Respects


United States Army Honor Guard stands ready as pallbearers for the casket of Lockeford soldier Kyle Coumas at his funeral at Century Assembly Church in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).


From the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it seems that our area has had more than its share of military casualties, and I’ve covered a number of funerals.  In a way, both newspaper and television coverage can help a wider audience to participate in paying their respects to the men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country.


United States Army Honor Guard carry in the casket of Lockeford soldier Kyle Coumas at his funeral at Century Assembly Church in Lodi. (Camer: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 130mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).


The funerals I’ve covered have all had a lot of media attention. Usually there are photographers and reporters from multiple papers as well as TV coverage from Sacramento and the Bay Area. I’ve been to some where it was hard to move around without stepping on another photographer or reporter.


Students from Century Christian School line Century Boulevard in Lodi for the funeral of Lockeford soldier Kyle Coumas. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/6.3. ISO: 200).

It was different for the Lodi funeral of Army specialist Kyle Coumas, who was killed in action near Kandahar, Afghanistan. There were just three of us representing the news media: the Lodi News-Sentinel photographer Jerry Tyson, a videographer from the NBC affiliate out of San Francisco and myself.


The United States Army Honor Guard escorts the casket of Lockeford soldier Kyle Coumas out of the Century Assembly Church in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 110mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/6.3. ISO: 200).


I wondered where the people from the other papers and stations were. Granted, our access was limited to photographing only the casket and family going in and out of Century Assembly Church, but I still figured there would have been more interest.


Greg and Lori Coumas, the parents of Lockeford soldier Kyle Coumas are comforted by Captain Bruce Corum, center, as his casket is placed in a hearse after his funeral at Century Assembly Church in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 200).

Perhaps they thought that a death of a single soldier is no longer newsworthy. Indeed, even my pictures were published in our Local section on page A3 (We did run his body’s return to the area on Page 1 a few days earlier). Have we all become inured to the tragic the loss of a soldier? Are we tired of having to cover yet another fallen soldier?


Alfred Nicolini, right and brother, Paul Nicolini, both of Lodi, hold up flags to honor Lockeford soldier Kyle Coumas during his funeral at Century Assembly Church in Lodi (Came
ra: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

I believe that for as long as we ask our servicemen and women to be in harm’s way on our behalf, we should pay our respects any way we can.

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Mood lighting


(Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/8th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

For Halloweens past, my daughter has been various Disney princesses, a friendly witch and a gypsy. My son has been things such as Power Rangers, Jedi Knights and Harry Potter.


(Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/2.8 w/flash. ISO: 200)

This year they decided to be something a bit more frightening. My daughter was a zombie prom queen, and my son was a pre-teen skater vampire. We bought a cheap frilly dress for my daughter, which she combined with some fake blood and pale makeup to complete her ensemble. My son’s was even less expensive. A pair of fake fangs, some makeup and his regular clothes. When we were done with him, He looked in the mirror and I think he even startled himself.


(Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 33mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/4 w/flash. ISO: 200)

My daughter went to a Halloween party, but my son went trick-or-treating with friends, so we wanted him to have some nighttime visibility. My wife had received an elastic dog collar with an adjustable light for our dog Lucy from a co-worker. We hadn’t even opened the package yet, so she thought we could use it not only to make our son more visible, but to create some spooky effects as well.

(Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 33mm. Exposure: 1/10th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

At first we tried putting the collar around his neck and pointed the light up, but his chin blocked the beam. Then we got the idea of having him wear it around his head, like a headband, and aim the light downward. That worked. With the hood of his sweatshirt up, the light was hidden and he had his own portable mood lighting.

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October in Review

“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
- Humbert Wolfe

Cool, crisp mornings and leaves turning colors signal that the last remnants of summer have finally left us and fall begins in earnest. Here are 10 of my favorites from October.

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10/2/09:


Student Justin Wren, walking with a group of other students and a teacher from the Alan Short Center in Stockton, makes his way through the corn maze at Dell’Osso Family Farms in Lathrop (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/ 5.6. ISO: 200).

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10/7/09:


Farmworkers harvest pumpkins in a field on Lone Tree Road near Manteca
(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

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10/9/09:


The West High cheerleaders perform a stunt during a varsity football game against Granite Bay at West High in Tracy (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8 w/ fill-flash. ISO: 800).

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10/11/09:


A 1928 Ford is reflected in the flanks of a 1948 Chevrolet at Pete Paulsen’s 10th Annual Hot Rod Party at the Paulsen Ranch on Bowman Road in French Camp. About 400 vintage and custom cars were on display at the event that also raised funds for the St. Joseph’s Cancer Center (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 400).

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10/17/09:


Delta College’s Rikki Lee leaps to deflect a pass by Sierra College’s Jeff Nelson during a Valley Conference game at Delta’s DeRicco Field in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/ 5.6. ISO: 200).


Delta College’s Geoff Petties is tackled by Sierra College’s Houston Roots during a Valley Conference game at Delta’s DeRicco Field in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/ 5. ISO: 200).

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10/20/09:


Students listen to an anti-drinking and driving presentation called “Street Smart” in the auditorium at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 3200).


Firefighter/paramedic Chris Stocks, left, and Pat Kelly secure student Cody, Somers, 17, to a backboard to demonstrate what an automobile accident victim goes through during an anti-drinking and driving presentation called “Street Smart” to students in the auditorium at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 3200).


Firefighter/paramedic Pat Kelly secures student Cody, Somers, 17, to a backboard to demonstrate what an automobile accident victim goes through during an anti-drinking and driving presentation called “Street Smart” to students in the auditorium at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 3200).

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10/20/09:


Greenlaw “Fritz” Grupe drives a carriage pulled by horse Travis at their ranch in Lodi. Grupe won the advanced/FEI-level single horses, Lexington Combined Driving Classic held in early October in Lexington, Ky (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

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Let it snow

Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200

When I was a junior in high school in the winter of 1976 something unusual happened (well, unusual for the Central Valley): It snowed! Not just a dusting of flakes, but full-fledged snow. I remember having snowball fights with my fellow students (even landing a few on some passing teachers) and making a 6-ft tall snowman on the football field (we tried to make an even bigger one but couldn’t lift the giant snowball that we had made). It looked like Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” come to life. You could almost hear Bing Crosby singing. It’s been the only time in my lifetime that there has been a significant amount snowfall locally.

Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200

The Dell’Osso Family Farms corn maze is the biggest in the county. It features not only the maze and pumpkin patch, but fun activities such as a petting zoo, pony rides, pedal car racetrack, pumpkin cannons and more. This year features something new: snow. The Dell’Ossos built a 3-story-tall mound of dirt which they plan to cover with snow.

Teacher Angie Riley, right, helps student Catrina Mata, 10, catch the snow from a snow-making machine during a free day for special need children and adults at the corn maze at Dell'Osso Family Farms in Lathrop (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 116mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

When I first heard about it, I wondered how they were going to do it. Trucking in snow from the mountains would be a cost and logistics nightmare. Then it was announced that they would make snow. Again I wondered, how that would be done. The ski resorts manage it by using what basically amounts to super duper sprinklers. During freezing nights, cold water is pumped through nozzles into the air and the icy temperatures turn the water into snow. The problem is that here in the Valley temperatures rarely get below freezing making the creation of snow problematic.

Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/14. ISO: 200

I covered the farm’s preview opening a few weeks ago. Developmentally disabled students from around the county were invited to take in the farm’s features a day before the regular season opening. The sun was shining and at mid-morning the temperatures were in the low 70s. A part of the event was a sneak peak of the farm’s snow-making abilities. A long, 6-inch diameter tube was connected to railroad car-sized buildings about 100 yards away. In sporadic spurts, white snow shot into the air. A pile about 10 yards in diameter was slowly, but steadily growing. Not quite snowflakes, the particles of snow were about the size of grains of rice. Still it was cold and the kids were able to make and throw snowballs.

Megan Ochoa 10, from Modesto's Virginia Park Elementary School, throws a snowball made from a snow-making machine during a free day for special need children and adults at the corn maze at Dell'Osso Family Farms in Lathrop (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 105mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/6.5. ISO: 200).

Before I left I ran into Susan Dell’Osso, who with her husband Ron, runs the farm. She explained that a dedicated well was dug from which water for the snow is drawn. The water is run through a freezing unit and then the frozen water is introduced into a crusher. The crushed ice is then pumped out and, voila, instant snow.

Student Lydia Arroyo, 11, from Modesto's Virginia Park Elementary School, plays under falling snow from a snow-making machine during a free day for special need children and adults at the corn maze at Dell'Osso Family Farms in Lathrop (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 175mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

After the Halloween season is over, the Dell’Ossos intend to open the snow mountain in November with winter activities, including Christmas lights, reindeer and Santa. Cue the Bing Crosby music, because it looks like it will be a white Christmas in the Valley after all.

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On the march

Delta College has a concert band, a jazz band, even a mariachi band, but what it doesn’t have is a marching band. I can’t think of many community colleges that do.

 
(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @f/5.6. ISO: 200)

 During Delta’s football games, in lieu of a band on the field, music is piped in via loudspeakers mounted on the pressbox. From Hip hop, heavy metal, country, even oldies, you’d think that they would wide variety of music to choose from. What did they play when I covered Delta’s game against Sierra College last Saturday? Marching band songs. John Philip Sousa would have been proud.

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Field heat


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/ 5.6. ISO: 200)

Those artificial turfs many high schools are going to for their football fields are truly marvels. They never need watering or fertilizing. The need for mowing is zero, and lines are permanently painted on. They even feel like real grass. Soft and springy underfoot, the natural feel comes in part from millions of shredded, nearly sand-like rubber granules spread between the blade-like strands of artificial grass.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/ 5.6. ISO: 200)

As amazing as is it, it’s not perfect. Those tiny black rubber grains absorb solar energy like a sponge. That energy is released as heat in the surrounding air.  It doesn’t pose too much of a problem for the high schools, because most of their games are played at night, but Delta College, which built one of those fields a couple of years ago, doesn’t have that luxury. The college’s DiRicco Field doesn’t have any lights, and games are played on Saturdays during the middle of the day.


Delta College’s Christian Cross is tackled Sierra College’ KekeFrank, left, John Bloomfield and Jermaine Fox , rear, during a Valley Conference game at Delta’s DiRicco Field in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/ 5.6. ISO: 200).

Last Saturday, I covered Delta’s home game against Sierra College. Except for a few high, thin clouds, the sky was clear, and the sun beat down onto the shadeless field. The temperature on Saturday reached about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but the heat radiated up from the ground like steam from a hot bath. Combined with a humid day, it felt like an open-air sauna.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/ 5.6. ISO: 200)


On the sidelines I talked with Delta’s trainer extraodinaire Art Yee and asked him if it always got this hot. “This is nothing,” he said. “You should have been here a few weeks ago.” Yee pointed to one of the officials on the field and said that he had to leave the field because of heat exhaustion in the third quarter. The game was finished with four officials instead of the full complement of five.


Yee estimates that the artificial turf raises the ambient temperature 10 to 20 degrees. He said on the day the official had to leave the game, the surface temperature of the field was measured at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. He also said that’s it’s gotten up to 140 degrees.


Delta College’s Fredrick Jones is tackled by Sierra College’s Setleki Fuapau during a Valley Conference game at Delta’s DiRicco Field in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/ 5.6. ISO: 200).

The day I was there, a slight breeze came and went throughout the game, in an almost a teasing fashion. It just moved the warmer air around and was no help. Sweat beaded up on my nose and trickled down my back. I shot the game until about the half when I had enough of the heat. As soon as I got to the parking lot, I felt relief. Away from the heat sink that was the field, the breeze’s cooling effect made me sigh as I unlocked the car door. I got in and cranked up the car’s a/c as high as it would go.

The artificial fields have a lot going for them; they just need to find a way to cool them down, a giant parasol perhaps?

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The harbingers of Fall

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”
- William Cullen Bryant

Although it’s well into autumn, the trees are just starting to turn to their fall colors. I guess this still is sunny California, and much of the Valley is still green. But there are signs that things are about to change.

A leaf here, a tree there, and soon we’ll be awash in color. Perhaps it isn’t Fall’s full smile yet, just a Mona Lisa grin to herald the beauty of the season to come.

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And the winner is…

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 44mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11 w. DYna-Lite Strobes. ISO: 100)

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 44mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11 w. DYna-Lite Strobes. ISO: 100)

The results of my unofficial and highly unscientific poll, “What brand of DSLR camera do own?” are in and the winner is: Canon by a nose. Although the sample is small (a total of 13 votes), I believe it reflects the ongoing market share war between Canon and Nikon. Over the years the two companies have waged a seesaw battle with all other manufacturers fighting for third. In the poll Canon received 6 votes to Nikon’s 5. Olympus and DSLR newcomer Sony were tied with one vote each.

When I started in photography more than 25 years ago, Nikon was the dominant brand. Canon surged ahead and held the lead in the 1990s and mid-2000s. Over the last few years, Nikon has come up with several products to put it neck and neck with Canon. Canon has recently answered back with the new 7D DSLR camera and 1D Mk IV. Who’ll come out ahead? Only time will tell. The only sure thing is that neither company can afford to sit still.

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Days of future past

I took a science fiction course when I was in college thinking it would be of about things like Star Wars and Star Trek .
I quickly learned that the sci fi wasn’t about those fantasy adventures, but rather a serious genre. Futuristic settings were used by the authors that we read (Phillip K. Dick, Ursula K Le Guin, Edward Abbey among others) to make commentary on the world and society today.

Recycling and garbage cans at the new Stockton Marina in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

Recycling and garbage cans at the new Stockton Marina in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

I remember reading a Ecotpoia by Ernest Callenbach. It was published in 1975 and told of the future year of 1999. The premise of the book was that Northern California and the Pacific Northwest had seceded from the United States to for a new country: Ecotopia. It’s government and society adhered to ecological tenets. The story foretold of super fast trains, electric vehicles, organic farming and legalized marijuana. It’s been a long time since I read the book, and I’ve forgotten many of the details, but I remember one thing: recycling trash bins. On street corners were cans marked M, G, and P for metal, glass and paper and plastic. Residents were obligated to sort their trash too.

Today, some of the things predicted in the book haven’t come to pass, though there’s been talk of some of them. The US is still intact. A bullet train measure was passed not too long ago, and although there are very few electric cars, hybrid vehicles are all the rage. Organic farming is a small segment of the market and pot is legal for medical purposes in California.

One thing that’s everywhere today is recycling. We have recycling bins at home and on many street corners, along side of a trash can, is one for recycling as well. It’s one prediction that the book makes that’s come true, just 10 years later than anticipated.

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Blast from the past: Feeling the earth move

Late in the afternoon on October, 17, 1989, I had an assignment to follow a candidate on a door-to-door campaign for local office. We agreed to meet on a certain street in south Stockton. I remember the both of us arriving in our cars simultaneously. As I parked at the side of the street, I felt the car lurch as it came to stop.  I thought I hit bump on the uneven pavement, or perhaps it was a testament to my poor parking skills.

A whole block goes up in flames in San Francisco’s Marina District as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Unknown to me, there was more to that jolt. When the door opened up at the first house the candidate approached, the first thing the homeowner said was “Did you feel that earthquake?”  Puzzled, the both of us answered no. This happened at the next house as well. I had gotten just enough shots to complete the assignment, so I decided to end it and check back with the office.

A resident looks at a buckled sidewalks in the Marina District of San Francisco during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Once back in the car, I called to the city desk (back in those pre-cell phone days our company cars were equipped with two-way radios). I was told that a large earthquake in San Francisco had collapsed the Bay Bridge and I need to head straight to the Stockton Metro Airport. The photo editor had arranged for me to take a helicopter to fly me directly to The City.

A cyclist rides past a collapsed house in the Marina District in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

It was a very small chopper My right shoulder was actually outside of the opening where the door used to be (it was taken off for me to shoot out of). I made sure that my seat belt was tight and secured. It wasn’t very fast: I remember moving only marginally faster the traffic on the freeway.

A portion of the Bay Bridge that collapsed as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake taken the day after the quake.

It took about an hour for the dragonfly-like craft to reach San Francisco, and the light was fading fast. Before we had left Stockton, I was told that a portion of the Bay Bridge had collapsed. As we approached it, air traffic controllers restricted all aircraft to no closer than 1 mile from the bridge. The pilot pushed it to about 1/2-mile, but still the combination of the distance and the need to “push” the film (a low-light shooting technique of under exposing then over developing it) made for a grainy and soft pictures. The light was nearly gone, but I could still see a dark column of smoke coming from the city itself. I asked the pilot to head for it.

A resident walks by a damaged building in San Francisco’s Marina District as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

We reached the Marina District of the City and circled the spot where the smoke rose. About half a block looked like a pit of hell had opened up, consuming all it could. Flames leapt up higher than the surrounding buildings, as I could see a single stream of water shot by firefighters on the ground in a futile attempt to control the blaze. The fire illuminated the surrounding area, and for about half a block or so and I could see some of the damage that the quake caused. I could only imagine what the rest of the city looked like. The final bits of light left the sky, and darkness enveloped the city. The fire, as intense as it was, was dwarfed by the darkness of the rest of the mostly powerless city. Having exhausted the light and pushing deadline, the pilot and I returned to Stockton.

National guard troops patrol a street where brick facades collapsed in Santa Cruz as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Over the next week or so, I was sent back out, both in the air and on the ground, to chronicle the earthquake’s devastation. I was able to get a much closer look at the damage on the Bay Bridge and close-up damage to the Marina District in San Francisco. I shot the collapsed section of the Nimitz freeway and saw facades of buildings collapsed onto the streets in downtown with the National Guard units patrolling the streets in Santa Cruz.

A resident sits with all his belongings in San Francisco’s Marina District as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Our negative archive had limited space, so over the years we moved the older ones into a storage room upstairs at The Record. Since 1989 the newspaper ownership has changed hands a couple of times and in one of those changeovers the storage room was cleaned out, and the negatives, including the ones from the earthquake, were thoughtlessly thrown out, lost to the dustbin of time. All I have left are a few black and white prints, but also indelible memories that I’ll never forget.

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    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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