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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Politics: the Will to Serve Others

Brave People Run for Public Office

Whether we're talking about the Presidential campaign or the fight for a seat on the Board of Supervisors of Sonoma County, we're looking at, learning about, and judging individuals who have a desire to serve our community. That fact gets lost as we examine every detail of their lives. When you get a mailer full of venom on a candidate, does it make you feel impelled to run for office in the future? Or does it make you feel vulnerable - that your life could never hold up to that level of examination.

Probably the latter…

As I watch John McCain and Sarah Palin rip Barrack Obama apart for the people he spends time with - for his middle name that he did not choose, for imagined horrors that have no basis in truth, I try to imagine surviving those kind of personal assaults. How strong does an individual need to be - how confident - to brush those comments aside and face voters with the truth of who he is and why he wants to serve our county?

Serve our Country.

For some, it is justified to believe that people run for office because they seek power. It seems like an overwhelming level of responsibility just for power, but to each his/her own. There is power in leadership. In fact, not just the power of the person holding the office - but also the power of the people who helped him/her get there. Not everyone has the personality to sit through meetings - learn complex subjects, etc. They turn to others for advice. It's the advice-givers who have the power of influence.

But to serve - that I can understand. When people are motivated by their belief that they can do something to make the world a better place, they take on the responsibility of implementing their ideas just to accomplish their goals. These people tend to listen to their own counsel more. It is their personal goals that they focus upon, and those goals are often established through a value system. When they seek advice, they look to people with similar value systems so they can feel secure that the advice fits well with their goals.

I imagine power-seekers seek advice from other power seekers for the same reason - shared goals. But with those shared goals comes shared power. People seeking power often will do so at the expense of others, so sharing power can be risky.

People seeking to make the world a better place tend to be more willing to share, to be considerate of others in the process of accomplishing their goals. Their goals are not self-serving - they are goals to serve others. Very different from power seekers.

When looking in-depth at candidates, I tend to look at their value systems so I can determine if they are seeking office to serve others or to serve their need for power. It's not clear in black and white. That's why we often look to who are the people the candidate spends time with, where do they get their funding, etc. If a candidate has a long voting record, has held office or some public position in the past, we can also look to their record to see the path from which they come. That helps a lot.

Nationally, we can see that John McCain has taken a path and had a long record that shifts to serve his immediate needs, that he has been sited for poor judgment (the Keating Five trials), that he changes his mind to serve his political ambitions, that he is a self-described Maverick who bucks the system when he feels it will serve his goals, that he tends to shoot from the hip in making decisions, etc. He has a long record of experience and voting that we can look at.

Barrack Obama is much younger, but he also has a long record of choices he has made during his 47 years. His choices have been to serve, and to educate himself on how he can serve better. His theory on creating peace and prosperity by helping people at the bottom live more comfortable lives is based on visits around the world, volunteering in communities and working with world leaders who share his goals for peace. Hungry people are angry people. Comfortable people are peaceful people. Money does not trickle down from the wealthy to the poor. Comfort builds up from the bottom. Building foundations that are strong makes for better buildings. It's a metaphor that works across life. So I can look at Obama's life and see that I admire his motivation.

Locally for my Sonoma County district (5th), I see a young man vs. an older woman. It's easy to see that the older woman has spent many years serving her community as a volunteer and environmental activist. She studies hard and makes decisions based upon information. She's not a politician, she's a person who has served one step short of the panel that makes the final decisions. Her goal is to take her knowlege and experience and be part of that final decision-making process. As politics rips her personal life apart, she is vulnerable to attacks because she's a caring person. The attacks are personal because that's where she is weak. Her strengths have always been professional. I can relate to a person who lets her personal life suffer in order to accomplish professional goals.

The young man is so young, he simply doesn't have a record to examine. His life is so short, any personal short-coming can easily be explained away by youth. It takes years to settle into life. So where is vulnerable, is the company he keeps and the people who financially support him. These are choices he has made, so they become valid reflections on who this young man is. There's so little information, it's the company he keeps that has become the source for identifying who is this young man? That's unfortunate because the man himself gets lost in the proccess. Much like the older woman's personal life ends up identifying who she iswhen it's her professional life we need to examine.

What we learn from this is that if we really are to judge a person on their goals and value systems, we need to spend time with them, learn who they are and basically ignore poltical propaganda. Not easy. These people don't have time to become close friends with every voter.

So how do we learn who they are? We can only listen to the words they speak and write. We have to ignore what others say about them and go with what we observe oursleves. Is this a good person? Does this person live their lives to serve others or to accomplish personal goals of power? Does this person feel good to me? Does this person reflect my goals? Are the priorities of this person ones I can respect and trust?

When we mark our ballots we are passing judgement on every person we choose. We put our faith in his/her aiblity to serve our needs - to make decisions based upon study and information, not to serve peronal goals.

In the case of president - I find it easy to vote for the Obama/Biden ticket because I see two people whose lives have been lived to serve others. I see them seek advice from others who also live to serve.

In Sonoma County 5th District, I find it easy to choose the older woman, Rue Furch, because I have watched her serve our county selflessly for many years. I have watched her study and make decisions that have no peronsl benefit to her, but that benefit others and our environment. Her opponemt, Efren Carillio is young enough that I can wait to watch him as he grows into his life. He will be interesting to watch bcause he is intelligent and ambtious. He won't fade away. We'll have opportunities to vote for him in the future. Right now I want someone who knows for herself, what is good for our county - our home. I trust her with my home. That's the bottom line.

I trust Obama and Biden with my beloved country and my values. I trust Rue Furch with making decisions that will serve our community. I trust people who are so motivated to serve us that they are willing to run through the horrible gauntlet that is poltics. Very sad. I wonder how many good people just don't have the strength to takes this path to a job?

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VOTE NO on Proosition 8

From Rachele Ketchem, Sebastopol - “I find it almost funny that 95% of the population is worried about the 5% gay population bringing down the institution of marriage and feel they need to make example of a small percentage of the population that nine times out of ten has nothing to do with a heterosexual divorce. What about the heterosexuals who cheapen the institution of biblical marriage…”

I find it almost funny that 95% of the population is worried about the 5% gay population bringing down the institution of marriage and feel they need to make example of a small percentage of the population that nine times out of ten has nothing to do with a heterosexual divorce. What about the heterosexuals who cheapen the institution of biblical marriage and have sex before they are married? You know fornicators!

What about those that like to have a number of people to sleep around with while married or the people that find it a sport to sleep with married individuals and break up marriages? You know adulterers! What about the sadists & masochists, exhibitionists, porn addicts, the folks who add to human trafficking and frequent prostitutes and strip clubs? What about the predominantly Caucasian Protestant rapists and pedophiles bringing down, not only the institution of marriage but add to the moral atrophy in our society? Not to mention it being a heterosexual societal vampire disease contributing to alcohol and substance abuse in their victims.

Of course if the churches behind the YES ON 8 campaign would talk to their members on "The way to be," these churches would be vacant on Sundays and flat broke from not receiving 10% of all the tithes of the sexually deviant parishioners. They would be mad that they were called down on their "sins." They would rather blame the homosexuals for what they are really doing.

I am guessing that in the YES ON 8 campaign member's Bibles, they have taken a Sharpie and crossed out where it says in their favorite scripture at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, "Neither fornicators, nor adulterers will inherit the Kingdom of God" next to the homosexuals. Notice in that scripture that the heterosexuals are lumped in the same category as the homosexuals and the murderers and thieves! One "sin" is not worse than the other.

As I ponder on these words I am under the assumption that we are all on the same playing field. So why is there not a proposition on the ballot to demand that heterosexuals keep their legs crossed and keep their hands off the spouses of other people and not glorify this in the media and schools as our kids are taught about divorce? Why not have a proposition to admonish the heterosexuals who are men of violence...rapists and pedophiles and to keep their hands off other people's women and children? It all seems so hypocritical.

This all makes me think about that "rafter" scripture and to truthfully accept everyone and "be putting up with each other and to love one another." After all, the homosexual community has had to put up with heterosexuals committing crimes against humanity against them and their children and getting away with it.

In Sonoma County, we had a district attorney who cared more about keepinga man out of jail - a Caucasian church-going married man - because he did not want him to lose his wife, new baby and job for raping a virgin teenager of gay parents. They were told that the victim "would lose the case regardless of physical evidence because the victim has two mothers which would not be looked favorably upon in court." Ah the ugly truth nobody wants to listen to!

I am a heterosexual married woman and mother of two teenagers. I have talked openly about sex and homosexuality with them. My children and I have a pretty open dialogue compared to my "religious" friends and family around me whose kids sneak around on them behind their back (whose kids tell me everything!) and who are going to vote yes on 8.

I urge everyone to VOTE NO ON 8 because it promotes hate, discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, class distinctions, prejudice and ignorance.

Rachele Ketchem

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NORA Proposition 5 Drug Treatment for Youth and Adults

As the Executive Director of the Drug Abuse Alternatives Center (DAAC), the largest provider of publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment in Sonoma County, I have seen both the positives and negatives of Proposition 36, the precursor to Proposition 5. Overall, in my opinion, Prop. 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000, has been a success in Sonoma County and the State as a whole.

Ironically, I, along with many other treatment professionals, opposed Prop. 36 before it was passed. We were concerned that it had been written by outsiders who did not consult with California’s treatment providers and that it did not have strong enough sanctions for non-compliance with treatment, a key argument today by those who oppose Prop. 5.

In fact, I, and many others, turned out to be wrong. In Sonoma County, thousands of individuals have benefited from treatment instead of incarceration and our Public Safety has not been compromised. Statewide, 200,000 have received treatment and UCLA’s study of Prop. 36 not only showed that treatment has worked, but also that it has saved California over $2 Billion since 2000. The only negatives I have seen are that Prop. 36 has been under-funded which has caused long treatment waits and that no provision was made for treatment for youth.

Prop. 5 will improve on Prop. 36 by:

• Providing a systematic treatment system for adults that will unify the current system of Diversion, Prop. 36 Treatment and Drug Courts into one system with three tracks. Track 3, Drug Court, will not be eliminated, as some have said, but will, in fact, be funded at twice the level it is now.

• Providing $65 Million state-wide for funding of treatment for adolescents which will meet the spectrum of youth needs including family therapy, educational and employment stipends, mental health interventions and much more. Prop. 5 will provide services to youth before they get into trouble with the law.

Prop. 5 will do all this without compromising public safety. Judges, not the offender, will determine whether to send the individual to treatment or to jail. Offenders convicted of serious and violent crimes and sex offences will not be eligible.

Prop. 5 will also reform the prison and parole systems. Currently California spends $46,000 per year to house each inmate (twice the national average) and yet our recidivism rate is almost 70%, while nation-wide recidivism is about 35%. By reducing the number of parolees who are returned to prison for dirty urinalysis tests and allowing them to receive treatment, Parole Agents will be able to concentrate their efforts on supervising parolees who were originally incarcerated for serious and violent crimes.

Prop. 5 will do all this with no new taxes and save the State an estimated $2.5 Billion in its first few years according to the impartial and non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office. Our current system is clearly not working. Please join me, the League of Women Voters, the California NAACP and many other organizations and individuals in voting yes on Proposition 5.

Michael Spielman, MFT
Executive Director
Drug Abuse Alternatives Center
2380 Professional Drive, Santa Rosa
(707) 571-2233 x 308

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Crisis in Health Care

Reader Jim Araby has written a fine piece of journalism on the health care crisis in our country. “As any Sonoma county employee can tell you, the volatility in health care is not good for the average American. And just like the problem we are facing in seeking resolution to our financial crisis, we have political leaders grasping at straws to come up with a solution.-J.A.

Being self-employed, I fall into the category of one payer, one plan, but have recently been rescued by an insurance adviser who is enrolling me in a group plan that will save me $200 a month. Whether you are an employee with an employer provided plan or an individual, if you own a home you have to have health insurance or risk losing everything you've worked so hard to obtain. Rock and a hard place. Thank you Jim for writing on this increasingly important topic.

The Crisis in Health Care
By Jim Araby

Before last week’s meltdown of the financial markets, the crisis in health care was likely the top priority for many voters. We had begun to hear about each of the presidential candidate’s health care plans and the differences amongst them. Whether it was Obama’s plan to cover 30 million uninsured and the costs associated with it or McCain’s plan to cover 5 million uninsured and create incentives that would shift more responsibility to the individual, the debate was heating up. Then the public dialogue around the crisis in health care melted away along with the dividends of the high flying stock trader as the financial market crashed.

But let’s not fool ourselves; this crisis has not gone away. It may have temporarily faded to the back pages of most newspapers and blogs, but the fundamental problems still exist. And if our health care system is to avoid the same fate as the banks that were peddling mortgage backed securities, we need to act now. As any Sonoma county employee can tell you, the volatility in health care is not good for the average American. And just like the problem we are facing in seeking resolution to our financial crisis, we have political leaders grasping at straws to come up with a solution. The only solution that they can see is to absolve themselves from the
responsibility of fixing this crisis.

An example is what the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors did last month. They decided that they were going to reduce their obligation to their employees. They did this by cutting the amount of money they were going to pay to insure the workers and retirees of the county and give them a stipend. They did this, in spite of the fact that they were contractually bound to do the opposite. They now wait with bated breadth that the federal government will come in and save them. Well, now that we are going to commit $700 billion to bailout the Wall Street brokers and banks, in addition to the billions committed to the Iraq war, somehow I do not see that happening anytime soon.

The numbers are familiar; there are over 48 million people in the US who are uninsured, 6.5 million in California, and over 50,000 in Sonoma County. Add in the amount of underinsured and the above numbers almost double. As less people every year have access to healthcare, costs continue to increase by double digits. The California Healthcare Foundation estimates by 2016 that healthcare will make up 17% of our Gross Domestic Product. The preceding numbers are dramatic, but what’s even more dramatic is the amount of profits that are being made in spite of this crisis around access to healthcare. In 2006 the combined total of profits made by the California healthcare industry was $3.6 billion. Digest that for a moment, $3.6 Billion! At the same time that patients are losing access to healthcare, hospital and nursing home corporations are making money hand over fist.

And despite these incredible profit margins (some as high as 8%!), turnover rates in nursing homes average 60%! In California’s health care industry we have RN vacancy rates at 16.1% and Respiratory Therapist vacancy rate at 20%. High turnover rates and use of temporary staff by nursing homes and hospitals lead to higher likelihood of severe health violations that result in bad care which then increase the cost of giving that care. In addition to the effect on patient care the industry spends billions of dollars ($4.1 billion in 2006) on recruitment and retraining new staff because of high turnover rates. Do you think that hospital executive takes a cut in his pay? No, they pass that cost to us, the patient/consumer.

So what can we do? The problem we face is not lack of money in the system; it is the way the system is organized. Many people, especially health care workers across the state are already doing something. Health care workers are forming unions and creating alliances with patient advocacy groups and other community leaders to create structures that allow them to work with progressive minded employers. And if the employers do not want to play, they negotiate and struggle until they do.

When hospitals and nursing homes invest in their workforce they reduce their long-term costs and that savings is passed off to us. The top 100 hospitals pay their employees about $3,000 more a year. They use 35% less temporary labor and use 14% less OT. It is no coincidence that most of these hospitals have workers that are part of a union that gives them the ability to have a voice and advocate not only for themselves but their patients. They are not waiting for the government to act, but are forcing their employers to act with them. They are forcing the industry to realign its priorities from making immense amounts of profit to redirecting the additional resources back to where it matters most, with the caregivers and patients.

This year over 75,000 caregivers across California are negotiating with their employers as a part of United Healthcare Workers West to raise the standards of hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. Healthcare workers are doing this so that we can have a more functional health care system. Kaiser is a good example of how employers work with their patients and unionized workers to create a contained functional system. But the fact of the matter is Kaiser and other like systems can’t do it alone. They need your help, so we can create mutual accountability and action to reorganize our health care system, because we know the federal government is not going to do it and our local elected leaders are not either.

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Forestville's Tahoe Chinese Restaurant

Every month Carolyn Horan takes us out to dinner to a local restaurant she wants us to experience as well. Her reviews are not all about food and service - she talks about how the owners of the restaurants relate to their communities, and what roles they play as part of its citizenry. She's not only inspiring for dinner suggestions, what she writes make us want to participate more as well.

TAHOE CHINESE Restaurant, Forestville
When I was 13 my father was a machinist, my mother worked in the post office, and I earned my allowance by keeping the house straightened up doing dishes and other chores. We didn’t go out to dinner often but when we did it was a local Chinese restaurant. The food was good, plentiful and reasonably priced. Well that hasn’t changed. Now that I am old many days I grab the paper about 11:30 and go into Forestville to have a bowl of Hot and Sour soup and greet my neighbors.

There is something very comforting about this ritual. It pleases me. So I thought I should share the experience with you. The Tahoe Chinese Restaurant is nestled up by the Forestville Post Office. The official address is 6492 Mirabel Road. The customers are mostly local and at noon time you will always find hard working men and women meeting there to socialize with each other and talk about their fishing trips or brag about their kids or just take a break and fill their stomachs with good food. Moms with their kids, grandparents with the grandchildren or entire families are frequent customers for both lunch and dinner at Tahoe.

What makes the atmosphere so comfortable is being greeted by Bing Chen or his wife Lisa who own the restaurant. Lisa picks out the music which consists of good old standards like Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. She also has fresh flowers in the windows and a fresh smile for the customers. Bing is usually in the kitchen but he wanders out to talk to his friends about hunting or fishing. Bing was born in Taiwan but during the 70’s he lived in Minnesota and Chicago. His relatives and friends owned an Oriental/Asian wholesale food businesses as well as Chinese Restaurants. Since Bing was the one in his family that liked to help his mother and grandparents in the kitchen making traditional dishes, he was always available to help out in the restaurant kitchens of his friends. He particularly liked to bring any wild game or fish that he had caught and he and the staff would cook up great feasts for themselves after the restaurant closed. Bing finished college, met and married Lisa, who has degrees in architecture and communication art, and they had a daughter who is now a freshman in college. Bing opened a retail and wholesale food distribution business in Minnesota and Lisa spent her days raising their daughter. They moved to Santa Rosa to be near Lisa’s family when their daughter started first grade and in 1997 Bing bought the Tahoe Chinese Restaurant.

Bing spends his mornings at the restaurant where he peels the fresh shrimp and prepares the fresh chickens daily. The luncheon specials are served with fried rice, soup of the day and Crab Rangoon or Egg Roll. There are 31 selections which cost either $7.45 or $8.00. If you want one of the CHEF’s RECOMMENDATIONS I suggest you try the Walnut Shrimp dish which is $13.95 or the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce or Sweet Basil and Spicy Chicken dishes which are $10.95. There is another list of 12 Chef’s Specialites such as General Tso’s Chicken or Szechuan Scallops which cost $10.50 to $12.95. And, of course, you can pick various dishes of beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, Egg Fu Young, Rice or Chow Mein to mix and match to your taste which range in price from $7.95 to $12.95.

As Bing describes the process of learning how to cook good Chinese food he explained there is no one school. You learn through the taste, and smell and combination of sauces and spices, working in different restaurants and learning from friends in those great after hours cooking fests when you share your wild game or fish. Bing does like hunting and fishing for “anything that is legal” and has good hunting and fishing partners that have been his friends for years. He also has friends on his staff such as a chef who has been with him for over 10 years.

The Tahoe Chinese Restaurant is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11:30 to 3:00 and 4:30 to 9:00; Fridays from 11:30 to 3:00 and 4:30 to 9:30; and Saturdays from 4:30 to 9:30. The phone number is 887.9772 and the address is 6492 Mirabel Road in Forestville.

Fall is here and the cold rainy weather is not far away. I suggest you stop for a bowl of the great Hot and Sour Soup, or bring the family for dinner or order some food to go and enjoy it in front of your fireplace.

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Coppola’s Rosso & Bianco Winery

Dick Starr takes us on journeys to wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants…anywhere he can chase down a good bottle of wine and tell us all about the story behind the wine and winery and the pleasure of drinking fine wine. This month we learn about Francis Ford Coppola’s other passion…wine.

Coppola’s Rosso & Bianco Winery
– a future family affair

Two years ago, I bemoaned Francis Ford Coppola’s failure to muster his vast resources and assign his Apocalypse Now special effects gurus to tame the elements – a driving, drenching rain, the wettest storm of 2006 – during his 67th birthday celebration. The event was held under mammoth outdoor tents with a mammoth cake on his newly purchased Sonoma County winery – formerly the Chateau Souverain – in Geyserville. Souverain moved into Italian Swiss Colony’s former location in Asti.

During a recent visit – my second – to Coppola’s Geyserville wine digs, now named Rosso & Bianco Winery (Italian for red & white), it was a dry, balmy and delightful day providing a pleasant respite from the birthday soaking. Prior to an al fresco harvest luncheon, a hand full of us took a guided hard hat tour of the new facilities.

It is important to understand that the conceptual engine driving this project is first and foremost the family. As Coppola observed, “When I make a movie, I always have a theme. Sonoma’s theme is ‘life.’ Life with a joyous, Italian family feeling.”

The first phase, due to open by early summer next year, will encompass a guest entrance building and tasting room (the original one was named as one of America’s top 25 tasting rooms by the Wine Enthusiastic Magazine). Also planned is a kitchen upgrade, a new 70 seating indoor restaurant and an outdoor grill and terrace seating 90 where lunch, dinner and brunch will be offered. A 150 seating band shell designed for community events, the arts, and family oriented entertainment is planned as well as a Bocce Court.

Lastly, and perhaps most significant with film buffs, a movie memorabilia museum will be under the cover of a two tiered pyramid. Included will be paraphernalia from The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, and the 1948 Tucker automobile that was used in the movie by that name which will be on a rotating dais. The twin pyramid roofs will be made out of an extraordinary museum-quality material: Kalwall is a structural composite sandwich that captures and controls natural daylight to provide the ultimate in energy efficiency. It was announced that the newly restored Godfather films that Coppola had been extensively laboring on were just released on DVD and Blue Ray.

Phase two, planned for a 2010 completion, will be a large H shaped swimming pool framed by cabanas for rent. By the conclusion of phase two, Coppola hopes to make Rosso & Bianco a world class destination for families.

After our tour, we were escorted to a view enhanced terrace for a lunch of pizzas, grilled lamb loin chops, grilled Italian sausages, roasted veggies and cannoli. Fortunate for me, I was seated next to Coppola’s personable winemaker Corey Beck who had created the nectar for our luncheon pairing: a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Alicante Bouschet, Zin, Syrah, and a Cab Sauvignon. Given the rare and prized grape gene (a family steeped in wine lore) and armed with a fermentation science degree, Corey came to Rosso & Bianco from Coppola’s Napa winery, Rubicon Estate.

Of the wines presented, the three for me that deserve extra merit are the Reserve Cab Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sam’s Vineyard 2006 for $45; the Director’s Cut Zin, Dry Creek Valley, 2006 for $23 (both the Cab and Zin won gold at this year’s Harvest Fair); and the Diamond Collection Magenta Label Alicante Bouschet 2007.

Alicante Bouschet

An exceptional stand-out for me was the Bouschet, especially the attractive price of only $16. This is one of the very few red varietals that the grape flesh is red giving it a red intensity of an almost indigo hue when enhanced with the skin. Its inception was the result of a French father and son. Louis Bouschet, the father, crossed Aramon with Teinturier du Cher, naming the result Petit Bouschet in 1824. The son, Henri, crossed Petite Bouschet with Grenache to create Alicante Bouschet in 1865. With a high yield and easy maintenance, it became popular among French wine growers, especially in Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire Valley. It was also grown in southern Italy and became popular among Italian immigrants winemakers during Prohibition. Plantings in California reached nearly 30,000 acres by the 1940s, but have since declined to less than 5,000 acres.

The grape was used by Coppola’s grandfather Agostino, a home winemaker, so he asked Corey Beck to scout for Bouchet vineyards. From 85 year old vines located in the central valley, Corey crafted a soft, medium bodied wine with savory flavors of blackcurrant, plum, dark fruit and spice. This Diamond Collection Magenta Label Calicante Bouschet 2007 was a friendly pairing with our pizzas, sausages and absolutely yummy with the lamb. Additionally, I’m sure it would embolden pasta and meat dishes.

The tasting room is open daily at 11am and is located just off of Independence exit from Hwy. 101. The winery can be reached at (707) 857-1400.


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Ask EcoGirl - Preventing Plastic's Pullution

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guide to Sonoma, Napa, & Mendocino Counties, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter.
Email your questions about going green to for possible inclusion in future columns. EcoGirl believes that we can all be a superhero for the planet. Then she shows you how! This month, EcoGirl provides us with information on how to properly recycle plastic and gives us realistic alternatives to plastic bags and more.

Preventing Plastic’s Pollution

Dear EcoGirl: Thanks for all you’re doing! I’m wondering what can be done with plastic bags and the plastic that wraps food. We’ve been rinsing, drying, and putting them in plastic grocery bags to recycle. Do you know if this works? I’m hoping it won’t end up in a landfill, or worse, the ocean. Thank you so much for looking into this! I think it would be great if everything man-made could be recycled somehow and not dumped out into our precious world. Signed, Diligent in Freestone

Dear Diligent: Thank you for your question.

Yes, to protect our planet, it’s vital that we avoid plastic garbage in our landfills and environment. Plastic offers us durability, but makes long-lasting trash. It’s predicted that plastic bags in modern landfills will take up to 1,000 years to breakdown. Our earth is being cluttered with plastic discards, even in remote and once-pristine places. For instance, in the northern Pacific Ocean, there’s a so-called plastic island (more accurately a trash spiral) estimated to be the size of Texas and a mind-boggling 3.5 million tons.

Even when plastic breaks down, it doesn’t biodegrade gracefully back into nature. Instead, it “photo-degrades,” splitting into increasingly-smaller pellets that permanently permeate ecosystems — and absorb toxics (such as PCBs) along the way. Animals mistakenly eat these poison pellets, which fill their bellies, block vital nutrients, compromise their health, and introduce bioaccumulating toxics into the food chain. A researcher in the Pacific trash spiral found six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton! Scientists estimate that each year at least a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die from eating or getting entangled in plastic.

A Better Way
The good news is that we can recycle plastic. Plastic bags, for instance, can be reborn as composite lumber, railroad ties, playground items, clothing, carpeting, and new bags.

• Film plastics accepted here. Just this year, North Bay Corp. (which handles all of Sonoma County’s recycling) added plastic bags and other film plastics to what they’ll accept in the blue recycling can (though not at Recycletown).

What’s allowed are soft film plastics, such as tortilla and paper towel wrappers, as well as various bags, including grocery, shopping, produce, newspaper, frozen veggie, and dry cleaning bags. Avoid crunchy film plastics, such as chip bags, CD wrappers, cereal box liners, and cellophane (like SaranWrapTM). Remove strings and handles.

• Preparing your plastics. It’s vital that film plastic be clean and dry, because its low-temperature melting process doesn’t burn off contaminants, risking holes in the final material.

It’s also important to gather these items into one bag — to keep them clean, avoid litter during transfers, simplify processing, and prevent infiltration into paper pulp.

Note: You can also drop this film plastic (prepared similarly) at most grocery stores. This is actually preferable, because it’ll stay cleaner if not mixed with other materials, and thus be more usable domestically.

• Getting more info. For a handy flyer describing the acceptable film plastics, see There’s also a flyer summarizing the blue can’s overall rules, though it has the older plastics info Find more recycling specifics in the AT&T Yellow Pages (under “R” for Recycling),, and the EcoDesk (707) 565-3375.

The Bigger Picture
Of course, to truly decrease our earth impact, we must also “reduce and reuse” the 380 billion plastic bags that Americans consume each year. For instance, you can:

• Buy a reusable grocery bag. Look for a style you like, ideally made of organic cotton or recycled plastic. Each reusable bag can eliminate 1,000 plastic shopping bags over its lifetime.

• Develop a system for having your bag at the store. My bags go on my inside front door handle, ready to grab on my way out. You can also get a compact bag that fits in your purse or briefcase.

• Reuse your plastic bags. I dry my washed bags with Real Goods’ counter bag dryer Then they go inside my cloth bag, ready for use at the store. Other bags line my garbage cans and collect compost materials.

• Give away unneeded plastic shopping bags, for instance to a thrift store.

• Complete the loop and buy recycled. For links to various recycled products, from coasters to jewelry to furniture, see

I hope that this information supports your earth-honoring ways.

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guide to Sonoma, Napa, & Mendocino Counties, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter.
Email your questions about going green to for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at Also contact EcoGirl for information about carrying this syndicated column in your periodical. “EcoGirl believes that we can all be a superhero for the planet. Then she shows you how!”
© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2008. All rights reserved.

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Chinese Medicine - Rehabilitation after Injury

Marcey Basel has been working with herbs, acupuncture, western formulas and nutrition for over seventeen years and has been writing on the science and practice of healing through Chinese Medicine for the West County Gazette for the last several years. I'm hoping to help spread her wisdom beyond her practice in Sebastopol and the readership of my print edition by putting her on the WCG webs site as well.

Recently in my practice I have seen many patients with work comp injuries along with injuries due from everyday physical labor. Currently I see an Arborist, a Medical reporter and several professional gardeners. The main problems seem to be neck and shoulder injuries along with pain radiating into the arms and hands. In Chinese Medicine, there are numerous channels, which innervate all of these areas and travel into the scapula, deltoid muscles, clavicles, neck and cervical vertebrae. In body symbolism the shoulders indicate strength and power. They represent the power to do, to act, and to perform. It is always necessary for me to make a detailed study of the pain according to the local area as well as looking at if this is a recent or an older injury. Many times the Qicannot go through the shoulder barrier without entering the trunk.

Under certain circumstance the Qi can create either sharp pain, dull pain or just be aggravated by use. Pain in the upper shoulders can radiate down the arm on both the posterior and anterior sides and can cause burning or stinging pain. The pain can also be sensitive to weather changes; especially dampness and can also cause headaches which progress from front to back. The treatment principle is to open up the channels, and create the circulation of Blood and Qi. I currently have a patient who is a gardener who not only suffered from neck pain but also had severe pains in both of her arms and hands. Since she is right handed, she also suffered from severe pain in her hand due to pruning during the spring and summer months. Not only has she had great success in her healing but she also comes in during certain seasons every two weeks so that she is able to always work every day without any pain.

There are so many muscles and nerves, which surround the shoulder and go down different parts of the arm into the hand. The Levator muscle is in the scapula, the Scalene muscle is in the neck, the Supraspinatis muscle is the top of the shoulder and the Triceps and Deltoid muscles are in the arm. Depending on which muscles are affected than different parts of the hand can also experience pain. This pain can lead to carpal tunnel, degenerative joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis and trauma. All of these are totally treatable with acupuncture and I have personally witnessed patients being 100% healed of all of these problems. I currently have a female patient who had such terrible neck problems that she couldn’t even turn her head to the right without it pinching and hurting down through her scapula. After coming for two months, she no longer experiences that as a problem at all. By using a combination of acupuncture and herbs she has had great success in a short amount of time.

I believe many people go to physical therapy sessions to heal many problems and that acupuncture and herbs can go even deeper than this type of therapy and make lasting changes due to the herbs and treatments. In Chinese Medicine, it is important to tonify and build up the physical body so that none of these problems reoccur. I feel in Western medicine this is never done although patients still get better they sometimes experience life long problems later on down the line. The therapy spent after you are hurt is the most important time. Please make sure that the treatments are for a beneficial amount of time so that the actual healing is forever.

Marcy Basel is currently in private practice in Sebastopol, California. She has been working with herbs, acupuncture, western formulas and nutrition for over seventeen years. To make an appointment or to schedule a free fifteen-minute diagnosis, please call 707-824-8747. The office is located @435 Petaluma Ave, Sebastopol, Ca. 95472.


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Ask the Loan Man - Hans Bruhner on the Bailout

Hans Bruhner is a rather remarkable person. Even in this troubled economy he keeps a positive attitude and finds ways to help people get good loans they can afford with their good credit rating. He'll never lie, coerce or distort information and you can count on him to tell you the truth…even if it hurts. This momth - he writes about the Big Bailout.

I have no idea what to write…….. so Bailout it is!

Guys and gals, I am stumped. I need your help. I don’t want to make this a question and answer column but I am looking for some questions that will help me write my article. I may be my own worst critic but I am excited about some columns and not quite as excited about others I write. Talk to me, tell me what is on your mind and I will write about it.

I know that you guys are sick of hearing about the bailout but I am going to give you my spin on it anyway. The name wasn’t very smart to begin with because it just doesn’t have a very good ring to it, I’ll get to that later, here is the part that is really bugging me today: AIG was bailed out to the tune of $85 Billion dollars and some of their top executives went and had a party at the St. Regis Hotel in LA. These guys were living it up on our dime! I just heard that they are having a lush party for their top sales people as well. I am OK with recognizing the sales team but they aren’t having it at the Stockton Ramada folks, they are having their party at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay……..smooth! A friend of mine called the St. Regis and wanted to know how you spend $440,000 at their hotel and the answer was amazing. I have posted it on my video blog at just click on the video at the right entitled AIG gets $85B………

Ok, so back to the name. It should not have ever been called a bailout, that just sounds like a handout which it really isn’t. What the recovery plan really does is a lot like welfare. They are offering a leg up to someone who really needs it and when they system works it is a beautiful thing and when the system doesn’t work, well it’s not so nice. The federal government is going to go in and buy up some pretty stale investments that no one else is buying and put some liquidity back into our market place. The idea is to jump start the economy so it can take care of itself again (see the welfare link here?). If this works then not only have we helped the economy but our investment may actually start to gain some value as well. So if the “bailout” works, then we have invested in something that we believe in and in so doing we have moved forward. Since it is a government program set up to simply help the economy then any return on our initial investment is a bonus! Think about it, if someone loses their job and needs some help and goes on welfare or unemployment and they then turn it around and get a job and get back on their feet and go back to being a productive member of society and get off welfare then the program is a success. This bailout program is exactly like that except we are actually holding onto some investments that may turn around as the economy gets better.

So just to bring it back to the real estate market and my area of expertise…… Now is the time to buy a house! Prices are low, rates are low and if the bailout works then rates will go up and slowly but surely home values will start to go up again also. In my nearly 2 decades in the real estate and lending business, I have seen 30 year fixed rates around 10.5% and in the early 80’s, rates were well into the teens (as in 16, 17…) so are you kidding me when you are upset that the rate is around 6.00% and not 5.00%! You guys have been spoiled and you better get on it before you lose this great market that we are in.

Hans Bruhner, CMPS is licensed in CA & HI. If you have a question, please contact Hans at (707) 887-1275 or First Priority Financial, Inc. is licensed by the CA DRE #00654852.


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YOUR WATERSHED by Russian River Watershed Association

The Russian River Watershed Association writes a monthly column on what you can do to protect our home and water systems. This month's subject is how to safely dispose of unused and out-dated medications.

No Drugs Down the Drain!
Are unused and expired medications filling up your medicine cabinet? Don’t flush them down the drain or throw them in the trash. Help protect your family and the environment by taking your unwanted medication to a take-back location. This fall, in conjunction with the “No Drugs Down the Drain” statewide campaign, the Russian River Watershed Association and the Mendocino County Solid Waste Management Agency are adding additional take back locations where you can properly dispose of your unused medications.

Recent studies show that pharmaceuticals in rivers and streams, if present at high enough concentrations, can harm aquatic wildlife. When flushed down the drain, some medications are not completely removed by wastewater treatment plants and are discharged to surface waters. Proper disposal of unused pharmaceuticals can help protect the environment.

To minimize the amount of pharmaceuticals in local rivers and streams, the Russian River Watershed Association and the Mendocino County Solid Waste Management Agency are partnering with local agencies, pharmacies and law enforcement offices to provide additional safe medicine disposal locations in Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Windsor, and Ukiah. This effort expands programs sponsored by the Sonoma County Water Agency & the City of Santa Rosa.

The Safe Medicine Disposal Program will provide a FREE and convenient option for correctly disposing of expired and unused medications. Proper disposal of expired and unused medications can help avoid dosing errors and self-medication; reduce the risk of accidental poisoning; reduce the potential of abuse of medicines; and reduce the amount of medicine incorrectly disposed of in household garbage and flushed down drains.


Cloverdale Pharmacy, 117 Broad St.

Walgreens, 7800 Old Redwood Hwy.

Safeway Pharmacy, 16405 River Rd.
Lark’s Drugs, 16251 Main St.
Sonoma County Sheriff, 1st & Church

Longs Drugs, 455 Center St.
Healdsburg Police, 438 Center St.

Santa Rosa:
Costco, 1900 Santa Rosa Ave.
Creekside Pharm., 95 Montgomery Dr.
Dollar Drug, 1055 W. College Ave.
Longs Drugs, 2771 4th St.
Longs Drugs, 2075 Mendocino Ave.
Longs Drugs, 463 Stony Point Rd.
Medicine Shoppe, 990 Sonoma Ave.
Tuttles Pharmacy, 4731 Hoen Ave.
Tuttles Doyle Park Pharmacy, 1220 Sonoma Ave.
Walgreens Drugs, 4610 Sonoma Hwy.

Longs, 788 Gravenstein Hwy North
Safeway, 406 N. Main St.

Rohnert Park:
Costco Pharmacy, 5901 Redwood Dr.
Longs Drugs, 6378 Commerce Blvd.

Health First Pharm., 9070 Windsor Rd.
Longs Drugs, 9030 Brooks Rd. South

Rite Aid/ Maxwell Village Shopping Center, 19205 Sonoma Hwy.
Safeway Pharmacy, 477 West Napa St.
Longs Drugs, 201 West Napa St.
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department Valley Substation, 810 Grove St., El Verano
Sonoma Police Department, 175 1st St. West.

Walgreens Pharmacy, 308 E Perkins St.

For more information on this program, please call the Russian River Watershed Association at 707-833-2553 or visit: For additional disposal sites in the Russian River Watershed please visit:;; for Mendocino County, please visit:; for Sonoma County, please visit:; and for sites in the rest of the state visit:

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Mitzvah Moments - Suggestions for Good Deeds

Tish Levee has made it her personal mission to encourgae and inspire good deeds that spread a bit of positive energy in our world to help make it a better place for all of us to live.

Do a bunch of mitzvahs at once––remember to vote! If you can’t get to the polls, request a vote-by-mail ballot (formerly an absentee ballot) by October 28th. Call the Registrar of Voters at 707-565-6800 or 1-800-750-VOTE or go to

The rains are here, but…It’s no time to let up on water saving practices. Actually, we need to keep them up indefinitely. Two consecutive record dry winters throughout California have resulted in the greatest threat to our water supplies in nearly 20 years, prompting the governor to declare a statewide drought. The 20th century, when most of the growth and development here in the West took place, was the wettest century in a millennium. Now, even without global warming, we don’t have enough water, so we all need to change how we use it. Bay Area water agencies have a new website Check it out for conservation tips and information about rebate programs.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One way to help raise awareness is by taking part in the 6th Annual Pink Ribbon Challenge at Every click at the site during October will be doubled. When enough people click to fund 500 mammograms for low-income women, the site’s premier sponsor–– bare necessities®––will fund another 200 mammograms. While you’re there click on the other sites on the same page, such as the hungersite. In less than a minute a day, you can contribute to several important causes. Shopping at these sites, especially buying their Gifts that Give More™ for clutter free gifts, is another mitzvah.

Do two mitzvahs in one. With winter coming, you can make your home or business climate neutral by signing up for PG&E’s ClimateSmart program. You offset the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) produced by your use of electricity and natural gas with a tax deductible contribution (average $5/month for a family) that fund’s projects to sequester forests and collect methane from livestock manure and landfills––methane has 21 times amore greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) than CO2. ClimateSmart has energy saving tips and a “carbon footprint” calculator. During October, PG&E will donate up to $25,000 to your choice of three environmental groups––the California State Parks Foundation, Save the Bay, or Golden Gate Audubon Society, when you sign up at

Here’s another double mitzvah. Reduce landfill and help empower an unemployed man by taking part in the first National Suit Drive at Men’s Wearhouse. Providing unemployed men with professional work attire builds their self-esteem and makes a good first impression during job interviews. Until October 31st, you can donate gently used suits, sport coats, slacks, dress shirts, ties and belts at your local Men’s Wearhouse––1001 Steele Lane, across from Coddington Mall––and help other men re-enter the workforce and take back control of their lives. With your tax-deductible donation you’ll receive a discount coupon for your next Men’s Wearhouse purchase as a special thank you.  Also, the company will contribute a new dress shirt for every suit donated.

For the last decade Men’s Wearhouse has worked with non-profit groups and corporations to collect and distribute professional clothing. More than 65,00 suits, sport coats, slacks, and accessories have been donated by consumers through regional and state drives in the last 9 years. “This year, we wanted to extend these efforts on a national level…[to] help even more men across the country and make a difference for disadvantaged men…taking steps toward self-sufficiency,” said George Zimmer, chairman of Men’s Wearhouse. Go to for more information.

Have less formal clothes? Banana Repbulic® and Goodwill Industries® have teamed up to help customers make room in their closets and in their hearts at the same time. When you donate gently worn sweaters or coats at any Banana Republic through October 26th, you’ll receive a 30% discount on regularly priced merchandise. There are a few exclusions; check with your local store––at 2009 Santa Rosa Plaza. Selling these donated items in Goodwill® stores will help fund training programs and support services for job seekers, including those with disabilities or who lack education or job experience. Every 53 seconds of each business day, someone gets a job–– coming closer to achieving personal and financial independence––through Goodwill’s programs. In 2007 Goodwill helped over one million people.

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MOVIE REVIEWS - Cinema Chatter

Joan Garverick LOVES watching movies. Each month she reviews Movies on the wide screen in theaters, Documentaries and Video Picks so you can enjoy movies at home. Support your local Video Store - please - and shop locally for your home viewing!

The Duchess is a delightful frothy confection of a film about a long past era. The story is about Georgiana Spencer who was Princess Dianna’s 18th century relative. The parallels of their lives are fascinating. Both were thrust into an arranged marriage while in their teens. Georgiana (played by Keira Knightley) was married to the Duke of Devonshire (played by Ralph Fiennes) at the age of seventeen. Both husbands had a roving eye and enjoyed a dalliance outside of the marriage. Finally both women were icons of the fashion world. In Georgiana’s case it was mile- high hair festooned with feathers that won’t fit through a doorway.

This slice of history is told with perfect pitch by cinematographer Gyula Pados, who with the help of costume designer Michael O’Connor and set decorator Rebecca Alleway, have created an environment so authentic you are pulled into the film as if you are witnessing the story in person. The strict social code of behavior and mandated political attitudes are on display and fascinatingly told with an eye towards the lack of power or influence of women back then. Mr. Fiennes performance as the Duke is nuanced, multi-layered and quietly powerful. Director Saul Dibb has assembled all the factors in the making of a great film and presented it to us with such an ease and fluidity that you are barely aware of the complexity of knowledge being presented.

Body of Lies: If you’re not into costume dramas and want your entertainment with suspense, spy technology and thrills then Body of Lies is for you. The story takes place all over the Middle East. C.I.A. agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) starts the movie in Iraq, goes to Jordan, Turkey, and Syria spinning his web of lies and intrigue. He speaks the local language and can pass as a native.

Meanwhile back in the USA, his boss Ed Hoffman (played by Russell Crowe) is trying to manage his employee via cell phone and computer. Some critics have called the plot ridiculous and convoluted, but I think our presence in the Middle East is a jumble of religion, terrorism and high tech methods.

The film moves at a quick clip showing you many sides of middle eastern life from crowded markets to homes that are an oasis of serenity hidden behind tall walls. Tourist Hotels and glitzy night clubs are against the image of the outskirts of town where garbage is dumped and burned. This locale seems to be a favorite meeting place of covert types.

As usual, Director Ridley Scott has pulled a great performance from Mr. Crowe and Mr. Di Caprio, but the real performance to watch is Mark Strong who plays Hani Salaam, the head of Jordanian intelligence. Mr. Strong doesn’t say as much with his words as he does with his eyes, and the camera is right in his face picking up all the complexities he emits. A nail biter of a story with lots to keep you engaged.

My video pick this month is one of the best and most thought-provoking movies so far this year. The Visitor tells the story of a lonely widower college professor, Walter Vale, who is sleep-walking through his life. The loss of his wife, and the boredom factor with his teaching, has made him listless and adrift. He has an apartment in New York City that he never stays in.

When he comes to New York for a conference and goes to his apartment for the night, he is surprised to find foreign strangers living in his apartment. Initially he tells them to leave immediately, then when it occurs to him that they have nowhere to go, and secondly that he can help them with very little effort on his part, he wavers and welcomes them.

This sets up a story of a wonderful relationship between these 3 people who are thrown together by happenstance and impact each others lives in a powerful and meaningful way. This story is a view of our post 9/11 world that many Americans don’t realize even exists. It is also a window into the plight of immigrants in our country.

Written and Directed by Thomas McCarthy this is a story without the usual clichés and pat answers about life in America. An unassuming movie that packs a powerful punch, all the elements of a great indie film.

Goodbye Paul
Finally I would like to salute the amazing career or Paul Newman. He made 53 movies in 52 years. He never played the same role twice and always played them with a raw honesty that jumped off the screen and into your heart, head or throat depending on the subject matter. I have been visiting his movies these past few days and it is astonishing to realize how powerful he was, all while making it look effortless. He chose roles that made you think either about his role or the world around it.

A Paul Newman movie was a mandate for a movie date and he never disappointed. Sometimes it took me years to figure out the finer points of the plot, but that is the bonus you always get from Mr. Newman’s work, never a one-dimensional character, always a complicated man with surprises. Beside being a brilliant actor, he was verrrry easy on the eyes, and when he flashed that stellar smile all women and some men would just melt. I know I always did. I think you can pick out any of his films and they will tell you a good story in a different fashion than the usual and that is always a joy to behold. Lucky for us he is on film and we can always have happy viewing with any of his films that we all love so much…now and always.

Happy Viewing!


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ASTROLOGY: Wheel of Light - November 2008

Rio Olesky has been studying astrology since 1967 and been a practicing professional since 1976. The author of Astrology and Consciousness, Rio offers classes in beginning astrology through SRJC and ongoing classes through Crystal Channels in Santa Rosa. Rio will be giving his annual first of the year talk on January 6 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. To inquire about the talk or classes, or to make an appointment for a reading, call Rio at 707-887-1820.

Last month we discussed the influence of the transiting Saturn-Uranus opposition on the US Presidential election. That aspect will be close to exact all this month and its influence extends beyond that event. In addition, Jupiter will be trine Saturn and sextile Uranus, an aspect referred to as a „working wedge‰. The affect of Jupiter is to lighten up the opposition by providing beneficial ways out of the inherent tension between Saturn and Uranus.

Saturn represents that which is traditional and conventional. It is the energy of authority and likes to exhibit control on the events of the material plane. When we are centered we experience Saturn as the energy of personal responsibility and as such it provides the discipline that enables us to establish goals and work to achieve them. By nature, Saturn is methodical, cautious and deliberate. If we are off-center we experience Saturn as fear. In that case its influence would be restrictive and we could tend to give our power away.

Uranus is almost the exact opposite of Saturn. Uranus is the tradition breaker, of the zodiac. It is progressive, edgy and innovative. It provides us with the impetus to change. If we are centered, the changes are born of inspiration and lead to personal liberation. If we are off-center, the changes will be more reactive and come from a place of boredom, restlessness and frustration.

Where Saturn likes control, Uranus prefers freedom. Saturn is predictable, Uranus is erratic. Saturn is practical, Uranus is theoretical. Saturn values the past, Uranus envisions the future.

The opposition creates a push-pull dynamic in relationship to others. Sometimes, we project Saturn onto others and keep the Uranian energy for ourselves. In this case we feel that others are trying to control us, don‚t understand us or are keeping us stuck in a box like place of restriction, while we try to be free spirits, acting on our impulses. Or, we could experience external events as being restrictive to our originality and leaving us no possibility of being true to ourselves.

Alternatively, we could own the Saturn and project Uranus. Under those conditions, we identity as the stable, responsible party frustrated by all the flaky people who are destroying the structure of our lives. Or we could experience external events as undermining our need for structure and productivity. Insecurity and unempowerment result. As long as we don‚t own, integrate and work with both energies, this push-pull dynamic continues. It is confusing, projecting and counter productive to either the goals that Saturn wants or the liberation that Uranus likes.

Integrating these two disparate energies requires recognition and acceptance of both the part of us that likes security, likes to play by the rules and enjoys the fulfillment that comes from achieving and producing things. It is also necessary to be open to change; to detach from what we have done and who we have been in the process of doing it.

The benefit of the working wedge is that a third planet is involved in this oppositional dynamic. Jupiter is the energy of expansion. It can focus on growth through intellectual understanding new concepts. Attitudinally, Jupiter is positive and optimistic. It enjoys the adventure of life, since everything we do can teach us something. In the trine to Saturn, Jupiter can provide the confidence and reassurance that our goals can be achieved. It also provides a sense of moral rectitude or ethical certainty that we are going about our business in a principled way, not just following some rule. Jupiter can provide Saturn with a clear vision about what the end result of our efforts can bring. This combination of influences combines to provide a harmonious way of integrating our intellectual, spiritual and practical realities in ways that enable us to be successful and to feel good about it.

Jupiter is also is a supportive aspect to Uranus. In this case Jupiter provides joy to the process of change. It can help Uranus by giving a big picture, philosophical perspective on the innovative or experimental changes Uranus wants to manifest. It's as if Jupiter is the diplomat working to resolve the inherent conflict between stability and change, or between the traditional and the progressive. The key is to be able to define a clear philosophy of life that enhances our social reality. A philosophy that enables us to manifest behaviors and thoughts that are coincident with our sense of spiritual rightness and our need for spiritual growth. A nice aspect under which to welcome in a new President of the United States.

Aries: Questions of metaphysical significance could come up in early month. Answers lie within, so spend some time in quiet contemplation, considering that nature of life and your place in it. Later month brings adventure, possibly including the desire and opportunity for travel. Learning, teaching and writing are also supported at this time.

Taurus: The full Moon in Taurus on the 12th reminds us that Taurus is an extremely nurturing sign. The full Moon is a time to be open to new emotional realizations. This could pertain either to feelings about yourself or others. With the clarity of these realizations, you may feel the need to alter your behaviors in certain relationships.

Gemini: Health issues may come up this month. If so, spend time researching your situation. If not, use the energy this month to develop new skills that are applicable to your job, or at least work at refining skills you already have. Late month could bring a new beginning in an important relationship.

Cancer: The full Moon in Taurus on the 12th is a good time to get clarity about friendships. The point is not to make new friends or even sever connections with old ones. It‚s more about checking to see the realistic connections with your pals. You may feel drawn to being more supportive and nurturing in the friendships that warrant it.

Leo: Spending time at home or with family in early month provides opportunity for deepening your emotional connection to people and activities that are dear to your heart. Mid-month focuses attention more on creative expression which could take the form of anything from parenting to the arts. Communication in late month can be honest and open and lead to learning some interesting lessons.

Virgo: With Saturn in Virgo, you may find the opposition from it to Uranus quite significant. The main area to pay attention to is primary relationship. Discuss with your partner what are the values, priorities and behaviors which are routine in your relationship and acceptable to both. What is unfulfilling or unacceptable to either of you is grounds for change. Do so with the willingness to experiment with new ways of being together.

Libra: You may feel challenged in early month by the desire to spend time alone, combined with the need or desire to be social. You can have both but the key is your ability to communicate your needs to others. Don‚t wait for their approval for your decisions. Growth comes from being self-aware and self-affirming enough to validate who and where you are and acting on that knowledge.

Scorpio: Early month can bring confusion, so be careful about any decisions you make, especially if they have long range significance. Mid-month brings social harmony and possibly the desire to do something artistic. Late month can bring opportunities to share your knowledge with others in open, honest ways. Overcome any tendencies to be shy or self-protective and tell others who you are and what you know.

Sagittarius: The new Moon is in Sagittarius on the 27th. The new Moon is a time to go within the self in order to tune in to deeper feelings and insights. It is also a good time to sow seeds in preparation for things to come. This is a time to have clarity about something and then act.

Capricorn: The working wedge could be most beneficial for you. Saturn rules Capricorn and Jupiter is transiting Capricorn. This combination provides both the practical application of energy to ideas with the confidence that doing a job with integrity and hard work is the best avenue.

Aquarius: Saturn and Uranus are the co-rulers of Aquarius. This is a time to confront the two primary and paradoxical parts of who you are. Most Aquarians I know enjoy their status as iconoclasts who lovingly and openly embrace their uniqueness. But you can also be rigid, stubborn and dogmatic as a result of the Uranian influence. The opposition this month challenges you to be comfortable owning the energy of both planets. This can eliminate the harder Saturnian influences while making the Uranian qualities more realistic.

Pisces: Your co-ruler, Neptune, turns direct on the 26th after having been retrograde since May. This may cause you to feel less connected to Divine Spirit or your own higher being. Growth for you comes from integrating your personal connection to the universe with the common reality that we live day to day.

Check out his website at


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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Great Sources for Environmental Info

In this monthly column, Patricia Dines compassionately answers readers' questions about how to live an environmentally-responsible life. Her goal is to inspire and empower the eco-hero in everyone! For archives of previous columns, click on the Ask EcoGirl category on the right and in Previous Editions found on the WCG Home Page. Feel free to e-mail EcoGirl with your questions to

Ask EcoGirl

By Patricia Dines

Great Sources for Environmental Info

Dear EcoGirl: I want to learn more about environmental issues, so that I can take effective action for the earth. What information sources do you recommend? Signed, Caring in Cazadero

Dear Caring: Your question reminds me of a delightful little moment in the classic film Casablanca. As they sit at a café, Captain Renault asks Humphrey Bogart’s Rick how he came to this remote north African spot. Rick answers, “My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.” “The waters? What waters?” protests Renault. “We’re in the desert!” Rick shrugs, “I was misinformed.”

Beyond the smile that this scene brings, it’s also a reminder that information can either guide us wisely or lead us astray. Simple words become ideas then decisions and actions in the very real world.

Nowhere is quality information more vital than with environmental issues, where the fate of our world is literally at stake.

However, as the environmental topic has moved from our culture’s fringes onto the main stage, it has too often received the mainstream media treatment. This includes full-page celebrity photo spreads, dramatic stories that generate despair not informed action, inaccurate collapsing of complex issues into standard stereotypes, product pitches that continue promoting consumerism, and parroting of half-baked answers that ignore root causes.

This can leave us all feeling misinformed, and hungry for something better.

However, there is quality information available that can help us take wise actions for a better world.

How to Improve Your Eco-Info Stream
• Be intentional about your eco-info consumption. Passivity makes us vulnerable to manipulation by powerful interests.
• Determine what information you most want, then look for it. What topics or solutions especially resonate with you?
• Seek quality information, and support those creating it. This is vital for nurturing intelligent decision-making.
• Identify your approach to assessing information. Some things I look for: Does the author focus more on being dramatic and hip than on issues and solutions? Do they just repeat others’ ideas, or think independently? Are they willing to question mainstream notions, and do so responsibly, based on facts and logic?
• Read varied perspectives, including opposing ones, to gather key facts and sift out biases and blindspots.

Where to Find Wonderful Eco-Info
You can find eco-information in many convenient formats, including: magazines, books, books-on-tape, websites, newsletters, e-letters, action alerts, podcasts, documentaries, courses, conferences, and radio and TV shows.

• MAGAZINES. For keeping informed on a wide range of issues, I love E - The Environmental Magazine Also, the quarterly Yes! magazine reports on solutions for a better world Find other options at magazine stores; subscribe to your favorites.

• BOOKS. Discover wonderful green books at publisher Chelsea Green’s site Peruse more choices online or at local bookstores.

• INFORMATION HUBS. A wide variety of eco-info is on EnviroLink, a nonprofit grassroots information clearinghouse Many community actions and e-lists are gathered at Care2 Rachel’s Health & Environmental News is a free e-newsletter with powerful information and perspectives For insightful analysis and remedies, explore the esteemed Lester Brown’s Earth Policy Institute and book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

• COURSES & EVENTS. If you prefer in-person learning, check out the always-inspiring Bioneers Conference, which brings together leading eco-change agents, from scientists to activists to native elders. This October San Rafael event sells out early. They also offer information in other formats

Also consider Daily Acts’ Sustainability Tours; Occidental Arts & Ecology’s courses; and the Solar Living Center’s classes and summer SolFest

• GROUPS. Nonprofit and advocacy groups that offer great eco-information, in various forms, include: the Sierra Club (with its magazine and local chapters); the U. S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and its California chapter (CALPIRG); the Environmental Working Group; the Environmental Defense Fund; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Wilderness Society; the World Wildlife Fund; and Environment California

To connect with local eco-groups, see the Environmental Center of Sonoma County at For eco-info on candidates and elected officials, plus policy recommendations, see the League of Conservation Voters

I hope that these leads help you discover information that engages you and empowers you to serve our vital cultural shifts with your passion and unique gifts.

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions to for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at Also contact EcoGirl for information about carrying this column in your periodical. “EcoGirl believes that everyone can be a superhero for the planet. Then she shows you how!” www.

"More EcoGirl columns are available at <>. For more wonderful articles by Patricia Dines, see <> and <>."
© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2008. All rights reserved.

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Russian River State Parks Web Site Launched

Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods have been instrumental in promoting public awareness, providing resources and information for using our natural wonders, and protecting our parks from environmental hazards as well as budget cuts. This web site will give them more tools for doing the job they do so well.

Stewards is very excited to share with you the wonderful news about the launching of our new website. Before I mention some of the features, I want to express my sincere appreciation to Board member Lisa Bacon who, for weeks, has helped me with design decisions, edited content and written new content. Her editing ability has truly made the website something worth reading.

Equal thank you's to David Defries and the team from Webhelper for their wonderful leadership and professional expertise. They have helped us design a website that is beautiful and functional. Your first glimpse of our new look is this new e-newsletter format.

Our warmest gratitude goes to our website sponsor, Sophie's Cellars. John Haggard will share his outstanding expertise and help you find the right sipping or pairing wine for a dinner or that special event. They have an arrangement to waive corkage fees with many fine local dining establishments. Stop in and chat with John and David. David and John are truly wonderful additions to our community.

Some features that you might like to know about:
A home page with lots of helpful information:
• Interactive map
• News updates
• Upcoming events

An online reservation system for signing up for:

• school and adult tours
• EcoAdventures
• volunteer opportunities and training seminars.
• Our e-newsletter

Coming Soon:
A Private volunteer access page with:
• A calendar showing the days you are signed up to volunteer
• Upcoming tours and programs
• Information for specific program volunteers
• An interactive blog to share inspirational stories with fellow volunteers
• An E-store so you can order some of our best interpretive merchandise for yourself, friends and family. We will ship to them directly and you will be supporting Stewards at the same time.

Your feedback and suggestions are welcome.
We want this site to work for everyone.


October 25
- Annual Membership Meeting and Picnic
at the Armstrong Redwoods Group Picnic Area
10:00am - Docent-led Cultural History walk with Doris Dickenson. Doris and Carmen Finley have written a wonderful new book about Col. James B. Armstrong and his family's legacy. Meet Doris in the group picnic area.
Noon - Potluck lunch (bring your own reuseable plates and utensils), Stewards will provide beverages.
Special Guest Speaker - Traci Veraldo-Torres, from the California State Parks Foundation, will give us an update on the State Park Access Pass and our efforts to come up with a sustainable funding source for our State Parks.
Followed by: Annual report to the members and door prizes.

November 8 - Whale Watch Orientation
9:00am to 1:30pm with lunch break
Bodega Bay Grange Hall & Bodega Head
Join in the annual celebration of the Pacific gray whale migration along California’s spectacular coastline. Every weekend from January through May hundreds of park visitors are assisted in observing the whales off Bodega Head by knowledgeable docents.
Contact Ruby Herrick for more information and to register.

November 14 to December 3 Online Auction Fundraiser!
Visit our special auction web site for information on how you can donate items for this fabulous new event. This is a great marketing opportunity for businesses who donate to the auction. There are over 84,000 people bidding on this website.

Michele Luna, Executive Director
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
P.O. Box 2 · Duncans Mills, CA 96430
17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, CA 95446
Tel: (707) 869-9177

Web Master:
David Defries
870 Market Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94102

John Haggard
Sophies Cellars
20293 Hwy 116
Monte Rio, CA 95462
11am-7pm, Closed Wed.
Tel: 707.865.1122

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