Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hell No Monsanto...


Last Saturday, we packed up the whole family (plus one of Kylie's friends) and went to Sacramento to participate in the March Against Monsanto.  This March was organized on the Internet by an angry single mother who is frustrated with the ease with which Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) have entered our food supply in the United States. The organizers claim two million people participated in over 450 protests in 49 countries. About 1,000 people showed up for the Sacramento protest.
The night before the march, the United States Senate voted against letting individual states have the right to label GMO's in our food supply. The issue has gathered traction here in California because we had a Proposition on the ballot in 2012 about labeling GMO's. The Proposition narrowly lost despite the usual lopsided spending by the Food Companies. Every major newspaper in California came out against labeling GMO's. The pockets of Big Ag and Processed Food are deep.
The labeling initiative was started by a frustrated housewife in Chico, California (are you noticing a theme here). Pamm Larry wrote the thing and got the ball rolling. Talk about making a difference, Pamm singlehandedly has brought the whole issue of GMO's to the nation's table.
The argument whether GMO foods are safe is contradictory. Both sides have their studies to support their cause. Much of the anti-GMO side resorts to anecdotal evidence with people stating how GMO free diets have cured ailments like Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I'm always a bit cynical when claims are made regarding ailments such as these because of the psychosomatic factors related to these afflictions. They tend to be conditions that are influenced by biography and personality. As such, they also respond to the placebo effect (which is underused in medicine anyway). There very well may be good evidence against the health effects of GMO's and I believe there is; just look at how obese and unhealthy we have become since the GMO's were introduced into our food supply. The science just isn't quite there yet, in my opinion.
 Right now, the anti-GMO arguments are stronger when it comes to the dangers of monoculture, pesticide use and the monopolization of the food industry by just a couple of seed companies. That's why 50 countries have banned GMO's. Hungary recently burned 1,000 acres of corn when their government found out it was GMO corn.
To me, this whole idea of combining genes from different species in order to tailor make a patented life form is philosophically repugnant and inherently dangerous. That is what gets me out of this Lazy Boy and on to the streets.
It was an eclectic crowd. I saw a couple of people wearing "Infowars" t-shirts of the frothy, right wing, conspiratorially loony Alec Jones. The Sacramento Anarchists were there which seems to make up the bulk of what is left of the "Occupy" movement.  I also saw a young lady, in her 20's and cute as a marigold, holding up a newspaper copy of the Trotskyite "Socialist Worker". Smart move by the inheritors of Trotsky's legacy: I would have converted had I been 30 years younger. We need more Sexy Marxian Inspired Socialists.
The march was led by a couple of loud mouthed males. They, obviously, came out of the Radical Left. As they spoke, I kept thinking to myself that I'd wished they'd shut up. I agree with the sentiment, it was just their testosterone laden bullish ways that annoyed me.
The real strength of this movement is that it is organized and run by women. It is a movement of Mom's and Children. Yes, there were the usual radical components; the moldy Professional Left is always there. But the bulk of the crowd looked like they had just left the Mall of America, hopped into their Soccer Mom Subaru's and impulsively decided to drop in on a March against a deceitful company that has managed to create commodities that foster farming dependency to their product and are dubiously unhealthful. Never underestimate an angry Mom: The She Bears arise! And they are defending their cubs!
That is why this movement to label, and even ban, GMO's is going to win. No amount of money can defeat an angry mother.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rolling and Shaking..

Sitting in my living room the other night, in my Lazy Boy chair, it felt like the chair was a boat riding on waves. This peculiar experience lasted for a few seconds. I looked up at Joni, who was in the kitchen making dinner and I said "Earthquake!"(Yeah, I know; me in the Lazy Boy; Joni making dinner--I've got it good). And then the big Jolt hit. Our Ponderosa wood log beams creaked and swayed. Seeing as I built this thing with some friends, earthquakes make me wonder about the ability of the house to withstand earthquakes. I watched the eighteen foot, vertical beams sway. There was some more shaking for another five or six seconds. More swaying. The whole episode lasted around ten seconds. Ten very long seconds.
The Earthquake was a 5.7 and was centered around 35 miles north east of us as the crow flies. It is being called the Greenville quake. Greenville is a beautiful little town, just a few miles away from Lassen National Park. We stop there to buy snacks on our way to the Park.
Greenville had some damage. We didn't. This is the second 5.0 earthquake or higher that we've been close to in the past couple of years. We lived for five years in the earthquake filled San Francisco Bay area and didn't feel one. Move to more stable places and we feel earthquakes. Go figure.
There have been several aftershocks from this earthquake. Any quake over 3.0 is considered to be "feelable". This thing has had multiple 3.0 or higher, all the way up to 4.9. This page lists the seismic events.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rules for Living...

Well, my doctor called me and assured me that the PSA is nothing to worry about. "We'll just keep an eye on it and check it again in three months". Given the medications I take, she felt that things were just fine. Having complete trust in her, I breathed a sigh of relief and now need to get on with this task of living.

I'm not the sort of guy who likes pithy sayings. Frankly they annoy me. All those cutesy Facebook postings with motivational sayings and photos of puppies or kittens--they make me nauseous. But having spent a few days contemplating end of life issues, well, a guy just can't help but be more appreciative of the extra time allotted. A gift. And so when I wrote a friend about the past few days, I found myself writing about my rules for living. I made an attempt at a pithy list. It's not as advanced as the Rules of St. Benedict, but it is a start:

Live each day. Take care of your body. Eat a vegetable and a piece of fruit at every meal. Laugh a lot. Try to do some good. Smile. Read every day. Write every day. Spend time outside every day, hopefully in some woods or a canyon. Take a daily walk. Watch birds. Notice trees. Make room for other creatures. Be simple. Floss. Sweat three times a week. Go backpacking, at least, once a year. Run away from drama. Don't take more than you need. Give back more than you take. Sleep under the stars once a week during the summer. Leave the toilet seat down.

What would your rules for living look like?

I'm sick of worrying about my demise

I started out the day thinking I was going to die of Liver Cancer.

Last Friday, during a CT of my broken ribs, we accidentally found a cyst on my liver. Most of our medical establishment is set up to scare the shit out of you if you have anything abnormal show up on any test. All weekend long, I figured that I was a goner; sure to be dead within six months to two years. For three endless days, I ran through various scenarios in my head. Would I get chemo? Radiation therapy? Surgery? (The answer: no to chemo; no to radiation; yes to surgery). Would Joni have enough money should I die? While at the same time, I selfishly made plans in my head to quit my job, gather all the money I could find, buy an old VW van and head out on the road with Joni, a tent, sleeping bags and whatever dogs would fit into the van. I'd spend my remaining days touring beaches, taking opiates and smoking cannabis (I don't smoke marijuana but a terminal illness seems like a good enough reason to start). I'd  read books, try to scratch off some items off my bucket list and watch the waves roll in from lots of lovely beaches.

I had to wait until today, Monday, for the tests to be read by a Radiologist. Turns out there was hardly any need for concern:  I  have a 7 millimeter wide, fluid filled cyst on my liver. This is more than likely a congenital condition--although it also can be triggered by a parasite. I've probably had this cyst for fifty years. Although these cysts can become cancerous, this one is most assuredly not cancer.


A day of celebration! Dinner out. Garden supplies bought. Thoughts and plans of my demise put aside. Looks like I can plan that Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike I'd like to do in 2021. The first year of my retirement.

Until I got home.

In the mail box I received the results of yet another test. I've been under treatment for a hormonal condition that needs periodic testing of my Prostate. We Fifty Something males are encouraged to get our Prostate checked for cancer by getting what is called a PSA test. This blood test measures the level of a substance in your blood that is associated with Prostate Cancer. It turns out mine is elevated to a level that causes some concern.

But you know what? I'm sick of worrying about my demise. It really caused some undue stress over the weekend.  There are two types of Prostate Cancer: one that will kill you fast and another that takes forty years to kill you. PSA tests are pretty unreliable and are only a barometer to measure your Prostate's health. Mine appears to be a little ill.

But just like the Liver Cancer scare, where I wasn't symptomatic, the same goes for this scare: I have no symptoms. So I will meet with my doctor and weigh out the options. More than likely we will just repeat the blood test in a few months and I'll submit to that "bend over" procedure that every male on the planet hates. The last time I  had one of those, the doctor thought he felt something, so I  had a scope done with not a lesion to be seen anyplace. It is best not to over react to these sorts of things. Like I said: the medical establishment is set up to scare the shit out of you should you have anything abnormal show up.

In the meantime, it would be a good idea to get a bit healthier. Eat right. Exercise (as soon as these broken ribs heal). Reduce stress. Relax more. Walk more. Hike more. Lose this fat. Enjoy every day. And follow through with medical care. This aging business sucks. Or, as a brave friend of mine who died of Liver Cancer last year told me a few months before he died: "You know, there is a whole lot of paperwork involved in dying." I'll start that paperwork after I receive the diagnosis; no need to start that before I'm told the horrific news.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Our Feeder

Convalescing at home. A CT of my chest on Friday confirmed what I sort of knew all along: I broke two ribs during that patient assault. In a way, it was good to get the news because the severe pain had been inconsistent with the injury. So I was given an additional week off from work. I'm under orders to do essentially nothing but sit and take walks. No lifting. No work. Instructions that aren't all that disagreeable to me except for the pain from this episode is pretty bad. I sleep in the LazyBoy; I can't lie prone yet. Sleep comes in three or four hour segments. I live on Norco and Ibuprofen.
And I've been sitting on our deck, taking photos of birds. It's a rough job but somebody has to do it. I sit in a chair all nice and still, even the dogs mimic me, and we wait for the winged ones to ignore us and come satiate their appetites.

I love the House Finches. Which is a good thing because we have a couple of families that have decided that our strawbale house is a good place to raise a family. The same has been true for Joni and me.

For a few months, in the summer, we are visited by the Black Headed Grosbeaks (and also Evening Grosbeaks). They've been visiting us in the summer for several years. We were worried that they weren't going to show up this year. But they did. Joy!
A Grosbeak watches me as I watch him. We wait until suddenly...
A Hummingbird comes to join us. The Hummingbird feeders have been very busy. My camera is a step up from what I had before, but it is still near the bottom-of-the-line variety. With the auto focusing feature (I don't know how to focus it myself) it is very difficult to get a Hummingbird in focus. They are quick and elusive. 
But with persistence, you can get a shot or two worth keeping.
But the Lesser Goldfinches are always here. And they are always welcome. They usually show up in clusters for the thistle. This guy decided that he was desperate enough to eat the sunflower seeds.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Where is Paradise? On Spiritual Navel Gazing...

Look within, spiritual navel gazers say. The Kingdom lies within. The answer is within you. Look inside and find your own bliss. Look inside and  (fill in the blank here). Visualize something (usually a job, lover or material object) and you will manifest it. People keep telling me that the Inner world is so much superior to the Outer world. This leads to some sort of spiritual narcissism where nothing exists but our own feelings, thoughts, dreams, consciousness. Enough of this myopia.

I encourage you to look around you. Look outside yourself: that's where you'll find Paradise. I think most of us spend way too much time contemplating ourselves. We fret about our waist lines, health, checkbooks, breath, job security, salvation---reasonable anxieties, sure. But how important are they really? And do I find Paradise by closing my eyes and listening to my own breath and stilling my mind? I've always been rather bored with the whole practice. Helpful, sure. Still reeks of spiritual solipsism to me.

Paradise isn't within; it is outside my porch.

Have you gone for a walk in the woods lately? Looked into the eyes of a loved one? Have you watched a sunset? Smelled the ocean? Climbed a hill to see a view? Admired a flower? Been spooked by a rattler? Watched dogs run and play? Have you seen something wild lately? Watched a coyote run off? Peered over the edge of a cliff? Admired a Grosbeak? Spent time watching a bird feeder? Have you seen a squirrel jump from tree to tree--aerial acrobatics far superior to any Flying Wallenda? Have you watched the wind blow through 100 foot tall Ponderosas that sway just outside this house? Have you listened to the coyotes sing (God's song dog) at sunset? Have you listened to a creek lately? Or the screech of a hawk or the chirping of a house finch? Have you listened to the wings of a hummingbird make that buzzing sound?

Nothing inside me rivals any of the items above. There is no bliss without the things above. Look within? No. Look without; the view is better. I intend to enjoy it while I can.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cowboy LaMalfa; YubaNet


The guy in the cowboy hat? That'd be my United States Congressman: Doug LaMalfa. Where is he? He is at a hearing room in the U.S. Capitol building. I think it is quite arrogant and disrespectful to wear a cowboy hat to, what is supposed to be, a sober event. What were they discussing at this hearing? Cutting Food Stamps by 2.5 billion dollars and also making it more difficult to apply for Food Stamps.

I think LaMalfa wore the cowboy hat on purpose: it conveys an attitude of manliness; a cavalier spirit as he "rounds up" others to cut funds to the poor. The subliminal message is that of the independent, self-reliant frontiersman who is on a crusade against dependency and entitlements. "Yahoo! I'm cutting the ability to feed children. That'll show those welfare weasels, gaming the system as they spend their handouts on booze and strippers."

On another note, I rewrote one of these blog entries and sent it off to a very popular on-line newspaper. Yubanet has been around since 1998 and is a model for how to run a business that competes with "tree media". The website actually turns a profit and, at the same time, provides a great service to the communities of Nevada City, Grass Valley, Marysville and Yuba City. Immensely popular (especially for their coverage of wildfires), people all over the Sierra turn to them for news and opinion. I'm told that they get quite a few hits from Sacramento. They provide a decent Liberal Counterpoint to much of the Right Wing Neanderthals that inhabit this region.

I submitted a version of one of the entries I wrote on this blog which was published today. Part of why I do this is to flex my writing muscles. To practice and get ideas and inspiration for things that just might be good enough to send to an editor. To read this blog is to be a sounding board. A guinea pig. Thanks!  I liked the What Is To Be Done piece and the good folks at YubaNet were brave enough to publish it. It is fairly courageous of them to publish an essay that is inspired by a tract written by Vladimir Lenin. You can read the piece here. Give them a visit: they deserve it for their brave coverage of the Sierra Foothills.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tale of Two Weathermen or The Blair Watts Project

Chico, California has two of the strangest weathermen ever to make a forecast in the United States. And one of them just lost his job. Rob Blair is a boyish weatherman who also shares early morning duty on one of the daily local  TV shows. I've only seen him operate a couple of times (mornings are not my thing); he is hokey and friendly. A bit effeminate. Ridiculously popular. A new company bought the local television station and Rob Blair was not rehired to do his duties. Part of the lack of a rehire might stem from a very short Vegas gig Blair had in 2005. This was Blair's step up from Chico to the much larger Las Vegas market. His big chance. This is what happened:

"Jim Prather, vice president and general manager of KTNV, said Blair "stumbled" during a weather update at 7:55 a.m. Saturday but added that "this kind of incident is not acceptable under any circumstances, and I'm truly sorry that this event occurred."

"Blair was delivering the extended forecast when he said, "For tomorrow, 60 degrees, Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Day, gonna see some temperatures in the mid-60s." About 20 minutes later, Blair told viewers at the ABC affiliate, "Apparently I accidentally said Martin Luther Kong Jr., which I apologize about -- slip of the tongue." He offered a full apology during Saturday's 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.At 6:11 p.m., co-anchor Christina Brown, who is black, announced, "Right now we want to pause for a program note. Rob?"

"Blair, seated at the news desk with co-anchors Brown and Shawn Boyd, said, "On a weather report earlier this morning, I made an accidental slip of the tongue when talking about the Martin Luther King holiday, and what I said was interpreted by many viewers as highly offensive. For that I offer my deepest apology. I in no way intended to offend anyone. I'm very sorry."

After a couple of years of penance where Rob attempted counseling psychology and grew closer to the Lord, Blair was invited back to Chico where he had been, and still is, immensely popular. Redemption for the Kentucky born, gay man.

Chico is also home to the infamous Anthony Watts. Anthony was a television weatherman who later took a job at the local Fascist radio station: KPAY. No self respecting television station would have such a controversial weatherman as Anthony Watts. In addition to his weatherman duties at KPAY, Watts writes the climate denier blog: Watts Up With That or WUWT. Others have called it LOLWUWT.

Watts, who has received money from the petroleum front group: the Heartland Institute, claims to have the most visited climate change web page on the Internet. His website attempts to be somewhat scientifically detached. His Facebook page isn't detached. Watts lets his Right Wing Freak Flag fly there. I encourage you to friend him. It is an eye opening experience.

I've had a few arguments with Watts who posts openly disgusting Tea Party, anti-Obama propaganda on his Facebook page. I've been banned from the page when I called him on a particularly nasty post that made a double entendre, racist reference to Obama (this seems to be a theme amongst Chico weathermen). I did write the radio station regarding Watts Facebook post and I did notice that Anthony pulled the offending photo from his stream. Score a point for decency.

Except that I'm no longer welcome there. Yet another theme amongst the northern California Right Wingers.

What is to be Done?


To borrow the title from one of the most influential political tracts ever written. Vladimir Lenin wrote this at the turn of the last century. 110 years later, now that Carbon has hit the 400 mark: What is to be done?

350.org mentioned the passing of the psychologically important  number by sending out a fund raising letter. And Bill McKibben has been on a divestment kick, thinking that getting civil servants to not invest their pension funds in fossil fuel companies is going to make the change to a society that no longer burns carbon. Good luck with that. I think it is a waste of time.

Lenin, in his tract, stated that they needed to create a political party with a "revolutionary intellectual vanguard" to lead it. We tried that: it was called the Presidential Election of 2000 and the Revolutionary Candidate was Ralph Nader. It didn't work. Greens didn't replace the Democrats like all of us hoped. And we actually learned through the presidency of George Bush that there is a difference between the two political parties in the United States. Dimes worth of difference? No. There was a whole lot of dimes worth of difference. Enough to chase me back into the Democratic Party.

400 parts per million of CO2. Damn. That's enough to melt all the ice in Greenland within a few hundred years. Last time we had CO2 of 400, the sea level was 130 feet higher. Our little farm here in Concow will be ocean front property in a thousand years.

What is to be done? Divest from stock funds? Trading stocks ain't a way to change anything other than to lose your shirt in the market.

There was another pamphlet that came out in 1776. Common Sense by Thomas Paine. He argued for independence from England. The pamphlet sold 100,000 copies in a year, making it, proportionately, the number one best seller, ever, in the United States based on ratio of population that owned the pamphlet.

Common Sense.

What is to be done?

Must we resort to a Green Piety where we try to be the revolutionary vanguard by making some aesthetic, monkish lifestyle changes? If you want to live that way, I'd say: Yes. Become a vegetarian, localvore, off-gridder, hippy dippy, GURU loving, peacenik. Live in the country in a mud house. Work part time. Raise your food and try to leave enough space for a wildlife corridor or two. Go ahead: Live that way if you want. It can't hurt. And you'll probably get a tan.

Or do we just succumb to some sort of fatalistic future as argued by the "Nature Bats Last" segment of Environmentalists? Keep on doing what you are doing, nothing matters. GAIA wins in the end and the Homo Sapiens infection will be dealt with. Too bad we'll take out a whole lot of other species with us. But given time, after we are gone, nature will rebound (in a few million years) with even more diversity of species than she did after the last extinction.  These are the Deep Green "think like a rock" Fatalists. A tempting position. And they might be right. I think it is morally repugnant though. I won't go there.

400 parts per million. What's to be done? Have any ideas?

Al Gore put forth about a thousand ideas at the end of "Inconvenient Truth". I grew up Lutheran so I'm hip enough that individual Green Piety can be helpful. Lifestyle matters.

But I also know that it will take popular political power to make this change. Political tracts have made the argument before (Paine and Lenin): we need to do it again. Blog about it. Write letters to the editor. Write articles for newspapers. Join the local Democratic Party (because, like it or not, this issue has become a political litmus test). Until the Republicans get smart, we will have to deal with this crises in the Democratic Party. Get your ass in it.

But don't promise a panacea wonder world if we change to a Green Economy. Because it won't be. We change to a Green World because it is the Moral thing to do; it isn't because it is the Adam Smith "efficient" way of doing things. We need to stop making moral arguments as financial arguments. The two don't mix. We need to get that straight because the Dan Logue's and the Doug LaMalfa's will dance with delight when the solar panel companies go bankrupt and the high speed trains cost five times more than they should. We build it anyway. Because it is the right thing to do.

So we need solar energy. We need to use less. We need to stop having babies. We need to set aside large amounts of land for wildlife. We need to stop mining and logging on an industrial level. We need to have smaller houses. We need to preserve species. We need more hiking trails. We need a moratorium on growth. We need to build an alternative food system. We need a new transportation system. We need to do something about all the stupid people that have been created by substance abuse. We need a culture that values reading a book and having an intelligent conversation and stops watching Cage Fighting, Jersey Shore, getting tattoos and smoking dope. We need to stop doing the things that make us stupid.

We know what we need. Now get off  your ass and make it happen. Stop Keystone.  Save a coyote. Save some wild space. Hug a tree. Admire the beauty. Be beautiful. Get active. Be the change, as Gandhi would say.

Making money is your part time work. Work to live; don't live to work. Your full time job, should be, making this world a better place. The GreedHeads are wrong: selfishness won't make the world better. Your enthusiasm for a beautiful world will.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Four Hundred and A Fierce Green Fire

For a bit there, it looked like we went over Four Hundred parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. But then the Mauna Loa facility revised their initial report down to 399.89. Still, close enough. And the most important thing anyone might remember from the year 2013 is that that was the year we went over the 400 threshold. Whether it is May 9 or May 13, doesn't really matter. We are hovering at the psychologically important 400 mark.

And in case you didn't know, the last time we were at 400 CO2 was a few million years ago. The temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer on average (try to raise corn in Iowa when the temperature is regularly over 100 degrees). There were no polar ice caps and the sea level was 130 feet higher than it is now. We might see the same thing in a few hundred years which is much too fast for most life to adapt to that quick of a climate change. We call it the Sixth Extinction.

And so to Celebrate, Joni and I went to see a showing of "A Fierce Green Fire". I thought the show was going to be a documentary of Aldo Leopold. Turned out to be a heroic attempt at telling the story of the Environmental Movement.

I was actually a bit disappointed with A Fierce Green Fire. I'm a tough critic and I welcome debate on the issue.

I can see how it would be a PBS sort of show: the usual milk toast, liberal, BMW, sentimental shit. It did a nice job with Paul Watson; it also did a nice job of Carl Pope from the Sierra Club stating where they went wrong. Missing from the video: Redwood Summer; Earth First; Ed Abbey; Judi Bari; repression and the FBI; Environmentalism turning into big money fundraising apparatuses with little effectiveness, huge salaries and almost no connection to the base; the death of the radical enviro movement in the early 90's; the success of the Burger King boycott; the end of environmentalism as a nature movement with people under the age of 30 (except for its "adrenaline" extreme X game sport value).

The film ends with McKibben and is utterly anthropocentric for the last three or four segments. Yet the film did try to cover a whole lot of territory in a small bit of time. Very ambitious. Perhaps a good primer--but with not enough of the Founding Fathers: No Thoreau. Not enough Muir; not enough Leopold. No Bob Marshall. Hell, I even would have liked to have seen a bit of John Denver (don't underestimate the power of pop culture on the Enviro movement--we could use another John Denver today!). I made a comment after the movie how one person could actually make a difference, and used Paul Watson as the best example from the movie, and one of the local Butte County Environmental Council people piped up that she thought Watson was too much of an extremist. Perhaps that is what is wrong with the environmental movement.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Little One and Loyalty

In my view we have about two dogs too many. I was happy with one dog. Somehow, over the years, two more dogs snuck into our household. The most recent addition is a dog that showed up at our door over a year and a half ago; her fur was matted with thistles and manure and she was covered with ticks. Joni cleaned her up and sent her back to her owner. The dog kept coming back to avoid the abuse of her master and we adopted her. Her former owner has since committed suicide.

This pup has been an expensive dog; we forgot to get her parvo shots and, sure enough, that illness nearly killed her and cost us a couple thousand dollars at a time when we really didn't have any money to spare. She was suffering from the Parvo so badly that we considered putting her down. We didn't.

She was half wild when we got her. She killed a couple of our chickens. She wants to chase every car that comes along, desiring to herd the damned contraptions. She has been run over once. She lived. This dog will run off into the woods and return, all proud and triumphant, with the vertebral column of some long dead creature. I call the dog "Little One" for obvious reasons (she is much smaller than our other dogs--especially the first couple of months we had her when she was half starved and emaciated). Little by little she has become more and more domesticated. All she wants to do is please us. She knows that life can be much worse--having spent her puppyhood with (literally) a pack of wolves and also with a jackboot, and random gunshots, for discipline.

She loves us.

I didn't know quite how much until this rib injury. I've been sleeping in the LazyBoy because that chair provides the most comfort. In the middle of the night last night, I woke up and  decided to try sleeping in our bed. Without too much pain I was able to fall asleep. Slept in this morning.

Little One has been my constant companion these past few days. She has held vigil next to the LazyBoy, watching over me.  She follows me to the bathroom. We have had a couple of walks and she has stuck close to me, keeping an eye on me, rather than disappearing on her grand loops out of eyesight. She knows something is wrong.

This morning, at 7 am,  Joni got up and fed the dogs like she normally does. Angel and Abbey got up and had breakfast. Little One refused to leave my bed. She refused breakfast. At 9am I was still sleeping and Joni knew that Little One should go outside for a potty break. She tried to coax her out of bed. No go. She would not leave my side.

When I finally woke up, Joni informed me that she thought Little One was sick because she refused to eat and refused to go outside. Sleepy and in my PJ's, I offered Little One the food that Joni had saved for her. Little One ate with gusto. With pep and vigor. Then it dawned on us: Little One refused to eat and leave my side because she knows something is wrong with me. She is watching over me.

This dog will refuse food when something is wrong with a family member. That is empathy. That is loyalty. That is love. That's how Little One has earned a cherished place in this family.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Psychiatric Nurse Injuries; How to Survive a Broken Rib:

I read a study of Psychiatric Nurses yesterday regarding non-fatal injuries to mental health nurses. Turns out that within a Psychiatric Nurse's career, 64% of us will have injuries from patient assaults, at least, ten times. 95% of nurses reported at least one injury. And over the course of a year, 7% of Psychiatric Nurses will sustain an injury that involves missing work. Mostly Psychiatric Nurses accept the risks of our profession. We shrug it off and "handle it". I think we are a bit tolerant of the risks of our profession. This is an attitude that I wish would change. Only 5 percent of Psychiatric Nurses will go through their entire careers without having had an injury.

Over the last twenty years, I've been injured requiring missed work, five times. One time a patient tried to break my neck by yanking on my hair; once I ended up on the bottom of a "take down"pile where a 16 year old bit a chunk out of my arm; and  I've had three incidents of busted ribs.

This is my fourth rib injury. Three at work and one on my own time. I don't spend much time writing about my paid career because of the risks involved regarding confidentiality. If you don't write about your psychiatric career, you can't' violate confidentiality. I take as a role model, Noam Chomsky, who was a linguistics professor in his teaching work, but spends the majority of his intellectual time writing about culture and politics. Intellectuals should be able to handle more than one subject at once.

The last rib incident happened last Friday when a very large client hit my ribs as hard as he could with his elbow. The person next to me stated she could feel the percussion of the hit pass through my body into hers. It was a very hard blow. Twice. I don't know why they always go for my ribs. Bad luck.

At this point of my career, my ribs feel like Apollo Creed's during the last round of his fight with Rocky Balboa. I am bruised and battered.

Given this experience, I know how to treat damaged ribs. Doctors don't like this treatment protocol, but this is what works for me.

How to recover from damaged and broken ribs:

1. First off, you need a LazyBoy. Moving, coughing, lying down, bending over, laughing, tying your shoes, changing your clothes, dressing, reaching; all those activities are painful with a rib injury. The only position that doesn't cause pain is the LazyBoy Recumbent Position.  The head elevated position of a LazyBoy chair is the best position for recovering from a rib injury. The head elevated position doesn't put any undue strain on your diaphragm, allowing you to get some rest. And rest is what is needed.  You will live, at least, in the LazyBoy chair for two weeks.

2. Try not to move, except for a gentle daily walk, for two weeks. Spend the time in your LazyBoy watching TV, reading books, writing, talking on the phone. But do not do anything else. Rest.

3. Wear a Rib Belt. These are currently out of vogue due to the risk of pneumonia. But, believe me, the bigger risk is a re-injury to the rib. The ribs, upon any strain, tend to jump about in the body. Because the lungs inflate and deflate behind the ribs, sudden movements and the inflation of the lungs can cause the injured rib to move. This movement reinjures the rib (you will feel a pop or a jumping in the chest). If this happens too often, you can end up with a rib that takes months to heal (I know this from experience).

4. Icy Hot helps. Use it liberally underneath the Rib Belt.

5. Medications: Doctors will try to just order you an NSAID. I need more than that. Injured ribs are  second only to kidney stones in the severity in pain that I've experienced.

This is what I do:

A. 800 mgs of Ibuprofen upon waking up, repeat in the afternoon and then again at bedtime.

B. Take an opiate every four to six hours religiously for the first two weeks (Percocet or Norco 10's work the best for me).

C. In addition, I recommend a benzodiazepine twice a day (Valium 5 mg). The rib injury usually involves more than a little bit of muscle strain. It is best to keep the muscles relaxed, so a benzo, at least at bedtime, will help you heal quicker and rest better.

D. Given the heavy use of opiates, you will need to take Milk of Magnesium, Mag Citrate and a diet high in bran. This will prevent any uncomfortable constipation.

E. After one to two weeks, taper off the use of opiates first, and then the Ibuprofen. If the rib is broken, it will take six weeks to heal; if the injury is intercostal, it will take four weeks to heal.

6. Since the next month will be devoted to doing, essentially, nothing, make sure you have lots of good books and a decent cable subscription.

I am currently on Day 8 of my recovery. So far, so good.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Wildlife: He knows not what he does....

Brian Dahle is the new Assemblyman from California's northeast mountain District 1---a huge amount of area that is larger than many States. It is a sparsely populated region that has some of the best wilderness left in California. Achingly beautiful, the district boasts the first two mountains of the Cascade volcanic mountain chain: Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen. Mount Lassen is a National Park; Mount Shasta should be.

I first heard of the guy when I was researching his run for the State Assembly about a year ago. I am a political geek. As such I joined his Facebook page where I first saw photos of the famous Adin Supply Store Coyote Slaughter. During this event, the little town of Adin has a dinner: Brian Dahle was there campaigning for votes. That Facebook visit eventually led to a petition drive by about a million California environmentalists to stop the coyote slaughter and it also brought a certain amount of unpleasant scrutiny to Brian Dahle, who has been an enthusiastic participant in the coyote hunts in the past.

I went to Adin to cover the 2013 Coyote Drive for the Chico News and Review. While there I wrote the following about Brian Dahle and my attempts to meet with him regarding the hunt:

The new Assemblyman from the mountain District One (and my Assemblyman) is Brian Dahle. He owns a ranch not too far from Adin.  I contacted his chief of staff, Joshua Cook, who promised me I would be able to talk to Brian about the hunt. I also sent Joshua Cook an e-mail, which Joshua Cook told me he had already responded to. When I checked my e-mail, there was no e-mail from Joshua. He didn’t answer my repeated calls to his cell phone. Cold shoulder anyone?

Brian Dahle did admit to Bruce Ross of the Redding Searchlight that he has participated in prior coyote drives. One local person, who doesn’t want to be identified (a problem I ran into a whole lot in Adin), said that Brian Dahle goes to all the coyote events. I’ve seen pictures of him participating in last year’s coyote dinner.
I had hoped to meet with Brian Dahle at his ranch. I wanted to hear his side of the argument. I wanted to hear him say that coyote hunting is an effective way to manage predators. I wanted to hear him respond to the studies that indicate there are other, and better, ways to manage predation of calves and lambs.

I can understand Mr. Dahle’s hesitation. He sits on the Assembly’s Wildlife Committee. Participating in politically unpopular coyote hunts is not good for an Assemblyman’s career. In California, home of free range, organic, non GMO certified Chickens, the last thing a politician wants to admit is that he participates in coyote killing contests.

When it comes to Assemblymen, silence speaks volumes.

After the hunt, I finally received an e-mail from Brian Dahle, through his Chief of Staff, Joshua Cook. Of course, I received this e-mail after what Dahle thought was my deadline for the story. Here is the e-mail:


Apologies for the delay. Answers to your questions included below.



1. Does Brian Dahle support coyote hunts such as the one in Adin?
The contest aspect of the coyote drive is a distraction from the basic question of how ranchers, farmers and rural landowners can use accepted practices to manage predation. Landowners have a responsibility to respect the value of wildlife. If the coyote drive weakens that responsibility, it will not continue.
 2. Will Brian Dahle attend this year's hunt?
No, Brian will not participate in the coyote drive.
3. Has Brian allowed hunting of coyotes on his land in the past? Will he allow hunters this year?
Brian did not receive any requests for permission this year. He has taken coyotes on his property in the past.
4. Is Brian in favor of a ban on coyote killing contests?
(See Question 1)
5. Is Brian in favor of applying science and modernizing the management of coyote/predator/non-game species?
The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a mandate to make decisions based on sound science, and I fully support that. In many rural and semirural areas, we need to find a balance that respects the importance of agriculture. Conservation and agriculture are often seen as competing interests, but that’s not always true. My wheat fields support a huge number of migrating waterfowl along the Pacific flyway, and farmers and ranchers play an important role in conserving wildlife and natural resources. 
 6.  How does Brian feel about the current coyote and bobcat policy--that it is okay to kill a coyote at any time of the year, without limit---as long as there is no  local ordinance against it.
The USDA National Ag Statistics Service attributes 72% of predation losses to coyotes, and estimates those losses would be two or three times greater without predator management practices. Data from the USDA NASS, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and UC IPM make it clear that coyotes are not endangered, and their numbers have increased substantially in recent years. That is a fact. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “It is nearly impossible to completely eradicate coyotes from an area. Despite bounties and large-scale efforts to kill coyotes over the last 100 years, coyotes have in fact expanded their range throughout the U.S. tremendously. One study even found that killing 75 percent of a coyote population every year for 50 years would still not exterminate the population.”
The final copy that got published was relatively kind to Brian Dahle. He got one unchallenged paragraph from me:
"First District Assemblyman Brian Dahle, who has participated in the hunt in the past and owns a ranch close to Adin, told me by email: “The USDA National Ag Statistics Service attributes 72% of predation losses to coyotes, and estimates those losses would be two or three times greater without predator management practices.” By predator management practices, he means hunting.'
Poor Dahle, he already had a crises about his treatment of wildlife just one month into his term. The past few months, Brian Dahle, because he sits on the State's Wildlife committee, has had an opportunity to weigh in on two other issues that effect wildlife.

In the last month, the Assembly's Wildlife Committee has taken up the question of commercial Bobcat trapping. There have been no good studies done on the actual amount of Bobcat that we have left in California. Bobcat pelts have become increasingly expensive, leading to a trapping boom. I've read that some Bobcat furs are selling for $1,500. Despite the high dollar amounts for the pelts, the numbers taken by commercial Bobcat trappers have been poor. Some feel that this might mean that the Bobcat is becoming threatened as a species in California. Either way, we have  no good studies to indicate how many are left.
And so the valiant organization: Project Bobcat stepped in with legislation sponsored by a concerned Assemblyman. The legislation certainly isn't radical: it just calls for a moratorium on Bobcat trapping around Joshua Tree National Park and for science to be done as to ascertain real Bobcat numbers in California. If a management plan is not developed, then a moratorium on Bobcat trapping would take effect in 2015. The bill would move the Bobcat from "vermin" non-game animal status to Furbearing status.
Brian Dahle voted against the Bobcat moratorium. His office didn't write me to justify why he voted against it. He didn't write my spouse either. In the e-mail he wrote to me earlier this year, Dahle indicated that he felt science should be part of managing wildlife. Since there has been no good science on the Bobcat population since the 70's, one would think Dahle would back the bill. He didn't.

And today, May 7, Assemblyman Brian Dahle announced that he would vote against a lead ammunition ban. He announced that a lead ammunition ban would lead to the new ammo being called "armor piercing" which is outlawed by Federal regulations. Dahle went on to state that this would lead to a hunting ban in California. He announced his position prior to the hearings on the topic.
We all know the dangers of lead poisoning. Using lead bullets and buckshot leads to the lead poisoning in everything that eats an animal that was killed by the buckshot. It has been well studied and can't be argued. Using lead bullets kills wildlife. And there are alternatives that are safe.

The most famous mortalities from lead ammunition have been the imperiled California Condor. At least 26 condors have been killed by lead poisoning over the last twenty years. It is the leading killer of Callifornia condors. Safe, effective and reliable alternatives to lead ammunition are already sold in all fifty states. A lead ammunition ban would be easy to do, wouldn't cost much and the benefits are substantiated by science.
But no, Brian Dahle feels that this is an attack on hunting (just an appeal to rural votes). And, once again, despite his desire to rely upon "science", he relies on a hunter persecutor complex to validate his position.

 But here is the real sad part: Brian Dahle does not help his District by taking these anti-science stands against wildlife. Why? Tourism is much more important to the First District than hunting. The percentage of hunters in California is falling faster than George Bush's poll standings after attacking Iraq. Tourism is where the money is and the First District has some of the best unspoiled views and vistas left in the US. It is an undiscovered treasure where people carrying cameras will spend much more money than people carrying guns.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fast Food, Hummingbird Style...

I wonder if a Hummingbird, dropping by a feeder that looks like a poor excuse for a flower, is similar to me when I am traveling and I desperately pull into a Fast Food Joint, serving junk that is a poor excuse for what should be considered food. Is this Hummingbird doing the Hummer's own version of Fast Food? In a word: No.

The Hummingbirds need that sugar (nectar) as they migrate even further than I do. Whereas I drive my 165 miles to work once a week, these little critters flap their way 500 miles in one night. Without stopping. Of course, this Hummer didn't do that--the Hummers that do the 500 mile thing are the ones that fly from Mexico, over the Gulf of Mexico, to Florida. An amazing feat, they fly over water without stopping, beginning at dusk. Most Hummingbirds winter in Mexico as they are dependent upon flowers and bugs to eat. They migrate solo during the winter, probably returning to the same patch of topography anyplace between Mexico and Panama.

They are amazing and beautiful creatures. Joni says they signify "Joy". I agree.

Fun Hummingbird Facts:

  1. There are more than 325 hummingbird species in the world. Only 8 species regularly breed in the United States, though up to two dozen species may visit the country.

  2. A hummingbird’s brilliant throat color is not caused by feather pigmentation, but rather by iridescence in the arrangement of the feathers and the influence of light level, moisture and other factors.

  3. Hummingbirds cannot walk or hop, though their feet can be used to scoot sideways while they are perched.

  4. The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird species in North America and measures just 3 inches long. The bee hummingbird is the smallest species and measures 2.25 inches long.

  5. Hummingbirds have 1,000-1,500 feathers, the fewest number of feathers of any bird species in the world.

  6. The average ruby-throated hummingbird weighs 3 grams. In comparison, a nickel weighs 4.5 grams.

  7. From 25-30 percent of a hummingbird’s weight is in its pectoral muscles, the muscles principally responsible for flight.

  8. A hummingbird’s maximum forward flight speed is 30 miles per hour, though the birds can reach up to 60 miles per hour in a dive.

  9. Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all birds. They measure less than 1/2 inch long but may represent as much as 10 percent of the mother’s weight at the time the eggs are laid.

  10. A hummingbird must consume approximately 1/2 of its weight in sugar daily, and the average hummingbird feeds 5-8 times per hour.

  11. A hummingbird’s wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second depending on the direction of flight and air conditions.

  12. An average hummingbird’s heart rate is more than 1,200 beats per minute.

  13. At rest, a hummingbird takes an average of 250 breaths per minute.

  14. The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any hummingbird species with a distance of more than 3,000 miles from the bird’s nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to its winter habitat in Mexico.

  15. The ruby-throated hummingbird flies 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during both its spring and fall migrations.

  16. Depending on the species, habitat conditions, predators and other factors, the average lifespan of a wild hummingbird is 3-12 years.

  17. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell but have very keen eyesight.

  18. Hummingbirds do not suck nectar through their long bills, they lick it with fringed, forked tongues.

  19. A hummingbird can lick 10-15 times per second while feeding.

  20. Hummingbirds digest natural sucrose in 20 minutes with 97 percent efficiency for converting the sugar into energy.

  21. Many hummingbird species, including Anna’s, black-chinned, Allen’s, Costa’s, rufous, calliope and broad-tailed hummingbirds, can breed together to create hybrid species, one fact that makes identifying hummingbirds very challenging.

  22. The peak fall migration period for hummingbirds is from mid-July through August or early September, depending on the route.

  23. Despite their small size, hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive bird species and will regularly attack jays, crows and hawks that infringe on their territory.

  24. The bill of the aptly named sword-billed hummingbird, found in the Andes Mountains, can reach up to 4 inches long.

  25. Hummingbirds are native species of the New World and are not found outside of the Western Hemisphere.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bring Back May Day!

May Day just might be the best holiday of them all. It is the holiday for Pagans with Socialist tendencies. The perfect Red/Green festival. It is a day where you can celebrate Gaia while saluting the gifts that the old whiskered one, Karl Marx, gave humanity. Of  course, many on the right would say that May Day is a plot of Agenda 21. I'm sure they think that May Day is part of the war on Christmas and that somehow, the UN, or the Masons, the Communists or maybe the Illuminati, are behind it.

My Pagan friends call this day Beltane. The importance of the day seems to revolve around having sex outside. ("Hooray, Hooray, it's the first of May; Outdoor F&&cking  begins today".)  It is the day for reading Dan Brown or Marion Zimmer Bradley outside on your sun deck underneath an Earth First flag while wearing a Che' Guevara T-shirt and sipping a Cuba Libre. You can let your Freak Flag fly on May Day. Dance around the Maypole. Put some flowers in your hair. Roll in the dirt.

I kind of miss the parades that the Soviet Union used to have on May Day. I liked the intrigue of western scholars watching how the Politburo lined up where the Soviet leaders watched the lines of missiles and soldiers marching below. Did Gorbachev watch the parade with Brezhnev? Or Chernenko? Can you remember Chernenko?

Combine this with childhood memories of ringing doorbells and leaving May Baskets full of candy and flowers, and then running away before the girl you left the basket for could run and catch you and kiss you. Why would anyone run? Why did I run? Would my life be different if one of those gals had caught me?

May Day is a holiday that needs more attention. More celebration. Bring it back. Take the day off. Put on tie-dye. Go skinny dipping! Read a biography of Eugene Debs. Be thankful for the 8 hour day and vacations and sick days and overtime---all gifts from the American Left influenced by Socialists and Communists. Nature and Labor: I'm for both of them.