California crazy energy costs!

As a Californian I cringe turning on the air conditioning in an attempt to keep my family comfortable during the hottest months of the year.  Will my monthly bill top $600+ for a single month?  It seems ludicrous that just by running the air conditioning the energy companies absolutely gouge the consumer.

Isn’t there a better way?  Why is California power so expensive?  Why isn’t solar taking off?  I ask these fundamental questions as I turn down the temperature gauge in my home.
Unfortunately Californian’s pay 60% more than the rest of the country for residential, industrial, and commercial power as discussed in a recent article by Environmental Progress:
Why would new companies building infrastructure or business owners ever come to California?  It doesn’t make any sense.  So, the average American consumer who pays huge taxes in California to begin with, pays 60% more and I guess the idea is that by the average consumer paying more then this is paving the way towards renewable energy?  Nope, I seriously doubt that.  In fact, I’m confident the energy companies are pocketing profits and just making people pay more.
In a way it’s a wealth transfer.  Those that can afford solar, pay for it, and indirectly raise the price of utilities for those already suffering that can’t afford it.
Why would the power companies embrace solar?  They won’t because it’s a threat to their very existence:
A solution needs to be found.  In fact, America should be leading the charge in renewable and alternative energy sources.  We have to.  I see the potential birth of an entire world and economy that marries green technology and energy together, but we have to bring down the monopolies that control it all.  It’s going to require nothing short of a revolution to make that happen.  I hope that day comes before climate change and the end of the world draws nearer.
Tony Bilby

Travel and jobs of the future?


Jobs of the future!

I often contemplate what future jobs will be like in 50 to 100 years or if humanity will even last this long.  The answer, with our damaging effects on the planet and general decline into the abyss, is probably not.  If, however, we do last this long, it’s interesting to see what people might be doing with themselves, work wise that is.

Let’s take a look at what Mary Ellen Slayter has to say about those potential future jobs:

  1. Chief productivity officer:   This is logical.  A person at the top of the food chain understanding data and analytics that provide direct information about the business and what the business is doing.
  2. Excess broker:  So the idea of monetizing idle assets sounds interesting to me.
  3. Drone manager:  As discussed, Drones will no longer be novel, but everywhere.  So, a fleet manager, or someone who manages this ever-evolving fleet would be a welcome resource within an organization.
  4. Air traffic control for the private sector:   This seems similar to when the first cell towers were being built and you had people focusing on how to best contractually break in and manage this new infrastructure.  Similar business for drone fleets.
  5. Medical mentor:  Personalized medicine is already here. I’m sure it will become even more specialized in the future.
  6. A mechanic for self-driving cars:  I think this will be more of a computer technician than a mechanic.  Interesting to see how this evolves as the gas/coal industry continues to choke the world when we know alternative energy and propulsion has been available for decades.
  7. Autonomous transportation:  I view this as more of an air traffic controller/project manager for all the different ways people will leverage a technologically advanced transportation system and how they integrate into their personal net.
  8. Personal medical interpreter:  More of the same.
  9. Human technology integration expert:  This makes sense.  There will be an array of technology advancements to choose from and it may take a while to filter through what’s best.
  10. Wholeness mentor:  Like a personal trainer and nutritionist of today.
  11. End-of-life coach:  Always good considering the baby boomer generation.

Tony Bilby

Tony Bilby Scuba


When I was in grade school in the 80’s, I was obsessed with a national geographic book, containing large glossy color photographs, that chronicled diving throughout the world along with a history of how diving first began.  I was fascinated with how underwater exploration first started, the treasures unearthed from sunken ships, divers in their thick rubber suits with multiple tanks, and the beautiful coral that was alive and vibrant showcasing an underwater world at the turn of every page.

I was very young at the time so I asked my mother to read me the stories, captions, and air bubbled tales of sunken treasure and exotic marine animals whenever she was willing.  There were sharks, octopus, crabs, stingrays, eels, and beautiful color photographed families of creatures that lived within these coral cities under the ocean.

I decided I wanted to be a diver when I was older or at least learn and get the chance to scuba dive later in life.

When I was eighteen, a freshman in college, I took a diving class, studied in the classroom, dove in the pool, and then a murky mountainous river to finally get certified navigating a stretch of deep water with zero visibility using only a compass as my guide.  This was 1991, pre-internet, so no such things as dive computers; only manual dive tables, clunky equipment, and a thirst for adventure and the unknown.

Over the course of my sport diving, now as a middle aged man, I’ve logged a significant number of dives.  It seems over the decades I have experienced more and more death and darkness rather than the first eye popping, color filled, teaming with life dives I went on like at Looe Key Sanctuary in the Florida keys in the early 90’s.  Back then the locals were already telling me that diving was so much better in the 80’s.

It seems that Florida’s “dwindling” reefs, as they are referred to now, are disappearing at record speeds having been struck with a devastating coral bleaching disease, another impact of warming ocean temperatures caused by man-made climate change.

In just thirty years half of the worlds coral has disappeared.  What? And just in the last two years half of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, part of the worlds largest living and ocean organism, is now gone.

It’s insanity to think what we’ve done in just a few short decades.  The almost complete destruction of Earths most important eco-system. And, not surprisingly, most don’t seem to care.

Perhaps the coral deaths parallel much of what American society has become today.  What was once a vibrant land filled with opportunity, promise, attracting generations of great thinkers, engineers, philosophers, artists, writers, and people wanting to do good and make a positive difference has now become an overbearingly destructive capitalistic machine concerned only with profits at the expense of everything else including human life and the environment around us.

Perhaps we are too glued to our screens watching the latest unfolding of the greatest and trashy American reality TV show, American politics today, to realize that our destruction and greed has gone too far?  It’s time for everyone to wake up!

Today the colorful first dives only exist in my mind, a recreation that can’t be re-done except with the help of hollywood and some cinematic genius.

I hope that I’m not the last generation to have experienced the ocean reefs personally rather than a story from a not-too-distant movie in the future discussing the worlds biggest ecological disaster.

Tony Bilby


Tony Bilby in Bavaria


Throughout the year I would visit my grandparents in Germany.  They didn’t speak English.  I spoke only German to them during the times we would visit or they would come to the United States.  I was fortunate to experience my American culture living in the US as well as my old-world German culture by my mother and grandparents.  Grandfather, Opa, was Bavarian and my grandmother, Oma, was from the Black Forest.  They lived in the old family home in Denzlingen, in the heart of the Black Forest, which was purchased and passed down generations on my grandmother’s side of the family.   My great grandfather had made his fortune building greenhouses after the war and purchased half the village real-estate, but unfortunately my great aunt married a scoundrel who squandered the family fortune racketeering and a mishmash of lousy business dealings.

Opa was a very gentile, giving, loving man.  He was Bavarian and if you know Bavarians, they are proud of their heritage.  He’d wear his lederhosen around the house and town, but as Oma emphatically shared in her stories, he never donned underwear beneath his hand-made leather shorts.  This allowed views of his manhood shared with whomever he was sitting close to at the table during drinking or dining.  This infuriated my grandmother who, I must assume, didn’t like him to share it with the public.

Opa, like most Germans, was open about most things including the sexes and sexuality.  Germans expose nakedness and sexuality at a young age, often inviting their teenage kids and girlfriends or boyfriends to spend the night with the family.  “Better at home under a safe roof than secretly in a car or in some back alley,” my mother used to say.   As a young boy, during sunny days, my grandfather would detour our frequent walks through the English Gardens in Munich.  In the Gardens, German women were topless exposing themselves while sunbathing and relaxing.  As a young boy, my face would flush bright red when I saw such women, but my grandfather would just smile and shrug his shoulders as he walked slowly with his hands rested behind him.  Sometimes Oma would find out about the detours and scold Opa blaming him for exposing me to nakedness and debauchery at such a young age to which my Opa would simply chuckle.  Oma was loud and animated in her stories about Opa and his alleged escapades.  She’d raise her voice recalling times when Opa would frequent the lake, without her, to go boating and sailing with other women, obviously naked and in an orgy of fun, to which Opa always denied such foolish tales.

Oma spoiled me rotten.  My memories of her are as fond as they get.  She fixed me traditional German dishes whenever I asked.  She was warm and loving.  Oma spent significant time in the kitchen and when Opa got too close to her business of cooking or cleaning she would bang her pots and pans and rattle insults to which Opa seemed oblivious.  Oma often told me as I got older “the best days of my life were when you and your sister came into this world.”  She would call me a “nettes bierbly” which was Denzlingen slang for little doll.

I spent more time with Opa.  He was a skilled carpenter and could fix anything around the house.  His favorite times were canoeing, swimming, and sailing.  Watching Opa go to work was always fun.  He kept himself busy with various projects around the house.  I would speak to him in our German Bavarian dialect and he would tell me story after story.  His stories about the war were the most interesting.

Opa shared that he was raised by women and although they were very poor growing up, he was an athlete who spent his time outdoors.  On sunny days he played soccer.  Food was scarce, but he learned to live meagerly and worked labor jobs starting at a young age.  He told me that when he was a young man he was “stein hart,” which means hard as a stone.  Then he would growl amusingly and pound his chest and abdominals.

When he talked about the war he shared his basic misunderstandings of most things involving what was going on in Germany.  According to him, when first enlisted, he left the barracks at night to go dancing with women.  Upon his return his company commander would discipline him with calisthenics which included running, push-ups, sit-ups, and a movement involving the entire body called “hase hupfen” or rabbit jumps.  He said he was in superior condition so any exercise that he was forced to endure was easy considering his upbringing involving hard labor jobs and meager food rations.  He said he would yell loudly “Ich kahn nicht mehr, ich kahn nicht mehr!” which means “I can’t do anymore!” to his company commander, but this was a ruse as he could have continued exercises throughout the night with ease.  His unruly and carefree conduct continued during his early days in the army, he asserted, after all, being raised by a bunch of women, he simply didn’t know better.  As he revisited his stories he shared that his foolish and unwitting behavior, behavior that certainly didn’t match the behavior expected of a German Wehrmacht soldier, could have had him shot or killed.  Opa believed it was sheer luck that his company commander had been such a good man; a man that didn’t shoot him personally given my grandfather’s insubordination in Hitler’s army.

It wasn’t long into the war that Opa met Oma at her village of Denzlingen in the black forest.  There was a brief courtship followed by a hurried marriage in the back of a truck while stopping temporarily on a logistics supply run.  It was war time and chaos was the norm.  My grandfather soon deserted the German army and he and my grandmother made way to the snowcapped Alps.  Opa, a master outdoorsman with knowledge of the terrain and surroundings, was able to lead a small group of families through a mountain impasse that was considered unattainable or unreachable by most.  Overcoming the impasse, traveling to higher elevations, and through the thickness of the pined black forest they found refuge.  There, my grandparents along with a few other couples and families stayed in hiding for the remainder of the war.

My grandfather said on more than one occasion he was “captured” by American forces before he and his wife made their escape to the mountains.   Once he was put on a truck with other POW’s and as the truck started to drive he jumped out and ran to the cover of woods.  Nobody bothered to chase or shoot him.  Another time he was forced into a POW building, but he walked out the back door, grabbed a bike, and pedaled off.  My grandfather carried natural ease and contentness about him so the stories he told me as a child I never questioned.

Tony Bilby

Turkey – on a bus.

Market Day

John was a Turkish American and a great friend.  We met in middle school.  John was an interesting guy with an interesting background.  His father, the former prince of Uzbekistan, was born into wealth and aristocracy, but lost his riches and stature when the Soviets invaded during WWII.  His father then served in the Soviet army when captured by the Russians, the German army when captured by the Germans, and then, finally, the American army after he was captured by the Americans.  The family later settled in Munich during the cold war era and his dad worked for Radio Free Europe, broadcasting western messages of hope, freedom, and democracy across the entire region which included Uzbekistan.

His dad married a beautiful Turkish woman who was much younger, probably by close to thirty years.  John spoke English, German, Turkish, and Uzbeki fluently and his parents had no qualms raising their son with aristocratic mindsets and philosophies.  John was mature, well spoken, well-traveled, and had an early interest in photography, history, architecture, and culture; which eventually rubbed off on me.

My parents were absent during those days and John’s parents expected him to act like the son of a prince.  With such freedom bestowed upon us, John and I went to bars in our early teens, as we looked and acted a bit older than we were, and by fourteen we started traveling through Turkey by ourselves.  We had one particularly late night at a club in Cesme and after only a few hours of sleep got up and caught the next bus to Izmir, Turkey.

On that very crowded bus, which included a farmer and his chickens in a metal cage, a middle aged Turkish man sat next to me.  He was close rubbing his arm against mine which made me feel uncomfortable.  Then he said in a thick Turkish accent “do you have girlfriend?” smiling.  “Yes, yes,” I said immediately.  I was hung over from the night before and didn’t want to engage in conversation.  “Where you from,” he persisted in his thick tone.  “California,” I said.  I should have known to just say the United States when talking with a farmer in the middle of Turkey because he responded back “Kenya, Kenya, yesssssss, Kenya is a very nice place!”  Clearly, judging by my white complexion, I was from Nairobi, Nairobi Kenya.

From that day forth John and I would stop, look at each other laughing and yell “Kenya, Kenya, Kenya is a very nice place,” in comically thick Turkish accents.  “Dude,” my friend would say “you are a very special boy from Keeeennnnyaaaaaaa!”  Zafar, his uncle, never liked the joke.  “Stupid,” he said.  “Stupid, you should act your age.”

Tony Bilby


tony bilby in antigua


I visited Antigua a few years ago and enjoyed the still unspoiled natural beauty of the island! I stayed at a typical “all-inclusive” beachfront hotel that turned out to be great for the room and drinks, but not so great for food or culture, so we decided to venture outside the hotel for much needed change and adventure.

Antigua is pretty rural and as you’ll see when you travel across the island, the roads are small and rustic rolling across a landscape of many impoverished people with very little possessions or suitable housing. It forces perspective and a thought provoking challenge to those that believe that living in riches might make for a happier life than those living without, because for the most part, and what I found, was a seemingly happy local population.

As far as tourist destinations there’s Nelsons Dockyard, which is a good place to enjoy a stunning beach, but also brings the history that dates back to the 18th century and British naval officer Horatio Nelson. The beach is surrounded by lush vegetation, hills, mountains, and the historic buildings date back to the 1700’s. Not a bad days trip.

There is also stingray city where you can go to view stingrays and various sea critters.

I would definitely recommend sailing and taking at least one or a few catamaran day trips depending on how much time you have. The views of the island from the sea are breathtaking given the cliffs and dramatic backdrop of different and diverse geography around the island. Like any tropical destination, the ocean is clear and great for snorkeling and diving, but I definitely enjoyed and had the chance to get to know the locals as well.

Tony Bilby with wife and Russell at Russell's restaurant and bar

Tony and Claire with Russell

While on a day sailing cruise, my wife and I became friends with the family owners of Russell’s Bar and Seafood Restaurant. The first time we went we fell in love with the atmosphere and the food was incredible. Our second visit to the venue they had actually closed for a private family gathering, but to our surprise Russell and his family recognized who we were and invited us in to join in the family event.

Antigua is a great island to visit with great beaches and very friendly locals. Make sure to catamaran, tour a bit of the island, and make a visit to some of the local restaurants while enjoying the weather and peaceful vacation!

Quebec City!

Tony Bilby at Château Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac

I traveled to Quebec City with my fiancé back in 2009 and it was a great time. We flew on thanksgiving, just her and I, and the best part about our travel was that the airport was completely empty. So, no crowds, very few people, and totally awesome. We stayed at the famous Château Frontenac, a castle-like hotel in the heart of Old Quebec overlooking the St. Lawrence river, it was snowing and fully blanketed by the time we arrived.  Very charming and beautiful!  And, as it turns out, the Frontenac is one of the most photographed hotels in the world!

After living and traveling throughout Europe, I think this is the closest it gets to many parts of Europe and the city is rich in history, dating back to the 16th century. Frontenac has an excellent location just a few steps from the lower part of old town, which you can easily access by walking down the winding streets and ramps or by the very scenic and charming funicular.

Tony Bilby rides funicular

Quebec City Funicular

Make sure you bring a great pair of shoes as we spent our entire few days there walking around old town and visiting the many sites by foot. The old cobblestone streets and historical sites are a must.  I started with the churches like Notre Dame des Victoires church and then moved on to the Petit Champlain. After touring the lower town make sure to move to the upper district for Hotel Du Parlement and La Citadelle.

We certainly got a ton of exercise walking, but unfortunately our impression of the food in Old Quebec was bland, boring, and better suited for the settlers who founded the City a few hundred years ago. Given my Bavarian background they did have a number of meals that served up rabbit and venison, so for me, just a reminder of Germany was good enough. We tried many of the restaurants in old town: Italian, French, etc. and nothing ringed memorable. So, finally we decided to venture off the tourist path and took a Taxi to Le Mezze, a Greek restaurant, inhabited by mostly locals that only spoke French. This restaurant was really good and we were able to bring our own wine to the table! I would highly recommend going as it was a nice departure from the underwhelming norm.

Nevertheless, I didn’t visit Quebec for the food and there were plenty of great bars in old part of the city and plenty of good beer and good music. After a long day in Quebec, coming back to the Frontenac never disappointed and we usually enjoyed our last round of drinks at the hotel bar.

Tony Bilby

Granada and Southern Spain

Southern Spain is beautiful, unforgettable, and I loved all of the places I visited.  At the top of the list is Granada.  Nomadic Matt’s travel blog on Spain gives great tips on the top things to do while there.

The architecture and culture is ancient and exciting so there is much to see.  The geographic backdrop, and mountains, remind me a little bit of home in Southern California as well!  If you’re younger I would absolutely recommend a hostel like they do in his blog.  They are cheap, clean, and very convenient.


The Alhambra

The top things to do:

Visit the Palace:

Make sure you get inside the palace as well as roaming the exterior.  I have a million pictures of my time at the Alhambra, and, in my opinion, this is some of the best Moorish/Islamic architecture that you can find in the region.  Parts of the palace are unbelievable, and where it’s situated, within the mountains, rivals some of the best European castles that I’ve been to.

Mirador De San Nicolas:

Sunset, sunset, sunset.  Did I say it enough?  Make sure you get there to view something that is right out of a James Bond or Indiana Jones movie.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains:

They are the tallest mountains in Europe.  You have to hike those mountains!  Make sure to make a day trip out of it and join one of the many hiking tours.  You won’t regret it!

The Cathedral:                 

The cathedral is spectacular with it’s Spanish Renaissance architecture.  Dating back over 500 years, make sure you take time to climb the stairs to the top for view of the entire city.


This area reminds me more of Tunesia and parts of northern Africa than anything else.  If you can, try to take a guided tour of this area and enjoy the ethnic foods ranging from Tapas to other international cuisine.


Flamenco is dramatic and vibrant.  I would share this experience with a significant other along with a bottle of local red wine.  There is nothing like it and the passion and power of this cultural tradition, that continues today, will get your heart pumping.

San Jeronimo:

Visiting this monastery inspired me as a young author to write about the modern versus ancient world. Enjoy the experience, the beautiful paintings, and impressive stained glass.

In addition to Granada, I would recommend visiting Seville and Cordoba during your time traveling the region.  All three cities have unique culture and charm.

Tony Bilby

Some food tips as well!

Turkiye and Istanbul!

One of my most memorable trips as a teenager was to Turkey.  Istanbul, Izmir, Cesme, and more……

Look to the Turkish Travel Blog by Natalie Sayin “8 Unusual and Cool Things to do in Instanbul”

8 Unusual and Cool Things to do in Istanbul

for a wealth of information about traveling to Turkey in general.  As for things to do in Istanbul, the article highlights:

Tony Bilby at The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

One Day Street Art Tour – I’ve seen these pieces of art all over the streets of Istanbul during the times I’ve been there. Not only is the street artwork interesting, but the town in general is ancient and ready to be discovered. So many monuments to explore while you are there like the The Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Grand Bazaar to name a few, but don’t forget about the streets in general. There is so much hussle and bussle in this city of over 14 million and many different ways to experience the culture; starting by getting right out into the city streets.

Ottoman Jewellry Workshop – Don’t just stop there. There are a million places to find quality pieces of jewelry, beautiful gold and silver pieces that can be hand designed in just a few hours at a fraction of the cost compared to the states or elsewhere. Be sure, however, to haggle and get the price down. It is 100% culturally acceptable and expected that you negotiate price.  Never buy something at face value or without a conversation that brings the price down.

Street Photography Walk – This is a great chance to hone your camera skills as the article mentions and the images of the Hagia Sophia are the most popular and most polarized when talking about Istanbul.  Make sure to bring your best camera and include some pictures of yourself and the family in front of this unbelievable and ancient feat of architecture.

Istanbul Bicycle Tour – Bicycle tours are great for many cities.  I really enjoy and appreciate the Munich bicycle tour over the summer, but a close runner up, if not at par with Munich, is the Istanbul bike tour.   As mentioned in the blog, most if not all of the equipment is included, and this is a great chance to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of this ancient city while moving at a relaxed and enjoyable pace.

Mushroom Hunt – My friend told me many times about Belgrade forest and it must be such a divergence from the City. I look forward to exploring picnicking in this area the next time I head to the country.

The old City Flavours – This is great chance at Turkish coffee and baklava as mentioned, as well as the infamous Turkish doner kebab that I have enjoyed so much during my travels around the region.

Rowing and Sailing around Istanbul – I have personally never done this and I’m putting this on my bucket list the next time I go. This looks amazing and an excellent way to explore the old besieged Constantinople.

Tony Bilby

Also, check out the “davidbeenshere” blog by David Hoffman:


Tony Bilby in Salzburg


Salzburg is one of my favorite cities, not only because of its rich history and timeless charm, but because members of my family come from region. The shadows cast at sunset by the mighty Alps, the ancient ring of cathedral bells that reach deep resonating into my soul, and the echoes of footsteps on stone walk ways whisper to my eternal Southern European spirit like nothing else.

Even today, my eighty-year-old cousin and his wife live in Salzburg, we come to visit every few years, and I’ve been doing so since I was a youngster. I can appreciate Brooke Saward’s article “How Salzburg Stole My Heart,”

as she talks about the Salzburg Dom Cathedral where my distant cousins were married and her reference to the “Sound of Music” that my two-year-old daughter and I watch from time-to-time.

Mozart’s birthplace is a must along with the Mirabellgardens as she discusses. Make sure to drive around the city and up the Alps on a beautiful clear day for unbelievable views along with a visit to the Eagles Nest.

salzburg catacombs

Salzburg Catacombs

I remember riding the unforgettable Hohensalzburg fortress funicular many times as a child. The fortress provides spectacular views and brings you back in time. St. Peter’s Monastery tour is time well spent, but try to wander off from the crowd if you can and visit the catacombs. The ancient catacombs housed some of the earliest Christian refugees; the stories are fascinating. The cemetery carries its own charm and history. Tucked in the middle is the tombstone of an American General. The General fell in love with an Austrian woman and Salzburg during WWII, where he later retired and was eventually buried.

Tony Bilby

Also, check out Brook Saward’s “World of Wanderlust Story: