Something in the water

Gender bender: Bites sometimes has trouble sleeping. That’s when a little dense reading is in order. For example, yours truly recently thumbed through a copy of U.S. Water News looking for a shortcut to dreamland.

But Bites’ insomnia took on Machinist proportions upon reading that fish in some parts of the country are spontaneously changing their sexes.

It seems scientists have discovered a whole mess of smallmouth bass were found to be growing eggs inside their fishy little testes. The culprit is believed to be the by-product of birth-control pills that aren’t metabolized in human bodies and wind up getting flushed. Most wastewater-treatment plants can’t get rid of this kind of pharmaceutical pollution, so voilà! Gender-modified organisms.

In fact, there’s a whole suite of prescription drugs and other “xenobiotics” that can slip past the treatment plant pretty easily. Think of all the stuff people take these days—from mood elevators to marital enhancers—that may kill, stunt or befuddle our aquatic friends.

But the folks at the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District aren’t losing any sleep. Engineer Kris Walters said, “We are reserving judgment, because we’re not sure how much harm is being done.” She added that the science is new and the technology to rid the wastewater of drugs is extremely expensive.

Bites is not comforted. After all, a lot of this treated effluent also is used to irrigate golf courses, parks and traffic medians around the county. Bites’ own little ankle-biter, Bits, will grow up playing in verdant fields freshly sprayed with a diluted tincture of caffeine, Viagra and Prozac. The kid’s weird enough as it is.

Redrawing Doolittle: Representative John Doolittle broke Republican ranks earlier this year to denounce Governor Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 77, the now-failed attempt to rewrite how the state draws its political lines. He even joined with Democrats in raising cash to fight the proposition.

Perhaps Doolittle is patting himself on the back, resting in his Rocklin home, at the southern end of his rigged-for-Republicans district. But his constituents liked Proposition 77; 53.5 percent of voters in his congressional district voted for it.

What message are the voters trying to send to Doolittle, who has been a Capitol Hill politico since 1991? Maybe they don’t like the way the 4th District is drawn, stretching from the Oregon border down through Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer and El Dorado counties. Or maybe they no longer like Doolittle, who is up for re-election in 2006. Of course, voters in that inland swath of California will have no choice but to send Doolittle back to D.C., since their district remains, hopelessly, gerrymandered.

Poor attendance: Bites is never the first to lament the low voter turnouts that are the norm in this great democracy of ours. You don’t have time to study the issues or compare the candidates? Fine, don’t vote. Last thing we want is more ballots cast based on TV commercials. Don’t care to vote? Nice. Bites’ ballot carries more weight.

But then we have the city of Davis. Supposedly, this is one of the smartest cities in the nation, sort of a settling spot for those of high-IQ. Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning likes to reiterate that the city is rumored to have one of the highest concentrations of Ph.D.s in the country. Of course, as a wise high-school physics teacher once said, Ph.D., perhaps, stands for “Piled Higher and Deeper.”

However, Davis, home of “all things right and relevant,” does have a politically active population—along with a whole passel of authors and journalists. And lots of politically savvy state workers and politicos call Davis home.

So, we come to the special election, which included—on top of several state-shaking propositions, any one of which significantly would have altered how state government works—the largest development ever proposed for the city.

And faced with these important ballot-box questions, how many of the city’s intelligent and politically aware voters turned out November 8? A whole 51.8 percent. Back when Bites was in school, 50 percent was failing, an F. Then again, Bites is no Ph.D.