Thursday, 26 January 2023

News

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Lake County Skies on July 15, 2008 at 9 p.m. Courtesy of John Zimmerman.

 


LAKE COUNTY – July’s heat brings out some nasty critters in the night sky – specifically, a dragon and a scorpion.


Let’s start with the dragon, who is named Draco. Our star chart shows Draco to be a faint constellation that wraps itself around the little dipper (Ursa Minor).


In Greek mythology, Draco was a hundred-headed beast who was charged with guarding some golden apples. The superhero Hercules came along, put Draco to sleep with music, and stole the apples. Perhaps that is the origin of the saying “music soothes the savage beast.”

 

 

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Draco image courtesy of windows.ucar.edu.
 

 


The brightest star in Draco is named Thuban. In 2500 BC, Thuban, not Polaris, was our north star. Why? Because the earth slowly wobbles as it turns – this wobble is called precession. Over time, this causes the position of celestial north to change. A diagram of how precession works is shown below.

 

 

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How precession works. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
 

 

 


From Draco in the north, we now turn to the south to view the glorious constellation, Scorpius the Scorpion.


You can barely see Scorpius on our star chart, but under Lake County skies, this constellation shines brilliantly in the south.

 

 

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A close up diagram of Scorpius.
 

 

 


If you own a small telescope, there is a wealth of objects to be viewed in this constellation.


In Greek mythology, Scorpius was the creature that killed Orion, the mighty hunter. Orion rules the winter skies, while Scorpius lives in the summer skies so that the two are never together and so cannot fight one another.


The brightest star in Scorpius is Antares, a huge red supergiant. In last month’s column we showed how small our Sun is compared to the star Arcturus. The following diagram shows how much larger Antares is than Arcturus.

 

 

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Aside from the dragon and the scorpion, our star chart shows a number of planets inhabit July night skies. Setting in the west are Saturn and Mars. Rising in the east is the solar system’s biggest planet, Jupiter. Pluto is also in the night sky, but you need a very large telescope to see it.


For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory website at www.taylorobservatory.org.


On July 26, starting at 8 p.m., the observatory will be open to the public. The topic for the evening is “Gems of the Night,” a presentation about the beautiful objects visible only through a telescope. There will also be a planetarium show and telescope viewing.


John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


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LAKE COUNTY – Water corporations Golden State Water Co. and California Water Service, which both serve areas of Lake County, seek rate increases to improve their ability to attract capital investment. The companies applied on May 1 with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Increases would cover the period from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2011.


The CPUC held a prehearing conference on the increases Monday, June 23, in San Francisco. The rate increases were not opposed by the Lucerne Community Water Organization (LCWO), which formed in 2005 to intervene in a rate increase proposal that year.


LCWO President Craig Bach said he has communicated with the CPUC Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) and the administrative law judge on the case, Douglas M. Long, but the organization made no attempt to intervene in the case.


Third District supervisor Denise Rushing said LCWO and the county have discussed the case, but “we haven't been asked to formally intervene at this point"


Bach said neither he nor the few other people who regularly attend LCWO meetings have had the time to attend San Francisco hearings or announce a local meeting on the current proposal.


The group's next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, 10th Avenue and Country Club Drive.


In Lucerne, where it has approximately 1,900 customers, Cal Water asks for a $.62 hike per 100 cubic feet. The company says the proposal would increase the average monthly bill for 700 cubic feet of water per month from the current $67.04 to $71.35 in mid-2009.


The company recently announced a scheduled $17.34 monthly surcharge will start when the company's new plant on Highway 20 goes online soon. Company representatives were unable to say exactly how soon, although both July 1 and September 1 have been mentioned as goals. The surcharge will repay an $8 million zero-interest state loan for the plant.


Golden State serves approximately 2,164 customers in the city of Clearlake, covering the lakefront area north to Park Lane, and south into Borax Lake, Country Club and South Olympic, according to Paul Schubert, the Clearlake system manager. Their customers would see a monthly increase of 16 cents per 100 cubic feet.


Golden State's current charge per 100 cubic feet is $3.782, with a service charge of $42.15 for the typical residential 5/8 x 3/4-inch meter. A four cent surcharge per 100 cubic feet covers discounts for participants in the California Alternative Rates for Water (CARW).


The current Cost of Capital (COC) proposals are intended to make the companies' stocks more attractive to investors, according to an announcement from Cal Water, which said the increase will assist the company in “maintaining an investment grade rating.” The applications have been consolidated by the CPUC for procedural reasons, Schubert said.


Golden State Water's parent company, American States Water Co. (NYSE:AWR), reported a drop in 2008 first-quarter earnings of nine cents per share from the same period in 2007.


California Water Service Group (NYSE:CWT) announced 2008 first-quarter net income of $0.2 million and diluted earnings per common share of $0.01, a drop from net income of $1.6 million and diluted earnings per common share of $0.07 for the first quarter of 2007.


The company's April 30 press release noted “a decline in investment income.” Despite that, on January 23, 2008, Cal Water announced a dividend of $0.29250, the highest since 1992, the earliest date on its Web site.


E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – A former juvenile court attorney was in court Thursday to plead not guilty to felony charges of possessing child pornography.


Robert Wayne Wiley, 74, of Lakeport was arrested last Sept. 20 on a single felony charge of possessing child pornography, as Lake County News has reported.


Following a lengthy investigation, Wiley is charged with a total of four felony counts of possessing child pornography, according to Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg.


Calls to Wiley's attorney, J. David Markham, were not returned Thursday.


Borg said Wiley was arraigned Thursday morning and pleaded not guilty to the charges, which – if he's convicted of all of them and sentenced consecutively – could carry a maximum of five years in prison.


Retired Fresno County Superior Court Judge Harry N. Papadakis has been assigned to the case, said Borg, because all of the county's judges have recused themselves from hearing the matter.


“They've determined they don't want to hear the case for whatever reason,” he said.


In making his plea, Wiley also reserved the right to demurrer, which in this case could mean he might challenge the four separate charges and argue they be combined into one. Borg said he had no concern with the demurrer issue, and didn't argue against it Thursday.


Borg declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations against Wiley. He also didn't want to discuss the investigation and its length, although he said there were “good reasons” for the several months it took to file charges.


He said, generally speaking, when an attorney is under investigation, there is the possibility that a search warrant might seize items considered “work product.” Such materials are used to prepare a client's case and have a special protection under the law.


Because the release of work product could compromise attorney-client confidentiality, in such cases a special master is appointed, said Borg. The special master is another attorney who examines the materials before they are submitted to law enforcement in order to determine if it's appropriate to include them in the investigation.


“I'm not confirming or denying that's what happened here,” said Borg.


A search warrant was served on Wiley's home and his Third Street office last September. A computer belonging to Wiley was seized and underwent forensic examination, officials said at the time.


Wiley had been a longtime fixture in county courts, specializing in juvenile cases.


On Sept. 21, 2007, the day after his arrest, Wiley and Stephen Carter, who administers Lake Legal Defense, mutually agreed to terminate Wiley's contract for defending juveniles in criminal cases.


That same day, Wiley's contract with Lake County Superior Court to represent children in juvenile dependency cases – including those related to Child Protective Services – was terminated, according to a statement issued by Court Executive Officer Mary E. Smith.


Wiley, who was admitted to the State Bar of California is August 1975, retains active State Bar membership, and has no public record of administrative or disciplinary actions.


Borg said Wiley is scheduled to return to court Aug. 28, when his preliminary hearing will take place.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – With summer time comes a baby boom of sorts, what's commonly called “kitten season,” and it means a population explosion that crowds the shelters around the United States and here locally. {sidebar id=90}


In many cases, it doesn't lead to happy endings.


The Humane Society of the United States reports that kitten season is really three seasons at once, with cats giving birth to litters beginning in the spring, with the births peaking in late spring and early summer, and coming to an end in fall.


The warmer weather coincides with female cats' heat cycles, the group reports, and with unspayed and unneutered cats being in abundance all over the country – and also here in Lake County – forces coincide to cause a population explosion.


Despite the fact that the county and the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport all have adopted spay and neuter ordinances, there still are many unaltered animals in the county, according to Animal Care and Control officials.


Here in Lake County, Animal Care and Control reports that it's seeing a flood of cats and kittens making their way into the new shelter, located near the Lake County Jail.


“We're getting them in every day,” said Officer Eric Wood.


The shelter now has well over 60 kittens, Wood said. “We've already overloaded all of our rescue with them.”


That's just a drop in the bucket, according to Shelter Program Director Paula Werner. One week, the shelter saw 130 kittens come in.


She quotes statistics from the Humane Society of the United States that say an unaltered female cat and her unaltered offspring can produce 1.2 million cats in eight years. Werner said female cats can breed rapidly, able to go back into heat again immediately after pregnancy.


Despite the cute and cuddly factor, kittens present a lot of problems for shelters, especially in massive quantities.


Wood said kittens get sick very easily. “We don't have the means to medicate them all the time.”


That's why it's critical to get them into rescue care, which the shelter has been very successful in doing in recent years. Werner said in a previous interview that shelter staff have worked hard to form relationships with rescue groups, who have taken animals and helped reduce the county's euthanasia rates.


However, euthanasia is still highest in the county for cats, according to shelter statistics. In fiscal year 2006-07, 3,275 cats were impounded; of those, 2,648 were euthanized. Kitten season often only exacerbates the problem.


Many younger kittens, under 8 weeks old, have to be fed with a bottle, and if rescues don't take them they often are euthanized because the shelter doesn't have the staff to attend to them, said Wood.


The jump in population can often lead to cruelty, when people attempt to rid themselves of the animals by dumping them.


Just such a situation occurred one night last month.


On the evening of June 12, Wood got an after-hours call from the California Patrol reporting that some 30 animals – cats and kittens – had been dumped along Spruce Grove Road near Lower Lake, and that the animals were running down the side of the road.


When he got there around 10 p.m., Wood found some kind-hearted citizens trying to round up the kittens.


In all, they recovered 21 kittens – ranging in age from 6 to 10 weeks old – and two adult female cats, with some others escaping, said Wood. He estimated the kittens were from three separate litters.


“It was definitely a dump job,” said Wood.


He added, “I've never seen anyone dump that many cats at once.”


No one has yet reported seeing who dumped the animals, he said.


Most of the kittens had some upper respiratory infections but were otherwise OK, said Wood.


The animals weren't wild, he added, but had been socialized. “The 21 I brought in were friendly.”


Despite the overload on kittens, Wood said they were successful in getting them out of the shelter and into rescues. On June 13, one of the mothers and six kittens went to rescue, and more were on the way.


“They got real lucky,” he said.


Werner added that it's a felony offense, and the shelter is keenly interested in finding out who is responsible.


It's not the only recent dumping situation that's happened, said Wood. Public Works reported finding kittens dumped along Sulphur Bank Road in Clearlake Oaks not long ago.


Wood says he's sure it happens a lot more than they know about.


Anyone with information about dumping activities is asked to call Lake County Animal Care and Control, 263-0278.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – The Associated Press reports that some water utilities experts question why private companies would be interested in United States water utilities. Much of the country is in drought condition and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the nation will need to spend $277 billion or more over the next two decades to repair and improve drinking water systems.


“Shares of American Water Works have gained 9 percent since its initial offering April 23 ... In the same timeframe, shares of Aqua America Inc. shed 4 percent and shares of California Water Service Group slipped 7 percent,” the June 16 AP story said.


But the cities of Providence, RI, and Trenton, NJ are considering selling all or part of their systems to water corporations.

http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.aspx?feed=AP&date=20080616&id=8782551


In other countries, Inter Press Service reported June 23 that “Water is flowing back into public hands.”

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=42922


The mayor of Paris said June 2 that the city will discontinue its 100-year-long contracts with the world's two biggest water service companies, Suez and Veolia, as of Dec. 31, 2009.


"We want to offer a better service, at a better price," Mayor Bertrand Delanoë said. "We also promise that prices would be stable."


The story adds “The list of ‘re-municipalisation’ of water services is long, and includes countries as diverse as Mali in West Africa, Uruguay where water has been brought back into the hands of the state at a national level, Buenos Aires and Santa Fe in Argentina, Cochabamba in Bolivia and Hamilton in Canada, besides other cities in France.”


E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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NORTH COAST – As fires caused by lightning storms nearly two weeks ago continue to burn around the North Coast, on Thursday they claimed their first human casualty.


Cal Fire and Mendocino County officials reported that Bob Roland, a 63-year-old volunteer firefighter recruit from the Anderson Valley Volunteer Fire Department, died early Thursday morning at Ukiah Valley Medical Center.


He'd been taken there after suffering respiratory distress on Wednesday afternoon while working on the Oso Fire, nine miles northwest of Boonville, officials reported.


The Oso is one of 40 active fires out of a total of 123 sparked by lightning in Mendocino County two weekends ago. So far, 38,500 acres have burned, with the complex 40-percent contained, according to officials.


Lakeport Fire Chief Ken Wells reported this week that a Lake County strike team of five engines was sent to work on the Orr Fire in the Mendocino Lightning Complex, which Cal Fire reported has approximately 1,687 personnel, 140 engines 17, helicopters, 60 water tenders and 50 bulldozers assigned to it.


In addition to Roland's death, 15 other firefighters have been injured working on the fires, according to Cal Fire.


The estimated cost of Cal Fire's firefighting effort in Mendocino County to date is $14,550,000.


Work also continues on fires caused by lightning on June 21 in the Mendocino National Forest, where as of Thursday 5,090 acres had burned in the Soda Complex in Lake and Mendocino counties, and 6,042 acres in the Yolla Bolly Complex in Mendocino, Trinity and Tehama counties, according to forest spokesperson Phebe Brown.


The four-fire Soda Complex is reported 74-percent contained, while Brown said the 23 fires within the Yolla Bolly Complex are only 5-percent contained in total.


Smokejumpers are constructing lines around some of the larger fires in the Yolla Bolly Complex, which has a total of 96 personnel assigned to it, with another 438 personnel on the Soda Complex, according to Brown.


Southwest winds continue to carry the smoke from the fires away from Lake County's air basin, according to county Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds. Improve air quality is expected through Friday.


For more information visit the Forest Service Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino/currentconditions.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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A burnout area in the Yolla Bolly Complex. Photo by Curtis Keetch.



NORTH COAST – After several days of little or no increases in acreage, Mendocino County's lightning fires were reported to have burned a few thousand more acres by Saturday, with firefighters continuing to slowly gain ground on those fires as well as those in the Mendocino National Forest.


The Mendocino Lightning Complex has burned 41,200 acres, led to the death of a volunteer firefighter, destroyed two homes and injured 24, according to Cal Fire statistics.


After two weeks of firefighting the complex is 40-percent contained, and more personnel continue to arrive, Cal Fire reported. On Saturday a total of 1,749 firefighters were on scene.


Adding that complex to the Walker Fire, 55,700 acres have burned across Mendocino and Lake counties in recent weeks, which doesn't count more than 12,000 more that have burned on the Mendocino National Forest.


On the forest's Upper Lake Ranger District, three of the four fires in the Soda Complex remained active Saturday, with the 2,190-acre Big Fire close to containment, while the Mill and the Monkey Rock fires continue to steadily burn, forest officials reported.


The Soda Complex is 73-percent contained, with 476 personnel assigned to it. Mop up and rehabilitation already is under way in some areas.

 

 

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Igniting the burnout on the Yolla Bolly Complex using drip torches. Photo by Curtis Keetch.
 

 


On the Yolla Bolly Complex – which is in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness in Mendocino, Trinity and Tehama counties – backfires began Saturday to control that series of fires, which has blackened 7,122 acres and is 20-percent contained. Approximately 197 firefighter are assigned to that complex, which officials reported has cost more than $1 million to fight to date.


For more information visit the Forest Service Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino/currentconditions or Cal Fire at www.cdf.ca.gov.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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A field burnout briefing of the Big Hills Helitack crew just prior to burnout on the Yolla Bolly Complex. Photo by Curtis Keetch.
 

 


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NICE – Northshore firefighters and Lake County Sheriff's deputies on Friday night were looking for the subjects responsible for setting off fireworks in a boat on the lake, resulting in a fire and the boat's subsequent destruction.


Fire officials told Lake County News they were dispatched shortly before 10 p.m. to a report of a boat on fire a short distance offshore from Nice's Keeling Park.


Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Ken Petz said witnesses reported several subjects on the boat were setting off large fireworks – similar to those one would see in a professional show – and the boat caught fire.


The subjects jumped off the boat, which was anchored, and were reportedly picked up by another smaller boat, according to accounts from fire personnel at the scene.


The boat went up in flames quickly, said Petz, and burned down to its water line.


Three Lake County Sheriff's deputies, and two Northshore Fire engines and several other small fire trucks were on scene, with officials speaking with witnesses along the shoreline and at a home in the 3200 block of Lakeshore Boulevard. Many people reported seeing the incident, said Petz.


“Nobody wants to fess up to who owned the boat,” he added.


Petz said the Sheriff's Boat Patrol was trying to get the burned boat to shore, and also was looking for the responsible subjects.


Northshore Fire also was keeping an eye out for them, while responding to numerous calls reporting illegal use of fireworks in connection with the July 4 holiday, Petz said.


This year, fireworks were illegal for sale and use in all of Lake County, with the city of Lakeport – which has continued to allow safe and sane fireworks – issuing a temporary ban on use and sales due to concerns over extreme fire danger this summer.


Radio traffic Friday night and early Saturday morning included numerous reports of illegal fireworks around the county, along with loud parties, fights and reported burglaries.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – As California motorists head toward traditionally crowded highways on the Fourth of July holiday, the California Highway Patrol is urging drivers and passengers to protect themselves by avoiding alcohol, observing speed limits and wearing safety belts.


“The summer is in full swing, and everyone wants to squeeze in as much fun as possible,” said Lt. Mark Loveless, newly appointed commander of the CHP’s Clear Lake Area office. “Traffic volumes may be high, and unfortunately so is the potential for collisions.”


Last year 18 people died statewide in crashes during the 30-hour July Fourth holiday. CHP officers made 568 DUI arrests around the state during that same period.


This year every available CHP officer will be on the road during the “Maximum Enforcement Period” which begins at 6:01 p.m. on Thursday, July 3, and ends at midnight, Sunday, July 6.


Independence Day also marks the first holiday since California’s new “hands free” cell phone laws went into effect July 1.


“If they need to make or take a call, drivers must remember to keep their hands on the wheel, not on the phone,” Lt. Loveless said. “And drivers under 18 must refrain from using the cell phone when they’re driving a car.”


If you plan to be on the road this weekend, the CHP has several suggestions that can reduce the risk to you and your passengers:


● Make sure that only non-drinking drivers get behind the wheel. Alcohol and driving do not mix.

 

● Always buckle up on every trip, no matter how short. Safety belts and safety seats protect you and your passengers from other drivers who may not be as careful.

 

● Leave plenty of time for your trip. If you cannot leave early, don’t become impatient with traffic. Take a break from driving at least once an hour. Share the driving among all those with valid drivers licenses.

 

● Maintain safe speeds for conditions. Even if the posted speed limit is 65 or 70 miles per hour, when traffic is heavy or visibility is limited, a lower speed is safer.

 

● Remember the “rules of the road” and drive accordingly. Obeying stop signs and signals, keeping two seconds or more between you and the car ahead, and practicing common courtesy with other drivers helps keep everyone on the road safer.


During the holiday weekend, the CHP will be joining forces with statewide traffic safety agencies from Nevada, Arizona and Oregon in CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) enforcement focusing on speed, DUI and safety belt use.


“We want people to think safety whenever they get behind the wheel this summer. Common sense and courtesy will go a long way toward achieving that goal, but if a driver chooses to ignore our suggestions, we’ll be there to remind him or her,” Lt. Loveless said.


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My daughter is a very loving, caring girl. For years she has wanted to eat less meat in our household, and I was OK with that, but her meat- and carb-loving mother was less than enthusiastic about it.


A couple of months ago I had them both sit down and talk it out. The compromise came to this: We switch from carnivore to herbivore every other day.


Unfortunately the two of them are like the yin and yang parts of a hetero symbol, always opposites and very little in common except that they are parts of a whole. So for my first vegetarian dish I announced that I would make eggplant lasagna ...


“Yea! I love eggplant!” from my daughter.


“I hate eggplant!” from my wife.


Oh, this new menu is going to be fun, I think to myself while I beat my head against the refrigerator. Luckily with my foundation in Japanese and Asian cuisine I have a bunch of Buddhist recipes to fall back on. “Tofu steak” has become a regular dinner at our place, with everyone in the house enjoying it as if the name alone pleases everyone: “Tofu” for the vegetarian, and “steak” for the meat eater.


I think the thing that confuses carnivores/omnivores about vegetarians is that vegetarians have dozens of “classes” or castes, so let’s go through and define some of them to avoid confusion.


Vegans eat nothing that has anything to do with animals. This not only includes meat of any animal or sea creature, but also eggs, milk and honey (honey, like milk is a product manufactured by animals). I personally could never even come close to being vegan; either God or Darwinism has chosen to make my anatomy with eyes on the front of my head like a predator and not on the sides of my head like a prey animal, and I can’t go against that evidence. Testosterone just fortified these feelings out of cold, hard steel ... that steel then formed into the shape of a knife that can be used to track down and kill weak autotroph-eating creatures so they can be roasted over a fire and ... Sorry, I don’t know what happened there.


Anyway, lacto-vegetarians don’t eat meat or anything that could have become meat like eggs, however milk and honey are fair game. Ovo-vegetarians don’t eat meat or milk but eggs and honey are permitted. Ovo-lacto-vegetarians don’t eat the flesh of animals but the products they produce like milk, eggs, and honey are edible.


Another vegetarian group called fruitarians eat only beans, seeds, rices, fallen fruit and grains since plants are living things and shouldn’t be killed for food.


This list can also include things like semi-vegetarians who eat seafood or poultry in limited amounts but no beef, or pollo-vegetarians who eat birds but not hoofed animals.


But at this point I’m sure that you get the idea. People limit their food categories in a hundred different ways based on their beliefs about the value of life on the food chain.


My daughter has chosen her own version of vegetarianism that could be called Petting Zoo Vegetarianism. If it’s cute and cuddly it can’t be eaten. Rabbits, lamb, quail, piglets, calves, deer, are all safe in this diet, but vultures and armadillos better run and hide.


I can’t fault any person’s diet since I too have my own eating quirks, and I completely support anyone’s choice to eat whatever they want. Over time, I’m sure that readers will pick up on my dietary oddities.


Vegetarian foods are dominant in many countries due to religious/moral, economic or population reasons. We here in the United States are uniquely spoiled in our view of food. Because of the abundance of land and wealth in our society we think that meat should cover the majority of our dinner plate, while the vegetables and carbs are more for garnish than anything else.


I’ll be the first carnivore to admit that this practice will not last for long. Mankind is going to have to rely on a more plant-based diet in the future to insure that the world can stay fed. Adopting my daughter’s petting zoo vegetarianism and my wife’s every-other-day vegetarian compromise is my contribution to easing the pressure on the planet.


One quick note about the following recipe: I mix wheat flour and rice flour for the coating in this recipe. Why not use one or the other? Wheat flour is good when browning food in oil, however it doesn’t get really crisp; rice flour gets crispy when fried in oil but doesn’t brown well. By combining the two you get the best of both worlds.


Tofu steaks


Ingredients:

One block of extra firm tofu

4 tablespoons flour (I prefer 2 tablespoons wheat flour and 2 tablespoons rice flour, mixed)

6 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons butter or your favorite oil to fry in.

Your favorite condiments or, for a more authentic Japanese feel, use chopped green onions or chives, finely grated fresh ginger and bonito flakes (if you are avoiding meat you should know that bonito flakes are dried shaved fish).


Set the tofu block on its end and cut downward through its width like you were cutting cards off of a deck, so you get three even steaks (just cutting in half leaves the steaks just a little too thick for my taste, so thirds works out best for me, but feel free to experiment).


Even with extra firm tofu, some of the moisture needs to be squeezed out or the steaks will fall apart during cooking. Lay out all three pieces separately on a kitchen towel or several sheets of paper towels and then lay another towel or several sheets of paper towels over them (about one cup of moisture is going to be squeezed out during this process so stack your paper towels accordingly).


Gently place your heaviest cutting board on top of the towel and weigh it down with some cans of soup or anything with a little weight to it, just not so much that you crush the tofu. Let this sit on your counter top for a minimum of an hour, then remove tofu and wipe up all of that liquid all over the counter top.


Gently spoon one tablespoon of soy sauce over each one of the tofu and let sit until it soaks in (a couple of minutes is all that’s needed), then flip the tofu steaks over and repeat.


Heat your butter or oil in a frying pan on medium high heat while you dredge the tofu steaks in the two-flour mixture. Gently shake off any excess flour and put tofu steaks in the heated pan. Fry until golden brown on both sides and drain momentarily on paper towels. Add condiments and serve.


You could substitute the soy sauce in this recipe for Italian salad dressing, which works quite well. If you’re OK with eating a little meat, you can marinade the steaks in strong chicken broth or even the liquid from a can of tuna for a heartier taste (call it fusion cuisine). Tofu is much like a blank canvas that you can experiment with a lot of different flavors, so have fun!


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Progress continues to be made in the effort to contain lightning fires around the North Coast, officials reported Friday.


Cal Fire reported Friday that the late June lightning storms set a total of 1,781 fires around the state, of which 335 are still active. Among those fires, 1,005 were within Cal Fire jurisdiction, and 57 are still burning. Total acres burned statewide is 529,971.


In Lake County, fires on the Mendocino National Forest have scorched more than 12,000 acres since June 21. That's when lightning set off fires across the forest, from the Soda Complex on the Upper Lake Ranger District in Lake and Mendocino counties to the Yolla Bolly Complex in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. There are a total of 598 firefighters working both complexes.


Forest spokesperson Phebe Brown reported that the Soda Complex is 70-percent contained overall. It is located in remote areas to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury.


Its three active fires include the 2,190-acre Big Fire, which is 95-percent contained, followed in size by the Monkey Rock Fire, 1,060 acres at 10-percent contained, and the Mill Fire, 750 acres at 30-percent contained, Brown reported. A fourth fire, the Back, burned 1,600 acres and was contained earlier this week.


Brown said crews worked on Friday to complete and strengthen control lines on the Big, Monkey Rock

and Mill fires, with the latter two fires either partially or totally within designated wilderness.


In addition, mop up has begun on areas of the Mill Fire with continued efforts to stop its spread to the south, said Brown.


A report from forest spokesperson Mary Christensen late Friday, said the Yolla Bolly Complex has burned 6,840 acres and is 10-percent contained.


On Friday crews completed line construction for a planned burnout on the southeast flank of the Slides and Harvey Fires, both of which are now 100-percent contained, Christensen reported. Some of the fires are being allowed to burn into natural barriers, such as rock outcrops.


Christensen said on Saturday a burnout is planned using containment lines and natural barriers along the southeast flank of the Slides and Harvey Fires. The operation will be implemented with both hand and aerial ignition devices, and will restrict the fires from moving out of the wilderness and onto the surrounding private lands.

 

Total containment isn't expected until Oct. 30, Christensen reported. The cost to fight that complex thus far is $937,025. No cost estimate has been given for the Soda Complex.


Elsewhere on the North Coast, the Mendocino Lightning Complex has burned 39,700 acres and is 45-percent contained, Cal Fire reported. There are 1,630 personnel and 159 engines on scene, which includes a five-engine strike team from Lake County.


Of the original 123 fires ignited by lightning, 45 are still active in Mendocino County, according to Cal Fire.


That complex has so far cost $16.7 million to fight, and on Thursday claimed another high toll with the death of an Anderson Valley firefighter who suffered respiratory distress.


For more information about the fires on the Mendocino National Forest visit the Forest Service Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino/currentconditions.


Cal Fire's Web site at www.cdf.ca.gov has updates on the Mendocino Lightning Complex and other fires around the state.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – While fires on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District moved toward containment, a complex of fires in another part of the forest continued to grow, with containment not expected until this fall.


In all, more than 10,000 acres of Mendocino National Forest lands have burned due to lightning strikes that took place on June 21. Those strikes sparked at least 50 fires across all of the forest's three ranger districts.


The four-fire Soda Complex, which has burned 5,100 acres across Lake and Mendocino counties, is 72-percent contained, according to a Wednesday report from forest officials.


Progress is being made on the complex, officials reported, with 406 personnel continuing the firefighting effort in remote areas to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury.


A backfire was used on Wednesday on the eastern side of one of the fires, the Mill, and a dozer line was being built to stop its spread south, officials reported.


Meanwhile, the Yolla Bolly Complexmade up of 23 active lightning fires in Mendocino, Trinity and Tehama counties overtook the Soda Complex in size on Wednesday, having burned a total of 5,387 acres.


There are 96 personnel assigned to the Yolla Bolly Complex, which forest officials said is located 60 miles northwest of Willows.


The complex is 5-percent contained, with officials closing down the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness because of concerns for public safety.


Smokejumpers were dropped into the complex's Yellow and Jacket fires Wednesday to begin suppression efforts, officials reported. A helitack crew was working to build a line to confine the fires' east side.


Forest officials said the Yolla Bolly Complex isn't expected to be contained until Oct. 30.


For more information about the fires, visit www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino/currentconditions/.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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