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How bad is it? This is how bad it is. I tried to find a better view of the map, but basically, there's no water anywhere, and there's even less water in the Central Coast and the southern Valley. I live in the Central Coast. One good/bad thing is that all our water comes from here -- no water from the Sierra Nevada, no water from the Delta, no water from the Feds -- probably mostly good this year because nobody's turning out water off but Mother Nature. There's other places where the feds have turned off the water, literally shutting down valves to the irrigation canals.

Personally, there's been something wrong at my house. Even though none of us are water wasters in general, we've been running 30% over the target (which allows 50 gallons a day for each person). So we've been undertaking various steps to decrease water use and look for problems. Keith found the toilet valve spewing water in a new way: I'm guessing it was leaking more subtly before too. Anyway, he fixed that. I fixed the dishwasher which needed a new door gasket so we can start using that: it's supposed to save significant water over handwashing if you only run it full. We're adjusting bathing and laundry routines. I'm sad to say I am now taking 8 gallon baths twice a week. Apparently that's a lot less than a usual bath uses. But there are consequences. That grey water gets really, really grey when you bathe only twice a week and you use so little water . . . and it means if I'm going to have enough grey water to flush the toilet I have to get pretty fanatical about scooping every drop of water into the buckets. With the water being so grey, I've taken to putting a drop of bleach in each bucket so they don't fester.

I'm actually going ahead with the summer garden, but I'm watering in drips and drops. I have not invested in a dripline because I believe I need to understand my garden better before I do it. Meanwhile I'm checking the soil before I water and only adding enough to make it moist down at the root level. No showering the whole bed to get it over and done with. Naturally I have bought mulch but it's not been applied yet.

On the laundry front -- the one roommate whose cat has a habit of peeing on her bed has decided to use the laundromat sometimes. I haven't had the guts to tell everyone to quite doing weird little loads of one color, because who wants to be the person who says "I don't care if your clothes all turn grey so long as I don't have to pay the fine for being over ration?" Though I've been doing it for years, and I almost never get  running colors or dinge from that source. I do have other issues with laundry, though, which are not relevant here but which would kind of undermine my position that sorting clothes is unnecessary with modern dye technology.

Meanwhile, my drinking water needs seem to keep growing. I'm up to "must drink more than four gallons  four quarts or I will [redacted for TMI issues]"
 But that's less than ten percent   three percent of my allotment.

Upshot! (or temporary upshot anyway) Remember we were thirty percent above our ration? The ration is 200 gallons per day for my house (and most houses in Santa Cruz). So we were using like 260 gallons a day, or more. Today I read my meter and then called the water department for help in understanding what's up with it. In the last twenty-six days we've used seven something or other units, which you multiply by 748 (no typo) to get the number of total gallons. Multiplying by 748 and dividing by 26 is 201, which is . . . wait for it . . .

one gallon per day over the ration!

That's 59 gallons a day less. Considering that the time included is transitional, that is before and after various changes we made, it bodes well.
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About six inches so far: by now we're usually pushing twenty around here. I figure if we got 20 in the whole season we'd avert actual disaster. With about twelve weeks left in the season, I guess we'll be all right if we get like an inch and a half of rain every week. That's possible. Is it likely?
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Lately I stay in bed for a while after I wake up. I can do my morning surf in bed now because of my cute little obsolete barbie-pink laptop, and I can also write there for the same reason. This allows me to keep from dangling my legs from the chair for that time (which is lousy for all the sixteen jillion billion things that are wrong with them) but it also means that I don't get moving until my bladder or the telephone force me out. Or the dog needs something, but she's happily adapted to sleeping in as long as I'm available to warm the bed for her. Yes, I sleep with my dog. 1) I haven't slept alone on a regular basis since I was eighteen, so it would be a sacrifice to not have her in the bed 2)anyway when she was a puppy it was the best way to keep her out of trouble at night so we were already in that habit 3) mutual warmth.

Anyway when I finally did get up this morning I thankfully hadn't flushed when I noticed the lack of water because I usually save flushing the toilet till after my bath when I refill the flushing buckets (I do not require everyone else to flush the toilet with buckets but I prefer to). So I noticed when I tried to run a bath. Because of my history my first thought was that the water bill had somehow not been paid but when I called the water department they said there was an emergency shutdown and it should be back online in an hour or so. The customer service guy did not know the ultimate cause of the shutdown. The thing about an emergency shutdown is that since it is an emergency shutdown there is no guarantee that your buckets and pitchers will be filled. Moral of the story: keep the buckets and pitchers filled at every moment.

Coincidentally my morning surf had mostly been about how to stop my toilet from running besides buying a new apparatus (I think I have to buy a new apparatus) and also how to weatherstrip my windows. But I think I'm not going to go out and buy the stuff I need for those jobs today because I have A Brand-New Mysterious Leg Pain and I'm going to rest the ridiculous thing until I see the doctor tomorrow. This time there's also a newish not-mysterious leg pain, as I tweaked either the IT band or the hamstring doing somewhat more difficult dances Friday night (but I had fun!). And then last night my stupid ankle swelled up quite suddenly and also quite suddenly started producing the kind of pain you can't ignore or walk through. So, against my uncharacteristic desire to be up and doing today, I am resting. If I'm feeling up to it later, I'll do a bit of hardware store shopping when I go out to take the dog to the vet.

What has happened is that I have gotten some of the money from the sale of my stepmother's house, and I am judiciously spending about half of what I have gotten on necessary repairs to the house, the car, the dog, and myself. I also paid the flood insurance and the property taxes, two expenses I have trouble with (but they don't let you break down into smaller payments or pay years in advance either). I am saving the rest for future insurance and taxes and for travel expenses.

There has been no rain at all this rainy season. There was one paltry storm at the opening of the season and nothing since. There could still be some rain, especially since the season appears to have been moving later and later over the last few years, but I think we are looking at a real drought this year, and not just those near-drought "dry years" we've been experiencing lately.

So, since I have a bit of money now (and never will again), I wonder if I should get a second-hand modern water-sparing washing machine?

edit: other money I have spent and will be spending: refurbishing my banjo, buying an actual new autoharp, refurbishing my bicycle. I will probably replace some of these windows, but that has to happen in the summer. Also getting the damned house painted, and the bathtub fixed (leaks, and also needs a hand-held shower because you can't put a stationary shower there because of the window)
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The old waiver for irrigation standards is expiring again. It's been extended over again in the past, but while it has had a tiny bit of success, it hasn't generally improved the ag wastewater runoff situation in the Monterey Bay Area.

There's a cool thing that has been a side effect of putting together the Move On Council -- I don't know if it works this way in other communities, but the people we've been approachuing to co-sponsor various events and activities have been reciprocating, and we've been asked to help by coming out to this all day meeting to discuss the very last item,  the pros and cons of extending the old waiver (which most farmers approve of since it hardly requires them to do anything), or to put a new one in place that actually has teeth (a good idea since there's still a lot of nutrient and pesticide runoff in the watershed -- some places like along the Salinas River are actually worse than they were in 2004 when this system was put into place -- and a lot of silting, which means both that the topsoil behind it has been destroyed and that the watercourse the silting's in is more prone to dangerous flooding).

Naturally, I can't go: I have babies and teenagers who I can't fold up and put in my pocket (and did I tell you I have a kajillion things to do to get ready for the state review, which is why I had to change my Prague ticket?) But I wrote a thing which maybe someone will have a chance to read for me or to put into the record. Here it is:

I'm a lay person, but I have been a volunteer water quality monitor in the northern Monterey Bay area watersheds for about six years. Some of our work has been field testing, the rest is clean delivery to professional laboratories. I don't call myself an expert, but I have seen the numbers and I have an idea what they mean. I have also looked into these waters, and reached into them with my own hands -- well protected, of course: we know that these waters are not healthy to touch bare-handed.
There are definite advances that have been made as a result of the 2004 waiver. More farmers are aware of water issues, and are voluntarily taking some measures that in the past they would never have considered cooperating with. But if you look at the results of the old plan -- the "bottom line," as people are so fond of saying, the water isn't generally cleaner. It isn't generally less infused with nitrogen compounds. There's not generally less pesticide getting into the watershed. Creeks and rivers are not generally silting up less.
These are not small things. A healthy watershed is not an esthete's luxury. Our livelihoods depend on it -- our lives depend on it. If you live in a local community, your drinking water is groundwater or surfacewater that is downstream of agricultural runoff. Think about how much contaminants have to be pulled out of that water before you can drink it or bathe in it. And then think about how difficult that is to do, and how much toxic material can not be pulled out of the water after it has gotten into it. If you're a farmer, you should consider that fertilizer and pesticide runoff ruins agricultural land over time. That only with a firm mandate for record keeping and preventive action can you expect your land to keep producing the spectacular yields we all expect from California land.

Would you like to see a return of a healthy fishing industry in our bay? I would. Would you like to face the next flood year knowing that our penned-in, silted-up streams will jump their banks and will destroy homes, jobs, and lives? I would not. It's simply time to take determined steps to heal our rich, fertile, productive agricultural lands and our rich, fertile, productive bay. We need modern protections and modern regulations to ensure the future of our community and the continuation of the Monterey Bay way of life.
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We went to Lighthouse Field.  I've been doing this thing where I go out to the beach in the morning on Saturday and on the way back we take a half hour to go round the field and I take pictures at six preset locations, long, medium, close, and macro shots, to document how certain plants and their communities pass the year.  I've been doing it for about a month.  I started to do it a while back but the car died and it was not practical to keep doing it.  I don't expect to get every week, but I figure if I set up a weekly schedule that's easy to keep I will end up with forty or forty-five sets of photos.  But I missed the week before last because I was sick and the car wouldn't start: and this week I missed too, so I decided that since I have today off we could very well go to the field and take out pictures.

There was a problem.  The field was stinky today.  Like a feedlot, only a lot milder.  And Truffle -- that dog, she sure loves herself a big old stinky roll in something unspeakable when she gets the chance.  So she ended up, despite my best efforts (which are feeble, I tell you, feeble), smellng a lot like a feedlot, and not as much milder as the field, since she is only a dog and that stuff was concentrated on her.  It was difficult to drive home.  I had to keep the windows open and while we have nothing like snowcopalypse weather here, it's not a summer evening either.

I brought her home and immediately bathed her (I also bathed the cat, which he took as a vicious betrayal and a dangerous move).  Thoroughly, I thought, too, since she started smelling like shampoo instead of a feedlot.  But now she's just about dry and -- she smells like a feedlot again.  Milder, but still enough that I don't want her too close to me.

Going out to Carneros Creek to do water monitoring at seven or so in the morning.  It's a four-hour jaunt all told, longer on a lab day, which this wont' be.

And I have written!  A lot!  But on several of my ongoing less serious stories, not on one big thing.  So I don't have a lot to show for it.
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I just got a push poll, the kind where you know exactly who set it up after only a few questions.  It's all about the desalination plant.

I reluctantly have to give them support on this, because the other alternatives are even less promising and more threatening.

Only thing is, since we've been having a striking lack of drought lately, I believe this gfives us time to go slow and address the real problems of the plan -- only addressed by one question in the poll: it's really really hard to protect the bay from the intake and outflow. 

The plan includes a prety good sounding approach to the problem of returnign the brine to the ocean .  The natural byproduct of a desal plant is of course hot, supersaline water.  In theplan as I understand it, they will mix the brine with the treated water from the sewage plant -- which is treated to nearly-drinkable levels (to be drinkable by legal standards it needs more chlorine, which is problematic on a few levels itself) -- and the resulting mixture, no longer hot or supersaturated, is piped out to the outer bay where it will disperse faster anyway, thus having less impact on anything.  I'm comfortable enough with that. And I know theat the plan as it existed a couple years ago involved a bunch of safeguards against sucking little invertebrates and stuff into the works, but I'm just not convinced that we've got that wired, you know?

Economic revocery note:

you could hire a whole cadre of people who used to be fishermen, factory workers, or construction workers, to monitor the health of the bay in conjunction with the desal plant.  This is not a cheap proposition: you'd be paying them skilled worker wages (according to former definitions, at that, I think), and it would "make the water more expensive."  But if the program is paid for by generalized taxes, and put into the category of "economic stimulus" because a cadre of decently-paid skilled workers who are tied by the nature of their work to the community in which they live will spend those decent wages on goods and services all over town.
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Took the dog and the temporary dog to Meder Street Park yesterday morning. We walked for almost an hour but it didn't make me act like a human being (instead of, for example, a shelf fungus) later. The point is, however, that I've been playing hide and seek with a tick ever since. I keep getting it and losing it. There's no excuse for this. The first time I was startled and dropped it on the floor and then I couldn't find it again. The second time I brushed against it in bed -- barely registered that it was the tick -- and again I couldn't find it. Now I keep imagining sinister little arthropod feet creeping around on my flesh and worrying that it will dig in someplace I can't reach and no nice fellow to look for it for me.

On another front, we've had water restrictions for a little over a week and I've already forgotten my watering days once and nearly forgot to water today (which is one of my days: Saturday is the other one).

Back on the topic of dog and temporary dog, the temporary dog happily went home with the brothers in law yesterday and today Truffle went into a tailspin. She wouldn't eat breakfast so I had to tempt her with peanut butter to get her medicine into her. Then she moped and acted like she was going to get sick, which she might well do, since she has no stress hormones but what I give her. She's better now that she's had a walk and a day to get over it, but it was really dramatic. I feel like telling the brother-in-law just to give me the dog.
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A few days ago I first realized that the riverbed is about half dry now, which is damned early. It's kind of cool for the dog -- dogs, actually, because I have the brother-in-law's clueless dog Roxy for another almost two weeks -- because the dry part of the riverbed is glorious to run around on and the river is running slow and safe and shallow so they can wade to their heart's delight. There are flowers blooming in that sand I swear I have never seen before, though they are vaguely reminiscent of other natives and other thugs I have seen before. There's something growing there with a sweet fragrance, too, though I was never able to spot what it was.

Other signs of summer: the Watsonville hillsides are totally brown. The seedheads on the extoci wild grasses are ripe or nearly ripe. We've gotten our yearly water warning. But this year it's more than a warning: we're on stage 2 water restrictions, which are not onerous but are more ominous. We can only water on 2 days a week, depending onoiur house number (or other named factors if those don't apply), before 10 and after 5, except you can always use drip or a wateriung can or a shutoff hose. What's left? sprinklers and open hose ends, that's all. You can always water food crops if you need to, if you use a watering can or a shutoff.

This is the third dry year in a row. Not so dry in itself: 76% of normal. But last year was a nearly-not-dry 81%, and the year before 50-something.

There's nothing unusual about this. As the nice fellow used to say, if you bet every year that it would be drier than average, you would make money over the long run. And not so long run, actually.

But we did get spoiled with about a decade of good wet years, green and juicy, and we got out of the habit of worrying about our water. Or some of us did, anyways.
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Truffle and I spent over two hours mucking around on the river this afternoon. I guess I've forgiven the lupines. They didn't make me cry. Other things did, but not the lupines or the poppies or the other flowers. Truffle was so happy she could have written the definition for happy dog. There were squirrels to chase, and birds to stalk, and dogs to say hello to (the usual grumpy asshole with a leashed undersocialized dog who doesn't say "my dog has a problem" and also doesn't notice that his dog with the supposed problem doesn't really offer to tear my dog's throat out when she approaches and doesn't notoice that my dog walks away without offering to escalate the small growl the other dog offers her, but is sure that I've done something terrible even though nothing happens and Truffle and I go our way and he goes his way: I could understand it if I didn't control my dog when I see that something's up, or if the other dog actually tried to start a fight, but nothing happened and the crazy bystander who chided me for not having an aggressive dog on a leash shouldn't bother me because he's crazy and neither dog was aggressive, but oh well).

Really the day was lovely, lovely. The water was running fresh and clear and I went wading in it! My (Ted's) pants are too narrow at the ankles to roll them up properly -- must wear shorts next time -- so I waded in without and got wet to the knees. The riverbed looks like a pristine mountain stream (I know it really isn't, don't worry)with a nice natural array of silt, sand, gravel and cobbles, sand bars down the center and two fast-moving channels on the sides. The water is clear and sparkling (it looks brown from a distance but only because you can see clear to the bottom). The nasty invasive weeds are blooming beautifully. The broom is covered in yellow blossoms, the radish is ruffly and sweet. The clouds are ruffly and fluffy like in children's books too. Just gorgeous.

And the levee is so well used. I remember when it was just a disheartening garbage heap. Now there's a simple asphalt path at the top of the levee with paved walkways connecting it to the pedestrian bridges over the river and to the street that runs by. There's a little planting going on, largely natives and a few "near-natives" that can take the urban conditions. Every time I go there I pass (very) young mothers with strollers, street folks, day laborers with their bicycles and lunches and beer, skaters, business guys from the County building on the other side of the river or from the offices downtown across the street: this time I was most fortunate to run into a guy who was passionate about rivers and fish and soils and water tables: just an accountant, a bean counter he called himself, but he used to be a fanatic fisherman and now he works for an environmental firm that analyzes storm water down South. Nice long conversation full of history and biology and hydrology.

What else we saw: a large area of the bank was cordoned off with yellow tape. The kind that reads "Police Line Do Not Cross." There was a huge van and two smaller vehicles belonging to the police department, a gazebo-tent like people use to set up booths at craft fairs, and about twenty people, some in uniform, maybe more, and I think six dogs. I almost didn't even ask, figuring they wouldn't tell me, but the appointed spokesperson said they were looking for skeletal remains. Then he gave me a look like "I know you know there's more to it and you want to ask me more questions but that's all I'm going to tell you." I spent a half a minute trying to think of a question I could ask that he could answer and went on.

Of course I kept Truffle on the leash the whole time we were anywhere near the search dogs.

My in-laws gave me a bareroot blueberry and a bareroot boysenberry for my birthday. Jason (the son-in-law-elect) is taking me tomorrow to buy moar winebarrels and some stuff to make an arbor. I have decided that moar winebarrels is the entire solution to the water table issue and to some degree the daylight issue too. A half barrel gives more than two feet of elevation, putting the plant that much farther from the water and that much closer to the sun. Wins all around. Also wine barrels are relatively inexpensive as planters go, easy to handle, and to my eye, they look at least as good as any purpose-built raised bed and better than most pottery. And they're recycled -- I don't know why the wineries have to get rid of them. But I do know we have an awful lpot of wineries around here these days which makes me wonder a bit as wineries are pretty demanding in terms of water and so on. Anyway, wine barrels it is.

But right now, I keep getting mad again, or rather bereft to the point of going to bed and crying myself to sleep, because as of this week I will never, never,never be three years younger than the nice fellow again, and it's just something I can't wrap my mind around.

It's Emily

Apr. 17th, 2008 08:41 am
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My favorite archaeologist says Bill Monning is "the kind of liberal who sends their kids to private schools."

That's not much to go on, but there are a few other small things. Emily Reilly does in fact have experience in government and is I think more likely to know how to go about getting things done. Bill Monning has not proved himself electable at all in his own backyard, which is scary, since his own backyard is the not-reliably Democrat end of the district. I don't see Bill Monning glad-handing at the places where the progressive Democratic constituency is nurtured (but I don't see the labor events at the southern end of the district). Before you get the idea that I'm all out and about all the time and that, by "see" I mean "hear about" and "read about" as well as "see with my own eyes."

Those things are political. I got tired a long time ago of voting for people to make a statement: I want to vote for people who will win, as in get into office, do the job, and stay there as long as the law allows, while they stand up to the right, and stick out the fight (rhymin unavoidable, sorry), and actually get something done towards saving the goddamned world.

On another front, snapshot training day is the same day -- and the same time -- as the native plant society/friends of the arboretum plant sale which I desperately need to go to. I can handle it if I go to the plant sale early and the training late.

Other than that, the dog is better, the vet doesn't care that she's shedding tremendously and changing color (from black to tipped white and black with enough tan to make her look like a German shepherd), and for future reference, low-dose enteric aspirin for pain (2 maximum a day) and the nice fellow doesn't remember what she told him about a brace for her gimpy leg (one of the bones didn't develop).

Now I have to go to work, no time to call Frank in Prague: tomorrow's their birthday! Twenty-nine and twenty-one! How can this be? I'm only twenty-six!


Apr. 2nd, 2008 09:06 am
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That's the sound of the nest emptying. Whoops! Emma wasn't even really looking for a place. She was preparing to look for a place this summer. She emailed her Jason some Craigslist links to show him what the market was looking like, and -- suddenly, Jason found them a little room in a luxury apartment downtown (that is, five blocks from us and one block from the bus station, solving all sorts of problems). They have to pay $550 each for their halves of the room, which is just a bit more than ten times as much as I paid for my first off-campus room in a flat.

Meanwhile, it's raining. Kind of. And the water department got all excited about rainfall reaching "90% of normal" and called off the watering restrictions (idiot newspaper which is no longer printed nor even has its offices in town proclaims that "rationing" was lifted, but we never had rationing). Now you can water your garden in the middle of the day. Stupid. Since you were always still allowed to run a drip line or use a hose with a shutoff or a watering can, what is gained by this? As a community we're good at conservation, but why ask for wastage? Anyway, the river is still low, and that's where the water comes from, not the sky.

And I'm still not writing much because we're still putting the "library" back in order. Some of you will be aghast to learn that I have culled three boxes of books. Others would be puzzled by the books that I will not consider getting rid of.
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If you cut the celery root raw into little pieces and fry them with onions and a tiny amount of carrot and whatever herbs you like with potatoes, you can have a low-glycemic home fries that's really really yummy.

If you put whole celery roots into water and turn on the fire and forget them for maybe an hour or maybe more, and you come back and peel them and cut them into potato-salad sized pieces and then do whatever you would do with potato salad, well, there you go.

Cooked celery root is sweet and has a potatoy texture. Apparently the starches that are causing these characteristics are not quickly and thoroughly taken into the body and don't mess with your blood suger levels like potatoes do.

On the other hand, the study to evaluate the tightest control methods currently in favor for treatment of type 2 diabetes has been halted because too many people died using the regimen. The study is part of a larger multifactorial study: the ironic part is that the group doing the study originally had to defend the ethics of the study because it was witholding the best currently known treatments from patients. The reason the study got the go-ahead is that the premises of the treatment regimes had never been tested. They're also studying less strict blood sugar control, more and less strict blood pressure control, and more and less strict cholesterol control.

The high death rate among the tight-control group is not actually explainable right now, because nobody knows enough about any of the mechanisms involved. There's not a take-away lesson for doctors and patients, except that Type 2 diabetes is probably more different from Type 1 than we currently recognize. The rationale for tight control for Type 2 diabetes comes from two things: "normal" people have a certain range of blood sugar, and Type 1 diabetics are known to benefit from tight control.

Some people have been saying for a long time that the complex involving Type 2 diabetes is really, really different from the normal state: not even a disease process, but a different evolutionary strategy. Unfortunately, some of them also say that there's no pathology involved, and that's clearly not the case, when you look at mortality and morbidity.

I don't have a personal dilemma with respect to the new findings. My A1c is well below the target of the loose-control group: it's only a sliver over normal. And my treatment with respect to that is hardly a treatment: no additional drugs beyond what I'm already taking for tiresome list of well-controlled ragged-health aspects, more exercise, and a completely non-extreme diet modification (I keep saying, it's not a low-carbohydrate diet: it's not even, really, completely, a low-glycemic diet. It's a mostly low-glycemic diet with an emphasis on My Friend the Vegetable Basket). But it's interesting.

On another front entirely, I am such the bluestocking. I had the nice fellow take me out for a romantic Friday evening -- a presentation at the Capitola City Hall on global warming and local water supply. There were three speakers from UCSC. The first one discussed climate modeling, both global and regional, and conservative estimates of what we're in for with respect to climate change as well as the ones she considered more realistic (no polar ice caps in a hundred years or so). We got cards if we wanted to ask questions. The nice fellow asked if we would lose the redwoods. The answer was "we really could, depending . . ." The second speaker explained all about aquifers, watersheds, and ground water basins, ground water overdraft, recharge both natural and artificial, and sopme of the politics and economics involved with that -- I'd seen him on a community TV broadcast of a discussion of water rights in the Pajaro Valley (I bumped into it channel surfing. It was riveting. There were water rights lawyers there. They were all urging the Pajaro Valley principals not to go to litigation and court adjudication). The third one was talking about community responses, social justice issues, economics, local vs regional administration, etc.

Then we went up the street to the Bella Roma and had expensive lamb dinners and I almost succeeded in not eating pasta.

I've heard from the young doctor, but that has to wait because I've gotten nothing done today but making the pile of clean laundry taller.
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Four inches in a day, maybe a half an inch since then. To put this in perspective: until now, we had five inches in the whole rain year (since July, but the season really starts in late October or early November), and we get thirty in a normal year. So two days takes us from one-sixth of our normal total to one-third, and also takes us from certain drought to possible drought (we have four months left to make the total). We're expecting rain for the next week.

But the spectacular thing about the storm system was the wind. It was hard enough to knock out the power lines for a million and a half people from Oregon to the Mexican border. Power at our house was out for about twenty-six hours, but we take that in stride. The thrilling thing was being at work and waiting for the last parents to come and get their children. We announced at twelve we were going to close by four, but one mother was stuck over the hill and southbound Highway 17 was closed by a landslide "somewhere between the Cats and Bear Creek Road" which makes us sound pretty remote and rustic, doesn't it? It's not the only way to get into the county, though, so she drove the long way round, south and through Watsonville and then back, and she got there by four-thirty, which isn't so bad. An older brother of one of the babies said "Well, why are you the last person?" And I said, "Somebody has to be." And that's the simple truth.

So our power was out so long because a major transformer blew. This happens a lot in high winds around here. Downtown got its power back by mid-late afternoon, so we went to the bookstore and wandered around some. I think our own little chunk of neighborhood must have also had a piece of tree on a line, which also happens a lot around here. PG&E (the power company, for nonlocals) had said "westside Santa Cruz" would have its power back hours later than we really did. Which begs the question of "what do they mean when they say Westside Santa Cruz?" Because sometimes that means everything west of the river, and sometimes that means everything south of Laurel Street, and sometimes it just means everything west of Bay Street. For reasons best known to themselves, the Google maps people have a map that obscures how west and south could be used interchangeably in our town, but the Mapquest map shows you what I mean. Anyway. So we got our power back maybe six hours before we were expecting it.

About thirty years ago it was all the thing to talk about undergrounding power lines, but it never happened here. I guess new modern subdivisions get underground power, but if you've got old-fashioned tarred wood power poles in your neighborhood already, that's what you've got for the foreseeable future. And power outages in high winds.

On another front, I was bitterly displeased to discover I had the horrible cough coming back Thursday so I went to the doctor on Friday morning and got a review of reactive airway -- which is apparently what they're calling my used-to-be idiopathic asthma now -- and doubled prescriptions on my inhalers. Also, it's not an "emergency" inhaler to be used only when I think something terrible is about to happen, but a "short-acting" inhaler I should be using pre-emptively whenever I'm not pleased with the feel of my breathing.

And -- it's working. mainly. I don't see how an inhaler is going to last me a month like this, but I feel like I'm walking around in a redwood forest -- I mean, my airways feel delicious. I still get the cough now and then, but the spooky icky "how can I possibly be getting enough oxygen when I feel like this?" thing is gone.

Unfortunately, it's way too wet to test my stamina in Lost Camp, but we're going to the Hakone Gardens in Saratoga tomorrow, always assuming that Highway 17 is open (or 9, which is a more wretched road but for somereason doesn't seem to slide as much).

pictures from today )
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We went up "back o' Cowell" today to check on Zak's guess that boletes have come and gone for the year already. Apparently they have. Their big flush is usually around Thanksgiving and maybe as much as a week in either direction, with a few of them before that and a trickle throughout the rest of the rainy season.

The key word there is rainy. We have had very little rain, even for early winter. The ground up there was dry, almost as dry as summer. There was very little mycological action of any kind. And very little moss, though there was some here and there, mostly at the expected stage of development, but furled inwards because of the lack of moisture. The logs were mostly bare! We did see one log with a bunch of little creamy lumps that the nice fellow thinks might turn out to be oyster mushrooms (pleurotis). Our native oyster mushrooms are large and white and tender, and some people think they are too bland, but they are one of my favorites to cook with fresh. Some people call them angel wings. We also saw a large and handsome calyptrata, but I have taken a firm stand that I will accept no more calyptrata. We don't like the taste of them fresh, and dried -- well, we have tons of dried boletes and craterellus still from past years, why should I go to all the trouble of slicing and preserving something we don't like as much?

Which is my current opinion on amanita muscaria, no matter how much we enjoyed them with David Arora. You have to blanche amanita muscaria to remove the emetic alkaloids, and then you can sautee them, and sometimes they come out lovely, but they are more fuss than they're worth if you can get your hands on a chanterelle or a queen bolete. We didn't see any amanita muscarias, anyway. We did see this other amanita-ish mushroom that is associated with them -- they grow together, often -- whose edibility is unknown. It's known not to have muscarine or whatever that stuff is called, but it is not known not to have other toxins in it.

Anyway, the forest is dry at the moment, even though we had a paltry rain yesterday. This is a section of forest which in "normal" years is a wetlands, crisscrossed with tiny, fast-moving streams, and muddy enough to make you worry about getting across it. This is how wet it is: orange peel fungus grows right in the paths, sometimes.

Until recently, nobody official has been saying the d word. Except in the general, "we always have to be prepared for it" sense. We are on water restrictions, but they are pretty mild: you have to put a trigger-grip thing on your hose if you want to water after 10 or before 5, or if you want to wash your car with a hose (I thought they had passed an ordinance against washing the car with a hose, already, but apparently not). But Saturday's headline was all about water rationing being "on tap." I can't decide whether to hate or love punning headline writers.

Fifteen years ago they said we were going to run out of water in 2005 if we didn't do something drastic like build a new reservoir, dig new wells, build a desalination plant, or buy water from out of county. I think we enlarged a reservoir or built a new small one, fixed some mains, and pushed water conservation in a big way. So it's 2007 and we haven't had to import any water yet. We're looking at the desal plant -- it will be a joint project with a small water district in a semi-rural part of the county, last I heard. In dry years Santa Cruz will take some, and otherwise Soquel Creek Water District will use some. I don't gdet how that works, but I know that though it's supposed to be a smallish desal operation, it's not supposed to be operated at capacity very often. But that will take years.

Is there any wonder that the town leaders are beginning to demand that the University cooperate in water planning?

I'm on an upward bounce right now so I'm tightening up the regime, even though it's that weird season when I have to make cookies and crap. So far I've made fruitcake and almost made one kind of cookies. I was out to make refrigerator pinwheel cookies with choloate and vanilla dough but the dough was all crumbly when I took it out of the refrigerator and they ended up being marbleized roll cookies which I cut with the tree and bell cutters. And then the oven wouldn't light. We put it on a cleaning cycle and now I think I can bake the cookies. I had Emma get Costco walnuts and pecans so I can make traditional walnut balls and I have this idea for tiny pecan tartlet dealies (we have a "gem" pan I almost never use -- it's like a muffin pan but the wells are tiny. Or we also have these small star molds originally meant for jello. I could use those) All the sweets are for other people, for example the young man at Hogwarts-Night Watch who has no oven.

The point of that paragraph was actually that gaining those five pounds, which puts me back at thirty-five pounds lost, makes me feel really much heavier, bulkier, and more awkward. I used to be puzzled when some slender, willowy person would complain about having gained five pounds. Now I know. Two kilos plus up is really noticeable.

Also I couldn't sleep last night. I mean I couldn't go to bed.

Also, in the forest -- I breathe better than anywhere else. That is, I do in an open mixed-semihardwood forest, redwood, pine, scrub oak, tan oak, madrone and deep duff forest with lots of sky and a sweet still air, just cool, not chilly. Which is good, because it means I go uphill better than other places.

So I don't much care about whether we find a nice stash of king or butter or queen boletes, because it's really lovely in the forest in the morning. Dry or wet.
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No, it's not my Bay, that would be Monterey Bay, but it's our Bay. The San Francisco Bay is the outlet for the whole Central Valley and two rivers which may not look mighty on your world map but which deliver (where's my California Rivers book? It's usually right here) astonishing amounts of water. The Delta system begins at the bay (or ends there, depending on how you look at it)and involves most of that Great Valley (the geologists seem to always call it that instead of Central). The habitat of the Bay is a complicated, beautiful intersection of plant and animal communities, so rich in past times that people could live on a couple of hours' work each day lifting fish and invertebrates right out of the water.

More than you hoped to know about the San Francisco Bay oil spill can be found here.

Baykeepers and their calls for volunteers can be found here.
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So the police rioted on campus yesterday. People were sitting in trees and marching around with drums, so the police busted out the pepper spray and the batons. Films all over: links behind the cut, at the bottom, in case you want to scroll down and skip the neepery.

Read more... )
The University here is in a period of great expansion. Largely this is due to its shining-star status in the cutting-edge sciences: environmental studies, genetics, astronomy, etc. But it's also a response to the fact that if you have a growing population, and a demand to educate that population, you need more and/or bigger schools to do it. So there are two solid reasons to expand the campus, as much as it grieves me to see the forest and meadow impacted.

However. The University has been stupid about planning and about mitigating its impact on quite sensitive habitats and its impact on the community (about which more in a minute). Lots of people are quite angry at the University's stance that it has to be able to do whatever it thinks of without meaningful involvement from those the Regents consider outsiders. The City and County are especially angry because the University plans its expansions without working with them on water, traffic, housing, and other infrastructure issues. The University maintains on the housing front that UCSC provides more campus-sponsored housing, relative to the campus population, than most colleges. The obvious answer to that is: don't compare us to just any other colleges: compare us to other communities where the college accounts for a similar proportion of the population, and where the housing situation was already dire five years into the existence of the college.

It's not simple. None of it's simple. The University decided it would deal with its housing crunch, and some of its other problems, by buying buildings and by building in town. This should be a good solution, yes? Except that the University doesn't pay property tax, and most importantly, doesn't pay hotel tax (10%!!!), so the city suffers noticeably when a giant, important hotel is taken out of the pool. So it's a good thing and a bad thing. But the City didn't get to take part in the planning for that: it was presented as a fait accompli. If the City had been part of that planning, they may have been able to suggest something the University could do to help out.

Don't fail to understand that on the whole the University has been a great benefit to the town, the county, and the region in its forty-two years of existence. The town had outrageous unemployment when the University was invited to build here -- the fishing industry had more or less died when the sardines crashed, the tourist industry was flagging, agriculture is seasonal, logging was fading, and the writing was on the wall for canning and freezing. Jobs at the University are better paid than other local jobs. More of them are unionized, too. The University provides eager young student teachers, crusading young environmentalists -- we have really clean beaches and waterways! -- public servants, concerned parents, active citizens -- money! Students are not as flush as established white-collar workers, but there's a higher proportion of students with money than in the general population of very young adults. And they spend their money, which is good for the local economy.

But. The University also needs a lot of water, sewer, fire and police support (even without police riots -- just the addition of that many people, most of them in their early, impulsive years, though students are generally less impulsive than non-students -- think about it, how did they get to the University?). Especially water. And Santa Cruz County does not import water and until the mid-close future does not use desalination: the rain that falls between November and April is all there is (if you pump out groundwater as your main water supply, you will go into deficit sooner rather than later, as some Southwestern cities are learning). And the University refuses to allow the City -- whose water they use -- any authority over how much water they use. So the City's pissed because they can't control water use in this one huge, expanding sector of their service area.

Meanwhile, students come to UCSC -- if they know what they're doing, and apparently some of them lately don't because they are dismayed when they get here -- because it is situated in a redwood forest. So when the University takes out chunks of forest to expand, it pisses off the students, or at least some of them. So they sit in trees, or in the past, chain themselves to trees. And the University is never cool about it. They always bring out the cops with their tear gas and pepper spray and batons, and they always rough up the students. I don't get this. The University knows from experience that they can wait out the students and do whatever they want in the summer -- which is a much better building time than winter anyway, since it doesn't rain! So why do they always choreograph these situations where they end up roughing up the students?

I don't know about this expansion thing, myself. It seems stupid to situate a campus in the middle of a redwood forest and proclaim mightily to the world about how you have small classes and an intimate college system and then cut down the forest and expand all the classes and obliterate the narrative evaluation system. On the other hand, these sciences are expanding, they need modern facilities, and the population of University goers has to expand if the population of the State is going to expand (and that's a story in itself) and if we're going to democratize education and if we're going to bring everybody into the century of the fruitbat 21st century and have people able to do the things they'll need to do to save the world.

Of course, California's population would be contracting, not expanding, if it were not for the children of immigrants. And if California's population was not expanding, it would be increasingly composed of old creaky people who need tremendous amounts of care and who could not be producing as much in the way of wealth and services.

I promised links for the demonstration yesterday.

a dumb, short, news article

Student video of the event (here are multiple parts but you have to click around like a crazy person to get them put into order)

I'm including this link to a straight news broadcast video because even though it doesn't work for me, the couple seconds I can see and hear indicate there's something interesting there if you can get it to work right.

The local-ish paper (not locally owned, not locally printed, but its reporters work out of an office that's actually in the county, though not actually close to most of the interesting things that happen here) -- an almost decent article with only a couple of misleading features -- the headline being one of them!
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Maybe tonight. Gotta go label collection bottles and check my kit. Also, cooler? Ice? got to get. Also, I fit into my rain pants now!

Unfortunately, that also means that my rain jacket from the same set is way too big. As are most of my clothes.
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How do you do an RSS feed for Blogger blogs?  I have several bookmarked that I'd like to keep up with but it isn't going to happen unless I can add them to my flist.

Also, [profile] james_nicoll presents a link to some Karl Schroeder essays that are interesting, and which point to a site about vertical farming (which, if you explore the site carefully, shows signs of at least originating as or incorporating undergraduate term papers), which is also interesting.  But James complains that the essays will have no effect on science fiction, while I've already seen some of these ideas in science fiction already, especially the rewilding part.

I think Schroeder is wrong about using no ecological services at all: but I think he's right that industries can and ought to be closed-loop, that is, having no byproducts and using little or no stuff taken from the environment.  Though if the industries are making stuff that people use, of course, the loop either has to have a couple of open strands or it has to be a very large loop which encompasses at least part of the environment.  I mean because you can't make something out of nothing.  Though you can make something out of waste products, leftovers, and dead people.  The environment does that, already.

Also Schroeder says infinite growth! like that would be a good thing if we could only detach the growth from the environment, hermetically seal our cooties away -- but I prefer the word "indefinite" because we actually probably don't have infinity to work with.  And once you've introduced the possibility of reducing our footprint to near-zero (I don't believe in zero), I'm thoroughly agnostic about population growth.

On another front, for about twenty-four hours I had lost 22 pounds total, but I'm back to 18.  Bounce, bounce, bounce.

On still another front, I bleached the primary fermentation containers, which had gotten nasty since I last used them,  I'm making a shopping list and then tomorrow I'll start the process for a small batch.  I will also dry plums and maybe make some plum butter.  Why are you looking at me like that? I'm on Day 11 of the intro, and I will be able to have some carbohydrate things now and then after Saturday.  And the plums and apples are happening now.  The apples are early: this tree has traditionally been an October tree, not an August tree.  But everything was early this year.

Oh, and 2nd draft -- I'm already past the tightly choreographed scene.  I'm finding all the Chekovian mantelpiece guns I left lying around and making sure something happens to them,.  I'm finding places where there's something weird about details or word usage and twisting them to my comedic purpose.  I hope.  I'll be back to the final chapter before the end of the week and then I hope I will be able to write it correctly.  If not -- I'll write it as best I can and then get critique of it and hopefully that will show me the way to go.

And one more thing -- Emma, if you want any of those bean sprouts I bought, you better eat them tonight, because it turns out that they're very useful for the kinds of meals I have been eating.  So there's only a small amount left.

Also, also: the subject line? [personal profile] matociqualahas infected me.  The line itself is from "Little Henry Lee."  Which Harry Smith fanatics will have heard on the Anthology of American Folk Music.
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You should be listening to Democracy Now anyway. Reading the site is good too. Today's lead story is about the privatization of water and the lies behind the bottled water boom.

Amy Goodman has quietly become a ubiquitous figure. She's a complement to Michael Moore. She's quiet, she's earnest, she's focussed. When she was interviewed by Steven Colbert, she indulged him but didn't give much in the way of snappy comebacks: it was kind of cute, actually, watching her. Meanwhile, she's on radio and TV every day with Juan Gonzalez, who has an unretouched but unexaggerated New York accent (one of about 35, I don't know which), and carried by more and more venues, she's part of this website, she has a newspaper column that is carried by I don't know how many papers. She's put a lot of effort into being not glamorous. Her hair is grey and cut in a simple fashion, if she wears makeup at all it's just enough to satisfy the TV cameras and their lighting. She starts out from the position that she has a position, so no false objectivity crap and no vicious undercutting of her allies in the name of evenhandedness.

But the research is good, the facts are true, and that's what counts in a news program. The "mainstream" media act as shills for the worst of the ruling class -- and their audience keeps shrinking, because if the news is going to be half as newsy as People magazine, you'll probably choose the happy fun one. And Democracy Now's share keeps growing, despite a conspicuous lack of showmanship, because it's interesting. It's interesting because you hear from people you wouldn't hear from elsewhere, you hear about things you wouldn't hear about elsewhere, and because it has it's own voice (slightly scratchy and definitely not perky, in the case of Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez).

On another front, I have my new glasses and my left eye is exhausted already from not having to yank itself into an unnatural position anymore. But it's the other lens, the one without the prism, which has rainbows on its edge. I may have to edge into using these glasses a little at a time.

And on a still further point, my guys have gotten into a side discussion of how personal "impersonal" art (botanical drawings, in this case) can be. They are completely unruly, these guys, and persist on being the people they really are despite the needs of a romantic comedy. They will not stay on message, even though this is supposed to be the grand reconciliation and resolution scene. They have three little words they have to say, but what do they say instead? Chiaroscuro:sketchy: frenetic.


Jul. 20th, 2007 12:02 pm
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got 'em. Boys have done the deed in the moonlight in a scene that I think does what it's supposed to do. Less than five hundred words today, but unlike most of my days lately, I think they're keepers.

in other news, the University says it is not a tit-for-tat attack when it opposes the expansion requested by the Safeway shopping center at the bottom of the hill the Universoty is on. The University's environmental impact report has been denied by a judge who said that the City was correct in saying that the growth plan doesn't account for the water and transportation that it needs. The City is saying that thje University has to do a lot more towards mitigating the effects of its demand on resources. The University is saying that they can do what they want and isn't that Safeway thing just a tad blue-sky in some of its projections?

This is interesting stuff.

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