Friday, December 21, 2012

No surprise, I’m alive. We mostly all are, in spite of the egregious media hype over the Mayan calendar.

Most importantly, Bobby McDonald is alive and hopefully may be for the next two years. He was very ill earlier in the week and had a lot of fluid taken out of his lungs. An x-ray promoted a cat scan and turned up lung cancer, advanced. He was moved to Kaiser San Rafael and has been in intensive care for the past two days. An earlier, bleak report had him on death’s bed, but today’s oncologist found him feeling much better and he may come home in a couple of days and live anywhere from a few weeks to two years. sigh.

I worked on web sites mostly today, for the Vineyards Inn and Rose Ranch Organics. Fun but frustrating. I’ve been having more grief with passwords and mail sites that don’t work as advertised. I can’t get new mailboxes on Colleen’s ipad., Argggh.

Sonic net said nobody was around because of their office party, at least until 5 p.m.

I went to Nigel’s End of the World party at 5 p.m. –an early arriver, for sure, and saw a lot of good Kenwood People, including the Peters, bob alderson, and a whole lot more, even Richard Wenn and his lady friend. the party got too warm and too loud. I became dizzy talking to Gary Rosenfield and left early. Dropped in the VI, but it too was hot and noise. Doug del Fava and tom petarian were heading down to Murphy’s to hear (goddamn memory is failing fast) Jamie Jameison blues band with Dennis Cordellos. I was in no mood for that trip and came home to listen to Katie’s message (see above).

I’m drinking a rum and eggnog. the dizzy is probably sugar overdose by now.

June 28, 2014

Postscript; Bobby died two years ago of cancer that killed him within two months of his retirement. It was sudden and vicious, but he died at home in the arms of Katie. So sad. Bobby was full of life and would have really enjoyed his retirement, traveling and playing golf and generally becoming a curmudgeon.

Professional ethics

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “professional” and “professional ethics” in the past year, trying to come to grips with something I feel strongly about but haven’t quite identified yet. I’m pretty sure it’s the lack of the substance I’m feeling more than an abundance of it.

As I have absorbed the concepts over my lifetime, I now hold that professionals are those who have achieved a level of knowledge and competence in the application of that knowledge to be able to offer their services in their respective fields for pay or honor or even personal pleasure. A key to professionalism is that it concern a fairly specific, even if broad, field of knowledge; i.e., medicine, law, science, or other body of acquired knowledge that exceeds what would be commonly available to everyone in a culture.

Fields such as medicine and law are relatively easy to define, while others, such as journalism and accounting are much more difficult to circumscribe, involving so many gray areas. Yes, no, I don’t know aren’t always available resolutions to professional questions.

As a journalist purveying news to the general public, I consider myself a professional and I also consider that there are standards I need to apply in my public writing.
– consider public versus private writing — can I be less strict in what I write if it is not for public consumption? Gray areas.
– opinion is valid so long as it is so declared.

The internet brought up questions to me from the onset, mostly about source and validity of the content that became available. As an inter-university data exchange, the initial offerings were highly regarded, if weighted by scientific skepticism properly held for any set of data being exchanged. As the content grew from university to private supply, sourcing became more and more problematical.

The difference between the New York Times and my blog is huge. The paper owns a city block in New York City, has been in business since 1851, and has demonstrated it’s responsibility to factual reporting long enough to be trusted by those seeking news of the world. Biased? Perhaps, but in an institutional manner that is self-acknowledged and professionally handled in print.

While I have a demonstrable record of writing, it is known to very few people and not easily put to any test. You may like or detest what I have to say, but you have no reason to trust anything I say other than your personal knowledge of my professional standards and personal failings.

What I think is most important to being a professional is adhering to an external set of principles — guidelines and ethical considerations — that are particular to the profession. In medicine, the practitioner is under the elemental caveat to “Do no harm.” A lawyer’s first professional duty is to the client, not himself or any other party at interest.

A journalist is held to a wide variety of standards of ethical fact checking, news gathering and disclosure of points of view. It’s not that any professional cannot have opinions, points of view, holes in the knowledge base — it’s just that they are bound to acknowledge them and not act on them.

Business and the Economy

Reading Sonoma Biz, the county’s premier slick and glossy business magazine, created by and for very gung ho business supporters. Disclaimer: I have written articles in the far past for the magazine and they have some great stuff at times. This month’s lead off story is all about a new Chamber of Commerce led effort to create jobs — 4,000 or more in five years.

As usual, the first thing business wants to do is dip into the public trough to pay for it. The new byword is “public-private partnership” where the public funds private ventures. Politically, many of these folks are beating the “no taxes” drum as loud as possible and supporting the biggest group of dingbats I’ve ever seen on the campaign trail, but they never stop reaching in the public pocket when things get tough.

“The first phase of the project is to raise $3.5 million …” The project is designed to help the community and raise all boats, countywide, with all the money that will be spent locally by the new hires spending their money locally.

The Chamber promptly hired a Florida-based revenue raising consultant to survey 60 local government and business people to come up with a plan. I’d really like to how much money flowed out of Sonoma County to pay for that, and if any of it was provided by taxpayers.

The tap will be put on county and city governments to pony up for the jobs program. According to the article, Sonoma County’s supervisors voted the group $100,000 a year for the next two years with a two-year extension possible ($500,000 max). The grant will be funded by the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) which is designed to stimulate tourism through advertising and marketing. I can only speculate that the majority of jobs to be created will be in the hospitality/wine industry to justify sourcing the funds. Using that money to get outside businesses to move to the County might well fall inside the original intentions behind the tax.

The more subtle aspects of what the business community will be trying to do, among other things, is “create a positive environment in which to do business.” Read: reduce or eliminate environmental, health and other public safety regulation, reduce fees and taxes, and expedite all forms of paperwork.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane lamented the fact that Amy’s Kitchen, a hugely successful local business, expanded it’s East Coast operations in Greenville, NC. What wasn’t said was what concessions Greenville made to the company to get them there. Five to ten years suspended taxes? There is often a huge cost to taxpayers incurred with these deals that may never be recovered. Sure, people are hired and pay local taxes, but never enough to cover what a local company would have had to pay. There’s a reason for the taxes that the local companies are paying: they take a high level of public support to keep the roads open, police and fire, sewage, garbage, and other civilized functions operating to keep business running smoothly.

What you wind up with is less taxes being put in by the very people asking for more tax-based support to continue business. This is not a formula designed to solve our overall problems. Clever and stupid at the same time.

The new girl

My roommate George and I have a new cat in the house, or technically his house. An elderly calico, this kitty was actually born in the Canyon 16 years ago at Louie and Peg Geissler’s summer home, about a quarter mile down the creek from me. This is the last remaining cat of the litter I understand, but even though Peg and Lou lost their pet just last year, they weren’t ready to take on another cat, and especially an elderly female cat. We already have two female felids.

Lou gave the cat the unimaginative name of “Cali” and gave her to the neighbors across the street, Gary and Theresa Reiss, who were busy raising their three very bright boys. Lo, these many years later, Gary has retired from being a  university psychologist and Theresa is ready to hang up her firefighting turnouts and move to Hawaii. Since the Aloha State requires a four-month quarantine, at the owners’ expense, and given the age of the cat — which they never really named — they put it up for adoption.

You can imagine how many people were jumping for the chance to take on a 16-year-old cat who, according to Gary, lived outdoors most of the time. Sucker that I am, when the time got close to sending it to Forgotten Felines or other shelter, I piped up and said, “sure, I’ll take her.”

When I went over to pick her up last Saturday — it’s been a week, yesterday — she turned out to be a quite friendly, chubby old lady who really wants to spend her days being petted not too far away from a food dish. She has been living outdoors mostly because of the Reiss’ 5-year-old twin grandsons who like to pull her in different directions. She rode over to my house on the front seat, uncaged and yowling, but not frantic.

I carried her into the house and plopped her down next to the food dish and she came over for a pet. She took to the house right away, finding a hidey hole under George’s feet and for some reason camping out on the short stairs up to the bathroom and George’s bedroom.

I should mention at this point that there are two other cats on the premises. My 5.5 pound calico, Cleo, a bulemic terror who cannot tolerate any other cat within sight, and Cloe, a 20 pound grey who mostly lives with George but manages to eat at both places. (I live in a converted garage about 150 feet from the main house.) These eating forays into my house were formerly cat screaming matches whenever Cleo the Tiny spotted Godzilla cat, but it has quieted down a lot over the years. Still not happy about it, mind you.

Well, the big cat, Cloe, who mostly lives in George’s house, had a bit of a squalling match with the new girl right away, but quickly ignored her, deciding instead to bide her time.

That time came two days ago when I let the new girl out for the first time and turned my back to answer the phone. I heard a squawk and thundering kitty feet across the porch and they both took off up the hill in back.

Up the hill in back is a jungle. No kidding. A jungle of French broom and manzanita and scrub oak all the way to Sugarloaf. It’s wilderness, with mountain lions, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, beaver, skunks, you name it.

The new cat stayed gone in spite of me going out back and calling her several times a day. Finally, I actually hiked a ways up the mountain, sat down, and called her for 15 minutes and eventually she came — oh so slowly — and submitted to a pet.

The petting led to a real pick up and I brought her back to the house where she promptly disappeared under the bed. So far so good, but for now, I think I’m not going to even try to find a suitable name. She’s gotten along pretty good for 16 years without one. I just hope she can get along as well for whatever’s left.

June 28, 2014

Postscript: This beautiful lady died in my arms two months ago, after a long and happy life. She is buried by the stump in the yard and will be a permanent part of the little slice of paradise i have been lucky enough to call home for the last 20 years.

After we got to know one another, and especially after it started getting cold and I started the pellet stove up again, she moved indoors with little fuss. She quickly took to sleeping right under the stove fan and staying as warm as she could stand. She began to come around the bed for pets and lovvies and found a number of places to nest in the Bunkhouse. As the last year rolled around, she used the kitty box more and more, even when she couldn’t quite make it. She was getting weaker by the day when the end came, but she thoroughly enjoyed living indoors for the past two years and being fed whenever she wanted and sleeping wherever she liked, next to my hand when sitting at the computer most of the time. Damn, I  miss her.

Cats and life and death and all that

It’s a cold winter Tuesday in Kenwood and I’ve just delivered bad news to my roommate, George, about his 12-year-old gray tabby tomcat. Willy has a tumor on his right jaw, not the abscess we’d both hoped it be. I knew it was bad when Dr. Wagner stepped back from his examination to a side table, leaned back and crossed his arms before delivering the news.

Since George is working 10 hours a day six days a week — he’s a die cutter for a huge wine label printing outfit — I had taken Willy over to Glen Ellen this afternoon. This isn’t a sudden development. Willy’s been strange for many years and got noticeably stranger this summer when he started staying outside all the time. He’d only come in to eat some wet food and head right back out. Thankfully, he’s not senile and started coming back into the house as soon as it got below 40 at night, but he still wants to wander out at odd times.

His eyes have been leaking and his tongue hangs out almost all the time. He’ll only eat canned food and sleeps a whole lot. He doesn’t seem to be in pain and doesn’t cry out when we touch the lump on his right jaw. But he’s lost weight and looks lumpy, although he is friendlier than ever and a pleasure to have around. When he crawls into my lap, it’s clear he’ll stay there for the next few hours if not dumped off.

Like so many things today, the economics of a pet’s illness is enough to threaten your economic stability. George is waiting for a biopsy on a nasty shin wound/development/??? that’s going to cost him beyond his insurance for surgery soon to follow. Just finding out what’s wrong with Willy is going to cost from $300 to $400, and this is a reasonable vet… At this cat’s age, much more cost will be a death sentence. Just as it will be for George or myself as the years roll on. Neither of us have any padding whatsoever against vicissitude or calamity. It makes for heady living in one sense, there’s no going back for do overs, so just forge ahead. I’m just trying not to think about the day when some nice doctor gives me some bad news.


I am a writer and journalist living in a small wine community 60 miles north of San Francisco. At the age of 67, I’ve been involved in writing and publishing since the sixth grade newsletter in one form or another, working as a legal editor for CCH, assistant to two art directors at the Rolling Stone, a cub reporter at the Sonoma Index-Tribune, founding the Kenwood Press, assistant ME at the Petaluma Argus-Courier, ME of the Novato Advance (4 months), production editor for DealFlow Media, and today I’m back at the Kenwood Press, writing and providing technical assistance on a part-time basis.

I was educated in Beaconsfield, England; Washington, D.C., Dayton Ohio; Washington again; Paris, France (graduated HS); San Antonio, TX (graduated Trinity U); Chicago, IL (three years Loyola School of Law). College degree in History with minors in Psychology and French.

I live in a canyon next to Sugarloaf State Park on a very isolated half-acre of God’s back yard. It is so beautiful I pinch myself daily because after 33 years I still don’t believe I have the right to live so well.

For anyone with political sensitivities, I declare firmly that you have no idea of what I think about politics. I vote Democratic 90 percent of the time. I’m more fiscally conservative than anyone would ever believe. I have no trouble with the death penalty, justly and fairly administered. Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and most of Western Pakistan would be glass if I ran the country after 9/11.

I think the silliest and least useful sobriquets in the current US lexicon is “liberal” or “conservative,” inevitably used to tar the recipient with a host of preconceived nonsense that prevents communication at any level. I have traveled, read, listened, learned and thought about life enough to know that it’s anything but simple. On the contrary, it is rich, complex, multi-hued, nuanced and a constant source of wonder to me in it’s kaleidoscopic presentation.

“Parallax is an apparent displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines.” Taken straight from Wikipedia (blush). I learned about it using a CIA provided Leica the year before my father — Col. Jay F. Gamel, Sr. — moved to Paris to become Military Attache to NATO. As most attache’s are spies of one sort or another, they have to take courses in surveillance before posting. Pop hated the whole idea of it in general, and cameras in particular, and since I was a camera buff at 12, i got the Leica and a whole bag full of goodies.

This was before the day of the single-lens reflex camera. You looked thorough a finder — a small telescope mounted on top of the camera body, so right there you are looking at the photo target at a different angle than you’d see it directly through the lens. The displacement is small with a camera, but real enough for those who want to capture what they are seeing.
Parallax is a very real factor in human relations as well. As we look at a person, idea, concept, event, whatever, we have each our own line of sight. The parable of the blind men describing an elephant is an apt but gross analogy. What most people don’t fully appreciate is how subtle differences in perception can be when they are certain that there is no other way to see a thing. And by “thing” I mean any processed perception: heat, love, hate, light, pain, darkness … the whole world without ourselves.
Communication is mostly about comparing and resolving those angular differences in perception. Success is achieved when enough identities are shared to compose mutually coherent information in the communicants. Success in communicating is one of the most rewarding experiences a human can experience. It is one of the major confirmations that we are not alone in the universe, that our thoughts and perceptions are reproducible in another human being. It is a substantiation and validation of our very selves.
Conversations, books, stories, songs, paintings are all forms of communication, which is the highest part of life for me, looking, listening, feeling and ultimately comprehending some part of what’s been offered to me by way of a thought by another human being. 
I want to thank the thousands of people who have lived since proto-history who have conveyed their thoughts and feelings to me throughout my life. You have provided the very rich tapestry of my life and made the days exciting and filled with wonder and mystery.