Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dress the Part

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for January 29, 2001

The enlightenment came soon after I emerged, sputtering , from the icy waters off Coleman Beach: How easy it is for context to hobble reality.

A friend had arranged for us to meet Matt Hudgens, owner of Central Coast Standup Paddling, Friday morning for a free demonstration and to try out some paddle boards. What’s a paddle board, you ask? Well, if you’ve seen people skimming around upright while standing up on what looks like a surfboard, wielding a long paddle, and looking for all the world like a surfer-dude gondolier, they’re on paddle boards.

And I know what you’re thinking. Are you nuts? It’s January, it’s foggy and cold in Los Osos. The water’s freezing. You’ve never surfed a day in your life and at your age you’re gonna now go get on a paddleboard and doodlebug around Morro Bay?

Uh, well, yes.

Happily, that morning’s cold, foggy Los Osos microclimate didn’t carry over into Morro Bay and at Coleman Beach, that flat curve of soft sand and shallow bay located under the towering PG&E towers, the air was still, the water glass, the was sun shining and, mercifully, it was warm. Unfortunately, I was dressed in warm street wear for the fog and cold; rolled up Levis, long sleeved tee and a sweatshirt. And therein lies the tale.

After unloading the selection of boards we helped carry them down to the beach and get our instructions and pretty soon were kneeling on the boards and paddling around. Then, in my case at least, standing up with the wobbles and paddling around. Which is when I began to find out that success in my case would depend on a slightly flatter board and a whole lot of practice since staying upright depends on a constant series of micro-movements. Over-compensation for the slight wobbles will land you in the drink.

Which is where I went. Unable to move quickly enough to get my feet under me, I ended up submerged before I could clamber upright, dripping wet, sodden sweatshirt now hanging down like a dead weight.

Without thinking, I shoved the board to shore and plodded and sloshed out of the water because my brain had unthinkingly locked me into a (false) context: “You’re wearing street clothes,” my brain said, “ and you’ve fallen into water. This is not appropriate. People in street clothes aren’t supposed to fall into water and if they do, they need to immediately get out of the water and get into a change of dry clothes.”

Which is what I did, but without changing. Once standing on shore, I got out of the now very heavy wet sweatshirt, dried off my glasses, collected myself, then went back in with the board to try that again.

And here’s the odd epiphany: Had I been wearing shorts or a bathing suit, my brain would have automatically said: “Oops, we’re suddenly in the water in a bathing suit (correct context) so there’s no need to get out of the water, let’s just hop back on the board and try that again.”

Thus does the brain misinform and misrule us.

But, in this case, not for long. On my second(very soggy) try, I had begun to get the wobbly feel of the board and paddle, which is rather like standing on a balance ball while making unstabilizing paddling motions in the air. The trick, apparently, is to think as little as possible about what you’re doing and let the body respond to the movement. That, and practice, practice, practice. But I did manage to remain awkwardly upright for the rest of the session. (And, mirable dictu, not a sore muscle in sight the next morning.)

The night before, I had watched a DVD about this growing sport/pastime and, like all variants on any sport, the enthusiasts are pushing it to new levels. Folks are now not only surfing with the paddle board, but taking it down raging white-water river runs.

According to Matt, the surfing aspect apparently allows the rider to get up more speed allowing him/her to ride many more smaller waves (more actual wave riding in the same amount of time) or to catch and ride the bigger waves longer since the long paddle allows the rider to power along, keeping just ahead of the curl. Also, for older surfers who are now developing shoulder/arm problems, stand-up surfing allows them to get out to the waves without having to lie flat and paddle. And it’s easier to learn stand up surfing in the first place because it avoids the tricky paddle-out-flat, quickly-stand-up maneuver that challenges so many beginners. With a paddle board, you’re already up.

On the second Saturday of the month, from 9 -2 pm. (weather permitting) Matt is down with his boards at Coleman Beach offering free lessons and try-outs. Or, if you organize a bunch of your friends, you can make an appointment with him to meet him there for a free try out. So, give him a call at (805) 395-0410, or check out his website at . His shop’s located at 257 Morro Bay Blvd, open Thurs – Sunday, so stop by and say Hi. He’s the nicest guy in the world and wonderfully enthusiastic about his sport.

And next time you’re standing around looking at the Bay and you see upright gondoliers tooling along and say to yourself, “Hmmm, that looks like fun, wonder if I could ever learn to do that,” the answer is, “Very likely.”

I mean, if I managed to eventually stay upright on the board, I’d say you’ve got just as good a chance to do the same. But unlike me, be sure to dress -- in context -- for the occasion.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Light It Up, Part II

The Planning Commission held their first hearings on SunPower Corp.’s 250 megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch facility, which is to be located in the Carrizo Plains. The project has been greatly modified, after several years of research, public hearings, to the scaled down project presented to the Commission for public comment. There was another item, the Conditional Use Permit and Reclamation Plan to “establish an aggregate surface mine” that would be a closer source of gravel for the project, but that item was postponed. The projects are quasi-linked; there is another source of gravel farther away so this mine opening would simply be more convenient, cheaper and involve less truck traffic during the building phase rather than a linked deal-breaker.

The site of the project has been the biggest bone of contention to date. From SunPower’s perspective, it’s ideal: willing sellers, the flat site is either on or very near a previous solar array, high-powered transmission lines nearby, plenty of sunshine without the San Joaquin Valley’s tule fogs (another site on the Westlands property in the valley is another likely site in addition to this one.), there’s state and federal incentives and SLO county encourages renewables for the county.

The original plan’s footprint was much bigger, the solar arrays much taller, but the entire plan was changed, broken up into separated sections to accommodate Kangaroo rat, Kit fox, antelope habitats.

The expected construction will take 36 months. It will be using earth screws vs concrete pads for the array footings. There will be a temporary 50 unit RV park for construction worker housing. The 10 solar arrays will cover 1,400 acres with approximately 811,000 solar panels, about 6’ in height so the overall look will have a relatively low profile. There’ll be a visitor center/office/maintenance building, fully xerescaped, an oversized water tank for fire, and a reverse osmosis system for water for panel washing and employee drinking water. The brine from the R.O. will be put into (lined? covered to keep critters out?) evaporative ponds for later disposal.

The EIR received major comment and there are a wide array of impacts that will have to be conditioned and/or mitigated. The issue of most concern was the problem of disturbing the K-rat’s homes and for the kit foxes and antelope migration and grazing patterns, as well as issues over endangered plants. Presently, the mitigation measures includes a 4:1 ratio of set aside conservation land to offset conversion of farmable land (farmable if there were water), as well as other restrictions.

Highway 46 & 58 will be closed for ½ hour 1 x a day to get wide-loads delivered. And there will have to be long term monitoring of groundwater, since adequate groundwater supply is still of concern (and contention)

While there will be an increase in greenhouse gasses during construction, all that will be offset by 268,000 metric tons reduction of C0-2 over the lifetime of the plant.

Alternative sites were considered in the EIR; Rooftop solar (most frequently mentioned by the public) isn’t ready yet as a widespread option. The state and counties need to set regulations, incentives, buy-back (feed-to-the-grid) systems before a sort of state wide “Rent A Roof” scattered solar will pencil out. Which means, at present, large commercial arrays are the quickest way to get the transformation started. (Yes, conservation would go a long way to reduce power use, but you know how successful conservation programs have been in the past. Right. Zip. (One speaker pointed out the the BOS chamber could have been built with a skylight in it, thereby avoiding having to waste electricity on all the lights. Heh-heh.) And since this country has no comprehensive energy policy, with little possibility of any coherent renewables efforts coming anytime soon in the present coal/oil-run Congress, we’re presently stuck with using the old large-scale commercial power templates.)

Which means that SunPower’s present efforts are just the start of and a part of the overall efforts to switch our power generation to renewables. The Company believes it’s set in place environmental protections that will bring an economic boom and nice taxes to the county coffers (always a yummy carrot to a cash-strapped local government), and ensure any public loss in case of decommissioning. The solar array technology gives up to 100% more energy than thin film PV and the trackers give up to 25% higher efficiency than other trackers.

In short, SunPower views this project as a “test case,” for future projects of this type. From their point of view, they listened to the experts, actually invited serious input from the public rather than viewing them as “crazies,” assumed that critical or negative comments can enlighten and so end up solving problems in order to improve a project, (imagine that?) and everything they learned from doing this project will inform future projects.

From the public comments, the public’s point of view can be summed up in one sentence: You’ve picked the worst possible site in all of California.

From the Planning Commission’s point of view, the one thing NOT up for serious challenge is the basic site itself.

Thus do SLO County projects turn into war zones.

Public Comment from The Usual Suspects:

NIMBYS, residents, ranchers, residents of Carrizo Plains with dire predictions of doom and destruction, pleas to substitute local rooftop systems vs an industrial array, the terror of Valley Fever (stirred up apparently from soil disturbance during building but not, apparently, stirred up from regular plowing and/or daily wind?), basin is in overdraft, the hydrology report not factual, need for a full new water study, the aggregate mine is allegedly under a legal (illegal?) cloud, solar arrays will destroy everything, including condors and eagles (Question: there was a solar array out there years ago. There were plenty of K-rats and kit foxes presently found on that site, so why didn’t that array “destroy everything?”), China is still burning coal so this project won’t have an impact on greenhouse gasses so don’t bother to build it, some of the wildflower fields may be disturbed under some arrays, construction (more people living out there) will put an overload on County Fire Dept’s ability to respond to an emergency (This from a County Fire Dept. employee, with a suggestion (hint) that SunPower needs to fund extra staff for the duration, which sounds like a good condition to add to the project).

Then there was the constantly implied notion that the Carrizo Plains are a mythic place, America’s Serengeti, home to a national monument, home to a huge array of rare, amazing creatures, a pure Eden that should never be befouled by technology and human development. Speakers brought along power point photos of vast fields of wildflowers and cute foxes. But not one picture of the tumble down abandoned houses, meth labs, run-down “ranches” with junker cars parked in the yard, abandoned dirt roads to nowhere, abandoned trailers, all of which surround the area where the (previous) and (present) solar project will be installed. Nor was there mention that California City was envisioned in the 1950’s as a development, get-rich-quick real estate deal; subdivide the whole place, sell lots, build houses and the hell with the K-rat. No, the whole valley was all transformed in the mind’s eye into one neatly restored National Monument, full of bouncing antelope and barking kit foxes. Eden without a chuffing tractor plowing up acres of K-rat habitat. (Irony: the early morning sight of a gaggle of pronghorns in a field of yummy human-planted alfalfa.)

There were predictions that the arrays would doom tourism (Actually, years ago, I made a trip out there specifically to see the (old) arrays, which were way cool. So, I suspect tourists will stop by the solar ranch on their way to the National Monument or Soda Lake.) There were objections that SunPower has agreed to only hire union workers, thereby cutting out local people who are non-union. (One of the sad by-products of our break-the-unions in order to create a wage race-to-the-bottom culture coming back to bite us in the butt?).

And a fascinating comment that K-rats communicate (to establish and defend their territory and attract mates) by drumming on the ground with their large kangaroo hind feet, so will the wind vibrating the solar panels transmit those vibrations into the earth thereby interfering with K-rat communication? Apparently the EIR didn’t address those chatty little thrumming feet, so I hope the Commission looks into that.

I left around the second break and I’m sure a variety of similar comments continued to the close of the meeting. The Commission will meet at the site, Wednesday, Feb 2, for a walkabout, and will reconvene in the BOS chambers (the one without energy-saving sky lights) on Thursday, Feb 3rd starting at 9 a.m,. It will finish up with public comment and then it’s possible the Commissioners will begin discussing and voting on at least part of this project.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Updating Archie

Awww, Gawwwd.  I hate to say it but Archibald McDog, the greyhound with somebody else's ears, just ain't got no sense.  While Finn McCool, the greyhound with his own ears, understands his injuries and helps you help him get better, so you can get to the healing the easy way.  But with Archie, it's got to be done the hard way.

When we last left our sad canine, (posting of 1/21/11) he was draped in a pinned together ensemble, wearing the Cone of Shame, and generally looking like a shambling mess.  And very shortly after he shook off the effects of the anesthesia, his recovery trajectory started looking like deja vu all over again.  Two years ago, the same cancerous lump was removed from the same back of his leg and he quickly pulled the stitches out and left a big gaping mess that precipitated a rushed run to the emergency clinic, then back to the vet until Dr. Truax finally said, We'll just have to leave alone and let it heal from the inside out.  So, this time I figured a large Cone of Shame would keep that snooter off those staples.  No such luck. 

Within days he somehow managed to get the Cone pushed back far enough to get that long nose into the staples.  So, it was back to the vet for restapling, which didn't bother him a whit.  No pain shot yet he didn't even turn his head to see what Dr. Truax was doing.  Leg?  What leg?  Stitches? What are you talking about?  But Dr. Truax and I did know this last stapling job was likely a waste of time as well, and, once again, he said, Don't worry about it.  The wound is granulating nicely, dogs often don't bother about torn skin since in the wild it's a common occurrance, it's healing nicely and shouldn't be a problem. 

But, the good doctor did suggest that since the Cone of Shame wasn't working, obviously, I try jury rigging a cervical-type collar thick enough to prevent his neck turning around to get at that leg.  Which I did, whacking pieces of styrofoam packing material and sticking it all together with duct tape.  Naturally, he managed to get the thing up and over his head and gleefully ripped the new stitches out so when I got home, there he was, tail wagging, duct-taped collar dangling from his halter, little metal staples scattered about on the pillow.

Sigh.  So now, we do it the hard way.  The Archie way.  Gaping wound gently rinsed once a day with good old warm salt water and kept covered lightly to keep the other dogs from sniffing around, thinking they'd play Nurse Barton and "help" clean things up right into another huge vet bill.  And a daily ibuprofen tablet for any discomfort.  And a re-rigging of the new Duct Tape Collar of Lesser Shame. 

And we wait and let time do it's thing.  

So far, it's working.  He seems more comfortable with the new regimine.  But it pains me to have to admit, I got a dog that just ain't got no sense.  At all.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Light It Up

The SLO Planning Commission will be reviewing the plans to build a solar array out on the Carrizo Plains this Thursday, Jan 27, starting at nine and likely going all day. Bring a sandwich and an apple. It’ll be a long, complex meeting, I’m sure.

The builders have already modified their plans, reducing the footprint of the array and reducing the wattage generated, while opponents and some residents want them to build the damned thing over the hills in the San Joaquin in areas unfit ag use, but also not quite so full of kit foxes and kangaroo rats and endangered plants & etc.

You know, the usual issues and the usual suspects. But, in an odd way, the argument may be moot, one way or the other. First, climate change will change the Carrizo no matter what anybody does because of the heat rise already in the pipeline and even if we suddenly stop carbon production cold tomorrow, that rise will continue to change the land. So, if the little kit foxes and rats can only exist within a very narrow band of temperature and moisture in a very small, particular place, they’re finished no matter what. Kaput because of the changes coming that we can do nothing about now.

But, if they’re tough enough and flexible enough (and lucky enough), they will survive by moving north (or east or west or wherever) and make a new niche, again, no matter what we do out there.

And if we do nothing, just continue drilling and burning for energy, the rate of changes will be so devastating that the critters will most assuredly be wiped out. And if we build solars all over the place, we might have a shot at slowing these changes enough to at least give the critters a fighting chance. Maybe.

So, I say, build it and lots more like it, and get this lobbyist-crippled Congress off the dime to remove all hidden subsidies and tax breaks to all carbon burning fuels in hopes that technology and clever people will come up with new power sources that will save our bacon.

And the bacons of kit foxes and K-rats and fragile flowers.

Light It Up On The Roof

Some time ago, I asked, “Hey, why doesn’t somebody come up with a Rent-a-Roof solar business?” Well, somebody has. Several somebodies. An AP Story by Laura Impellizzeri outlines several companies that are starting up solar panel leasing companies.

Since the average $12,000-plus cost for the initial investment keeps a lot of people from going solar, this scheme allows them to “lease” the equipment. The company owns and cares for the system, you can (like leasing a car) have the option of buying it at the end of the lease. “As the owners of the panels that they or their agents install, solar leasing companies receive the 30 percent federal homeowner tax credit plus any state or local incentives the homeowner qualifies for.” And, “Instead of generating the electricity you use from one moment to the next, a leased solar array feeds into the regional power grid and homeowners are credited on their monthly electric bill. In some states, like California, the less power your household uses (after deducting for what you generate) the lower rate you pay, so it makes financial sense not to generate every last kilowatt you use but to buy some power at the lowest rates.”

“So leasing companies recommend installing the smallest system that will bring the biggest benefit. With Sungevity Development LLC, an Oakland leasing company that contracts with other companies for installation, leasing a 2.8 kW system in town will cost about $67 a month and be guaranteed to generate enough power to wipe out most of an $80 average monthly electricity bill, leaving the homeowner roughly breaking even with an estimated monthly electricity bill of $12. Buying the same system through Sungevity would cost about $16,000 after incentives.”

So, take a look at your electric bill, if you’re a business, might want to really take a look at your electric bill. Then check out and click on the residential-leases tab for more information. Calseia’s (California Solar Energy Industries Association) site lists the various solar companies that are members.

Jim Dee’s Palm Theatre went solar long ago. Time for all of the roofs of SLOTOWN to sprout arrays?

God Bless Jack LaLanne.

Exercise pioneer, Jack LaLanne died at age 96 at his home in Morro Bay. Proof positive that healthful foods and proper exercise can certainly help you live a long, long life in good health.

Jack was one of the first to move “fitness” out of the weird homo-erotic, Muscle-Beach, Mr. America milieu and take it into the area of overall proper diet and health rather than just turning wimps into a muscle-man so bullies wouldn’t kick sand in their faces. He also marketed his TV show to stay-a-home diet-conscious Moms, which really helped open up the whole fitness craze. And built a fitness empire that included health clubs, videos, books. Which also helped mainstream the whole issue away from the small, weird enclave of "health nut" cranks.

As kids watching his show on TV, we thought he was goofy-funny and gleefully mocked his enthusiastic, bright-eyed patter while doing jumping-jacks and touting the benefits of juicing veggies. Later, of course, as age crept up, his message suddenly started looking decidedly un-funny and instead became a given: eat right, exercise every day, just common sense for feeling your best.

The Tribune noted, “In 2005, the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce presented LaLanne its Living Treasure award, a lifetime achievement honor given to local citizens.” And how cool is that?

While Morro Bay will miss one of its more colorful “characters,” his wife, Elaine, will miss her partner and ‘best friend” of 51 years and no amount of juice or jumping jacks will soothe that sorrow.

So, grab a V-8 and hoist a toast to Jack and a blessing. He changed a lot of lives for the better. And nobody can leave a better legacy than that.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This by Kay Ryan from her new book, The Best of It; New and Selected Peoms

Felix Crow

Crow school
is basic and
short as a rule --
just the rudiments
of quid pro crow
for most students.
Then each lives out
his unenlightened
span, adding his
bit of blight
to the collected
history of pushing out
the sweeter species;
briefly swaggering the
swagger of his
aggravating ancestors
down my street.
And every time
I like him
when we meet.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Poor Butterfly

Yesterday was not the best for Archibald McDog, my greyhound-German Shepherd mix. He’s the dog with the WORST characteristics of both those breeds – the Nazi assertiveness of a herder that WILL move that 1,500 lb cow combined with the laser-focuses “eye” of the greyhound that locks on the target, shutting out anything else. So, sharp commands, “No kitty! No kitty!” falls on – literally – deaf ears.

In short, he’s the household’s butthead with two speeds; sound asleep or 1,000 rpm hyper-reactive, head-swiveling, hyper vigilance – BALL! SQUIRREL! KITTY!

A couple of years ago, a type of cancerous tumor appeared on the back of his thigh. Luckily, it was the type that doesn’t spread, can usually be easily removed, but unfortunately, tends to grow back. So, with crossed fingers, I took him in to remove the lump. All went well until Saturday night when I returned home from work to find he had pulled out the stitches and there he was with a gaping wound in the back of his leg.

In a panic, I headed up for the after-hours emergency clinic in Atascadero ($$ Ching! $$Ching!) where they put in more staples. Which he pulled out by Sunday night. By that point, I just draped the back leg with a jury-rigged pant-leg to keep it loosely covered and got him back into Dr. Truax on Monday morning. But by that time, the skin edges had dried, the muscle underneath had dried and Dr. Truax just said, no use fooling with this. Keep it clean, the skin will re-grow. And sure enough it did.

And through it all, Archie didn’t blink an eye. Gaping skin wound on his back leg? NO PROBLEM! He reacted like the Black Knight in “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” movie, the one who, with all his limbs hacked off, kept bouncing around threatening to continue the fight. I have not doubt that if you whacked his legs off, Archie would still roll down the breezeway at full speed, eyes bright, tongue lolling, racing Finn and Zuri, looking for BALL! SQUIRRELL! KITTY! And if you told him, “Hey, slow down, you don’t have any legs,” he look at me and say, “Ech, who needs legs. Let’s roll!”

Well, fast forward two years, and true to the tumor’s behavior, the lump had grown back so it was a toss up: remove or leave it in place. Given Archie’s age, it was a coin toss: leave it and hope it won’t die and suppurate and have to be removed when the dog is even older and more vulnerable to surgery, or take it off and gain a couple of more years. So, while the lump on his leg wasn’t bothering him, he had suddenly started limping and fussing with something between his front toes, which turned out to be another cancerous lump. But this one was open and hurting him. So, since the largest real cost and danger in surgery is anesthesia, especially in older dogs, we figured, in for a penny; in for a pound and had both removed while he was conked out.

Only this time, I had bought a large soft Elizabethan collar and had Archie wearing it for a few days to get used to it, hoping that would prevent him from reaching his stitches on both his leg and foot. It was a woeful Archie in his ridiculous Cone of Shame, but with praise and treats, he settled in and made the best of it. And I got busy whacking up bits of old clothes to make a sort of cobbled together pant-leg covering that would keep the wound area covered and, hopefully, inaccessible in case he was able to get past the soft cone.

As I knew would happen, when I picked him up at the vet’s office, he was raring to go, tail flashing, tongue out, revving up for a run. But after I got him home, gave him a dose of Medicam pain meds, rigged him up, it finally hit home: He hurt. He was very very tired. And after eating a bit, he crashed, down for the count all night.

Poor baby. Now, we’ll see how long all my preparations will last and whether he’ll go roaring off into creating a stitch/staple pulling big mess, which will likely not bother him in the least.

Free Basenji

A friend called last night to alert me to the fact that there was a tri-colored Basenji (black, brown, white, vs the more usual tan and white ) named Frodo and he’s looking for a good home on Craiglist (click on pets). He had been boarded at Creekside Kennels in Arroyo Grande when his owner died so with the help of the owner’s relatives, he’s staying there for now. The Creekside # is (805) 481-7711. He’s a 1 year old neutered, vaccinated male. Really cute. I alerted Basenji Rescue of Southern California, so if no one locally adopts him, he can always head south for re-homing. And I emailed Creekside to let them know if somebody locally adopts him and they’re not familiar with the breed, I’d be happy to meet with them and get them information and resources/advice on the breed. But, if you’re familiar with the breed and ever wanted to own a Basenji, here’s a good chance. He’s a really cute little guy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Maxine Lewis Christmas Fundraiser - Los Osos Style

This just in. Pat yourself on the back, Los Osos. And thanks to all the volunteers who made this event such a success.

It's official! The final total from the 5th Annual Needs 'N Wishes Holiday Fundraiser for the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter is $42,239.61. We just received the final check from the last item to be picked up from the silent auction.

A huge thank you to all who participated in this event. Whether it was your money, donated items, entertainment talent or the volunteer time you gave, we really appreciate you. And we couldn't have done it without all of you. The Shelter will put every penny of the total raised to very good use, as the need is greater than ever. And new this year, 20% of the funds raised are being set aside for building the new shelter.

We are already starting to work on next year's event. If you have some new ideas, want to donate items or have fun volunteering, just e-mail us at

And please mark your calendars for the 6th Annual Needs 'N Wishes Holiday Fundraiser right after the Los Osos Baywood Park Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade on December 10, 2011. It's the hot date in our cool town of Los Osos!

LOve Ya! Jerri, Richard, Peti, Carla and all our Special Volunteers

P.S. Start saving your coins to fill the big 5-gallon jugs!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Let The Chips Fall Where They May

Sunday I headed up to Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria ( with a friend to help with an ongoing project: decorating the sides and seats of a new amphitheatre.

Camp Ocean Pines is an amazing place, formerly (I think) a YMCA summer camp (you may know the sort of place from your childhood, if your childhood included church/scouting camps); wonderfully funky main hall/dining room, outlying cabins, all tucked into a huge stand of Cambria’s pines, all on a hill overlooking the ocean. The camp is open year round with troops of school kids arriving to learn all sorts of wonderful things, and the camp is also available to various organizations for retreats, gatherings & etc. One of which was a retreat for a great number of engineers who helped out putting the flagstones on the curved rows of seats in the new amphitheatre, which were now to be decorated with mosaics, marbles, broken pottery, tiles, ceramic knick-knacks.
Many of the volunteers had signed up for the three day (and night) event so by the time we got there on Sunday, most of the work had been done, but there was enough left to finish up. So it was grab the pastry bags of ThinSet and scrounge around in the trays of color-separated bits of bright tiles and broken ceramics, and enjoy the puzzle of trying to fit the shiny swag into the open spaces left between the flagstones. Which will be grouted and polished up to sparkle and shine with lovely, lovely results.

Camp Ocean Pines has ongoing projects of this sort and are always happy to get volunteers to help. (Years ago I had gone up with a friend to help build another amphitheatre near the main hall/dining room and was delighted to see it all finished and looking beautiful.) So, do yourself a favor and go to their website and sign up for their newsletter and keep a sharp eye open.

In addition to volunteer opportunities, the Camp is often hosting various kinds of classes and programs on a wide variety of subjects. (In this last newsletter, for example, a class in Chinese Brush Painting will be held there in Feb, & etc.) And, of course, if you have kids or know folks who do, you really need to get on their mailing lists to keep track of the wonderful programs and classes for kids (including one a few years ago on Native American bush-crafting, flint knapping, arrow-making, for example.)

In short, Camp Ocean Pines is another extraordinary Central Coast “family jewel.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

In 1903, on Coney Island, crowds gathered at Luna Park to witness the electrocution of Topsy, a circus elephant that had finally had enough and killed her trainer who had tormented her with lit cigarettes, among other abuses. Electrocuting an elephant was a novel experiment and the killing turned into a festive event and was filmed. If you have seen the historical footage you will never forget it. It is a perfect metaphor for man’s failed understanding of and relationship with the world.

This poem is by W.S. Merwin

The Chain To Her Leg

If we forget Topsy
Topsy remembers
when we forget her mother
gunned down in the forest
and forget who killed her
and to whom they sold
the tusks the feet the good parts
and how they died and where
and what became of their children
and what happened to the forest
Topsy remembers

when we forget how
the wires were fastened on her
for the experiment
the first time
and how she smoldered and
shuddered there
with them all watching
but did not die
when we forget
the lit cigarette
the last laugh gave her
lit end first
as though it were a peanut
the joke for which she
killed him
we will not see home again

when we forget the circus
the tickets to see her die
in the name of progress
and Edison and the electric chair
the mushroom cloud will go up
over the desert
where the West was won
the Enola Gay will take off
after the chaplain’s blessing
the smoke from the Black Mesa’s
power plants will be
visible from the moon
the forests will be gone
the extinctions will accelerate
the polar bears will float
farther and farther away
and off the edge of the world
that Topsy remembers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just Another Day

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for January 14, 10

The shooting was nothing special. Just another unbalanced, angry young man with a gun. A rapid-fire Glock-9 with a 30-round clip that can kill a great many people in a very short amount of time. In this case, six people, including a 9 year-old girl. Nothing special in a country awash with gun deaths.

Except for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. That was a bit unusual. But not enough to make a real change in how easy it is for unbalanced angry young men to get rapid-fire guns. This particular shooting took place in Arizona, the Tombstone state, a state with one of the most lax gun laws in the nation, a state where armed citizens no longer even need a permit to carry concealed weapons. And Arizona likes it that way. It has even proposed a law that would allow college students to carry weapons to school. And the Congresswoman herself had a Glock-9 and noted that she was “a pretty good shot.”

Since it was a Congresswoman who was shot, the talk turned immediately to the possibility that this unbalanced young man’s anger had been fueled by the angry political rhetoric sloshing around in our polarized, angry nation. Clips and sound bites of “reload,” and being “armed and ready,” “blood of patriots,” “the Second Amendment remedy,” “if ballots don’t work, bullets will,” and Sarah Palin’s now infamous web page showing gun-sight “targets” zeroing in on various contested congressional races, including the Arizona district where Congresswoman Giffords was running for election. Indeed, a few weeks before the shooting Ms. Giffords herself was on TV complaining about Ms. Palin’s “targets,” saying that rhetoric like that was likely to result in “consequences.”

For Congresswoman Giffords, it certainly may have. A bullet through the brain. And six dead.

But Americans love their toxic talk and both sides of the political spectrum got busy pointing fingers at the other, though by sheer sound-bite numbers, the right wing won that contest. You can’t beat TV clips of armed “tea-party” folks showing up at political rallies wearing weapons and carrying signs lauding blood-spilling “patriots.” And those targets on a map, about which, Palin’s spokespeople spent a great deal of time explaining they weren’t, uh, gun sights, no, they were just “target marks” like you would use on a survey map. Thereby illustrating that the Palin camp must think Americans are truly dumb because nobody with any sense was buying that story. Not from the Moose-shooting Mama with her own “reality” show featuring her blasting away at furry animals for her cook-pot. If a person knows what a gun sight looks like, it’s Palin.

So, no, it was a lock ‘n load gun sight and part of the “armed and dangerous” right-wing rhetorical meme: We’re angry, aggrieved and armed and we’re gonna target and take “our” country back from, well, all those people, and if we have to use bullets instead of ballots, so be it. But that didn’t stop our Sarah from going on Facebook to play the appalling inappropriate “blood libel” victim card in response to left wing finger pointing. Then everyone ran for cover, pretending they knew nothing about anything.

So that discussion will soon fade from the airwaves and it’ll be back to attack-dog business as usual. Toxic, poisonous, raging talk radio is both popular and highly profitable to the sponsors and stations that carry it, and to the stations’ corporate owners. Asking people like Limbaugh or Beck to “tone it down” might cut into the bottom line, so that won’t happen. Rage sells. Fear sells. And paranoia is the American Style.

Lost in much of the partisan rhetoric was the mentally unstable young man. Speaker of the House, John Boehner has stated that America has the finest health care in the world. But I suspect that the shooter, the unstable young man with voices in his head, found that in his America, his finest health care in the world likely didn’t cover treating mental illness. Few insurance policies do and state-run mental health facilities are under-funded, or broke and failing. This is in part because in finest-health-care-America, we have the odd notion that somehow the mentally ill “choose” to be mentally ill and while completely insane have the right to refuse treatment, have the right to live under bridges, and the right to starve in the streets while talking to non-existent people. And, of course, the right to buy guns.

So there it all was. The usual suspects. Guns. A toxic, angry culture. A mentally disturbed angry young man. Lousy mental health care. Nothing special. Nothing unusual. It was just another day in America. Nothing has changed and nothing will change.

Except for six people, including a 9 year- old girl.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Letter To The Santa Lucian

In the January edition of the Sierra Club’s “Santa Lucian,” editor Andrew Christie’s story, “A Tale of Two Sewers,” outlined the recent mini-train wreck in Morro Bay: Despite constant warnings that the Draft EIR on the proposed Morro Bay/Cayucos sewer treatment upgrade was seriously lacking and needed to go back to the drawing board since, as written, it couldn’t possibly get a Coastal Commission use permit. And, sure enough, “Then the hammer came down. On November 12, California Coastal Commission’s Central Coast District office staff sent a 12-page leter to Morro Bay Public Services Director Rob Livick, confirming and expanding on every one of those fatal falws and more, in extensive detail, and citing numberous environmental impacts requiring greter analysis of alternatives and ignored by the EIR. “

“How could something like this happen?” asked, Christie, who concluded “Only one reason: failure of leadership. The elected officials of Morro Bay and Cayucos essentially ceded their role as decision makers. Instead of giving clear direction, the City Council majority bowed to staff, and staff was wedded to the project they had proposed. Despite the urging of hundreds of citizens, environmental advocates, and councilmembers Betty Winholtz, and Noah Smukler, over years of public meetings, the majority of Cayucos and Morro Bay elected officials refused to instruct staff to give full consideration to project alternatives.”

And then goes on to note, “In 2009, almost exactly the same thing happened to the Los Osos sewer, when County staff were in our-way-or-the-highway mode.”

Yup. Déjà vu, hence my letter to the editor:

Dear Sir:

I read Andrew Christie's "A Tale of Two Sewers" with sad dismay. As a close observer of the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Wars, I had hopes that poor Morro Bay would not roar off the same cliff. But apparently, there is some kind of blockheadedness that sets in on these huge public works projects. Penny wise and pound foolish, instead of heeding the red flags thrown down on the tracks and the warning signs being frantically waved by members of the public that the train track is heading for a cliff, staff and elected officials start shoveling more coal into the firebox so the train can fly off that very expensive cliff even faster.

For years, many Los Ososians who had devoted enormous time keeping tabs on and offering competent, fact-based and serious warnings about the many permutations of The Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project were deliberately mischaracterized, disparaged and dismissed as "anti-sewer obstructionists," or "sewer crazies," or mere disgruntled cranks, which made it easy to dismiss their comments, many of which turned out to be all too correct. So I can't help but wonder if the false mischaracterization of public commenters in Los Osos has carried over to Morro Bay. After all, why should staff or elected officials or anybody listen to a bunch of "sewer crazies" and "anti-sewer obstructionists?"

And so another train heads off another cliff, because nobody learned anything. Sigh.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday Brunch

For days, rain. And cold. And fierce dark winds. Then suddenly a patch of warm sun and a hungry hummer stops by for a sweet snack of sugar syrup.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Shut Up. NO! Sit Down. NO!

Oh, dear, Adam Hill, who’s now taking a turn as being Chairman of the BOS is apparently about to illustrate one definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. As the Tribune notes, he is asking “ . . . that people be civil and courteous and focus on the issue at hand.” He also “asked speakers to steer clear of personal attacks, rants, threats and slander, adding, ‘I’m not going to tolerate that kind of boorish behavior.”

Let me guess. He was addressing his remarks at people from Los Osos who regularly comment at BOS meetings? Well, good luck with that. As the Tribune reports, Richard Margetson, (who, I believe is actually from Morro Bay? Cayucos? not Los Osos,) once again, (as he had done with Hill’s predecessors who tried the same “civility” speech,) warned Hill to read the Brown Act. Said Margetson,” You really cannot control what’s said.” Added Los Ososian Leon Goldin, “You’re going down the road to all kinds of controversy.”

Ah, waltz me around again, Willie. Dat ol’ Brown Act. Alas. A thorn in every elected official’s side. What the bleep do we do about the bleeping public during public comment? Can’t shut ‘em up. Can’t really censor much of what they say since you’ve got to define all kinds of grey areas that defy definition. How is a strongly held opinion about some issue different from a “rant.” Besides, of course, the old standby: What I have to say is a strongly held opinion. What you have to say, is a rant!

And for the “regular Los Osos speakers,” Hill says they see themselves as victims.

Uh, yeah? I suspect some of these people will be losing their homes because of the Hideous Sewer Project. So, I think the word “victim” pretty well sums that situation up. And considering the, uh, very interesting way this whole “Process” was played then manipulated, the word “angry” certainly comes to mind. So we have a group of Los Ososians who are angry victims who, under the Brown Act, have the right to public comment.

And Hill is asking for “civility?” Let me suggest a different tack. Why not have the Supervisors, instead of sitting stone faced, actually acknowledge a speaker who gets up there and says, “We’re going to lose our home. What do we do?” and answer honestly: “We chose to ignore the promised Design/Build that might have come up with a less expensive system. What we chose and voted on instead, despite all of your “uncivil” pleadings, will likely put a good number of Los Ososians, like yourselves, out of their homes. We don’t know what you should do. We have no answers for you. It’s not our problem any more. We certainly will have staff keep trying to find whatever financial help is out there, and hope for the best. We are very sorry for your troubles, but we can do nothing for you and now it’s time for us to move on. Goodbye and good luck to you.”

Then do what was tried in the past: Set aside a small amount of time, maybe once a week (month?) specifically agendized for Los Osos Sewer Stuff, then if anyone speaks to L.O.S.S. at any other time, they can be hushed up and told to come back at the proper time for that topic.

Other than that, Brown Act still rules and defining “disruption” and ordering ejection via Sheriff will remain a politically tricky option.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Alice in Wonderland, Part HUH?

Some of the Sewer Addicted ankle-chewers who log onto this site and chew, have made it clear to me that they may have missed some important info in the PZLDF case.

A few:
1. PZLDF was originally founded by CDO recipients, among others, who were parties to the lawsuit. The lawsuit was and is and remains an effort on the part of some of the randomly singled out homeowners to protect their civil rights, property rights and constitutional rights from an illegal taking/abuse of process. It has nothing to do with sewer tanks or sewers. It has to do with fines and jail time hanging over these 45 heads (while ignoring all the other homes in the PZ.)

2. If memory serves, and please correct me if I've got this out of order, but the CSD had several CDOs of their own. (Firehouse, Vista de Oro, Bay Ridge Estates) For the ACL heaing, the CSD originally hired Steve Onstott to look out for the district's CDO's on the first Mad Hatter "Trial." During the second Mad Hatter Trial (which resulted when they had to stop and start all over again) Mr. Seitz (CSD attorney) successfully argued that the CSD had no assets the RWQCB could tap into (legally) and slyly noted that the CSD actually IS the People and the People ARE the CSD, hint-hint.  After the ACL hearing, the RWQCB took Mr. Seitz "hint" and then issued their randomly targeted 45 CDO's (Thanks, Seitz).  The RWQCB suggested that  the LOCSD  join the 45 as an “interested party” when they issued the CDO’s to the randomly targeted Los Osos 45 since the 45 were going to be relying on testimony and material already submitted in the ACL hearing, thereby mingling cases and incorporating by reference & etc. I beleive Shaunna and Seitz were the attorneys of record during the second co-mingled Mad Hatter Tea Party “Trial,”  so the 45 and the CSD did have a common interest. At some point after the second Mad Hatter “Trial,”  and after the CSD voted to continue to defend the CDOs in a "real court," (theirs and the 45, which were interwtined), Mr. Seitz severed the CSD’s role as an “interested party” in the lawsuit, while Shauna Sullivan continued on her own to represent the remaining Los Osos 45 who were involved in the suit.

3. The current lawsuit, in which Shaunna is still the attorney of record, is an appeal of the RWQCB actions and decisions. The appeal is confined to arguing only what the prosecution team asserted in the case. This included the RWQCB documents such as resolution 83-13, which is how that issue came into the case. So, while this case has nothing to do with sewers, the reason for all of this goes back to the original 83-13 and the various “findings” and all the other weirdness that 83-13 resolution contained. (For utterly bizarre weirdness, you can’t beat this: Slapping a moratorium on a town claiming that you have evidence that high nitrates in the groundwater are caused by septic tanks. THEN immediately allowing the building of 1,100 MORE homes with septic tanks that will, as you claim, pollute the groundwater with nitrates. You do not “fix” a nitrate problem by ADDING MORE nitrate producers. Then later claim that only 45 people are now suddenly “guilty of” polluting the groundwater when it was your regulatory body that allowed those additional homes &; etc.)

4. The insanity of so much of what the RWQCB asserts has, so far as I can see, gone unanswered by a “real” court of law, including Judge Crandall. And it’s possible that, as I noted in my previous post, looney, left-hand-doesn’t-know-what-right-hand is doing regulatory statutes may trump constitutional guarantees of due process and basic common sense.

For example, one funny (unless you’re one of the 45) outcome in the CDO: The moment The Los Osos 45 hook up to the county sewer, they are in immediate violation of their CDO. The CDO forbids any “discharge” of wastewater/pollution/etc. into the PZ. The County sewer will be “discharging” waste into the PZ. Catch 22: hook up to the sewer, violate the terms of your CDO. Also, the CDO forbids “discharge” of anything, even clean water, so this ban violates the community’s need to recharge the water basin as mandated by laws and regulations adopted since 83-13. More Catch 22.

And, while the RWQCB blandly claims that criminal prosecution and fines are not “likely consequences,” they never explain why are they in the CDO order? Plus, more Catch 22, if these CDO’s are not challenged now, they will not be challengeable if and when criminal actions/ penalties are sought. It’s the old game of: You have to wait until actual harm comes to you and when it does, it’s too late to file your suit since the window has closed. Ha-ha.

Which is another question a “real” court needs to answer. Is it a violation of basic civil rights and constitutional guarantees to create regulations that trap citizens in legal Catch 22’s with NO way to defend themselves or their homes?

While the Razor/Rock posted their personal take on Judge Crandall’s ruling, (while veering off on some irrelevant personal ankle chewing) many of their comments lead me to believe they are unfamiliar with the case as a whole. And, of course, neither R/R are attorneys, so I fully understand someone non-lawyerish not understanding the case as a whole since it’s incredibly complex, been through two judges, whole parts have been tossed out (with no appeal possible until the final ruling), so sorting through what’s left and what really needs to be appealed, is a real tangle.

Plus, since the case is wrongly but constantly reported in the press as being portrayed as sewerish and septic tankish, it’s easy to forget the narrow, non-sewerish issues that actually are being brought to a “real” court. And so it’s simple to veer off into irrelevant issues.

I have no idea if The Los Osos 45 who are party to this suit will file an appeal. As an original non-CDO part of this case, Judge La Barbara removed me from the case long, long ago. (Only actual CDO holders were allowed to proceed.) So, that decision is certainly not mine to make. But, personally, I rather hope they do since the unresolved issues raised in this case are going to show up again throughout the state in the future. And, if they decide not to proceed, I’ll understand that also.

I have said before and I’ll say again: What the RWQCB did to these 45 people was wrong. The reason for doing it (electioneering, coercion) was wrong. The abusive, Mad Hatter, Catch 22 nature of the regulations was (and is) both looney and wrong. And, if it stands, then everyone in the state of California will be Los Osos 45ers. And that will still be wrong.

Oh, and fair warning to some of the more out of control ankle-chewers who comment on this blog. Mother Calhoun and her little trash can icon are watching you.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Alice in Wonderland, Part Duh

The Razor weighs in on the PZLDF case.  According to the Tribune story, it's not known whether an appeal will be filed.  The Rasor opines that Judge Crandall's ruling could ease the way for more "zones."  I wrote some time ago, after the RWQCB's "stealth" state-wide septic tank update, "We're ALL Los Osos now."  Indeed. And what makes that so fascinating is, according to Judge Crandall, a regulatory assertion (not evidence) now trumps constitutional presumption of innocence and/or even "evidence." Which is fascinating. Some of the ankle-chewers who are addicted to this blogsite, have always mistaken this case with "the sewer."  It never was about sewering; it was always about legal rights, property rights, civil protections from regulatory abuse, and checks and balance in law and regulation.  THAT was what was critical in this case.  And if that goes unchallenged, the statement that we are all Los Osos now will become the standard under law. And that is deadly serious. 

Sunday, 02 January 2011 17:49

Failed Citizens for Clean Water/PZLDF Suit Boosts ‘Prohibition Zones’ Statewide

The consequences of the flimsy suit that sought to repeal CDOs targeting a random group of Los Osos homeowners could ease the way for more "zones" prohibiting septic system discharge. The judge’s ruling calls into question the quality and substance of CCW/PZLDF’s case against the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

» Read Article

Legal Analysis: PZLDF Suit a Colossal Disaster

On December 28, San Luis Obispo County Judge Charles S. Crandall issued his ruling of the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund v. Regional Water Quality Control Board -- and it was bad news for the Gail McPherson-led group. The judge found that the Regional Water Quality Control Board provided sufficient evidence to validate the Cease and Desist orders (CDOs) that were delivered to 45 individuals in January 2006. The judge relied heavily on 14,000 pages of documentation provided by the Regional Water Board including Resolution 83-13, which prohibited septic tank discharges within the Los Osos Prohibition Zone. And what did the petitioners -- whose burden was to prove their case with the preponderance of evidence -- provide the court?

If you believe the judge, next to nothing.

Click here to read more!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This is Thomas Lux, from his new book of poetry, “God Particles.” He’s a new poet to me, sharp, funny, fierce and I look forward to getting acquainted with his work.

The General Law of Oblivion,

Mr. Proust called it; the beloved gone so long
you forget what he/she looks like,
no matter portraits, photos, or memory,
which is the best tool for forgetting.
Though one cannot deny
its genius, Mr. Proust’s prose
kills me, it loops
me over and out. Is it just French novelists
who don’t know how to end
a sentence and so love the semicolon (“ the period
that leaks”) they can’t write two lines
without one? And I am so goddamned tired
of hearing about that cookie!
As if he were the first (first fish were!) to notice
the powers of the olfactory! But
about the General Law of Oblivion
he had it zeroed” “It breaks my heart
that I am gong to forget you,” he said
in a last letter to a friend.
The length and music of that sentence
is perfect, in English or in French.