ABOUT AN HOUR of rain fell on Mendocino County Saturday morning, just enough to sweeten the air and whet our thirst for more, much more. If we got a quarter inch we'd be surprised. By early afternoon the sun was again shining and the drought deepened.
HAMBURG ON TROLLS
Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg posted the following remarks on the Coast Listserve on Saturday:
“I don't read the troll with any regularity but have noted that he leads people to the same conventional sources of information that serve to keep most Americans in the dark. I think the troll has done a helluva job making this discussion list less useful to the community it was intended to serve. I think that was its purpose. Much like what the AVA does to dampen political debate by ridiculing anyone who disagrees with its ‘editorial opinion’.”
HAMBURG makes the most ridiculous public statement in Mendocino County history then complains when we ridicule him and it! A graduate of the Adi Da cult, the guy's never been what you might call a fully rational being, but judge for yourself the intellectual functioning of a person who can write this:
“I’m on record re 9/11. ‘The New Pearl Harbor’ by Massimo Mazzucco, merely provides further confirmation that 9/11 was a shameless and unspeakably evil hoax perpetrated on the American people and the world. Perhaps most interesting in the Mazzucco documentary is the technical information that explains why the two hijacked planes couldn't have been flown into the WTC buildings at the speed they were traveling. Turns out that when a plane is flying near the ground it must drastically reduce speed or it starts to come apart because of increased air resistance. The planes that hit those buildings were replacements. Quotes from aeronautical engineers at Boeing seal the deal here. Part of the horror of this scam is that they offloaded passengers and forced them to ‘call home’ on their cell phones and read prepared statements. That's how we got the fiction behind ‘Let's roll.’ (Latest ‘Loose Change’ [an earlier conspiracy film] reports that Cleveland Airport was evacuated that morning due to ‘terrorist threats’ and that the news media reported that Flight 93 landed there and offloaded passengers to a cleared building.) At the end of one of the recorded cellphone calls (which, you recall, could not have been made from the hijacked plane's reported altitude), a flight attendant whispers ‘it's a frame.’ The cabal didn't notice this. The financial report is devastating. Turns out part of the motive was 220 billion in bogus Russian bonds. Web savvy people have written several articles about YouTube suddenly zeroing out viewing statistics on controversial 911 videos. And the one on ‘911 & Operation Northwoods’ has just plain old disappeared. Dan.”
QUACK! QUACK! The Duckhorn Wine Company is suing the Duck Dynasty clan, Sonoma County's Trinchero Winery and WalMart because, it seems, Duckhorn thinks another wine with “duck” on the label might gull up-market boozers into thinking the cheap stuff is Duckhorn's. And Duckhorn's is not cheap at $50 a bottle and up. The Duck Dynasty wine, made by Trinchero, is sold at WalMart where few customers are in the market for $50 bottle of pinot.
DUCKHORN'S SILLY SUIT reminds us of Kendall-Jackson's attempt to stop Gallo from proceeding with a label because the art vaguely resembled one of the late Big Wind's labels. Jackson lost, and Duckhorn will lose because in both cases the people sued have the resources to fight back.
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, Eureka, has issued another high surf warning. Don't turn your backs on the ocean this weekend. Killer waves will be common.
CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED COMPUTER PROFESSOR
by Mark Scaramella
Actually, I was not a computer professor but a junior college part-time computer instructor in the late 1980s at Evergreen Valley Community College in San Jose.
I bought a Radio Shack TRS-80 in 1979 when they first came out and learned to program in BASIC while waiting to find a job in the San Jose area. After a few months, I found work at an engineering firm; I was called a “logistics systems engineer.”
It was the early days of the coming techno-paradise — selfies and on-line porn were still in the future. Personal computers were bursting onto the scene. I quickly realized that knowing how to use them and the early text-versions of various applications not only gave me an edge at work, but also freed me from dependency on those odd computer people in the back room who wore white coats and talked about Unix, but never really understood what the computers were supposed to do. They also had a bad habit of blowing your budget no matter how much you allowed for programming, then charging you more hours to “fix” what they produced.
Living and working in the Silicon Valley area gave me ample opportunity to get involved in user groups for specific brands of computers and various computer applications. I dove in and mastered them all — word processing, spreadsheets, database management, and later, desktop publishing and graphic design.
I had multitudes of opportunities at work to use my newfound computer skills because no one else had them. For the first time in my life, I was ahead of the curve! In fact, I was the curve!
Mr. Computer Tutorial was soon giving classes to fellow workers and, after work, more classes for several computer stores in the South Bay; these classes were free to new buyers, but I got paid, and paid well.
After a series of very bad management decisions (a story for another day) the engineering company I had been working for filed for bankruptcy and I became a freelance technical writer, computer instructor, database application developer, and inventory management consultant through user group contacts and people I had known at work before the bankruptcy.
Somewhere around 1985 I got word through a user-group associate that a computer instructor at Evergreen Valley had quit and they needed someone right away to fill in. I submitted my application, was instantly interviewed by the senior computer instructor who just as instantly gave me the job since the classes were going to start in a little over one week.
But there was a problem: I had absolutely zero edu-credentials. Our section chief, Mr. Morris, the guy who wanted to hire me, figured out a way to substitute work experience for a credential and gave me some papers to fill out that had to be processed through several layers of bureaucratic edu-drones. It seemed quite foreign to the college’s office staffers that someone without any teaching credentials was about to be hired as a part-time instructor. (Ernest Hemingway couldn't have gotten on with Evergreen's English Department.)
Everywhere I wandered in the halls of academe I was met with skeptical looks and foot-dragging. I shuffled from office-to-office with an ever-larger stack of paperwork, occasionally being told to come back the next day for a simple sign off.
But with the constant pushing of my academic padrone, the desperate Mr. Morris, I was grudgingly awarded an interim-emergency credential and immediately began preparing for my first class.
Since Mr. Morris was the only person in the entire academic enterprise who even knew how to turn on a computer, I prepared my own curriculum, handouts and test questions and considered myself thoroughly prepared for my first class.
Then Mr. Morris handed me a book — not a textbook, but a commercial computer book, having to do with one of the applications I was supposed to be teaching. It included chapters that I felt were unnecessary for the class as the class had been described to me. I was instructed in no uncertain terms to “just teach the book.”
The first class consisted of recent high school graduates and adults in equal numbers. All of them were hoping to be prepared for work in the emerging computer field. Many of my students were immigrants.
Presumably, my students had met basic prerequisites for my class. They were assumed to have completed a basic introduction to computers and operating systems, computer terminology and so forth. I quickly realized that although they had passed and even more magically “met” these prerequisites, they hadn't really learned what they needed to know about the basics.
So here I was with a class of about 20 ill-prepared students, some of whom were ill-acquainted with the language of instruction — English — teaching a book that included material that I didn't think was necessary or particularly relevant.
In the first few minutes of the first class it was obvious that having the students sitting at computers was a bad idea. They couldn't resist the temptation to peck away at their keyboards, sometimes on class material, sometimes for no reason at all. It was an enormous distraction.
So I came up with a little ritual that I started all classes with: I strolled over to the master power switch on the wall and, with a flourish, turned off the room's computers. “I want you to pay attention to me, not your computer. You’ll have plenty of time on the computer during your lab sessions.”
Over the next four years or so I taught about 15 classes on Database Management using dBase II, Page Layout and Graphic Design using Ventura Publisher, PageMaker, CorelDraw, Freelance, and several spreadsheet classes using Lotus 123, SuperCalc and a very early version of Excel.
Since most of the classes were based on commercial computer books, I had to develop my own tests. At first I tried short open book essay questions, explaining that I didn't care if students used the book as long as they didn't copy out of it verbatim. Nevertheless, their lack of understanding of computer terminology, the rudimentary language skills of even the native-born speakers of English, and a general inability to read, resulted in what might be called Orphic answers. Often their test answers were in the computer knowledge ballpark, but not pertinent to the need for the precise terminology required for computer usage. On the other hand, there were a number of answers which were incorrect as written, but my experience with the student in the lab told me they knew the answer because they could operate the computer properly, although what they had written was incorrect.
I became as Orphic as my class and soon surrendered and switched to multiple-choice questions.
I always used the first few minutes of each class to go over the last test to make sure people understood the material from the previous class. When I went over the test results, inevitably there would be complaints that some questions were trick questions which allowed for more than one correct answer, and accusations that I was trying to mislead some students. Arguing about these complaints was a waste of class time, so whenever a student made a reasonable case that an individual question was unfair, instead of arguing I removed that question from scoring.
We never got through an entire book in all of the 15 or so classes I taught because the first few classes were spent going over stuff they should have mastered but hadn't. I was always faced with what grade to give students who had not really completed the material they were supposed to complete. Mostly I gave students a C with an occasional B. (Anybody who attended all the classes deserved a C, even if their actual achievements were under par.) I think I gave out one or two As.
Of all the students who finished the class there was only one who I might have considered hiring as a trainee for an actual computer job. The rest would have required too much help, much more than an employer would be willing to provide.
Unprepared students are the rule in America. The entire system simply shoves the unprepared along until everyone gathers for a great big smiley-faced ceremony, and diplomas fall like confetti. Meanwhile, in the real world of work, well…
JUST IN from Willtis City Manager, Adrienne Moore:
The Willits City Council has declared a Phase V Water Shortage Emergency, citing extraordinary circumstances as provided for in Willits Municipal Code §14.90.065. As part and parcel, they also declared a local emergency due to drought conditions in order to pursue emergency funding for the cost of providing an emergency water supply. While a Phase III was originally anticipated, the City Council agreed with staff's recommendation that maximum water use restrictions are necessary at this point, given the continued lack of significant rainfall. The restrictions will be relaxed as it becomes prudent to do so. City staff plan to pump water from two city-owned wells, historically used for irrigation. The water will then be treated via a portable treatment plant. This emergency water supply project is expected to take approximately 60 days, barring any unforeseen circumstances. A special meeting is expected to be called later next week regarding the portable treatment plant.
Under Phase V water regulations, the following mandatory restrictions are in effect:
• Commercial and industrial users must reduce their water use by 35%, providing that the reduction does not reduce their usage to less than 50 gallons per day;
• Residential users are limited to 150 gallons per occupied residential unit per day (six units per month); and
• The use of water for watering or irrigation purposes is prohibited unless accomplished within the limitation of 150 gallons.
In addition, mandatory restrictions include prohibition of all nonessential uses of water, including, but not be limited to, the following:
• Washing sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking lots, tennis courts, and all other hard surfaced areas;
• Washing motor vehicles, trailers, airplanes, or boats; and
• Filling/refilling swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, except as required by the fire chief for use as standby neighborhood fire suppression.
The City Manager, upon such conditions as deemed reasonable, may grant exception permits authorizing residential water usage up to a maximum of 400 gallons per day (16 units per month) on application of a water customer submitted under penalty of perjury, based upon the following:
• For each full-time resident of a dwelling exceeding four residents, the quantity of 50 gallons per day; or
• For medical conditions of a resident, a quantity as required to maintain health standards.
City Manager Adrienne Moore also announced that water leak adjustments will no longer be routinely issued, as the City can no longer afford to do so. The issuance of adjustments was done out of good will, rather than any responsibility on the City’s part. It was noted that most water leaks occur with the property owner’s pipes. In those instances, property owners may submit a claim to their insurance company.
Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW COURTHOUSE FACTS:
Sonoma County has a new courthouse in the unstoppable pipeline that is estimated to cost $174 million.
And Lake County has one in the works estimated at $55 million.
The numbers are low estimates of the likely costs by completion, of course. But the proportions are interesting.
In rough terms:
SoCo's Population is about 500,000
Mendo's population is about 90,000
Lake County's population is about 64,000.
Sonoma County's courthouse costs about $350 per person.
Lake County's costs $860 per person.
Amd Mendo's costs $1350 per person.
There are probably some economies of scale in the SoCo number. But both of our neighboring counties are getting much less new courthouse per capita than Mendo is. More evidence that we've got too many judges for our relatively sparse population. And now we'll have too much courthouse for that population to go with our too many judges. And that doesn’t even count the facility and operating costs for the reams of judicial servants in the District Attorney’s office, the public defender’s office, the alternative public defender’s office, the probation department, the Sheriff’s department (including bailiffs and transportation deputies), Court Collections, The Court Recorders, Court Clerks, Court Executive office, and all the private attorneys and their staffs who hover like flies around the courthouse and take public money. — ms
DOWN THE NSA RABBIT HOLE.
By Frank Graham
What does spending $100 billion over the last ten years get you? It gets one huge, bloated, ineffectual agency of government — the NSA (National Security Agency). While the actual budget of this spy apparatus is secret, Jeanne Sahadi on June 7, 2013 (CNN Money) reported the estimate at a mere $10 billion dollars a year. Keep in mind that this agency was created in 1952. Who knows how much treasure has been thrown into this black hole? It is, after all, widely labeled for Congressional budgetary purposes as a “black program.” So, it is reasonable to assume that the total cost of this monstrous apparatus is larger than $100 billion (that is B for billions). Also keep in mind that the NSA represents only about $14% of the budget for the 15 elements of the security apparatus that the national leadership rubber stamps every year, without effective oversight, concern, or accountability. The Federation of American Scientists, a nonpartisan group, has tried to add up the costs and concluded that these figures are close, but admittedly not exact.
But wait, the argument is that the NSA has been instrumental in keeping Americans safe. In recent testimony, the outgoing #2 at the agency testified before Congress that they have thwarted, prevented, interdicted (any number of superlatives can be applied) something like 49 terror plots. However, on the NPR news on January 10, 2014, the same #2, who goes out the door next week with a big fat retirement package, admits that only one, that’s right, one, actual thwarted plot can be reasonably attributed to NSA efforts. No one should be surprised that the National Public Radio reporter did not follow up with the logical questions that scream for answers. What did we get for all that money? Was it worth it? Why is it that our leaders do not demand answers and accountability?
It is not easy to consider the alternatives. That is, could that $100 billion expense have been better applied to feeding the hungry? Could diplomatic and peacemaking efforts have indeed thwarted more than one terrorist plot? How many miles of road, electrical grid improvements, training programs, childhood nutrition initiatives, research on life-saving drugs, and the alleviation of pollution could have been funded with that kind of money? No one, it seems, really wants to talk about the pragmatic choices that must be considered when taxes are involved. But the fact is, any ordinary citizen can think of a whole basket full of ways to apply $100 Billion to make the lives of American citizens safer and better.
Unfortunately, we live in an age when fear can be used as a weapon to extract the wealth of the many for the benefit of questionable programs, without any political will to do otherwise.
AT EVERY STREAM, the road skirted dizzy cliff-edges, dived down into lush growths of forest and ferns and climbed out along the cliff-edges again. The way was lined with flowers — wild lilac, wild roses, poppies, and lupines. Such lupines! — giant clumps of them, of every lupine shade and color. And it was along the Mendocino roads that Charmian caused many delays by insisting on getting out to pick the wild blackberries, strawberries, and thimbleberries which grew so profusely.
— Jack London, 1911
MENTAL ILLNESSES ARE TRIGGERED six years earlier in patients who have smoked high-strength cannabis every day, a study has claimed. Mental health patients who smoked skunk weed daily — which has a high amount of the drug's active ingredient, THC — had their first psychotic episode at an average age of 25, compared to 31 for non-users. Yet the damage was not limited to heavy smokers or those using powerful cannabis, according to the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. Mental health patients with a general history of using cannabis still had their first psychotic episodes at 28 — three years earlier than those who never tried the drug. And those who smoked the drug before they were 15 put themselves more at risk, with their first symptoms at the age of 27 instead of 29. Dr Marti Di Forti, who led the study, wrote: “Daily use, especially of high-potency cannabis, drives the earlier onset of psychosis in cannabis users.” The study was of 410 people aged 16 to 65 who were admitted to south London hospitals with their first psychotic episode. Scientists asked the patients about their history of using tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and other illicit drugs. Those who smoked skunk weed cannabis — four times more powerful than hash, according to seizures by police in south east London cited in the study “…were at the greatest risk,” they said. Psychosis means a loss of reality and is associated with several psychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Dr Di Forti said: “This is not a study about the association between cannabis and psychosis, but about the association between specific patterns of cannabis use… and an earlier onset of psychotic disorders.” The report said age was critical because the teenage years and early twenties were when people developed professionally and educationally. The study also found men were more likely to use cannabis than women, and also had psychotic episodes earlier — though both genders were at risk from smoking the drug. It focused only on people who already had mental illnesses. It did not try to establish whether cannabis causes psychosis on its own. Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that was still a key question to answer. “The thorny question is whether they might otherwise have developed the disease or would have not had mental illness,” he said. “It's a distinction we haven't figured out yet.” Skunk weed is used to describe about 100 strains of cannabis which have higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient, than other varieties. It was originally created by cross-breeding plants. The study was revealed in the latest issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin and follows the legalizing of the drug in some parts of the US. Colorado has suffered a shortage of the drug just a week after it was legalized. The political battleground is still dogged by conflicting evidence. One study from the Netherlands found that people prone to mental illness may smoke cannabis to “self-medicate,” which could be why scientists keep finding a link. (London Daily Mail)
MENDOCINO WRITING RESIDENCY. Now that I’ve stepped down as executive director of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, I have a new role: coordinating a partnership between MCWC and the Mendocino Art Center to launch an Artist in Residence (Writing) program. Because it’s the first year the Art Center has offered this expansion of their well-established AIR program, we’d like to make sure as many qualified candidates as possible know about it. If you have writers in your literary circle who you think might benefit from the experience of living as a member of a vibrant arts community in the heart of Mendocino, would you please encourage them to apply. Applications for the 2014/15 residency year (Sept. 2014 – May 2015) are now open. The application deadline is April 11, 2014. Preference will be given to applicants who can stay the full eight months. There is a monthly rental fee for the art center apartment. Detailed information on the residency program, rental rates and application guidelines are at http://www.mendocinoartcenter.org/level2/artist.lasso
With many thanks,
Maureen Eppstein MCWC/MAC Artist in Residence (Writing) Coordinator
GORDON BLACK ADDS: Amenities include the jogging path, directly from the writer's apartment.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY, Mon. Jan 20, Trinity Lutheran Hall, 620 E Redwood, Fort Bragg The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will be on Monday, Jan. 20, noon at Trinity Lutheran Church (620 E. Redwood, Fort Bragg). We’ll begin with a march at noon (congregate at 11:30), followed by lunch/music. Pastor Karen Johnson will welcome in the event honoring Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Featured groups are Pura Vida, All About Sally, Fort Bragg Freedom Singers, and the Miller Family. The focus of the celebration is on immigration issues: what life is like for our immigrant community and what we can do to make it better. Information and answers to questions will be available on immigration, the Affordable Care Act, literacy, ESL, First 5 Mendocino, Move to Amend, and more. For more information call 964-8985