Archive for 2014 August

El Nino — the Lazarus of 2014?

At the last minute for an El Nino this year, a Kelvin wave rises from the data:


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IPCC report leaked: global warming a disaster of poverty

Seth Borenstein of the AP leads the national press in reporting on a leaked IPCC report starkly warning that global warming will give us a poorer, sicker, more violent world.

And he puts the language of the report itself front and center:

"Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger," the report says. "Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality."

The warnings pull no punches:

The report says scientists have high confidence especially in what it calls certain "key risks":

—People dying from warming- and sea rise-related flooding, especially in big cities.

—Famine because of temperature and rain changes, especially for poorer nations.

—Farmers going broke because of lack of water.

—Infrastructure failures because of extreme weather.

—Dangerous and deadly heat waves worsening.

—Certain land and marine ecosystems failing.

Reminds me of a tweet today, that actually comes to us from deep in the past:







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Funniest tweet ever: Global warming edition

One of the funniest tweets of all time, according to one semi-disreputable media outlet, is about climate change. 


#13, to be precise. From Playboy

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The natural art of the High Sierra: James McGrew

Yosemite Blog, as a sort of note to encourage us all to apply for the High Sierra Camp lottery, features the young artist/wilderness guide James McGrew, who has been going to these inexhaustible mountains since the age of four, and seems to have gained a pretty good understanding, as seen in his painting:


This depicts meadows below the High Sierra Camp at Sunrise, on a ridge not too far from Lake Tenaya, tend to dry out in the summer…which in this picture gives them an autumnal glow. Boy does this make me wish I could see the artist in action which he apparently makes possible on the trail sometimes. 


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For 3000th post, free tangerine candy!

This is my 3000th post on this blog, and to commemorate the occasion and thank readers for their interest, I'd like to give away some top-notch Page tangerines, air dried by yours truly, which IMHO are the best trail treats ever. Better even than chocolate, beause a) they don't melt, b) they're lighter, and c) with luck in drying, they shatter delightfully like light candy in the mouth. These have no perservatives, no added sugar, nothing but tangerines, with can be consumed whole. Here's a pic:


If you don't know me by now, this is a sincere no strings attached offer — I won't use or sell or give away or in any way take advantage if you send me your name and address. Heck, I'll take a risk by putting down my actual email address:, to show that. 

My one ulterior motivation is to see if others like these tangerines as much as I do — if so, I may try to sell them next year when the Page tangerine season comes around again. Let me say that these are way way better than the flat dusty version Trader Joe's sells. 

Please write me for some free tangerine candy! You'll like it I bet. 

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Honduran child refugees: What Woody Guthrie would say

American journalism has begun to catch up with the news about child and young adult refugees from Central America, about 57,000 of whom have tried to find a new life in the U.S. this year, in many many cases to escape murder and terrorization by the the gangs who dominate their neighborhoods. 

An excellent story in the LA TImes this week on the subject began this way:

By the time Isaias Sosa turned 14, he'd already seen 15 bullet-riddled bodies laid out in his neighborhood of Cabañas, one of the most violent in this tropical metropolis. He rarely ventured outside his grandmother's home, fortified with a wrought iron gate and concertina wire.

But what pushed him to act was the death of his pregnant cousin, who was gunned down in 2012 by street gang members at the neighborhood gym. Sosa loaded a backpack, pocketed $500 from his mother's purse, memorized his aunt's phone number in Washington state and headed for southern Mexico, where he joined others riding north on top of one of the freight trains known as La Bestia, or the Beast.

Crossing the Rio Grande into Texas, Sosa was apprehended almost immediately by Border Patrol agents as he desperately searched for water.

After a second unsuccessful attempt to enter the U.S. last fall, he now spends most of his days cooped up at home, dreaming of returning yet again.

"Everywhere here is dangerous," he said. "There is no security. They kill people all the time."

"It's a sin to be young in Honduras."

Last month a deeply informed New York Times story on the wave of young people from these regions found kids leaving these different countries for largely different reasons. From Honduras, they left to avoid being murdered. 

“Basically, the places these people are coming from are the places with the highest homicide rates,” said Manuel Orozco, a senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research group. “The parents see gang membership around the corner. Once your child is forced to join, the chances of being killed or going to prison is pretty high. Why wait until that happens?”

A confluence of factors, including discounted rates charged by smugglers for families, helped ignite the boom, he said. Children are killed for refusing to join gangs, over vendettas against their parents, or because they are caught up in gang disputes. Many activists here suggest they are also murdered by police officers willing to clean up the streets by any means possible.

The trauma makes the hatred shown to these youngsters all the more painful to bear.

A friend named Rain Perry, a classy singer/songwriter, for her wonderful monthly semi-improvisational Song Game, rewrote Woody's classic on the same subject, Deportee, for today, and touchingly so. I'll post the full lyrics below, for the curious, but here's the chorus and a concluding verse, which just kill me. 

Is this the best way we can secure our borders?
Is this the best way we can fight the drug war?
Screaming at children who have crawled through the desert
In a country build by…refugees.

Fleeing the streets of my Chamelecon
Was like jumping from the window of a building in flames
They're sending the first ones back to Honduras
All I can think is to try it again 

[I'll also post or link to a basic recording of her singing her version of Woody's "Deportee," backed by JB White.]

And, in tribute to Woody Guthrie in his 102nd year, here is a page of Woody's notes. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame, who was part of the Mermaid Avenue group that put to music some of the many songs Guthrie never finished, told NPR that being allowed to go through his diary and notes was like being allowed to touch a sacred historical object, comparable to the Declaration of Independence.


 Here are Rain Perry's full lyrics to the song — and here's her site.
My father would take me to the Rio Bermejo
In the beautiful forests of El Merendon

But seven young schoolgirls were found there last winter
Face down in the water with their backpacks still on

San Pedro Sula is no place for children
We flash our headlights to show we belong on our street
My brother’s wife Linda was shot on the sidewalk
Spray paint on my door – I took my daughters with me

Hasta Pronto Abuelo y Tia Lucia
I’m coming back home with my little familia
From this overfilled room near the Mexican border

On a big chartered airplane we are returnees
We slept in the churches — we slept under buses
My little girl brave holding my hand
600 miles till we’re crossing the border
A door in the distance like a lake in the sand

“Send them back with birth control”
“When they jump the fence, they’re breaking the law”
“mi casa no es su casa”
“Return to Sender” were the signs that we saw


Fleeing the streets of my Chamelecon
Was like jumping from the window of a building in flame
They’re sending the first ones back to Honduras
And all I can think of is to try it again

Is this the best way we can secure our borders?
Is this the best we can fight the drug war?Screaming at children who have traveled the desert
In a country that was built by refugees


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Uncorking catastrophic climate change? Tom Toles

As usual, Tom Toles finds a funny way to dramatize a disaster: a methane explosion in Siberia


Which raises the question: Well, how dangerous is the methane that is emerging from the Arctic? Is it just blowing holes in the permafrost, or does it presage global atmospheric doom?

It's not a small volume of methane, after all, and we know that methane in the short term is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2– about 30x more potent, to be exact. So the concept of a "methane time bomb" that will set off the greatly feared runaway global warming seems plausible at a glance. 

But look closer, says RealClimate, with lots and lots of data. (From last week.) They conclude: 

…the future of Earth’s climate in this century and beyond will be determined mostly by the fossil fuel industry, and not by Arctic methane. We should keep our eyes on the ball. 

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Unstable jobs the new norm: LA + NY Times

Tiffany Hsu, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has this year done a terrific job of documenting changes in the nature of work today, especially here in California. Her conclusion to a recent piece on how "non-employees" (aka free-lancers) are becoming a powerful force deserved the lede I thought: 

The number of so-called non-employers — businesses with no employees, largely made up of people working for themselves — slipped at the beginning of the recession. But it has soared since, rising more than 10% between 2006 and 2012 to 2.9 million in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Freelancers Union, a national nonprofit that provides health insurance to its members, said its ranks have increased from 46,700 in 2007 to more than 240,000 this year.

Half of the U.S. workforce could be freelance by the end of the decade, the organization predicts.

That story came a couple of weeks ago. This past week came an even bigger story, on Sunday's front page, about how the lack of decent mid-level jobs is holding back the entire California economy:

Last year, average wages in Los Angeles County declined 1.9% — tying Jefferson, Ala., for 302nd place out of 334 large counties nationwide. San Francisco ranked 19th with a 3% increase.

Statewide, the middle class still makes up the largest chunk of households, but its share has shrunk since 2007, as it has for higher-earning households. Now, nearly a third of California households are in the bottom tier of the income range, up from fewer than a quarter.

Yesterday, in the New York Times, another crack reporter Jodi Kantor, known for reporting on the Obamas, did an astonishing job telling the story of a hard-working Starbucks barista and single mom struggling to support her son while at the beck and call of a corporate algorithm that determined when she would work. Giving her little notice, among its other cruelties. Sometimes she would have to close at 11 pm and open at 4 am to keep her job. 

Ms. Navarro’s fluctuating hours, combined with her limited resources, had also turned their lives into a chronic crisis over the clock. She rarely learned her schedule more than three days before the start of a workweek, plunging her into urgent logistical puzzles over who would watch the boy. Months after starting the job she moved out of her aunt’s home, in part because of mounting friction over the erratic schedule, which the aunt felt was also holding her family captive. Ms. Navarro’s degree was on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes. She needed to work all she could, sometimes counting on dimes from the tip jar to make the bus fare home. If she dared ask for more stable hours, she feared, she would get fewer work hours over all.

Today, not twenty-fours after the story was published, Starbucks says they have altered their policy to ensure that workers get at least a week's notice of their schedule, among other changes. 

Out here in Ventura County, Hannah Guznik reported this week for California Health that the state agency that handles Medi-Cal had no idea how many (or few) doctors would accept its patients, leaving at least as many as 20,000 people seeking health care, and possibly 100,000s more. This week the legislature ordered an audit of the problem. 

Let me offer much respect to Guznik and Hzu and Kantor for jobs well done. Perhaps one of these days we as a culture will begin to thank "the media," instead of blaming them for anything and everything.  

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Global warming: even the Mafia sees it now

From the great Frank Cotham at The New Yorker. Available here, on their new and infinitely more accessible website. (Complained about it a couple of months ago: it's so much better now!) 


Seems everyone can see the reality of global warming, except Congressional Republicans (58% denier) and members of the Tea Party (61% denier).

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To be young (and old) in the wild: This Feeling

Last week, in his un-ostentacious but no bullshit way, Nicholas Kristof of the NYTimes wrote a great column on the joys of being on the PCT. I'm not going to quote it, because it's hard to know which bit to choose, but encourage you all to take a look

Today, in a similar vein, but in a more beautiful and more poetic style, Katie Lei, a thru-hiker of a year ago, publishes on her marvelous Doodles page, a beautiful poem/drawing called This Feeling. 


Lei writes about being in the wilderness at the beginning of her adulthood, and about looking back on "this feeling" from the future. Reminiscent of another young poet, at the beginning of his career:

Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now…

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