Blue Apron Journey, Week 2

May 4, 2015

Week 2, Meal 1 (4/29/15)

Sirloin Tip Steaks with New Potato, Asparagus, & Radish Hash

My second BA box showed up. As I unpacked it, I had the following responses:
1) “Fennel!” (which I couldn’t even recognize until last week)
2) “Radishes!” (which I didn’t know could be cooked until last week)
3) “Parsley?” (which until tonight, I thought was just another disposable garnish, but approached with a freshly-opened mind based on having recently overcome my Radish bias)

2015-04-29 Sirloin Tip Steaks1
2015-04-29 Sirloin Tip Steaks2

The Rich-o-Meter rates this a strong 4.5 (out of 5), tied with last week’s Almond-Crusted Cod for things he’d like me to try again (from scratch !?!).

Week 2, Meal 2 (5/1/15)

Dukkah-Spiced Salmon with Spring Vegetable & Oyster Mushroom Ragout

Tonight I faced the scariest ingredient to date: Celeriac. This thing has everything going against it: I’ve never heard of it, its name sounds like a disease requiring a gluten-free diet, it’s really, really ugly, and I had no idea what tools I should use to prep it. I googled it and overcame my fear when I learned that it’s nothing more than a fancy, unfortunately-named, root-based relative of celery. I confirmed its heritage with a quick sniff check, peeled it like a potato, whacked off the nasty root end, chopped the rest into bite-sized chunks, and now I can embrace it the same way I have the radishes.

2015-05-01 Dukkah-Spiced Salmon2

That said, tonight’s meal was by far the highest-effort and most adventurous meal so far. It got mixed reviews on the Rich-o-Meter (overall rating of 3): Plus points because he liked it in spite of the salmon (which isn’t one of our favorites), and Minus points for too much fennel (note to self: it’s OK to adjust and toss the extra if the fennel bulb in this box is significantly larger than the one you learned on in the last box). Oh, and I still need practice with the zester, although tonight’s injury was trivial compared to the first one.

2015-05-01 Dukkah-Spiced Salmon1
2015-05-01 Dukkah-Spiced Salmon3

On a side note, this conversation happened tonight:
Me: “I know you’re busy, but sometime after the race bikes have left on the ship for the Isle of Man, we need to take our knives to the knife-sharpening guy at the Cotati Farmer’s Market.” (The last time we did that was several years ago.)
Him: “If it’ll keep you cooking like this, I’ll take care of that next week.”

Week 2, Meal 3 (5/3/15)

Laotian Larb Gai with Sticky Rice, Peanuts & Mint

Two weeks ago, I didn’t know how to cook and I didn’t care about learning. One week ago, I was rewarded by some early successes with my Blue Apron kits, but assumed my ADD-driven curiosity would quickly wane. Tonight, I’m truly looking forward to my next delivery on Wednesday (it’s Mexican week!). I’ve no doubt that my serotonin-deficient brain chemistry will ultimately prevail, but my interest has already lasted a week longer than expected. I still don’t know HOW to cook, but thanks to pre-measured ingredients and excellent instructions, somehow I actually AM cooking (in spite of myself).

Tonight’s Laotian meal rated 4 on the Rich-o-Meter. And yes, as my friends predicted, the “how can I make it better” has kicked in: I was faced with a plateful of raw cabbage, which neither of us care for. Undaunted, I pulled out a bottle of Comfort’s Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing to salvage (well, disguise) that part of the meal – success, no cabbage went to compost!

2015-05-03 Laotian Larb Gai1
2015-05-03 Laotian Larb Gai2

Week 2 Wrap-up

  • I cooked some more
  • It was still good
  • Week 3, bring it on!

Blue Apron Journey, Week 1

April 27, 2015

Week 1, Meal 1 (4/22/15)

Almond-Crusted Cod with Snap Peas & Radish-Red Quinoa Salad

Inspired by the posts of friends, I signed up for the Blue Apron meal kit delivery service. I don’t cook, but I can follow directions and assemble kits so I thought I’d give it a shot. My first attempt didn’t look much like the picture (because I forgot to refer to it before I shoveled the food onto the plate), but it tasted pretty darned good. Rich (my husband) concurs, and trust me, he wouldn’t hesitate to tell me otherwise. I only suffered one injury (need a little more practice with the zester), which isn’t bad considering I repeatedly tempted fate with knives and hot olive oil.

Week1Meal1 Almond-Crusted Cod

But damn, what to do with all of the packaging? Definitely not earth-friendly, which is ironic because today is Earth Day. Shipping box? Recycle. Ice packs? Reuse and Freecycle or donate after the first week or two. But what about all of the little plastic zip-lock bags? And the huge foil insulated bag? I finally found the Blue Apron recycling guide. Not perfect, but better than nothing.

Week 1, Meal 2 (4/24/15)

Spring Casserole with Fennel, Asparagus, and Golden Raisins

Until about an hour ago, I had never cooked a casserole, had no idea what fennel was (let alone that it is disturbingly reminiscent of “Wilson” from Castaway), and didn’t know that béchamel sauce was even a thing. But here it is, the before and after pic of tonight’s Spring Casserole with fennel, asparagus, and golden raisins (in béchamel sauce).

2015-04-24 Spring Casserole1
2015-04-24 Spring Casserole2

Spousal Responses (after taking the obligatory and safe half-portion):

  1. Hm, I took the first bite in the kitchen assuming it would need more salt. It doesn’t.
  2. Damn, I’m glad there’s more.”

Week 1, Meal 3 (4/26/15)

Sweet and Sour Vegetable Stir-Fry with Radishes, Bok Choy, and Pink Rice

I want to summarize the results of week 1.

  1. Aside from lack of passion, there are many reasons I don’t cook: (a) I have no imagination for ingredients and no idea what to do with them; (b) I don’t want to buy a 16-oz bottle of X because a recipe calls for 1 tsp; (c) I’m terrible at planning, making decisions, and shopping – grab ‘n go at Trader Joe’s or Oliver’s is so much easier. Blue Apron probably won’t overcome my overall apathy for learning this skill, but it has addressed the other problems I mentioned.
  2. We’re expanding our food horizons. In addition to the fennel example I posted earlier this week, we have this: Rich and I both hate radishes. Raw, that is. Until this week, neither of us had any clue that they were good for anything other than garnish or things to pick out of your salad. Now I know how to cook them, and surprise, we like them!
  3. Tonight, I learned how to recover from mistakes. Mistake #1: When step 1 of the recipe is to simply cook rice, just use the rice cooker so you don’t have to worry about that timing while you prepare the rest of the meal; Mistake #2: 1/2-cup isn’t the same as 1/4 cup (time to fix those glasses), especially when you’re adding the ponzu/cornstarch/water mix to the final phase of the stir-fry. Solution: throw the excess stir-fry goop into the rice that wasn’t quite timed right and turn it on High.
  4. Inspired by a friend’s question, we are not only keeping the recipe cards, we are rating them so that we can decide which ones are worth repeating in the future.

Here is tonight’s triumph:

2015-04-26 Sweet and Sour Vegetable Stir-Fry1
2015-04-26 Sweet and Sour Vegetable Stir-Fry2

Week 1 Wrap-up

  • I cooked
  • It was good
  • I’m looking forward to Week 2

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 7 – Aftermath, Race Photos, and What’s Next?

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 6 – Race Day, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had overcome a series of ridiculous obstacles and had earned a 64th-place finish (out of 90 starters) in the 2014 Manx Grand Prix with a 1992 Suzuki GSXR 1100 that was built in our garage. The bike and tools are packed and ready for shipping, so now they can enjoy the awards banquet and three days of sight-seeing and visiting friends.

Awards Banquet

As I mentioned in the last post, Rich reported that Wade was able to hobble up to the podium to accept credit for his 64th place finish. Just surviving the race is such an accomplishment that everyone who finishes gets acknowledged at the banquet. Rich also pointed out that the awards banquet had a nice pub, and that the Barkeepers give the racers one heck of a pour.

Three days as Tourists

Until the race was in the books and the crates packed, every moment was spent overcoming adversity and tending to business, which included daily laps of the island in the rental car to familiarize Rich with the course. As I mentioned earlier, those laps were critical to giving him the perspective he needed to interpret to the feedback he was getting from Wade and make appropriate tuning adjustments to the suspension and the engine. But they didn’t really count as touring.

With three days to relax before their flight home, our heroes finally had a chance to relax and be tourists. Among other things, Rich reported these field trips:

  • The IOM actually has three race courses and we hot lapped each one in our rent’a’racer.
  • We also spent a nice afternoon visiting Peel, one of the oldest towns – as a Left-Coaster, it’s hard to get used to grave markers that list DOD as 1400-something
  • Lunched in Ramsey sitting by the quay enjoying the sea air and just relaxing.
  • Met up with Peter and Jean Tucker, locals who have known Wade since the mid-1990s but didn’t manage to cross paths until after the race. Peter later sent me this photo of the four of them.Tucker10

Race Photos

After Wade and Rich got home, I scoured the internet for photos and found these gems. Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online, you ARE the man! As always, click on the photos to see the full-res version – trust me, it’s worth it, especially for the Ballaugh Bridge photo.

Town of Kirk Michael, Practice, Thursday 8/21

Gooseneck, Practice, Friday 8/22. Note his left hand shading his eyes against the sun!

Creg-ny-Baa, Race, Friday 8/29

And of course, the one you’ve all been waiting for, the iconic Ballaugh Bridge airborne shot, Wed 8/20 (his first day on course). Remember, he’s about to land on a broken right foot!


Getting home seems anti-climatic after what they’ve been through. I know, you probably expected to hear that the volcano in Iceland stranded them for weeks. Or that their plane vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. Or that the cargo ship sank with all of the Team USA bikes aboard. But none of that happened. Wade and Rich made it home as scheduled without incident, and they calmly cooled their jets for 2-1/2 months until the ship with the bikes wandered into port just before Thanksgiving. BTW, here’s what the shipping crate looked like when it showed up in the driveway on the trailer after being picked up from the Port of Oakland, with tool boxes and lifts stuffed in every nook and cranny..

Crated Suzuki Front

What’s Next?

Well what else, planning for 2015. Our motto is, “If one was good, more will be better.” We had hoped to bring four bikes in 2015, but two of them didn’t work out. One was recently denied entry by the organizers (for reasons that are unclear to me – politics?). At least this year, we got that word in advance of shipment – last year, Wade shipped the bike and was denied entry after it showed up. The other (a Classic Moto-Guzzi) didn’t get finished in time because the engine builder wasn’t able to meet the deadlines. As I write this, the following bikes have been entered and accepted in the event, and are currently undergoing final prep for shipment:

  • “Betty Boop”, the 1992 Suzuki GSXR750 we’ve grown to love in this tale, will be making a repeat appearance, but in the Classic TT Formula 1 race instead of the Senior Manx GP. She has a new engine, but the venerable eBay motor will be along for the ride as a spare.
  • “Purple Yam”, the 2015 Yamaha R6 that spent about 10 minutes in its new-from-the-showroom configuration before it was unceremoniously stripped and rebuilt with all new parts and bodywork, will be entered in the Junior Manx GP.

Yes, all of the bikes have nicknames. Just like our pets.

In 2015, the goal is to win a replica award. These are special trophies given at three levels – Gold, Silver, Bronze – only to those who finish within a percentage of the winner’s time.

You can bet there are more episodes of this Isle of Man Adventure to come!

Photo Credits

All photos on course (Ballaugh, Creg-ny-Baa, Gooseneck, Kirk Michael) – Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 4 – The Engine Adventure

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 3 – Practice Week 1, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we left our heroes, they had gotten the bike on course at the Isle of Man, having overcome many personal injury and shipping obstacles, and then spectacularly blown the engine just short of meeting the qualification requirements for the race.

The insanity of the next 48 hours is best summed up by a simple chronology. I swear, I haven’t embellished, I didn’t need to. You just can’t make this shit up. Except as noted, all times are UK time (8 hours ahead of us).

Sunday 8/24 (my time, PDT)

3:22am – Perhaps you remember, we had a little earthquake here in Northern California. Epicenter in American Canyon, about 20 miles from my house (as the crow flies).

3:28am – Text exchange:
Me: “Earthquake! Don’t know size yet. We’re fine.”
Him: “Where would be good.” (Wade lives in San Francisco, and his wife was at home…)
Me: “6.0 American Canyon. All FB posts so far have been North Bay folks.”
Him: “Well you have totally scared Wade and me. IOM bites us, but Mother Nature is out to get you. Please try to have things sorted out before we get home ;-)”

7:30am – Text exchange:
Him: “Please check on, seller Pete Stansfield, GSXR engine, 350 GBP.”
Me: “Found it, but it’s in North Yorkshire. Don’t know how you could possibly get it in time.”
Him: “Call him and let him know it’s for a Manx rider who needs it now. Just trying. People all over are trying.”

I email and call the guy (Pete) – he (and all of the UK) are on holiday until Tuesday, no way to transport the motor, he won’t be home until Monday. Looking bleak.

Pete emails me back and says he’d be available Monday after 2pm if Rich can figure out a way to get there. Side note: I’m amused by Pete’s concern that he’s “clear on the other side of the country” from Liverpool. So I googled it – 120 miles, roughly the distance from my house to Placerville. Couldn’t stop chuckling about that, it’s definitely all about perspective.

Rich and I figured out that he could fly to Liverpool, rent a car, drive to the “other side of the country”, pick up the engine, drive back, and take it back to the island on the ferry (presumably on a hand-truck, which they brought with them). All in a day’s work.

I let Pete know that’s what we’re going to do. He further adjusts his timeframe and says he’ll be available after noon.

Monday 8/25 (UK time)

12:01am – Rich confirmed he has reservations for the flight, the rental car, and the return ferry.

5:30am – Rich and Kenny (a new friend/helper from Team USA) leave for the airport

7:00am – Flight from Isle of Man to Liverpool

8:00am – Rental car procured, R&K are on their way to Malton (east of York)

10:00am – R&K arrive at Pete’s house (2 hours early), whereupon they inspect the engine and execute the transaction. And because they are hours ahead of schedule to catch the return ferry, they accept a gracious offer from Pete and his wife to join them for a lovely country breakfast prior to their return to Liverpool. Here are the two of them at Pete’s shop, ready to load the engine – nothing scary about that greasy lump of steel…

11:00am – Engine loaded in the rental car, R&K headed back to Liverpool. All systems go!

Or not.

3:30pm – Officious twit at the ferry won’t let them take the engine as carry-on (on the hand truck), and it’s too heavy for the baggage conveyor. Please note that this twit was not much more than a ticket-taker; the baggage loaders (most of whom were women) were more than happy to cooperate and help load the lump of steel, but they couldn’t take the risk of being turned in by the twit (who wasn’t a superior, but WAS a known dickhead). The ferry is full, so they can’t bring the rental car. Last option seems to be to make friends with someone parked in the car-loading queue and convince (bribe?) them to load the engine in their vehicle. Highly illegal of course, but what other choice do they have?

5:00pm – Rental car somehow made it on the ferry as Standby. R&K will have to figure out how to get it back to the mainland another time. (Most Expensive Hand Truck, Ever!!!)

8:22pm – Confirmation from Rich that they (Rich, Kenny, the rental car with the engine) are all loaded up on the ferry and ready to go.

8:30pm – Scheduled departure time

9:23pm – Text from Rich: “Ferry has broken down, engine trouble.” Really? We haven’t had enough engine trouble already?

10:14pm – Text from Rich: “Paging for a doctor/nurse because someone on the ferry has collapsed”. OMG, when is this going to stop?

Tuesday 8/26 (UK time)

12:51am – After sitting on the broken ferry for over 4 hours waiting for news/instructions, they have now been offloaded and are driving 70 miles to another port (Heysham) where a different ferry awaits them. Not a fresh empty ferry, but an equally full ferry that had been held awaiting these new passengers and vehicles.

2:30am – Text from Rich: “Loaded on the new boat, wall to wall people and vehicles.”

3:05am – Boat finally sails, due to arrive at 6:20am. Now I’m watching CNN, hoping not to learn of a tragic overloaded ferry accident in the Irish Sea.

6:30am – The precious engine has arrived on shore, 8 hours after its intended arrival. Meanwhile, back on the island, Wade and a pick-up crew of Team USA mechanics had been busily uninstalling the broken motor from the bike and preparing it for the replacement. Rich handed off the eBay motor to the transplant team and promptly went to sleep for a few hours.

Pete somehow got this great photo of Wade waiting with the gutted frame. Note he’s being a good boy with his broken foot elevated.

12:00pm – Rich wakes up, but can’t get to the pits to help or monitor status until the current race is over because it’s on the other side of the course and there’s no crossing. There is some good news, however: because of Monday’s postponements for weather, the schedule has been shifted and compressed. The result is that their practice today is canceled (they wouldn’t have made it anyway), so now they don’t have to feel bad about missing it.

11:30pm – text from Rich (yes, nearly 12 hours later…) – “It lives again!” Woo hoo!!!

Facebook Post 8/26 (my time, after I knew the bike was running):

“Grand adventures cannot happen without great challenges. I guess it wasn’t enough that in the prior 6 months, both Rich (bike owner/builder) and his friend Wade (veteran IOM racer) were taken out in separate motorcycle crashes. The events of the last 10 days have increased the degree of difficulty exponentially (and they aren’t even remotely out of the woods yet), spawning two new definitions of “bucket list trip”:
— a trip so filled with drama and hurdles and setbacks and stress that you’ll be lucky if you don’t kick the BUCKET before it’s over.
— a trip so important, with a growing team of supporters so dedicated and tenacious and unflappable, that it’s worth throwing BUCKETS of cash at it just to keep the dream alive.
Trust me, I WILL blog about this in great detail when it’s over, with input from Rich when he gets home. Whenever that might be, because there’s another ice volcano in Iceland that is threatening to blow with the potential to ground all trans-Atlantic flights again (remember 2010?). Until then, I’ll be keeping a relatively low profile to avoid jinxing this trip even more.”

Yeah, I guess the accidents and the UPS nightmare and the engine blowing and the Napa Valley earthquake weren’t quite enough. Iceland had to add some volcanic ash into the mix.

Next up: Part 5, Final Race Prep

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 3 – Practice Week 1

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 2 – Getting There, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we left our heroes, they had arrived at the Isle of Man, having overcome significant personal injury and shipping obstacles. After a full day of thrashing, they were finally ready to put the bike on the one and only Isle of Man Mountain Course.

Finally, the bike goes on course

On Wednesday, August 20, I finally got great news: after a thrash on Tuesday and Wednesday to get everything installed, they passed tech inspection and Wade took the bike out on course for the practice session at 7:05pm. Lap time 25:47.279, ave speed 87.785. The bike needs a few minor tweaks, but is otherwise running fine. Other teams have rallied to their cause and are sending mechanics to help, and the organizers really want him to run so they’re being lenient with some of the qualification requirements. Wade’s foot is holding up (as long as he doesn’t walk too far) and Rich reports that he (Wade) is grinning from ear to ear. Thomas (our new German friend) took this photo at 6:24pm – they look confident and ready to go, even before the initial success!

From Thomas Aug 20 18.24

On a much more grim note, Rich texted that a rider who was staying next door to their B&B digs at Roundhay crashed in practice and was killed. This is the reality of the Isle of Man, and substantiates its reputation as the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world.

Hurry up and wait

Practice on Thursday, August 21, cancelled due to rain. This is another huge setback, because in order to qualify for the race, riders must have 5 laps on the bike and at least one lap time under 23:00.

The rain day wasn’t a complete waste, though. When Rich and Wade arrived, with both of them in rather tenuous states of physical disrepair, they made the wise decision to rent a car to get them around the island. As it turned out, this was as much a strategic decision as practical. Every day, when the roads were open to the public, they drove around the course at least once, sometimes twice. These “laps” gave Rich an invaluable opportunity to learn the course through Wade’s eyes, which enabled him to visualize the feedback Wade gave him after each practice session on the bike and then make educated adjustments to the suspension.

On Friday, August 22, they made practice and Wade posted a lap time of 22:17.111, ave speed 101.583. Whew, he made time, but still doesn’t have enough laps. No worries, there’s another practice session next week to get that required lap, right? Maybe…

Hubris and Social Media

On Friday August 22, I stumbled on a photo of Wade on a Twitter feed and posted it on Facebook with this comment: “This is happening right now! Rich built this race bike from the ground up and he’s currently on an uber-bucket list adventure at the Isle of Man, where his friend Wade Boyd has just qualified for the Senior Manx GP race next week with a top speed of 145mph. They had SO many challenges to get there (Rich’s crash in March, Wade’s crash in June, shipments with forks and body parts not arriving until Day 3 of practice), but it’s all working now (except for a nagging clutch-slipping problem) and Wade is getting faster every day of practice. The race is a week from today.”


The fellow standing next to Wade is Thomas, the benevolent German I mentioned in Part 2, who helped so much during the entire stay (including pushing the bike around so that our injured heroes didn’t have to).

Engine Disaster

On Saturday August 23, everything blew up. Literally. No better way to convey than by publishing my text exchange with Rich with some Twitter accompaniments:

Him: “Wade is out for a practice lap. A bit hard to sit around and wait 25 min for him to show back up. The hand-wringers, me included, are everywhere. Upside? Full bar in the paddock.”

Me: “I wondered about that.”

Him: “Yep, here I sit having an Irish Whiskey. There’s a red flag so time to worry. I’ll let you know what’s up.”

At that point, I checked in with Twitter and found this:
@iom_tt: delay due to oil spill on road. More info when we have it

Me: “Oil spill in Crosby = red flag”

Him: “Yep, was us. Sawed the engine in two. May have a loaner, otherwise we watch.”

More Twitter:
@iom_tt: Oil on road at Gorse Lea – we’ll continue with programme as soon as the course is clear
@iom_tt: 45 mins to 1 hour delay until Joey Dunlop parade can start – standing down for now
@iom_tt: No further practices tonight – detergent on road makes road unsafe for race bikes. Parade lap will go ahead, if possible

Me: “I’ll give you credit, he oiled the course so spectacularly that they canceled the rest of practice!”

Him: “Hey, we yanks don’t mess around.”

This photo was posted on Twitter: “Marshalls to stand on whiteline and direct riders over to clean side of road.” I can’t be certain, but I’m guessing that was our line of goo.

Line of Goo

Naturally, I blamed myself and my moment of hubris on Facebook for this disaster, and followed up on Saturday with this post: “CRAP!!! I’m not usually superstitious, but my instincts were to not post much about the Isle of Man until it was over. My excitement about seeing the photo got away from me yesterday. Today they blew the motor. Hoping to find a loaner, but they may have become spectators. DOUBLE-CRAP!!!”

Next up: Part 4 – The Engine Adventure

Photo credits:

Wade and Thomas in the pits – Anthony Robert (Photo Mannx)

Line of Goo – Mark Kneen – @markkneeniom (or maybe Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online)

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 2 – Getting There

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 1 – Background, you know how this story started. If not, I suggest you go back and find out. When we left our heroes, they were scrambling to prepare a 1992 Suzuki GSXR750 for shipment to the the Isle of Man to race in the Manx Grand Prix. But then…

The Bike Builder Takes a Dive

On March 5, Rich low-sided his Moto Guzzi on a stretch of damp eucalyptus-oily road near Tomales and fractured his pelvis in three places. He spent three days in the hospital and the next 8 weeks in a hospital bed at home with strict orders not to bear any weight on the affected side. He knew full well what was at stake if non-compliance led to delayed healing, so he followed those orders to the letter. His only activities during that time were transferring to the wheelchair to get to the bathroom, and doing the in-bed exercises given to him by the home physical therapist.

His patience and compliance paid off and he was back on his feet by the beginning of May (and back in the saddle by May 18). But he couldn’t recover for the lost time when he should have been finishing up the bodywork and forks for the bike. He was up and about in time for the June date when the bike was loaded onto the shipping container at the Port of Oakland (along with several other bikes from Team USA) for the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, but the bulky body work and heavy race forks weren’t included in the container. They would have to get there a different (and far more expensive) way.

Back in the Saddle

But then…

The Rider Gets Taken Out

On June 15, Wade and Rich made their non-refundable airplane reservations for the round trip. Less than a week later, we got word that Wade had been hit by a pick-up truck on the streets of San Francisco and pitched off his bike, suffering a concussion, fractures in his back, and a broken ankle and foot. The date of the accident was exactly 8 weeks before they were scheduled to fly.

The shipping dilemma caused by Rich’s accident was easily mitigated (or so we thought) by throwing money at a solution. But Wade’s injuries put the whole adventure at risk. Could he recover in time? How would he tolerate a 19-hour flight? Would he be able to ride, let alone race? Given the timing and his doctor’s orders, they wouldn’t even know until they got there and tried.

Rich gave him the stern lecture about compliance (based on his own experience and success), and Wade reluctantly agreed to follow his doctor’s orders regarding weight-bearing. And at this point, my good friend Sarah, who specializes in rehab (both human and canine), stepped in to help. Using Rich as her human subject, we recorded a series of videos with a progression of exercises for Wade to follow as soon as he was cleared by his doctor to begin therapy.

In theory, it was great news that the injury was to his right foot – all it had to do was to tolerate a race boot, stay on the foot peg, and maybe brake from time to time (most of the braking is done by the right hand). Had it been his left foot (which works the shifter), there would have been greater cause for concern. But here’s the kicker: this isn’t just any ordinary race. There are several places on the Isle of Man course where the rider and bike are airborne, and BOTH feet are critical in the success of the landing. This was the thought that kept them both awake at night as they prepared for their departure.

Our heroes were determined to overcome all of the odds and prevail, and things were looking pretty good, all things considered.

But then …


On July 28, Rich worked closely with The UPS Store in Santa Rosa to carefully pack and air-freight the bodywork (at considerable personal expense). He and the proprietor had long discussions about the fact that these items were not for resale or other commercial use, and were only for personal use in conjunction with a race bike that was already there. The UPS Store owner assured him that (a) the parcels would be there well before he and Wade arrived on August 16, and (b) they would not be assessed VAT/Duty/whatever it is. Off went the three large boxes (to the tune of about $1000).

On August 4, Rich was notified that the parcels were stuck at UK Customs, and had been assessed a $1000 duty charge. For the next week, the store owner insisted he could fix the problem but he failed miserably. He eventually conceded defeat on August 13 and recommended Rich just pay the fee and try to recover it later. We paid it, and sent word to our hostess on the Isle (Ros) to pick up the parcels.

But then…


Late Thursday night, as Rich was preparing to leave for the airport, we received an urgent distress message from Ros that the parcels were no longer on the island. They had been returned to the UK in anticipation of returning them home for non-payment of the tax. So at 7:30am on Friday, as Rich and Wade took off from SFO headed to the Isle of Man, try to imagine their state of mind: for Wade, the trip itself is old hat – he’s raced there for nearly 20 years. For Rich, going to the Isle of Man is the dream of a lifetime. They have both overcome significant setbacks from recent injuries and have accepted the resultant uncertainties. But thanks to the epic failure of The UPS Store, the uncertainty has been raised to a new level and is beyond their control – they already know they are arriving to a bike that can’t be raced because it doesn’t have body work or forks, and they don’t yet know if Wade’s foot and ankle have healed enough to race. Hard to avoid the bitter expectation that the whole trip would be for naught.

In the meantime, I went directly to The UPS Store on Friday morning and met with the owner. He showed me an email he had received from the UK acknowledging receipt of the money and assuring him delivery would proceed immediately.

But neither of realized that “immediately” is a relative term when you’re dealing with the Isle of Man. I got word from Ros that she had been in touch with the agent on the island, and the best possible case for delivery was Tuesday morning. TUESDAY, August 19. Two weeks after the boxes were supposed to have gotten there, three days after Rich and Wade would arrive, and worst of all, well into the third day of mandatory practice (having already missed Saturday and Monday). Regardless of how madly they scrambled to prepare the bike after getting the boxes, there simply wasn’t enough time to pass tech inspection in time for the Tuesday practice session at 7:05pm. The dream seemed to be fading at a precipitous rate.

The airport and the flight

I love the image of the two of them at the airport: Wade has a boot on his right foot, he’s walking with the assistance of a cane, and he’s using a wheelchair for most of the distance runs. Rich is still limping, probably should have been using a cane, and is Wade’s “able-bodied attendant” through security and pre-boarding. They’re both wearing full-leg support hose to avoid blood clots on the long flight, and they are both under strict orders from Sarah to walk the aisles and do their lower leg calisthenics during the flight. As if they didn’t have enough stress, here’s a tidbit I didn’t know until much later: apparently, the Tech Inspection tent is at the top of a 1/4-mile hill, similar in steepness to our driveway (which is manageable but not trivial), and you aren’t allowed to ride the race bikes up the hill. The bikes have to be inspected before every on-track session. Aside from everything else they had to worry about, they had absolutely no idea how they were going to push the Suzuki up the hill once, let alone again and again.

UPS Not Done Failing

When Rich got word on Tuesday morning that the parcels had actually arrived, he showed up to pick them up and was informed that the $1000 duty had not been paid. So he paid it AGAIN. As I write this in May, we’re not done with The UPS Store in Santa Rosa. As I see it, somebody stole $1000, there’s another $1000 that should never have been assessed, and the $1000 it cost to ship the boxes should be refunded because they didn’t manage to get it there as promised. But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, back on the island, Rich and Wade and an assortment of ad-hoc volunteers have thrashed through Tuesday in order to have the bike ready for tech inspection and practice on Wednesday. One stand-out in the volunteer is an amazing (and imposingly large) German fellow named Thomas, who has taken on the bulk of the bike-pushing activities. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that this bike has never turned a wheel under power, let alone under any sort of race conditions. It went from the bench in Rich’s shop to a dyno at Mammoth Motorsports to a crate in a shipping container to the pits at the Isle of Man. This whole adventure is truly a leap of faith.

Next up: Part 3, Practice Week 1

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 1 – Background

February 4, 2015

As long as I’ve known Rich, he’s been obsessed with the Isle of Man, a tiny self-governed fiercely-proud democratic “Crown Dependency” in the middle of the Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain.

Isle_of_Man_TT.svgHis fascination is not so much with the Isle itself, but with a racing event held there since 1907: The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race, aka “The TT“. This race, which runs on a 37.5 mile course through the narrow town streets and country roads on the island, has been characterized as the World’s Most Dangerous Race. Lest you think that’s hyperbole, this video will likely convince you otherwise (I recommend you view Full Screen):

His hero is Joey Dunlop, an icon at The TT for 15 years from 1996 until his untimely death in 2000 at the age of 48. For years, a mounted/matted map of the Isle of Man decorated our condo in Novato, along with a poster of Joey. When we moved to Petaluma, the posters moved to his shop in the side yard.

I’ve always known his bucket list included a trip to The TT, and in the summer of 2013, I decided to help him make it so. I posted this on Facebook on 6/7/13:
“One of the items on Rich’s bucket list is to attend the Isle of Man TT, and I want to help him realize this goal. He’s a serious fan – has a poster of Joey Dunlop in his shop! We have a friend who hails from the island and I’ve sent him a Linked In message. But I also want to reach out to my Facebook friends across the pond to see what other resources I might tap into. I’m looking for a full-service experience – bike rental (or loan), places to stay, local knowledge and experience, etc.”

I got all sorts of responses, including people who knew people who could help. But as it turned out, Rich managed to stumble into a different and even more incredible plan, from which the rest of this adventure stems.

Rich has always been a wheeler/dealer. He truly has a knack for it and though he doesn’t always come out profitably, he usually ends up happy with the result. One of his deals through a friendship with a couple of motorcycle racers in Colorado netted him two identical race bikes: one crashed and one with a blown motor. He took on the project of combining them into one serviceable semi-vintage race bike – a 1992 Suzuki GSXR750. He didn’t really have a plan for this bike, except maybe to find a local rider with a racing license to ride it in some track days at Sears Point (or Infineon or Sonoma Raceway or whatever it’s called today).

On a completely unrelated note, Rich rejoined the infamous Sunday Morning Ride on the Marin County coast a few years ago. He first encountered the ride in the late ’60s, and after taking a break to pursue car racing, he became a regular rider in the 80s and early 90s. He gave it up abruptly after Mothers Day in 1994 when 3 of his friends were killed in a single tragic accident. After a break of nearly 20 years, he rejoined the ride a couple of years ago and reconnected with several old friends from his earlier days on the ride. Among those friends was Wade Boyd, son of the late Bill Boyd. Bill was an accomplished motorcycle racer, a legend on the Sunday Morning Ride, and was one of Rich’s best friends from the earlier years. Here is a beautiful summary of Bill’s story. For more information (and historical perspective) on the Sunday Morning Ride, here are a couple of articles I stumbled on – one from 1971 and another from 2001.

Following in his dad’s footsteps, Wade’s racing career has been equally illustrious and even more varied. He races both motorcycles and sidecars (currently partnered with his wife, Christine Blunck) in a wide variety of venues: Pikes Peak Hill Climb (2012 and 2013 Sidecar Champion), Flat Track (Sacramento Mile), Road Racing (AFM and AMA), Speedway, and international events like Phillip Island in Australia (International Island Classic Sidecar Champion January 2015) – just to name a few. Basically, if the event includes two or three-wheeled vehicles and has both green and checkered flags, Wade will give it a shot.

But more importantly to this story, Wade has been a regular competitor on the Isle of Man since 1995. Here is a link to his Isle of Man Competitor Profile. Wade is a privateer (no corporate sponsorship), and every year his trip is managed on a shoestring budget. In spite of the financial constraints, he has been remarkably successful and is universally loved by the locals on the island. So when Rich and Wade connected on the Sunday Morning Ride last year, they rode, they ate breakfast, they talked, and then they talked some more. Rich mentioned he had built a race bike and Wade said he’d consider riding it.

The nMGP Logo IOM CMYK copy.ashxext thing I knew, Wade was hanging out in Rich’s shop and they were working together to get the Suzuki to the Isle of Man. Not for the TT, but for the Manx Grand Prix (MGP). What’s the difference? The TT is modern and pro and big bucks; the GP is vintage and amateur and collegial. Unbeknownst to me, Bill (Wade’s dad), who respected Rich as a talented and conscientious builder, once mentioned to Rich that if he ever found himself with a suitable race bike, how thrilled Bill would be if somehow Wade could ride it on the Isle of Man. Until Rich filled me in on the back story, I thought it was just serendipity. Now I know Rich was fulfilling a promise to a late friend.

mmslogo2As the months passed, they continued to work on the bike and make arrangements and everything looked good – they had help from Mammoth Motorsports (a local motorcycle performance shop), the shipping plans were coming together, and the bike was almost ready to go.

What could possibly go wrong?

Find out in the next installment: Part 2 – Getting There

Frances B. Newman, January 14, 1915 – June 11, 2008

January 13, 2015

Several friends have asked me to publish the eulogy I delivered at my mom’s memorial in September of 2008. Today, on what would have been her 100th birthday, I have finally done it – embellished with a few choice photographs (click to expand the thumbnails). I have also produced a labor-of-love DVD for people who couldn’t be there, complete with video of all the speakers, photos by my friend Eileen Gayle, and music, which was so important in her life. If you’d like a copy of the DVD, please contact me directly or let me know in a Comment.


FBN Memorial

Although Memorial Celebrations are inherently sad affairs, I have learned to appreciate and even look forward to them. And not so much for the obvious reasons–closure, saying goodbye, or even just a decent excuse to raise a glass. For me, the unexpected value is getting to know people in ways that just aren’t possible during their lifetimes. No matter how broad or deep a relationship, we’re still constrained by our own perspectives and can never know anybody the way others do. I first experienced this at Frank’s [my father’s] Memorial in 1996, and have since approached all such events with the same positive attitude and expectations. Thanks to our speakers today, as well as others who will step up during the Open Remarks, I am well on my way to exceeding those expectations today.

My longtime friend Peter Sorenson wrote this when he received the news: “Frannie possessed a rare and endearing combo of being fully present and available in the moment, but at the same time, being staunchly in control of her own reality. She graciously allowed us to be guests in this reality. With age and maturity, I have come to appreciate how important and highly evolved these two qualities of character truly are.”

As her youngest and only living child, I will now do my best to give you a glimpse into my view of her staunchly-controlled reality. But please understand my limitations. After all, I was constrained by the dynamics of the parent/child relationship, and remember, since I was born when she was 43, I only actually knew her for the second half of her life.

Anti-Aging Policy

Aging was not a part of Frannie’s reality. Instead, she established a strict Anti-Aging Policy, which served her pretty well for most of her 93 years. She didn’t rely on creams and potions or surgery, nor did she exercise regularly or maintain a particularly healthy lifestyle. Instead, she adhered to three basic principles:

  1. Principle #1: Deny (to yourself and others) that aging is happening at all. How many here didn’t really know her age until after June 11? She guarded this secret vigorously, and entrusted all who were close to her to do the same – she didn’t even really want anybody to know that she was two years older than Frank. Protecting this information occasionally caused some internal conflict between privacy and frugality, another of her strongest characteristics. For example, when she was commuting to her job in the city, she carried two different BART tickets – a blue one to use when she traveled with others, and a green one to use when nobody she cared about was looking. In the last year, when she could no longer deny to herself what was happening, she stood firm in her refusal to let others see it, which is why she discouraged visitors during her illness. I know many of you were affected by her position, so I hope you now understand that it wasn’t personal, she just wasn’t willing to expose her new reality.
  2. Principle #2: Avoid modifying your life and activities. Closely tied to Principle #1, anybody who paid attention during the last couple of decades saw very little change in what Fran did. She didn’t believe in growing old gracefully, she simply avoided the idea of growing old. She worked, traveled, sang, partied and entertained. She remained in the family home, and for better or worse, she drove her car until a month before she got sick. Places like “Senior Centers”, “Retirement Communities” and “Assisted Living” belonged in other people’s realities, not hers.
  3. Principle #3: Stay true to your contemporaries, but ensure a continual flow of young people. Her success in this area is demonstrated by the crowd in this room today. When I was planning this event, my advisors suggested that I might need a bigger limo, assuming a large crowd of old people needing to be shuttled. I chuckled because I knew differently. Many of us didn’t even realize our roles in this component of her Anti-Aging Policy.

As I continue with my story, you’ll soon see how she engineered her reality and the major themes of her life to support these three Principles. It seems to have been pretty successful, so maybe we can all learn a little from her in this respect.


FBN Memorial.004

Music was a constant thread in Frannie’s life. She originally met Frank at the Mask and Dagger Revue, where a single piano pla

yer (Frank) served as the “orchestra”. She was committed to instilling a love for music in her kids and endeavored to teach us all piano from an early age. She hauled us off to the symphony, ballet, musicals and jazz concerts to expand our musical tastes and passion beyond children’s songs and top 40 hits. She shuttled each of us to instrument lessons, band and orchestra rehearsals, and all varieties of performances. She sent us to Cazadero Music Camp every summer. In retrospect, I’m not so sure that was an entirely altruistic move since she and Frank always managed to schedule a marvelous adventure out of the country during those multi-week sessions. I guess they considered the City of Berkeley to be a suitable baby-sitter.

But more than any other aspect of music, she loved to sing. My earliest memories include her singing to me and teaching me a wide variety of songs – I doubt there were many 5-year-olds in 1963 who could confidently render such ditties as Irving Berlin’s “Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning” and “Tell Me Pretty Maiden” (from the operetta Floradora), both penned in the early part of the 20th century.

She looked forward every holiday season to hosting the “Christmas Sing” and neighborhood caroling parties at our home, always improvising the Alto harmony to enhance the crowd of singers, most of whom were locked on the melody.

At a more public level she sang with the Oakland Symphony Chorus in the 60s and 70s. In 1973, she found a home with the Berkeley University Chorus, where she remained a fixture for 33 years. I’m sure that her decision to switch was heavily influenced by the difference in the average age of the two groups – taking us back to Principle #3 of the Anti-Aging Policy: surround yourself with young people. In the fall of 2006, at the age of 91, she decided not to rejoin the Chorus, conceding that she didn’t have the stamina to stand up through rehearsals and concerts. I pointed out that they would undoubtedly make accommodations for her to sit, but her unwillingness to consider that option led me to understand that this was actually a graceful way to avoid facing the fact (or worse, having it pointed out) that her voice was no longer what it once was. She loved nearly everything about singing with these groups, with one notable exception: Auditions, which she detested without reservation or apology. Auditions fell into the same category of necessary evils as root canals, colonoscopies and income tax preparation. For the last few years, the Director of the chorus, Marika Kuzma [also a speaker], graciously waived Fran’s auditions, a concession to her tenure for which she was (and I remain) eternally grateful.


FBN Memorial.090In 1970, Fran began searching for something new to help distract her from the tragedy of Ralph’s [my closest brother] death. I was twelve and presumed to be self-sufficient – I was a decidedly precocious kid, so this wasn’t a big stretch. She was 55 at the time, an age when most people are planning their retirement. Not only did she decide to rejoin the workforce, but to make it even more interesting, she took on the task of helping to define and develop an embryonic profession, “Paralegal”. With support from a close family friend, John Page Austin, a senior partner at Morrison-Foerster, she embarked on what would eventually be a 28-year career, ending with her retirement just 10 years ago at the age of 83. I guess she finally decided she needed a spend a little more time doing more important things, like traveling. I always wondered if she might have exaggerated her involvement in defining the Paralegal role, until I recently uncovered a memo she wrote that does exactly that [displayed at the Memorial].

Art Shartsis [also a speaker] has done a fine of job of portraying her career, so I don’t need to say much more, except to point out how important it was to her. The office provided a constant touchstone of distraction and support through various personal losses, and it also served as a key component of Principle #3 of her Anti-Aging Policy, with a wonderful crew of younger colleagues and a self-refreshing pool of new Associates.

Echo Lake

FBN Memorial.054Echo Lake wasn’t so much a part of her life, as an integral part of her being. I don’t even know where to start. Do I begin in the 1930s, with her stories of paddling the canoe down to the chalet alone to pick up a beau who had traveled from Tahoe, then paddling him back to cabin, then back down to the chalet (because of course, he couldn’t possibly spend the night), and then back to the cabin alone? And that apparently she did this regardless of the wind conditions, which as far as I can tell, used to change directions randomly in the 30s so that she somehow always ended up paddling upwind? Or do I somehow try to summarize eight decades of activities with family and friends, including hiking, canoeing, waterskiing, swimming, sailing, fishing, oiling the deck, and in the early part of the season, snow sliding?

FBN Memorial.064Or maybe I should just fast-forward ahead to 1999, when at the age of 84, she hiked with Mary Lou Peterson and me up to the Echo Peak ridge for a final look at the stunning view of Lake Tahoe and Mt. Tallac.

Highlights include the frequent productions of the Echo Lake Playhouse, in which a variety show of skits and vignettes was presented from behind the curtain that bisected the tiny log cabin, all conceived, written, cast, and directed by Fran, and performed by various kids from the family and neighboring cabins to an appreciative audience of indulgent adults.

She also loved the pre-season Echo Lakes Association dinners, where she was a frequent winner of the “stand-up/sit-down” contest. This game begins with all of the guests standing, and then sitting down as the “number of years at Echo” is called out and incrementally increased. The result is a spotlight on the last one standing, the one who has been at the lake the longest. In this isolated case, her competitive spirit and desire to win overrode the paradox presented by Principle #1 of the Anti-Aging Policy, and she conveniently ignored the other guests’ ability to do the math.

Her final trip to the lake was last summer [2007] on the Fourth of July, just before she was hospitalized for the first time. I’m thankful that she never had to endure a summer of being unable to make it up to the lake.


Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and Russia. Alaska, San Diego (3 times), Ensenada, Vancouver Island, East Coast (3 times), Canyonlands Utah. The Amazon, the Danube, the Columbia, and the Mississippi (twice). For most people, this would be a dream list for a lifetime of travel. But remarkably, this list of trips reflects her travelogue after she turned 80. If I go back before that, we would be here all day.

She thrived on travel, mostly with Frank of course. As a career citizen of the world, Frank was a frequent traveler to new and sometimes exotic locations. Frannie leveraged that brilliantly for several decades, frequently accompanying him to meetings, seminars and conferences all over the world – China, Japan, Austria, Macedonia, Greece, to name a few, and of course, Switzerland.

holly dirndl1

Frannie’s Austrian dirndl.

She and Frank loved to integrate with the locals. Frannie frequently acquired and donned traditional garb, adding a level of interest during the trips, but also resulting in an almost endless supply of material for various costume parties. One example is her authentic Austrian dirndl, procured in 1954, which she dusted off one year for a Halloween party at Shartsis. I more recently appropriated the dirndl for a Sing-along Sound of Music party I hosted at my house last December.

She and Frank were proud of a trick they used for convincing even the shyest of local kids to pose for photos – she carried a Polaroid camera so she could hand over an instant picture for them to keep. The kids were universally thrilled – some had never even seen a photo of themselves. This broke through all of their inhibitions, freeing Frank to take the “take-home’ candid shots with the Konica SLR.

FBN Memorial.160After Frank died in 1996, she adapted quickly, cultivating new travel companions – Allan Viguers, Dick Johnston, Dorothy Clements, Francoise Debreu, as well as me and Rich. One of my most memorable trips with Frannie involved an 8-day tour of the Canyonlands of Southwest Utah in 1997. She was 82. The three of us traveled in our full-size pickup with a camper, towing a motorcycle trailer. We planned all of our overnight stops at RV parks that also featured motels – we stayed in the camper and she got a room. She embraced all aspects of this trip, including two Virgin River experiences: a lazy ride in an inner tube, and a ½-mile wade up the river in Zion Canyon.

Her travels also frequently incorporated her interest in her ancestors and family history.

  • In San Diego, we found the downtown address where her parents lived (now a vacant lot with a view of the airport) and visited the Historical Society, uncovering a photo of the 1902 “Normal School” faculty, numbering 9 and including her father.
  • In Barrington RI, we identified the church where her grandfather was pastor and performed the marriage ceremony of her parents in 1900.
  • In Manhattan, we took the subway to the apartment that they shared while Frank was doing post-graduate studies at Columbia (and where Bob was born), and in Cambridge, we stopped by the house they rented while Frank was a visiting professor at Harvard.
  • In Utah, we explored the Geneology Library, uncovering a family history book on the Greenwoods, a branch of her family tree about which she knew very little. To her great delight, we also validated the family lore that the Dismukes family name was actually an Americanization of the French, Desmeaux.
  • In Ireland, she and Frank explored the homeland of his Dillon ancestors. This quest was memorialized in a display she prepared for his memorial in 1996.


Fran thrived on tradition. She absorbed cultural traditions and also created her own. The nature was not as important as the concept – she held equal enthusiasm for holiday gatherings, birthdays (other than her own), costume parties, any sort of reunion, and other annualized events with family and friends.

FBN Memorial.084At the core of several of her annual events were “The Crew“ – the Austins, the Goodins, and the Helmholz’s, as well as others I didn’t know as well. Three times a year, for as long as I can remember, the Crew had gatherings that trumped all other plans, except maybe a trip to a foreign land. The annual New Year’s ski trip at the Helmholz/Austin cabin, named “Old Shoe” to reflect how comfortable it was. The summer “birthday party” at Echo Lake, acknowledging Frank and Marion Goodin’s July birthdays. The October trip to the Austin Ranch in the Gold Country. After Old Shoe was sold, the New Year’s trip shifted to the Ahwani Lodge in Yosemite, and later scaled back to a dinner gathering at a local restaurant, with the hosting duties rotating through the Crew year to year. The Echo trip dissolved as fewer and fewer were able to make the trek. But the Austin Ranch trip endured, albeit with dwindling numbers, until the passing of Betty Austin in 2006.

Reunions – it seemed that every year, she would announce that she was headed for some sort of reunion – Stanford, Dartmouth, Boalt Hall. In 2001, she even went to a gathering marking the 75th year of The Peninsula School, the progressive private elementary school she attended in Palo Alto in the 1920s. I have no doubt she would have attended last weekend’s Boalt Hall Alumni weekend had she been around.

FBN Memorial.140The Faculty Club holds a special place in Newman family traditions. Many significant Newman parties have happened here, including weddings, anniversary parties, and yes, memorials (I believe this one makes three). She frequently relied on the hospitality of the Kerr Dining Hall to host lunches and dinners before concerts and for various other occasions. And of course, there was the Faculty Holiday Party, at which she hosted many tables of friends over the years. To double the impact, she actually reserved tables for two consecutive nights. When over-subscription caused the Faculty Club to crack down on this practice and limit members to one table, she simply recruited a member friend to make the booking for her, in exchange for a guaranteed seat at the table. I, on the other hand, was always asked to leave both dates open but never had a guaranteed seat – instead, Rich and I were expected to show up as designated chair-fillers in case one or more of the confirmed guests fell through at the last minute.

FBN Memorial.120Holiday gatherings with family were precious to her, especially Thanksgiving. This holiday, with its long weekend, gave us the opportunity to reconnect with cousins who are scattered all over Northern California (many of whom are here today). We’ve had wonderful Thanksgiving dinners in Carmichael, Woodland, Chico and Fort Bragg. She cooked her last turkey in 2000, when she hosted an assorted crew of Newman women (Dorothy, Anna, Ellie and myself) at the Orinda house.

Acknowledgements and Closing

I never dreamed that I would be able to stand up and deliver this tribute. I’ve spent the last several years gearing up for the complete collapse I was sure to experience when I lost Mom, the last of my immediate family. But that isn’t what happened. I miss her terribly, but I can’t quite figure out how to mourn her death when she had such a long and full and rich life. The script I had written in my head had her living forever. But since that’s not possible, I think she did the next best thing – she lived fully until her body just couldn’t keep up any longer.

I’d like to thank all of our speakers, each of whom had a distinct and important influence in her life. In addition, there are a few people I need to give special thanks to today, for their role in helping to preserve Fran’s dignity and my sanity during the past 15 months.

Richard Johnston [also a speaker] was Fran’s loving companion for the last several years of her life. He visited her nearly every day that she was confined to the hospital and nursing homes, bringing not only support and friendly conversation (and her mail), but also a copy of the Chronicle so she could continue to do her daily crossword puzzle.

Joan Miura spent countless hours at the house in Orinda, sorting and organizing and labeling and moving things around so that Fran could safely return home after her first hospitalization.

Barbara Wilcox provided invaluable medical guidance and oversight. She was a frequent drop-in at both the house and the nursing home to review Fran’s medication list and to ensure she was being treated appropriately. And at the end, she was with me at the hospital to help guide me through the decisions that a daughter should never have to make.

Sarah Johnson has been my backstop all year, available on a moment’s notice for anything I needed in the North Bay while I was in the East Bay with Fran. And she was instrumental in the success of this event – she provided a sounding board for every detail, and she spent hours digitally scanning nearly 200 photos to develop the slide show.

And of course Rich, who when not in Colorado helping his own aging mother, provided limitless support and comfort, and also took on every “honey-do” task I presented him without hesitation or complaint, including hand-folding all 200 of the programs you hold in your hands.

Thank you all for joining us today.

Holly’s Evernote Guide, Part 1: Getting Started

December 1, 2013

What IS Evernote Anyway?

Evernote is an idea trapper and information organizer. Ideas and information are entered as Notes, which can be organized into Notebooks and Stacks and Tagged for quick filtering. Using a file cabinet analogy, a Note is a piece of paper, a Notebook is a file folder, and a Stack is a hanging folder. In this series, I’ll refer to these three key components collectively as “elements”. If you’re looking for a pure To-Do list or Calendar, look elsewhere. But Evernote is so much more powerful than either one that it doesn’t matter. And it can easily be integrated with your calendar and to-do solutions because all notes can be referenced by a link.

Evernote is available in two versions:

  1. FREE: The free version is a great no-risk way to get started. You may find that you’re perfectly happy with the free version and never need to upgrade.
  2. Premium: The Premium version ($45/year) adds several features that I consider essential:
    • Offline notebooks: In the free version, your mobile device must be connected to the Internet in order to view and sync notes. The Premium version allows you to save some or all of your content locally on the device so you can view it even when you are out of cell/wifi range.
    • OCR: the Search capability is one of Evernote’s strongest features, but in the free version it is limited to text. Premium adds automatic OCR of all images and PDFs stored in Evernote, which exposes that content in Search results as well.
    • Better collaboration: I use Evernote for both personal and work, and I share several of my work notebooks with colleagues. With Premium, I can give them the ability to add and edit notes instead of just viewing mine.

Why I Started Using It

I’ve gone through an assortment of tools and strategies over the past two decades in an effort to manage my ADD. The challenge has always been to trap ideas and information before they float out of my head (SHINY!!!), and then be able to produce that information when I need it. The latest candidate is Evernote and so far it’s a winner. For me, its most compelling feature is that it runs on every electronic device I have access to and automatically synchronizes between them. That means that I always have a way to trap information and it is instantly available everywhere. Even if I have to resort to paper for my notes (sometimes it’s just easier than typing), I can usually keep track of the paper long enough to get it transferred, or at least get a photo of it (which is all I need, as you’ll see later).

There are as many ways to use Evernote as there are people using it (and I think that everybody should use it). But the same power and flexibility that makes the program so valuable can also make it somewhat daunting to start using. There are many “How To…” resources available for Evernote, but I think the best way to start is by seeing how other people are using it  and then adapt and expand it for your own needs. I’m not an expert by any means, and there many features that I don’t even know about. But I’m enough of an Evernote evangelist that I decided to jot down some of the ways I use it – it will be simpler to just send this blog link (which I’ll store in Evernote) when I recommend it to a friend and they want more information.

Core Features

These are the core features that contribute most heavily to my success with Evernote:

  1. Cross-platform synchronization. As I mentioned above, all notes are instantly available on all connected devices, regardless of platform – Desktop clients (Windows or Mac), Mobile (iOS, Android, Windows phone), any Web browser on any machine or device.
  2. Search. I can quickly search across all notes (I currently have nearly 1500), or limit my search to a particular notebook or stack. And as mentioned above, with Premium, all images and PDFs stored in Evernote are OCR’d and included in the search. Type-ahead suggestion of matching phrases is a relatively new feature that simplifies searches.
  3. Ease of entry: There are many ways to enter notes and trap information (see next section)
  4. Tagging: Tagging provides a mechanism to instantly gather related notes from different notebooks and stacks.
  5. Flexibility: Easy to reorganize if your initial strategies aren’t working for you (which is why you should just dive in)
  6. 3rd Party Integration: Evernote has gotten so popular that all sorts of apps have cropped up to provide integration.

How does stuff get into Evernote?

Almost any way you can think of. Here are the main ways I get stuff into Evernote:

  1. Direct Entry: self-explanatory, type it in. (Not device-dependent.)
  2. Dictation: Second only to text messaging, dictating notes into Evernote is one of my main uses for Siri on my iPhone. (Mobile only, unless you have some sort of dictation software.)
  3. Web Clipping: install the plug-in for the browser of your choice, and with just a few clicks, you can add anything from the Internet into Evernote. Using the browser plug-in, you can clip a URL, an article, a selection, or a full page. And with recent enhancements, you can even select the target Notebook on the fly. (Currently only available natively on Desktop browsers, although I believe there are some apps that overcome this deficiency on mobile platforms.)
  4. Email: There are two ways to get information from e-mails into Evernote. If you use Outlook on your Desktop, there is a plug-in so you can just click a button. With any other email program (including Mobile), you can forward messages to your Evernote e-mail address.
  5. File import: With Evernote, you can set up any number of import folders on your PC – anything you save in these folders gets sucked into a specified notebook folder. I use this for bringing in PDFs – dog show premiums, appliance manuals, etc. (Desktop only, for obvious reasons.)
  6. FileThis: cloud service for gathering statements and receipts from financial, insurance and utility vendors, and sending them directly to Evernote. (More details in Part 2.)

Getting Started – Dive Right In

I recommend starting on your computer (PC or Mac) by downloading the Desktop program. Not all Evernote platforms are created equally and the Desktop app is by far the most powerful and flexible. I do all of my set-up and organization on the PC and use the iOS version for consumption and entering new notes. Open the Desktop app and just start playing around with it. Pretend you have a stack of ideas and information on one side of the room, boxes of file folders and labels in the middle of the room, and an empty file cabinet on the other side of the room. There is no wrong way to start – just start gathering and entering and organizing information. If you don’t like where you put something, drag-and-drop it to somewhere else. If you don’t like the name you gave a folder, rename it. If you find you’ve entered information you don’t need, delete it.

As I was gathering resources for this post, I found this great blog article by Jon Mitchell, which focuses on “How to Think about Evernote” rather than “How to Use Evernote”. Very succinct, and saved me a bunch of time because I don’t have to re-write everything that the author has already presented so well. I highly recommend you read it. Some of the details vary from my usage, but I agree with everything he has said.

Check out these free online training resources

Next up: Holly’s Evernote Guide, Part 2: How I Use It

Holly’s Evernote Guide, Part 2: How I Use It

December 1, 2013

If you don’t yet know what Evernote is, please start with the previous installment: Holly’s Evernote Guide, Part 1: Overview.


I’ve been using Evernote for over a year and my usage continues to evolve. But here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Be diligent. Get the information in. Somehow. Worry about organizing it later. You can always Search for it in the meantime.
  • Naming matters. I use strict naming conventions in most of my Evernote elements for two reasons:
  1. To force sorting. I can completely control how my elements sort by using naming. Since I use Evernote for both Personal and Work information, all of my Personal stacks are prefaced with “Personal” and likewise, Work stacks with “Work”. I also use special characters (primarily “!”) to force certain elements to the top of the list.
  2. To identify which stack/notebook a note “belongs” to when I search for a note another way. For example: all notebooks in my “Events” stack are named “Events-<date> <description”.
  • Keep exploring. The popularity of this program is phenomenal. The developers pay close attention to the user community and each new version includes enhancements that have been requested along the way. The 3rd party app/service/accessory support is very strong and new things are coming out every day. And the knowledgebase and training resources on the Internet are huge. New ideas for getting the most out of Evernote are exploding. I’m as guilty as anyone of getting in a rut by using it the same way tomorrow as I use it today, so I’m adding this as a reminder to myself as much as anything.

Organizing: Tagging vs Stacks/Notebooks

Organization in Evernote is a complex topic that deserves some extra discussion. I have found in my research that some Evernote users minimize their use of stacks and notebooks and rely completely on tagging for organization. They like the dynamic nature of tagging and the fact that multiple tags can be applied to individual Notes. This is a very “database-y” view and you can find many resources if this is how your brain works.

Not me. I’m an old school paper filer, so I rely heavily on notebooks and stacks and use tagging as a supplement tool for very specific filtering. In fact, I used to be frustrated by the 2-level limitation of stacks and notebooks (no notebooks within notebooks). But I realized that goes back to my PC background and how I organize files on a computer. Once I adopted the hanging file/file folder analogy, I realized that the 2-level model actually makes sense. And combined with the power of Search and the alternative view provided by Tagging, it’s all I need.

Here are some examples of tags I use:

  • Shopping: any note that includes something I need to shop for gets a shopping tag. When we’re out doing errands, I can pull up the ‘shopping’ filter and be sure I don’t miss something.
  • Sewing: I have a varied list of stuff I want to make – dog beds, generator covers, a padded sleeve for the solar panel in my trailer. They’re all tagged with ‘sewing’ so that I can check that filter on the rare occasions that I break out the sewing machine.
  • Charity: itemized lists that went to Goodwill or other charities, receipts for “X-a-Thon” entries that my friends do, random donations – these all get tagged with ‘charity’ to simplify the report at tax time.

Evernote-ToDoTo-Do Lists

I’ve already conceded that Evernote is not the best To-Do manager, but I have adapted it to do exactly what I need it to do. My “!Personal To-Dos” stack (note the “!” that sorts it to the top of the stack list) contains various notebooks that serve to both prioritize and categorize. This stack is by far the most fluid in my Evernote scheme.

  • Now, Soon, and Back Burner are prioritization tools. Notes get edited and moved around frequently between these three.
  • The Bay Team notebook started when I was on the Board of Bay Team, but I use it now to keep track of other responsibilities I have for the club, like ordering awards. And I added Dog to combine two related notebooks into one.
  • Blog Ideas? Self-explanatory. I have lots of ideas, and every once in a while they come together in a post like this one.
  • The Stuff to Get Rid Of notebook includes notes for Freecycle, Goodwill, Craig’s List, Ebay, and Bay Team (agility stuff). It gets updated every time I venture into the garage.
  • The Travel Trailer and Echo Lake notebooks get updated with ideas every time I go to the lake or travel in the trailer. I consult them on weekends when I’m looking for something to do.

Evernote-EventsEvent Tracking

My “Personal Events” Stack contains notebooks for all upcoming events that have more information than can easily be stored in a calendar entry. I use a strict naming convention so the notebooks sort in calendar order. Once the event is over, I simply delete the entire notebook. If there is a deadline involved (like sending a trial entry), the new Reminder feature helps by sending a message on whatever device is running Evernote. The actual notes for each event vary with the type of event. Here are some examples:

  • Concerts/Shows: Tickets, web site, receipt, google map to site, nearby restaurant ideas and menus
  • Dog Shows and Seminars: premium/application, confirmation letter, receipt, web page, RV information, timeline estimates, worker schedule, notes to myself if I’m on the microphone
  • Travel: plane ticket receipt, hotel confirmations, ideas for things to do when I get there, and websites

Evernote-HomeImpHome Improvement

I could not have managed my recent kitchen remodel without Evernote, and I’m still using it for ongoing household projects. Each room or project has a notebook in the “Personal Home Improvement” stack. Here are some examples of the notes that go into the individual notebooks:

  • Web clips: I spend a lot of time surfing for ideas for furniture, lighting, carpet, flooring, accessories, you name it. When I find something that might matter, I can stick a web clip into the appropriate notebook with just a few clicks. Same is true for ideas that I find on Houzz.
  • Images: I take a lot of photos when we go shopping for ideas – tile and floor samples, cabinet organization ideas, lighting, again, you name it. The photos all get sent straight to the appropriate notebook for future reference. This is also how I kept track of business cards – snap a photo and put it in Evernote – since it gets OCR’d, I can find the card by searching for text (like “tile”).
  • Ideas and Notes: Wish lists, ideas for specific areas, notes for the contractor, shopping lists.
  • Measurements and Plans: Everything got measured and drawn: existing furniture, room sizes, available space in drawers and cabinets, etc. This made it easy to avoid making mistakes when shopping.

Evernote-DigitalLifeDigital Record Keeping

I got this idea from Jamie Todd Rubin, Evernote’s Paperless Lifestyle Ambassador. Great blog with an RSS feed so you don’t have to miss a single update. I haven’t fully implemented all of his ideas, but I’m off to a good start. Here are the notebooks I’ve been developing:

  • Information Panels: I can’t think of a better way to keep track of serial numbers and model numbers. Take a picture of the information plate on each of your appliances and electronic components, store it in the notebook. If you need it for warranty service or parts ordering or even an insurance claim, they’re all right at your fingertips.
  • Manuals: Many manuals are available for download from the manufacturer web sites. I have started collecting them in a notebook so they’re easier to find. I haven’t quite gotten up the nerve to dump my paper collection, but that time will come.
  • Vehicles (Pink Slips and Insurance Cards): Take a photo, store it in a notebook, have it when you need it.

Miscellaneous Information

  • Recipes: Someone posts a recipe on Facebook that looks interesting? Clip the selection to Evernote. Your favorite food blog? Clip the URL to Evernote. That recipe for your mom’s fondue that is floating around on a piece of paper getting ruined? Enter it (by typing or snapping a photo) before it gets lost forever.
  • Project Research: Similar to my home improvement stack, I start a notebook every time I think about or embark on a new project of any sort. Most recent example? We’ve been looking for a new boat for the lake for years. I trapped all of my research, pricing, information, contacts, etc. in one place. I finally bought the boat of my dreams last summer – no longer need the research information, so poof, it’s gone.
  • Work: I haven’t even begun to go into my work usage – maybe that will be a separate installment. In a nutshell, everything I do or think about doing at work goes into Evernote. Keeps me focused in the face of interruptions, and serves as the basis of great documentation.

Apps and Services Integration

The list of apps, services and accessories that integrate with Evernote is growing daily – you can get an idea by browsing the Evernote Market (formerly called the Trunk). I check back every once in a while to get new ideas, plus I google periodically to see what others are doing.

The most important service I currently have integrated with Evernote is FileThis. Over the years, I have gone paperless for as many of my financial services as possible and store all of my statements in PDF format. Until recently, that was a tedious process of going to each web site to download the monthly statement. FileThis is a service that does all the work for me, automatically, and drops the PDF into Evernote. It supports all of the major national financial and utilities companies, and recently even added support for my local credit union. I don’t actually leave it there – I use it as a trigger to reconcile against Quicken, save the PDF, then delete it. I can also see the value of leaving them there because all of your credit card transactions would be searchable. FileThis has three plans – as with Evernote, you can start with the free version and work your way up if the added connections and frequency add value:

  • Free: 6 connections, weekly update
  • $20/year: 12 connections, weekly update
  • $50/year: 30 connections, daily update

Disclaimer: Yes, I do have to provide the web credentials for each vendor to FileThis. I am confident in their security, but I don’t recommend doing anything online that makes you uncomfortable.

Thank you for reading my Evernote Guide. I haven’t covered every detail of how I use Evernote, but I hope I’ve given you enough ideas to get you going on your own path to Evernote success!