Thursday, August 31, 2006


Project completed this summer: Major repairs made to garage roof. The Weather Gods now have permission to let it rain.

Project to be completed in next two weeks: Paint garage, unless it rains.

Projects to be completed by October: Install rain gutters. Repair drywall and paint inside garage.

Biggest mistake: Removing a portion of interior drywall that didn’t need to be removed. What was I thinking? For one day, I thought it would be a good idea to tear our all the drywall and replace it. Had I left it in place, I could have repaired a few holes and painted over it. Luckily I only removed about 5 percent.

Most important tool used so far: High speed, high-torque drill. The drill is so powerful,that if you’re not careful you could break your wrist. Seriously.

Most used tool: My “garage boxes.” I have two of them. They are made out of 1-inch thick wood. Each box is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide and 8 inches high. They’re used for cutting wood, as stepping stools, to temporarily hold items, etc. etc. They are the most used “tools” year after year.

Most important article of clothing: Hat with large brim.

Future projects involving professional help: Rewiring garage and installing lights. I’m going to leave the electricity to the pros.

Mystery: There’s a particular kind of lock I’m looking for. The only place I’ve seen them is on TV. They’re on doors in ghettos. There’s a piece of metal that extends from one side of the door to the other on the inside. If they can be locked and unlocked from the outside, this would be ideal for my garage. Anyone know anything about these?

Shakira: I like everything about Shakira, except for one thing – she should only sing in Spanish. She falls flat when singing in English. Stick to Spanish. Other than that, don’t change a thing. What does this have to do with my garage? Nothing. However, I wouldn’t mind if Shakira came over and helped me with the drywall. Better yet, I’d like to tie some paint cans to her hips and let her shake them up.

Physical ailments as a result of project so far: Strained back muscles, gagged as a result of inhaling “Holiday Fogger” fumes (but did not vomit), scratches, a few small lacerations, sun burn, dehydration, severe case of the willies after being showered with termites.

Goofy side project: Today I stopped by the Arcata Recycling Center and purchased an old fashion window frame ($6) which will soon be transformed into the most awesome work of art since Pablo Picasso painted Guernica. This project has been on my mind for about a decade, but it wasn’t until today that I came across the necessary window frame at the right price. After it’s done, I’ll hang it, photograph it and post it here for a critique.

The goal of my first art creation in over a decade is for the viewer to have the following reaction:

1. Is that a window?

2. WTF?

3. I don’t get it.

4. Smile. (Laughing optional.)

5. Hmmmm? That’s odd and it serves no purpose, but I kind of like it.

If it works, I’ll hang it in the house. If not, maybe I’ll cut a hole in my garage and install it as an actual window.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Time to flush

The publisher of the Humboldt Advocate announced on his website late last night that his paper will “close and publish its last issue this September.”

We’ll just have to wait and see if that’s true. Shawn Warford doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to publishing as promised – nor does he have much regard for the truth.

He likes to write baseless conspiracy theories involving the Arkley family, especially local billionaire Robin Arkley Jr.

At one point he even suggested that my paper was funded, or even possibly owned, by Arkley. It’s not true, although I admit that I wouldn’t mind being on the Arkley payroll – especially if I got some vacation time. The most consecutive days I’ve taken off in last decade is three. Why? Because I have to be here to put out a paper EVERY week.

Warford didn't have that problem. The Advocate was a weekly newspaper, except during Warford’s multiple vacations when the paper wasn’t published at all.

I guess the news wasn’t important during those breaks. He just published willy nilly as he saw fit.

Then he promised to come out every other week. But that didn’t happen either.

He also promised that in his newspaper’s absence, news articles would be posted on his website. That didn’t happen very often. You can’t blame that on advertising dollars, just laziness.

Now he’s going to close down in September, even though he was actually closed down all of August.

So who’s to blame for Warford’s failure? Arkley, of course. Life is simple. You got a problem? Blame it on Arkley. Financial problems? It’s Arkley’s fault. Gas pains? Arkley’s fault? Flat tire? Arkley’s fault.

Warford writes on his website “Humboldt County deserves an independent, non-Arkley paper that serves the people.”

News to Warford: Humboldt County has numerous independent, non-Arkley newspapers – the Redwood Times, Independent, Ferndale Enterprise, Humboldt Beacon, Times-Standard, North Coast Journal, Arcata Eye, The Lumberjack, Eco-News, McKinleyville Press and Bigfoot News.

Humboldt County has a single Arkley paper – the Eureka Reporter.

Although Warford sees Arkley as his nemesis, he once penned a letter praising the ER under his pen name Jan Johnson. Warford encouraged the ER to cover Arcata, thinking that this would be a good way to get back at his former employer, the Arcata Eye.

When he wasn't blaming his problems on the ER or the Eye, he blamed them on another former employer – the North Coast Journal – also alleged to be a puppet of Arkley. Warford was fired from the NCJ "with cause."

While I certainly won’t miss Warford, I do feel some sympathy for his freelance reporters – Elaine Weinreb and Cameron Langford.

Cameron covered the McKinleyville Community Services District and did a competent job. When I first met him, I said “Hi. I’m Jack with the McKinleyville Press. I’m a puppet of Arkley.” He had a sense of humor about it and seemed to be a regular guy just doing his job.

I’m sure Cameron can get a job elsewhere, although he should be careful about listing the Humboldt Advocate on his resume.

Now, can Warford find a buyer for his dozens of large, plastic, teal-colored newspaper boxes? Getting rid of those may be the biggest challenge of all.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Day at the Races

If live horse racing was a year-round activity in Humboldt County, I’d probably buy myself a plaid sport coat, subscribe to the Daily Racing Form and spend at least one day a week at the track.

But in Humboldt, we only have horse racing two weeks out of the year during the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale.

We made our annual trip yesterday and, compared to years past, we were pretty successful.

Being that we’re completely ignorant about the sport, our methodology for selecting horses is about as scientific as voodoo.

First, we look at the names. If a particular name jumps out at us, we bet on it.

Sometimes this works, but not always. In the third race I had a hunch that a mule named Candyman would place. Why? Because the “Candyman can,” as the song goes. But this “Candyman” couldn’t even get in the starting gate and was scratched.

In another race I based my bet on the horse inspection. I don’t recall its name, but one horse was very calm and its butt was shaved in a checkerboard pattern. It looked like someone put a lot of time into that horse’s ass. If they put the same effort into its training, perhaps it would be a winner. So I bet $2 on the horse to win, and it did.

I generally bet $6 per race – $2 to win, $2 to place, $1 exacta and $1 trifecta.

I didn’t win any exactas or trifectas, but I did win several wins and places.

In the sixth race I made out like a bandit. I liked the name Oregon Miracle, plus it was very calm upon inspection, so I picked it to win. My $2 turned into about $7.40. Even better was a horse named Breaking Contact in the same race. I selected this horse to place because it had terrible odds. It was a long shot. It placed and I won about $31. (Note: I didn’t write down the exact numbers, so these are rough estimates.)

After several drinks, a full day betting, junk food and some arcade games, we called it a day. Total damage: $19.

The gambling paid for itself, and then some. It was good fun and if it wasn’t for my work duties, I’d return this weekend.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Constituent Survey

Aug. 15, 2006

To: Rep. Mike Thompson

From: Jack Durham

Re: Constituent survey

Dear Rep. Mike Thompson,

I received a “constituent survey” mailer today. There wasn’t enough room on the survey to provide comments, so instead I’m sending in this letter.

Q. Should our government set a timetable to begin the redeployment of troops in Iraq and shift security responsibilities to the Iraqis?

Yes __X__ No _____

Comments: The Iraq war may very well be the biggest foreign policy blunder of all time, so I appreciate the fact that you voted against the original authorization to go to war. I’ll remember this at election time. Congress needs to demand and press for an exit strategy from Iraq. Congress should also hold hearings on how the war was bungled and why President Bush, the Secretary of Defense and Pentagon officials ignored repeated warnings that more troops were needed to secure Iraq. Heads should roll.

Q. Do you believe our government should be taking steps to reduce the effects of global warming?

Yes _X__ No: ____

Comments: I would like to hear some specific ideas on how you think this issue should be addressed. Oddly enough, I think the Bush Administration may have unintentionally found the solution – Middle East instability. That leads to higher gas prices. Higher prices encourage conservation and the use of alternative energy sources. These, in turn, reduce green house gas emissions.

Q. Should new policies on immigration, in addition to border enforcement, include provisions for guest workers?

Yes __X__ No _____

Comments: That’s a vague question, being that the devil’s in the details. Realistically, I don’t expect anything but token changes in immigration policy from congress. Illegal immigration fuels the California economy with cheap labor. I doubt that the wine industry, which funds your campaigns, would appreciate any change in immigration policy which would reduce the flow of cheap labor. Why ruin a good thing?

Q. What issues are you most concerned about (check all that apply)?
X Crisis in the Middle East?
Gas and energy prices
X Global warming
X Healthcare costs and access
Retirement security
Education and vocational training
X National security
X Environment and conservation of natural resources
X Government spending and debt reduction

Comments: I’m curious why jobs and economic growth were not included on this list. Speaking of jobs, thank you for including a provision in the recent wilderness bill to allow commercial beach fishermen to continue to ply their trade at Redwood National and State Parks. Even though the industry only employs a couple dozen fishermen, it provides them with jobs and an alternative way to make a living when they can’t fish elsewhere.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kombucha? WTF...?

(Kombucha drinker before and after? Source:

I enjoyed Luke T. Johnson’s cover story, “Kombucha Culture, Stories of a Living Tea,” in today’s North Coast Journal.

Kombucha is a fermented tea, sometimes referred to as mushroom tea. The New-Age types claim that the tea is some sort of wonder tonic which can “cure everything from hangovers to AIDS – even flatulence and baldness,” the article states.

But there’s a downside – bacterial contamination.

Fortunately there were no restaurant advertisements on page 10 of this week’s Journal, because Luke wrote about some really disgusting side effects of the tea, like the child who had a “horrendous diaper rash” and the woman who developed “ulcers in the nose.” What the hell was she doing giving that stuff to her kid?

But it gets worse. Much worse.

Thanks to the mystical tea, a woman developed a case of “Strep-vaginitis.” “She had basically pus in her vagina,” the article stated.

Nice touch, Luke! Details, details, details.

Waves of nausea... holding stomach... not in the mood right now to read Bob Doran’s Table Talk...

On the next page a woman says “It’s a harmonizing tonic more than anything.”

Only in Humboldt County.

One fellow is quoted as saying “It’s almost like a drug. It definitely affects how you’re looking at things.”

I have some advice for him – skip the Kombucha and try a high-dose of yerba mate. Drink it the traditional way in high quantities over a long period of time. You’ll feel great.

Or drink coffee, America’s favorite anti-depressant.

As for Kombucha, I’ll pass.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Paper folds, paper opens

On Saturday I received the final issue of The Kourier, the weekly newspaper in Willow Creek.

The 39-year-old paper’s final edition includes a giant headline that reads “FAREWELL” atop Publisher J.F. Garst Jr.’s last editorial.

Garst informs readers that he’s sold his press, his forklift and that “this is probably the final editorial message which you will be reading from me.” He thanks all those who supported the paper and writes “The Kourier has been good to us.”

The last year or two have been difficult for Garst. He battled some health problems and then his wife died. He often wrote about his grief. It was from the heart.

Garst bought the paper back in 1974. That’s 32 years of publishing a paper – or roughly 1,600 weekly deadlines! That’s hard to imagine.

Garst deserves a happy retirement and I wish him the best.

I doubt there’s any coincidence that last week I saw the premiere edition of the Bigfoot Valley News, published by Yvette Troyna. It’s owned by Jerry and Jo Anne Troyna. It’s a weekly newspaper, which is published on Wednesdays and sells for 50 cents – just like The Kourier.

I didn’t get to read the first issue, only the second. So far, it looks like a small town newspaper, with lots of first-person commentary and first-person news reports. In issue No. 2 there were two photos of the publisher, an attractive looking woman who looks like she spends a lot of time down by the river (apologies to Neil Young.)

It will be interesting to see how the paper develops. I’m sure there’s a niche in Willow Creek, and the Bigfoot Valley News should be able to fill it.

The key is stamina. Week after week, the publisher has to be prepared to put out a paper – like Garst did for 32 years.

Some papers will be better than others. Some issues will be gems, some will be crappy. Some papers will be assembled with high spirits, some while you have the flu and wish you were dead. If you base your decision on when to publish on "how you feel." then fuck it. You might as well fold up. Deadlines are a bitch and they don't get any easier.

Deadlines are mandatory, not optional. Circumstances may cause you to be late, but you can’t skip an issue unless you're physically incapable of doing so. Even then you should strive to find an alternative.

Unless, of course, you’re the Humboldt Advocate, which is a weekly paper that comes out every two weeks except when it doesn't.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Food for thought

My favorite food item this week is the kebob. Every night we’ve been putting chunks of bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and slices of kielbasa on skewers. Then we brush them with locally made Larrupin Red Sauce and grill them on the electric hibachi. Good stuff. Next week I think I’ll make the same thing, but with chunks of lamb or pork or something else. It’s also time to buy a whole pineapple. That’s good on kebobs and for snacking.

To go along with the kebobs, I created a special dish – jalapeno polenta. It’s a recipe that I improvised, and it tastes like it. I would describe it as “unpleasant,” “mushy,” “unevenly cooked,” “muy picante,” “sweat inducing” and “intestinally painful.” If you’d like the recipe, let me know.

A couple weeks ago I saw a commercial on TV for the Subway Bourbon Chicken Sandwich. A Madison Avenue advertising agency made it look mouth-wateringly delicious on TV, so I picked one up for my weekly drive to Smith River. Big mistake.

The chicken had a Gummy Bear consistency and the “bourbon” sauce was like some sort of thickened high fructose corn syrup substance – a cross between teriyaki sauce and catsup. It was nasty and as I drove down Central Avenue gnawing on it at about 7:30 a.m., a giant gob of sauce dripped on to the front of my shirt.

It was a bad way to start the day.

The sandwich was really unpleasant. I would have returned it, but that really wasn’t an option after I ate the whole thing.

I don’t typically eat sandwiches for breakfast. I prefer bagels.

My favorite is a Los Bagels garlic bagel. It’s dense, reeks of garlic and keeps the vampires away.

Almost as important as the bagel you select is what you put on top. I rotate several basic recipes.

One of my favorites is to slather the bagels with low-fat cream cheese and cover them with gobs of Mad River Farms Jalapeno Jelly. That stuff rocks. That’s probably more sugar than one should eat for breakfast, so I only eat this a couple times a month.

Or, I make the bagel with cream cheese, grated carrot, scallions and chopped olives. I cover this with a generous dose of Larrupin Mustard Sauce.

Other options include cream cheese/tomato slices/onions. or a cream cheese/pesto mix.

All of these bagels are washed down with a low sodium V8 spiked with Tobasco sauce and black pepper.

When I grow tired of the bagels, sometimes I eat what I call a “Chinese Breakfast.” It’s loosely based on what my parents said they ate for breakfast when they visited China in the late 1980s.

I make a bunch of rice the day before. Before breakfast, I nuke a bowl of rice. I toss in some scallions, peanuts, raisons, hard-boiled egg and soy sauce. Viola – Chinese breakfast.

Authentic? Probably not. But it serves its purpose.

More than anything, I’ve been ingesting a lot of water lately. Seems like when I’m not sitting behind the computer, I’m either cruising on the electric bike conducting business, or working on the garage.

It’s hot work. Which reminds me – we need to make some sun tea.

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