Tuesday, November 30, 2010

‘Big Read’ puts everyone on same page

The book arrived from the publisher without any fanfare, wrapped in plain cardboard and sent through the U.S. mail. With no more effort than it took to tear open the perforated strip that sealed the package closed, the small church library that I oversaw was now part of a "common read." What an exciting moment!

My first experience with a common read was just a few years earlier, during an effort to encourage all of California to read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. My husband and I read aloud to each other from my copy that had been given to me by Beth Volkman, the Calistoga Junior/Senior High School librarian.

It was intriguing, as we read to each other, to know that across the state of California, other people were reading the same book and that, moreover, public events were promoting The Grapes of Wrath. One of those events was organized locally through the efforts of Harold Riley.

My experience taking part in a common read had been very enjoyable so when the organization that oversees our local church selected a common read, I knew that I wanted to make the book available to the members of my church: to give them a chance to have that much more in common with people in other communities, in congregations around the world.

Lake County similarly has a chance to get everyone on the same page, as it were, with a countywide "Big Read" through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The project is being administered through the Lake County Office of Education (LCOE).

The Lake County "Big Read" will officially be launched in October 2011, beginning with the poetry, short stories and essays of Edgar Allan Poe.

According to Robin Shrive, who is the English Department chair at Lower Lake High School, the steering committee chose Poe because many people are already familiar with his work. Shrive said her goal with the Big Read is "to encourage the community at large, and reluctant readers of all ages, to come back to literature."

According to the NEA the Big Read is designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. It cites its findings in 2004 that "not only is literary reading in America declining among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young."

The Big Read aims to address this crisis by providing citizens with an opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities.

As a lifelong reader and a volunteer librarian, I support these goals at both the local and national level.

Grant funding is available from the NEA but it requires a local match. The LCOE and the steering committee are seeking community partners.

A dinner and auction is scheduled for Jan. 8 at the Moore Family Winery. Proceeds go toward the one-to-one match that the federal grant requires. Tickets are on sale at various locations, including Big Read partner Mountain High Coffee and Books in Cobb and Hidden Valley Lake.

For more information about The Big Read, visit the NEA's Big Read Web site at www.neabigread.org. For more information about Lake County's Big Read, call Robin Shrive at 994-6471, ext. 2733.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Death of Josseline: UUA common read in UUCLC Lending Library

Book cover: The Death of Josseline by Margaret Regan
The Unitarian Universalist Association’s common read for 2010-2011, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands, has arrived in the UUCLC Lending Library.

“With a sweeping perspective and vivid on-the-ground reportage, Margaret Regan tells the stories of the escalating chaos along the U.S.-Mexico border. A varied cast of characters emerges as she rides shotgun with the Border Patrol, interviews deported Mexicans and angry Arizona ranchers, visits migrant shelters in Mexico, and camps out in the thorny wilderness with ‘No More Deaths’ activists.

“Using Arizona as a microcosm, Regan explores a host of urgent issues: the border militarization that threatens the rights of U.S. citizens, the environmental damage wrought by the new border wall, the desperation that compels migrants to come north, and the human tragedy of the unidentified dead in Arizona’s morgues.”

A common read is an invitation for a community to read and discuss the same book in a given period of time. Rose Hanig, UUA Bookstore manager, said she has found it to be “an excellent community building activity.”

Interested readers can download a Discussion Guide for UU Groups (PDF), a flexible plan for leading one to four meetings focused on a common read of The Death of Josseline.

This is one of many books that can be found in the UUCLC Lending Library. Look for the portable library cart in the sanctuary on Sundays.

Cynthia Parkhill
UUCLC Lending Library
November 2010
Distributed via email list

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Commitment to an animal lasts a lifetime

Kitten season is upon us again and a greater number of unwanted animals is being added to the county surplus. During this time I hear of kittens and cats that wandered into the care of people who are not able to keep them but who want to do the right thing.

Wild-born kittens are at risk of becoming feral if they are not socialized to humans. A socialized cat is an adoptable cat where a feral cat is not -- and, alas, too often a feral cat's fate is to be euthanized. According to shelter statistics on the Lake County Animal Care and Control Web site, 2,032 unadoptable cats were euthanized in 2009.

I would like to believe cats could exist in the wild since they're equipped by nature to be hunters -- provided the lessons are taught in childhood by a hunting adult cat.

One night I watched a parenting cat, in this case a surrogate father, attempt to teach a kitten how to hunt, catch and eat a mouse. In spite of what seemed, to me, to be a very clear pantomime by the adult cat, the kitten just didn't get it. The lesson ended with the still-living mouse crouched between the kitten's front paws as she sat there not sure what to do.

What I've observed is that feral cats tend to congregate near enough to humans to rely upon them for food. Thus feral cats pose a risk of disease and injury to domestic cats.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that one female cat will produce three litters in one year with each litter averaging between four to six kittens. Each kitten that survives to adulthood will produce more cats.

So the message I hope I am getting across is that adopting an animal should not be a casual decision. Don't take an adorable kitten home unless you are prepared to accept responsibility for that kitten for its entire life -- not just for the brief duration of its adorable kitten-hood. Animals mature, they get sick and they grow old. They need love and care all the while.

It might help to realistically access whether other animals in your household will welcome an intruder in their ranks. Remember too that owners of dogs and cats are required by law in Lake County to have them spayed or neutered.

There are low-cost spay and neuter programs in Lake County to assist low-income families. The SPCA of Clear Lake is loccated at 8025 Highway 29 near Clear Lake Riviera; call 279-1400. The Animal Coalition of Lake County operates out of Clearlake; call Rita at From Me 2 U at 995-0552.

Lake County residents might also consider donating the cost of a spay or neuter surgery to lower the cost of an animal adoption. Call 263-0278 for information.

For more information about various issues related to animal adoption and to lifetime care of an animal, visit the Lake County Animal Care and Control Web site, www.co.lake.ca.us/Government/Directory/Animal_Care_And_Control.htm.

Published Nov. 16, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

‘Hattitude’: Cat mask from Venice

Cynthia Parkhill wearing blue and gold cat-face carnival mask

Carnival mask, brought by my sister Lauren back from Venice, Italy. There are mixed opinions regarding its inclusion in the “Hattitude” photo album. I view it as akin to my brother Andrew’s clone trooper helmet, hence acceptable for inclusion, whereas a co-worker ventures the opinion that “Masks are for faces, hats are for heads."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Observer American, part of county history

The Clear Lake Observer American turned 75 years old on Saturday. I hope that the paper is as integral today to the lives of its readers as it was when it made its debut.

The "Clear Lake Observer" debuted Nov. 6, 1935 and in 1945 it merged with the "Clear Lake American" to form the paper that readers know today as the Clear Lake Observer American.

During the course of compiling a history for the Observer American, I was proud of the influential presence that it had in the local community. It was a strong advocate in support for incorporation of the City of Clearlake, which was approved Nov. 4, 1990 by a 42-vote majority. The paper was instrumental in promoting a branch of Yuba College in south Lake County and it supported preservation of Anderson Ranch and marsh as Anderson Marsh State Historic Park.

The Observer American stands ready today to publish letters to the editor and readers' submissions of articles. It offers readers a first-draft look at south Lake County history.

For eight years, my personal history has shared its course with the Observer American, working first out of the Clearlake office that houses the Penny Slaver and later returning to the Lake County Record-Bee newsroom in Lakeport.

Being the editor of a weekly paper has been a maturing experience. Each week, I have a deadline to build each edition's pages. In preparation for Tuesday's production, I read reporters' stories each day with a view toward weighing their importance for south Lake County communities.

Even though the reporter's byline is the name that everyone sees, I hope that I create a favorable impression for the stories that reporters write.

While the weekly paper tends to be overshadowed by its daily counterpart, I believe that weekly papers hold a special place in American communities.

For breaking news, readers can turn to the Record-Bee but if they miss the day's headlines, the Observer American comes out each Wednesday with a review of the week's top headlines for Clearlake and surrounding communities.

When I was growing up, my hometown paper provided my first exposure to journalism, an interest that continued as I lived in other communities. I would read the Weekly Calistogan each week that it was delivered to my mother's home. My mother's photo albums include newspaper clippings that preserve moments in her daughters' lives.

Today, there is a second weekly paper serving my hometown.

As I've grown up, I've continued the practice of engaging with my communities through the pages of weekly newspapers, many of which now have a Web component that supplements their printed publication.

I've clipped and saved letters to the editor that I've submitted to various community newspapers. Even today as a Lake County resident, I still find occasion to write letters to the editors of the Weekly Calistogan and the Calistoga Tribune -- except that today, I will likely post a link to the letter via Facebook.

I hope that young readers in south Lake County schools are similarly being exposed to their weekly newspaper, either through their home, their school or the public library .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More shelters needed at bus stops

Balancing my textbook and portfolio in the crook of my arm, I hold my umbrella over me while fishing in my pocket with my other hand to produce my Lake Transit pass. The arrival of rain, while otherwise welcome, necessitates this balancing act.

As I make my trip between Middletown and Lakeport, the transfer points are equipped with covered shelters but the beginning stop and the final destination are open to the elements. The Lake Transit Authority has been working toward bus stop improvements, but I would like to suggest that service clubs consider assisting toward these improvements.

The May 2010 meeting of the LTA included discussion of forming a Joint Powers Authority with the Konocti Unified School District to permit students to construct bus stop pads and install shelters. LTA has also worked with the Clearlake Rotary Club, which volunteered to help installing concrete pads for bus shelter installation (official minutes, May 2009).

LTA minutes are archived online under "Agendas/Minutes" at www.lakeapc.org.

The advantage of taking on a project like that of the Clearlake Rotary Club is that the addition of shelters and other improvements would provide immediate enhancements. The rainy season has just arrived and having a sheltered area to wait under would greatly promote the use of public transit.

Environmentally, it makes sense to travel by bus instead of being a single motorist who commutes to work by car. If the bus schedule works for you, why not at least give it a try, particularly if a covered stop will keep you dry while you wait for the bus?

I like to use some of my bus travel time to catch up on assigned readings for my class.
Between Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis clubs in several of our communities, not to mention area business associations, there are plenty of stops that could benefit. Why not consider working with Lake Transit to  "adopt" one or more stops that are in need of improvements?

A Transit Passenger Facilities Development Plan for Lake County, prepared by LSC Transportation Consultants, Inc. and Pat Piras Consulting, outlines essential design principles including riders' ease of boarding and deboarding and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) requirements.

The document makes recommendations that are based upon the number of boardings per day, with a bench enhancement for those that have between five and nine boardings per day and shelter reserved for those sites with 10 or more boardings per day.

Personally, I'd advocate an "If you build it, they will come" attitude -- particularly if a service club is willing to make up the difference between what the document recommends and installation of full shelter. I think a shelter would make for great publicity to attract new riders to board, especially if a weatherproof panel could show a a map of routes and times for that stop.

The Transit Passenger Facilities Development Plan can be viewed at www.lakeapc.org/docs/Transit%20Passenger%20Facilities%20Development%20Plan%202006.pdf.

Published Nov. 2, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee