Wednesday, October 31, 2012


   $350 million is serious money, even by government standards.  The AP reports at least that much has been dumped into political ads on California ballot propositions alone. 
     A couple of examples- AP says Molly Munger has spent $44.1 million in support of a prop to fund education and early childhood programs.  The California Teachers Association has dropped $31.4 supporting or opposing two props.
     $350 million to create ads that get junked, or that fly by on screens already jammed with political spots! 
     Instead couldn't that money be applied to programs, initiatives, foundations and the like that actually work to achieve the objectives of the propositions?  Munger's $44 million could go a long way to establishing early childhood programs.
    Simplistic? Common sense? Perhaps. But why not try it?

     A volunteer for P E T A, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has asked Irvine California to put up this sign where about 16 hundred pounds of saltwater bass spilled from a truck as they were being hauled to market. 
     I'm an animal lover and supporter of wild life conservation, but...
     I wonder if anyone has explained to volunteer Dina Kourda the fish were on their way to market, not to dance as extras in a movie, but to find their way to dinner plates after a nap on ice.
      She argues the sign would remind drivers that fish value their lives and feel pain. An Irvine spokesman says there will be no fish memorial. 
      Is this an entertaining Republic or not?

Shadow Bath
(from Lana's Feathered Head series)
King of Schnozola
(a garden sculpture by Lana)
See you down the trail.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


    It was the sort of thing you may see only once in a lifetime.  David Letterman filling an empty Ed Sullivan Theatre, and an untold number of American homes with his unique humor and personality as nature did its worst to the East coast.
     Only a skeleton crew made it through the hurricane, and there was obviously no audience so the rhythm was pure Dave with input from Paul Shaffer and live reports from outside by  "I'm no weatherman" Biff Henderson.
     Production lacked all the niceties and slickness of graphics, bumps, voice overs and the usual stuff, but the spareness of it and Dave's demeanor demonstrated a kind of resilience and toughness in the face of the super storm.
      Denzel Washington appeared as a guest, and entered wearing a yellow slicker and walking as though through a gale as Shaffer and the band played "Hurricane"- Bob Dylan's tune.
     There was something classic in the unusual show.  Maybe  a bit like Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York, reading the funny pages on the radio in the midst of a 1939 newspaper strike.  In those dark days, the funnies lifted people's spirits.  
     David makes people laugh as well and on a night when an unprecedented storm took aim at millions of Americans, he took up his place, and did what he does so well, made us laugh and lifted spirits.
     I've known Dave since our college days.  Those memories and his video tribute at my retirement, along with Biff's  "Hey Tom _ _ _ _ you!" are treasures.  But his personal and sparse performance last night is a moment that is exceedingly powerful and memorable. It was also courageous and encouraging. 
     Dave-as our old pals Bob and Don would say-"Here's a boy howdy for you!"  Well done!!! 

                                        day file
 Morning Drama
 Lots of Angles and Lines
A Spider's Patch
     See you down the trail.

Monday, October 29, 2012


     An extraordinary story of our age is playing out in the vast expanse of the Mono Basin of the Owen Valley in
the Sierra Nevada range.
      It is a story of short-sighted decisions rescinded and precious resources repaired.  It underscores the effort of  conservation ideas prevailing over economic power in the courts.
   The satellite photo captures the lake basin's shrinkage.
     Like many, my first vision of Mono Lake was the exotic Tufa sculptures.  The otherworldly towers began to appear as the surface of Mono Lake began to recede. They are a limestone type of carbonate substance.
    Mono lake is a terminal lake- there is no outlet to the ocean and by its composition is a saline soda lake. It has high salt content.
     In 1941 the city of Los Angeles extended their aqueduct system hundreds of miles north into the Mono Basin where it began to drain the lake. 
 As the lake level dropped the Tufa Towers were increasingly exposed. 
     Big changes are underway at Mono Lake.  These frames 
   of exposed Tufa were shot on one of our first trips in 2008. 

    The frames that follow below were shot in early October this year.  You can see the towers are less prominent and that more grassland surrounds the lake. 

     In 1978 conservationists and environmentalists launched a battle to stop what would have been the eventual draining of Mono Lake.  Since 1941 the lake dropped by 50 vertical feet and shrank in volume by one half.  
         Court action ensued.  In 1990 LA was ordered to comply with Fish and Game Laws and in '94 the California courts ruled that Mono lake must be raised 19 feet.  25 feet less than where it was in 1941, it is enough to save the lake. 
    Recently this was exposed beach.  In the past it was under water, as it will again be. 
     The marker indicates the water level in 1963.

  This marks the 1941 water line when the draining began. 
   Negit, the black island to the right in the frame below was once separated from the shore by two miles of water.  You can see the vestige of a land bridge, created by the draining.  It was that bridge and the coyote and other predators who traveled it to nesting gull colonies that helped spur the fish and wildlife regulatory support which bolstered the efforts to force LA to stop killing the lake.
  Mono Lake may never get back to this level, but the water is rising and good sense prevails. 
     This may be THE monster storm in current history, at least it has that potential.  It is worrisome that unprecedented-at least in our modern historic records-weather events continue to accumulate.  In this case natural elements have combined to amplify the power and severity of the storm.  There should be full inquiry as to how human activity contributes or exacerbates, but there should also be a concerted global study of what can be done.  And, as the first concern now is safety and security of those in the storms path, we need to begin to address how we can effectively survive without casualties to humans and our lifestyle.  Are there better ways to transmit  power than by lines, hung on poles?  Can the grid go underground?  Can builders and architects design and construct with built-in emergency generation systems? Should we be more prudent about where home's are constructed and where populations settle? 
       These are tough questions, but ....
       And a final thought---can't we watch weather coverage
without people standing out in the wind, or wading in water or snow?  Just show the footage!  Allow photographers to execute their skill.  Watching someone hang on in a gale is just silly and maybe even stupid.
      See you down the trail.

Friday, October 26, 2012


   Pal Will, a retired journalist with globe trotting tales and a penchant for nuance, supplies this week's video wonderment.  
    Maybe you have felt so listless or just simply didn't want to be bothered.  Here's a weekend chuckle for you.

    Rising for an early morning tennis match, I was distracted by the sun and the morning clouds.

     We've had an inquiry or two about the weekly gathering at San Simeon.  Still going strong.  In fact, this week's "theme," courtesy of Jeannie, is Autumn Harvest.

The set up before the big kids at play arrive.
Have great weekend.
See you down the trail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


     Mitt Romney's campaign is trying to put distance between them and Republican Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock.  The Indiana right-winger, who sadly beat Senator Richard Lugar in the May primary has created a firestorm by something he said in a debate last night.
     The issue was abortion.  Mourdock said 
“Life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen"
    Think and say what you wish about abortion, as inappropriate as that discussion may be, however when one begins to assume to know the mind of, or speak of Divine intention, you are way out of line. As eminent theologian Walter Brueggemann said

"When you begin to think you know the mind of God, you are on a slippery slope."

       Mourdock, like fellow right wing Republican Todd Aiken of Missouri who spoke of "legitimate rape," represent a frightening trend of right wing ideologues who frankly are not very intelligent. In their mind they may be moralists and they may even believe they are being religiously faithful with their views, but they remind me of zealots from history who would trample liberty, freedom and our constitutional way by their self righteous ignorance.  There is nothing about rape that is ever right.
      That "slippery slope" Brueggemann spoke of leads, by extension, to things like sharia law, fascism and totaltarian regimes.
      One would hope there is enough common sense to see these right wing "true believers" for the fringe extremists they are.  Our democratic republic demands debate and the full expression of all view points, even if noisy and rancorous, but it also demands respect for constitutional liberties.  
      American politics is full of a history of buffoons, blow hards, crooks and zealots, but also the leveling influence of common sense, decency, philosophy and a sense of history. There is a tipping point though.  The more Mourdocks or Aikens who think God is on their side, the more we could trample our way to our own version of sharia law. Americans need to pay attention.
       The Mourdock incident is even more tragic when seen in the light that this clown got more votes than a truly rational and intelligent public servant, Richard Lugar.  By the way, the post A Lion Goes Down is one of this blogs most read with a readership around the world. I hope voters will understand that yes their vote is sacred and they may cast it as they wish, but understand one must apply a sense of totality and thoughtfulness. Your individual vote is part of a path toward a workable and better future. Otherwise you might just as well throw rocks.

    Our little village, tucked between the Pacific and the Santa Lucia mountains is caught up in election fervor.  Most of the candidates turned out at a local brew house last night to mix and mingle.  It was a snap shot of local democracy at work as the rooms buzzed with earnest conversation and questions and answers.  In lieu of a town board or mayor we have the CCSD-Cambria Community Services District, so our issues really are local.
     Not as an endorsement, but simply from an aesthic point of view, Amanda's yard signs win.
     Over the years I've made hundreds of speeches or presentation about journalism and reporting.  One of the truest things I said was a line from Will Rogers
      I don't make jokes.  I just watch the government and report the facts."
     Can I get an Amen?!
     See you down the trail.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


     Just a brief word to add to the debate volumes.
     For a 90 minute exchange on foreign policy, they certainly spent a lot of time on the economy and they missed most of the world.  Sure, people vote on economics and social issues, but in a troubled world they ignored too much.  A deeper discussion might have surfaced some real differences in attitude, approach and application.
Photo Courtesy of CBS News
     What a tough time to moderate!  Bob Schieffer, an old pro indeed, has been mugged by the insipid society of the snarky. Those who are guilty of such are probably the same crowd who suddenly have thrust the word "trajectory" into presidential politics. They are, most probably, people who spent more time tweeting, than actually listening, and who know in their hearts that all presidential politics really is about them, their twitter stream, face time and Facebook activity.  If you don't really have anything intelligent or important to say, then be snarky about the moderator.
       The last debate I moderated was the gubernatorial debate in Indiana 4 years ago. I escaped better than Lehrer, Raddatz, Crowley or Schieffer, though there were a couple of bloggers who went after me. One was experiencing their first governors race while being of voting age.  The other was a reporter whose work, I thought, always betrayed his lack of savvy, understanding of complexity and even more troubling his relative lack of intelligence.  So it is for those who practice snarky instead of real journalism.   
Photo Courtesy of
     Autumn dried Californians wait for the snow season to
paint the Sierra Nevada range. An early storm is expected to leave 8-12 inches along the Sierra Crest and 4-8 inches below 7,000.
      At 700 sites in the Western US, where water supplies are dependent on snow melt, such as here at Mt Tallac, you will find SNOTEL technology.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates Snow pack
Telemetry sites (SNOTEL) utilizing meteor burst technology.
     The USDA's National Resource Conservation Service set out precipitation collectors, snow pillows, depth sensors 
     and temperature gauges. They relay data that is used to calculate water levels from snow melt.
     Alpine ski altitude gets 300 to 500 inches a season. 125 fall on the lake at 6,400 feet.
    16 remote SNOTEL sites stand sentry in the Lake Tahoe basin alone.
     The image below is from a web cam frame grab Tuesday afternoon at Heavenly Dipp above South Lake Tahoe.
This is the kind of accumulation the SNOTEL stations will measure.
Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of
    The next time you read about the snow fall or accumulated depth up in California's high country, you can picture one of the little SNOTEL sites, enduring the wind, cold and depth while transmitting data.
Quaking Aspen
See you down the trail.

Monday, October 22, 2012


     Any guesses on what the television ratings will show was the most popular draw in San Francisco and St. Louis and their respective satellite communities?
       Fortunately the game starts 90 minutes before the debate, so at least a portion of the serious business will be without competition.
       Wouldn't it be horrible to be debating for the "most important job in the free world" and be wondering who was winning-the other important contest?
    What story of the old west played here? Who were the people?
 Deep snow, stars and sun. Wind, cold, and on your own.
     This is not a coffee shop world.  
     The old homestead stands off 395 near Deadman Summit in big high country at an altitude between 6 and 7 thousand.
      See you down the trail.

Friday, October 19, 2012


     Were you too a sucker for a magic show? Amateur or big production professional-it didn't matter.  Even after buying magic tricks at a local store I was always fascinated by the tricks.
      The Weekender provides this video and asks, how did he do it?
      And then it seems that Luke, Hemingway and little sister Joy are working on a variation of "how many clowns can you get in a car?"
Three cats in the Jade plant.
Perfect for your cat nap?
Have a good weekend.
See you down the trail.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


     We might be better off if we ignored all of the post debate analysis from the pundits and so called experts and simply held conversations with friends, family and associates, even those, maybe especially those, who hold an opposing view.
      Most of us don't need a television talking head to think for us. The traditional networks do a quick wrap up and analysis and then get back to their precious money making prime time schedule. But the cable nets and the bloggers go until the sun comes up. In this age of partisan networks there is more heat and gas than light and understanding.
     What do we gain?  It fills time and sells commercials, so the cable nets are not likely to change.  We can simply turn it off.
      For most of my life I watched it all, and for many years had multiple television sets in my office so I had as many as 5 or 6 sources of information simultaneously.  Since it is all spin, interpretation, and bombast, with very little genuine insight, what's the point? Unless for sport. 
      And you have probably noticed how the election media
is obsessed with polls, the horse race aspect, and seem to think it is all about how it plays on television and in the media. The media is A) self absorbed, B) does play a significant role but as I said first is C) self absorbed.  Again I am reminded we can switch it off.  Which is exactly what Lana suggested I do after ripping up and down the remote to monitor Fox, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, PBS, ABC and back.
       Do any of you suspend your own thoughts until one of the television yackers tell you what you just saw?
    Kokanee Salmon were spawning in this mountain stream west of Lake Tahoe between Camp Richardson and Mount Tallac.
    They travel to lay their eggs and then expire.  They become more red as they mature.  


        See you down the trail.