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Mendocino County Today: May 17, 2012

THE UKIAH FAIR BOARD has not renewed Blair Aiken's contract to run the Speedway on its North State Street fairgrounds. The Fair Board says it can't allow the track to re-open under a new manager until Water Quality Control says it's safe, specifically that the contaminated dirt hauled to the site by the Mendocino Transit Authority has been trucked outtathere. Which it now has, but Water Quality still hasn't cleared the track to resume car races. A new racetrack impresario and area racing fans are anxious for the popular weekend events to resume. They're angry that the whole show is ridiculous and unnecessary because fuel-soaked dirt packed beneath the asphalt of a racecar track presents no hazard to anyone.

IT'S ALL QUITE farcical unless you're the deposed racetrack proprietor Aiken or a race fan. The season was supposed to start at the end of March, but then came DirtGate, a still unknown arrangement between Aiken, apparently, and someone or someones at MTA to remove fuel-soaked dirt from an MTA construction project south of town to the racetrack north of town. When it was discovered that the MTA dirt was contaminated, it had to be moved again, this time to distant landfills.


CALL ME JUDGMENTAL, but I don't think you want to place Ms. Siegler (arrested last Saturday in Ukiah last Saturday for probation violations and drunk in public) in customer relations. Ms. Rodriguez (arrested the same day for probation violation, possession of brass knuckles, and trespassing), on the other hand, is just the gal you want for Saturday night at the Buckhorn in Covelo.

MARILYN MARCHIONE OF AP WRITES: Coffee seems to be good for you. Or at least it's not bad, say researchers who led the largest-ever study of coffee and health. They found that coffee drinkers seemed a little more likely to live longer than folks who drink no coffee at all. Regular or decaf didn't matter. That's reassuring because a few studies in the past suggested coffee might be harmful. Results of the latest study are published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. Older studies weren't wrong: Coffee can raise cholesterol and blood pressure in the short term, which in turn can raise the risk of heart disease. But few studies have looked at coffee and the risk of dying of any cause, let alone specific diseases. Some of those that have involved too few deaths to make firm comparisons. This study involved more than 400,000 people and was done by the National Institutes of Health and AARP. Researchers also took into account smoking, drinking alcohol, exercise and other things that can skew results. Coffee didn’t make that much difference, especially in relation to bigger factors such as smoking. Compared with those who drank no coffee, men who had two or three cups a day were 10% less likely to die at any age. For women, it was 13%. A single cup a day lowered risk a tiny bit: 6% in men and 5% in women. The strongest effect was in women who had four or five cups a day — they had a 16% lower risk of death. However, watch the sugar and cream. Extra calories and fat could negate any good from drinking coffee. Doctors also suggest drinking filtered coffee — that removes the compounds that raise LDL or bad cholesterol.

THE CRACKPOT FILES 2 — EXISTENTIAL. (by Jeff Costello). Approached by a scientology guy in Boston, winter of '68. Walking down the street near the scientology center in Kenmore Square, with holes in my shoes, cold and hungry. Guy walks up and starts talking to me, giving me the pitch. He cares about me, wants to improve my life. Right then we're passing a burger joint called the Fatted Calf. I said, "You want to help me? Buy me a burger in there and I'll listen to what you have to say." Oh no, he says, I can't do that. I said all right, see ya later. In Boston I had read The Book (On the Taboo Against Knowing Who Are) by Alan Watts. The title alone was a revelation. It was anarchy. It was also a cursory introduction to Zen, and a different way of seeing things. It was the 60s, after all. Zen, so I’d heard, was a form of Buddhism, so when I was approached by a team of tiny Japanese ladies in Times Square, inviting me to come hear about the “real, true Buddhism,” I bit and went along. What can I say, I was a rock & roll guitar player working at the Electric Circus, but there had to be more to life than having sex with Italian girls from Far Rockaway. Didn’t there? I had curiosity about deeper things. The 60s, remember? The tiny Japanese ladies led me and a few others up to an apartment just off Broadway. The place was crowded and soon one of the ladies got up and talked about the Buddha and chanting. The trick, the secret, was to chant Nam Yo Ho Ren-ge Kyo. This would put you in touch with the current of the universe, which you could then manipulate to your wishes. You just had to chant. What I remember next was a guy, a regular American guy like Archie Bunker, getting up in front of the crowd and giving us a blazing testimonial about chanting for refrigerator - and getting one. It was as if the universal current just pooped out a Frigidaire for this guy. That’s when I left. I was an only child, so fate had it that two of my best friends came from huge families. One with nine kids, and another with eleven. Eleven kids! What an impossible mess their house was. Their mother was the most harried woman I’d ever seen, not a moment’s rest. Yet she seemed somehow peaceful in the chaos. One day my dog attacked the milkman. (There used to be guys who delivered fresh milk with the cream on top to your door in glass bottles, which they took back. Later in the 70’s or thereabouts some genius invented recycling). There was broken glass all over the kitchen floor. The dog was bleeding badly from the snout. The only person I knew to call was Mrs. Shortell, the harried mother of eleven kids. And she came right away and drove the dog and me to the vet. I have to mention that the Shortells were not, like many people in the area, Catholic. The Greshes were Catholic but only had nine kids. I think maybe they just ran out of juice after the ninth, the last of three girls. All six brothers had saints’ names as proper Catholic men should. And equally proper was that one of the brothers went into the priesthood. I was their more or less official orphan, and it was decided - without my participation - that I should become a Catholic. So we all piled into the family car, and drove from Unionville CT to visit brother Ted at Maryknoll seminary in Ossining, NY. Maryknoll, I soon learned, was where missionaries were trained, and sent all over the world to convert the savages and prevent them from using birth control, so they could make more Catholics. Just when I wondering why I was there, brother Ted appeared and invited me into the library. And gave me the pitch. You can’t get into heaven if you’re not Catholic, and so on. I wasn’t buying it, but tried to be polite. And then came the heavy artillery, books. Three or four of them appeared before me on the table. Ted asked, would I be willing to read them. Sure, I said, thinking that accepting the books would get me out of there faster. But then, he named a price, he was trying to sell me the books. This was worse than being refused a hamburger, they wanted my money. The truth was, I didn’t have a dollar to my name, and I told him so. So he offered to lend me the money, like he was a real swell guy to be so concerned for my soul. I turned down the loan and once again, money ruled the moment in a religious pitch. Existentialist is a word I first heard from a musician in Boston, 1967. He was playing some free-form stuff on piano and said it was existentialist music. He asked if I knew the term and I said no. He said existentialists were people who “just don't give a shit.” A week later he crashed a small airplane and died. Years passed and I related this to a friend in Sausalito who said, “Did you give a shit?”

CHRISTINA AANESTAD WRITES: “Many of you know my car was broken into last month and all my radio, video and photo equipment and my laptop was stolen. I lost the last four years of my work, even the back up. My roommates are organizing a raffle to raise funds for the equipment that was lost. And since my birthday is seven days away, I'm asking all of you to help make a birthday wish come true. I've blogged about what I'm needing to replace with a paypal link and info on the raffle here: I'm also willing to trade advertising in The Mendocino Country Independent in exchange for your generosity. — Christina Aanestad, Publisher, Mendocino Country Independent. (707) 468-1660.”

TWO SAN FRANCISCO abalone poachers were convicted last week after a three-day jury trial. Coast-based Fish and Game Warden Dan Powers, an expert in the many clever forms of poaching that ab-lovers have developed over the years was the sole prosecution witness. Using binoculars Powers observed Hou N. Huang, 47, of San Francisco, diving for abs, coming up with an ab 14 times. He then observed Huang put nine of the biggest and best abs in a dive tube and toss the rest, an illegal tactic known as “high grading.” Huang then swam over to Hong Mei, 39, also of San Francisco, and gave him five of the nine. Then the two swimmers swam behind a rock, emerging a few minutes later with an unidentified woman. The nine abs had magically been divided into three for each poacher (the legal limit if done correctly). When Powers approached the trio back on land, they had three each and tried to pass them off as legal. The pair’s defense lawyers for Huang and Mei argued that Mr. Powers couldn’t have identified them positively from 130 yards with all the other poachers, er ab divers, in the area. But the jury didn’t buy the misidentification gambit and convicted both men of poaching. Fort Bragg’s Ten Mile Court Judge Clayton Brennan sentenced Huang to 24 months of court probation, 15 days in jail, court fees, a fine of $2,545, plus forfeiture of his dive gear and the seized abalone. Mei also got 24 months probation, but lower fines and jail time. Their dive gear was also confiscated.

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