Thursday, January 26, 2023

Why Do We Have Two Pasty Restaurants in Grass Valley?


 During the first few years after our arrival in Nevada County, California, from the Midwest, I pondered a few questions in connection with these pasty restaurants in Grass Valley.  First, I wondered what in the world is a pasty?  Second, why are there two restaurants in Grass Valley where you can buy them?  Finally, why are there no pasty restaurants in Nevada City, California, which is only five miles from Grass Valley? 

Eventually after being here for some time, I asked a local friend what is a “pastey” (“a” as in waste)?  After giggling for a second, my friend politely told me that it is pronounced “pasty” (“a” sounds like apple) and that it is a flaky meat pie with origins in Cornwall, England.  His answer seemed quite random yet quite specific at the same time.  Meat pie? Cornwall?  California?  So, I pressed him further and asked why there are two “pasty” restaurants in Grass Valley.  His response was very simple.  Miners from Cornwall, England, immigrated to the Grass Valley during the gold rush after 1849, and their wives made them pasties to be eaten in Empire Mine while working.  Being observant, I inquired of my friend as to why there are no pasty restaurants in the old mining town of Nevada City just a few miles away, and he had no idea.  In truth, I am not a fan of the pasty, as they are pretty bland and not very flavorful.  Yet, the pasty supports two separate restaurants in Grass Valley, and the tradition of the Cornish miners lives on.  Grass Valley even has a Cornish Christmas, but why do the Cornish mining traditions remain in Grass Valley and not in Nevada City which is quite literally just over the hill. 

One must understand the nature of mining in California and in the old Empire Mine.  In 1848, John Marshall discovered flecks of gold in the south fork of the American River at Sutter’s Mill located in Coloma, California, about 30 miles southeast of Grass Valley.  Marshall discovered these alluvial gold nuggets in the riverbed and sparked the California Gold Rush.  Thousands and thousands of people emigrated from the east coast of the USA and thousands and thousands also immigrated from Asia, South America, and Europe to partake in the gathering of these gold nuggets laying the rivers of the west slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Over the next couple decades or so, all of this alluvial gold was scooped up by “placer miners.” 

Once the rivers were empty, the miners started mining the actual mountains from where the alluvial gold had originated thousands, if not millions, of years ago.  The problem for the miners was that the California gold is trapped within the granite and quartz of the Sierra Nevada.  Such gold entrapment required knowledge of hard rock tunnel mining, and the Cornish of Cornwall, England, had this mining knowledge which was developed from mining in the Cornwall region since the early Bronze Age.  The Empire Mine was a quartz mine which mined tons of quartz smashing the quartz with giant “stamps” thus freeing the gold from the quartz.  The average yield was about $30 per ton of quartz.  In 1866, and according to the Report on Precious Metals form the Paris Exposition in 1869, Grass Valley had 292 stamps dedicated to gold mining operating in the town while Nevada City had only 147 stamps.  That said, of the 147 stamps in Nevada City dedicated to gold mining, most of the stamps were associated with hydraulic mining and not quartz mining.  According to statistics published by Ralph Mann and in 1860, twenty-two percent of the miners in Grass Valley were from England while only 13% of Nevada City miners were from England.  By 1870 and after quartz mining began to accelerate as alluvial gold disappeared, a whopping 60% of the miners in Grass Valley were from England while only 18% of Nevada City miners were from England. 

By the time Empire Mine closed in 1957, the Cornish miners had created miles of tunnels some even as deep as 11,000 feet and had removed over 5,800,000 ounces of gold had been separated from the quartz fissures.  Not only did the Empire Mine Company become one the greatest mining businesses in California, the mine became the central hub for the creation to the little town of Grass Valley, California, and the Cornish deposited their culture in California along with the pasty and Cornish Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Christmas and Jesus Christ - The Loving Message

What better time to talk about Jesus than in December?  The time from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day is very special to us.  In November, we give thanks to God for what we have - food, shelter, family, friends - and for football.  Why we have to give thanks to the Detroit Lions each Thanksgiving morning, I'll likely never know.  Anyway, then on black Friday in all its glory and for the next five weeks, we all start preparing for Christmas and New Year's Day.  

 Staré Město Christmas Market - Prague

Easter certainly has its merits as a time to reflect on Jesus, but in my humble opinion, Christmas is the best Holiday ever.  As a child believing in Santa Claus was phenomenal.  The Easter bunny stories just could never top Santa's reindeer.  My red-suited old man has reindeer that fly, and he comes to my house every year with a new baseball glove or a football.  Winning.  But as a young adult, Christmas was just another holiday when I got to go home from wherever I was living, and I kind of lost track of why Christmas was so special.  Then, we had children.  Children who we had to teach how to be good adults and productive members of society.  Now, and as progressive children of boomer parents from the sixties and even before our children were born, we briefly considered whether we would teach our children the same traditions which our parents had taught us, or would we stray from our roots for something that we may feel is better for our offspring and for society.  In the end (and it was an easy choice), we chose to raise our children as Christians.  

Consequently, and as stated above, the Holidays are very special to us.  Not only do folks prepare by buying gifts for others, the vast majority of Christians, and many non-Christians, also reflect on who Jesus was and what Christmas and Jesus means to us.  As parents who chose to raise Christian children, we had a lot of questions to answer as they grew up.  Daddy, why do Santa's reindeers fly?  Mommy, how does Santa get down the chimney?  Mommy, why does Santa leave presents for us?   Daddy, who was Jesus? 

Okay, now the kids just left the kiddie pool and jumped right into the deep end.  Who was Jesus and why do we celebrate Him?  Good questions.  Our now adult children have come to completely different understandings related to Jesus Christ and the Bible, but they each reached the very same general conclusion.  One attends Christian church semi-regularly.  One believes that the stories in the Bible are just mythical stories about a real person named Jesus who was an amazing philosopher, whose philosophy is a great model for life.  One actually told me that the Christian stories in the Bible are "a false construct."  I have to say this one made me laugh, but despite different approaches, they all believe in living the philosophy of Jesus Christ.  The philosophy of Jesus Christ is one of Love and Charity.  While I don't know how reindeer fly or how Santa gets his fat butt down the chimney, I do know who Jesus was.  Jesus is the way, and He is the Word.  Jesus taught the world that the path to true happiness and joy is love.  Love of your family.  Love for your friends.  Love for your neighbors.  Love of your fellowman.  Love of yourself.  

While I am reflecting on this Christmas and while I don't know about you, I am of the firm opinion that the world could use a little bit more Jesus right about now.  There is so much of the darkness of hate, greed, and narcissism in the world, our family kind of insulates ourselves from it with our own faith and love.  We can be saved as a people by living Christ's message of love whether you believe in the actual Bible stories or not.  

The Great Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in one of his most famous speeches titled Loving Your Enemies, concluded, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  This message from Reverend King just so happens to be the message of Jesus Christ which we celebrate this and every December.  It is a message who many in the darkness cannot hear, but we love them anyway.  

In order to make the entire world a better place, we have to be better people.  So, if we do anything at all this Christmas, I pray that we choose to love and that we all love just a little bit more than usual and hopefully that love can carry us all out of the darkness.  Amen, brothers and sisters!  Lol.  On that note, my family and I bid you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Political Implications of Measure V Going Down

Earlier this week, I got a bunch of emails from people informing me that, two weeks after election day, the election office was almost done counting ballots and that the local media called Measure V a failure.  If the local media were journalists who really paid any attention to local politics, they would have known this fact after the second drop of ballots.  People who support limited government drop off their ballots on election day, because (shocker) they don't trust the way the local government runs our elections.  So, once Measure V was losing on Tuesday night, anyone who pays attention to politics would know that it was only going to get worse for Measure V as more and more ballots were counted and that the margin would only get wider.  That is exactly what happened.  Not only did the measure go down, but there will also be serious consequences for the County's mishandling of Measure V.

That said, Measure V brings up some broader local questions.  For instance, why do some many people not trust their local election office and bring ballots on election day and not mail them?  Seriously, three weeks to get election results is some third-world shit.  Lol.  Can we please just all go vote on election day like normal countries and get our election results that night like every other developed nation?   Damn.  The elementary school kids electing student council have more secure and efficient elections than their parents.  It is seriously embarrassing.

Also, there is also a huge underlying sentiment locally against government, period.  When it comes to government in California, there is no room for wimps.  California's overbearing government is legendary outside of California and is palpable to its residents.  So many of our friends have left for freer pastures like Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky, South Carolina, and, yes, Florida.  I say jokingly to my friends that you are all wimps!  Instead of fighting these government assholes, you bailed and left us alone in the California wilderness with these morons!  In reality, however and truth be told, many of us want to leave California but just cannot do it.  Whether it be our children, our dearest of friends without whom we simply cannot live, or our hopes for our local community and our state, we just cannot pull the trigger and leave.  

Close your eyes and imagine 30 years ago your best friend looking you dead in the eyes and actually saying, "Dude. I am out. California sucks."  You would have smacked him upside his head.  There was no place cooler to live.  Period.  Full stop.  Everyone wanted to be here.  It is freaking gorgeous, and the weather!?  Please.  I grew up in Chicago, so on the weather angle alone, California is bomb.  Now, imagine at Thanksgiving dinner today your friend looks you in the eyes and says, "Dude. I am out. California sucks."  Instead of smacking him in the melon, you are likely gonna be a little jealous.  The dichotomy is crazy.  Between 2021 and 2022, more people left California than moved here.  That's insane.  How bad is it if people are leaving arguably the most favorable and beautiful geographic area on the entire planet?  Yep, it is that bad, but what does that have to do with Measure V, you ask?

There is a huge swath of our local population that believes that $367,000,000 a year is too much for ineffective local government, and it has to stop.  Seriously.  The County billed Measure V as $12 million magic bullet to prevent the tragedy of Paradise from ever happening in Nevada County.  I call bullshit.  How is that local homeless problem that you have not fixed yet which has been dragging on for 20 years and getting worse instead of better?  Can we please have normal elections like real democracies?  How is the meth problem in town that you apparently have no desire to fix?  My wife and I saw an epic tweaker at the gas station today in the Brunswick Basin.  Dude's upper body was all curled up has he shook and tweaked across the parking lot.  Way better tweaker than the guy that is always jumping between cars at the corner of Sutton and Brunswick.  How is the affordable housing problem?  Yet, we try to raise our children here, and we give the County $367,000,000 a year, and they don't fix shit?  How about the County and the state let us keep our tax money if you cannot fix anything?  Despite not fixing shit, the executives at the County will all be wealthy people when they retire.  Not comfortable or just able to make ends meet.  Wealthy.  Nobody should derive wealth off of the taxpayers.  It is frankly disgusting.  Our County's chief executive officer makes over $410,000 a year including salary and benefits.  How much do you make?  If you had as much "success" at your job, would you still have one?  

Until we start electing strong leaders who will get rid of these incompetent rubes, our friends will continue to abandon us.  Such is where we are.  We are here in this California because of our own choices.  We can make California great again, but we cannot keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.  

On that note, all is not lost.  We live in a wonderful community that takes care of each other and loves each other.  If you ever need to be reminded of that, go to Hooper Stadium on Thanksgiving for Mike Bratton's Turkey Trot and feel the love.  Love that will bring tears to your eyes.  We have a wonderful community - a wonderful community that could do with a lot less ineffective government.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Long Lines to Vote in Nevada County Today Are by Design

California's crazy election laws, and the County's liberal implementation of them, were enacted with the specific intent of decreasing the turnout of election day Republican voters and increasing the turnout of Democrats.  It is no accident.  The lines in Nevada County are no accident as well.  I do apologize to my liberal friends in advance, as what I am about to write will be highly critical of you and your laissez-faire attitude towards "democracy."  The fact is Republicans take voting very seriously and will actually go to the polls on election day to ensure the security of their own vote no matter what while most Democrats will be lazy and mail their ballots in and trust someone else with their "democracy."  

Voting is very serious business for a free people.  It is foundation of our entire constitutional system, and these crazy "mail in your vote laws" are an insult to a free people.  I am going to list some issues that the media tells you never happens, but you have already seen or heard with your own eyes and with your own ears.  Random ballots coming to your house for people who have not lived there for two or three election cycles.  Ballots showing up for one election and then mysteriously they stop being mailed.  Boxes of uncounted ballots showing up in post office months or years after an election.  Complete and utter lack of any ability whatsoever to maintain chain of custody of any ballot.  Our election system is simply ridiculous and unacceptable for a free people.

I am just like you.  I want to know beyond a shred of a doubt that my voice was heard in an election. If my ballot was not counted for some reason, I would be mad as hell.  We do not mail ballots.  Our ballots are our only key to our democracy, and our votes are sacred and paid for by millions of Americans who died protecting this sacred right.  We refuse to cheapen this right and desecrate their memory by letting our ballots get out of our control.  Mailing your vote in is just plain lazy and disrespects our democracy.  That said, I must admit that, in the past, I was lazy with my democracy and mailed my ballot in.  I was wrong and was not taking democracy seriously.  Knowing what I know now, those days are over.  We need to wake up, or we will no longer have a democracy with such an insane system.

If you trust these crazy "mail in your vote laws," you likely need to read a book.  Humans are not angels.  If they were, we would not need any laws at all.  People will break rules to get what they want.  It is a fact of life and human nature.  Our election system does not take this into account at all.  We need single day voting and complete chain of custody of not just the voted ballots, but also for the unvoted ballots and spoiled ballots.  For instance, we printed 100,000 ballots.  Of those 100,000 ballots, 70,000 were voted, 10,000 were spoiled, and there are 20,000 left over.  In this stupid California system, ballots are just thrown to the wind for a month and printed all willy-nilly.  California has no idea who is casting any of these ballots.  Sure, they can match the ballot with a voter, but our "election professionals" have absolutely no proof that such voter cast a ballot when doing so by mail.  None.  

And this is why Republicans vote on game day.  The fact is Republicans, in general, are simply more serious than Democrats.  Sexualizing children in school is serious business and must be addressed.  Avoiding World War III is serious business.  Being able to afford feeding your family is serious business.  Elections are serious business.  Democrats are simply not a serious people, and this crazy election system created by Democrats is a prime example.  A vast majority of Republicans will vote in person.  If they receive a ballot by mail, they will not let anyone touch their ballot and will personally deliver it to the election office or to a vote center.  Our local system, and the long lines on election day, is designed specifically to create difficulties for Republican voters in order to drive down Republican turnout, and it is unacceptable.  That said, don't be discouraged.  Stay in line.  Getter done brothers and sisters!  Getter done, and we will turn this franchise around!

Editor's Note:  Solution?  Make election day a three-day weekend, national holiday and everyone has to go to the polls!

Friday, October 28, 2022

What is Going on in Russia from a Former Expat Perspective

World events shape each generation of man creating a unique and semi-collective life experience.  I am proudly a child of the 1970s and share certain experiences with all Americans who are my age.  The Cold War. Neil Armstrong. Vietnam. Watergate. Iran Hostage Crisis. Ronald Reagan. Mikhail Gorbachev. Glasnost. The Fall of the Berlin Wall.  These are the collective world events shaping the collective psyche of Gen X, and I have been fascinated by these remarkable historic events my entire life.  

As most of you know, I ended up learning Russian and working in Russia and eastern Europe in the mid-90s.  Having had that experience and when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, I was keenly interested in what is going on in Russia.  Living in the USA, it is not incredibly difficult to gauge American public opinion, but it is quite difficult to assess public opinion in Russia from a far.  As is abundantly clear to any regular readers, I do not trust what I am told by the media or by the government.  I operate as Ronald Reagan advised in reference to the USSR, "trust but verify."

So instead of relying solely on American media which tends to parrot the government's talking points, I started calling my friends from Russia and listening to Russian podcasts in order to get an idea of what is really going on in Russia.  One of my Russian friends who lives in the USA is full-on Qanon.  While this contact provides little evidence of public opinion in Russia, the fact that my Russian friend who lives here is completely tripped out about global authoritarians lurking among us is noteworthy.  My Russian GenXer friends have a collective experience in the 1970s as well.  Political Persecution.  Religious Persecution.  Political Prisoners. The Gulag Archipelago. Mikhail Gorbachev. Glasnost. The Fall of the Berlin Wall.  Russian Gen Xers know authoritarians when they see them, and many of them living in the USA are apoplectic about American political trends towards restriction on free speech and domestic totalitarianism.  If you know a Russian-American in their 50s, ask them about it.  They will explain American totalitarianism to you chapter and verse and will provide ample examples.  Indeed, our government is not far behind Russia on the scale between liberty and totalitarianism, but that is a topic for another day.  In this day of censorship in the USA, we fear being "cancelled," while Russian citizens fear being thrown in jail.  Whether being cancelled or thrown in jail, curtailment of the freedom of speech is the most important tool of the would-be totalitarian.  

In any event, as I said before, Russian Gen Xers know authoritarians when they see them, and my Russian friends are clearly living under an authoritarian regime in Russia.  Many of these folks are afraid to talk about it over the phone or text for fear of "the knock on the door" from the government.  Speaking of Alexei Navalny, who was allegedly poisoned by the Russian government for criticizing Putin, is ill-advised.  One of my friends told me that she had deleted a couple of our messages for fear of having them on her phone.  She and other Russians are using as many social media outlets as possible to connect with the outside, because they fear that outlets may be shut down by the government or by the West.  Others who have spoken out against the Russian government have fled their homeland for other countries as political refugees.  The fear of censorship is real in Russia and is palpable.  In fact, although my sample size is small, it seems to me that the vast majority of Russians know that the Rubicon has been crossed and that they live in a totalitarian state.  The government controls the media in Russia and, therefore, has complete control of the national message and the narrative.  Journalists, who complained too much or asked too many good questions, were regularly assassinated in Moscow when I lived there in 1993-1994.  It was common.  Journalists shot by "bandits" while exiting their building or while exiting their flats.  I remember that one was found dead in the bathtub of his flat, and this happened when Russia was a new "democracy."  The name may have changed, and the constitution of its government is different, but Russia was and is still like the USSR.  Under Putin, it was like USSR-light.  Russia kept its citizens in check through fear and intimidation in amounts that most people could tolerate so long as life was economically better.  Hence, no mass exoduses, at least not until Putin initiated the partial mobilization.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Is Terry McAteer a Racist?

Over the past few days and after Terry McAteer (chief proponent Measure V) made implications that certain Measure V opponents were racists, folks have been texting and emailing me links to news articles on the internet detailing allegations that Terry McAteer made an "alleged racist remark during a staff meeting" when McAteer was the Inyo County School Superintendent a few years back.  I won't link to the allegations, because McAteer denied them, and it appears that nothing monumental came of the allegations. 

That said, these incidents bring to light our Nation's most difficult topic which most people really do not like to talk about.  Let's be very clear at the start.  Racism exists in America.  Put that on the list of undeniable facts.  Growing up on the south side of Chicago (Harvey, South Holland, Riverdale), I saw and heard a lot of racism in a quantity vastly exceeding what your average Californian experiences.  When we moved to California in 1998, it was a noteworthy and pleasant change, and we were pleased to be able to raise our girls in a less racist atmosphere.  Again, let's be very clear.  Racism, in any form, is wrong, and if you disagree, you are on the wrong side of history and of morality.  No matter what anyone tells me, I will never be convinced otherwise.  Judging any individual on account of their race or seeing one's race before anything else is abhorrent and ignorant.  Full stop.

Because racism is inherently hateful and repulsive and having established that racism undeniably exists, the question becomes how we get rid of it once and for all.  Because racism became so engrained in the colonial and American ethos for hundreds of years, it will likely take as long to again rid ourselves of it.  Racism is a generational issue which will take generations to rectify.  One of the benefits of aging is that you start to see things from the top down more clearly.  In my personal experience, I have thankfully seen and heard less racism as my life progresses.  The most important thing that we can do individually to combat racism is to teach our children about it and its evils.  We must teach our children that skin color is as relevant to an individual before us as is their hair color.  Skin color and hair color are evidence of genetic markers not a window into someone's soul.  In the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., all individuals should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.  His words on this Truth are words that we should all strive to live by.

Dr. King uses the word "character," but what does "character" actually mean?  The word character comes from the ancient Greek "kharaktēr" which meant an "engraved mark" and was extended in Hellenistic times by metaphor to a "symbol or imprint on the soul."  In English, the word "character" means "moral qualities assigned to a person by reputation."  Thus, our character is defined by our actions which becomes our reputation.  Teaching our children how to judge people by their actions (their character), rather than random genetic markers, will cause racism to die a slow death over generations.  

That said, what do we do now?  How do we convince others who are no longer children to see the individual before race?  The answer is simple and enshrined in our Constitution; we speak up when we see it.  I am not talking about tweeting "Black Lives Matter" from your couch as you watch Netflix.  I am talking about speaking out against any and all racism.  Anytime someone confronted by a situation sees race first, they need to be called out which brings me back to McAteer.

A few days ago, McAteer (chief proponent Measure V) made implications that certain Measure V opponents were racists, because they paid for a mailer opposing Natalie Adona for Clerk/Recorder in the most recent election and such mailer had a picture of Adona on it.  In order to make this untoward allegation, McAteer must have concluded that, because Adona is a person of color, the opposition to her must be racist and that including her picture on the mailer was some kind of dog-whistle to the Nevada County electorate to not vote for the person of color.  Let that sink in for a moment, as it is a prime example of the type of racism discussed above.  McAteer saw opposition to a person of color as race-based without even mentioning the sensible reasons for such opposition with which he disagrees.  In other words, she is a person of color and I think that she is qualified, so you must be a racist if you oppose her in this manner.  Simple in his mind, but such simple and ignorant thinking perpetuates racism over time and is harmful to society in general.  We will never get passed racism if race is the first thing that people see and attribute any reasonable disagreement to it.

Does that make McAteer a racist who sees race first before anything else?  Not necessarily.  As stressed above, all people should be judged by the content of their character which is their "moral qualities assigned to a person by reputation."  Nobody should be judged upon one action alone but upon the collection all of their actions - their reputation.  I leave it to the reader to judge McAteer's character and reputation for themselves.