Wasn’t that one heck of a thunder-and-lightning storm that hit here at 5:45 a.m. Saturday? Around the San Francisco Bay Area, the lightning started at least 20 fires and blacked out nearly 50,000 homes and businesses, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

In West Marin, the lightning momentarily blacked out a few homes and turned on lights in others. Here on Campolindo Drive, PG&E service was unaffected, but several homes connected to the Horizon Cable system took coaxial hits.

Like other townspeople, I was awakened early Saturday by a thunderclap as loud as canon fire. Instantly wide-eyed, I saw a fireball exploding outside my window followed by lightning flashes further away. The explosion fried my television, as my nose quickly told me, and destroyed the modem to my computer.

100_2829My stepdaughter Shaili and I occupied our time with old-fashioned reading after my Internet service went down.

One of my neighbors also lost a television while a total of four of us on this hill had our modems fried, Horizon Cable’s office manager Andrea Clark later told me. She noted all the damage to the Horizon system was along Campolindo Drive although no one has found the exact spot the lightning struck.

The National Weather Service attributed the lightning storm to a coastal low-pressure system that had picked up more moisture than expected, The Chronicle reported. The bulk of the blackouts were in San Francisco although the lightning started fires as far east as Livermore and Mount Hamilton (east of San Jose).


It’s been a busy week around my cabin. My youngest stepdaughter from my last marriage, Shaili Zappa, 16, has been visiting from Guatemala. She’s a high school junior with top-notch grades, so Monday I drove her to my alma mater, Stanford University, hoping to get her interested in applying.

After taking the official tour of the campus and talking to admissions and financial-aid counselors, Shaili came away thoroughly impressed despite the cost. A financial-aid advisor told her a year at Stanford including room and board typically costs about $50,000 these days although the university might be able to cover all but $10,000 of that.

I received a bachelor’s degree in English from Stanford in 1965 and a master’s in Communications in 1967 (when the costs were a lot less), but I hadn’t been back to The Farm in recent years. The biggest change in the last 40 years that I could see were dozens of new and expanded buildings with many more under construction despite the recession.

The recession has cost Stanford, the third wealthiest university in the US, 30 percent of its endowment, which has fallen to $12 billion from $17 billion. Harvard, the wealthiest university, has also lost 30 percent while Yale, the second wealthiest, has lost 25 percent.

Stanford reports it now has an enrollment of 17,833, but students studying for graduate and professional degrees greatly outnumber undergraduates, accounting for more than 63 percent of the studentbody.


Meanwhile, my middle stepdaughter, Kristeli Zappa, 20, has just begun college in Taiwan. Kristeli is also a good student, and the Taiwanese government offered to pay for four years of college in English following a year spent studying Mandarin. The government in Taipei is also picking up her food, lodging, and transportation costs.

Emphasizing the significance of this scholarship, the Taiwanese ambassador on Aug. 12 presented it to Kristeli in Guatemala’s National Palace at a ceremony attended by Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom and Foreign Minister Alfredo Trinidad.


The following day, Kristeli was featured in a Page 1 story of the daily newspaper El Diario de Centro America as one of four young people trying to make life better in Guatemala. Less than a week before that, she was the cover model for a society magazine, Overnight, which is geared to Guatemalan young people.


As regular readers of this blog know, my eldest stepdaughter, Anika Zappa, 22, visited me in late May and took the opportunity to shoot a whimsical series of photos using a purple couch that had been abandoned beside Novato Boulevard in Hicks Valley.

Anika a week ago began attending the University of Minnesota after studying for two years at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota. To pay her way through college, she’s been working for Best Buy stores and steadily rising through the ranks.

I’m obviously proud of my studious stepdaughters. To me, a lightning bolt outside the window seems less striking.