From the daily archives: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

By Luke Phillips

A former Holtville resident’s new novel is getting some attention on the national level.

Johnny Shaw, who graduated from Holtville High School in 1986, placed among three finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for his novel ‘Dove Season’.

Shaw grew up in between Holtville and Calexico, but says he claims Holtville as his home town because that’s were he attended school and were his family bought groceries.

“I went to Finley, I went to Holtville High School,” Shaw said. “I was born and raised down there.”

Shaw left the Imperial Valley after high school to attend college at UC Davis, and later UC Santa Barbara, and says that after being away from the valley for so many years, he finally had the distance he needed to begin work on a novel set here.

“Sometimes you don’t notice that your hometown is actually interesting until you leave,” he said. “It was a pretty fascinating place to have grown up. I didn’t feel so much that I had a responsibility, but more of an opportunity to write about this place.”

Shaw says there are several scenes in the book that have settings that will be very familiar with Holtville residents. Mentioned in the book are Holt Park, Terrace View Cemetery, the old J&M Café, and even the Holtville Tribune.

Although many of the settings in ‘Dove Season’ are taken from actual locations in Holtville and the Imperial Valley, Shaw says that certain aspects have been fictionalized.

“Even if the names have changed, anyone who’s from there should recognize the places I’m talking about,” he said. “The story is set in the present, but the way I see Holtville is kind of in the 1980s. It’s Holtville as I remember it. I have one scene in the J&M Café, which isn‘t even there anymore, but in my mind and my world it is still there.”

‘Dove Season’ follows the story of a young man who has returned to the Imperial Valley after years of being gone (much like Shaw himself) to spend time with his dying father.

The father makes one final request to be reunited with a specific prostitute from Mexicali, and the hero of the story sets out to find her and bring her back to his father‘s nursing home. During the course of his mission he is caught up in the criminal underworld of Mexicali.

Shaw says he had become interested in writing a crime novel, and saw the border as the perfect setting.

“The border is a really strong setting,” he said. “So I thought of a story that fit, that could only be set down there.”

Shaw says that he hopes ‘Dove Season’ will be the first of a series of novels set in the area.

“I have at least three books in mind with these characters,” Shaw said. “And that’s (the valley)  where I’m going to set my stuff, at least for a little while, because there’s just so much cool stuff down there.”

‘Dove Season’ beat out 10,000 international competitors to reach one of three finalist positions for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, but lost the final round as readers voted for a winner based on an excerpt from the book.

“Once it got down to the popularity contest, I felt like I’d already won,” Shaw said. “I really would have liked to have won it for the Imperial Valley though.”

Despite the loss, Shaw says is currently in talks with a major publisher to release the book, but can’t review details because the negotiations are confidential.

Shaw says he hopes the book hits shelves sometime next year, and says he can’t wait to do a reading in the Imperial Valley.

“I’d have to. I’d want to,” he said. “I’d absolutely love to come down there.”


You don’t need a chemistry degree to figure out what skin-care products are right for you.
“Between all the ads that claim the latest skin-care miracles, and the hundreds of products at the mall skin-care counter, people really need some guidance about what they need and what actually works,” says Angie Wick, aesthetician at UW Health Transformations.
Wick says research has shown that there are three substances that can actually protect against, or repair, signs of aging.
Retin A (Vitamin A) or Retinol (Vitamin A Derivative)
“Skin-cell turnover is an important process in skin care,” says Wick. “Vitamin A is a tried and true ingredient that exfoliates the skin.”
Wick recommends using a pea-sized amount because putting more than that on skin can cause redness and peeling.
Topical Vitamin C
Wick says vitamin C is an antioxidant that stimulates collagen production and minimizes fine lines and wrinkles when applied topically.
“Vitamin C can be unstable and lose its effectiveness quickly,” says Wick. She says to look for the stable form of vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid.
Growth Factor
Growth factor, a naturally occurring substance, can increase collagen production. It maintains the structure of connective tissue and plays a role in wound healing. Wick says there are very few commercially available skin-care products with growth factor, but there are products in development.
What claim is really bogus?  Wick says products touting collagen – a structural protein in the skin — to be applied topically are completely ineffective, for the simple reason that the collagen molecule is too large to penetrate human skin.
Typically, skin-care products sold at medical practices have more potent and effective ingredients compared to those sold in department stores.  Wick says the stronger products have slightly higher prices but the costs are competitive with what’s sold in department stores.


Imagine School at Imperial Valley, a tuition-free K-8 charter school in El Centro, recently unveiled several features of their state-of-the-art 54,000 square foot facility. According to school officials, these feature, combined with the school’s bus transportation, Language Acquisition Program, and emphasis on individualized attention, are attracting enrollment from throughout the Valley.
“The only thing more impression than our brand new, state-of-the-art facility is the higher quality of education our students will experience at our tuition-free school,” states Principal Susan Castro. “Parents are excited about the resources we’re incorporating into the learning environment which is one of the reasons our enrollment has doubled in the past two weeks.”
She elaborates by listing a few of the items that will be seen when the school opens its doors to students this coming school year. “Our younger students sit four to a table to encourage collaborative learning,” Castro explains. “We have 72 tables en route for them as well as 186 desks for our older learners. In addition to a full computer lab, each classroom features technology resource stations. Our initial order of 95 brand new computers will arrive within the next few weeks. Personally, I’m looking forward to our shipment of Mobi Interwrite Pads. These serve as hand-held SmartBoards, allowing teachers to instantly access technology as they’re working one-on-one with students or in small groups. These tools help personalize the learning experience, making core academic concepts come alive for our students.
In offering families a glimpse of what students will experience when school begins this fall, Castro also mentions the school’s library/media room, an art/science room and an acre of outdoor space that includes a playground, basketball court, and athletic field.
As a charter school funded by the State of California, Imagine School at Imperial Valley is free to all K-8 students and is not limited by traditional district enrollment boundaries. According to Castro, the school is enrolling students from El Centro, Calexico, Brawley, and other parts of the Valley. One school bus is already designated to transport students from Calexico and Castro says it is likely another bus will be added to help with transportation from Brawley and other parts of the Valley.
To answer questions about the school and enroll students, the school is hosting weekly information sessions in both El Centro and Calexico. El Centro sessions are held Mondays from 6-8 PM at Brunswick Zone, 950 N. Imperial Ave., and Calexico sessions are Thursdays from 6-8 PM at Carnegie Tech Center, 420 Heber Ave. In addition, families are invited to stop by the school’s enrollment office located at 1150 N. Imperial Ave., in El Centro. For more information about enrolling K-8 students for Fall 2010, attending an information session, or to learn more about Imagine School at Imperial Valley, please contact Susan Castro at 760-335-3603.


By Luke Phillips
Patients in the Imperial Valley who  rely on dialysis to sustain their lives can now receive care at a new state-of-the-art facility in El Centro.
Fresenius Medical Care, the Imperial Valley’s only dialysis provider, has expanded their capacity for treating dialysis patients with the new facility on Wake Ave.
Fresenius Director of Operations Rene Vallejos says the facility is able to utilize the newest and best technologies because of the way the company is organized. Fresenius Medical Care operates under a system called Vertical Integration which means that everything used at their facilities, from the dialysis machines to the medications, are developed and manufactured in-house.
Vallejos says that the company has research facilities in San Diego that research and develop better ways of caring for patients.
“The great thing is, as soon as they have it there, we have it here,” Vallejos said.
Vallejos outlined several of the new technologies available at the facility during an open house event last week, including a machine that can test blood without the use of a needle. Vallejos says the machine uses flashing lights to read levels of hemoglobin and other components in a patents’ blood.
“People always think that for the best care they have to go to the biggest town,” Vallejo said. “It’s great to be able to tell patients that they have that right here.”
Vallejos says that Fresenius Medical Care does sell equipment and technology to other dialysis companies, but the newest and best is never sold to competitors.
“We don’t give them all the bells and whistles,” he said.
One of the technologies that can only be found at Fresenius is a series of green, yellow and red lights that sit atop the dialysis machines and light up to confirm different stages of the blood-cleansing process.
“I used to work for the competition and I wanted the lights, but they wouldn’t give them to me,” Vallejos said. He says that the light system is important because without it, there is no way of completely confirming that the treatment has been completed.
The company does it’s part to help the environment too. By utilizing their Vertical Integration system, they are able to run the operation much more efficiently, saving energy in the process. New technologies also help the company to stay green.
“We don’t really use paper here,” Vallejos said, showing one of the touch-screen monitors that sit beside every dialysis station and call up patient records and other information with nothing more than a flick of the finger.
Vallejos says that the touch-screen monitors, or chair-side monitors as he calls them, will also soon be obsolete. He says the company is in the process of switching over to the Apple iPad, a new tablet computer that doctors will be able to carry with them wherever they go.
“If you come back in a couple years, you probably won’t see a computer in here,” he said.
The facility has it’s own reverse osmosis water filtration system to filter chlorine and other harmful chemicals from the water used in the dialysis process, and also a facility to manufacture medications used in the process, and the whole system is gravity-fed to save energy.

Vallejo says that the company stays green in order to survive the current economic crisis “To stay alive, we really have to learn to utilize our resources more economically,” he said.
Vallejo says the clinic, which opened Monday, can service up yo 260 people, but about 120 of those spots are already taken by patients transferring from other Fresenius facilities around the valley.
The company strives to create an environment of ease and comfort for their patients. The new facility features dozens of dialysis machines laid out  in a welcoming, open space with hardwood floors throughout. Each patient will have his  own personal LCD monitor with cable TV and a free wireless internet signal. With most dialysis patients requiring three-hour treatments three or four times a week, Vallejo says creating a comfortable environment is important.
“Some of our patients spend more time with us than they do with their kids,” Vallejo said. “So we kind of become a family.”
The company was started decades ago in Brawley by Horacia Rodiles, a man that Vallejo calls ‘the father of dialysis here.” He says Rodiles had expanded to nearly every city in the Imperial Valley before being bought by  the German company Fresenius Medical Care.
“It’s really a diamond in the rough out here,” Vallejo said. “The mortality rates are a lot lower here. That’s because of the care that they (the patients) receive here.”


CALEXICO, Calif. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the border crossing in downtown Calexico, Calif. seized nearly 50 pounds of cocaine Wednesday from a hidden compartment built into a pickup truck trying to cross into the U.S.

At about 8:30 a.m., a CBP officer was roving through the lanes of traffic waiting at the border crossing with his narcotic detector dog when the canine alerted to a maroon 1993 Chevy pickup truck.

CBP officers pulled the vehicle and driver, a 52-year-old male U.S. citizen and resident of Las Vegas, aside for further inspection.

Officers discovered a hidden compartment underneath the pickup truck’s console with 13 packages inside. The packages contained 46 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $366,500.

CBP officers seized the vehicle and narcotics, and turned custody of the driver over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

%d bloggers like this: