Monday, March 21, 2011

Notes: 3/25/11

1. Adventures come in all sizes: The pups and I decided to take our chances this morning. Spotlights of sun were shining through the clouds highlighting the lakes and hills with areas of brilliant color…in contrast, dark clouds hung in the sky to the south and west.
Threatening morning!

Yesterday a gale was in full blow out of the south - intense winds - Waves! – A regular surf rose along the shore line … I was warm and dry inside my jacket – and the water sound in my ears and the drizzle in my face made for a fine walk…

Sunlit foreground

But today there was calm– as we set out, we encountered, flying just about the water’s surface, swarms of tree swallows hunted for insects… diving and turning … sweeping and weaving. It was a morning of contrasting light - Bright sunlight shining on a cottonwood tree showing the first green buds–against a background of black clouds – A rain shower traveling down the valley (toward us) showing as a mistiness hanging in the air … then, there next to it, brilliant sharp emerald hills shining in the sun….

Approaching shower!
After walking a couple of miles, the drizzle turned into a shower – then heavier downpour … The dogs don’t like rain – every few minutes they stop and vigorously shake off the water – but then continue the serious business of smelling all the good morning smells along the way. Even during the shower, there were patches of sunlight coming and passing… My rain jacket sheds water – but my walking hat became sadder and more limp as I walked until it clung to the sides of my face…

"I smell a gopher!" ( Her barking gives the gophers fair warning...)

After the shower passed, birds began to appear- a pair of brown towhees began feeding (calling to each other), Red Wing Blackbirds started their rusty hinge cry, a feisty brush Jay challenged me, and off in the distance there was a mocking bird singing… and then, just beside my trail, was a Turkey Vulture spreading its winds to dry in the sunlight. They are quite a handsome bird even though they have such a reputation due to their profession.

Wing drying and warming in the sun...

They use the same strategy used by the Dimetrodon dinosaur to warm itself… (increase your surface area and expose it to the sun!) I have little doubt that birds are closely related to dinosaurs! ( Read more: .

Alameda Creek in flood

I seldom see the flood control channel with so much water! – It drains a vast region of hills from the Altamont Pass (near Livermore) to Mt. Umunhum (near San Jose)… The ground is saturated and we have received daily downpours all this week: 3 inches of rain within a 3-day period earlier in the week, an additional 2 inches yesterday alone! That's a vast amount of water to drain to the bay...

Niles flood of 1955 - pre-flood control channel

In the “good old days” before the flood control channel this would produce one of our famous Niles floods which occurred every 50 years or so… Now the water is whisked away down a rapidly flowing river channel.

2. How to move forward: We have in California a gap of about $20 Billion between expenses and projected money available! I want to express support for the California governor's budget plans for moving forward - especially his tax plan. All he is asking now is for the legislature to allow the public to vote on the budget! And this too is being blocked. I am gravely concerned for the future of our state and nation if we dont have reliable funding for the programs and infrastructure that will make us a "player" in the world economy. To get a sense of the issues involved in balancing the California State budget go to this interactive site.

What must we do if we are to thrive in this constantly changing world economy? If we approach the future with the narrow vision of thinking only of tax reductions and returning to some earlier simplier time we are deluding ourselves! We will get what we are willing to support - To do nothing is to move backward...

(a) Our most important resource is the empowerment of our people - Access to education by all that are intellectually capable is essential… Offering health care that all can afford is good for business and productivity. Allowing workers to organize is the best way to build the economic power of our middle class and to strengthen out economy.

(b) We must develop and maintain our infrastructure to allow us to communicate and grow: National access to high speed internet, Modern power grid, Development of affordable and reliable alternatives to carbon based energy, The basic infrastructure of modern roads, bridges, pipelines.

(c) We the people desire for our government to be more responsive to the people. The first concern of too many politians is getting reelected and listening to interests of the deep pocket contributors rather than seeking cooperation and ways out of the gridlock that prevent real progress.

3. One reason many Americans have a limited sense of our place in the developing world is that our local news services provide little information on international issues, and many newspapers or TV stations reduce serious international issues to page 5 or to soundbites... I have "book marks" on my computer for the following news sources. Each morning I scan the headlines ( and occasionally read a bit more). It only takes a few minutes. It is fascinating to see how headlines differ in emphasis and focus when dealing with the same story. Truth is a slippery fish and it takes effort to get to the whole picture... As I read, I follow the axiom: "Never trust a news source that is mostly opinion and conjecture - look for the facts..."

New York Times: They still have a responsible staff of on-location professional journalists. Their articles are often posted in other newspapers across America.

Washington Post: Closest to the seat of power - A range of positions expressed - Interesting to compare with other sources...

BBC: The most trusted English langauge international news service world wide - Clear well written stories about world events... I find they are often the first with breaking news.

Presseurope: Interesting translation of important articles from major European news sources - most varied ...

Aljezeera: Many Americans discovered Aljezerra during the recent events in North Africa and the Middle East. Originating is Quitar, this is an important voice to listen to - especially interesting to compare with other news sources - their information compares well with other sites - in addition, they often have the best access to information in the region. They do not espouse an extremist position.