Archive for June, 2012

With all the talk of bullying in schools, I was surprised to read a Page 1 headline in the June 14 Point Reyes Light that said that none of the bullying laws attempts to make students more compassionate: “No bullying law aims to bring compassion into schools.”

For the record, the unintended double entendre was the result of leaving out a grammatically required hyphen. The correct usage would be: “No-bullying law aims…” When two or more words before a noun add up to an adjective modifying the noun, they should be hyphenated. We write a “well-stocked refrigerator” but not “the refrigerator is well-stocked” because in the latter case “well stocked” follows the noun.

There is one exception to this rule. When one of the words describing the noun to follow is an adverb ending in ly, it is not hyphenated. In other words, we do not write a “nearly-naked damsel” although we do write an “almost-naked damsel.”

The Columbia Journalism Review has helped produce two books of newspaper gaffes, most of which are far more noteworthy than The Light’s. Both books are available online. The first is called Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim (1980). It takes its title from a headline in the Herald Independent in Wisconsin. A hyphen between dog and bite, by the way, would have eliminated the confusion. Of course, not all garbled journalese results from hyphenation errors.

Not only is the caption enigmatic, the word should be “bales,” not “bails.”

Here are other examples from the book. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what the headline writer or copy editor was really trying to say. A headline from The Washington Post: “All Utah Condemned to Face Firing Squad.” Or from the Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard: “Prostitutes appeal to Pope.”

Another case of cannibalism? A headline in The Washington Post: “Chester Morrill, 92, was Fed Secretary.” From the Norwich Bulletin: Marital Duties to Replace Borough Affairs for Harold Zipkin.” From the Atlanta Journal: “Connie Tied, Nude Policeman Testifies.”

From The Hartford Courant: “Rosemary Hall Gets New Head.” From The Tampa Tribune: “City May Impose Mandatory Time for Prostitution.” Or from The Charlotte Observer: “Police Kill Man With Ax.” And from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Tuna Biting Off Washington Coast.”

From the Daily Sun/Post in San Clemente: “Cold Wave Linked To Temperatures.” A paragraph from the Metropolis (Illinois) Planet: “Owners of all dogs in the city of Metropolis are required to be on a chain or in a fenced-in area.” From The News in Groton, Connecticut: “Police union to seek blinding arbitration.”

From The Cumberland (Maryland) News: “New Orleans To Get Force of 50 State ‘Supersops.'” Probably to stagger around the French Quarter. And from The Missourian: “Less Mishaps Than Expected Mar Holiday.” Or how ’bout this from the Chicago Daily News? “Woman better after being thrown from high-rise.”

From The (Gainesville) Times: “Missionary risked dysentery and bigamy in eight-day trip to Nigerian villages.” Say what? (Any reader who can decipher this one is urged to send in a comment.)

In the words of singer Rod Stewart, “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

From The Lethbridge (Alberta) Herald: “Drunk gets nine months in violin case.” A headline in the Gainsville (Florida) Sun: “Nationwide Heroine Crackdown Includes Arrest of Three Here.” And from the Williamsport (Pennsylvania) Sun-Gazette: “Doe Season Start Called Success; Four Hunters Stricken in Woods.”

From the Yakima (Washington) Herald Republic: “Accused pair of wire cutters arraigned.” While from the upstate Seattle Times: “Bar trying to help alcoholic lawyers.” And from The Arizona Republic: “Scientists are at loss due to brain-eating amoeba.”

From The Contra Costa Times: “Greeks Fine Hookers.” Oh, are they? But never on Sunday. From the Detroit Free Press: “Police Can’t Stop Gambling.” And from the Fort Worth Tribune: “He Found God At End of His Rope.”

From the Buffalo Courier-Express: “Child’s Stool Great For Use in Garden.” And from the Tonawanda (New York) News Frontier: “Teen-age prostitution problem is mounting.” Announcement in the Vermonter: “AN ITALIAN SINNER will be served at 5:30 p.m. at the Essex Center United Methodist Church.”

From the Detroit Free Press: “Milk Drinkers Turn to Powder.” And from The (Ottawa) Citizen: “People should evacuate when gas odor present.” Another scatalogical double entendre, this one from the Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune: “Columnist gets urologist in trouble with his peers.”

The second book of newspaper gaffes collected by the Columbia Journalism Review is called Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge (1987). The book takes its title from a headline in the Milford (Connecticut) Citizen. From The Toronto Star: “His humming rear end is a major distraction.” From The Guardian in England: “British left waffles on Falklands.”

And from The (Kitchener, Ontario) Record: “Woman off to jail for sex with boys.” A horrible double entendre from the Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle: “How You Can Lick Doberman’s Leg Sores.”

A headline from our own San Francisco Chronicle: “Residents were shocked each time their neighbors went on a murder spree.” And this from The Alabama Journal: “Blind Woman Gets New Kidney From Dad She Hasn’t Seen In Years.”

No wonder one of the Urban Dictionary’s definitions for double entendre is: “a word or phrase that has a double meaning, with one of the meanings usually naughty or rude.”

Summer will begin on Wednesday, so it is appropriate that a full array of wildlife, especially young wildlife, has been showing up at Mitchell cabin. On Sunday, two adult quail and eight chicks scurried in front of my partner Lynn Axelrod and me as we were about to get into my car.

Sunday evening, a female raccoon, which shows up on our deck each evening for a tray of kibble, surprised us by bringing along four kits. The kits were only a few months old, but already they revealed differing personalities. One brave kit followed right behind its mother as she prowled the deck. Another spent much of its time hiding behind our woodbox.

Raccoons tend to mate around the end of winter, with kits being born about two months later. Baby raccoons are born deaf and blind. Their ear canals open in about three weeks, and their eyes open a few days later.

Kits are usually weaned by the time they’re four months old although they stay with the mother until late fall while she shows them burrows and feeding grounds. After that, the kits — especially the males — begin leaving the family group and setting out on their own.

The mother, whom we had previously dubbed Samantha, tends to be remarkably relaxed on our deck. She often falls asleep leaning up against the glass door to our kitchen and is prone to eating like Roman nobility, lying on her side and sticking a paw into the food.

A couple of foxes also show up on our deck each evening, and they like to be hand fed slices of bread; however, they also like the raccoons’ kibble.

Samantha jealousy guards the kibble until she becomes satiated and loses interest in it.

At right she enjoys an after-dinner snooze notwithstanding a fox eating her kibble.

Lynn and I have seen a fox grab a slice of bread out from under the tail of a raccoon, and we have seen raccoons grab bread that was intended for a fox.

While both species are wary of each other, they’ll often run past each other only a few inches apart.

Even when one doesn’t see them, Western gray squirrels, such as this, often make their presence known by nibbling the tips off pine branches. The squirrels like to eat the cambium layer, which is immediately below the bark, and in the process eat through the tips, which then fall to the ground.

Are squirrels dangerous? Quoting Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, the BBC in 2005 reported: “Squirrels have bitten to death a stray dog which was barking at them in a Russian park… Passersby were too late to stop the attack by black squirrels in a village in the far east….

“They are said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh. A pine cone shortage may have led to the squirrels to seek other food sources, although scientists are skeptical.”

Did the attack really happen? Whatever happens in Russia, to quote Winston Churchill, “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” All I can tell you is that squirrels are omnivorous and will eat small birds, along with acorns. Moreover, Komosmolskaya Pravda reported that just a few months earlier, chipmunks had “terrorized cats” in the area.

Also making its presence known around Mitchell cabin of recent is this jackrabbit seen here on our front steps.

Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens notes in his book The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula that the large jackrabbits, also known as black-tailed hares, around here have “elongated hind limbs” which enable them to “spring long distances and make sharp turns. To avoid predation, the black-tail uses an element of surprise and escape that works well.”

“When a potential predator is detected, the hare will usually take shelter in the shade of a convenient clump of vegetation or behind a rock and freeze, motionless. If the predator approaches very closely, the hare leaps into stride, zig-zagging across open country until it finds shelter.”

“The effect on the startled predator is momentary confusion, which may afford the hare the advantage it needs to escape.” In contrast, its cousin the cottontail or brush rabbit has “relatively poor running ability,” Evens adds. They “rarely venture far from bushes, to which they retreat for safety when danger approaches.

“Nevertheless, this species frequently falls prey to foxes, bobcats, weasels, hawks, and owls.” I personally have seen cottontails peeking out from chaparral beside roads in the Point Reyes National Seashore and beside Highway 1 south of Stinson Beach.

With so many critters wanting to eat rabbits, where does the idea come from of a lucky rabbit’s foot? The tradition of carrying a rabbit’s foot as an amulet has long been practiced in Europe (since 600 BC), North America, South America, China, and Africa.

The superstition in North America is believed to have originated with African magic known as hoodoo, and not just any foot will do. It has to be the left, hind foot.

Some people believe that for its foot to be an effective good-luck charm, the rabbit must have been shot or captured in a cemetery. The phase of the moon can also be important. Some believe the rabbit must be killed during a full moon while others say it must be a new moon. Still others insist the rabbit must be killed on a Friday, a rainy Friday, or on a Friday the 13th.

This rabbit, as can be seen, considers the luckiest use of its left hind foot is for hopping away from potential danger.

Neither my partner Lynn Axelrod nor I had taken even a short vacation for a couple of years, so last week we spent Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon in Gualala on the coast of Mendocino County. The town is only 80 miles north of here, and it took us about two and a half hours to drive there.

Superficially, Gualala resembles Point Reyes Station. Highway 1 is the main street, and the population is not noticeably larger: 1,927 versus 848.

Both towns are rich in history and share some of the same problems. Where Point Reyes Station’s historic Grandi Building, erected in 1915, is derelict and boarded up, the 1903 Gualala Hotel (second from right) has closed its restaurant, lodgings, and once-renowned bar, but the building is in better condition.

Gualala is perched on a bluff at the edge of the Pacific, and many homes and businesses enjoy views of the water, which helps make it an exotic getaway. And because of moist breezes off the ocean, all manner of flowers bloom throughout the town.

As for the origin of the name Gualala, there are two main theories. One is that Gualala was taken from the Pomo word Wallali, meaning a place where two rivers meet or where a river meets the ocean.

The second is that Gualala is a Spanish rendering of Walhalla (a.k.a. Valhalla), which in Teutonic mythology was the abode of heroes fallen in battle. According to this theory, Walhalla was given its name by a German immigrant, Ernest Rufus. He and a partner in 1846 had received a Mexican land grant to an extensive region up there.

I had stayed in Gualala twice before and had found a charming inn, the Breakers, so Lynn and I had made reservations there for two nights.

All the rooms have decks with views of the ocean, as well as the Gualala River, and Lynn (above) immediately fell in love with the place. The bathroom included a two-person spa. A fireplace in the living room/bedroom made our accommodations seem especially cozy. All the rooms are thematically decorated. We had the Connecticut room which was vaguely reminiscent of colonial New England.

Lynn and I had not traveled to Gualala primarily to stay at the Breakers, however. After all, Mitchell cabin has its own deck with a narrow view of Tomales Bay, a hot tub, and a fireplace. A key attraction was the Gualala River where we wanted to go canoeing.

We had reserved a canoe from Adventure Rents and paddled upstream for a couple of miles, coming ashore on a rocky beach to look around. Dozens of cliff swallows were skimming over the river to catch insects. In addition, we saw what appeared to be a plover nesting on the beach, so we kept our distance to avoid disturbing it.

The Gualala River bridge is not only utilitarian but a work of art. We launched our canoe just downstream from the bridge. The river mouth is closed at this time of year because ocean waves throw up sandbars once there isn’t enough water coming downstream to wash them away.

While looking down on the bridge from the bluffs above revealed its grace, looking up at the bridge from our canoe revealed numerous clusters of swallow nests. The chance to see the nests was one reason I personally wanted to go canoeing.

Birds, in fact, were everywhere. This seagull kept showing up on our deck in hopes we would feed it pieces of bread, which I did. Often more than one gull would perch on the railing, which sometimes led to tussles over who got the bread.

Sunset in Gualala. The mouth of the river can be seen at the right.

Notwithstanding Gualala’s small size and relatively isolated location, it is remarkably sophisticated in many ways. It boasts a large (32-page) weekly newspaper, The Independent Coast Observer, which has all the coverage one would expect in a community newspaper and more.

Its election coverage was outstanding and included a well-written piece on the too-soon-to-call battle between Democrat Norman Solomon of Inverness Park and Republican Dan Roberts of Tiburon for the second spot in the District 2 congressional race.

The Coast Observer also printed a lengthy Sheriff’s Log and the usual land-use planning stories. Perhaps the most surprising story in last week’s issue was a first-person account by a local burlesque dancer who had just returned from India where she had worked with abused women and fought sex trafficking.

The burlesque star, Melinda Miller-Klopf, wrote that she has been criticized in the US and India for fighting sex-trafficking and abuse of women while working as a burlesque performer. To this she responded, “At their heart, they are the same issue with the same goals: self-empowerment for women and girls, ownership of sexuality, and love and respect for the bodies we are born into….

“What is titillating about burlesque is only partially the skin; most of the allure comes from the slightly scandalous feeling one gets from watching women having way too much fun.” Miller-Klopf was about to put on a burlesque show in the Gualala Arts Center, and apparently her argument was convincing. Just before we left town, Lynn and I saw women young and old lining up to buy tickets.

Saturday we headed back to Point Reyes Station but stopped at the Sea Ranch Chapel to admire its architecture. The chapel, built in 1985, was designed by the award-winning San Diego artist James Hubble.

Three large stained-glass windows give an understated elegance to the chapel’s interior.

Lynn peers through a sculpted fountain outside the chapel.

Our final stop on the way home was in Jenner where harbor seals could be seen basking on a sandbar. Lynn got into a conversation with an older couple from Los Angeles, who had also stopped to enjoy the scene, and came away convinced she had been talking with actor Ed Asner. I couldn’t tell, and we’ll probably never know for sure.

All in all, our short adventure was as exotic as a trip to Hawaii — and for a tenth the cost.

The 63rd annual Western Weekend, which celebrates West Marin’s agricultural heritage, drew one of its largest crowds in a decade last weekend.  On Saturday, the West Marin 4-H Fair, the Western Weekend queen’s coronation, and a barn dance were all held at Toby’s Feed Barn.

Sunday’s events began with a noontime parade down the three-block-long main street of Point Reyes Station. Despite the short route, the parade lasted more than an hour because street performances frequently stopped the procession. In addition, a few entries upon reaching the end of the route took a side street back to the starting point and made a second pass through town, thereby lengthening the parade.

Following the parade, the Marin County Farm Bureau held a chicken barbecue in Toby’s parking lot while a band played, people danced, and 4-H members sold pastries.

4-H Fair — Olivia Blantz of Point Reyes-Olema 4-H (left) and Emily Charlton of San Rafael 4-H cradle their poultry prior to the judging in Toby’s Feed Barn. Olivia’s hen won Best in Show.

Emily’s sister Erin Rose Charlton won the Showmanship award in the Junior category for her hen.

Goats — Olivia Tyrnauer’s goat Cinnamon (right) won first place in  Senior Showmanship. Olivia is a member of Mill Valley 4-H.

A Pigmy goat named Sylvester, which is owned by Megan Sintef of Nicasio 4-H, won a first place award in Junior Showmanship.

Altogether five goats were entered for judging in the 4-H Fair.




Rabbits — Amelia Paulsey, 6, from San Rafael 4-H with her bunny Butterfly is questioned by her mother Kari Paulsey, who happened to be one of the judges.

For the first time in memory, no large animals such as cows and horses were entered in the 4-H Fair. As Allison Keaney, Marin County 4-H program representative, explained: “The fair in general has been running the risk of just not happening. With the alterations of the school schedules over the years, the first weekend in June [became] hard for folks.

“Our fair only had 36 members enter, representing only 25 families. That is actually up from last year. We only had two large-animal entries in 2010 and 2011 and therefore scratched the competition.

“Also, the demographic of our county enrollment has changed. The average age of our members has dropped a lot. We have lots of little members, which is exciting for the future, but members can’t do a large-animal project until they are nine years old.”

Western Weekend Queen Brenda Rico of Point Reyes Station riding in Sunday’s parade.

Parade Grand Marshal Michael Mery of Point Reyes Station.

Marin County Sheriff Bob Doyle (right) rides on a buckboard in Sunday’s parade.

Last hurrah — Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) takes a last ride in a Western Weekend parade as a congresswoman before she retires from the US House of Representatives.

Incumbent Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey of Forest Knolls (center) does some last-minute campaigning during the Western Weekend parade in advance of this week’s election.

Congressional candidate Norman Solomon (D-Inverness Park) and his wife Cheryl Higgins led a large contingent of supporters in the Western Weekend parade.

The Aztec Dancers of Santa Rosa, traditional Western Weekend parade favorites, stopped periodically during the procession to dance to the beat of a drum. The dancers took third place in Adult Street Shows. They also won the parade’s Grand Prize.

KWMR community radio, 90.5 FM in Point Reyes Station and 89.9 FM in Bolinas, was represented by numerous marchers and an elaborate float. The entry won 2nd place among Adult Drill Teams.

Youngsters took advantage of the main street’s curb in order to have front-row seating for the parade — as well as to grab candies thrown from floats.

Adult spectators took whatever seating they could find, which for Gary Martin (left) and Bill Barrett was a spot on the front of the judges’ stand.

The Nave Patrola annually spoofs the World War I Italian Army, with the patrol’s soldiers marching chaotically and sometimes pausing to anachronistically shout, “Il Duce!” The group won the Best Adult Drill Team award, as well as the overall Best Drill Team award.

In the early 1970s, an official from the Italian Consulate in San Francisco complained to parade organizers, the West Marin Lions Club, that the patrol disparaged Italians, what with its seemingly confused marchers colliding with each other and going off in all directions. Defenders of the patrol replied that many of the members are of Italian descent.

The seventh and eighth grade rock band from West Marin School were highlights of the parade. Here the eighth grade performs some rock’n roll classics. The West Marin Kids Who Rock band won first place in Kids’ Music plus the overall Best Music award.

Papermill Creek Children’s Corner preschool in Point Reyes Station took 1st place among Kids’ Drill Teams.

The Wedding Party with Carol Rossi and pugs won first in Adult Animals. Possibly influencing the judges’ decision was their being given the top layer of the wedding cake.

Blazing Saddle — Jason McLean of Point Reyes Station (left) sits astride one of two metal deer he built, with his deer shooting fire out its rear end. McLean’s entry took 1st place among Adult Vehicles.

West Marin Community Services — which sponsors among other things the Food Pantry, the Thrift Store in Point Reyes Station, and the Tomales Bay Waterdogs swimming classes for youths — took 1st place among Kids’ Floats.

A 1920s buggy driven by Ethan McNamara took 1st among Kids’ Horses and won the Best Horse award.

West Marin Pharmacy joined the parade for the first time this year and won 1st place in Adult Music.

Halleck Creek Ranch in Nicasio, which operates a riding club for disabled children, took 1st in Kids’ Animals and the Best Animal award.

West Marin’s own tap dancers, the Fab-U-Taps, provided a street performance called Women of the World for Peace. The group took 1st place among Adult Street Shows, as well as the overall Best Street Show award.

Following Sunday’s parade, the West Marin Lions Club held a chicken barbecue in the parking lot of Toby’s Feed Barn. Members of Point Reyes-Olema 4-H sold pastries, and the Doc Kraft Dance Band inspired people to get up and dance.