Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Right to Roam

The rains have finally ended. California's drought was officially declared as being over. The reservoirs are full and the snow pack in the Sierra is 165% above normal. Took a couple of walks with the dogs yesterday and today. My normal three mile loop.

Except today I had a bit of an encounter. A pickup truck stopped and the occupants asked me what I was doing?

"Taking a walk", I said.

"You know you are on private property" the youngish skinny tattoo wearing kid told me. I said I was aware that this is a road with a private easement which enabled him to drive through my property to get to whatever property he owned. I went on to tell him I've been walking this road for three years. Told him I visit some friends up the road once and awhile and that the owner of the last property is a friend of mine.

"Don't walk any further", the kid said.

I told him that I have every right to walk the road. Time to throw in a little charm.

Smiling, I responded by telling him that I don't give a rip about what sort of dope he is growing. All I want to do is take a walk and that I meant him no harm. The kid then relented, shook my hand and told me to enjoy my day.

Taking a walk nowadays is considered suspicious activity. It's as if we are to be cloistered on our own three acres, fenced off to everyone. Paranoid of others. Anti-social. I want the right to roam. To have the same rights as a deer, raccoon, skunk or coyote.

And my favorite Assemblyman, Dan Logue, is in the news. He was upset the other day on the Assembly floor with a bill which provides for some environmental regulation and also some renewable energy requirements. Having a temper tantrum over the bill's cost, he threw the 800 page bill on to the floor. Did he stop to pick up the paper? I don't know.

He did get rebuked by the Assembly for his ridiculous behavior. On Dan Logue's Facebook page, he bragged about his tirade.

I keep an eye out on this page because I am a member of his District. I like to see what Dan is up to and what ideas he finds interesting. I usually keep quiet, but this time I couldn't resist chiming in. You can read the dialogue here. How'd I do?

This led to a heated discussion about renewable energy and environmentalism with about 3,000 card carrying Tea Party Republicans potentially in attendance. Being a respectful contrarian, I ended up with some courteous comments regarding environmentalism (even though most of these folks are in the Green energy is too expensive and Climate Change is a Myth Camp). I wonder if Dan Logue was watching?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Joe Bageant

The rain finally ended yesterday. Yippee!

A nice little walk this morning, enjoying the sunshine. I decided to work some extra hours over the weekend. On Saturday I wore my little "step counter" to work and was surprised that I had walked over 15,000 steps while working a 14 hour shift.

And sad news: the excellent writer, Joe Bageant died recently. Only 64. Joe wrote "Deer Hunting with Jesus". It is only in the last few years that Joe's popularity caught on (because of the Deer Hunting book). I had the pleasure of sharing a few e-mails with him a year or two ago. Lord that guy could write! I wish I could find a few of those e-mails because they were so pleasurable to read. Joe's subject matter was the working class. Some called him a modern day Woody Guthrie.

We lost one of the good guys.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bad Clothes...

Another cold storm blew in this morning. The winds are raging. Snow level is supposed to drop to 1,500 feet (we live at around 2,000 feet). Took the dogs out into the howling wind and rain. Cold. I wore my nylon hiking pants (couldn't find the long underwear to warm up the ensemble a bit). The result was a cold, wet, awful, hypothermic walk.

Last night I trundled off to Paradise to attend the Paradise Ridge Democratic Club. Around 12 people were there: they were glad to see a "youngster" at the meeting. I was, by far, the youngest in the crowd. When asked why I came, I said: "Cause I'm sick of Dan Logue".

Dan Logue is our California Assemblyman. He is part of the new breed of Republican: anti-science, pro-business, anti-any-taxes, anti-collective bargaining, denies climate change. In his first term as Assemblyman he wrote Proposition 23 which tried to undue California's climate protection legislation. He also is against solar energy. Dan Logue takes Koch brothers money (they are the ones who helped him write Prop 23). The Wall Street Journal looks to Logue for quotes weekly. Logue has ascended to Minority Whip status (amazing given his inexperience in the California Assembly); they are grooming him for Wally Herger's seat in Congress. As if that wasn't horrid enough, he is trying to reduce the amount that California pays SSI recipients. Take money from the disabled and give it to (what he calls) the "productive sector".

Logue is leading a group of California legislators to Texas as an attempt to bring Texas style legislation to California to make it more "business friendly". Why not go all the way and take his legislative crew to some barbaric third world state where there is absolutely no concern for the poor or the environment? Texas is an awful model. Poor schools. Poor, poor people. Mountain Lion are considered "varmints" in Texas: they can be shot on sight without penalty.

This guy needs to be stopped.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wind and Rain...

Back to the "off grid" home last night. The increases in gas prices have resulted in a noticeable decrease in traffic.

Took the dogs out into the wind and rain and did the "Long Loop". Last Saturday night we had sixty mile an hour winds. The winds continue to blow today. Lying in my bed, I'd listen to the wind and wonder if the house was going to stay standing. It is quite satisfying to have a house that you designed and built endure a windstorm. It also is quite frightening. The house made it in tact. Nothing blew away.

Trees have been downed everywhere. The tree in the photo is what I encountered on our walk. Locals carry chainsaws in their pick up trucks to handle the hazards. Self-reliance. It makes for an adventurous walk to ever be looking up--waiting to dodge mortality. Butte County lost one percent of its almond trees last Saturday. Looks like more will be lost this week.

And the snow pack is 160 percent of normal this year. All the reservoirs are full and are actively discharging water. Flood advisories are in effect. Feast or famine when it comes to water. Ever more dangerous storms, erratic weather, droughts and bursts of rain---all of it indicating climate change for the attentive.

Lots of wildlife on the walk today. I came face to face with a black tailed deer, but didn't have the camera ready to go. Angel stirred him up but didn't give too much of a chase. I saw a flock of young turkeys. Abbey, who ignored the deer, did manage to root out a covey of California quail. I have yet to see a Robin (which is highly unusual). The Stellar Jays are still hanging around; still too much snow for them in the higher elevations.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Manic Monday

I work every Monday and Tuesday. Mondays are always hard cause I get up early; drive 165 miles; shower; work; do all my laundry; sleep in the Monastic Dorm. Walks are taken with the patients (which I managed to do twice yesterday).

And Tuesdays? Up for coffee and a walk (usually in Calistoga). Work (getting my walks in with patients). And then drive 167 miles home. Since I leave the hospital at around 10 pm, I make this my weekly dose of seeing a city. The traffic is much less congested at night; makes the experience more pleasant, even enjoyable. I drive down passed San Pablo Bay--take the Interstate from Fairfield to Sacramento---and then up a couple of old fashioned Highways (the best way to travel by car) to my Off Grid home. Once a week I get to see a city skyline by driving passed Sacramento. Reminds me how much I hate urban living.

The whole Napa Valley is drenched in rain. Driving yesterday I drove passed a fairly severe landslide that closed one lane of the road. Trees are down everywhere. The hospital I work at was on generator power for most of the past two days. And it is expected to keep raining until, at least, the weekend.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

End Times: Elenin and Jesus

Another wet, soggy walk. Since it has been raining for forty days and nights, it kind of makes me think of the end times. Driving across California with radio choices of Rush Limbaugh or Christian Family Radio, I sometimes listen to both of them. Rush is predictable entertainment. The Family Radio throws me for a loop.

You see, Harold Camping has been the creator and broadcaster of this program for fifty years. He has a deep voice, a slow cadence, filled with sounds of him drooling on the microphone. He is 89 years old and as big of a crackpot as you can possibly find (and there are lots of them in Christian Radio). He has created a complex mathematical formula where by, a year ago or so, I heard him predict that the "Rapture" will be this year on May 21.

On May 21, 2011 we shall see an exodus of many Evangelical Christians who will be taken up into the sky and then they fly off with Jesus to heaven. The rest of us (the Heathens) will be left to wash the dishes and take out the garbage. Might make the world a better place, in my view. But it won't last long, as the final "END OF THE WORLD" is scheduled for October 21, 2011. Damn! (literally, in this case).

I think I'll go ahead and make reservations on October 22 for (what Anthony Bourdain calls) the best restaurant in the world: The French Laundry. It'll be a good day to celebrate.

Assuming we do survive until October 22, 2011--there is another brush with extinction coming: A comet called Elenin.

This comet was discovered in December of 2010 by a Russian astronomer--and tracing its path, some have said it will come within 40,000 kilometers of the Earth on November 6, 2011. Of course the Doomsday people are having a field day with this. Some have theorized it will come close enough to shift the Earth on its axis. Others have said it will have a direct impact with the Earth, and since Elenin is a few kilometers in diameter, well, that can't be good.

The scientific community says that Elenin will miss the Earth. The only problem is that the thing might get wobbled a bit when it passes through the asteroid belt. A slight wobble could signal the end of the human epoch.

Pick your own Doomsday scenario. Jesus versus Comets. Or both?

I'm gonna hedge my bet and plan on doing something special November 7. It'd be good to celebrate again, since we will have missed another brush with extinction.

In the meantime, the more certain path to trouble is to keep spewing all that carbon into the atmosphere.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We Were Right...

Another storm rolled in yesterday. Another wet walk. Another war in the Middle East.

And another nuclear catastrophe in Japan. Guess nuclear power ain't as safe as all the current boosters are saying. So we have another oil war in the Middle East and another nuclear plant disaster where the verdict is out as to just how far the desolation zone will extend. The only good news from Japan is that there isn't too much more bad news. Other than the radioactive lettuce 65 miles away from the plant.

Here's a hint for America: Conservation and Renewables. Now! It is the same message the Granola Greens have been promoting for thirty years. Hasn't it become apparent just how right the Granola Heads were? We were right about energy. We were right about food. So be proud fellow Green Refugees after Thirty Years of Corporate Growth Economics: You led the way by example.

Get out that "No Nukes" T-Shirt. Head out to the Farmers' Market. Turn away from conspicuous consumption. Put in a garden. Quit your job to work part time (work to live rather than live to work). Use that credit card for something constructive: like solar panels or a solar hot water heater. Ride your bike. Volunteer. Go for a walk. Say hello to your neighbor. Tithe.
Take joy in identifying a new flower or bird. Boycott the Mall.

The message is the same now as it was in 1979. The only difference is that we know we were right back then. And the destruction gets worse every year. The alternative already exists: all we need to do is live it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Locals, Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie...

I did the long loop today. Getting tired of this long, cloudy, rainy month. Windy with a cold chill in the air. Too warm for a fleece jacket and shell; too cold for just a fleece jacket. Too cold not to wear a tuke; too warm when I wear one. I either sweat or am chilled. March weather.

A word about a couple books I've read recently. The first: "100 Miles" by Dan Thomas. Picked this up at the library the other day. This is a self-published book written by a local author who retired to a property of ten acres, close to here, on the Sacramento Valley. He retired to the town he grew up in after spending a life in Marin County being a school superintendent. The title comes from his explorations within 100 miles of his homestead.

All of his explorations were by car as a change in health status (cardiac problems) limits him from taking long walks. This change in health status gives the book an atmosphere of sweet loss. Of longing to get out and take a hike. The impression is that he is trying to squeeze as much remembrance and life out of what has become for him a glimpse at mortality. Erickson would call it "Integrity versus Despair". For a self published book I found it to be a worthy read. The book has an amateur naturalist feel to it.

And I read a collection of Woody Guthrie's writings. This was a wonderful glimpse into the motivations of a man who cared about working people. Juxtapose this to Bob Dylan's autobiography (Dylan started out by copying Wood Guthrie) and, well, I find Dylan to be a self absorbed, inauthentic artist. Woody Guthrie was the real deal.

Would Bob Dylan write something like this:

"I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter how hard it's run you down nor rolled over you, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work". Woody Guthrie Dec. 3, 1944

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mud House In The Big Woods...

Good to be home.

The dogs and I took a longish walk on this cold, overcast day. Ran into a couple of new neighbors: a young couple with a baby on the way. "We are city people who can adapt" they said. Nice kids; they are full of optimism and potential. We discussed the Ridge and issues regarding adapting to living up here. Made plans for a barbecue.

I hope to take advantage of the young man's muscles by putting him to work on our house over the next month or two. I could use a hand to finish some projects (and he could use a little extra cash).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Socked In...

Had a relapse of this powerful bug which has kept me confined to the Monastic Dorm for a couple of days. Days of watching, endlessly on CNN, the crises in Japan.

Nuclear meltdowns aren't as frightening as they once were. I guess Chernobyl and TMI desensitized us to the dangers of irradiation. Estimates on the deaths resulting from Chernobyl range from a low of 4,000 to a high of nearly one million. The problem is that it is very difficult to establish a causal link between the specific event and cancers that show up thirty years later.

All in all, watching CNN's reporting on the disaster, it has become apparent that CNN is not the news network they once were. They seem timid and young (without any youthful fresh ideas or creative approaches to reporting). And to make up for the lack of decent reporting, they seem to have cornered the market on reporter's with English accents. Is this supposed to heighten the self-esteem of the network?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nature Bats Last

Took the day off to rest and get over this cold.

It felt like one of those days that changes history. As I write this, we have no clue if one of the five troubled reactors in Japan has melted down. During an apocalypse, it is tough to get any news. The area hit by the tsunami is effectively incommunicado. No power. No phones. No information.

So they built these Nukes next to the ocean so that they would have good access to water to cool the reactor. They didn't plan on an 8.9 earthquake, followed by a tsunami that wiped out the backup diesel generators that keep the fuel rods from melting down. When I drive to work tomorrow, will it be through a toxic cloud of radioactive ions blown over from Japan?

Poor Obama. First he announces new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the worst oil spill in history foibles his plans. Now these Nukes might be melting down in Japan. Last year, Obama announced that two new nuclear plants were going to be built--effectively ending a thirty year moratorium.

Is nature telling him to change his plans?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Nuthatch...

I imported a cold when I returned to Concow. Yesterday was spent doing the Nyquil thing. Take Nyquil every six hours with a cup of Emergen-C. My standard protocol to deal with a cold. It leads to multiple hours of naps--which leads to fighting off the bug.

Today a Nuthatch flew into one of our picture windows. I looked outside and she was dazed and unable to move. She let me hold her; pet her. As she groggily came back to life, I took her into the house and we watched TV for awhile. The Nuthatch seemed to like MSNBC.

Life returned to her little by little. At first she couldn't close her beak. Then she could. Then she could only extend one wing. Then she began to turn her head. Then she was able to hop. Joni went and got an old ornamental bird cage and we put her into that for awhile.

The dogs looked at her. Our cat was a bit upset that we wouldn't let her at the bird.

When the Nuthatch could flutter around the little cage, we took her outside. Joni and I watched her fly off to a branch of an oak tree.

I wonder if this Nuthatch will remember me? Will she remember the warm fire, the way I pet it's feathers? Will she remember this as she visits our feeders? I'd like to think I made a new friend today.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A walk around Calistoga this morning. Coffee. Ibuprofen. Attempts at removing this ax I have lodged in the middle of my forehead. You see, turning Fifty only happens once every Fifty years: Best celebrated with a couple of good friends at a classy Inn while drinking a few wheat ales washed down with single malt Scotch. The good stuff.

Fun. But I'm happy turning Fifty only happens once. At least no ribs were broken during the celebration.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Concow Creek Canyon

On my last day of being a person who is under the age of 50, I decided to take the dogs down a different canyon. The purpose? Exploration. I'd never been to the bottom of this canyon before. But I have been down far enough to remember the Mother Lode of Three Rivers Slate.

I found the Mother Lode of the slate. The road down is too steep for either one of our commuter cars. A jeep might do it. So, to harvest this slate, I'll have to pack it out in a backpack (which will be good training anyway).

Towards the bottom of the canyon, someone with a sense of humor has built this vacation cabin.

The road gave way to a single lane path. The water is raging in the creek and, seeing as a couple days ago a forty-something male slipped on a similar path and was washed away to his untimely death, I turned around before anything like that could happen to me. We shall return to fully explore the canyon when the water is less lethal and the path less slippery.

I don't know why I've been living here for almost three years and have never hiked down to explore this canyon (which only takes about an hour to get to the bottom of it by foot after leaving my front door). A new canyon to explore!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

First Spring Flowers...

What a weird year! Finally, the first wildflowers are up. I haven't seen a robin yet. Joni says she has seen a few but they seem shy and avoidant of us. Other years, I've seen robins in January. All week I've had my eyes peeled; looking for the bird of spring.

The turkey vultures have been active. I read in a book last night that sometimes they will take live prey. First time I've read that.

And our apricot tree bloomed, at least, six weeks early. Since we've had hard freezes since then, that crop is probably doomed. Plus the tree bloomed before the bees were out of hibernation. Kylie heroically volunteered to go pollinate the trees with a q-tip. She didn't get around to doing her good intentions.

The last two days I've heard bees finally buzzing about.

Angel was penitent today after carousing off yesterday. She stuck close to my side during our three mile long, loop walk.

Two more days until I turn Fifty. Looks like I might make it to that milestone.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sure Sign of Spring...

A walk with the dogs today. I'd meant to make another foray down the canyon, but Angel wandered off into the woods where she found a rather large bone. She decided that the walk should be over so that she could gnaw at the bone. No amount of coaxing would get her to continue the quest.

So I watched her chew the bone for a bit. Then we went home.

Scooters is open! Our one restaurant within thirty miles of here closes for the winter. It opened today. Spring is sprung! This is a biker (as in Harley) establishment on beautiful Route 70. Highway 70 is a national treasure, little traveled. Well worth a day trip from Oroville to Quincey.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The dogs and I have picked up our training the past couple of days. This means that we hike to the bottom of the canyon, and then back up. The dogs have a howling good time:

The route is pitted with the diggings from the 1850's and onward. This is a shaft to a mine that some miner dug back in the 1800's. The canyon was quite active in the 1850's and the second largest gold nugget ever found was dug up close to here. It weighed 54 pounds.

The miners in the 1850's had a mining camp where the path ends. These rocks were stacked by them back then.

After two weeks of rain and snow, the Feather River is raging. I didn't let the dogs go swimming, as they could be swept down river.