February 27, 2019: We were a little sparse on our vacations in 2018, but that seems destined to not be the case this year as we already have a cruise lined along with a couple of business trips this spring. The first of those was a Valentine’s week excursion to Monterey so Roni could take part in the P3S19 conference at the Embassy Suites in nearby Seaside.
For those who don’t know the acronym, PS3 stands for Pretreatment Pollution Prevention Stormwater. It’s a division of CWEA, which is the California Water Environment Association. To make things simple, this is a statewide organization of sanitation and water agencies, one of which is the Ironhouse Sanitary District in Oakley, where Roni has worked as public outreach coordinator for close to two decades. But it has been only recently that she has become involved in professional organizations such as CWEA, and even more recently that she has been invited to be a presenter at one of their conferences.
Recently, Ironhouse and several other Contra Costa County wastewater agencies teamed up for a public education campaign targeting disposable wipes. People love these wipes for their convenience, but the problem with the products is that they are often flushed down the toilet instead of being placed in the trash. Contrary to what their name might imply, disposable wipes don’t decompose and instead become tangled in pumps and other machinery used to treat wastewater, leading to clogs and overflows.
For her part in the campaign, Roni helped design the ads that were displayed on billboards, in movie theaters and on the backs of buses. Members of her team representing each of the six districts that participated in the campaign also came up with public service videos that were produced by students at one of the local high schools. A few weeks ago, the CWEA invited Roni and another member of her group to speak about the campaign at the annual P3S conference on Feb. 12.
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ECAUSE RONI WAS representing Ironhouse, her accommodations for the week were paid for. We decided to turn it into a mini 2-day vacation, and Glenn went along for the ride. We drove down to Monterey on Monday and checked into the Monterey Tides hotel in Seaside, a place we had stayed several years ago and really liked for its proximity to Monterey Bay. Our third-floor room overlooked the bay, and you could see all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. The weather was expected to bring rain during our visit, but we at least had clear skies for the first day, so we decided to take advantage by driving to the wharf for lunch and some sightseeing.
The first thing that comes to mind on a Monterey visit is clam chowder, so we eagerly made our way along the wharf trying the samples until we settled on Scales Seafood & Steaks. Glenn had his heart set on chowder for lunch. However, we’d tried so many samples that we were nearly full by the time we actually got the meals we paid for. We did our usual window shopping at the gift shops before driving up the road to Pacific Grove in search of the Point Pinos lighthouse and photo ops of the Pacific Ocean along the rocky shores. It was nice visiting on a Monday because the area wasn’t nearly as crowded as it usually is on the weekends.
The lighthouse visitor center was just closing for the day by the time we got there, so our record of not getting to see its insides remains intact. We were able to walk around the outside of the grounds near the public golf course and get a few photos, as well as watch the family of deer foraging for food along the edge of the greens. Perhaps it is that our wanderlust has diminished as we’ve gotten older or that we had been to Monterey within the past two years, but we were ready to head back to the hotel for the evening quite early. We were both too tired to want to go out for food again when dinner rolled around, so we instead dined in the hotel’s restaurant.
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UESDAY MORNING, RONI left early for her conference while Glenn slept in. The conference center was barely half a mile from our room, which was very convenient. We thought we might have time to get in a stroll on the beach once Roni’s speaking engagement was done, but she got back around 1 p.m. and by then it was time for Glenn to find food. (She had already eaten at the conference center.)
The weather was changing and we knew that by tomorrow a huge storm would be arriving, so if we wanted to enjoy any of the other sights we would have to do so that afternoon. We decided to check out the PotStop garden center near Moss Landing, where we had found some fun statuary on our previous visit. But it turned out the shop had moved up the road to a different location. We spent nearly an hour there traipsing around the mud-slicked aisles and shopping the collections of pottery, statues and Mexican trinkets. We fell in love with a couple of gargoyle statues, but our budget didn’t love them quite as much, and so we took home a few lesser objects for our yard.
Glenn still hadn’t eaten and it was getting close to dinnertime, so instead of lunch we decided to have dinner early. We checked out a greasy spoon called the Googie Grill in Seaside and found the food both tasty and reasonably priced — for Monterey, that is.
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EDNESDAY MORNING ARRIVED dark and dreary, and while there had been some rain during the night, things were mostly dry to start the day. We hadn’t gotten in our beach walk yet, so Roni got us up early to take advantage of the break in the weather. We had been watching the news and knew there was a lot of concern about the possibility of flooding. The owner of the PotStop had received an alert about high water levels on the Pajaro River and the possibility of evacuations, but it seemed that none of that came to pass.
The skies were black along the squall line and the wind was whipping up the waves on the bay, sending mist off the whitecaps. Although the seagulls and ducks appeared to be loving it, we weren’t so sure we’d be able to get our walk in before the storm set in. Somehow we got lucky and beat the raindrops, sticking reasonably close to our hotel. We checked out and headed to breakfast at a restaurant called The Breakfast Club.
Though Roni had completed her speaking engagement the previous day, she discovered there was some sort of recognition ceremony on Wednesday around noon that no one had informed her of earlier. So instead of heading for home after breakfast, we drove back to the Embassy Suites and Roni went in to do her thing while Glenn took a nap in the car. The rain clouds had mostly moved on, so we thought we might have missed the worst of the storm for the drive back to Oakley. Not quite. Although we didn’t get the biblical deluge that some had feared, we still caught some rain on Highway 101 headed toward San Jose. But we considered our trip a success and were thankful the weather mostly held out for us.
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E THOUGHT IT would be a cold day in a very warm place before Ben ever said he wanted to purchase an Apple product, so it must be a sign of the coming apocalypse that he caved this month and bought an iPhone XR. We’re not quite sure how the decision came about, except that he was in need of a new phone to replace his damaged Samsung Galaxy S8 and had been comparing models for some time.
It was back during his pre-license days when returning from a driving lesson with Dad that he stepped from the driver seat, cell phone in hand, and the device slipped from his fingers to the concrete driveway below. It naturally landed face-first and suffered a large crack in the screen. While this did not, fortunately, render the phone inoperable, it diminished its trade-in value to something around $0. Considering that he had planned to upgrade to the latest model for his upcoming birthday, this was a disappointing development that left him considering whether to wait out the end of the contract or just replace the phone as soon as he could afford to.
Ben probably would have been happy to buy the Galaxy S9, convinced as he was that Android devices were superior to Apple’s iOS operating system. But something happened on the road to his next phone, and we suspect it was Roni’s iPad. Earlier this month, Ben was rummaging through some of his Pokemon cards in search of barcode numbers he needed to enter for some online app he was using. He had the option of scanning the codes but didn’t have an app on his phone that could scan them, so Roni let him borrow her old iPad. Ben quickly got hooked on the iPad, which found its way into his bedroom for a couple of weeks.
Fast forward to Feb. 22, when at last he got to make his way to Best Buy for his new phone, by now convinced that the iPhone was a viable alternative to his Android phone. Several minutes, bank transactions and contract signings later, Ben walked out with his new, blue, 64GB iPhone XR and a sturdy case to keep it in. Given that he’d dropped his old phone not once, but twice, it didn’t take much to convince him to also purchase the screen protector.
We would be lying to say we didn’t have a bit of phone envy, seeing Ben with his pretty new device. But Roni still has seven months left on her iPhone 8 Plus contract, and Glenn wasn’t planning to upgrade his iPhone 6S until his birthday in July. That was before we found out that AT&T was running a buy-one-get-one offer and we could have picked up another upgrade for free. Too bad we didn’t know that when we got Ben’s phone, or was it?
Well, Roni decided to investigate further, and after a helpful conversation with AT&T’s customer service folks in New Orleans, we were able to take advantage of the 2-for-1 deal and got another iPhone XR for Glenn — this one a 128GB model (in black, so as not to confuse it with Ben’s blue one.) The only disadvantage is that we had to register a new phone line we didn’t need, but for a savings of $750 on the phone itself, it was worth the cost. So now Glenn has two phones, at least temporarily, two numbers, and much more space to store his apps and photos. As for Roni, she plans to upgrade her phone to the iPhone XS a little closer to our Panama cruise, mainly because she sees it more as a convenient camera to take with her everywhere. If nothing else, hopefully all our phone purchases this year will help drive Apple’s stock price higher!
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ND SPEAKING OF stocks, it has been an interesting month as the fruits of our January investing labors begin to ripen in the form of dividends. Eleven companies and eight funds contributed to the cash flow in our IRA and taxable brokerage accounts, while we also purchased shares in Wells Fargo, Lockheed and Blue Apron that pretty much exhausted our investable cash. It was not all good news, however, as both Tupperware and Kraft Heinz cut their dividends and sent share prices for those stocks tumbling. Despite those two big losses, our accounts have grown nearly 8 percent since the start of the year and we are looking forward to even more dividend action in March.
We enjoyed a visit with Glenn’s brother Sean earlier this month when he spent the night with us on Feb. 8. The occasion was the passing of the Surfy Trophy, which is the prize for the brother who wins their annual football picks contest, and this year’s victor was Glenn. Now that Sean is working in Concord, it is a little more convenient for him to get out to see us during the work week, which Ben is grateful for because his own work schedule often keeps him from getting out to Hayward for family visits.
With Sean still around on Saturday morning, he, Roni and Glenn took a walk out at Big Break Regional Shoreline so we could show him the dirt trail that runs along the banks of the river. Unfortunately with the recent rains, the dirt was more like mud. Still there was plenty to see, including the first blush of spring blooms from the almond trees. February is usually when Glenn heads out to the former DuPont property for his yearly blossom walk, but it’s looking like he won’t be going this February for the first time in nearly two decades, mainly because he has been busy with other things and too tired to make the effort.
The other thing that has taken a backseat lately has been progress on our kitchen remodel, although we have hope to change that in March. The tiling of the walls and backsplashes is nearly done, so soon it will be on to laying the floor. With the days getting longer and the weather hopefully improving to allow more time for outdoor work, this winter lull should be about over.
One “home improvement” project we did manage to accomplish this month was to get to the dump and dispose of our growing collection of derelict chairs. The two recliners we retired from the living room with the recent purchase of our sofa set were finally enough of an eyesore on the front porch that we — or rather, Roni — decided they should be loaded into the back of the pickup and carted off to the Pittsburg transfer station and disposed of, along with several old desk chairs that were taking up space in our garage and side yard. The whole load came to $35.50 in dump fees, which was a bargain considering the two recliners alone would have run us $60 if we’d let the garbage company take them for us. We might not think it is such a bargain the next time, however, as we expect several more dump runs this year once we get around to tidying up the rest of the garage and the backyard.