Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, October 20, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 5



Mountain Views News Saturday, October 20, 2012


By Christoper Nyerges

[Nyerges is the author of “Self-Sufficient Home,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and 
other books. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.]

“What’s Going On?” 

News and Views from Joan Schmidt



 Sybil Brand Institute was the site of the Los Angeles County’s 100th Anniversary 
of Female Deputy Sheriffs. The theme was “Take a Trip through History,” which 
we certainly did!

 Festivities began with a warm welcome by Chief Roberta Abner. The National 
Anthem was performed by Sergeant Sidra Strong. Retired Lieutenant Vicky 
McKown led the Pledge of Allegiance. Sergeant John Stanley gave a short history 
of women’s roles in the Department, followed by a “Blast from the Past”, during which Retired 
Commander Carole Freeman spoke of her career and how the Department was in the past. Sheriff 
Lee Baca spoke of the important role of women in the Department. In closing, Chief Abner inviting 
everyone to view the displays and tour the Sybil Brand Institute.

The Sybil Brand Institute was a jail facility for women from 1963-1997. The famous Manson girls 
were housed there for a time. (Usually prisoners awaiting trail are housed in county jails. If convicted, 
they transfer to state or federal prisons to serve their terms.) This facility was named for Sybil Brand, 
a philanthropist, civic leader, and the advocate of human dignity who worked tirelessly to improve 
conditions for the imprisoned. After her passing, the LA Times said she had “soft-hearted generosity” 
and “stubborn determination.” At the Women of Achievement Awards, 2000, I was privileged to meet 
her and Lillian Keel, the most decorated female member of the military during World War II.

 The day was incredible. 
Sgt. John Stanley and Custody 
Assistant Michael Frantantoni 
had so many displays with 
pictures and facts that they 
brought from the Sheriff’s 
Museum. The first female law 
enforcement pilot was from 
LASD. When the ladies first 
joined, they didn’t do patrol 
or drive. But their services 
were invaluable.

 Retired female personnel 
led the tours through the 
facility and reminisced about 
their careers. There also 
was a refreshment area with 
food trucks from Red Robin, 
Vchos, and Sweet Arleen’s.

 I caught up with former 
Temple Station Personal-Suzy 
Farrel, Lt. Linda Becker, Sgt. Sidra Strong, 

and of course Chief Roberta Abner. Lt. Tachias brought his wife, and it was a great surprise to see 
Retired Lieutenant JP Harris - we were on a Selection Committee for the sixteen Habitat for Humanity 
Houses on Euclid in Duarte MANY years ago.

 Special thanks to Platinum Sponsor, Irving Moskowitz Foundation; Silver Sponsor, Professional 
Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County, and Bronze Sponsor, Sheriff’s Relief Association. 
Without the generosity of these sponsors, the day wouldn’t have been possible.

 The Sheriff’s Museum is at 11515 S. Colima Road, Whittier, 90604. Years ago, I brought my late 
mom there and she enjoyed learning the history of the department, what various fields are covered, 
and viewing the displays. It’s certainly worth the trip to Whittier!

What is “good”? What is “bad”? Though there are plenty of folks who will 
tell you with great assurance what is good and what is bad, let’s not forget 
that sometimes it is only our opinions and value judgements that make 
something “good” or “bad.” 

A visitor to my small mountain home once commented, “The good thing 
about living way up here is that you’re far away from everyone.” After a 
pause, he added, “And the bad thing about living way up here is that you’re 
far away from everyone.”

In other words, is the grass greener on the other side, or is it simply the other side? When we long for 
a change, is it always for something better, or simply because we have not learned how to appropriately 
deal with what we already have?

My friend Jay Watkins shared a Chinese story with me. 

A farmer in northern China, near the Mongolian border, realized one day that his horse was missing. 
He had no idea if the horse was stolen, or if it just got loose and ran away. It was a great inconvenience, 
in any event, because the farmer needed his horse for the farm work. The farmer’s neighbors 
all came to console him for his great loss, grieving at his great loss. But the farmer told the neighbors 
not to grieve, pointing out that what had happened was not necessarily so bad, and it didn’t warrant 

A few days later, the horse returned by itself, and it was accompanied by a magnificent Mongolian 
stallion. The stallion had apparently strayed from its herd, and simply following the farmer’s horse 
back to the farm. This turn of events not only relieved the farmer but now also increased his wealth. 
The neighbors returned, this time to rejoice the farmer’s good fortune, and even to envy his fine new 
animal. But once again, the farmer would not rejoice with the neighbors, and told them that what had 
happened was not necessarily so good.

A little time later, the farmer’s son was out riding the Mongolian stallion, and since his riding experience 
had been limited to riding a slow farm horse, the frisky stallion threw the farmer’s son. The son’s 
thigh was badly injured in the fall, and meant the son was unable to do some of the farm work. This 
again inconvenienced the farmer, but he still refused to regard it as a misfortune and did not grieve.

In a few months, the barbarian armies of the Mongolian chiefs swept through the farmer’s district of 
China, and they conscripted every able-bodied man into the army to help defend the empire. It was 
well-known that the mortality rate in the Mongolian army was very high, as they engaged in many 
savage battles. Yet, due to the son’s bad leg, he was exempt from this military service.

 The point of the story was that the farmer was able to remain calm throughout the ups and 
downs of his life, without the severe swings of emotion that seem to afflict the average person. 

Jay Watkins also shared with me the “Six Always” guidelines from Shi Tianji, a scholar of healthy 
living in the Ming Dynasty. He said Always be peaceful in mind, Always be kind-hearted, Always uphold 
justice, Always be cheerful, Always be pleasant, and Always be contented. Of course, Shi Tianji 
had a lot to say about each of these six guidelines, and it becomes reminiscent of the Ten Commandments, 
the Golden Rule, and many of the other guidelines from the past millenia for sound living in 
an insane world. 

Lt. Linda Becker and Chief Roberta Miner



European astronomers have discovered a planet with about 
the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri 
system—the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet 
ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was 
detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-meter 
telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results 
appeared online in the journal Nature on 17 October 2012.

Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest stars in the southern 
skies and is the nearest stellar system to our solar system -- 
only 4.3 light-years away. It is actually a triple star—a system 
consisting of two stars similar to the Sun orbiting close to each 
other, designated Alpha Centauri A and B, and a more distant 
and faint red component known as Proxima Centauri. Since 
the nineteenth century astronomers have speculated about 
planets orbiting these bodies, the closest possible abodes 
for life beyond the solar system, but searches of increasing 
precision had revealed nothing. Until now.

“Our observations extended over more than four years using 
the HARPS instrument and have revealed a tiny, but real, signal 
from a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B every 3.2 days,” says 
Xavier Dumusque (Geneva Observatory, Switzerland, and 
Centro de Astrofisica da Universidade do Porto, Portugal), 
lead author of the paper. “It’s an extraordinary discovery and 
it has pushed our technique to the limit!”

The European team detected the planet by picking up the tiny 
wobbles in the motion of the star Alpha Centauri B created 
by the gravitational pull of the orbiting planet. The effect is 
minute -- it causes the star to move back and forth by no 
more than 51 centimeters per second (1.8 km/hour), about 
the speed of a baby crawling. This is the highest precision ever 
achieved using this method.

Alpha Centauri B is very similar to the Sun but slightly 
smaller and less bright. The newly discovered planet, with a 
mass of a little more than that of the Earth, is orbiting about 
six million kilometers away from the star, much closer than 
Mercury is to the Sun in the solar system. The orbit of the other 
bright component of the double star, Alpha Centauri A, keeps it 
hundreds of times further away, but it would still be a very brilliant 
object in the planet’s skies.

The first exoplanet around a Sun-like star was found by the same 
team back in 1995 and since then there have been more than 800 
confirmed discoveries, but most are much bigger than the Earth, 
and many are as big as Jupiter. The challenge astronomers now face 
is to detect and characterize a planet of mass comparable to the 
Earth that is orbiting in the habitable zone around another star. The 
first step has now been taken.

“This is the first planet with a mass similar to Earth ever found 
around a star like the Sun. Its orbit is very close to its star and it 
must be much too hot for life as we know it,” adds Stephane Udry 
(Geneva Observatory), a co-author of the paper and member of the 
team, “but it may well be just one planet in a system of several.”

“This result represents a major step towards the detection of a twin 
Earth in the immediate vicinity of the Sun. We live in exciting 
times!” concludes Xavier Dumusque.

Images and video:

You can contact Bob Eklund at:

Artist’s impression of the planet around Alpha Centauri B