Mexico in the news: Dogs, water, fossil fuels and more

  • Rules for bringing a dog to Mexico from the United States changed in December 2019. Find out more from the USDA website.
  • Baja water supplies are at a critical level, according to this San Diego Union-Tribune article.
  • State and municipal leaders in Mexico are saying no to new fossil fuel electric plants, according to Mexico Daily News.
  • Reuters writes about the 16th-century anchors found off the Mexican coast that offer clues into Spanish conquest.
  • Drought is crippling small farmers in Mexico, according to this NexusMedia story.

Book Review: ‘Becoming’ a fantastic story no matter one’s politics

When someone is in the public eye it can be easy to assume you know everything you want to know about them. Rarely, though, is that the truth. There’s the public persona, and then the private.

In “Becoming” (Penguin Random House, 2018) first lady Michelle Obama reveals intimate details about life before the White House, during her eight years there and as she was leaving. It was wonderful to hear her narrate the book, to be able to get the inflection, to almost be able to envision her saying the words.

Being black, born on the South Side of Chicago to parents who were far from wealthy, well, it didn’t seem like she would end up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The odds of her obtaining degrees from Princeton and Harvard were also against her.

Politics aside, Obama’s story is one of hope and inspiration. It’s about how hard work can pay off. It’s about learning to believe in yourself and overcoming the question of whether you are good enough. It’s trusting others and knowing when not to, it’s asking for help and accepting it when offered, it’s putting yourself first and realizing sometimes you have to take a back seat.

The book delves into the struggles she had with her husband, Barack. How it was difficult to put her career aside in favor of his. How politics is not something she would have chosen for either one of them.

How Obama was an advocate for as much normalcy as possible for her daughters growing up in the White House was refreshing. Secret Service officers would be dressed in shorts, not use earpieces – all in an attempt to fit in to the crowd as they kept an eye on the first daughters. The two girls were able to go on sleepovers, to school dances, out for ice cream with friends, all because their mom was their advocate. Obama learned this from her own mother who was there for her when she needed her from childhood and well into adulthood.

“Becoming” isn’t political, but Obama does share opinions. Mostly, though, it’s her life experiences. What a story to read – or hear, as the case may be.

Lake Tahoe snowshoe guidebook to be released in 2020

There is so much to do in Lake Tahoe in winter besides downhill skiing. Snowshoeing is my favorite outdoor activity when there is snow on the ground. I say if you can walk, you can snowshoe.

This winter I will be releasing “Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks.” It will be similar to my hiking book “The Dirt Around Lake: Must-Do Scenic Hikes” that was published last summer. Both are in narrative form, making them different than most books in this genre. Each route tells a story about the respective hike or snowshoe. Both books rate each excursion for scenic quality and difficulty.

Details about the hiking book are available by clicking here. That link will also tell you where it is available for purchase.

When the snowshoe book is out, I will let you know.

Tortoiseshell butterflies make mass migration to Lake Tahoe

Scientists are still trying to figure out why tortoiseshell butterflies have population booms. (Image: Matt Forister)

With the desire to bring environmental news to the masses, in 2012 the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency launched the publication Tahoe In Depth.        

Most years it comes out in the winter and summer. A wealth of information is provided about what is going on in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Some stories are written by employees from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, some by independent freelancers.

The winter 2019 edition has an article on Page 7 and Page 8 that I authored about the tortoiseshell butterfly boom in the Sierra last summer.

Mexico in the news: Rabies, tourism and the president

  • Mexico Daily News reports, “Mexico has become the first country in the world to be certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as free from human rabies transmitted by dogs.”
  • Expats living in Mexico beyond the 180-day limit without the proper paperwork could be in trouble, according to this San Diego Reader article.
  • The Los Angeles Times recently featured Todos Santos in an uninteresting travel story.
  • This is an interesting article from the Washington Post about Mexico’s president.
  • Drug cartels are moving into Mexican tourist towns as reported by Bloomberg.

Book Review: Serena Williams’ 10-Year-Old Book A Good Read

Tennis is just a game like any other sport. Those who play it at the professional level are just people like other athletes. Sometimes all of that can be lost on the public.

Everyone has a story beyond their fame as well as what led to it. While so much has been written about Serena Williams, reading her own words made her story even more real. What made this book interesting is that it is 10 years old.

“On the Line” (Grand Central Publishing, 2009) is the story of this tennis star’s life up until the time it was published. So much happened in those year, so much has since then. She wrote the book it with Daniel Paisner.

This book goes more in depth than the headlines and highlight reels of Williams’ start in tennis, her childhood, her family, competition with sister Venus, and the turmoil at Indian Wells. It is Williams’ take on all of these issues and then some.

While Williams can be divisive, and certainly her parents’ – especially her father’s – approach to bringing her to the world stage has been scrutinized, there is no arguing she is a force to be reckoned with on and off the court.

The book is personal. It’s Williams’ perspective on her life, tennis and family. It gave more details about issues in her life than I had previously known and refreshed my memory about aspects of her life and the sport I had forgotten.

Anyone who is interested in Williams and/or tennis will find this book worth reading.

Book Review: ‘Educated’ a raw look at overcoming disturbing childhood

In the 21st century it seems like a given that in the United States parents will ensure their children are educated. The problem is that education varies dramatically.

Tara Westover in her memoir “Educated” (Random House, 2018) clearly illustrates the various ways one is educated as a child will have a lasting impact. Education comes in many forms – not just reading, writing, arithmetic. It’s life skills, interpersonal relationships, even hygiene.

Westover didn’t receive a conventional education in any sense of the phrase. Her parents, in particular her father, thought all things government were evil. This included, but was not limited to, education and medical institutions. Her parents’ fanatical version of Mormonism was the norm through her eyes, not extreme as most would have interpreted it.

As is true of many young kids, Westover believed what her parents told her. Stock piling food, gasoline and other provisions for the end of the world seemed normal.They were living in Idaho, in the heart of white supremacy land.

Still, Westover knew her family was different. There were even times when she questioned what was taking place, like the physical abuse by one of her older brothers. But she didn’t know how to challenge her aggressor or get others to believe her.

Fortunately, she had another brother who broke the mold by figuring out how to get into college. He encouraged Westover to do the same. Even her mother initially pushed her to go.

Westover was accepted into Brigham Young University. She was not like the other students in so many ways. Westover thought she was asking a rational question about the Holocaust only to realize it was taken as mocking this tragedy. She didn’t know what the word meant. This was one of many examples where Westover’s lack of normal education put her at a severe disadvantage.

I started reading the book thinking I would not like it based on the discussion at a book club last summer. I had attended my old book club’s meeting in Tahoe even though I had not read the book. Reviews from my friends were mixed.

I finished the book with similar mixed feelings. In many ways it read like fiction because it’s hard to believe people like this exist in the world today or that someone with her upbringing ends up graduating from Cambridge and Harvard. I was left with many questions that likely would have been answered had this been a biography. My guess, though, is the only way for this book to get published and have the success it has is for it to be a memoir. That leaves us with trusting Westover’s memory and what she wanted to rely on from others.

What frustrated me about the book is I never felt her raw emotion, her anger. The writing is controlled, almost like it was another paper for college. I question whether her editors had something to do with this to make it more palatable to the public, to be just edgy enough to become a New York Times bestseller. Or maybe Westover still hasn’t found her true voice or come to grips with all that happened to her.

Mexico in the news: BCS tourism tax, fires, and papayas

  • The government of Baja California Sur this month is starting to charge tourists a tax of $18.50 at the airport in San Jose del Cabo, according to the Associated Press.
  • California isn’t the only place on fire. Fires in Baja Norte were raging at the same time, forcing the government there to issue a disaster declaration. Read more in the Mexico News Daily.
  • Archaeologists discovered an Aztec tunnel beneath the streets of Mexico City, according this Express article.
  • Papayas south of the border are different than those in the U.S.; and even in Mexico they aren’t all the same, according to the Mexico News Daily.
  • Alta Baja has a new governor, changing the power structure on the peninsula. KPBS has the story.

The perfect gift for that person who is hard to buy for

It’s the gift giving season.

A copy of “The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes” is perfect for all the December holidays, as a unique hostess gift, a thank you, for anyone who travels to the greater Lake Tahoe region, and for those with a guest bedroom in the Tahoe area. This link will tell you where they may be purchased. The book retails for $14.99.

With it still nice right now in Lake Tahoe, no reason not to get a copy for yourself to find hikes before it snows. Plus, there are destinations in the Carson City and Carson Valley, so it’s a reference all year.

Many retailers in Tahoe have signed copies, as do some stores outside of the Lake Tahoe Basin. For those in Baja, signed copies are available by emailing

Signings and readings will take place in Northern California/Northern Nevada at the start of next hiking season.

Book Review: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ an important story

The Osage murders is another chapter in U.S. history that isn’t part of the education system. We have author David Grann to thank for bringing this disturbing history to light in his book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” (Doubleday 2017).

Savages are what Indians were called. Truth is white people need to look in the mirror to see the true savage.

Grann takes readers on a journey through Oklahoma during the oil boom. The Osage Indians had obtained the mineral rights on their land from the federal government before anyone knew what lurked below. In the 1920s, the Osage were some of the wealthiest people in the United States.

Then the murders started occurring. To this day many have not been solved. It’s not even known how many of the Osage died during this multi-year killing spree. Many of the deaths were not investigated, let alone labeled as murder.

White people wanted the rights to the oil. Marrying into the tribe or overseeing an Indian’s financial affairs (another white man-government policy) was one way to get to the money. Instead of waiting for death to occur naturally, poison, bullets and bombings sped up the process.

While non-fiction books written by journalists are some of favorites, this one fell flat. It was dry, almost like reading court documents. While the writing left me unimpressed, it is the story that is the reason to read this book.

Grann also delves into the role of the FBI, which at the time was in its infancy. The latter chapters of the book point out how the FBI left so much evidence behind and that there is still more to know.

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