"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Eclipse 2017: Finding Clear Skies

One of the reasons I chose to go to Idaho to view the solar eclipse in August was the state's close proximity to California.

Another reason was that historically, on average, the area that I will be heading to has had clear skies on August 21. It would be a bummer to go somewhere to view a rare total eclipse and the place is covered in clouds.

There are no guarantees of clear skies, but Space.com has an article just on this subject.

It begins with:
The total solar eclipse that will cross the continental U.S. from coast to coast is only two months away. On Aug. 21, millions of people are expected to commute into the path of totality to see this amazing celestial sight — including some of the staff of Space.com.  
Four of our staff members — including myself — will be traveling to see the total eclipse. The eclipse will be visible along a path that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, so there are plenty of places for people to see the total eclipse. There are many good reasons to select one location over another, including the availability of lodging, the likelihood of good weather, and local events. 
To read more, go here

3 Worst Mistakes National Park Visitors Make

Above, animals in national parks can eat you. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are planning to visit a national park this summer, it is wise to read about the three most common mistakes national park visitors make.

An article by a former national park ranger in Insider tells of the three biggest mistakes visitors make.

It starts with:
Ash Nudd has gotten a lot of dirt in her shoes over the years, but she doesn't seem to mind. 
The Utah resident spent three seasons giving tours, teaching safety instruction courses, and even participating in search and rescue efforts as a park ranger in three different national parks across the US. Now, she runs a blog called Dirt In My Shoes where she continues to share trip itineraries full of expert recommendations. 
Here are the three most common mistakes she saw tourists make when visiting national parks.
To read more, go here.

The Company Who Makes National Park and Smokey Bear Signs

Above, the entrance sign to Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Ever wondered where those iconic Smokey Bear and national park signs come from? 

Marketplace.org has an article on the company who produces those signs. It is Wood Product Signs and Rocky Mountain Aluminum of Parlin, Colorado

It begins with:
Everyone recognizes Smokey Bear, the lovable National Parks mascot who warns visitors about the dangers of forest fires. But where do those friendly anthropomorphic bear cutouts come from? 
Today, we talk to the company that makes a lot of the signs that show up at the entrances to National Parks and Forests. About 25-thousand signs and markers last year, actually, all from their Parlin, Colorado-based workshop, including of course those iconic Smokey Bear cutouts. 
To read more, go here

Do Wi-Fi and Cell Service Belong In Our National Parks?

Above, the best cell and Wi-Fi service I found in Yosemite was at the former Ahwahnee Hotel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Last year, I camped for a few days in Yosemite Valley at the North Pines Campground. While there, I noticed that cell service was spotty at best and no Wi-Fi. My cell phone was useless at the campground. The campground does have a pay phone booth.

The only place where I found usable cell service and Wi-Fi was at the Ahwahnee Hotel (now known as the Majestic due to the lawsuit with Delaware North).

Above, Wi-Fi and cell service were virtually nil at Yosemite's North Pines Campground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Motherboard has an article that asks the question, "Do Wi-Fi and Cell Service Belong In Our National Parks?"

Of the two, I am on the side of cell service. With a reliable cell service in a national park, emergency calls can be sent and received. People can do without their laptops and tablets for a while, so I don't think that Wi-Fi is necessary.

Motherboard begins their article with:
Yellowstone National Park wants to go 4G, and environmentalists aren’t happy. 
On a road trip through Yosemite National Park, I once stopped at a particularly beautiful waterfall. Two dozen onlookers were already there; most Vine-ing, 'gramming, tweeting, or texting shots of the vista. Mildly distracted, I filmed some videos, and left. To this day, that remains my most vivid memory of California's most iconic national park. 
Plenty of people experience nature through a lens. So it's no surprise that Yellowstone National Park wants to expand cellular and Wi-Fi coverage throughout some of its 2.2 million acres. It would require serious infrastructure changes, including two new cellular towers at scenic points, and a bulky antennae platform on historic Mount Washburn.
To read more, go here

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jury Duty Completed

Well, I am done with jury duty for at least a year.

I was on a jury panel at the end of the day on a case that hit a little too close to home. I used the opportunity to truthfully say that I would probably be biased against the defendant and was thanked and excused.

So, under the rules of jury service, if I am not on a jury or a panel at the end of the day, then I have completed my service. This is even if I served only one day. I managed to get excused from a jury panel with about fifteen minutes to spare before closing.

For me, this was a fast day. During our hour and a half lunch break, I hung out with Dawn.

This was the first time I stepped foot at the Van Nuys courthouses since filing suit in Small Claims Court (that was eventually adjudicated on Hot Bench last year) and when I scored a victory last year on another case in Small Claims.

Tioga Pass Still Closed

Above, The Beast on Tioga Pass Road last July. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A friend, who was on his way home to the San Joaquin Valley in California, mentioned that he was going to drive through Yosemite National Park from Highway 395 on the Tioga Pass Road.

I mentioned to him that Tioga Pass is still closed due to heavy snow. He indicated that he heard the road was open. A lot of other people thought they heard the same.

I checked and confirmed to him that it was still closed.

According to Sierra News Online:
YOSEMITE — There has been a lot of confusion of late over whether or not Tioga Pass is open in Yosemite National Park. 
A call to Caltrans confirms that the east side of the pass, up to the park entrance, is indeed plowed and open to traffic. 
However, an announcement by Caltrans on Monday, June 19, may have been misunderstood and led people to believe that the road into the park is open. 
State Route 120, also known as Tioga Pass, was opened at the winter closure gate — approximately two miles west of US Highway 395 to the east entrance to the park — at 2 p.m. on Monday.

But, and this is the big "but":
However, Tioga Road at the entrance gate to Yosemite National Park remains closed. Park road crews continue to clear snow and make road repairs.

To read more, go here

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jury Duty Tomorrow

Up to now, I have been pretty lucky not have to report in for jury duty. But I did have to check my juror portal online to get my reporting instructions, if any.

Well, I checked the portal this evening and I have report in tomorrow morning. Lucky me.

Above, Van Nuys East Courthouse.
Unfortunately, they don't pay for the first day one actually has to report in. Payment kicks in from the second day (if there is one) and each subsequent day thereafter.

So, I get to cool my heels tomorrow at the Van Nuys Courthouse. I'll have to remember to bring a book along. I've had some interesting (and occasionally funny) times while on jury duty. This will be the first in the San Fernando Valley for me. As I recall, I've served on jury duty at the downtown L.A., Torrance and Compton courts. My late mom used to enjoy serving on jury duty.

Since I did my jury duty orientation online over the weekend, I won't have to go through it tomorrow and that saves me two hours,

Here come da judge!

California Cigar Tax Going Up July 1

Above, yours truly enjoying an Oliva cigar in Honolulu. 

Thanks to the moronic California voters, the tax on cigars is shooting skyward on July 1.

Thanks to the passage of Proposition 56, the tax on cigars will go up a whopping 153%. Presently, the tax on cigars is 27.3% of the wholesale cost. The passage of Proposition 56 will lead to a new tax that will be at 69.2 % of the wholesale cost.

Wasn't this nice of the California voter? They decided to pick on the poor cigarette and cigar smoker by voting in new taxes on both. Cigarette smokers have to pay an additional $2.00/pack tax. That went into effect in April. Wasn't it nice of the voters to pass this proposition so that the tax money can go to illegal aliens and other liberal causes?

California is a one-party state run by socialists and supported by stupid liberal voters. The "Golden State" is no more.

Small wonder that so many people want to get the hell out of California.

Yosemite National Park Announces Pilot Day Use Parking Reservation Program

Above, the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Phase 2 of a multi-year pilot program at Yosemite National Park to manage traffic and parking is set to begin.

According to the Sierra Sun Times:
Above, one of the free shuttle buses. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
June 21, 2017 - Yosemite National Park announces the second phase of a multi-year pilot program where visitors will be able to reserve a limited number of parking spaces at the Yosemite Falls Parking Area, located directly west of Yosemite Valley Lodge and south of Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, for four weekends, including Saturdays and Sundays, in August 2017. 
This pilot program allows visitors the opportunity to guarantee a parking space in Yosemite Valley on four busy weekends in August. Visitors who book a parking reservation will have a space reserved until 4:00 pm, so visitors will be able to arrive during the day to use their reserved parking space. The Yosemite Falls Parking Area is one of two main parking lots in Yosemite Valley. The park encourages visitors to park once and utilize the free shuttle system to get to the Valley Visitor Center and all major attractions in Yosemite Valley.

To read more, go here

NRA and CRPA Sends Pre-Litigation Letter Sent to California DOJ

California: Pre-Litigation Letter Sent to DOJ Opposing “Bullet Button Assault Weapon” Regulations

On Monday, June 19, the NRA and CRPA’s legal team submitted a joint-letter to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of Administrative law demanding that the regulations be withdrawn or not approved as the regulations exceed DOJ's regulatory authority.  
As previously reported last month, the DOJ submitted draft regulations regarding “Assault Weapons” to the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) for final publication in the California Code of Regulations (CCR). To learn more about the assault weapon regulations you can watch the webinar hosted by NRA and CRPA’s legal team by clicking here
Update on Duncan v. Becerra 
Last Tuesday, June 13, our legal team was in court to argue a motion for a preliminary injunction in Duncan v. Becerra, a federal lawsuit supported by the National Rifle Association, challenging California’s restrictions against standard capacity magazines.    
California’s new restriction against the mere “possession” of magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds goes into effect July 1, 2017.   If granted, the motion will suspend the enforcement of this restriction while the case is pending. 
To stay up-to-date on DOJ regulations, the Duncan case, as well as other important Second Amendment issues in California, be sure to subscribe to NRA email alerts or check the California Stand and Fight webpage.

Get Your "Golden Geezer" Pass Before The Price Hike!

Above, my "Golden Geezer" pass hangs in The Beast. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

"Golden Geezer".

Now there's a term for the national parks Senior Pass I've never heard before, until now. And we all can thank the Seattle Times for bringing it to my attention.

As mentioned several times on this blog, the lifetime Senior Pass is going from its current $10 price to $80, presumably by the end of the year.

The Seattle Times wrote:
Seattle-area national parks and related federal agencies this spring saw a 700 percent leap in local sales of their Senior Pass, likely stimulated by buyers out to beat a big price hike for what is affectionately known among many of its users as the “Golden Geezer.” 
The lifetime pass, soon to increase in price from $10 to $80, gets the bearer in free to sites ranging from Mount Rainier to the Snow Lake trailhead, providing access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies.

Last December, Congress authorized the price increase for the pass, which is good for a lifetime for U.S. citizens and permanent residents 62 and older. An exact date for the cost increase has yet to be announced, but some who work in parks expect it by year’s end.
The article also includes a link to where you geezers can order it online.

To read more, go here.

May Sets New Foreign Visitors To Japan Record

Above, the JR Harajuku Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

May saw a record number of foreign visitors to Japan.

The Japan Times reported:
The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan reached 2,294,700 last month, up 21.2 percent from a year earlier, the highest number ever for the month of May, the Japan Tourism Agency said Wednesday.

The total number of foreign visitors to Japan for the first five months of 2017 is 11,410,700, which is up 17.3% from a year ago.

To read more, go here.

National Parks Getting Ready For Eclipse

Above, wearing the solar shades. 

Two months from today, the Great American Total Solar Eclipse will take place and our national parks are getting ready for it. In fact, it can be viewed at 21 national parks.

Space.com reported:
On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the continental U.S. and briefly cast a shadow over 21 of the nation's national parks. 
The celestial event, sometimes called the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, is the first such eclipse to travel the width of the U.S. in nearly 100 years, offering a spectacular celestial show for millions of skywatchers. During the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, the disk of the moon will move directly in front of the sun, briefly turning day into night.
It will take about 90 minutes for the moon's dark shadow to sweep across the country, starting around 10:15 a.m. PDT on the West Coast and ending around 2:45 p.m. EDT (11:45 a.m. PDT) on the East Coast. [21 National Parks Where You Can Enjoy the 2017 Solar Eclipse]

With less than three months to go, the National Park Service (NPS) is getting ready to accommodate large crowds and helping to plan special viewing events or educational opportunities at most of the parks. Visitor safety is of top concern, as well as preservation of each park's natural resources.  
Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming is preparing for what is expected to be "busiest day ever" in the history of the park.

Above, Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more go here.

Winnebago's 2017 Fiscal 3rd Quarter Report

Above, The Beast at Mammoth Mountain RV Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Winnebago Industries has posted their fiscal 2017 third quarter results.

According to Nasdaq.com:
FOREST CITY, Iowa, June 21, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WGO), a leading United States recreational vehicle manufacturer, today reported financial results for the Company's third quarter of Fiscal 2017. 
Third Quarter Fiscal 2017 Results 
Revenues for the Fiscal 2017 third quarter ended May 27, 2017, were $476.4 million, an increase of 75.1% compared to $272.1 million for the Fiscal 2016 period.  Gross profit was $70.8 million, an increase of 134.0% compared to $30.3 million for the Fiscal 2016 period as gross profit margins expanded 380 basis points driven by a favorable product mix, including the addition of Grand Design products within the overall sales mix. 

To read more, go here

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Finally, I have finished reading Paul Kengor's A Pope and a President.

It was a fascinating and enjoyable read and one I definitely would recommend to any person interested in history, particularly the history of the ending of the Iron Curtain.

I reviewed the book already and post ed it here.

Condé Nast: 10 Best States For Road Trips

Above, Zion National Park in Utah. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Condé Nast Traveler says that 79% of Americans will take a road trip this summer. With than in mind, they have a list of ten best U.S. states for road trips.

They wrote:
A whopping 79 percent of Americans are planning to hit the highway this summer for a road trip, according to AAA, and the options for where to go are nearly endless across our 50 states. But some places lend themselves to road trips better than others, thanks to low gas prices, summer weather, high numbers of national parks and scenic byways, and more. Weighing up 22 contributing factors, WalletHub has pulled together a list of the top states for road trips, from coast to coast.

To see what they are, go here.

Tokyo's Governor Decides To Keep Tsukiji Fish Market

Above, the Tsukiji Fish Market in 2010. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Here's some news for fans of the famous and historic Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.

The Washington Post reported:
TOKYO — Tokyo’s giant Tsukiji fish market, popular with tourists, won’t be destroyed, although it will be closed for up to five years while it is modernized and turned into a “food theme park,” the capital’s governor said Tuesday. 
The market will move to a state-of-the-art 600 billion yen ($6 billion) facility in Toyosu on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo while Tsukiji is rebuilt. After that, Tokyo will have two wholesale fish markets, Gov. Yuriko Koike said. 
Koike had halted the planned move to Toyosu last August, just months before the new market’s scheduled opening, after food safety concerns were raised. Toxins have been found in soil and groundwater at Toyosu, which was previously the site of a gas plant.

To read more, go here.

Monday, June 19, 2017


Dealing With Boondocking Emergencies

Above, dry camping at the Chiriaco Summit Campground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There are three things that are necessary when boondocking in your RV: water, power and heat. What would you do if one of these fails?

RV Life has some suggestions on how to deal with each.

They begin with:
The freedom and self reliance an RV offers is part of the attraction for many people that have joined the RV lifestyle. You can go where you want, when you want, and take care of your own needs along the way. Self reliant RVers have no problem camping without hookups. Many enjoy the benefits and a bit of pride conquering the challenges that come with surviving off the grid. 
However, the perfect RV has yet to be created, and things can – and sometimes do – go awry. 
Whether you’re boondocking in the desert, dry camping at a remote forest service campground, or spending a night in a Walmart parking lot, you’ll want to have a backup plan when something in the RV fails to function.

To read more, go here.

Patagonia Boycott Begins

The best way for a business to find itself in bankruptcy is to meddle into politics and take stands that will piss off much of their customer base.

The latest is Patagonia, the outdoor clothing giant.

From Young Conservatives:
Are you on of the millions of Americans out there who enjoy shopping at Patagonia? 
If so, you might want to reconsider that position when you hear what the popular retailer is doing in the political arena. 
If you are the kind of person who believes in boycotts, odds are you will go that direction with Patagonia. 
From Weasel Zippers via Breitbart: 
The CEO of outdoor clothing giant Patagonia is burnishing her anti-Republican bona fides again, this time saying she intends to pledge her entire company to the “resistance” of President Donald Trump. 
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario recently attacked President Trump for his statements about rolling back President Obama’s unusually aggressive campaign of confiscating millions of acres of state lands and claiming them as “national monuments.”
This action by Patagonia's CEO Rose Marcario will accomplish nothing except hurt the retailer's business. It is clearly a stupid move on Marcario's part. 

I have not shopped at a Patagonia store, but I did buy a pair of Patagonia walking/hiking shoes at R.E.I. (photo at top).

Unless Patagonia changes its tune, they will not see another penny from me. Looks like a boycott of Patagonia is about to begin.

To read more, go here.

Red Barn In Tarzana Today

One of Tarzana's landmarks, the Red Barn Feed & Saddlery store, has restored/repaired the business sign to its former glory.

Back in February, the sign was weathered and one of the letters was missing. Today, the letters are back up, but instead of reading "Red Barn Feed & Saddlery", it is now "Red Barn Feed & Pet". The building looks like it has a new coat of red paint.

Here's a comparison:

Above, the storefront back in February. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the storefront today. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Red Barn is a fun place to shop at. They have historical newspaper front pages on the walls (a treat for history buffs) and they have free popcorn!

Top 5 Japanese Convenience Stores

Above, an Asakusa FamilyMart convenience store. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A nice thing about Japan is the numbers of convenience stores (known as konbini in Japan) around the country. I've made plenty of use of them over the years.

GaijinPot takes a look (actually, their second look) at the top five konbini stores.

They wrote:
Whether you’ve decended into full-fledged konbini dependency or just a light user, Japan-dwellers always seem to have an allegiance to a certain brand. We offered a list of our Top 5 convenience stores in Japan a few years ago, but it’s time to revisit our stance.
We took a quick poll of where our staff stands on this issue and the results were, well, impassioned. Comments escalated from, “Whatever happened to ‘Am/Pm?’” (bought out by Family Mart in 2009) to “Daily Yamazaki and Mini-Stop are the worst!”
So enough with the small talk — here are our five favorite convenience stores in 2017 (in descending order).
To read more, go here.

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