July 31, 2007
Black Diamond Mine
This past Saturday, I went with Bill and Emrys to see the Black Diamond Mine which is in Black Diamond Mine Regional Park in Antioch, California.
From the 1860s through the turn of the century, five coal mining towns thrived in the Black Diamond area: Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville. As the location of California's largest coal mining operation, nearly four million tons of coal ("black diamonds") were removed from the earth. The residents of the mining towns were from all over the world, and their life was characterized by hard work and long hours. Occasional celebrations and a variety of organizations and social activities served to alleviate the drudgery of daily existence.
The coal mines had a significant impact on California's economy. By the time operations ceased due to rising production costs and the exploitation of new energy sources, much of California's economy had been transformed from a rural to an industrial base.
In the 1920s underground mining for sand began near the deserted Nortonville and Somersville townsites. The Somersville mine supplied sand used in glass making by the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company in Oakland, while the Nortonville mine supplied the Columbia Steel Works with foundry (casting) sand. Competition from Belgian glass and the closing of the steel foundry ended the sand mining by 1949. Altogether, more than 1.8 million tons of sand had been mined.
The public tour goes only 400 feet into the mines which have a total length of 600 miles, according to our guide. He said the park district hopes to be able to assure the safety of the mine so that the public tour can go from the Hazel Atlas Portal to the Greathouse Visitor Center.
The mines were stripped bare by vandals during the years they were unprotected, so everything you see inside the mines, including the rails, was restored by the park district.
My set of photos is here and these are a few samples:
July 28, 2007
Palmwood Fence Disappearing!
Yesterday as I drove on Indian through the area that would have been Palmwood, I was quite startled to see that about half of that ugly chain link fence has been taken away. I'm assuming this is in response to LAFCO's decision not to permit Desert Hot Springs to annex the area. Without the fence I'm reminded of how beautiful that area is. Probably worth a hike when the weather cools a bit.
¿No nos ven?
Photo by Raysitoxico® from another set of photos of "del Movimiento de los 400 Pueblos", and I still don't know what it's about.
July 26, 2007
It Rained Somewhere
Last night there was a very nice lightning show over Joshua Tree...and I guessed it rained there too, as Dillon Road was flooded near Berdoo Canyon Road. That's drainage coming out of the park.
Mundane Life In Wartime
I happened to run across this 3-page letter written by my great uncle Sutt to his sister (my grandmother) while he was working in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II.
Direct links to a more readable size:
Recycled Water Screw Up
In Cary, North Carolina, they are way ahead of most other cities and have run recycled water lines in their residential areas, allowing homeowners to water their lawns with recycled water. And they do it the standard way: the recycled water is in a purple pipe. But at the Jain household some mysterious foul-up happened and the recycled water was connected to the house's plumbing, while fresh drinking water was going to the lawn sprinklers. The Jain family drank the recycled water for 5 months before the mistake was uncovered. Naturally, town officials are saying the risk to the family was very, very low. But I suppose we haven't heard the last of this.
July 25, 2007
Nuclear = Greenest
Jesse Ausubel "has analyzed the amount of energy that each so-called renewable source can produce in terms of Watts [sic] of power output per square meter of land disturbed." It is his conclusion that nuclear power is the greenest there is. He's got some good points...and some not-so-good. For example, a square kilometer of dammed land used for hydropower would generate enough electricity for only 12 Canadians. Should we assume Americans = Canadians in this matter, or does the average American consume more electricity than a Canadian? Biomass alone is terribly inefficient, but he doesn't address situations where you've already got a pile of biomass. For instance, you harvest a field of corn, leaving behind a huge stack of cornstalks. Would a power generator that burns those cornstalks be a net loss of energy?
As for wind power, he says an area the size of Texas would have to be covered with wind turbines and the wind would have to blow 24 hours a day at ideal speed in order to meet U.S. electric demands. Well, yes, we're all in favor of wiping out the entire state of Texas in order to build wind turbines, but nobody really expects them to provide 100% of the power supply. What about niche situations like Coachella Valley where we've got a bunch of BLM land right in the path of powerful winds where nobody wants to live anyway? Can wind turbines there produce profitable electricity? Solar power (meaning photovoltaic stuff, I think) is, of course, potentially destructive of large swaths of land. But solar cell technology is make great leaps in efficiency. If you put highly efficient solar cells on top of structures that have already destroyed the land, is that a net loss of energy? Can it make real economic sense?
Nuclear, as we all know, can produce a great amount of power in a relatively small space compared to some of the other technologies. Uranium mining destroys some land, but resource mining to support all the other technologies (iron, silicon, copper, etc.) also destroy land. The primary, reasonable objection to nuclear power is the difficulties in dealing with the spent fuel. Mr. Ausubel addresses that as well: "there are considerations of waste storage, safety and security." There are "considerations." Uh-huh.
Look at this over time. Say we build a big solar photovoltaic system in empty desert somewhere around the Salton Sea. It's ugly (to most eyes). It's got roads, all built with the support of petrochemicals. And how long is that solar array and its infrastructure there? A hundred years? Maybe with good maintenance, it won't completely disappear into the desert sands for three or four hundred years. And that nuclear fuel? How long before it innocently disappears into the desert sands? I'm pretty sure we're looking at time on the scale of tens of thousands of years, not mere hundreds. How much energy is expended over those millennia to assure the security of the nuclear waste?
Finally, Some Clarity
How To Use A Bidet
A helpful guide (sadly lacking video) for Americans traveling to clean-ass countries. It concludes with this advice: "Drinking from a bidet is not recommended. The stream can ricochet off a soiled area and become contaminated."
And do not miss this: How To Flush A British Toilet. You are not required to doff your hat or sing a patriotic tune to make it work.
Spectacular Explosions In Dallas
Story and video links here. A gas processing facility near downtown Dallas erupted in a long series of explosions after an accident that occurred while filling acetylene canisters. In the videos you can see flaming canisters being shot into the air, some exploding while still airborne, and others landing and burning on a nearby viaduct (on which viaduct I once bicycled).
It all looks like the kind of footage you'd see on Spike TV, except this is an America, not a third world country.
Michigan Young Republican
Michael Flory, 32-year old attorney, former chairman of the Michigan Federation of Young Republicans pleads guilty to raping a 22-year old woman, but only after the perp and several of his Republican colleagues spent considerable energy smearing the woman's reputation. At the sentencing hearing in September the assistant county prosecutor plans to "present evidence of several 'other incidents of sexual misconduct'" by the Republican.
DHS Historical Society
Somehow the website of the Desert Hot Springs Historical Society has escaped my notice until now. I think it was a couple of years ago that I visited their booth at the Festival Of The Waters and asked if they had a website, which seemed to cause some consternation. They offer the basic history, old postcards, videos and more. It looks like they could use a little advice on layout on their history of the B-bar-H Ranch. If you click on some of the scanned documents you'll see that not only is the original scan nearly unreadable, but the distortion of the aspect ratio guarantees its illegibility.
rude pundit On Gonzales
rude pundit has some words about Gonzales' "testimony" yesterday. The words are not suitable for those of a sensitive nature.
Southern Californians Celebrate The Opening Of A New Freeway
It's the final connection of the 210 east to the 215. Crowds lined up and sat for hours in order to be among the first to drive on it.
"It's wonderful that we can connect with faraway places," said [Rialto resident Sharon] Briscoe, who added that Los Angeles now feels like it's in her backyard. "People were talking about this for so long, and finally, it's a reality. I can just go behind my house and get on the freeway."
It's the simplest things that make you happy.
Not Gay 101, Not Even Close
When I first heard about this web page, I was a bit concerned. After all, it starts out like this:
Are you tired of the other kids at Summer Color Camp laughing at you because you thought chartreuse was a shade of pink? Still having nightmares about the time you called a Salmon colored dress Mauve? With our help you’ll never call Azure, Aquamarine again and will be name dropping colors like they’re hot potatoes.
Obviously, we guys know, this is treading dangerously close to chapter 1 of Gay 101, which initiates the course of study that eventually brings you to your Gay ID card. But then I looked at it, and it's only 32 colors. Our secrets are still safe, it seems. Let the frat boys argue over mauve versus lavender.
July 24, 2007
Surely No One Could Oppose This Idea
Windturbines floating like kites in the jetstream 15,000 to 30,000 feet up, weighing 1,100 pounds [elsewhere the article says 45,000 pounds], tethered to the ground by aluminum cables. That 30,000 foot aluminum cable would be carrying electricity.
Yes, I can see these would be greeted with unanimous enthusiasm, because nobody ever objects to things floating in the sky, 30,000 foot aluminum cables, any bits and parts that might fall from them, or electric power being transmitted overhead. Plus, it's guaranteed there could be no concerns among bird fanciers...at least those who fancy flightless birds or those birds who fly higher than 30,000 feet.
As for thunderstorms, let's bring our young Ben Franklins out from the local schools to stand around near the anchor points for these 30,000 foot aluminum cables during lightning displays to observe the power of nature at work. Each student could learn to make his own Faraday cage...and test it!
Law Enforcement in California
There are things I don't know about law enforcement in this state, too. For instance, you will recall that a few weeks ago a body was found in a desert area of Desert Hot Springs and now we get the news that DHS police detectives have got the suspect and brought him back here for justice. They found him at his daughter's house in Crescent City, which is near the Oregon border.
Now this is a good thing, that the suspect is in custody and will be subject to due process (or what little remains of that), but in other states, when you think you've got a murder suspect holed up 833 miles away (per Google maps), you have the local police go out and do some legwork first, and then when they've got the suspect corraled, you send your detectives up to bring the suspect back.
Maybe Crescent City police just couldn't be bothered. Or maybe our DHS detectives had other business to attend to along the way. Or maybe this is routine California law enforcement, that police travel to any other jurisdiction necessary to arrest their suspects. Imagine the thrill I might give the neighborhood if a San Francisco black & white pulled up in front of my house. If only I could be such a sodomite that it would outrage even the SF Police.
Power Outage in San Francisco
It seems that this power outage that began around 2 PM today eventually led to an underground explosion at 560 Mission which caused a power outage at 365 Main, which is a data center that hosts a LOT of important stuff like Craigslist and Typepad. Typepad is the host for Ron's Log. It took 45 minutes for backup generators to restore power to 365 Main. Pacific Gas & Electric said they restored power by 4 PM. All of this must have happened during one of those rare stretches of time when I was out having a life, because I never even noticed.