April 22nd marks the 47th Earth Day -- a day created to celebrate our planet, environment, and wildlife. Every Californian has a story to tell about how nature has made their lives richer. For some, it is regional food, lakes and rivers, or a beloved local park. For others, it is the ties to ranches, working farms, forests, or our magnificent public lands. The ecosystem is one of California’s greatest assets. We have a unique and diverse climate and geography, and some of the most diverse and extraordinary plants and wildlife in the world.
It's been over a week now since your editorial, “Build a Wall or Open the Borders?” appeared and enlisted a challenge to your readers to present our views on immigration. That question has kept me thinking about the issue of immigration and how I might respond, if at all.After pondering all the points offered by your writer, Bev Stenehjem, I’ve come to realize that the issue of immigration is very complex and multifaceted. It seems that each answer I came up with, produced a complete new set of questions to consider.I kept going back to, and so decided to focus on the title question: “Build a Wall or Open the Borders?”Given these two choices, I would prefer an open border to a wall.I cannot recall a wall ever being included in an effective immigration policy. Walls are used to divide, isolate and repress. Our proposed wall seems to be doing so even before the first stone is set. Building a wall along any of our borders can only be as effective as our ability to defend it. Our wall will need to include observation towers, armed guards, and secure checkpoints. Americans will no longer be able to move freely and easily through our borders. A wall has two sides. Living behind one in America is plainly un-American.The most obvious argument against an open border is a resultant tidal wave of immigration through our southern border, bringing in criminals, drugs, and malcontents. It is estimated that currently among us are 11 million immigrants that are undocumented. This indicates to me that anyone who wants to be here already is, and since all are regarded as criminals and must live in the shadows, we’re not able to distinguish the undesirables from hard working honest contributors.An open border (along with proper documentation policy) will eliminate the need for honest, hardworking immigrants to live in hiding. No longer will they need to live in fear of exploitive employers and accept only jobs that pay cash under the table, forgoing income tax and social security payments the rest of us make. This will level the playing field between employers that follow our employment laws and those who skirt the law by knowingly hiring and exploiting undocumented workers who have no choice but to remain silent.Immigrants will now be able to obtain driver’s licenses requiring them to demonstrate knowledge of our traffic laws, and proficiency behind the wheel. They will be able to properly register their vehicles, and buy insurance, just like the rest of us. Immigrant families would now be able to live openly and proudly, teaching their children not to live in fear, but to take pride in their adopted homeland, and respect our laws. In short, they can live the American dream.I, as do most Americans, come from immigrants. My ancestors left their European homelands during the late 1800’s through early 1900’s to make a better life for their children and future generations.Their goal was the Golden State of California, not for the gold in them thar’ hills, but for the golden sunshine that produced for them the finest fruits and vegetables ever brought to market.From these humble beginnings, came four generations of patriotic and successful Americans, who fought in wars for the freedoms and opportunities held so dear. Americans who started successful businesses, entered professional fields, or became skilled tradespeople. All of us were taught to be thankful and proud of what we have as Americans. We were taught to respect others, even those whose heritage, customs, and origins were different from ours.Our nation was founded and built by determined, tenacious immigrants and immigration has truly played a major role in making America great, and will continue to do so. I see nothing to fear by maintaining an open border policy, and much to fear if we embark on walling our borders.
I finally made it to Coyote Reservoir this past October, completing the circuit of Santa Clara County’s major water storage facilities. It’s a circuit I began many years ago.
In between winter storms, a bright, sunny weekend beckoned me out to a wine tasting at Miramar Vineyards. Several groups, celebrating various milestones, filled the expansive patio, overlooking a vastness of vineyards and rolling green hills. Nearby, a team of wine drinkers played bocce ball on the shaded court.
If you enjoy the outdoors, it is likely you are a photographer. You are on the trail and come around a bend. Suddenly, the world drops away and a vast landscape stretches to an incomprehensibly distant horizon. When nature shows off like this, it is natural to want to preserve it in pixels.The grand landscape will always be the top priority to a hiker with a camera, but with practice, photography can also be a window to natural beauty that we routinely pass by unnoticed.Over the years, I have been to a handful of photographic seminars, always in a place of special natural beauty. But I am not sure that Yosemite or Point Reyes is the best place to learn to see beyond the usual wide angle landscape. If you gave a camera to a monkey in Yosemite Valley, he would likely return with some nice photographs. How could he miss? But could he take a good photograph in a vacant lot?I believe that the measure of a good photographer is one who makes extraordinary images in ordinary surroundings. Cultivating the heightened visual acuity necessary to create images like this is an excellent way to bring us closer to the natural world. Getting out into nature is important, but when we go, we should strive to walk into it and not just through it.I am better at preaching it than doing it, but photography has helped me open my eyes to natural beauty that I would have otherwise passed without notice. It has awakened me to the beauty of nature at my feet or close at hand that I never saw before. It has challenged me to see with a child’s eyes and discover extraordinary sights in ordinary places.With this in mind, photography becomes as much a practice in expanded seeing as the pursuit of a picture. You don’t need a hoochy-coochy Nikon SLR to do this. Next time you hit the trail, grab your pocket camera. Use your hike as an opportunity to really look at the “ordinary” sights you pass. Is there a spider web bejeweled with morning dew? Are some fallen maple leaves resting on autumn’s tawny grasses just so? How about the brightly colored lichen on that rock? I wonder if a photo of the sycamore trees reflected in that creek pool will look like one of Monet’s impressionist paintings.It is a bit surprising, but I have learned that images of simple scenes like this wear far better on a viewer’s eyes than the photo of the alpine peaks bathed in alpenglow. Mark my words, you will take that image off the wall while the picture of the maples leaves on the grass continues to please.The possibilities are endless. As we look more carefully, we begin to see more deeply. In the process, we learn that the ordinary things we pass without notice are indeed extraordinary.
This past Saturday I had the privilege to march alongside 25,000 women and men in San Jose. Since then, people have asked—why did I go, what did I expect, what actually happened, and was it worthwhile?
Two months ago I shared a summary on a new down payment program designed to help buyers manage the high cost of living in the Bay Area through a shared appreciation investment. Since that brief introduction, the program has improved and is worthy of a quick refresher.
Don’t wear fragrance. Colognes can interfere with your (or other’s) ability to sense some wine’s delicate notes.
With mortgage rates rising quickly post election, there has been much more attention paid to Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) loans. Many people have stayed away from these types of loans in the past 10 years as the fallout from the mortgage meltdown drove the market to fixed rates. Also, when long term 30-year fixed rates are in the mid to low-threes, it doesn't make much sense to look at an ARM loan.
There she was—my tiny kid—face to face with a bird of prey. She was over the moon happy about it too—she’s crazy about raptors. So I knew I had made the right choice when faced with planning with her January birthday.