Archive for January 2012

Poop and conservatives

January 24, 2012

I was putting in my usual 750 words today and I wrote this.  I thought I’d share it although it will probably upset some of my conservative friends. 

 I was thinking about poop.  You know, feces in food.  The FDA limits the amount of feces that is OK in the food we eat.  Who decides that?  I say I don’t want ANY shit in my food but the government says it’s alright to have some.  And how do they determine that?  Do they have feces counters?  People who spend all day bent over a microscope counting shit particles in food.  Do they specialize, like a shred out for corn flakes or tortillas?  I’ll bet that’s a growth industry.  And also I’ll bet that imported food is full of it.  I know that when I was in China and Japan 50 years ago it was common practice to use human and animal waste as fertilizer.  I’m sure they’re still doing it. 

Also, I remember hearing about catfish farms where they raised pigs or chickens in raised pens over the catfish ponds and then fed some of the excess catfish or dead ones for whatever reason back to the pigs.  Sorta like a perfect recycling model for maximizing profits.  I know that sounds outlandish but what do you want to bet that it’s being done somewhere. 

You’re wondering if I spend my time thinking of this kind of stuff?  Yeah, pretty much.  Somebody has to do it.  If I can think of it, somebody is doing it and you’re eating it.  Now how do you feed about government regulation?  And how do you feel about keeping corporate interests from establishing public policy?  You want Tyson Foods setting the limits on chicken poop in your food? 

Which brings up something else I’ve been wondering about.  Conservatives are always lamenting about taking back our country.  Like they want to return to those sterling days of yesteryear when things were so much better.  When was that?  Was that 1750?  1850?  1950?  Probably that last one, huh.  I remember 1950.  We were fighting the commies and 50,000 of our young people, mostly 18 to 21 year old boys were being killed to keep the world free for democracy.  Seems like a fair trade, huh?  Maybe not to them but for the rest of us it worked out pretty well didn’t it?  I had a brother in the First Cavalry in Korea and he got shot up pretty bad and they patched him up and sent him back and he got shot up again.  He manned a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) and I remember him telling of shooting a ‘gook’ and cutting him in two so that the top half fell and the bottom half kept running.  He laughed about it but I could tell it was a false bravado, a nervous laughter.  I think it ate on him.  I hope it did.  I would watch the Register-Guard every day to see where the battles were and who was winning in an effort to try to keep up with how my brother was.  Also, we had air-raid drills in Springfield and when the sirens went off we would crawl under our desks at school and cover up with our hands over our heads to protect us from the atomic bombs.  Also, there were still segregated schools- anyone remember Delores, little black girl with pigtails in second grade at Mill Street, who was sent to a school in Glenwood.  I don’t know if we had segregated schools but I know that was the only black kid I ever knew in school and she only lasted a short while.  I think almost all the black people in Oregon at that time lived in North Portland. That’s Dolores in the center of the top row, I’m second from the left and I think that’s Loraine Henderson next to me.  Sharon Stevenson is on the right next to Mrs. Basford.Mill St. School Mrs. Basford's class

So yeah, that’s probably the country that most conservatives are pining for and wish we could go back to.  I think we can do better and I think that it diminishes us as a nation when we don’t try to do better.  Right now we’re somewhere in the middle of developed nations in most categories of health, education, quality of life, birth deaths, longevity, etc.  We used to be at the top.  Who’s at the top?  Mostly Scandinavian countries that don’t spend all their resources on weapons and spend more on their people. 

My Senior Year

January 13, 2012

My Senior Year

This posting is about my senior year of college, 1982-83, at CSU Fresno.  My major was Viticulture/ Enology because, at the time, I owned and operated two vineyards and I really didn’t have a farming background so I learned farming from a book.  I realized later that I should have majored in Education, since that was really my background, having spent about ten years in the Air Force teaching electronics of one type or another.  Well, teaching and recruiting, which was all part of Air Training Command.  Anyway, when I retired in August of 1979 I enrolled at CSU Fresno under the GI Bill and started the Fall Quarter there.  We were living on the vineyard in Fowler at the time and I also had a vineyard in Fresno on Maple Street.  A friend of mine, Fred Adair,  was still operating them for me although I did most of the work.   I think I took it over entirely with the 1980 crop.

Anyway, I spent about six or seven hours a day at school and the rest of my time doing tractor work or irrigating or whatever.  Patty’s mom and dad, Joe and Opie, came down and set up their fifth-wheel trailer in our back yard and Joe helped with the tractor work.  He really enjoyed driving tractor for me but there was a down-side to having his help.  Joe always drove with his hand on the steering wheel in constant motion, whether he was driving his pick-up or my tractor.  A farmer kind of prides himself on the straightness of his furrows and when a neighbor drives by, he always checks to see how you’re doing.  Joe’s furrows looked like hell.  It was good having them there anyway and I’m sure that it was good for Traci and Susan having them with us.  Patty worked at Bedrosian’s  Raisin Packaging Plant in town and Opie was there for the kids when Patty was at work.

It was a busy time for us but the payoff came in my senior year.   We had friends and activities associated with the classes I was taking in Viticulture and Enology and Patty and I have some fond memories of that time.  One of my classes was ‘Organoleptic Sensory Evaluation of Wine’  -a really fancy way of saying ‘wine tasting’.  The professor would adulterate the wine with salt or some other way and we’d have to identify what he did.  Most of my classmates would sip and spit and then throw away what was left in their glass but I learned to drink Akadama wine and hot Sake in the Navy so I never threw anything away.  As a result of my Enology classes we got invited to some really memorable wine-tasting events in the area.  Patty would usually accompany me to those events and we really enjoyed them.  One time we had a wine-tasting event on the banks of the Kings River at a very nice estate in the country.  The event benefitted the Viticulture Program at CSUF and there was a Dixieland Band that was in costume with boaters and striped linen coats and some of the local restaurants and specialty stores provided refreshments.  There was also a wine auction and it was a beautiful day with umbrellas and tables set up on the river bank.  We also attended a wine-tasting at ‘Pink City’, which was a cement factory on Shaw Road north of Fresno.  I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but they had a very nice convention facility.  It was a great place for a wine-tasting event with plenty of room for booths and different wineries and restaurants to set up.  I remember that Patty and I got pretty wasted that time and shouldn’t have driven home.  We had a wine-tasting party at one of my Enology classmates homes one evening where we each brought a bottle of something we felt was special and the host provided snacks and chocolate to go with the wine.  The theme of that wine-tasting was ‘what chocolate goes with this wine?’  It was one of the more successful wine-tasting parties we attended.  Another time we went to a party at one of my classmates and one of the neighbors called the police on us.  That time Patty was very concerned that I was going to be arrested because I was giving the cops some attitude.  I’m sure they welcomed the opportunity to hassle a bunch of college kids having a wine-tasting party and they were really being nasty about it.  Patty talked me down and probably saved me from an even more unpleasant experience.  You don’t want to mess with Fresno cops, not people you want to give a chance to express themselves.

But, the most memorable times we had were the Senior Viticulture Trip and my Enology Wine Tour.   The Enology Wine Tour was nothing like ‘Sideways’.  I toured the Napa-Sonoma Valleys with my Enology class and a fellow classmate and I drove together.  His name was Dr. Hewitt and he was a pharmacist who was captivated by the romance of winemaking and decided to change his life.  I think he worked someplace downtown part-time so he could go to school or maybe he had a drug-dealing business on the side, I really don’t know, but he was a buddy of mine and we did wine-tasting parties together and went on this trip together.  We used his car and the trip was arranged so that we were pretty much on our own but we went to the same places as the rest of our class.  When we got through for the day, we would write up our notes for the report we had to submit at the end of the tour.  We ended up buying quite a bit of wine on that tour and I still have mental images of some of those wineries and vineyards when I see their labels on the shelves in supermarkets.

The Senior Viticulture Trip was something that Professor Vince Petrucci did each year.  He was the head of the Viticulture Department at CSUF.  He oversaw the viticulture program which included several hundred acres of vineyard with every kind of grape and where grape growing practices were developed and tested.  He also had a research facility where they were trying to develop and improve on agricultural and marketing systems.  I remember them trying to microwave grapes to turn them into raisins.  Didn’t work.  Vince was well known throughout California and had ex-students and contacts in vineyards and wineries all over the state.  When it was time for the Senior Trip, vineyards and wineries would roll out the red carpet for us.  We had a big greyhound-type bus for the trip and Patty went with us. She was the only wife on the bus, even Vince’s wife didn’t go, and mostly the bus was filled with guys and a few girls.

We started off with a giant vineyard/dairy facility in Caruthers, California, a farming area off Highway 41 southwest of Fresno.  This place was huge with several thousand milking head of cattle and a 24/hr a day operation.  They trucked milk out in tankers every day and it went to a producer in Oregon (I think it was Darigold).  They had automatic wash-down systems that cleaned the milking sheds several times a day and washed the results down concrete canals to a pond where the solid wastes were settled out.  The liquid waste was sent to the sprinkler systems which sprinkled the vineyards which were several hundred acres.  I noticed that some of the vines had nitrogen burns from the high amount of nitrates they were getting.  The loafing sheds were so large that the bus we were in actually drove down the middle of the shed and loafing pens were on either side.  They had mechanical harvesters for the grapes that were so large they could travel down the highway and cars could pass underneath them.  I don’t know if they actually did that but they were large enough that it was possible.  They were on hydraulics so they could lower and raise the platform to accommodate different trellising styles.

We next went to another vineyard where they had a pit barbecue going and an enormous feast prepared.  I don’t remember the name of that one but it was someone who Vince had helped establish a vineyard.  It was probably a rich person that came to CSUF for technical assistance since he didn’t have the experience or contacts to do it himself.  We spent that night in San Luis Obispo at a motel.  Patty and I had our own room but the others had to pair up.

The next day we visited Firestone Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley where they had a beautiful facility.  I remember looking out from the tasting room over the hundreds of acres of grapevines with the iconic Oak Tree right in the middle of it.  The winemaker was very excited about some Reisling that she had harvested right after a rain when they were very high in sugar and induced  botrytis in the fruit and made a fantastic wine with it.  I thought we still had some of that but I must have gotten it mixed up with the Estrella Late Harvest because I can’t find it.  Speaking of Estrella Vineyard and Winery, I think that was our next stop.  We went to Estrella Vineyards near Paso Robles, California which was a very nice vineyard and winery set up on very hilly and rocky soil.  The owner said that he felt the marginal soil and conditions helped draw out the varietal characteristics of the fruit and resulted in a better wine.  We bought a Petite Syrah from him, vintage 1978, which we just gave to my daughter Susan last year.  I hope it was as good as I expected it to be.  We also bought a late-harvest Reisling from him that was almost like syrup and we still have a 500 ml bottle of that, 1979 vintage.

We traveled up Highway 101 and stopped at a few more vineyards, I remember one in particular around King City that was very impressive.  It was thousands of acres and had a red clover cover crop that was beautiful.  I think they sold to Gallo.  They used mechanical harvesters that covered several rows at a time and they had an operations staff that was like a small city.  They kept their people busy year round. When we were there the grapes were not in full growth yet and they were busy repairing sprinkler heads, of which they had thousands.  But that was when I realized that agriculture in California was mostly large corporate farms with a lot of money behind them and they really didn’t have to make a profit because of the tax benefits and subsidy programs.  I had two twenty-acre vineyards and I could see that it wasn’t where my future lay.  It wasn’t long after that trip that I put my vineyards on the market and bought a hazelnut orchard in Estacada, Oregon.

750 Words

January 6, 2012

I’ve started a new project that I’m going to try for awhile.  I got this from a friend down here, Karen Amorotico, who has a blog called a ‘Pie A Day’ where she bakes a pie every day and gives it away and then writes in her blog about it.  Very ambitious and she’s on day 273 so far.  Anyway, it’s called 750 words and you just sit down and write 750 words every day about anything and everything.  It’s sort of a mind-dump.  Well, this seems like a good idea but I’m a little apprehensive about baring my soul on the web. However, I understand this is a private site just for me so I will give it a go. I do need to give my brain a dump on a regular basis and I can see how it would be therapeutic. I do wish this site had spell-check though- I don’t like making spelling errors.
I’ve got a blog- ‘Chronospots’ – that I don’t update often enough because it is a public site that I encourage friends and family to visit so I feel it needs to be important and entertaining information that I put on there. That takes a commitment in time and a concentrated effort on my part to organize and present the post in an interesting and intelligent way. So, having a way to just blather away without having to organize my thoughts and do something that I am willing to put my name to is appealing to me. I may try this from time to time but I don’t know if I’m willing to commit to it on a regualar basis. (There! I misspelled a word and just left it. that is something of a milestone as is starting this sentence without a capital letter. Miss Cott- sorry for that. I won’t make a habit of it.) Well, what to write about. I guess it would be good to write about this year… This year is special. For one thing, I never expected to live this long. Most in my family were either dead by now or were pretty severely handicapped by age and disease. I should knock on wood! Anyway… this year is Patty’s 50th HS reunion and we both want to be trim and fit for that- which means we need to lose a significant amount and exercise on a regular basis. Also, we’re having our 50th Wedding Anniversary in Hawaii with friends and family so we’re really looking forward to that and want it to be really special.
Today is a good day to start on this journey since it is the 2nd of January and the start of a new year. It’s also the best day we’ve had for a while and the day of the Rose Bowl and Oregon plays Wisconsin. I really hope this is the year we win it since it is such a significant year in our lives. Hey! I may have a blog entry here! I could almost lift this directly from this page and paste it into Chronospots!
So, I see by the running total at the bottom of this page that I’m almost to two thirds of my total. I like this so far but still find myself worrying about typos and such. As I started to say, today is a good day to start on the journey to fitness except that I was planning on pizza and beer with the Rose Bowl game and it would be a good day to walk downtown to Standing Stone Brew-pub for a beer and quesadilla. Well, I’ll see how it goes.
So far I don’t feel the therapeutic release I was hoping for. Clearing the mind and getting rid of all the dregs. Like a reformat! I’ve always thought how great it would be if you could reformat your brain and get rid of all the loose ends and remnants and reorganize everything so it would be easy to remember or access everything. I probably wouldn’t need a new unit, just clean up this one. That would be so great. I shouldn’t complain. I could have Alzheimer’s and a brain that someone dumped syrup in or banged so hard that the read-head skips around and gets caught in a random groove. I don’t want that to happen to me or to Patty. Patty says if it happens to her she wants me to shoot her. I protested that I would go to jail. She says if I love her I’d do it anyway. I really don’t think I can but I would like to go like Soylent Green and just take a pill together.
Well, that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to clear my brain not get all serious and think bad thoughts. We’re in good shape and Patty probably has a good 20 years to go and should be OK since she’s always been healthy and smart. I am in fairly good shape but I need to get busy because I can see I’m starting to let myself slide. This is my turn-around year. This is the time I need to get busy. There’s no tomorrow. Well, I went a little over. I guess that’s good. 800 words. I think I may be able to do this.

Hi, it’s Thursday, January 5th, and this is another 750 words posting:  Joe stayed overnight on his way to Tucson and just left.  We had a good visit and Patty fixed beef stew and biscuits last night and scones this morning so we’re still not started on our diet and fitness plan for 2012.  Joe and I got into a discussion about religion and politics this morning but nothing very heavy.  I think we both practiced restraint.  Also talked about VA benefits and why he’s getting them and I’m not.  If I had it to do over again I’d at least get partial hearing loss that would have given me 10% with no allotment.  That’s all I really need.  Maybe I still have a shot at that with the application I submitted on 12-21-11.  I think I still have about 2 months to wait to get the hearing test.

I think my hearing loss has something to do with the time I was involved with an OAS (Organization of American States) mission where USAF was airlifting Latin American troops into Dom Rep (Dominican Republic) in ’66 or ’67.  I was in a C130 or C141 and airlifting troops from Suriname (Dutch Guyana) into Dom Rep.  When we arrived in Suriname it was like a national holiday and the whole country turned out to see their troops loaded onto our planes and airlifted to Dom Rep.  I guess this scenario was repeated many times in the half-dozen or so countries that were supplying troops.  Anyway, once we got airborne we lost cabin pressure and I was in a lot of pain.  I had trouble with my ears as a kid and they’ve never worked right.  It felt like I had needles sticking in my ears- no, NAILS sticking in my ears.  They tried using the cockpit pressure to equalize the cabin pressure but that was only marginally successful and they couldn’t keep it up so the pressure was constantly changing.  Luckily, no one else was having as much problem with it as I was since we had several dozen troops aboard. 

I guess I mentioned this in a previous blog posting about Latin America where I mentioned that I was involved in MAG (Military Assistance Groups) where we were propping up Latin American governments and providing military support.  I guess that’s why I’m so distrustful of our government now, because I’ve experienced things we did and remember the lies we told to justify them to the American people.  I thought the American people wised up during the 60’s when they caught the government lying to them about Vietnam but the Iraq fiasco proves that we never learn from our mistakes and we’re always ready to believe whatever bullshit we’re told as long as we wrap it in patriotism and decorate it with religion.  Damn that unpatriotic Wikileaks anyhow!  We’ve got no right to know what our government is doing in our name!


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