When disability becomes punishment

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking about compassionate release, specifically as it relates to the seriously ill and elderly. While it doesn’t precisely fit into the same discussion, individuals with disabilities face many of the same challenges. Some prisoners’ disabilities may indeed make them candidates for release, but regardless of their status […]

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By Christopher Zoukis Oak Hill Cemetery is in Ballard, California, which is near Santa Barbara, which boasts ‘perfect weather’ all year round.  With their addresses carved in granite, three thousand plus permanent residents abide in Oak Hill, surrounded by verdant greenery, cool ocean breezes skimming over cerulean blue water.  A permanent address should make one […]

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Book Review: Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy TheoryBy Mike EnemigoPublished by The Cell Block, P. O. Box 212, Folsom, CA 95763ISBN 9781492709665 $15.00 (2012, 2013)Available on Amazon. Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis Conspiracy Theory is a gritty story of drugs, crime, and the underground rap music scene in Sacramento, California, written by someone who knows whereof he speaks. Mike Enemigo, a Folsom […]

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Caryl Chessman – 1

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy biography.com

A few years ago, in 2004 to be exact, Rosalie Asher died.  After her funeral, her niece Bonnie Fovinci was sorting through Rosalie’s office, making two piles of stuff.  One to save and one to throw out. 

She picked up a black vase from the shelf next to Rosalie’s desk.  Junk, she thought, preparing to toss it on the ‘throw out’ pile.  Instead, she weighed it in her hands.  It was heavier than a vase needed to be.  Looking closely at it, she discovered it was metal.  And not really black, but more of a dark, smokey gray color.  There were some scratches on the base.  No, they were letters inscribed into the metal.  A name and two dates.

Holding the vase up to the sunlight, she angled it so she could read the name.  When she read it she stopped breathing for a few seconds.  Slowly she sat down in Rosalie’s chair behind the desk.

Setting the black vase on the desk in front of her, she stared at it, lost in thoughts of a past gone by.  It wasn’t a vase.  It was an urn.  The kind of urn that held the cremated remains of dead people.  Only this urn was empty.

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J.P. Dargitz

By Christopher Zoukis

Some people called J.P. Dargitz a power broker.  Others, who weren’t quite so impressed, called him an influence peddler.  Still others, those who had been outsmarted by him, called J.P. Dargitz everything from a manipulator to a swindler.  One thing was for sure, though, J.P. Dargitz got things done.  The greater the challenge, the more J.P. liked it.  As soon as the goal was attained, he lost interest and moved on to newer challenges.  Image courtesy www.bluediamond.com

J.P. Dargitz hailed from Mansfield, Ohio, where he entered the world on September 8, 1859.  He attended public school in Asland, Ohio.  When he was 11-years old, his parents moved the family to Clarence, Iowa.  After graduating from high school, J.P. was offered the position of schoolteacher in Union County, Iowa.  The Union County School Board wanted the best teacher available and, impressed not only by J.P.’s academic record but also by his charismatic personality, they approached him on the very day of his graduation.  For five years, J.P. taught school.  Then, overcome by the urge to go somewhere else and do something new and different, J.P. quit and left.  He got a job as an agent of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, where he soon advanced to the position of traveling auditor.  Being an auditor was interesting for a while, but J.P. longed for some formidable task that would focus his talents.  Railroad auditors did the same thing over and over again.  J.P. wanted a grand adventure to give his life meaning and pizzazz. 

Like Solomon, he thought perhaps learning would make him happy.  So J.P. left the CB&Q and moved to Chicago – the windy city, where he studied medicine at the Chicago Homeopathic Medical College.  In 1889, at the age of 30, J.P. Dargitz graduated medical college at the top of his class.  He was now J.P. Dargitz, M.D. 

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Augustus T. Hatch

By Christopher Zoukis

Around 1850, a grower named Felix Gillet bought a new variety of cultivated almond seedlings from the William Prince Nursery in New York.  They were called Languedoc, because they came from a region in France of the same name.  Gillet took the cultivars back home to Nevada City, California, where he planted them in his orchards.  Within a few years, Languedoc-derived trees were being cultivated and sold throughout the state.  Results differed without any apparent rhyme or reason.  One grower would have a good crop, while his neighbor would lose most of his crop to frost or disease.  Discouraged, many growers threw in the towel and switched to other crops that were more reliable. 

One grower who didn’t give up was Augustus T. Hatch, who owned 800 acres of almond trees in Solano County, California.  Hatch kept experimenting, grafting seedlings to different types of rootstock.  He tried apricot roots, plum roots, peach roots, almond roots and almond-peach hybrid roots.  In 1879, Hatch planted over 2000 seedlings.  Two-hundred of which he could not graft because there was not enough rootstock available.  Ever the innovator, Hatch decided to take four different varieties – which he called Nonpariel, IXL, Ne Plus Ultra, and La Prima – and plant them together.  The La Prima variety proved to be insufficient.  But the other three varieties, when planted together, were resilient and very productive.  Hatch’s discovery changed the face of the almond industry forever.  Nonpariels became the leading almond in the world.         

But before the California almond growers became a powerful industry, they experienced some initial growing pains.  For the growers knew how to produce almonds, but they didn’t know anything about marketing or selling almonds.  Each grower would harvest his crop and then go looking for someone to buy it.  The buyers were speculators who had lots of information at their fingertips, while the growers had none.  Buyers knew the volume of almonds available from foreign countries, whether it was a good crop or not, and what the demand for almonds was.  Which meant they knew what the fair market price was.  The growers had no idea what they should be getting for their crops.  So the buyers undercut them.  Which meant the growers barely made enough profit to stay in business.  Image courtesy www.rurdev.usda.gov

A few of the growers realized that if they wanted to survive, they needed to get organized.  The first group to do so was in Davisville, California, where, in 1897, seventy-one growers formed what they called the Davisville Almond Growers Association (DAGA).  The goals of this group were many and varied, but the primary objective was not unlike that of modern unions.  By banding together they hoped to make more money for their crops.  DAGA gathered information about the status of the state’s almond crop.  How many tons were expected to be harvested, and of what quality.  They originated efficient methods to store and ship the association’s almonds, and introduced inspection guidelines and marketing campaigns.  Initially, their efforts were rudimentary, but over time improvements were made rapidly. 

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Father Serra Goes to California

Image courtesy freerepublic.comBy Christopher Zoukis

Almonds were introduced to America by Miquel Josep Serra iFerrer, who was born in Majorca, Spain.  When he finally arrived in California, he was Fray Junipero Serra, a priest in the Order of St. Francis.  He came to California to administer the missions on the Baja California Peninsula.  This system of missions had been founded by the Jesuits, who, because of their political intrigues, had just been forcibly kicked out of “New Spain” by King Carlos III. 

Father Serra brought along a bag of almond plantings, which he planted and attempted to grow.  His attempts failed, because the damp coastal fogs and high humidity of the area were not favorable to almond cultivation. 

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The Brief History of a Nut

By Christopher Zoukis

As early as 4000 BC, domesticated almonds were produced and available as a nutritious food.  The Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, circa 1325 BC, enjoyed almonds so much that he was buried with them.  Almonds imported from the Levant were discovered in his tomb.   Image courtesy golona.blogspot.com

Mentioned many times in the Bible, the almond has had symbolic significance not only to Christians, but to other cultures and religions as well.  To Christians, the nut represented divine favor and divine approval.  And it spoke of the Virgin Mary’s purity, which explained the almond’s presence around the Queen of Heaven in famous works of art, where it was called the vesica piscis.  The Chinese attached the ideas of feminine beauty, fortitude in sorrow and watchfulness to the almond.  While to the Iranians, the almond represented the Tree of Heaven.  And the ancient Phrygians considered the almond the Father of all things, because it was associated with the birth of Attis.  The Romans, on the other hand, believed that almonds imparted the blessings of the gods to any public or private event.  This explained why the Romans threw almonds and not rice at newlyweds.  And, as later evidenced, the Romans discovered a more nefarious use for almonds.  One that had nothing to do with blessing.

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