Thursday, August 29, 2013

Time to get buff; I am not going to quit...

Memorial for a psychiatric nurse that was killed by a patient  at Napa State Hospital

More doctoring yesterday. I had a lab draw in the morning. Followed by an afternoon meeting with the Workman's Comp MD.

I disagree with the MD's opinion entirely. He feels that my pain in my back is just "referred" pain from my broken ribs or pain from my blocked coronary arteries, predicting a major coronary event in my life in the near future. (I prefer option number one). He feels that I just need to "not focus on the pain" and to place my hand over my ribs in order to give the back pain some relief. "Does that give you relief" he said. I said: "I don't know, I'm on Norco so everything is pleasant right now". Against my will he put me on Modified Duty. He then launched into my health problems (the coronary arteries) and another health problem related to my lungs.

"You either need to Buff up or get out of your work", the MD said. 'Psychiatric nursing is a young man's game. You have to be in shape for it'. My brother, family and friends have been saying the same thing to me. "I don't even know if I'd survive another fractured rib, this one just isn't coming back".

MD: "People in their 50's just don't heal well. It is time for a desk job for you. Chase paper."

Meanwhile, I am sobbing.

We talk some more and he orders a new NSAID that has all the studies up in an uproar with its effectiveness. I tell him: "My back's problem is muscular, so could you give me a benzo like Valium to be used as a muscle relaxer"?MD"I don't believe your back has any organic reason for hurting. It is referred pain, but I'll write for some Ativan". He wrote a weak dose of Ativan 1 mg to be used every 12 to 24 hours.

I've been asking for valium or ativan for months. Later, talking to my boss, crying, I realize that I still want to be a  psychiatric nurse. I still want to do the ER evaluations. I love it. This is my dream work. I decide to get buff. I am not going to quit. I need to get healthier and to learn to keep my head down in dangerous situations.

I go the pharmacy, I take the Ativan. Relief ensues within an hour. I take another, ignoring the MD's orders. I'm going to marinate this back in Ativan for a few days in order to heal it. 24 hours in, the back feels good---even though I drove across the state today. Normally I would be in agony. I asked for this med months ago. They wouldn't give it to me because it is "too addicting". Well, as a muscle relaxer they work. Let's just see how addicted I get. MD's and Health Professionals can be so obtuse. They use their safe meds that are ineffective---too dumb to think out of the box to protect their licenses.

As it is, my back hasn't felt this good in months. The Ativan worked.

I stayed an extra night to get my head together. Joni is confused at my change in plans: "I thought you hated it".

I do at times. But nobody can do what I do. It takes years to hone these skills. I can't just throw them away. I'll retire at 59 1/2; I'll get healthy. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing. If I get hurt again, I will quit.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Echocardiograms, Healthcare and Me...

I've been the recipient of more healthcare over the last year than I've experienced in all my other years put together. Seems there is always something to worry about when your age teeters over the half century mark. I was lying on a table today, watching my heart pump on a video screen during an echocardiogram. The screen clearly showed the valves moving; I could listen to the blood whoosh through the chambers of the heart. This magnificent organ, that just keeps working, 24/7, day after day, night after night. Amazing!

Any worries? I haven't met with the cardiologist, but it appears there isn't too much to worry about. Some thickening of the walls of the heart might indicate that my blood pressure has been on the hypertensive side. But the valves looked like they are working splendidly. Next week I will be having a stress echocardiogram. That will give us more information in regards to the health of my heart.

Fingers crossed.

Of course, we've known how to have a healthy heart for years: exercise, careful on the fat, eat veggies! Fruit! Don't smoke. Keep your weight down. Keep a cheerful attitude. No fast food. Don't eat the Industrial Diet. Probably be a good idea to stay away from the GMO's too.

The Hippies were right about diet and nutrition.

Knowledge and practice often don't go hand in hand. And so I've not exercised over the last decade as much as I should; I've not eaten well, not because of Joni who is superb nutritionally; I travel and stop at McDonald's for those lethal one dollar McDoubles way more often than I should. Quick and easy and deadly. My life hasn't been low stress. I have a high stress job that literally beats me up. I commute a long, long ways to work. People who spend a lot of time commuting tend to get fat. It happened to me.

Off with this blubber!

Things aren't hopeless, and hopefully, I haven't gone over the cliff.

All in all, I trust the medical system. We have great drugs and great machines and great procedures. But it sure would be better to not need all these things. We forget most healthcare is self-care. And the best way to avoid a health crises is simple: exercise, eat right, keep positive, reduce stress. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. True.

Tomorrow another doctor. This time we will talk about my rib and back injury and come up with a plan as to how to deal with it. It has been four months since I was attacked in the workplace and injured much more seriously than we first thought. But Hospitals only have so much patience with employees and there is a tendency to be ridiculed for being hurt. It doesn't help that this hospital manages its own Workman's Comp, which seems like a terrible conflict of interest to me. People are herded back to work much too quickly. Tomorrow, I will find out if they want me to try and wrestle through more work days on a Modified Status, or if we will wait until after I have some injections into my back in two weeks to deaden the pain.

I'd meant to tie all this into commentary on the measles outbreak in Texas amongst those who don't vaccinate their kids. But, alas, I'm tired and we can wait on that sermon for another day.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Frack the Nor Cal Tea Party...

There are certain exercises in torment that I participate in on a fairly regular basis. Things that I like to do that make other people, usually my spouse and family, shake their heads in wonder as to my sense of grandiosity or sheer nerdliness or sanity. For example, I like to take long solo hikes, even when I'm not physically prepared for them. Being on a trail, wondering if I can actually carry a 40 pound pack another six miles to the only source of life giving water, knowing that my life is dependent upon making it there, makes me incredibly happy. Adventure!  Another exercise in torment? I enjoy watching CSPAN--I'm one of the few people whose idea of a fun afternoon on a Saturday is to sit in the lazy boy, drifting off to the mendacity of a stilted English professor on Book TV discussing the finer points of Thoreau's theory of life long education.

Another activity on that Torment List would be attending Tea Party meetings to hear speakers that inhabit a part of the political spectrum that makes absolutely no sense to me. I did it again last Thursday.

The Nor Cal Tea Party Patriots were sponsoring a discussion on "fracking" by an "energy expert". This energy expert was a person my wife had tried to hear at an industry summit, but she was turned away at the door for being on a "Do Not Admit" list. No Enviros Allowed.
This was a "two for one" in my twisted mind: an industry apologist and a meeting of right wing extremists. This holds all the fascination for me similar to ripping the scab off a sore. You know you shouldn't like it, but you do anyway (description borrowed from C.S. Lewis).

I arrived at the meeting early in order to take a seat fairly close to the front.  Looking around, I counted about 70 true believers, all but three appear older than my 52 trips around the sun. The setting: one of those suburban pop churches in upscale Auburn, where you see more implements of entertainment (drum sets, piano, electric piano, microphone stands, guitar, theatrical lights) than Icons of Christianity. Just a large cross to the side of the stage identified the place as a church. The walls were tan colored. The carpet was tan colored. As were the plush movie theatre style seats (nobody in these Jesus rah rah Centers sits in a pew).

Nobody sat next to me. I think they can sniff out a closet Lefty. I didn't raise my hand when they asked if there were any newcomers there. Didn't want the attention. Most of the participants wore red Tea Party shirts like a uniform. I wore my favorite bristlecone pine t-shirt. It is important to remind yourself what side you are on when you are in enemy territory.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, a rousing acapella version of the National Anthem, and multiple announcements of the doings of the Tea Party, John McDonald took the stage. John is a fifty something who looks thirty something. Suave, in a suit that looked like it cost a pretty penny. He has John Edward style dimples and good looks. An "electrical engineer" by education and a self described starter of high tech companies where he has patents on gadgets "some of which you might have in your purses". A heroic self made man, of Native American ancestry.

He couldn't get his lap top to work for his canned power point presentation. Technology fails. Ironic seeing he was there to tell us how safe Fracking technology is.

John McDonald is part of the Industry Front group: the Coalition of Energy Users. Their sole purpose is to create the political and intellectual space for large scale Fracking operations to begin in California.

"Low cost energy is freedom" McDonald said, "High cost energy leads to the Obama Plantation" Yes, he actually said that. John started out with economic and social advantages with the new fracking revolution that has increased gas and oil production in the United States, disproving Hubberts peak. "If you care about the poor, you want low cost energy". McDonald swooned.

This led McDonald into talking about the wonders of Texas. "Texas is amazing" stating that if Texas was its own country, they would go from being 12th in the world in oil production to 9th, this year alone. Texas is currently pumping 3 million barrels a day, because of fracking. All of it on private land. And with oil production comes money to the Texas coffers: Texas will bring in "900 million dollars in revenue due to oil".

But is it safe? "All my life, when I look at what Environmentalists really state, I find lies", adding: "They lie every time". In a more hopeful tone, swarming to the enraptured crowd of Social Security pensioners, "You can combat the lies".

"Fracking has been around for 20 years"...."We've gotten really good at it". The primary innovation came when drillers figured out how to change directions with the bit and go parallel. Millions of gallons of water and sand are then pumped into the ground, the pressure causes the oil to leach out of pockets and back into the pipe when the pressure is released. That's the Cliff Notes version of fracking. Thus, old wells are reborn with more recoverable oil and gas.

To criticisms that the fracking fluid is dangerous (none of the companies will release what they use) John McDonald eased the audience's fears. "I'd drink the fluid", he heroically said. The fluid is just water, sand, soap and disinfectant, he summarized. "These aren't scary things" adding that "There has never been a fracking related ground water contamination issue". In fact, fracking stops seeps that occur naturally where natural gas is found. We may have "less contamination due to well drilling".

Gee, that makes me feel better.

On to the business of oil: "You can't get around the laws of business". We shouldn't "demonize things that are precious and beautiful. It is wrong to criticize oil companies". "We need to be kind and loving to our oil companies". "We need to tell these companies we love them".

Yes,  he said that. All of it.

Is there any space for renewable energy in John McDonald's world? No. John asks: "Why don't we use (energy from) solar panels, to make solar panels?" McDonald sees very little role for renewable energy in California. In fact, he cited a study that in 2050, California will need 30 nuclear reactors and 36 natural gas plants to produce energy to meet demand. He sees no role for renewable energy in our future.

The crowd was pretty excited about all the money that awaits us because California has 2/3rds of the recoverable oil and gas in the United States. We just need to stop the nasty Liberals and Environmentalists from getting in the way of the prosperity that is our birthright.

John McDonald made an apt summary for the enthusiastic Tea Party members: "Energy is Liberty! Energy is Freedom!".

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dan Logue and Me...

So who is Dan Logue? If you took the absolutely worst, most arrogant and obnoxious Republican imaginable, and then you squared him, you'd end up with Dan Logue. I've made a hobby out of following this idiot's career ever since I was introduced to him (figuratively, not in person) back in 2010. He has been groomed for great things by the Koch Brothers. They even wrote a ballot measure for him, prop 23 (designed to stop California's landmark Carbon trading) which was handily defeated by California voters. Even Butte County voted against Logue and Prop. 23.

That's how I got to know him, by following his campaign as California's Lead Climate Change Denier. Of course, being a Climate Change Denier is now part of being a Republican's DNA . So what's so incredibly reprehensible about Assemblyman Dan Logue? Well, let's start with his desire to turn California into Nevada (until unemployment went belly up there) and then Texas. Logue led a group of California politicians to visit Texas to discuss with Rick Perry the merits of being the most regressive, leads the nation in minimum wage earners and people who work without health insurance State in the United States. Unbelievably, our Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom, made the second biggest error of his political career by attending that trip with Logue. Of course, Newsom's biggest error was sleeping with his Campaign Manager's wife when Newsom was running for the mayor of San Francisco. But hey, this is California. You gotta expect a bit of fandangaling out here. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can't expect us to keep our pants on in this balmy, friendly Mediterranean climate.

Back to Dan Logue.

Dan  has a reputation for flying around to every Koch sponsored event he can attend. Prop 23 was allegedly written in Colorado by Koch lawyers. Dan Logue is real tight with the Governor of Texas. Dan was Rick Perry's campaign chair in California when Rick Perry made his disastrous attempt at seeking the Republican nomination. Logue hated Mitt Romney, so much that when Rick Perry self-destructed (errr, I'd get rid of, ah...can't remember, oops") in one of the most public displays of idiocy by a politician who ever ran for President. Anyway, Dan Logue hated Romney so much that he became Newt Gingrich's campaign chair after Rick Perry dropped out. That lasted about two or three weeks until Newt's money ran out and he had to go back to work selling books and changing his ever chameleonic image. Logue never endorsed Romney, so far as I can tell.

Dan Logue likes to be seen as the public crusader. He touts Texas as a role model for how to be more "business friendly"--it used to be Nevada up until unemployment in Nevada went north of l4 percent and the housing crisis crashed in boom city Las Vegas. He has documented endlessly the number of businesses leaving California. And there was the Prop 23 thing, where he took his disdain for those of us who think Climate Change is potentially dangerous and tried to suspend California's ground breaking Climate Change law. Dan Logue has criticized renewable energy, especially wind power, stating that fossil fuels are a better, more efficient way, to move an economy. His most recent venture has been to get a public accounting of how  Prop 63 tax dollars are spent. Prop 63 is a 1 percent tax on millionaires with the money being expressly used to provide more services to the mentally ill of California. This bill, which passed in 2004, has provided 7 billion dollars in money for services over the last 7 years.

We all want good government. Even Henry David Thoreau, the patron saint of Americans who hate government, who wrote that the government that governs best, governs least, but then qualified himself by stating, essentially, that since government is necessary, we might as well have good government. I don't know what Dan Logue's motives are, campaigner for good government? or just hater of all government? but he hitched his wagon to critiquing the Mental Health Tax on Millionaires. He also has decided to tackle Democratic Congressman Jon Garamendi in Congressional District 3.

This is a swing district, with a slight Democratic edge in voter registration. For Dan Logue to have a chance here, he has to be seen as reasonable, as a champion of good government who gives excellent constituent service; he needs to temper his hothead, knee jerk conservatism and he has to market himself accordingly. And so his new campaign colors are in Obama Blue. With a sense of motion to it, with a gold "Che Guevara" Star set in motion by streaming  lines across the page (a subtle subliminal reference to Obama's "Forward" campaign motto). The blue and gold motif is a nod to California's colors. It is always good to have blue as your color if you are a Republican running in a slightly Democratic district. And so, on the website, you can see the new marketing of Dan Logue. It lauds his accomplishments and his ability to work across the aisle. The colors are patriotic Californian and there is not a whole lot of Conservative propaganda readily  apparent. In short, this is a departure from Dan Logue's extremist history.

Candidates nowadays have to have a social media presence. Dan Logue created a Dan Logue for Congress Facebook page where he posted a Sacramento Bee article that deals with Dan Logue's allegations of malfeasance in the use of Mental Health Funds collected by Proposition 63. I like to be informed about the North State's Congressional Candidates, so following their campaign websites is part of what I do. I also like to go hear them talk in person, most of the time they only give access to Tea Party groups.

Dan Logue has been introducing his watchdogging of the Mental Health Funds by writing things like this on Facebook: "Over $7 billion and the meter is still running. Mental health $$ spent on yoga, horseback rides and Ipads... ". Dan Logue's Campaign Twitter account said this: "Over $7 billion and the meter is still running. Mental health $$ spent on yoga, horseback rides and Ipads..."

I responded on his Facebook page, politely (mostly) calling him out on making fun of therapeutic interventions like Yoga and Horse therapy. The comment was removed from the page. I then wrote another reply, this time a bit more pointed.  Here is my response which was on his site for about five minutes: "My comment was removed. Please do not remove this one. Again, I have been a psychiatric RN for 20 years. I've seen Yoga save the state money by teaching alternative strategies to deal with anxiety. Reducing anti-anxiety medication saves the state money and is just a decent thing to do (teach alternative coping strategies). Horse therapy has long been used and is effective. I've seen a woman who was plagued by voices that were intractable and medications were ineffective. A service dog eliminated her auditory hallucinations. I also have obtained technology for clients when I was a case manager. It helped one of my clients get a job. These strategies can be effective, compassionate and save the state money. Why do you mock the mentally ill?
I didn't really think it would last long on the website. It didn't---but I made a copy of the thing for posterity's sake

I, of course, knew that I would have my ability to comment on the Facebook page revoked. The same thing happened to me on Doug LaMalfa's Facebook page. I lost my right to comment there when I, tactfully in my opinion, questioned Doug on some issue that escapes me right now. So that's two pages I've been banned from commenting. I was actually  blocked from our local Climate Change Denier and hack scientist extraordinaire, Anthony Watts, who lives and works in Chico, but in his free time runs a Climate Change Denier website called WUWT (Watts Up With That). He claims to have the most popular Climate Change website in the world. And from reading the multitude of single minded comments to his posts (and his guest posts), this might be true. Read the comments and you will come across some inevitable themes: the posters are male, white, aged 30 to 50; they hate science yet claim to be scientific. Right Wing Nerds who are more committed to fossil fuels and the Carbon Economy than truth, reason and science. For these guys, they seem to  have read Ayn Rand in like, 9th Grade, never to recover. No further development needed or desired. They are mired in narcissistic Teen-Agerness--fully believing that the world ends at the tips of their noses.

It isn't that I've been rude; it's because I don't agree with them. If a candidate/politician is going to display their views on things, they should be tolerant enough to respect debate on their Facebook pages, as long as things remain polite.

I expected to be shut out of Logue's Campaign Facebook page. What I didn't expect was a Tweet from Dan Logue that exclaimed this:

Dan Logue @DanLogue4CD3 2m
There is just something special/final about "banning" agitators/malcontents from a facebook fan page... Feel the love - Boom!

That was just creepy. I, of course, wrote Dan Logue asking him if he really wanted to say that about me?  I also wrote in Facebook  that: "Maybe I should be proud that Dan Logue called me a "malcontent" and an "agitator"?

I got up the next morning to find out that Dan Logue wrote on my Facebook page. He said that he didn't write that Facebook thing and, laughably, that he had been "hacked". I had to laugh because that Weiner guy said the same thing when he was sending out photos of his member.

I told Dan Logue that it was his Twitter feed that wrote the bad stuff about me. He promised to look into it. About a half hour later, the Tweet was removed. I don't know how to take a "screen shot" so I can't post a photo of the Tweet. Dan Logue never wrote me to apologize or explain the threatening Tweet to me. Although calling me a "Malcontent" and an "Agitator" isn't a bad thing in my book. Coming from Logue, that is high praise.

So this would be my third run in this year with either a Congressman or a Congressional Candidate doing weird stuff in my presence. Weird!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Canyon Days, Changes, Latter Day Baby Boomers...

Things have changed around here.

Joni's daughter moved in with us. Belinda is the Mother to Jazmine and Kylie. Joni and I have been raising Belinda's children for all the usual reasons. Relations with Belinda have been rocky at times. Painful. Credit Belinda with achieving a fair amount of maturity to actually be able to show up at our doorstep,  wanting to get her life together, wanting to have more contact with her children. Starting over is always tenuous with those who struggle with addictions. Fragile. I'm not much for believing in demons, but I do know that those who become enamored with addictive chemicals are truly possessed by a demon. That's about the only way to characterize the evil and pain the abuse of such substances will do to a life. Demons entice. Seduce. Kill.


Turn the page. We decided to have Kylie attend High School in Paradise, California. There is something about Paradise that both Joni and I love. We choose to buy most of our groceries there even though there are better stores in both Chico and Oroville. Paradise is a quirky place. The whole ridge is populated by a devotion to the idea that government is the problem and that the less you have of it, the better life will be. This sort of distrust has led to the communities on the ridge, Paradise and three other towns that climb up the ridge to the edge of the Sierra, 40,000 people, all of them on a septic system. There just wasn't all that support to do a major infrastructure change to design and implement a modern sewer system. The same problem developed when it came to planning the city. There is no real downtown. There are two very busy roads with businesses randomly popping up along the two major thoroughfares. These roads are dangerous because, well, people like to drive fast on these things. Pedestrians being killed crossing the street in Paradise has become common. Two in the last year. Lack of government planning has impacted Paradise greatly. Despite this mistrust in government, the school in Paradise has a decent reputation. Belinda got a job over in Paradise, so she brings Kylie to school (which is four or five miles away as the crow flies but it takes 45 minutes to get there). The plan is for Belinda to fledge from our house made of mud, to the easier life of a dry walled, thermostat heated and cooled apartment in Paradise. And the girls will move with her. Yes, that's the plan; whether it actually happens?

Kylie, on her way to her first day as a Freshman in High School.

Life is tough for a person who has wrestled with addictions. Those demons tend to take root when life has progressed and a few months of sobriety and sanity bring on the rewards of that lifestyle--that's when the Addict lets their guard down, thinking they can handle that one drink or line or bowl; relapse is always a danger. The effectiveness of Recovery Programs is mostly measured in months, not years. Spontaneous remission seems to be what finally works. The person just becomes sick of the life they are living; substance abuse no longer is an option for that person. As a nurse who has spent more than his fair share of days, detoxing people off of recreational chemicals, I look more for signs of spontaneous remission. The right honesty about the drug; the appreciation of the total devastation the using life has caused. The expression of remorse, regret and the burning desire for restitution. These things need to be there for the Addict to succeed, in my opinion.

And so we hold hope in our hearts that maybe these girls will be able to live their high school years with their mother. Close by in Paradise.

I've been home for the summer, trying to recover from an injury that was much more serious than what I expected. As I wrote before, I've been slow to heal this time. I haven't been able to work on this house due to the injury. I spent nearly two months lying mostly in a Lazyboy with only a short walk for exercise.

A few weeks ago, after getting the news that I have some major concerns with my coronary arteries, lungs and liver, I decided to up the hikes to something that actually might do me some good. On my first longer, vigorous hike, I discovered that my ribs hurt with exertion. It is like my lungs have become too big for the rib cage. When I huff and puff with exercise, my ribs ache with pain as the lungs feel like they are going around the ribs. My lungs are like a pudgy man with the waist size of 40 inches, trying to get into a pair of jeans that are only 32 inches at the waist.

Compound that with a back that experiences relief only when I'm drugged. Movement, sitting, most anything, makes this inflamed, strained and spasmic back roar to life with pain that is reminiscent of the pain one feels when you have a kidney stone. It is a gnawing pain that sits under my shoulder blade. It hurts so much, I just pine for relief---cursing and sometimes actually pounding my hands against the Lazyboy arms because the pain is so intense. I live with the permanent smell of Icy Hot, which I apply to the back a few times a day. This is all new to me. I don't like it.

So I've had the summer to do a fair amount of reading. And a fair amount of writing. Hiking takes up a few hours a day now. I'd like to start jogging at some point, but the ribs and back can't take that amount of jostling around.

Talking with Joni yesterday as we hesitantly hiked down the canyon, we were commenting on how things have run afoul with our physical health. This aging process  seems to have ramped up lately and I find almost every system I have is affected. That's when Joni said: "You and I are the first guinea pigs for the Industrial, GMO lifestyle".

Pity the Latter Boomers--those born after 1956 up until 1964. Liberalism and social supports stopped when the elder Baby Boomers got out of college and traded in the VW van for the SUV. They voted for Ronald Reagan, en masse. Raised by Dr. Spock, gone were any egalitarian values. In fact, this generation was quite happy with inegalitarianism, having perfected getting out of the draft by luck, school deferments, clergy deferments and general wealth. Poor kids went to Vietnam to die. The Reagan Recession made it tough for the Latter Boomer kids to get a job: I was a college graduate with no prospects and no clue what to do. I even applied to go pick up dead bodies for a mortician. I ended up working as a janitor. For years. Every entry level positions had been filled by 1984. It was tough to be a college grad back in those days. I ended up going back to school to get a marketable job: an RN.

Joni got me to wondering how the latter Baby Boomers are doing now. Our generation experienced the transformation of the American diet to, first, the Industrial Diet: meat, saturated fats in high quantities. More fat. Margarine. Kraft Mac and cheese, Jimmy Dean sausages, Cool Whip. Miracle Whip. TV dinners. McDonald's vs. Burger King, high fructose corn syrup. To top it off, GMOs were introduce to our Industrial Diet, sneakily--when we weren't looking---sometime in the later 80's. I'm wondering how my generation is doing? Are we all overweight from our diets? Are we making as much money as our elder brothers and sisters? How's our physical health? With Type II diabetes and coronary artery disease and vulnerable nodules, pre-cancerous, sitting on our abused lungs and livers? How are our backs holding up? Did we give up alcohol, drugs, cigarettes? Marijuana smoking peaked in 1979 amongst high school students---are we still smoking the stuff? How's our emotional health? And our children, how are they doing as they attempt to find jobs in a very difficult economy? How did we cope? Did we find Jesus and move to the suburbs?

 I'm the kid in gold at the back table, this is one of my first trips to McDonald's in Winona, Minnesota.

When I look at Joni and me, I'm not liking what I'm seeing. We are physical wrecks at this point. Something important happened back in 2008 that, I think, gives a bit of a glimpse into how the later Baby Boomers are faring. In 2008, the suicide rate was highest in the 45 year old to 54 year old age group. That was the first time that had changed, ever. Usually, those over 70 years of age have the highest suicide rate. No more. Since 2008, the Latter Baby Boomers have had that ignoble distinction.

Why the high suicide rate? 45 to 54 year olds are a vulnerable age group. Too young for Medicare and Social Security, too old as seen by potential employers. A change in health status at this age leads to poverty and despair much too easily. In my work life, I've seen it all too often. An injury or layoff from work forces change on the middle aged person. At this age, a body starts to show its wear and tear from unhealthy habits. It is tough to become ill or unemployed at this stage of life.

I suspect there are other statistics, besides the suicide rate, that might also demonstrate the difficult time Latter Baby Boomers are having in life. Divorce. Poverty. Unemployment.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Doug LaMalfa and the Horrid Logging Bill: HR 1526

Joni and I took a hike down our canyon. Technically, this is the canyon for the west branch of the middle fork of the Feather River. It is free flowing in this section, until it meets the monstrously huge Oroville Dam. This earthen Dam is the largest of its type in the US and the fifth largest Dam period. From Oroville, water is shipped south in a canal that eventually is pumped over the Tehachapi Mountains to the swimming pools and general excess that is the Los Angeles basin. Jerry Brown's dad built the dam; it is his biggest legacy and enabled Los Angeles to grow by a few million more people. Which is gross.

Here's a hint: if you don't build infrastructure like increased water capacity, it makes it so that a bioregion can limit its growth. The Napa Valley is probably the best example of managed non-growth. Here's where I become the dreamer: Imagine that we changed zoning ordinances so that growth becomes nearly impossible? We inflict our own "Limits to Growth" before the inherent excesses that will curtail growth arise, usually involving some catastrophe: flood, famine, earthquake.

Joni made her own splash this week in the Chico News and Review. Here's what they wrote about Joni:

One of the protesters who spoke to the small crowd, Joni Stellar of Concow, focused on the effects of climate change and other environmental impacts in forested areas, noting that District 1, which LaMalfa represents, is largely wilderness. She said a bill currently co-sponsored by LaMalfa, HR 1526 (the benignly titled “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act”), “pretends to be looking out for the best interest of rural communities,” but actually encourages unregulated logging.

Noting that LaMalfa’s campaign included money from the timber and fossil-fuel industries, Stellar said, “Call me cynical, but I believe Doug LaMalfa is not just a simple climate-change denier—he’s a climate-change profiteer, making money for himself and his corporate masters while the rest of us just burn and breathe smoke.”

Read the story here.

Modified Duty and an Update on my Workplace Injuries...

I have been on Disability since May 3rd of this year. On that date, I was assaulted by a patient who, unexpectedly, used his elbow to hit me as hard as he could twice to my chest. The out of control patient broke two or three ribs (depending upon which report you read). A part of my lung was deflated and bruised.  My back was screwed up as the force of the blows (these ribs attach to the vertebrae of the back), and the struggle to contain the client, combined to create a situation where my ribs and back are in constant pain. In short, I was messed up real bad.

In the past week, I was politely told that I needed to go back to work by the Workman's Comp professionals. I was given "Modified Duty", which means the hospital needs to find a position for me to "work" within the terms of my "Modified Duty". I met with the Employee Health Nurse last week, a very kind, "my hands are tied" professional, who offered me a job of sitting in a windowless, dank room and given the vastly important job of taking apart charts for the hospital. A mind numbing job, boring as hell. Eight hours worth.

When I said that my back would be unable to handle sitting for that amount of time, I was offered a "vest for upper back support" and a geriatric, lounge chair---which is a chair designed for elder adults--made of plastic, so that I could pee at will while sitting in it. I couldn't imagine spending two hours a week taking apart charts, let alone 20 hours. So, as is my nature, I complained about the job: "I think you are punishing me for getting injured by offering me a mind numbing job". I asked for a job doing something else. "Let me get up and walk around the hospital?"

The Employee Health Nurse was kind enough to arrange for me to do a job I already did at the hospital: Case Management for the Chemical Dependency Unit. I've been helping out in that department for a year. We all congratulated ourselves for our creativity in providing me with Modified Duty and we all were happy about it. Until it came time for me to work a shift.

Alas, my ribs and my back have not healed well enough over the last three months. I am in constant pain after a couple hours of being upright. I knew this going into work, but I promised the impatient Human Resources Director that I'd give it a go. (This HR Director already felt the hospital had been more than patient with my situation given that ribs generally heal within six to eight weeks, and my ribs haven't healed in 12 weeks).  I promised to give it a try out of respect to my employer. I was told that I could take pain medication at work to relieve my pain. And so I was in the rather ironic position of attempting to do Case Management on an Addictions Unit while taking an opiate for pain.

Frankly, I don't think any MD or RN or any health professional should go to work if they need to take medications that impair one's performance on the job. Why should I be forced to go to work, taking opiates, whereby if I did this in my normal duty the workplace would send me home, suspend me, possibly fire me, report me to the Nursing Board and press criminal charges against me and require me to get mandatory chemical dependency treatment. This just doesn't make sense.

It didn't work, the pain was too much and so after two days of trying to work, I went to the Workman's Compensation Clinic and was relieved from duty for two more weeks when I will, once again, see the MD that holds my employment fate in his hands.

I also was sent to see a Physiatrist, a pain management MD, who promises to relieve my pain by shooting up the muscles in my right thoracic region with a mixture of steroids and lidocaine. Sounds fun. As soon as the Workman's Comp. Bureaucrats okay this procedure, I will have this done. It is sort of like waiting for the Poliburo to choose a new Secretary of the Communist Party in the old Soviet Union. Everything stops until the announcement is made. I've already been through Physical Therapy of six sessions, with a 5%  improvement to show for it. They denied me of receiving help from a Chiropractor. I paid for a few sessions anyway, without any improvement to my pain or condition.

I don't think any of us fully understood at the time of this injury, just how serious this injury was/is. I am a bit concerned that this injury may very well signal the end of my nursing career. I've broken my ribs multiple times before; I always healed just fine. Not this time. I remain in pain--nothing has healed or improved over almost three and a half months. I am worried.

That's the update on my injury, for those who might be interested. I wish I had cheerier news.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Joni's Speech at LaMalfa's Office

Joni speaking to a group attempting to give Congressman Doug LaMalfa a Climate Change Denier Award. There are 136 Republican Congressmen who refuse to consider science and accept that CO2 is warming up the Earth. Joni was one of two speakers at the event. Here is her speech:

Forests and climate change
I live in a forest. Much of US Congressional District 1 is forested. Forests provide enormous benefits such as habitat and watershed health. Forests also provide effective carbon ‘sinks’, absorbing excess CO2 as they grow, and forests were doing that well for the first several decades of fossil fuel burning…

But climate change is already hugely impacting forests, and the lives of all – human and non - who live in or near them, by increasing the number and severity of wildfires.

“Climate change, and the consistently hotter and drier weather that comes with it, is largely the cause of recent SHARP INCREASE in the number and intensity of wildfires,” NASA officials said last Friday [8/9/13 Cronkite News Service]

According to the California EPA, the most serious California wildfire seasons in the PAST 50 YEARS were in 2003, 2005 and 2008 - ALL IN THIS DECADE! In the past 12 years, average acreage burned in wildfires has been DOUBLE the average of 40-50 years ago. Looking ahead, models show that for each 1.8 degree C rise in average temperature, the total area burned by wildfires would increase 380% [National Research Council report, 2011]

Wildfires, insect infestations, pulses of erosion and flooding, and drought-induced tree mortality are all expected to increase during the 21st century. [USDA 12/12] Add severe wind occurrences - micro-bursts that knock down mature trees like a Giant’s game of pick-up sticks – and the Timber Industry will profit nicely from all the timber sales that could occur with no environmental regulation if HR 1526 becomes law.

Benignly entitled “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act” HR 1526, co-sponsored by LaMalfa, pretends to be looking out for the best interests of rural communities, but this legislation would encourage unregulated logging of national forests in order to reduce fire danger and insect invasions – which are on the increase DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE. Yeah – save those forests by logging them - again…and again…

LaMalfa accepted significant campaign monies from the timber industry, as well as the fossil fuel industry, via the Koch brothers. Call me cynical, but I don’t believe Doug LaMalfa is a simple ‘Climate Change Denier’ – he’s a Climate Change PROFITEER – making money for himself and his corporate masters while the rest of us just burn or breathe smoke.

Who else here remembers the eye-stinging smoke that blanketed the entire region much of last summer and fall? And in 2008?
I live in Concow – in 2008, we lost over 200 homes out of 234 in one small section of the community. Even though our home was spared, 50% of homes in our immediate neighborhood were destroyed. The entire community was rocked by the wildfires. Families that had nowhere else to go slept in cars for months.
I had to send my grandkids away in ‘08 and again last year, because the smoke was so bad. Our elementary school was closed a few days last fall for ‘bad air days’ due to smoke…as if staying home, without a/c, would protect anyone…Just one example of how Climate Change is already affecting the poorest communities the most, in this COUNTY, not just across the globe.

Wildfire smoke is also compounding the climate problem. Wildfires emit mostly larger particles, called ‘tar balls,’ which absorb sunlight and cause substantial atmospheric warming.
So instead of being great ‘carbon sinks,’ our now heat-stressed, insect-prone, drought-ridden forests are burning, making climate change worse, and faster. [Science magazine 8/18/06]
As Barbara Boxer said on TV a couple days ago, after touring wildfires devastating the region: “Open your eyes, breathe the air, see what’s going on. And get out of the fringe lane.”




Saturday, August 10, 2013

Healthy Forests? Not if LaMalfa has his way...

On Tuesday of next week, all across the nation, 136 "Unicorn" awards will be given to 136 Republican Congressmen who are Climate Change Deniers. A group of local Environmentalists and Democratic Party Activists will attempt to give this award to our own Cowboy Congressman, Doug LaMalfa. Amongst that group, will be my spouse, Joni Clark Stellar. In fact, she will be one of two speakers at the event. I have obligations elsewhere, so I won't be able to attend. However, you should be able to catch it on TV.

Joni has been working on her speech, as she decided to actually write one this time. I've heard her give many talks before and she does a fine job speaking extemporaneously, but this time she wanted to have all her ducks in a row. As part of the research, she has been reading much of the legislation that Doug LaMalfa has either sponsored, or cosponsored in the United States House. She piqued my interest, so I spent the evening researching just what LaMalfa has been signing his name to in the House.

You can tell a lot about your Congressman by reading through the bills that he/she has decided to cosponsor. In Doug's case, he has signed on to provisions that make our food "pest free" (can you guess who benefits from that type of legislation?). He also signed on to a bill that states that a Carbon Tax would be bad for the country. He has signed on to bills that would leave the regulation of fracking to every individual states (which begs the question of what happens on Federal Land). He has signed on to legislation that prevents drones from killing American Citizens in the United States. Whew, I'm glad we got that one handled!

And there are the nods to the social Conservatives, with LaMalfa signing on to prenatal pain bans (expected to end abortions). He demonstrates a bit of a Libertarian streak in his cosponsoring legislation that protects e-mails from being read by Uncle Sam. Yet, I'm wondering if he would sign on to such legislation if the White House had a Republican in it?

LaMalfa doesn't mind going out on a limb, sometimes signing on to legislation that has very few cosponsors. One of these was a bill to prevent the Health Care exchanges to begin signing up customers until one year after they were created. LaMalfa pretty much signed up for anything that eliminates poor people from getting healthcare. I guess he figures the poor don't need health care.

And LaMalfa signs on to several bills that allow logging to commence unfettered on public lands. Much of our District is public land, either BLM or Forest Service land.  The very worst of these bills is HR 1526 which has the rather happy name of the "Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act of 2013". Sounds good. This law stems back from the Forest Service having been created in 1908, whereby a percentage of the logging sales would go to fund schools and roads in the host communities.

It isn't like the West hasn't been logged. It has been logged extensively. Just fly over the Sierra and you will see just how much the west has been clear cut. Some of the forest has been saved through environmental provisions such as the Endangered Species Act and clean water initiatives. For many of us, we consider the forest to have more purposes than just to become a piece of paper or a 2 x 4 in a suburb.

Rural communities next to Federal lands have been suffering for decades. They have experienced high unemployment and narrowing of opportunities. Much of this has been blamed on Environmentalists, as they are perceived as having ended much of the logging that would restore jobs and  money to rural communities. Of course, mechanization of the logging industry (just watch those awful logging shows on TV) has been responsible for much of the unemployment. Just a couple of people can log out acres in an afternoon.

Enter Doug LaMalfa and 20 House Republicans. The Healthy Forest Act encourages logging on all Federal Lands that aren't designated Wilderness Areas or National Parks. The Act negates the Endangered Species Act. It negates all other environmental protections, such as clean water initiatives. It does such by a declaration of the Secretary of Agriculture in an extremely bizarre fashion. Much of the Act attempts to slither outside of judicial review.

And here is the most cynical part of the bill: Should a group or community decide to prevent a forest from being logged, that group must put up a bond that would cover the costs of the government for defending the law. That would effectively end many attempts at saving the northern spotted owl and other critical habitat. Do you think the Center for Biological Diversity has millions to put into a bond to save a cut?

Essentially, the HR 1526 considers our National Forests to have one purpose only: to be standing board feet for the large logging operations. Other uses such as recreation, hydrology or habitat for our furry cousins are not considered relevant. All it really does is open up all Forest Service lands to increased logging operations.

This Healthy Forests Act is nothing but a wet dream for Sierra Pacific. Doug LaMalfa serves up the remainder of our forests to be nothing but a timber stand for Georgia Pacific. It is a sick attempt to get around environmental laws that have benefitted plants and animals that have had no representation. They don't have a voice. Doug effectively silences them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cockburn vs Hitchens; Growing Up (and old) With The Nation...

I started reading The Nation magazine back in college. I loved its newsprint feel and its trade book size. Very little advertising present; within its pages I was introduced to the essentials of (mostly) East Coast Liberal opinion. Those were bad days to be a Liberal back in the early 80's. But because of the major shift to the right (something this country still hasn't emerged from), subscriptions to the magazine did well. We had to circle the wagons and attempt to fight back the powers of barbarism present in Reagan.

I was still young enough, and lucky enough, to actually read a column or two from some of the great Left Wing thinkers who emerged from being Communists back in the 30's. I remember reading I.F. Stone-- there was something about Izzy's writing that felt authoritative. Plus he wore really cool glasses. And there were other famous names: Howard Fast, Michael Harrington, Claud Cockburn, Kirkpatrick Sale introduced me to deep green thinking, Jesse Jackson, Tom Hayden. Writing for The Nation is a rite of passage for liberals, leftists and radicals of an unspecified nature; if you wanted to be a player in the intellectual left in the US, sooner or later you would need to have a piece in The Nation.

And yet, it was also incredibly ingrown and is weighted way too much towards East Coast thinking. Proximity is the number one predictor of relationship and it also accounts for those who get published too (along with nepotism). I find New Yorkers to be stuffy, rude and, mostly, boring. The same was true for The Nation.

I read the magazine for the articles, but to tell you the truth, I never really made it through most of the over written critters. I did read the columnists though. My favorite being Alexander Cockburn.

Back in those days, Alexander Cockburn alternated weekly with Chris Hitchens. Both of them from England. Cockburn's dad was the renown Communist journalist, Claud Cockburn. Chris Hitchens didn't have a famous pedigree. Both Alex and Chris were educated in Oxford. They both cut their teeth in the Trotskyist left in England. Both proclaimed themselves to be leftists, socialists--in Cockburn maybe even a bit of Communist leanings.  It was rather off putting in a parochial sense: Couldn't we find our own American Left leaning writers? Why must we have two columnists from England in our country's Left Wing answer to Buckley's  National Review?

It didn't matter. I tended to side with Cockburn; I liked his writing better than Hitchens, although I noticed Cockburn could be spectacularly wrong. Often. Didn't matter. His writing made up for when he got things wrong. All through the 80's and 90's I read him. Every week. And when he founded Counterpunch, I couldn't wait for Friday when he would write his weekly column. I stopped reading The Nation in the early 2000's. When they cut Alex from two pages down to one page, and then from every other week to once a month, I just didn't have the interest in reading the polite writings of the Wish Washy Politically Correct East Coast Liberal Establishment.

At some point, Cockburn and Hitchens turned on each other. It was part of their evolution. Hitchens moved to the right, first with his opinions on abortion, and later with his cheerleading for war in Iraq. Hitchens moved from New York to Washington DC, where he had an apartment that overlooked the Capitol. Hitchens left The Nation for more lucrative writing assignments, ultimately landing in Vanity Fair. It is hard to get rich writing from the left side of the aisle--I think Hitchens figured that out and since he had no inheritance nor any training to be anything else but a writer (and Hitch admitted that too), well, Trotskyites don't get rich; famous Washington journalists do get rich. Christopher Hitchens' parties in Washington are legendary. He was to DC for journalistic partying as Hunter Thompson was to Colorado. I don't know if the two ever met; I doubt it.  Many of Washington's elite liked to party til dawn in the Hitchens stately apartment. Hitchens was famous for his drinking and his cigarette smoking.

Alex Cockburn, at one time excoriated Ed Abbey and the Earth Firsters as the inheritors of Malthus, ended up on the West Coast in a small town of Petrolia. Hitchens loved power; Cockburn loved solitude. And so Cockburn created a very influential left wing radical daily internet newspaper called Counterpunch. This was years before the Huffington Post came along. Cockburn ended up a great admirer of Ed Abbey. And he became difficult to define; he never really did define himself. He became kind of a crank: he denied climate change and he believed in the abiotic theory of oil. He still quoted Lenin and seemed to love Russian (Soviet) literature, philosophers and even scientists. Most of the abiotic oil scientists are Russian. Some say Cockburn drifted towards anarchism towards the end. On one video on the Internet, Cockburn states the best influence the Left had in this country was the fact that you can buy a good loaf of bread in most towns.

Cockburn and Hitchens had feuds that started in the late 80's and lasted until Hitchens died of cancer in 2011. They didn't like each other much, and in a way, they taught all of us how to have an epic feud in print. Nothing you read on a trolls page mimicked the sheer joy of reading the Cockburn/Hitchens exchanges. They were masterful. A delight to read. And I think it probably boosted magazine sales.

They both died within six months of each other. Both died of cancer. Hitchens wrote very publically about his cancer, and the process of dying. Hitchens was a drunk (the same was said about Cockburn). They both smoked cigarettes, chain smokers, although Cockburn quit at age 40. While Hitchens was dying publically from throat cancer; Cockburn was fighting his own battle with cancer, etiology unknown to me (probably lung?), very privately.

They became similar polar opposites and remained such up to the end. When I read in the summer of 2012 that Alex Cockburn died, a part of me died. A part of my youth. A part of my introduction to left wing thought. Cockburn was young, aged 71. Hitchens was even younger; he died at age 62.

May they both rest in peace.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Snake Skin..

Found a snake skin on a hike this morning. After a long walk yesterday, only the youngest-and most energy filled dog-accompanied me. The other two dogs took the day off from hiking. They wore themselves out yesterday.

I've been increasing my length of hikes in the hopes of maybe getting a backpack trip in sometime this fall.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Granolaheads versus Greedheads

I've been reading John McPhee's classic book on David Brower called "Encounters with the Arch Druid". David Brower continued a tradition of environmental activism that is sustained in a line starting with John Muir and ending with, maybe, Bill McKibben. The reality is that we don't have a major figure arguing poetically for nature, the land, wildlife, leaving it alone.

David Brower said famously (and I paraphrase) that environmental victories are always temporary. Generationally, the temptation to drill into wilderness land or to enlarge a suburb across a "green line" (as is happening in Chico)--well, these things are just too tempting. And we have a generation of kids coming online that have been online since they were in diapers and have no clue what a Monarch butterfly is, or what Milkweed is; they haven't a clue that it took just as much effort by tenacious Activists to get the Wilderness Act of 1964 passed as it did to get the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In my view, the two pieces of legislation are related. Joined at the hip. And both are being assaulted today.

Joni and I took a hike today. Down the blessed trail to our canyon that we had to all to ourselves. Joni went skinny dipping. I thought the water was too cold.

The water is green in our own private river. It has never been that way before. Of course, we are in a drought year(s). Water flow is minimal. But the green appearance is from algae that is suffocating our little stream. And the algae is created from run off of a few lawns in Paradise and also from the myriad of Pot Farms that dump pesticides and fertilizer into the runoff.

Environmental victories are always temporary, said the Arch Druid. And there are fewer and fewer Granola Heads willing to take on the Greed Heads. Sad.