Washoe County Republican Precinct Meetings

Saturday I attended the Washoe County Republican Precinct Meeting for my precinct. Two years ago when I attended the Republican caucus for the presidential election there were several hundred people and McQueen High School was overflowing. I would guess that 40 to 50 precincts meet at McQueen High School. There are 261 registered Republicans in my precinct and I have no idea how many Republicans in all the precincts that meet at McQueen.


The meeting started out with all the attendees from all the precincts in the entry way of the High School getting instructions. I would estimate that there were about 50 people in total attending. We split up into our precincts and went to separate rooms for the actual precinct meeting. There were two people from my precinct, myself and another woman. So I was the meeting chairman and she was the secretary. We elected ourselves as delegates to the county convention and central committee. Then we voted in the straw poll for our choices for the senatorial and gubernatorial races. Then we adjourned.

You would think that if you were a hard working well organized candidate you would try to attend the these meetings or at least have someone there representing you. It was interesting to note that only two candidates were represented. It makes me wonder if the other candidates even care about the people they would represent if they were elected.

It was quite impressive that Sharron Angle's husband was handing out campaign literature and she was at the meeting. Sharron Angle is running for the U.S. Senate. Angle and her husband live in our general area. She said she was going  to try to attend  all the precinct meetings around Reno. I think the other represented candidate was Brian Sandoval but I'm not sure. I talked to Sharron briefly and had my picture taken with her. I was impressed with her and I liked the fact that she makes her positions very clear on her web site. Many candidates don't. I was a little put off by the fact that another woman I talked to said that Angle is just too much of a right wing fringe candidate. My politics are probably closer to independent than to Republican but I find the whole political process fascinating.


The straw poll ballots were counted later in the afternoon at the Washoe County Republican headquarters. I got  an email with the results.

Jim Gibbons            45.6%
Brian Sandoval       41.4%
Mike Montandon     12.6%
Brian Krolicki             0.4%

Sharron Angle         42.9%
Sue Lowden            18.4%
Danny Tarkanian    15.2%
Mark Amodei           10.0%
Bill Parson                  5.8%
Brian Krolicki              5.5%
Robin Titus                 1.3%
Chuck Kozak              0.3%
Mike Wiley                  0.3%
Brian Sandoval          0.3%

Quick trip to Sacramento by Train and Bus

I thought about titling this post Sacramento Through the Back Door, a take off on Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door. My back pack was packed and it was on my back as I got on the bus at the Reno Amtrak station.

My oldest daughter lives in Oakland. We recently decided to meet half way between Reno and Oakland for a chance to catch up. I took an Amtrak bus to Sacramento and the Amtrak California Zepher train home. This proved to be a smart move because by the time I headed home a big snow storm had hit us and chains were require on interstate 80 over Donner Pass. The train however was only a few minutes late. It was warm, very comfortable, and very scenic. The only delay was when they positioned a train snowplow in front of us so that the train could follow it over Donner pass.

We had a great time in Sacramneto. We visited two great book stores, Beers Books and The Avid Reader.

Our dinner out was the Sunday night before Martin Luther King Day. It turns out that most restaurants in Sacramento downtown are closed on Sunday night. The restaurant where I finally got reservations was fantastic. Aioli Bodega Espanol is a Spanish tapas restaurant. The ambiance was relaxing. We had a bottle of wine and several different types of tapas and talked non stop solving the problems of the world. Then we went across the street to Crepeville and had crepes for desert.


Breakfast Saturday morning was at the Tower Cafe. The rain was pouring down but they had a heated tent outside where we waited for a table to open up. The breakfast was worth the wait.

My daughter dropped me off at the train station at 11:30 and I was back in Reno about 5pm. We have planed to do a Sacramento weekend again in a couple of months. It was so much fun.

Men to Match My Mountains by Irving Stone

I have read quite a bit of American history over the last year. I've enjoyed it and learned a lot. But everything I have been reading took place in the eastern half of the U.S.  So I decided I wanted to read Men to Match My Mountains by Irving Stone about the explorers and early settlers of California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. I wanted to be able to visit the locations and learn more about the history of the area where I live.


Men to Match my Mountains was written in 1956. The writing is not as compelling as the best current history writing but the story itself is so compelling that the book is a classic. It took me a long time to read. In fact it is overdue at the library. But Men to Match my Mountains filled the bill and enlightened me about history that I knew little about.

It was fun to read about Theodore Judah who laid out the route for the first train route across the Rockies. I followed that route when I took the train back from Sacramento last week.

It was interesting to read about how California was settled by the Mexicans, how the Americans moved in, the enormous role that John Sutter played in settling the area around Sacramento, and how the American Lieutenant John C. Freemont  in 1844 on one of his exploring trips came south from the Oregon border.

"The next two weeks were spent in this frightening death like country until the party reached a thirty five mile long lake which Fremont called Pyramid Lake and from which his men gorged themselves on salmon trout. On this newly garnered strength they pushed through to the present site of Reno and south of that to the Carson River."

Last summer Duke and I explored that area north of Reno in a wonderful road trip.

Virginia City which is a very short drive southeast of Reno was the center of the silver mining that was done on the Comstock Lode. It was fascinating to read how the rich silver deposits were discovered and opened up.

The miners were looking for gold and ignoring the fact that the Mexicans kept talking about how much silver was in the area. B. A. Harrison  from Truckee Meadows collected some rock from the area and sent it to be assayed. The editor of the Nevada Journal in Nevada City, California split it in two parts and sent it to two independent assayers.

"On July 1, 1858 the Nevada Journal published the results of the two assays: the black rock was incredibly rich. It not only proved the Mexican cry of "Mucho plata" with its one third assay of silver, but also contained high proportions of gold, antimony and copper.

Hundreds of miners walked out of the California mines and made their way over the Sierra Nevada on horseback, muleback and foot. The first legal claim office was setup in V.A. Houseworth's saloon. In Gold Canyon the old timers were lost in a flood of newcomers. By mid July all roads and trails over the mountains were jammed with thousands of men pouring into the new fields."

The money that came out of the Virginia City area is staggering. In 1875 "the Consolidated Virginia and adjoining California mine were the richest producing mines in the history of the world." At that time they paid over $1,000,000 a month in dividends  Today Virginia City is a small little town with an economy that seems to be centered only on tourism. What a change.

I'm looking forward to continuing to read about this area and to traveling around to see the sites I am reading about. Can you recommend any good books?

Eric Richert – Knowledge Work Infrastructure Consultant, Former VP of Sun Microsystems iWork and Open Work Programs, Hiker, and Director for Kirkwood Meadow Public Utility District – Episode 9 Marion Vermazen Podcast

Eric Richert – Knowledge Work Infrastructure Consultant, Former VP of Sun Microsystems iWork and Open Work Programs, Hiker, and Director for Kirkwood Meadow Public Utility District – Episode 9 Marion Vermazen Podcast

One of the things that I did when I was working at Sun Microsystems was to help develop tools and systems to give Sun employees the best, most productive and effective work environment possible. The products that we developed included a work from home program, a flexible office program and change management and collaborations tools among other things. The program was called Open Work or iWork and I am very proud to have been a part of it.

My guest on the podcast today is Eric Richert who was my boss  during my last few years at Sun. Eric was Vice President, of Open Work Solutions at Sun.


Eric also is an avid hiker and talks about his recent trip to the Dolomites in our conversation

To listen to the podcast run your mouse over the bar below. You will see a play button that you can click on.


You can find the article by Horst Rittel  which talks about wicked and tame problems here.

There is also a Horst Rittle Melvin Webber article on the same subject here.

The Wikipedia article about Wicked problems is available here.

If you would like to know more about Sun's Open Work program the Sun web page about Open Work is here


Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at University of Nevada Reno

I've lived in Reno for two and a half years and there are Reno places I haven't been and Reno things I haven't done. I made a list. This year I want to do it all.

One place on my list is the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada Reno. We had a friend from the Bay area visiting the last few days. We were going to go snowshoeing but the weather has been kind of crumby (Rain!) so we decided to check out the Planetarium.


The planetarium is relatively small it has a 30 foot diameter dome over a 60 seat theater. The small museum and the gift shop are free and the shows in the planetarium are pretty cheap. As a senior I got in for $4 and my friend got in for $6. We saw The Living Sea show which was OK. The photography was pretty amazing but I thought the commentary was pretty boring. I wish we had done one of the digital starshows.


The free museum and gift shop were really cool. The gift shop had neat stuff like a book on soda pop experiments, ant farms and crystal growing kits. Purchases at the gift shop are tax exempt.

The museum had large rotating earth and moon globes, meteorites, a fascinating display about optical illusions and and a fun black hole demonstrator. For 25 cents we got several ball bearings to drop into the vortex and watch them orbit and accelerate into the hole. 

012 009 


I picked up a brochure about becoming a member of the Friends of the Planetarium and also a membership application for the Astronomical Society of Nevada. The whole visit was fun. I would recommend it.

El Tumi Peruvian Restaurant – Reno

Saturday night Duke and I tried El Tumi Peruvian Restaurant at 585 E. Moana Lane in Reno. The waitress said they have been open since August. El Tumi has a very appealing menu with quite a variety of dishes and lots of pictures. It was very hard to chose what to try.

We finally decided on fried yucca with a tangy green sauce for dipping as as an appetizer. It was very good. For our main course Duke had the fried fish special and I had the broiled Camarones (shrimp). I really liked the Cusquena Peruvian beer. The food was good and the atmosphere was friendly. I think we'll have to go back a few more times and try a variety of dishes to decide whether El Tumi will go onto our list of regular restaurants.


Mango Languages

The Washoe County Library System offers a language learning tool called Mango Languages. It is an interactive languages learning system. I like it a lot, am having fun using it and I find I am retaining what I learn. The library subscribes to the program and because I have a library card I get to use it on my computer at home free. I am studying Spanish but Mango offers basic and complete courses in a long list of languages.


As I work through the course each phrase is broken down into pieces and I am drilled on the words in the phrase and then phrase as a whole. I like that I am not only listening to the language but I am seeing the words. I am a very visual learner when it comes to languages. I can also choose how much repetition I want. In my current lesson I can go through 92 slides in the entire lesson or just do 49 vocabulary slides or 7 phrasebook slides.


If your library offers Mango languages you will find it on your library web site. If you don't live in Washoe County, Nevada then on the Mango Languages home page you can put in your zip code and find a library near you that offers the service

Books Finished in 2010

In 2009 I kept a list on this blog of books that I read during the year. I ended up reading 35 books. I guess if I live to be 90 which will be 33 more years and continue to read an average of 35 books a year I can read 1,120 more books before I die.

I really like being able to see a summary of what I read. It is surprising to me how fast I forget some books without a list to look back on. So today I am starting my list of 2010 books read. By clicking on the book title you can go to my review of the book. This year I don't think I'll write a review of every book.

  1. Eden's Outcasts – The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson
  2. Men to Match my Mountains by Irving Stone
  3. One Man's Wilderness – An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith from the Journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke
  4. The Sign of the Book by John Dunning
  5. Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer
  6. 9800 Savage Road by M.E, Harrigan
  7. Dark Harbor by Stuart Woods
  8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett  ** My favorite book so far this year
  9. Basin and Range by John McPhee
  10. Hothouse Orchid by Stuart Woods
  11. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
  12. John Tyler, The Accidental President by Edward P. Crapol
  13. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – a memoir, a history by Lewis Busbee
  14. Viva la repartee: clever comebacks and witty retorts from history's great wits & wordsmiths by Mardy Grothe
  15. The Language Hacking Guide by Benny Lewis
  16. Blue Water Green Skipper by Stuart Woods
  17. War is Boring: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World's Worst War Zones by by David Axe and Matt Bors
  18. Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow
  19. Short Straw by Stuart Woods
  20. Santa Se Dead by Stuart Woods
  21. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  22. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  23. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  24. The Longevity Prescription by Robert N. Butler M.D.
  25. Blood Orchid by Stuart Woods
  26. Suddenly Sixty by Judith Viorst
  27. Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods

Eden’s Outcasts – The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson

Yesterday the Reno Newcomers Club Book Club discussed Eden's Outcasts – The Story of Luisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson. It was an interesting and thought provoking discussion. Eden's Outcasts is a dual biography of Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson Alcott. It was at times a slog to read especially in the first 200 pages when Mattteson was focused on Bronson Alcott. Almost everyone in the group agreed that they had to set themselves a daily allotment of pages to read and getting through the daily allotment was very difficult.

002 Bronson Alcott was not an easy man to read about.  Matteson said that

"Allcott's wedding day journal entry confirms a general truth about the nature of his awareness. More often than not, Bronson Alcott tended to live more in his ideas than in his skin"

As a result Bronson could not and did not provide for his family. I was disgusted by him. And yet apparently in his time he was a mesmerizing speaker with a lot of friends who stood by him. Perhaps he was like a television evangelist or a charismatic politician.

When Louisa was 10 years old her father moved the family to a run down house and piece of land that they named Fruitlands. There he and a few followers hoped to form a utopian society. Fruitlands was a dismal failure.  Mattesopn says "At the heart of the transcendentalist impulse was the belief that ones own conscience was sovereign" This group of eccentric individualist  "formed a bedlam of good intentions. It seemed the phrase transcendentalist community was something of an oxymoron.

If the family hadn't finally left Fruitlands and depended on the charity of others they would have starved or frozen to death.

In spite of the difficulty of reading this book I liked the book. It was fascinating and thought provoking to read about Louisa May Alcott and what she overcame. She worked as nurse in a civil war hospital and almost died. She probably did in fact eventually die from the treatment she received for Typhoid while she was at the hospital. 

Louisa was in many ways a  feminist. She supported her family, She never married and she really wanted to produce adult literature. I felt very disappointed that she was too ill and died to soon to try.

In Eden's Outcasts Matteson refers to the brilliant Alcott biographer Madeline Stern. I haven't read her biography of Alcott but her book Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion is one of my favorites. It tells about how Stern and her friend  Leona Rostenberg started their rare book business and discovered that Louisa May Alcott wrote and published racey pot boilers in addition to her famous Little Women series. Stern's obituary in the New York Times from August of 2007 is worth reading.

Goals for 2010

When I was working in the corporate world I followed the rule that goals needed to be specific, measurable and have dates associated with them. Now that I am working for myself my goals are much more general and vague and I am good with that! So this year I want to…..

  • Spend more time with friends and family – This is number one and is self explanatory.
  • Blog more – December is usually a bad blogging month for me. This past month I just put up 2 posts. I guess there was too much other stuff going on.  I posted 80 times in 2009. I think I can do better that that in 2010. I was recently invited to cross post at ThisisReno.com which is exciting and inspiring.
  • Hiking / snowshoeing more – I haven't been out hiking in several weeks or out snowshoeing either. I need to get going!

Sierra Canyon snowshoeing Donner Pass 1-12-2009 013 076

  • Podcast more – I think I averaged about one podcast a month last year.  I also want to submit my podcast to iTunes this year.
  • Improve my Spanish – I've been studying Spanish with Duke's help for a while now.  If I work on it every day I will get better. I'm listening to Podcasts like Show Time Spanish, using Mango languages from the library website, working my way through a grammar text book, trying to read Spanish books and magazines, talking to Duke (he is fluent in Spanish), and anything else I can think of. Does anyone have any suggestions?


  • Family History – Keep digging into my family history. Start my family history blog, Contact distant relatives, Find primary sources.


  • Travel – I'm planning a trip with friend to the area around St George, Utah. Duke and I plan to do more exploring on the back roads of Nevada, We'll make lots of shorter trips and for anything beyond that we shall see. The goal though is to travel frequently.
  • Read – I'll keep reading presidential biographies. The next one is John Tyler – The Accidental President. I think I'll keep a list of books read on this blog again this year. I kept a list for the first time last year and it is fun to look back and see what the 35 books were that I read last year.

And then there are the maybes. Things I think I might do next year.

  • I keep thinking I'd like to start a distributed History Book Club. In other words a group of us would get together via Skype or using something like Webex and discuss history and a book we have read. Right now this is just a germ of an idea but I'd be interested in any thoughts people might have about the idea.
  • Start playing the piano again – This will require me to get a piano.
  • Learn more about the geology of Nevada and the rocks I find when we are exploring. Nevada is a wonderful place to be a rock hound. Knowing nothing about geology Duke and I have still collected some great rocks in our exploring.


  • Become a better Amateur Historian – maybe join the historical society, go to the historical places I am studying about, write about what I am learning. Do some history podcast interviews.
  • Write more about history. My friend Beverley Bryant tells her grandson stories form History. I like the idea.
  • Seize opportunities to do new and interesting things.