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Mendocino County Today: April 22, 2013

GoldenShoreTHE GOLDEN SHORE, by David Helvarg is subtitled “California's Love Affair with the Sea.” This is an informal and very interesting history of the state examined from its shoreline development. If a large slice of Mendo residents think the Willits Bypass is a bad idea, Helvarg reminds us that CalTrans had “megaplans for the shoreline region” which “included a series of four-line freeways or ‘laterals,’ that were supposed to connect 101 to an expanded four-lane Route 1 on the coast and facilitate its development. Water would be piped in from dams on the Mattole, Eel, Trinity, Klamath, and Smith rivers of Northern California, and cheap abundant power provided by a ‘super system’ of dozens of coastal nuclear power plants according to PG&E company projections.” The lunatics of CalTrans and PG&E thought this was a swell idea as late as 1962. Helvarg's book is chock-a-block with fascinating historical reminders like this one.

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MAJOR PROSE PROB with the first installment of this year's grand jury report, as in, “This lack of transparency indicates to the GJ, reluctance by some or all county administrative management to elevate and legitimize workplace sustainability into an actionable priority.”

HR-GJ-HeadTHEY'RE TALKING about Human Resources, formerly known as Personnel. You know, the people who do the hiring for the County, which is mysterious indeed, especially at the higher pay levels of local government where it's obvious a lavender-oriented bias is at work.

BUT THIS THING rumbles on in endless management cliches that don't say anything at all:

“Recommendations:

R1. The CEO and BOS allocate budget and staff to design and implement recruiting and training/staff development functions within the HR department. Summaries of progress should be reported to the BOS in the CEO’s report.

R2. The CEO and BOS create a line item in the budget and fund the initiation of the leadership development and succession planning program.

R3. The CEO and BOS officially request in next year’s budget instructions that training budgets across the County be zero based and non- fungible.

R4. The CEO issue a letter of instruction to the new HR department head to initiate a feasibility study on streamlining the two recruiting systems into a single compliant system.”

PATHETIC. If their other reports on other departments and agencies are written like this the affected departments will ignore the whole works. Which is what they do anyway most years because the jive judges who appoint the grand jury don't put any muscle into these things in the way of next-step subpoenas and indictments. It took three successive grand juries saying that supervisors Smith and Colfax were stealing, but nothing was done until Eyster finally told Smith (Colfax had already retired) he'd prosecute her if she didn't pay the money back.

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Muybridge, Stanford
Muybridge, Stanford

RECOMMENDED READING: “The Inventor and the Tycoon” by Edward Ball, “a gilded age murder and the birth of moving pictures.” Some of you may recognize Mr. Ball, a Southerner, as the author of the fascinating “Slaves in the Family,” an account of his slave-holding ancestors and his present-day black relatives, relatives who understandably were often less than welcoming when Ball came looking for them. In "The Inventor and the Tycoon," Ball describes the unique career trajectories and subsequent friendship of Leland Stanford and Eadweard Muybridge, as improbable a friendship as one could imagine pegged to Stanford's odd obsession that wondered if all four hooves of a galloping horse left the ground at the same time. Stanford recruited Muybridge to find out. The English immigrant invented moving pictures, but most of us know him from his photographs of early San Francisco. What many of us didn't know, me anyway, is that Muybridge murdered a man, his wife's lover. She was much younger than Mr. M, an ascetic and all-round eccentric, but he was a prosperous eccentric of interest to a girl from an impoverished background. When Muybridge learned of the relationship, which produced a a male child, Muybridge tracked the young man to the hills above Napa and shot him to death. Quite interesting as a portrait of Northern California in the years between 1860 and the Great Earthquake of 1906.

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THE GREAT MENDOCINO COUNTY distance runner, Jim Gibbons, didn't know of any Mendo runners in this year's catastrophic Boston Marathon, but he does remember the most famous one before the terrible events of Monday:

I ran it back in 1980, the year Rosie Ruiz jumped in around the 25 mile mark and "finished" in 2:30-something...when I finished (2:52) she was up on a platform next to the male winner, Bill Rodgers, both with the traditional olive wreath on their heads, while other runners were saying, "Who the hell is Rosie Ruiz?" No one had heard of her, and as one runner said to me, "She's got cellulite on her thighs, there's no way she ran all 26.2 miles!" A reporter asked her if she did intervals and she replied, "What are intervals?" A Canadian named Jackie Gareau was the real female winner. I wrote about it years ago and would have to look into my files for more info, but up until this year's horrific bombing, 1980 was the Boston runners always remember.

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ZEN DILEMMAS

Nonattachment, Saving the Earth, and Solidarity. My warmest Sunday greetings to all, I just spent a mindful day at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, followed by a trip to North Beach ending up with Buddhist chants at the Gold Mountain Monastery in Chinatown. Master Hsuan Hwa founded this monastery, he who wisely advised, “Do not be attached to anything at all.” I am emotionally suffering due to my intensity and insistence of returning to Washington DC, in order to bring the metaphysical aspect into the radical environmental and peace & justice dissent effort there. I have until May 1st, when my stay at the St. Mary's Senior Shelter ends, and I do not now have adequate money to finance a beltway goddess-on-a-flatbed-truck action in DC. Also, nobody has emailed me to say that they are enthusiastic about doing this. Frankly, I am not receiving any messages from anyone at all that are encouraging in regard to my being in D.C. again; unless I arrive with money, and can support myself fully, in which case I am welcome to protest anything that I like as much as I care to in Washington D.C. Therefore, I spent today concentrating on NOT being attached to the thinking mind! Perhaps this ought to be my primary focus for the future. I feel very weird about all of this, particularly refocusing away from environmental and peace & justice concerns, but I see no way to continue participating in an activist direction, given that I am receiving no cooperation/solidarity of any significance from the left wing in the USA, and I presently lack sufficient money to make anything happen action-wise on my own. Maybe this is all for the best, Craig Louis Stehr. Email: craigstehr@hushmail.com Mailing address: c/o NOSCW, PO Box 11406, Berkeley, CA 94712-2406 Blog: http://craiglstehr.blogspot.com

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CAN’T TOUCH THIS

Editor,

Wow, yesterday was truly one of those days that makes me feel so incredibly lucky to live here in Ukiah, Mendocino County, California.

While back in Boston, most of the city was locked down as the police dragnet closed in around the surviving young Chechen bomber, those of us who were fortunate enough to have tuned into our very own listener-supported radio station, KZYX, were treated to a Ted talk where several brilliant, thought-provoking speakers explored the idea and the meaning of beauty; how it is defined in some cultures, how it is experienced by our consciousness, just a wonderful bunch of thoughts about what we mean when we think of 'beauty', perhaps the most important human value of all.

As I parked downtown later in the day, meeting friends for dinner, the Boston PD announcement that they had taken that kid, alive, into custody was great news; two of my brothers live in Boston, and one had just been right where the bombs went off 1/2 an hour earlier.

Then, later in the evening, our little town produced a packed house at that lovingly maintained, priceless civic asset, the Saturday Afternoon Club, to hear the truly beautiful musical collaboration of Jenna Mammina and Alex De Grassi; her luscious, inventive, powerful voice harmonizing so sweetly with his brilliantly improvisational, virtuoso guitar work. It was as if the one hour lecture about beauty earlier in the day was being laid out in a demonstration project for us all to feel, see, hear and say, “ahhh” to.

SACUkiah may have its challenges, but on a day like yesterday, is there anywhere in the world that can really beat our humble little burg as a soul-satisfying social and cultural Mecca? Certainly not from this particular entity's point of view. Could there possibly be a better place for a human being to live? I don't think so.

Sincerely, John Arteaga, Ukiah

Ed reply: Boonville, where every day's a holiday, every meal's a banquet.

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OUR PHI THETA KAPPA GROUP at College of the Redwoods-Fort Bragg has decided to gather people for a protest on May 4th from 11-1pm. The protest will be addressing the many cuts that have been made at CR as well as the recent decision to use CR space as rental property for different private schools in the area. We are deeply concerned about the future of CR and the fact that all of the efforts from Eureka to eliminate the Mendocino campus have been met with such little resistance from the community. At this point we are planning to stand along the west side of Highway 1 at the intersection by CR and Harvest Market. Please come join us, and let me know if you have any ideas or would like to partake in any way. — Anya Jindrich, anyajindrich@hotmail.com

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POT BUSINESS SUFFERS GROWING PAINS

By Ana Campoy

DENVER—Like any farmer, Elliott Klug understands the highs and lows of living off the land. But his crop requires a rigorous effort.

To keep output going, it is harvested every week. It is also grown only indoors. And though you won't find this tip in the Farmer's Almanac, his workers believe that blaring Grateful Dead songs boosts productivity.

"We were the bad guys," says Mr. Klug, chief executive of Pink House Blooms, a 70-person operation that produces and sells marijuana to people who have a prescription for it. "Now we are still the bad guys, but we pay taxes."

Across the country, the business of growing pot is fast becoming mainstream. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have approved the use and production of marijuana for medicinal use, including two states, Colorado and Washington, that also allow recreational use. That has spurred on a cottage industry of professional growers, with an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 businesses now producing the plant for legal purposes. Total sales: $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion last year, according to the National Cannabis Industry Association

But it turns out that trying to make a profit in this business is harder than expected. When grown and sold legally, marijuana can be an expensive proposition, with high startup costs, a host of operational headaches and state regulations that a beet farmer could never imagine. In Colorado, for example, managers must submit to background checks that include revealing tattoos. The state also requires cameras in every room that has plants; Mr. Klug relies on 48 of them.

Prices for pot, meanwhile, have plummeted, in large part because of growing competition. And bank financing is out of the question: Federal law doesn't allow these businesses, and agents sometimes raid growers even in states where it is legal.

Still, a hearty group of weed producers are coming out of the woodwork—or their basements, where they used to grow pot—to have a go at it. That includes outfits in Colorado, which hosts the first-ever High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup this weekend. The state passed a new law that next January will allow anyone 21 and older to buy marijuana from retailers, which is expected to dramatically open up a market currently limited to some 110,000 patients with prescriptions. Indeed, the industry publication Medical Marijuana Business Daily forecasts a tripling in annual sales in the state in 2014 to at least $700 million.

Already, that potential growth spurt has changed the game for Mr. Klug, 36, who sports a long mustache and a dragon tattoo that stretches down one arm. Four years ago, he used to cultivate about 40 plants in his basement, as a side business while he was working in private equity. Harvests were for anyone with a prescription for pot, which included Mr. Klug, who says he uses it for pain from a gluten intolerance.

Today, Pink House Blooms is a $3 million-a-year business, with 2,000 plants in a converted warehouse in an industrial part of Denver. During a recent tour, he discusses the operation in dry business terms as his product's distinctive scent fills the air. Stencils of marijuana leaves and a Pink Floyd poster adorn the walls. Potted plants take up almost every inch of floor space, hallways included, while workers listening to piped-in hip-hop music carefully remove stems and leaves. Their harvest is stored in a custom-made vault, with walls reinforced with three-quarter inch steel.

To get started on this scale, Mr. Klug says he sank more than $3 million—some of it borrowed from family—into the operation. He says Pink House Blooms is profitable, with demand up 30% some months. But the costs of doing business, including a $14,000-a-month electric bill, and the need to make investments to boost production, have kept him from making back any of the borrowed money. Producing marijuana on an industrial level, he says, is "exciting and exhilarating" and "in a way it's terrifying."

Another outfit, La Conte's Clone Bar & Dispensary, formed a partnership with another marijuana firm to share some costs. But it produced a profit margin of only 6% on revenues of $4.2 million last year, according to Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Heidl, who says he considers that an unacceptable return given the financial and legal risks. To expand the business, the firm has branched out to sell everything from smoke-free dispensers to body salves and brownies infused with pot. Still, he says, "the economics of cannabis are so difficult."

A major drag on earnings for marijuana growers is the labor-intensive nature of the business. Payroll can make up more than a third of production costs, says Jason Katz, chief operating officer of Local Product of Colorado. Managing workers is challenging too, he adds, in an industry where many learned their trade by growing clandestinely. His company went through six growers in three years before one worked out. "They aren't used to being part of regular society," he says.

Costs and management issues aside, the biggest shock to most marijuana growers has been pot prices. As the industry becomes more competitive and there is more pot available, the price for a pound of high-quality weed in Denver has slid from $2,900 at the beginning of April in 2011 to $2,400 in the same period in 2012 to $2,000 this year, according to Roberto's MMJ List, a service that connects wholesale sellers and buyers. At the height of summer demand in 2011, a pound sold for as much as $3,900.

To be sure, some experts say it is possible to do well. Roberto Lopesino Seidita, who runs the price list and consults for the industry, says some growers are pulling in double-digit margins by focusing on price, not just quality. They have developed ways to produce large amounts of pot cheaply, and offer it at unbeatable prices, driving hundreds of customers through the door every day. "It's run like Wal-Mart, " he says.

Illegal growers, of course, have been producing and marketing large quantities of marijuana—often at a sizable profit—for decades. Most of the pot consumed in the U.S. is grown outdoors in Mexico by low-wage laborers, with no need for lights or air conditioning, says Jonathan Caulkins, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies marijuana legalization. And street prices for pot in places where there is no legal outlet for it are generally higher than in regulated markets, Mr. Caulkins says.

Toni Savage Fox, a former owner of a landscaping business turned marijuana entrepreneur, doesn't have all those advantages. She and other legal growers simulate summer in their warehouses with powerful lights that can run for more than 18 hours a day. Then they move the plants to a darker environment to encourage flowering and the formation on the surface of its buds, leaves and stems of trichomes, tiny resin-filled glands resembling sea anemone. That is where delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the active ingredient mainly responsible for marijuana's intoxicating effects, is concentrated.

'The economics of cannabis are so difficult,' says the chief financial officer of one marijuana firm.

As with many plants, spider mites and mildew can wipe out a marijuana crop. A single mistake in planting can also doom a harvest, or lower its quality and value.

Ms. Fox says she lost about 100 plants last year when a plan to boost weed production backfired. Ms. Fox planted about 100 seeds instead of starting new plants from female-plant cuttings, which are normally used to prevent pollination. But she overlooked one male seedling. It fertilized a roomful of plants, causing their flowers to go to seed and making them unsalable in a market where consumers demand to examine products under magnifying glasses.

"When you're dealing with a living plant there are so many variables that can go wrong," says Ms. Fox, who lost some $40,000 in the operation. "We're still perfecting our growing spaces."

Ms. Fox, who sometimes wears a golden marijuana-leaf pin on her lapel, is looking for an investor to pump $150,000 into her company, 3-D Denver's Discreet Dispensary, to ramp up production ahead of the spike in demand she expects next year. The more than $500,000 of her own money she invested to convert a dilapidated party hall into a marijuana factory wasn't enough to set up a reliable production line, she says. Setting up growing spaces costs at least $100 a square foot, and often twice that, industry experts say.

Though rarely in Colorado, federal agents still raid growers regardless of state laws when the businesses are too close to schools or lax in other ways. Last December, President Barack Obamasaid his administration had "bigger fish to fry" than going after recreational users. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice said the agency is reviewing the new laws in Colorado and Washington state.

There are other legal headaches. After a marijuana strain called Bio-Diesel won a quality competition in 2009, the name started appearing in dispensaries around Denver, says Ean Seeb, owner of Denver Relief, the outfit that produced the prized variety. Prices are below his, but Mr. Seeb has no way of legally challenging his competitors; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office won't register cannabis-related products, he says.

While copying a name is relatively easy, obtaining the most valuable pot varieties isn't. The chances of a seed sprouting into a worthwhile plant are the same as those of winning the lottery, says Mr. Klug of Pink House Blooms. Bringing in cuttings from out-of-state is illegal, so he says his company obtained some of the 100 strains it grows from a local grower named Charles Blackton, aka "The Lemon Man," a six-time winner of the Cannabis Cup that is held in Amsterdam.

Offering an assortment of marijuana varieties with different flavors and prices, Mr. Klug says, has been key to building a client base. In the wood-and-metal displays at one of his stores, Mr. Klug offers high-end strains such as Phantom OG for $70 a quarter ounce, and cheaper ones such as Andy's Blue Dream, at $50 a quarter ounce.

But clever marketing can only go so far, so he continues to work on improving quality. Instead of outsourcing trimming, or the process of removing leaves and stems from harvested flowers, Pink House Blooms has in-house workers he has trained to do the job for $11 an hour and up. (He also keeps employees satisfied by selling pot at cost to those with prescriptions.) Meanwhile, he says he still can't find a supplier to provide large amounts of high-quality dirt at wholesale prices. He pays just a little under retail to a company that won't deliver to his warehouse—the company's managers don't want to be associated with a pot enterprise, he says.

His advice for anyone who wants to become rich by legally dealing pot: "Start with lots of money."

(Courtesy, the Wall Street Journal)

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IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO REGISTER!

C.V. STARR's ART CLASS "Starr's Open Art Studio" (SPRING, Part 2) will be taking new Registrations today [Sunday] from noon until closing, Monday all day, and Tuesday April 23, which is our first day of class, until closing! You will be working with beginners along with veterans, and the instructor studied with David Hockney, Fairfield Porter, and Nathan Oliveira.  We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30PM to 3:30PM , Class begins this Tuesday, April 23 through Thursday, May 30. Ages 18 and up - but will consider younger students who are ready.  Tuition $50.00 [just $4.17 per class!] Instructor: Linn Bottorf, BFA, MFA  Our class is a fun visual exploration into your individual skills and artistic expression. Each student will receive individual help and lively discussion; we also share new ideas with each other along with Linn. You will receive instructions on use of your materials and mediums as well as gaining insight to your evolving process of discovery and statement in your own work! Linn taught art classes at College of the Redwoods here from 1985 until 1996, and in various schools both in the USA and Canada. He was Exhibits Chairman at Fort Bragg Center for the Arts from 1991 to1996.  Please bring your materials with which to work on the first day of class. We do have a small supply of paper and drawing tools - and a few acrylic and watercolor paints.  Please bring your own newpapers to put on tables! Thank you!  For more info please call Linn [i.n.a. pls lv message] or send email: linn@mcn.org

2 Comments

  1. wineguy April 22, 2013

    Hmm, Rosie Ruiz jumped the NY Marathon not the Boston Marathon, is this guy making stuff up or what?

  2. Mike Jamieson April 22, 2013

    Gotta sympathize with the lack of patronage directed towards authentic wandering sadhus like Craig, clearly not a shiny penny in the eyes of the usual patrons for this type of “thing”. Of course, he does receive patronage from the AVA via posting his dispatches, but the AVA doesn’t seem to have a problem with dirty pennys. Maybe Craig just needs further marketing to support his desire to infuse D.C with the Goddess Shakti……with the right marketing maybe the Marinites used to forking over bucks to sit and stare at some neo Advaitin star or attend a multiple hundred dollar weekend enlightenment intensive would be intrigued by this proposed mission.

    Wishing him luck, though, in trying to wake up sour puss politicos, the lefties in this case…..or, getting them to do the non dual dance.

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