Friday, January 30, 2009

The Pope and the Professor

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 8:33 PM


As long as we've got you reading the College of the Redwood's Board of Directors' agenda for Feb. 3, you may have noticed in the documents packet (p. 42) that CR prof Dr. Jon Pedicino is asking for a little out-of-country travel cash ($1,800) so he can go to the Pope's summer digs at Castel Gandolfo, Italy, this June.

There, he intends to hobnob with likeminded starry eyed folks at the Vatican Observatory.

Yes, the Vatican Observatory -- an old-timer of an astronomical research institution that's connected these days to the  Mount Graham International Observatory in Arizona.

The affair? The Vatican Observatory's Summer Symposium.

OK, so you're hung up on the whole Galileo thing -- how the Roman Catholic Church condemned and arrested him in 1633 for saying the Earth moves around the Sun. Let that burden go:  The Church did, when John Paul II forgave Sir Galileo Galilei in 1992, saying the poor man had been ahead of his time.

In fact, the Vatican and others are going all out this year to celebrate astronomy and the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope to study the sky, with  a big bang of events planned for The International Year of Astronomy 2009 .

So there. Vai con Dio, Pedicino.

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Viola? (+ Hobart estate update)

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 8:05 PM


The current edition of the Ferndale Enterprise takes note of the story from last week, " Hobart's Children ," and takes issue with what is deemed misinformation regarding the painting above by Viola McBride.

The tangled story of the disposition of Hobart's estate included a brief description of the tours of Hobart's Galleries led by the Kinetic Rutabaga Queens the weekend after the trustee sale:

Throughout they told stories about art pieces that factored into the artist's colorful history, among them a nude self-portrait of Viola McBride, the former owner of the building who essentially brought Hobart to town.
The following weekend, when the Queens returned to lead more tours, they found the gallery basically emptied, the paintings and sculptures gone. The McBride painting had been removed, along with paintings and sculptures from Hobart's living quarters.

Some in Ferndale, including members of the McBride family, questioned whether Viola's painting was in fact a self-portrait. The description came from Kinetic Rutabaga Queen Shaye Harty who, while leading one of those tours of Hobart's Galleries, said,
One of the first things l like to point out is this self-portrait here by Viola Russ McBride. You can see she did it in 1977. I don't know if you know the history, but she was the one who convinced Hobart to bring his gallery from Eureka to Ferndale. Together they did a lot of the restoration on Main Street. Some of the old ladies in town weren't so happy that there were nude portraits in Hobart's gallery, Viola, always a supporter of the arts, wasn't going to have that. So she painted this picture of herself nude and had Hobart put it up right here so people walking by could see a self-portrait of Viola saying, 'Hey old ladies, loosen up a bit.'

In retrospect I suppose it would have been better not to simply accept what she said as fact. From a quick Google search I learned that Viola Russ McBride died in October 1996 at the age of 90. (This came from a UC Davis Magazine obit that also noted, "Ms. McBride was one of the first women students at UC Davis and went on to break other gender barriers as the first woman president of the Humboldt County Cattlemen's Association.")

In 1977, Viola was 71 years old. So, it would indeed seem unlikely that the painting is a self-portrait. How might Shaye have made the mistake? Underneath the painting is a hand-written label that says, "Viola Russ McBride - Presented to Hobart Brown by Andy and JoAnn McBride," and the painting is signed V. R. McBride. Was the label merely identifying the artist?


Shaye tells us that Hobart himself told her it was a painting of Viola. She also suggests that the painting might be Viola's memory of what she looked like when she was younger. "I guess we'll never know," she concluded.

As  noted in "Hobart's Children,"  the McBride painting was among the items that disappeared from the building in the period between the property sale and the court hearing regarding Beltz v. Brown . The nude was reportedly given to the McBride family under the assumption that the painting was merely loaned to Hobart.  A press release received today from Justin Brown and the family trust asks anyone who was given paintings or other items from the gallery to contact trust representatives:

The Hobart Brown Trust would like to ask the public to help recover trust property. In the last year and with the increased activity since January 8th 2009, property has been sold and/or given away from Hobart Brown’s business and home located at 393 Main Street in Ferndale California. Some of this property includes sculptures and other works by Hobart Brown along with pieces by many other artists.  Some but not all items were clearly marked on the back "Property of Hobart Brown," "Hobart Galleries," "Justin Hobart Brown" or "Maggie Brown McDaniel." In addition to the artwork, family photo albums, scrapbooks and family heirlooms are missing, and we are trying to recover these personal items. We apologize if anyone was misled to believe these personal items were available to the public. If you have anything in your possession or know someone who has possession of such items from Hobart Galleries or Hobart's home; if you know where any of our family's legacy may be, please contact the trust at: or at (707) 444-3395. We would also like to thank those who have already stepped forward and spoke up in order to return items to the family.

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Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 7:22 PM

22Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles: This makes me feel very depressed, and also very
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Mood: Somber

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 6:55 PM


Some rather peeved reports have been issuing our way from the College of the Redwoods -- a pesky paving project that has temporarily depleted parking options, other rumors of various discontentments.

Well, a supplement to Agenda Item #9.2.1 on CR's Board of Director's agenda for its Feb. 3 meeting reveals one particularly deep font of unrest. It's a copy of the February 2009 edition of the Academic Senate's newsletter, The Senate Brief, which features a list of faculty concerns -- over everything from, they say, classes being taught by inexperienced teachers to budget planning inadequacies to accreditation concerns to the president's vision not seeming to jibe with theirs.

The preamble to the concerns:

Enrollment is up from last year. We are offering additional sections of classes. Faculty are being hired. We have a new president. Program review is in its second year. Distance education (DE) is being expanded. The first draft of the Educational Master Plan (EMP) is complete and the Facilities Master Plan (FMP) is presumably right behind. The Basic Skills Initiative (BSI) team is functioning as is the Assessment team. We are talking about tying budget to planning. We may even be removed from accreditation warning. This should be a time of hope and renewal. Yet, with all of the good news, the mood of the faculty is somber.

You can read the rest on page 40 of the Board's packet .

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Nuke Fears Close Dump

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

Concerned about the potential of radioactive waste leeching into Humboldt Bay, county government has temporarily shut down the old Table Bluff Landfill outside of Loleta, the Journal has learned.

Table Bluff landfill was open to the public between the late 1960s and late 1970s. Since closing, the county has continued to use it as a space to dump "road spoils," or dirt that washes onto county roads during floods.

The close-down, which happened a couple of weeks ago, was taken out of an abundance of caution, said Humboldt County Environmental Services Director Hank Seeman. There is no evidence that the site is contaminated with radioactive material, Seeman said -- however, there's no way to be sure that it isn't.

Seeman said that the issue came up a couple of months ago, when the Sheriff's Office considered using the location for bomb squad training. When the proposal arose, county personnel started to do some standard-issue assessment about the risks of planting people at a dump site for extended periods of time. That's when someone noted that the dump was located in the vicinity of PG & E's old Humboldt Bay Nucleaer Power Plant and the naval training facility at Centerville Beach, both of which have housed nuclear materials.

"Given the uncertainty about waste management activities at that point [in time], it's conceivable that some radioactive material made it into Table Bluff Landfill," said Humboldt County Environmental Services Director Hank Seeman yesterday. "And we realized that we didn't have any info on residual radioactivity that might be coming out of that landfill."

The county, in consultation with the California Integrated Waste Management Board, decided to shutter the facility until such time as specialized tests can be performed. A crew from the Waste Management Board is scheduled to test the site at the end of February, Seeman said.

PG&E certainly operated in a loosey-goosey manner back in the day, and it wouldn't at all be surprising to find that nasty materials made their way out of the power plant and into the landfill. For more, see last year's cover story "The Not-So-Peaceful Atom" (Mar. 20), in which one of the plant's first employees recalls what happened when he blew the whistle on hazardous practices there.

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Avast, Ye Miners!

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:11 PM


Aye, ye gravel grovelers, ye watery wastrels, ye ramblin' rogues of the deep! I'll sink yer dredges and steal yer gold, ye dirty river rats! Ye say yer dredges don't hurt the fishes? Excuse me, but I think yer arguments are bullshit! Aaarghhh!

And thus spake Sen. Pat Wiggins, although it's true that we may have garbled her words a bit as we struggled to hear her speak over the roar of her trusty pirate ship as it sped up the Klamath River last fall toward battle.

But Wiggins' displeasure with the California Department of Fish and Game came across quite clearly this week as she reacted to the agency's rejection of an emergency petition to halt suction dredge gold mining on various rivers and streams, including some on the Klamath River Basin, in order to protect vulnerable species of fish. The petition was filed by the Karuk and other tribes, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and several conservation groups. Wiggins said:

California's once-thriving salmon populations have plummeted to the point that they face extinction unless we take immediate action. It will take courage and bold action on all our parts to bring the fisheries back to healthy levels ...

[I]t's time for our government to step up. If the Department of Fish and Game is unwilling to place the burden of rebuilding fisheries fairly upon all users, I will continue to take legislative action to get government to do its job.
Here's how the petitioners reacted on Monday to the rejection.

The Sacramento Bee also chided the DFG  in an editorial yesterday, saying in part:

No doubt global warming, dams, logging, pesticides and other human activities kill fish and destroy habitat, but the bulk of the science strongly suggests that suction dredge mining harms fish, too.

As salmon populations dwindle, the state agency charged with protecting them protects gold miners instead.
Need a refresher on the petition?

And, uh, it was Dan Bacher at IndyBay who cleverly used the pirate photo first.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Post-Dams World

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 7:27 PM


In some people's nightmare's, ya take down the Klamath Dams and a world-engulfing blob of hell-deep muck that's accumulated around that dam for too many years will engulf the downriver world, smothering all salmon, salmon fry, lamprey, lamprey younguns, and everyone else silly enough, in that scenario, to call the Klamath River home. And, oh, the floods!

A soggy apocalypse.

Hey -- please don't have that nightmare anymore. It's freaky. And, besides, three reports that have just come out seem to allay some of those dam-removal fears. According to a joint news release from the Karuk Tribe and American Rivers, the reports -- which were commissioned by the California Coastal Conservancy -- conclude that the removal of four large dams on the Klamath River will have "relatively minor" short-term negative impacts on the fisheries but no major long-term impacts.

Most remarkably, the groups say sediment removal won't be required.

Quoth the release:

The Water Quality report shows that the removal of the dams would:

  • Eliminate or greatly reduce toxic blue green algae production.

  • Greatly alleviate releases of harmful nutrients from oxygen-starved reservoirs.

  • Significantly decrease summer and fall water temperatures, from 4-7° F.

  • Substantially increase dissolved oxygen levels.

  • Reduce dramatic fluctuations of pH levels.

  • Likely reduce levels of fish disease-causing parasites.

The Downstream Biological Impacts study concludes that although fish populations will suffer some negative impacts immediately following removal, this effect will be short lived.  Specifically,

  • Impacts to fall Chinook will be short-term, and the population should fully recover to pre-removal levels within five years.

  • Spring-run Chinook should experience rapid recovery to pre-dam removal stock levels.

  • Coho salmon should experience only short-term effects and populations will recover fully.

  • Steelhead populations could be highly affected but should experience a strong recovery.

  • Pacific lamprey are expected to recover relatively quickly from impacts.

The Sediment Transport analysis concludes that:

  • Less than 1/3 of the sediment trapped by the dams will be transported downstream.

  • Nearly all of the sediment that is transported will travel directly to the ocean without being deposited in the river.

  • Flood risk will not be increased appreciably.

  • Sediment concentrations will likely be significant during the first winter after reservoir drawdown.

This sounds promising, especially since PacifiCorp recently has come around to the notion of taking down those dams.

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Mandatory unpaid vacations at T-S

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 6:35 PM

tsbuilding If you thought the Times-Standard's victory in the battle of Eureka dailies meant a return to gluttonous days of plenty for the 154-year-old paper, think again. MediaNews, the Denver-based parent company of the T-S , today announced that all employees -- company-wide --  must take a one-week furlough sometime during February or March. That means an unpaid, involuntary five-day vacation for everyone from delivery van drivers to reporters, editors to publishers, even the bigwigs like President Jody Lodovic.

"It's a reaction to the state of our industry within the current economic environment," said T-S Publisher Dave Kuta. While it's not necessarily a sign that the T-S is itself unprofitable, there's not much comfort in being a healthy barnacle on a listing ship. According to Denver's Rocky Mountain News , MediaNews has been losing "roughly $4 million per quarter as the newspaper industry nationally continues a rapid deterioration." That tidbit is merely an aside in the story. The nut is an allegation from E.W. Scripps, another lumbering media conglomerate, that MediaNews violated an agreement by borrowing $13 million from a jointly owned operating agency to make payroll at The Denver Post . MediaNews vehemently denies the allegation, but still, the financial picture ain't pretty.

The effect these furloughs will have on the T-S remains to be seen. "We still need to produce a newspaper," Kuta said. "Obviously it will be difficult. It's like having several people go on vacation all at once." He said they'll schedule strategically and "cross traditional boundaries" to ensure they continue to produce a quality newspaper.

As for the fiscal impact on employees, Kuta said that it will indeed hurt -- him included. "Right now I have two house payments," he said. "It's tough on everyone." The company will re-evaluate its fiscal standing at the end of March. For now, like more and more companies in these bleak financial times, the T-S will have to figure out how to do the same job with fewer resources. "We'll find a way to do it," Kuta said.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Flying Dogs

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 10:40 PM

5000?Flying Dogs: Near-lethal
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Paging Jeff Muskrat

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 8:37 PM

A reader writes:

my cousin might be one of the treehuggers

if theres a guy thats 28 and name is cody sides he's my cousin and we need him to come home bc mine and his great grandma u. v. sides is passing away and he needs to come home please tell him to come to tennessee asap or call my cell at [redacted] thanks meagan

It's signed "meagan vandouser and bennie roe." Cody, if you're out there and you need the cell number, give me a call at the office.

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