‘Girl Power’ helps erase a stereotype

“Rachel Alexadra” holds off “Mine that Bird” to win the Preakness, the second leg of horse racing’s “Triple Crown,” on Saturday. This is important. In last year’s Kentucky Derby, a filly named “Eight Belles” died after the race.

It raised questions about running girls with boys in big stakes races. I’m glad “Rachel Alexandra” won. It helps break down a stereotype. Such stereotypes exist with humans, not just thoroughbred race horses. Better to erase them and move on.


State budget options grim

Pounding sand
Pounding sand
Both of the proposed May revisions to the state’s 2009-10 budget are grim, as outlined in the county’s Friday memo.

It reminds me of asking, “Would you rather burn to death or freeze to death?” Neither is desirable.

If the May 19 propositions pass, the state still faces a ballooning deficit.

The shortfall stood at $42 billion when the budget was “balanced” in February, but it has grown by an additional $15.4 billion because of the recession.

If the propositions fail, an additional $5.9 billion shortfall exists, bringing the total to $21.3 billion.

•Proposal A, with the propositions passing, calls for cuts to education, HHSA, Medical and IHSS, among others.

•Proposal B, with the propositions failing, calls for added cuts to education; incarceration of non-violent prisoners in county jails, not state prisons; and release of illegal aliens from state prisons to the Feds.

This is just a proposal, however — the debate is likely to continue through the summer. Meanwhile, about 5,000 state workers are being laid off, or 2.5 percent of the workforce.

The county’s budget will be released next week, with hearings on June 2.

I’m betting the propositions will fail, except for the last one, with most people seeing them as a “band aid” approach.

Let’s hope the legislature is more serious about “balancing” the budget this time around. Pounding sand is not the answer.

The ‘just plain folks’ in my hometown

When the weekend rolls around, we like to drag out the record player. There’s nothing like old LPs to put our fast-paced digital world in context.

One of our favorites is “Songs by Tom Lehrer.” Lehrer, the American singer, songwriter, satirist, pianist and mathematician from Harvard, is known for the humorous songs he recorded in the ’50s and ’60s.

He also taught a popular course at UC Santa Cruz on the American musical.

Now Lehrer might not be considered PC enough (as in politically correct), but it’s hard not to laugh.

Here’s the lyrics from his song, “My hometown”:

I really have a yen
To go back once again,
Back to the place where no one wears a frown,
To see once more those super-special just plain folks
In my home town.

No fellow could ignore
The little girl next door,
She sure looked sweet in her first evening gown.
Now there’s a charge for what she used to give for free
In my home town.

I remember Dan, the druggist on the corner, ’e
Was never mean or ornery,
He was swell.
He killed his mother-in-law and ground her up real well,
And sprinkled just a bit
Over each banana split.

The guy that taught us math,
Who never took a bath,
Acquired a certain measure of renown,
And after school he sold the most amazing pictures
In my home town.

That fellow was no fool
Who taught our Sunday school,
And neither was our kindly parson brown.
We’re recording tonight so I have to leave this line out.
In my home town.

I remember Sam, he was the village idiot.
And though it seems a pity, it
Was so.
He loved to burn down houses just to watch the glow,
And nothing could be done,
Because he was the mayor’s son.

The guy that took a knife
And monogrammed his wife,
Then dropped her in the pond and watched her drown.
Oh, yes indeed, the people there are just plain folks
In my home town.

Meeting a billionaire

I’m amazed at my son’s memory: He’s only seven years old. We were eating dinner on Friday night and recounting our coolest vacations.

Somewhat out of the blue, he recalled our unexpected meeting with Mohamed Al-Fayed, the billionaire Egyptian, in Harrod’s Food Hall in London.

The Food Hall is a highlight of any trip to London; in this case, we had rented a flat and went to Harrod’s to shop for a special occasion.

The place has an amazing selection of foods from all over the world: I was amazed at the fresh fruit, in the dead of winter, from Africa.

As we were wandering around, I spotted Mohamed Al-Fayed — Harrod’s controversial owner and father of the late Dodi, Princess Diana’s boyfriend — walking into the Hall.

I was holding my son in one arm and a bag of fruit and fresh fish in the other. Being, well, me, I said: “Hello, Mohamed Al-Fayed!” in a somewhat loud voice. Suddenly, a bunch of undercover guys shifted around in the room, looking nervous.

I don’t think anyone else recognized Al-Fayed. But he was wearing that trademark tailored suit. Plus, you don’t see that many Egyptians hanging out in Harrod’s, even though London is a diverse place.

But Mohamed was cool: He walked up to us and extended a warm greeting, asking how we liked the selection of foods. We exchanged pleasantries but not “Hello, Mate!”

Despite his age, my son remembered this whole experience. When he gets older, I’ll clue him in on the sad background of the clash between the Al-Fayed’s and the Royal Family.

The encounter was a reminder of how small the world can be, much removed from media hype. We might as well have been meeting Dave Painter, one of the owners of SPD in Nevada City.

I’ve never seen any Egyptians in Nevada City, though.

Al-Fayed has a blog now; it’s here.

Sierra Starr going to more visible GV digs

imagesHere’s a small-town scooplet and economic bright spot: Sierra Starr Winery is in escrow for the purchase of 124 W. Main Street (the building previously operated by El Dorado Savings bank).

It will become their new wine tasting room, replacing the one at 209 W. Main. The new digs is an idea location at the Mill and Main “T,” with parking.

Sierra Starr is not the only local winery that is upgrading its facilities. Naggiar Vineyards of Grass Valley is opening a new tasting room in mid-June.

We’re big fans of our county-grown wines, which are rivaling the Zins of Amador County. A list of our local wineries is here.

Sierra Starr is a family run business. Phil grows the grapes and makes the wine. Ann operates the tasting room in Grass Valley, and son Jack, who joined the business in December 2005, is the vineyard manager and assistant winemaker.

Jack is a member of The Exchange — the group of local youths who want to help bring more jobs to GV. His spouse, Molly Pelton, one of my favorites, is a great high-school teacher. I’ve spoken at her classes before.

H1N1, aka swine flu, vaccine coming

Here’s some welcome news (at least if you believe in vaccinations): GlaxoSmithKlein said Friday it will make a H1N1, AKA “swine flu” vaccine.

The drug maker said it has receive interest from numerous governments aiming to stockpile the vaccine as a precaution.

“GSK expects to manufacture a candidate A (H1N1) adjuvanted influenza vaccine once virus seed is made available by the World Health Organization,” it said. “The first doses of the vaccine are expected to be available four to six months later, subject to regulatory approval.”

Our county’s H1N1 flu update is here. There still are no reported cases in our county.

Dorsey Drive nominated for federal funding

Congressman Tom McClintock has nominated Dorsey Drive for federal funding as a “high priority” project.

It lists the cost of the long-discussed interchange at $22.5 million. Details are here.

“The interchange will provide direct freeway access to the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital – a significant regional benefit – allowing for an estimated average reduction of two to five critical minutes of ambulance transport time,” according to McClintock.

“The project will also relieve current high levels of traffic congestion, provide capacity for future increases in traffic, and open up the area to significant economic growth. This project is endorsed as a top priority by the County of Nevada Board of Supervisors, and is located on the National Highway System.”