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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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...
Took a look at the classic old disaster movie, Earthquake, from 1974, which has a great preview/trailer:
This movie surprises, first of all, because its strongest images inadvertently connote 9/11. Not what one expects from a movie set in a natural disaster.
Of course the plausibility question, so often an issue with disaster movies, cannot even be raised: heck, the Northridge quake of 1994, costing in the range of $40 billion in 1994, remains one of the worst natural disasters ever to befall the US. Earthquakes happen in Los Angeles.
So where do the writers -- including Mario Puzo -- choose to go for drama?
I can tell you where the writers of today go for drama -- in this weekend's Into the Storm, to a couple of teenagers who barely know each other and find themselves on a video shoot in an abandoned factor as a monster torpedo spins near.
Frankly, the dumbness doesn't almost matter -- the movie does flying tumbling vehicles spectacularly well. Perhaps better than anyone. Witness the conclusion of the trailer, which uses silence and darkness to hint at a story -- slightly reminiscent of the great preview for Twister -- but thoughtfully short:
Arguably flying tumbling vehicles -- usually cars, but increasingly semis and even airplanes -- have become the most dramatic visual of action movies (of various types) this century. Look at Fast and Furious, Transformers, The Dark Knight, the list goes on and on.
Yes, all too often, that's what drama has come to on movie screens in 2014: will this tumbling semi-rig spin and tumble and crush our hero/the camera?
Okay, sorry. So in 1974. by contrast, with Mario Puzo of "Godfather" fame writing, where did the filmmakers choose to go for drama?
They focused on a love triangle around a super-successful architect/developer, played by Charlton Heston, who is being pursued by the extraordinarily beautiful Genevieve Bujold, dressed in neat peach-colored pants, turtleneck, and jacket. A single mom, she cares for her young boy more than anything, and saves him from a fiery and water disaster -- in part due to her scandalous friendship with an influential married man.
Probably her greatest role. The movie's great success and her bralessness made her a 70' icon, at least to some of us, and a website that tracks such culture epiphenomena as Susan Dey and Genevieve Bujold.
And how did the writers convince us that Charlton Heston, playing an architect/developer vaguely reminiscent of John Galt, is as successful and worthwhile as he is good looking?
He has a telephone in his convertible. It rings as he's driving and he picks up and answers. Yes, it's true. In l974.
Final point. There are a pair of characters -- a daredevil and his supportive pal -- who play a surprising role in both movies.
In Earthquake, it's the always appealing Richard Roundtree, who has a scruffy white pal who helps him make up the stunts, transport the bike, also wear the leather outfit with lightning bolts, etc. In Into the Storm, it's a couple of redneck stunt-loving bozos who just want to get themselves into a YouTube video and get a million hits. They drive a beat-up old pick-up armored with sheet metal, spray-painted Twista Hunterz. It's pretty hilarious.
So: short comparison/review. Into the Storm is a crummy movie with only one character of any real distinction, a beleagured high school vice principal. A little humor, and a bunch of teenagters who all but snore in speech. Oh well, the images are so strong it almost doesn't matter. Earthquake is a richer and far more cohesive movie, more emotional and less random, and its effects -- which won a slew of awards, and two Oscars-- retain great power. Movie also has a great soundtrack by John Williams, as well a startling character, an angry cop played by George Kennedy. He loses his temper (before the earthquake strikes) and sits down at a bar like a corrupt beat cop in a big city, and has a drink and a smoke while on duty. Unexpected!
Perhaps these people deserve punishment for their sins? It's an interesting question on which to hang a disaster movie. Distantly related to the Grand Hotel/Stagecoach/Lifeboat group drama, but arguably better, if not especially deep. Was nominated for a Golden Globe as a drama.
But forget story about for a minute -- these are disaster movies! What images do we remember?
From Earthquake, a semi tumbling off a high free-way bridge and tumbling down towards another freeway.
From Into the Storm, an image of parked passenger jets at an airport being blown back and ever so gently lifted into the air by the oncoming tornado two miles across...
As Judith Lewis Mernit wrote for a blog with High Country News:
The weather of Venice Beach, California, where I live, is for the most part stable, and almost always predictable. No sudden squalls appear out of the southwest to chase skateboarders off their concrete ramps; never do we hear the civil-defense sirens warning of an approaching tornado. Living here, swimming and surfing at the beach a few blocks from my house, I have considered many threats: sharks, staph infections, rogue rip tides. Lightning was never on the list.
I didn't go to the beach on Sunday morning, July 27. Crowds generally clog up the swells on weekends, so I escaped to the mountains in Ventura County. When I left, the weather in Venice was gloomy with a mild drizzle — not an unusual syndrome for the Southern California coast — but by the time I hiked and returned to the car at around 3 pm, it had evidently taken a dramatic turn. When I flipped on the radio for the traffic report, I heard that just a half an hour earlier, a bolt of lightning had struck the water near Venice Pier, and 13 people had been injured. Two were found face down in the water.
She -- like yours truly, the Los Angeles Times, and no doubt many others -- were wondering: Could climate change be responsible?
Well, it's within the range of possibility. Climate models have brought it up. A study from 2013, led by David Pierce of Scripps, ran sixteen different general circulation models and found increasing monsoonal moisture in SoCal:
Winters show modestly wetter conditions in the North of the state [CA], while spring and autumn show less precipitation. The dynamical downscaling techniques project increasing precipitation in the Southeastern part of the state, which is influenced by the North American monsoon.
But Pierce will be the first to tell you that a) this is a projection fifty years into the future, and b) it's impossible to ascribe any weather event to a change in climate. It's like attributing a single car crash to ten years of traffic congestion. Statistically not possible.
Still, there is data to show an increase in monsoonal precipitation. Not only do we have these bizarre weather thunder and lighting storms at places like Santa Catalina Island and Venice beach, but we have a strong upsurge in monsoonal moisture this year. Keep in mind that these clouds, with their potential for thunder and lighting, come from the south, the Sea of Cortez, and rotate counter-clockwise across the Southwest, roughly speaking the reverse of the winter weather pattern we're accustomed to.
Here's the monsoonal precipitation over Albuquerque this year: the highest in over 100 years [green line].
From John Fleck, a weather and climate reporter in Albuquerque. And here, from Daniel Swain's interesting Weather West site/feed, an image of the monsoonal surge a week [precipitable water anomalies, in green] a week before the storms that brought death to Venice beach.
It's too soon to connect the dots to climate -- but not too soon to take cover.