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!”)

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.

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.


1951 Buick

It’s a Buick Roadmaster Deluxe. For sale for $4,000 if you’re looking for a project. It’s been parked at various spots around Mariposa and Alabama streets, a couple blocks from where I ply the radio news editor trade, for at least a month. (Those stacks in the background of the top photo–I’ve been looking at them for the last year and I haven’t yet investigated what defunct local manufacturing operation they might have been part of.)



Oakland: The Coverage

Working for the news department of a local radio station, I’ve been paying close attention since Saturday night to the incident in which a paroled armed robber shot and killed four police officers. One observation, in the age of disappearing media sources and shrinking newsrooms: lots of good coverage from the journalism dinosaurs, little or none from our next-generation darlings, the blogs. The former have been swarming the story; the latter offer rehashes of what the dinosaurs report. Not to say that new-type media have not been useful: the Twitter stream on Oakland has been a good source for both news links and to sometimes disturbing online reactions (“disturbiing” defined: rationalizations/justifications for the killing of the police officers; more on that later). If one is looking for an object lesson in what news organizations do well that independents and bloggers do not do well–yet, anyway–the reporting in this case over the last several days is a decent example. Below are some notable examples of local coverage from the last day. I’m starting with a story that we at KQED produced yesterday evening. Reporter/anchor Cy Musiker, who began hustling after the story as soon as he heard about it Saturday afternoon, did a great job at capturing the city’s mood. The rest of the links are to stories that appeared sometime Monday.

KQED Radio News: Oakland Mourns Police Officers

Cy’s Monday evening report.

San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland Killer Was Linked to Rape

Chronicle reports, and OPD confirms, that on Friday (day before shootings) the OPD had learned of a DNA match linking Mixon to a rape earlier this year. OPD reportedly investigating link between Mixon and second rape, too. The Chron did a good job with court records and turned up details of the crime (attempted carjacking) that sent Mixon to prison. Good details on his background as known at the time of his trial and conviction. The story also expands on earlier reports that Mixon was suspected of an earlier murder.

Los Angeles Times: Lovelle Mixon’s parole record

Very detailed chronology of Mixon’s contacts with parole officer.

Los Angeles Times (blog post): Slaying of four Oakland officers raises concerns about parole system

“Concerns” is putting it mildly.

San Francisco Chronicle: Gunman had spent years in and out of prison

Contains a few more biographical details for Mixon.

Oakland Tribune: Parolee stood over wounded police officers and fired again

More details on shooting, per OPD sources. Mixon is said to have disabled both motorcycle officers, then fired again at close range to finish them off. Also, the story names the type of rifle Mixon is supposed to have used in his shootout with SWAT officers, an SKS (Soviet origin; see: or and prepare to be charmed).

San Francisco Chronicle: Woman says she pointed police to Oakland killer

Anonymous first-person account from woman who says she hesitated before telling an officer where suspect was hiding. Also note the Monday details of neighbors prying plywood from apartment door to inspect shootout scene.

S.J. Mercury: Cop killer was depressed about heading back to prison, family says

A little more detail from family on Mixon’s background, and other reaction across the city. Interesting detail from one resident of shootout neighborhood: “One woman, hosing down her driveway two doors down from the apartment where Mixon was killed, said some of those lives could have been saved. She said neighbors knew immediately where Mixon had run, but they didn’t tell police — who combed the neighborhood — until nearly an hour later. But in East Oakland, lamented the woman, Elaine, who didn’t give her last name, that cooperation doesn’t easily happen. “It makes you feel bad. But you just don’t want to be a snitch. The word, ‘snitch,’ it’s almost worse than murderer.”

Oakland Tribune: Street shrines for slain officers draw crowds, debate

A pretty good writeup on the range of emotions expressed in Oakland on Monday–especially at the scene of the shootings.

We Answer Your Questions

Occasionally, we respond to questions. As in the following case:

Dear Dr. Info:
Why does my pee smell like that?

Dear Concerned:

Without more detail, it’s hard to know for sure. But my guess is that you ate asparagus recently. That’s because studies by the Urine Institute have found that more than 90 percent of questions about micturation odors are related to asparagus consumption. And indeed, these observations appear in literature from ancient times. Achilles complains about the smell of Agamemnon’s “offensive green stream” after a feast of braised asparagus (“The Iliad,” Book XIV) and retires to his tent until the air clears. Much later, Voltaire called the liquid aftermath of asparagus consumption one of the delights of life, deeming the attendant aroma le grand phunque.

Knowing you, you want more than just my guess that asparagus is involved. OK, then–let’s assume it’s asparagus. Now that we’ve done that, we can ask, “why does asparagus make your pee smell like that?”

The answer is surprising (to me, anyway): Although research has zeroed in on certain chemicals and metabolic processes that apparently play a role in producing the funk, there is no universal agreement about the source or the cause; about whether everyone produces smelly urine after an asparagus party or only some people; or whether the real issue is whether everyone has the olfactory equipment needed to smell asparagus pee.

Here are some sources:

Asparagus, in the Wikipedia (see the section on asparagus and urine).

Why does asparagus make your pee smell funny?, from The Straight Dope.

How Does Asparagus Make Urine Smell?, from