“Kids” of the Serengeti Plain

Near the center of the African continent sits a vast grassy plain – stretching miles in all directions. The southern part of this plain is situated in Tanzania and is known as the Serengeti Plain. The northern portion is in Kenya and is known as the Masai Mara. This huge area is home to an incredibly proud native population called the Masai. The area derives its name from the Masai language and is called the Masai Mara.

This plain abounds in native African wildlife. Animals seen only in zoos in other parts of the world abound here in their natural habitat. Lions, elephants, zebras, wildebeest – and the list go on and on. Here they roam free, unfettered by wire fences and glass cages. Here the roles – which in other places we consider the norm – are reversed. Here the human observers are housed in a cage – mostly called a truck – and the animals are free to roam, to watch the observers, to wander free and come and go as they please.
We drove in our open-bed truck, watching and logging each sighting. Our driver, in constant contact with other drivers, showed a grin. He turned and told us he had a treat for us. A special event – another driver had radioed in, and we were on our way.

The drive was a short twenty minutes away, about ten to fifteen kilometers I would judge, over grassy plains, away from any form of road. Another similar truck awaited us, and we soon learned why the excitement.

There, lying in the shade of a single acacia tree was a new cheetah family. Mother lay stretched out on

Cheetah mother with four cubs (Acinonyx jubatus) sitting on savannah, Kenya

the grassy knoll and gathered about her were four recently-born cheetah cubs. Mom watched us arrive but didn’t seem overly concerned as we did stay a bit away – perhaps fifteen to twenty meters. The four little cubs rolling on the grass resembled baby house kittens. They clawed and pawed one another, played some new game of “bash your brothers and sisters,” stopping occasionally for refreshments furnished by a proud mommy. She watched them play, and I swear she looked as if she had a gratified look on her face.

We stayed on for a half-hour, caught up in the magic of nature. All the truck passengers had huge smiles on their faces. I couldn’t help but appreciating this rare opportunity afforded us. As we smiled and watched, we became aware of a light humming in the background. Yes – we could actually hear this little melee purr as they moved forward into life’s cycle.

I would have loved to get out and hold one of these little guys, but believe me that would have been suicide. We were all proud parents watching our children grow and play. We were all protective of them up to a point. I felt a strong kinship to this handsome beast and her offspring. We both loved our children very much and wanted only the best for them. After all, “kids is kids.”

You Can Do So Much!

What if you knew that you couldn’t fail? What if, no matter what you tried, you would eventually succeed? And, what if you also knew that, with enough practice, you could master just about anything—any skill, sport or ability —that you desired to master? Now, think back for a moment; if you had lived your entire life up until today with this sort of attitude, in what ways do you think your life might be different?

-I think a lot about human potential. I believe it is the greatest natural resource in the known universe; the great bastion of hope for the future of mankind… that sadly, lies largely undiscovered, suppressed or denied in most of us. Unfortunately, much of our culture today, including most of formal education, teach and reinforce negative or incorrect principles about success and failure.

Life is to be lived and you have so much to give the world if you will only allow yourself to believe it. Stop holding yourself back and forget about the well intended (or otherwise) opinions of others!

The two quotes below are two of my favorites. Feel free to post them anywhere to remind you that you can if you think you can!

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
― Calvin Coolidge

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
― Theodore Roosevelt

Trivial Matters

Well, they did it! The Oakland Warriors won the NBA title after 40 mostly desolate seasons. I know! I know! They are called Golden State, but they have played in my hometown for 40 plus sons without the city being named. I am grateful that the parade is being set in Oakland. They will be in SF soon enough so let’s enjoy it while we can. With the championship, it is likely they will receive great support when they move, but the support they got from the sunny side of the bay was phenomenal, good times or bad.

1. Who was the coach of the Warriors when they won the title in 1975?

2. The Oakland A’s won World Series titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Who was their manager for the first two?

3. Who was their manager in 1974?

4. To prove that Oakland was a city of champions, the Raiders won the Super Bowl in the 1976 season. Who was their coach?

5. Because of an ice show (remember them?),the Warriors played a playoff game in 1975 in San Francisco. What was the arena they used?

6. The 1975 Warriors featured a rookie forward, who later changed his first name to Jamal and starred for the (gasp!) Lakers. By what name did we know him?

Chef J’s Pizza Shack

From time-to-time I find myself going to, or through, Pittsburg. Either on the way to float the day away on the Delta, take in some incredible golf and even on occasion, to visit my sister-in-law. I am often stricken with the thought on the way home, “damn I’m hungry.”

Finally, I have found a spot that not only welcomes, but offers a culinary experience—a spotless and warm, lamp-lit, wooden environment, with a price point that is far lower than the product.

This is one of those rare instances where I had a pre-existing relationship with the owner, and he knew I was there to (hopefully) write about his restaurant. He is Chef Jourdan of Chef J’s Pizza Shack, and I am as bowled over by his food as I am by his story.

Jourdan deSanctis is a baker by trade. He went as far as planting a small vineyard in his front yard to harvest the yeast from the grapes in which to create a “starter” that can not be duplicated or matched. After some time renting space in various kitchens, he and his long time friend from culinary school, Chef Dennis O’Shia, knew they needed to bring this bread to the next level. Oddly enough it was the Irish sounding heritage that suggested pizza to the Italian, and the idea of Chef J’s was born.

In February of this year a corner spot on Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg opened up, and Jourdan leapt at the opportunity. While the restaurant is still an infant, they have made great strides in making their visions a reality. There is a large menu painted on the wall like a chalkboard, advertising the six different pies they have by the slice, ½, ¾ , or (largest in town) 20” pie! Currently there is a “secret” menu that houses available veggie options and other goodies (and by “secret,” I mean painted on a different wall above the expo kitchen). But these are just the modest beginnings.

Both chefs are already expanding the menu to include Farmers Salads, Grillin’ It Food, Munchies (apps) and expanded pizza choices. As long as they don’t mess with the dessert options that are already there, I will be fine.

Not only are the food options growing, but also their space. Soon they will take over a small store-front in the same shopping center to have as a full functioning kitchen for their ridiculous bread and catering. Oh yeah, they cater too! Everything from small backyard get togethers to whole roasted pigs! The day I was there, they were prepping for the Chamber of Commerce Mixer and asked if I would mind trying the six-cheese mac-n-cheese with toasted panko…MIND? A little of me feels like I cheated on my wife, it was that good!

The pizza is East Coast style, and that suits me well, but their dough is so out-of-this-world light and airy that the toppings seem to be cooked on top of a cloud.

As always, I look for service. I was treated like family despite my pre-existing relationship, because so was everybody else. Veronica Flores was working the counter and the floor, and I swear to you, this girl was smiling when she cleaned the computer screen. I am sorry that I didn’t get a chance to meet the rest of their/my family!

The Chefs are joined in this venture by Jon Fink, ex Head Chef of Piattis and Hilarie Hsu who heads up the catering and sales, and when I asked Jourdan what the big picture plans were, I nearly jumped out of my seat when he said they were tying to expand to our side of the hill. This is a power team that can make that happen, but until then, I’ll be stopping there every time I’m in Pittsburg!

2227 Railroad Ave., Pittsburg, Ca. 94565
(925) 431-0530

He Said She Said with Robin and Shawn

Dear HSSS,
My boyfriend and I broke up a couple of months ago. It’s probably for the best because we’re both going away to college, but I’m really having trouble getting over it, and I cry all the time. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to feel happy again. Help!
Heartbroken in Danville

He Said: Of course you’ll feel happy again! Just remember you broke up for a reason, and I’m sure it wasn’t just because you’re going off to different colleges. Everyone’s been in your shoes and it’s not until you feel this punched-in-the-gut feeling that you realize what love and emotions are truly all about. It’s okay to cry your heart out, but just make sure you get it all out over summer and start fresh at your new school next fall. You’ll meet more boys than you can imagine in college, and I’m sure this time next year you’ll barely remember your ex.

She Said: If this is your first break-up, then welcome to the human race. You know you’re really alive when this happens the first time, and let me assure you, what you’re feeling is universal. It feels like you’re going to die, doesn’t it? But you won’t. You’re right that this was probably inevitable, given where you are in life, but I’m sure you were looking forward to your last summer together. My advice is to give yourself appropriate grieving time, then call your friends, make plans, distract yourself, meet new people, do whatever it is you have to do to move forward. You will be happy again, but it takes time.

Dear HSSS,
My son did not get in to any colleges he applied to, so he’s decided to take a gap year and gain some work experience rather than go to the local JC. It’s so frustrating when well-meaning people ask him where he’s going to school in the fall. We need a snappy come-back.
Catherine, Walnut Creek

She Said: The best way to ask this question, for the well-meaning folks who are interested in what’s next, would be for them to ask your son what his plans are now that he’s graduated from high school. But people are programmed to think everyone’s going to college right off the bat, so forgive them. Rather than snappy, I’d try the enlightened route. “John” has decided to enroll in the school of life for a year and defer his education to next year when he’ll have a little more experience under his belt and money in his pocket. We’ll keep you posted.

He Said: There’s nothing wrong with giving a straight answer to that question. You or your son shouldn’t be embarrassed that he’s not going off to college as long as he has some kind of plan. What are his plans after his “gap year?” Once he knows this, he can answer anyone who asks with confidence. However, last I checked, it’s not any easier to get into a university after taking a year off school. If he really does plan on going to college, make sure you stay on him and remind him of his long term goals. Life doesn’t get any easier going into the workforce straight out of high school.

Robin Fahr is a public relations specialist and co-host with Shawn Shizzo on Conversations and He HeSaidSheSaidgraphicSaid/She Said seen daily on Tri-Valley TV, Channel 30 and online at trivalleytv.org. You can also catch He Said/She Said on The Talk Pod. Send your questions to www.AskHeSaidSheSaid.com.

Breakthroughs in Sun Protection and Antioxidants

Research shows that aging skin is the result of more than just years on the calendar. Exposure to environmental elements like sunlight, smoke, and air pollution causes photo aging in the skin. Not only does this lead to the formation of lines, wrinkles, and discoloration, it can lead to more serious skin conditions, including skin cancer.

A comprehensive preventive program can help prevent environmental damage as well as the onset of more serious conditions. Sunscreens with titanium Dioxide, an essential first line of defense, only block up to 55% percent of damaging free radicals that cause the breakdown of collagen and chemical reactions in skin.

Using antioxidants along with sunscreens is your best option for protection. Studies prove antioxidants effectively neutralize chemical reactions generated when the skin is exposed to environmental assaults. When used together, antioxidants and sunscreens with titanium dioxide (without parabans), provide optimal photo-protection, preventing signs of premature aging, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and promoting skin health. Ongrien Technologies has developed a full menu of super-antioxidants formulas for all skin types, designed to provide the most advanced protection from environmental damage.

Using a perfectly balanced antioxidant provides broad range photo-protection and conquers damage at every level of the skin. A formulation including DMAE, Lipoic Acid, Esther C, and Co-enzyme is a superior combination of antioxidants known to heal and repair damaged skin. As supported by clinical studies, the addition of Esther C enhances the efficacy of Lipoic Acid for increased synergy while regulating pigment production. Combining DMAE and Co-Enzyme in this trusted antioxidant quartet also accelerates cell turnover and stimulates collagen synthesis and repairs damaged cells to boost skin’s structure for a firmer, brighter and healthier complexion.

Aging Is Optional
Until now, as proven by pharmaceutical research labs, only certain creams and serums could deliver vitamins into the skin, with the discovery of using perfectly balanced antioxidants it not only helps to turn back time but it helps reverse the signs of aging, while titanium dioxide sunscreens is ideal for future skin health and prevention.

Sunscreen Truths
Stick with a SPF 50, where sun protection tops out — anything higher is purely an advertisement. The Environmental Working Group also advises that you avoid ingredients like oxybenzone, which can enter the bloodstream or trigger allergic skin reactions, and retinyl palmitate, which may speed development of skin tumors and lesions.

The Rouge Cosmetics is offering skin care consultations all month long in July. Come in and discover what antioxidants are suitable for your skin and find out what is best in protecting your skin in the summer months ahead to reduce sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles for future skin health.

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ALIVE Author Series Presents Authors Abigail Bok and Dorothy Hom on TV30's "Conversations."
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