Saturday, January 24, 2015

On the Advice of the Stellar Jay....

We've been looking at houses in Paradise. We drive Kylie to school everyday. Takes about 35 minutes. Then there is the job of getting her home from school again, trying to be on time, trying to make three schedules jive so that all work and school needs are safely met. It has been a struggle.

My new job involves lots of driving. My territory covers the size of some New England states--from Oroville to Redding, Willows to Chico, Red Bluff to Magalia. It isn't unusual for me to drive 250 miles in a day. When it comes to my carbon footprint, I wear really large boots. A move to Paradise would knock an hour or more off of my driving each day.

We've been looking at cute little cottages. Paradise is a whole town loaded with beautiful, simple little cottages.Proletarian workers' dream houses, small and functional, most with large yards and tall, tall Ponderosa pines. Paradisians love their trees. In a recent storm, two large trees were blown over killing two people, in two separate incidents. Despite this, there is no talk of changing Paradise's tree regulations. They love their trees.

And so we put an offer in on one cute functional little home. As we waited for our offer to be accepted or rejected, I realized I didn't want another mortgage. I don't want to be saddled with more debt. I am on the verge of turning 54 and Joni just turned 57; we need to scrimp and save (to borrow from the Beatles song).

The Stellar Jays sealed the deal for me. This year, for the first time, a whole squadron of Stellar Jays (usually spelled Steller's Jay, but I prefer the alternate spelling for obvious reasons)---have been hanging around our house. I love them; my favorite bird. They have always been a bird that provides counsel and guidance for me. Deep Green Synchronicity, if  you will. Magical thinking, Euell Gibbons' style.

The Stellar Jay always seems to appear to offer their advice in times of need. It was a Stellar Jay in the middle of the Utah Red Rock country that brought Joni and I together. It was a Stellar Jay that squawked at me from a tree outside of St. Helena Hospital that convinced me to move to the Napa Valley from Colorado. It was a group of Stellar Jays that made us look for a place to live in this section of California. And the Stellar Jays hanging around our house this year have pretty much helped us to decide to stay in this mud hut.

We will continue to make the trip for another year. We have a van now that offers Joni a bit more comfort on the rutty road that tears up her back. When Kylie is in school, Joni can rest in the back of the van. I will drive Kylie on Mondays and Fridays; Joni on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday we will share the job. And when Kylie turns 16, she will get to drive herself to school. What 16 year old doesn't want to do that?

Yes, I feel guilty about our carbon footprint. Green Piety is similar to Lutheran Piety, only the sins are a bit different. Maybe buying some carbon offsets will provide a bit of redemption? Carbon Offsets are the Holy Communion for the Green Sinner.

Plant this tree, given for me, goes the Green Liturgy.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014--A Personal Retrospective. Am I a Moderate?

I've been trying to get around to do a personal retrospective of 2014. Now that we are safely 48 hours into 2015, a look back on 2014 seems to be in order.

It was a good year. Joni made waves with her activism. She was immensely brave when she stared down the Oil Companies. She became a local hero and she blossoms into that role with the local Anti-Fracking Movement. Good for her.

 I made a few waves of my own. 2014 was the year that I got called a "Moderate" for the first time in my life. Scared the crap out of me as I remember the saying that was falsely attributed to Winston Churchill: "anyone who is not a liberal at 20 years of age has no heart, while anyone who is still a liberal at 40 has no head." Turns out that the first time anyone attributed this saying to Churchill was 1986. Propaganda is weird that way, and instantly becomes authoritative, when the slightest bit of plausible truth is credited to a person who has become more mythic as the years pass. The origin of this saying goes back to the 1880's attributed to an English politician that supposedly was quoting Edmund Burke.

When it comes to this line of thinking, that we normally get more conservative as we age, I like Bertrand Russell's take on the matter. Back in 1933 he said: "If you don’t begin to be a revolutionist at the age of twenty then at fifty you will be an impossible old fossil. If you are a red revolutionary at the age of twenty you have some chance of being up to date when you are forty."

I'd like to think my ideas get more relevant with age. Not less so. Kylie, from her soon-to-be 15 year old perspective, would agree with Russell that I am an impossible old fossil. It is probable that Kylie is correct in her categorization of me.

But back to 2014. The year began with a back that didn't heal and a cancer scare. Took me to May to overcome problems with both of these. I continue on with the back problems, but now more quietly, and I remain thankful that we discovered the pain reducing qualities of the opium poppy.

And so I decided my inpatient career was over, ended by a 350 pound Schizophrenic's elbow.

I changed jobs in June, after a week on the PCT. While the work is fun, the way it consumes my time is highly annoying. Home health is more of a calling than anything---as the hours are long and the pay is small. The thing I find most frustrating about this change of affairs is that I no longer have the time to read. I read less on the Internet. I read fewer books. And along with less reading, the corollary, at least for me, is that I write less.

No writer can write without reading---unless they only want to write about their own navel gazing like John Updike or some other similar scribe of American Suburban Angst. I guess any personal article on the awful website SALON would count as a substitute for Updike nowadays. If you want to get depressed about just how trite our intellectual culture has become, go read a personal essay on some First World problem on Salon. Reading Salon gives me absolutely no hope for the future. Most of their writers grew up looking at life from the backseat of Mum and Dad's BMW and have never once ventured anyplace wild.

I digress. Again.

And what about the state of the world in 2014? Locally, I am ecstatic that Measure A passed. Score one for the Butte County Voter to not listen to the squishy headed Chico Potsmoker propaganda. Just yesterday I talked to a cannabis grower that was shutting up his shop and moving to greener pastures in another county. There's another 40 acres saved from poaching, AVID (a toxic mite pesticide commonly used around here that sticks to the buds and is toxic to humans) and the widespread use of rodenticides. The hawk that used to hang out in the place where I walk everyday didn't come back this year; he probably died from the rodenticides the pot farmers are using on their crops. The mite problem was especially bad this year.

Former Sheriff Jerry Smith should be the Butte Environmental Council's "Environmentalist of the Year". I had a call from him just before the election. He commented that he loves the Foothills and that this notion that the right wingers hate conservation is a myth. I'm not certain I believe him, as he is batty with his gun loving exploits and speeches in front of the Tea Party, but irony is irony. When it came down to it, the Chico ER and the Tea Partiers showed a hell of a lot more smarts when it comes to ending the wholesale destruction of a sensitive ecological region than the professional Enviro's that work hard to ensure Fracking never occurs in Butte County.

The passage of A gives our bear, deer, ring tailed cats, and riparian areas a chance. Former Sheriff Jerry Smith deserves high praise. Of course, BEC president and CSU's resident Sustainable Green Guru Mark Stemen would disagree (he certainly did so in the comments page of one of these blog entries). Along with the three Trust funders who comprise the Chico Conservation Voter, whose billboards created ecological blight by endorsing the Cannabis Industry's Measure B. Unfortunately they placed one of their billboards at the location that an out-of-state Potgrower felon ran over and killed a Chico State Nursing student. That billboard did their effort way more harm than good.

But let's all praise the brave leadership of BEC, whose efforts to save 11 trees in Chico and a few 100 year old Sycamore's in Oroville is commendable. Too bad they ignored the tragic loss of the oak/savannah woodland to an out-of-control pot industry. Can you say hypocrite? Or are they worried about loss of funding? In Chico, a few fuzzy headed Liberal's dollars go a long, long ways to shape the agenda of a movement.

And as I've written Ad Nauseum, the local Democrats who faithfully follow Bob Mulholland's sageless advice got trounced for running an awful campaign. They didn't stand a chance in Chico, having done a poor job of managing the city, despite a great plastic bag ban. The CNR has done an awesome job of reporting on the problems of the city---especially the looting of the public treasury by the police and firefighter unions. We forget that Liberals want good government too. Public employees that earn as much as President Obama is hard for anyone living within the Chico city limits to stomach. Bravo for the CNR!

In the meantime, Oroville doesn't even have a meals-on-wheels program to serve hundreds of elderly poor shut-ins. I left a message with the program down at the monstrous county government complex requesting a prompt return of my call. I wanted to know why Oroville doesn't have that program. I've been waiting for that return call for 53 days now.

So am I becoming a Moderate? No. Not at all. I want good government. I want a rural Butte County that is free from inappropriate development. I want the local Democrats to think critically and to stop acting stupid. I want the elderly in Oroville to be fed. I want the blue oaks to live and not to die from a pot gardener's chain saw. I want more bear. More coyotes. More fox. More ring tailed cats. Less rodenticide. Less AVID. Less Rednecks in trucks chasing down wildlife. Less erosion. Less development in sensitive areas. That doesn't make me Moderate or Conservative. What has happened is that the local Institutional Green Establishment and the Democratic Party has lost their vision. They have become timid and conservative. They live in an echo chamber of unexamined values while ignoring real problems in both the city and the unincorporated areas of the county.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Joni Saves a Bear...

On Friday Joni was out raking leaves when she heard a commotion. A pickup truck with an enthusiastic Redneck driver, was chasing a bear up our road. More than likely, he was trying to run it over. The harassed bear chose to climb about 75 feet up into a Ponderosa tree on the edge of our property. This was not a small bear: he was a good sized adult.

Joni went over to the man who was staring up at the bear. He wanted to kill it.

"Is this bear hurting your livestock?" he asked. Joni said no, we don't have any livestock.

"Is this bear eating your garden?" he asked. By garden he meant pot garden. Many of the pot gardeners, of which there are around 5,000 in Butte County, shoot anything that comes near their gardens, worried that the deer or bear will eat their precious and pricey plants. Fish and Wildlife Officers tell me that there has been about a 50% reduction in the numbers of wildlife in the past five years because of this poaching.

Joni told the man we don't have a garden.

In order to defuse the situation, Joni mentioned how cute the bear was. The man wanted to kill the bear in order to put him in his freezer. Joni explained to the man that the bear was more than welcome on our property; they were here first. In the end, the guy figured out that Joni wasn't going to approve of the bear being killed. The man left.

Joni returned later with binoculars and watched the bear for awhile. She then left. He was gone the next morning.

Of course, we are infuriated by the Redneck's behavior, chasing a bear with his truck. Trying to run it over and then wanting to kill it for no good reason. Looking for any reason he could find to kill the bear as a nuisance.

Does this bear know that Joni saved its life? I think so. He will remember her going to bat for him. She made another friend that day.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Poverty and the Change Jar

Have you ever had a Scarlet O'Hara moment? Scarlet's last line just before the Intermission in Gone with the Wind is (from memory): "As God as my witness, I will never be poor again!"

Poverty sucks. And for those who are into the voluntary poverty movement, as I was for a time, it seems to me that voluntary poverty has the danger of just becoming outright poverty. There is nothing glamorous about poverty. St. Francis might have been able to give away his clothes in the public square and, therefore, renounce the riches of his Father (adolescent rebellion?) and have a good life, but, for most, poverty is a mind numbing, belly hurting, chaos creating, crime producing, drug use inducing awful way of life that should be eliminated from the planet. And for those who listen to Jesus and think we must always have poor people, as when he said there will always be poor people---I say Shame! Perhaps Jesus was talking about the poor in Norway? I'd rather be poor in Scandinavia rather than Chad. Life for the poor in the US is becoming ever more desperate.

There is nothing good about poverty. Being poor is the number one predictor of mental illness. Poor people are less happy than people who have enough money (usually seen as an income around $60,000 a year in the US). Poor people get worse services, poorer health care and die younger than do middle class or rich people. If you are poor in the US, you'd be better off to go have your babies in Cuba because they have a lower infant mortality rate than poor people do in the US.

I have had times in my life when I was very poor. The poorest time was just after finishing nursing school and there were no jobs for RN's in Minnesota. This happens in nursing with ebbs and flows of jobs available, dependent upon economic conditions. Well, it was a poor time and I couldn't find a job. One day I managed to find a job opening in Las Vegas with interviews being conducted in Omaha, Nebraska. The problem was my girlfriend at the time and I had no money. All our credit cards were maxed out. Texaco sent me a letter requesting that I stop using their credit card at gas stations; I was using that card to buy food.

My girlfriend and I managed to secure an interview in Omaha. The problem was getting there. I managed to sell a story to the Fillmore County Journal for $25 bucks (gas money) and we found a can of peas and a can of tuna fish to eat on the journey. The $25 was just enough to get us to Omaha and back. We cleaned up in a Rest Area previous to the interview. We got the jobs and we were given a sign on bonus to get us to Las Vegas.

I vowed after that to never be poor again.

Of course, there have been times with little money since then. Just after Joni had to stop working because of her back, we were having a tough time making ends meet. I was picking up as many hours as possible, but with the responsibilities of home and  hearth and kids, it wasn't quite enough. It was then that the Change Jar tradition started.

During this poor episode, I had a Change Jar. As many people do, I take my spare change and throw it into a gallon sized pickle jar. This was my emergency gas fund to be used when funds were low in the checking account. I used to carry it in the trunk of my car for awhile, after one unfortunate incident in a gas station in Clear Lake when I was out of gas and our checking account didn't have sufficient funds to get more gas. Stranded in Clear Lake with 120 miles ahead to get home, I was able to find enough change in the car in order to eek out just enough gas to get me home. Thank heavens for 40 mile per gallon cars.

As we eased ourselves out of dire poverty, the Change Jar evolved into being a Christmas Fund. Every year, around Christmas time, I bring the jar into Safeway and put the change into one of those change machines they have there. Forget the name, but they take a cut of the money, which seems fair to me as banks don't do change counting anymore.

This weekend I will take the Change Jar (pictured above) into Safeway. I'm thinking there is $150 in that jar. And then, I will start anew, hoping that the Change Jar remains a Christmas Fund and not Gas Money.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Well, that was quite a year. It began with me on disability, followed by a cancer scare, followed by a miserable post procedure infection that made me ill for a couple months. There was a time during the first half of the year, when I wondered if I would ever feel well again.

It took over a year to recover from getting hurt by a patient. And I still have to take pain medication for periscapular myofascial pain syndrome. Because of this injury, I decided to hang up my inpatient spurs and to move on to a new job. After 11 years at St. Helena Hospital, I took a home health psychiatric nurse job which has been a good fit for me. I drive way too much (which isn't good for my back) and I work way too many hours but at least I don't have to worry about being pummeled by a patient anymore. The pay is substantially less than what I am used to and the benefits suck. The plus side is I get to go home every night.

But mostly I'm happy that I don't have to wrestle with patients. When I think back on my inpatient career and try to count the number of times we had to put "hands on" a patient because of dangerous behavior, I would estimate that I have been involved in probably 500 "take downs". As the years have gone by, it took longer and longer to recover from the broken ribs and the bruises from these violent events. The last one was the last straw. Psychiatric nurses, like police officers, should be able to retire with a pension at age 50.

It was a good Christmas here. All the gifts were practical and needed. It was a relaxed time and we all pretty much just enjoyed each other's company.

And the year ahead? There is so much I want to do. Time to start scratching a few of those bucket list items off the list.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Constitional Right to Kill?

I had the Guest Comment in the CNR today. Go have a look at it here.

I struggle whether to allow Anonymous comments on this blog. This thing serves as a place for me to kind of informally wrestle with a few ideas or concepts. A place to write and keep the thoughts flowing. When I have written about a few controversial items in the past, the Anonymous posters sometimes can be unkind. I love debate, in fact, I encourage it. But the nastiness of a Pothead who thinks he is about to lose access to his Precious, as has happened with a few posts--well, that caused me to do away with the Anonymous posts until after the election.

And then there was the post that I wrote about The Demise of Backpacking. The lightweight backpacking crowd got a hold of it and weren't too pleased with that opinion.

After the election, I decided to keep the Anonymous feature, but to moderate the responses. A happy medium.

On a couple of posts about the end of coyote killing contests, an Anonymous poster writes in (go ahead and read the posts) twice to proclaim how hunters are going to have the hunt in Adin anyway and that interest is high in the event. He (and only a he would be so belligerent) insinuates that more coyotes will be killed now more than ever. Just so you don't have to go read the posts, here they are:

Here they are:

This year's coyote "event" will be larger and more successful than in years past.
The only difference is that there will be no prizes awarded, as per recently enacted California regulations.

It was a big mistake to try to ban this event, all you accomplished was to bring hunters together in solidarity.

There are already more interested participants than in last years event.


And the other one:

The hunt has not stopped, only the prizes.It is no longer a "contest" it's a constitutionally protected right to assemble.
It's gathering even more momentum than in years past as a show of solidarity amongst hunters.
Happy trails... ; )

So these hunters think they have a Constitutional  Right to kill as many coyotes as possible. What they don't get is that California is having a reappraisal of the role of predators in the environment. As such, we can probably expect more reforms, including a hunting season and probable bag and possession limits. Or perhaps a ban altogether, just like we have with the mountain lion.

Note that this gentleman gives an argument that is not based on wildlife science. This is more of a lifestyle argument. An appeal to baser instincts, as hunters come together to kill as many creatures as possible. I doubt that real hunters care for killing contests. The guy who wrote the lines above displays the attitude that killed off the bison and the passenger pigeon. It is despicable and reminds me just how awful some people are.

So does the Anonymous poster have some inside knowledge of the Adin Hunt? Or is he just yanking my chain? I don't know. I do know that he seems a bit unstable and hateful. And I'm not too happy to have this person focused on me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kim Jong Un and The Satanic Verses

What a day. I heard the news this morning that Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba. It is about time! Joni immediately gave me permission to go to Cuba and see what is going on there. Perhaps I will.

And SONY decided to not release a movie called "The Interview" that is supposedly a comedy about killing the North Korean child dictator. Often called The Hermit Kingdom, North Korea is a terrible place. And the leaders have even larger egos than usual. The new kid leader, Kim Jong Un, who carries on the tradition he inherited from his father and grandfather, didn't take too kindly to an American movie that supposedly lampoons his assassination. So he put his security apparatus up to the task of hacking SONY and also to deliver threats against American movie goers. Somehow they pulled off the hacking part, which, we shouldn't be too surprised because they also have been successful in building a nuclear weapon. Yes, they may not be able to feed their people, but they do seem to have a knack to build stuff and even hack into SONY. We shouldn't underestimate them.

So with all the threats, SONY bowed to the pressure and decided to cancel the release of the movie. It was supposed to be a Christmas Day release. And I had planned to go to it then. Screw Kim Jong Un.

Compare this to when The Satanic Verses came out. In case you don't remember, Salman Rushdie wrote a novel about Mohammed that was none too flattering. Conservative Muslim Clerics didn't care for it and threatened the author and also threatened those who sold the book. I was working at a bookstore at the time. We had threats, but we stocked the book. We didn't put it in the front window; you had to ask for it and we would retrieve a copy for you. Everyone thought there might be violence over that book. Salman Rushdie went into hiding, from which, he hasn't emerged yet. In the end, nothing happened and we considered it our patriotic duty to sell it, even though I only made the minimum wage at the time. We risked our lives for peanuts and we were proud of it.

I guess booksellers are braver than cinema owners.