A Sense of Place

From the winter issue of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

FEW PEOPLE DO A BETTER JOB OF creating a sense of place than Robert Frost—in his case, describing life in rural New England. In our region, we have many small communities and towns that have strong identities and character. It is deeply felt by locals and visitors.

Examples might include a snowy evening on Broad Street in Nevada City, a postcard-perfect scene; the rows of Victorian homes in Grass Valley, crowned by the Art-Deco-style Del Oro Theatre; or the historic buildings in Old Town Auburn. “Soul of Place” is the theme of Nevada County’s first annual Sierra Poetry Festival.

Downtown Loomis and Lincoln have their own charm, and Truckee is redolent of a true Western town. Other towns to the south include Sutter Creek and Plymouth in Amador County, surrounded by vineyards that date back to the Gold Rush.

Our region’s small towns are worth celebrating as other municipalities build out at breakneck speed, in some cases jeopardizing the open spaces and wildlife corridors that have defined the American West. These cities—hungry for tax dollars to “feed the beast” of city services—risk losing their own sense of place, becoming cookie-cutter replicas of one another. In the end, that can be bad for business.

The growth debate has created some friction within the region. In the foothills we often hear the refrain “Don’t Roseville Nevada County.” In Tahoe, some locals have complained about the “Coloradoization” of ski resorts, renaming it “Tahoe-rado.”

It’s a balancing act, to be sure. We appreciate much of the capital improvements at the ski resorts—new chair lifts, lodging and better dining options—and remain hopeful that Tahoe will retain its sense of place.

Besides preserving their heritage, towns with strong identities have become little “economic engines,” drawing recreational enthusiasts such as skiers, mountain bikers and fishermen to escape from the “big city,” as well as people looking for shopping experiences besides malls. Our vineyards and craft breweries are a popular draw, and our farmers markets, with fresh, local food, are going year-round.

Performing arts groups—such as The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley— also foster an arts and culture scene that draws people from all over. Some decide to stay, or start a business.

To ring in the New Year we dedicate this issue to our small foothill towns that create a sense of place in our region and help create a sustainable economy.

(Photo: Elizabeth Carmel)

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Did Facebook just sign the death warrant for the smartphone?

“It’s no secret Mark Zuckerberg is pinning Facebook’s prospects on augmented reality — technology that overlays digital imagery onto the real world, like Snapchat’s signature camera filters,” as Business Insider is reporting.

“At this year’s F8 conference, taking place this week, Zuckerberg doubled down on the company’s ambitious 10-year master plan, which was first revealed in 2016. According to this timeline, Facebook expects to turn artificial intelligence, ubiquitous internet connectivity, and virtual and augmented reality into viable parts of its business over the next decade.

“To accelerate the rise of augmented reality, a big part of the plan, Zuckerberg unveiled the Camera Effects platform — basically a set of tools for outside developers to build augmented-reality apps that you can access from the existing Facebook app’s camera. That would theoretically open the door for Facebook to host the next phenomenon like ‘Pokémon Go.’

“While this announcement seems pretty innocuous, make no mistake — Facebook is once again putting itself into direct competition with Google and Apple, trying to create yet another parallel universe of apps and tools that don’t rely on the smartphones’ marketplaces.

“This time, though, Facebook is also declaring war on pretty much everyone else in the tech industry, too. While it’ll take at least a decade to fully play out, the stuff Facebook is talking about today is just one more milestone on the slow march toward the death of the smartphone and the rise of even weirder and wilder futures.”

The rest of the article is here.

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Stone House “soft opening” is Wednesday

More details in the spring issue of our magazine, circulating at the end of the week.

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CNN source: Fox News and Bill O’Reilly are talking exit

“Fox News will no longer even respond to questions about whether Bill O’Reilly will return to his show,” according to CNN.

“A well-placed source said Tuesday afternoon that representatives for Fox and O’Reilly have begun talking about an exit. But this prompted a denial from sources in O’Reilly’s camp.

“Even one person close to O’Reilly, however, said he will probably not be back on ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’

“The original well-placed source said an announcement about O’Reilly’s fate was likely by the end of the week.

“The fact that none of these sources were willing to go on the record speaks to the delicate maneuvering underway.

“The network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox (FOX), will hold a board meeting on Thursday, a spokeswoman told CNNMoney. One of the sources said O’Reilly will be a primary topic.

“The Murdochs, the men who control 21st Century Fox, are pointedly not commenting on any of this.

“But conversations inside Fox have already turned to possible O’Reilly successors.

“New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, the author of a biography about ex-Fox News boss Roger Ailes, reported Tuesday that ‘the Murdochs are leaning toward announcing that O’Reilly will not return to the air.’

“Sherman cited ‘three sources with knowledge of the discussions’ and said ‘no final decision has been made.'”

The rest of the article is here.

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“Good old boys” business marketing returns to our towns

“Good old boys” business marketing is back in western Nevada County with the Economic Resource Council, Regional Chambers and The Union teaming up on a “brand new publication that will be a complete guide to opening and operating a successful business in Nevada County.”

I missed the RFP “request for proposal” for this “B2B” publication. It’s ironic because a competitive bidding process is one of the most basic tenets of a good business strategy.

I also find it ironic because The Union outsourced its printing to the Sacramento Bee — not exactly a “shop local, buy local” strategy.

“Distribution will include 10,500 copies inserted in to The Union and at all Chambers of Commerce, relevant businesses throughout Nevada County, and distributed by the ERC. Publication will be online, with additional content being added year round,” a sales flyer reads.

That’s a weak distribution strategy; the ERC’s own marketing plan mentioned a global strategy, not a countywide one. As for 10,500 copies of The Union, its own press kit states “with more than 12,000 newspapers circulating the county every day …” Now it’s 10,500?

When is western Nevada County going to grow out of its provincial clothing, so it can be truly influential when it comes to guiding new businesses?

What is The Union’s circulation?

The “new” business guide calls for distributing 10,500 copies inside The Union:

The Union’s press kit refers to “more than 12,000 newspapers circulating the county every day.”

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Visiting Mexico City for Spring Break — with extra political baggage

Raising your teenager in a small town is a double-edged sword. Small towns are tight knit, friendly and ours is surrounded by the Great Outdoors for swimming, hiking, fishing and sailing. The schools are solid, and some, such as Ghidotti high school, are highly ranked (#1 at least this year) for their standardized statewide test scores.

The downside of the small town lifestyle is a lack of good jobs, intolerance, provincialism and some ugly political behavior.

We like to split the difference (we’re moderates), so we travel abroad with our son when we can to help expand his horizons. On this Spring Break, we are in Mexico City.

This may not sound as enticing as Cabo, PV (Puerto Vallarta) or Cancun, but we love the city’s arts and culture scene, restaurants, parks and monuments. It’s an easy flight from Northern California, the exchange rate is among the most favorable in years, and Mexico City is a safe place. Uber makes it easy to get around, and the metro is solid.

Like other Americans, we carried extra baggage to Mexico City this time — our President Donald Trump. Needless to say, he is not too popular among the locals.

Here’s what Enrique Olvera, chef of the critically acclaimed Pujol in the city’s Polanco neighborhood and now Cosme in New York, had to say: “Not too long ago, after being questioned in an interview on what he would do if Trump decides to visit Cosme, he was quick to answer. ‘I doubt that he’d ever go, but if he does at the very least, we’d have to tell him to go f*** himself.'”

“To (Olvera) the future that Latin and Mexican restaurants are facing with a Trump presidency should be tackled through work. ‘The effect that he has will depend on our own actions or lack thereof. We need to focus on doing things the best way possible and stop getting overwhelmed with matters that are out of our control.'”

In Mexico City, some of the sights we’ve enjoyed showing our son are the National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropologia); Historic Center and Zocalo, where he noted the James Bond film Spectre was filmed; Frida Kahlo Museum; Diego Rivera Studio; and archaeological zone of Teotihuacan on the outskirts of the city, with the largest pyramids this side of the Nile.

The city’s culinary scene is booming, from fine-dining restaurants such as Pujol to El Cardenal, one of the best places for a traditional meal. (Our son enjoyed the hot chocolate at breakfast).

Many of the neighborhoods are walkable too. The jacaranda trees are in full bloom with their violet-blue flowers — in the neighborhoods and Chapultepec Park.

The city has been quieter than usual, because it’s Easter week. It was a working vacation for us — wrapping up the spring issue of our magazine — but the internet is solid, and we enjoyed the getaway.  Have a Happy Easter!

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Bear River named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® for 2017

“One of the great rivers of the Sierra Nevada, the Bear River supports Native American culture, fish and wildlife and community recreation. Much of the watershed has been dammed and developed for water supply and energy production, making the few remaining free-flowing stretches of the Bear River all the more valuable,” according to American Rivers’ new report “America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2017.” “But now, one of these last free-flowing reaches is threatened by the proposed 275-foot tall Centennial Dam. Instead of rushing to build an expensive, damaging and unnecessary new dam, Nevada Irrigation District must consider other water supply solutions, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must fully analyze alternatives at a critical time for water planning in California.”

The Threat
“Much of the Bear River has been altered over the last 200 years, primarily by gold mining and dam building. The Bear is already impounded behind eight dams, leaving only a few free-flowing sections in the middle and upper reaches of the river. The undammed portions of the river are vital for local communities, including the native Nisenan tribe.

“Today, the Bear River is threatened by the development of Centennial Dam— a 275-foot tall structure proposed by Nevada Irrigation District (NID). NID claims that additional water storage is needed to meet future demand and replace snowpack storage that will be lost due to climate change. However, NID has not demonstrated that it is following best practices for water conservation and efficiency, or that the water to fill this new reservoir will be available to communities in the Bear River watershed under predicted future climate conditions. Further, the project’s massive costs (which NID currently estimates to be $500 million to $1 billion) would undermine more effective climate change management strategies, such as water use efficiency and optimizing existing systems. Centennial Dam is a costly and damaging project that may never be able to meet its stated goals, and less damaging alternatives exist to meet future demand.

“Centennial Dam would flood the last six miles of publicly accessible free-flowing river, including popular recreation sites and numerous native Nisenan village sites and burial grounds. The dam would also flood 2,200 acres of mature riparian and oak woodland, destroy habitat for many sensitive species and pose a serious threat to vulnerable fish populations by reducing flows downstream. In addition, the project will appreciably reduce seasonal flows critical to the Feather and Sacramento Rivers, the Delta and San Francisco Bay.”

The link “To Take Action” is here.

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