California, Here I Stay

This month marks the 44th anniversary of my seeing Sacramento for the first time. Since I moved here as a partially formed adult—a project that continues, year after year—I had some sense of comparison to other places I’d lived: New York City for my first eight years, Southern California for my subsequent 18. This town is still my fave.

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Parents Find that College Tuition is Suddenly Negotiable

“Discutir” (diss-coo-tier) was one of my favorite words to conjugate when I took Spanish classes in the fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades. It means “to discuss” or, more to the point, “to bargain.” I pictured myself becoming a worldly traveler someday, saying things like, “¡Qué va! ¡Ni en broma!”—in essence, “Go on! Not even as a joke!”—if street vendors in Mexico would try to get me to pay full price for, say, a death mask made entirely of spun sugar (this is a real thing—and often, a stunningly beautiful piece of craftsmanship).

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Perfection and Presidents: Never the Twain Shall Tweet

When I was four, I learned there was no Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny told me. (This is one of my favorite Dad Jokes). Not long thereafter, when I was about five or six, my mom let me know that everyone dies, sooner or later—she was getting ready to attend a funeral for Sid Kass, a boy a few years my senior who’d been killed in a freak accident at school.

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36 “Intelligent Civilizations” in Our Galaxy.

Researchers think there may be 36 intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way. And while they mention ours, they haven’t worked up much enthusiasm about it.

In “The Astrophysical Journal,” a study credits “scientists at the University of Nottingham” with surmising there are at least “36 communicating intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy”—adding that there may even be more.

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Study Says “Modest Drinking” May Help Brain

The headline of a recent New York Times story intrigued me: “Modest Drinking May Aid Brain.” The Times article was regurgitating another article, from the Journal of the American Medicine Association. The group is jauntily known as JAMA, which to me sounds like the single tense of the word “pajamas.”

The Times and JAMA articles reported on a University of Georgia study that indicated some drinking could sometimes be better than non-drinking for the brain. …

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Monique McDaniel Is Making Up for Lost Time

“I don’t know what I am,” says Monique McDaniel. She’s referring to her ethnicity, not her ethics—and most certainly, not her work ethic. Because at 24 years old, as she preps to jump into the master’s program in Claremont College’s cultural studies department, this young woman, who spent most of her childhood “bouncing around from foster home to foster home,” has put herself on a six-year journey to earn her master’s degree, doctorate degree and then “become a professor so I can help other young people find themselves.”

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Was the Moonwalk a Hoax 51 Years Ago?

Exactly 51 years ago today, the United States landed on the moon and I landed in Bakersfield.

I was there to visit a young woman I’d met at a journalism conference in Anaheim and had taken the Greyhound bus from Long Beach, where I lived in an apartment built in 1926 and last fumigated in 1928, to the town that sometimes called itself Nashville West. The young woman lived there with her sister, the sisters’ divorced mom and the sister’s boyfriend, who dreamt of becoming the first Chinese sumo wrestler in Japan. (As of five years ago, there were only 10 non-Japanese Sumo wrestlers, and seven of those guys were from Mongolia, according to my fact checker, Ida Noh.)

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My Boss Turned 18 on Bastille Day

If you claim to be your own boss, I respectfully submit that you don’t have a cat. Mine, Osborn the Magnificent, turned a staggering 18 years old on Bastille Day, a little more than 72 hours ago.

While he’s been with me since 2007, in 2012 I gained full custody rights in a divorce (to clarify: my own). Ever since then, we’ve been our own bachelor-roommates sitcom, complete with pesky neighbor. This neighbor, who always tried peering into my yard as she walked by, heard Osborn and me arguing about his coming inside to have his dinner late one afternoon. I called him, told him it was time to eat and he meowed something back…

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Do We Really Need 24/7 “Breaking News”?

I’ve decided that 24/7 newscasts on cable TV aren’t much different from the following assessment of Major League Baseball: “There are only 18 minutes of total action in an average baseball game,” according to a Snapple bottle cap, a usually reliable source.

The comment could have gone on to say that those 18 minutes of action get crammed into more than three hours—but how much verbiage can one squeeze into the average bottle cap, which has a diameter of only 1.17 inches? (And in case you’re wondering, the cap’s info came from PolitiFact, an actually reliable source.)

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Maeley Tom’s Book Explains Who She Is

First, it’s very easy for me to tell you my opinion of Maeley Tom’s new book, “I’m Not Who You Think I Am—An Asian-American Woman’s Journey,” because it’s right there in the book’s opening pages of rave reviews.

After reading and making a few suggestions on the manuscript months before the book was published, I called it “a clear-eyed but touching memoir, a guide book on how the inner workings of government in the country’s most progressive state grind along” and “an awesome, very human achievement.”

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Are You an Anti-Semantic? Time to be Outed!

Warning: There are some people out there who are dangerous anti-semantics. Like the ones who think “irregardless” is a fine word, and should be included in our dictionaries.

I’m the exact opposite. Words are my world. Consequently, I spend entirely too much time wondering why we pay doctors, dentists and lawyers so much money to “practice,” then allow one of the latter to represent us at a “trial” which also means an “experiment” or a “test.”

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