Sunday, September 29, 2013

Our Bear...and Mean Republicans...

We have had a bear active on the ridge lately. I've run across some of his dung. Overnight he/she was quite busy tearing up dirt and roots, looking for delectables, I guess. This scraping in the photo shows the direction of his/her talons scraping the ground. It was kind of a spooky walk, because it felt like this bear was scoping us out. There was sign of him with his diggings, for the first half of the hike. It was almost like he intentionally chose to mimic our hike overnight. It probably doesn't help that our dog, Little One, likes to pee as a scent marker on the bear's dung. Little One is feisty; I don't think she is feisty enough to take on a bear.

Yet it is good to have bear sign within fifty yards of our house. I'm perplexed as to why he doesn't come over and dig out our compost pile? Or break into our shed to rip into our garbage? He (guess I'll give up and just call him a he) has been very polite thus far. In years past, other neighbors have had difficulties with bears getting into their garbage and making general nuisances of themselves. We've been lucky, but we also take out the trash on a regular basis. I'm thankful this bear has been well-behaved.

It is the weekend, Sunday, and the Republicans have decided to play games with the economy by attempting to stall Obamacare for another year. Within our household Joni's 37 year old daughter lives with us. We were going to sign her up for health insurance through Obamacare. It seems rather cruel to the Working Poor to have this program set to go into place, that will do immeasurable good, and then play games with its implementation. They are even ready to shut the Government down over it. Seems Juvenile to me. But that's what happens when you have the Republican Party taken over by people who do not see any reason for Government to exist. If you put me in charge of a Nuclear Power plant, I'd do my very best to get that thing shut down; It's the same principle at work with the new Tea Party Republicans. They are the great destroyers. People will suffer.

Nothing will change until we vote these Bozos out of office. We have one of the worst of them here, who I have written about countless times, Doug LaMalfa. Doug voted to cut Food Stamps by billions of dollars. Doug commented that he didn't think it was government's job to feed the poor. This should be done by charity.

Of course Doug LaMalfa also has received 5.1 million dollars in direct payments for his rice crop. And his proposal to change it would be an insurance program that would line his pockets even more than the current program does.

I'd like to see Doug LaMalfa's tax returns. If he thinks charity should feed the poor, how much money does LaMalfa provide charity to do just that?

This new Republican philosophy has become just plain mean. It is ugly and racist and devolves to the very worst attributes of greed and selfishness. Doug LaMalfa is probably the best witness when it comes to this nastiness. He is one cruel, cruel man.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Proper Treatment...


I take a walk/hike everyday now that I am off of work. I've been able to rehabilitate my lungs from the ribs that were broken by taking this somewhat challenging walk daily. The dogs come with me for company/entertainment. We have a ritual of "through the woods" off leash time and general road walking where the three dogs are leashed. They are just too unruly to be off leash even though vehicles coming by are rare. But therein lies the problem: these dogs like to chase cars. And when it comes to pickup versus canine, we all know who wins.

So what's the significance of the photo above? Goat tending done right. Two large dogs, I think Pyrenees, live with the goats defending them from the local coyotes. In addition, the owners move the goats' creative fencing often that is also electrified by a solar panel and one battery. Predator friendly husbandry. The young couple who keep these goats are hard working people who love the area and do much to keep this ridge friendly to both humans and wildlife.

And if you are wondering about my work injury?

The Workers' Comp MD finally saw things my way and agreed to take me off work until November 6. Next week I get injections into my back a bit earlier than planned, which I hope will end this perpetual spasm of the rhomboid and the sub-scapular muscles in my back. After that, a month of physical therapy and hopefully I'll be able to go off these blasted pain medications that cloud my perceptions and thinking. I finally feel like I'm getting treatment for my injury and that I'm not being punished for having been injured during an assault.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Welcome; Warts and All...

This blog has been referenced and pointed to on a couple of different sites where I do some scribbling ( and ChicoSol). That means a few new people might actually follow the link to get to this blog. Makes me feel like I should have something to offer once people get here. And since only ten people read the first post of this blog last fall, I thought I'd reintroduce the thing.

(And a special welcome to any ChicoSol readers passing through).

This blog is essentially about the worldview of one Allan Stellar, who happens to be a left leaning, environmentally minded,  psychiatric RN (currently on disability) who lives in a solar off the grid house made of mud. Joni, my spouse, hates the photo up at the top of this post because of the basket of laundry and the general untidiness of it. When you live in a mud house, things are always a bit dusty and untidy.

That is the view out our bedroom (my porch is a deck, but I thought this view looked better)---and across the canyon, at night, you can see the lights of Paradise, California. We do have a view of Paradise. Seems both literally and metaphorically.

This is a place where you will find all sorts of problems with misspellings and punctuation errors and other sins of grammar. I use the blog to write, which I try to do everyday (missed some days lately). It also is a blog to throw down ideas, maybe to be resurrected later; most not. This is not a place where I put my best polished work. When it comes to my best polished work, usually somebody else does the polishing.

The subject matter is Northern California--especially the politics and the media of the place. At times, I do get personal. I am currently recovering from a work injury so jumping through the hoops of Workers' Comp has been a subject lately.

Here is how I describe the idea for this blog in the very first entry, that only ten people read:

Travels, Travails and Terrors of Northern California.

Why a new blog? It's simple: I read almost every Northern California newspaper everyday. I live in Northern California. This up valley land, on the edge of three mountain ranges, is rich in characters and politics. We have the worst (and most entertaining) right wing newspapers and politicians found anywhere in the United States of America (with the possible exception of Texas and Alabama). The material is just too rich not to share. Life is too rich here not to share.

I've chronicled taking a daily walk at
365 Walks. I've chronicled building my home (still not completed, by the way). I've written about taking a solo backpacking trip
. Now I want to put it all together in a site that includes some of these things, but also expands it to what life, and politics, are like here in this Red part of California.

I can literally see Paradise from my porch. The town of Paradise, that is. Paradise, California: A town whose claim to fame is that they are the largest city in America totally dependent upon individual septic systems. Thousands and thousands of people flushing their waste with no treatment. Or, as a friend of mine said, Chico better hope that shit doesn't slide downhill.

I wander all across this state weekly. I guiltily burn lots of Carbon as I split my time between the Napa Valley and the Northern California Foothills. As such, I see a whole lot. I want to share some of what I learn, see and read here.

Should for some silly reason you decide you want to take in more of this blog, I recommend signing up for getting the thing by e-mail. I don't get to see your address. They only tell me how many are subscribed to the service. It is the best way to not miss a post; not that missing a post would lead to any major illness or serious health complications.

So welcome. Feel free to leave a message. Thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Mysterious Stone on the Pedestal...

I'm a sucker for the bizarre roadside marker. I took a new road to Chico after seeing my doctor in Willows. When I saw this stone marker, I just had to stop. To me, it looked like some sort of tribute to tool used by the Native population. Joni and I found hand sized version of rocks similar to this.

But no, the marker was identifying the burial place of a William Ide. I didn't grow up in California, so I missed out on the California history (and hence, never had to build a model of a mission which every grade school kid has to do through out the state). William Ide led the Bear Flag Revolt, when they captured a Mexican general and declared the Bear Flag Republic. The country lasted a few weeks before the beginning of the war with Mexico whereby the US ended up stealing California from Mexico.

The Bear Flag Revolt was in 1846. William Ide died in 1852 and was buried in an unmarked grave about 800 yards east of this bizarre monolith. Ide died of Small Pox, which was probably the reason for the hasty burial in an unmarked grave.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Granolahead, Anti-Vaccination Right Wingers and what motivates them

I've done this "off grid" thing for about five years now. In the beginning, I thought most "off grid" folk were of the Green persuasion. You know, Ralph Nader with overalls. Real Mr. and Mrs. Green Jeans. I was wrong. In fact, it is really kind of hard to find an off gridder that actually believes in effective government action to improve people's lives.  I work with an RN, a Supervisor, who I thought shared my values; you know, she loves to garden. Has a place in the country. Turns out she doesn't think much of me and my values. I've had arguments with her regarding vaccinations. The fact that I actually believe that vaccinations are a positive thing will send some Anti-Vax back-to-the-landers into hysterics.

RN's who advise people not to get their kids vaccinated particularly scare me.

To them, Vaccines cause autism and they will dig up parts of studies to prove it (along with the discredited Wakefield study that kicked this whole movement onto the radar back in 1998). Anti-Vaxers think vaccines are poisonous and ruin health. They don't believe in the flu shot. My friend the Supervisor's fear extends to big pharmaceutical companies and, indeed, government itself. She homeschools her child and not getting your child vaccinated is quite common amongst those who participate in that movement. There are legions like her.

They seem to be split between some sort of Granola Anarchism and a Granola Libertarianism. Some have deep spiritual beliefs, mostly of a fundamentalist persuasion. Some have been frightened and bullied by misinformation. But the one thing that unites their anti-vaccination beliefs is their belief that Government is not effective at solving problems. The roots of this can be found in those who (still) question putting fluoride in public drinking water.

Public Health Campaigns work. And if they don't work, we have vast amounts of people reporting on the problems. Public vaccination campaigns work. Millions of lives have been saved so I just don't get it when these seemingly, and otherwise, good professionals buy into a bunch of hokum that could lead to some serious unneeded deaths.

The only answer I can come up with is that their need for Government to be ineffective is greater than the objective data that 1. Vaccines work and 2. Vaccines side effect profile is generally safe and does not include Autism.

Forty years ago, this unfortunate man died of Small Pox. Because of vaccinations, this disease will never kill again. The same was almost true for measles until the anti-vaccination people used faulty science and irrational fear of public health campaigns to stop the progress. As health professionals, we need to talk back to those who lie about vaccines.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Doped up nurses and Hunter Thompson's doped up writing...

Joni is sleeping next to me here at the hospital. We've had a delightful evening, a rare night alone. Tomorrow we will get up and have a fancy breakfast at some wonderful Napa Valley restaurant and then return to our mud house and the dogs. The Workman's Comp NP promised to facilitate some injections for me---hustle them along. But I was put on Modified Duty. Seems to me if  you have a pulse, they want you to be on Modified Duty.

"Only the doctor can take you off of work---and an appointment with him takes a few weeks to arrange". This isn't even Government healthcare we are talking about here; Adventist Health runs its own worker's comp program.

And so they want this doped up nurse present in a hospital. If I showed up to work under the influence of these medications, I would be sent home and reported to the Nursing Board and probably end up in jail.

This is no longer a rational decision. This is about power. Time to write Human Resources.

Speaking of doped up, I just read Hunter Thompson's "The Shark Hunt". The last half of the book that comprises his political coverage of the early to mid 70's is amongst the best political writing ever laid down on paper. This is Gonzo Journalism at its best. This is where he created the best of Rolling Stone's stories. Hunter isn't scared to have an opinion. And he genuinely likes some of the politicians, including McGovern and Carter. Hunter puts himself in the story, talking about the junkets and the boring speeches and the dullness of covering a campaign. He talks about the true believer reporters who take the job so seriously (just watch any of the new snibblers on CNN to see what is meant by that---reporters like Brianna and Wolf and the being Out Front with that Erin person); they never quite figure out they are just nice teeth and courtesans of power. Hunter knew that and he wrote with elegance and humor. I don't care for his glorification of guns and drugs; I do like how he wrote about politics. Not many people come close to Hunter's style today. Maybe Matt Taibbi. There is room for someone who can write outside the lines of the general political reporter.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Of Life and Death and T-Vine....

Well I passed the Stress Echocardiogram. The Cardiologist who was present during the test said I should get a treadmill similar to what they use for the stress test. I just said: "Why do I need a treadmill when I have a canyon out my backyard?" Something I've been making use of quite a bit lately, getting ready for this day.

So it is more than likely that I won't drop dead from a heart attack anytime soon. To celebrate I went to Calistoga to grab a bite to eat. While there I noticed one of my favorite cult wines has a new tasting room. I had to stop in.

The staff could tell I was a fan of the wine as we talked about the winemaker who started this brand. I never met Greg Brown, but his wines were so personal it almost seemed like I knew him. Back in 2004, Joni and I were in a restaurant and ordered a T-Vine wine on a lark. It was a Syrah, delicious, memorable. We saved the bottle. After that we always bought a bottle for special occasions.

And we paid attention to the story of the winemaker. Greg Brown was married to a lovely woman who passed away much too young from cancer. On the years after her death, the sayings on the bottles of wine that Greg always put on the bottles, deepened. Became more sad. It got to be too much for him to continue making the wine, so he sold the winery to some special buyers who could continue the style and class of the wine.

And then Greg Brown suicided. He missed his wife too much. I bought one of the last wines today that Greg Brown personally put into a bottle.

Long live his memory. And the memory of his lovely wife. Tragic.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Government Buildings of Glenn County in Willows...

My primary MD moved to an office in Willows, California. I got to enjoy some of the beautiful architecture after my appointment. 


This is the "old Courthouse". Beautiful!

And this grand building hold many of the government county agencies. Inside, it was very rundown.

The Post Office was built in 1917. The Postmaster gave me a little tour and told me a bit about the buildings history.

Detail of one of the Post Office's columns.

A larger detail of the Post Office column.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer Reading...

Since I've had the summer off due to an injury, I've had more than enough time to read. I usually go to the Library (that great Socialist Institution) and take out a dozen books or so. I read them, peruse, enjoy them--and then in a few weeks, go back and get 20 more.
I wasn't always a reader. When I started school, I had no idea what a letter was. No clue whatsoever. Reading was not a part of my family's background. In First Grade, I started in the slow reading group. It just turned out that I had never been introduced to letters or reading. Once the teacher told my Mom to read to me, I moved along just fine and caught up to my peers. I graduated to the First Reading Group within a few months!
It was about Third Grade that I really started to enjoy reading. I would read every night before bed, staying up much too late upsetting my parents.  Nobody chose books for me. I read Tom Sawyer over and over again. To this day, I think Tom Sawyer is a better book than Huck Finn (yes, I know---I'm in the minority in that opinion). I loved the town library where you could go in and see row after row of crammed books in the shelves.
My brother would bring me home books, trying to influence my mind. Most of them were religious in nature. Some even worth reading. The anti-evolution books were a bit much though. And the books on the supposed location of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat, thus proving Noah's flood---they were always just on the verge of finding that elusive Ark.
All through High School I read. It continued in college. Usually I just read haphazardly without form or intention. There were things I just didn't like. Poetry, for instance. And Shakespeare. Or anything by an English author prior to the year 1900. Being a Philosophy major, I read all the great Philosophers from Plato to Spinoza. Bertrand Russell was my favorite; Martin Buber sucked.
Years when I had to have a career, I didn't read so much, with the exception of some metaphysical works and just about everything put out by the Jesus Seminar. Crossan became my favorite and I still like to pull out his Jesus a Revolutionary Biography during Christmas and Lent.
After 20 years of being a Psychiatric Nurse, I lost my ability to enjoy fiction. I hear too many stores and I tire of listening, or reading, drama. I rarely read that now. I read mostly essays and nature books. Along with books on political economy. My reading is varied, but I remain mostly on the Left Side of the Ledger, with the exception that I think Noam Chomsky is a bore.
Edward Abbey is my all time favorite. I've read everything he has written with the exception of his first novel that is very rare and hard to find. I love it when I discover a new author who is good and I generally read their whole catalogue in quick procession. Currently I'm making my way through Hunter Thompson's works: the verdict is out on him.
Book stores excite me; libraries excite me. Good writing excites me. Nature excites me.
I have long believed that a person should read a little everyday, write a little everyday and walk a little everyday. When I do that, my appreciation of life is at its best.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day 2013: Losing My Che'

Labor day. I headed out with the dogs for my hike wearing a Che' Guevara T-shirt and a bright pink bandana. I couldn't find a red one more appropriate to the occasion.

Yet another long hike down the canyon. A four hour endeavor that I lengthened by doing another loop added to the canyon hike. The canyon hike was an afterthought; I'd planned on just going half ways, but felt guilty that the three dogs have been such troopers and they haven't been able to swim.

They were happy when I made the decision to go the rest of the way to the river. They know the plan. And they love to splash and play in the water.

The way up was long and hard. I lost my Che' T-shirt. I lost my water bottle. We made it home exhausted and feeling a bit loopy. Why am I pushing myself so hard? Because I have a stress echocardiogram and I'm hoping that I won't be hauled off to surgery to  have a stint put in or a bypass done. At this age, we want to have these procedures done at a much later point of life.

Perhaps there is a moral question here. Is it appropriate to wear a Che T-shirt? He is a polarizing figure, so I tend to wear this thing where people won't see me. There are those who see Che' as a brutal murderer of thousands of people. The best biography of the man states he actually condemned (and pulled the trigger on) about 60 "war criminals". Che' was in charge of the war tribunals after the success of the Cuban Revolution. I'm not certain that armed rebellion wasn't the most effective way to stand up for justice in Latin America at the time. In death, Che' has become a symbol for justice and ending oppression. In that sense, I don't feel guilty wearing a Che' T-shirt. But I wouldn't wear it to the mall.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Relief From Pain...

I've had a level of comfort that I haven't experienced in four months. My back has felt great since I begged the Workman's Comp MD to prescribe a bit of a "muscle relaxer" for me. Honestly, I've forgotten how good it feels to feel good. Relief! I know that this relief is chemically induced because when I get far enough away from my last dose, the knot reappears and the pain begins again. Still, it is nice to experience pain relief without being on an opiate.

I've been working on extending my distance during hikes. I've increased my hill climbing (much to the dogs' delight) and things seem to be progressing just fine. I've lost about 15 pounds and am working on losing more. Health returns with some effort.

I feel good enough to return to Modified Duty this week. Friday will be my first real work day in over four months. I am ready.  I also will continue having tests for this body that has needed more than a little bit of care this year. I will have a "stress echocardiogram" on Thursday to see just how much trouble my heart is in. I can't say that I'm not nervous; I am.

I've been reading about a gazillion books. Currently, I'm making my way through the works of Hunter Thompson. And I've been reading and preparing for the trip up to Mount Harkness.

It is raining as I write this. It's been a few months since we've had rain. And we certainly need it having been in a drought for the last two years. The air smells fresh. The temperature is down. The gentle sound of water, relaxing, cooling.

Life goes by so fast. If you can get a chance just to catch your breath, lean back into the goodness and just marvel in the simple pleasures of listening to the rain while sitting in our living room, every family member engaged in some sort of electric device (except the dogs). We could talk. Often do when we read something worthwhile.

So I guess this is a report from the family.

I'm sad to say that Belinda relapsed on alcohol. She disappeared on us one night. The next day she said she was sorry. A day later she went to Paradise to do laundry. She ended up arrested for public intoxication and was sent to jail. She was released from the drunk tank in the middle of the night and walked most of the way from Oroville to the farm (18 miles). Because she was arrested she lost her job. To make matters worse, she took off this weekend, leaving Joni and I with the girls, so that she could go see her off again, on again, boyfriend. Requests that she return early to spend the holidays with her girls have been rebuffed. We will have a family meeting tomorrow; much will be discussed. It will be a come-to-Jesus meeting.

Belinda's chances of reuniting with her daughters in her own space seems to be evaporating. I've never seen a 37 year old act so much like a 2 year old. Why is it so hard for some people to grow up?

Feeling a need for happier photos, I ran across these of our dog Abbey when she was but a pup. Three years ago. Time flies. And you won't find Rocky the cat sharing a bed with Abbey now. They've grown into their more accustomed antagonistic doggy/kitty roles.