Monday, January 30, 2006
California seems to be the land of Paradise to so many. Enough to make the streets and the highways hard to transverse even to go to a market .... and many things must be purchased in shopping malls which very quickly become like a backed-up sewer pipe. This is only one problem of 'Paradise' the other problem is getting things like water to so many people in a naturally dry environment.
Los Angeles was really several towns that grew together via the rails. There was a town at the beach, Santa Monica (still there), which was connected to a light rail which ran down San Vincenty and Santa Monica Boulevard from Downtown Los Angeles. Downtown was THE metropolis and was connected by rail to the Harbor, south, and then, east, out to the city of San Bernardino (my grandfather and his mother moved our here when his father died in Arizona - the town used to be called by the LA locals, "San Berdoo."). The cost of living got out of hand for the everyday citizens, and the City Fathers of LA needed more tax money (at that time the corruption issue in LA was blatant and outrageous) and so people began the ubiquitous suburbs that now choke the entire area.
The movie industry came here because we were so lawless (and immoral .... think about that as you watch the television today). And, just as WWII wound down, and not to ignore some other issues (see the movie Chinatown or watch my documentary - click on it to the right, it's free) folks from various backgrounds (many were either poor farmers or inmates from other state prisons) build the San Fernando Valley.
One has to understand that the San Fernando Valley, historically, was a swamp in some areas, and so today when it rains, the freeway fills with water. Before the homes were build (and all the good workers were taken back from hence they came - I met someone whose father was on one of the teams from jail in Utah) the area was farmland. My grandmother came to LA as a small child by railroad, to be with her grandmother who lived in the Adams District. My grandmother said she could smell the orange blossoms miles before she could see them by train. Fact is, Los Angeles and the surrounding counties have been giving up farming land to houses and such... even as I write this. But, one problem remains - water.
During the early fifties, the AAA and GM got together to get Los Angeles to give up their light rails for freeways and cars (their campaign was to get rid of the ugly electric wires for the clean electric cars that transversed the city so we could see the blue sky - but by 1960 smog eliminated that!!!). GM also invested in land in the Santa Monica Mountains and other areas to create more developments that needed more cars and freeways to get anywhere. And the three sources of water for all of Southern California; Owen's Valley, Sacramento River and the Colorado River, are all coming to their own 'tipping point' with the increases of the human population, climate change, and the need to pour concrete over everything.
There are many little details that go into this story, but I had to give a taste of things because as I drove through yet another area (Agora Hills in Ventura County, one of the fastest growing counties in the basin) that is being torn up for mini-mansions and such. I find stuff like this and I just can't believe it.
These people have just invested in a multi-million dollar home with automatic this and that... and yet no one is home ....in ALL of the possible definitions. It was chilly the last few nights, and the area can go below freezing, but these people have to have a perfect lawn. Icicles a foot long formed on the trees and the grass and the street and the sidewalk - !!!! everything where the sprinklers poured water, there was ice....!!!! sign.... And what didn't soak the lawn, or froze on the plants and cement, melted in the morning sun and ran down the drain out to the ocean.... only to be seen again in a few years, perhaps.... if we get enough rain.... or snow in the Sierra Nevada's a few hundred miles from here... or the Grand Canyon a thousand miles from here...
Sunday, January 22, 2006
What these UCLA students are setting up is a prototype mechanized water tester.... It tests pH, DO, Nitrogen and Phosphorous. It also is a spectrophotometer that can identify the absorbence of the major components in the water.... identifying the algae populations by their chlorophyl.
Can you imagine automated water testers throughout California making sure the water is up to standard and the information broadcast to a main station somewhere....? sort of like wiretapping water before you tap the tapable tap.
Even after months past the big storm, this stream had been found to have a very high intestinal bacteria count. The main source of water of the stream was actually from a water treatment plant which must meet Federal Standards of water quality including low bacterial counts. So, why is this stream in such a bad way?
Well, If the underwear is any indication we may have an answer. Many water courses in Southern California have homeless people living along the banks. The intestinal bacteria... even though the upstream plant is releasing properly treated effluent, may come from the people who find shelter along the water courses.
They are, many times, the tiny guys that fly around in small swarms above the ground above bushes, or a pond, or a pool, or someone's head. Why or why do they find the hood of my car to be the place for their love nests?
The fly on the left is the male. He has the fluffy antennae.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
A Sharp Shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus ) has been to the feeders in the past, taking a few doves and I saw it yesterday in a tree above Ms. Chicken's favorite bush. Ms. Chicken is very smart about these things. She barely blinks an eye and I wonder if the hawk notices her being so still, or perhaps hopes that Ms. Chicken will move out of hiding. The hawk's visual system is so keen I can't imagine her not seeing Ms. Chicken.
This afternoon, one of my neighbors had feathers strewn all over the front yard. I had just left the house and did not say good-bye to Ms. Chicken. I was struck by the obvious evidence of a kill and I had to make sure it wasn't anybody I knew.... Towering above the neighbor's house is a huge four story Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) and just about 5 meters up there were white feathers on a branch. Apparently, the hawk captured a white dove and feasted on it earlier in the day. I was relieved.
Sharp Shinned hawks, after killing their prey (birds), carefully pluck out the feathers. Cats, on the other hand, dive right in, bite the head, and tear open the body cavity... so do dogs. Cats and dogs (coyotes) eat the birds from the inside out leaving an over coat (and smaller chunks) with feathers.... Sharp Shinned hawks like to tear off beak sized pieces of a fully plucked prey.The hawks also like to take their prey to some place where no one will disturb them... like cats... dogs eat on the run (like us) so, the branch full of feathers was typical. Now, did the hawk leave anything behind like the beak or claws ...?
Monday, January 02, 2006
It is cold and rainy. I am not sure how folks can sit out in the rain to watch the Rose Parade every year - but they do. This is the first year in 51 years that it has rained on the parade. It didn't just sprinkle, it poured. And after the parade - every year - the City people from the Water and Power folks to the Trash collectors to the Sewer Maintenance all have to pick up, tear down, re-wire, fix, you name it because of the influx of a few more million people in this small town. The trash is particularly disgusting.
At 3:30 p.m. we had a small electrical outage in my neighborhood. Damn! I was working on something on the computer and while fixing a cup of green tea (and to do some thinking) BLIP! So, I rebooted my Mac....
Then again, at 4 p.m. the power went out on the entire street again. The sky was so dark it could have been night. The rain was getting monotonous. I could see there were flashing lights up the street near the main pole. I decided I could go to some store or another (but wasn't interested), sit in the dark, try to read by candle and flashlight, or go out and watch the guys fix the power. I chose mixing with the power folks.
Fred, the cat, seems to have a penchant for tripping me while I walk to the back door... and in the dark he's got his technique for maximum effect. When I was a kid I used to walk around in my dark room to see if I could remember where things were and could get around as if I were blind. My mother never understood why I like to bumble about in a dark room.... I suspect it must have seemed peculiar. I never ran into things - much. However, the practice in my ill spent youth allowed me to find, in a dark closet with lights, my tripod and my camera and I was able to attach the two together. Fred stayed inside while I went to schmooz with Pasadena Water and Power Maintenance Crew.
There were five trucks two of which had 'buckets' one of which was headed for the top of the electrical post. The heavy winds and rains caused the tall palm trees to drop their heavy palm fronds, The fronds have huge serrated stems and one was straddling all four wires. There was a pile of them just at the bottom of the pole.
Several of the guys were actively watching the workers in the bucket and so I thought I would ask a few questions about the procedure for fixing the downed line. They were happy to talk about what they were doing. One of the guys n the bucket took a pole and shoved the frond off the wire and the wires arched.
Then I asked if Pasadena's power plant at the end of the Pasadena Freeway produced enough power for the whole city. One of the guys seemed very interested in describing how our City gets power. Apparently, our fair City helped another or more... fair cities build their large power plants in Oregon, Utah, Nevada,... gosh, I wonder where else?... so we can buy power from them. The Old Pasadena Power Plant was just too small to produce power for the numbers of new households in the city. As I listened I wondered if and when those other Cities would get too big for their britches... and where would we ALL get our power from?
Like a pyramid game, there comes a time when we can't get any bigger. In fact bigger is not better. Growth becomes a reallllllly bad thing. Sustainability, or worse, stasis will be the word of the day.... Now, that many of us are starting to contemplate a time when oil will not flow like water, and cities will have to be self supporting. Suburbia and all that goes with it will be the monstrosity it really is. Individuals owning cars filling up every open space on the surface of ground will be ridiculous.... and all of this could come rather suddenly... Roger Rabbit will fold his arms and say "THee, I told you so!"