Monday, August 21, 2006

Barbie Rivera & HELP Miami

Barbie Rivera has been running a tutoring center in Miami that has produced many thousands of hours of effective tutoring over the last few years. She sends out a riotously funny newsletter every week that is full of her viewpoint about helping children learn to read, helping keep them off psychiatric drugs and helping them sort out the false mis-labeling the psychiatrists have applied to them; ADHD, ADD, math disorder, dyslexia, and the like. She's expanding, opening another center in California this year. The center in Miami has achieved international press for the HELP Miami center (part of the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project). I just want to wish Barbie good luck! We need more people like her in the trenches teaching children how to read--especially the ones that the psychs have given up on and labeled so they can be drugged for profit, and that the schools don't know what to do with. These kids are often problematic and a real handful at first. Wouldn't you be, if you'd been determined to be uneducatable and consigned to second or third class status by an uncaring educational institution? The main thing that comes through Barbie's newsletters (aside from how she manages to get people to help her help kids) is the incredibly high level of actual care she (and her staff) give to these kids. There are no easy answers - sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and just do the work, wade in and ask the kid what's going on. And you have to have a technology of education that actually works, not the busted-ass, non-functional, over-priced, uncaring and sometimes crippling educational system that exists in our schools today. Sure, individual teachers try, and of course they care. But without the right tools to help, their care and "help" becomes betrayal when the kids start being labeled and drugged, instead of educated.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Scientology tax victory in UK

The Telegraph reported a Scientology tax victory in UK - where Scientologists have been being discriminated against since the 60's. I'm in it. I'm telling you right here and now, I'm a Scientologist. It's my religion, not a hobby. I've been a practicing minister since 1976, performing funeral services and the occasional wedding, and ministering to others in our community. We have churches all over England, the US, and the world, for that matter. That should be all that's needed to prove it to anyone that it's a religion. It should be tax-exempt if other religions are tax exempt -- else it is just discrimination based on some sort of favoritism. Should a Shinto temple have tax exemption? What about a Buddhist monastery? A mosque? A Christian Science reading room? A non-denominational backwoods Christian church with only 10 members, meeting in someone's trailer? A Hopi tribal congregation? Absolutely, to all. That's the only view that makes any sense if you're giving tax exemption for being a religious institution. Now the VAT Tribunal has ruled that UK Revenue & Customs has to pay at least £4.1m in past payments to the Church of Scientology of England. This is very good news for all those who have had taxes collected by an "inept and inadequate" Revenue & Customs, which has clearly overstepped its bounds since that first, obviously mistaken ruling nearly 30 years ago that Scientologists had to pay VAT, while the other churches in England didn't. It's our money, they've held it for far too long, and I, for one, am glad that we have it back where it will do some good, funding projects to increase literacy in England, to help get people off drugs, and to educate people about morality.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Recent photos of the ranch

Here are some recent photos from around the ranch, showing logging and some work that was done restoring fish habitats on our creek.

This first picture is some logging being done on one 40-acre parcel in the remotest part of the ranch. They took out mostly Douglas fir, White fir and some alder. Even some red cedar. The baby trees (less than 10 years old) you see in the adjacent lots (left and right of our logging operation) belong to the BLM. We want our replanting to look like that! It's much harder than you'd think to achieve.

logging on Chandler Ranch 2006

Next are some photos of logs placed in the creek by a Stream Restoration expert -- they were dragging around trees, rootwads and all, and putting them in the creek. In the winter the creek can get to be 6-8 feet deep at times, and a lot of water moves through it. If there are no trees in the streambed, then it scours the sand and rocks away and leaves only "boulders and bedrock", which is what much of our creek was liike. This was a result of forest management practices of the mid 20th Century - when old time foresters and Fish & Wildlife people were telling us to clean out the creeks of all trees. That was done, and the result was fewer fish. They need the gravel that builds up behind the fallen trees, to spawn and spend their first months of life hiding from predators. There are more fish in the creek now than we have seen for many years, as a result of some work that was done like this in other areas of the creek in the last few years. These trees will be half-buried in rocks and gravel by this time next year, and we'll have even more fish.

stream restoration project 2006

stream restoration project 2006

And here are some red elderberries -- they grow everywhere here and are large plants 15-20 feet high, 10-15 feet in diameter. I've cut one down to a stump and had it be 10 feet tall the next year - that's one year's growth. We've heard these can be eaten if boiled first, but they smell so nasty when you pick them it hardly seems worth the effort. Even the birds leave them alone. They are pretty, though!
Red elderberry