Good Living in Scott Valley

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About 15 years ago we were offered the opportunity to become members of the Hurds Gulch community in Scott Valley.  It was an easy decision to make, and since then we’ve spent increasingly long periods of time at our home there.

Scott Valley is and has been ranch country. On the northern end of the valley is Fort Jones, and 12 miles to the south is Etna. These two frontier towns each have a Ray’s Food Place, library, and within the last few years each has several good restaurants doing lively business. The valley’s farmers’ market is summer only, tiny and vibrant, held on the edge of Etna in parking lot of Dotty’s Korner Kitchen.

So on our last visit, just a week long, we spent most of our time hanging out on the Hurds Gulch property, hiking every day (the property is 2 square miles) and visiting with Gulch neighbors (the property is owned by a co-op of sorts), baking bread, listening to New York, The Novel on Audible, and enjoying the quiet.

Saturday evening we went into town with neighbors Chris and Lynn for supper at 5 Mary’s.  I had the lamb burger–delicious with a spicy chimichurri sauce, while the men had bourbon bacon burgers and Chris the steak salad.  Great fries, too, nice and crispy, as well as a large and varied draft beer assortment.  This bar/restaurant was hopping with every table pretty much full by 6:30.  In this very small community there were many intra-table visits and we were happy to see Canada and Robin, who live part time at the Gulch, stop by.  They’d been at their place draining the pipes as overnight freezes were becoming more common, and were on their way back to their full time place in Mt. Shasta City.

If you have yearned for a slowed down life, one that has deep quiet, no background roar of the city, where it is truly dark at night with no ambient light beyond moon and stars, the closest airport is an hour drive over the mountains (compared to an hour drive through metro traffic), and the DSL service is fast, know it is still possible.  Contact me if you want to know more.

A Certain Type of Executive

I had lunch today with a long time colleague and friend in the health care tech business.  She works for a company recently acquired and had some stories about working with the new management.

This got us around to musing about executives, yes, male, and a personality trait we have both run into many, many times.  This is the trait of “must be handled carefully” and I’d call it epidemic if I weren’t pretty sure this trait has been around forever.

Why, you say, should a senior executive with lots of power (and lots of compensation) need to be “handled” by subordinates?  Gosh, you tell me.

The handling rules center around preserving his status, never making him look bad, inviting him to meetings that he routinely snubs or, worse, joins late and disrupts or sidetracks the discussion, couching all disagreements in the soft cocoon of words like “I am probably off base here, but…”  The handling includes chasing him down for decisions, but of course nicely and respectfully no matter how late, how urgent, or how many times you’ve been put off because he is “too busy” and “too important” to address the issue.

The handling includes moving meeting times because “He’s just landing” or “He’ll join later” (rarely does, and never apologizes for the commotion he’s caused).  The handling includes smiling sweetly when he lectures or rants based on his lack of understanding of basic facts.  The handling includes huddling in the hallway with colleagues to come up with “how” to present bad news or news that conflicts with his beliefs.

So what?

There are a host of ethical, political, and emotional reasons why this behavior is dumb.   But it’s the cost to the organization that is especially maddening–where are the hard-nosed cost hawks when you need them?  Calculate the difference in prep time between outlining the facts and recommendations in a few bullet points versus figuring out how and when to gently introduce the concept that the executive is or is probably wrong.  Calculate the time spent in meetings where a decision isn’t made, freezing action while the “too busy” executive tries to find time to make up his mind.  Calculate the wear and tear on subordinates who must guard against speaking the truth, or even against raising a controversial idea.

Dear executives, GROW UP.  Act like a person with a brain who is aware there are other persons in the world, also with brains.  Stop being such a baby.  Surely your ego is strong enough to take a little blunt talk and a little disagreement, and if you cannot defend your ideas, maybe they’re indefensible.

These probably go without saying…depending on how much you travel

Miscellaneous tips and traps re traveling Portugal and Spain via Airbnb and trains:

  1. The US has laws about how hot tap water can be.  Apparently the EU has not–the hot water everywhere, from the modern apartments to the 300 year old house, was extremely, shockingly hot.  And, so, ALWAYS find out how to use the shower while you have the host there.  We had both annoying and one scary experience with setting the shower temperature (this was a mysteriously designed two level shower, and in the process of turning it off I got shot with hot scalding water at my groin–no harm but yikes).  And ask if you can run any water in the edifice, e.g. to get a drink or flush a toilet, while a person is in the shower.
  2.  Do not expect WiFi on trains–there was none on the high speed train Barcelona to Sevilla; if there is WiFi it will be quirky.  However we did have electricity so have your converter handy, not buried in your bag.
  3. Drink the house wine!  It was uniformly good, and often seemed especially good as food wines.  Funny aside–in Spain the server would ask in response to a request for a glass of vino tinto or vino blanco, “Dry or sweet?  Old or young?”  Never was I asked by varietal, nor were wine lists organized by varietal.  Made it fun and different, and I didn’t have a bad glass the entire three weeks.
  4. If you travel without data service on your cell devices (we do because we are cheap and you can manage without it) and therefore are dependent on the connectivity you have in your abode, remember to download offline GPS-enabled maps (many that are on Maplets, Google, special apps) for when you are out and about.  You cannot get the step-by-step or breadcrumb directions with just GPS, but you have a totally usable map to find your way.  And it’s good practice to not be blindly following step by step instructions or maps.  Look around you and get your head out of your phone!
  5. Book trains in advance to save significant money.
  6. Whenever possible go online for event or museum tickets.  Don’t be daunted by the “must be printed out on paper” warnings…these seem to be obsolete.  The difference between having a ticket you bought the night before and buying one onsite is about a 30-person line, and that was off-season.
  7. Do get the audio tours in places of interest and museums.  Worth the money every time.
  8. If you are traveling by train, DO NOT HESITATE to get on as soon as the doors open. They are not waiting for anyone or anything.  Pay attention to the car number and find it as soon as you can.  Ask a conductor if you’re not sure which direction to head–at least then an official knows you are getting on.  But be quick about it!  We also noticed that the indication on your ticket as to seat number is often labeled mysteriously (e.g., one ticket had “Plaza” as the field label for seat number).

Dogs and sidewalks

Occasionally we walked on plain old concrete pavement, but very often the sidewalks were cobbled or paved in patterns of what appear to be smallish river stones set on edge in the sandy, hard packed soil. In Portugal the walking required constant care not to twist an ankle into a missing cobblestone or step awkwardly from a too narrow “sidewalk” into traffic. (One afternoon in Porto David commented “sure are a lot of broken arms here” and we started noticing yeah, there sure were. Hmmm.). Spain is quite a bit safer but still the pavement, sidewalk, and plaza surfaces are often very lovely and creative.

So here is a little gallery.

Dogs

I may have made my husband a bit crazy, but I just could not stop noticing and snapping pictures of dogs in Spain. A dog trotting down the street with her owner is like a little bit of sparkle in the fabric, a pinch of spice in the urban stew. It is hard not to get a lift from a dog’s clear delight at being out and about. The little white terrier with her tail wagging in the air who keeps glancing up at the guy on the other end of the leash, or the three beagles who could not wait to move on, three noses down on the pavement, the shepherd lying down as if she owns the plaza, calm as can be–got me every time. And gee, dachshunds sure are popular, but often hard to photo as they are so low slung.

And the owners’ reactions to my request “puedo tomar un photo de su perro?” which I was careful to ask if I was up close were also happy-making. One young woman was so excited to see the (adorable) picture I had of her dog burst out “Oh, I love him so much!”

So to please myself and my dog-obsessed daughter, here are some more cute doggies in Spain.

Mezquita magica

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All along we planned to take one day trip from Sevilla to Córdoba and this was the day. We caught an early train, intending to use the travel time to plan our outing and for me to catch up on my travelogue and it worked perfectly.

The stroll into the centro historico was a short 20 minutes made pleasant by the narrow, green, manicured Victoria Park, with a slight jog over to the city wall and the sidewalks paved with small river stones turned on edge in herringbone and other more intricate patterns. We arrived at the puerta that leads to the Mezquita, a cathedral within a mosque built on top of a Visigoth church. The guidebook pictures give you no idea whatsoever of what you are going to experience. The famous double arches, their stripes of marble and brick seem to reach into infinity, the rather dark interior feels otherworldly the relatively low ceilings add to the mystery. Then you walk further into the center and the light begins to change, becomes brighter and brighter, the ceiling climbs from 30′ to 130′. The cathedral, smack in the middle of this forest of columns. It is truly a wow.

The way the building has been preserved shows the respect for all three of the religious sites that have shared the space over centuries.

Many of the remnants of the Visigoth church are displayed, including a section of the mosaic floor that you view through a section of glass floor as it sits well beneath the level of the current building. On top of the endless crucifixions, mournful faces of saints, Mary, and others, a special exhibit near the cathedral shows the martyrdom of a group of Jesuits in 16th century Japan. Seems Spanish Catholicism is especially soaked in violent imagery.

Nonetheless, we felt so lucky to see the Mezquita and walk this beautiful city. Had a great lunch, natch, in a typical Córdoba setting, a lovely restaurant that was built as if it were a 2-story patio, and feasted on fried anchovies, fried bacalau, and a typical dish of the city, an unctuous oxtail stew.  Una experiencia muy linda en una ciudad muy bella.

Portugal and Spain—the dogs

The first difference I noted, on the very first hour as we sat in an outdoor table for lunch with our Airbnb host, was the dogs.

We had seen the typical number of dogs in Portugal (no street dogs, however) and without exception they were pulling their owners down the street or lunging excitedly at other dogs. The few times I approached them I was jumped on, slobbered on, or both. We never saw a dog off leash.  And they were all so off putting that I failed to photograph any of them!

Barcelona dogs, we saw almost all mixed breed except for a notable number of dachshunds, are muy educados, very well behaved. Some pulled or barked at passing dogs, particularly when a dog was guarding his or her building by watching passers-by from a tiny balcony. But all–I think I noted maybe 2 exceptions–trot alongside their owners or sit politely behind while the owner is in conversation. We saw many dogs off leash, both walking alongside or directly behind their people or waiting silently, staring into a shop in order to keep track of their people. A young man crosses a small plaza, a dachshund scampering around, and as soon as the man stops at the curb the dog runs over, responds to a hand signal to wait, and then trots across at his heel.

Big dogs, huge dogs, little mixed breeds or chihuahuas, basically the same assortment in the states, all well behaved. From time to time we heard an owner correct the dog in a warning tone. No lunging, no pulling. Dogs were on trains (including the high speed train to Sevilla on which I am sitting), dogs sitting in outdoor cafes, dogs wearing the Spanish flag in the parade, even a dog gazing at the Roman columns. Los perros de Barcelona son muy educados.

Porto—Let’s Start With The Architecture

Walking through the city is visually entertaining…almost absurdly so.  The city’s building stock is a mix of the falling apart, the beautifully preserved, and obvious gentrification.  Our Airbnb apartment is sparkling new, formerly a printing business of some kind, reached by a broad refinished wood staircase and outfitted in Ikea or Ikea analog modern.  Directly across the narrow street is a renovation in progress—almost every block has such change underway.  Good time to be in the building trades!

One feature of the older buildings is the gigantic-human-figure on a large number of public or quasi-public buildings.  It is a tiny bit creepy…they loom over the population, sometimes posed to be peering down, sometimes crowning the roof.  A few of many:

 

Along with the gorgeous buildings there is an array of street art.  I snapped just a few…but don’t you love that cat?

The river winds between Porto and Gaia, with the iron bridge that allows pedestrians on both levels, walkers sharing with cars on the lower and the metro on the upper.  We walked to Gaia on the upper level, then wandered our way down to river level and crossed on the lower level back to Porto, climbing the long stairway from sidewalk, past both abandoned and occupied buildings wedged along and under the bridge, finally coming out into the city proper.  So glad it wasn’t hot!

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People and vehicles seem to mesh rather well…cars, buses, and trucks always pause for walkers as in Lisbon and Evora, with a fair bit of jaywalking well tolerated.  Many of the streets are so narrow, with extremely narrow sidewalks (one person with a shopping bag wide) that it really couldn’t work any other way.

Of course Porto buildings often show off the gorgeousness tiles for which Portugal is famous, some of which are above.  When we arrived we scooted through the train station anxious to find our apartment, but returned to take it all in and snap a few pictures which do not do it justice.

I look forward to my next post…the food!  Have to go to dinner now.