Archive for May, 2015

Overcoming obstacles on TV

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

If the networks all stopped broadcasting sporting events – from major TV draws such as NFL football to more obscure sports like archery – the only way our family would know about this huge black hole in the TV schedule was if we read about it in the newspaper – but it would have to be on the front page because we don’t read the sports section either.

It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with watching sports or that not watching sports makes us more discerning viewers.  Anybody who has voluntarily watched Dance Moms like I have, has no place judging other people’s viewing habits. It’s just that sports aren’t our entertainment of choice.

But one night, after scrolling through Netflix to the point of utter despair – “Are Adam Sandler movies actually starting to clone themselves?!” We went back to network TV and happened upon a sports competition that has really captured my attention.

It’s the unfortunately named American Ninja Warrior. The title gives the impression that the show is geeky guys dressed in black competing against each other in some form of martial arts.  But that isn’t the case at all. It’s people (mostly men but there are a few women) who compete against the clock as they make their way through an obstacle course. There’s no goofy falls into the mud or crude humor. These are serious competitors.

What I like about American Ninja Warrior is that the competitors all have day jobs and they are from all walks of life – chiropractor, construction worker, surfer, teacher, doctor and so on. Around the edges of their lives, they have committed themselves to training for this competition that requires equal amounts agility, upper body strength, balance, and grip strength.  Many of them build their own versions of the courses out of plywood and found materials. One of the competitors from Alaska built a climbing wall out of driftwood.

It is fascinating to see which competitors do well; it’s often not the male model types who are posing and flashing their sculpted pecs and six-pack abs at the camera. Instead it’s wiry guys who don’t look especially fit or have beautiful bodies but are incredibly strong and have an excellent sense of where their bodies are in space – very important when you’re hanging on a spinning spoke and having to calculate when to release in order to land on the mat.

I also admire the courage of the competitors because they are taking on the challenge of doing the obstacles for the first time on TV; they don’t get a practice run at the course. So not only do they have to approach the course aggressively, they have to be smart and strategic. For instance, one of the obstacles is a mini-trampoline that bounces them up to grasp a swinging beam. If they miscalculate the trajectory, they end up splatting face first on the mat.

I find the show totally addictive. “The last competitor made it to the end but how’s this guy going to do?” I’ll probably never be an armchair quarterback but an armchair ninja warrior? You bet.


It’s not all garbage

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Saturday’s Press Democrat had a dramatic photo on the front for the article“Recycling at a loss.” The photo was of a Redwood Empire Disposal worker walking past several enormous mountains of garbage. The photo caption explained that this was stuff that people had put into their blue recycling cans but is in fact,  notrecyclable material – the gross stuff of life like diapers, greasy paper towels, rotting food, cat litter and on-and-on – all of this and more had all been tossed into recycling cans and then had to be sorted out by hand.

This photo saddened me on a lot of levels. Sonoma County is an environmentally conscious and forward-thinking community. And yet the photo showed literally mountains of evidence that our community is falling short when it comes to recycling, arguably one of the easiest ways to demonstrate care for the planet. I was also sad because I have a personal connection for believing in recycling: my husband Steve participated in the development of the Unicycler Cat and it’s his cartoon cat that you see on the side of all the garbage trucks.

So I couldn’t help but wonder: why are so many people mindlessly tossingeverything into their blue can and not making the effort to separate the garbage from the recyclables?

I think there is some laziness involved. I know have been guilty of that at times. Instead of taking the time to find out how to properly dispose of something, I just want to be rid of it right then and there. “Hey, I’ll just toss it in the recycling can and let them figure it out on the other end.”

But even more than the “I’m too busy to have to think about sorting my trash,” syndrome, I think ignorance is the major reason that people don’t recycle. On a practical level, people need to be educated about how to recycle. And on a more global level, they need to be educated about why they should recycle.

I think the Unicycler Cat has done a great job communicating “single stream recycling” which means that we don’t have to separate newspapers from plastic like we used to, but the downside is that now people think that everything can be tossed into the blue can. There is a lot of confusion about what can be recycled and what can’t. Until I opened the Recycling Guide to do some research for this blog, I certainly didn’t know that crunchy plastic (including Saran Wrap), terra cotta pots, and Styrofoam meat trays are not recyclable but that small appliances like toasters (with the cord removed) are recyclable.

I have always wondered why the trash company didn’t have a list printed on the inside of the lids of each can, telling us what is and isn’t acceptable to put in the recycling and garbage cans. If they did, when faced with the “Is it okay to toss this broken hose into the recycling?” we would know better.

Recycling companies face a major challenge because there aren’t any consequences for not following the “rules.” The Recycling Cops won’t be at the curb handing out tickets if someone carelessly tosses their AA batteries into the blue can.

So the emphasis needs to be on educating us about why small actions make a big difference. Representatives from Redwood Empire Disposal should be taking the Unicycler Cat to every Sonoma County elementary school and holding an assembly about the importance of recycling.

If kids get passionate about the difference they can make by recycling, they can take the message home and educate their parents.  Remember Smokey the Bear? The recycling company’s version should be “Only you can prevent garbage piles!”

Presidential Visit

Monday, May 11th, 2015

As part of our trip last weekend to bring Jennifer Lynn home after her first year in college, we planned to rendezvous with Valerie, our 22 year-old daughter who is also lives in Southern California.  We would all meet in Ventura where Valerie’s boyfriend lives and then continue north, taking the coast route home and enjoy a much more scenic drive than the highway to hell – otherwise known as I-5.

So as tourists, what would be a fun way to spend a day with three millennials in Ventura?

Devin – the boyfriend – suggested visiting the Ronald Reagan Museum, officially known as the . That sounded fine; The Reagan Library is an easy half hour drive away in Simi Valley so we could spend a couple of hours there and still have the afternoon free to search for hidden treasures in the numerous thrift shops along Main Street in Ventura.

Until then Devin suggested it, I had never considered seeking out a presidential library as a tourist destination. We learned that there are 13 presidential libraries and because we brought an upgraded family membership…not sure why we did but the woman greeter in the red blazer was charming and the math for the tickets was confusing…we can now visit all 13 of them for free.  I can envision going to the Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, maybe even the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Museum in Ohio on a rainy day but the Jimmy Carter Museum in Atlanta?  It must be a very small museum.

But back to the Reagan Library…it was well worth the $16 admission. Would someone who didn’t already like Reagan have found the museum interesting? I think so because the museum can be appreciated for several reasons regardless of how you feel about Reagan as a political leader.

It is a very well planned museum that packs a lot of history into easily digested chunks. I’m not a great student of history so I appreciated having my memory refreshed with some short but information-packed videos on some of the highlights of his presidency –the energy crisis, Reaganomics, the Berlin Wall and the talks with Gorbachev.  There was also some lightweight information that the girls and I enjoyed such as Nancy’s clothing and White House China patterns and menus. And being a big fan of House of Cards, it was fun to see the recreation of the Oval Office.  I think Claire Underwood would have approved of Nancy’s style.

But the coolest exhibit is Air Force One. How amazing is that that they have the actual plan housed inside the building? Visitors get to walk through it and imagine every seat filled with staff, military personnel and Secret Service. Of course, they give you a chance to wave and smile when you get on the plane so that you can recreate the iconic presidential photo opp. (Pictures available for sale on the lower level.)

All in all, it was a really good way to spend a couple of hours. We joked on the way out, that the next time we visit Valerie in Orange County, we can go to the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda. Of course, Steve wants to know if they have the 37 minutes of missing tape.