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Monday, October 15, 2018

Monterey Bay Whale Watch (todady!)

I have about 100 4K burst video to go through at this point, so I won't be posting tonight.  Sadly, I learned two things today:  1) I get really excited and drop my camera when something cool is happening, and 2) I really don't know how to use my new camera properly yet.   Never-the-less, I did get a few good shots that I've extracted from all this mess so far, so I do have a little teaser post here.  It's this photo, which I've so far dubbed my photo du jour:


humpback lunge feeding in Monterey Bay

Monday, October 8, 2018

Dia de los Muertos Opening Celebration



Here in Petaluma, there are pretty much celebrations leading up to Dia de los Muertos all October long.  This weekend kicked off the opening event, which was billed as a health fair and Dia de los Muertos fair at St Vincent de Paul Catholic church downtown.  I didn't see too much that could be considered a "health fair", although with all the political tables, Cay kidded that it wasn't personal health, but the health of the community they were promoting.




I did spend a lot of time at various candidates tables, because I DO want to be an educated voter.  I would have to say that the representation was very one-sided, but that I felt that it was the right side, so I didn't feel terribly put out.

There was a lot of amazing food, of which I couldn't partake because of my new diet for my health issues (sometimes I wonder what's left to live for, if I cant taste a little delicious food now and then) but Cay enjoyed papusas and horchata.

There were also a number of Mexican and Aztec dancers, which were extremely enjoyable to watch:








The next Dia de los Muertos event we'll be attending will be during LumaFest, a program put on by Santa Rosa Junior College in Petaluma.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dangerous Women

Petruchio. Come, come, you wasp; i' faith, you are too angry.
Katherina. If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
Petruchio. My remedy is then to pluck it out.
Katherina. Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies.
Petruchio. Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katherina. In his tongue.

Donald Trump Jr recently stated in an interview that he's more afraid for his sons than his daughters in this age of #metoo in an interview with The Daily Mail.

The implication is that his sons are at risk from lying women, because, no doubt in his little mind, women are all deceivers.  After all, he probably has heard it from a preacher at one time or another:
And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. [Ecclesiastes 7:26, KJV]
Women, in the eyes of the conservative right, have no power or truth in their voice, only lies. Their only source of power is sex, which they use to lure, ensnare, or destroy men.  They come from a proud tradition of those who believe absolute nonsense in order to keep women subservient:  Mermaids once lured men to watery graves with their allure.  Men used to actually believe women could castrate them during the sex act with teeth in their vagina (go ahead, look up Vagina Dentata on Wikipedia or something.)

Ultimately the words we speak, our tongue, is not taken as true or valuable information.  That's how men get away with saying things like "No means yes, yes means anal" [as noted in ththe Yale Daily News], and believing it.

It makes me wonder how much louder we need to speak, what language men will understand, since they refuse to take no for an answer, refuse to listen to millions of women marching in the Women's Marches,  all those who stand up and state #metoo, and all those who are protesting various women's issues, running for office against those who would strip women of the rights we do have at this point... rights hard won... and who are writing poems and singing songs and creating art to try to communicate all this pain and anger and determination.

Men CHOOSE to pay attention to our tail, not our tongue. They like to flirt with their imaginary danger... the thrill is in the chase they say... than the real danger, that we will stop being silent and claim our power.

The first step is for women to stop buying into the patriarchal nonsense and mythology that men are somehow better, higher, or more rightfully in authority.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. [Ephesians 5:22-23]
Interpreting the Bible to be literally true in every verse, then cherry picking the verses, is probably the most widely accepted method to keep women in the role of chattel in our country today.  As a nation, we like to shake our fingers at nations who keep their women covered from head to toe, or who mutilate and stitch up a woman's genitalia because of their backwards beliefs about women and the dangers their sexual bodies present to men.  But really the only difference between this nation and those nations the is that while holding the same beliefs, our nation doesn't pretend to attempt to prevent women from being a lure to men.  Instead, they use what women wear, how they look, how they act, and just the simple fact that they're female to excuse rape and sexual violence.  To excuse MEN who commit acts of violence against women.

I'm almost 60.  I grew up in the age of "boys will be boys".  Women also were, post "sexual revolution", cluing in on relationship issues with books, not just Kinsey, but hot best sellers like How To Make Love To A Man,  which pretty much was a mix of self-help instruction on how to please your guy so he wouldn't wander and women's erotica, and The Rules,  which pretty much outlined the relationship game and how to use the lures men expected you to use, including approach/avoidance in order to hook Mr Right.  Back then, women fell into line completely with the idea that our sting is in our tails... our power comes from sex.

I see a change in the young women of today.  I hope I've been a part of that with my own daughters, and I hope more women my age are waking up and discovering that our bodies belong to ourselves, and not to any man, or to men in general.

I also hope that all these women accept and honor their womanhood, and their autonomous bodies, whether they are straight, gay, transexual or transgender... regardless of their ethnicity or religions... whether they choose to wear a pink pussy cat hat or not, that we can all agree on and move toward one thing:  becoming truly dangerous women when it comes to the repressive patriarchy, that we can move forward together to assert the rights we have as individuals over our own bodies, and to fight for the day we no longer live in fear of sexual violence.

The truth will be heard.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Bella Ciao

Marc Ribot - "Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful)" (feat. Tom Waits)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Louder Than a Bomb - Parkland Poets

Yes, I'm POSITIVE.

It's no secret that I intensely dislike "motivational posters".  For the most part, they engage in some simple-minded feel-good cliches that are totally useless in the face of real trouble.  One of my LEAST favorite sayings is "you are responsible for your own feelings", and it's variation, the misquote "no one can make you feel bad without your consent."

Let's break that down for a minute, once again, because it's been a while since I've posted on this, and it's something I feel especially relevant with what's going on today with the horrendous civil rights violations experienced by Blacks and Hispanics in our country:  When something terrible happens, it's NATURAL to feel bad.

So, if someone shoots your dad because he's Black driving in the wrong neighborhood, or if someone deports mom who's been living here for over a quarter century, you're (a) not giving consent and (b) going to feel awful.  It would be clinically abnormal to feel good as a result of something like that. 

So no, we are NOT 100% responsible for our own feelings, as I imagine a lot of people who have evacuated and are watching their homes be pounded by Hurricane Florence today have probably discovered.

But we ARE responsible, to some degree, with what we do with those feelings.  Yes, feelings can be so overwhelming that we physically shut down.  Sometimes we just need to feel those feelings before we can channel them in some positive way. 

I like this poster because it acknowledges that sometimes things are bad, and, perhaps, because it doesn't nail down what a "good attitude" is.  I don't think it's about being Little Suzy Sunshine" when it comes to tragedy, but a good attitude could be one that simply does not yield to defeatism.  It may be an attitude of righteous anger (like the Parkland students turned activists), it doesn't have to be some zen-like acceptance of whatever evil caused the trauma.

And let's face it, most of these inspirational posters are made for financially secure white people, who's worst day involves not finding parking near the entrance at Whole Foods, or finding out that the Pumpkin Spice Latte hasn't been released at Starbucks yet.  Sure, people, suck it up. It doesn't need a response, it needs you to chill.

Of course, I hear all the time that we don't know how intensely the other person feels about the things we feel are trivial, however, I'd say that as irritating as those things are, standing in a long line at the supermarket shouldn't be as emotionally charged as having a flat tire on the highway shouldn't be as emotionally charged as being attacked in a bus because of your skin color. 

Perhaps, in some ways, these motivational posters can be a test.  If you can feel good about what happened, count yourself privileged in that you have trivial things to get upset about. If you can't, understand that you are not to blame, for your feelings, and, when possible, channel those feelings for change.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Today's Whale Watch.

Today Cay and I drove down to Monterey Bay and boarded The Blackfin for a 4 hour whale watch.  Despite having a cheap point and shoot, I was able to get a few decent photos... a little under 100 of them.  It was a good day:  about 20 Humpback whales, 2 Blue whales, a Minke, about 1500 or so common dolphin, about a dozen harbor porpoises, a few harbor seals, a WHOLE LOT of California sea lions, a couple sea otters, and all sorts of birds, including a couple types of gulls, sooty shearwaters, brown pelicans, and cormorants.  A few birds I just couldn't ID at the time. Birds aren't my specialty (I may pick myself up a Sibley's Guide to Birds of Western North America for Christmas... or just get a better phone and upload the Cornell Labs bird ID ap)

Anyway, I couldn't POSSIBLY choose just a half dozen for the blog post, so I made a little slideshow/video.  That light streak under the water in one of them?  That's a Mola Mola.  Hard to photograph with what I had.  You'll also see some sea nettles in the photos.



At some point I'll likely post some blogs with individual pictures. There are several photos that can be used to ID the whales, a few unique features on some of the whales worth pointing out, and I'll probably also want to post about the importance of sea otters, as well as some posts about jellies. But that's all in the future. Monterey Bay is about 3-4 hours drive, which means we were up at 4 am this morning. The rest of the evening (what little there is) will be spent relaxing and dreaming of the next trip.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Casual Racism and Classist Hypocrisy of Progressive Liberals.

It's time to call out some of my own people.

I've recently moved to Northern California, a place with the reputation of being far left on the political spectrum.  At least the North Bay area has that reputation, where the far north is more red than blue, and has recently shifted from being pretty politically neglected to California's Grow (pot) industry leader.  Up there, the political "redness" is of the "stop taxing us" sort, rather than "tamp down the corruption and lawlessness" sort, and I suspect it'll shift blue now that pot is legal in this state.

But here in the North Bay, people pride themselves on being progressive, inclusive, and woke. Make no mistake, the people around here will rally at the drop of a hat, and will support most any proposition set forth by a Democrat, short of a massive tax increase, without thought of how it will harm those who they are out rallying for.

The most recent and obvious example of this is the newly passed bridge tolls.  You can drive INTO San Francisco from the north (except on the Golden Gate, which costs $6), but getting OUT of San Francisco going north will cost you $5. That means if you're working in one of San Francisco's many restaurants or tourist attractions (minimum wage in SF is $15/hour, still not a living wage around here!) you are (a) likely to be working part time and (b) unlikely to be living in the city because of high housing cost and low availability.  You are making $300/ week (for a half time job), being taxed about $53/ week out of that, and you now pay a bridge toll of $25/ week, making your take home about $220/week, or $990/month.  If you can secure a second job IN THE CITY (and don't have to go over the bridge with greater frequency) you might be able to bring home close to $2000/ month, still less than the average price for a one bedroom apartment.

So $25/ week, is a little over $100/ month in an average month, and that makes a BIG difference to a low income worker's budget.  And while it's terrific that the money is going to public transportation (which is WAY too expensive around here, compared to other cities) and road improvements, there may have been more fair ways to gain those funds with a lower impact on the poor.

The poor (and due to our racist American culture, that means large numbers of Black and Hispanic residents) are increasingly unable to live in these "liberal progressive" neighborhoods.  Those who do are often targeted by neighborhood watchdogs who call the police on people who "look like they don't belong there".  My Nextdoor.com feed is often peppered with these "alerts" by neighbors, who invariably describe people who look "suspicious" or "like they don't belong" as "Black".   The default for Black around here is apparently "suspicious".

Add to that the housing crisis, a crisis compounded by the financially well to do liberals who want to support public housing and getting the homeless off the street, but not in their neighborhoods, counties or cities.  Marin county is famously known for being the home of NIMBY (not in my back yard), restricting low income housing.  We're supposed to think that it's an accidental by-product that this keeps the county rich and white.

Petaluma, where I live, is the home of "zero growth".  The people who live here want to preserve the small town feel (understandably) but are stuck in a time warp.  Growth happens, and I recently tried to explain to a long time resident that even if no "outsiders" ever moved into the city, they'd still have to build housing for their children and their children's children, because zero growth in housing doesn't work well with a population that continues to grow.

Here in Petaluma, there are "help wanted" signs just about everywhere.  They're all part time, minimum wage jobs. They're the kind of jobs that you can't support yourself on here in Petaluma, even if there were apartment vacancies to move into.  But despite the "zero growth" innitiative, there are new apartments going in.

Here in Petaluma, the idea seems to be that anything Petalumans don't like or want, they put on "the West Side".  A lot of it is spread out industrial, but it's where more housing is being built (at least apartments) and is an area looked on with a great deal of scorn by the "East Side" It's quite literally the wrong side of the river (and the tracks) for many Petalumans.  Even the hotly debated and loathed public art piece is something residents are open to keeping, if it's put on the West Side.

Looking back at other places I've lived, places I've gone to because I felt that their liberal ideology was more in keeping with the life I wanted for myself and my kids, places I'd hoped to see inclusion, fairness, and equality, I see that this is an ongoing trend. I'm not surprised that Blue State Housing costs are, on average, higher than Red State Housing costs.  I am also not surprised that the disparity in income is greater in California than other states, and I'd guess that New York is not far behind.  I also find that these states are increasingly ghettoized, and that neighborhoods are nowhere near inclusive, and that even in areas where ethnic groups have gathered by choice to support their members and their culture, that those neighborhoods are more frequently poorer and at times less cared for by the cities. *

So what does all this say about a group of people who will rally, who will vote blue, and who are very public about espousing ideas of class and race equality, while preventing people of the "wrong" class and race out of their neighborhoods, cities, and yes, even counties by restricting housing opportunities?  I'm pretty sure it says that they're hypocrites.

When push comes to shove, these True Blue progressives wind up with the same talking points that their hated right leaning enemies do: that they're trying to keep their neighborhoods "clean and drug-free" and keeping out "undesirable criminal elements", forgetting that it's EXACTLY the lack of opportunity that creates these "undesirable elements" out of other human beings.

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*I'd say that the ONE exception to this rule that I'm aware of, and a city that's gone out of it's way to foster inclusion and support ethnic communities within the city, is Long Beach, and I attribute that a great deal to the mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia. Long Beach is building (up not out) a good number of lower income apartment units, as well as units for vets and the elderly.  At the same time, it's a city bordering on the OC, and with many far right elements, and our church in Long Beach had it's Black Lives Matter banner ripped down more than once, and windows broken out. Long Beach has a way to go before it reaches it's goal of inclusion and sufficient housing.

Monday, August 20, 2018

5 months

sail boat in morning fog off the Palos Verdes Penninsula during a whale watch

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

He meant something much MUCH bigger than my personal life, but the quote is echoing in my head today, because five months ago I gave up a life of purpose and freedom for a little temporary safety... for the peace and quiet of Petaluma.

Now most people agree with my rose-colored glasses assessment that this was a good move.  Certainly the air is cleaner, the apartment is much nicer, I'm able to live more affordably, and there IS a hospital across the street.

I can walk to the grocery store and the drug store.  There is plentiful public transportation, and the community and nearby communities have all sorts of cultural events.  Sounds like paradise.

I think one of the problems here is that I didn't "plug in" right away once I got here.  I have to wait months for docent training, and I didn't contact the ACS until recently, assuming I'd never be able to get to local meetings.  And I really kinda assumed that there would be opportunities similar to the ones I'd had in Santa Fe and in Long Beach, that I'd be more active with my church, that all the STUFF I researched online before hand would be exactly as I expected it to be, and of course, it isn't.  It's not worse, not better, just different, and I have to evaluate everything over again to see if it's what I really want.

Back when I moved to Long Beach I often repeated my daughter's chorus, "I want what I had".  I wanted to be back in my apartment in Santa Fe, with my own washer and dryer in unit, surrounded by my friends, and spending time at El Rancho de las Golondrinas and Santa Fe Community College.  It didn't take too long (until fall) before I was "plugged in" at the aquarium in the docent program, and THAT became a lot of what I lived for.  I loved my work at the aquarium, also loved being a whale watch naturalist with Cabrillo Whale Watch, and I loved my church.

Of course, it wasn't always lolly-pops and rainbows. Some staff retired at the aquarium, and there are still changes going on there.  We lost a couple boats with the whale watch program when the city of San Pedro decided to strip out Ports o'Call in order to build some sort of destination shopping center, and there was some drama at the church, surrounding some individuals who were abusive/disturbed/violent, and yes, I was unhappy with that, but it wasn't the sum total of the experience.

Recently a lot of my choices have been motivated by fear.  With my health the way it is, I feared I'd pass out and not be found until it's too late.  Having one of my younger daughters here in a live-in aid capacity has helped a lot when it comes to that fear, and with the physical issues I've experienced, especially following my iron infusions.  If it comes down to chemo, I'm convinced her presence here would be invaluable.  On the other hand, because she also works, I've given her my car.  That means I'm pretty well restricted to places I can either walk to or travel via public transportation to, both of which are subject to my health on any given day as well as my finances.

One thing I've found out is that public transportation here is darn expensive, and in many cases it's just cheaper to drive.  I went up to Rohnert Park to meet my daughter the day of the Greek Festival via bus, not only did I need to walk a mile and a half to catch the bus, but the regular bus fair for the 15 minute trip  was $4.  With my Medicare discount it was still $2.  Fares to Santa Rosa or into the city are prohibitive.  So rather than being a place I could live without a car, I found if I want to have any kind of life at all (do volunteer work, watch whales, go to festivals not in downtown Petaluma) I need a vehicle.

The other thing I've found out about here is that I end up seeing doctors pretty darn far away, now including San Francisco, which  means that any time I see a specialist, my daughter needs to take the day off work so I have the car.  (the buses don't run when she needs to be at work:  6am many days!) I've found myself MORE limited, not less, even though there is a hospital, three labs, a cancer clinic, a medical imaging company, and several dentists within a block of where I live... another case of the online research and my previous planning not meeting up with the practical reality.

For the last 5 months I've gone to some fun events, woke up every morning and watched hummingbirds and house finches, as well as the occasional wild turkey, seen deer during some every day sort of drives, and saved a lot of money on heating and cooling in the more moderate environment.  No place is perfect, because I've also missed the heat, the aquarium, the whales, and my old church.

Part of me believes that in another year this will be the place I'm plugged into.  That my volunteer work at Bodega Head, my involvement in the local American Cetacean Society, being a docent at Petaluma Adobe, and plugging into either the church in Santa Rosa or the church here in Petaluma will be my new, fulfilling life, and I won't even think about shopping at Aldi's or the Savers in Fountain Valley or my "happy place" at Cabrillo Aquarium nearly as much as I do now.  Another part of me is looking at apartments in San Pedro and areas nearby.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Random Thoughts

  • I'm really kinda worried about the "Blue Wave" theory of the next election. Right now the left is pretty confident that control of congress will be taken from the right, and some of the damage to the progressive growth in the nation will be mitigated, if not reversed. The idea here is that it's absolutely ridiculous to assume that the public will allow Trump and his cronies to continue to walk back basic human rights. Of course, it was absolutely ridiculous to assume that Trump would be elected in the first place, so there were far to many no-shows on election night. More voters would have made tampering more difficult, or at least more obvious. Instead, we as a nation figure it'll all turn out for the best and stay home. It's a mistake we can't afford to continue to make.

  • and while we're on the topic of politics: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. So yes, she was wrong on how unemployment is figured. And she's inexperienced and young, but the fact is, we need to start somewhere if we're going to bring diversity and change into the establishment, we're not going to do it with lifetime establishment Democrats. And her heart is in the right place, which is a lot more than I can say for the OTHER inexperienced individual holding high office in the nation right now.

  • On a personal note, I deleted my side blog where I was chronicling some of my experiences with the health issues related to being a decade post bariatric surgery, mostly because it was getting to be a total bummer. Things are not terribly good for me when it comes to my health right now, and I'm seeing a whole lot of doctors, been through some pretty uncomfortable treatments with some nasty side effects, and came out of it feeling worse than when I went in, and now have been referred to new doctors with other ideas... hopefully better ideas...

  • I'll be connecting with the American Cetacean Society again, hopefully attending next week's meeting. I really haven't found something to engage me since coming to Petaluma, and a lot of the things I'd hoped for have turned out to be a bit different than they look from a distance. Not that they're bad, just maybe not right for me. And more than anything right now, I miss the ocean, especially the whales.

  • Transportation up here is horrendous. Gas prices are bad, but it's actually cheaper to drive than to take the buses around here. Unless you're going over bridges. Bridge tolls are $5 and $6 here. I could never afford to go into the city to work every day! Glad I don't have to go too often, but every time I go to the doctor (specialist) it's going to cost me about $6 to go over the bridge, and $4/hour for parking. It's made me reconsider my move here.

  • and in the tradition of past Random Thoughts posts: PUFFINS!

  • Saturday, August 11, 2018

    St. George's Greek & Middle Eastern Festival

    In all fairness, it wasn't the best of days to begin with.  Google led me astray with the bus schedule, and I ended up walking the mile and a half to the transit mall, after doing about an hour and a half walking to the plaza to get Cay some dress slacks, in the heat, only to find that the schedule I had was wrong, and the fare I'd expected was wrong. 

    I was pretty beat by the time I got to Rohnert Park on the bus, stood out in the blistering sun waiting for Cay to get there from work (the only shade at the bus stop was being used by a napping homeless person) and we got to this little tiny church with a few vendors, some tables of groceries, then a long tent with prepared food.

    Now I've been to other Greek Festivals (ironically, in most of the cities I've been to, Long Beach, Albuquerque, and now here, they've all been at churches named for St George) and they've been pretty huge, with loads of dancing, vendors, singing, and traditional garb.  This was a lot of food.

    Now, don't get me wrong.  The food was fabulous, quite possibly the best I've had at any Greek festival, but I wanted a little more festival with my food.

    Cay got some henna done, we had lunch, and headed home.

    Since we got there in the early afternoon, none of the dancing had started.  The food line was still long, and a lot of people were simply picking up food and bringing it home.  I've checked the Facebook Page since then, and it seems that some of the attendees had been doing some dancing on the small dance floor between the dining tents, but I didn't see any choreographed dancing.

    In two weeks Rohnert Park will host the Pacific Island Festival.  After seeing the crowds at Rivertown Revival and Butter and Eggs Day in Petaluma, I expected larger events.  I suspect that for the most part, events and festivals will be much smaller than those I've come to expect, having been in much larger cities for the past several years.

    Although I talked to some of the organizers who admitted the festival was mostly about the food, I have a feeling that the festival would have felt more like a festival (or at least a party) if I'd arrived around dinner time instead of so early in the day.

    Sunday, July 29, 2018

    No-Cal coastal beauty

    ... a sampling of photos I took during the trip to Fort Ross and back.

    along the coast just south of Fort Ross

    harbor seals hauled out on the rocks below Fort Ross

    just a pretty scene off the coast with the rocks jutting out of the ocean

    one view of the ocean from Fort Ross (looking south)
    looking north along the coast at Fort Ross. 

    Abalone Die-Off on the Sonoma Coast



    While at Fort Ross, I considered taking the path from the parking lot down to the sea. The coast is beautiful and rocky, and I thought I'd see a lot of wonderful stuff at the bottom of the cliff.  However, as soon as I got on the path, I saw abalone which had been brought up by visitors.  This is illegal, whether the animals are alive or not, since the coast here is a marine protected area.

    I talked to one of the rangers about the abalone on the trail, so they could be picked up.  That's when I heard about the abalone die-off along the coast.

    I'd known that the abalone had been having a rough time, and that there was competition with purple urchin, but I didn't fully appreciate the scope of the problem until learning about this.  The North Coast Journal refers to a "perfect storm" of environmental problems which threaten the abalone: the El Nino event, sea star wasting disease,  the purple urchin population boom, the harmful algae bloom... it all has resulted in the loss of the kelp which the abalone feed on, leaving them to die of starvation.  These are red abalone, and are thus far not endangered, as are other species of abalone. 

    White abalone is highly endangered, and spawning and raising white abalone in the hopes of repopulating has been the mission of some of the marine facilities along the coast.  If the problems (which are triggered by climate change) continue, then it's doubtful that the animals will be able to survive in the changing environment.  It may well be that we're looking at a time in the near future when these animals only survive in aquariums and other conservation facilities.



    Fort Ross Festival

    Yesterday was the annual Fort Ross Festival.   Fort Ross the southernmost Russian fort in California. The area around it still has many Russian settlers and immigrants, and celebrates Russian culture and history.

    The event features music, dancing, a borscht contest, vendors, arts and crafts, and a beer garden and multicultural food area.  There were also a few conservation groups on hand, and since it was low tide in the morning when the festival started, there was a group with a telescope so visitors could view the harbor seals hauled out on the rocks below the cliff the fort was situated on.

    The fort is in a beautiful location.   Just north of where the Russian River meets the sea, along a rocky coast line fringed with redwoods, I can see the appeal of settling here. 

    The fort features several buildings, a chapel, and a windmill (for flour).  A second windmill was on the location at one time, and used to pulverize oak bark for tannin to process otter furs.

    the sea-side wall and tower

    view of the fort (and chapel back right) from the location of the village

    The windmill (one set of blades missing: out for repair)


    For the sake of brevity, I'm going to do a second post for the scenic coastal views, and keep this one confined more to the fort portion of the event and park itself.

    Of course a lot of the fun at these events for me are the hands on activities.  There were activities for rope making, needle felting, and the two I did, basket weaving and candle-making.  I also enjoyed the borscht contest, because guests got to taste each borscht and vote for their favorite.  I had for a long time avoided borscht, figuring I wouldn't like it, but have also been curious, so this was a wonderful chance for me to explore.  The best part was that I learned I enjoyed borscht, as did Cay, and we've decided to make some at home.

    There were a few demonstrations of skills and crafts, and a couple vendors, including these wonderful felted hats:

    When speaking to the woman who made these lovely hats, I found out she lives in Petaluma, not to far from me!
    Cay was taken by the black powder demonstrations, and has quite a bit of video footage of canon fire and the guns used during the early 1800s.  I went back for more borscht.

    The park has a really nice little museum and gift shop near the entrance.  Out the back of the gift shop is a walkway that goes through the redwoods past the village location and to the fort.

    looking into the museum from the gift shop

    looking through the trees from the walkway to the back of the Visitor's Center

    One of the coolest things for me at the fort itself was the windmill.  It's a pretty ingenious piece of work.  The mill is mounted on a huge pole which is dug 10 to 12 feet deep. The end of the pole is charred to prevent rotting in the soil, then a structure is built around it to take the weight of the mill itself, which is far up to accommodate the large blades.  The actual mill portion rests on a small base and a metal bearing, on the main pole, which allows the top portion of the mill to rotate, to face into the wind.


    There were a lot of events I missed: some of the games and the dancing, and I only heard the bell ringing at the chapel from a distance.  I admit, a lot of the time I was distracted by the coastal beauty, the harbor seals, and the conservation groups at the event, which always catch my attention.  I'm looking forward to going back next year!

    Saturday, July 21, 2018

    Silence

    Back in 2014, Pew Research did a study on what they called "the spiral of silence" in Social Media.  While the study was triggered and dealt a lot with the specific hot button issue of the time (Snowden/ NSA), it was an indicator of what was a rapidly increasing occurrence on social media platforms.  What the study shows is that people are increasingly silent about things they disagree with, and that this is spilling over from social media into face to face discussions.

    Now obviously there are a lot of things that need to be shut down:  hate speech, revenge porn, incitement to violence...  But the idea that we should be shutting down all discussion and take everything at face value is disturbing, to say the least.

    The refusal to engage in meaningful debate, resorting to "everyone knows that" or simply saying "I'm not open to other views" is exactly how we become so polarized, even within our friendships, families, and communities.  And while I draw the line at keeping friends who publish racist rants, homophobic insults, or other hate speech, I am generally willing to debate my positions with those who are willing to share and cite credible sources in their argument (credible being peer reviewed, in many cases, or studies that are not funded by the very companies and organizations they support, for example, I would not consider a study on RoundUp by Monsanto to be credible, and I'm willing to debate that issue openly on my page or my blog)

    Back in the days of Yahoo!360, and later Multiply (past social media platforms) debates were often lively.  People didn't unfriend each-other, and only a few people got really hot under the collar about the discussions (yeah, they unfriended, but it was  minor).  Back in those days I thought nothing about having 1000 or 2000 followers/friends, and we talked (and sometimes argued) about politics, religion, art, whatever...

    Now a'days, people resort to insults and rage over whether or not to install a piece of public art.   As a member of the Nextdoor community mentioned in the article on Petaluma 360, I can testify that the argument has gotten more than heated and that civility has totally broken down. Eventually, I stepped out of the discussion for just that reason.  What's interesting is that I'm neutral on the topic.  While I personally don't care for the aesthetic of the piece (nor do I care much for Dadaism in general), I do understand the value of the piece from an artistic standpoint, and the potential benefits of having such a well known artist's work in the city. To read the discussion, however, is to see that people see it as something that will forever make the city a laughingstock, is a personal insult to "reasonable people" and, in some cases, even some sort of political powerplay to undermine the will of the people.  Some even likened it to Nazi propaganda and referred to it as "dehumanizing".   BTW, it's a collection of bathtubs on stilts.  Hardly what's going to bring down the North Bay.

    I see this as a problem.  I think there are things we should simply stand in opposition to and recognize there should be no discussion of.  I won't debate the idea, for example, that some ethnicities are inferior to others, at least not with individuals who are members of White Supremacist organizations, because they do not want to hear evidence, they want to spout prejudice. I don't think bathtubs on stilts should warrant the same amount of ire.

    And I think there's a difference.  I think that there are people who do want to have meaningful dialog about all sorts of issues, including political, social and religious issues, but people are so defensive and shut down today that they don't want to hear anything beyond what they've chosen to believe thus far.  That the current state of polarization has reached beyond liberal/conservative and people are shutting down, unwilling to hear other views or risk changing their minds on an issue. 

    Recently I got in a discussion with a woman who stated that liberals were doing themselves a disservice by protesting and caring about so many issues, that we should pick one and stand behind it as a group, because all those issues were dividing us and making us weaker, as opposed to the Right, which had a couple key, solid messages.   I disagreed, because I believe that there are many spokes in our umbrella, and that having groups shore up each one strengthens the umbrella as a whole.  In the long run, we agreed to disagree on that, but while I do absolutely think that we should continue, each of us, to work with our strengths, that we also need to be mindful that there are other issues as well.

    I would not, however, have unfriended this woman had the discussion happened on Facebook, nor do I rule her out as a friend IRL.

    When we get together with people we care about, we talk about things we care about.  Since we're not all identical people, those may be different things, and we may come to odds over them at times.  That doesn't devalue the relationship.

    Social media, however, has made that kind of thinking somewhat obsolete.  It's for posting funny cat videos, our lunch, and quick posts about outings with the family.  Now I do want to see funny cat videos, what you had for lunch, and your vacation stories, but if we're friends, I also want to know about what you are passionate about, what you care about, what you find meaning in. I want us to learn from each other.  I want to be introduced to new ideas and experiences.  But I do not want you to use the "n- word".

    I've stopped keeping pages with thousands of followers.  I have, at current count, 25.  They are family, and/or people I either consider friends or hope to develop friendships with.  They are people with whom I dialog.  Before the internet, we had small communities: our church, our neighbors, members of our clubs or organizations, people we got together with in various situations and related to each other on various topics.  True, we likely weren't talking to our co-workers about our religion (unless they were members of other circles in our lives) but we weren't shouting on soap boxes to hundreds or thousands, we were relating intimately to a few.

    Those near, tight bonds were interconnected with other near, tight bonds, a social web that made for a deeper involvement and, perhaps, more impact than shouting out to hundreds who have no stake in your voice.

    Recently someone on my FB list told me she was building a new page, one for people she was closer to, people who didn't silence her, people who didn't use hate speech, people with whom she wanted to keep touch and have meaningful dialog with.

    The web allows us to do that, rather locally or across miles.

    It may be a better use of social media than to shout into the void, be silenced, or post endless videos of cats playing the piano.


    Saturday, July 14, 2018

    Rivertown Revival

    amazing Steam Punk!

    Today Cay and I went to Rivertown Revival, a one day festival celebrating the Petaluma River. I'm not sure how the festival started, but now it's a mix music, steampunk, a little artsy/ burning man, and local food and drink.  All in all, pretty fun. 

    There were quiet a few people dressed in various styles of steampunk, some of the outfits quite elaborate and well constructed.

    We heard early that there weren't many vendors this year, and I found myself a little disappointed, although there were two or three who were totally fabulous, the children's area and the top of the hill where there were some performances and the weddings are held were much larger than the shopping areas.

    There was also a limited amount of food, which surprised me, although there were multiple beer booths.

    There was a tent for "animal oddities" although there was really nothing odd in the animals, they were pretty typical animals used for wildlife outreach:  a number of snakes, an African Crested porcupine, a couple small raptors,  some of the larger lizards, and some tarantulas. 

    For me the best part of the day was making contact with Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, one of the organizations I'm thinking of volunteering with.  Their docent classes start in January.

    So, numerous stages of music, but the thing that struck me is that apparently this is THE time and place for weddings.  Constructed on a hill, there is a small wedding "chapel":


    looking up the hill from the back

    the front and seating area
    Wedding dresses outside the tents


    and there is also a nearby area where wedding dresses flutter on clotheslines, perhaps for those who didn't get theirs before hand?  But weddings there are a mere $5, booked in advance, of course.

    There was also a public art creation area, some fun constructions (including the big metal rhino) and an area which had both henna and facepainting, which probably could have been two areas instead, which booked up so quickly Cay and I had to forgo getting henna this year (next year we'll go there FIRST and schedule)





    The big rhino... at an entertainment space.
    public art creation
    just a really fun looking booth

    Of course, it was all really for and about the river...



    or maybe it really was more all about the steam punk...







    Monday, July 9, 2018

    Art2nite

    Cay and I went to a local paint night with Art2Nite.  I find myself going to these regularly, because they're fun and relaxing.  This was Cay's first time, and I'm thinking we'll be going to a few more!


    Sunday, July 8, 2018

    Jasmine Fuego

    Today there were a lot of opportunities for things to do, including the Art and Garden Show downtown. What we decided to do was to go to church in the late morning then, later in the day, to a house party, both featuring this amazing singer who is involved in the Emergent Strategy, which involves self and local change to change the world. Jasmine Fuego was on the last leg of the Emergence Tour when she stopped in Petaluma. She also sings with the Thrive Choir in Oakland, a choir grounded in the music of social justice.



    Her work is available online on YouTube and Spotify, and in addition to booking small house parties, she also sings at social justice events, and sells her CDs online.

    This is one of the songs she sang both at church this morning and at the house party this evening:



    To learn more about Jasmine, her art and her work, visit her website at http://www.jasminefuego.com/

    Saturday, June 30, 2018

    Today's Rally

    Today's immigration rally in Petaluma:

    a small part of the gathering before the rally, where we heard speakers from our government and community
    Cay holding our sign before the march.

    I don't have extensive photos from the march, as I no longer have a camera, however, Cailin took film and video,  which I'll link when she gets it edited and uploaded.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2018

    Pining for the Coast

    one of my photos of a humpback bubble feeding in Monterey Bay, Nov 2016

    This past week I've been home a lot with very little sleep and feeling pretty rough. It's not going to be any better this week, but I'm holding out some hope for the week after that.  The long and short of it is that as a result, I've spent a great deal of time online, which resulted in two things:  The deletion of most of my Facebook posts and friends and a very restricted news feed, and looking at a lot of photos of whales from whale watching groups I do still follow.

    and those whales... those whales!  They've literally brought me to tears I miss them so much.

    I get this kind of ennui being away from the coast.  The redwoods outside my window are beautiful, and Petaluma is a safe and lovely city, but there are times, many MANY times, when I can't stop thinking about the aquarium and the whale watching.

    I've found a company in San Francisco that does all day whale watching out by the Farallons for $99, which is a great price for a day trip!  Of course, they warn you to dress in layers (they compare it to an arctic or moon expedition) so I'm a little worried about just how cold it is during the summer months when the humpbacks are out there.  I'm hoping to save up to go in mid-late July or early August, since it seems there are so many humpbacks feeding off the LA and Orange County coast right now.

    and I'm hoping that I'll be well enough at that point to go.

    Today I realized that I've pretty much been living in my over-sized Cabrillo Aquarium sweatshirt, even when it's 80 degrees.  I suppose some of it is because it's just so darn comfortable, but I think it also is comforting.  I had thought, before leaving LA, to buy a second one and actually went into the gift shop a few times to look at them, but then thought maybe I wouldn't wear it once I got out here to Petaluma.  Now I'm kicking myself, because I'd definitely want another.  This one is getting pretty well worn and stained.

    Tomorrow my daughters will be here, and they want to go to the beach.  I'm not sure I will be well enough to do that, but I so want to get down to the ocean, to see if I can see any of the whales from the shore (I'd have to be up on the cliffs to see the humpbacks, and the grays are long gone). 

    Wednesday, June 20, 2018

    Mother of Exiles

    People forget that the other name for the Statue of Liberty is Mother of Exiles.   While I was preparing signage for the June 30th march (yes, it's still on, more about that after the video) I found this video, and wanted to share.



    I love the music, but I also love the stories told throughout the video, meeting the immigrants, finding out where they came from, then seeing their place in the nation.

    and immigrants DO have a place in this nation.

    Now, about the march on June 30...

    A lot of people are sitting back with a sigh of relief that Trump has signed an order which supposedly keeps families together.  It doesn't exactly do that.  It states that kids can only be taken if their welfare is at stake, which is pretty much the excuse used to separate them in the first place.  The Flores Act allowed for the immediate removal of unaccompanied minors from detention centers into "least restrictive environments".  It was not designed to be used to tear children from their mothers and send them across country other detention centers.  In 2015, a federal judge was quite specific about refugee detention:
    "Judge Gee ordered that the families that did not pose the risk of evading law enforcement officials be released." [Time]
    Now, however, the president has ordered those crossing the border seeking asylum turned over to the Department of Defense rather than ICE (part of Homeland Security).

    We are treating immigrants and refugees as political prisoners.  I'd hate to think that this is what they have planned for Guantanamo Bay, our most infamous DoD detention center.

    The Mother of Exiles would weep, could tears fall from her copper clad eyes...



    The New Colossus
    BY EMMA LAZARUS




       Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    T
    he wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”



    It's not a gap, it's a chasm.

    It isn't like some of us didn't see this happening.  We were told we were liberal nut jobs, called snowflakes, offered tin foil hats.  And while Obama never came for people's guns, Trump now has concentration camps.

    I suppose we could smugly sit back on our couches and say "I told you so."   Some of us who voted scratch our heads at how the country could have let this happen, while others of us saw this under-welling of fascism forming back in the late 80s and early 90s, and were shouted down.  After all, the Nazis, the White Supremacists, they were all tiny minorities who could never come to power...

    right?

    RIGHT?

    and yet here we are, crossing over the threshold into ugly, with a president who has all but crowned himself while one side of congress sits back so as not to anger their "base" and the other side tries to reach a compromise, some midpoint between mediocrity and utter madness, when they should be pushing for fairness and excellence.

    Over the past decades, the left has compromised their way into the right, while the right shifts ever rightwards.  It's a tug of war, and the only way to stay in the midpoint is to have balance, and if one side is tugging with all their might, the other side has to tug as hard.

    This week's revelations have a lot of liberals who believe in "standing in the gap" or reaching across to bring together both sides, finally realizing that in order to stand in the gap you must shift your position, not just your point of view, toward the other side.  Believe me, the right knows this, which is why they don't shift.

    I've recently cut most of my social media ties, and no longer use my Facebook page to shout rage into the echo chamber.  It's like lying in bed at home with the covers over my head screaming at the top of my lungs "there are monsters out there".  Everyone in the sound of my voice has already heard it.  I know, because they're screaming, too.

    What all that cowering and screaming does is create an air of helplessness. Do you think everyone in post WWI Germany thought that Hitler would rise to power?  or wanted him to?  Today I read an article in The Root titled White People are Cowards. There is, of course, an element of truth in this. It's also divisive. Perhaps it's meant as a goad, to shame the silent white into speaking up, speaking out, or taking action.  As a majority, you'd think that whites would feel empowered.  My experience is that many white liberals do not,  that we are, as a whole, too worried, too soft, too considerate.  As a group, liberals are afraid to call out evil, because while "actions" are evil, "people" are not.

    I am here to say that if you revel in evil acts, you are evil. If you believe that stealing kids is OK because their parents had the audacity to come to our border and request asylum, something that they are allowed under international law, then you are evil.  If you believe that Black people are less human, less intelligent, less capable, less divine than white people, you are evil.  If you believe that Jews are secretly pulling the strings of the world economy and need to be stopped, you're paranoid AND evil.

    For the last 30 years I've been worried, and I've started quoting more and more often from Malcolm X's speech, The Ballot or the Bullet.  Now I understand that a lot of people would distance themselves from Malcolm X in this period because of his beliefs surrounding the history of mankind and the origin of white people in particular, but I've always found that understandable (if not excusable) as the product of his social environment.  What IS important in The Ballot or the Bullet is the idea that
    it's time now for you and me to become more politically mature and realize what the ballot is for; what we're supposed to get when we cast a ballot; and that if we don't cast a ballot, it's going to end up in a situation where we're going to have to cast a bullet. It's either a ballot or a bullet. [Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet, 1964]
    The right is already talking about taking up arms against the left.  We've seen it in the NRA responses to school shootings.




    We need to stop pretending/hoping/praying that this is a mere difference in political opinion.  We need to stop talking about it, and start actively resisting the oppression and fascism in this nation.  We need to vote, we need to march, and we need to wake up and face the ugly truth that there are factions in this nation that would gleefully make it another Nazi Germany, that we have allowed the atrocities to become normalized, and that we've granted evil the reigns of power in our country.

    It's time to take to the streets and to the ballot box.  It's time to march, to show solidarity, to gain power and hope in the numbers of those who earnestly desire a nation of fairness and freedom.  The ballot is always preferable to the bullet, but the shots have already been fired from the right, literally, in our churches and our schools, sanctioned by the gun lobby while politicians offer nothing but "thoughts and prayers".

    The left has to offer more than our thoughts and prayers.  We need to offer aid, resistance, strength, and hope.  All that comes from action.  If the talk on social media doesn't promote action, than what are we doing except wallowing in helplessness and pain?  That emotional overload, that feeling of being totally overwhelmed and helpless in the face of this madness, is exactly what the right counts on to keep us in line, helpless, as our nation erupts into evil.


    ----------------------------



    logo

    One thing you can do, one little start, is to take a couple hours out of your day on June 30 to take part in the march Families Belong Together.  There are marches all over the country, in cities and towns, and if you click the link or the image above, you can go to the website and search out a local march or rally.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2018

    Holding Pattern

    I found this graphic today going through one of my photo archives looking for something else.  Actually, it's perfect for right now.  I keep having this little false starts when it comes to making plans and wanting to get out.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel in some respects, but I'm not in the clear yet.

    Tomorrow I'll be spending the morning in Sonoma Valley Hospital for medical testing, and that, and the blood work next week, will pretty much determine what the direction is going to be for managing my health conditions (well, at least the digestive portion of them).  I've pretty much resigned myself to the possibility that there is nothing that can be done at this point, and that this is my life, to deal with as best I can.

    I've been afraid to go hiking... heck, some nights I'm afraid to go to sleep!... but I think things will be better when my daughter arrives, because she likes to do a lot of the same things I do, and I'd feel a lot safer on the trails with someone who knows (and can respond to) my medical issues.

    I think it'll be good for Cay as well, although it feels kinda like a step back to not be living each in our own apartments, it's also going to free us up to do the things we enjoy outside the apartment, and I don't think I'm the only one getting my life back in doing this.

    Today, however, I'm spending some down time, getting ready for tomorrow, just kinda coasting. I've got some good books (well, I've got my Kindle) and I've got my paints organized (yesterdays project) if I feel particularly inspired... and I can hold out for a couple more weeks.

    Thursday, June 7, 2018

    Interesting Times

    There is a reason "May you live in interesting times" is a curse.

    My time has been interesting, but probably only to me.  I haven't done much except the mundane day to day things: grocery shopping, house cleaning, paying bills, and going to the doctor.  There's been a little drama with the medical stuff which has taken up a lot of my time, but scheduling and rescheduling medical procedures does not make for good blogging.

    I feel like I need to get back to myself, and that my entire life has been put on hold while we discover the scope of my medical issues and develop some sort of plan to deal with it all.

    My daughter is coming out at the end of the month, and I hope that will help with some of the issues, like transportation, or helping me with the day to day stuff when I'm feeling too sick to do much.  Once she gets here I'll be back to exploring and hiking. Recently I've been living with the fear I could have a medical problem out on the trail alone and there would be no-one around to help me (or dial 911)  She enjoys the same kind of walks I do, and has a lot of the same interests when it comes to visiting parks and green spaces, so I get a hiking buddy who has experience with recognizing my symptoms of low blood sugar.  I'll feel a lot safer.

    I'm ready for a little positive interesting times.

    Monday, May 21, 2018

    Health and Money

    It seems that if I'm not sharing news stories on social media, my social media ends up being all about health and money.

    Health and money... money and health.  Trying to make ends meet on Social Security.  Trying to get the medical tests scheduled.  Struggling with medical bills that should have been/are/ might be covered by insurance.  Dealing with pain, blood sugar drops, anemia, migraines...

    And yet these are the two issues most on my mind these days, and the issues that make me feel so isolated.  I don't socialize as much.  I have no money to go places, and the free places? Well, with the way I've been feeling, being anywhere too long, or sometimes just leaving the apartment is out of the question.  I haven't even gotten the dog to the dog park in days.

    Things aren't DIRE.  My rent and utilities (in fact all my bills) are up to date.  I have food in the apartment, probably enough to last until my social security arrives.  What I don't have is money for the iron formula my doctor wants me to take, and money to get a couple pairs of pants (I only have two).  I'm not dying anytime soon that I know of.  I'm pretty sick most nights, and that makes me tired and gives me grief with pain and migraines during the day, but it's not like chronic illness is something new to me... and that I don't expect an increasing share of bad days as I age.

    But what this all does is isolate me, and makes me feel even more like an outsider, someone who doesn't belong. 

    Here in Petaluma, people have or come from money.  People have much higher incomes, and those who don't have family members (or ex-husbands) who are well heeled and pay for their apartments and give them spending money.  It's hard to explain, "No, I don't have $5, not even in my bank accounts, so I won't be going to senior bingo", or to exercise class, or to any of the other things around here that "just" cost $5.  I gave my last $5 to the senior center.  That day I saw the lawyer and went to a Middle Eastern dance exercise class.  Obviously one of those things they let me in free for.

    I don't have people over here. I have limited seating.  My futon is just about it, that and two wooden chairs, and a slipcover chair that currently doesn't have a slipcover on it.  I need to replace the futon mattress (or the futon with a couch!) and get the cover for the chair, then I can invite a few people over.  Of course, it's hard to meet people to invite over when I don't get out much.

    Now I'm not one of those seniors with overflowing apartments, with all the walls covered and everything stacked and packed throughout the apartment.  I believe in minimalism.  The one neighbor who came into my apartment looked around for a comfortable place to sit, and said "well, this is nice.  I suppose this is all you really need" but couldn't sit in the too low chair, and was too uncomfortable on the lumpy futon.  My walls are pretty bare right now (at least until I get some frames for some of my prints and photographs) and I do want to get some painting done, but there is hardly room on my little table for my printer AND my little folding easel. 

    I know things will get better with time.  I have some medical tests coming up next week that will hopefully give me some answers. I have a financial plan which has allowed me to steadily increase my credit rating and pay off the car repairs, vet bills, and cost of my eyeglasses from last year, and I've got a shopping list of lower cost but still fairly nice things on Amazon.com that I can use to at least make my apartment more manageable.  But so far it's been some of those little things (toasters and the second hand smoothie machine that doesn't smoothie anything, the desk chair from the rummage sale, the spring coat...) that has kept me with less money in my pocket to do some of the things I want to do socially.