Saturday, November 21, 2015

Getting Judgmental

I was recently asked to be a judge for a poetry contest held by the student editors of Taft College's literary magazine, A Sharp Piece of Awesome. This magazine has been put out by the students for the past five years, with their next issue due out next May. However, this was the first year I learned of their poetry reading event.

The event, like many of their book launch events, was held at the Black Gold Cafe in downtown Taft. The owner is a strong supporter of the schools in Taft.

There were probably twenty people there, mostly Taft College students, but a few other people came out to hear and read their poetry. There were three judges. Bill Devine is a professor at Taft College, teaching English classes. Then Clarissa Alderete, who is a student at Taft College and one of the Sharp Piece of Awesome editors. Then there was me. I had been invited since I'm a Kern County published poet.

We (the judges) took a few minutes before the reading started to go over the criteria we wanted to us. Since it was a contest of reading, some of the criteria were performance based (like articulation), and since it was a poetry contest, some of the criteria were literary (like clarity and imagery). Then we scattered to different parts of the room to listen. Then afterwards we got back together and discovered we'd all agreed on the top three. Oh, we did have them in slightly different order, but we all had the same top three. So after a little discussion we decided on a consensus order.

Given that most of the people there were Taft College students, it's not too surprising that two of the prizes went to some of them (first and third prizes). But second went to an older man (probably in his seventies, maybe eighties). His poems, while not in a modern style, were very good, and he was a very good reader. Well, actually he had his mostly memorized. The audience as a whole also got to vote their favorite, and again the majority went for him.

So all in all this was a fun event. I had a chance to meet some new people, talk poetry and have a good time. It was quite an honor for Geoffrey Dyer, the Sharp Piece of Awesome faculty advisor, to think of me as a possible judge for their event. Hopefully I'll have a chance to do something similar again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Center of the World

Normally in August there is a festival down at Pine Mountain Club (near Frazier Park for those that don't know) called the Center of the World Festival. The name comes from the fact that the Chumash people that lived there say that Mount Pinos is the center on the world. The festival operates on grants and has a theme that changes based on their current grant.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I recently went to a breakfast meeting in Bakersfield which presented information about John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club and the man that helped convince Teddy Roosevelt to start the National Parks. In 1976 California historians named him the greatest Californian. (I'm sure that he'd still be near the top today.) But despite being an important Californian, he wasn't born here. He was born in Scotland.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Jury Is Out

When you read this I will be coming up on my period of jury duty. It has actually been a couple years since I've been called. But there for a while I was getting called every year. At first I would go and get put in a pool at the end of the afternoon so I'd have to come back the next day.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Urban Coyote

Now that's not some re-imagined movie starring John Travolta. But it is in fact, “a thing”. I have been looking at some articles on animals (and other things) for a project I've been fiddling with on the natural history of the area. And one of the things I've been reading that has been of special interest is that of coyotes in an urban environment.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Leap Second

On June 30th we had a leap second added to the year. A leap second? That's right, a second. We're all familiar with the leap day we add to the year every 4 years (next year will be one). That day is added to keep our calendars aligned with the stars. When someone asks how many days in a year, we automatically say 365. And that's pretty close.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fortune Cookie

A couple weeks ago I was having Chinese food down in Bakersfield and opened up my fortune cookie. It said that I was to receive a “great honor”. It's not that I put any store in what a cookie thinks, but I did try to think of anything that I might be in line for that could be considered an “honor”. And I came up with two. And they both came true.