Lately I have been getting up earlier than usual. Luckily my little one-man manufacturing job in Chico lets me make my own schedule. So I’ve been tooling down the road from Los Molinos around quarter to six in the morning. I like it – the roads aren’t empty, but traffic is sparse. It’s pleasant to drive in silence through the darkness, letting my eyes wander to the stars twinkling in the sky above. The horizon is just starting to lighten when the single lane highway splits into the two lanes running through Chico. This schedule allows me to get off work and get home in the early afternoon, so that I still have a few hours of daylight left to work out in the garden.

I decided to take this month off of drinking – to let my body detoxify and to save a little money. I believe this is helping with the earlier schedule, and with the extra work I’ve been doing in the yard. That being said, there have certainly been a few occasions when I could have used a stiff belt, and I fully expect to resume my imbibing once March rolls around. I chose February because it’s the shortest month of the year.

Forget the News

A truly bad habit I’m abandoning, for now, is listening to the news. For years I’ve been a news junkie, tuning in to NPR or BBC eight hours a day, and skimming the major news websites in between. Enough is too much. I think the election did it, but apparently I’ve reached news media saturation. There’s nothing but rotten news anyway. I think I was feeling like if I could keep up with it all, I could affect some kind of change, but how delusional is that? This life is relentless – it would be like trying to change the flow of the Sacramento River with a five-gallon plastic pail. Instead, I’ve switched to music to fill my days, blissfully sinking into oblivion. Right now, the Meat Puppets, Daniel Johnston, and Vic Chesnutt are in heavy rotation.

Man on the Run

Still, it’s been impossible to ignore the rampage and manhunt that apparently ended when the body of former police officer turned vigilante Chris Dorner was removed from the flaming wreckage of a cabin in Big Bear. Dorner penned a manifesto that is widely available online. It’s actually written pretty well, and the meat of it lies in the first ten or so pages. I can’t begin to justify his actions, and the carnage that has ensued in the wake of his campaign, but I hope this event will focus attention on abuse of power within the ranks of the police force.

It is a fact that power corrupts. It is a rare human being that can wield even the smallest amount of power with complete integrity. I’m not anti-cop, but I am all for greater transparency, vigorous oversight, and regular self-assessments within the police force. When you give someone a badge, a club, and a gun, and tell them to go out and enforce the law, it’s important to make sure that person has enough personal integrity, and that the institution they are representing has enough structural integrity, so that the inevitable deviations are corrected constantly and quickly. This is the only way the people can have faith in those who are sworn to “serve and protect.”

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.