Friday, November 27, 2009

MakeBeliefs Comix: Trust Walk

Comic strip in three panels. The first panel's narrative reads, "A Terrible Catch-22." A human-looking rabbit says "OK class... We're going to do a trust walk. You'll be divided in pairs." A human-looking cat thinks, "Oh no ..." In the second panel, the rabbit says, "You'll be divided in pairs. One of you will be blindfolded and the other will lead you around." The cat thinks, "I can't trust the other children." In the third panel, the cat's thinking continues: "They'll purposely walk me into things just so they can laugh at me. But the teacher is making me do this. I am so doomed."
Created with MakeBeliefs Comix
Does anyone else remember the terrible moral dilemma of “trust walks” from religious education? Speaking from her position of unquestionable authority, the teacher demands behavior that counters the child’s instinct for self-preservation.

Originally posted to Facebook

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Businesses need to be open when customers are free to shop

At least once a week on my way to work, I like to veer off of Highway 29 into downtown Kelseyville to pick up a loaf of fresh bread. Main Street Bakery is open early so I make my customary selection, a hearty multi-grain boule, get back into my car and continue on my way to work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Challenge Day addresses bullying head-on

A group of high school students from around the lake are raising money to finance Challenge Day at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport. Having heard first-hand from community volunteers who participated in Lower Lake and Middletown, I think this would be a worthwhile program at any and all of our schools because it deals with bullying head-on.

I especially like its motto, “Be the Change,” which encourages community residents to “Notice” what needs to change in their communities, “Choose” what they can do and then personally commit to “Act.”

A Clear Lake High School student did just that by submitting a guest commentary to the newspaper saying that bullying had to stop. The volly of objections that were raised to his column confirmed me in my belief that bullying is too often trivialized when it is not actively denied.

At an online forum, people fixated upon rallies at which upperclassmen boo the freshmen, taking a “who cares,” “it’s tradition” attitude and not devoting nearly enough attention to the writer’s account of having objects thrown at him and being the recipient of threats — except to elucidate the ways in which he somehow provoked it.

In other words, the victim of bullying is at fault for being the target of abuse.

Boy, was that a familiar story; I’d been told the same thing after writing about my experience with bullying in Calistoga schools. A vitriolic response to one of my columns exhibited classic hallmarks of bullying: verbal put-downs and threats of social exclusion. The writer took the view that I was responsible and that I could have fit in if I’d chosen to or tried.

I felt vindicated when a contemporary student’s account in my hometown newspaper confirmed the existence of bullying.

When I attended a production on my high school campus of “Bang, Bang You’re Dead,” not only did I observe that bullying was acknowledged but that it was also being addressed through programs like Challenge Day. I wish there had been a Challenge Day when I went to school.

The Challenge Day program clearly made an impact when it took place in the Lake County schools. “It’s an experience that’s difficult to explain,” stated letter writer Anita Gordon in  October 2006, describing her participation as an adult volunteer during Challenge Day at Lower Lake High School.  “You had to be there to understand the emotion and impact. Throughout the day I learned about what these kids and other adult volunteers have been through in their lives, and what students face both in and out of school. They learned about me as well. These kids were strong participants and it was a powerful day!”

Brien Crothers, a member of our Toastmasters club, shared similar observations when he described his experience with Challenge Day at Middletown High School.

Challenge Day asks communities to “Imagine a school where every child feels safe, loved and celebrated ... where bullying, violence and other forms of oppression are things of the past. This is the work of Challenge Day.” For more information about Challenge Day, visit

A group of people have pooled their efforts to bring Challenge Day to Clear Lake High School. The group includes several student participants from Clear Lake, Kelseyville and Lower Lake high schools. Meetings take place at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at Round Table Pizza in Lakeport.

Group publicist June Wilson said the goal is to sponsor 200 students, at $35 apiece, for the first event as well as to pay for substitutes for each teacher who would like to attend. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 1314, Lakeport CA 95453 with checks payable to Challenge Day. All donations are tax deductible.

In addition to requesting funds, the group is also asking people to send brief letters supporting this event to CLHS principal Steve Gentry, 350 Lange St., Lakeport CA 95453.

Published Nov. 17, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book cart debuts in UUCLC Lending Library

Books shelved on three-level wheeled cart
Photo circa June 2010
The mission of the UUCLC Lending Library is to serve as a resource for deeper understanding of the Unitarian Universalist faith and to present our congregation with reading material from a variety of spiritual traditions.

A double-sided, wheeled book cart debuted last week, which enables us to bring the lending library into the main hall each Sunday as part of set-up for services. Members of our congregation can sit and browse the books. As our library continues to grow, the cart will feature a rotating selection.

Any books checked out this Sunday, Nov. 15, have a requested return date of Sunday, Dec. 13. (The due date is always four weeks after the checkout date, although you are certainly welcome to bring books back before that time has lapsed.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There's never enough money for libraries

I spent some time placing requests this week via the online library catalog that connects Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County branches. A few days later, I received a phone alert from the Sonoma County Library, letting me know that my books were ready at the Lakeport library.

My first stop when arriving at the Lakeport branch was the Friends of the Library sale shelves. Their continually-changing inventory includes classic and contemporary fiction, as well as non-fiction books on a variety of subjects. You can't beat the prices either, $1 for a hardcover book and 50 cents for a paperback.

Next I headed over to the shelves where requested books have been filed.

Whenever I check out books I've requested, I like to look on the barcode label to see where the books originate. "Warriors No. 6: The Darkest Hour" by Erin Hunter came from the Lake County Library while "Inkspell" by Cornelia Funke arrived for me in Lakeport via the Sonoma County Library. Because Lake County participates in a shared online catalog, the books can come from any branch library within our three-county system.

Friends of the Library describes the public library as "one of the main cultural and information centers of the community." It's a sentiment that I agree with.

Sadly, during the winter break, 13 Sonoma County libraries will go dormant. The Sonoma County Library system plans a 10-day furlough to help make up for a budget shortfall. During this furlough, its Web site and online services will also be shut down.

Because these libraries are linked online to our own library branches, these closures will also affect the patrons of our Lake County libraries.

Noting my place at 14 in the queue for "Parallel Play" by Tim Page, I observed that there are three copies within our three-county network and that they are part of collections at the Santa Rosa Central Library and at the Rohnert Park-Cotati and Windsor regional libraries.

I contacted the Sonoma County Library via Facebook and asked how the closures would affect libraries in Lake and Mendocino counties: specifically whether there will be anyone at the Sonoma County libraries logging returns and forwarding requested books to the next user in the queue.

The administrator of the Facebook page stated, "If you request a book that is only owned by Sonoma County Library, you will not receive it during the furlough. No one will be forwarding requests from Sonoma County Library during this period." The administrator added, however, that I can still place new requests during the furlough period.

This experience is a perfect example of our libraries' interconnected relationship. Besides, I don't kid myself for a moment that our Lake County libraries are magically immune to shortfalls. There are always additional needs not covered in the library budget. Hence I contribute via book sale purchases to Friends of the Lake County Library.

Sherman Alexie, a novelist and author of several short-story collections, says in a Mother Jones interview that reading a book involves all your senses, but it's about conservation as well. "If I had been talking about drowning polar bears, people would have been weeping with me," he says. "But nobody recognizes that a bookstore or library can also be a drowning polar bear. And right now in this country, magazines, newspapers and bookstores are drowning polar bears. And if people can't see that or don't want to talk about it, I don't understand them at all."

You can read the abbreviated interview in the November/December issue or read it in-full online at And you can request Alexie's books, by the way, through your public library.

How many books would be out of my reach, due to personal budget limitations, if not for our public libraries? The upcoming furloughs at Sonoma County libraries make it all the more important to support our local libraries.

To learn more about our public libraries and access the card catalog online, visit

Published Nov. 10, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Monday, November 9, 2009

Toastmasters: Tenacious Talkers hosts open house

By guest writer Suzanne Frey

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA -- Eighty-five years ago on Oct. 22, Dr. Ralph C. Smedley held the first official Toastmasters meeting in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana.

Clubs around the world will celebrate the anniversary with special meetings. Locally, Toastmasters club No. 8731, Tenacious Talkers, will hold an open house, 6:15 p.m. Nov. 19 at 2150 Argonaut Road in Finley. For more information, contact club Vice President of Education Greg Scott at 707-263-5350 for more information.

Not even Dr. Smedley could have envisioned the history he was making on Oct. 22, 1924. The organization that started as a small group of people dedicated to teaching after-dinner speeches to young men has evolved into a worldwide leader in communication and leadership development. Since that first meeting in 1924, more than 4 million people have benefited from the Toastmasters experience.

“Toastmasters’ long-term success and growth is a tribute to Dr. Smedley’s vision,” said Toastmasters International President Gary A. Schmidt. “He understood that communication isn’t optional and leadership isn’t always innate, but both can be learned through doing.”

Today, Toastmasters’ 250,000-plus active members participate in more than 12,500 clubs spanning 106 countries. From Dubai to New Zealand, Saskatchewan to Connecticut, each day thousands of Toastmasters participate in meetings to learn and practice valuable communication and leadership skills in a supportive environment.

Michael Avedissian of Reading, Pennsylvania, is one of the organization’s longest-term members. He moved from Germany to the United States in 1954 and joined Toastmasters the following year. He credits the Reading Toastmasters Club with saving his engineering career and his new life in America by helping him learn and practice English. “Toastmasters gave me the ability to deliver the reports and presentations that were required for my career.”

Many organizations stall or even crumble during difficult economic times. Toastmasters has withstood the test of time and has even grown 5 percent annually since 2005 because it offers practical skills that are critical for success in today’s competitive environment.

Ann Maxfield of Austin, Minn., recently was able to begin a new career as an e-learning coordinator at Hormel Foods. With her Toastmasters training, she aced the interviews. “People in management know about Toastmasters and look to it as valuable training for the skills and experiences they require in employees,” she said.

The Toastmasters program also helps political and business leaders prepare for the demands of their positions. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle is one of many with political aspirations who found help in Toastmasters. “It is the best and least expensive personal improvement class you can go to,” said Lingle.

For more information about Toastmasters International and about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit For more information about Tenacious Talkers, visit

Blog author’s Note: This essay was provided by Toastmasters International to club vice presidents of public relations to personalize with information about their clubs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library book cart

Imagine a portable double-sided book shelf, parked next to the most comfortable chairs in the Kelseyville Senior Center’s main hall, where members of our congregation can sit to browse books in the UUCLC Lending Library. Your librarian ordered a book truck, which arrived this week. Look for it to make its debut with a rotating selection of books.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can musicians' clout shut down Guantánamo?

A group of musicians has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out whether their music was played at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. In my opinion, wielding music as a weapon or as an instrument of torture is a gross perversion of its significance.

The Doonesbury Flashbacks that appeared in the Record-Bee this week provided a fictional illustration of music forming a soundtrack to U.S. conflict. Toggle, a young soldier who has been deployed to Iraq , explains that he creates battle mixes for the soldiers in his brigade. "Whatever the guys want. Mostly rap and heavy metal -- evil, heart pumpin' stuff.

"If we're headed for bandit country, I need ear-bleed music like Slipknot to get pumped," Toggle explains to his passenger. "But if the mission's mellow, like today, I like bar bands."

Many of us can relate to Toggle selecting music that compliments his day. We load our iPods with our favorite tunes and retreat from the outside world into an audio sanctuary. Some of us even mix compilation CDs for our friends. Selecting and sharing your favorite tunes is an intensely personal communication.

But the use of music by our U.S. military goes far beyond soldiers' personal enjoyment. The American Civil Liberties Union has compiled numerous documents through a five-year-old Freedom of Information Act request. More than 130,000 pages of official government documents detail ways in which music was used as a method of interrogation.

The ACLU also interviewed former Guantánamo detainees about their experiences in U.S. custody.

"[W]hen they have something [like heavy metal] to replace your thoughts …it’s extremely hard to concentrate on things and it would make you hallucinate and it would make you see… things that is not there," said Ruhal Ahmed, a 27-year–old, life-long British resident who was subjected to a combination of loud music and stress positions during his two-and-a-half years at Guantánamo.

I've experienced adverse reactions to music that was played too loudly. I've observed that fatigue and stress further limit my resilience in a loud environment. So I believe that Guantánamo inmates experienced pain that was deliberately invoked.

The musicians' requests for information about the way in which their music was used stems from former detainees' testimony and from released government documents. According to Mother Jones and the ACLU, participating artists included REM, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, the Roots, Rise Against and Billy Bragg.

“When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantanamo , shackling and beating people — we were angry," The Roots said in a statement. "Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure we wouldn’t allow him to use it to torture other human beings. Congress needs to shut Guantánamo down.”

If you think musicians don't have clout to back up their rhetoric, guess again. The open mic in Clearlake had to shut down briefly in mid-2007 after the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers asked for a yearly license fee of $388. The monthly venue was able to resume in March 2008 after two KFOG D.J.s offered to pay the license fee for two years.

I thought such licensing demands against a small-town open mic were draconian and excessive -- but imagine if that clout could be wielded against the U.S. government for what were surely unauthorized broadcasts. That's a cause I'd support.

I appreciate what must surely be a sense of horror and disgust with which rock musicians are seeking to learn whether or not their music was wielded as an instrument of torture. For more information about the ACLU's investigation, visit The gross misuse of music is detailed under "Tortured Tunes," dated Oct. 22.

Published Nov. 3, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee