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Still More Dry Rain: Another Befuddled Autumn

We had some dry rain today. I saw and felt it first hand, and even drank some with mouth aimed skyward. Dry, powdery rain: Almost nutty on the palate, with the taste of ground acorns. Which raises the question: Why has even rain become so dry during the current drought? Is this climate change, or merely a freak variation in the natural hydrological cycle? Should we be alarmed by the heavy ratio of H3O to H2O in the most recent precipitation events?

You can taste the difference: The H3O is clearly more hydrogenated. [Warning: Will give you gas.]

The fall colors are uniformly wan. There is the feeblest gesture toward gold and orange and red on the way to brown. All of which brings back memories.

Here's my first story for The Washington Post, published Nov. 3, 1990, and then roundly ridiculed two weeks later in the Ombudsman column. Let's read both the story (which, on inspection, does appear to be a distressingly awkward mix of seriousness and absurdity -- the piano needed tuning) and then the column (and because I'm not thin-skinned I will resist the urge to insert snippety comments in brackets -- for gosh sakes, it's been 17 years, get over it already, you know?).

The Befuddled Autumn
Where Have All the Colors Gone?

(Style section, by J.A.)

Go to the woods. Look around. Something's missing. There's no crimson in the palette. The warm weather has made this a faded autumn, a jaundiced autumn, the autumn of our discontent. Nature, unlike the government, is refusing to operate in the red.

The trees haven't been cold enough. "If the plants are not under stress during the time that they are actively photosynthesizing, the secondary pigments don't develop in the leaf," explains Bill Anderson, regional chief scientist for the National Park Service.

In other words, if it isn't cold, the leaves don't become red, orange and gold.

What happens next? Will the leaves explode in color at the last second?

"They'll turn brown and the leaves will fall off," Anderson says.

"The colors are definitely off this year from what they normally would be," agrees Lester Brown, director of the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization. "South of New York there's not much color. In downtown Washington we're going to lose our leaves before they turn."

Brown and his colleagues put out an annual report called "State of the World," and he's sensitive to these marginal changes, the unseasonal weather that jibes uncomfortably with what the computer models predict will happen in a world running a slight temperature. He fears that the much-debated "greenhouse effect" -- global warming aggravated by such things as the burning of fossil fuels -- may be fouling our fall.

"They're coming more frequently now, years in which there's not much color. That's my sense, having lived in Washington since the late '50s," he said.

You could say it doesn't matter much. The losses are on the margin of an unmeasurable aesthetic. It is the kind of deficit that cannot be plugged into the economists' equations, the loss of a few epiphanies, a couple of dozen smiles, and maybe somewhere a young couple decide not to detour through the woods, where, in a moment of passion inspired by nature's glories, they would have conceived the child who, had he existed, would have eventually assassinated the 21st-century psychopathic dictator who pressed the button that released the anthrax bombs that destroyed civilization as we know it. And you say it doesn't matter.

The non-hysterical person would have to admit there are some fabulous bursts of gold in the sugar maples, some yellow action in the cottonwoods, an occasional red oak that lives up to the billing, but for the most part the leaves seem confused, stuck between green and brown, laden with chlorophyll when they should be showing off their anthocyanin and carotene and xanthophyll. You could plot the great trees on a map with a single box of red pins: a fine maple on Macomb two blocks off Connecticut, a good bank of oaks near Pierce Mill in the Rock Creek Park, and so on.

The view from Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley has been unspectacular. It was also a mediocre season in Vermont, the foliage capital of the United States. Hubert Vogelmann, chairman of the botany department at the University of Vermont in Burlington, says, "Somehow the colors are not as bright anymore. I just think overall they're not as intense."

You have to respect a tree on so many counts. A tree has a kind of individuality, so that one might be bright gold while a neighbor of precisely the same species is still mired in off-green. A tree has patience; it is still there at your childhood home, years after your family moved away. A tree even knows parlor tricks, like getting water from the roots to the leaves without use of moving parts, pulleys or conveyor belts.

And that trick they do with the leaves, it's something we take for granted.

Leaves are finely tuned instruments. To become colorful they need bright sunlight and cold nights. The tree's metabolism slows down, chlorophyll disintegrates as it is hammered by light, and as the green disappears, the relatively sparse red and yellow pigments beneath are unmasked. If the weather is too warm it ruins the entire recipe. The green never clears out before the leaf turns brown.

"That chemical system, degradation of chlorophyll, is cued by temperature," says Dave Schimel, an ecologist at Colorado State University. As a scientist he's not going to say anything alarming, but he acknowledges that fears of a diminished autumn due to global warming are not completely nutty. "In principle, it could happen."

From Oct. 6 to 15, when a cold snap should have shocked at least some color into the leaves, the average high temperature in metropolitan Washington was 82.4 degrees. Now it is early November and shirt sleeves are still in order. At Baltimore-Washington International Airport it is the warmest year on record, and it is the second warmest at National Airport. Before the year is out, National Weather Service meteorologist David Miskus said yesterday, 1990 may go down as the warmest year in the Washington area since the Grant administration.

There is a larger buzz among climatologists, that 1990 will set a global record as well. Philip Jones, a climatologist at the University of East Anglia in England, testified before a Senate panel in early October that 1990 would set the new mark. The five warmest years previously were in the 1980s. Scientists are not convinced that global warming has begun. This could be a blip on the chart, a normal aberration, if such a term can be used.

Scientists must be precise. They have their margins of errors, their windows of doubt. This week, many of the world's top climatologists are meeting in Geneva at the World Climate Conference. Years ago there was probably no such thing as a World Climate Conference. The weather took care of itself. And the fact that they're meeting in Geneva, that place where they discuss nerve gas treaties and so forth -- it's a bad omen.

For a real injection of gloom one might talk to Bill McKibben, author of "The End of Nature." It is a book of immense gravity, even the blurbs on the jacket are scary ("It's a matter of life and death to read this book," says one from Harold Brodkey). McKibben said this week that he's enjoyed a great fall up in the Adirondacks, but still feels the weight of global warming. That's because nature used to be something apart from man, something immutable, greater, untouchable, but now is just another human artifact. "It's finally dawning on us that we do have the power to alter the world in fundamental ways," McKibben says. "Before, the leaves changing color was something that just happened, and now we're beginning to understand that we may have a large role."

He adds portentously, "The loss of foliage is going to be the least of our problems."

It's gotten to where you can't see the forest for the Themes: degradation, regression, death. You wanted a little fresh air and exercise and suddenly you've got global warming on the brain, and that ozone thing, and the corals that are dying down there in the Caribbean, and those fish that have tumors, on and on.

Nature just doesn't seem natural anymore.

Ombudsman Column
By Richard Harwood

Autumn, a lovely and most pleasing season, has been libeled this year in The Post, a fact that has not escaped the attention of faithful readers. An essay, both pretentious and portentous, in the Style section asserts that the season's foliage is colorless and, by way of explanation, puts into the pulpit various End-of-the-Earth characters to expound on global warming, the ozone layer and other themes of "degradation, regression, death." [Oh, come on, Dick, that was obviously meant to be over-the-top!!!-JA]

Mary Holman of Silver Spring nominates the piece for a special nonsense prize. It "combines awful literary style [ouch!], weak research [I had been on the job for, like, two days!], a nasty tone ("doom, gloom and doom") [I prefer "arch"] and is wrong [yeah, tell that to Al Gore]. The trees turned color today!"

A fellow Silver Springer, David Perlman, was equally befuddled by the article. It appeared "at the end of a week of one of the most glorious autumn leaf displays in recent memory. Now I grant that 15th and L streets {The Post's headquarters} is not exactly a marker on a nature trail. But can it be that no editor dealing with the story happened to look out the window while driving to work ?"

Of course it can be. The condition known as GESS (green eye shade syndrome) is common in newsrooms, has baffled medical science and is the product of an editing lifetime spent in airless, treeless and leafless surroundings.

As for the autumn of 1990, our reds are not quite so brilliant as last season [he concedes I'm right!] because of a late frost, but it has been an adequate year [there's a real ringing endorsesment of autumnal glory] for yellows, orange and gold. The Eastern Shore is ablaze. The real problem may lie with the essayist, Joel Achenbach, a recent immigrant from Florida [did I mention this was my FIRST STORY for the Post???], where changing seasons are unknown to man and God.

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 23, 2007; 3:07 PM ET
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Next: More Heat, Less Light


The piece wasn't that bad, really. By the way the maples have lost almost all their leaves around here, so the color pallette has been reduced substantially. It was just strange to rake up leaves in 75 degrees temparatures last Sunday.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | October 23, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Did you folks see this little nugget from rightwingnut Glenn Beck: "I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 23, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Joel... I thought "awkward mix of seriousness and absurdity" was your trademark!

Speaking of fall colors, here's a taste of what I saw over the weekend in West By God...

Posted by: TBG | October 23, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

>The real problem may lie with the essayist, Joel Achenbach, a recent immigrant from Florida.<

I used to like Harwood, but you didn't deserve that. That was a shot below the belt. No wonder it still stings.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 23, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of an "awkward mix of seriousness and absurdity"...


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 23, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

hey 'Mudge, how did that whole "hate America" canard get legs, anyway? And why does anybody put up with it?

Posted by: Yoki | October 23, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Front Page Alert, BTW...

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 23, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and we're on the front page.

Posted by: Yoki | October 23, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Lovely pictures, TBG. Here's one from my end of the mountains:

(I obviously didn't take it, not being there this week. We hope there will still be some color when we get there Sunday.)

Joel, if I had read that story without seeing the byline I would have known it to be yours. The blend of good science and absurdity is so you.

Posted by: Slyness | October 23, 2007 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and omni, to go back to the previous boodle, you are correct about smoke inhalation causing more deaths than fire impingement. A couple of breaths of superheated air and you're gone.

Posted by: Slyness | October 23, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

There was nothing wrong with that story. The editor was obviously prejudiced against Floridians (we do TOO have seasons!) and the readers just weren't accustomed to the Achenbach sense of humor yet. Their problem. Some people don't realize it's possible to be funny and intelligent at the same time. Some people lose their sense of humor when multi-syllabic words are bandied about. Some people don't see the humor in global warming, or understand the concept of "the salve of humor." And all the people who read the article and enjoyed it? They didn't write in.

But "degradation, recession, and death"--I'm afraid that because of reading too much Achenbach, phrases like that will always make me smile--

Posted by: kbertocci | October 23, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Golly I can't stomach that "people who hate America" crap. I do not hate this country, but I am all too frequently disappointed by her. When our elected officials do things in my country's name which I find absolutely abhorrent, actions completely at variance with the principles upon which our country was founded and which they have sworn to uphold and policies which make my country appear arrogant, overweaning, and hypocritical, I do not hate my country, but I am plenty ready to open up a can of electoral whopass on those responsible.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 23, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I don't know, Yoki, but it shows why Glenn Beck is a maroon.

Hey, did you ever bake that cherry pie?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 23, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Not yet; it is on my to do list for this weekend. I'll give you my considered, indeed profound, response Saturday afternoon.

Posted by: Yoki | October 23, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, that's whupass, not whopass. Whupass comes vacuum sealed in cans, whopass is available in liquid form or convenient chewable form.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 23, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Whopass probably has yogurt or tofu in it. And it's probably even "good for you."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 23, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah but you hit your stride soon after. For a first step it was fine. Why in 1990 you would have barely been a grownup (which I translate as being the moment you have kids - no one ever really has to grow up till they have kids of their own).

You kept the snippety comments to a minimum, right nicely, boss.

Posted by: dr | October 23, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

No, actually Whopass comes in cherry liquid and chocolate chewable and is intended to "restore nature's balance" as we geezers say.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 23, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I spent about an hour Sunday raking the ugly brown and pale yellow leaves from our despised ash tree. It hasn't quite dropped everything yet, so we will have to follow up in about two weeks. Meanwhile, the maples on the main roads are finally turning their very deep red.

When I moved from Florida, I also suffered a year or two of leaf disappointment. The deepest reds come from the monoculture maples up in New England. Reality is much more diverse. Now I just take what Mother Nature gives.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 23, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

That's not Whopass; that's Exlax.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 23, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse


Care to offer your expert opinion?

Should they have given Froemming one more go-round?


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 23, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, Scotty. Montague has a level head and does a good job. It would have been nice to give Bruce another go-round, though. But I'm not sure sentamentality's a good enough reason.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 23, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Is there the slightest possibility that Mr. Harwood was being as snarky and absurd as Mr. A. can be?

BTW, you can thank the Cub Scouts of Pack 419 and the Boy Scouts of various troops around Montgomery County for the break in the drought this weekend. All the trouble that I went through to erect several big, tall, flys was undertaken for naught at the first roaring blast of wind. Spent the rest of the evening getting soaked when the rains came hot on the heels of the wind.

You're welcome.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 23, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I make it a rule never to correct others' grammar or spelling but since we're discussing it, "whopass" is clearly incorrect; it should have been "thatpass".

Posted by: SonofCarl | October 23, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse

That Colts game musta really done me in last night; I can't stay awake, and have done a dozen "head bobs" already. I'm gonna snap my neck if I don't get it together.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 23, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I like how he describes JA as "the real problem." As opposed to what? The fake problem? The knock-off version of the problem? How about just 'the problem?' Or even 'the problem with the article is the essayist, JA, is a transplant from Florida' (better play on words than immigrant, don't you think? Especially since Florida is part of this country. Unless JA came to DC via the Conch Republic).

Posted by: LostInThought | October 23, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I think that was a fine first column, Joel. You may have been finding your sea legs a bit, but the irked readers and ombudsman clearly failed to recognize your since-patented (I hope, do you need a lawyer?) writing style - what we legal types call a highly peculiar method of operation. In a good way, of course.

Hey kbertocci! Glad to hear from you, with your usual well-expressed insight.

I always thought it was whoopass.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 23, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

How is it here in Texas?

Yesterday we had one of those 18th century mornings Joel has written about recently. We had no lightning nor thunder, but the power was out thanks to very high winds here and heavy rain, leaving .45 inches at our house before sunrise. We knew the power was out around 5 a.m. when we first woke, then came on about an hour later, only to go out again. When we woke up at 7 a.m. and rose, I had to light candles in three rooms, the morning was so eerily dark and overcast. There was no hot coffee or any other hot morning beverage, no television morning news program. We tried to read the morning's paper by candlelight, with four candles on the breakfast table, with me warning my husband not to set the newspaper and house on fire! The electricity came back on at precisely 8 a.m.

Last night, I popped prepackaged French onion soup into the oven, and baked from scratch some apples--stuffing them with pecans, dried raisins, dried cranberries and brown sugar. Just wish we had had some half and half to pour a little over this nutritious dessert--after letting the apples cool about 30 minutes after coming out of the oven. Last night, we put a blanket on the bed for the first time in about six months.

This day's weather yesterday and last night's fall menu are a drastic departure from normal. I have blogged here about the heavy rains we had during the spring and summer. The last six weeks have been bone dry, so yesterday morning's rain was a welcome relief.

The one odd thing this year is that for seemingly months on end, the temperature has been stuck in the 90s. When did htey start? April, I think. I believe the highest summer temperature this year was 94. But it's been in the 90s until we flew to San Diego. When we returned it was in the upper 80s, maybe a day or two thereafter topping 90.

Now, at long last, the temperatures are in the upper 70s and low 80s. Loomispouse wore a light jacket to work on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Fall--finally, finally, finally--has arrived.

If the weather had stayed like this much longer, I'm afraid we would be decorating palm trees in December--you know, like they do in JLA's Florida and Palm Springs, Calif.!

(The only leaves that have fallen thus far are the ones that were blown down in yesterday morning's storm--and they came down in some quantity. Colors don't change here until late November and December.)

Posted by: Loomis | October 23, 2007 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I had a flashback to high school when I wrote about spring fever for journalism class.

I totally forgot to work in the bit about the frentic, mindless urge to spawn before the inevitable decline, decay, and rotting of the flesh.

DANG. Well, I was working with a smaller word count than you had above.

Ahh... fluff is... fluff. Joel hits his stride the best when you get to make fun of serious things (including himself. I have no doubt that in real life he is dour and humorless and is on a constant coffee IV drip just to make him semi-human in behavior)

17 years-- Yeah, he's come a long way from writing about the failure of trees to live up to expectations to... well, the failure of politicans.

The hallmark of a true smart-ass writer is when people think the writer is mocking the assignments. Joel made his splash that day.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

It's a can of Whoop-a*s (tm), for when you need to release your flatulence. After ingesting it, people tend to cringe suddenly before sprinting to the nearest latrine.

Hence, the effects got confused with a*s-whipping.

SCC on my last post.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for being one of the few who spells "whupass" correctly, Kurosawaguy. I'm reading "whoop" wherever I go and getting tired of it.

You know for years, I heard tales of Vietnam vets returning home and getting spat upon. Now, being a Southern boy and a simultaneous hipster, this sort of behavior was not put up with by my compatriots; antiwar, Nixon-despising freaks though we were. Too much respect.

So I always figured that if these tales were not just apocryphal urban legends, I sort of thought it must have been something the Yankee freaks, or the Californians, did. People who I often agreed with but knew in this case were dead wrong.

Recently I flashed on the only reasonably well-documented occurence of this despicable behavior, and at that instant realized that I had actually known about it all along: T'was Ron Kovik, at the '72 Republican convention hall. Ron, the paraplegic vet in his wheelchair, getting spit on by the members of that party's convention while they screamed "traitor" at him.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Posted by: Jumper | October 23, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Oops, crossposted. Didn't mean to offend the users of Whoopass. Merely inform them that they are wrong.

Posted by: Jumper | October 23, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I completely believe it, Jumper. This is the guy who wrote "Born on the 4th of July." He also became a peace activist before the convention; He protested at Nixon's inaugration in 1972.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Keeping on-topic for a moment, I learned only recently an interesting little factoid about deciduous trees: they actualy PUSH their leaves off of themselves in the fall. They form some kind of cellular barrier in the fall that literaly shoves the leaf off of the branch.

Now, if only we could do that with, say, a crooked nose, or a gimp leg, or an oversized butt. Don't like the one God gave you? Just grow a new one, and snap the old one off on the dotted line.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 23, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl... *that* was priceless.

Posted by: TBG | October 23, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I agree, Jumper.

Whup is an variation on "whip"-- to administer a severe beating.

Whoop is a shout of joy (hence my flatulence joke).

You can whoop as you whup somebody, but not vice-versa.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

When a tree dies in summer, its leaves don't develop that clean stem break, and the dead brown leaves stay on the dead tree into spring, advertising its demise in a sad and unnatural-seeming way.

Posted by: Jumper | October 23, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

SoC, very funny.

Horatio heard a Who on the Pass, hence it got called "whopass"

I also heard the valley below got it name when the Roms upped their antics there.

So, couples on the point of breaking up always openly can their love at Whopass over the Romantic Chasm.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

And hideous murderers also push boodles screaming down the cliff into the deep, deep chasm...

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

26 NATO countries have troops in Afghanistan.

I wonder why I wrote that?

Posted by: Boko999 | October 23, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Because it needs to be said. They are there in Afghanistan, but not Iraq. There's a reason.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I am back from my days of R&R. All I can say is everyone needs them. And if you haven't been to the Grand Canyon you must put it on your list of things to do before you die. So spectacular I nearly cried.

We had snow (!) here on Sunday. The leaves aren't even all off the trees yet. I'm sorry the east is in such a drought and the west is burning. Sure sounds ominous.

Maggie O -- I must root for the Rockies of course but I am glad for you your team will face them. People out here are going nuts with excitement. Should be a fun series. I hope I am not the only one here on the boodle who wants the Rockies to win. But whatever...GO ROCKIES!!!

Posted by: birdie | October 23, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back birdie.
The Grand Canyon is mighty grand. I made a point of getting up early enough to catch the sunrise. Magnificent.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 23, 2007 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Birdie, Of course you must root for the Rockies. I completely understand. As a life-long fair weather, Red Sox in October fan, I completely understand. I have faint hope that the Red Sox will go all the way because of years of experience. Scotty and Bad Sneakers will think I'm shallow that way, but I believe that I'm a realist. I must say that I'm glad that I'll be out of the country at the end of the Series because I couldn't stand the tension. Rex Sox Rule!

Posted by: Maggie O'D | October 23, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Osama's Sept. message, in totality, supposedly. Apparently we should not see it, as it's too dangerous. It is interesting and contains several paradoxes. And many fallacies. But if "know the enemy" is true, then I suppose it should be available. It's all quite odd, that's for sure. As usual.

Posted by: Jumper | October 23, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Too dangerous? Too infuriating. All I see are stabs at appealing to reason, trying to manipulate dissent, and fear, trying to find what buttons he can hit, and acting as though he has the upper hand.

Ultimately I only ask this: Why the blazes isn't he already dead or in jail for his act of mass murder and damage?

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree with your assessment.

However, I decided to focus on the latest shuttle mission after posting that. (and then got lost in some very interesting stuff on "solid state" transformers, based on transitor type tech - all this because of my former work on power r&d) This shuttle mission is a real remodeling, and there will be lots of challenges. The hub for all the new modules finally arrives, and the solar cell array needs to be repositioned.

Posted by: Jumper | October 23, 2007 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Will it fly, Jumper? And re-enter safely?

Yes, solid state transformers are quite interesting. It's always really neat to see the progress in electronics.

It takes time for NASA to update the technology (because of all the parts), but it's way overdue.

Let me know of any interesting stories on that.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Maggie, as much as I would like the Sox to win, I am not overly emotional about it. And, as Manny said, it's not the end of the world if they don't. The local news has turned into nothing but Red Sox and the weather report - for the game. I don't think they have spent ten minutes a newscast on anything else since Sunday night. Oh, they did do a story on sleep deprivation - from staying up for the games. I'm sorta sick of the whole thing already. Not that I wouldn't be thrilled if they won, but I'm more invested in the Patriots amazing season.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | October 23, 2007 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see ID folks explain this:

And this species from a family thought to be 11 million years extinct:

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm all packed up and ready for tomorrow's big adventure. The taxi has been reserved, I've double-checked the tickets, and dealt with that whole plastic bag business.

And, lo, what do I spy on the Achenblog but Joel's debut article. This is quite a treat because, believe it or not, I remember when it was first published.

At the time, of course, I didn't know an Achenbach from an artichoke, but this article stood out. I recall thinking that it seemed a bit like Dave Barry, but far more scientific and with a gratifying lack of booger references.

I remember being skeptical of global warming because I assumed oceanic algae would bloom to compensate. I failed to understand that algae is nutrient limited, not CO2 limited. Oh, was I ever so young?

What really amazes me is that I recall scary few things from 1990. Since I was living with a seriously pregnant lady, I do remember "waiting to feel the kick." But the twelfth time you do that it all sorta runs together.

Professionally I am reasonable sure I was working on something for the Navy involving Singular Value Decomposition and hydrophone arrays. Yet the details have grown fuzzy. I would like to revisit this work but, to the best of my knowledge, all my papers have been sealed in double-wrapped boxes and stashed someplace next to the Ark of the Covenant.

I can only imagine that the ability to revisit old writings is one of the pleasures of being a working journalist. That and the inevitable cult of personality. Someone like Joel has a tangible record that he, indeed, has always existed.

While some of us must rely on inference and innuendo.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 23, 2007 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Or FBI files, RD. Have a nice trip!

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Today's "Dilbert" doesn't remind me of anybody I know.

Posted by: kbertocci | October 23, 2007 8:39 PM | Report abuse

When I saw that this morning, kb, I figured it might be time for professional help. And not just from Catbert.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 23, 2007 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps if we all leave our car windows down and chain saws out this evening, we may have rain.

Anybody in? I am.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 23, 2007 9:09 PM | Report abuse

RD.. have a great trip!

Posted by: TBG | October 23, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

RD, did you pack the unseasonably warm temperatures and sun? Please?

Poor Joel - that reaction must have been hard to take!

Beautiful day again today, but I don't think it will persist. Those pics of W VA and NC make me homesick. I'd like to go to Montana sometime to see the larch:
Nice pictures, haven't read the blog but looks interesting.

birdie, I'm neutral for the Series, but will root for the Rockies with you. I missed all their playoff games - 2 sweeps, yes? Seems like they're playing pretty well!

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 23, 2007 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Better closeup pictures of larch:

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 23, 2007 9:28 PM | Report abuse

'bye RD and RD's family.

Posted by: Yoki | October 23, 2007 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Man and Derailment
by Dan Chiasson
(New Yorker, October 29, 2007)

When the man took his son down the ravine

to view, along the opposite bank,

the pileup of a passenger train,

backhoes and cranes, things the child had seen

only in miniature, now huge, hauling

life-sized train cars out of the deep ravine,

inside his life-sized head the quiet boy

wondered how he would remember the scene

and, once he knew his father better, later,

and later, knew himself better, what it would mean.

Posted by: Yoki | October 23, 2007 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, back in the present, New England's fall tourism industry is going down the tubes...

Climate Change Blamed for Fading Foliage

Posted by: B2O2 | October 23, 2007 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks mostlylurking. Everyone must admit the Rockies win streak has been a wild ride. Whether it will continue remains to be seen. And Maggie O'D I appreciate your sentiment. I have to admit this is the first year in a long time that baseball has been such a thrill.

Mostly...I want to go back to the Grand Canyon and spend a few days, maybe a week, so I can reach the bottom. I still can hardly believe how big it is. It was almost like viewing a Hollywood backdrop. So wonderfully sculptured. A snapshot of the earth's formation. But one must see it in person to truly comprehend the magnificence. It reassured me of the incredible beauty that still exists in the world.

Get out there everyone!

Posted by: birdie | October 23, 2007 10:59 PM | Report abuse

This calls for a slight riff on Tennyson's "Tithonus":

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their warming to the ground,
Man comes and drills the field for oil beneath,
And after many a summer sheds the leaf.
Me only cruel carbon dioxide
Consumes; I wither slowly as all warms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-furr'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the North,
Far-folded ices, and gleaming halls of morn.

Alas! for this gray shadow, once a tree--
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy Vermont, that he seem'd
To your great heart none but a heaven's feast!
I ask'd thee, "Give trees carbon dioxide."
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men who care not how they give.
But thy strong fuels indignant work'd their wills,
And beat me down and marr'd and wasted me,
And tho' they could not end me, left me maim'd
To dwell in presence of carbon footprints,
In wintry age instead of heaven's tint,
And all I was in ashes. Can thy love
Thy beauty, make amends, tho' even now,
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,
Shines in those tremulous branches full with rain
To help me? Let me go: take back thy gift:
Why should a man desire the sky's sway
To vary from our kindly nature's way,
Or pass beyond the global solution
Where all should breathe, as is most sweet for all?

A soft air fans the clouds apart; there comes
A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.
Once more the cold mysterious glimmer steals
From any pure snows, and from my boulders pure,
And ozone heating with our craft remov'd.
The oaks begin to redden thro' the gloom,
The maples brighten slowly close to vines,
Ere yet they blind afar, and the wild stream
Which love thee, yearning for thy oaks, arise,
And drive in darkness from their loosen'd cities,
And beat the twilight towards flakes of fire.
Lo! ever thus woods grow more beautiful
In silence, as now global warming's doom
Departest, and thy leaves fall on the folk.

Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy thieves,
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true?
"Mankind itself always poisons its gifts."

Ay me! ay me! with what another heart
In days far-off, and with what other trees
I used to watch ‹ if I be he that watch'd ‹
The lucid outline forming freeze; saw
The dim puffs kindle about icy things;
Then carbon dioxide changed, and felt my blood
Glow with the glow that slowly crimson'd all
Trees' foliage; that kiss of fire, that would brew
Fires, droughts, smog, growing hurricanes
With winters balmier than half-summers of past Aprils, and perfumed the skies remote
Whispering the devouring of forests sweet,
Like that strange song of polar bears' going,
While humans in work dire rose their new towers.

Yet hold me not for ever in thine North;
How can my nature longer mix with thine?
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam
Floats back from those dim forests to their homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the unharm'd earth.
Release me, and restore me to old air;
Carbon dioxide, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt consume our beauty morn by morn;
Pollution for money our world enslaves,
And us, too, returning on our rubber wheels.


Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 11:37 PM | Report abuse

SCC: when the steam should be when the stream...

Otherwise, not a patch on the original.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 23, 2007 11:40 PM | Report abuse

I would like to state that climate changes do not necessarily mean global warming. I think humans are contributing somewhat but I am not convinced all the changes are provoked by humans. There are many cycles. After a five year drought we have been enjoying great weather and normal to high amounts of moisture for the past two years.

Time will tell. A lot of time.

Still, we must remain cognizant of our negative contributions. And make changes. We are very spoiled here in America. When I was visiting Lake Havasu in Arizona I was amazed by the number of homes that had third or fourth hugely over-sized garages for their RVs and cigarette boats. And most locals and visitors drove big trucks and SUVs. Meanwhile record temperatures in the summer have reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit. Wow.

Will we ever change? I did--traded in my SUV for a Subaru Outback. Got over 31 MPG on the trip. Not bad for a 4-wheel drive vehicle which remains a must in the snowy mountain country. Still, I could do better.

Posted by: birdie | October 24, 2007 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Democrat, was on Chris Matthews' MSNBC program Hardball this afternoon. Apparently, the fires are getting political. I listened and was surprised my Garamendi's comments, but I believe Garamendi to be correct about how thinly stretched the firefighters are and how they lack air cover or support for the fires.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Is the federal government doing what it has to do here?

JOHN GARAMENDI: Well, they're doing a lot and we appreciate what they have done thus far. Resources are coming in. The U.S. Forest Service, 70 units from Arizona and Nevada and all that's good. I got some doubt about the value of President Bush coming out here.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it's public relations rather than action?

GARAMENDI: Of course it's public relations. The action's taking place by the hard-working firefighters, the men and women and the police that are out there on the line and the community that's pulling together to support each other, that's where the action is taking place. I know --O.K., President Bush comes out, we'll be polite. But frankly, that's not the solution. How about sending our National Guard back from Iraq? So that we have those people available here to help us?

MATTHEWS: Do you think the president's arrival will distract from the efforts to fight the fire?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely. No doubt about it. The president goes some place, you've got a huge entourage, you've got Secret Service all over the place. And all the chaos that comes with whatever the president arrives -- wherever the president happens to arrive. But, listen, what we really need are those firefighters, we need the equipment. We need frankly -- we need our troops back from Iraq. We'll get on here, whether he comes or not that's not really the issue. I just hope that if he does come, he brings more than he brought to New Orleans.

When I sit down to a burger with my niece's husband, I listen. This link has the essence of his beef.

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007 | [San Diego] City Attorney Mike Aguirre hiked the salaries of several of his deputy lawyers this year, despite claiming it was illegal for city officials to hand out pay raises because it would add to the city's pension debt.

Four percent increases were the norm for most attorneys, while others received raises as high as 12 percent, according to accounting records obtained through Public Records Act requests. More than 100 staff members benefited from the city attorney's discretion. ...

Some council members also pushed to give firefighters a 2 percent increase, though the proposal failed.

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2007 12:09 AM | Report abuse

It's been raining here all evening and it looks like it may rain all day tomorrow. It is lovely and we need it soo bad. I did notice a lot of leaves down on my ride home and a few frogs were merrily hopping across the road.

Although we really need the rain, I wish we could send it to Southern California.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | October 24, 2007 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Oh, there is certainly room for Nature to do her will, Birdie.

As my uncle said, "bring on global warming; I've shovelled enough snow to fill Meteor Center, Az three times over."

However, as you say, we sure shouldn't take our insane consumption for granted. The smog and ozone alone in cities is a lung-killer and lots of household products marketed for cleaning causes lung irritation and asthma.

In short... I think if we took a vacation in say, 1940 for a few weeks, and then jumped forward back today, we would really realize the huge change in the number of chemicals we are using daily without full awareness of their long-term effects are.

I am reading a book on animal communication and what it says is that rainforests have very distinctive acoustic signatures from area to area depending on the trees. Our ability to hear and appreciate orchestras is not unlike the ability to hear all the voices in a rainforest.

Now, those animals have developed their pitches and inflections to be heard through the din; some use holes in trees to help amplify themselves, and so on. If you just thin out the mature trees in a rainforest, you can cut out a lot of acoustics. The book commented that warblers migrating south from North America may be having decline in mate-finding because of the acoustics being ruined.

And that's another thing to consider-- if partial deforestation does that, what kind of disruption to normal animal communication are we doing with our highways, cities, etc?

Also, recent research indicates that plants network their roots to speedily communicate predatory threats, and possibly disease. Highways can also cut across that. How does that affect the plant ecology in parks? We don't know.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 24, 2007 2:07 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Scotty? Cassandra? C'mon, sleepyheads, time to get up. We can't start the day without you guys.

*incompetent, uncoordinated, half-hearted, lackluster and foolish-looking Groover waves*

See? Nothing.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 24, 2007 6:31 AM | Report abuse

'morning, mudge. *sleepy waves*

fell asleep early and woke up very dehydrated. can't get back to sleep.

here's a helpful map of the fire situation in san diego (has perimeter from 2003 as well):,0,7627625.flash?coll=la-home-center

Posted by: L.A. lurker | October 24, 2007 6:47 AM | Report abuse

*I'm* here. Still about 6 hours left in the work day.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 24, 2007 7:11 AM | Report abuse

*shaking-the-rain-off-my-fur-and-decrying-typical-DC-rainy-traffic Grover waves*


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 24, 2007 7:16 AM | Report abuse

Keep an eye out for stray probes, SciTim...


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 24, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

The rain last night laid down a layer of water about one molecule thick. We need more.

Interestingly, the smell this morning on my street is not wet-composting-leaves but something sour like old socks or the boys' gym....

Posted by: College Parkian | October 24, 2007 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Awl right, there, CP, fess up: What where you doin' in the boys gym, smellin' sour socks? Hmmm?

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 24, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Morning boodle.
I'm aggravated that I forgot to celebrate International Mole Day yesterday. I'll just have to make some guacamole today.

Posted by: Boko999 | October 24, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Isn't the chemical formula for dry rain CO2?

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Boko, how about some mole poblano?

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Trying to find out what the heck mole poblano is, I found this fun page.

omni. That would be a good addition. I have guauc because it's made from avocados which kinda sorta sounds like Avogadro.

Posted by: Boko999 | October 24, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Uh, Joel, I think I found a typo in the Kit.

Fourth para, second sentence, first word: "Le'ts."

I *think* it is, but I'll let Mudge and Wilbrod rule on it first.

More later.


Posted by: bc | October 24, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Problems in fighting the Southern California fires are beginning to come to light. I'll provide a few key grafs from each link:,1,6844797.story?page=1&track=rss

Ramona Airport is the hub for San Diego's air assault. But the runway caught fire. Then the water failed. And the planes went elsewhere. ...

And now -- good morning, Battalion Chief Lutz -- the city of Ramona's main water pump had died, courtesy of a burning power transmission line.

That could mean no water to fill the bellies of Lutz's small, ad hoc fleet of air tankers based at Ramona Airport. No water to dilute the blood-red fire retardant to the proper color and consistency of strawberry milk.

The four tankers, along with three spotter planes, comprised the entire fixed-wing air force deployed against not only the monstrous Witch fire [hte biggest of them all--Escondido, Ramona], but also the Harris fire blazing to the southeast of San Diego [near the U.S.-Mexico border], and the Rice fire [Fallbrook], about 60 miles north. Lutz had been begging her superiors for more planes, dreaming especially of a DC-10 that could carry about 12,000 gallons of liquid, ten times the load of one of her tankers.

And why weren't they [air tankers] called? For exactly the same reason that the same CANG [California Air National Guard] tankers that, this time, were sitting on the ground at the Channel Island CANG Base were not called until it was too late: the state is incompetent.

Here is how it is supposed to work: The local fire department is to accurately assess the risk of any fire. Then that agency is to call the county mutual aid people for back up. If that is not enough, the county mutual aid guy is supposed to call the regional mutual aide guy and if that is not enough, that guy calls the CDF [California Department of Forestry].

And if that is not enough, then the CDF is supposed to call the State Office of Emergency Services (OES); and if that is not enough, then the OES is supposed to call the State Office of Homeland Security (SOHS). And if that is not enough, the SOHS is supposed to call the governor. And then the governor is supposed to start all over again with the Federal government.

In the meantime, the county burns down.

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse


The first link is for the NPR station in San Diego, a very newsy place for information.;id=9965

The San Diego congressional delegation tonight announced the deployment of Navy and Marine helicopters to fight the San Diego County wildfires.

Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, and Darrell Issa, R-Chula Vista, announced tonight an agreement with the head of the California Department of Forestry, also known as Cal-Fire, that will allow airships to take to the skies without the presence of a fire spotter.

Cal-Fire had balked at allowing the military to send helicopters and planes up to fight the fires with retardant and water, Hunter said.

The congressmen had been led to believe that arrangements were being made to send airships up once the winds died down but no such contract was in place, said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts.

Following the press briefing, Roberts said the Department of Forestry has dragged its feet since the 2003 Cedar and Paradise fires.,0,6848345.story?coll=la-news-comment

Two major events discredited San Diego's previous city manager system. The first was a huge shortfall in the city's pension fund. San Diego had increased employee pension benefits while cutting back its contributions, and pension managers had hoped the dot-com stock market would keep soaring and finance the plans. But the market collapsed. The second crisis was the devastating 2003 Cedar fire, which San Diego firefighters were helpless to stop because the city did not have water-dropping helicopters.

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

How many cities have water-dropping helicopters? They would be horribly expensive.

Posted by: Boko999 | October 24, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

KPBS News, the local NPR affiliate, just reported that the "Witch Creek and Poomacha Fires have officially merged and collectively remains out of control."

Should this new fire entity be renamed the WitchPoo Fire?

On to my day.

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

there's a green monster headed this way
only time will tell if gets us all wet

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

good morning boodle. We are enjoying our first day of sun after 14 with at least some rain. Not complaining! Streams that were bone dry in September are full and some lake levels are coming back towards normal, though it will take a lot more widespread water to help Lake Superior.

One year's weather does not climate change evidence make, but my tomatoes still aren't frozen and have set new flowers. Monstrous strange that is. The days aren't long enough to get any ripening so I have decided to consider the little green marbles "fall interest" in the garden. Our leaves turned and fell early because of the drought and made a pretty feeble display compared to wetter years.

mostly-here we call larch "tamarack" and though a bit different from Montana's western variety I think they are just as beautiful. Nothing quite like tamarack set against a spruce grove. The contrast of color and needle texture is breathtaking.

Canadian friends-I watched the last 15 minutes of the Mercer Report last night and got about 1/2 of it. Actually feel pretty good since that's up from 0.

Which brings me to something I forgot to mention the last time SCHIP and "socialized medicine" discussions came up in the boodle. I have never met a Canadian, imaginary or in real life, who was willing to trade the Canadian health system for the way things are done in the US (I won't call our mess a "system"). However, most Americans have never met a Canadian, period. Is the answer to uniting the public to demand sweeping, earth shattering reform, encouraging everyone to make Canadian friends?

Posted by: frostbitten | October 24, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

There's a report that LACFD wants 10. million dollars to buy a new Bell 412EP.

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Are you speaking of the World's Largest Water Bomber that's on its way from Vancouver Island to Smokey California?

Posted by: Boko999 | October 24, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the secret to our happiness frost is the less stringent laws for smoking pot. :-)

A joint a day keeps depression at bay?

Posted by: dmd | October 24, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, Canadian water bomber (world's largest) on its way to help in the battle against the fires.)

Posted by: dmd | October 24, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I was talking about doppler radar (I'm in the DC area)

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The problem with helicopters, above the 10mil initial cost, is the operating cost. The army says (as of 2005, the last data I could find) the Bell 412 has direct hourly operational costs of $500. That's a figure that is supposed to account for maintenance and the pilot who flies it. It does not include additional firefighting personnel, or the training that is required to keep those people proficient at their duties. Mighty tempting not to fly as much as you should if you know you're burning $500 an hour.

In my opinion, every fire endangered city owning helicopters is not a particularly smart idea. Though they may feel forced to as it appears the federal government is ready to push more wildfire fighting duties to the cities and counties that often encourage building in stupid areas and ways. A helicopter might look like a bargain in comparison to dealing with growth, sprawl, and other environmental issues.

Posted by: frostbitten | October 24, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Oops The Martin Mars water bomber is the biggest prop driven water bamber. 7500 gallons

The Ilyushin-76TD is jet powered and the biggest operational water bomber carrying 11,000 gallons.

A DC10 has been fitted out to carry 12,000 gallons but I haven't found out if one is operational yet.

The Martin Mars is a self loading float-plane that takes 10 seconds to pick up a load of water by skimming over the closest available source. The jets have to pumped full at airports. Also, jet aircraft do not operate low and slow as well as prop craft.

The Martin Mars is The World's Best Water Bomber!!!
Pretty too.

Posted by: Boko999 | October 24, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

A 10 million dollar chopper may look like a bargain against a $25 million modern waterbomber like the CL-415.
There are two of these, owned by the Quebec government, that are under contract with the city of LA and some counties of South Cal in the fall months. They are currently use on the South Cal fires, dumping about 6000L/1500usg of water on each run.
We certainly don't need them here now, we had many inches of rain in October.
I believe one of the problem is that cities and counties that are responsible for firefighting in the US don't have the resources to invest in these bombers. The state of Minnesota is the exception, they bought a a pair a few years back. The key word here is state. The state of Cal should buy them for the counties to use, for a fee. Bombardier's big clients for their waterbomber are nation-state such as Greece, Spain or France, they have very few US customers because of the high initial and maintenance cost of these things.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | October 24, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

According to AccuWeather Doppler the big green monster is directly over head. It must be raining up, cause nuthins comin down.

Some pretty pictures:

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle. Re fire choppers, planes etc. It might be a better idea if they had larger contingency funds available to operate loaned equipment. I'd be willing to bet that funding is one of the factors which made calling up the other assets Loomis mentioned a very slow process. You can bet your bottom dollar every asset on the Western half of the continent is currently on standby, just in case.

Good luck out there to the fire fighters.

bc and all you driver types out there might enjoy this. Here is a link from last nights Mercer report. You want to see Episode 4 from Season 5, the video clip 'Danny Williams'.

Make sure to keep watching right to the end, cause it just keeps getting better and better. To put this into political perspective, Mr. Williams is the Premier of Newfoundland.

He is an interesting man, whose driving sucks.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Re. Water Bombers - y'know, the ol' Hercules H-4 Spruce Goose is not too far away in Portland...

It'd make a mighty fine water tanker, when retrofitted/outfitted properly, I would think.


Posted by: bc | October 24, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I think the last Mars was built in 1944 boko, unless you have one now you can't order a new one. The CL-215/415 was largely inspired by an aircraft design of that era, the PBY5 Catalina known to Canadians as the Canso. The Canso was manufactured at the Cartierville plant that is now a Bombardier manufacturing facility.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | October 24, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The federal civilian agencies (Forest Service, Dept. of the Interior) have become very strict about aviation safety after a number of crashes. Strong Santa Ana winds make for bad flying conditions.

Anyway, I still get the impression that San Diego County had inadequate firefighting capabilities in 2003, and not enough has been done to improve the situation since. Isn't taxpayer resistance to paying for fire protection part of the problem?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 24, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, friends. Mudge, I was so busy this morning trying to meet that bus, and trying to keep up with the g-girl. She has so much energy in the morning, and I'm dragging like a flat tire.

And I can't stop watching those fires in California. So many people displaced and so much loss. The number of people seeking shelter grows by the minute. We're getting a little bit of rain here. I would gladly share this little bit with the folks in California if I could.

JA, didn't read the whole thing, but it is so you. Just think you get to say, aha!

KB, good to hear from you. Try to work some rest in there.

Can't stay, have to get ready for the Bible study, probably miss the Center, and the next Bible study. I am praying for California, I hope every one here is too.

What's up, Slyness, Mudge, Scotty, and all.*waving* RD, have a good trip, my best to your family. Ivansmom, is the Boy still brilliant? I have a picture in my mind of the Boy, and I know it probably isn't the right one.

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 24, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse



Posted by: Jumper | October 24, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Howdy everyone. Thank you, Loomis, for the fire coverage information. Here I thought S.Cal would fall into the sea, but apparently it is going to burn down first. Yet another reason we moved.

Cassandra, the Boy is still his precocious self, still getting used to sixth grade (what! study?), talking a lot about girls now. Thanks for asking. He joined debate club and has a fencing tournament Friday night so this is a busy pre-Halloween weekend for us.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 24, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I've been bouncing between CNN, MSNBC, and FOX for fire coverage, and am groggy for lack of sleep, having stayed up shortly after 11 p.m. last night, like the night before.

It was FOX, IIRC, that just minutes ago interviewed former FEMA honcho Michael Brown of Katrina notoriety, who was defending Schwarzenegger's early activities related to these multiple Southern California fires. I feel Brown too be so thoroughly discredited that I had trouble concentrating on what he, Brown, was saying.

If you want an interesting light analysis, an overview, of the difference between the demographics of Katrina folks and the fires folks, The Lede blog at the NYT did a good job yesterday making the compare/contrast.

I do have a real gripe about television coverage in general, especially since a CNN ad for Anderson Cooper appears with this Kit--on my screen at least. Cooper will be doing a fire special at 10 p.m. Eastern tonight. CNN repreatedly uses multiple screens or windows during its broadcast. Just moments ago, they showed scenes of the Santago fire in Orange County, while showing a large image of an interview with an evacuee at Qualcomm Stadium north of San Diego in San Diego County. CNN is mixing the images badly.

Knowing the geography is important. There are seven counties involved--Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego, with San Diego being the hardest hit thus far. I'm getting tired of seeing interviews from Qualcomm Stadium with Chertoff, Paulison and evacuees with pictures of fires that are burning several counties away. Aren't there shelters in Los Angeles County? Where are the Orange County folks going? Can't we have some decent, broader geographic television coverage of these multiple fires? BTW, Malibu is almost contained.

To circle back to an earlier topic, I would think a water-dropping helicopter would be cheap compared to the billions of dollars in prospective insurance payouts for those with destroyed homes in Southern California, just as a two percent raise for San Diego firefighters would help to improve morale and incentive. Watch, too, for the price of fresh guacamole dip to soar since there are numerous avocado groves in San Diego County that have gone up in smoke.

Even the tourist enclave of Julian in eastern San Diego County, high up in the mountains and up a steep, windy grade, is now threatened, with residents being called to evacuate. Some years ago, I ate a mean and delicious buffalo burger there.

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Santiago

Posted by: Loomis | October 24, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

according to Wiki there were only 6 ever built and only 2 are extant, both owned by Coulson Forest Products. Wiki also says that both are in use in SoCal, but independent news sources say only one is on the way.

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, thanks for mentioning Upsidaisium, but I prefer the older term Cavorite.


Posted by: bc | October 24, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps that gets us back to the problem someone mentioned earlier, yesterday or in the last kit.

In order to have the money to keep the fire fighting capabilities or even a contingency fund at maximum, you have to pay extra taxes. It seems they chose not to, so the money isn't there. That leaves each owner responsible for their own costs which ends up being insurance costs in this instance.

Can you have both? Sure, but if you want collective protection you have to make sure you have the collective bucks in place.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for that RMR link dr. hilarious stuff.

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

You're welcome.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

In other Boodle-related news, I've conspired with TBG and Scottynuke on a new item for the 10thcircle in celebration of the World Series:

When we think of baseball, it's not just peanuts and Cracker Jack. The real prize can be our memories of Mom.


Posted by: bc | October 24, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

From what I understand about pilot's skills, dumping that much water out of a water bomber makes for some very interesting physics and makes it hard to keep it between the clouds, as it were. I cannot type. Sleep depravation and the end of the quarter have conspired to make my digits so many pieces of wobbly membrane bound cytosol. I'm a blob, an amoeba. I need coffee.

Posted by: jack | October 24, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Is there some kind of conspiracy with the national news companies? Why aren't we seeing any news of what the fires are doing across the border in Mexico?

Posted by: bh | October 24, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

dr.. that Danny Williams piece was great!

But I love the Lusher, Sexier, Britisher segment, too. Hilarious!

Posted by: TBG | October 24, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

To Don/270 -- I have four brothers; I was the weekend lifeguard at a boy scout camp for more years that I care to count. Those, sir, are my bona fides.

My favorite class in college was the botany of California. I still recall the demonstration about the fire-intensity of chaparral-scrub burning. Those plants are impregnated naturally with terpenes, which are highly flammable.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 24, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps a consortium of insurance companies should buy some airborne fire equipment.

Posted by: Jumper | October 24, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

bc... you *did* find a typo on the "le'ts"

If I wasn't paying good money to read this, I'd complain, but I'm not, so I won't.

[peace, babies... still kicking and sawing and sanding and all that... and just might come out standing]

Posted by: martooni | October 24, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Florida now receives avocados from Mexico and Chile as well as the Miami area (those huge Caribbean 'alligator pears'). Not to mention back yards. My little Brogdon is growing like crazy. I hope for fruit next year.

San Diego has a lot of palm and cycad enthusiasts, so some impressive private collections are likely to be reduced to charcoal.

Not to mention that San Diego has lots of horses.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 24, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Is it true that California still has a total fire suppression policy.

Botanists and fire geographers have calculated that half-century-old chaparral, heavily laden with dead mass, burns with 50 times more intensity than 20-year-old chaparral. Put another way, an acre of old chaparral is the fuel equivalent of 75 barrels of crude oil. A great Malibu firestorm, therefore, may generate the heat of three million barrels of burning oil at a temperature of 2,000 degrees.

So living in these areas is the equivalant of living on a house boat in the middle of a lake of crude and every year you toss a lit match into the wind. If the wind blows the match out before hitting the lake, your house is safe for another year.

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

When I saw a turkey last May in Cambridge's Kendall Square, home of Gemzyne and other genetic research/tech companies, I thought it was an escaped scientific experiment!

Posted by: Maggie O'D | October 24, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Bc,Tbg and Scotty nice article on America's favorite past-time. Nothing better then listening to a game on the radio or going to "The Show" in person.

I saw this in the Baltimore Sun yesterday,0,748714.story

I had a visit from one the other day, tore up my garden and dug out my yellow jackets nest. I guess they are filling up for the winter.

Still raining here in west by god, lotsa leaves down and that means slick roads. The colors sure are pretty even on a rainy day.

Off to work, hope some of this rain heads east.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | October 24, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

bh - The fires haven't jumped the border yet. Mexico had sent firefighters and soldiers into SoCal to help out, but have since pulled them back as smaller fires are beginning to kick up there.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 24, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm a pretty adventurous eater and muskrat is an Eastern Shore delicacy, but I'm not sure I want to try any mole.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 24, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Nice baseball write-up bc. I am to hockey a less talented version of what you are to baseball. I think hockey and the taste of blood comes in my mouth and my left knee hurts.
I've become a worry bug too. The Puppy went in for the Big Snip this morning, some sort of seriously twisted 6 months birthday gift. The vet said someone would call after the procedure, around 12:00 maybe. Well, until 13:30 when they called I was on pins and needles. Sheesh. Things went well, the furry gonads were found and offed. The patient is apparently resting comfortably in the recovery room. No prosthetics were involved.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | October 24, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the giant green monster ran out of upsidaisium and/or corvite...

Posted by: omni | October 24, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

63 curious anomalies of water

Posted by: Jumper | October 24, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

shrieking... I can't believe you can get "furry gonads" through the Comment Eater but last night I tried three times to pass along a pithy thought I had about r.e.p.l.i.c.a watches (and why do spammers think I need so many) and it would not pass muster.

(Of course "pithy" is subjective... I was working until after 3 a.m. Those 18-hour days can be a little... well.. pithy).

Posted by: TBG | October 24, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmm, moles and muskrat anytime.

Posted by: ShriekingCat | October 24, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

SD, Don't fall too hard for his puppy dog sad eyes. He'll forgive.

Jumper, that is a very good idea. If they bought the equipment and made them available in areas where fires cause a lot of property damage,we all win. Lower losses means lower premiums and I do like lower premiums. We should all be asking them why they don't.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

New kit coming in a lil bit.

I fixed the "Le'ts." Don't tell anyone, but these blogs are kind of a Mom and Pop operation.

And Mom's nowhere to be found.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 24, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The inevitability of chaparral fires (and their relationship to nutrient cycling, plant reproductive strategies, bird ecology, etc.) has been worked out in detail. This doesn't seem to have prevented development in areas where the inevitable fires occur.

We have similar problems in Florida with our own scrub vegetation (home to our own Florida scrub-jays) and pine flatwoods, which were burned almost annually during several centuries of grazing cattle on native range. When left unburned, flatwoods can build up quite a bit of fuel.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 24, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Dave: The fires in California and the drought in our area have provided a lot of fodder for our enviroinmental studies lessons. The first time we studied the flora of an arid area I was surprised at the amount of diversity.

Posted by: jack | October 24, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Dave o' the Coonties: Florida avocados are so much better than those little squinty ones from California. I wish you luck with that tree, may it grow and prosper. One of the places we lived in Key West, we had a massive avocado tree in the back yard. Our next door neighbor owned a little grocery store ("Bina's") right across the street. We had to keep our ears peeled for the sound of the avocado falling in the back yard, and then hurry out to collect it. If we were slow, Bina would get the fruit and then if we wanted it we'd have to buy it from her store!

Posted by: kbertocci | October 24, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, your 2:07 AM comments were appreciated. Keep in mind however that in 1940 my grandfather, who was a white color worker in Pittsburgh, PA, had to change his shirt mid-day from the steel mill pollution. I guess pollution just changes form. Great, huh.

BC I read some of your posted stories on your blog about baseball. Nice! I used to go to the old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh with my grandfather to watch the Pirates. Back when money wasn't such an object. Roberto Clemente was THE man! It's when my love of the game started. Having a son who played through high school has helped too.

Posted by: birdie | October 24, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

SCC--Collar not color!

Posted by: birdie | October 24, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Hey everybody. I'm going to be out of service for the next three days at Mr. T's fire station design and construction conference. We're checked into the Westin and ready to go.

We had five cancellations from SoCal yesterday, four firefighters and a consultant who had to evacuate the office and couldn't get a flight.

The SoCal fire service does controlled burns when they can, but it's a dicey operation that has to be carefully handled.

Yep, dr, there's a direct correlation between funds spent and resources available for public safety services. And San Diego has been underfunded for years and years. I don't get the problems with public employees' pensions on the left coast. Here in NC, 7.65% of employees' salaries is deducted to be sent to the appropriate fund, matched by the employing jurisdiction. Of course the match is only what is required to keep the funds actuarily sound, so it may be as low as 2%. In my experience, encompassing 3 decades, there has never been a problem with the pension funding.

maartooni, you're in my thoughts and prayers. Keep working at it.

Cassandra, hope you and we all get rain. Had a tenth of an inch in the night, looking for lots more.

Posted by: Slyness | October 24, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

jack, California's mediterranean-climate flora and vegetation are fabulous, and apparently a bit under-appreciated by some locals.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 24, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Slyness... have fun at the conference.

Controlled burns and back fires seem so... well... scary to me. I guess it's a good thing those are left to the experts.

Posted by: TBG | October 24, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I suspect the insurance companies won't fight the fires themselves because they are afraid to set precedent. Perhaps, however, they just have never thought of it.

Speaking of Mom, how's yours doing, Joel? Always was impressed by that lady.

Posted by: Jumper | October 24, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Do they need to man them? Or simply provide the at risk jurisdictions with the equipment?

You know, I'm going to ask a guy I know, who is kind of a mucky muck in insurance. Not a high mucky muck, but I am going to ask. I'll see if he is around to weigh in.

Posted by: dr | October 24, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Birdie, yeah we have made progress in filtering smoke. I live in a mill town now, and it does still reek. However people have lived here forever and die in their 90's.

The air is far cleaner than, for instance New Delhi (motto: "Breathing our air is like smoking 3 packs a day".)

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 24, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey, everybody moved over to Joel's new kit......

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