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.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Coyotes Win!

Every evening, the local coyotes that inhabit my off grid neighborhood break into song. I like to think they are singing about something, sharing stories, letting the world know of their joy. Listening to the coyotes sing----their yip, yipping---is comforting to me. An exhilarating comforting experience, a simple pleasure, much like listening to the pitter of rain on my tin roof or watching the flames (and feeling the heat) from my woodstove.
I sometimes capture one or two of them on my trail camera that I set up on this ridge. Handsome critters, always caught during the night. They are incredibly smart animals. Once on a hike, a coyote ran in front of me and my dogs, taunting us, making the dogs give chase. While chasing after the dogs (and the coyote), I looked over my shoulder, only to see another coyote slouching away, protecting their den and pups. We were too close to their home so a diversion had to be created. It worked.

As long as we don’t raise chickens, the coyotes mostly leave us alone, content to do their job of keeping the rodent population down in this semi-wild community. An important task, what with the hanta virus and bubonic plague making a comeback. They are welcome neighbors. Beneficial.

A neighbor raises goats. She has guard dogs that protect the herd. She hasn’t lost any goats to the resident coyotes. There is a gentle balance of wild and domestic here in these woods. Co-existence.
It is hard to believe that anyone would kill coyotes for the sport of it. For pleasure. That “killing contests” would still exist in this modern age. It is hard to believe that contests that gave extra points for killing pregnant female coyotes would be an acceptable part of our culture.  Nor would anybody believe that a killing contest would be a reasonable management tool for ranchers. I wrote a story once about such a contest. I traveled to Adin, California where hunters hid their mass kill from my prying eyes.

Last week the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 to end such killing contests. Once again, just like the mountain lion hunting ban that passed by citizen initiative back in 1990, California is leading the nation. We are rethinking our relationship to predators. And we are a better state for doing so.

When the coyotes in my neighborhood sang for me that night after the ban was established, I like to think they did so in celebration of the Game Commission’s ban. And to share that joy, I howl with them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Missing My Hikes....

For the last six months I have worked full-time. More than full time. I get up much too early, drive Kylie 45 minutes to her school, then spend the rest of the day driving around the better part of four counties. I leave at 7 am; I get home, generally, between 6 and 7 pm. Then I have to chart the day's activities.

I feel like a long haul truck driver who sees psychiatric patients.

The job is fulfilling but the sitting in the car, followed by sitting with clients, is killing me. And the pay is certainly less than what I am used to.

The worst part is that I miss my walks with my dogs. Without that grounding exercise, I feel like I am quietly losing a part of who/what I am. I miss the daily romp in my woods. I miss seeing my incense cedar tree, that poor exile tree that should be living a few thousand feet higher. And I miss the trek down to the bottom of the canyon.

And I miss my time to read. How does a person go through life without reading two or three books a week?

I took this job because I was sick of traveling and not being home at night. I fixed one problem (not being home at night) but the other problem remains not fixed. I travel much more now.

Little by little, this job is sucking the life out of me. I feel less creative. Ungrounded. Stale.

It will get better when daylight lasts a little longer and I can take the dogs out for our hikes in the evening. It is depressing to note just how long it will be until that is possible. Probably March. Three more months of being Natureless is unacceptable.

I have to figure out how to change this or I will go insane. I can't spend this much time seeing the world from behind a windshield.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The End of Coyote Killing Contests in California...

A couple years ago I ran across a photo of the coyote hunt up in Adin. The photo showed around 50 dead coyotes, laid out in the middle of the town of Adin. Dozens of hunters posed with the dead coyotes in the picture. The photo was on a website advertising a coyote killing contest. The photos appalled me and I immediately made plans to go write about that hunt. I missed the hunt that year: 2012. But in 2013 I made it there. In the meantime, I sent out the link to the hunt to everyone I knew. I wrote to the Center for Biological Diversity and several other enviro groups in an effort to get the attention of people regarding this barbaric hunt.

A couple weeks before that 2013 hunt, one of the links I sent out caught the attention of Camilla Fox at Project Coyote and several other wildlife organizations. They hurriedly launched a petition drive to end the hunt. They were unsuccessful; the hunt went on.

I had already planned on being there. I got the gig from the CNR and, foolishly, brought Kylie with me to cover the event. It was a tense place to be and Kylie and I nearly got arrested.

Today the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 to end Coyote Killing Contests in California. In fact, they ended almost all wildlife killing contests. I am proud to have played a small role in ending these barbaric hunts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Going Ornish...

Two days of eating low fat, delicious, mostly vegetarian food created by Joni and all is well. We call it "Going Ornish" after the program and diet advocated by the Low Fat Guru: Dr. Dean Ornish. He also advocates exercise and meditation in addition to the diet. My job and the demands of life get in the way of exercise. I sit for a living. Today from 7 am until bedtime. Tonight I had the quiet meditation of rain drops falling on our tin roof.

But we have begun making the change.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ornish and the American Working Class: Reflections on Heart Disease

A week of mild chest pain sent me to the bookstore to look up Dean Ornish MD.

When a patient broke my ribs and damaged my lung and back a couple years ago, a CT of the affected area revealed that I have moderate to severe Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). The test revealed calcification of those ever important arteries that keeps the heart alive. After getting the diagnosis, I did all the things you are supposed to do: I got a stress test. I had already gotten my cholesterol under control and have had dramatic improvement in those important numbers. I take a statin. I take Niacin and Fish Oil, Cinnamon, Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium. These items have brought my cholesterol down and my HDL/LDL ratio to dramatically improve. The numbers say I am at a low risk; I know better than that.

For those who don't know, Dr. Dean Ornish is the guru of diet, exercise and stress reduction to treat heart disease. His program is revolutionary in that he actually proved that CAD can be reversed. In his latest book, Spectrum, he tries to change his image from the No Fat Ascetic that he used to be, to a more reasonable, "everything in moderation" sort of guy. His whole approach now is to lean to the Spectrum of good health behaviors and diet, according to the desired result of the patient. The sicker you are, the more to the good side you should spend most of your time. It is a Spectrum.

When Ornish originally introduced his program, it was very effective. The problem was that the lifestyle changes required were not sustainable for most people. It was too severe.

What Ornish and his colleagues have also discovered is that you can treat Prostate Cancer with the same approach and have documented evidence of slowing and stopping the progression of Prostate Cancer by using his techniques.

Well, I have both conditions. Coronary Artery Disease and an elevated PSA that resulted in a negative biopsy last Spring. I will never, ever have another biopsy, no matter what my PSA numbers elevate to, because the one I did have got infected and I felt extremely ill for almost two months after it. The procedure is painful and often leads to infection. I'll take my chances on cancer.

So how's the chest pain? I started back on a blood pressure medication that I had run out of  and that seems to have taken care of it. But with CAD, you know it is there, lurking like a shark, waiting to attack.

I have a very sedentary new lifestyle. I love this new job, but driving from 7 am to 7 pm takes a toll. I drive to drop Kylie off in the morning, then drive to an appointment and then sit and talk; drive to the next one and sit and talk; drive to the next one and sit and talk. It is not unusual for me to drive over 200 miles a day. My territory is huge from Oroville to Corning; Los Molinas to Willows; Orland and Chico to Magalia. My territory is as large as some New England States. That's a lot of sitting.

I joined a gym but have been increasingly fatigued while trying to muster the energy to run on the treadmill. I walk now--when I can fit a visit in. My new life of getting up so damned early, not getting enough sleep, 16 hour days, a job that requires lots of home time charting, and endless travel have taken a toll.

Since nothing can really change in my life (I need this job to survive with all the travel, long hours and sedentariness)---the only thing that can really change (and needs to change) is the way I eat. Ornish is right about this.

But there is something that just makes me feel very unsettled about these health Gurus like Ornish and Andy Weil. What I find so unsettling about both of them is the way they advocate a certain amount of personal piety but do not ever examine the larger picture that creates the need for the personal piety.

Ornish acknowledges his friends in the back of the book: it reads like a Whose
Who from Bono to Bill Clinton. Tony Robbins is even in there---and if there was ever a Guru of personal self indulgence with no hint of social responsibility it would be Tony Robbins. The impression is that this lifestyle is for the elite; and in fact, it is mostly the middle to upper classes who have the economic privilege to be able to spend the time and energy it takes to become healthy. You don't see many low wage workers from McDonald's entering Ornish's program at the Cleveland Clinic. Alternative heart disease treatment is for the well educated monied class. The rest of us take a pill and go back to work with the endless hours, low pay and fast food drive-thrus.

It is too easy to sit back and blame the lazy American for being fat and not caring about his/her health. Screw that: the American Working Class are working too hard to provide for their families to pay attention to taking care of themselves. And the choices offered are easy, unhealthy but time saving. And time is the one thing the American Working Class does not have.

And so that leads me to this question: What is more important for the health of a population: an Active Government that is interested in the health of its citizens (think Norway or Cuba) or the Personal Piety of the democratic masses (think Ornish and Weil)? I would argue that the Government is more important.

Something to think about. In the meantime, time to start eating oatmeal and broccoli.