Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Remember...

I was out on the Ancestral Diggins' Back 40 this evening. Over the past few days, I've cut back that Interloper Privet Tree as much as my puny, hobbyist-grade lopping shears will allow. In a perfect world, I'd just gas up my Stihl chainsaw and be done with it. Alas, my chainsaw languishes up in the garage at the DaveCave.

Because this garden project is time-sensitive, I switched to "Plan B" and grabbed my trusty Milwaukee Sawzall and an extension cord. Opening the metal toolbox, I extracted a brand new blade from it's infernal plastic package and grabbed the Sawzall, which immediately fell into both hands. It felt weird. The grip and boot were sticky and dark with whatever the sticky substance was.

I looked a little closer with my Bifocal Safety Glasses, and I remembered what the sticky stuff was. It was Honey! The last time I fired the old Sawzall up was early last summer over at the SturgeUrge Compound. The data from the photo file says the date was May 29th, 2009.

SturgeUrge had discovered a beehive inside the wall of his house a few weeks earlier, when the weather had warmed and the nectar was flowing enough for the hive to exude it's sweet perfume. One afternoon, Urge's girlfriend smelled that sweet smell when watering the potted landscape on the home's back deck.

SturgeUrge enlisted my help, and I found him a bee keeper who would extract the hive for a donation to his "Save The Bees" non-profit organization (of one) I found "Bee Guy Joshua" on craigslist, and I heard back from him just a few hours after I e-mailed him. Joshua was removing a big hive from the walls of a farmhouse near Davis that was taking longer than he had planned, so he'd be down to the Inland Valley the next day.

The next morning, I loaded some tools and a change of clothes, along with the digital camera into the car and headed over to open the wall where the bees were hiding. I rolled out my tools and extension cords and decided to wait for Bee Guy Joshua to arrive...the bees needed some smoke to calm them down before I could fire up a Skilsaw right on the outside of their happy home!

A couple of hours after the agreed upon time, Joshua called to say he was knee deep in another job that turned out to be much larger than the homeowner had thought. When Joshua finally arrived, he said he salvaged more than 75 pounds of honey from that house, as well as a good bee colony!

Joshua brought a Bee Keeper's Helmet for my use, and all the tools we needed to calm and extract the bees, and we began to cut our way into the back of SturgeUrge's house. The hive was not in the wall. It was instead deep between the floor joists, hiding between the hardwood floors upstairs, and the finished basement downstairs. We hunted, hacked, and hewed for better than two hours before the actual bee extraction began.

Joshua had his own Bee Vacuum! He'd built it from plans he found on the Internet, and it was a small ShopVac with a screened box to collect the vacuumed bees away from the works of the vacuum. Joshua vacuumed up the bees, one honeycomb at a time, removed each honey-laden comb, and vacuumed some more, until a half a dozen combs were removed from SturgeUrge's floor, and the Queen was located and captured. I bagged the honeycombs in Ziplox bags, while Joshua mined the combs from deep in the floor. It was after 9PM when we finally got it all wrapped up!

While Joshua and I were doing Bee Duty, SturgeUrge was whipping up a gourmet spread for dinner. ChefUrge's usual fine salad, veggies, starch, and something delicious from the grill...served with cocktails and a bottle of wine. I want to say it was grilled chicken with grilled was more than a year ago!

The three of us had a grand old time...two old farts to our new, young friend, who it turns out just started his "Foundation" Bee Guy Joshua was brand-spankin' new to bee keeping. He fell into it totally by accident, or decide. Joshua's real job was "Sponsored Triathlete"! It turns out he's quite the Triathlete, in fact he's been to much of the world to compete in Triathlons.

Joshua told the story of how he got into the Bee Rescue Business. Joshua's Father owns a Trucking Company. He serves the Central Valley Agriculture Market...hauling machinery and produce to and from grower's farms. He needed some more warehouse space for canning tomato hauling season, and rented a suitable warehouse somewhere in the Delta.

The warehouse was full to the rafters with empty beehives! Thousands of Supers, Frames and beekeeping stuff. It just so happened that Joshua was in town between Triathlons, and had just read an article on "Colony Collapse Syndrome" the mysterious disappearing bees malady that's been worrying growers worldwide for the past few years. Putting two and two together, "Save The Bees" was born.

SturgeUrge separated the honey from the combs over the ensuing year...he got a gallon or so for his trouble. It's really nice mellow, medium dark honey. I used some this week to make Rhubarb Braised Pork Chops...Yummy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Moving On

One More Train Wreck
At the risk of driving CorduroyPlanet into a ditch beside the Information Superhighway, and becoming a Train Wreck myself...I have one more thought on the subject of Train Wrecks...Big Media Division.

This morning I was listening to Armstrong and Getty, the Sacramento based Radio Talk Show. I'm a regular listener, and frequently start my day chortling away at their funny mix of comedy, culture, and political observation. They don't hit you over the head with the Politics, rather they mine that rich vein for the hypocrisy...all the better to highlight the hilarity therein.

The Set-Up
Tuesday, Americans in twelve states went to the polls, to choose in Primary Elections, who would run in November for various State and Federal Offices. Most of the Political Coverage on TV has been trumpeting the "Anti-Incumbent Ferver" supposedly sweeping the country. Armstrong and Getty addressed the subject by playing clips from the Cable TV's Comedy Central show, "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. Stewart's hilarious take on the Primaries and more pointedly, his take on Big Media's Anti-Incumbent Narrative can be viewed here. The bit begins about a minute into the show and runs about five minutes. Can't watch at work, or prefer to listen? You can hear Armstrong and Getty's show here. Stewart's bit begins around 30 minutes into the podcast.

Hitting the high points for those who are too busy to watch the clip, Stewart's bit began with clips of many Talking Heads referencing the Anti-Incumbent mood of the Electorate. Stewart then lowered the boom on the media citing these results:

In 84 Major Races with Incumbents...82 Incumbents won. Of the two who didn't win, one was forced into a Runoff Election. There was ONE incumbent who lost, Nevada's Republican Governor, who began losing his re-election bid almost from the first day of his term.

While serving his first term, Governor Gibbons was accused first of "using State Resources to pursue an extramarital affair", then sued for sexual harassment, then accused of "impeding an ongoing criminal investigation", and finally endured a bitter divorce battle. This in a state of Fiercely Independent Westerners who voted 53% for Barack Obama in 2008.

My take home from Stewart's bit was this: Big Media was more concerned with maintaining their Anti-Incumbent Voter Narrative! Radio funnymen, Armstrong and Getty this morning said that among all of Big Media's News Outlets, only the Daily Show reported that 82 of the 84 Incumbents did not lose their re-election bids! Stewart did a fine and funny job of skewering Big Media for it!

So, in 2010's America it's come to this...Given today's media landscape, if you want Hard News you need to watch a Talk Show on a Cable TV Comedy Network, or listen to a Comedy Talk Radio Program! The Daily Show actually won two Peabody Awards for TV Journalism for their coverage of the 2000 and 2004 Elections!

Is it any wonder that Big Media continues to run off the rails?

Big Media's slavish flogging of their precious narrative instead of just reporting the facts is exactly why Big Media is an ongoing Train Wreck! Americans won't pay to be lied to! They've been voting with their feet for a number of years...witness the cratering of Newspaper Circulation, and Network TV Viewership, as well as the crashing stock prices of former Blue Chip Media Companies. Even the New York Times, "America's Newspaper of Record" is selling off assets before they become worthless!

Is it just a coincidence that the sources I cite here are "New Media" sources? No, it is The Story!

I want to know what is really going on in my country, my neighborhood, and around the world. Sadly, like millions of other former customers of the Legacy Media, I've had to search out Alternative Sources to get the News every day.

"Alternative Media" or "New Media" is already well on it's way to becoming the new "Mainstream Media"

In the Marketplace the "Consumer is King." Media who report the facts will prevail...unless reckless bureaucrats decide that Big Media is "Too Big To Fail"

Should that come to pass...well, that is a whole different story.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Train Wrecks

I'll keep this light today
Not all train wrecks are unfortunate. There's another kind of train wreck disaster that Americans can't seem to get enough of. I'm talking about Celebrity Train Wrecks.

After a decade or more, television has shrunk from the last remnants of it's once golden promise, thanks to Writer's Strikes, Director's Strikes, the proliferation of Cable and Digital TV, and the general decline of Western Culture.

Witness the rise of Reality TV. Reality TV is not reality per se, it's a TV approximation of what the few remaining TV Writers think will sell under the guise of Reality TV. Reality TV and it's precursor, Tabloid TV, need a steady stream of Celebrity Train Wrecks (CTWs) just to keep the eyes tuning in. In turn these CTWs get a last bit of publicity on their way to forgotten status.

How else to explain Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, David Hasslehoff, et al? Their collective 15 minutes was up what? Two to ten years ago? These "Stars" who mostly rest on their laurels today, unfortunately still rate paparazzi treatment because they've revealed their underwear choices on film often while resting (drunkenly) on those same famous laurels!

These are the CTWs of today's masses...pray for Western Civilization...

I prefer the more pithy, mature CTWs...the survivors who've become like Performance Artists...or CTW Installations. Courtney Love comes to mind. Unfortunate marital history aside, Ms Love raised the CTW bar as high as any.

Curt Cobain's widow, Ms Love was among the first celebs to utilize the internet to speak to "the Fans". She always called a spade a spade, and was fearless in her willingness to call out her fellow Rock n' Roll stars when she felt their actions didn't serve their fans (or more to the point-Customers!)

At the Dawn of Digital Music Downloads and the beginning of Big Music's decline and the rise of online Piracy, Ms Love called out the boys of Metallica, saying in effect: "Man up Boys, you don't need Big Music and a Record Contract anymore! Write and record better songs, and sell them iTunes style on the 'Net for 99 cents! If you can still write great music, you'll still bank a fortune, with the added bonus of breaking the Record Companies hegemony, freeing all future artists to create, record and tour without owing their very souls to The Man."

Let it be said, that as a Music Consumer for my entire post-puberty life, I'm not convinced that the rise of digital music caused the decline of Big Music. I still buy music on CDs. I've bought exactly one 99 cent song from iTunes, since I got my first iPod three years ago.

I adhere to the Fair Use Doctrine, that is I make a copy of each new CD, load the original in my CD Jukebox, and use to copy for mobile use. I have a 24 disc clamshell that goes to work with me, on trips, long road trips, and the occasional party. Even at the low list price of $20, 24 CDs are nearly $500 to replace.

Just when the Digital Revolution was cranking up, the reigning Titans of popular music seemed to begin "running out of steam"...suddenly established acts weren't cranking out Great Albums anymore, but albums with one decent tune or hit, fleshed out with a dozen weak tracks nobody wanted to buy. Concurrently, the choice of artists and styles exploded, further diluting the purchasing power of the legions of music buyers, making Super Platinum Mega Hits even more rare. Don't get me started on what became of Rock n' Roll on the's too sad to commit to words.

This was the juncture when Courtney Love called out those Titans...alas Ms Love's CTW Lifestyle had taken it's toll on her, and she was unable to practice what she preached. She still was fodder for the Rock n' Roll Press, Tabloid TV, and the Supermarket News Stands.

Also in my Celebrity Train Wreck Pantheon:

World Class Makeup Abuser, Tammy Faye Bakker

Saturday Night Live's Hypertension Poster Boy, Chris Farley

The Charlie Sheen Saga

Ex-Train Wreck Robert Downey Jr, now rebounding to become an American Treasure-Acting Division.

These Olympian Celebrity Train Wrecks have all given me Joy. Each lived large, and didn't hurt anyone but themselves. You might argue Tammy Faye, but I believe she was oblivious to her Scumbag Husband's hijinx "In service to Jeee-Zussss...Say Hallelujah!"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Train Wrecks

"Train wrecks" are everywhere I look lately...

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
Whatta mess! What makes this a Train Wreck in my estimation, is even though A Roman Legion's-Worth of various Governments' First Responders have had 40+ days to get up to speed, there's still this awful tar and oil washing up on clean beaches in several states! Were these Public Servants surprised that the mess would find the beaches nearly six weeks after the spill became the Lead Story on each and every TV Newscast? Were they "going by the book" for the sake of the sugar sand beaches...or their damn book?

The trick to staying on top of this disaster is to fight it before it comes ashore. Keep it off the beaches and out of the Salt Marshes, Wetlands, and Estuaries. Dispatch ALL of the Corps of Engineers' dredges to the Gulf Shores and build a temporary Seawall of sand to protect the barrier islands, and the above cited environmental treasures. Worry about the Permits after the fact!

TV News Teases
Over my weekend, I was writing an extra blog about the Heavy Winter/Bad Fire Season Connection. I had the SF Giant's Game on the TV, though I was more engrossed in writing than watching. What caught my ear was a TV News Tease asking: Does our long, cold, wet Spring herald a Dangerous Fire Season? I swear Steam came out of my ears! I understand that Local Television Stations' business is attracting and keeping Viewers. However, given the historical record cited in the newspaper article that spawned the Monday Extra Blog, I found the alarmist tone of the News Tease disgraceful, and said so.

This leads to another ongoing Train Wreck...

Newspaper Circulation Plummets
(And it's handmaiden, Network TV News losing viewers) Hardly a week goes by where I don't hear or read another lament about our Mainstream Media's shrinking customer base. Most often this is spun as "Free Internet News hurts the Real Journalist's Broadcasts and Broadsheets" Scornful journalists hear this and think "Pajama-clad 30-something bloggers living in their parent's basements" without a Real Editor, or Guidelines are stealing our viewers/readers!

Remember the 80's? Alternative Music" propelled by qualities that made for good sales numbers, grew to become Mainstream Music. Most of those former readers and viewers of the "Mainstream Media" now get their news from the "New Media", also known as "Alternative Media" The same thing that happened in the music business in the 80's is happening now to Big Media. News Consumers want the News...un-spun, unbiased, and without being talked down to, when it's still new enough to be called "News"

My Neighborhood Oil Spill
Today's News came to @CorduroyPlanet via Twitter. Remember the "Tipped Over Truck" that closed Interstate 80 on the Donner Summit during the last big Snowstorm just before the Memorial Day Weekend? A semi jack-knifed, tipped over, and spilled 3000 gallons of diesel fuel into the freeway median and a culvert that led to Summit Creek, which in turn empties into Donner Lake. Fortunately, most of the 3000 gallons is still in the soil of the median. Clean-up of the soil began today, and will continue until Thursday. The Eastbound fast lane will be closed during clean-up operations. No fuel was detected in Summit Creek today, and clean-up continues all the way down to Donner Lake. Quick deployment of booms obviated any Holiday Closures on Donner Lake.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday Extra: Fire Weather Redux

I made a run to the Farmer's Market while my Mom was at church Sunday morning. I couldn't get near the neighboring Safeway, so I had some time to cool my jets, listen to my favorite Garden Radio Show, and read the front section of the Sunday paper.

A few pages in was this article: "Do Wet Winters Mean Bad Fire Seasons?"
I wondered in this space just last week about the linkage between wet years and bad fire years. Bottom line? For the most part, wet years produce less severe fire seasons. There is more grass for fuel after a wet cool Rainy Season, but the overstory fuels tend to be less dry, impeding grass fires from climbing the fuel ladder into the forest canopy.

The paper had another story about the heavy snowpack and the warm weather, warning of high, cold flows in foothill rivers. I looked at the NWS Reno and Sacramento pages, and they've issued Special Weather Statements: A Flood Advisory has been issued for the West Walker River effecting Mono, Mineral, Lyon, and Douglass Counties, along with the usual springtime cold river and stream warnings.

Sacramento's SWS admonishes outdoor enthusiasts to be mindful of the cold water temps in local streams and rivers, and reminds them of the dangers of hypothermia, too.

Yosemite National Park is awash with waterfalls this spring, with many unnamed falls that are flowing seemingly everywhere. Many of these cascades haven't been seen by regulars for many years.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Regular readers (If there's any left) know that I've been whining about the lingering "Rainy Season" for a couple of months now. Forgive me.

I have proof however that said whining wasn't just puffery. There's genuine data out there!

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service issued their June
Snow-Precipitation Update, listing the snowpack measurements from June 1st. No real surprises, given the robust El Niño that's been holding sway over our weather this past Winter.

Average Snowpack numbers are over 100% in most Western states:

California: 176%
Idaho: 129%
Montana: 114%
Nevada: 186%
Oregon: 154%
Utah: 107%
Washington: 112%
Wyoming: 116%

The Desert Southwest underperformed:

Arizona: 9%
New Mexico: 36%

Colorado is the Outlier at 54%

We're looking at the Textbook Fingerprint of El Niño, though I haven't the foggiest idea of what happened in Colorado.

Interestingly, Alaska's snowpack was only 79% of normal, while the Arctic Sea Ice Pack continued it's four year increase, both in total area and thickness. Polar Bears can all smile and sell Coca-Cola on TV again.

While I was looking into the recent past, I chanced upon NOAA's Atlantic Hurricane Season Prediction from last week. They're predicting another Active Hurricane Season. They also said the Eastern Pacific should be quieter than average due to cooling Sea Surface Temps across the Equatorial Pacific. At the time of their announcement, NOAA was predicting ENSO neutral conditions, however a LaNiña Event looks more likely every day to this observer.

If, as seems likely, we do have a LaNiña year, the Pacific Northwest will be especially soggy. Already above average this year, a LaNiña-fueled winter usually means torrential rains in Oregon and Washington, drier than normal weather for Northern and Central California, and heavy precipitation for SoCal and the Southwest. God help us...

Back in the Western Atlantic, SSTs are falling quickly now too..This is where Atlantic Hurricanes are born. Usually, when we have a LaNiña Event, hurricane activity over the Atlantic increases. I have my doubts that the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season will live up to NOAA's prediction this time around exactly because of the SSTs speedy decline in the Equatorial Atlantic. It's hard to birth a hurricane over cool water.

Oops, there I went and made another Weather Prediction! Damn! You can't just ignore these things once they're in print...even if it's only on your computer screen.