Monday, December 30, 2013

Events For CALIFORNIA APRICOTS Now Scheduled for 2014

With my friend Claudia Nord Campbell, a friend since kindergarten, who stopped by my book event at Capitola Book Cafe. It was a surprise since she lives in Washington State!

Now that we are in the final days of 2013, I'm guessing many of you will have purchased your 2014 calendars--those of you who still use the analogue calendar, as I do. The computer and iPhone are efficient for schedule-keeping, but I still enjoy writing things down. 

But, whatever style of datebook you use, I hope you will mark it for the CALIFORNIA APRICOTS events we have scheduled in the early months of the year. So here we go:

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Mysterious Message in the Pocket of the Chinese Jacket

The jacket came from a discount store I frequent, and carried the Guess label. 

Just before Christmas I did a little shopping for myself, and, as is my wont, I descended upon one of my favorite discount stores, into which goods trickle from some of the better shops. Bloomies, Saks, and other stores of that ilk are always changing displays and seasons and, after a certain amount of time, they sell what consumers don't purchase to discounters like TJMaxx and Marshalls. Lovely.

If you take your time and sift though the loads of stuff that isn't worth very much, you can find a gem or two from time to time. That is how I felt when I came across a jacket on my shopping day in brown-ish/red-ish leather. The price was right. The jacket fit and it had these cool zip pockets: just the right size for an iPhone or a house key. And, it was from the company called "Guess" a nice sportswear brand.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hale and Farewell to Two of Hollywood's Best

Joan Fontaine and Peter O'Toole died this week. Each is unforgettable and each appeared in films that will never be forgotten.

I was sad to hear that two of Hollywood's best were gone this week: Joan Fontaine (age 96) and Peter O'Toole (age 81) died just a day apart. They both were born with photogenic faces and both had the talent to make that beauty memorable. Fontaine's career began to sparkle at the end of the richest years of Hollywood--the 1930s--and bloomed in the 1940s. She and her famous sister, Olivia de Havilland, became the only two siblings to each win an Oscar for Best Actress. 

O'Toole was a hard-living man of the 1960s, who made one of the best films of all time--Lawrence of Arabia--and, though he almost killed himself with alcohol, he did survive to make more films for which he will also be remembered. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Last Minute Booking at Andy's Orchard

With friends at Books Inc., in Mountain View. We had a really busy day!

I just did CALIFORNIA APRICOTS book event #37 on Saturday, 12/14/13, at Books, Inc. on Castro Street in Mountain View. This wonderful independent bookstore was swamped as shoppers dropped in for Christmas gifts and browsed the many titles. The people who work at Books, Inc. are great at customer service too! Doug, Alex, Loren--you know who you are!

Anyway, this is just to let my readers know we have one more event scheduled (#38) ... before we all take off for the rest of the year ...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Treasures Of Old Photos Help Us Time Travel

My father, in a photo of the 38th Engineers on Ascension Island. I have a lot of photos of Ascension, but I had never seen this one. 2nd Lt. William Ashley Chapman is in the back row, sixth from right. 

A Colorado man whose father served with mine on Ascension Island during World War II, found a blog I keep about the men who built Wideawake Field. Michael Murray sent me the above photo, which made me ponder the importance of these photos of our loved ones, especially those who we have lost who served our nation.  Here's a link to my thoughts on "Wideawake Engineers."

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writers Behaving Badly in the London Blitz

New book from Lara Feigel of King's College, London.

I've been working on research about World War II, and, at the library one day, I happened to stumble upon a fascinating new book with the curious title, The Love-charm of Bombs, by Lara Feigel. She has accomplished a daunting work of scholarship, as she follows five prominent writers during the time of the London Blitz.

The eerieness of the setting and the wild behavior of the protagonists, makes the story irresistible. The skies seem to rain orange on every page.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Events for CALIFORNIA APRICOTS Continue on into Pumpkin Season: Here's the Latest Schedule

Everything is a gorgeous red at Stanford, as my friend Michelle Wahl of Stanford Hospital joins me for a book signing. (Note the dried cots she got to take home!)

We are adding at least one more holiday event before we close out the year:

Saturday, December 14: 1-4 p.m. Books, Inc., 301 Castro Street, Mountain View.  This will be a meet-and-greet and book signing for the holidays. Please drop by and say hello!

It has been such an amazing year for CALIFORNIA APRICOTS, beginning in April with the book's publication. Keep your eye on this space and we'll update any added holidays events!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lost Apricot Trees of Los Altos Hills

The view of the San Francisco Bay Area from the hilltop orchard of the late David Packard in Los Altos Hills is something to see.

This is an excerpt from an article I recently wrote for the Los Altos Hills publication Our Town:

Summer is coming to an end and the rolling hills around us are the dusty color of adobe. Aging apricot trees planted long ago will soon begin to shed their leaves. At local markets, you’ll find reminders of the warm days past in the orange, scented, sweet, dried, California apricots: true local treasurers. In Los Altos Hills, the remnants of the apricot orchards that once filled our acres are reminders both of our waning summer and of our history. For, the exotic apricot trees harken back to the time of the Franciscan missionaries, who brought the first apricot seedlings with them as they walked the dusty paths from Mexico into the Santa Clara Valley.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rest in Peace Julie Harris: A Haunting Talent

Actress Julie Harris in "The Haunting," one of the most interesting scary movies of all time. Directed by Robert Wise.

Julie Harris, who died Saturday at the age of 87, starred in a number of really important movies--East of Eden (Warners Brothers 1955) with James Dean was one of them--but, she was never, really, a movie star, in the true sense of that phrase. She didn't star in blockbusters. All of her movie choices were just a little bit different and off-beat. All allowed her to continue her work on stage.

She held the record for Tony nominations and is so well-known for her stage role as The Belle of Amherst that many of us think Emily Dickinson must have looked exactly like Julie Harris. She was Oscar-nominated and a Kennedy Center Honoree. But I think the role she will be best remembered for is the role she played in The Haunting (1963)--a movie that will live on and on because it is so darned good.

Events Calendar for CALIFORNIA APRICOTS: Check Out New Entries into Early 2014!

This is a photo from our latest book signing at Barnes and Noble Eastridge. We had a nice crowd for the first rainy day of the season in Northern California!

The last of the fruit trucks of the season are hauling plums and prunes and raisins to market in Northern California, and the San Joaquin and Central Valleys. It means autumn is here. Still, there is still a good-sized schedule of events coming up for CALIFORNIA APRICOTS. Stop by an event, and pick up a signed copy: then you can check that off your holiday shopping list! Coming up soon:

Saturday, September 28: Noon to 4:00 p.m. Saratoga Heritage Day: book signing and apricot nibbles at 20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road, Saratoga, CA. 95070. This should be fun as it includes folks in historic costumes along with goodies to eat. It is being held in one of the few cities in California whose entire downtown district was named in 1950 a California Historic Landmark. Join us! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Pink Flamingos and Saving San Francisco Bay

The San Francisco Bay Trail is a walking, hiking, running, biking trail that circles the Bay and its estuaries.

There was a report in the paper today that a genuine pink flamingo had been spotted in the estuaries of San Francisco Bay, just adjacent to the Sunnyvale Water Quality Control Plant. Since it is a Lesser Flamingo, native to Africa, and it is solo, locals suspect it is an escapee from someone's estate. All the local zoos have counted flamingo heads and have found no pink birds absent without leave.

Didn't see the elusive flamingo, but I was reminded yet again about the beauties of this incredible region. It is also remarkable to me how California has had the foresight to preserve and in some cases restore some of the most important features here for future generations to enjoy.

Events and Signings for "California Apricots": Updated Wednesday, August 14!

I signed books at Andy's Orchard July 6, where his apricot tasting and tour attracted  more than 400 people.

We have completed more than a twenty events for CALIFORNIA APRICOTS, and we still have at almost twenty more on tap. We haven't even started bookings for the holiday season yet! I will keep this events list active on my blog, so please check it for any changes and updates.

Click the  button below to find the rest of the list through November!

Wednesday, August 14: 7:30 p.m. Capitola Book CafĂ©: author presentation and book signing with special "apricot menu" at the Cafe. 1475 41st Avenue,  Capitola, CA. 95010. 831-462-4415. I am looking forward to this one because it means a trip to the beach!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stanford Bookstore Evokes Valley Memories

Stanford's Hoover Tower, constructed in 1941.

All roads lead to Stanford University, as least they seem to here in the Santa Clara Valley. I just confirmed an event there for my book California Apricots, an event that came from Stanford to me, not the other way around. Their bookstore manager had heard in the industry that the book was "doing very well" and called the History Press to ask me to come and speak.

This is an honor. Stanford is a powerhouse in our region and is one of the reasons Silicon Valley became Silicon Valley. It is a fabulous school; a beautiful campus; and its history and growth parallel California's. It was the favored school for many young people from orchard families in our region including Yvonne Olson Jacobson, of the CJ Olson family of Sunnyvale, who authored Passing Farms, Enduring Values (California History Center, 1984) the definitive book about the orchards in our region. It was edited by another Stanford great, Los Altos Hills resident, Wallace Stegner.

Monday, July 8, 2013

(Just Updated!!) Do You Know the Way to Hyderabad? Events List for "California Apricots"

At Andy's Orchard this weekend, the apricot tasting and orchard tour attracted four hundred people.

I honestly did not know it would get this big. I wrote California Apricots (History Press 2013) from my heart, using a fairly exotic fruit as the thread with which to weave the story of my valley.  I hoped a few folks would enjoy it. But today, with my book in its second printing, at my fourth event in three days, I signed books at the high tech company XiLinx, and one of them was to their Community Connection team in Hyderabad. That's an ancient city in India, one of the many places I did not expect my book to appear!

We've had eleven events so far and there are at least fourteeen more to go! Here's an updated list (stateside):

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream Waters

Fort Chapman celebrates.

From encounters with con men selling cars, to cancelled health insurance, to crooks in the business world, to well-meaning people who simply let one down, I've been reminded this week that life is not always a cabaret, old chum.

But in the midst of it all, I find moments of almost heartbreaking beauty. Last night, as I sat on my patio in the cool of the evening, pondering the vagaries of life in the modern world, a hummingbird cruised the nearby agapanthus and then hovered in mid-air, just beyond my reach, apparently trying to decide if my rose-and-green sundress had any potential for sweetness. You have to store up moments like that.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Going Slowly (Food-Wise) in Northern California

Sunset Magazine, June 2013, features Andy Mariani of Andy's Orchard in Morgan Hill, California.

California has been cultivating a trend, these last few years, that you will one day notice at a market near you--if it hasn't popped up in your neighborhood already. The state that is as large as a nation, sits on the shifting tectonic plates of the Pacific Rim, and is known for bringing the world the Internet, surf music, freeways, solar power, Jeans, and drive-thrus, is on the cusp again. 
This time it has discovered Slow Food. Slow Food is the opposite of Fast Food. This is considered a discovery in California.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How the Colonel Got His Groove

This is a copy of a piece I just produced for another blog called "Wideawake Engineers." I thought my general readers might enjoy it, especially as a tribute to Independence Day. Men of my father's generation made this week possible. Thank you all for your service.

William Ashley Chapman on Ascension Island in 1988.

I am working on an article about my father's unit on Ascension Island during World War II and I realize the one thing I haven't written much about here is that he returned to the island in 1988. He wanted to go back in 1982--for the fortieth anniversary of the completion of Wideawake Field--and started pestering anyone and everyone he could. He had to do that, because there were no civilian flights to Ascension in the 1980s.

He was a retired officer, a "full bird Colonel" as they say in the Army, so he could get people in the military to take his calls. But after a short chat any enlisted clerk could tell this old guy didn't have the one thing needed to get him there, i.e. pull. Ascension Island wasn't for tourists. It was a priority base. I think a flight there is unlikely. Sir.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Newest List of Robin's Upcoming Author Events!

A recent book signing event at Barnes and Noble, Blossom Hill, San Jose, CA.

Here's the list of my summer events: I hope to see you!

Saturday, July 6: 10:00 a.m. Andy's Orchard: book signing/author talk. This one will be pretty jammed (to coin a phrase) as Andy is famous for his more-than-twenty-varieties of apricots and will be holding a tasting, orchard talk, and you-pick-it as part of the fun. There is a fee for his part, so check the web site of Andy's Orchard. His address is: 1615 Half Road, Morgan Hill, CA. 95037. 408-782-7600.

Sunday, July 7: 2;00 p.m. Los Altos Hills Town Hall: author talk followed by a book signing and an all-apricot reception! This will be crowded too, as it will benefit, the Los Altos Hills History Committee, the Los Altos Hills Historical Society, and the Los Altos History Museum, so don't be late! 26379 Fremont Road, Los Altos Hills, CA. 94022.  650-941-7222. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

California Apricots: Harvesting For Good

Alta Mesa orchard in Palo Alto, California. Apricot season is early this year.

As the shadows lengthened on this June evening, I had an appointment to meet Susan Osofsky in an apricot orchard not far from my Los Altos home. Osofsky helps organize volunteers to pick the bounty of fruit in the Santa Clara Valley that would otherwise go to waste. 

Imagine. Apricots going to waste. I'll be right there with my bucket!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bamboo Trading Compay Has Shrewd New Hit

The Bamboo Trading Company CD has "the soundtrack for the summer of 2013."

I have now lived long enough for it dawn on me, that the most interesting people in my life have always been the most creative. And one of the best of those is filmmaker Steve Latshaw, whom I met at WESH-TV in Orlando and who is now a Hollywood guy. He recently introduced me to a young man who helped do the music for his funny new film Return of the Killer Shrews. The young man in question is music producer, writer, arranger, and general organizer, David Beard.

Latshaw met Beard through his many contacts in the Beach Boys organization and thanks to his friendship with Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean fame. I don't know exactly how the connections worked (maybe I can get Steve to write about that) but it all brought forth some terrific tunes for Steve's wonderful film, and a whole CD more of summer fun.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Annoying People Who Need to Go Away

How could you resist Larry? He couldn't remember you, so he couldn't cause you any trouble. Ever!

CNN had a real winner in Larry King. No one was more American than Larry. He was your very best friend when you met him, and then he completely forget who you were. (I had a personal experience with this.) He had, what? Seventeen, eighteen wives? How many convictions for floating bad checks? How many radio jobs in Florida? Perfect! Keep that guy. Give him a show!

The good news about Larry is that he didn't pretend to be anything he was not. He was a radio talk show host who got lucky and went on TV. No kingmaker he, Larry enjoyed his celebrity, chatted genially with his guests and went home and slept a good night's sleep (with whomever happened to be there). Hello New York!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rockin' With Elvis in "Jailhouse Rock"!

His best film of all. They didn't call him the King for nothing.

I was still attending the early grades of Loyola Elementary and watching the Mickey Mouse Club when Elvis Presley exploded on the scene in the 1950s. In the West, as pre-teens, my friends and I fell for the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean and our teenage years were launched with the Beatles. Later, Elvis seemed out of the past to us as we began rockin' with the Doors and the Jefferson Airplane. 

So I'm a late bloomer when it comes to Elvis. By the time I began to take notice of him, he had been exploited by managers, over-drugged by physicians, over-stuffed with fried peanut butter sandwiches by everyone, and over-costumed like Liberace. Not exactly a teenage girl's delight.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Check Out Coming Attractions for "California Apricots: the Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley"

The cover, by the History Press graphics department, is drawing raves. I like it a lot.

As an author with a new book just published by the History Press, I've been successful in using Facebook as one way of keeping friends, family, and former television viewers of my programs, up to date on book signings and book events. The schedule has been growing quickly!

But, though it is difficult for some to believe--not everyone in the world has joined up with Facebook.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

From Decoration Day to Memorial Day: A Time We Honor Those Who Keep Us Safe and Free

A vintage postcard honoring Decoration Day, which was the early version of the Memorial Day we celebrate this weekend.

I'll be going to Alta Mesa Memorial Park this weekend to freshen the flags at my father's grave. William Ashley Chapman graduated with an ROTC commission from Auburn in June 1941 and was called to active duty in July 1941. After that, he was in World War II "for the duration" as they used to say. For him, the war lasted almost five full years.

Then he served honorably in the Army Reserves much of the rest of his life, retiring as a full Colonel in the 1970s, at which point he was given Retired Reserve status that allowed him to be called up again if he were needed. "It was the greatest honor of my life," he wrote his commanding officer, "to serve my country in the U.S. Army."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Owning a Permanent Seat in Contractor Hell But Hoping For A Place in Heaven For My Trouble

Gutting the bathroom on the rental house in Mountain View. That was not fun, not done well, and cost what I used to think was a small fortune. But I'm sure it helped the contractor a lot who put so little in and got so much out of the job!

It is not good to complain about having stuff, because the majority of the people in the world have next to nothing. In America, we've reversed that and instead of living to get by: we pretty much live and work for our stuff.

In the case of rental property it is even more unseemly to complain. Because owning rental property means, in the eyes of many, that you have wealth. I find that pretty close to hilarious these days, now that I inherited some "income property" from my father. In fact, I've decided if I ever get to live my life over again, rather than own rental property I would rather sleep in my car. In Mumbai.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Terror Victims: a Cop and a Little Boy

Saying goodbye to MIT officer Sean Collier today in Massachusettes.

MIT and the city of Boston said goodbye to Officer Sean Collier today. In addition to the hundreds  injured and maimed, Collier is believed to be the fourth person killed by the two Islamic extremist brothers on their rampage last week. He was 26 years old.

The youngest victim, Martin Richard, eight years old, was buried on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Nothing anyone has said so far has made this comprehensible to me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

When a Bike Ride Takes on A Special Meaning

Riding bikes with nephews James and Timothy.

The devastating injuries caused by the terrorists to the victims in Boston have made me think an awful lot about the skills of doctors. I cannot in any way compare my own medical issue with what they are facing: but doctors did save my ability to walk a decade ago.

Just about every day, as I walk, bend, rake, sweep, ride my bike, go to the gym and garden, believe me--I think about this.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The End of Two Terrorists in an Ongoing War

It won't be over for the victims and their families for a long, long time.

Now that these two young terrorists have been dispensed with--one dead and one who will have to work his dreary way through our justice system--the FBI and all the other letter-heavy agencies in our government owe us the bad guys behind these two evil-doers.

The elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, said on social media that the main thing(s) in life were  "career and money," which suggests the very likely possibility he did this for the latter. Follow the money and it will lead us to those who ordered this, and those who ordered this must also face justice.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Friends & Family Fight Explosive Boston Hate

My friend Josh's mother Holly and me in her lovely Washington D.C. home the day I left to take a new job at WESH-TV in Florida.

We heard the news of the terrible attack in Boston just before I headed back to the San Francisco peninsula from my visit to Los Angeles. 

It made me glad that I had gone to LA in the first place. Though I flew down there for business--in this case to help promote my new book--another key reason for the trip was to see old friends. Boston was a good reminder that nothing in life--even life itself--comes with a guarantee.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Introducing the Ms. Gimpy-Mr. Peanut Fledgling!

Fort Chapman welcomes Junior Jay.

I have noticed over the last six weeks or so the behaviors of Ms. Gimpy and Mr. Peanut have changed and this led me to deduce they had a nest, The same thing happened last year, but I never saw any baby jays appear. My sister suggested to me that I might have seen the new young offspring and not recognized them, since young birds begin to fledge when they are just about full size and thus would look just like any other Scrub Jay I might see around. 

The idea. That I wouldn't recognize a new jay in my yard!

Today: I was really lucky. I happened to be in the right place to meet Junior Jay, fledgling of Ms. Gimpy and Mr. Peanut, on one of his first outings.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Silicon Valley Foodies Vs. The Revenooer

Google's famous "triumverate" of geniuses--Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin--in front of Google's HQ in Mountain View, California, in Google's new self-driving vehicle.

The amazing company Google may end up having more in common with the cartoon characters Barney Google and his pal Snuffy Smith than they ever imagined. In the cartoon world of Barney and Snuffy, residents of a hillbilly village spend much of their time hiding their local stills from the tax men, known as "revenooers" in the parlance.

Now it seems, companies like Google, Facebook and others in Silicon Valley who dare to serve free gourmet meals to their employees, may end up fighting the IRS over this untaxed food benefit.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Leading From the Front

Lady Margaret Thatcher October 13 1925-April 8, 2013.

I was sorry to hear today of the death of the great Margaret Thatcher, a woman who led Britain out of its labor-oriented, 1930s-style past and prepared it to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

There was none of this "leading from behind" nonsense with Prime Minster Thatcher, the longest-serving British Prime Minster of the twenthieth century and the only woman to serve in that office. She was out there on the leading edge taking positions she believed in. Her country is the better for it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good News To Report From the Orchard!

Spring has brought some very good news to our Heritage Apricot Orcard. Do you notice anything missing?

It has been almost a year since the City of Los Altos did an extensive telephone survey of residents and discovered there was no support at all for a project that would plow under our beloved Heritage Apricot Orchard and pave it over to build a bigger civic complex.

We even had an election in November that replaced two of the pro-development gang on the council (they were term-limited out, praise be. The third is out at the end of this year.)  Each week, I drove by city hall, hoping that awful sign had been taken down.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Remembering William Ashley Chapman: December 22, 1919--March 26, 2010

Half Moon Bay on a late Saturday aftenoon in about 1955. Even in the summer the Pacific is really cold and my Dad is probably trying to warm me up.

It was three years ago today that my father died. The days around his death were the hardest of my life: he was in a coma and I could no longer comfort him. But I was able to spend the last year of his life helping him. That was a blessing and a privilege and I am thankful every day for that time.

As he lay dying, I knew in my heart it was only a sad time for me. He was 90 years old and very ill. My mother had died a few months before. But I was selfish and wanted him to stay a little longer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Apricot Liqueur From Clara Caldwell

Apricot harvest at Gene Bays' orchard near Patterson, California, last summer.  ©Photo by Robin Chapman

What do you do with all your extra dried apricots, when you've tired of using them for healthy, tasty snacks? There is an alternative that several members of my family enjoy. And it comes from a recipe given to our mother by Mrs. Clara Caldwell, the woman who lived up the street from us a long time ago. Mrs. Caldwell passed away many years ago: but she lives on in this lively recipe.

You'll learn more about the Colonel and Mrs. Caldwell in the recipe chapter of my book, California Apricots: the Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley. Meanwhile: 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wild Times in the Old West: a True Story

My great grandfather was a cow puncher, a cattle agent, and a sheriff in the area around Bozeman, Montana, at the turn of the twentieth century. I've told this story before on my blog, but it is a story worth telling more than once, and it was time for an update:

Frank Latta, one time Montana lawman, in the autumn of his years. He lost his left eye in an accident, but he could track better than most men anyway. That star sapphire he's wearing now belongs to my Uncle Jack. The photo, taken by a photographer during the Depression, is in the Library of Congress archives. 

I never knew my great grandfather Frank Latta of Bozeman, Montana. But, after my parents passed away in 2010, I came across a picture of him in my mother's things that I had never seen. The photo, which is attached later to this piece, helps to explain a key element of a story that is often told about my great grandfather: how he helped to capture a notorious railroad extortionist in 1903.

Several men died at the hands of the bad man. But luck--and a new hat--helped my great grandfather live to recount the story.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Don't Want to Alarm You, But ...

The view from the Mount of Olives looking over the Old City of Jerusalem. Is that a bird? A plane? 

When the end comes, I hope I don't have to live on canned beans. I don't mind beans. But the canned ones are very high in sodium and if that is all I have to live on, come the Appocalypse, I'm bound to puff up and look really bad in my FB photographs. 

Seriously, though, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that something unpleasant is building to a crescendo in the Middle East. I know, I know, something is always exploding in the region that invented Armageddon; but this time it could be a doozy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Celtic Design: A Story for Saint Patrick's Day

Detail on a building in Dublin.

On this St. Patrick's Day, when everyone in America feels kin with the Irish, it is worthwhile to raise our glasses--in this case our field glasses--to look across the Atlantic at the curious and creative Celts.

Ireland is at present trying to recover from the crash that followed its brief years of economic success in which it was known, with the aid of the European Union, as the Celtic Tiger. The Irish, used to being beleaguered, seem to be handling it all with a shrug. They've gone back to work--as they always have.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Man of Ideas and a Safer World

This fellow was born more than a century ago. Not born to a wealthy family. Didn't get the chance to go to a fancy school. And he changed the world.

The morning paper says "Pentagon to deploy missile interceptors on West Coast ... to warn China to rein in North Korea." What an amazing thing that is. Even more amazing, is that we have a former California governor, who became President of the United States, to thank for this.

Ronald Reagan wasn't an engineer or a scientist. Ronald Reagan's missile shield was a creative concept that came from his ability to look at old things in a new way. People of big ideas do not all come from the Ivy League. Some come from humble little towns in Illinois.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Harrowing Kidnapping of a Reporter in Syria

Vanity Fair's article by Richard Engel can be found in the April 2013 edition.

I've just read a piece by NBC's Richard Engel, who, with his entire news crew, was kidnapped by terrorists in Syria, December 2012. Thanks to luck and some mysterious help from a group of men whom Engel does not (exactly) identify, everybody got out five days later.

Engel knows the Middle East, speaks Arabic, and has worked in Beruit and Baghdad. I take nothing away from his expertise nor his bravery. Doing the job he has been doing with nothing more than a reporter's notepad as protection, is either courageous or foolish. Probably a lot of both.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blossom Time is Publication Time!

Here's a vintage postcard from a UK company showing an apricot tree blooming in Egypt. The Egyptians call the apricot "mish-mish" and, because the apricot seems to take a long time ripening, they have a saying: "Tomorrow. When there are apricots." It is like saying, "Don't hold your breath!"
© Robin Chapman and The History Press

New Publication Date for
California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley 
by Robin Chapman
On sale April 16, 2013

Lots of things cooking this week with my upcoming book. Andy Mariani of Andy's Orchard in Morgan Hill has asked me to do a booksigning at his "apricot tasting" event on July 6, 2013. I rarely know what I am going to do the day after tomorrow, but I've got this event on my calendar! Andy is from the legendary Santa Clara Valley orchard family, and gave me some great quotes for the book.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An "Evening" With Van Cliburn in LA

An ad in TV Guide for "Evening."

Life being short, I spend as little time as possible looking back. It is only on rare occasions that I even recount the adventures that came to me because of my career in television. This week, reading about the funeral of the great pianist Van Cliburn, reminded me of one of those occasions worth remembering.

It was a night in Los Angeles, and it never would have happened but for the minor celebrity that comes to those of us who've been on the air in local television news. I can't complain: it got me a seat at the Hollywood Bowl for a rare, live performance of a legendary talent.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Apricot Book Has Glam Cover!

Just wanted you to see the cover of my book, which will be published by the History Press in about six weeks. If you go to Amazon and type in the book's name, you'll be able to pre-order it at a discount.

Things are moving along very quickly at the History Press re my upcoming book on the apricot orchards of Silicon Valley. I have the galleys in my hands now and this is my first glimpse of the cover.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jays and the Mysteries of Language

My friend Ms. Gimpy still has some instability on her right leg.

When I first noticed, two years ago, that one of the Jays in my garden was in distress with a broken leg, I gave her the name Ms. Gimpy. I tried to give her special protection when she would come to me for bird seed and peanuts: she would get exhausted standing on one leg and would collapse onto her stomach when she ate. This made her vulnerable to predators, so I took care to keep them away.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Real George Washington

Vintage postcard with a look at how we view our first president: on a horse!

George Washington is a sort of bronze figure in our nation's memory: a bit of an unsmiling stiff. The kind of figure we see as a sculpture sitting on a horse in a park. It is difficult to illuminate his personality.

One way to get a view of the real man is to read some of his diaries, the transcriptions of which are now available on the web site of the Library of Congress. Washington kept diaries all his life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

US SEALS: Like "Ninjas with Lions"

The March 2013 issue of Esquire Magazine.

I've found more evidence of something I've said here before: the best journalism right now is going on at magazines. This month's Esquire provides a terrific exemplar.

"The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden," by Phil Bronstein (of whom more later) is, at its best, a sort of stream-of-consciousness interview with the still-unidentified Navy SEAL of the title. Bronstein tries to make the article "about" something else (of which more later) but the words of this young man are so incredible, the article needs no artificial "pegs" to hang it on. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

And Now Back to Our Regular Programming ...

An apricot contains just sixteen calories. If you can find them fresh off a tree, they make a wonderful snack.

I have had to take a short break--my first in four years of blogging--from the daily and weekly business of writing for Robin Chapman News, in order to finish my fourth book--my first fully researched, indexed and annotated book of regional history. The manuscript for California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley goes to the publisher next week. After that, I will be able to begin posting again.