Transitioning to desert

Carr-fireWe were back in California for a visit last year. It was the end of a road trip, across the US in June. There were fires in New Mexico and Colorado as we passed through, but it was California that was a shock. We crossed the Sierra Nevada at Mamouth to visit Devil’s Postpile, and immediately we were in smoke an ash from a fire in the John Muir Wilderness a short way away. Helicopters, fighting that fire. We saw the great postpiles…

Devil-postpile

Devil’s Postpile: worth seeing

then walked, through smoke and a drizzle of ash, across the scar left by the Rainbow Fire of 1992. There was a forest here before that fire; will there ever be again?

Rainbow-fire

In the midst of that scar, we came to Rainbow Falls, from which the fire got its name. Still worth a visit.

Rainbow_fall_at_Devils_Postpile_National_Monument

The next day, we crossed Tioga Pass and headed across Yosemite into the Central Valley. From the western boundary of the park, for the rest of our visit – another month – we were in smoke and haze, rarely seeing fire but knowing that there were active fires in every direction.

Much is made of houses and even towns burning, and of the problem of houses built scattered in woods on the urban fringe. Yes, that’s a problem: the fire damage is greater, both because houses burn and because the priority of protecting houses can compromise that of minimizing the spread of the fire; insurance companies, the state legislature & local planning commissions will need to sort it out. But, for the houses amidst the trees, we can miss seeing the bigger picture: we are watching the creation of deserts. These Mediterranean climates, which have always been warm and dry, are now getting drier, and hot. The vegetation, live and dead, which had before been part of a healthy landscape, is now just fuel. Mature deserts don’t burn so much, because there’s not much to burn. These places will keep burning, year after year, until there is nothing left to burn.

 

Going to LA

aqueduct
Click image to enlarge; thanks to John Fleck, via Rabett Run, for this beautiful graphic. Of course it reminds you that the city’s water – Chinatown and all that – is coming from desert rivers that don’t flow quite like they used to.

Map: corporate shuttle routes from San Francisco to the Silicon Valley

– map from Eric Rodenbeck, writing (and mapping) in Wired. Thanks to Louis Suárez-Potts for the link.

For many, San Francisco’s transition from center of finance, trade and manufacturing to a new role as a suburb of the Silicon Valley (the latter comprising the ex-surburbs to its south), seems wrong – a vibrant, heterogeneous city gentrified, converted into a pretty place for techies to perch. It feels wrong to me, too, but at the same time it says something beautiful to me: Continue reading

Such a linear, ordered, minimalist …. purposeful graffito

Book him, Danno.

Anthony Cardenas was arrested by Vallejo police for felony vandalism. … Cardenas is in [jail] for painting one crosswalk and adding cross-hatching to the three official ones…. [jail] time, …. $15,000 bail …

Read from the whole story from David Edmondson at Vibrant Bay Area.

A beautiful teaching story

… although it doesn’t say much for the teacher training requirements in California in the late 1940s. From the New York Times’ obituary for Karl Benjamin, an abstract painter from Los Angeles:

he began teaching fifth and sixth grade in the public schools in Bloomington, Calif., where, in addition to the three R’s, state law required him to teach art. He had not thought much about the subject before.
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