Archive for February, 2012

When one talks turkey, he may sometimes be speaking about the country, the bird, or an inept person or performance.

Leaving aside Turkey, let’s talk about birds and inept people.

A wild turkey marches along my railing.

In the past week, a flock of wild turkeys, which is often seen in the fields around Mitchell cabin, has begun making almost daily incursions onto my deck in early morning and late afternoon. They come to eat the seed we put out for smaller birds, and their pecking and gobbling are loud enough to awaken us from a sound sleep.

But the real problem is their leaving piles of poop all over the deck and railing. For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with turkey poop, it sufficeth to say the volume can be intimidating.

Wild turkeys are usually fairly skittish, but this past week they’ve been so absorbed with eating that I have been able to join them on the deck to take their pictures.

Male turkeys, which are called Toms, have a large, featherless, reddish head, red throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. The head has fleshy growths called caruncles.

When males are excited, a fleshy flap on the bill expands. Along with the flap, the wattles and the bare skin of the head and neck all become engorged with blood. When a male turkey is sexually aroused, its head turns blue. When it’s ready to fight, its head turns red. Or so I’ve read.

A wild turkey flies from my deck to join the rest of the flock in a field below. Perhaps it heard me laughing at a turkey in The (London) Time’s Literary Supplement, and that drove him off.

The Times Literary Supplement last year commented on a review, which had appeared in Scotsman magazine, of the novel Kill Your Friends by John Niven. The Times Literary Supplement wryly noted that the critic for Scotsman “could think of no higher praise than ‘bed-wettingly funny.'”

Turkeys hunt and peck their way across my fields, looking for insects and seeds.

And here are two slightly risque jokes that also come from The Times Literary Supplement. They’re funny but not bed-wettingly so:

• “A six year old and a four year old decide to start swearing. ‘When we go down for breakfast,’ the older brother says, ‘you say hell and I’ll say ass.’ Downstairs, Mom asks the younger what he’d like for breakfast.

“‘Hell, I think I’ll just have cornflakes.’

“Mom whacks his head and sends him back upstairs, to the horror of his brother. ‘And what do you want for breakfast?’ she says.

“He starts to cry. ‘You can bet your ass it won’t be cornflakes.'”

• “A young, country priest is accosted by a prostitute on his way through town. ‘How about a quickie for £20?’ she asks. The priest hurries on. He meets another prostitute. ‘£20 for a quickie, father?’ Bewildered, he heads back to the country. There he meets a nun.

“‘Pardon me, sister, but what’s a quickie?’

“‘£20,’ she says. ‘Same as in town.'”

That should be enough turkeys for one posting. Have a happy Leap Year Day.


Well over 100 people showed up Sunday in the Dance Palace for a memorial to honor Cecil Robert Asman, who died on Christmas Eve at the age of 87.

Cecil was a particularly popular Realtor; that’s Realtor with a capital R. Only real estate agents who belong to the Board of Realtors can call themselves Realtors. It’s sort of like lions. If you send someone a message that there are a bunch of lions in your yard, those are big cats. If you say there are a bunch of Lions (with a capital L), they’re members of the Lions Club.

In late December 1978, Cecil became a director of the Marin County Board of Realtors. On that occasion, I asked Cecil about the then-much-discussed “struggle” between environmentalists and the real estate industry. “I consider myself a good environmentalist — but not in the political sense,” he responded. He said the real struggle was between environmental groups and subdivision developers.

Real estate, he said, “is really a service — bringing buyers and sellers together. Most environmentalists live in a house that was created by someone.” He noted with pride that he had sold homes to a number of West Marin’s prominent environmentalists.

My interview with Cecil in 1978, which was for a profile in The Point Reyes Light, took place at the real estate office he then had next to the Green Bridge.

Cecil, who moved to West Marin in 1962, had by the time of our interview done an amazing amount of civic work here. He had been a director of the Marin Coast Chamber of Commerce and the Inverness Yacht Club. He also helped the Inverness Foundation acquire the old Brock Schreiber boathouse, donating his commission toward the purchase.

He was an original member of the Inverness Music Festival and for years was a director. In 1976, he helped organize Point Reyes Station’s bicentennial celebration.

He had been on the bishop’s committee of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church and once headed the committee as warden of the church.

Because of all his work in the Episcopalian Church, it had never occurred to me that his ancestry was in part Jewish. So I was fascinated to read in The West Marin Citizen an account of his family life written by his daughter Carrie Asman.

Cecil’s father Ike was born in Vilna, Russia (now the capital of Lithuania), Carrie wrote. While Ike was still a boy, his family emigrated to the United States in the face of pogroms (deadly anti-Semitic riots) that were sweeping Russia and Eastern Europe. In the US, the family first lived in Georgia and then moved to New Orleans. After finding more anti-Semitism in the South, Ike Asman changed his name to Joe Green to disguise his ethnicity, Carrie noted.

The family ultimately moved to the East Bay, where I also grew up. Cecil attended local schools and enlisted in the Navy when World War II broke out, Carrie added.

After the war, Cecil held a variety of jobs before getting into real estate. He had been a business consultant, and I asked him about the other work he’d done.

Cecil said he had sold everything from hearing aids to automobiles, adding with a laugh: “The most interesting thing I ever dealt with was selling and packaging B.S. — cow manure.”

He told me that in the 1950s he purchased a weekend home in Inverness and moved here permanently in 1962. In 1964, he became a salesman for Studdard Real Estate and got his broker’s license in 1967.

Cecil said that when he bought his first house in Inverness, the price was $2,250. At the time of our interview 20 years later, it was worth more than 10 times that, he added, amazed at the effects of inflation.

In a comment prescient of the nationwide housing bubble that just burst, Cecil noted that a generally depressed housing industry had in 1975 set off a ”meteoric” climb in real estate prices in West Marin.

At the time of our interview in 1978, however, the rapid inflation in house and land prices had started to slow, “and I’m glad it has,” Cecil said. “It would have been catastrophic if the inflation had continued much longer.”

As for me, I was a beneficiary of Cecil’s close reading of the real estate market. With his guidance, I was able to buy more than two acres in the hills above Point Reyes Station at a very low price, and I continue to bless him for having made it possible for me to own a home here for the past 35 years.

Drake’s Bay Oyster Company and its predecessors have operated within Drakes Estero for a century.

The scientific misconduct of former Point Reyes National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher (right) — misrepresenting park research to try to force Drakes Bay Oyster Company out of the park — has now become a political problem for the Obama administration.

Nebaucher’s misconduct was covered up by Jon Jarvis, then director of the Pacific West Region of the Park Service and now the Park Service director.

Especially in this election year, Republicans are looking for ways to take pokes at President Obama, and the White House’s 2009 nomination of Jarvis to be director of the Park Service has provided them with an opportunity.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) had previously excoriated the Park Service’s behavior. Now two conservative senators, David Vitter (R-La.) and Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, have taken up the cause, claiming it epitomizes failings by the White House and its Interior Department.

Dr. Corey Goodman of Marshall, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, first brought to light the National Seashore administration’s misrepresentations, which have resulted in this political brouhaha.

In a letter sent today to Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, Senators Vitter and Inhofe wrote:

“As we continue to investigate issues related to scientific misconduct at our federal agencies, it has been brought to our attention a concerning matter related to Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service (NPS).

“Of particular interest to our efforts are the circumstances involving a distinguished member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), White House science advisor Dr. John Holdren, and the serious concerns of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“On three occasions in 2009, while the Jarvis (left) nomination was being vetted, Dr. Corey Goodman, an elected NAS member, submitted three letters to you detailing a case of serial scientific misconduct by Jon Jarvis and National Park Service (NPS) officials and scientists under his direct supervision.

“It is our understanding that Dr. Goodman contacted you after discussing the matter concerning Jon Jarvis, Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and Point Reyes National Seashore with Dr. (John) Holdren, science advisor to the president.

“We are in possession of the three letters dated April 27, 2009, May 10, 2009, and May 16, 2009. That a distinguished member of the NAS would need to send such letters of concern to you directly is distressing. Even more distressing is the fact you that you have failed to respond.

Dr. Goodman’s three letters outline significant matters of scientific integrity that in the light of President Obama’s promise of ‘restoring science to its rightful place’ logically would have necessitated your response and responsible steps to rectify Jarvis’ work.

“At a minimum, all of these should have been disclosed during Jarvis’ nomination process to the White House, Senate Energy Committee and the Congress, and all should have been made aware of the ongoing investigations into the the work of then-Regional Director of the Pacific West Region Jarvis.

“We are also aware that you asked Mr. Jarvis to respond to Dr. Goodman’s 21 points outlined in his May 16, 2009, letter to you, but that Mr. Jarvis responded to only seven of those points on May 17, 2009.

“At Dr. Holdren’s request, Dr. Goodman (who plays jazz in his spare time, left) provided a critical review of Jarvis’ partial response on May 19, 2009.

“Did Congress have copies of Dr. Goodman’s three letters, the Jon Jarvis response, and Dr. Goodman’s critique of that response during the nomination process? If not, why was this information withheld?

As Senator Feinstein recently noted, ‘Three independent offices — the Interior Department’s Inspector General, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Interior solicitor — uncovered errors and misrepresentations in the National Park Service’s assessment of oyster farm operations.’

“Our question, of course, then would be: If the NAS, the Interior IG, and DOI [Department of the Interior] Solicitor properly disclosed the totality and scope of pending scientific integrity issues, and then fully disclosed his conduct to the White House and the President, would (a) Mr. Jarvis’ name even have been recommended by you to the President; and (b) the President have submitted the nomination to the US Senate for confirmation?

“Over the last several years we have uncovered multiple instances of scientific misconduct at the EPA and Interior. Last year, we noted some of those in a letter to Dr. Holdren. Unfortunately, Dr. Holdren flouted congressional oversight and implicitly admitted in his response that he had not taken any steps to address these very real and serious concerns.

“We are hopeful that you have not taken a similar ‘pass’ on issues of scientific integrity. Accordingly, we ask for thorough and complete responses to the following:

“1. What is the status of Interior’s response to the three letters by Dr. Goodman’s critique of Jarvis’ partial response?

“2. Who at Interior was charged with responding to the three letters written by Dr. Goodman? Please provide all emails, memorandum or other documents related to each of Dr. Goodman’s three letters.

“3. Upon receipt of Dr. Goodman’s complaint, did you as Secretary direct that an investigation be initiated to determine whether or not the Data Quality Act, White House STP [Science and Technology Policy] on Research Misconduct, or the NPS Code of Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct were violated? If not, why not?

“4. Did you disclose to the White House, when the Jarvis nomination was being vetted, that three letters and 21 counts of scientific misconduct against Jarvis were pending? Did you or anyone else at the Department of the Interior similarly disclose these developments to the US Senate?

“Please provide the report(s), letters, memorandum, emails and/or documents which disclosed these circumstances to either the White House and/or the US Senate during consideration of the nomination or during the confirmation process. If any information was withheld, who at Interior or the White House determined that the information related to Mr. Jarvis’ conduct did not need to be brought to the the attention of the Senate during his confirmation?

Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

“5. What is the status of the permits for Drakes Bay Oyster Company?

“6. Did Mr. Jarvis disclose that in December 2007, a 77-page integrity complaint had been submitted to the Director, National Park Service and never answered?

“What is the status of the outstanding ethics complaint against Jon Jarvis and Don Neubacher submitted to [former NPS] Director [Mary A.] Bomar on Dec 18, 2007, and did the US Department of the Interior and/or the National Park Service investigate those scientific misconduct allegations?

“7. The third of three Goodman letters detailed 21 counts of scientific misconduct by Mr. Jarvis. Immediately upon receipt, according to available information, Mr. Jarvis provided you with responses to seven of the 21 counts and did not even address the majority of the charges. Please provide detailed responses to each of these specific charges.

“Why was Mr. Jarvis allowed to provide only a partial response? Why did you fail to respond to Dr. Goodman? Were Jarvis’ responses provided to the White House and/or Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources?

“Please attest to the veracity of each of the 21 points outlined in the May 16, 2009, letter from Dr. Goodman. Which of the points did Jon Jarvis respond to and which did he exclude? In light of Dr. Goodman’s critique of Jarvis’ partial response, do you consider the Jarvis response adequate?

We concur with Senator Feinstein that ‘the transparency that comes with scientific review is a good thing, even when it doesn’t support an individual’s agenda.’ It remains imperative that individual agendas of federal bureaucrats lacking a scientific basis are not allowed to undermine private citizens and our economy.

“If nobody has yet been charged with responding to Dr. Goodman’s letters, we ask that you personally respond and that we receive copies of those responses. It is particularly troubling that Jarvis was accused of being involved in and directing a cover-up of the fabrication, falsification and/or misrepresentations of scientific misconduct.

“It is further frustrating that you were informed of these significant matters and it appears that nothing was done.

It does our nation and science a disservice to allow any agency of the federal government to ignore the responsibility to investigate scientific misconduct, especially when brought to your direct attention.”

In addition to their letter to Interior Secretary Salazar, the senators also made public comments:

Senator Vitter (right): “We’ve seen facts manipulated and science ignored across the administration while they’ve developed policies with huge negative effects on the economy.

“We want the public to be aware of the administration’s scientific gimmickry, because important policy decisions by the EPA and Interior shouldn’t be based on guesswork or manipulated facts.

And we want the agencies to be transparent and explain their methods.”

Senator Inhofe (left): “It is extremely troubling that 21 counts of scientific misconduct by Mr. Jarvis were either ignored or only partially addressed by Secretary Salazar, especially as Mr. Jarvis was being considered for a key post within the Department of the Interior.

However, given the numerous examples of the Obama Administration using dubious science to bolster their agenda, I am not surprised. Senator Vitter and I will continue to pursue this case, as well as the many other instances of scientific misconduct with the Obama Department of the Interior and EPA, until we have answers.”

Both Vitter and Inhofe are friendly to the Tea Party and skeptical of scientists who say humans are contributing to climate change. By misrepresenting scientific research, Jarvis and Neubacher ended up playing right into the senators’ hands.

Last week I reported that a Guatemalan wife and mother of two, Cristina Siekavizza (at right), disappeared July 7.

Authorities suspect she was murdered by her husband, Roberto Barreda de León, and that he has probably fled to the United States, taking the couple’s two children, Roberto Jose, 7, and María Mercedes, 4, with him.

As I wrote, I became interested in the case because my former wife Ana Carolina Monterroso is a friend of Cristina’s relatives. She and Cristina’s brother Pablo have notified me that roughly 25,000 people are currently using social media to track down Roberto.

I believe it. Last week’s posting drew a record 1,217 visitors in the first three days after it went online. Some 432 of those were in Guatemala. Readers have posted links to this blog on their Facebook pages and on other websites. Truly social media in action.

An international warrant for the English-speaking husband’s arrest has been issued. If people spot him, they should notify local law enforcement or the FBI. Please note that the email address in Guatemala for reporting his whereabouts is incorrect on the wanted poster. It should be

Point Reyes Station — Mitchell cabin with its red roof is near the center of the photo.

Around Mitchell cabin two foxes are making themselves more and more at home with every passing week. Lynn and I can hand feed them slices of bread although one is more skittish than the other. The first sits around the kitchen door waiting for me to hand it dinner. Usually we have to throw the slices to its partner.

For a year or more we had been feeding our foxes and raccoons honey-roasted peanuts along with bread, but that became fairly expensive.

Our problem was solved by Gayanne Enquist of Inverness.

She recommended we forget about peanuts and feed our critters dog kibble. It was a brilliant idea.

Once we determined through experimentation which brand they prefer — Kibble and Bits — we could eliminate peanuts and most bread from their dinners.

However, the kibble is so popular that we might as well be feeding two large dogs.

Along with the foxes, we get five or six raccoons every night.

One raccoon is a solitary male. The others belong to two families that don’t like each other, so we have to put out two trays of kibble on the deck and keep refilling them.

That adds up to about 40 pounds of kibble per week.

The foxes wait their turn for the kibble until the raccoons leave although the raccoons are also a bit wary of the foxes.

Of course, we’re not always Johnny on the spot in setting out their dinners, and here a fox waits patiently while a raccoon approaches cautiously.

We also feed a variety of birds, including towhees, sparrows, doves, and scores of redwing blackbirds. They have a set feeding time, somewhere between 4:30 and 5 p.m. However, the birds aren’t the only beneficiaries of the birdseed. Roof rats, those cute little rodents, show up almost as soon as the blackbirds leave.

Blacktail deer are ubiquitous around Mitchell cabin. This year I’ve seen as many as 14 at one time. Here a fawn sleeps right outside our kitchen window while two does graze nearby.

The deer are so comfortable around us that I can often approach them within a few feet.

Although we’re in the middle of winter, these are great days to relax. Just keep your eyes out for a murder suspect fleeing Guatemala.