Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be It Resolved

I write this in my room in the Monastic Dorm here in the Napa Valley. I've finished a shift; afterwards I went down to the Safeway and bought a bottle of Chandon Champagne Blanc De Noirs (not bad) and am celebrating the beginning of 2012---the last year on the Mayan Calendar.

Not that I believe that this is the last year for this big beautiful creation.

I am alone in this here room. Just me and the bottle of champagne. And my lap top. Two glasses down. A half hour until 2012 starts.

Time to work on resolutions. In 2012, I resolve to:

1. Get outside everyday and spend at least 1/2 hour doing something active.
2. Figure out a way to lower my carbon footprint (not drive so darned much).
3. Slow down while driving.
4. Write a book review on Amazon for every book I read.
5. Attempt to see a California Condor.
6. Go camping more.
7. Spend 21 days on the Pacific Crest Trail.
8. Learn more of the history of this splendid part of the world I live in.
9. Read 100 books.
10. Write more.
11. Work hard to un-elect Dan Logue and Wally Herger.
12. Finish this house.
13. Get a physical.
14. Get blood work done for a lipid panel and an A1C.
15. Take my vitamins.
16. Plant Fruit Trees.
17. Plant a real garden.
18. Build a coyote proof chicken coop.
19. Eat better.
20. Not eat at a Fast Food Restaurant (except to get a hot chocolate at McDonald's in order to use their free WiFi).
21. Work to live rather than live to work (I think I've got this one down).
22. Go to the ocean at least three times.
23. Visit more State Parks.
24. Build a fish pond.
25. Enjoy the year--even the things I don't like.
26. Depending upon the blood work listed in item number 14--work to reduce those numbers (cause I know they are gonna suck).
27. Add new goals as the year progresses.
28. Eat only organic and happy meat (nothing from a factory farm).
29. Be curious.
30. Learn to identify more trees, birds and flowers.
31. Build a small, private fenced area for the dogs, chickens and humans to hang out in.
32. Not be greedy.
33. Work for a Green Revolution that will promote wild space, egalitarian values, lower CO2, increase renewable energy, promote real conservative values and make sure that all non-human species also have an opportunity to pursue happiness (that includes the coyotes that share this ridge).

I think that's about enough for now. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Response to Dr. Weil...

A review of Dr. Andrew Weil's: Spontaneous Happiness

I always enjoy Dr. Weil. I've heard him speak and have had some contact with the Integrative Program that seems to be his legacy. All of this is real, compassionate and makes sense. I also am a Registered Nurse and have been working in the Mental Health field for twenty years.

I found his chapter on the prevalence (and causes of) depression within our society interesting. I especially resonate with his descriptions of the lack of connection to good old fashioned "hard work" and being outside. Bravo! His discussion of alternatives is good. Especially his advocacy of the use of Fish Oil, Vitamin D and the B vitamins. Common sense!

There are a few things that bother me about Dr. Weil. I write these things as a fan of the man. A person who respects him and the work he does.

1. I'm not too enamored with the cult of personality surrounding the guy. Yes, I know that branding helps sell books. But does he really have to display his cherubic, monster bearded face on every book he writes? And must he really have a corporation attached to his name and his ideology?

2. Footnotes please! Yes, he states you can go on-line to get more information. And there is a short end note section. The bibliography is quite deficient for further reading. The book is written for a lay audience, but that doesn't mean that we can't have a bit more intellectual rigor attached to his claims.

3. Culturally, this book comes from the White, Enviro, Suburban, BMW driving class. The book is written from, and for, the upper ends of the socio-economic ladder. Poverty is the number one predictor and cause of mental illness. There is no discussion of that in this book, with the exception to maybe glorify the hard life we used to have when we all farmed.

4. He relies too much on anecdotal evidence. I found all the letters to him tireseome. And it seemed like these letters were written from the same sorts of people that I talked about in my critique above.

5. Where are the nurses? Dr. Weil doesn't mention one nurse as an expert through out his entire book. The fact is that nursing has been way ahead of even Dr. Weil in their advocacy of the reforms he mentions. In fact, nurses have been quicker to adopt such reforms than the AMA. The Wholistic Nurses Association has been around for 35 years. Nurses have re-invented the therapeutic touch movement---with no mention of that from Dr. Weil. Dr. Weil quotes pharmacists, MD's, LCSW's, psychologists, psychiatrists---but never does he mention a nurse who is an expert. He does cite one nurse who had retired to Sweden. This letter was written not as an expert, but as a client. In short, there is a hierarchical chauvinism present in Dr. Weil's writing that discounts the talents and skills of nurses. This is a systemic problem within the health care establishment. My rule of thumb is, if you really want to know what is going on with your patient, ask an experienced nurse who is taking care of the client. You'll get better and more useful information.

6. Dr. Weil's view of anti-depressants is contradictory. He cites a study that states that SSRI's are junk; later in the book he cites evidence that people should not go off of anti-depressants. He seems to think that anti-depressants should only be used for severe depression. My view is that anti-depressants are helpful, but should be used in tandem with all the things he talks about---and even more.

But my number one critique would be that he never mentions that poverty is the number one predictor and cause of mental illness.

In short, this book is a good first attempt at reforming our mental health system. Ending poverty would do more to reduce severe mental illness in our society. Also ending the stigma of mental illness to the point where it has less unappealing stereotypes to it. If Schizophrenia was seen the same way that Grave's Disease is, then we would have made progress.Ending poverty; ending stigma: accomplish those items and then we could go along with these more natural reforms that are intended for a more narrow, less severe dysthymic disorders.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Team Albert

Got home late last night. A brief visit as I'll return to work tomorrow.

I'm sitting here in a McDonald's in Chico, sipping a vanilla shake, trying to kill time. I'm waiting for Kylie and her friend (who are dressed up in full EMO attire) while they enjoy a flick.

They, being twelve and all, weren't all that keen on me attending a Twilight Movie Number Five Thousand (or whatever it is) with them. Not that I was too keen on seeing this movie; having watched one Twilight film in the past, well, that's enough of Team Jacob or Team Albert or Team Phil to last me a lifetime.

I don't really understand what all the commotion is about teenage vampires and werewolves. Nor do I understand quite what the fascination with Bellah is. Such a wooden, humorless, drab character. And all this obsession and drama! These emotions are best left to young people; they have the energy for all that rot.

No, I don't have any desire to see another werewolf movie. An American Werewolf in London was the best werewolf movie ever made. Cheesy, funny, hokey. And also about backpacking!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Work Extra...

I got asked to stay an extra day in the Napa Valley. And so I crashed in the Monastic Dorm last night---fell asleep quickly and even slept through the constant stream of health professionals who do their very best every morning to make sure that I don't get the needed rest. Foiled them again! This time.

And so a nice leisurely walk on this hillside. The photo above is the view from the helicopter port. Beauty!

I stopped by the pharmacy and bought the supplements that Andrew Weil states are so essential: Fish Oil, B complex and some Red Rice Yeast.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"In order for man to succeed in life, god provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, men can attain perfection." Plato

I read this in Andrew Weil's Spontaneous Happiness last night. And this prompts me to get out of bed after a night of very interrupted sleep and go for a walk.

People state they don't get much sleep in a hospital; the same is true for this hotel for hospital guests. My room is across the hall from the elevator---and all sorts of hospital professionals use the elevator as a short cut from the upper parking lots down to the hospital. Since the elevator was built a long, long time ago---it is clanky and loud. The cacophony starts about 6 am, and is a constant parade of health professionals from then until after 9am. Of course, all the employees and family members staying in the hotel are also stirring in those hours. The result is interrupted sleep.

I'm about half way through this new book of Weil's. I like him. I had the chance to hear him talk a few years ago when I lived in Colorado.

There does seem to be a cult of personality around him though. Anybody who has to have a picture of himself on every single book he writes must have an ego the size of New Jersey. And being a typical MD, there isn't a reference to any mental health professional who is an RN. He gathers information from other MD's, psychologists, pharmacists, LCSW's, run of the mill therapists---but nurses are no where to be seen.

We shall give the book a better look later.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Drove down to the Napa Valley last night. This morning I did something I haven't done in quite sometime: I got up out of bed and went for a walk.

I went to one of my regular haunts. The Mustard, for which the Napa Valley is famous, is already in full bloom. Caistoga, a town that I lived in for five years, has its "Mustard Festival" in March; that used to be when the height of the Mustard season was. This hardy little plant just keeps blooming earlier and earlier.

Some call it "climate change".

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Water

Christmas Day and it is nice enough to hang out clothes to dry.

After the obligatory Oyster Stew and Dungeness Crab last night, we awoke to the usual activities: starting the fire, making the coffee, feeding the dogs and bunnies and chickens. And then presents!

The girls made a haul: snowboards and parkas and snowpants and boots and knick knacks and more clothes and a Monopoly game and all  the other implements of a consumerist Christmas. Openings done. Off we go for a Christmas Walk.

This winter has been dry thus far. The Sierra have had no snow. Daytime temperatures have been in the sixties. In California, people start getting nervous when the rains don't arrive on time. Feeding and watering nearly 38 million people requires a whole lot of water. Agriculture is the number one use of water. As such, every river except one has a whole series of water storage dams which have enabled the human population to get so large. The salmon are the ones who have paid the price of all this over-development. Since the creation of all the dams beginning in the 30's, the once abundant, unique four-times-a-year salmon runs can now be numbered in the low thousands. Once they were millions. Human population growth always has a cost.

North of here, the Klamath River might just get the distinction of becoming the first free flowing river reclaimed from the dams. Of course, this will cost several million dollars and most of the residents of North Eastern California are opposed to it. I think the salmon should be allowed at least one more free flowing river. Idealistically, at least half the rivers of California should be free flowing to the sea. That's only fair.

The future? There are opportunities to remove some dams on some of the tributaries of the Sacramento River. Mostly this remains an environmentalist's dream---but maybe someday, somehow, the people will place the salmon's needs equal to other creature's. Probably this is a pipe dream; the farmer's are opposed to losing any water storage.

But one thing that could really help the salmon population is to decrease the water flow to Southern California during drought years. Getting those pumps to stop pummeling salmon fry into paste is a huge political problem though. The regulatory agencies are always besmirched by those who need the water for crops and swimming pools. And the salmon always lose.

Our water comes from a well that provides (thus far) clear, cold and tasty water.

Thoughts while walking.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Walk with Frank Capra

Off for an early morning ramble on Christmas Eve. I pretty much finished Bill Bryson's "At Home" last night. Bryson is a good read. In this book he pretty much gives modern history as seen through the architecture of his home in England. It is hard not to read this book and not be impressed with how much we've learned over the last couple hundred years. Bryson turns the book into almost a stream of consciousness. It is fun just to sit back and watch him end up where he ends up. The section on all the critters that inhabit our homes is best not read in bed---for reasons that are obvious if you read the book.

We will be home for Christmas Eve. It's a Wonderful Life is on network television tonight (due to budget cuts in our home, we canceled our super duper cable subscription). We now have pretty much the same selection of channels that I had growing up. We will watch Frank Capra's classic. We will have Oyster Stew (and, as usual, I will be the only one to eat it).

Back in 1981, I  had the honor of meeting Frank Capra. He came to a class I was taking at the time. I was too young and stupid to fully appreciate whose hand I was shaking when I met him. I'd seen a couple of Capra's movies---but hadn't seen "Wonderful Life" yet. I do remember it was January of 1981. Ronald Reagan had just been inaugurated. Reagan's values and Capra's values were so juxtaposed. Reagan's values of greed; Capra's everyday populism and decency. Vive Capra!

With the Occupy protests, Capra's movie seems even more poignant today as it was in 1948.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas At Home...

I'll be home for Christmas...

Good to be home. I took a walk with the dogs today on our usual route. Angel is getting older now and minds much better. Abbey has turned out to be one of those dogs that just can't stand the thought of having you out of sight (or even more than a few steps away) for more than a minute or two. So Abbey always stays close by. The only exception is when Abbey flushes out a covey of quail. She is quite proud of herself when she bounds off to flush them out. Always at the same point of the walk. She runs back to me with the doggy version of an ear to ear smile.

Goals. Joni has given me permission to spend a month on the Pacific Crest Trail next summer. And so we begin to train for that. We shall get serious about this after Christmas...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We Start Again...

I'm back.  And I'm ready to start again.

I've missed this little blog. It helps me. It reminds me to get outside everyday. It helps me get off my backside and onto the trail. It helps me process what I'm reading. It enhances my life.

And so I've decided to start this little thing back up again. What's changed in the last five months? Well, I found a doctor. This doctor wants me to do all those things that Fifty Year Old Males need to do: get the usual blood work done (A1C, Lipid Profile); have a physical (I've never had one); and get that probe thing that sticks up that part of you that you'd rather not talk about.

What else has changed? Our house is much more livable. The girls are older. The dogs are still with us. We have five chickens left of the original twelve. Our water pump is leaking. We got our propane tank filled. Pretty mundane stuff.

And all that mundane stuff will be right here. In full view. Because I'm back. Maybe not daily; but close to it.

Off we go! Angel, Abbey and I had a nice little walk in the woods.