Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lynn Woolsey and the UFOs

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Bay Area News Group reported yesterday that former North Bay congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is part of a public hearing on the government and extraterrestrial life.

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According to the story, the hearing was organized by Paradigm Research Group, which it calls "a UFO conspiracy-theory group in Bethesda, Md., founded by activist Stephen Bassett, which invited the former lawmakers to use their House-honed skills in interviewing witnesses."

It also features a 2011 quote from the White House in response to Bassett's information requests: "the U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye."

But hey, Lynn Woolsey and a handful of senators and representatives will be presented with all the facts (?) this week.

You can read the BANG story here.

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Mother Jones covers Herczog family

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 3:02 PM

Several weeks after our story on the Herczog tragedy, in which an allegedly schizophrenic son killed his father, Mother Jones has written a much longer, more comprehensive piece on the incident, as well as some of the systemic issues that cause us to criminalize instead of treating our mentally ill.

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You can read the piece here.

The trial for Houston Herczog began Monday. You can read the Press Democrat's account here.

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Maliciously Unflushed

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Sir Richard Branson probably isnt smiling about this predicament.
  • Sir Richard Branson probably isn't smiling about this predicament.
Flying in a commercial plane sucks so much nowadays, even the BEST airlines inspire acts of defiance and rudeness from passengers.

Virgin America, recently rated highest in terms of customer satisfaction in an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) study conducted by researchers at Purdue University and Wichita State University, is finding itself in hot water after a man filed a $500,000 lawsuit on Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Franisco. He was detained by the FBI after causing a scene on a Philadelphia-to-San Francisco flight. He says the allegations that he swore at flight attendant are untrue, but says nothing about the accusation of "maliciously leaving a toilet unflushed" on his April 28 flight.

Even on a plane, the old adage rings true: if it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Moonlight Brewing + Spoonbar = BFF 4 EVER

Posted By on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 11:33 AM

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Spoonbar is a wonderful restaurant on its own. The place is beautiful and the food just as pleasing. The bar is highly acclaimed and it has a great reputation. So, why take a chance with pop-up dinners when the day-to-day operations are seemingly solid enough on their own? Because Spoonbar is not just about subsisting at a high level, it's about taking risks and pushing the boundaries to celebrate the culinary nirvana that is the North Bay.

Upon arrival at the Moonlight Brewing popup dinner April 25, Spoonbar's mixologist Daniel Sorentino served up a cocktail made with Death and Taxes beer, Genever gin, housemaid ginger beer, molasses, allspice and lactic acid. The best thing about this was the use of appropriate, large cubes of ice. It was an experiment, a risk, and though it worked well enough, I was expecting something more smooth and refreshing like the beer it was based upon. This cocktail was instead full of strong flavors with a warm profile, but the surprise and innovation was appreciated.

Course 1
  • Course 1
The first course, paired with Moonlight flagship Death and Taxes black lager, was outstanding. Caroway foccacia sandwiches with pork saucisson and dill made up fingerling grilled cheese-like sandwiches. My only wish for this course is that it there was more of it. The toasted grains played well with the flavors of the beer and the richness was cut by the refreshing taste and carbonation of the lager.

Course 2
  • Course 2
Second course was a mix of potatoes with preserved lemon and sorrel paired with Misspent Youth. The sweetness of the citrus brought out the best of the pale ale, and it seemed as though this dinner would just get better and better.

Third course reintroduced meat to the menu with wage beef tartare, red jalapeño and a puffed rice cracker paired with Twist of Fate bitter ale. The style of beer doesn't always accurately describe the taste of Moonlight's brews. This "bitter" was more of a rich amber ale, which was a great choice with the rich, sweet raw beef. The red, sweet jalapeño contributed to the sweetness with a touch of heat, and the cracker played up the beer's hop flavor. Could it get any better than this?

The main entree was slow roasted duck with ramps and sunchokes. This was paired with Points North, which tasted like an American schwarzbier (because, I found out later, it is). This dark brew is thick and rich, notes of fruits like prunes and red wine grapes. It went well enough with the duck, but it seemed that the pairings had plateaued with the previous course. Again, the food was superb, but I would have loved another slice of succulent duck.

Course 4
  • Course 4
Dessert wound up being the most filling course, and the most intriguing pairing. A butterscotch tart with coffee ice cream and baked meringue replaced the advertised menu item of tobacco ice cream and macaroon. However much I was looking forward to being able to have said I tasted tobacco ice cream, coffee flavor made a fine substitute, probably more suited to my taste, anyway. This was paired with Uncle Ollie, an unhooked beer flavored primarily with cedar. I was under the impression that beer was not beer without hops. Not true. The flavor is that of a grassy meadow, possibly the hay fever inducing scent of a horse stable. This didn't taste like traditional beer, and does not seem like a beer that would appeal to many on its own. But paired with sweets like this made the most unlikely delicious combination. It sang the tune of balance. Like wine, which can have "desirable" notes of a grassy meadow, old sneakers or wet dog, this beer was not unpleasant but extremely unique. It's a flavor that will be remembered for decades after only one taste.

Spoonbar proved once again that it is one of the better restaurants in Sonoma County, not just an over-hyped, overpriced Friday night reservation destination. Events like this should fill up fast in the future, and not just for fans of the hard-to-get beer.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

An NGI Trial Resolved

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 3:38 PM

The same week we ran our tragic story about the Herczog family, This American Life also ran a story about a son who killed his father. He pleaded NGI (Not Guilty by reason of Insanity) like the Herczog case.

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  • Psychiatric Times

However, a judge, jury and several doctors decided he was faking and he was put in prison for ten years, until another doctor (with the same name as the first doctor) realized something was wrong.
This is an amazing podcast that you should listen to if you have any interest in the deeply complex and sometimes flawed issue of NGI trials.
Listen to it here.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sonoma Clean Power: Good or Bad for the Community and Environment?

This media consumer is more confused than ever

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Cordell Stillman of the Sonoma County Water Agency - ALMA SHAW
  • Alma Shaw
  • Cordell Stillman of the Sonoma County Water Agency

This week, both the Press Democrat and the North Bay Business Journal published opinion pieces written by community members on the potential benefits and pitfalls of Sonoma Clean Power, a "community choice program" designed to provide "green electricity at competitive prices to the residents and businesses of Sonoma County," according to the program's website.

The program, if approved by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, who unanimously approved to launch the program in December of last year, will provide energy to current PG&E customers who choose not to opt out and stay with PG&E.

Today in the Press Democrat, county supervisor Efren Carrillo and Public Utilities board member Dick Dowd co-authored YES ON SONOMA CLEAN POWER: Give Residents Control, Choice (all-caps theirs, incidentally) arguing that "Sonoma Clean Power will deliver greener power at a competitive price while creating a new permanent source of income to run local programs."

Also in the Press Democrat today, Hunter Stern, business representative with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 1245, argues in NO ON SONOMA CLEAN POWER: Higher cost, more greenhouse gases, that public power will bring higher costs and less "green energy" with the onset of this program.

Meanwhile, the Monday issue of the North Bay Business Journal ran 'Sonoma Clean Power carries potential economic benefits,' by Sonoma County Water Agency Public Information Officer Amy Christopherson Bolten.

Bolten leads off her column with this statement:

Sonoma Clean Power is a community choice aggregation program being developed by the Sonoma County Water Agency to purchase electricity for Sonoma County customers. This program has multiple benefits and risks, is complex and not well understood by Sonoma County residents and businesses. In order to help the North Bay Business Journal readers understand the various aspects of Sonoma Clean Power, the Journal is partnering with the Sonoma County Water Agency to publish a series of articles discussing the various aspects of this effort. This article discusses the potential for development of locally sited renewable power facilities.

(Great intention, but I wonder how many of the risks the water agency will discuss in this media partnership, considering that it's the very agency in charge of, and pushing for, the program. Indeed, the SCWA is the current home for Sonoma Clean Power's temporary website.)

These pieces follow several in-depth stories published in the PD and the NBBJ in the last week about the program.

"Five months from now, Sonoma County intends to launch its program to become the power supplier to 220,000 local homes and businesses, displacing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. from its position of energy dominance. At stake in the short term is up to $170 million in annual revenue," states a story by Brett Wilkison.

The North Bay Business Journal's story, by Eric Gneckow, states the program offers "the clearest picture yet of expected pricing from a renewable energy—focused power agency under development in Sonoma County, a new report shows that a typical business customer in the launch phase of Sonoma Clean Power could expect to pay between 3.1 percent less per month and a half-percent more than conventional utility rates."

I have to say, even with all the coverage this is getting, the opinion pieces, to me, kind of get in the way of my feeling like I have a true understanding of the benefits, risks and the potential monetary gains and losses that will come if this program is launched.

A 2011 Bohemian cover story by Darwin Bond-Graham examined the early stages of Sonoma Clean Power, and noted that while Marin's public power agency buys much of its power from Shell—hardly a green source—Sonoma County has a number of local greener options, even including chicken poop.

A 2012 follow-up article by Rachel Dovey found that the SCWA was in talks with nine potential suppliers, including Consolidated Edison, Calpine and Goldman-Sachs. And while cost estimates for consumers ranged from a $4 to $10 increase per month, Bond-Graham followed up with Paul Fenn, who wrote the 2002 California law that enables cities and counties develop their own sources of local power; Fenn at the time said a zero-rate increase in rates, or even a decrease, was possible.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Imaginists Receive Grant to Fund Summer Show

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Art is Medicine Show, 2012

Santa Rosa's Imaginists theater company announced today it's touring summer show will be fully funded thanks to a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

Imaginists Artistic Director Amy Pinto is excited about the possibilities this funding opens up. "Because of it, we can take more performances to the Redwood Empire Food Bank Summer Lunch sites," she says. "And tour Federico Garcia Lorca's 'The Billy-Club Puppets' to local parks on the weekends. This is the beginning of a new era for the Medicine Show."

The grant supports the Art is Medicine Show (El Show el Arte es Medicina), a series of free, bilingual performances in Santa Rosa. The shows will tour by bicycle caravan through July and August. Along with a core group of professional actors, the Imaginists offers internships to high school seniors and college level students.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Academic self-selection

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 5:02 PM

This weekend, Mother Jones posted an article entitled "Yes, Liberals Rule the Ivory Tower—But Why?"


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It examines a new book by sociologist Neil Gross, "Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?" which debunks that old myth that professors are brainwashed, radicalized lefties who want to do the same to impressionable freshman. Advanced academia, it points out, is hardly a mill in which corn-fed, constitution-lovers go in and tattooed Marxists come out. Instead, all the Marxists want to go and be with other Marxists, creating a kind of self-selection that might uphold the maxim that the Ivory Tower leans left, but shows that it's not quite why you would think.
You can read it here.

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Huey Lewis' Laptop Still Missing

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 12:20 PM

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There’s a couple things about the Huey Lewis car theft story that caught my interest. The gist of it is a 31-year-old woman stole his rental car, which contained his laptop, from a Holiday Inn Express in Mill Valley. She was caught and sentenced this week, but the laptop is still missing.

1) The laptop has not been recovered. Was he working on new tracks for Huey Lewis & the News? Will the unfinished masters be leaked to the Internet?

2) Lewis, a longtime Marin County icon, now lives in Montana. Further investigation shows he also does not like people hunting ducks on his property, and that the way to deal with this is to set out duck bait, signaling to hunters (and legally declaring) that duck hunting is not allowed on the property.

3) He was staying at a Holiday Inn Express. I’m sure that is a nice place and all, but really? That’s one step up from a Best Western. Let’s get Huey Lewis a real hotel to stay in. A nice B&B or something.

4) The woman only received a 50-day sentence and it can be reduced to a misdemeanor in a year. Stealing a candy bar and stealing a car with a laptop inside are the same crime now? Really?

5) This is only news because the victim is the front man of a band called the News, and journalists love to use that word in print.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Mortgage Modifiers under federal investigation

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 1:23 PM

The Press Democrat reports that a Petaluma-based mortgage company is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice. According to the article, several people who were in the midst of foreclosures claim they were swindled by owner Miguel Lopez, who allegedly charged an up-front fee to restructure their mortgages. They claim that he took $2000 and then never actually did anything to help them.

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You can read the story here. It reports that the offices of Lopez are apparently unmarked. His Website is down as well.
We have covered the foreclosure crisis before, showing the desperate measures people will take when faced with losing their homes. In Leilani Clark's story House and Home, about the Homeowner Bill of Rights, a Forestville resident tells her: "There have been times that suicide was an option for me."
You can read her story here.

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