lulu, hillsider companion

lulu, hillsider companion

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

...continuing with Governor Jerry, the Trump clown car, and...what the hell is an "alternative fact"?

Although we are writing from Texas (I'm a proud native) at present, we'll always stay abreast of and include a lot of California news. Our letters from the past all originated from our California home, we love the state for its beauty and general dedication to doing the right things (at least from an environmentalist's perspective). And we remain connected to it in many ways, and watch it closely, so it will feature here regularly.

Having said that, it was reassuring to hear Governor Jerry Brown reiterate his pledge that the state would unrelentingly resist any and all attempts by Trump's administration to meddle in any way with California's liberal (and proper) agenda, particularly as it relates to the environment. Brown has proven in years past that he means what he says, so he remains a leader for all Californians even at the ripe old age of 78. Being a long-time Sierra Club member myself, I know what widespread support Brown enjoys within the West's environmental movement, and I feel sure that he bought a substantial amount of additional goodwill with that little piece of his State-of-the-State address.

 More news in this morning from the clown car: several government agencies (who work for the people, by the way) have been instructed by the clown car driver to cease their open communication with their employers (we, the people) until further notice. No press releases, no nothing unless and until permission is granted by someone (?) in authority. This has a really nasty smell to it, since one of those agencies is the Environmental Protection Agency, and the new Cabinet is populated by climate-change deniers and serial polluters. We'll see where this goes, with more information coming out later in the day, but this news had already drawn the attention of the world's environmentaists, and will doubtless unleash a shitstorm of flack for Trump to tweet about in the wee hours of the mornng,

And, in closing for the day (maybe, depending on what happens next), I ask that someone correct me if they have any way of describing for the public the meaning of "alternative fact": of course, if it means what we all believe it to mean, that is, a big, blatant, bald-faced LIE, then no response is necessary.

Thanks for your time...

We're many Americans, the country looks to be butt-deep in trouble ...Governor Jerry draws the line in the sand, and conservationists prepare for an ugly battle...

We had to think hard about how we wanted to ease into this first letter back. Would there still be anyone out there? If so, would they still want to hear what we had to say? Only one way to find out...

Yep, we've been away for a while; we had a lot going on, and were pretty well preoccupied. We didn't feel we could devote the time and attention to the letter that was required to publish something worthwhile, so we decided that the best thing to do was to do nothing.

Good thing, too. A lot changed during that hiatus, much of which required some time to digest and accept. We had an election, in case you missed it, and the outcome poses a lot of questions for almost everybody in America.

Due to the nuttiness of that peculiar American institution we call the Electoral College we have again found a way to elect to the presidency an individual who did not receive a majority of the votes cast by his fellow citizens. Not only that, but this particular individual is clearly the least qualified and poorly prepared for the task ahead of anyone ever elected to that (or maybe any) public office. Go figure.

So, we're (many millions of us, anyway) now considering our options and opportunities. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of interest and advocacy groups that are concerned that the issues and things they care about are about to come under less-than-friendly fire, and they're likely correct. To me, the particular areas of greatest concern are those that have to do with the environment and preserving what remains of our wild places and the critters that live in them. Most of Mr. Trump's Cabinet nominees, as well as those advisors and hangers-on who will probably accompany him to the White House, for the most part display astonishing levels of ignorance and/or lack of curiosity or concern for the welfare of the planet in general, and for our own country's wild places and creatures in particular. Being a proud and committed environmentalist, this is deeply offensive and concerning to me. Not only do I not like it, but I am determined to do all possible to resist and fight any and all attempts to corrupt, weaken, or further damage the laws and policies protecting our country's wild places, creatures, or environment. Bottom line, the next four years are going to be a hell of a challenge for millions of Americans, so everybody who gives a damn about preserving and protecting something near and dear to them should buckle up and get ready to rumble.

We'll be having a lot more to say about this in the future, so those who don't care about the same things can tune out now. Those who take issue with anything they read here are invited to comment; if you have something worthwhile to say, say it and expect discussion. If you're a troll, don't waste anyone's time.

As always, we intend to continue making space here for the other odds and ends that we know are of interest to our friends and other readers: there will always be the "workingman's wines" feature, and we'll continue to let you know when we find unique high-quality mom-and-pop or boutique type food and/or beverage products that warrant your attention. We also remain active in the food and beverage consulting and placement field, and will devote more time to our practice in the future, but we can't and won't sit idly on the sideline while the expected atrocities are committed against the things beyond day-to-day life that matter to us are occurring. Therefore, a significant amount of space will go to the cause of the environment and conservation.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fire season returns to Northern California; more good stuff from Rodney Strong Vineyards; and a late spring storm system brings rain and snow to Shasta and the Lemurians...

We've been waiting to get some indication of what this upcoming fire season was going to look like, given that we've been blessed so far this year with substantial rainfalls and a healthy snowpack, both for the first time in more than a few moons. Several regions on the state have actually been removed from the "drought" classification, and water restrictions eased or even lifted in a few areas. Whether that will prove to be a wise decision remains to be seen, because people will be people, but we shall see how things play out as the summer goes on.

However, be that as it may, we have now gotten a look at what the forests are going to do when summer stresses materialize, particularly the ever-present reality of pop-up lightning storms in the mountains. Right now, and for the past 2 weeks, the Pony Fire complex is burning in the Klamath National Forest, about 15 miles southwest of Happy Camp, and just west of Hwy 96 near Klamath. More than 1200 firefighters were committed to the fire at its peak, which finally grew to 148,000 + acres before being contained as of this morning's InciWeb summary of the official briefing. The area is isolated and contains heavy understory growth and a good deal of dead material on the ground that remains from earlier fires, primarily from the summer of 2008, I would guesss. I suppose that what we've learned so far is that the forests are still very receptive and ready to ignite at the first opportunity, so we'll follow along and see what happens. We've already seen a few small grass/brush fires here in the Whiskeytown Lake area over the last several weeks, stuff in the 15-40 or so acre range, but nothing dramatic as yet. However, it's only a matter of time. Southern California is getting its first early dose, as well, with the Sherpa Fire burning at 7600+ acres in the Los Padres National Forest west/northwest of Santa Barbara, which is claimed to be 45% contained at present' However, they're dealing with terrible conditions in the way of high temperatures and high winds.  We wish them luck.

Moving on, we're pleased to see that the folks at Rodney Strong continue to do the right things with sauvignon blanc; their 2015 Charlotte's Home (Northern Sonoma) model is a very pretty and well-made wine that is as good an example of what the grape can do while still being priced at a level ($12.99 at retail locally) that anyone can justify shelling out for an evening's good time. Bouquet is expansive and floral, color is bright straw, and the fruit is lush and persistent. All in all, very tasty and a perfect accompaniment to cold chicken and shrimp salads, or equally nice as a cocktail wine on a hot afternoon.

I'm finishing this (I admit falling asleep immediately after the conclusion of O J: Made In America last night, which is without doubt the best work I've ever seen on this tragic event) early (relative term, I guess) in the day after a night that brought our part of the state one last (probably) spring storm system that pushed through a massive wall of soft, steady drizzle here in the far North Valley, as well as a big mother of a snow dump in the higher elevations of the Sierra and Cascades. Great surprise this morning to get my first peeks at Mt. Shasta as it struggled to shed the cloud cover hiding its new snow. Exactly what we needed heading into summer! Enjoy, Lemurians!

More in a few days.


Friday, April 22, 2016

We're back and we have a ghost (a good one, we think); spectacular springtime on The Hill; Redding Farmers' Market opens; and the likelihood of a hutchinsongolf Fall wine tour...

As some of you noticed, we've been absent for the past several weeks. Other responsibilities and obligations diverted our attention from this letter and refocused it on the ongoing effort at trying to make a living, but we're back now, at least for the present, and trying to catch up.

Interestingly, and unusually, there's been a lot going on here since our return. For one thing, we've finally come to terms with the fact that we do, indeed, have a ghost sharing our house.  We've suspected it for a number of years, probably from the first year. Occasional crashing noises in various parts of the house at odd hours of both day and night (as if someone had dropped a stack of books on the floor, maybe), but no evidence of anything being out of place when investigated; on a few occasions, usually at night, the sound of running feet that seemed to come from upstairs if the listener was downstairs, and vice-versa at other times; and sometimes hearing bits and pieces of what sounded like conversations coming from areas where there there was no one. After a while we sort of accepted these as just quirks of an old mountain house, and none of us, my wife or myself or the dogs, ever felt any discomfort with it. However, the house has seemed to be a good deal more active over the last several weeks, the highlight of which occurred two weeks ago. Catherine, my wife, had fallen asleep on the sofa while watching tv upstairs, and I was downstairs in my office working. Sometime around 1 am I called it a night and fell asleep after reading for a short time; I thought she was still watching tv, so I remained in my office, turning in on the small bed there. According to her, she awoke sometime between 3 and 4 am, she thought due to a noise, but not certain. She sat up, thinking her cat had probably wanted to go out, and saw the figure of a man standing directly behind the sofa she had been sleeping on, which is positioned in the middle of the room beside a large picture window looking onto the deck. She says that the figure spoke to her: she believes that he asked her "Is there anything I can do?", but it might have been "anything we can do?" or "anything you can do?" Then he vanished. She is of the impression that he was dressed in casual clothing that appeared to be from an earlier era, maybe the 40's or 50's, and wore glasses. Beyond that, she remembers nothing more, except that he was completely non-threatening. So much so, in fact, that she didn't bother to tell me about the experience until the next morning, going back to sleep a short time later.

So we're accepting our ghost, or ghosts if he's not alone, and going on with things just as before. However many there are, as long as we're all happy and comfortable with each other, we'll all be fine.

Beyond that, we're experiencing a spectacular spring here on our little mountain. Everything is already in full bloom and blossom, including wildflowers we've never seen before in the entire nine years we've been here. The abundant rain and mild temperatures have spurred growth in unexpected ways: the valley oaks' leaves are already fully formed and are almost neon-bright in their lime green color; the honeysuckle vines in those oaks are ripe and already so heavily perfumed that by late afternoon they can almost overpower you, and the little honeybees are trying hard to keep up. The native grasses are coming knee-high for the second time, having already been knocked down once this season, and our resident gray fox has (I think) a litter working somewhere here on the property; she's awfully busy, at least, and seems to be staying really close to a particular brushy area just a hundred feet or so to the north of the house. Lulu has expressed some curiosity about it, but has stayed respectfully clear of the thickest part, so I'm assuming that's where the den is located. We'll know pretty shortly, I would think; in the past she has begun parading her kits around as soon as they're able to navigate without falling on their faces every few steps. We'll see.

Another great benefit of spring's arrival is the opening of our local farmers' market, which took place a couple of weeks ago, although pickings are still pretty sparse. What there is, though, particularly the strawberries and early peas, is beautiful to behold, and is a pretty great predictor for all that's yet to arrive. The food vendors are already out in force, including our old friends the Colimas with their tamales. Thank you, Lord. As usual, more on the market as the season goes along.

There seems to be some interest building among some of our old friends regarding the possibility of our putting together a new Fall Wine Country Golf Tour for 2016; so, maybe we'll do it. As before, if we do go ahead with it, we'll begin organizing and scheduling in early June, and we;ll poist details here as things develop. If we do go this year I'd really like to move a bit into the Sierra winegrowing areas and take the opportunity to play several of the great old courses that are tucked away in the foothills. it'll be a trip worth doing, I promise. Stay tuned.

Okay, that's all for now. Back much sooner this time.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Shasta and Lassen looking springtimey from the Hillside; Raphael Ravenscroft's saxophone, and ghost golf courses...

Lulu and I spent a good while on the deck this evening watching the fat clouds roll in over Mt. Shasta to the north and Elephant Butte and Lassen in the east, with darkness creeping across the valley as the sun disappeared behind us in the west, behind the coast range. Thank you for this, Lord.

It seems that we're about to get kicked in the butt by another early spring; days are warm, nights are cool but moist, and everything with roots in the ground is putting out green shoots and new leaves. We've gotten a lot of rain so far this year, with more in the long-range outlook; reservoirs and lakes are rising, streams, creeks and rivers are up and running high. The water picture is brightening, at least here in the North State, but the drought is far from being broken, nor will it be this year even if we were to have our wettest 12 months ever, according to the people who are supposed to know. And, in keeping with human nature as we know it, most of the reporting cities and water districts have missed their conservation marks during the past 2 months, believing that since it is raining everything must be okay. Way to go, guys.

So, anyway, surveying the North Valley from here both Shasta and Lassen are showing solid snowpacks from top to timberline, but with the aid of binoculars we can see shades of new green popping out at lower altitudes. If this warming trend continues, and it seems that it's likely to do so, both mountains will probably be active by mid-April at the latest. For tourists, this should be a superb spring and summer for a North State visit, especially hiker/climbers and kayakers. The last couple of seasons have been drought-crippled, and understandably so, with rivers and creeks drying or pitifully thin due to the drought, and forests brown and tinder-dry, but things are beginning to look as though a green year is in our immediate future. This is a good time to look at a Norcal vacation, friends, particularly if you've never been north of Sacramento or west of Reno/Tahoe. You'll be amazed at what you've missed. You may even find yourself looking at retirement or get-away real estate, and there probably won't ever be a better time, given the local market. I'd buy more if I could afford it. Check us out; both Shasta and Trinity counties have pretty decent web representation; look with enthusiasm and you'll find lots of information about us and all we've got to offer those of you looking for something and someplace a little off-center and new to kick back and enjoy life for a while. You don't know what you're missing.

New subject. I was prowling through a shelf of almost-forgotten albums last week and stumbled onto an old copy of Gerry Rafferty's City to City. For those of you who don't know, never knew, or have forgotten, this was a cornerstone album of of late '70s rock and roll from the former front man of Stealer's Wheel, a more or less edgy Scottish band that came and went very quickly for a number of reasons, but which left a small legacy of pretty strong music behind. Anyway, it isn't Rafferty's vocals that caused my addiction to this odd collection of tunes; rather, it was (and is) the incredibly spooky and powerful saxophone work of Raphael Ravenscroft, which still, to this day, after a thousand or so times sitting captivated, can stop me cold. I only discovered, a few days ago, that he had died a couple of years ago, in 2014, at the tender age of 60. A sad discovery it was, too. Ravenscroft, as brilliant as he was at his particular craft, was never acknowledged for it by rock fans in general, and actually took some unwarranted abuse in later years from internet rock psychos who resented his work on the City to City album. Not being psycho myself, I never really spent any quality time trying to understand their arguments, which had to do with some other player they felt should have been on the record, and I don't care now, either. All I know is that I love the man's playing, and we're poorer for his passing. If you want to know why, pull up and listen to the album, or better yet, just 2 tracks: Island and Baker Street (considered the most famous saxophone performance in rock and roll history by many). You'll never forget
his sound. RIP.

Okay, more soon...


Friday, February 26, 2016

Beautiful Albarino from Lee Family Farm in Monterey; 9th Circuit Court of Appeals screws up tip-sharing tradition for us; and True Crime in the West

If I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that we are, indeed, deviating more and more often from the original intent of this more-or-less regularly written letter, which was conceived as a means of communicating informally with friends and clients regarding the goings-on in our professional realm, that being the food and beverage/golf areas of the hospitality industry, focusing specifically on the West. That remains a major part of the effort, and always will.

However, over the past year we've found ourselves focusing on other matters, such as sporadic attempts to convey to our readers the charm and attraction of our home ground, that being the foothills and mountains of far Northern California. And, the more closely we've looked at our surroundings, the more frequently we've been struck by things that we only noticed in passing before, situations and events that for one reason or another we feel compelled to examine more closely, and perhaps comment on here. Further, for whatever reason, over time it has begun to be clear that there are people out there who have an interest in these letters despite, or maybe because of, these detours. We now have a group of regular visitors/readers that stretches across continents and oceans: not only our own country, but England, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Romania, Mexico, Poland, Canada, Venezuela, the Philippines, and perhaps some I don't know about. We;re pleased about that, and appreciative, and it points up the fact that people all across the world are interested in the American West, probably for a hundred different reasons.

So, I suppose we'll continue doing what we're doing, and see where it takes us.

Having said all that, I have to get back to basics for a moment and acknowledge a wine we just stumbled across several days ago, purely by accident, but which we're really happy that we found, that being Lee Family Farm's Albarino. We've touted albarino here before, most notably that of New Clairvaux Vineyards in tiny Vina, near Chico. We like New Clairvaux's style a lot. Lee's take is significantly different, however, and equally impressive in a very different way, which is likely due both to fruit sources and to winemaking styles . This is an interestingly complex wine from front to back. Medium gold color, with a busy but pretty and intriguingly structured bouquet of dried apricots, lychee, and vanilla, leading the palate to believe it is going to get something that is significantly different from what actually comes next: the fruit is rich, lemony, and focused, with the apricot notes from the nose returning along with some white peach, kiwi and a bit of a green-olive undercurrent that pins things together. Finish is tropical, and makes perfect sense in context. Overall, a remarkable wine, and a great bargain at the $17 price we paid. I'm going to buy several more tomorrow, and would urge you to do the same. Have members/customers you want to do a favor?; turn them on to this wine. You're welcome. It's interesting and important enough to mention that Lee Family Farm is a label owned/produced by one of our favorites, that being Morgan Vineyards of Carmel. High rent, for sure, but the wines are surprisingly reasonably priced, and always good value.

Something else I've become aware of lately is the fact that we have a bunch of weird crime here in California. Now, being a native Texan, I know more than a little about weird-ass crime and criminals, but I have to admit that California, particularly Southern California, has at least as much and maybe more than even Texas. Seems that way, anyhow. I think the main difference may be that Texas seems to have more crime committed by and/or against rich folks than does California, although both states appear to send equal numbers of the poor (read minorities) to prison for long terms for seemingly minor offenses. And, for some reason, California seems to be an environment that breeds more arsonists per capita than anywhere else in our great country, at least at a casual glance. Some fascinating stuff goes on, though, in both, no question about it. For the present, though, we'll focus on California, since Texas Monthly magazine has a pretty good handle on the nonsense in Texas. Of all the murders, kidnappings, and other stuff currently in the public eye in California, for instance, we have our choice of many, many cases to look at, one that fascinates me is the recent conviction in San Francisco of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, head of Chinatown's Ghee Kung Tong, of 162 counts of racketeering, murder, and assorted other crimes. The case nailed a number of other more or less high-profile folks, too, including state Senator Leland Yee, a member of one of the state's most influential families, who was convicted of corruption as a a result of his association with Shrimp Boy, among other things, including arms trafficking. There's no need to dig too deeply into the case here; check it out on the L A Times' website, if you're interested in details, as their coverage of the case was outstanding. Bottom line is that we'll take a look at some of these really fun cases as they float to the surface, so stay tuned if that sort of thing interests you. Thank the Lord for California.

Last, but far from least, is the news that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled that tip sharing. or pooling, is no longer an acceptable practice for restaurants, hotels, clubs, or any other establishment doing business in any of a number of states, including California. This is, in our opinion, wrong-thinking and uninformed for a number of reasons, and is going to cause financial pain not only for employers wishing to see that all their employees are fairly and equitably compensated, but also for a whole class of workers who contribute at least as much, if not more in many cases, to customer satisfaction as anyone else in the house. I'm speaking of the "back-of-house" workers, the cooks, pantry staff, dishwashers, bussers, and all related, who labor to create and send out the food and clean up the accompanying messes, that brings paying patrons off the street day after day. Diners and bar patrons do not generally return week in and week out for the pleasure of a waiter's company or because they like the decor; rather, it's the quality of what's on the plate, more often than not, that causes them to drive across town and sign the check over and over again. Other factors play a role, certainly, but great food and drink overshadows all else.

Problem is, the folks out front are the only employees who typically have the opportunity to meet and interact with the guests, thereby creating for themselves the further opportunity to generate a tip, thus substantially enhancing their take-home pay. It is not unusual, at least where tips are not pooled and shared, for these front-of-house employees to create for themselves a situation where they are making two or even three times as much as those in back who make it possible for them to do so. Fair? No, I think not.

For those of you who aren't struggling to make a living in the hospitality industry, the concept of tip-sharing, or pooling, simply means that all tips left by customers/members/guests (or whatever you prefer to call those folks who pay you good money for what you do) go into a common fund rather than to the individual server or bartender who served the party. Then, prior to paychecks being written, the fund is divided up among all (or most, depending on the policies of the individual house) employees; the percentage of the pool  each employee receives is determined by the application of some formula created by the owners/management, and will vary from place to place depending on the particular philosophy of the house. If you're a Republican you may turn red in the face and scream "Socialists!", and maybe you're right, but so what? It levels the playing field and gives everyone the chance to be fairly compensated for their contribution.

And, as you might have imagined, a fairly large number of lawsuits have been filed over this practice, most of them contesting management's right to participate in the sharing of the pool, and rightfully so. In most cases management and supervisory staff make several multiples of what the average hospitality worker earns, and have no business dipping into the tip pool unless they are performing the same jobs as the line workers, which is rare, indeed.

Unfortunately, the 9th Circuit seems to have taken the position that the only person entitled to a tip is the one to whom it was directed by the customer, thereby effectively telling the back-of-house employees that their contributions don't count. That's wrong, pure and simple. However, it puts management in thousands of restaurants, hotels, resorts, clubs, coffee bars, and wherever else in the position of having to try to find a way to make up for that pay cut to a critical segment of their workforce, and one with a collection of skillsets that far exceeds, in certain positions, that of anyone working out front. (Sorry, wait staff; you know I love you, and you also know it's true.) Given that most restaurants work on razor-thin margins already, that almost certainly means that we can expect to see significant increases in menu pricing almost immediately. Operators are searching for alternatives to raising prices, because they understand the repercussions, but there aren't many, if indeed there are any at all that make sense.

This is a problem of major proportions, believe me, for those of us who have spent our lives trying to be the best restaurateurs we could be, which also means taking care of our employees as best we could, and giving them the opportunity to live full lives free of the worries associated with living on the financial brink. We will follow this closely.

More rain coming tonight, breaking up a string of beautiful spring-like days. More soon, and hope you're paying attention to all around you...


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rain and sleet (lots) on The Hill; end of the line in Oregon; discovering Dottie Smith; and that ain't no restaurant, that's a techno-cafeteria...

Three solid weeks of rain, sleet, and a little snow have done wonders for our corner of paradise, especially the lakes, rivers and streams, which are all roaring full and, at least in the hills and mountains, over their banks. It's good to see, and it has been a long while since we last saw it. The past couple of days have been spring-like; sunny skies, mild breezes, and lots of cold-season grasses waving bright green. Nice, but coming to an end soon, with another Pacific storm due to roll in over the Coast Range on Thursday. Thank you, Lord.

Big news yesterday morning, at least for us: seems the feds and the Oregon State Police finally decided they'd had enough nonsense out of the lunatics holed up at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon, and intercepted the leadership of the group as they were cruising in a couple of SUVs on their way to a meeting with concerned locals in the little town of John Day, some 100 or so miles away. Details are still sketchy, but apparently there was some level if resistance from at least one of the armed terrorists, with the result that he was shot and killed. As I said, we still, at least as of this hour, don't have many details, but, as unfortunate as it is, it was bound to happen sooner or later despite the restraint the authorities had displayed over the past three weeks. Turns out you can't just decide to take up arms, invade  a national wildlife refuge belonging to the people of the United States, threaten federal employees, intimidate the citizens of the surrounding countryside, and defy orders from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to vacate the premises and surrender your weapons without some consequences. These home-grown militants were given every chance to walk away peacefully, but were so deceived by the fact that the lawmen on scene were keeping their distance and exercising remarkable levels of tolerance in their dealings with them that they assumed (incorrectly) that their bluff was working, and so kept escalating tensions with nonsensical rhetoric and displays of weaponry. I don't know where the line in the sand was, but at some point they stepped over, and the curtain came down.

As many of you know, this particular group of "patriots" and "constitutionalists" claimed to be doing what they were doing as a protest of federal management of public lands in the West, which is another way of saying that they wanted to open up millions of acres of lands belonging to you and me to commercial exploitation by loggers, oil companies, and, most importantly to many of them, who happened to resent the fact that they were required to pay a modest fee for the privilege of grazing their cattle on our grasses, to ranchers for open grazing purposes. Here in the West, that last-mentioned item is an integral piece of the lifestyle we like to refer to as "cowboy welfare", and the two leaders of the band of outlaws at Malheur are sons of one of the highest-profile welfare ranchers yet exposed, one Cliven Bundy, who grazed his cattle on Nevada public lands to the tune of more than $1 million in fees, which he has steadfastly refused to pay and which, as far as we know, is still owed to you and me. (It might be pointed out, too, that ranchers who contract with the government for the right to graze public lands pay a small fraction of what it costs those who buy grazing rights on privately-owned lands, but some of them refuse to pay even that, claiming that they should have unrestricted access to do as they wish). So, in effect, these people are stealing from us, the public. Not to mention the fact that they're giving our part of the world a black eye just by the fact that they're here.

All of this is the long way of saying that neither these particular anarchists, nor any other of our increasing inventory of domestic terrorists, can be allowed to bully and intimidate the law-abiding citizens of our land, particularly when it's for no other reason than their own self-interests. They can put lipstick on it and call it what they want, but a pig's still a pig. So, congratulations to the folks of Harney County, Oregon, for getting their lives back, and thanks to the law enforcement agencies involved for the reasonable and rational way they dealt with this mini-crisis that could have been so much worse.

Now, on to Dottie Smith. I stumbled onto her, or at least her writings, when a byline of hers in the Redding Record-Searchlight caught my eye a year or so ago. I've forgotten what that particular article was about, but since then I've read dozens of her columns, and I've learned more about the history of Shasta County from her than I ever expected to know. Dottie is a retired teacher who has made a life's work of travelling this part of Northern California up, down, and from side to side, searching out and recording the stories, people, and places that make it what it is; the good, bad, and the ugly, as it is everywhere. What I love about Dottie is that she pulls no punches; she calls'em the way she sees'em. Proof of this would be two of her more recent columns, both dealing with unpleasant and inconvenient episodes in local history; one tells the story of the Chinese experience in the area, and the other with the shameful treatment endured by the Native American tribes of the region, both centered around events that occurred in the mid-1800s. The folks who settled this part of the state were probably no better or worse, on the whole, than any other group of pioneer settlers in our country's history, but they undoubtedly shamed themselves by some of their actions, and Dottie tells the tales with a clarity and economy of words that is a pleasure to read, attempting to gloss over nothing. For those of you who might be planning a to spend time in our part of the state, and who have an interest in the history of the places you might travel through and see, I can't recommend highly enough a website Dottie has created where you'll be able to find these articles and more Dottie: It's time well spent, I promise.

Okay, lastly in this long letter, just a quick observation on a recent LA Times article I've been brooding about. The subject is a new concept restaurant in the Topanga Canyon area of Canoga Park called eatsa. First of all, everything about the eatsa concept is at least semi-radical, at least to an old f&b guy like me. The menu is built around quinoa; in fact, quinoa is about all there is. Lots of different iterations, for sure, but still, it's quinoa. Oh, you can get a hand-crafted soft drink, or house-made potato chips or salsa, but basically it's all quinoa all the time. Which is okay if you love quinoa. The curve ball, though, comes in the way the quinoa comes at you: no wait staff, no tables, no chairs...just iPads to place your order on, after which (in about 3 to 4 minutes, they claim) your name lights up over a glass cubicle which you then enter by knocking twice (cool) to claim your custom-prepared quinoa bowl. Problem is, then you have to go find a place to sit and eat it. Maybe it's more fun than it sounds. However, I love innovation in restaurants, and I wish them luck. There's also a San Francisco location (where else would it be?), according to the article, with more to come. If you go, give us a heads-up in the Comments area.

Good night; see you soon...