I’ve Redesigned The Site

I redesigned this site today. Text is now black with blue links. The header image changes as you move from page to page. I can’t recommend (external link) enough. I moved 120 pages of posts and pages from the old theme to the new without a single broken link. Let me know if you like the new look. (e-mail link)

Newspaper article

West Sacramento Reacts To TBD

This article appeared in The West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link) on September 30, 2015.


West Sacramento Reacts To TBD

 Photos and article by Thomas Farley

Social media and telephone lines blew up on TBD weekend to praise and protest the event. Common ground for all sides seemed reachable if noise levels could be better managed. Controlling that din, though, proved difficult, despite shorter hours and City monitoring. On the subject of noise that weekend, no one agrees.

Mayor Cabaldon told me at the last City Council meeting that “TBD had dramatically less noise impact this year compared to the first year.” Perhaps. Last year, according to CBS 13, West Sacramento Police reported 73 complaints. The City this year received 228 official noise complaints but they conducted more outreach than before. The City’s Communication Manager, Paul Hosley, says that a noise hotline and their West Sacramento Connect App may have encouraged more people to report in. The noise affected different people differently.

Robert Raubach contacted me to say that he is not opposed to the festival, just to the venue. “I live two miles away from where TBD was held. My house was booming Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I could close all doors and windows and still hear the bass. It vibrated the walls and windows. My daughter had a softball tournament this weekend. It meant early to bed and early to rise both days. Hard to do when our house is being invaded by unwelcome noise. Other people say we should have left town, gone somewhere else for the weekend. I find this suggestion repugnant and offensive. My house is my castle. My house is my refuge of peace and sanity. If I was to go anywhere for peace and quiet, it should be my house. Why should I have to go somewhere else?” Other people tolerated the sound, even to the point of discomfort.

Casey Gibson wrote to say, “My wife and I have lived in West Sacramento for a total of seven years. I personally have no problem with the noise associated with the TBD fest and quite frankly welcome the revenue generated, job opportunities provided, and exposure that result from the event. I have very high hopes for where West Sacramento is going as a city and am more than willing to endure a little bit of ‘bad’ for the greater good and long term growth and development. While I see where others are coming from with regard to noise complaints, I personally am happy to bite the bullet for three days in exchange for generating revenue for the city and fostering fiscal and communal growth.”

The City of West Sacramento was unable by press time to provide figures on the economic impact of TBD. They were also unable to say what the promoters paid to have the police department work the event.

The Mayor says the festival gets people thinking about the riverfront and about investing in the area. He says it reminds young people that West Sacramento is a place for them. What remains to be seen is whether these laudable goals can be achieved at 100 decibels.


West Sacramento noise report. (Downloadable in Word format) (Edited at the request of the City)

TBD music stage at dusk.
TBD music stage at dusk.
TBD festival goers at dusk,
TBD festival goers at dusk.
TBD festival tent at dusk.
Newspaper article

TBD: 17,000 Gather By The River, Celebrating Music, Art, Food, and Drink

This article appeared in The West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link) on September 23, 2015.

The News-Ledger is the paper of record for West Sacramento. Produced weekly, it is $.35 a copy. Subscriptions are $25 per year within Yolo County and $30.00 a year elsewhere in the United States. Delivery is by mail. Call (916) 371-8030.


TBD: 17,000 Gather By The River, Celebrating Music, Art, Food, and Drink

The TBD Fest boomed into West Sacramento’s Bridge District this weekend, forming a youthful community centered on music, art, drink, and food. But noise complaints threatened to break up the sybaritic world its founders sought to create.

Electronic dance music fueled the festival’s beat, though hip-hop, garage punk, art pop, and a dozen other genres made appearances. Dance music, however, in all its forms, was always key and constant. 90 acts played, many of them familiar to the EDM crowd, performers like Dusty Brown, Peter Robinson, and Tycho.

Art was scattered about the grounds. It ranged from performance art, a glammed-out ballerina dancing and twirling with a hoop, to competitive art, the War on Walls event, in which artists had a fixed time to create a painting that would outshine their rivals. Free standing art installations appeared here and there, many of them lighting up as you interacted with them.

Drink choices could be simple, subtle, or hard-hitting. You could fill your own container with water, or dive into choices like custom made cocktails or perhaps a shot or two at Wild Turkey’s 50 foot-long “distillery tour on wheels,” a motor-coach made to educate people about bourbon and to provide tastings.

Food choices were similarly eclectic. LowBrau was at the center of the complex, dispensing crowd favorites like sausages and different sides. Organizers said that 17 food trucks were scheduled.

The music at TBD was not enjoyed by everyone. According to KCRA TV, there were 55 noise complaints on Friday evening alone. Organizers seemed to listen to comments and on Saturday evening volume from the venue dropped considerably. City of West Sacramento complaint statistics were not available at press time.

West Sacramento and Sacramento are two very different communities but TBD managed to pull the youth of both cities into a communal atmosphere they could all enjoy. Stephanie Flores is a music festival veteran and she expressed many of the sentiments people had at TBD on Friday.

“I live a few blocks over. This is my third time for the Launch/TBD festival. Last year I came on crutches; I was treated great. I just came from Outside Lands last month in San Francisco and I think the security is better and I like the tamper-proof wrist bands. No gate crashers. I hope to see TBD grow, especially since I can just walk down the street to get here. It makes somebody like me from West Sacramento proud. I even brought my 13-year-old daughter. Everybody looks fabulous and there’s good vibes. Great music. I’m here to see Purity Ring and RL Grime. I think it’s good for the economy. I really love that there are new homes popping up around here in the Bridge District. We’ve been nearby homeowners for 20 years. I absolutely love the festival and the area and will keep coming back. I’m having a wonderful time. I think it is amazing.”

One of two greeters at the entrance.
A crowd around one of five stages.
Costumed ballerina.
Much to see and buy from distinctive vendors.
Art battle. Two hours to complete a composition.

The Mystery of Photos with Google Search

A few years ago Google started including photographs of authors in search results (internal link). You had to set up a profile with Google and then set a link to your website but that wasn’t hard. Then sometime last year Google announced they were doing away with photos (external link). Well, it looks like they are back:


I always liked the photos and I thought they encouraged more clicks. It seems that content like this blog, when linked to Google Circles or Google + or whatever they are calling it now (external link), will trigger a photo op. If you are a blogger I think it is well worth spending a half hour to get your writing linked. And to spend a little time finding a good photo.

Update: November 9th, 2015. Photos continue to be used. See image below while doing a search for 3Play Media.



The Wages of Writing

The Authors Guild (external link) reports some depressing conclusions about writers and wages. Although their report is about book writers, I think their study applies to non-fiction magazine article and newspaper article writing as well.

Their report states that only 39% of book authors support themselves exclusively through writing. Full time writers, the Guild concludes, make on average only $17, 500 a year. Part time authors make $4,500.

These are steep declines from when the last time the Guild made a survey, back in 2009. But they mirror the conclusions I’ve made about writing, the internet, and the collapse of the wage floor. (internal link)

Here is the report in .pdf (external link).




I’ll be covering the TBD Fest this weekend

I’ll be reporting this weekend on the art and musical festival for the West Sacramento News-Ledger  (external link, site under reconstruction). Are you going? Please send me any comments you have on the event, even if you don’t attend. You can send me an e-mail at this link: I need to send my story in by 8:00 a.m. on Monday, so don’t delay.

My editor, Monica Stark, wrote a tremendous overview of the festival in this week’s Ledger. Look for it now on newsstands throughout West Sacramento.

Interested in going? Here’s a link to TBD’s site:


Newspaper article

West Sacramento’s CERT: Prepare, Educate, and Assist

This article appeared in The West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link) on September 16, 2015.


West Sacramento’s CERT: Prepare, Educate, and Assist — Writing and photographs by Thomas Farley

Are you ready for a disaster? CERT members are. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. There are teams across the country, often sponsored by a fire department. Here in West Sacramento, over 250 citizen volunteers in the last six years have trained in emergency preparedness and assistance. CERT members can educate people on disaster preparedness, assist professional responders in case of an emergency, and provide community aid. On one day a member might help search for a missing person, and on the next they may be helping with crowd safety during a bicycle race.

Those interested in joining CERT take a free session of classes called a Training Academy. Topics include disaster preparedness, fire safety, hazardous material familiarity, basic medical skills, and light search and rescue. Many take the Academy solely for their own enrichment; there is no obligation to participate in CERT activities after passing basic training. Further involvement with CERT, however, does allow a member to build on what they have learned, by assisting in community events or by joining in field exercises offered at different times of the year.

Ashley Lucas is an active CERT member. She describes a regional CERT event that happens in Monterey. “It’s an exercise to keep our skills up-to-date. We practice search and rescue, triaging, transporting patients, setting up shelters, things that we would need to do in case of a disaster. The people we practice on are made up with what’s called moulage, makeup that looks like a bone is sticking out of their arm, along with simulated cuts and bruises. It’s pretty realistic.”

Another member, Fred Bustillos, recalled his previous experience in Monterey, in which he had to find multiple “victims” inside a completely blacked out three story building. He regards it as a highlight of his CERT experience. “You had to keep your wits about you. Even though you had safety gear and flashlights, you still had to find those people and then navigate back.”

I talked to another long time CERT member, Randall Frank, outside Fire Station 45. He was detailing the CERT utility trailer, which he keeps in readiness at all times. It contains pry bars, a chainsaw, a generator, floats for river rescue, and a hundred other items. Everything for a disaster that might happen now. Or later.

“We’re preparing for El Niño, even if it isn’t half as bad as predicted,” says Frank. “In a possible flood situation, CERT members can free up emergency workers to do more critical jobs. We can provide the nearby Reclamation Districts with trained levee patrol spotters if their personnel are suddenly needed elsewhere. Or, if there’s a downed power line in a storm, CERT personnel can stand guard and keep people away until PG&E responds. A fire engine crew doesn’t have to be tied up to do that duty.” Of all the work he does for CERT, though, Randall seems proudest of the hours he puts in demonstrating the Fire Department’s Fire Prevention trailer. It’s used to teach children about fire safety and how to best exit a burning building. As he says, “If it saves one life, the effort is worth it.”

The News Ledger is the paper of record for West Sacramento. Produced weekly, it is $.35 a copy. Subscriptions are $25 per year within Yolo County and $30.00 a year elsewhere in the United States. Delivery is by mail. Call (916) 371-8030.

Click here to go to West Sacramento’s CERT website (external link)

Randall Frank, CERT member and Property Manager with the CERT utility trailer.
Randall Frank, CERT member and Property Manager with the CERT utility trailer.
Utility trailer at West Sacramento’s Fire Station No. 45.
CERT members educating children about fire safety using the West Sacramento’s Fire Safety Trailer. Photo courtesy of CERT.
Randall Frank.
Newspaper article

The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

This article appeared in The West Sacramento News-Ledger (link no longer working) on September 9, 2015. Note. This post contains additional photographs not available in the newspaper. Scroll down to see the article:

The News-Ledger is the paper of record for West Sacramento. Produced weekly, it is $.35 a copy. Subscriptions are $25 per year within Yolo County and $30.00 a year elsewhere in the United States. Delivery is by mail. Call (916) 371-8030.


The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring The Yolo Bypass — Writing and Photographs by Thomas Farley

If you want to get outdoors but don’t have much time, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is a perfect place to go. It is essentially the entire area visible from the Yolo Causeway and its main entrance is only three miles from West Sacramento. You’ll see birds of all kinds, an unusual, intensely managed landscape, and you’ll experience a relaxing break from city pressure. The noise of Interstate 80 barely registers, and you’ll soon find yourself lost in exploring.

The Bypass has three main roles. The first and most important is flood control. To relieve pressure on Sacramento River levees in heavy rain years, the 16,700 acre Bypass is allowed to flood.

The second role is to encourage wildlife and habitat. After water recedes in the Bypass, or whenever the ground is dry, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the property. Rice is planted, seasonal and permanent wetlands are maintained, and grasslands are cultivated, all to increase the numbers of waterfowl and other birds.

The third role is education and recreational use. Fish and Wildlife partners with groups like The Yolo Basin Foundation to promote that end. Heidi Satter is the Foundation’s Education Coordinator. Each year she helps to organize and conduct dozens of field trips to the Bypass for schoolchildren across our region. What better way for them to experience wildlife and wetlands so close to home?

Take the signed auto tour route to experience the many elements of the Bypass. It makes a complete loop of open areas, along with interesting side roads. Bring binoculars, water, and a day pack; you may be tempted to park your car to investigate the many foot trails.

Annual flooding of ponds is now occurring in preparation for waterfowl season. Located in the heart of the Great Pacific Flyway, the Yolo Bypass will soon play host to countless thousands of birds as they migrate from north to south.

Dove season is currently running until September 15, so certain areas may be closed. (Hunting remains an activity as it has for decades, however, this use is controlled and permitted only in specific areas.) Guided monthly tours start on October 10, from nine to noon. But you are welcome to drive the Bypass roads yourself at nearly any time of year.

Going? Check the information boards posted at the site since not all areas are open at all times. Downloading a map is highly recommended. Dogs are only permitted in the Bypass from the Causeway to the railroad tracks. Hours are dawn to dusk year round.

To get to the Bypass, go west on Interstate 80, take the first exit, turn right at the stop sign, and then loop underneath the highway on East Chiles Road toward the signs. The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters is located 1.9 miles further down on Chiles. It’s past the Yolo Fruit Stand and the soccer fields at 45211 County Rd 32B. Open weekdays.

The entrance sign you’ll see from East Chiles.
Flooded stubble. Meant to provide habitat.
The skylines of West Sacramento and Sacramento loom in the distance.
Herons are a common sight.
Heidi Satter, Education Coordinator for the Yolo Basin Foundation. Widely known as the prettiest girl at Sierra Oaks Elementary School. 
Dry ponds along the Auto Tour Route. Some may soon be filled with water in preparation for waterfowl season.
Picturesque canals convey water from one area of the Bypass to another. You may see beaver.
Picturesque canals convey water from one area of the Bypass to another. You may see beaver.
There are splashes of wildflowers, even in late summer.


California Department of Fish and Wildlife page on the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (external link)

Yolo Basin Foundation (external link)

Map of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (external link in .pdf)


West Sacramento’s Port is on a Path to Profitability

This article appeared in The West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link) on September 9, 2015. This post contains additional photographs not available in the newspaper.


City of West Sacramento information about the Port of West Sacramento (external link)

SSA Marine information about the Port (external link)

Look up a ship! (external link)

The News Ledger is the paper of record for West Sacramento. Produced weekly, it is $.35 a copy. Subscriptions are $25 per year within Yolo County and $30.00 a year elsewhere in the United States. Delivery is by mail. Call (916) 371-8030.


West Sacramento’s Port is On a Path to Profitability:  Writing and photographs by Thomas Farley

Has the Port of West Sacramento’s ship come in? Or is it still at sea? The landmark facility alongside Industrial Boulevard has struggled for years to keep afloat financially, but new practices suggest that a more buoyant future lies ahead.

The Port made a renewed effort toward profitability after reorganizing its business in July, 2013. At that time, seeking cost reductions and greater efficiencies, the City of West Sacramento turned over shipping management to a private company.

SSA Marine, a worldwide port operator, now leases and manages the Port’s North Terminal cargo facilities. SSA in previous years moved everything at the Port from wood chips to windmills. Frank Patalano is the Terminal Manager for SSA Pacific. He talked about their recent two-year anniversary at the Port, saying that progress is good so far and that one of their challenges turned out to be educational; SSA is learning to become a port administrator, not just a terminal operator. They are now tasked with, among other things, fulfilling various permits and complying with California Air Resources Board requirements. Patalano says that this experience is proving valuable to him as a manager and to SSA Pacific as a company.

Patalano reflects, “One of our biggest accomplishments in the last two years is maintaining the business we have always had, the leader in exporting rice to Japan, as well as building on that current business and adding to it, through the global marketing team that SSA possesses. We are confident. We’re continuing to export rice, we import cement, we’re importing grains like corn and soybeans from around the world.”

The other part of the port equation is the City of West Sacramento, which acts as a landlord to SSA Pacific and some 30 other businesses operating on the sprawling port property. Although SSA is by far the largest tenant, other lessees include a log yard operator, a dredging company, four boat clubs, two transportation and supply companies, a cell tower tenant, and even a beekeeper.

Rick Toft is the Port Business Manager for the City of West Sacramento. He says the Port is also actively seeking development of 300 acres it owns on its south side. Called Seaway, the land is currently rented to a farmer. And like any landlord, the Port must manage its property and sometimes clean up after former residents. A small group of abandoned and derelict vessels floats idle in port. The boats have been made environmentally safe at the cost of millions of dollars but it may be some years before they are completely removed from the water.

Since the City handed off shipping responsibilities the Port is more stable financially. Revenue is modest but in the black. As Toft puts it, “The Port is a positive story in that its been a profitable enterprise since 2013.” Perhaps the Port’s ship has indeed come in. But in the form of an ocean going cargo ship, to be filled with rice and put back to sea.

New Port entrance sign.
Frank Patalano, Terminal Manager for SSA Pacific.
This crane is 100 feet high, weighs 400 tons, and cost five million dollars.
A wharf at The Port of West Sacramento. The Port receives between two and four ships a month.
The Ken Sei, bulk carrier. Panama flagged.
Serving the California Rice Industry.
Another business on Port Property. The Lyu Group’s log yard.
Four boat clubs operate at the Port.

Magic or Magical. Why English is so difficult to understand.

Yesterday I used the phrase magic prose. This morning I woke up alarmed. Perhaps I should have written magical prose. After failing to find a coherent explanation on which use was proper, I did a Google search. Magic prose returned 10,300,000 results, nearly ten times more than the 1,220,000 results for magical prose. Magic it is.

Fowler’s Modern English Usage provides a fascinating and exasperating look at why always using correct English is probably beyond the ability of the average writer. At least those with deadlines to meet.

magic(al), adjectives. See -IC(AL)

Magic tends to lose those adjective uses that cannot be viewed as mere attributive uses of the noun. First, it is very seldom used predicatively; the effect was magical (never magic); the ring must be magical (not magic, though must be a magic one is better than a magical one).

Secondly, the chief non-predicative use is in assigning a thing in the domain of magic ( a magic ring, carpet, spell, crystal; the magic art), or in distinguishing it from others and so helping its identification (magic lantern, square), rather than in giving its characteristics descriptively (with magical speed; what a magical transformation).