Monday, November 29, 2010

Days 331 to 333: Psych. Nurse Solidarity

Friday, after observing that our checking account has fewer dollars in it than years I have lived, I called work to see if I could get a few extra shifts.

"Can you be here by 3 pm?" The House Supervisor said.

"Nope, but I can be there by four".

So I hurriedly packed a few things and drove to the Napa Valley. I managed to get three extra shifts--helping out the old Christmas fund. The unit has been a rather nasty place; filled with some people who come out of mean existences and are trying to impose that meanness on others. Our hospital has a policy about what you can write about on the internet. And I hesitate to write about these sorts of things at length. Someday I will. Someday soon.

Yesterday, a psychiatric nurse was killed in Napa. This is the third area psychiatric nurse to die violently in the last month. Another psychiatric nurse was killed just across the bay in Martinez two weeks ago. A mental health prisoner smashed her head in with a lamp. Another psychiatric nurse was killed in Napa while she took a break at work. A patient pushed her into a courtyard and strangled her to death. Three psych nurses dead within a month. Two were killed by patients. The last psychiatric nurse was killed while on leave for work related PTSD and was shot by the Napa Police while he was in a suicidal crises.

So that is three members of my profession killed within 60 miles of where I sit. Where is the outrage? Where are the half mast flags? Where are the processions of nurses from around the State to be in solidarity with those who have fallen? When police officers are killed we rightly pause to thank them for their service. We should do the same for psych. nurses.

The past three days I have had my life threatened at work. Not to be dramatic, but such threats should not be ignored. The situation was handled in a decent fashion. It was handled in a way that protects psych nurses. About time.

So what does this have to do with being outside? Nothing. It has been cold. Both cold outside and cold on the unit. I await some warmth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 329: Waiting for Dinner...

I managed to talk a certain ten year old to break away from her computer game of Obama saving the world from Space Aliens in order to take a walk with me.

Talk. Talk. Talk. Chatter. Chatter. Chatter. Ten year olds talk a lot.

Thanksgiving 2010. The free range, all natural turkey is in the oven behind me. The stuffing is in the bird. The pumpkin pie is made. The cranberry sauce is done. The first load of dishes are washed. And we are a couple hours away from sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. The aroma makes my stomach growl.

I think of all those Thanksgivings that have gone before. Two of them have been spent at death beds. Others have been spent in various places: Calistoga, Las Vegas, Reno, Grand Junction, Rushford, Newburg, Truckee, Minneapolis, Rochester, Duluth, Winona, Mesa and other places that escape my memory (and probably should remain forgotten). Some of these Thanksgivings have been spent working in hospitals.

The world seems meaner now than in years past. It is harder to summon optimism that things are going to be okay. Beyond family and tribe, conflict and polarization is winning the day. "Good will to all" stops at most people's front doors. And despite the cold temperatures outside, the glaciers keep melting. Oh well, the feast will still be eaten with gusto. Leftovers will still taste good tomorrow and the next day.

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks. Two words that, in these meanest of days, don't have the impact that they used to.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 328: Home...

It is so very, very cold. Down to 25 degrees last night. A lazy day at the Homestead. Good to be home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 327: Holiday Blues...

Quite cold here in the Napa Valley this morning. Took a brisk walk in my tweed jacket. I await going to work and then home afterward. I am feeling more than a little homesick. It is hard to be away from home during this pregnant pre-holiday time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 326: Cold...

Cold as can be in the Napa Valley today. And this is supposed to continue for a bit. We could see snow up at the cabin.

I headed out this morning sans hat or mittens. The wetness of the coldness making it a rather unpleasant experience. Winter sneaks up on you sometimes. Catches you unprepared. The old expression: "There is no bad weather---just bad clothes" is meant for people who haven't moved to a sunnier and warmer climate. When I left Minnesota years and years ago, it was with the hope of never, ever being cold again.

So I dream of creating a life where I can live in the warm, desert southwest for these rain-soaked, cold months. And then home to the cabin for spring, summer and fall. Ten years from now, that is what I hope to be doing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Days 324 and 325: The Chicken Question

Cold and raining in the Napa Valley. A brisk walk this morning in my tweed jacket (trying to look more professorial).

And the answer to the chicken question? What is our chicken's name?

Pot Pie, as in "Chicken Pot Pie". A certain ten year old gave her this name. And if she doesn't get around to producing an egg sometime, she just might end up as such.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 323: Down the Canyon with Collier

The dogs and I again headed out this morning. Hoping to beat the rain (which we did). We were gone a couple of hours just doting along. How nice to take the time just to enjoy a walk with the dogs. I bring along rice cakes to use as bribery. My way of coaxing the dogs back on the leash or away from trying to dig up a gopher.

Collier's book? Read three fourths of it last night. Alas, the guy is just too much of a humanist for my tastes. He fully admits that he sees nature as being made for human benefit. And then he quotes scripture to back it up. He fully admits our dominance over the planet. Consider this awful, but honest, quote:

"Biodiversity is a good thing, but within the context of our survival, not as an end in itself. We are not here to serve nature; nature is here to serve us".

Although the book does give some interesting possibilities--leaving room for other species, conservation and all those good goals are not something he wants to push. It is like he can't think of any other way of living. And I appreciate his concern for the Bottom Billion. But I cannot fathom why such concern cannot also be transferred to other species and bio systems.

Humans First! is Collier's cry. Manage Nature. Sorry Mr. Collier--Nature Always Bats Last.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 322: Plundered Planet and Collier

One of us takes a long walk with the dogs everyday. Today I took the dogs out for their morning romp. They get a leash free time to go off and run, play and stick their noses in other critter's pooh. The dogs love it. We love it. A cross-species time of enjoyment for all.

Last night I started reading Paul Collier's The Plundered Planet. The book has a particularly awful sub-title (and why do all these books always have sub-titles?): Why We Must--and How We Can---Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. Why is the sub-title awful? Who manages Nature? It gives the impression that humans are superior to Nature and that Nature can even be managed. Seems to be Nature can be destroyed, enjoyed, worked with, obliterated and conserved: but Nature cannot be managed. It is arrogant to think otherwise. Nature isn't a business. Nature is our world.

But Paul Collier is a Oxford scholar connected to The Economist. An economics professor. As such he should be immediately suspect. But hey, at least the guy writes about climate change and shows concern for the Bottom Billion of humans who live in abject poverty.

I almost stopped reading after the first couple of pages. When it comes to environmentalism, Collier sets up a dichotomy regarding planet plunder of "the romantics" and "the ostriches". Of course, Collier would see me as a "romantic".

He writes:

"Both the romantics and the ostriches will take us to oblivion, albeit by different routes. Run by the romantics, the world would starve; run by the ostriches, it would burn."

From these two perspectives, Collier goes on to find a middle way. A capitalist liberal vision. He continues:

"In short, The Plundered Planet is written for people who are neither filled with a saintly self loathing of modernity nor are ethically blocks of stone: people who have, perhaps, grown a little impatient with the profusion of homilies about our duty to sustain the natural world in the condition to which it has become accustomed, but who nonetheless recognize that a cheery disregard for nature would be whistling in the dark."

He wants his cake and he wants to eat it too. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 321: AARP

Got home last night around 1:00 am. Took it easy today and just enjoyed the warmth. Tomorrow it is supposed to cool off.

And I got my first contact from AARP. Oh the times, they are a changing. When you hold your first invitation to join AARP--well--that has become a new marker passed on the road of life. More disturbing than looking in the mirror only to find that your beard is more gray (really white) than brown.

A friend of mine told me that she and her husband go to all the AARP events. I'm told that lots of fun is had there and that they have star studded rock bands composed of some pretty influential artists from years gone by. She told me that she was amazed when some loud rock band was playing--only to find a ballroom filled with wrinkled and gray-haired folk dancing.

I'm not ready for that. No way.

However, I do think that nursing homes will be very different places in years to come. No more hymns. No, the Rolling Stones, Jackson Browne and the Beatles will serenade us into the sunset. And the volume will be loud; none of us can hear anymore anyway.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 320: Roughing It?

Slept in the Monastic Dorm; up early and out for coffee and a walk through a vineyard. Warm. Beautiful. I can't take a picture, as Kylie is spending the week doing an outdoors/wilderness experience with her sixth grade class. She has the camera for the week.

Of course, Kylie will have more amenities in her wilderness experience than she has at home. She will have a real bed. She will have hot water that comes out of a faucet. She won't have to heat water on the stove to do dishes or take a bath. She will have unlimited electricity. She will have a heating system in her cabin.

Roughing it is a relative term.

Or as Thoreau said: "Man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone".

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 319: Name That Chicken...

On a warm sunny day, when absolutely nobody should have to be in a car, I drove to the Napa Valley to earn some money. This was a record breaking day of heat for northern California. The year 2010 that is (so far) the hottest in the last 137 years world-wide. This despite an actual decrease in solar energy from the sun.

Every once and awhile I put up one of those poll things. Mostly they are ignored by folks; I find them kind of fun. I don't think I've ever written about our last remaining chicken's name.

This chicken is quite the survivor--as five of his peers became coyote chow. The last chicken almost became lunch for a coyote, but at the last minute I chased God's canine away. I got within about ten feet of the coyote before he turned away---just a few elusive feet away from the chicken. Our chicken let out a god-awful squawk which got my attention in the first place.

So indulge me and take a guess at the chicken's name. I'll give the answer in a few days.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 318: A Walk With Abbey...

Our new dog, Abbey, and I took a long ramble today. We left Angel at home because she was more interested in hanging out with the girls than wander off with me. Angel is good that way: she knows that it is her job to watch over the girls.

If one of the girls wander down to a neighbor's place, Angel will sit on the deck, eyes peeled for her return. She won't move from her perch. She just stares off into the woods.

Abbey is still very much the puppy--without all those responsibilities that first owned dogs have. Abbey has a sweet, sweet personality. She obeys better than her more impish elder dog. And Abbey is still enough of a puppy that she stays close at hand; she knows her place in the pack. She seems to know that danger lurks out there. Best to stay close.

We took off on this fine November day. Warm, with just a subtle suggestion of a chill in the air. It is getting green again. New shoots of grasses everywhere. The leaves have all changed color. This is my third November up here already (time flies!). All the months have their own charm. November is good because of the change of color to vibrant green.

I'm still not much of a fan of the winter rains though. November is bittersweet that way. Take advantage of this!, she seems to cry. It is much like eating the last chocolate chip cookie--knowing that the goodness is gone.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 317: Emerson and Thoreau...

Another day of sifting, mixing and plastering. All done outside. By myself.


Mostly thinking: "what the hell was I thinking trying to build this thing? This is a project for a gaggle of twenty something hippies--not for gordito nearly fifty somethings". Which led me to thinking about Renaissance men (and women). How I am definitely not one. I've met a few folks who might quality for that title: Ian Woofenden comes to mind. He is quite the capable fella--good with a tool and as good with a pen. Building this Hobbit House is my way of trying to achieve that sort of status.

Failing at it. Miserably.

But I can do grunt work. In fact, I rather enjoy it. Sifting clay through a metal screen for four hours gets a person to thinking. Thinking about NOT being a Renaissance Man. And thinking that Thoreau certainly was one. Which leads me to Thoreau's landlord and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I think secretly, Ralph Waldo wanted to be like Thoreau. But, like me, he lacked the coordination, talent and tenacity to be like him. Unlike me, Emerson had an inheritance that took care of him for the rest of his life (he married up---the wife died---Emerson went on to a life of leisure and learning). Emerson could certainly talk the talk; his book Nature could be argued as the very beginning of the American Environmental Movement. Emerson was still too soft and academic to actually live a Walden type life. No four hour walks for Ralph--he'd rather take the train.

Nearly every night for the last year I've been reading Thoreau. He has become much like a devotional to me. Such a brilliant arrogant man! Good with his hands; good with the pen. My hero!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Days 312-316: Earthcrete..

Been busy lately. I worked an extra day at work (the money is tight right now). And I've been making a plaster mix of clay, straw, sand and cement mix. Trying to mud the house with a water impermeable layer. It seems to be working well.

But there is always a problem with this damned clay. During the summer you need a pick axe to dig it out of the ground. Now that we've had 8 inches of rain over the last couple of weeks, the clay digs up nicely. The hard part is sifting it through some fine mesh to make it workable for plaster. Always a problem; always something to slow you down.

Yet I am lucky to spend these grand warmish November days outside. I saw a family of raccoons the other night. Today I watched a pair of Stellar jays as I mixed the mud. These gorgeous, loud, boisterous birds that mate for life and have a sense of humor (I wonder if the latter is a prerequisite for the former?). I love them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Days 309 to 312: A Lucky Man

I'm in the Napa Valley---doing what I do here. I take a daily walk with the people I serve. I've also been spending time in the gym with these folks.

I've always been lucky with finding interesting work. My Manager told me today that they decided to fund my new position for the next year. Seems they are happy with my performance. I am extremely lucky to have this job. Doing consults, taking walks with clients, doing a group or two in the evening, farting around with a Wii (have you ever tried to teach a schizophrenic to use a Wii?)---all this, lets me use my strengths and experience. I use my humor. My charisma. I no longer have a patient load---I don't spend hours charting meaningless information. I feel more like a consultant than anything.

I'm a lucky man

Friday, November 5, 2010

Days 308 and 309: Manzanita Walks...And I Ponder a Run for the Assembly in 2012

On my walks yesterday and today, you can tell the Manzanita berries are in season. The seeds are found in scat all over the place. Being an Omnivore myself, I ate some. Not much berry to it. And the seeds are like pebbles when chewed. Difficult for my fractured and aging neglected teeth to chew. Not much taste to the berry either---which probably means the berries are good for you.

Of course the weather is totally awesome. Been sunny and near eighty degrees all week.

And I've been in an e-mail discussion with a prominent Lefty journalist in the area. I wrote him telling him that from looking at the Butte County election data, Dan Logue is vulnerable. Dan Logue is the guy who wrote Proposition 23. He is a nasty Climate Change Denier (and because of those convictions) who admittedly wrote the Prop because he believes Climate Change is a hoax. Prop 23 was turned down overwhelmingly by California voters. Dan Logue got 52 percent of the vote in Butte County. Proposition 23's "No" vote came in at 56 percent.

The Democrats ran a perennial non-candidate against Dan Logue. A sacrificial lamb. This candidate didn't pursue any campaign against Dan Logue: he didn't meet with editorial boards; no signs; no speeches; a campaign consisting of just having a name on the ballot.

Given that the "No" vote got such a high percentage in this very conservative district, I think a Dem/Green candidate might do well. My Journalist friend suggested that I run against Dan Logue as an Enviro candidate. I'm thinking of doing just that. There are, by far, other people who would be a better candidate than I am, but thus far, they just haven't come out of the Greenwork.

Time to attend some local Democratic meetings, I think.

Take a look at this video of Dan Logue, and you will see why this guy must have a real Green Candidate run against him.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 307: Green Sprouts

Things are turning green here in the Foothills. And not just my yard. I pondered the election while walking through the woods with the dogs.

Yesterday, Californians overwhelmingly voted down Prop 23 (the measure that attempted to discontinue our global warming initiative). Not only was it voted down, but the "NO" vote got the second highest amount of votes of any ballot measure. And only 0.2 percent more of the vote would have made it the most popular vote.

Good news!

Other good news from California---at this time it looks like the Republicans didn't pick up any House seats! Barbara Boxer handily won re-election. Jerry Brown won. In fact, it doesn't look like ANY Republicans won a State wide race (at this point). California bucked the trend--despite an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent.

My favorite ballot measure lost--prop 21 (the State Park Initiative). But it at least got 40 percent of the vote. Californians don't want anything to make their blessed cars be more expensive.

Locally, the vote in Butte County went 56 percent against Prop. 23. This in one of the most conservative districts in the State.

So why did California do so well? When the rest of the country is slithering down the slope and electing Climate Change Deniers---why is California, again, on the cutting edge? Will the rest of the country catch up?

I thinks so. The best thing the Democrats could do is to educate the public on energy. On climate change. To move towards transforming our economy in the Green direction. California has been working on evolving her economy (albeit slowly) steadily over the last ten years. A winning strategy would adopt California's methods and work towards a Greener tomorrow.

So keep on going to those Farmers' Markets. Put up those Solar Panels. Buy local. Eat better. Join the Slow Food Movement. Take a walk in the Outdoors. This strategy is working in California. The rest of the country will catch up soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 306: Election Day and Being Outside

So this blog, despite its diversions and meanderings, is supposed to be about getting outside and doing things. On election day (and despite my multiple unpopular and misguided opinions) perhaps it is best to think about how our votes, and which votes, influence our ability to enjoy the out-of-doors. An Allan voting guide of what I've found important.

So let's think about California first:

1. Prop 21--the State Parks Initiative: If this passes, anyone with a California license plate can get free access to any State Park. This is the most important ballot measure that directly influences the ability of all to enjoy nature.

2. Prop. 23: This measure attempts to stop California's meek efforts to reduce carbon pollution. Millions of trees that are being eaten by bark beetles care about this measure. I hope it is defeated. Vote in order to save the trees!

3. Barbara Boxer. She has been a friend to environmental groups and has been tagged as being too friendly to radical environmentalists.

4. Green Party candidates---it will be interesting to see how they do at the local and lesser state wide race levels. I'm hoping they poll three percent in these races.


1. Many of the Tea Party Folk tend to be climate change deniers. Especially Sharon Angle in Nevada and O'Donnell in Delaware. Climate change legislation ends with this election. Goodbye cap and trade. Goodbye fuel efficiencies. So long to Renewables. Forget all hope of having a Marshall Plan for Clean Energy. If a candidate is against getting off of fossil fuels and/or denies climate change--that candidate is not friendly to getting outside.

2. There is a Green Senate candidate in Arkansas (can't remember his name right now) who is quite interesting. I'm hoping he gets a few votes.

3. The Green Party on a national basis. Will they poll one percent anywhere?

4. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. If he loses we should abandon all hope and go live in a cardboard box.

By the way, it is a beautiful day in Napa and I had a nice walk through a vineyard.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 305: Take Karl Marx Trick or Treating...

Joni's back has been giving her a bit of pain lately, so it was up to me to take the girls out trick or treating last night. To annoy Kylie and her ten year old sensibilities, I put on my farmer's overalls and wore a bandanna on my head.

"I have a reputation to uphold you know", Kylie pleading with me NOT to look like a Geek. Undeterred we headed out; letting my Geek Flag Fly!

Down to Oroville. We were accompanied by a couple of Jazzy and Kylie's friends. I've never been trick or treating in Oroville before. We spied a neighborhood consisting of those McMansions. You know, those absolutely huge ugly monster houses with a wooden front door, a small bit of yard and two or three garage doors that stare at the street and three or four thousand square feet to do your (totally) inside living. A cul de sac of the obnoxious domiciles.

Ding dong. No answer. Next house.

Ding dong. No answer. On to the next house.

Ding dong. No answer. On to the next house.

Evidently, this group of McMansions doesn't participate in giving candy to "off the grid" kids (or any kids for that matter).

And so we moved on down the hill to a neighborhood of simple, cottage type houses. And not nice cottages--but the kind that look more like fancy trailers. Shabby construction. The houses had, at most, 1,200 square feet.

But the neighborhood was alive!

Many of the residents sat in their garage-less driveways (most just had a roof over their cars with no walls)---having a fire in a fire pit or just sitting there shooting the crap with neighbors as they gave candy to hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of children. Some had turned their houses into makeshift "haunted houses" adults taking great delight in walking around with fake blood on their faces and knives sticking out of their backs; handing out candy that took money from them that might better have been spent on food for their own families.

This was an event! A time of sharing! A time of caring!

Juxtapose this barely lower middle-class neighborhood with the dead folks at the top of the hill and you can see just how much the class war of the last thirty years has left the rich vacuous, lifeless and soul-less. No wonder they argue so vehemently to not have the Government raise taxes on them by a mere three percent. Shame on them!

And so I drove to work thinking about this Marxian experience. And thinking about the election tomorrow. I took a walk with the clients today. Most poor; living on the handouts of SSI and living in drab board and cares that hand out peanut butter sandwiches for lunch while walking away with the majority of the client's social security checks.

If all goes as expected, the House of Representatives will be a Republican stronghold tomorrow. We will see an influx of Congressmen and women who think that climate change is a hoax. And most of this because Obama decided to attempt to get health insurance for the 15 percent who do not have such. That was the straw that broke the Middle Classes back: spending money on others less fortunate than them. Never mind that there wasn't any anger about spending trillions of dollars on war. No! We need the oil! We need the revenge! Money well spent.

No--it was spending money on the poor that pissed off the middle class and the upper classes to the point that (like those McMansions) they decided that the social contract does not include help for the poor, the depressed, the less fortunate, the mentally ill, those in despair, the ragged people, the immigrants, the uneducated, the drug addicted. Let them die. Lazy scum--they deserve their poverty. We can't even tell them to get a job anymore because the jobs have all been shipped overseas.

The poorest people I know are those who have all the money.