Wading in a pool of abstraction © Robert Sommers 2023

Saturday, February 29, 2020

I believe in you

Buteo jamaicencis

Coney Island Baby

Yellow headed blackbird

Friday is for the birds


My head was a little screwed up yesterday and I decided I needed a little break with the birdies. Can't really explain, should be really happy and I am but all the prior uncertainty sort of wipes you out emotionally. Oh, so I am going to live? Guess I better figure out how to pay the mortgage...

I also wanted to try out the new to me but slightly used, drop in circular polarizer for the nikkor 400mm 2.8 fl. I headed out to San Jacinto.

At first glance the place seemed a little dead. I started to think that I was going to get shut out. Sure there were a few harriers flying around and a red tailed or two but how does the song go, nothing was delivered?

I made the general loop and was fairly unimpressed. Lots of coots, a vulture feasting on leftovers, ducks galore, egrets and ibis gracefully flying overhead.

Then I saw this female harrier waiting for me to take her picture on an old post.

Pretty girl.

And a pale male decided to visit to, from above.

I drove over to the Walker Road, past the Ramona Duck Club and walked right up to this juvenile bald eagle perched on top of the utility pole.

He was completely unconcerned with my presence. Big boy, take a look at those massive claws.

He could have put a serious hurt on me if he chose to.

The body structure is so much more muscular than the smaller hawks.

As you can see, he is just starting to develop the characteristic white crown that he or she will sport one day when the eagle is mature.

Well, that was cool. Always happy to make the acquaintance of an eagle.

But honestly an even bigger thrill was awaiting just around the corner.

I ran into a large flock of yellow headed blackbirds, at least fifty of them in this first group. I have never seen one before and they were beautiful. Later I saw them in groups in the many hundreds.

The place is always full of red winged blackbirds but these guys made my day.

I didn't shoot them properly but am planning on returning very soon and hopefully acquitting myself more admirably.

You may get the idea that I just set up and start shooting, that wildlife photography is akin to the tiki house at Disneyland, that the birds approach me and the camera like Dr. Doolittle.

You would be wrong. There are long periods of waiting and there are times you get shut out.

I wrote a note to myself yesterday. It doesn't happen when you want it to happen, it happens when it happens.

I had a hard time leaving yesterday. I drove around and around and realized that I would rather be there doing nothing than stuck on the 215 south in traffic.

Pulled up next to a pond and let the ripples on the water gently put me to sleep.

Finally left when the sun went down.

Loggerhead shrike

red shouldered hawk
male harrier aka marsh hawk

red tailed hawk aloft

Thursday, February 27, 2020

New stuff at the Blue Heron

untitled abstract - Emil Kosa Jr. (1903-1968) 40 x 30"
The Blue Heron Gallery is full of great new material.

I haven't updated my new stuff column on the gallery website in a while but I started to do it today.

If you feel like it, please take a look.

I have a lot more to add so please keep checking and if something catches your fancy, you can always buy it.

Michael Kabotie (1942-2009) - Sterling overlay cuff SOLD

Dr. Carol Salem

I have been besieged with wonderful messages from family, friends and loved ones about my good fortune in saving my bladder. I want to thank a special person for getting me this far, Dr. Carol Salem.

Dr. Salem is an amazing woman, a urologist connected with Scripps Mercy and the Genesis Urology Group in Hillcrest. She is on the cutting edge of minimally invasive robotic techniques, an incredibly dedicated and hard working doctor and incidentally one with little appetite for bullshit.

While the future certainly holds no guarantees for a person with my medical history (she calls me a frequent flyer), Dr. Salem was the first person willing to listen and work with me on an alternative to outright organ removal.

Remember that both the first doctor who operated on me and the USC Keck team felt that removing my bladder would be a necessity. The doctor who relieved me of my invasive tumors said it was a matter of when and not if. But I had a feeling that there was another reasonable avenue to pursue and knew that, in this instance, I had to stand my ground and make the right medical decision for myself.

Dr. Salem looked closely at my medical history and saw that I had had good longterm results with BCG treatments in the past, put me at the top of the list for the scarce drug due to the serious nature of my tumors and restarted the regimen. As of this point in time, we were right.

Thank god I found a physician who would listen. It was ultimately her call I suppose but she showed flexibility when others would not.

I have had a host of medical problems and procedures in my life, as you know. One thing I have learned is that while you must always listen, you also have to be your own best medical advocate. Trust but verify. It is the only life you have, don't surrender it if something doesn't feel right. Find someone that will listen and work with you. I am so very lucky to have found Doctor Salem.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Life line

The doctor finally called this evening. I had expected to hear from her sooner and I was getting a little nervous. But I also wasn't in a big hurry to get bad news. So I was prepared to wait. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen, not much I could do about it.

Thankfully, the news was good. Of the five "bites" of my bladder that she resected in the blue light cystoscopy last week, two had low grade cancer cells present but there was no evidence of the high grade cancer we had removed previously anywhere.

So I get to keep my bladder unless things take a drastic turn. I am also going back on the BCG immunotherapy regimen. First treatment is scheduled for March, Friday the thirteenth. The doctor sounded quite positive about my prognosis.

I want to thank all of you for your love and concern.  I have several friends going through terrible medical problems and some are in far worse straits than I was. Saw a friend at lunch who is not in good shape whatsoever. I am lucky, my problem was pretty fixable, although the fix could have been rather drastic. Some of my pals are not so lucky. My heart goes out to them and their families. As for me, I am still in the game. Live every day to the fullest, never neglect the chance to tell your loved ones that you love them, make your life count.

Bruce Cockburn

Wednesday melange

I've lived in the unincorporated town of Fallbrook for over forty years and have never seen such a rampant case of sign pollution as the Liberty Tax people have engaged in this year.

Their signs are everywhere downtown, the green suited statue of liberty guys are spinning their placards, it is a real circus. Total visual overload.

It really doesn't seem suited for our fair burg, a bit out of character. Frankly, I don't see how they get any traction with this sort of heavy handed approach.

The Fallbrook Design Review Board has always seemed so draconian about signage, I wonder why these folks happen to get a free pass?

Thank god it has a short shelf life, hopefully we will see an end of it after tax season ends in March.

When the coronavirus broke Shawn in Thailand sent me this excellent virus tracking map from Johns Hopkins. There were about seven thousand cases and change when I first tuned in, now look at it. Very scary stuff. Thank god the President has the whole thing under control.

Dave in Japan sent over this wonderful article on antique 19th Century Japanese fireman's coats. Check out the marvelous graphics on these jackets.

From Jerry Hall

Marco Rubio tried his best to demonize the devil weed yesterday, to the never ending delight of twitter.

Michael Calvanese sent over this thoughtful excerpt from the new Edward Achorn book- Lincoln visits Frederick Douglass

Jonathan Hill sends over a video of Hindu Trump worship in India. Praise Kali.

FPUD and Rainbow Municipal Water are trying to leave the San Diego County Water authority and buy direct. It makes sense, we don't use any of their infrastructure but are on the hook financially. Read more about the issue here.
The Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District say they are in a unique position to divorce themselves from the Water Authority because Metropolitan pipes run right past their geographic areas.
All of the improvements made by the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) to its elaborate piping and storage system to the south do nothing for Fallbrook and Rainbow, the agencies argue.
“Due to our unique location in the very northern reaches of the county, Fallbrook does not use SDCWA facilities or pipelines; however, we are required to pay for infrastructure improvements even though they provide no benefit to our customers,” Fallbrook General Manager Jack Bebee said recently.
Two Fallbrookians, Jerri Patchett and Ann Wade, wrote good letters to the Union Tribune this morning supporting the move. It will be an interesting decision since the other customers have no financial incentive to make us stop paying their bills.

Still no word from the doctor, maybe later today.

Monday, February 24, 2020

I hurt you, you hurt me - The Pretenders


Underground hero.

Mitch Ryder

I played dj for my wife last night. My songlist had a real Detroit feel, her home town. Started with the Marvelettes, cycled to Bob Seger System and The Last Heard and ended up on the incredibly underrated Mitch Ryder. Lets hear it for the Motor City.

Bern warning

There are 395 bills passed by the house languishing right now on Mitch McConnell's desk, bills destined to never see the light of day, much less a vote. My GOP friends (yes, I still have many) are giddy about this, no bills means limiting government in their way of thinking.

We could argue about the wisdom of this but why bother, no one is moving off their positions these days, the country being so politically balkanized. The center, as I repeat ad nauseum, is dead.

But if you think that things have crawled to a standstill in this political dynamic, try to imagine a future where Bernie Sanders is President. It will be pitched warfare. You think Mitch McConnell will move a finger to help enact his agenda? Beyond doubtful.

The left says, well, we have to take back the Senate too but in this safely divided and gerrymandered country that we live in, what is the real possibility of that? Very slim I think. With Bernie leading the nation and an entrenched GOP senate we are guaranteed to stay at a dead stop. With Trump at the helm and the current Senate in place, just watch what happens to Medicare and Social Security, that is why Mitch won't hold budget discussions before the election.

I am old enough to remember a day when Democrats and Republicans worked together across the aisle, they put aside their differences and worked together for the good of the country; Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch, the Concord Coalition, Tsongas, Cohen, Rudman, Baker. That bipartisan train has long since left the station. We now live in the Senate Majority Leader's twisted version of bloodsport, winner take all with never any talk of compromise.

The current rancid climate didn't start with Donald J. Trump but he poured gasoline on the fire and brought the presidency down to a place with the dignity and cultural equivalence of naked mud wrestling. He has been utterly enabled by a bunch of GOP hypocrites who won't utter a peep about his despicable behavior as long as they get their agenda enacted. The hope, or my hope one day, is to watch these rats scurry off a sinking Trump ship and trip over themselves disavowing any connection to the stench of this Presidency.

I am not a Bernie Sanders guy. If I had my druthers, Biden having entirely lost his fastball, I would pick Pete or Amy this time.

My hope is for the country to start working towards the middle again, to find a way out of our cultural civil war, if at all possible.

But the rise of a poisonous autocrat with no respect for the law like our current incumbent is causing the pendulum to swing and the result might just be a move to a nearly equally pernicious left.

People are angry, the national demographics are changing, income inequality is a fact of life, many of the young and minorities feel completely disenfranchised and the blowback could be powerful and even lead to a Sanders presidency.

My position is anybody but Trump. Bernie would be my last choice on the Democratic side but if we have lived through the Trump debacle and travesty, I guess we can live through Sanders's reign too. Anyone but Trump.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Get out of Denver

Word guy

I am a word guy and a few new interesting ones have come across my bow in recent days that I was not really familiar with. Thought that I would share them with you.

Kayfabe is a word for the fake wrestling code of omerta. Hard A on the second syllable. Portraying something that is bullshit as real. It originated as an old carny term.

The king of sesquipidalia, George Will, launched this one with a straight face in normal conversation a few months ago. A tergiversator falsifies by the use of vague and ambiguous language. A rat, an equivocator.

A "Karen" is an entitled woman who thinks that she is better than anyone else and deserving of special treatment. If you go to the YouTube channel RedWheel you will meet a lot of Karens.

A pettifogger is a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable , a shyster, one given to quibbling over trifles. Chief Justice Roberts recently brought this word back to the fore.

Government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state.

Postscript, Doug G. sent this new and very descriptive word over for our modern lexicon - the fuckening.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Going Going Gone

Drill baby drill!

I read about this story a few months ago, big out of state corporate farms moving into the Arizona desert, drilling really deep in an unregulated environment and wouldn't you know it, the locals' wells are now running dry?

I meant to write about it before. This was the excellent NBC article that alerted me to the situation.
...After living in the state for 32 years, she finally bought a house in the small town of Elfrida that had “million-dollar views” and farmland to grow crops.
A few years after moving in, in 1997, though, her well went dry. Like all homes in Cochise County, hers depended on underground water, so she took out a $15,000 loan to deepen her well. Seven years later, it went dry again, and she couldn’t afford to borrow the $35,000 to drill a new, deeper one.
“I saved all my life, I saved in the military, I saved as a teacher, I saved, and saved, and saved — that's the way I was brought up,” Reynolds, 73, said. “And I lost everything.”
She was forced to abandon her home, move back to Bisbee, a city 30 miles southwest where she had lived previously, and put her house on the market. Eleven years later, it’s still for sale, and she’s still paying off the loan on that dry well.
More here.
Arizona’s groundwater law largely does not apply to rural areas like Willcox, which means that land is particularly attractive to large farms. Companies can pump as much water as they want; they don’t even have to monitor how much they use.
And they appear to have the local politicians firmly in their pockets.
...additional regulations have faced opposition from some agribusinesses and the Cattle Growers Association, a lobbying group, as well as elected officials including state Rep. Gail Griffin, a Republican who chairs the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee in the Arizona House of Representatives. Thomas Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources, said he couldn’t convince the legislature to consider the water monitoring bill.
The latest:

In southeastern Arizona, farms drill a half-mile deep while families pay the price

You don't miss your water... until your well runs dry.

Wilson's Warbler

Dopey regs and chazers

Investment banker Lloyd Blankfein says that he might have a harder time voting for Bernie than Trump.
“Look, it’s crazy not to acknowledge the economy has expanded under Trump,” Blankfein said, attributing the growth in part to the 2017 GOP tax law and Trump’s elimination of “dopey regulations.”
The ex Goldman Sachs CEO and self professed democrat is certainly entitled to his opinion. I have my own problems with Bernie's policies but I don't need to go into that now. While you can argue about the magnitude of Trump's effect on the economy and there is certainly room for legitimate disagreement, it is easy to forget that Obama was tasked with rescuing the country from a devastating Bush recession. You didn't clean up our mess fast enough!

What I take issue with is the "dopey regulations" part of his statement. Which dopey regulations? The ones that would keep banks like Wells Fargo from opening sham accounts for unknowing consumers? Or the Volcker rule that kept big banks from risky speculative trading? The ones that protect our environment and well being? Trump has dismembered consumer and environmental protections in this country and left a trail of tears too long to delineate. The effects will be felt throughout the world for generations and I think will ultimately really endanger our planet in a critical way. But by the time it enters the calculus of money people like Blankfein it will probably be too late.

Water. (from Earthjustice)
On Jan. 23, 2020, President Trump unveiled his administration’s Dirty Water Rule. In one fell swoop, the administration plans to declare that a significant proportion of the streams, lakes, bays, lagoons, wetlands, headwaters, and more across the nation no longer count as “waters of the United States.” For those excluded waterways, federal protections under the Clean Water Act will no longer apply, and few protections will remain to stop polluters from dumping toxic byproducts into our waters.
More Mercury, More Problems: Another proposal, dubbed the “Toxic Water Rule,” would weaken pollution controls for coal-fired power plants. Power plants are by far the largest contributors of toxic pollution into our waters, dumping a toxic stew of mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium into waterways, even though there are affordable solutions to clean up these discharges before they reach our surface waters. Earthjustice has long been involved in this issue.
Skip This Part if You’re Eating: Yet another anticipated Clean Water Act attack concerns a regulation with a viscerally gross title: the “Sewage Blending Rule.” This would make it easier for wastewater treatment plants to release raw sewage blended with treated wastewater into waterways, if their treatment systems get overwhelmed by major “wet weather” events. (In related news, the climate crisis will bring more of these events.)
Another Crappy Loophole: Finally, the Trump administration has adopted a radical new interpretation of some facets of the Clean Water Act, creating a water pollution loophole. The Trump administration’s EPA issued guidance that pollution discharges into protected waters via groundwater are categorically excluded from Clean Water Act regulation. In other words, polluters can get away with sullying clean water by indirectly disposing of their waste through groundwater. Earthjustice went to the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2019 on a case related to this very issue.

Trump administration slashes funding for Climate Change centers.

NEPA rollback.
The Trump administration is proposing to break new ground in its efforts to de-emphasize climate change, in this case involving the landmark 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its provisions requiring environmental impact statements. A Trump Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposal would allow review of environmental impact statements without consideration of projected impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and effects on the global climate.
Climate change is drying up the Colorado River, putting millions at risk of 'severe water shortages.'

Mercury pollution. Trump's EPA takes a position that is more pro-pollution than the position of polluters themselves.

Trump tries to roll back Obama Era fuel efficiency standards.


Trump proposes slashing funding for Superfund clean up.
The Associated Press reported in January, the Trump administration has built up the biggest backlog of unfunded toxic Superfund clean-up projects in at least 15 years, nearly triple the number that were stalled for lack of money in the Obama era, agency figures show.
Executive Orders. Trump simply does an end around to get around environmental safeguards when he finds them inconvenient. Hence the decimation of Border wall environmental analysis. And then there are the executive orders.
The Trump administration, as part of their "Energy Dominance" initiative, has consistently sought to streamline the domestic energy production process. These two executive orders follow in that pattern.
The first order directs the EPA to reconsider a part of the Clean Water Act. "Section 401" of the Act requires any oil or gas project that could potentially contaminate waters regulated under the act to receive state-level certifications and approvals. In the past, states have occasionally denied those certifications, preventing pipelines and other infrastructure from being built. If the EPA re-evaluates this section of the act, companies would be able to sidestep the state certification process, streamlining the pathway to construction.
The second order asserts that the president has the authority to “issue, deny, or amend” any permits for pipelines or other infrastructure projects that cross international borders. Previously, that authority lay with the secretary of state. Most notably, this decision would apply to permitting decisions concerning TransCanada Corporation's controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a project that, if completed, could carry some 800,000 barrels of oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast each day.
I could go on and on, the problems at Interior, the sell off of public lands to mining and grazing interests, the diversion of water to corporate farming interests that will decimate California fish populations.

Drill 4 million more acres in Alaska, harvest half the pristine 16 million acre Tongass, the largest rainforest in North America.

The problem with these dopey regulations is that they don't seem so dopey at all when you finally realize how necessary they are to protect us from Trump and the corporate criminal class.

And how someday they might just save you or your loved one's lives.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Running up that hill


We are in that nice stage of Southern California winter, if Southern California can be said to have a winter, with a straight face anyway. The camellias are in full bloom in my yard, the blue ceanothus lilacs are starting to color the hilly walls of our native landscape, a bit earlier than usual, I might add. The red tailed mother is starting to sit in her nest and then she disappears for a few days, not really sure what is going on there.

Leslie saw a long tailed weasel pop out of a hole today in the front yard, not sure we have seen one take up residence before. Also known as the big stoat, this critter will wipe out a gopher population pretty quickly and I happen to have one that needs taming. I read once that the subspecies that lives near the Santa Margarita River is pretty rare, usually very blonde in color.

red shouldered hawk

Supposed to get a little rain tomorrow, we are a bit wetter than usual for the season and the rain is welcome, it has been timely this year and we haven't had to water too much.

Leslie bought some niger for the feeder and the finches seem real happy, the Cooper's hawk has been a regular visitor too, shrieking by in the morning looking for a little birdie snack.


I have been on a little bit of a downer, for a variety of reasons. Post anesthesia black and blues, the interminable waiting for results, a show in the desert that didn't really fire so well, one in which I bought a little too much and took in too little, woke up this morning to an overdraft notice from the bank. Pulled some money out of savings, money that was designated for the next catastrophe but will have to deal with that one when it comes...

Yesterday I went to the DMV to get a Real I.D. I brought a 1099 with partial social security numbers and a letter from the I.R.S. with the whole number. Haven't seen my social security card in about thirty years. The girl that checked me in said that what I brought was sufficient, I waited about three hours for the girl at the counter to contradict her and refuse to accept it. Called for her supervisor and then blew up at the inanity and insanity, in living color with f-bombs and more, probably on some permanent civil servant blacklist now.

Doctor told me to take it easy and not to stress, not to lift, but it is hard to chill right now. I took the van in to the dealer today, smelled like it was ready to burn up on the way back from Palm Springs. They couldn't figure it out but I had a recall notice to take care of and they had to reprogram a valve or something so I had another two hours to twiddle my thumbs today and not get anything accomplished.


I think I need a vacation. Haven't had a real one in a serious while. Leslie and I haven't gone anywhere together in ages. Feeling the wanderlust, want to get away. Can't afford it but need to do something. Would love to be in Yellowstone for the early spring, or in Costa Rica shooting birds, or in Hawaii staring into Waimea Canyon or just about anywhere beautiful that doesn't involve lots of people. But first I have an existential crisis to deal with and then I need a ship or two to come in.

I have some really interesting material that has come in recently including a magnificent and large Alson Clark oil painting, a wonderful Emil Kosa Jr. modernist work and a rare Michael Kabotie bracelet. I will get it all photographed and put a link on the blog to my website so that you can all check it out.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

School Days

Ray Gomez on lead, a classic! I still remember seeing Stanley Clarke for the first time, at the old San Diego State Open Air Amphitheater. What a treasure! Great sounds, amazing graphics behind the stage. I miss seventies fusion, seems like we have been digressing a bit, musically.

In the mail

In time

Checking in

I had my cysto yesterday. Had to come in an extra hour early so that the blue light solution could be infused into the bladder.

The nurses had a problem getting enough blood for all the tests, missed and poked, prodded and finally got enough, although you could have given Keith Richards a transfusion with what was spilled on my body and bed. A mess. I felt like a human pincushion. Was accidentally infiltrated once many years ago, almost lost my left arm during an IVP procedure and I am bit touchy about such things, especially pokes and long term venipunctures in the hand.

The anesthesiologist came in, a relatively young, tall, Jewish guy named Cohen. Sounded east coast, dour, little evident sense of humor. He asked if I had anything to eat since midnight and I told him just a tab of acid.

He said, "Really? I'm sorry but I have to make sure." I assured him that I was just kidding. Couldn't find a tab of acid these days if I tried. But then I asked him if I could have some music to fall asleep to.

He asked me what I wanted to listen to and I said Grateful Dead as it always relaxes me when I go under in these kinds of operations and I also think it has a good effect on the doctors and nurses. Hopefully get them grooving.

They put on Sirius Channel 23 and as I started to go under to the sweet strains of Jerry plucking the dulcet tones of The harder they come he asked me if I was sure I hadn't dropped the acid?

The procedure went well, I was out for a couple hours. The doctor took a bunch of what she termed were "little bites" out of the bladder wall and will get them analyzed for the presence of the nasty intruder. Unfortunately I won't get word for another five or six days so I am still in the waiting game, as you are. She wants me to take it easy, no lifting or straining and that is what I am going to do.

I was hungry and we stopped at Spicy City on the way home for takeout. Cumin lamb, tea smoked duck and homemade pickles and bamboo shoots from the cold bar. They were closed but they love my wife and cooked it up for us anyway. Great food which we devoured when we got home.

Will let you know when I know something.