Friday, January 27, 2012

Down the Canyon

After a few days of rain, the sun came out today. I celebrated by taking a long hike down the canyon with my herd of dogs. It has been awhile since I've made that trek. But this rainy season seems like it is not going to amount to much. At least it hasn't thus far. Everything should be green. Verdant. Lush. Instead, we have lots of brown grass to look at.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


In the Napa Valley. I've been driving down to work the day before I start a string of work days because, well, frankly, I get too tired when I don't. Driving down the day of my shift 3 1/2 hours and then working an 8 hour shift just got too long of a day for me. I guess that might be part of being fifty years old.

And so I take my time and enjoy the drive. I drove down even earlier than normal today because there is lots of rain. Quite stormy. I wanted to drive during daylight hours. That's another thing about being fifty years of age: I don't see as well at night (and during rain storms) anymore.

I saw a herd of elk today.

It is quiet in this room at the hospital. I guess another thing about being fifty is that you don't mind having quiet times. Out of the hubbub of house and hearth and two really loud pre-teens playing their music that sounds like 27 trash cans full of snarling cats being dropped from two hundred feet onto a cement floor and, well, you get the story. Especially if  you are fifty or above.

It is quiet here. I listen to the rain. I have a beer. All is well.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Drenching Rain...

A storm has blown in, finally, giving us some much needed rain. I took the dogs out for a hike in the rain; Abbey in her new rain jacket: she doesn't have a very good undercoat, so keeping her warm is important.

This storm is a drencher. Six to ten inches expected over the next week. Radio stations are asking people to stay home, as they are expecting many downed trees and powerlines. The mountains are getting snow. Kylie is excited that she might be able to use her snowboard soon.

I finished book number six last night while watching the Republican debate. You can find the Amazon review here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Our Dryer...

The rain finally arrived. With gusto. I took the pack of dogs out and got soaked and cold. Hung the clothes up on our fancy Living Room Clothesline. Our winter dryer.

Obama didn't grant the permit for the Keystone Pipeline. Good news. Climate scientist, James Hansen says that if the tar sands of Canada are developed, it is "game over" for the climate. Carbon Dioxide levels are expected to shoot up to 600 parts per million if that happens. Stopping the Keystone Pipeline is a good first start in making sure that the tar sands are never developed in a big way.

It is all about choices. Do we want Renewable Energy or Fossil Fuel use? How long must we wait until we rapidly begin the transition to Renewables? Part of the reason we bought this place is because we were sick of waiting for Renewable Energy to become the cultural norm. Our carbon footprint isn't anything to brag about: I drive 1,500 miles a month.

Life gets in the way of dreams sometimes. We ran out of money to invest in our bigger plans. Joni had to stop working and we had other unexpected expenses.  So you go slow. Choosing not to have a dryer is one simple way to lower our carbon footprint. Recently we've been limiting our Television useage to just an hour or two a day (especially now since our batteries are shot; our small generator died; and the skies are cloudy).

I've been toying with asking my Manager to change my schedule so that I could take public transportation to work (my biggest carbon offender is driving to work). It would involve a certain amount of planning, but it is possible, without too much trouble, to take the bus to Sacramento, the train to Martinez and then a bus all the way to St. Helena. And it isn't too expensive. And surprisingly, not too time intensive.

Back to Keystone and choices. Public policy is just public/cultural priorities given legs. And the public good does require an Activist government to enforce decisions. You can't rely on the market to save a species or the planet. The lesson of the Great Auk (the first animal to go extinct in North America since the megafauna died 10,000 years ago) is the only case in point needed to show that without public policy, other beings die. That is an immoral tragedy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rachel versus Kitty

I returned to Concow late last night. Took a vigorous walk with our new dog this morning. Yes, a new dog. And our last new dog (if I ever get my way around here).

The fuzzy one above (the other one is a neighbor dog that tags along for our walks) showed up at our house last week. She then proceeded to adopt us, and the dog's owner didn't really want to have the dog---this led to the normal pleading, whining and promises to "do absolutely everything for the dog" by the girls.

And so we have a new member of the household. I am an invertebrate. No backbone. I caved like a prom date.

Kylie wants to call the dog "Kitty". I've been calling the little rascal "Little One" and "Rachel" (after Rachel Carson). This dog has had a life thus far full of transitions, a fair amount of neglect and has had two names: "Rose" and "Stinky". in its short six month life. In the Redneck Culture of Concow, dogs are rarely looked after. And they are rarely spayed, leading to an explosion of dogs on this ridge.

We will spay the new dog and give her a home. The pup is learning the rules around here after having lived a rather uncultured doggy life. She is learning the Thou Shalt Nots from Abbey and Angel like sitting and waiting patiently for "second supper", the art of "staying by" on a walk and the fact that the inside of the house is not a toilet. She is catching on quickly.

And this new dog knows that she has it good: that's why she adopted us.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In the Napa Valley

It is late at night and I've finished a shift at work. Been awhile since I've updated this thing. How are things? you might ask.

Just fine.

I've been sick with a nasty bug I caught (oh the perils of being an RN). This gave me time to finish a couple of books. One, a book of essays by Barbara Kingsolver; another book by a local Chico author on Climate Change; and the newest one by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. So I guess that makes my book total of five for the year. Just ninety five more to go. Click on the links and look for my review of these books.

And what has changed over the last couple of weeks? Well, good ole' Wally Herger isn't seeking re-election. That has sent all of northern California into a tizzy as the Republican Junta that runs things around here conspires to figure out who will replace him. This changes one of my New Year's Resolutions, as Dan Logue has decided to run in another District.

And a wild Wolf is close to our home. For the first time in 88 years, a single Gray Wolf has returned to California. May many more join him.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wells Fargo Envy

Yesterday a coyote took another chicken. I watched the big black coyote that we call "Bruno" run off with the poor deceased chicken dangling in its mouth.

The coyotes seem to show up around 10 am. We seem to lose the chickens between 10 am and 1 pm. Today I looked out the window at 10 am and saw a different coyote stalking "Flopsy". I ran outside, yelling and screaming like a crazed psychiatric nurse, and scared him away. This coyote was more traditional in coloring and appearance. But he is still huge. Joni thinks that "Bruno" is a coyote/dog cross. A Dogote.

Another sunny warm day here in the Foothills. I continue in my sloth like behavior, using the excuse that I'm trying to kick this cold. Which means I've finished Book Number 2 for the year: Stagecoach: Wells Fargo and the American West by Philip Fradkin.

Fradkin wrote a book on California (The Seven States of California) that I really liked, and, as is my custom, when I run across a writer I enjoy, I tend to read my way through most of their catalogue.

Stagecoach: Wells Fargo and the American West is a look at the 150 year history of Wells Fargo (the bank and the once upon a time shipper and transportation provider). This book came out eight years before the bank bailouts of 2008. Wells Fargo was one of the banks that took money in 2008/2009. They received, at least, 25 billion dollars.

Fradkin is quite friendly towards the company in this book. In fact, it reads much like Wells Fargo commissioned the thing. Yes, there is some interesting history here; especially the parts about what it was like to travel the US by stagecoach in the 1860's. And yes, Wells Fargo did transform nutrition in the United States by figuring out how to ship fruits and vegetables in a refrigerated rail car (they used ice) thus improving the lives of millions of Americans.

But I was surprised at just how fawning Fradkin could be towards this company. I expected to read something that was a bit more critical, a bit more daring, a bit more biting. But Fradkin seems to be in love with Wells Fargo. It is almost as shocking as when Chris Hitchens fell in love with George W. Bush. You don't expect this sort of ass kissing of power from decent writers.

As such, this book could very easily grace the bookshelf in the CEO's office of Wells Fargo. I expected something more from Fradkin. Oh well, I'll give him another chance to redeem himself. Maybe Fradkin needed some quick cash and writing a laudatory history of a bank filled the coffers in time for Christmas. We all have our price.

And so I will forgive Fradkin and give him another chance.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

American Nomads...

Took a walk through the woods with the dogs today. Nursing the very beginning stages of a cold and hoping it doesn't develop into the real thing. Since one of my New Year's Resolutions is to "Take my vitamins", how curious that now that I'm religiously taking the things---I get sick.

And I finished my First Book of the New Year (another New Year's Resolutions to read 100 books). This book I picked up by accident, as it was on sale for one dollar at the library. American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers and Bullriders. The author is a Brit (Richard Grant) who has discovered the beauty and wonders of  the American Southwest. The book came out in 2004, but the book is in no way dated because of that.

This was the author's first book and it was enough of a success that he has gone on to write two other travel books. His books take effort because they are all semi-autobiographical/journalistic pieces that require a certain amount of endeavor. In this one, he travels with a myriad of American Nomads.

This is a fun book to read but didn't resonate with me. The people that he profiles I didn't find particularly attractive. I can interview the same sorts of folks by just going to my job. The historical squetches are good, especially the segment on Joseph Walker, who took a trip across the US in 1833.

One of the more comical elements of the book is when the author describes to a European audience why one of his protagonists couldn't get a $30,000  surgery. Europeans have no clue as to just how inegalitarian our health care system is.

Richard Grant lived in Tucson and you can see, towards the end, just how much he borrows from Ed Abbey (non-cited). He even takes a hike to one of the same desert Tinajas (watering holes) that Abbey visited in one of his essays. In this passage he states of Ed Abbey: "There have been some valiant attempts, Ed Abbey on the American Southwest...---but the literature of deserts is essentially a failure". Rubbish! To countermand this ridiculous comment, all I need do is refer the reader to "Desert Solitaire".

Edward Abbbey doesn't make it into Grant's "Selected Bibliography". Neither does Joseph Wood Krutch. This is nearly unforgivable in a book about the American Southwest.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lazy Boy

After a wild and woolly run at work, I arrived home in the wee hours of the morning. Awoke this morning to a scratchy throat. Joni declared that I should have a "Lazy Boy" day: a day spent in my recliner. I had to oblige.

I did take a few minutes to enjoy the sixty plus degree weather we are having. And I'm about to finish my first book of the year.

And Rick Santorum came within eight votes of winning Iowa. Will this be his high water mark? Something he will look back on in his old age wondering "What if?". Will this lead to him getting a television show on Fox? Will he now be able to go on the lecture circuit garnering thousands of dollars for every speech (ala Sarah Palin)?

Back to my chair!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Iowa and Rick Santorum

Still in the Napa Valley. The best way to get some sleep is to leave the television on in my room. The white noise blocks out the steady stream of health professionals who lumber past my room early in the morning on their way to saving lives or sorting out charts and bills and graphs. Of course, this means my sleepy self gets a full night's barrage of television news on CNN.

And so a walk before work with CNN's topic of Iowa on my brain.

Iowa is a good corn fed state. A good solid Midwestern state without the beer that Wisconsin has to offer, nor the fishing and lakes that Minnesota has to offer. Take a good Midwestern state and remove absolutely everything that is fun about it and you end up with Iowa. That means that some insufferably boring people will be choosing the Republicans nominee tomorrow.

Hence the rise in the polls of someone who really should not be allowed to be a dog catcher let alone a President: Rick Santorum. He is the perfect squeaky clean boring person's candidate. This guy has that pasty white look about him that oozes absolutely no familiarity with the more shadow side of a person's psyche. Santorum lives in a world where being gay is a choice and being against government programs for the poor is a Christian thing to do. Christian Evangelicals dig that sort of rot.

It is only in Iowa that a person like Santorum would get anyone excited. When Iowa gave Mike Huckabee the win in 2008, Huckabee, at least, had a couple of redeeming qualities: he could play the bass and he once pardoned Keith Richards. Santorum has none of that. What Santorum does have is a "gee whiz" work ethic and an honest appeal to those who live in little pink houses and go to the local non-denominational, Denominational church. He will be the candidate of those who think the world was made 6,000 years ago. He will be the candidate of those who think Obama is a secret Muslim. He is the white evangelical candidate---and it looks like he will do very well tomorrow.

If Santorum wins tomorrow, the ultra-right, non-Ron Paul fringe will have their candidate. And that will be very interesting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Creosote and Wolves

I love California. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize that I actually ended up here. How that happened is an accident of history; I'm thankful for such accidents.

I got up this morning and spent some time wandering around outside in the sun (dragging just a tad from the Domaine Chandon champagne), thinking about how I ended up in this State. And the things I love about it. On this first day of 2012, I guess it is normal and natural to have a certain amount of enthusiasm for where we are, who we are and what we plan to do. Resolutions.

California is infinitely interesting. Did you know that California boasts one of the oldest living organisms on earth? And no it isn't the Bristlecone pine. The oldest living thing in California is the lowly King Clone Creosote bush. It resides in the Mojave desert and has been radiocarbon dated to 11,700 years of age. That's a long time to be hanging around. It isn't an attractive plant by any means. Just a very, very common bush that can tolerate drought quite well.

And speaking of drought, December was one of the driest California has ever had. Most places in California list December as either the driest, or the second driest, on record. The snow resorts in Tahoe haven't seen this small of a snow pack (none) since 1883. With no rain in the forecast for the next week, folks are starting to get a bit concerned. It doesn't take long for all those reservoirs to be emptied.

And a bit of good news. The first wolf in 88 years has migrated into California. He is a wandering male from the Oregon pack. This sort of immigration should be encouraged.