California Water: Salmon Summit Menu

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Someone at the Environmental Defense Fund sent this to me at KQED after chatting me up about the Salmon Summit in San Francisco tomorrow (what’s the Salmon Summit? See below). I don’t know whether it’s on the level–is all that fish really going to be served? If so–cool! But obviously the real point is about water and fisheries in California.  

And as far as the summit goes: It’s a meeting organized by fishing and environmental groups to highlight the impact of both the drought and California’s water policy on salmon and other fish, and to counter the message from agriculture and water interests that 1) California is in the midst of a “regulatory” drought and 2) that California agriculture is being sacrificed to the interests of a minnow (the delta smelt).

The fishing/environmental folks (some style themselves “the salmon community”) really began this campaign last month. That’s when one of our senators, Dianne Feinstein, began pushing for a bill to guarantee water deliveries to the drought-stricken western side of the San Joaquin Valley. Her legislation would have set aside restrictions on water shipments from Northern to Southern California imposed to protect salmon and smelt.

The salmon community and allies pointed out that salmon fishing has been shut down for two years in a row because of a crash in chinook populations. They produced an economic analysis (from a Florida outfit called Southwick Associates) that calculated the cost of the salmon fishing shutdown: 23,000 jobs and perhaps billions of dollars in “lost economic opportunity” (I haven’t seen the analysis myself). Eleven members of Congress wrote Feinstein that her effort was ignoring the impact of our water problems on the salmon community and asked her to back off. (Ultimately, the Department of the Interior, parent of the Bureau of Reclamation, which delivers water to the west side through the facilities of the Central Valley Project, stepped in and is trying to broker increased water deliveries.)

So far, then, the summit sounds like a recap of what we’ve heard already. The question is what new actions the salmon community might want their legislators to take to help bring their fish back. I’m hoping to hear an answer to that tomorrow.

Freeway Moon


Last night, Kate called me at work to say I ought to get out and see the moon rising. I agreed. I walked out of the office and up a steep stretch of Mariposa Street to a spot with an open view to the east across U.S. 101. There was a rising moon and lots of traffic. My camera’s just limping along these days, but this is actually a pretty good impression of the scene.  

Potrero Avenue: PM Clouds


The other end of the day. Looking south on Potrero from Mariposa. Another warm evening, one that prompted me to run up to the top of Potrero Hill after I left work to watch the city and the sky. (And I mean run: I passed a cyclist who was struggling up the upper part of San Bruno Avenue. We said hi to each other, and she said, “You go!”)

Bikes on BART: An Inconvenient Truth


Once upon a time, the Bay Area Rapid Transit district required bicyclists to obtain a permit to ride its trains. You could get the permit by schlepping down to BART’s Lake Merritt station, or you could obtain it by mail. Our recollection is that you had to sign some paperwork stating you understood BART’s bike rules–most notably, to our mind, NO BIKES ON STATION ESCALATORS OR ON THE FIRST CAR OF TRAINS–and agreed to abide by them. Those were the days before the still-unfolding Cycling Enlightenment. Some years ago, BART dropped the permit requirement and pretty much welcomed all two-wheeled comers as long as they STAY OFF THE ESCALATORS AND PLEASE SIR WITH THE BIKE IN THE FIRST CAR MOVE TO ANY OTHER CAR ON THE TRAIN.

In theory, it’s swell to be able to travel with one’s velocipede on the BART system. Many’s the time we’ve ended rides at the far-off Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations and taken the train back home. BART also provides a way of getting across the watery impediment known to locals as The San Francisco Bay. It’s not the only way of course–you can get a bike shuttle (a trailer service that hauls bikes across the Bay Bridge), take AC Transit (which has front-mounted bike racks), or, best of all, take the ferry. But BART is the most available option.

In practice, we’ve found the trains to be less than ideal for traveling from the East Bay to the city or back. The main reason is that the cars just aren’t designed to accommodate full-sized two-wheeled machines. If one sits, one almost by necessity takes up two seats. Not a big deal if it’s not a busy time of day; if it is, then taking the extra seat seems a little inconsiderate (this is a sermon delivered from the perspective of an offender).

The bigger problem with bikes on BART is that so many of the cyclists who bring their two-wheelers on the trains appear so lacking in care or respect for other passengers. For instance: If you’ve ridden the system at all, you can anticipate which door on the cars will open at which stations. But it’s common to see cyclists crowd their bikes into the exit door and block it when they have no intention of exiting (oh, sure, we see other passengers doing this too; we just expect cyclists to exhibit a little less lameness than the dopiest rapid-transit rider). It’s also typical to see riders station their machines in the aisles without regard to how it affects other passengers.

Take the specimen above (at left), photographed on a recent Sunday. He parked his bike in the exit door and for bonus points positioned it most of the way across the aisle. When someone sat opposite him, it was just possible for other passengers to squeeze by. He situated himself thus even though several other seats were available that would have allowed him to stay out of the way. After planting his rear end in his seat, he either affected obliviousness (or actually was oblivious) to all around him.

Part of the problem is that BART cars aren’t designed to accommodate bikes in the first place. A few have been refurbished with a sign that says “bike space.” But if more than a couple passengers bring their bicycles on board, the usual awkwardness ensues. Seeing that the physical space isn’t quite fit for bikes and passengers to co-exist, something’s got to give. The change has got to happen in the social space. Cyclists on BART need to be attentive to how their presence affects other passengers; just as attentive as they want the rest of the world to be to them and their needs.

Today’s Top Scam

We have some dining chairs we'd like to sell. After the usual months of procrastination, I took pictures and posted them on Craigslist, where I've always had pretty good luck unloading things quickly. I think if I really wanted to sell these in a hurry, I'd post them on a Friday or early Saturday, when I think people are in garage-sale mode. But add Factor P (for procrastination again) and it was Sunday afternoon before they were actually online. I got one email soon afterward, from "Kelly Walker," who asked whether the chairs were still available. Yes, "Kelly," they are, I responded. I didn't check my email again until this morning. I had another note from "Kelly":


I appreciate your response to my inquiry.I am interested in buying the items and i am ok with their description and conditions and i am also satisfied with their price($150).I would have love to come and check it myself but am not chance now,because I just got married and am presently on honeymoon trip to Honolulu in Hawaii with my wife and I would love a surprise change of furniture in our home on our return because my wife like surprises. Please do withdraw the advert from the website with immediate effect,as i don't mind adding $50 for you to do that for me,so i can be rest assured that the items are held for me,I will be making the payment to you via a Certified Check in us dollars which my secretary in united state will mail across to you and as for the pick up,i will know how to handle that with my mover that has been helping me to move in new furnitures into our home. My Mover will come for the pick up once the Certified Check has been cashed and i will like to complete this transaction before Wednesday the 22nd of July.If this arrangement is ok by you kindly send me both your name and full address to post the payment immediately and i would appreciate you include your phone#,i.e….

(1)..Your full name
(2)..Your full home address or your office address
(3)..your zip code
(4)…your phone number to contact you

And please i don't want a P.O BOX address because i want the payment to get to you at your house or your office address to make the transaction fast.Thanks and get back to me with the full info as soon as possible.Thanks

"Kelly," who wrote me from, sounds like quite a guy. So thoughtful and generous. He's on his honeymoon in Hawaii, and he stops to shop Craigslist just to find some new furniture to surprise his wife! Such solicitude, too. He'll pay 50 bucks just to get me to hold the chairs for his "mover." And he wants to make sure I get his bunko check without delay. Really the only less-than-glowing thing I can say about him is his English needs a little polishing.

I was tempted to write back: "Dear Kelly: The sale terms are cash only. For scammers, the cash price is double, plus a $500 handling charge. You're responsible for your own attorney's and bail fees upon your arrest and trial for grand theft." When I did write back, though, I stopped at "cash only."

Like everyone else, I've seen multitudes of online scams. Craigslist is apparently rife with them. I'm not sure anyone has ever approached me directly and individually this way before. It's disturbing and offensive, especially when you consider that "Kelly" and his like do manage to sucker the unsuspecting.

Bicycle Wheels

bicyclewheel1.jpgA few days ago, I was looking for an online image of a bicycle wheel that I could use as a Twitter icon. Talk about having a high purpose.

I happened upon a Museum of Modern Art image of “Bicycle Wheel,” a found or “readymade” art object by French artist Marcel Duchamp. It’s a sweet and goofy construction: a bicycle wheel and fork mounted upside-down on a tall stool. Many aspects of a bike lend themselves to wonder and introspection–everything from the the double-triangle frame design to the bearings and races in a hub–but the wheel ranks right up there at the top with its combination of fragility and strength. Duchamp is said to have enjoyed spinning his stool-mounted wheel and is widely quoted as saying, “”I enjoyed looking at it, just as I enjoy looking at the flames dancing in a fireplace.”

The MoMa site has a nice picture of one of the three Bicycle Wheel constructions Duchamp is said to have made The first of the three Bicycle Wheels, dated in 1913, was “lost.” The MoMa wheel is dated 1951, is said to be the thirdand features a classic raked-forward fork. The way it’s presented on the site, there’s no question it’s an objet d’arte. (The version pictured here appears to be the same sculpture; it’s uncredited and found here. I’m seeking permission to publish the MoMa’s image here; we’ll see if I get it).

Below is another another Duchamp “Bicycle Wheel” that appears (with no copyright notices) here and there on the Web (this image is from Wikicommons). The source says “replica,” but I believe that refers to the fact it’s a Duchamp copy of the lost original.


What I love about dipping into something like this is the impromptu museum tour that happens. “Bicycle Wheel” in MoMa: check. Another version in some other exhibition: check. The next stop is (if picture captions are to be believed) is Duchamp’s studio a few years after he first put wheel and stool together.


There it is, the object pre-veneration, the wheel askew, apparently just part of the disarray in an artist’s quarters. You can appreciate the inspiration and the execution–and the suggestion the creator didn’t take it too seriously.

All of which brings us to our final display: the continuing life of “Bicycle Wheel” outside the gallery. For starters, we have the creation of “The Duchamp,” a found musical instrument. And this alternate take on the concept. And finally: Duchamp Reloaded, by Ji Lee, an artist who liberates “Bicycle Wheel” to experience the life of New York’s streets.


(Photo: Ji Lee, “Duchamp Reloaded.” Used with permission.)

Team Time Trial: Rules, Please

Watching Stage 4, the team time trial, the Versus coverage focused mostly where it always does: on road mishaps, on any and all drama involving American riders, and on the clock. That’s fine as far as it goes. But the result of the stage–with race leader Fabian Cancellara and Lance Armstrong ending in a dead heat for their total time–begged an explanation of how the heck the officials would break the tie.

There was mention of a “countback,” but no one ever said what that was, who did it, or how it worked. And I have to say, still not having done any homework on it, that I still don’t understand how Cancellara and not Armstrong wound up wearing the yellow jersey after the stage.

I’m no statistician or nothin’, but the gap between Armstrong’s Astana team and Cancellara’s Saxo Bank squad was reported at 40.11seconds. Just to be clear, that means Astana’s team time, the time awarded to Armstrong, was 40.11 seconds faster than Saxo Bank’s. Going into the stage, Cancellara was 40 seconds ahead of Armstrong. Not 40.2 or 40.99–just 40. So if Armstrong was 40.11 seconds faster than Cancellara … isn’t his total time for the race so far .11 seconds better than Cancellara’s.

Well, no, if you believe what you saw during the post-stage podium presentation. No gripe from me–I think Cancellara is swell, and Ben Stiller looked cute playing the role of ugly podium girl (the actual podium girl was a knockout if I may say so). So all I’m asking from the genius broadcasters of the stage is to explain this to your public. That’s all. And if anyone understands the timing issue and how it was resolved, please tell us.

Another matter the Versus boys didn’t get around to explaining on the live broadcast this morning was how riders who get dropped during the team event are timed. Do they get the same time as the rest of the team? That was an especially important issue for Garmin-Slipstream, which had four riders go off the back during the TTT.

Luckily, the official Tour website has something to say on this:

“… The time recorded for a team will be the time of the fifth rider. For those riders who are left behind during the team time-trial stage, their own time (real time) will be applied and taken into account for the individual general standings. The organisers have decided to go for a relatively short stage (39 km) around Montpellier to limit the consequences of the cancellation of this ‚Äúcomprehensive insurance.”

Wind and Water


From the archives: Last spring, Kate and I drove out to Bethany Reservoir, just south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at one of the key points in the state’s complex water system. The site is also on the lower eastern slopes of the Altamont Pass country, a big wind-generation site. Pondering the state’s water story and how to tell it–do you take the narrative back to Genesis and/or The Big Bang and talk about where water itself comes from, and how long would it take from that point to get to a discussion of a salmon in the river?– I thought of that visit tonight. Here’s a shot of a wind farm virtually on the bank of the Delta-Mendota Canal–part of the federally developed Central Valley Project–just southeast of Bethany. Whatever you happen to think of the way the water systems were built here and the damage they have caused to salmon and other parts of the old California environment–the engineering is never less than impressive and sometimes beautiful.

The aqueducts move water through a combination of gentle flow and brute force: huge quantities of water are lifted from pumping stations to artificial lakes like Bethany. Then gravity takes over, and the water flows down the manmade rivers to the next set of pumps, maybe 60 or 100 miles away, and the process is repeated. (One of the more surreal sights in the state is along Interstate 5 as the highway climbs the Tehachapi Mountains. The aqueduct runs along the highway, and the water is pumped up nearly 2,000 feet through a pair of above-ground tunnels.) One beauty in the aqueducts is the way they follow the contours along the border of the Coast Range hills to the west and the great valley to the east. The engineers had to work with and respect the lay of the land here.

(Here’s the satellite view, with the hills in their full-on golden summer hue. The image shows Bethany Reservoir. The water comes in from a channel at the northwest corner, having been pumped out of the Sacramento River to a holding basin called Clifton Court Forebay. The California Aqueduct flows out to the south and east (below and to the right). Drag the map to follow the course of the aqueduct. In this image, the California Aqueduct is on the left and the Delta-Mendota Canal is to the right.)

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News from the Road: Grants, New Mexico


We stopped overnight in Grants, New Mexico, our third night on the road from Chicago to Berkeley last month. I have vague recollections of the place from a hitchhiking trip in December 1974 (I was headed to Berkeley that time, too). I got dropped off on I-40 on the west end of town about 7 in the morning, and it was very cold; about 10 below zero is how I remember it. But I had only been out on the highway for a few minutes when a new-looking Chevy pull ed over. I noticed the car had California plates, and I was thinking that at the worst I’d get a ride all the way across Arizona, anyway. As we pulled back onto the highway, the driver asked where I was going. When he heard where I was going, he said I was in luck because he was headed to Oakland. He dropped me right at my friends’ house near College and Ashby avenues. I remember the driver stopping for gas soon after he picked me up, in Gallup, at a point where I believe the interstate still might have been under construction and you had to take the old Route 66 through town. The morning was still intensely cold, but I remember seeing several men–Navajo, I guessed, since we were very close to the Navajo Nation–stumbling very drunk along the street; farther on, a couple more were lying on a sidewalk passed out. It was a little scary and disturbing, and I was glad not to hang around.

On this trip, we got to town right at sunset and pulled into the first motel we saw, which happened to be a Comfort Inn. My brother Chris went out and found trunks for us at Wal-mart, and we all went swimming. We ate Domino’s Pizza, then crashed for the night. Next morning we stopped at cafe on the other side of town and picked up the local paper, the Cibola Beacon The cafe wasn’t great–the milk my nephew Liam ordered was curdled and the food was just sort of thrown at us. The paper wasn’t terrific, either (here’s a sample from a more recent issue, under the headline, “Wildlife Found Near Residence:”

“A bobcat was seen at a home in Grants near Mount Taylor Elementary School on Monday. Ida Ortiz, wife of former mayor Ronald Ortiz, was gardening at her home and noticed a small cat in the yard, which at the time, didn’t realize it was a bobcat. Ortiz called her husband and described the animal to him and he called public safety officials. Officials found bobcat foot prints in the yard and took all safety precautions from there especially considering a elementary school was right across the street. The bobcat was never found.”

In fact, the only thing in the paper that made much of an impression was the ad above, featuring the future rifle-toting toddler. I can’t think of anything to add to that at all.

Mixed Marriage, Revisited


I’ve written about this grave before. About five years ago, my dad and I spotted it while visiting the Mother Jones Memorial in a union miners’ cemetery just outside Mount Olive, Illinois. The Cardinals and Cubs logos got our attention, of course. Last week, I stopped there again with my brother Chris and son Liam. After we got done gazing upon Mother Jones’s final resting place, we went across the road to the Kalvin grave. Chris noticed a metal capsule on the back of the stone, which happens to be the side facing the road. It has a hinged cover. Beneath the cover is what I take to be a picture of Steven and Verona, some time during their long marriage and lifelong residence in Mount Olive. A date is noted below: their wedding day. For a little historical baseball perspective, Steven Kalvin was born three years before Wrigley Field opened (and five years before the Cubs made it their home); Verona Kalvin was born the same year the last Yankee Stadium opened. They were married three seasons after the Cubs’ last pennant.

Verona, here’s hoping you don’t have to wait too much longer.