California lawmakers need to resolve time change dilemma

California lawmakers need to resolve time change dilemma

I’m tired of losing and gaining an hour of sleep every year.

In 2018, Californians approved an initiative to keep daylight saving time intact year-round. Clearly, the voters’ desires have not been realized since on March 13 the clocks went forward an hour.

The Legislature by a two-thirds margin needs to make this the law of the Golden State. Then it will take an act of Congress. This is because the Uniform Time Act of 1966 stipulates states need federal approval to stay on daylight saving time 365 days. However, if California were to stay on standard time every day, Congress would not have to act.

The problem in Sacramento is lawmakers can’t decide which time to be on year-round—daylight saving or standard. So, we are stuck with springing forward an hour in March, and falling back an hour in November.

Maybe the federal government will beat California to resolving this issue. The U.S. Senate on March 15 voted to make daylight saving time permanent starting next year. The House now must take up the Sunshine Protection Act before the president would have an opportunity to sign it.

Banning books an archaic way to stop the flow of ideas

Banning books an archaic way to stop the flow of ideas

Banning books does not quash the ideas, thoughts and stories carried within those pages. All it does is bring to light the ignorance, shallowness and hatred instilled in those who support the bans.

There are plenty of crappy books in the world that have been shoved on the public by major publishing houses. No one is asking for those to be banned. I’m not for banning any book, but if I had to, that’s where I would be begin—with the bad books.

But my list of “bad” books is going to differ from your list. So, whose list is “right”? I’ve read critically acclaimed, award-winning books and thought what garbage. I’ve read others that made me wonder why there wasn’t any buzz around them.

That’s the thing about books (and art in general), so much of it is subjective.

I don’t want anyone to tell me what I cannot read. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear/read someone’s opinion about a book. Those are very different things.

Reading is one way to learn. Why would we want to limit learning? Why would we want people to not know about people who are different than them? Why are we so worried about profanity and sexuality?

Schools of all levels (K-12, community colleges, universities) should open students’ eyes to an array of ideas as well as teach them the truth. The truth is not opinion. That can be the problem.

The American Library Association in 2020 tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services. Of the 273 books that were targeted, here are the top 10 books that were challenged and the reasons people wanted them banned:

  • George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.
  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
    Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students.
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message.

These are probably the books we all should be reading.

Lawmakers take wrong approach to fire suppression

Lawmakers take wrong approach to fire suppression

The Tamarack Fire in July 2021 burning near Markleeville, south of Lake Tahoe. (Image: InciWeb)

All or nothing is seldom a good approach to solving a problem.

On March 2, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (my congressman today) and Rep. Tom McClintock (my congressman when I lived in Tahoe) introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Forest Service to suppress all fires.

How stupid are these men? OK, well, that is a bit rhetorical. But, really, what are they thinking?

The bill states, “To the extent practicable, use all available resources to carry out wildfire suppression with the purpose of extinguishing wildfires detected on National Forest System lands not later than 24 hours after such a wildfire is detected.”

HR 6903 is not the approach this country needs for tackling wildfires.

Not all fire is bad. That has been proven over and over again. Native Americans have known this for centuries. Even the Forest Service learned this lesson after almost a century of implementing the suppression is best policy.

According to the Forest History Society, “Until around 1970, federal land managers remained obsessed with controlling large fires. But during the 1960s, scientific research increasingly demonstrated the positive role fire played in forest ecology. This led in the early 1970s to a radical change in Forest Service policy—to let fires burn when and where appropriate. It began with allowing natural-caused fires to burn in designated wilderness areas. From this the ‘let-burn’ policy evolved, though it suffered a setback in the wake of the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Since around 1990, fire suppression efforts and policy have had to take into account exurban sprawl in what is called the wildland-urban interface. Another issue the Forest Service now faces is that fires have grown in size and ferocity over the last 25 years. The fire-fighting budget has grown to about 50 percent of the agency’s entire budget, which limits funds available for land management activities such as land restoration and forest thinning that could aid in fire suppression.”

We need to give landowners, land managers and fire personnel the tools, resources and intel to prevent fires, suppress them, and let them burn when that is the best solution.

These two congressmen are not the people who should be making the decisions. They both should be replaced, but that’s a topic for another day, though voters could make that happen this November. Remember that McClintock last year said, “Wildfire firefighting is hot, miserable work, but it is not skilled labor.” What isn’t skilled labor is being an elected official; and being elected is most definitely not a sign of intellect.

Firefighting is a skill in my book. And the skill involved to direct the Caldor Fire so it did not burn a single structure in the Lake Tahoe Basin last summer was phenomenal. Of course they aren’t paid well. According to Indeed, a California wildland firefighter on average makes $22.68/hour. That pay is 7 percent above the national average.

Can firefighters—urban or wildland—save everything? Clearly, not. Are mistakes made? Yes, these are humans after all.

I will be the first to say the Forest Service has room for improvement. I was extremely critical of the federal agency last summer when the decision was made to let the Tamarack Fire near Markleeville burn. It was reported on July 4, with the cause being lightning. It was contained on Oct. 26 after 23 structures had been destroyed and more than 68,000 acres charred.

The reality is there are not enough firefighters and equipment to extinguish all the blazes that are ignited in any given year. It’s getting worse each year, and with California now entering a third year of drought, this coming fire season could be another one for the record books.

We need lawmakers who will acknowledge climate change is real and that it’s contributing to horrific fires. We need lawmakers who are coming up with ways to prevent the fires. We need lawmakers who advocate for state and federal budgets to include the needed money for prevention and suppression, the latter including personnel and equipment.

Those lawmakers need to be listening to people on the front lines, to scientists, to experts, to land owners and managers before introducing legislation.

What these two yahoos have introduced is garbage. It is not what we need, nor are they who we need in office.

Importance of saving voicemails

Importance of saving voicemails

Some time ago a friend said to me they wished they could hear so-and-so’s voice one more time. That sentiment stuck with me.

It’s one thing to look at photos, even to read what someone has written, but to hear her or his voice can be so much more powerful.

That is why I have voicemails on my phone that go back to 2017. It’s a mixture of family and friends’ messages that have been saved. Most of these messages have been left by someone who is still alive, but not all. It’s comforting knowing their voices are just a couple clicks away. It’s not something I listen to with any regularity, it’s more like just seeing their name is enough.

Then there are the few work related voicemails that just might come in handy for some other reason, but that isn’t what this missive is about.

I need to go through these saved messages to listen to which ones I really want to keep, and which can be deleted. After all, I have several voicemails from the same people. I’d like to have a couple from each person whose voice I will want to hear once they have died. I know I don’t have a voice recording of everyone who means something to me, so I need to think about that going forward when they call. Maybe I should deliberately let it go to voicemail.

My collecting of messages has been rather random and not as deliberate as I’m making it sound. I suppose some recent life events have made me think about these more. They truly do bring me comfort knowing I have them.

We don’t know what life has in store for us, so a little planning for what will comfort us when someone is gone can’t hurt.

Incredible medical care for AJ right up until the end

Incredible medical care for AJ right up until the end

AJ touched so many lives in her 19 years. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When Keira Troxell came to the house Feb. 16 I could not have asked for a more compassionate veterinarian. None of us had met before. I had continued to take AJ to her docs in South Lake Tahoe even after moving to Chico.

Troxell didn’t know AJ’s story, how she came into my life (thank you Joy), or anything about our adventures. She didn’t know AJ meant the world to me. She didn’t know how AJ was my best friend. She didn’t know how much I loved that dog, though I think she got a glimpse of it.

One thing I really liked about our conversation before the house call was the doc said she would evaluate AJ to determine if the service I requested was warranted. I really liked that and told her so. She said not everyone was so understanding. I would not want a vet who would end an animal’s life for the people’s benefit.

Compassion oozed from Troxell. I will always be grateful to her for making such a horrible day tolerable, at least while she was there.

AJ used to lay in her bed behind me while I worked in the office. Now her ashes are on the desk.

It was that same bed, that same office where she stared into my eyes and said thank you. I hope through my tears she could see that I was thanking her as well. She was such a huge part of my life these past 9½ years. It still amazes me she made it to age 19.

It wasn’t just Troxell who gave AJ great care. All of the doctors at Alpine Animal Hospital in South Lake Tahoe are to be commended. This is where Joy took AJ and it’s where I continued to take her.

Dr. Laura Doering scheduled an appointment for us, not just AJ, shortly after Joy died. It was for me to ask her whatever I wanted and for her to share what she knew about this crazy part yellow Lab, part greyhound who knows what else mix of a dog. We talked for more than an hour. When does that happen—that a doctor of any kind spends that much time with you and there is nothing wrong with the patient? I wonder if Joy arranged this. I can see her doing it.

The other key docs in her life were Kevin Willitts and Lindsay Sjolin. The vet techs and nurses, as well as front office staff, were always kind and helpful.

AJ was at Alpine regularly for mani-pedis, aka nail trims. She saw the docs for a variety of reasons—bad teeth, slicing open her side on a hike, being bitten by a dog (besides the one in Mexico), E. coli (shouldn’t drink stagnant water), clogged nostrils (shouldn’t inhale dirt in a log), urinary tract infections, and the ongoing kidney disease.

I could not have asked for a better team of care-givers. I wrote them a note after AJ crossed the rainbow bridge thanking them for everything. Dr. Sjolin called, which just made me even more appreciative of their care. We had a nice chat through my tears.

The tears still flow. AJ was so special, but so were all the medical people who helped give her such a long life.

Challenged by the true history that wasn’t taught in school

Challenged by the true history that wasn’t taught in school

For most white people slavery is something relegated to the history books. For many black people the legacy and ramifications of slavery are a reality they live with every day.

This land we call the United States of America has had more years of slavery than not. The first slaves came to the United States (though it wasn’t called that at the time) in 1619. It was 246 years later that Congress passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. It has been 157 years since that amendment passed in 1865.

So, while many of us may think slavery is ancient history, the truth is slavery is what this country is all about.

In fact, the 13th Amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Read that quote again.

Yep, slavery was and is still OK if someone is convicted of a crime. Guess what happened to black people? They were convicted of crimes they never committed. Laws were created to ensure they were arrested, like not being allowed to assemble after dark or walking too close to a white person.

Plantation owners could use these “criminals” to work their crops.

The system has been rigged against black people since the get-go.

I’ve been on a quest to learn more, to understand more, to be less ignorant about the history of this country I call home and how we’ve treated the people in it. It isn’t just black people who have gotten screwed. Anyone who isn’t a white male has been discriminated against in some form.

Clearly, we cannot rely on the education system to teach us all we know. For one, there is just too much to know, too much to be taught. We must keep learning; it can’t stop at the schoolhouse door.

Even so, we must advocate for better curriculum in schools—to not ban books, to not be afraid of learning about people who are not heterosexual white men.

We can be a better country if we want to, but that means being inclusive and not being afraid of one day being the minority and surrendering our white privilege.

California working to better manage, understand water

California working to better manage, understand water

With California entering a third year of drought, Lake Oroville remains low. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The rainy season Californians have known for decades is gone.

That was one of the overriding messages from the Department of Water Resources on Feb. 17.

“California is having a historical year on multiple fronts. This weather whiplash we had been anticipating is now upon us and all around us,” Karla Nemeth, DWR director, said during the media webinar.

Because the state is more reliant on atmospheric rivers during the winter instead of a steady lineup of storms from November through March, those tasked with ensuring there is enough water to go around are coming up with new ways to forecast how much of this scarce resource really exists in the groundwater and as snow. Better forecasting the runoff is also part of the equation.

After all, there are more than 39 million residents as well as the 43 million acres of ag land that need water, along with all the animals that live in the various bodies of water in the state.

“As we look to manage through a third year of drought it’s become very important for the state of California to make advances and improvements in how well we can forecast hydrologic conditions and how they do or do not ultimately manifest as water supplies that go into our reservoirs. But also very important is how they head into rivers and streams and support our aquatic ecosystems,” Nemeth said.

2021 was the second driest and warmest year in California’s history. This year isn’t starting out any better.

Manual snow surveys are popular with the media and public as a visual, but technology is almost making them obsolete. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In an average year about 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater. That increases to nearly 60 percent in droughts. That is why officials want to monitor groundwater to know where it is, how much there is, and to have the ability to divert water to these locations for storage when there is an abundance.

Increasing the number of underground sensors is a key strategy for knowing what is going on with groundwater.

With less snow falling in the Sierra, this presents a problem for reservoirs downstream that are the source for water during what had been the normal summer dry months. As temperatures rise, the snow is melting faster, thus altering the runoff.

Knowing more about the snowpack is critical because it is responsible for about one-third of California’s fresh water supply.

Aerial remote sensing of the snowpack started in 2012. This year it expanded to the Feather River-Yuba area, along with Truckee, Lake Tahoe and Carson watersheds. Water content, depth of snow, albedo, and other physical parameters are ascertained. This is better than the snow surveys conducted near Echo Summit a handful of times each winter.

The aerial sensors have LIDAR and scanning information. From 23,000 feet it can measure snow to about 2.5-inches accurately.

While drought is the topic today, all the new tools will also be useful during wet and normal years, officials said.

The California Water Watch website was launched this month as a way to let interested parties as well as the average person track the latest water conditions in the state. While there is a federal drought monitor, it is decades’ old. The state has created its own version that has more robust data in it that can be used by water agencies.

Through the website people can easily track precipitation, temperature, weather, snowpack, groundwater, stream flow, soil moisture, and vegetation conditions anywhere in California. Comparisons to prior years is possible, too.

Rethinking the logic of federal holidays in the U.S.

Rethinking the logic of federal holidays in the U.S.

A three-day weekend is coming up, well, at least for those who get federal paid holidays.

Federal workers, and many others, get 11 paid holidays each year. This is in addition to vacation time. Plenty of private employers give employees some paid holidays or pay them more if they work that day.

When I was an employee I loved working holidays because I earned time and a half or double time. Sometimes the boss felt sorry for us and provided a meal. Often there was a skeleton crew, with bosses not usually in the mix because they were salaried. It was a relaxed atmosphere, doing the same job as usual, and getting paid lots more to do it.

There are plenty of businesses that never shutdown. I’m sure not everyone gets paid extra, which is unfortunate based on how we recognize these holidays today.

According to the Congressional Research Service, “The first four congressionally designated federal holidays were created in 1870, when Congress granted paid time off to federal workers in the District of Columbia for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. In 1880, George Washington’s birthday was included. In 1885, Congress extended holiday coverage for some holidays to all federal employees. Although Thanksgiving Day was included in the first holiday bill of 1870, it was not until 1941 that Congress specifically designated the fourth Thursday of November as the official date.”

Today, the federal holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day—Jan. 1
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.—Third Monday of January
  • George Washington’s birthday—Third Monday of February
  • Memorial Day—Last Monday of May
  • Juneteenth—June 19
  • Independence Day—July 4
  • Labor Day—First Monday of September
  • Columbus Day—Second Monday of October
  • Veterans Day—Nov. 11
  • Thanksgiving Day—Fourth Thursday of November
  • Christmas Day—Dec. 25.

In addition, there is Inauguration Day every fourth year on Jan. 20, unless it falls on a Sunday, then the day off is Jan. 21.

I like that Washington’s birthday is really called Presidents Day in most places instead of honoring one president. When I was a kid we would get Lincoln’s birthday off too, thus making a four-day weekend in February.

Even better is how many communities are ditching Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

And Thanksgiving, well, plenty can be said about the myth we were taught in school; you know, that “friendly” feast between the native Indians and the land taking white people. It’s another farcical holiday people in the United States continue to celebrate.

I’m totally against Christmas being a federal holiday. It seems incongruous for a country founded on the separation of church and state to celebrate Christmas in this manner. Holidays for other religions are not federal holidays. At least if they were, it would be fair. Even so, I would think it wrong. It’s time to abolish Christmas as a federal holiday.

It’s time to get rid of all federal holidays at least in how we recognize them today. Seldom is the holiday celebrated for the person/people/purpose intended. It’s just another day off, as well as another day when so much commerce gets disrupted.

I’m not saying not to honor the people or events being singled out. But taking a day off is not helping a cause. I’m not more or less appreciative of dead soldiers on Memorial Day or live ones on Veterans Day. If I want to honor someone in the military or the group as a whole, I will do so how I feel works for me. And maybe that means asking for that day off (if I had someone to ask!), and going to a local ceremony.

We can still call attention to what I believe are the legitimate holidays that are deserving of celebration. However, if we honored all the worthy people/events with paid holidays, little work would get done—at least at the federal level. We can still create new holidays; they just don’t have to be paid events.

Why not give the current “paid holidays” as vacation time for the worker to take whenever it fits with her schedule? I’m all for vacation time—as much as someone can negotiate. In fact, I’ve never understood the person who does not use all of her vacation time in a year.

While we are revamping the federal holiday system, let’s rename some of days to make more of them worthwhile; like recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.

Pin It on Pinterest