gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
And here comes the rain again. Ever get something you really need, and then get too bloody much of it? That's California and water this year. After four years of severe, devastating drought, we finally got the good news that the storm doors had opened!

Blown off the hinges, actually. We had the wettest January and February in the state's history. Buckets of rain and, in the higher elevations, snow came crashing down. Joy at the possible end of the drought turned to concern then to fear as water kept deluging our dry hills and valleys. In many places, hillsides stripped of trees by the past few fire seasons gave way, leading to landslides all across the state.

And still the rains came. Reservoirs that had been nearly empty filled with such speed that hydraulic engineers, facing this problem for the first time in decades, had to deal with dams bursting at the seams. At Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, the main spillway crumbled under the rushing waters, sending multi-ton chunks of concrete tumbling down to the Feather River. The emergency spillway, which had never been used in the dam's 50 year history, was opened up and nearly collapsed itself as the raging waters eroded away decades of growth and top soil.

It was all too much! Everywhere you looked there were streets filled with standing water and blocked storm drains. A fish hatchery had to evacuate over a million baby salmon lest the debris and silt pouring down the Feather River kill them all. All over the state our aging infrastructure gave up the ghost and stopped functioning. At least two levies failed.

There was so much water coming down the various river systems in Northern California, and so much silt and debris in that water, that San Francisco Bay turned brown and was briefly considered to be a freshwater feature. There was a warning issued to all mariners operating in the bay or coming through the Golden Gate to be aware of debris up to and including large trees and portions of buildings.

And still the rains came. Even here in the usually dry Santa Clara County, the waters were causing havoc. Anderson Dam, to the south of us, couldn't be allowed to fill completely due to needed seismic upgrades. Yet as was the case everywhere else, the reservoir was rapidly rising. In a stunning breakdown of communications, water was released into Coyote Creek too quickly, and without evacuation orders going out to residents along the creek banks. The result was the worst flooding seen in the county in a very, very long time.

An amusing side note to the Coyote Creek flood, a gold course grounds manager discovered just how many homeless people were living on his course when he took a boat out to inspect the damages and found 50 people up trees.

Not that funny, I know, but you take it where you can find it.

The sad thing is that even with all the rain we've gotten, and even with the record snow pack up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, we're not out of the woods yet. California has been draining the subterranean water table almost everywhere to fuel our state agricultural juggernaut. It would take several years of weather like this to recharge it. I suggested in all seriousness that the state should have opened levies all across the San Joaquin Valley and in other agricultural areas once the size of the runoff became unmanageable. Flood millions of acres of farmland with water rich in silt and (let's face it) dead biomass. Recharge the soil and the water table a bit. As usual, my voice wasn't heard.

Yeah, I think we're all pretty done with the rain for this year. On the upside, the waterfalls in Yosemite are more stunning than usual, and should remain flowing through August. But that's a minor plus to a series of devastating storms. We now face a race to rebuild and repair not just the Oroville and Anderson dams, but our water infrastructure all around the state. We put it off for far too long.

The real nightmare, though, is that this year was an anomaly. A blip in the weather pattern caused by a series of factors that lined up perfectly, and that next year the rains will stop again. Because despite living in a place where droughts are common, Californians still have goldfish brains when it comes to water conservation. They see a wet winter and immediately go back to wasteful ways, and we can't afford that. Because the next drought is right around the proverbial corner, right behind the storm door that can close any time.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Thoughtful)
In the comments on an article about the death of Gregory Powell, one of the infamous Onion Field killers. One commenter wondered if the cost of the long incarceration of Powell would change the mind of anti-death penalty folks like me. Here's my response:

Sorry, but no.

The simple fact of the matter is that the police make mistakes or act in illegal ways to close a case. Not always, not even often, but it happens. Same goes for prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges.. the entire criminal justice system is capable of error.

So what do you do if evidence is found that someone was wrongly convicted? A judge can void the conviction and call for a new trial. In extreme cases the judge can declare the entire case irreversibly tainted and order the convict freed immediately. States have funds to compensate those imprisoned wrongly for their loss of freedom.

How do you compensate a dead man? Isn't the premeditated intentional killing of an innocent man the very definition of murder? Should we execute those responsible for the wrong verdict?

People are freed every month after their convictions are overturned. Your lust for blood and vengeance isn't justice, it's the howling of a lynch mob.

If you really cared about lowering prison costs you'd be advocating for an end to the war on some drugs, working to end the poverty and hopelessness that leads to a life of crime, and demanding alternative sentences for non-violent offenders.

http://www.innocenceproject.org/
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Stealing Sanity)
I just checked the mail. I am now laughing so hard my teeth may fly out.

As many of you may recall, back in February we registered Darby as non-operational due both my inability to live and our being way broke at the time. When Kirsten filed the renewal, there was some confusion over the insurance; but it was finally determined that a non-operational vehicle didn't need to be covered. Darby sat, being started occasional to keep the fluids moving and the engine alive, until we got the funds together to get me back on the road. Again, when Kiri filed the paperwork at AAA's DMV counter, she took care of the insurance at the same time. I'm legal again, and enjoying life behind the wheel.

Well, today there were two pieces of mail from the fine folks at Dullards, Morons, and Vagabonds. Each was addressed to both of us, because we're both listed as owners. Open the first:

IMPORTANT: YOUR VEHICLE REGISTRATION IS SUSPENDED EFFECTIVE: 05/23/11


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I know for a fact we restarted the insurance on Darby, I have the bloody insurance cards in the truck! I start imagining another ordeal with the DMV and having to scrap our two-car plan for Reno. Muttering about the bureaucrats of the City of Dis, I open the second envelope expecting a duplicate form for the other owner. Instead I see:

IMPORTANT: YOUR VEHICLE REGISTRATION IS REINSTATED EFFECTIVE: 08/04/11


I looked. Both letters were generated on August 4th. Oddly, both were mailed on August 10.

This is your government at work. Hail Eris!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (San Francisco)
It's late June, right? Less than a week to my birthday? Summertime in California, meaning sun, beaches, and tall cool drinks, right?

I laugh.

It's April showers, damnit!

A winter style cold front out of the Gulf of Alaska is hitting the entire Bay Area today. Lots of rain, some thunder. Best part? It's going to drop fresh snow on the Sierra Nevadas just in time for the July 4th weekend. Most of the ski resorts are still open! Many of them still have 40 feet of snow, and they're getting more!

Global climate change is real.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (San Francisco)
SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE - British Pathe

Various shots of police, rescue workers and firemen at work clearing the rubble and playing with hoses after mass destruction of 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Various shots of the rubble, heavily damaged buildings, people at work etc. Various shots of less damaged streets with people and horse drawn carriages moving along. Various shots of the flattened streets covered with debris, tented camps where the people have moved etc. Good footage of the 'tented city' where the people have lived after the earthquake, food is served, people queuing for meals, eating at long tables, etc. Several good shots of the buildings collapsing rising thick clouds of dust.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Clay Portrait)
This photo was taken about 90 minutes ago,

Ice falls, Everyone dies

That's a hail burst bouncing off my truck. Lasted about fifteen minutes. One of several we've had today. We're expecting stuff like this all week. The earlier edge of the storm has resulted in Highways through the Sierras being closed due to zero visibility. Which is a pity, because the Tahoe-area ski resorts are reporting several feet of fresh snow, and some of the ones at higher elevations are making plans to possibly stay open through the July 4th weekend.

The next person who says the word "drought" in my presence will be beaten to death with the brick from my toilet tank.*

I'm not complaining, it's great to see all this moisture hitting our parched state. Problem is, we're getting too much at once and a lot of it is going to be wasted due to (wait for it) our decaying infrastructure. Our levees are weak, a lot of the Hetch Hetchy system that supplies San Francisco hasn't been upgraded since the last WPA worker left, we have dams that haven't been inspected in Halford only knows how many years, and San Francisco's storm drains were installed after the 1906 earthquake.. and have never been replaced.

Hopefully the levees hold. Although it would be just like me to go to a San Joaquin County Council meeting after a levee break there and say "For the love of God; first y'all complain that you're not getting enough water, now you got water all over the place, and you're still complaining? Make up your minds!" Hopefully the state water resources people can get up the mountains again for yet another check of the snow pack and release more water for the farmers. I'm just happy I have no appointments this week. This is one of those days when being this broken almost seems better than my job. But honestly, given a choice, I'd be out there on the road.

How's the weather in your neck of the woods?
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (San Francisco)
Just had a minor earthquake. Nothing much, barely shook the apartment. [livejournal.com profile] kshandra actually felt it more at her office than I did at home.

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