Saturday, January 31, 2009

San Pedro AP English Teacher Goes the Extra Mile for her Students to Help Them Write;
This Teacher Comes Up High on My Ratings as She Understood Exactly the Extra Push Needed to Improve Her Student’s Writing; Writing Tips for You and Your Child

“Where to begin…I hate writing…To most people, it comes easy and it’s a way to vent and express yourself, but as for me, it’s much different. There are so many thoughts running through my head, but as soon as I see that blank white paper, they all evaporate and I don’t know where….

“After a couple of paragraphs of writing, I get lost and end up not having anything to write about. (Like right now…) – San Pedro Student, 11th grade

By Diana L. Chapman

The high school English teacher, towing her niece in hand, showed up at the Boys and Girls Club one dusty-orange evening in December.

She was on a hunt.

She was on a hunt for me.

What drove Heidie Hoffman, an English instructor at San Pedro High, to show up was the next-to-overnight change she spotted in one of her students when it came to his writing. She was explaining this to me as her niece clung to her wrist in the backdrop of the teen center where hip-hop blares and teenagers shout loudly.

This student, she said, was writing as he never had before. He told her some volunteer woman at the club had taught him how to wrap his mind around writing. “So I had to find you,” she rounded off succinctly.

Wow! I was looking at Ms. Hoffman and thinking, here is a teacher who has gone out of her way to find other avenues to supplement her student’s writing skills. It’s after school hours. We’re into the early night time and here she stood taking her personal time to find me.

I was so glad she did! Over the past 30 years, I’ve learned so much about writing and all it’s pitfalls – not to mention the times it seemed like I endured an absolute torturous, roller coaster ride. From that a mission arrived.

I wanted to rid myself of my love-and-hate relationship with writing and come to cherish it.

And still…be creative.

And still be a good writer.

Discovering the joy –instead of the pain of writing -- took me a long, long time. I had to come up with my bag of tricks to embrace writing fully and once I realized my discovery, it seemed this sense of liberation needed to be shared – especially with students who I watched slave away at the skill – many coming sadly to despise it.

Once, students visited my workshop, many left with a sense of freedom that they too can write, not a bad tool to have as its one of the most powerful on Earth. It’s sparked revolutions and taken us to worlds that don’t even exist. And at times, it’s changed society’s behavior.

So why can we not give this remarkable tool to all students?

Because it’s hard.

The English language is difficult at best.

Learning grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence structure can be a jumble for some students. Now add in, adverbs, declarative sentences, imperative sentences, interjections, adverbial conjunctions, interrogative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, subjects, predicates, simple sentences, compound sentences.

Feel overwhelmed yet? Feel less than creative? Feel lost?

Even though I’ve learned all this in the past, I’ve forgotten much of it myself and where do I go as a writer to double check? Of course to an English teacher. This is exactly what I ask all my students do when they are finished with their first or second drafts.

My job is to “supplement” their writing tools and encourage them to learn the joy of writing. Here are some simple writing tips that I’m currently compiling in a book, The Seven Golden Secrets to Writing That Your Teacher Never Taught You:

--Writing can’t be perfect on the first round, second round or even the third.

We strive for it after we get the ideas down on paper. To this day, I’ve never seen an example of perfect writing. The best writers can often be sloppy and have glitches. They go back and refine, polish and massage their writing. One of my students wrote how much she loved art, because “it starts with a single line.” So does writing. Start with one line and go from there.

--To write, tapping into your creative brain must happen.

Your mind – your very own computer – will do all the work for you – that is, if you let it. If you feel tortured when you write, I can assure you, your poor reader on the other end will be too. So get comfortable and let it flow. Quit thinking. Stop worrying about spelling and grammar. That can come later. Let whatever comes to mind flow out and then go back and look for the gems you’ve unearthed.

--Writing is subjective.

Where one reader won’t enjoy a book, thousands of others out there will. The voice appeals to them. This recently happened in my own family. Our son wrote a remarkable piece for his English class at the Port of Los Angeles High School. As seasoned writers, we both were so impressed we gushed all over it and told him how proud we were. This apparently made him feel good about his writing, he said, because we rarely complimented him on it.

But he got a C on the paper. Does it matter? Not really. Other readers will like it and he’s still developing writing skills.

There are so many ways to turn on the joy of writing and I can’t possibly share them all here. But just start with this: Sit down, take out a pen and write. Start with a single line as this 11th grade student did at the top of this story: “Where to begin…

After speaking to the above student’s class – due to the English teacher’s visit – I believe that she learned something extremely important that day. She can write.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The Corner Store, San Pedro, Will Be Hosting A Wine, Hummus And Soda Tasting To Benefit The Veterinary Program At The Marine Mammal Care Center At Fort MacArthur

WHEN: Saturday, February 7

WHO: The Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur began
operation in 1992. The Care Center is the only federally authorized hospital for sick, injured and orphaned marine mammals in Los Angeles County. To date the animal care team has treated over 3,000 marine mammals. MARRNE (Marine Animal Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release into the Natural Environment) is the Care Center's 501(c)(3) support organization that formed
in 1993 to help provide additional funding for food, medicine, equipment,
capital projects and special needs. Its mission is to support marine animal rehabilitation and non-invasive research along the southern California coast.

THE NEED: The Veterinary Program has enhanced the success of the Care Center's animal rehabilitation. YOUR funding support will allow this program to continue into the future!

WHAT: The Corner Store, San Pedro will be hosting a "Wine, Hummus and Soda Tasting" to support the Veterinary Program at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur. The tasting will be held in a tented area and will include a variety of red, white and sparkling wines in addition to butlered hors d'oeuvres. There's something for the kids too, and those who choose not to "dabble" in wine. Inside, there will be a selection of specialty sodas to sample. It's
a fantastic way to celebrate Valentines Day. A great selection of spirits available for purchase following the event AND other items such as weekend getaways that will be part of a specia> Opportunity Drawing!

The Corner Store is located 1118 W. 37th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731 (310) 832-2424 and will host this event Saturday, February 7, 2009. Three will be three tasting times: 1-2pm, 2:30-3:30pm, 4-5pm

DONATION: $15.00 per person. Space is limited! Make your reservations ASAP. Please contact Jill Romano at 310.548.5677 for event details and reservation information or stop by The Corner Store in San Pedro to register.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


By Diana L. Chapman

As a mother, I never thought I’d push my 14-year-old son to see not only a Clint Eastwood flick, but an “R” rated one at that.

I’d been hankering to see “Gran Torino,” the latest film featuring Eastwood as director and actor, since my girlfriend, Kim, told me she thought I’d enjoy it. But my husband declined my offer for three weekends in a row. He’d seen a preview and wondered if it was just another tired old story about violent gangs.

But like Clint, this flick is anything but tired and old. Although he’s 78, he has been churning out his boldest, brightest and most thought-provoking works in his golden years (“Unforgiven,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Mystic River.”)

Who knew that the gorgeous, deadly cowboy/detective with pistol in hand, delivering memorable lines like “Go ahead, make my day,” could turn out socially conscious movies that question our own behavior – and do so with humor?

In “Torino,” Clint plays an angry and bitter Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who hates about everything in life except for his wife and his dog. His wife has just died as the film opens. He’s left with two sons with whom he has little in common and some self-centered grandchildren who only want to know what Grandpa will do with his sleek Gran Torino when he dies.

In other words, they really don’t care about him. It appears he hasn’t done much to make them want to.

As a sour, wallow-in-my-racist-attitudes, foul-mouthed kind of guy, Walt continues to live in his deteriorating Detroit neighborhood that is occupied by more and more Asians. He lives with many ghosts from the war and doesn’t have a kind word for anybody.

When an extended Asian family moves in next-door, Walt is left spitting – literally.

But don’t worry. The grandma next-door can spit even further than Walt can. And there’s a lot more surprises to come.

The learning comes after Walt daringly saves the next-door family’s teen-age boy from violent gang members but has no interest in their gifts and gratitude. But they keep coming anyway, slowly stripping away some of his hate, and making him look around him for the first time in decades.

I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll leave it at that. Let me put it this way: The film challenges our point of view by making us uncomfortable about spending time in another—vastly different culture -- and clarifies a point to society that oddly Clint but most others don’t get -- it’s not easy for teenagers surrounded by gangs to stay out of that dangerous mix. They get sucked in by the violence they are threatened with.

And don’t miss the young freckle-faced priest on a relentless mission to get Walt to go to confession. Acting on a request from Walt’s dying wife, he becomes a thorn in his side, even showing up at the bar where the veteran hangs out with his buddies.

Humor. Heartache. Discomfort. Learning about life, as the priest would say, grabbed my husband’s attention when he finally went to see it. He enjoyed it as much as I did and now we are just waiting for our son to see it – even if it is R-rated (for language and some violence).

Some movies are just too important to miss.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


By Diana L. Chapman

I admit it.

I’ve taken time off -- a lot of time off the underdogforkidsblog. I kept up with writing this way and wanted to let people know what’s going on out there about kids.

But then an acquaintance of mine mentioned in October: “Did you know that November is novel writing month?”

No. I had no clue. What’s that about? I asked.

It turns out there’s a non-profit out there with a weird name, NANO, that encourages people like me to finally write that long lost novel that many of us writers dream about, but never do. The plan: write a 50,000 word novella in the month of November.

Since I was a kid and reading was my life and then a tea leaf reading fortune teller told me I would be a writer, I knew that it was true. But fear is a big factor in career making-decisions and I was petrified that I couldn’t do it. So I became a journalist to make sure I could write – but get a paycheck to boot.

Many writers struggle and never make it. Going in I knew that, and becoming a newspaper reporter, made much more sense financially. You knew you’d get paid!

As the months slipped by, then years, I finally realized in my lifetime I was never going to write that novel. In fact, I had given up. I had an underlying fear that I couldn’t do it anyway so it was easier just to delay the process rather than work toward finding out if I had the “right stuff.”

In my computer are the beginning births of many books, that have sat long and tiredly and have fermented away, forever it seems. But then two years ago, I knew I had an idea that was a winner. I started writing it, but never finished.

One day, my son was perusing the computer and found the book: “The Eight Levels of Life” and he marched out and said: “Mom this is the best thing you have ever written in your life.”

I knew it was true. But it still sat there. And sat there. And sat there. My fears mounted up.

I was afraid it wouldn’t get published. I was afraid I couldn’t write a novel. If you don’t do it, then you don’t have to find out – do you! It didn’t even seem to matter that I had gathered so many more secrets about writing – that I had learned to come to love the art that once tortured me – over all these years.

It didn’t matter that I had volunteered to teach scores of students how to open up their souls to writing. It didn’t matter that I knew shortcuts, ways to become passionate about your work and paths to nurse your brain – your own computer – to work for you.

So when this came up, I gasped because it seemed this novel writing thing had been meant for me. It gave me a deadline – the end of November, because after all, newspaper journalists work better with deadlines.

I started in November and by the end, I had filed 50,000 plus words and had the first workings of a book.

Is it perfect? Not even close. I’m giving myself January to rewrite the “Eight Levels of Life,” but then what popped out next was another book, “The Seven Golden Secrets to Writing that Your Teacher Never Taught You.”

I’ve been bouncing between those two books ever since, because I discovered something. It’s kind of cool to live in a fantasy world where all the problems are not your problems – but other characters – and finally you are sharing your secrets that could help others stem their writing woes and help them excel into waves of good words.

So if you have the itch to write, but you or your child need the push, check out this site: Please pass this on. It also has a young writer’s program.

So there you have it. Now, you can go write that novel too!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Missing "Peanut" Gets My Readers Rolling; Please See If You Can Help Out And Keep Your Eyes Peeled Wide for this Little 3-year-old Who Disappeared Two Years Ago in North Dakota

It's one of those things once again your friends send you over the internet. This tiny imp of a girl has been missing for two years and the man she was believed to be with has died. Since his death, police don't have any leads as to where she might be.

The girl was taken from her bedroom after she was put to be about 10:30 p.m. on May 16, 2006.

There are few clues to the where abouts of Reachelle Marie Smith, who was born Sept. 10, 2002. After she vanished, she was allegedly was seen in the company of Leigh Cowan, 22, who was later found dead in a van from an alleged suicide.

For more information about her story, visit:

Pass this on.

Have you seen this child?

There could be no better way to celebrate incoming U.S. President Barack Obama by supporting two of our local businesses, one just starting out and the other working its way through the nation’s struggling economy. It’s the type of thing I bet Barack would want us to do.

Italian Cuppacakes, run by local gal Rose Cigliano, and one of my favorite places to eat, Nosh, have teamed up in many ways – but are starting our New Year with a bright American flag style cupcake coming in three flavors: Chocolate with butter cream frosting, chocolate with cream cheese frosting and red velvet with cream cheese frosting.

“On Tuesday, January 20th, the United States of America will be sworn in our 44th President, Barack Obama,” a delighted Rose emailed me. “This celebration will take place at noon and throughout the day, people will be celebrating the new change we have all been waiting for. What can be more exciting than celebrating with an Inauguration Cupcake made by Cuppacakes!

“Bring them to work, or celebrate with your family and enjoy eating a cupcake as you see a history being made!”

An order of at least a dozen cupcakes of the same kind is necessary to order.

The cupcakes can be ordered through Rose at (310) 707-3541. All orders can be picked up at the eatery, located at 617 South Centre Street, San Pedro.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


By Diana L. Chapman
My old buddy, Ray Patricio, called me piping hot mad just the other day. And I can’t blame him. It was just one of the many peculiar things the city of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks does to upset and discourage people.

This time Ray’s anger stemmed from the ludicrous survey the department sent to the Harbor area residents residents asking what they wanted in their parks…probably a first in the history of mankind, I might add.

Because the truth is – they don’t really care what the residents want.

The results, released this week, turned out to be nothing that the community of San Pedro has been screaming for, but rather a water-down, diluted version of requests for walking, biking and nature trails, small neighborhood parks and pools – outdoor or indoor.

What happened to the ball fields? What happened to the skate park? What happened to the dog park? Those had been pretty well scrubbed down to the bottom of a list of 30 things Harbor area residents want. And most of all – what happened to Ray’s goats to clean up Peck Park Canyon, a campaign he’s waged for what seems an eternity and got the backing of Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn and hundreds of residents.

Here is my question to Recreation and Parks: If they do care, might they have not noticed the Harbor Area has at least four separate communities, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Wilmington and San Pedro – all of which have different needs, desires and identities.

Using the one-size-fits all plan was what Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa marched around accusing the Los Angeles Unified School District of doing. He must not have looked in his own backyard, because this is something Los Angeles does everyday – and in particular, Recreation and Parks.

Years back, city officials produced what were called park community advisory boards, designed to ease the uneasy feelings that residents didn’t have much to say about their park lands. The boards cropped up across the city with residents excitedly thinking they could make great changes.

Instead, what I’ve gleaned from serving on a park advisory board – and talking to members of many others – is that the department really doesn’t take the boards too seriously. Here are the three schools of thought from park advisers I have heard repeatedly.

--It’s so difficult to get anything done, even as small getting a park bench, that it turns into a frustrating odyssey and after years of quibbling – perhaps officials produce a bench.

--The constant joke among volunteers is: They wait you out, so finally you give up or leave or in some cases, die.

--To get anything done, you almost have to turn your whole life into that one cause and become a Joan of Arc – or else it will never happen.

While I thought we paid recreation and parks to be visionaries, it turns out they can’t get of their own boxes and the residents have to step up to show the city what it needs. It took long, not such pretty battles to get the dog park and to have the pool at Peck refurbished and turned into a year-round facility.

To get what they needed, the kids had to take matters in their own hands and build a bootleg skateboard park down in a vacant lot below the 110 Freeway. That happened despite that Peck advisers would have voted for such a facility in a heartbeat.

In the meantime, tiny towns like Napa – and even Ensenada in Baja – assembled skate board parks to address the crews of kids that were once riding the streets, using parking lots and school campuses.

When an idea crops up – no matter how remarkable – it seems we pay the staff to form a battle plan and use the words “no” as often as possible.

What also happens is that many of us discovered the hard way that even our councilwoman – who endorsed Ray’s goats-- wields little power when dealing with the bureaucratic, inbred bunch. With two term limits, it was easy to wait the council office out as well.

This might change with the new measure that will allow council members to run for a third, four-year term.

It makes me sad that for years, Ray has lobbied, screamed, yelped called everyone he knew on this planet to ask the city to allow for a small animal ranch at the park to symbolize the old and historic Hernandez ranch that was there for decades.

As a compromise, he finally settled on just bringing in goats to graze the canyon, clean it up and keep it from becoming a fire hazard. This is his swan song to make this canyon, a thriving come-to-life-park, where families could walk the trails and kids could see the animals -- rather than a bunch of dead trails and scrub.

Finally, the city agreed to let in the goats in for a short period of time. I guess it must have been too successful, because the residents flocked from all over, dragging their kids, just to watch something we’ve lost long ago – animals grazing.

It showed that Ray was right – a huge need exists to educate kids how animals operate – and it makes so much sense.

The trouble is: it just makes too much sense for Recreation and Parks.

--Submitted by the Relevant Stage
You've seen the musicals about felines, cross-dressing nuns, teapots and candlesticks, old French flags, helicopters, flying pigs, singing murderesses, falling chandeliers, and lousy navigation through an ice field.

Now, at long last, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" exposes everything you've secretly thought about dating, mating, and romance but were afraid to admit. The Relevant Stage's upcoming production of this hit musical will take you on a joyride through the jungle of the modern-day suburban mating game. Run dates are Feb. 13 to Feb. 22.

A free Champagne Intermission is offered to love birds who attend our special Valentine's Night performance on February 14 at 8PM.

Please be aware this is rated PG-13 due to some adult content

Warner Grand Theatre 600 W. 6th St., San Pedro, CA 90731
WGT is a facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
Regular Ticket prices are: $5-$20
Show times are: 8:00 PM Fridays & Saturdays; 2:30 PM on Sundays
Call (310) 929-8129 for information.
The Relevant Stage Theatre Company at San Pedro's Warner Grand Theatre visit: 310/929.8129Office: 600 S. Pacific Avenue, #220 San Pedro, CA 90731Venue: 478 W. 6th Street San Pedro, CA 90731


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Name is CABA
CABA - ID#A0985685My name is Caba and I am an unaltered female, brown and white German Shepherd Dog.The shelter thinks I am about 3 years old.I have been at the shelter since Sep 26, 2008.
BEHAVIOR: "she is SO sweet, She is shy and a little scared but really, really sweet. She seems good with other dogs. She just needs a little TLC."

Anna HernandezNEW HOPE /BABY BOTTLE FOSTER PROGRAM COORDINATOR North Central Animal Services3201 Lacy St. Los Angeles, CA 90031Cell - 213 - 305- 4096Fax- 213- 847- 0555Shelter-213-485-5767(preferred)Business Hours Tues-Sat. 8-5pm

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

By Diana L. Chapman

It was just your typical drive down the heavily traveled and oft-dangerous Interstate 5, as we zoomed home from a pleasurable holiday at my mom’s in the delicious Napa Valley. The graying mountains along the freeway whisked by as cars dashed past us.

On this drive, we would witness the sad fate of two dogs – unexpectedly -- and one that continues playing over and over again in my mind. It reminds me sadly that drivers on this freeway must be prepared for anything. Fog. Snow. Ice. Winds. And yes, even canines.

Over the years of heading up north for Christmas, this rather tedious drive seems to take on a life of its own in its 756 mile stretch across California. Having done it so many times, I’ve always tucked away the myriad of fatal and injurious accidents over the years.

In 2007 alone, the CHP reported 1,660 accidents along the I-5 stretching from southern Los Angeles county to Stanislaus in the north.

Of those collisions, 956 people were injured and 31 were killed. That is in one single year. So you can imagine what chance the two dogs had. Virtually none. Like young children, they are helpless.

When I called Jaime Coffee, a spokeswoman for the CHP, and asked about this dangerous freeway, she quickly explained that the officers don’t call the Interstate dangerous. “It’s the drivers,” she said.

This is true. As time whizzes on, it seems our senses get lulled and dulled and drivers and passengers alike start texting, talking on cells, driving at high rates of speed and doing all sorts of crazy things to keep them occupied. It’s long. It’s tiring. It’s boring.

But our lack of caution is exactly what drives us into perilous circumstances.

I was just thinking this when I spotted what appeared to be an unusual crate crushed like a square box, and flattened like a pancake, on the passenger side of the road. My mind started clicking into all the possibilities of what it could be, when I glanced toward my husband to tell him about it.

And that’s when I saw the Australian Shepherd/collie mix limping in the giant center divide – a wide swath of empty earth littered with glass, gravel, tumbleweeds, plastic bags, ratty old clothes -- and my heart sunk. My mouth opened and let out an ugly gasp and my husband yelped: “What? What?” You know that stupid thing you accidentally do that terrifies the driver.

Had we been a few seconds later, we might have been swerving to miss – or worse hitting -- this unfortunate canine.

It probably wouldn’t be to long before the shepherd would be dead, struck down by cars racing 80 to 90 miles per hour or higher.

I knew there was little time to go back. I also knew that my husband, Jim, wouldn’t take the risk of our lives or other humans by trying to rescue the dog. And worse, I knew as a reporter for years and years, that if the CHP was called, they might have to run the dog down as one of the only ways to protect the public. Officers do this if drivers start veering all over the place to avoid the canine or getting out of their cars to help, increasing the dangers dramatically.

Sitting back, I clenched my fists and knew there wasn’t anything I could do, but I couldn’t quit thinking about that dog.

No matter what I did after that, I couldn’t quit staring at the divide, thinking how many stories could be told from that stretch of land, how many animals, how many people, how many wrecks and deaths the center divide had witnessed.

The set up is next-to-impossible to get in and out of without crossing the dangerous interstate. That made me ponder that just about anything – except possibly a human -- could be lying out there for days on end without anyone noticing.

Tick. Tick. Tick. My brain kept pulling up the picture of the injured dog, with the thick black fur and the tipped white-tail and it’s remarkable fortitude to carry on despite its injuries. It just kept walking, limping, walking. Limp. Limp.

I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. I couldn’t take my eyes off the center divide. “Who takes care of that land?” I asked my husband. “Who cleans it up? How can anyone get in and out of there safely at any time of day?”

That’s when I spotted another dog in the very left lane, a champagne colored pit bull with a white chest and one leg lopped off and head appearing crushed. I gasped again. Two dogs within miles of each other. Had they been dumped? Had that been their cage that had fallen on the side of the road? Had the owners accidentally lost the cage? But no one appeared to be trying to get these dogs back.

It was clear the pit bull was dead, which didn’t bode well for the life of the collie/shepherd. How awful to have been the driver who hit the pit bull and probably couldn’t swerve in time without hitting other cars.

My mind was jumbled with questions. What if we had stopped and tried to help. But I knew that was stupid. My girlfriend once stopped on a freeway to help a German Shepherd and a CHP officer was furious. Not only did she put herself in danger, he told her, and as much as this sounds terrible to say, I’m sure rightly so, she put all the other drivers on the road in danger.

After the second dog siting in less than 20 minutes, I realized that perhaps I was supposed to write this story to remind people that the Interstate is no picnic and that cars driving as fast as bullets need to be more cautious – as you never know what will appear before you, dog, human or otherwise.

As we continued on, the next thing I saw sent chills down my spine. A child’s giant, blue teddy bear was lying on its back face up, looking to the sky.

It was a big reminder that not just dogs have died here. Children have too.

Sadly, often it can be our own fault, the fault of the adults.

I’ll never forget when an officer stopped us once on the 395 as we headed to Mammoth Lakes. We were going 85 mph, having lost all sense of how fast we were driving. Our son was strapped in his car seat in the back with a mop of blond girls, probably about age three.

“You just don’t understand what it does to me when I roll up to a crash with a child your son’s age," the kind officer told us. "I have a child that age.”

The point was well-taken. There was no argument from us, because I couldn’t imagine for a second being an officer pulling up where children have been killed or maimed. This takes me back to the question. I wasn’t sure why I wanted to write about this. But I had too.

I decided that it was perhaps just a gentle reminder to think while driving on I-5.

It doesn’t take much for that road to become a stick of dynamite and a single driver to become a match. Combine that with the tule fogs, driver exhaustion, the snow, rain, ice, turbulent winds, steep grades, unsafe passes and what you have is a highway that not only stands for the freedom of travel – but unfortunately, often death.

Here are some tips from the Automobile Club to Avoid Dangers

“Like the I-15 and the I-10, during the holidays the I-5 tends to have a lot of long-distance drivers and that creates a greater risk of crashes that are caused by drowsy driving,” according to Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Triple A.

“According to AAA, research shows that being awake for 18 hours produces driver impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05. With 24 hours of no sleep, the equivalent BAC is .10. You are much more likely to be involved in a crash while driving drowsy because fatigue impairs your reaction time, judgment, vision, information processing, and short-term memory.”

To avoid driving while fatigued, the Auto Club recommends these tips:

--Begin the trip early in the day and set reasonable daily itineraries.
--Share driving responsibilities with a companion if possible by rotating driving shifts.
--Stop every 100 miles or every two hours to get out of the car and walk around, since exercise helps to combat fatigue.
--Restrict night driving.
--Make sure you get a good night's sleep.
--If you find yourself getting drowsy, find a well-lit, safe area to pull over and take a nap. Even 20 minutes will help. Caffeine will also help, but not as much as sleep.

The other big factor in winter driving is poor visibility caused by fog, rain and early darkness. Here are a couple of brochures dealing with how to drive in bad weather:


Saturday, January 03, 2009


By Diana L. Chapman

I am not a big Adam Sandler fan. He’s a bit too crass, a bit too abrasive and rarely the big-hearted, teddy-bear-kind-of guy, that you’d ever want to hug. That was before Bedtime Stories.

This Disney entertainer released Christmas day reveals Sandler as a sort-of-consistent looser, hotel handyman, named Skeeter, with big dreams and aspirations to finally become the manager, but with no real way to achieve them.

It’s clear to the rest of us (the adults) that it’s never going to happen. – despite the promise the affluent hotelier gave Skeeter’s story-telling father who ran the place as a small Los Angeles motel and lost it due to bad business practices. The hotelier then built a giant, resort high-rise where Skeeter all day long fixes lamps, refrigerators, televisions and looks like that’s exactly where he’ll stay, forever.

That is until two children appear in his life. For him, it’s a miracle because they accidentally empower him and change his dull destiny.

The two elementary-aged cuties get stuck with their bumpkin of an uncle when his sister has to race to a job interview in Arizona. Skeeter hadn’t seen his niece and nephew for several years due to a family dispute over a wedgie.

Once Skeeter gets the kids, that’s when all the magic begins – because as we all know – many kids still believe in magic. For me, it starts as soon as Skeeter, the direct opposite of his elementary school principal sister who bans television, hamburgers and encourages meals of wheat germ, opens up a world of candy and fast food.

Not good. But the kids forgive him for just about everything (like trying to run out the door when he realizes there’s no television to help him baby sit). They do make him honor one request: he has to tell bedtime stories. Looking at a slew of health and environmental-conscious bed time books, the handyman tosses them aside and makes up stories of himself being a noble knight getting passed over to help the king run his castle.

What happens from then on is a shower of colorful gum balls, stories coming true, or partly true, a whirlwind of ridiculous magic that changes Skeeters’ life forever more. I’ve read the reviews that criticize Disney for “neutering” Sandler to do this movie. There’s not much I’m grateful to Disney for, but I am glad of this.

He did a stupendous job and so did his sidekicks. My mother, 80, my son, 14, and both my husband and I enjoyed seeing Sandler play in this role. Sometimes, you’ve got to let go of reality and seriousness and go with the story’s flow, which all four of us did here.

And we liked it. We liked it! It was creative and sparks the imagination’s juices.

As for Sandler, he took the role in the first place because it was perfect for it. Why?

Because he’s one big kid and probably always will be.
(Rated PG)


There’s not too many books out there where families can read them together with children of nearly all ages, but Gregor the Overlander worked exceptionally well for ours, especially with it’s unusual fantasy twist in the under world of New York City where bats “fly you high” and rats may be good or bad or otherwise.

At times, one just never knows, in this unraveling mystery involving prophecies that cleverly tied a poor young Gregor in an armed-grip to a fate he never wanted or expected in a world that is so different that it reaches far beyond other fantasies I’ve read.

This creative inspiration by author Suzanne Collins comes in a series of five books, starting with Gregor the Overlander and finishing up with Gregor and the Code of Claw, which devastated us all. We didn’t want the story to end.

The series was done and we were already missing Gregor and Boots, the toddling sister, who falls down a giant laundry chute from their apartment and – unfortunately for Gregor – he has to dive in after her to save her. He’s in charge of the beaming toddler, who constantly tells him she’s pooped and needs changing.

Gregor loves her, but he’s also become the adult in charge at about age 11, after his father simply vanished and his mother works full time to keep them in their apartment. He tries to do the right thing, but the right thing is not always clear.

In an endless spin, Gregor lands in a world that is ultimately dark all the time and filled with trash and gunk and the creepiest critters from rats to gnats that consume creatures like piranhas. When he at last finds his sister, he can’t even begin to fathom what to do next, but he’s sucked into an underground kingdom, where people have bluish skin and desperately need his help to survive.

What a stroke of Gregor luck! The whole world has landed on his shoulders due to a tumbling Boots. The story: funny (Boots keeps us laughing.); scary, but not overly so, and a series that provokes much thought in the sense of values, tolerance and learning that not everything is black or white. Even a bit of romance creeps in.

While my family wished the author had continued, she brought it to an end in her best novel yet, as we weave in and out of the black world on the backs of bats buried deep beneath New York. It becomes Gregor’s part-time – and often – unwanted home and leaves him in the turmoil of often misunderstood prophecies which seem to include him with every move he makes.

I will tell no more…My suggestion. Read it together as a family. Any kids from age six and up should be able to handle it.

Enjoy! And may you fly high.

A “Nerd” of a 12-year-old in Santa Rosa Starts to Critique Books on Her Wonderful Blog Which May Steer Parents and Kids to the Books They May Like to Read; She Even Has the Gumption to Tell Publishers to Send Her Their Books If They Want Them Reviewed

I like bravery. I especially like bravery in a 12-year-old. And I like it even more when a girl isn’t even a bit afraid to say she’s nerdy.

When my niece, Wendy, Righetti, told me about her friend Zoe Alea, and how she started up a blog to review young adult books, I was immediately intrigued.

On her site she wrote: “I am really obsessed with books, and I am a nerd.”

And a bit later, she suggests publishers send her books if they want her to review them.

Last year, she read 106 books starting out with a New Year’s resolution that she would read at least 50 books. Posted now, she gave an average review to “Frenemies” by Alexa Young which involved too much materialism for Zoe and “Someone Like You” by Sarah Dressen, another teen pregnancy story, a resounding must-read.

Hopefully, Zoe and I will do a story about how she came to do this incredible thing and take it upon herself to review books. But for now, you can visit her site at: