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Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Please note that the good stuff is in the entries for June 13 and June 14 that are now available. Lotsa pictures there, none here. Today was nowhere near as action-packed. And if you want great photographs, what're you doing here? Check out The Sole Proprietor or Late Night Snacks (best cat photography anywhere).

I've started picking up the Press Democrat (Santa Rosa's hometown paper) on my daily errand run to the post office and beyond. I'd been getting Mom's old papers, but I was usually at least two or three days late catching up on the local news. Sometimes it would drag on to a week or more, and by that time all I wanted to read was the comics, the obituaries, and the letters to the editor. (The latter two just to check for familiar names, including my own.)

With that lead-in, you'd probably think I have something cogent and perceptive to say about a critical Sonoma County issue. But I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the big deal problem of Southern California pests threatening our vineyards. I know it's important, and the fact that it's important emphasizes the agricultural nature of the area.

There' s a lot of political clout out in the fields, and the debate is over something that hasn't even happened yet. None of the glassy-winged sharpshooters has been found in the county, and yet Sebastopol has already passed a resolution against the spraying of pesticides, which no one has officially proposed yet.

So environmentalists accuse grape growers of overreacting to a nonexistent threat, and placing financial interests above public health. Nothing new there. Farmers accuse conservationists of overstating the threat of the chemicals and minimizing the impact of the insects on the economy. Same old story.

Well, this is just the kind of dilemma that I usually find myself planted firmly on both sides of. It's a curse to be able to poke and peer all around an issue, and yet not to have a clue how to resolve it.

But shouldn't people's health be protected, even at the expense of the grapes? Shouldn't there be some research into solving the problem without spreading poison into the air? Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves, since none of these insects has been identified in the North Bay? And why don't we wait and see how things work in Riverside, where they're already madly spraying away at pests that actually exist?

Not that I have an opinion or anything.

As with many problems, the perception that things have moved to a crisis level, and the sense that something has to be done, are more important factors than a rational analysis of the situation and a dispassionate examination of alternatives. Politics is dominated by this need for those in authority to give off an aura of activity.

I remember my first job in retail. Fresh out of college with my unmarketable English degree, I begged and whined my way into a position at a small family shoe store. I thought I had to keep moving all the time, like a fish swimming to stay alive, so you'd never find me at work without a dust rag in my hand. I polished the shine off every display shoe in the store, and I made the glass shelves sparkle. When I wasn't dusting I was sweeping - the stockroom, the selling floor, the sidewalk. I even cleaned toilets, which I rarely do in the privacy of my own bathroom.

Eventually my kindly old boss pointed out that there was nothing to be gained by keeping busy for its own sake. If there's nothing to do, don't do it, he told me. Time is better spent stepping back and looking at the displays, to try to improve them, even if you conclude that they're better left alone.

If only politicians would allow themselves to see things this way, problems might actually get solved, instead of just being restructured and reformatted for the next crew to have to deal with (starting over because the current regime did nothing but disguise the problem by dressing it in clothes that only made it look as if it were being solved).

Making an effort to understand an issue might lead to progress and resolution. But stepping back and thinking it over doesn't sell well. It looks too much like doing nothing, and it can push a result - any result - further off into the future. It's better to stir things up, even if it only makes it murkier. At least no one can say you didn't do anything.

So what CDs did I listen to today? Matchbox Twenty, Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. For some reason they were on my mind.

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Karen, Thought Experiment, June 20, Guess What? (Congratulations!)

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