic music.

Today, computer technology and music software has made it possible to create new electronic music with devices commercially available for home use.

Many people, including myself, have not embraced and tried to understand fully, electronic music.  It is certainly not my favorite. Perhaps we should open our minds and ears and try a little harder to be receptive to new ideas and new sounds. 

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

 

The Music in Me

I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but I have always loved music. As a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I would listen to Elvis records on my portable record player, playing air guitar and lip-syncing before it was called air guitar and lip-syncing. When I was a little older, I longed to be a member of the Partridge Family or Osmond Brothers. As a teen, I dreamt—actually dreamt—of starting my own band, cutting records and touring the world. My fictitious band name was Gigolo, and I even designed the t-shirts and posters we would sell at our concerts.

Sadly, or some might say unfairly, I can’t play any instrument. I certainly can’t sing, and despite having a little bit of rhythm, I can’t even dance.  I’ve taken guitar, drum, bass, saxophone and tambourine lessons and can’t play a note. Some days, I have trouble just playing the radio. Maybe this hard to admit truth is why I’ve always been so drawn to musicians. Not drawn in a sexual way, although certain members of the Go-Gos and Bangles were pretty hot in their day, and don’t even get me started on Nancy Wilson of Heart.

Due in large part to my lack of talent, I’ve been inspired to assist my musician friends by promoting their talents through some of my magical resources. In the early 1990s, I started a booking agency and helped line up gigs for the likes of Floyd’s Ordeal, Blue House, The Del Toros, Paul Blote, The Marina Towers Band, Gary Tackett and a little known country artist named Paul Jaqua.

Since that time, I’ve gone on to organize and promote club shows (Suburban Slow Death, Replica, Tyler Stimpson) and produce music fundraisers (MdK, Jeff Campbell, Courtney Randall, Pine & Battery and Heather Combs). I’ve also written numerous profiles on the likes of Michelle Maeso, Floyd Killen, Paul Jefferson, David Victor, Steve Albin and Suzanna Spring.

It’s not much, but if I was a roof-raising rocker or cerebral coffee house singer/songwriter, I would truly appreciate it if someone would help me generate some much-needed attention for my mad musical skills by penning a feature article on me or inviting me to play a show.  

I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone with less musical ability than Mike Copeland. ~ John Floyd Killen, Founding Member of Floyd’s Ordeal

I am a fan of every musical genre, however despite meeting Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire at the Viper Room in West Hollywood, I’ve had more luck meeting rock musicians than country, R&B, or hip-hop artists. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet a few true blue rock stars such as Eddie Money, Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, James Hatfield of Metallica and the late/great Ronnie Montrose. I’ve even separately met four members of one of my favorite bands, Journey – Steve Perry (Scoma’s in Sausalito), Jonathan Cain (Caesars Casino , Lake Tahoe), Ross Valory (Bank of America, San Ramon) and Neal Schon (Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View).  I was once in a Las Vegas strip club (doing research) at the same time as Axl Rose and Duff McKagan of Guns & Roses, however, they were much too preoccupied for me to drop by to say hello. 

Of those who I actually engaged in a conversation with, most were cordial yet distant. Steve Perry was hands down the nicest and most congenial and even invited me to join him for a short time at his table. I got the impression that he had a lot of free time on his hands.

Many have heard my story that during my sophomore year of college, at California State University, Northridge, I lived next door to a fun and charismatic girl named Paula Abdul. She was working as the choreographer for the Laker Girls and had aspirations of staging dance shows in Las Vegas.  We hung out a fair amount, never dated, but were good friends for over a year.

Several years later, I was listening to a catchy pop song “Straight Up”on the radio and just about drove off the road when I heard the artist was none other than Paula Abdul. Upon reading her story in People magazine and being blown away by her physical makeover, I wrote her a couple of letters (±200) congratulating her on her success and wishing her well.  Alas, there was never a response.  Despite the restraining order, I did catch one of her shows and enjoyed it immensely.  The boy band, Color Me Badd, opened for her just in case you were wondering. That’s Badd with two d’s.

In the summer of 2008, my wife and I made a pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. We spent close to six hours roaming the halls and I could easily have spent six more just wandering all six levels of the 150,000 square foot cathedral. Highlights of our trip included the U2 3D concert film, the Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd exhibits and the numerous displays and concert footage. Recently, I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and thoroughly enjoyed that experience too. There was a fantastic Songwriter in the Round event with Pat Alger who wrote countless country songs with or for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton and Crystal Gayle. Alger performed many of his biggest hits and fielded questions from the audience, mostly me. To be honest, I enjoyed those two museums more than any Smithsonian in D.C.

I’ve seen close to 100 concerts at venues that ranging from the Cow Palace to Circle Star Theater to the old Winterland Ballroom. I’ve also been to the Hollywood Palladium, Irvine Meadows Amphitheater and Whiskey-a-GoGo in Southern California. I’ve seen U2, The Police and attended a Day on the Green at the Oakland Coliseum and enjoyed Pablo Cruise, Marc Cohn and Bobby Kendal of Toto at the intimate Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton.

I’ve sat in the first few rows for shows by Bon Jovi, The Who, Luther Vandross, Bryan Adams, Journey, Kiss, Ray Charles, Hall and Oats, Kenny Loggins, Kenny G, Foreigner, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Train, Maroon Five and Madonna.  I’ve also sat in nose blood seats for shows by AC/DC, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Earth Wind & Fire, ELO, The Commodores, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Buffet, Alabama and Bruno Mars. There were also unforgettable shows by Prince, Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Jackson Five, and Van Morrison. You should’ve seen my concert t-shirt collection back in the day. 

I, long ago, gave up hope that I would ever hear the words, “See you at band practice,” or that I would perform on a stage in front of a live audience. However, thanks to the video game Guitar Hero, and living vicariously through my musician friends, there will always be music in me. #supportlivemusic.

Seeing Red

Most farmers’ markets are only getting started this month, “setting up shop” in asphalt parking lots across the United States. But here in Danville, where our farmers’ market thrives year ‘round, we’re merely picking up speed. Tender young veggies abound, along with a seasonal kaleidoscope of locally-grown sweeties: look for plump apricots, luscious cherries, and juicy cantaloupe. And strawberries. O, those beautiful berries!

Some foods are so perfect in their natural state that it’s a shame to mess with them too much. Take farm-fresh strawberries, for instance. Oh sure, you can boil them up for jam or jelly. Or toss them with rhubarb for a rosy pie filling that tastes of spring. You can bake them into an airy soufflé or freeze them into icy sorbets. All very nice. Or you can just grab one by its little green cap and pop it into in your mouth…and the taste sensation probably won’t be any less spectacular.

But this month ushers in times—like a Memorial Day cookout, a bridal shower, or graduation party—when you feel the urge to gild the lily and showcase spring’s perfect strawberries in an original way… without spending hours in the kitchen. The following recipe could be the answer.

This two-part spread is a study in contrasts: warm, oozy cheese topped with cool, sweet-tart strawberries, made even more irresistible with the bite of fresh ginger, the mild heat of jalapeño, and the refreshing sensation of lime and mint. Best of all, it’s a snap to make, and feeds a crowd.

Instead of baking the cheese as directed in the recipe, you may choose to make your life easier still by simply spooning the salsa over a room-temperature wheel of brie or a log of California goat cheese.

Alternatively, double the salsa recipe and serve it as a dip for pita or tortilla chips, or alongside a plain omelet or cheese quesadilla. It also makes a tasty condiment for grilled or roasted pork or poultry. More adventurous souls will spoon it over chocolate ice cream for dessert. It’s all good.

There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to make this, however. This versatile, low-cal salsa is equally delish served over plain yogurt or cottage cheese.

Baked Brie with Fresh Strawberry Salsa

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon local honey

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 small jalapeño chili pepper

1 1/4 cups hulled and coarsely chopped strawberries (about half of a 1-pint basket)

1 or 2 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

1 (5-inch) wheel of brie (about 15 ounces)

  1. In a bowl, mix together the lime zest, lime juice, ginger, honey, and salt.
  2. Wearing rubber gloves, remove the stem, seeds, and ribs from the chili pepper and chop finely. Add to the lime mixture; then gently stir in the strawberries, green onion(s), and mint to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes (or as long as 6 hours) to blend flavors. This makes a generous 1-cup of salsa.
  3. About 45 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the cheese on a heatproof serving dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the wheel of cheese is soft when touched in the center but still holds its shape. Spoon the chilled salsa over the hot cheese and serve with plain unsalted crackers (water biscuits), wheat biscuits, or baguette slices. Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer.

Berry Good Things to Know

–A shiny berry is a fresh berry. Once picked, strawberries lose their natural sheen in a matter of days.

–Locally-grown berries are inevitably more flavorful and have a more succulent texture than varieties grown for shipping.

–Fresh green caps, intense perfume, and vibrant, uniform color are other qualities to look for in strawberries. Avoid those “white shoulders” that mean the berries were picked before their prime. Also remember that bigger is not always better!

–When stored properly, farm-fresh strawberries can last 1 week or longer in the refrigerator. Here’s the secret: Line a plastic container with a paper towel to absorb moisture. Gently pile in the unwashed strawberries with their green caps intact. Top with another paper towel, seal with an airtight lid, and store in the lowest part of the refrigerator. 

–Do not rinse strawberries or remove their green caps until just before using.  Rinsing berries removes their naturally protective outer layer; and their caps prevent water from soaking into the strawberries, diluting the flavor and altering their texture.

–To clean strawberries, place in a colander or large sieve and rinse quickly under a gentle spray of cold water. Pat dry with towels; then remove the green caps, if desired.

–To hull strawberries (i.e., remove the green caps), use the sharp tip of a paring knife; the pointed end of a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler; or a strawberry huller—an inexpensive tweezer-like gadget available at most cookware shops. This removes not only the leafy green cap, but also the tough little core beneath it.

–For best flavor, eat strawberries at cool room temperature.

–1 cup of halved raw strawberries weighs in at around 49 calories. They are a good source of vitamin C, and also contain potassium, iron, and folic acid.

The  Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterflies, Christmas Trees & Wisteria

Q. I would like to attract more butterflies to our garden. What plants can I plant to encourage them into taking up residence in our neck of the woods?

A. Attracting butterflies to your garden can be a rewarding venture. A Butterfly Garden is a mixture of perennials and annuals plants along with some ornamentals. They can be rewarding as it can also attract hummingbirds and bees. But for all their benefits, it may not be ideal for everyone. The plants that attract butterflies are divided into two types, the host and nectar food plants. Host plants are used by the adult butterfly to lays its eggs on while the nectar plants attract the mature adult butterflies. The eggs hatch into caterpillars (ugh) that feeds on the host plant so be prepared for lots of leaves that have been chewed on. Baby caterpillars eat quite a lot and will make your plants look as if they are being destroyed, but don’t worry about that, this is necessary for their survival. The young caterpillars feed on the host plants until they form their cocoons and emerge later as an adult. If you don’t want to look at the eaten plants, simply plant them in the center or the back of your butterfly garden or in areas that are not highly visible. But, don’t plant your host plants too far away from the nectar plants. It’s best to plant them right next to each other or in close proximity, as the tiny caterpillars cannot travel far to find their own food. Most species of caterpillars are particular about the type of plants they eat. If the eggs are not laid on the correct plant(s), the new caterpillars will not survive. Hence it’s not advisable to plant a Butterfly Garden over a large area. If you choose not to provide any host plants, you will have fewer butterflies. Ceanothus, Penstemon and Aster are a few of the host plants while nectar plants include Toyon, Lantana, Marigolds Verbena, and Milkweed. For a more complete list, check your favorite garden centers for a handout. And finally, here is an online resource. http://www.gardenswithwings.com/what-is-a-butterfly-garden/host-plants.html

Q. We bought a five-gallon pine tree last Christmas. We now want to transplant it into a larger container or should we wait? Also, how might we keep it from getting too big?

A. There is no need to waiting as they can be transplanted now. You should select a large container, about the size of a half a wine barrel or twenty-four by eighteen inch lightweight plastic pot. Most of the pine trees used as living Christmas trees are not small trees by nature. When mature, these rapidly growing evergreen trees can reach a height of fifty to eighty feet with a wide spread. The young growth of the plant is groomed or sheared to have that “Christmas Tree” shape. However, they will lose this shape quickly as they mature. Their natural shape is more oval or round. You can control the size by trimming the new growth or “candle growth.” The candle growth is the long, very upright shoot that is visible in the spring. They will extend above the mature needles at the end of the branches. With a pair of hand shears, I’d cut the new growth off where the new growth meets the old. Eventually, your tree will need to be planted in the ground but it may be too big for most of today’s smaller yards.

Q. I have a Wisteria that’s fifteen years old. It grows by leaps and bounds every year but blooms only in the spring. My neighbor’s Wisteria blooms and re blooms for months every year. What do I need to do to get mine to bloom and bloom again?

A. The simple answer is that there is not a thing you can do to extend the blooming season. With Wisterias, Mother Nature is in control of the entire repeat blooming cycles. It’s more likely to happen when temperatures go from mild to hot then back to mild. This type of change is the trigger for a flowering cycle. This is more likely to occur where there is a strong marine influence and unlikely in the warmer, inland areas. On a personal note, my blue Wisteria is in bloom for Easter while the pink one blooms around Mother’s Day. Also, the blue Wisteria always has a repeat blooming cycle, while the pink one re-blooms periodically. However, this year, it has finished blooming.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

Sporty& fun!

How the times are changing. We have seen the progression in design, quality and performance improve over the years for many Asian automotive manufacturers from Japan to Korea. One of the lines that has taken the largest leap, especially in the past ten years has been Hyundai—namely the Hyundai Elantra.

The Elantra, now in its 6th generation, first entered the market in October of 1990. It was a simple car that lacked in quality, styling and performance and it stayed that way for the next three generations, until the magical 5th rendition in 2010. Swooping lines began flowing across the apex points forming a dynamic and aggressive profile. Then, in 2015, Hyundai engineers and designers launched a more mature version that softened the angles.

The 2017 Elantra sedan is a total redesign and is available in five trim levels: SE ($17,150) Eco ($20,650), Sport ($21,650) and Limited ($22,370). Most of the 2017 Elantras come with a new 2.0-liter 1-4 with 147hp (26 mpg City and 36 mpg Highway) and 132 lb.-ft. of torque mated to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The Eco model is powered by a 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder (28 mpg City and 37 mpg Highway) with 128hp and 156 lb.-ft.of torque and is paired to a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission.

The Elantra Sport is the newest trim in the lineup and was my test model. It is a blast to drive. It was designed to target the Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen Jetta GLI. The Sport is powered by a 1.6-liter turbo 4 rated around 200hp and 190 lb.-ft. mated to either a 6- speed manual (22/30 mpg) or a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic (26/33 mpg). To add to the fun, the Elantra Sport sits on a performance-oriented suspension.

As noted above, the new styling for 2017 appears more conservative than the swooping lines of the exiting model. Is it better? Well, that depends on what you are looking for, however, the 2016, with its curvy attitude might be considered more exciting and sporty. With that said, the 2017 overall appearance is very nice.  The changes are apparent, starting with the new, large grille.

The interior is comfortable and spacious with subtle sporty-trim touches inside – especially on the Sport trim. The seats were comfortable with the back suited for more for two or three passengers.

An amazing option for this price group is front and rear heated seats. The infotainment system is controlled through the touchscreen and large clear buttons are available to operate the audio functions including knobs for volume and tuning. Climate controls are laid out smartly displaying temperature and other custom settings on the dual-zone system.

Steering and handling have both improved over last year’s model with a new rear suspension design, but, are not as engaging as the Honda Civic and Mazda3.

Cool Features:

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Segment First Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection
  • Frontand rear heated seats

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is well-equipped with safety features including: dual front advanced airbags, driver and front-passage side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, ABS brakes with Brake Assist System, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, rear camera, drivers blind spot mirror, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist (avail. on some models), and more. Optional safety features are Forward Collision Warning system, Lane Departure Warning system, and Smart Cruise Control on the Limited trim.

In Summary – The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is a fun vehicle to drive. In Hyundai’s typical style, you’ll find many technology features that you would expect from a more expensive model. This, plus Hyundai’s 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and assistance programs make the Elantra an excellent value.

Specifications

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport

 

Base price:                  $21,650as driven: $25,010(including destination & optional
                                    features)

Engine:                       1.6-liter Turbo GDI 4-cylinder engine

Horsepower:               201hp @ 6000RPM and 43hp

Torque:                       195 @ 1500 RPM

Transmission             6-Speedmanual

Drive:                          Front-wheel Drive

Seating:                       4-passenger

Turning circle:           17.4 feet

Cargo space:              14.4 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3,042 pounds

Fuel capacity              14 gallons        

EPA mileage:              City 22/Hwy 30

Wheel Base:                  106.3 inches

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

Also consider:               Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla,

                                       Volkswagen Jetta

 

A Special Kind of Stupid

In recent news it was reported that BART is losing somewhere between $15 million and $25 million per year due to riders who intentionally evade paying fares—“cheaters.” In one report on KTVU, reporter Amber Lee interviewed one of the cheaters—a young female college student—who admitted, on camera, that she rode BART regularly (daily) without paying. With a sheepish grin she remarked, “No, I don’t feel bad about it because, for one, I need to get where I need to go.” She further excused her theft habit by explaining that she didn’t have enough money for the fare because she didn’t have a job.

Later in the KTVU report, BART Director Bevan Dufty said with a smile (that was oddly similar to the college student’s) that “fixes” for the problem could take a “little while” because “BART is not as fast moving as our trains are…”   

Let’s put this admission into the proper perspective for a moment. While the bulk of BART operations are funded by riders’ fares, about 25% of operations rely upon taxpayer dollars. Add to this the billions in additional taxpayer funding for expansion and improvement projects and it’s clear, whether you ride BART or not, we are paying a lot for this transit system. This past November alone, Bay Area residents agreed to an additional $3.5 billion dollars in sales taxes to fund improvements to the system.

Now for a little more perspective, let’s think about how long BART has been in operation. I believe this coming September will mark its 45th year. Even assuming that those “cheater losses” were considerably less in previous years, the executives at BART just told us that due to their incompetence, at a minimum, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have essentially been “flushed.”

Is it just me, or does this strike you as just plain stupid? Apparently these losses don’t impact Mr.Dufty’s take-home pay, nor does it affect the compensation of BART management. But it ought to. If BART was operated without the “welfare” benefit of taxpayer dollars (like a business) this kind of operational “oversight” would have been handled in year one.

The sad fact is, when it comes to so many taxpayer-supported agencies, programs, and services like BART, proper accountability and fiscal responsibility are generally after-thoughts at best. And as stupid as all this might seem, there is apparently a special kind of stupid in California these days—it’s those who continue voting “yes” for tax increases that continue to prop up incompetent, misguided services like BART.       

The Great Cadence Debate

Over the years I’ve had countless dialogs and debates about cycling cadence and performance. I’ve read copious amounts of research and literature advocating for high cadence easy effort to “save the legs,” “easy stroke,” “light on the pedals,” etc.  

In my view, if an athlete has not had competitive cycling experience, the ability to learn how to ‘feel’ the pedal stroke, which enables a rider to spin effectively, is lost to all but an exceptional few. Not only that, but there is an aerobic cost that gets lost in the process as well.

Indeed, many professional cyclists who train between 750km to 1200 km a week never acquire the ability to use the high-cadence technique effectively. So if professional riders spending six days a week training a minimum of four to five hours a day are not able to find it, then what hope does someone with no cycling background putting in a maximum of 200km have of mastering the ‘Lance Armstrong high cadence’ model? In my experience, very little.

Yes, there are exceptions, but how many do you think? I tend to train not for the exception, but instead make adjustments when they come along every generation or so.

Many field and lab tests have attempted to show that high cadence spinning is more efficient to the newcomer than just stomping the big gear. Yet the results in nearly all cases only serve to prove that the exact opposite is true. In fact most tests show that tri-athletes produce more torque/power between 78-84 rpm without sacrificing aerobic cost putting them in a stronger state for the run to follow. Any higher and the efficiency is lost. I’ve seen studies from USA, Australia, England and even France that all come to similar conclusions.

A common theme across all studies is that the heart rate began to climb at the various cadence levels and that once the riding novices were asked to hold 100 cadences, not only did their performance diminish, but also their heart rate rose to levels approaching 15 % below maximum for the entire test. The data on this is pretty clear cut and I would hope to any reasonable person, it’s not a debatable point.

So how does this knowledge inform my opinion on using low cadence work?

In triathlon we have to train not one, but three disciplines and our actual bike hours are limited for training compared to cyclists.

Most, if not all triathletes are not ex-professional cyclists with an innate feel of the pedals. Thus the style of spinning may be detrimental to them riding to the best of their ability.

In triathlon, the race is not over once the bike leg is finished. Riding with an elevated heart rate close to one’s anaerobic threshold is not advisable if one wants to jump off and run at an optimal pace. Hence the reason I advocate using low gear, moderate cadence training. Over the years, experience and results have proven this effective as all age-group athletes I have worked with have gone on to make rapid and sustainable gains on the bike.

Tri-Active Endurance is more concerned with function than form. What works for the individual is what’s right. Watching a 100kg athlete spinning down the road at 100 cadence makes me want to cry, as does watching certified level coaches teaching 50kg, 5’2 females how to swim like Michael Phelps for their upcoming tri races. It is not right. Phelps is 6’6 and has the wingspan of a small jet. What works for the top 1% of athletes at the top 1% of their sports is not the model that is going to improve your triathlon.

Construct a plan for the athlete, don’t put an athlete in a plan.

Challenge Yourself

CHALLENGE YOURSELF FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

Challenges in general keep us alive. Without them, there is little to look forward to. This, I believe, is the same for everyone, regardless of age. When we are younger, we eagerly anticipate challenges and accept them as part of life because we are told that it’s part of growing up.  Most children are eager to grown up, therefore they look upon challenges as milestones on the way to adulthood. For example, learning to drive, graduating from high school and college, getting the first job, and buying a first home are all challenges that most young adults eagerly accept and accomplish.

As we get older, we tend to eschew change and even new challenges. Our perception may be that “change” and “challenge” are synonymous with “failure” and “work.” The fact is, however, that even failure and work will lead us to a better future if we have persistence. More importantly though, is the idea that we either forget or don’t realize that challenges keep us happy and motivated for the future.

Physical challenges are important for many reasons. Pushing your body to perform at a higher level than the usual function increases endorphin levels, libido, mental clarity, emotional well-being, heart health and metabolism. These benefits lead to longer and more productive lifestyles.

Regardless of one’s age, one of the best ways to ensure that life remains vital and fulfilling is to embrace challenges.