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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Only In California

I quote from the official voters’ guide for June’s primary election:

Democratic Party candidate statements:

Cruz Bustamonte

I will be an Insurance Commissioner who will make rates affordable, guarantee access to insurance, and bring health insurance under the regulatory authority of that office. But I’m starting my campaign someplace different. With myself. Insurance rates reflect not just the behavior of insurance companies, but the behavior of Californians as well. And some of that behavior is not very good. Some people commit insurance fraud, some drive recklessly, or under the influence. And some people don’t take steps to protect their children or their homes or their workplace. But the biggest factor in insurance costs is people not taking care of their health. In my case, it’s my weight. A study by the US Department of Health’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that obesity in California costs $7.7 billion a year. I want to become an example to others to lead healthier lives by losing weight myself. Fighting the obesity epidemic will lower insurance costs. I will keep my progress and program on my website. (Unlike other political websites, this will be a site dedicated to noncommercial health and nutrition information.) If you or someone you know would like to start trying to live a healthier life, join me at “StartWithCruz.com.”

The voters’ guide is meant to provide a forum for candidates to briefly state the main points of their platforms. The insurance commissioner is an elected office in California, and “the Bustinator” is the Democratic Party’s chosen candidate for the position. Although the weight loss website is pretty cool, I can’t believe this is the main thrust of his campaign!

I work in health insurance in California and deal with some basic issues every day. California’s head resides under several swords of Damocles; a high percentage of Californians without health insurance, emergency rooms closing throughout the state, poor access to healthcare in rural areas, insidious health insurance related fraud, and health insurance contribution increases outpacing citizens’ wage and salary increases. Auto, home and liability insurance in the state each have their own litany of woes as well. Under the current do-nothing Republican as well as previous Democratic administrations, these problems have been ignored and allowed to fester, while wage earners watch increasing proportions of their income eaten up by health care and auto insurance costs, supporting record California HMO profits in the last few years.

I admit I don’t have the answers, but come on Democrats, at least attempt to propose some kind of solutions, beyond saying that the commissioner will regulate insurance. Of course, if you’ve already been richly paid by the insurance industry to not do that, then keep up the good work. Just blather on about your weight problem, and ignore the real issues.

You are making the Peace and Freedom Party look like a good deal.

Their candidate for insurance commissioner, Tom Condit of Berkeley (surprise, he’s from Bizerkeley) proposes;

I advocate putting human need before insurance company profits. Let's publicly fund and manage a single system of quality health care for all, a state basic auto liability plan, and a single workers' compensation fund. I will fight discrimination based on race, sex, age, or geography.

These may not all prove to be great ideas, but these are ideas.

Cruz – I completely agree it’s for the best that you go on a diet. I hope your website helps others take better care of themselves. Hopefully this November, you will be freed from the encumbrances of public service, and you’ll be able to devote your full time efforts to fitness. Who knows, maybe you'll be the next Richard Simmons!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mr Rogers Went to Washington

In 1969, Educational television’s future was looking bleak.

Mr Rogers Testified to Congress and managed to win restored funding. I really can’t add anything to what he said, so I thought I would let him speak for himself. In the words of Iggy Pop, “Mr Rogers is a real decent guy. I wish everyone could be like him.”

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Meditation Retreat in Tomales

Last weekend, we attended a retreat at Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in Tomales. It was a quiet but highly scheduled weekend, designed for people who are experienced with Easwaran’s eight point program. The retreat was in a well- refurbished old mansion in Tomales, with a couple of field trips. I found this to be a good experience, and we had beautiful weather as well.

We all arrived between 4:00 and 5:00 on Friday afternoon, and spent about an hour getting to know each other. We meditated for a half hour and had dinner. The food was good, which is not a surprise, given one of Eknath Easwaran’s earlier followers was Laurel Robertson, author of Laurel’s Kitchen.

Among the instructors for our retreat were a couple training to be retreat leaders. They are both doctors at Kaiser somewhere in Southern California. Their experience added a lot to the retreat, since they could share experiences related to living a hectic and busy life, being doctors and raising kids. They gave the retreat a more down to earth feel.

The other retreat participants were a pretty interesting bunch, including a younger couple with 3 year old triplets, another physician, two or three therapists, three nurses, a guy about my age who had a liver transplant a few years back, an adherent of 12-point programs, and a mother and her two young adult daughters. Everybody seemed to get along pretty well.

Most of the other participants seem to go to one or two retreats a year. Many feel close to each other, giving meal times somewhat of a reunion atmosphere.

After dinner we had an evening instructional program where we discussed our meditation practices and mantra. The sessions were more like discussions than lectures. The session ended with a videotaped talk by Easwaran, the founder of the BMCM. Easwaran died in his 80s in 1999. His talks were interesting and entertaining. I found I preferred the older talks, he seemed a bit peppier when he was only in his 60s. We went to bed early to prepare for Saturday. Man, that place was quiet.

Saturday opened with a meditation session at 6:30. We awoke early, showered and had coffee so we wouldn’t be as likely to nod off during mediation. Meditation was followed by quiet time and then breakfast. Breakfast was made by the handyman, who had a very friendly 20 year old cat hanging around looking for attention. More workshop, more meditation and lunch followed. We had an afternoon field trip to the walk on the local beach, which was very pleasant. Just before going to Dillon beach, we watched a video of Easwaran and his wife walking on the same beach, holding hands and (at least we were told) repeating their mantra. It was a nice walk, but the wind off the ocean was cold. I cheated, I didn’t repeat my mantrum all the time.

After we drove back from the beach, we had an hour and a half of free time. We walked around Tomales, which is a town of about 500 people or so. At this point, I had half a mind to visit the local tavern and get juiced. We just walked back to the retreat house. The break was followed by more workshop, meditation and dinner. We had steamed broccoli, and tasty oven roasted potatoes with a peanut sauce. That was a good dinner. The lunches and dinners all had home made cookies and sometimes brownies available as well.

Sunday was a half day, starting with meditation, quiet study and breakfast. We drove out to Ramagiri ashram, just outside of Tomales. This is a former monastery Easwaran bought and set up as a publishing house, small farm and ashram. We all were greeted by Christine Easwaran, who appears to be running things at Ramagiri. We took group pictures, and had a tour of the facility. I have to be honest and say the place creeped me out a little. I got over it.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Calling All Concert Band Groupies

For all those band music fans out there, the Sacramento Concert Band Will appear Monday Night at The beautiful and historic St Francis Church just across L Street from the even more historic Sutter’s Fort.

The band features the hanging guy himself in a tux, no less (that is, if playing non-principal second clarinet counts as being featured. In any event, I am featured as the stage manager. That’s the guy who gets there early and counts stands and chairs. The program includes several “serious pieces”, including Gordon Jacob’s “Original Suite for Military Band" and the Martin Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium”. “Pops tunes” include works by Hoagy Carmicheal and George Gershwin. By the way, did I mention the concert is FREE? I honestly ask you, does a Monday night in Sacramento ever get better than this?

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A Night At The Opera

We went to see the local university's annual opera, put on by the California State University Sacramento Music Department.

They did a kick-assidly good performance of Don Giovanni. Let the record show that it was in Hangininsac that the first use of the word “kick-assedly” appeared in an opera review. No doubt the New York Times will steal this and claim it as their own.

Featured in the title role was Schola Cantorum ’s very own Eugene Chan. He was brilliant, although it’s always funny seeing someone you’ve known as a boy in the choir playing the amoral seducer. As in all university productions I have attended, the orchestra was great. Those kids make me realize that in the woodwind area, I basically suck. Good thing I have no pretensions in that direction beyond having a quirky hobby.

I recommend this opera to anyone in the area who has the time-lost ability to sit still for three hours.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.
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