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California and the West | CALIFORNIA DATELINE / Snapshots
of life in the Golden State.

A Graduate Grows on the Tree of Knowledge

May 16, 2000|TONY PERRY

Being up a tree restricts your mobility, so Nate Madsen was unable to attend graduation at Humboldt State University to receive his degree.

He's been up a 200-foot redwood called Mariah for 18 months to protest logging plans by Pacific Lumber. He finished work for a bachelor's degree in physical sciences with the help of a cellular telephone, a laptop and several understanding professors.

On Saturday about 70 of his friends and fellow tree-lovers gathered at the base of Mariah, in the Freshwater Creek area outside Eureka, to celebrate his graduation.

Not in attendance were officials of Pacific Lumber. An attempt by the lumber giant to oust Madsen from his perch three weeks ago was thwarted when Madsen used his cell phone to summon his friends.

"What's he's doing is dangerous and illegal," said Pacific Lumber's Mary Bullwinkel. "He's trespassing on private property."

Madsen, 27, is unsure when he'll climb down. He's on leave from his gig as a brewer for Mad River Brewing.

For now, Madsen's ecological views are resolute, he's loving the 360-degree view, and he enjoys visits from his significant other.

"I have a wonderful girlfriend," he said. "She's not afraid to climb up a tree."

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Outsmarting them all: There are California politicians who go to pains to pose as intellectuals or buff up their curriculum vitae. Not state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco).

"I was always between a C-plus and B-minus," he told a reporter brassy enough to inquire about his GPA. "I'm proud to look at you and say I never bought a book in college or law school ."

How did Burton succeed without really trying?

"I had smart retention and took good notes, and made up some great bibliographies for my term papers."

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The dog ate my jury notice: When it comes to explanations for scofflawism, the excuses given by people trying to get out of jury duty are among the most creative.

Neal Methvin Jr., coordinator of jury services at San Diego Superior Court, has stored up some of the more memorable:

* "Please excuse my uncle from jury duty, he is confined to bed with two nurses."

* "I am a full-time psychic. I will know the guilt or innocence of the defendants in about 30 seconds."

* "Please excuse me for missing my jury duty. My chauffeur became lost on the way to the courthouse."

* "I'm not qualified to serve because I'm over 35 years old."

P.S. the chauffeur dodge did not work. The La Jolla matron who tried it was sent a second summons and a map.

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No more cattle calls: The theory behind the California Legislature is that legislators from diverse parts of this enormous state will share their different experiences and points of view, and from this sharing comes wisdom.

The reality can be a bit different.

Take a recent hearing of the Senate Rules Committee, which was perking along just fine when Sen. William "Pete" Knight (R-Palmdale) offered a ruralism about avoiding foolish ventures.

He said that over the years he has "learned you don't drink downstream from the herd." A few minutes later he repeated this homey gem.

This time, an urbanite took umbrage. Sen. Teresa Hughes (D-Inglewood) told Knight she found such phraseology offensive.

Knight backed off, promised never to mention herds and streams again, and the work of democracy continued.

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One-offs: For several days, people from certain neighborhoods in San Diego who called the mayor or City Council were getting a sex-talk line instead. The snafu involved area-code splits and a company that specializes in X-rated chat. . . . The San Diego County Taxpayers Assn. has given a "golden fleece" award for wasteful spending to Oceanside for paying $3,600 to a psychologist to help cops cope with the stress of moving to a new building. City librarians also moved but without the help of a shrink. . . . The latest big bust of a lab cooking up the date-rape drug Liquid Ecstasy was in a senior citizens hotel in Calexico. The aging cook was found passed out on the floor, overcome by fumes.

EXIT LINE

"Can't somebody have a bad hair day?"

--Explanation given by Scott Clark, 34, of Glendale, for leading San Diego police on a 100-mph chase along Interstate 5 and Interstate 8, and then trying to escape by ditching his car and swimming across Mission Bay before two officers pulled him out.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

California's Veterans

California is home to 3 million veterans, 2 million of whom served during wartime. Here is a breakdown of wartime veterans by the conflicts in which they served and by gender, as of July 1999:

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WAR TOTAL MEN WOMEN Persian Gulf 185,000 163,200 21,800 Vietnam 925,100 895,100 30,000 Korea 444,200 431,000 13,200 World War II 607,700 574,500 33,200 World War I 350 300 50

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Note: Numbers are rounded to the nearest 10.

Source: California Department of Veterans Affairs

Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times

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California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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