Farewell to Borders… :-(

I shall miss you!

Over the years we made it a habit to “check out things” at the three Borders stores within driving distance.  Frequently, whole day trips were planned around the Borders experience, including dining and other activities. You never knew who you might see in a Borders store–Joe Montana was a “celeb” I once spotted.  In another instance, I was browsing through several movies and  briefly engaged in a conversation with another man at my side about the films before us. Towards the end of the conversation I realized it was George Lucas.

I do not wish to engage in the debate about mega stores versus independents. I do note, however, a certain irony in the fact that a fictional mega store (Fox Books) was the backdrop for the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail. While the megastore and romance triumphed in the film, today’s reality and shifting consumer habits in 2011 tell the rest of the story…

Inside, customers are taking advantage of the sales, forming long lines at the check out…


So, how goes the economy in your ‘Hood?

Much ink has been printed–not to mention the hot air expelled on talk shows and countless media & web sites–discussing and analyzing the state of our economy at the national, state, and local level. 

On the home foreclosure front, there is a concern in some quarters about the substantial number of homes in the national foreclosure inventory and a worry that the banks will have to take another write-down of assets due to the weakness in secondary mortgage paper. 

And, of course, there is the current game of “chicken” going on in Washington DC over the national budget, deficits, and debt limits. It remains to be seen how the crisis will be resolved in whole or in part…or whether it will simply continue with superficial solutions. I’ll leave that to others to analyze.

Tuning out the media noise for the moment, I decided to grab a pocket camera and take a quick look around the neighborhood to see how the economy is playing out at the street level. By way of background, on one street, if I count down five houses from the corner, only one has not been foreclosed on in the last two years:

  • Two were foreclosed and resold in 2010
  • Two were foreclosed in 2011 (one just this week) and are pending sale

Take a look at the slideshow and decide for yourself. How is it looking out there on the front lines?

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  • REO–A Bank owned property (lender-owned), also sometimes referred to as a REO (real estate owned) home or property
  • Not all foreclosure properties have yard signs.  Of the four homes discussed above, not one displayed a yard sign.
  • The homeless person was sleeping in front of the empty Mervyn’s store.

Thirty-Five Years Ago Today…

…a certain couple from Illinois got married…on their motorcycle…on a bluff above the Illinois River…

Nobody was advised of the wedding beforehand, although the couple mailed announcements to family and friends before venturing out onto the highways and byways of America and Canada…

There was another couple on the trip, Curt & Cheri Welty, who only learned of the marriage at the first gas stop…

Today, Curt and Cheri live in Buena Vista, Colorado and look exactly the same as they did 35 years ago.  The newlyweds are now living in Petaluma, California.  They too, look exactly the same.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary, Petaluma’s Bovine Bakery produced and presented a cake suited to the occasion…

And yes, this post is an exercise in personal privilege.  Happy Anniversary, Barbara!!

And thanks to the Bovine Bakery for the beautiful cake!!!

Sonoma Summer…

Finally, summer has arrived in P-Town and Sonoma County. Here are a few snapshots with captions borrowed from the Gershwins’ Summertime


© Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

Petaluma July 4th Fireworks Show

 And the livin’ is easy…

© Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

© Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

Gracie Mae © Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

 Fish are jumpin’

Bodega Bay © Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

 One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky…

© Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

 NOTE–Individual photos may be enlarged by clicking on them!

Low Flying Helicopters…Have a complaint?

Late in the morning of June 29th, a helicopter flying and hovering over various parts of Petaluma’s East Side caught the attention of residents. It was, shall we say, a quite obvious event that brought to mind again the questions of safe operating altitudes and risks to residents in urban or congested areas…

© Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

The helicopter in question (see above) was not an air ambulance or police agency unit. The only identification was the registration number, N64PJ…

© Frank Simpson, Petaluma, California

As aviation is regulated by the Federal Government, one has to turn to FAA regulations for guidance as to proper operating altitudes…

Sec. 91.119 – Minimum safe altitudes: General. Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

  • (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
  • (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
  • (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
  • (d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and(2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.[Docket No. 18334, 54 FR 34294, Aug. 18, 1989, as amended by Amdt. 91–311, 75 FR 5223, Feb. 1, 2010]

The FAA has a low flying aircraft complaint procedure outlining how citizens may register their concerns. The text of that procedure is set out below…

FAA Procedure for Low Flying Aircraft Complaints

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the government agency responsible for aviation safety. We welcome information from citizens that will enable us to take corrective measures including legal enforcement action against individuals violating Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR).

It is FAA policy to investigate citizen complaints of low-flying aircraft operated in violation of the FAR, and that might endanger persons or property.

To Whom Should You Complain?

Within FAA, the Office of Flight Standards monitors aircraft operations. Locally, Flight Standards inspectors work in a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).

“The facts, Ma ‘am, the facts!”

Before contacting the FSDO, remember that the FAA is a safety organization with legal enforcement responsibilities. So we will need facts before we conduct an investigation. To save time, please have this information ready when you call. And do keep your notes: we may request a written statement. Here is the type of information we need:

  • Identification – Can you identify the aircraft? Was it military or civil? Was it a high-or low-wing aircraft? Did you record the registration number which appears on the fuselage? (On U.S. registered aircraft, that number will be preceded with a capital ”N.”)
  • Time and place – Exactly when did the incident(s) occur? Where did this happen? What direction was the aircraft flying? What was the color?
  • Altitude – How high (low) was the aircraft flying? On what do you base your estimate? Was the aircraft level with or below the elevation of a prominent object such as a tower or building? Did you obtain photographs? Are there any witnesses who could confirm your estimate – do you have their names, addresses, telephone numbers?

Supporting Evidence: Witnesses, Police, Photographs

  • Do you know of any other witnesses? The more the better. Do you have their names, addresses? They may be contacted.
  • Are local police aware of the problem? While they have limited authority in aviation matters, police officers are considered ”trained observers” by the courts and their written statements or reports make excellent evidence should our enforcement action go to trial.

If you took photographs, we need to know the lens used, and the height of any identifiable landmarks that appear.

What FAA Will Do

Once we have the appropriate facts, an FAA aviation safety inspector from the local FSDO will attempt to identify the offending aircraft operator. We can do this in several ways. For example, we can check aircraft flight records with our air traffic control information and/or sightings from other observers, such as local law enforcement officers.

We may need to trace and contact the registered aircraft owner, since the owner and operator may be two different people.

Do you want feedback?

FAA welcomes assistance in identifying and prosecuting all violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Citizens complaining about low-flying aircraft will, upon request, be advised of the final results of the FAA investigation: be sure to give the FSDO your name, address and telephone numbers where you can be reached at home and at work.

If further information is required, please write: Community and Consumer Liaison Division, APA- 200, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, D.C. 20591. During regular duty hours (7:30 a.m. – 4:0O p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday), telephone (202) 267-3481.