At the last minute for an El Nino this year, a Kelvin wave rises from the data:
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.
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.
Today Crosby Stills Nash & Young released a massive live compilation of recordings from their huge and infamous "Doom" tour of 1974 (yes, that's right, forty years ago). Thirty-plus songs, from thirty-plus performances, before crowds averaging 50,000, we are told.
In the Wall Street Journal, in Rolling Stone, on Jimmy Fallon, in Drowned in Sound, and no doubt in an almost infinite number of venues we'll see the old would-be left coast beatles discussed and interviewed. Maybe we'll even hear some of the music. Despite the band's tendency to go over the top lyrically, the record -- over which Graham Nash in particular labored for years -- has won great reviews.
Crosby has blamed the jerkiness of the band at the time on cocaine, and from watching film of their talks backstage more than one insider admits that they sound like pompous jerks, and in particular the candid Graham Nash admits with regret that he was a terrible drug addict at the time.
Bassist Tim Drummond in an oral history today said that Bob Dylan happened to visit, and played songs from his "Blood on the Tracks" record to him and Stills in a hotel room. Drummond was in total awe. Stills sneered at it as "not good" to Dylan's face, which has to be about the crassest possible move, short of actually attacking Dylan with a stick or something. It's an interesting story.
But note that in this flood of talk, Neil is not saying a word. Not one word. Not to Rolling Stone, not to the Wall Street Journal. He's made his feelings about the tour plain for years. During the tour he split from the hotel penthouses, the jets, the free food and drink, the drugs, the groupies, the rip-offs.
Graham Nash to the WSJ:
During the tour, Neil's album "On the Beach" was released and he began traveling separately in a mobile home and then a bus. It was typical Neil. [Mr. Young wasn't available to comment for this article.] The timing of its release was probably part of the reason he did the tour. But Neil also was our conscience. One night after a show, we all went back to our hotel suite where we had the entire top floor. It was decadent. Every night there were huge plates of food set up, like cold lobster for dozens of people. Neil was disgusted by the excess. There were even pillows embroidered with Joni's tour logo as well as china and luggage. Hey, we didn't ask for all that. This soured Neil a bit and, in retrospect, he was right.
Plus, unlike many wince-worthy CSN&Y songs, most of Young's songwriting -- which is at its best at his simplest -- stands up to time's long gaze without apparent effort.
Here's an example of a forgotten classic from that l974 tour, with Neil on guitar and harmonica, Crosby and Nash harmonizing perfectly, and Stills playing an eloquent country-ish piano counterpart to Neil's plaint, from a last performance in Wembley England.
A cow is not Bigfoot. Nor is a wolf, a bear, or a racoon -- but hair samples from all of these creatures were given to an pair of academics looking for the truth behind the Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti legend.
Psychologist Rhettman Mullins and geneticist Brian Sykes put out a call for testable hair from a Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti, and from around the world were given all sorts of follicles -- including one strand of fiberglass.
According to a story in LiveScience, the hair came from over thirty other anmal species of every imaginable variety, even including a couple of extinct bears.
What it didn't come from was any species even remotely human.
Daily journalism is the first draft of history, they say; well, this looks to be a story crying out for another draft or two. So much cannot be said in 800 or so words.
Just the combination of the academic/scientific co-authors intrigues.
First we meet a psychologist named Rhettman Mullis, a believer in the legend, and fascinated enough with it to be part of a site/community devoted to its study. He joined forces with a geneticist named Brian Sykes. Unusual.
To pick up this thread from the Livescience story:
...Sykes, a geneticist at the University of Oxford in England, teamed up with Mullis and other researchers to solicit hair samples from supposed Bigfoot sightings around the world. If the sightings were real, the thinking went, then the DNA should not match that of any known animal.
The team received 57 samples, one of which was actually a piece of fiberglass, the researchers said. After winnowing down the samples to the most likely bets, the team did a genetic analysis on 36 of the samples.
Almost all came from known animals, including cows, horses, raccoons, humans, deer, coyotes, and even a Malaysian tapir. None of the samples, however, came from a completely new primate species, the researchers said.
So it's over for the Bigfoot legend, is that what they're saying?
Kaput. Finished. Through.
No, not exactly -- the clever investigation takes another twist.
...two hair samples, one from Bhutan and the other from Ladakh, India, closely matched the genetic sequence of an extinct Paleolithic polar bear. One came from an animal shot over 40 years ago by an experienced hunter, who claimed the bear acted more aggressively than do typical brown bears. The other came from an area that is reputed to be the nest of a "migyhur," the Bhutanese version of a Yeti.
It's possible that the two samples are from a previously unrecognized bear species or a hybrid of existing species, the researchers said. If the newly discovered bears are widespread, they may contribute to the legend of the Yeti, especially if the hunter's report of more aggressive behavior is representative of the species as a whole, the authors wrote in the paper.
The story goes on to quote Mullins saying that despite this finding, he still believes in something Yeti-ish in the Himalayas. He points out that there are three words in the language of the area for this creature, only one of which means bear.
Okay -- but what about the geneticist?
The story appears not to ask Sykes -- for some reason.
Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes poses with a prepared DNA sample taken from hair from a Himalayan animal. DNA testing is taking a bite out of the Bigfoot legend. After scientists analyzed more than 30 hair samples reportedly left behind by Bigfoot and Yeti, they found all of them came from more mundane animals like bears, wolves, cows, and raccoons. In 2012, researchers at Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology issued an open call asking museums, scientists, and Bigfoot aficionados to share any samples they thought were from the mythical ape-like creatures. BBC4/AP/File
While everyone knows that exercise is a good idea, whatever your age, the hard, scientific evidence about its benefits in the old and infirm has been surprisingly limited.
“For the first time, we have directly shown that exercise can effectively lessen or prevent the development of physical disability in a population of extremely vulnerable elderly people,” said Dr. Marco Pahor, the director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Florida in Gainesville and the lead author of the study.
Countless epidemiological studies have found a strong correlation between physical activity in advanced age and a longer, healthier life. But such studies can’t prove that exercise improves older people’s health, only that healthy older people exercise.
Okay, but looking past Captain Obvious, how much can we expect walking to help? And what does that kind of aging look like? How do we not just exercise in a general way, but walk in the mountains as we age? How hard do we push ourselves?
So happens that Backpacker magazine has a superb story on exactly that topic, although -- to my bewilderment -- I cannot find it in the Backpacker webite, even though the featured "senior hiker," Joe Kelsey, a climber still at 75, a former guide and writer, has been written up in past issues, and the writer of this piece -- Hike Forever -- Matt Jenkins, has a long association with the magazine.
And believe me, I looked through their site. But no matter -- if and when it's posted, I'll link to it. For now let me link to a past mention of Kelsey's favorite trips in his beloved Wind River range in Wyoming and manually quote the rhetorical heart of Hike Forever, from adventurer/writer Matt Jenkins, which has some of the best such writing on the physical mysticism of hiking in the moutains I've seen in some time:
Now you might think a man in his 70's might be a little creaky for hard climbing, but not Joe Kelsey. He moves upward like a dancer. Of course, he's not the only senior hiker to remain physically fit at an age when most people are looking at photo albums, not making them. Heck, Earl Shaffer, the Appalachian Trail's first thru-hiker, hiked it for the third time at age 79. But unlike record-setters, whose feats can appear unattainable for us mortals, Kelsey's path seems like one I can follow. Keeping doing what you love. Go for a short hike if you can't go for a long one. Use packhorses if you'd rather spend your energy climbing backcountry rocks than carrying a heavy load.
At lunch we lie in the meadow, close our eyes, and swap stories. This is the finest gift of the mountains: to be utterly unattached to the outside world. We are in an alpine meadow so close to the sky we need only reach out our arms to touch it -- while the rest of humanity is far down below, entangled in a morass of emails and tweets and text messages. the spiritual freedom of this recognition gradually fills us like a snowfield fills a tarn. for a while we simply listen to the exquisiteness of nothingness, allowing ourselves to be absorbed into the landscape, to become part of the mountain like the purple fleabane and the flecks of feldspur.
I am dozing, in a dream-like state but still conscious of the warm rock under me and the sun upon my skin, when I once again fast forward to inhabit the body and mind of my older self. I can see that I will enjoy what I presently resist: taking my time, observing more than doing, accepting limitations. I can imagine no longer constantly pushing, but rather accepting the world for what it is rather than what it should bve, and myuself, not for what I weill become, but for what I already am.
That's why I keep going back to the mountains I guess. Haven't found a pic able to express what Jenkins puts so well, but this one -- of a pinyon pine in the Mojave -- gives some sense of that warmth and that timelessness on the trail. From one of the best campsites I have found on the PCT -- entirely by chance.
[at about mile 637 in Section F atop a hill beyond a water cache]
We should be properly skeptical of any image I suppose, especially in these days of Photoshop, and when an image purports to describe a before and after in colors demand to know even how the the satellite data was visualized, the colors chosen...but wow, this image knocks me off my feet, and at a gut level I believe in and believe it harbingers a shift in the Pacific.
[From the enthralling earth/nullschool site and app.]
Holy holy, as Allan Ginsberg used to say...
Last week I completed the second half of the first section of the Pacific Crest Trail, through the Anza-Borrego Desert, which turned out to be a good little adventure. Pics and comments below for anyone who might wonder -- what's it like to walk the PCT in SoCal just 50-100 miles north of the border?
Let me start with a moment of mild drama...ran into this fellow hanging out in the trail:
Fortunately he was very mellow, and hardly seemed to notice as I skirted him and the trail to pass, (after trying to move him on with a couple of chucked rocks).
[Here's a favorite human interest/travel story I wrote recently for the Ojai Valley Guide (pdf) and the story in a more browser-friendly version]
Hidden in an oak woodland, across a bridge and over a stream, on Highway 150 not far from Thomas Aquinas College in Ventura County, can be found one of the least ordinary of sanctuaries for the traveler in search of spiritual renewal.
Mother Victoria and her fellow three sisters of faith of wear only black, produce income mostly from the construction of redwood coffins, and pray four times a day. Given the seriousness with which they take their traditional faith, and the many hours they spend praying to expiate their sins, it’s easy to fear frowning faces, heavy accents, and stern looks of condemnation for a visitor from the 21st century.
Instead, in conversation around the dinner table, an impish humor quickly emerges from the sisters, Americans all, to surprise a visitor. Especially quick with a quip is Mother Nina, but all of the sisters – even Mother Victoria, who was born into the church, and retains at all times a matriarchal dignity – have their witty moments.
Who rules the monastery? Punkin, an orange tabby, the sisters agree, and declare him the ruler of all he surveys in the monastery. The cat sits still and his eyes close sleepily as he is complimented, as if to say – of course, of course.
Given that this is the worst drought on record in California, it's natural for people to hope for El Niño and all the rain that a good strong El Niño can bring. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported:
...even as hope dims for a March miracle storm, climatologists say weather conditions could change this year if an El Niño takes shape. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño watch this month, citing a 52 percent chance of Pacific Ocean waters warming and creating - possibly - a wetter-than-average winter.
The possibilities were discussed more thoroughly by Bob Henson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research earlier this month. Henson hinted at an underlying excitement:
Most of the El Niño events over the last 15 years have been on the weaker side. However, some conditions in the western tropical Pacific are now strikingly similar to those that preceded the two strongest El Niño events of the last century: 1982–83 and 1997–98.
If El Niño doesn’t take shape in the next several months, we may not see it this year at all. “Once you get toward summer, the odds of getting a major El Niño certainly start to go down,” says NCAR scientist Kevin Trenberth.
Should a truly significant El Niño event develop by June or July, it would give us months of advance notice about which parts of the United States are likely to be cooler, milder, wetter, or drier than average come next winter. You still wouldn’t have a specific forecast for New Year’s Day or Groundhog Day in your hometown, but even a slight shift in seasonal odds—as long as it’s a confident shift—could mean millions of dollars for utilities, agricultural firms, insurance companies, and others in a position to hedge big bets.
Yet note the hedge: "most of the El Niño events of the last fifteen years have been on the weaker side." Ask Bill Patzert of JPL/NASA, one of the best forecasters of the phenomenon, why that might be and he will point to a larger ocean phenomena -- the Pacific Decadal Oscillation -- and argue that there's a reason most of these events have been weak. They've been swamped by the PDO, which turned negative fifteen years ago. It's still strongly negative, as this chart from the U of Washington shows:
It's noteworthy that the most prominent critic of NOAA's predictions has been right in the past, about El Niño, and is saying pretty much what he was saying seven years ago, when an El Niño event was predicted. From a great story by Hector Becerra in the Los Angeles Times in March 2007:
When it comes to El Niño, NOAA tends to emphasize data
from a network of buoys running across the equatorial Pacific from Asia to
the Americas. They make measurements on the upper 500 meters in the
ocean, where the major deviations in temperature take place. The weather
consequences can be dramatic depending on the size of the temperature
increase, the area of ocean involved and the duration of the phenomenon.
For NOAA, an increase of about 1 degree Fahrenheit over three months in
a defined area of the Pacific meets the threshold for El Niño.
Patzert, on the other hand, is an expert in analyzing satellite data.
The satellites measure the elevation of the sea surface as a result of the
expansion of water as temperatures increase in the upper 500 meters. The
satellites are not as hyperfocused on El Niño and look beyond to other
One of those patterns is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a slow-moving
variation of temperatures between the western and eastern sections of
the Pacific. In 1998, the western Pacific was becoming warmer than the
eastern Pacific, leading Patzert to conclude that in the long term, an "El
Niño-repellent" pattern was forming that would favor drought in Southern
California for many years.
Patzert still sees an El Niño-repellant pattern in place, and has scoffed at "the great WET hope" before, and may scoff again. Even the chart the forecasters put up as evidence of El Niño looks a little thin:
How many chips do you want to put on a 52% probability?