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CHANCES for drizzle and breezy winds are expected this morning north of Cape Mendocino. High pressure will then rebuild overhead and promote dry weather through midweek. A weak front is forecast to approach late on Wednesday and bring light rain to portions of the area Wednesday night and Thursday. High pressure is then forecast to redevelop on Friday and persist through the upcoming weekend. (NWS)
FREE FOOD PHILO (formerly known as Love to Table) is distributing meals in town to those in need. We cook nourishing meals using produce from our farm and others, and would love to offer you a warm lunch on Monday Jan 10. If you could use a home cooked meal, or have a friend in mind who would, please message, call or text Arline Bloom (415) 308-3575, who will head up distribution in town.
~ This week’s menu ~
- Spaghetti with Cream Sauce and Mushrooms
- Roasted Cabbage with Bacon
- Pumpkin Spice Cake
Thank you for letting us be of service.
For more information on Free Food Philo / Love to Table, check out: https://unconditionalfreedom.org/love-to-table/
CEO ANGELO TO RETIRE IN MARCH, MONTHS BEFORE HER OCTOBER CONTRACT EXPIRATION
by Mark Scaramella
The rumors were correct. County CEO Carmel Angelo announced her March retirement this weekend with an exit interview with Matt LaFever. The CEO said she was retiring early for family reasons. Her contract as CEO for Mendocino County was to expire in October. We do not know if she will receive any early retirement incentives other than accumulated sick leave, accumulated vacation, accumulated personal time off.
LaFever: “[CEO Angelo] also shouted out former 1st District Supervisor Carre Brown and 2nd District Supervisor John McCowen for their constant teamwork to do what is best for the community.”
Brown of course, but McCowen? It’s no secret they now loathe each other.
Since his retirement former Supervisor McCowen has been constantly critical of CEO Angelo who wrongly accused him of stealing County property near the end of his term. Last July, referring to the pointless and seemingly endless dispute with Sheriff Matt Kendall that was clearly engineered by CEO Angelo, McCowen wrote:
“I believe the Board has been set up by the CEO who is angry at the Sheriff and by County Counsel Curtis who takes direction from the CEO, not the Board that hired him. … Because Angelo is at odds with the Sheriff, Curtis has allowed himself to be used in setting up the Board. This is a continuation of a pattern of unethical behavior by the CEO and County Counsel Curtis who have created a lose, lose, lose situation. This fight will drive unnecessary expense onto the County; destabilize the working relationships of the County partners; tarnish the reputations of all involved (some more than others) and reinforce the negative opinions people have of County government. This is a self-inflicted injury to the County that could have been avoided if County Counsel was ethical and competent. Earlier this year Sheriff Kendall stated he would no longer meet with the CEO because he could not rely on what she was telling him. Kendall’s statement crossed the line of no return. The CEO will not tolerate anyone who questions her or who crosses her.”
But while on the Board, Supervisor McCowen was not so critical, and in fact was the lead Supervisor in engineering CEO Angelo’s fat pay raise in 2018. In October of 2018, justifying CEO Angelo’s four year contract which raised her base salary to $225k (plus over $100k per year in benefits) this year, McCowen said Angelo deserved the raise because she’d been underpaid for years and she has great contacts at the state level and she almost single-handedly got some money from the State for the post fire disaster over-excavation reimbursement of upwards of 100 burned out inland home-owners in the 2017 fires. “Although it is a lot of money,”McCowen admitted, “it actually is justified. Carmel Angelo was hired by the Board in March of 2010 at $30,000 less than her immediate predecessor.”
No wonder Angelo kissed him goodbye.
* * *
Back to LaFever’s interview: “The county’s financial health was Angelo’s biggest concern in the next few years. With four out of five the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors is in their first term, Angelo fears the current infusion of cash from the state and local government could make them spend in excess. ‘These board members think we always have money. Stop spending money. just stop,’ Angelo said. ‘I guarantee in three years we will be in trouble’.”
This is very rich. This is the same CEO who thought that spending $5 million for a $1 million Crisis Residential Treatment house in Ukiah next door to Camille Schraeder’s admin complex was a great deal. The same CEO who thinks that County projects and spending should be modeled after a private citizen’s “$50,000 kitchen.” The same CEO who hands out raises to loyal senior staffers without the slightest hesitation, whose sudden and arbitrary senior staff firings and personal grudges have cost the County hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside legal fees, who has refused to even try to break up the contract with her personal friend Camille Schraeder to allow for competitive bidding (as Supervisor Williams requested), and who steadfastly refused to produce a monthly budget report for over a decade. We certainly agree with the CEO that “in three years we will be in trouble.” Probably sooner. But that will because of the CEO and all the spending she has committed the County to already, not future weak boards of Supervisors.
* * *
Angelo also told LaFever that “a key factor in determining Mendocino County’s future success is the implementation of a strategic plan.”
This is the same “strategic plan” that a large percentage of her own employees described in the Strategic Planners own survey as “a waste of time,” The same strategic plan that is squandering over $75k of supposedly limited revenue.
* * *
LaFever complimented (i.e., quoted) Angelo saying that, “Her work building a fiscally-responsible, stable county government grew county reserves from $1.9 million in 2007 to $20 million today.”
We did not know that the “reserves” had ballooned to $20 million. Maybe that’s because the CEO has been so successful in avoiding having to produce ordinary monthly budget reports. But it’s a very self-serving way of spinning the fact that the CEO fired a bunch of people in 2009 and has kept the County chronically understaffed since then, even in departments not funded by the General Fund.
* * *
Angelo wrapped up by saying that the public should view her well-reimbursed tenure as CEO as a large personal sacrifice: “Though many larger counties offer more salary and status,” Angelo said, “that is not what I wanted.”
Please. Angelo woulda been tossed anywhere but here just for her many failings to even follow Board Directives.
Maybe it’s just an oversight, but in “shouting out” to various former officials, including Sheriff Allman, CEO Angelo neglected to mention Sheriff Kendall.
Say what you will about Carmel Angelo’s nearly unprecedented 12-year tenure as Mendocino County CEO (plus a couple of years as head of Health and Human Services before that), but she has put her imprint on almost every aspect of the County, and takes a huge repository of recent Mendocino County history with her. Her departure will create a vacuum that will take months if not years for the county to adjust to.
IN PREPARATION for upcoming winter storms, our partners at the Boonville CALFIRE station have sand and sandbags available onsite for the public. If you are in a flood area or need sand bags to fend off winter rains impacts, stop by the Boonville CALFIRE Station on any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday (during the winter months). Sand and sand bags are free on a first come first serve basis. (AV Fire Department Presser)
49ERS OUTSCORE RAMS 27-7 AFTER SEAN MCVAY’S END ZONE CELEBRATION
by Alex Shultz
LA Rams Coach Sean McVay was riding high... before the San Francisco 49ers mounted a 17-point comeback, then tacked on a field goal in overtime to secure a 27-24 victory.
McVay, the 35-year-old coach of the Los Angeles Rams, oversaw a picture-perfect start to his team’s Sunday afternoon matchup against the Niners. His quarterback, Matthew Stafford, was dropping dimes. The opposing quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, looked like a guy trying to throw a football with a barely functioning thumb. So when the Rams scored their second touchdown of the day — a beautiful 15-yard toss to tight end Tyler Higbee — McVay let loose.
The Rams’ head coach pranced around the end zone with his players, earning him some sort of verbal reprimand from the nearby ref.
We here at SFGATE are pro-end zone celebration and anti-penalties for said celebrating, so we’re glad no infractions were called on McVay. But! If a head coach does decide to venture onto the field in the middle of the game — a move that isn’t quite taunting or poor sportsmanship, but definitely has the potential to annoy opponents and onlookers — then that coach has to live with the consequences.
Wouldn’t you know it? After McVay’s end-zone celebration, the 49ers responded with a 27-7 run. It’s unclear as of yet if San Francisco players noticed McVay’s performative routine, or if perhaps the Football Gods chose to punish him for his slight, but the end result is the same: the Niners are miraculously advancing to the postseason. McVay, meanwhile, might want to think twice about joining his players on the field for a touchdown celebration.
GRAFFITI AND OTHER UGLY ART
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
It’s distressing and almost painful to see graffiti, big, bold and in your face, on downtown walls and simultaneously realize no one is capable of dealing with it.
By “dealing with it” we mean covering the ugly scrawls over with coats of matching beige paint, or accosting, arresting and chopping fingers off the cretins who despoil exterior walls of homes and businesses. Our collective inaction makes us seem weak, unable to reclaim what no punk graffiti slob(s) should be able to take from us.
Ukiah’s police force has no cadets to go out on a bright sunshiny day and roll paint over the offensive messages? Ukiah police have no cooperative teenagers to suggest IDs of vandals, or vulnerable teenagers willing to trade information in exchange for leniency in juvenile court?
No church groups can send out teams of youngsters with brushes and paint buckets? No letters to the editor expressing community displeasure? No downtown business owners demanding something must be done?
Up a notch, or perhaps half a notch, from ugly graffiti on public walls in public spaces, we gaze in dismay upon the bathrooms at Todd Grove Park. Here we have ugly murals from amateur painters subjecting local citizens to sophomoric political nonsense via 200 square feet of visual blight.
We assume they are simply unschooled, never taught artistic spatial basics of perspective or dimension. All is flat, featureless, lifeless, primitive. A slogan unworthy of a bumper sticker has been mercifully covered over, allowing us to avoid further insult via the idiotic viewpoints of children with no more intellectual depth than artistic skill.
Ukiah, I Sing Of Thee!
Son Lucas, master of all things internetty and cyberish, recently introduced me to the wonders and mysteries of something called “Spotify.”
Spotify is an online jukebox. I’m sure anyone under the age of 40 has cultivated a deep, meaningful relationship with Spotify, and anyone over the age of 50 can’t spell it.
On Spotify one can “dial up” or “access” any noise that’s ever been recorded, more or less, or request a category / style of music the website (?) will then fulfill.
I suggested songs of “Ukiah” so I could prove the Doobie Brothers once performed such a ditty. It was so. But along with that song came a torrent of others named, or referencing, Ukiah. You wouldn’t believe.
I happily listened to the first 10 or so Ukiah songs that Spotify coughed up. Being no music critic (we’d have to lure UDJ alum Ron Gluckman back to fill that slot) I can offer only amateur thoughts and analyses. And since Ron’s not coming back anytime soon, mine will have to do.
1) Ukiah the Red Mountain, by Y / N: He sings “The world’s on fire, the world is burning” and maybe it’s about the blazing conflagrations that have attacked the area in recent years. Ends in mournful howls, falsetto vocals.
2) Ukiah, by Robert Francis: Terrific professional production, it sounds like a pop single back when they still recorded pop singles. Semi-intelligible lyrics but I did hear references to both Jonestown and insane asylums in the 1970s. It ends with “For now I’m in Ukiah on the run.”
3) El de Ukiah, by Grupo Reservation: No comp[rendo, que lastima.
4) Ukiah Lullaby by Anson Wright and Tom Gilson: Finger pickin’ acoustic noodling instrumental, with a bass guitar hovering.
5) Ukiah by Jon Bennett: Think early Bob Dylan vocals, quick, nimble guitar work wrapped around a tale of druggie merry-go-rounds in SF. When he learns a friend is set up near Ukiah he sings “Gotta get outta the Tenderloin and when I do I’ll send for you. Gotta get away from this G-D dope and when I do I’ll send for you.”
6) Ukiah, by Hylian. Album cover is black skull-and-crossbones on blank white, and the song is retro punk circa 1979. Strangled, snarling vocals.
7) Ukiah, by Seafood. Nicely done harmonies and counterpoint, (“Do you think you ever will come back again?”) plus engaging acoustic guitar work and some la la la’s toward the end.
8) Ukiah, by Night Committee. Driving professional rock n roll sound, easily qualifies as radio-worthy in an earlier era. Sound in mature and complex. Just one quick listen, but lyrics are well above average, given the genre.
A Very Good Year (End)
During the course of a year a lot of decisions get made, and as 2021 was drawing to a close it seemed time to do a little housekeeping.
I decided to get rid of 1200 lbs of couch that had been sitting for a decade, like an ugly granite boulder, in our living room. The couch became my dumbest decision in all of 2021, which includes moving out of state, having a heart attack, and deciding to be an Oakland A’s fan. I suppose I’ve had worse years.
Lucas and his pal Phil muscled the inert beast out to the sidewalk on a bright sunny mid-December day, and hung a “FREE” sign on it. The couch didn’t sell even at sidewalk sale prices, and then it rained hard for about a year. I covered it with a tarp that made it look like a tumor, but with fungi. It sat. We waited.
There it squatted, daily sinking half an inch deeper in mud as it gained water weight, mould and more fungi stuff. Despair set in. Neighbors laughed and pointed. City officials drove by, slowly. Homeless camps had better furniture than me.
Then on the very last day of 2021 a neighbor named Terry Mack offered to haul the couch to the dump. Tears welled up in my eyes. He declined money and even refused help loading 3000 lbs. of soaked sofa into the back of his truck.
“It’s what friends do,” Terry shrugged. “Happy New Year.”
Suddenly offing the couch was a brilliant idea, and 2021 became an almost good year. I’ll remember this year from the warm glow a friendly act can bring.
(Tom Hine shouts ‘Happy New Year’ at Terry and Melody Mack, and all you other helpful friends and neighbors in Ukiah. TWK says “True Dat.”)
Attention Jim Armstrong: I didn’t know who Bob Saget was until today. Do you know who Deebo Samuel is?
On Wednesday, December 29, 2021 at about 11:09 PM, a Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle with expired registration in Covelo.
The Deputy contacted the driver and registered owner, Leonard Whipple III, 20, of Covelo, and (4) four juveniles in the vehicle.
The Deputy conducted a records check on all the individuals and discovered a 16 year-old juvenile male occupant had a felony warrant for his arrest.
The Deputy smelled burnt marijuana, saw burnt marijuana cigarettes, and noticed bud marijuana inside the vehicle.
The Deputy conducted a search of the vehicle and found over (10) ten small zip lock bags containing like amounts of bud marijuana, along with (31) thirty-one similar unused bags and larger bags containing bud marijuana. The Deputy believed this to be consistent with the transportation for sale of marijuana.
Whipple III was cited and released for 11360 HS (transportation for sale of marijuana). The 16 year-old juvenile male was arrested and transported to the Mendocino County Juvenile Hall.
On Saturday, January 1, 2022 at about 4:00 PM Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies along with California Department of Fish & Wildlife Wardens went to a residence in the 400 block of Hatchet Mountain Boulevard in Covelo to serve a search warrant related to the traffic stop.
The Deputies contacted Teresa Bettega, 37, of Covelo, in front of the location and advised her of the search warrant.
Bettega at first was compliant and was going to let the Deputies into the residence but for some unknown reason began blocking the door and was physically resistant.
Bettega was placed into handcuffs and detained in a patrol car. Deputies entered the residence and found a 13 year-old juvenile inside.
Deputies located (14) fourteen firearms, along with ammunition, high capacity magazines and drugs inside the residence. Most of the firearms were located in Leonard Whipple III’s bedroom.
Deputies noticed none of the firearms were secured (to prevent individuals from access) and most were loaded and accessible to the juveniles who lived at the location. This included two loaded firearms and ammunition in the 13 year-old juvenile’s bedroom.
Some of the firearms had characteristics of being classified as an assault weapon in California and there were (2) two unlawful short barreled shotguns.
Bettega was arrested for resisting Deputies with violence and child endangerment. Bettega was booked into the Mendocino County Jail were she was to be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
During the investigation, Deputies located evidence to show Leonard Whipple Jr., 39, of Covelo, had also been associated with the firearms located.
Deputies confirmed Leonard Whipple Jr. was prohibited by law from owning or possessing firearms and ammunition.
Deputies attempted to locate Whipple III and Whipple Jr. with negative results.
After the search warrant and investigation was concluded, a Mendocino County Superior Court Judge issued arrest warrants for both Whipple Jr. and Whipple III in connection with the search warrant service.
LYING IN COURT TO TRY AND HELP A JAILHOUSE FRIEND BACKFIRES
Defendant Dylan Wayne Beck (aka Nikki Love), age 26, generally of the Ukiah area, was sentenced to state prison Thursday afternoon in the Mendocino County Superior Court for a term of 88 months.
Defendant Beck was convicted this past August at trial of two different felony counts of perjury -- presenting false testimony under oath and submitting a false declaration under penalty of perjury.
Defendant Beck was additionally charged with having suffered a prior Strike conviction, within the meaning of California’s voter-modified Three Strikes law. That sentencing enhancement was also proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor at the August trial.
As background, defendant Beck, a frequent flyer in the Mendocino County criminal justice system, was convicted in April 2019 of residential burglary, a Strike conviction for future purposes.
Beck was given a golden opportunity to pursue rehabilitation – versus future incarceration -- when the sentencing judge took a chance on him in May 2019 and placed Beck on supervised probation instead of sending him to state prison, as often happens to those convicted of residential burglaries.
Unfortunately, the opportunity offered Beck did not pan out. Within a matter of days, defendant Beck began demonstrating he was not amenable to supervision and probation. In short order, Beck was twice found in violation of terms and conditions of his probation.
The second of the two violations was really the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
In an ill-fated attempt to mitigate a jailhouse acquaintance’s conviction and sentence for robbery, defendant Beck signed a false declaration -- under penalty of perjury – in June 2019, and allowed same to be used in the robber’s post-conviction court proceedings.
Doubling down on his deception, Beck also falsely testified in person -- after being administered the oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” -- as a defense witness at an evidentiary hearing brought by the robber’s deputy public defender.
In a poorly-executed effort to aid Beck’s friend the robber, Beck provided false testimony that he was an eyewitness to certain interactions the robber supposedly had with others, interactions that the skilled and experienced DA investigators were able to prove had never happened.
Believing that perjury is an attack on our system of justice and an attempt to derail the discovery of truth in court proceedings, DA Eyster was unamused at the brazen lies perpetrated by defendant Beck, as well as others who recruited Beck for "the job."
In addition to initiating proceedings to terminate Beck’s probation for his failure to “obey all laws,” the DA also substantively charged Beck with the two different forms of perjury.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Beck’s own court-appointed attorney made a last-ditch effort to have the Strike sentencing enhancement dismissed “in the interests of justice.” Opposed by the prosecution, that motion was ultimately denied by the court, making a state prison commitment a foregone conclusion.
When afforded the right of allocution, Beck claimed that he was a different person now than before, that he had turned his life around. Beck asked for leniency and for another chance on probation.
To that end, he made a half-hearted apology to the very victim that he had feloniously attacked by means of his false statements. The aggrieved victim also addressed the court and made a compelling statement to the judge as to the significant impacts caused her by the defendant’s double perjury.
When it was all said and done and the state prison sentence announced, the defendant was remanded into the custody of the Sheriff to be transported to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The law enforcement agency that developed the evidence underlying the defendant’s two perjury convictions was the District Attorney’s own in-house Bureau of Investigations.
The assigned prosecutor, Deputy DA Jamie Pearl, successfully prosecuted the violation of probation proceeding, as well as the perjury counts from arraignment to conviction. DDA Pearl also argued Thursday that a state prison commitment was the appropriate sanction for the defendant’s overt “attack on truth.”
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder, the new Assistant Presiding Superior Court Judge for 2022-2023, presided over the Thursday afternoon sentencing hearing.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 9, 2022
SCOTT BROOKS, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, suspended license for DUI, midemeanor hit&run with property damage.
NATHAN DEGURSE, Willits. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
ABIGAIL DIAZ, San Rafael/Ukiah. DUI, suspended license.
MONICKA DIAZ, Lucerne/Ukiah. Concealed firearm in vehicle with prior, ownership of unregistered firearm, loaded handgun-not registered owner, probation revocation.
CHRISTOPHER FRANCE, Willits. Burglary, failure to appear.
HARMONY HINKLE, Fort Bragg. DUI.
DOMINIK IDICA, Redwood Valley. Concealed firearm in vehicle with prior, ownership of unregistered firearm, loaded handgun-not registered owner.
KODY IDICA, Redwood Valley. DUI, concealed firearm in vehicle with prior, ownership of unregistered firearm, loaded handgun-not registered owner, offenses while on bail.
MARK NIELSEN, Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, offenses while on bail.
JOSHUA RANO, Westport. Probation revocation.
DOMINIC SINGLETON, Ukiah. Burglary, resisting, parole violation.
CONGRATULATIONS (FIRST ONE WAS VERY GOOD)
Another book - on the way
My novel, In Common, is coming out April 14, 2022. It’s a family saga set in Mississippi.
You can preorder a copy at blackrosewriting.com/literary/incommon
If you order one prior to the publication date, with the promo code: PREORDER 2022, you get a 15% discount.
With all best wishes for a less fraught 2022,
— Norma Watkins <email@example.com>
HOW THE SPLENDOR AND CHAOS OF THE GOLDEN STATE EXPLAINS JOAN DIDION’S VISION OF THE WORLD
by Emma Hager
The night of the day Joan Didion died, I went scrounging around my bookshelves for a copy of Where I Was From. I’ve lived in California all my life, underneath the weight of its political contradictions and atop its ecological dramas, and of all Didion’s works, this one, which sets out to interrogate the foundational mythologies of California, her generational ties to the state, and what she views as its unfortunate decline, seemed most appropriate to put the author’s death and this place into perspective.
Scanning my shelves, I saw only the spines of Slouching and The White Album, After Henry and Play It, Run River and Miami, so I panic-texted a friend, a fellow California girl, who lives nearby. “EMERGENCY REQUEST,” I wrote her, “do you have a copy of Where I Was From that I could borrow TONIGHT?” She replied within minutes. “Found it,” my friend wrote, “and do you want South and West also?”
On my walk home from acquiring the books, through the low winter fog, the rapidity and sureness of this exchange—knowing that another young woman from here would have Didion’s writings on hand and at the ready—struck me as some flesh-and-blood example of just how fused the author’s legacy had become with the particularities of the Golden State, the ones she spent her entire life chronicling. I recalled a well-known passage from the middle of Where I Was From, where she dispassionately examines the inherited, and slightly brutal, regional conduct: “If my grandfather spotted a rattlesnake while driving, he would stop his car and go into the brush after it. To do less, he advised me more than once, was to endanger whoever entered the brush, and so violate what he called ‘the code of the West’.”
Suburban sprawl has since devoured so much of the rattlers’ rightful habitats, including good portions of the grassy San Joaquin Delta sloughs that the Didions have been traversing since long before the advent of cars. But regardless, wasn’t this network of Joan devotees some newer—probably inevitable—iteration of “the code of the West”? That’s what this social fabric has always felt like to us, at least, and especially those of us who demonstrated, sometime in our early teens, a small and nagging interest in writing.
First came the guilty admission of keeping a journal or of wanting to write without actually having done so. Then came the suggestion, usually from a friend’s mother (these mothers are often themselves from Sacramento or Los Angeles or San Francisco), that you must read Joan. She’s the blueprint, they all seemed to say in one way or another; here’s an essay called “Notes from a Native Daughter,” and just because you’re from out here doesn’t mean you can’t leave for back East to work at a fashion magazine in New York City.
The author, however, made keeners and disciples out of so many, far and wide, not just the locals. She possessed, more than any of her contemporaries, the contradictory essence of a pop star: Her pieces, like catchy love songs, have the effect of making you feel like she’s excavating raw material from your soul alone. And, as has been noted widely, pale imitations of her mercurial and melodious sentences—especially those found in early essays, collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, that take on the broad topics of “morality” and “self-respect”—can be identified in countless pieces of writing. Who hasn’t attempted to replicate her signature lilt? Didion, in short, made things feel, for a whole generation and then generations after that, cinematic and possible. That is, Didion’s writing—and equally, if not more so, the very fact of her—permitted young writers to take their own thoughts seriously enough to jot down.
Yet as much as Didion’s essays on personal character have become touchstones for innumerable people who, for reasons good or vain, aspire to a life of writing, it’s her pieces on California that are most illuminating of Didion’s rhetorical investments and philosophies. Beginning with her 1968 hit Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Didion established a resigned but visceral voice, one that attributed feelings like despondence, madness, and desire to the terrain and natural phenomena. In the opener, titled “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” the atrophy of all things—this would become one of Didion’s signature obsessions, an essential through line of her oeuvre, in myriad pieces on subjects besides California—can be linked directly to the onset of fire season:
“October is a bad month for the wind, the month when breathing is difficult and the hills blaze up spontaneously. There has been no rain since April. Every voice seems a scream. It is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.”
This essay, at first, is a retelling of the case of Lucille Miller, the San Bernardino housewife who murdered her husband by setting aflame the car in which he was sleeping. But Didion’s ulterior motive, at the outset, is to frame this violence, in part, as symptomatic of the region. Denizens of this fated wasteland just east of Los Angeles, the writer argues, have only the “haunted” Mojave Desert to lean on—and nothing good can come from that. The emotional and aesthetic experiences the state’s topography elicits appears again in “Notes From a Native Daughter,” in which Didion chalks up the “uneasy suspension” within Californians, between a profound sense of optimism and of loss, because it’s here that the edge of contiguous America meets the daunting Pacific. End of continent—end of scene. Later, in 1979’s The White Album—my favorite of the two early collections—we get an essay called “Holy Water,” in which Didion details her fascination with the transport of water throughout the state. “It is easy to forget,” she writes, “that the only natural force over which we have any control out here is water, and that only recently.” Again, there’s that identifiable submission to the laws of nature, though, too, this sentence brings into focus one of Didion’s oft-quoted remarks about her craft: Writing is “the only way I can be aggressive. I’m totally in control of this tiny, tiny world.” It seems, then, that to Didion, the essay might very well be a form whose utility is like that of an aqueduct, bringing, to where it is dry and lifeless and unruly, something of a total and fertile thought.
I witness, in the lilting shifts of Didion’s sentences, a mirror to the truest tension of California life: the embodied paranoias that come with the extreme conditions of this place versus the collective ambition, since the settlers’ arrival, to defy the natural order. Didion, by the time she wrote Where I Was From, seemed to have departed from the excessive use of such sonorous twisting—staccato aphorisms and fragmented scenes still litter its pages, however—but the book offers the author’s clearest articulation of this regional strain and its origins. Over four parts, Didion identifies, parses, then mourns the way her California (which is to say the California of a multigenerational, land-owning clan that’s been here since before the Gold Rush) has changed. From the succession of ranches to strip malls and the devolution of what Didion seems to identify as a streamlined frontier ethic into political and social chaos, it’s apparent that loss and decay haunt this work in spades. The pioneer myths that populate her ancestors’ valorous diary entries about crossing into the Golden State, she realizes, can no longer be leaned upon, but that doesn’t stop Didion from morphing the settler compulsion of claim-staking into her own indelible, intruding, and exacting subjectivity. Didion, in other words, through the routine admission of her presence across all her writings, lays claim to her subjects, and enacts a proprietary bent over the course of relayed events.
Didion’s deep displays of sentimentality for an early and stolen California made reading Where I Was From that first time, however many years ago, a sobering experience. The steadfast pride she maintains in her pioneer forebears has the whiff of someone who hasn’t interrogated their fraught, violent lineages rigorously enough. All but pushed to the margins are Indigenous people, the only people who have any legitimate claim to this land. So it was then, after this initial reading, that I no longer regarded Joan as the blueprint—as was recommended in my early teen years—but instead the jumping-off point.
There is, still, no one who enunciates the moods of this place quite like Didion does. How validating to read passages about the craze that’s carried on the fire winds or about the spiraling helplessness one feels when looking out at empty reservoirs! But now, too, I can know the limits of her thinking without discrediting it entirely, and can find courage enough to pick up where she left off, without replicating the pride or the glossing or the nostalgia, and find more capacious ways of facing down the untenable myths of home. Didion taught us, by example, to write hard about the places we love—and has permitted us to be a little glamorous while we do it.
(The Nation Magazine)
TRUST ME, YOU DO NOT WANT OMICRON
by Effie Seiberg
One of the things we keep hearing about omicron, the new coronavirus “variant of note” that has propelled COVID-19 cases to record levels in the United States, is that preliminary data shows it to cause milder disease, which implies a lower death rate. People seem cautiously optimistic. And, considering the mass deaths from the delta variant, this makes sense.
The problem, though, is that “mild disease” just means you don’t wind up in the hospital. And mild might not be the end of the story.
People seem to think COVID-19 is a binary — you either die or you get better. (You might even be lucky enough to get better after being asymptomatic.) But there’s actually a third path, which is long COVID. You don’t die, but you don’t get better, either, and are left with debilitating symptoms that might be permanent.
And no one is sounding the alarm about the risk of disability from “mild” cases of COVID.
Long COVID is common following even mild cases of COVID-19, and its symptoms can be far more severe than the mild case it came from. It can lead to devastating illnesses with symptoms that wreak havoc on every part of your life, including a condition called ME/CFS (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome), a usually lifelong debilitating disability.
I have ME/CFS. I promise you, you don’t want it.
Right now, approximately 30% of COVID-19 patients are experiencing long COVID symptoms. Some get better after a few weeks or months. But once you hit the six month mark, things look different.
The majority of people with long COVID past six months are reporting that ME/CFS symptoms are their main concern, according to a study in the Lancet, and as many as 50% of people with long COVID qualify for an ME/CFS diagnosis, according to an article in the Mayo Proceedings. Researchers are predicting that more than 4 million Americans could develop ME/CFS following COVID-19, nearly tripling the number of people with the disease.
In the most cautious calculations, with 55.5 million cases and 825,000 deaths in the U.S., there’s about an average 1.5% chance of death from COVID-19, but an average 7.2% chance of getting ME/CFS from it. That’s right, you’re almost five times as likely to wind up disabled from ME/CFS than to die from the disease, and that’s just one of the potential long-term outcomes of long COVID.
I’ve had ME/CFS for four years. Most cases are virally triggered, like from COVID-19, though other viruses and environmental stressors can also cause it. I’ve gone from being an avid salsa dancer to needing a wheelchair to go more than two blocks. I’ve gone from being able to read a whole book after a workday to needing an entire rest day to recover after one. I find physical things like folding laundry to be difficult exertion now. I’ve lost friends and clients to this disease.
There is no treatment or cure for ME/CFS. It feels like constant, debilitating fatigue, and is typified by a worsening of symptoms following any type of overexertion, whether physical, cognitive or sensory. We can also have shortness of breath, brain fog, unreasonably high heart rates and unrefreshing sleep that makes sure there’s nothing to make the fatigue go away.
Long COVID is now my worst fear.
I have moderate-to-severe ME/CFS, but extreme or continuous stressors (such as viral illnesses, or pushing through when trying to recover from previous exertion) can make the disease permanently worse. Some ME/CFS patients have it so severe that they are bedbound, and find stimuli like light and sound too difficult to manage. The suicide risk for ME/CFS patients is much higher than the general population because the quality of life is so low.
Anyone can get long COVID — you don’t need a pre-existing condition like mine. And this means anyone can get ME/CFS. We don’t yet know how vaccines and boosters affect the likelihood of getting long COVID, and we don’t yet know what omicron means when it’s added to the mix.
For me, the possibility of very severe ME/CFS is scarier than death. I already wouldn’t wish my moderate ME/CFS on anyone. I feel like I’ve already lost so much. I can do fewer fun things, fewer work things, fewer family things. Every single part of my life has had to be cut back in order to accommodate this disease. I deal with pain and nausea and dizziness on a daily basis.
They say disability doesn’t cause suffering; society’s lack of accommodations for disability causes suffering. And that is true for many disabilities.
But not ME/CFS.
My hope is that everyone takes extra precautions to not get sick in the first place.
Make sure you’re vaccinated and boosted. Have everyone take a rapid test before going into an indoor gathering, try to avoid unnecessary travel, and keep wearing your N95. No indoor dining experience with unvaccinated friends is worth getting this lifelong disability.
You may not think a mild case of COVID is a big deal. And it may not feel that way at first. But, I promise you, you don’t want to wind up with ME/CFS.
(Effie Seiberg is a marketing consultant and writer living in Berkeley. She’s had ME/CFS for four years and is writing a book that shares her experiences and tips for other sufferers.)
OMICRON LIKELY HERE
by Justine Frederiksen
Though local health officials reportedly do not yet have proof that the Omicron variant has reached Mendocino County, Public Health Officer Andy Coren said it is likely already here.
“Omicron does not seem to have reached us yet, but as of yesterday, I’m beginning to doubt that, though we don’t have the genome sequencing data yet to (confirm),” said Coren, though he did begin his latest public update Friday by declaring that “California and Mendocino County have entered into the Omicron blizzard.”
As an example, Coren pointed to the average number of cases Mendocino County is adding per day, an average he described as doubling this week: “On Jan. 6, it was 15.67 per 100,000, but as of today, Jan. 7, it is 30.6 per 100,000. And this is prior to the New Year’s bump,” he said, referring to the increase in cases expected after the most recent holiday gatherings.
Coren also reported that the county Public Health office Jan. 6 received “records of 105 new PCR cases, and we also received 55 antigen tests, mostly from schools.”
As for current outbreaks, Coren said “the only outbreaks we now have is in the (Mendocino County Jail), with 15 staff members, and two antigen-positive inmates. And these are all being closely monitored.”
Coren noted that there were “other outbreaks over the holidays that have all resolved,” and that the county “received some complaints about people not wearing masks” at a basketball tournament hosted by the Fort Bragg Unified School District.
“And then afterward there was an adult party at a bar (from which) we got 19 antigen-positive test results back. Fort Bragg Unified School District has since stopped their games, until they can be assured of better compliance. Some have called for shutting down the school, but I don’t think that’s warranted,” he said, describing “schools as really the safest place for our kids to be right now.”
As for the hospitals, Coren said while there has not yet been a large rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations from Omicron, “two of our hospitals are already reporting staff shortages.” When asked for more details, Coren said that hospitals report to the state every day, and “two of our hospitals said they are having some staffing shortages, and that’s not uncommon. We are actually very lucky to have a very flexible system with three hospitals,” which he said allows patients to be moved elsewhere if needed.
However, Coren said he had not seen patients needing to be moved, either within Mendocino County or to outside hospitals for care, though that had happened previously in the pandemic.
When asked about the “pop-up” testing site at the JCPenney parking lot and how people can be assured of its legitimacy, Coren said “we are aware of it, but I don’t know who is supporting it, I don’t know how they’re licensed. We do not have oversight over them, and we don’t know who does.”
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
I ALWAYS THINK OF MYSELF as the prey of other people; that if I escaped them, if I managed somewhere else, far from them, to begin an entirely new life, I would finally achieve serenity.
— Albert Camus
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Perhaps what is needed is a useful term to describe the opposite of woke, a term with which to describe the pseudo-Christian white straight men who have discovered that they are the truly oppressed, and the women and occasional perverse people of color who are bought into their bullying style. Come on, you know precisely who I mean -- on both left and right, the ones who want to kill Dr. Fauci, because he thinks in facts, making them feel stupid, and, on the right, the ones who have made Kyle Rittenhouse their latest mascot, because not only does he cross state lines to defend property he has no connection with, but he has managed to turn a military-grade weapon into a personal toy, and is able to kill with it without consequence, a young fascist’s dream.
Hmmm, "trumper" is too specifically tied to the jackass real estate fraudster and traitor, and doesn’t begin to encompass the new fascists. How’s about an acronym: LIARs. Loud Ignorant Aggressive Rumps.
THE QUEEN CONSORT OF MONGOLIA, Genepil, in Mongolia. Photograph dated January 1st, 1923. She was the last queen consort and married to the Bogd Khaganate, Bogd Khan, until his death on April 17th, 1924, when the monarchy was abolished.
After the Queen Dondogdulam died in 1923, Bogd Khan did not want to remain single. Genepil was picked as the next queen among a group of girls between 18 and 20 years old selected by the King’s counsellors. She came from a family in Northern Mongolia and was married at the time, but the courtiers took no notice of this, as the marriage was in name only.
Bogd Khan was 53-years-old, almost blind, practically immobile and very sick and she was assured she would soon be allowed to return to her first husband.
She lived with Bogd for one year until his death on April 17, 1924 when the monarchy was abolished. After leaving the Mongolian court she then returned to her family. It is unknown if she went back to her first husband or ever remarried.
In 1937, Genepil was arrested along with her family given her ties to the old regime. She was executed in May, 1938, shot as part of the systematic Stalinist destruction of Mongolian culture, in which a vast amount of the population were killed, including almost all the shamans and Buddhist lamas.
PG&E’S INANE PROPOSAL
There’s a battle going on. The public utilities including PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), want to make rooftop solar unaffordable by charging new solar users a penalty fee averaging $57 per month (i.e. $684 per year) and slash the solar credit by 80%. They also want to reduce the number of years that existing solar users can stay on their current net metering program before being slammed with these charges — from 20 years down to 15 years. The utilities are doing this to perpetuate a self-serving, monopolistic, and outdated for-profit model.
I attended the CPUC hearing to comment on this climate change travesty and heard from the approximately 125+ other commenters. Many were owners and employees of solar installation companies pleading with the CPUC to reject this proposal as it will destroy the business and jobs of approximately 70,000 Californians.
It appears that the CPUC will approve this proposal, and, if so, these new rates will go into effect sometime in March or April 2022. One person who has not picked a side in this battle is Governor Gavin Newsom. He has the ability and responsibility to keep California’s clean, renewable energy policy on track and working in the public interest. Please comment and express your opposition to this proposal by calling the Governor’s office at 916-445-2841 and leaving a message before January 27th as that’s when the CPUC will vote on this shameful, appalling, and inane proposal.
FOR FOURTH YEAR, CDFW FINDS ZERO DELTA SMELT IN FALL MIDWATER TRAWL SURVEY
by Dan Bacher
2021 was a very bad year for Delta smelt and other declining fish populations on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
For the fourth year in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has caught zero Delta smelt in its Fall Midwater Trawl (FMWT) survey on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The Delta smelt, once the most abundant fish in the entire Delta Estuary, numbered in the millions before state and federal projects started exporting massive quantities of water to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California water agencies.
Found only in the Delta, the 2 to 3 inch fish that smells like cucumber is considered an "indicator" species because it indicates the overall health of the Delta ecosystem. The FMWT 2021 sampling season began September 1 and was completed on December 16.
The survey ended just after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, experimentally released 12,800 captively produced Delta smelt on December 14 and 15. The fish were raised at the University of California, Davis, Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory in Byron, California.
The purpose of this Delta smelt project is “to benefit conservation of the species through studies of experimental release of captively produced fish into a portion of its current range,” according to the service:
As the hatchery-raised smelt are released into the estuary, the dramatic collapse of Delta smelt and other pelagic (open water) species continues on the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of Americas.
In a December 21st memo summarizing the results of the survey, James White, CDFW environmental scientist wrote, “The 2021 abundance index for Delta Smelt was 0 and was tied with 2018 through 2020 for the lowest in FMWT history. This is a continuation of a pattern of low indices that occurred in recent years.”
“No Delta Smelt were collected from any stations during our survey months of September- December. An absence of Delta Smelt catch in the FMWT is consistent among other surveys in the estuary,” he wrote.
However, White noted that another survey, the Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring (EDSM) survey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) caught 8 Delta Smelt, including 6 marked individuals — obviously from the experimental release — and 2 wild individuals, among 65 sampling days (between 9/1 and 12/17) comprised of 784 tows.
The federal survey’s catch occurred on December 16 and 17, 2021. “Delta Smelt numbers are very low and below the effective detection threshold by most sampling methods,” wrote White.
The Delta smelt has declined to a point of virtual extinction in the wild due to several factors, including invasive species, drought and declining water quality, but none has a bigger impact than the changes in the Delta ecosystem caused by the export of massive amounts of water to corporate agribusiness interests in the San Joaquin Valley.
The indexes for the other pelagic species, including striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, American shad, Sacramento splittail and Wakasagi, varied in the 2021 survey, but show a dramatic overall decline of the fish since the beginning of the survey in 1967.
The 2021 abundance index for Age-0 *Striped Bass* (*Morone saxatilis*), a popular introduced gamefish species, was *56*, representing a* 7% increase* from last year’s index.
“Striped Bass were collected every month during September-December. 49 age-0 Striped Bass were collected at index stations and 2 from non-index stations,” White stated. “Monthly catch was highest in November, with catch highest in Lower Sacramento River among months.”
The 2021 abundance index for Longfin Smelt (*Spirinchus thaleichthys*), a native species that is a cousin of the Delta Smelt, was *323*, representing a *91% increase *from last year’s index, said White.
A total of 124 Longfin Smelt were collected at index stations and 0 from non-index stations. “Fish were distributed from San Pablo Bay through the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Monthly catch was highest in November, with catch highest in San Pablo Bay most months. Higher catch is usually expected in December as Longfin Smelt adults return to the estuary from the ocean to spawn as water temperatures drop in the late fall or winter,” he wrote.
The 2021 abundance index for *Threadfin Shad* (*Dorosoma petenense*), an introduced forage fish species, was *221, *representing a *65% decrease *from last year’s index.
“A total of 190 Threadfin Shad were collected at index stations and 613 from non-index stations. The greatest monthly catch was in December, with catch highest in SRDWSC most months,” White noted.
The 2021 abundance index for *American Shad* (*Alosa sapidissima*), an introduced gamefish species that is a member of the herring family, was *398,* representing a *64% decrease* from last year’s index.
White said American Shad abundance indices have “fluctuated substantially” during the period 2017-2021, ranging from a low of 398 to a high of 3086.
“A total of 241 American Shad were collected at index stations and 107 from non-index stations. American Shad were collected mostly from the SRDWSC (Sacramento River Deepwater Shipping Channel) with the greatest monthly catch in October,” he wrote.
The 2021 abundance index for Sacramento Splittail *(**Pogonichthys macrolepidotus*), a native member of the minnow family found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, was 0, showing a continuing trend in recent years of “very little to no catch of Splittail in the survey.”
A total of* 0 Sacramento Splittail *were collected at index stations and 4 from non-index stations. Splittail catch was greatest in SRDWSC with the highest monthly catch occurring in December, according to White.
“Splittail were collected 3 of the 4 months at non-index stations in the SRDWSC,” he noted. “The Splittail FMWT index tends to be low or zero except in relatively wet years, such as 2011, when age-0 fish tend to be abundant.”
Finally, the abundance index for Wakasagi (*Hypomesus nipponensis*), or Japanese pondsmelt, was zero because Wakasagi were only caught at non-index stations. The California DFG first introduced this fish in northern California reservoirs in 1959 to provide forage for rainbow trout and other salmonids.
“A total of *0 Wakasagi* were collected at index stations and 16 from non-index stations. Monthly catch was highest in October and December, with catch being highest in SRDWSC among months,” White concluded.
The decline of Delta smelt and other pelagic fish species in recent years is part of the “Pelagic Organism Decline” (POD) that state and federal scientists first identified in 2005. The scientists attributed the decline to three major factors: changes in the Delta ecosystem spurred by water exports south of the Delta, the spread of invasive species and toxics in the water.
Between 1967 and 2020, the state’s Fall Midwater Trawl abundance indices for striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, American shad, splittail and threadfin shad have declined by 99.7, 100, 99.96, 67.9, 100, and 95 percent, respectively, reported Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
“Taken as five-year averages (1967-1971 vs. 2016-2020), the declines for striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, American shad, splittail and threadfin shad are 98.1, 99.8, 99.8, 26.2, 99.3 and 94.3 percent, respectively,” said Jennings.
Last year, scientists forecasted the likely extinction of Delta smelt in the wild in 2021 or 2022. On January 10, Dr. Peter Moyle, Karrigan BÃ¶rk, John Durand, T-C Hung, and Andrew L. Rypel, wrote on the California Water Blog a piece entitled, “ 2021: Is this the year that wild delta smelt become extinct?
“All signs point to the Delta smelt as disappearing from the wild this year, or, perhaps, 2022,” said Moyle. “In case you had forgotten, the Delta smelt is an attractive, translucent little fish that eats plankton, has a one-year life cycle, and smells like cucumbers. It was listed as a threatened species in 1993 and has continued to decline since then.”
Then on November 14, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) fishery biologist Tom Cannon in his California Fisheries Blog revealed that two other surveys besides the Fall Midwater Trawl on the Delta had turned up similar results for the Delta smelt: calsport.org/...
“The Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring (EDSM) caught only 1 Delta smelt in 2200 smelt-targeted net tows in 2021,” wrote Cannon. “This compares to 49 captured in 2020 and hundreds in prior years <https://calsport.org/fisheriesblog/?cat=6>. None were captured in the Spring Kodiak Trawl 2021 survey.”
“This year’s results indicate that Delta smelt are likely virtually extinct in the wild,” concluded Cannon.
I will be following the progress of the experimental reintroduction of hatchery-raised Delta smelt into the wild.
I am not optimistic about its success because of the dramatic changes in the Delta ecosystem that have been caused by water exports south of the Delta by the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project over the decades — combined with the impacts of invasive species, toxics, declining water quality and other factors — and the apparent unwillingness of the state and federal governments to make the necessary changes in their water export and dam operations needed to save the Delta smelt and other fish populations.
Background from CDFW:
“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has conducted the Fall Midwater Trawl Survey (FMWT) to index the fall abundance of pelagic — open water fishes annually since 1967 (except 1974 and 1979). FMWT equipment and methods have remained consistent since the survey’s inception, allowing the indices to be compared across time. These relative abundance indices are not intended to approximate population sizes. However, we expect that our indices reflect general patterns in population change (Polansky et al. 2019).
In September, October, November, and December, 121, 122, 122, and 122 fish tows were conducted as well as 32 zooplankton tows, respectively. Here we report catch from index and non-index stations, species distributions by region, and annual abundance indices for seven pelagic fish species; Delta Smelt (native), Striped Bass (introduced), Longfin Smelt (native), American Shad (introduced), Threadfin Shad (introduced), Splittail (native), and Wakasagi (introduced).”
JOIN SINGLE PAYER BILL HEARING TUESDAY, JAN 11
Important Information About Healthcare Legislation
Assembly Bill 1400, Guaranteed Healthcare for All, will be heard on Tuesday, Jan 11. The hearing starts at 1:30 PM and AB 1400 is the last bill on the agenda. Here is the link to watch the hearing: https://ahea.assembly.ca.gov/hearings
See below for our Club’s letter of support:
January 9, 2022
Dear Assembly Member Wood,
On behalf of the Leadership Team of the Coast Democratic Club, I am writing to applaud your efforts toward establishing a funded single payer health care system. As you know, our Club has been in support of this initiative for some years.
We look forward to your hearing AB 1400 in the Assembly Health Committee on January 11. Thanks to Ruth Valenzuela, we have the link to attend the hearing from the Coast.
Of course we would anticipate that you will give us a brief account of this bill at our Healthcare Forum on February 3. However, the focus of the Forum will be on our specific concerns regarding the future of healthcare services on the coast. We will get back to you with more details about our Forum soon.
Karen Bowers, Chair, Coast Democratic Club
cc: Ruth Valenzuela, District 2 office, Ukiah
Leadership Team and Members, Coast Democratic Club
Coast Democrats <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Garth Hagerman today formally announced that his birthday, previously scheduled for tomorrow, has been cancelled. Furthermore, all of his birthdays and his entire aging process has been suspended until further notice. “It’s just not profitable to age anymore,” Hagerman said. “When I was a kid, people would give me money and neat stuff on my birthday. Nowadays, all I get are a bunch of dumb gifs on Facebook. Plus, getting older sounded cool back then; now it’s just an endless source of pain, forgetfulness, and grumpiness.” This decision came after weeks of research and a careful cost-benefit analysis. The lone benefit of another birthday: a free drink at the local bar, was compared to the costs of aging: stiff aching joints, failing eyesight, persnickity digestive system, reduced cognitive abilities, and more. “Birthdays are a really bad deal,” Hagerman said. He is currently researching methods for retroactively invalidating thirty of his previous birthdays.