Book review: Relevance of ‘1984’ shocking 75 years after publication

Book review: Relevance of ‘1984’ shocking 75 years after publication

It’s scary that a book published 75 years ago is so pertinent today.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I read George Orwell’s 1984 (Penguin Group, 1949) for the first time this year. It’s long been on my books to read list, but never made it to the top.

Perhaps it’s because of the world we live in today—not just the United States—that this book seems more eerily possible. Democracy as we know it seems to be threatened in a way I’ve never experienced in my life time.

I would never want to live in a world like 1984, but believe there are plenty of people who would like it to be a reality. And too many more who are lemmings and refuse to think for themselves and/or lack critical thinking skills

1984 is the most banned book of all time.

“George Orwell’s 1984 has repeatedly been banned and challenged in the past for its social and political themes, as well as for sexual content. Additionally, in 1981, the book was challenged in Jackson County, Florida, for being pro-communism,” according to the University of California Press.

Last year, according to the American Library Association, was a record year for book bans in U.S. schools and libraries with 4,240 titles targeted. This is a 65 percent increase from 2022 when 2,571 titles were threatened.

For those who haven’t read 1984 or if it’s been a while, I suggest picking up a copy—especially before the next U.S. presidential election. It’s about government control in an extremely sinister way that removes all personal freedoms.

If you ever wondered where the term Big Brother came from, Orwell coined it in this book.

According to the website Lexology, these are the Top 10 banned books in 2023:

  • Flamer by Mike Curato
  • Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
  • Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
  • The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood
  • Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Push by Sapphire
  • This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.


Micro-plastics polluting Lake Tahoe at alarming rate

Micro-plastics polluting Lake Tahoe at alarming rate

While nearly $3 billion has been spent on Lake Tahoe’s clarity in the past quarter century, what’s actually in the water was never a concern until the last handful of years.

Water isn’t the only thing in the lake and that’s a problem because most people who live in Tahoe are consuming water from the lake or from well water. Multiple studies have shown an abundance of microplastics are in Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe was the third worst lake for microplastics in a study published in the journal Nature last year.

Tahoe Water Suppliers Association (TWSA) is working with scientists at Tahoe Environmental Research Center in Incline Village and Desert Research Institute in Reno to combat the problem.

“(We) have done independent sampling of four in-takes. A very small amount of contamination was found on a scale of hardly anything compared to what is being found in other surface waters and what they are finding in bottled water,” said Madonna Dunbar, TWSA executive director.

A petri dish shows the microplastics found in Lake Tahoe. (Image: Katie Senft)

TWSA member are: Cave Rock Water System, Edgewood Water Company, Glenbrook Water Cooperative, Incline Village GID, Kingsbury GID, Lakeside Park Association, North Tahoe PUD, Round Hill GID, Skyland Water Company, South Tahoe PUD, Tahoe City PUD, and Zephyr Water Utility.

Dunbar said the basin has more than 50 water purveyors, mostly small ones that include individual neighborhoods.

Because microplastics are anything smaller than 5mm, which is the size of a grain of rice, they aren’t easy to see. Nor are they something to be picked up on a beach cleanup or by divers scouring the lake’s floor.

“Particles of greatest concern to human health are smaller than 20 microns,” explained Katie Senft, a staff research associate with TERC. For perspective, a human hair is 20 to 120 microns.

Senft in 2018 started studying microplastics at the beaches in the basin. A year’s worth of water samples were taken starting in August 2020. Her group took more samples than the Journal study did, but the results were similar.

When money surfaces Senft hopes to do more studies.

“I’d like to look at atmospheric depositions of plastics,” she said.

What wildfires blow in is a concern. When Senft and her cohorts took a sample of Lake Tahoe on Aug. 4, 2021, the Caldor Fire had not started, but the Dixie Fire was raging. They recorded a spike in microplastics that day. Just think of all those plastics burning, then floating in the air and eventually landing in your lungs, in the soil, in bodies of water.

“The year we did our monitoring work on Tahoe we got higher levels in the spring and summer. I think (this was because of) the spring run-off over roads and bringing everything that had settled on snow over winter with it,” Senft said.

One reason Tahoe has a microplastic problem is that once the particle gets into the lake it will take on average 650 years to leave, according to Senft. This is because of the “residence time”—or how long it takes a single drop of water to pass through the system. The size of Lake Tahoe is what makes for its long residence time.

“The longer residence time of a lake, the more likely it is to have a high abundance of plastics because it doesn’t have the flush,” Senft said. “That is one of the big pieces. We can’t really change that. That is why it’s important to think about what we can do to minimize the number of plastics entering the lake in the first place.”

DRI is working on a study in conjunction with the League to Save Lake Tahoe about how dryer lint is polluting the air with microplastics. So much of our clothing—fleece, rayon, polyester, acrylic, and spandexcontains plastic.

Monica Arienzo, an associate research professor with DRI, later this year expects to release findings from eight South Lake Tahoe citizen scientists who collected the output from their dryers by putting mesh over the outlet.

“We found a lot more material than we thought we would,” Arienzo said. “We wanted to look at dryers because it’s a possible source of microplastics into the environment. It can be in the air, travel longer distances, and get into streams. One reason to study it is it’s something that could be regulated by putting mesh at the end of a dryer or some other technology.”

Microplastics are essentially ground up trash.

“If you are worried about microplastics in the water, the best thing you can do is use less plastic. It has multiple benefits to each person and the planet,” Senft said. “Plastic bag bans and water bottle bans all help.”

Starting on Earth Day this year South Lake Tahoe banned all bottled water less than 1 gallon. Truckee approved a similar ordinance in January. Multiple jurisdictions in the area ban plastic bags, though Nevada is woefully lacking on these types of regulations.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

Calif. lawmakers try to cloud transparency between electeds, public

Calif. lawmakers try to cloud transparency between electeds, public

Some lawmakers in California want to make it more difficult for the public and journalists to keep an eye on what is going on with elected officials and the bodies they represent.

Trust me, if I never had to attend another meeting again, my life would probably be better. But for journalists and the public to not retain the ability to attend meetings, well, I’d go to one every day to keep that right.

Assembly Bill 817 died this month in a California Legislature committee. It’s still important to know about it because it’s likely to be resurrected. The bill would have allowed meetings to take place virtually—all the time, not just in emergency situations.

Yes, I love that the pandemic allowed meetings and other events to be online. This meant I could be part of things without leaving home, as well as “attend” ones that were taking place where I wasn’t. In many ways it made me (and still makes me) more connected if I choose to listen. I love having this capability for webinars and political meetings.

The problem with this bill is that it would have allowed the electeds to be remote. That is the problem. That means the public and journalists then have only the choice to attend virtually.

Ginny LaRoe, advocacy director for the First Amendment Coalition, wrote in a recent email, “Consider what an all-virtual government meeting means for community members who make their voices heard on issues using tried-and-true tactics like holding signs, wearing matching shirts or buttons, staging protests outside halls of power, or even holding eye contact with officials. And what it means for journalists who do the important work of keeping Californians informed: When public meetings go entirely online, how can a reporter approach an official to get comment or connect with community members who have views on issues being considered?”

I can tell you a meeting full of people is impactful. Doesn’t matter the cause or the elected body. You can’t ignore the energy people bring. That is definitely representative, participatory government.

But even when you are the only speaker, it still feels more meaningful to look in the eyes of those who are making the decision. I know. I’ve also spoken as a member of the public.

It has been so valuable in my career as a journalist to be able to attend meetings in person. You see things the camera doesn’t catch. You see the whole room. You see who is paying attention and who isn’t, who is having sidebars, the facial expressions; this includes those who are officially part of the proceedings and those in the audience.

I have come up with so many story ideas from being at a meeting; stories that had nothing to do with the agenda.

Being in person also allows journalists (and others) to ask questions in the moment. Politicians (even at the local level) are good at not returning calls. But stop them in the hallway, well, I’m harder to ignore.

Sure this law would have allowed the public to live stream the event, which is not a guarantee now afforded in the Brown Act. That, though, is a lousy trade off.

Lawmakers need to be creating more transparency, not hide away on video without any personal interaction with constituents. They need to meet in public so anyone who wants to go to the meeting can. And they need to live stream every meeting so those who cannot attend in person can do so. Furthermore, each of those recorded meetings then needs to be online so they can be watched at an individual’s convenience, as well as act as a historical record.

Hiking-Biking Trail Connects Lake Tahoe With Carson City

Hiking-Biking Trail Connects Lake Tahoe With Carson City

Kevin Joell, who owns the trail construction and contracting company Sierra Trail Works, uses a mini-excavator to clear a path through the forest for the C2T trail. (Image: Peter Doenges)

Highway 50 is no longer the only route linking the South Shore with Carson City. For those who are into human power, the Capital to Tahoe (C2T) trail is now open.

The 9.8-mile trail, which is the first single-track connection between Tahoe and Carson, is accessible to hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and dogs.

“Cap to Tahoe ends at Laxalt Flat, which is where it makes a connection with the Tahoe Rim Trail. This is a fairly remote location on the TRT; roughly halfway between Mount Rose Highway and Spooner Summit,” explained Gregg Bergen, trails coordinator for Carson City Parks, Recreation and Open Space.

The Capital to Tahoe trail officially opens this year. (Image: Visit Carson City)

At this terminus a left would take people south on Marlette Lake Road, with an option to exit the forest near Incline Village. The new trail also intersects with Snow Valley Peak trail. The maximum elevation is 8,382 feet.

Note that it really is a 16.8-mile trek between Carson City and Tahoe because one must be on the Lincoln Bypass trail for 4.4 miles and the Ash-to-Kings trail for 2.6 miles before starting C2T.

Nonetheless, people starting in Carson City can now easily connect with the Tahoe Rim Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. And those starting in Tahoe can get to Nevada’s capital city without driving.

This $160,000 segment was first conceived about a quarter century ago, with real work beginning about eight years ago by Muscle Powered, Carson City, Nevada State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, Visit Carson City, private land owners and others.

Trail builders finished the project last October, but white stuff covered parts of the trail so it never officially opened until this spring.

Visit Carson City says the IMBA rating is blue, or more difficult. Most of the single-track trail is 2-feet wide. The average grade is 6 percent, with a maximum of 19 percent.

In March, Muscle Powered, the volunteer nonprofit organization that helps build trails in Carson City, received the national achievement award for the C2T from the Coalition for Recreational Trails for outstanding use of recreational trails program funds in the community linkage category.

Muscle Powered is the group responsible for maintaining the trail with the help of Carson City.

Juneteenth should be more than a day off work

Juneteenth should be more than a day off work

Juneteenth isn’t something I’ve ever celebrated.

Fourth of July, yes.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day—only if it were work related. Indigenous People’s Day—nope. If only I were paid to have the day off, did I pay much attention to these days. Otherwise, just another day on the calendar. I realize I could do better.

Juneteenth was not something I learned about in school. It’s a date Black people in particular have known about for more than 150 years.

Even with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, most of the South continued to enslave people until 1865 when the Civil War ended.

Texas was the last to learn the war was over and the Union had won. It was June 19, 1865, that word finally reached Galveston, Texas, that Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered.

Now that’s something worth commemorating. People celebrated that day and have every year since. Festivities spread throughout Texas and then to Western states.

In 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday.

While equality for all is still merely a quaint idea and not a reality in this country, recognition of Juneteenth is a step in the right direction. The ramifications of that war, of slavery, of inequality—they are all realities we still live with. They are topics that should be discussed at the dinner table, among friends, in schools and certainly in the halls of government.

I have no plans for Juneteenth other than working, but acknowledging it here and in my conscientious, well, that’s a start to giving this date its just due.

Donum Estate creates a feast of wine, food and art

Donum Estate creates a feast of wine, food and art


Sculptures of all kinds, including a plane, are part of the Donum experience. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

If I had been allowed to, I might have spent the entire day at Donum Estate. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that about a winery until now.

Donum Estate is like no winery I’ve been to. It’s an experience; an experience that is not solely about the wine.

I knew about the sculptures. Photos on a website (this one included), though, don’t begin to capture the essence and grandeur of the art. Nor can photos truly capture how the multitude of pieces use the land to portray a greater depth.

Three rows of chimes are a melodic piece of art. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

One of my favorites was Sonic Mountain; three circles of wind chimes in a eucalyptus grove. As the trees rustle from the breeze that blows in from the San Pablo Bay, the 365 chimes come to life, playing a unique melody every time they ring.

Sculptor Doug Aiken specifically chose this spot to create his musical and visual art.

I find vineyards captivating by themselves no matter the season. Sculptures the same. Combine the two, and, well, it’s almost like being on sensory overload. Almost.

Artist Jaume Plensa is known for his large heads like this one on the road to the tasting room at Donum. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In late May I had the opportunity to visit Donum. Sue and I were wowed by the entire experience.

I first wrote about Donum when it acquired the highly regarded 52-acre Savoy Vineyard in Mendocino County last summer.

Earlier this year CEO Angelica de Vere-Mabray was featured in another North Bay Business Journal article of mine.

Donum is a relatively young winery by Sonoma County standards, having been founded in 2001. Mei and Allan Warburg of Hong Kong have owned it outright since 2011.

That was the year they established the Donum Collection, which is considered “one of the world’s largest accessible private sculpture collections.”

Potato causa goes well with the 2021 Carneros Chardonnay. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The winery’s website further says, “More than 50 monumental works, including open-air sculptures, are placed on the Donum Estate, with over a third being site-specific commissions. Throughout our 200-acre estate, each piece plays with scale, nature, and imagination. This evolving collection brings together a global community of artists, including works from leading practitioners from 18 nations, across six continents.”

It’s hard to imagine this was once a cattle ranch.

Daan Smeets, whose title is hospitality ambassador, is in the perfect job as this Sonoma winery.

Smeets regaled us with the history of the art pieces, information about each artist and other details. It was like a private, guided outdoor gallery tour.

Donum offers various tours which include being driven in a quad around the property to see many of the sculptures.

“The conical canopy is centered on a northern-oriented oculus and glazed with 832 colored, laminated glass panels depicting yearly averages of the four meteorological parameters at the Estate – solar radiance, wind intensity, temperature, and humidity.” (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While we were able to walk a little to some of the art, I could easily have spent the better part of a day doing so. Wine club members have more opportunities to stroll than general members of the public.

Plus, the winery was reworking the sculpture garden while we there with the intent by July to turn it into a sensory experience. Considering I left feeling like my senses were all stimulated, I can’t imagine what this new area will entail.

Tastings are by appointment. No driving in. You will be let in at the gate by giving your name. Upon arrival you are greeted outside with a splash of rosé in front of the Donum Home that was renovated in 2021.

More art is to be enjoyed here as well.

Artist Yue Minjun’s “manically laughing men” are 25 identical bronze contemporary Terracotta Warriors. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

After the driving art tour we had a private tasting—there are multiple locations on the property for tastings where you are never with others.

Donum specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While what they pour changes and was about to for the summer, we were treated to the 2021 Carneros Chardonnay, 2020 Three Hills Pinot, 2020 Carneros Pinot, and 2021 Home Ranch Pinot.

Being a vegetarian wasn’t a problem for chef. The small bites prepared specifically for the wines we were tasting were perfect. I love how wine changes with the food that is served. While I’m not likely to make any of the dishes presented—potato causa, onion soubise, chicken pate (tofu for me), or beef pastrami (smoked shitake mushrooms), we delighted in the nuances of the flavors of the food and wine. (Well, in retrospect, I probably would make the shitake dish if I had the recipe.)

It was fun to taste three very distinct Pinots side-by-side. The Home Ranch was my favorite—probably because it was bolder, heavier. That’s how I tend to like my reds. I left with a bottle of the Chardonnay as well.

And the land—well, you will just have to go to Donum to learn about regenerative farming and all the other sustainable practices they are implementing.

The entire experience was incredible. Relaxing, never rushed, not pretentious, but everything was high-end and first class. It really is like no other wine tasting.

True fans hang around in the losing seasons

True fans hang around in the losing seasons

Giants struggle to put up wins this season. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Too many people seem to only be fans when their team or player is winning.

This certainly seems to be true of Giants fans. No longer is the San Francisco stadium full. I would bet this has more to do with the standings than the prices.

When the Giants were winning World Series (2010, 2012, 2014) the ballpark was packed. Food lines were so long you were in danger of passing out from hunger or thirst before ordering.

When the Giants (and I’m guessing this is true of most teams) are not doing great, there are more giveaways and deals to be had compared to when they are atop the standings.

I get it—it’s all about supply and demand. If the seats are full, no reason to entice people with a deal. If they are empty, better get them in however you can. After all, once they are in, they are bound to spend even more money on food or merch.

I actually like the fans at the ballpark now better compared to the winning years. They are the authentic ones; not the Johnny come lately, I just want to be part of the cool crowd.

Replicas of the World Series rings at Oracle Park in San Francisco. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

During the winning years some people were in business attire, even if it was business casual. Really. Men and women. They were there to be seen, not to actually watch the game. I bet some didn’t even know how to play baseball, let alone the players or the opponents.

As they started to win it was electric and jovial because the Giants were on fire. “Torture” became the common refrain by broadcasters and fans in 2010 because the Giants never seemed to take the easy route to the win column. It was fun to chat with other fans, roll our eyes and cross our fingers hoping for the best.

But then the wins kept coming and soon the crowd changed. The feel at the ballpark was different at times. You could tell people weren’t paying attention to what was going on on the field; they were there to socialize, to be seen, not to watch baseball.

Between 2010 and 2017 the Giants sold out 530 consecutive games. Now they are lucky to sell out opening day.

One bummer about not selling out anymore is fans of visiting teams can easily score a ticket. I swear the Yankees’ fans were louder last week than those in orange and black. I tried to shout them down, but I kept hearing “Let’s go Yankees” louder than “Let’s go Giants”. That was more demoralizing than what was going on on the field.

In retrospect, I’ll take those wannabe Giants any day over another team’s fan base filling “our” seats.

Nevada toys with reservations at popular beaches like Sand Harbor

Nevada toys with reservations at popular beaches like Sand Harbor

Updated June 11:

Reservations at Sand Harbor will be required on weekends and holidays this year from Aug. 17-Oct. 13. If space is available, those without reservations will be let in starting at 10:30am. Reservations made in advance cost $5, whereas same-day bookings are free. Reservations will be required every day beginning April 2025.


Nevada is considering requiring reservations at some of its Lake Tahoe parks starting in 2025.

A pilot program is being launched this summer at Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area in Laughlin.

“If everything goes well and we work out the kinks, then we will look to bring it to Sand Harbor,” said Tyler Kerver with the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Increased demand is a main reason for the reservation system. This way people will know there is room for them instead of being turned away.

“We understand the frustration of going to the park on a whim and not getting in. But, regardless, currently at Sand Harbor the park is at capacity at 10 a.m.,” Kerver said. “At least with a reservation you would know you have a spot there.”

The state recommends reservations for group areas and camping at the Lake Tahoe parks, but they are not required this year.

Book review: Finding common ground with Liz Cheney

Book review: Finding common ground with Liz Cheney

People have the choice to vote for the Constitution or Trump, but they can’t do both.

That is the message of Liz Cheney’s book Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning (Hachette Book Group, 2023). This is a book everyone should read before voting in November.

Cheney—if you don’t know—is a die-hard conservative Republican. Her dad is Dick Cheney, the former vice president who spent most of his life in politics.

I probably disagree with Cheney on most things. After all, according to FiveThirtyEight, while in Congress she voted nearly 93 percent of the time with Trump’s position.

Two things we agree on are: 1) The Constitution comes before any individual, and 2) Trump should never hold political office again.

Cheney lost her House seat representing Wyoming because she understood the 2020 election was not stolen and for voting to impeach Trump. Her constituents had clearly swallowed the Kool-Aid.

The book makes a compelling case about why Trump should not be president. She presents data from the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings, as well as information gathered since those ended. She encourages people to read the Jan. 6 report. So do I. She gives details about people—like the former and current speakers of the House—and others from an insider’s perspective.

I learned things. I always like when that happens in a book; even if I don’t like what I’m learning. I was captivated by the whole book. She is rational as she lays out the case for why Trump is so dangerous. I can’t imagine there could be another conclusion or how anyone would disagree with her.

One of the best things about listening to Cheney’s book is that recordings of people testifying, giving speeches or some other verbal transmission were used. This gave a greater depth to the book—to hear that person actually say their words instead listening to Cheney quote the people. Cheney reading the book also added to the experience.

Live theater brings stories to life like no other medium

Live theater brings stories to life like no other medium

Something about live theater fills me.

The singing, the dancing, the acting, the lighting, the set, the costumes, the music. It all adds up to wonderful memories.

Put “Funny Girl “on your must-see list. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

More were created this month when I saw Funny Girl in San Francisco.

Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice was incredible. What a voice. Considering I had watched the movie starring Barbra Streisand just days before I didn’t think anyone could rival her. Well, McCrimmon did. Both bring so much to the role.

Nick Arnstein was played by Stephen Mark Lukas. He didn’t quite have the same presence as Omar Sharif does in the film, but his voice is so much better.

The play followed the movie closely, with a few changes that only added to the stage production.

I can’t imagine performing in front of a live audience day after day, night after night. There is no room for error unless you are really good at improv.

It’s not like a TV show or film where do-overs are the norm. I’m not saying acting of any kind is easy, but before a live audience would seem the most difficult. And then to be on top of your game each performance, well, it really does seem like quite an undertaking.

When Funny Girl comes to a theater near you, be sure to see it.

One of the best shows I saw this year was Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. If I didn’t know these were high school students ahead of time, I would have never known. The main actress is destined for a career in theater and she still has another year before she graduates.

These were students at Chico’s Inspire School of Arts & Sciences. With the stage being the Paradise Performing Arts Center, it added to the professionalism of the whole musical.

Live theater really is captivating.

I credit my parents for my appreciation for the theater. They took me to community theater when I was growing up as well as to plays in The City. We were regulars at the high school shows, too. I’ve been to Broadway and the theater in London. It’s all magical, no matter the venue.

While I haven’t enjoyed everything I’ve seen, I applaud anyone willing to give it a go.

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