Archive for June, 2008

My neighbor George Stamoulis this past week pointed out another bit of nature nesting on our hill. Several of George’s pine trees have limbs overhanging Campolindo Road, and at the end of one limb, a colony of baldfaced hornets have built a nest the size of a Cranshaw melon.

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Baldfaced hornets, which are found throughout North America, are really a type of wasp and distinct from European and Asian hornets. They are in the same scientific order as yellowjackets, Vespidae, and somewhat resemble them.

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The hornets haven’t attacked any of us on Campolindo Road, but George is worried that a delivery truck will knock the nest down. So far, however, even the garbage trucks have managed to miss it. Good thing because the “worker” wasps, infertile females, are extremely protective of their nests and will repeatedly sting anyone who disturbs it. (The males, “drones,” have no stingers.)

Baldfaced-hornet nests, which have been known to reach three feet tall, are made of a paper-like material the worker wasps produce by chewing old wood. Starch in their saliva binds the wood fibers to create the paper.

“Every year young queens that were born and fertilized the previous year start a new colony and raise their young,” Wikipedia notes. “This continues through summer and into fall. As winter approaches, the wasps die, except for young fertilized queens which hibernate underground or in hollow trees. The nest is generally abandoned by winter, and will most likely not be reused.”

100_7581.jpg Homage to Rembrandt. Former Inverness resident John Robbins, who built the Horizon Cable system in West Marin, at my dining-room table Wednesday just before sunset.

Not much news here from this past week — just a few stories and mostly unrelated photos. The first story occurred — appropriately enough — after dark on Friday the 13th.

Kathy Runnion, who heads the cat-rescue group Planned Feralhood, was riding with me to the No Name Bar to in Sausalito for an evening of jazz when I drove past the Ross Police Station along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard about 9:15 p.m. The traffic light at Lagunitas Road up ahead was green, but as we approached the intersection, Kathy suddenly exclaimed, “Do you see that? Look out!” There was a thump, and Kathy cried out, “Oh, my God! That car hit her!”

I glanced over at the far curb just in time to see a pre-teen girl collapsing on the pavement. I immediately stopped, as did the oncoming driver that hit her. The girl was apparently leaving an event at the Marin Art and Garden Center, and parents who had been at the center, along with a policeman, immediately converged on the scene.

The girl was obviously in shock and may have been briefly knocked out, for she kept screaming, “What happened?”

You were hit by a car,” the officer repeatedly explained. Within minutes, paramedics and an ambulance arrived. I later called the Ross Police Department to relate what Kathy and I had witnessed. Kathy had seen two girls in the road, jaywalking in the dark. One “retreated” to the curb when she saw the oncoming car. The other girl, however, tried to run across the street. If she’d been a second or two faster, the oncoming driver probably wouldn’t have struck her, but I probably would have. Our cars were virtually side by side when the accident occurred.

The policeman I talked with said the girls’ view of oncoming traffic had been momentarily obscured by a third car, which was turning left. Fortunately, he noted, the oncoming driver was able to swerve just enough to avoid hitting the girl head-on, so her injuries were not too severe. Nonetheless, the incident left me shaken. I pass all this along for the obvious moral: don’t jaywalk on a busy boulevard after dark, and if you’re a driver, keep your eyes peeled for those that do.

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The blacktail doe and two fawns that live on this hill spend part of every day in my pasture. The fawns are now about 10 weeks old. I shot this family photo Thursday.

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My next story isn’t grim despite its violent conclusion. As it happens, when I sold The Point Reyes Light 32 months ago, I had been storing two of the newspaper’s old computers in my basement. They were obsolete and ready for recycling, but I didn’t want to throw them out until the hard drives were erased. In these days of identity theft and cyber-crime, leaving personal and business records on the hard drives would seem to be asking for trouble.

On Monday, using the computers’ “erase” function, I tried to write over the hard drives with zeroes — the usual way to clear a hard drive. But the old software soon froze. What to do? I called Sheila and Michael Castelli, who a few years ago moved from Point Reyes Station to Taos. She builds websites, and he’s a computer techie.

Mike gave me advice for resuming the erasing, but Sheila soon emailed me that Mike had come up with a simpler, low-tech solution: take out the hard drives and smash ‘em. The only problem with that was I’d never tried to disassemble a computer and wouldn’t know a hard drive if I saw one. So I wrote back for more advice.

On Tuesday, however, it occurred to me to call Marin Mac Shop in San Rafael, where a techie told me he’d remove both hard drives for a total of $49.50. I crammed the two computers, two monitors (one of them huge), a plate burner, and other gear into my Acura and — with its rear end sagging — drove over the hill.

Marin Mac Shop needed less than five minutes to remove both hard drives, and I was back out the door and on my way to ReNew Computers. The electronics-recycling center is hard to find. It’s located at 1241 Andersen Drive, Suite J, a small space in one of the non-descript industrial buildings south of downtown; however, the staff was friendly, and the dropoff was free.

Back at home, I followed Mike’s suggestion and destroyed the hard drives with an ax. I pass all this along as one solution to the vexing problem of what to do with old computers.

100_7606_1.jpgThis last story is a pretty good indication of how I live these days. My long-term houseguest Linda Petersen has a 15-year-old dog, a Havanese named Sebastian. As I’ve noted before, he’s virtually deaf and legally blind, but he’s very sweet.

In recent months, unfortunately, Sebastian has taken to begging at the table, and given his advanced age, neither of us has had the heart to turn him down.

My dining-room table sits next to a window, and just outside the window is a woodbox. Linda and I were eating dinner Thursday night when her little dog as usual came over and stood with his front paws on my leg, wanting to be fed. At that moment, Mrs. Raccoon climbed onto the woodbox and began vulching over my shoulder, hoping I’d throw her some pieces of bread.

“Only in this cabin,” I said to Linda, would we have a pet dog and a wild raccoon begging at the dinner table simultaneously.” Linda then took over feeding table scraps to Sebastian while I got up and threw some bread out the kitchen door to Mrs. Raccoon. I pass all this along as a warning as to what can happen once you start feeding dogs and raccoons from the dinner table. They give you no peace.

An enthusiastic crowd showed up at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art Saturday afternoon for the opening of an exhibit by Bruce Lauritzen of Point Reyes Station.

Lauritzen’s idiosyncratic exhibition of paintings, which is titled the Vessel Series, consists of abstracted representations of boat hulls.

100_7569.jpg The artist discusses his painting Still Waters III with two guests at his opening.

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The painting in the foreground is titled Boathouse. The three smaller paintings to its left are titled Towards Dark Water, RowBoat, and RowBoat II.

Lauritzen graduated from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and earned a master-of-fine-arts degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. He later taught at the College of Marin and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He was also a member of the Marin Arts Council’s founding board of directors. Lauritzen’s work is in more than 100 private, institutional, and museum collections.
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Lauritizen (left) with fellow Point Reyes Station artist Chuck Eckart during Saturday’s opening at the Marin Contemporary Art Museum on the old Hamilton Air Base.

The show can be seen from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays through July 13 at 500 Palm Drive.

Some history regarding the museum’s impressive home: It typifies the air base’s Spanish-Revival-style buildings, which were mostly constructed in 1934. Originally called Hamilton Airfield, the base is named for a World War I hero, 1st Lt. Lloyd Andrew Hamilton. In August 1918, Hamilton received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism after leading a low-level bombing attack on a German airdrome 30 miles behind enemy lines in Belgium. He died in action only 13 days later in France. The air base was decommissioned in 1974.

Like a kite/ Cut from the string,/ Lightly the soul of my youth/ Has taken flight. — Ishikawa Takuboku (1885-1912)

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Students from tiny Nicasio School on Wednesday afternoon flew kites on LaFranchi Hill across Nicasio Valley Road from the school. By tradition, the event is held during the last week of each school year, and the full studentbody takes part.

100_7489.jpg Western Weekend Queen Lianne Nunes greets the parade crowd Sunday. Her driver is Debbie Rocca.

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Sunday’s parade in Point Reyes Station drew almost 1,000 spectators, who enjoyed sunny skies and a little less wind than we’d been having all week.

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In many ways, Western Weekend is a small-town celebration of its ranching heritage. Of course, not all small towns are the same.

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Cowgirls for Peace in recent years have become a fixture of this small-town parade.

100_7480_1.jpgAnother politically progressive group of women, Main Street Moms, in the past have demonstrated against President Bush’s war policies. This year the Moms demonstrated for clean energy.

100_7451.jpg The Marin Agricultural Land Trust float. MALT, a nonprofit, was founded in 1980 as an alliance between ranchers and environmentalists to protect family farms and preserve open space. It works like this. Ranchers voluntarily sell commercial- and residential-development rights to MALT — typically in exchange for half the market value of their property. Under this arrangement, the ranchers give MALT an agricultural-conservation easement across their land while retaining ownership of their ranches. So far, MALT has acquired easements on more than 60 ranches for a total of more that 40,000 acres.
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The Nave Patrola spoofs the World War II Italian army — at times chanting “Il Duce,” the title taken by Fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Patrol members manage to continually get their marching orders confused, collide with each other, and fall down. Back in the early 1970s, a representative of the Italian Consulate in San Francisco after seeing all this complained to parade organizers (to no avail) that the spoof denigrated Italy.

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Tomales Bay State Park’s parade entry was a kayak on wheels pulled behind a truck.

100_7518.jpg The nonprofit Coastal Health Alliance operates clinics in Point Reyes Station, Bolinas, and Stinson Beach.

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For youngsters, grabbing wrapped candies, which riders on parade floats throw, is often as important as seeing the parade.

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Marin Sun Farms entered an especially ambitious float in the parade. The grass-fed, organic beef ranch on Point Reyes has a butcher shop in Point Reyes Station, and a butcher on Sunday cut up a quarter of beef while standing on the bed of a truck rolling in the procession.

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The Aztec Dancers keep in rhythm with the beat of drummers (left rear).

100_7488.jpg Wells Fargo’s having bought the Bank of Petaluma in Point Reyes Station three months ago, the Wells Fargo Stagecoach showed up for this year’s parade.

100_7532.jpgMarin County Farm Bureau held a chicken barbecue next to Toby’s Feed Barn after the parade. Toby’s was also the site of the parade’s judging stand, a Cow Flop Drop fundraiser for Halleck Creek Riding Club, a chili cookoff, and various other Western Weekend festivities.

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Turnout was light today, Tuesday, for California’s state primary elections — mainly because the state had already held its presidential primary on Feb. 5. Waiting for voters at the Point Reyes Station polling place in the firehouse are election workers (from front): Doug Long, Cathleen Austin, and Cindy Knabe.

US Senator Barack Obama today clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, as numerous news organizations early this afternoon began projecting he would.

Acknowledging her opponent’s commanding lead in delegates to the nominating convention, Senator Hillary Clinton told Democratic politicos in New York that she is willing to be Obama’s running mate.

220px-barack_obama.jpgSenator Obama, 46, is the first black presidential nominee of a major US political party.

Obama was born in Honolulu to a Kenyan father and a white American mother, who met at the University of Hawaii. His parents soon separated, however, and eventually divorced. His mother’s second husband was Indonesian, and when he was six, Obama moved to Indonesia for four years. He then returned to Hawaii where he lived with his maternal grandparents while attending 5th through 12th grades.

Obama graduated from Columbia University where he majored in Political Science, specializing in International Relations. In 1991, he received a law degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.

From 1993 to 2004, Senator Obama taught Constitutional Law parttime at the University of Chicago Law School while also working as an attorney. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996 and the US Senate in 2004.

100_5259.jpgMeanwhile, this news blog at 10 a.m. today (which is when I got up) projected Supervisor Steve Kinsey and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey would easily win their races.

Incumbent Kinsey (left) ran unopposed in the nonpartisan Marin County race for the Fourth District.

He will now serve his fourth term on the Board of Supervisors, representing all of West Marin, along with pieces of Larkspur, Corte Madera, and San Rafael.

lynn_woolsey.jpgIncumbent Woolsey (right), who represents Marin and Sonoma counties in the US House of Representatives, likewise ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

In November, Woolsey will face Michael Halliwell, who was unopposed in today’s Sixth District Republican primary. Woolsey has already served eight terms in the House, where she has one of the most liberal voting records of any member.

photo50.jpgUpdate on the State Senate Democratic Primary: With 43 percent of the vote, Assemblyman Mark Leno handily outdistanced Assemblyman Joe Nation (29.3 percent) and incumbent Carole Migden (27.7 percent) in the Third State Senate District.

The district includes Marin County and parts of San Francisco and Sonoma counties.

Leno (left) will face Republican Sashi McEntee in November’s general election. McEntee ran unopposed in today’s Republican primary.

The Third State Senate District — like Woolsey’s Sixth Congressional District — is overwhelmingly Democratic, and a victory in either Democratic primary is often tantamount to election.

The 59th annual Western Weekend in Point Reyes Station got off to a merry — but tiny — start Saturday at the Dance Palace. In a large corral across Sixth Street, Point Reyes-Olema 4-H Club members showed a total of only half a dozen dairy cows and heifers.

“Where are all the other animals?” asked architect Sim Van der Ryn, a long-time resident of Inverness. But aside from five chickens and five rabbits in cages outside the back door of the Dance Palace, there weren’t any more.

100_7365.jpgJanelle Kehoe’s Holstein cow was the livestock show’s grand champion.

As it happened, a copy of The Point Reyes Light with the 1995 livestock show results was lying around my cabin, and after Saturday’s show, it occurred to me to compare the number of entries this year with the number of winners back then. I was shocked by how dramatically participation has dropped off.

The 4-H Fair winners 13 years ago included: nine beef cattle (this year, no entries); 12 dairy cows (this year, six entries); six dogs (none); 10 horses (none); four sheep (none); three cavies aka guinea pigs (none); three small animals/pets (none); 11 rabbits (five).
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One of the most fascinating facets of poultry competition in the 4-H Fair amounts to herding chickens with a pencil. Competitors are not supposed touch their bird with their hands while herding it down a folding table, so Frankie Kohrdt is carefully holding back although her chicken seems perplexed.

100_7358.jpgNathan Hemelt’s Holstein was named reserve champion in the dairy cow showmanship competition.

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With great concentration, River Aguire uses a pencil to nudge his wayward chicken down the judging table. Watching intensely are all his fellow competitors (from left): Frankie Kohrdt, McKenna Kohrdt, Adriano Puppo, and Olivia Puppo.
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Carol Horick of Point Reyes Station keeps a tight lead on a rambunctious heifer during “adult showmanship” competition.

Instead of an animal show that in years past lasted all day, Saturday’s was over in less than two hours. And it would have been even shorter were it not for a mostly for-fun competition, adult showmanship. Adults, including parents of 4-H members and mere bystanders, were rounded up to show cows. Judges asked the adults not to chose their own children’s cow to show, and most complied.

Why is the livestock show shrinking so dramatically with each passing year? Certainly one reason is the reduction in ranching throughout West Marin.

Some ranches for economic reasons have had to greatly scale back, for example by replacing a dairy operation with beef-cattle grazing. A number of the ranches acquired by the National Park Service have been shut down. And the demographics of West Marin’s ranching community are also changing; fewer young parents can afford to live and raise 4-H members here.

In addition, 4-H clubs from throughout Marin and southern Sonoma counties once took part in the livestock show. No longer.

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Ruler of the roost: Adriano Puppo’s chicken stands head and tail above the chicken belonging to his older sister Olivia.

The 4-H’ers father said that as newly hatched chickens, the two spent last winter in the family garage where they took to this close arrangement for staying warm.

Now that the weather is warmer, the two still prefer a vertical arrangement when hanging out together, and Olivia’s chicken pushes its way under her brother’s chicken almost as often as his chicken climbs on top.

Traditionally, the Western Weekend parade was held the day after Saturday’s livestock show, but this year there were “scheduling conflicts,” according to the sponsors, the West Marin Lions and Rotary clubs.

The parade down the main street of Point Reyes Station will begin at noon Sunday, June 8. There will be a silent auction from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day in the Dance Palace.

West Marin Senior Services will hold a chili and cornbread cookoff at 1 p.m. at Toby’s Feed Barn. And Halleck Creek Riding Club for the Disabled will sponsor a Cow-flop Drop; the fundraiser uses a grided field behind Toby’s and is sort of like roulette, with a cow and her plop substituted for a croupier and ball.

In addition, Marin Farm Bureau and Organics will hold a barbecue at Toby’s from 1 to 3 p.m., and winners of the Western Weekend raffle will be announced at 2 p.m. at Toby’s.

A Western Weekend Queen’s Dance will be held from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 7, in the Dance Palace.