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


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


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

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