August 7, 2007

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Friends have been turning me on to Zaca Fire perimeter pictures. Here’s one:

GeoMac is another.

This too.

That’s in additon to news such as this and this and this.

Ray Ford at the Independent added this, with lots of maps and detailed coverage.

Ray Ford has an excellent piece in the Independent on the .

The good news:

  With today’s morning fog — almost a misty drizzle — Paradise, Rosario Park and Camino Cielo residents can rest assured that the danger is over for them.

The bad news:

  By day’s end the fire had crossed almost the entire length of Buckhorn Road from Little Pine to Big Pine Mountain — more than a ten-mile section — causing the fire to expand dramatically into the Dick Smith Wilderness and, more ominously, towards Santa Barbara. What had been a relatively narrow fire confined to the deep interior of the backcountry now has more than twenty miles of uncontrolled fire line that now has multiple heads, with each posing its own threat.

  The Zaca Fire has not only moved into an entirely new phase, there is a potential for major fire growth, loss of huge chunks of habitat and a serious threat to the South Coast.

This map from the NewsPress shows the expanded fire perimeter. Not sure how it matches up with the Independent’s report. The official maps are at InciWeb, which is down as I write this.

It’s frustrating to follow this from the other side of the country. I’m listening right now to “The Baron” Ron Herron on AM 1290, the News-Press station. There’s a link to the stream on the NewsPress home page. Even live coverage is locked behind a subscriber paywall, however. And the station itself has no webpage, which is inexcusable for a news station.

KTMS is back to being “AM 990″. I guess they’re still also on 1490 and have decided not to sell off the 990 signal. But there’s nothing live on the site. No streams. Dennis Miller (yes, that one) is on right now. He’s actually a good morning man. You can subscribe to the show for $49.95/year. Podcasts are free, it appears. Dennis lives in Montecito, the thoroughly wooded town that comprises the East End of Santa Barbara.

Now The Barron is reading news from this morning’s paper. This has been the routine since AM 1290 went on the air a couple years ago. The news station itself has no apparent news staff. The station just ran CNN news, and is now running BBC World Service. Not exactly Local Stuff.

It’s going on a month since I wrote Lighting a fire for public radio in Santa Barbara. Nothing much has changed since then, other than the urgency.

I won’t be back in town until after the 15th. If we still have a house, and a town, it would be good to meet and talk about the possibilities. A number of people have written me with support for getting the ball rolling. If you want to add to that number, say so in the comments below, or send an email to (my first hame)@(my last name).com.

In the last two weeks we’ve had three unpleasant car rental experiences, each of which is an angle on what’s been screwed up for way to long with that whole category.

Read more about it at the ProjectVRM blog.

Laugh tracking

rec.humor.funny is 20 years old today. Brad Templeton calls it the world’s oldest blog. My own vote goes to Poor Richard’s Almanack, which did for print what blogs did for pixels. Come to think of it, PRA could be funny too.

Back to natures

Living in coastal California can dull one’s Eastern edge, forged in the heat of summer, sharpened by abrasive seasons, the recurrent swelters and chills of true summers and winters.

I’ve always been, as my old business partner David Hodskins correctly put it, comfort-imperative. Maybe that’s one reason I stayed so long on the California coast after David took our company there from North Carolilna for good business reasons: there was only one Silicon Valley, and that’s where we belonged. Temperate conditions certainly helped draw me to Santa Barbara, although I would have gone and stayed anywhere my wife liked.

Once my work life moved to the Net, I could live anywhere with a good connection. For a combination of that and perfect weather Santa Barbara was far more suitable than anywhere else. The dream home we left in Woodside had “IDSL” that was barely better than dial-up, though it did come with sixteen IP addresses and no port blockages — a grace I still miss. Connectivity was much better in Santa Barbara, although it’s better elsewhere now.

For the last couple weeks we’ve been getting ready for a year or more in Boston, where I’ll base myself at the Berkman Center, and where we’ll be within driving and short-range flying distance to Baltimore, where half our kids and our only grandchild live — he was born here four days ago. That’s why I’m in Baltimore right now, sitting on the front porch of that kid’s house at 2am, listening to crickets loud as factory noise while swatting insects away from the light of my laptop screen. It’s 78° outside, weather.com says. But it also says the humidity is 90%, a number Santa Barbara hasn’t experienced since the Pleistocene. It’s been hot every day we’ve been in Boston and Baltimore. The forecast for today is for 98°. Nothing new there, for Baltimore or for me.

I was born and raised in New Jersey and New York, in homes and schools with no air conditioning. By the time my parents finally put a room AC in their house, I was off to boarding school, where there was none. When I went to college in North Carolina, there wasn’t any there, either. None of the family cars had working AC when I was growing up. Nor did any of the cars I owned, from the time I grew up until I bought my first and only new car, a 1985 Toyota Camry. I turned 38 in that model year. Except for one double-wide in the woods north of Chapel Hill, none of my homes in North Carolina had AC, either. We just stuck fans in the windows, and everywhere else we could.

Our summer place in South Jersey not only had no AC when my father and uncle built it, but had no electricity or indoor plumbing either. Those came later, but never any AC. The living area of our home in the pine woods was a kitchen with a big round oak table and walls comprised of salvaged screen windows with hinged glass ones on the outside. My job every morning was to go out and open the glass ones, if they weren’t open already to let the air through.

The forest was a canopy of pine and scrub oak, with a floor of blueberries and huckleberries, which tasted sweeter than any you ever bought in a store. The berry bushes were perfect cover for hide-and seek, and the trees were perfect for building elevated child housing and hanging hammocks in clearings. My aunt and grandmother lived at the other end of a winding trail through the woods, every foot of which I still remember like it was yesterday. A second trail branched off to my great aunt and uncle’s house. Summers were filled with visiting relatives and daily drives to the beach, where we kids would play in the sand and surf while the adults fished or sat under beach umbrellas.

There was no sunblock in those days, just “suntan lotion” that made you smell sweet and look sweaty. We rarely put it on. Instead we just browned in the sun.

On the way home we’d stop at a roadside farm market and pick up tomatoes and corn picked fresh from the fields. I’ll die believing no species of fruit or vegetable tastes better than fresh New Jersey corn or tomatoes. We had a table with a porcelain top, outside our kitchen, where we’d shuck corn after we got home. Inside Mom chopped tomatoes into chunks to marinate in olive oil with garlic and other spices. Odd that my memories of dinner involve no meat other than the steamed clams or boiled crabs (caught by ourselves, in Barnegat Bay), served in abundance when large numbers of guests came over, which was pretty often.

It’s funny to think, as I sit here fresh into my sixties, that none of my memories of those summers involves weather-related discomfort. Yes, we knew it was hot, but it hardly made more sense to note heat than the recurrence of light and dark. Weather worth noting usually involved rain: summer thunderstorms or the edges of stray hurricanes, late in the season.

So I’m thinking that now, in the middle of a summer night on a Baltimore porch, soaked in sweat, that I’m getting my edge back. If you’re not actually burning or freezing, heat and cold are just sensations. You can call them discomfort if you like, but they’re a small price to pay for experiencing nature’s cyclic perfections.