Saturday, September 27, 2014

Not Little, But Too Late

Calhoun's Can(n)s for Sept 27, 2014

There's never a wrong time to do the right thing.

Former RWQCB Chairman, Jeffery Young, wasn't man enough to show up.  He left it to Vice Chair,  Dr. Monica Hunter,  to do the right thing:  Vote (which was unanimous) to rescind 45 CDO's and APOLOGIZE to The Los Osos 45 and to the community for the cruel and pointlessly ridiculous "Mad Hatter Tea Party and Torequemada's Auto de Fe Trial," inflicted on them by the previous Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Dr. Hunter had recused herself when the mad "trial" was underway because she lives in Los Osos and so had a conflict of interest on that proceeding.  Which was a shame because she alone apparently knew what the rest of that Board refused to know:  They had  swallowed a false Kool-Aid narrative about the community, carefully fed to them by the former Chief of Staff, a furious, incompetent and equally uninformed Roger Briggs, and his clockwork second-in-command, Harvey Packard.  This false narrative was that Los Osos was some kind of Dogpatch filled with urine-swilling "Anti-Sewer Obstructionist" scofflaws.

Naturally, urine-swilling scofflaws, whose only sin was voting to move a sewer plant out of town, needed punishment in order to bring them to heel.  And what better way to do that than singling out 45 hapless residents, very publicly slap a Cease and Desist Order on their homes, put them through a ridiculous "trial," threaten their homes, and disrupt their lives, in a little piece of illegal electioneering which would, as then-Chairman Young brazenly put it from the dais, get the community to "vote the right way." 

The Mad Hatter Trials were reported on here and the whole sewer debacle thoroughly documented on Ron Crawford's blog at so there's no need to rehash the insanity.  Except to note how these unfair CDOs on only 45 people serves as a window into how looney the Regional Board's policies and procedures had become.

Unlike everyone else in the PZ, The Los Osos 45 were required to pay big bucks to inspect and pump their tanks every three years (despite expert testimony that unnecessary pumping made wastewater discharges worse, not better, and despite the fact that nobody else in town had a similar burden.), send that report to the Board and notify the Board if the property was sold. So, clearly the Board was trying to make some sort of vague "scientific" connection between "water quality" and pumping and inspecting a septic tank on a piece of property that would justify that CDO.

But here's the kicker. The CDO's were put on an individual, not on the property.  If a CDO recipient sells their house, the CDO goes away.  Poof!  A new family moves in.  Same house, same tank, same leach field, same discharge, but no CDO, no expensive pumping, no reporting, nothing.

This, of course, is pointless incompetent bureaucracy run amok.  And has been the operating methods of the Regional Board from day one.  Under Chairman Young's leadership, the Board chose to ignore science, ignore practical reason, ignore common sense and instead allowed frustration, anger, misinformation and their own incompetence and ignorance to lead them into a farce  -- "The Mad Hatter Tea Party Trial" -- a piece of lunacy that would have been genuinely funny had not the consequences to 45 real people and the community been so wasteful and so harmful.

And now, here it was, the final chapter in this epic piece of embarrassment and ex-chairman Young didn't have the guts to even show up.  But Dr. Hunter did and she alone had the courage and decency to acknowledge and apologize to those 45 and to the community as a whole.  The apology was too late, but it was no small thing.

Except to our newspaper of record.  Two days after the meeting the Tribune carried not one word about the vote, or about the apology.  Nothing. Not a surprise, seeing as how they, like the Board, had already swallowed that same false narrative about Los Osos and became water-carriers for the Board.  And  now, when the community finally received an apology --an acknowledgement by the Vice Chair that The 45 and the community had been  wronged by the Water Board -- the community won't read about it in the Tribune.

While deliberately blinding yourself, silencing your critics and burying your mistakes is par for the course for bureaucrats and Boards, for a newspaper, it's inexcusable.

So, congratulations to The Los Osos 45.  While the community (and the Tribune) have forgotten you, Dr. Hunter did not.  While the apology was too late in coming, it did finally arrive and that in itself is no small thing.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Get a Room

This odd Arroyo Grande controversy involing City Manager Steve Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish continues to show up on the front page.  The initial story appeared to involve some sort of July 3rd late night canoodling uncovered by A.G. Police when Ms. McClish's husband became concerned about her whereabouts.  The cops showed up at City Hall, saw her car there, entered the darkened premise to look around, thinking maybe she might be ill or in trouble, and found Adams and McClish om Adams' office. apparently in some sort of state of dishabile. 

The two of them claimed they were just sobering up so they were "safe to drive home," and scurried out the door.  The Police wrote up a report.  And then the you know what hit the headlines and hit the fan.  The AG city council said, "Nevermind," which ticked off the Police who thought they were being dissed and wrongly painted as a bunch of unreliable Nosey Parkers, and everyone started demanding an "investigation," which promptly went off the rails because of the old Fox and Henhouse problem and the Police Officers Association and their supporters showed up at a recent meeting to demand that this "investigation" be "completely public so that everyone can determine for themselves what the truth is."

Well, o.k.  We're four-square in favor of "truth," but here's my question so far on all this:  The Tribune reports that Adams and McClish "had a few drinks at two restaurants in the Village that night and were talking in Adam's office to ensure they were safe to drive home."

If these two didn't feel safe to drive home, how did they get from restaurant A to restaurant B to City Hall?


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Red Bounty

Such a generous grapevine.  The Roger’s Red is the first harbinger of spring, its soft green buds promising the end of winter.  And all summer long, its massed  leaves – perfectly formed, stereotypical-looking “grape leaf” leaves – form a cascade of greenery that simply  shouts “summer day.”

Grapevine, front porch, sun through 002

Then in fall, that perfect green waterfall of leaves turns into a glorious wall of fire – their last blazing gift before winter dark.

Over the years, as they grew and matured, I would notice little dried up sprigs of grapes here and there and thought, since they’re supposed to be a native, their fruiting was sparse and inedible. So I paid them no mind.

Then this year, while poking  around , head under the tumbling leaves and vines doing a little pruning, I was shocked to see this, lots and lots of this:


 So it was grab a bucket time, call a friend and together we harvested 4-6 of these:


And since the grapes are quite small and mostly skin and seed, utilizing all that surprise bounty meant this:


Some washing, some prep time snipping and sorting and out came this:

Intense.  Very, very intense.  And tart.  Very tart. Even cut with water, well, it was a rich-on-the-tongue vintage year indeed.  To your good health.  L’chaim!

Thank you Mr. Red. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adventures in Modern Dentistry!

One of the benefits of being a certain age is you can really appreciate changes you've seen in the long span of your own life.  Take dentistry, for example.  People of a certain age are likely to have been so traumatized as children by their often hideous experiences in the dentist's chair -- in my case, drills that ran on wheels and a pulley that felt like it was being powered by hamsters -- that even the mention of the word "dentist" would send them diving under the bed in terror. Even a relatively short  time ago, getting a crown was a messy, multi-visit piece of awfulness involving drool and spit and bone-rattling drilling.  

Well, no more. A few days ago, I had to go get two crowns and a root canal to save my poor 50+ year-old wisdom tooth. I was dreading the day because throughout my life every time anyone used the word "root canal," the response was a ghastly scream and a shudder.  But  I was delightedly dumbfounded to learn how far dentistry has come in just a few years.  My local Los Osos dentist, Dr. Duffy DeGraw, took over from my (retired) dentist and he's a young whippersnapper out of school with all the latest up-to-date learning, technical know-how and a sincere commitment to keep the patient pain-free and comfortable, right down to asking you what kind of music you want to listen to during the procedure. (They weren't offering a small glass of fine wine, but I suspect that'll be next. ) 

So, I'm laying there midway through all the high-speed whizz-banging and I feel them sticking some kind of something into my mouth and hear a rapid tick-tick-tick-tick.  Puzzled, I ask what's going on and sit up to see  Dr. Duffy working on an odd-looking machine with a flat screen on top, and on the screen was a 3-D topographical map of my jaw and teeth in all their weird computer-generated glory.  (Creepy, too, because my disembodied jaw on the screen resembled some sort of prehistoric Megalosaur's choppers.)  

The tick-tick-tick was the laser "reading" the topography of my teeth and jaw, which it then  generated into the 3-D teeth image (which could be turned every way but loose on the screen.)  Dr. Duffy then proceeded to make various marks on the screen, outlining the perimeters he wanted, then, basically, hit the "print" button.

He asked if I wanted to go see what happens next, so I scampered into the lab room.  There, a machine was set to go.  Between two very small drills was a block of porcelain.  The drills started spinning, zeeeet-zeeeet-zeeet,  amidst cooling water jets, drilling out and forming a perfectly carved out porcelain "crown." First one was cut free and fell with a plop into the catch-bin.  Then it was ready for a new cube for a new crown. .

With a bit of trying on, the crowns were then heat-annealed to full hardness, then dropped down on my teeth, glued in place, and out the door I went. 2 1/2 hours start to finish. 

And the only pain involved was to my bank account. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

That Day. This Day

Calhoun's Cannons For Sept 11, 2014

It is difficult at times to repress the thought that history is about as instructive as an abattoir.
                                      Seamus Heaney

This day, the airwaves are flooded with September 11th remembrances -- all those endless tape loops of planes and buildings and dust and chaos.  And death.  So much death.

I don't plan on watching any of the specials.  Nothing new there.  Just heartache and sadness, the old wounds. On  the TV news, the twin towers will fall again and again, each rerun more awful than the other.  The Falling Man, that horrifying signature photograph of a man who jumped from the burning heights, will still remain halfway between sky and earth  -- Schrodinger's cat in a business suit, permanently existing and not existing.  There is no saving him.  The script cannot be rewritten, the film unspooled. He will fall forever.

A day after that day, while the TV news was still filled with scenes of unbearable ugliness, without really being conscious of what I was doing, I went out and bought a wine-barrel planter and some flowers.  It was rather silly, this thought that the horror in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington DC, could be countered in any way by some petunias.  But there it was.  The need to put something of beauty, something living, into the ground.

Locally, Mr. Tutt must have felt a similar urge because within hours of the onslaught his huge crane appeared on the corner of Los Osos Valley Road and South Bay Blvd, a giant American flag waving  on the top of the crane's arm.  And on the truck itself, as if by magic, local citizens, driven as I was to somehow reclaim something living, something renewing, had started putting vases of flowers on the truck-bed of this touching, home-grown memorial shrine. 

But no amount of flowers could begin to counter the darkness that was unleashed on that bright blue day.  The stain of an unnecessary war upon a region already cracking apart from barely contained sectarian violence, state-sanctioned torture, murder, destruction, death;  the absolute worst human nature has to offer.  Osama had opened the box and the insanity was unleashed. Celebrated.  Reveled in.  A world gone mad. 

And so it remains today. Lessons unlearned.  Hard to disagree with Seamus: The world as an abattoir. Countless dead, all that pain and loss, and for what?  A new skyscraper pierces the heavens where the ghost of the Twin Towers stands: Business as usual.  Osama bin Laden is gone, his cerebral dreams of a pristine, purified caliphate degenerated into a sadistic British thug done up as a badass rapping Ninja Warrior holding a bloody knife in one hand, a reporter's head in the other.   You-Tube Jihad.   

Muhammad himself would weep in shame.

So on this day, no re-runs for me, thank you.  The past is irredeemable.  And, anyway, we have far sadder things to focus on.  As I sit typing this, the radio news has announced the latest U.N. report that the world's CO2 numbers are now well past the no-return, tipping-point numbers. 

Which means on this day, the dire consequences of global warming are now unstoppable.  Locked, and loaded, they have targeted all of us.  Ignoring science and dismissing our future, we have flown our own planes into our own Twin Towers.

It is a supreme irony.  Now, like The Falling Man, we are all Schrodinger's Cat.  And no amount of petunias in wine-barrel planters or crane trucks with flags and flowers will save us and our children from what's coming.


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Flower City

Blowsy.  Seriously, that’s the dahlia for you.  Overdone, overwrought, seriously overdressed.  But spectacular.


Except the smaller versions which can be prim Miss Priss, especially served up as single-serve blooms delicately scattered on a table. Then they’re all Miss Manners.


Morro Bay celebrates its 50th Anniversary as a City this year and also was  celebrating its city flower, the Dahlia, with a Dahlia Daze event at the community center.  There was a dahlia exhibition, contest, sale, lectures.

Including a most informative one on the issue of Monarch Butterflies and milkweed.  Throughout the butterflies migration paths, the only source of food for their larva, the milkweed, is being killed off by pesticides and loss of habitat.  And, no milkweed, no Monarchs.  So farmers and ranchers are being encouraged to plant milkweed throughout their property and in fallow areas alongside their crops.  Homeowners are also encouraged to do the same.

Except if you happen to live in the narrow coastal strip.  In that microclimate, planting milkweed to help the Monarchs is counterproductive.  According to Peggy Coon of the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, planting milkweed along the coastal strip lures Monarch to lay eggs on the plant.  Then, after the larva hatch and are happily munching, the coastal cool weather causes the plant to die back before the Monarch larvae have gone into their chrysalis mode.  So the poor larvae, lured to a bad neighborhood by well-meaning humans, starve to death.

So, if you live in Los Osos, ixnay on the milkweed. But, you are encouraged to fill your garden with all sorts of winter-blooming flowers for the Monarchs to sip nectar from.  Lantana is a good choice since those plants are both drought tolerant and loaded with flowers for butterflies.

But, if you live in San Luis Obispo, (Or over the hills in Paso) plant all the milkweed you like.  Milkweed thrives in that hotter, drier environment. So you get to plant both milkweed and winter-blooming flowers.

Then everyone can head down to the Pismo Butterfly Grove when opens daily October 31st through February 26 to host these spectacular (and threatened) butterflies. Or Morro Bay State Park’s eucalyptus groves or Hazard Canyon in Los Osos. 

Dahlia’s, on the other hand, clearly like the coastal cool. Makes ‘em run amok. Like your Aunt Sadie after one too many gin and tonics on a New Year’s eve.