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I don't know how much I've talked about how much I love my room, and how much I love being in my room again after nearly three years of ceding it to other people for one reason and another. I'll have to be out of it again for a few weeks after knee surgery but I'm getting back to it again as soon as possible.

My house is a high-water house: it was built on five-foot piers before the lagoon  and river were tamed, and there were a couple of flood years in my own memory where it was a definite relief that we lived off the ground. The first floor is tall, too, so my room, at the top of the house, is close to twenty feet off the ground. Stop laughing, you people who live in highrises. Remember I live in a town which has a 3-story building limit (which can be waived by permission if your building plan knocks the socks off the planning department). Anyways, because of these things, my room is above most of the structures in my neighborhood. This doesn't give me a very long view because the neighborhood also has many mature trees, including a number of ill-considered redwood trees (redwood trees have very shallow roots, and the only reason they can stand up, usually, is due to their growing in large numbers and intertwining their roots. So if you have a lone redwood tree, or even a planting of three or four of them, you are reasonable to expect that at some point in its lifespan it will simply keel over, in a high wind or due to soil subsidence, which of course we can expect much more of in low neighborhoods like mine as the sea level rises and also therefore the water table-- drought may drive the water table down here, but that only opens the way to more brackish water down the line, etc. Also drought soil is more brittle and drought trees are weaker. And so on)

So I look out my window and I see bits of apartments and houses nestled in a very mixed forest. I counted eleven kinds of trees without moving my head. My window is most of the back wall of my room, and my room is most of the central footprint of my house (that is, it is almost sixteen feet square! The whole downstairs is almost twenty-eight feet square, though). By window I mean two large panes with a sliding glass door in the middle. There was supposed to be a balcony there but nobody's figured out how to build it correctly. I keep that door open a bit most of the time and the wind from the outside comes right in my room, along with the light and everything. Besides that big window there are three skylights, one of them very large. My room is bright enough to read by on a full moon night.

I'm saying my room is luxurious, right? And it is full of built in drawers everywhere and a little walk in closet.

Okay, well.

When I lived up here before I used to run up and down the stairs. Now I limp up and down the stairs. But I think I announced before that a short time of upping and downing the stairs has restored my spine and hip to a satisfactory degree? I had no idea. But toi my disappointment I have not actually gotten better at upping and downing. I'm still doing it eight to ten times a day, but I'm just as slow and awkward and uncomfortable. But it doesn't really bother me, so that's something.

All this is a long prelude to the drawback of living up here--not only do I see all this, I hear all this. Oh dear me do I hear things.

The other night the crows--surely I've mentioned the crows before?: There's a roost of about sixty of them in the neighborhood, which my reading indicates is not really large for crows. Every sunset they do a magnificent display of wheeling in the air and cawing for a goodly amount of time. It's giddying to stand under and watch. The other midnight though, they started in on the cawing part at least--it was dark so I didn't even attempt to get up and look out to see if they were also wheeling and wheeling. I thought they weren't supposed to be doing that, and then they went on for a long time and I couldn't get back to sleep. So I spent a couple hours reading about crow behavior, and I found out about tail-pulling, which is when they get all assholish towards some other animal, sometimes in order to steal whatever they've got but sometimes just to piss them off or instigate fights. But I didn't find out what would upset them (or excite them, who knows) enough to do their mysterious cawing at midnight.

That was at least interesting. Last night it was inebriated young men. These are not the same young men as the ones who live in the front apartment next door and smoke terrible, terrible, no-good, nasty skunkweed all day and all night: I can't smell that from here because all my air comes from the opposite direction, thankfully.  These are different young men with VOICES LOUD ENOUGH TO WAKE THE DEAD who had INANE SHOUTY CONVERSATIONS for hours in the very middle of the night and I almost yelled at them because it was TUESDAY NIGHT HAVE MERCY! but I didn't, I kept trying to go back to sleep. Finally it got quiet and I started to drift off--only to be woken thoroughly by the very very loud sound of one or both of them retching in their patio...

Oh well, they didn't throw up in my yard at least.

I look like hell this morning because of not sleeping well, and I didn't have the energy to measure K's windows for curtains, but at this moment I am sitting on the bed my nice fellow built for me, looking out on the windy windy redwoods and loquat and avocado trees. And yesterday I did chastise a terrible fat squirrel who had eaten a bunch of my little green apples and was conisdering crossing my clothesline and possibly pooping all over my railing. Little bastard didn't listen to me, but it did notice there was nothing to be gained from it and hopped back the way it came, through the branches of my apple tree and onto Zack's little roof, and thence to the redwood trees.

Other nights I am waked by the sound of sea lions (the literal kind) at the wharf, or crowds at the Boardwalk, but even though that is less than half a mile away, that only happens when the wind is just so.
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Just got a precinct-walking visit from Richelle Noroyan running for city council. I said I was concerned that the city council wasn't doing enough to make the city livable for working class people and she said all the right things after that about infrastructure and housing and even race.

Having talked to other people since then, I believe she was just agreeing with me to get my vote. Union folks say she sides with management all the time and doesn't care about wages and working conditions, and she's cozy with the people I despise in local politics (Take Back Santa Cruz/Santa Cruz Neighbors).

Currently voting for Leonie Sherman and Bruce Van Allen.
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The details are here.

I promise this livejournal is not turning into All Book Promotion All The Time. I just feel I must do my job.

On another front, I have a pile of Prague posts backordered due to the internet issues while I was there and being occupied with other things since I have returned. But expect posts on: "How (not) to eat like a Czech" (the secret is that Czechs don't eat that much Czech food), the Opera in the Forest, Hiking in the City, and how to choose what season to visit.

Also I may tackle topics I have no expertise on -- why not? everybody else does it -- like what the communist legacy is and isn't in Prague (I see a lot of people ascribing aspects of Czech life to communism, which were present before Marx was even born).

Also regular daily life, of course. Did I mention that it rained here the other day? Really. Very unusual for the time of year, and not just a drizzle. You should have seen how happy everybody was.
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The latest attempt to split California into little bitty pieces has achieved a pile of signatures to turn in. I never did figure out how to complain about the deceptive signature gathering techniques being used in Santa Cruz. The man with the clipboards was asking people if they wanted to sign a petiution to allow local governments to outlaw fracking on their own. Only after the mark had the pen in their hand did he add "it will create six separate governments --"

So this morning I'm trying to fiund out. I don't know his name, and it was a couple of months ago that I interacted with him, but I feel that I must say something.

Headlines are that California residential water use actually increased in the month of May, but only in two places: the Los Angeles basin and the far northeast. The rest of us made cuts, the biggest being in the north coast. The central coast, which was already using less per capita water than most, cut ten percent more.

We were asked to cut twenty percent. (My house cut 36 per cent, but that was partly because we had a leak that we had been trying to fix and we finally fixed it)

So now the state's authorized fines for water wastage and has instituted outdoor water restrictions.

Well, good and all, but when I read what the Valley local governments were calling for as water conservation methods for their communities, I was kind of appalled at how minimal they were. They were asking for an end to midday sprinkling, for example. That crap's been off the table for decades in the Central Coast.

Last night there was a power shortage. It wasn't long, and it was really local, but it's the kind of thing that used to get a sentence in the local news roundup in the paper. When I went to see if there was any explanation on the Santa Cruz Sentinel website I didn't find it, which was a minor annoyance, but the "breaking news" local page had nothing that was actually local breaking news by any definition. Everything was human interest, several days old, and most of it was Salinas. The fact that the editor's mailto address had the domain of the Monterey Herald is not enough to explain this. They do still pay a couple of local reporters. But they aren't covering any breaking news. Let me be clear: although I went there to see if there was an explanation for my power outage, the lack of coverage on that issue was not what struck me. It was the lack of any kind of news whatever. Now, it's the geographically smallest county in the state aside from San Francisco, but demographically, it's above the median (number 24 out of 58). That's a quarter of a million people whose doings are of no interest to the local newspaper of record.

On another front. the "normal summer weather pattern" has been very moist here locally, advancing nearly to rain status. The normal summer weather pattern is fog (high fog in Santa Cruz) in the mornings and evenings, and sun in the afternoon. Usually we get one good rainstorm sometime in July. This is not that. This is more like the fog is heavier than usual, though still high in the sky, and is letting some of its moisture loose. The ground is getting wet, anyway, which is good.

Surprisingly enough, my plums are ready now, almost a month earlier than usual.
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Remember what Mark Twain said about rivers? I don't, exactly, either, but basically, they move. You can beat them up and move th8em around, but some day they will move again . . .

Local example.
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Bognar Szilvia(Szilvia Bognar).

On another front: frost on my rooftop this morning.

Note to weather fairy: it is April. One could even say mid-April. This is Central Coast California, not the mountains or some other place with inhospitable weather. It's only three-four weeks till we expect the hillsides to start turning yellow. Last night it wasn't dark at eight o'clock. In other words: you're screwing up. There should be no frost on my rooftop.
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I feel like an overprivileged brat for the second time today writing about this, but it's tropical out there.  Warm and muggy and very windy, with that weird light that comes from a certain kind of cloud cover -- like we're going to have sunshowers or even a full-bore rainstorm with the sun glaring through.  It's not very cloudy, but the clouds that are there are heavy looking.  Did I mention the wind?  It's not dropping palm fronds on my car, but it feels like it will.
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This is what happened.  By 3:15, students at Santa Cruz High School were telling me the guy had shot someone at Harbor High School (which is two neighborhoods over).  In fact, schools in the nearby neighborhoods were put into lockdown for a bit and students who could be sent home in cars were and students who were going to walk or bus home were kept for a while until they knew the armed crazy guy was recovered and disarmed.  Our school is four or five neighborhoods away, depending on how you count it, so we were not locked down.

If it had been me?  I have my car keys with me at work but not my car.  What would he have done when I told him the car was some distance away?

Though if I worked at the Secret Garden, which is a goodly ways away from my house, I might be driving to work. 

On another front, it's cold.



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I just got a push poll, the kind where you know exactly who set it up after only a few questions.  It's all about the desalination plant.

I reluctantly have to give them support on this, because the other alternatives are even less promising and more threatening.

Only thing is, since we've been having a striking lack of drought lately, I believe this gfives us time to go slow and address the real problems of the plan -- only addressed by one question in the poll: it's really really hard to protect the bay from the intake and outflow. 

The plan includes a prety good sounding approach to the problem of returnign the brine to the ocean .  The natural byproduct of a desal plant is of course hot, supersaline water.  In theplan as I understand it, they will mix the brine with the treated water from the sewage plant -- which is treated to nearly-drinkable levels (to be drinkable by legal standards it needs more chlorine, which is problematic on a few levels itself) -- and the resulting mixture, no longer hot or supersaturated, is piped out to the outer bay where it will disperse faster anyway, thus having less impact on anything.  I'm comfortable enough with that. And I know theat the plan as it existed a couple years ago involved a bunch of safeguards against sucking little invertebrates and stuff into the works, but I'm just not convinced that we've got that wired, you know?

Economic revocery note:

you could hire a whole cadre of people who used to be fishermen, factory workers, or construction workers, to monitor the health of the bay in conjunction with the desal plant.  This is not a cheap proposition: you'd be paying them skilled worker wages (according to former definitions, at that, I think), and it would "make the water more expensive."  But if the program is paid for by generalized taxes, and put into the category of "economic stimulus" because a cadre of decently-paid skilled workers who are tied by the nature of their work to the community in which they live will spend those decent wages on goods and services all over town.
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Not doing this in writer's block because that's not how I got the idea.  Bean montag personhead did it and asked for her readers to do it.
So, without further ado, 5 things I love and 5 things I hate about Santa Cruz.

1.My kids always had somewhere to go and something to do, and rarely needed a ride anywhere.
2.It's beautiful to walk around in.  It blooms all year, and there's an ocean right there and all that.
3. It has a civil and conversational culture. People will talk to you on the street even if you look funny.
4. People tend to be culturally and politically literate even if they haven't had much schooling.
5. Really good food isn't really more expensive than dreck.  And there are fruit trees right on the street.

6.  It's where I met, courted, lived with and raised children with the nice fellow.

1. It's one of the least affordable communities in the US.  Housing costs are way high and wages are way low.
2.  The veneer of decent politics is pretty thin when you raise subjects like wages and working conditions and de facto racism.
3. My friends moved away.  Mostly.
4. In Europe, you can take your dog on the subway.  In Santa Cruz, you can't take your dog on the street if you live downtown.
5. Too many yuppies thinking that the world revolves around them and demanding that everybody cater to their neuroses.

6. Gang stuff turned ugly lately.
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Give it up already.  You're ten days too late for the fireworks. When you set them off tonight, I thought it was gunfire and called it in.  So you're going to get busted.

It is not my fault that you choose to set off fireworks at random times in a neighborhood which is experiencing a lot of murders by gunshot. It's not my fault that you're going to get cited for illegal fireworks in the city limits.
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The night before last I called 911 to report two sets of gunshots, three each time. The dispatcher said they'd got a lot of calls, and they thought the shots came from California and Laurel (a few blocks uphill, and incidentally very close to where Emma and Jason are moving next week). Last night it was only one shot, and I actually thought well, it's only one shot this time, at least.

I haven't felt personally unsafe. The targets of gang violence are mostly young men (the women who have been hurt or killed in the last year have been victims of domestic abuse). Does this sound like I'm trivializing either of these problems? I'm not. The reason I call 911 for every weird noise is that it enrages me that there are people out there hunting down the young men, and I hope to maybe be able to prevent one of those attacks -- either the gang ones or the domestic ones, they're both horrible. But I have felt free to walk my dog at night, to go to the store at night, that kind of thing.

Now I wonder if I haven't been too oblivious to the danger of stray shots. Because there's shooting so often now.

On another front: five more days of extra dogs. It hasn't been all that successful. I don't mean the neighbor complaining, or the chewed things, though it's a really big loss not to have some decent shoes. I mean that I had hoped to work out a way to help the dogs learn better behavior, but I can't do it alone. They really need daily trips to the dog park, and every time I try to take them to the car I get hurt. Not because the dogs do anything to me, but because I can't get them down the stairs without getting knocked over. They need a separate handler for each dog. And I am only one person.
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I hate hate hate keyboard shortcuts. I keep losing my text because my fingers trip and mysteriously replace everything with the letter N or something. I was saying, hey, it's Midsummer's Day and not the first day of summer. But at more length but I can't be bothered to do that twice.

Linkity time: a new online magazine all about Northern California. Another thing I can't be bothered to rewrite is a dissertation about how I think I live in Northern California but maps and the mainstream media (hah!) sometimes think I live in Southern California. I usually say Central Coast but some people think Central Coast only means San Luis Obispo and even Santa Barbara, which are way to the south of here. Anyway, I haven't really perused the magazine yet but I'm going to.

On another front, Percy ate my new shoes. My only nice shoes, both in looks and comfort. Shoes I cannot afford to replace. On the other hand, this weekend we had one not very successful dog park trip with all three of them and one very successful one. Pacheco Street Park -- which is one of those tanbark-paved, fenced-with-an-airlock dedicated dog parks worked once, but then when I went back there was an incident. Someone came with an alarming-looking little dog named Peanut and while the dog's owner understood what I was saying about not knowing if I could control the dogs who were not mine, her friend put the weird little mutt down on the ground six feet from where I was barely holding on to them, and Percy lunged at the little dog and wanted to play with him -- like a toy, and I have seen what he does to toys -- and knocked me over and it took all my strength to pull him and Lola back to control. So I had the woman pick up the little dog and go to the opposite side of the litle park while I took my dog and the temporary dogs to the giant car.

The successful dog park trip was to the park I had originally had in mind before I learned about the Pacheco Street one. This was University Terrace Park -- the other end of Meder Street Park. There's a fence, but on the offleash dog side of it (I do not unleash Percy and Lola, though I let go of their leashes: I need to have multiple ways of grabbing them as they do not reliably come when called or sit when told to, though they are improving with the generous application of treats and praise) there is a sloping hangout that leads to a hiking/biking trail. The dogs there were medium sized dogs and they got along fine though one of them got pissed off at Percy (It's easy to do) and chased him around snarling. I thought it was self-limiting but apparently it's a dog that has some issues and the people took their dogs away after that. Then we walked on the trail for a bit and then I took them home so I could go get Emma and she just about finished clearing out that front room while I struggled with the dishwasher which had developed nastiness again. Also, Emma put the beautiful desk her uncle made her into that room for temporary while she and Jason are going to be living in a studio that is too small for it. The room is basically ready for Frank, and by the end of the summer ought to be ready for a renter! Only a year later than I originally planned.

On another front, I cannot afford to replace the shoes because I have successfully paid for Frank's test! He has to take a test every year from here on out to qualify as a doctor in the US and in countries that use the US qualification. He's also taking the tests in Europe, so he will be qualified almost everywhere in the world when he is done.
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This is possibly my first of these since the nice fellow died. Maybe not. I'm not up to checking.

Here are my favorite headlines from today's Sentinel:

They've posted a corrected phone number for Fish and Game so you can report mountain lion sightings. (I was going to insert a link to James Thurber's "After the Steppe Cat, what?" from Let Your Mind Alone but Thurber's writing is not available online)


This fellow, Charles Storey, has been charged with felony vandalism and misdemeanor trespassing. He built himself a 5,000 square foot house on 8 ridgetop acres in Scotts Valley and thought that it would be no big deal to cut up or cut down 49 of his neighbor's mature trees to get a clearer view of the ocean (leaving a horrible mess behind -- treetops dangling, slash all over the ground). He's the kind of person that buys property like that at 275,000 and builds a ridiculous house -- "a three-car garage, five potential bedrooms, three fireplaces and a gathering room with 20-foot ceilings and 18-foot-tall gothic arches," which he then tries to sell for almost two million dollars, partly on the basis of views he got by felonious means. (not that the views the house would have had anyway wouldn't have been fine: I just don't get these people, who can't relate to a piece of land for what it actually is)

The neighbor is the kind to elicit sympathy around here: he's a local, a retired fisherman who uses his two acres to hike and picnic, hoping someday to get it together to build properly. He says it will cost 15 thousand dollars to clean it up. The government arborist says there's been 20 thousand dollars in damage.

Everybody already knows, but we pretty much expect rain for the foreseeable future. Now, it's not odd to have a lot of rain at this time of year -- it's when we get it -- but the weather people are modelling on big storm after another without any letup for weeks, and they're worried.

There is somethiong wrong when it is news that the largest school district in the county, serving many of the poorest students, is going to apply for a state school breakfast program that's been in operation for years. I think what is wrong is that the reporter didn't understand what was being said, or didn't express it well: both Pajaro Valley and Santa Cruz school districts are speaking of "expansion grants," to cover students who weren't already in the program. But why weren't they? Was there a rules change? Are students newly poor? Did the state apply some of the stimulus money to breakfast programs (which wowuld only mnakes sense as a use of stimulus money if the money was used to hire local workers to prepare the food, and locally-grown food for them to prepare).

PZ Meyer is coming to town next week: (from Pharyngula Blog
7:00 - 8:30 pm, Bay Tree Building, Third Floor, Cervantez and Velasquez Room. Admission is free and open to the public.

I intend to go, because Frank can't!
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The noise stopped abruptly at one. I was already in bed so I didn't go to the window to see if the cops had come.

I wonder if I should go give them a motherly talk about the difference between a neighborly loud party and an excruciating one?

My ears were seriously hurting by the time I went to bed. Really, I don't mind hearin somebody's music clearly through my windows. That's okay, it makes the neighborhood sound alive. Ditto for the sound of laughter and merrymaking. But there is a threshold.

Nothing about it in the online Sentinel. I don't get the paper one anymore, a decision I mildly regret from time to time, since their online presence is paltry.
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Mine is a quiet neighborhood. Except fopr the retired nurse next door and her Harley. And the guy on the corner who plays his television so loud you can hear the dialog a block away. And the occasional fireworks and firearms.

Tonight the student house across the street is having a rockin Halloween party. Each track they play is a little louder than the one before. It's almost one in the morning. Aslo they keep shouting like there's something really exciting going on, but as far as I can tell it's just a lot of okay music and Phyllis Diller wigs and fake cobwebs. Fun, if you're the one doing it: but not worth roller coaster screams. Oh maybe it is. What do I know?

It's Friday night, check, it's Halloween, check. But they better calm down by two in the morning or I'm calling it in.

I won't go over there myself. The last time I did that it was the loud television guy whose volume was deafening when I was several blocks away and the conversation quickly went from me trying to be kind of gentle about complaining about how very loud it was to him making vaguely threatening noises (but not actually making any threats). But he hasn't been so loud since. I think he's been called on it before. In any case, it's the cops who are going to deal with this.

Oh lord, they're yelling like drunken Ivy-league frat boys. Is that what happened? The Gaona family abode has turned into a frat house? Can they do that without a public hearing?

Because if there had been a public hearing I'd have said anything but that. I don't mind living with overcrowded student houses -- I lived in those myself for years -- crap, they're chanting. They stopped, it must have been the chorus to the song they're listening to -- anyway, I would be okay with a half-way house, a group home, a raft of students -- almost anything but a frat house.

I'm going to bed. If I can't sleep because of the noise in an hour I will definitely call the cops.
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Frank's coming home tonight.

The extra dog is going home Wednesday. I'm going to miss her. But the last three or four nights it's been really annoying having an extra dog. There's a raccoon who wants to get into the house at night, presumably to eat dog food. The dogs are incensed about this and make their feelings known every half hour after ten o'clock or so. My poor neighbors. Sometimes I can hear them yelling at the dogs to shut up. I really, really try to keep them quiet. I'm not getting any sleep. I have found that if I barricade the dogs in my bedroom -- which has no door, so I have to pile boxes in front of the stairwell, I'm sure Jason the fire marshall in training would have words with me about that --they bark less. But I've also found that I can't barricade the stairwell effectively enough to keep them in the bedroom all night. So last night I put Truffle -- the worst offender -- on a leash and held it most of the night, meaning I slept, but badly.

The night before last the dogs actually tangled with the raccoon. So did I. I went out to bring the dogs in and they actually seemed somewhat willing, but distracted by fighting the raccoon. Literally fighting. The raccoon was confident as raccoons are and was still working its way towards the house and actually tried to squeeze past me, the mad thing, but after it brushed against my leg (a very creeoy feeling: those little gangsters carry diseases! And they bite!) and I yelled at it, it came to its senses and ran off. Not very far. The dogs came in, but they were hyperaware of the raccooon's presence all night long and I am still exhausted from it.

This is the worst year I've had for raccoons disturbing my sleep, and I don't think they've even started their big fall drunken parties in the apple tree yet.
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James Thurber's comedic writing doesn't all age that well, though none of it ages as badly as his serious stuff. When I was a child my parents had five or six collections of his pieces, one entitles Let Your Mind Alone, which may, if I had a chance to look at it again, age better than others: it was mostly pieces making fun of self-help manuals, which were as much a nuisance in the landscape in the thirties and forties as they are now.

But one of Thurber's staples was the "nature is going to get you" gambit. This took several forms, my favorite of which -- as a child, again, mind you -- was exemplifie4d by a piece called "After the steppe cat, what?" In these essays he'd seize upon a news article about some fiersome wild beast found in the middle of a city, and he'd riff on that until he concluded that civilization was about to end and humanity was in for it. Of course, seeing the times he lived in, that may have been wishful thinking on his part.

Not that we live in times that discourage worry, ourselves.

Anyway, I was thinking about this today because the big headline in yesterday's Sentinel (reminding myself I am going to quit my subscription because there's so little paper there -- less all the time and they don't even have an office in Santa Cruz anymore and what's the point of that? and I could spend that nine dollars a month on donations to public media of one sort or another)-- well, the smallish one in the coveted upper left position, the one you see when the paper's folded in thirds for tossing on to the steps -- was "COUGAR SPOTTED AT THE MALL-- mountain lion also seen roaming around Live Oak" Live Oak is an unincorporated area between Santa Cruz and Capitola. It is not rural. It's about as dense as Santa Cruz proper, now, I think, or at least it looks that way, though when I moved to town it was entirely truck farms and that sort of thing: the mall itself was built on agricultural land -- aren't they always? -- and has only in the last fifteen years or so expanded on to what was Brown Bulb Ranch, a place I always tried to get on at for winter work when I was working at the freezer plant. Anyway.

When I first came to the area in 1970, mountain lions were a rumor. Naturalists were pretty sure they were somewhere around, but they are really quite secretive and they were definitely down in numbers. People used to kill mountain lions for sport and not just for safety's sake. Also people used to hunt deer and other tasty beasts more often in these parts, and now there are vast tracts where you couldn't hunt if you wanted to -- dedicated parkland. The mountain lions have had a resurgence in population, and I think they must be feeling a certain amount of food pressure because we've been getting a lot of these urban lion sightings in the last year or so. It would make sense. We had about ten years of lush rainy seasons, which would result in a rise in the tasty beast population, and that would result in a rise in mountain lion population. And then the last two years have been dry -- and there's been continuing human incursion into the wilder parts of the area in the form of construction (and constriction).

Fish and Game say that they're not going to take action in the case of this mountain lion, which has been sighted in the wee hours of the morning, unless it does something scary like the one out by Pinto Lake at the edge of Watsonville, which ate a chihuahua and was therefore shot. They say that since this one is apparently avoiding people it will most likely wander back the way it came, using the ravines and brushlands to avoid people.

Okay, I can believe that.

Why do they call rich aging yuppie women with a taste for young men "cougars," exactly?


On the personal front, I did a little business with the University yesterday, and while nothing's official, the person I talked to said that the Office of the President has indicated that they are inclined to give Ted the five years' credit though he died a couple of weeks before his anniversary (my cynical side suggests this is at least partly to stop me talking about how he worked for them for thirty-four years, really. Every other time the employer of record took over the kitchen, he got some credit for the time he worked. Only the University made him start from scratch. Only the University had any benefits to speak of beyond a health plan, though). The difference is: if they give him the five years, I get to continue my health plan, and they pay me an annuity thing (I think it is not called that), which coincidentally about matches what I will have to pay for the health plan, which leaves me in a reasonable position.

Life insurance is about twice what I thought it would be, which leaves me with a small windfall after I pay off all our debts (which are not great, considering). Enough to have the house professionally shoveled out and to get my implants, I think. And I had just given up on ever getting them. I think I'd rather have Ted, though.

No, I don't think I should sock it away: I would be tempted to live on it, which would leave me with nothing to show for it.
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To understand this story, you must understand Capitola. The little town has an interesting history, but I'm not going to go into detail on that: suffice that its name comes from the fact that the people who founded it hoped that it would become the capitol of the new state because it was in the middle of the coast and had a bitty little harbor capability. (They claimed it was the exact middle, but that's not accurate) There were the usual corrupt shenanigans about the capitol choosing, but in the long run, of course, Sacramento was chosen for good, bad, and ugly reasons, and continues to be the capitol of the state to good, bad, and ugly effect. For a long time, the only excuse for the existence of Capitola was as a summer retreat for religious revivalists from the Valley, and if you walk around the central village of Capitola now, and gaze upon its funny little houses, you can see -- once you know about it -- that many of them are built on what used to be permanent platforms for temporary seasonal tent-cabins.

What you need to understand, though, is that nowadays, despite the quaintness of the buildings in the core village and the cute little beach replete with fossil-laden cliffs and a nice little winter-storm vulnerable esplanade, the town is thoroughly stripmalled and urban/suburban, and girt about with walls of freeways and four-lane thoroughfares. If you want to build a big box store, for a long time the only logical place to do it was Forty-First Avenue, which Capitola annexed explicitly for the purpose of allowing ridiculous commercial growth (and by ridiculous I mean with little to no traffic planning or car-smog abatement or thought for nearby housing, sevices, or the fate of local wildlife or the truck farms which used to fill that section of the county). What we have in the way of a "mall" in the modern meaning of large roofed shopping center is on Forty-First Avenue. And "Capitola Village," the tourist-oriented heart of the town, is built out, with no room for infill.

Okay. Now we get to the story. Which is a young mountain lion (cougar, puma, catamount), found dead right in town. From the description I believe it was found under the trestle that carries the railroad tracks over the street that dives down to the esplanade. It's unclear whether the seven-year-old they quote is the first finder or just the only person besides the rangers who saw it well enough to be interviewed. If I understand the spot rightly, if you walked upbhill away from the beach from there, you would first pass the luxury restaurant Shadowbrook (which has a steep location planted with elegant gardens featuring many different types of fibrous begonias and a tram to take you down to the bar and restaurant if you don't want to walk) and about a kilometer and a half further you'd be in the region of ridiculous commercial development, having passed through mostly the kind of feverish cheaply built ranch house and apartment complex suburban development that goes for highly inflated prices here because Valley yuppies buy them up as second "homes," their only virtue as luxury being their proximity to the beach and Mr. Toots' bar.

If I were James Thurber I'd now go on to an alarmist but humorous rant about how fragile human civilization is and the doom that awaits us because the wild animals of the more dangerous persuasion are asserting themselves in the center of our towns. But I won't do that, because that's bullshit. But I will note that when I first moved to Santa Cruz County, it was news that any mountain lions survived at all in our area, and now they're a common enough presence that you can see signs like this in our public parks and on the University campus:


mountain lion warning mountain lion warning
So you known the drill, right? Don't run away. Look big, Throw something.



Not to mention bears in downtown Salinas.
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Last night, my beloved daughter was ranting about how she can't do the kind of "bullshit" they want her to do in her history/literature Classic Mythology class -- that is, interpret Greek vases and writings -- because it's all made up and bullshit and it's not like math! How the hell did I raise two kids who say crap like this? I'm an anthropologist by training, damn it! And I did lots of art and literature interpretation in my time!

Anyway, this morning she sent me this link (though, dear, you must have hand typed the link, because I had to correct it to get there). It's a fun link.

I'm trying to figure out how to explain explication and interpretation -- she still has three more gen ed classes of this type to get through after this in order to graduate.

It's not bullshit, except when it is, for starters. When it is bullshit, it's bullshit for the same reason that bullshit science is bullshit: bad faith manipulation of the source material. Leaving out important investigative steps that are there to safeguard the honesty of the process. That kind iof thing.

There is more fuzziness to humanities, but there is fuzziness to all interpretations of observations. The greater fuzziness in humanities is partly due to the fact that there is fuzziness in the boundaries between object, subject, medium, information, method and reporting. But you know what else is fuzzy? The boundary between humanities and science, and most certainly the boundary between humanities thinking and science thinking. Don't give me that "two cultures" crap. For one thing, the two cultures crap irritates me because it marginalizes me personally yet afuckinggain. I'm in the margin for everything else, and it gets old.

Okay, now I have to go make lunch.

On another front: I did get to the touchscreen/ballot scanner class last night, though late, because if you have to go to something at the Emeline county buildings complex and you don't have really precise directions you have to give up and go home and get the really precise directions. I did find out there is a back way out of the complex, besides the really creepy narrow route under Highway One: it's the really creepy frontage road that follows Highway Seventeen and eventually takes you to one of those cult ghost towns. And there's no place to turn around in the dark till you get to the entrance ramp to Highway Seventeen.

However, I am pleased to announce that our federally-mandated electronic voting machines are state-mandated to have nearly ungameable paper trails, and have other honesty-checks built into every step of the way. They're also not connected by ethernet or whatever, so they can't be gamed from outside in real time.

When I first moved to this county, election fraud was a way of life. Ballot boxes would disappear for hours. Precincts would be counted with more Republican votes than there were voters. All that kind of stuff. Yes, in small stakes Santa Cruz county. Then there came the University and the Progressive Revolution -- I was a pollwatcher long before I was an election clerk.

So, anyway, no rain today. And forty-three pounds for sure, it's held for several days.

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