Friday, August 6, 2010

Shovel Time

That project back in the Diggins isn't going to finish itself. There is a little can of worms still lurking after all. It seems that there isn't a standard design for 3/4 inch galvanized unions. I've tried two examples and I'm still getting some weeping at the joint.

I've got a third example of the breed ready to install Saturday. Should this one do the trick, there'll be no excuse to keep me from digging and screening the garden beds and installing the soaker hoses.

I enjoyed a funny ironic thing on my way to the project at hand. I recorded another episode of the History Channel's "Modern Marvels" their story of gadgets, structures, machines, tools, and all things engineered.

Tonight's episode: "Shovels"

I took the hint...and I learned the the business end of those giant excavators they use 24/7 in the world's largest open pit mines, the shovel part of "steam shovel" is named the Dipper.

Some of these dippers hold 50-60 cubic yards of material in a single, dip. The biggest dumpster you can get is a whopping 40 yards!

The show also toured the World's largest shovel collection, back East at some university. I didn't watch every second as I was editing the hour so I can burn it to DVD, so I never caught the name of the school...but they have more than 750 Ames shovels in their collection.

Ames shovels built America, dug for gold in two gold rushes...California and Australia...built the Panama and Erie canals, and built most all of America's railroads.

I looked it up. The Stonehill Industrial History Center is at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts. First made in 1774 at North Bridgewater, MA, Ames shovels were built in Easton since 1803.

By the 1850's, the Ames Brothers were successful businessmen, and one of them became the US Representative from Massachusetts, and was a big mover and shaker in getting Congress to fund the Transcontinental Railroad.

When I was in 7th grade, I visited Promontory Point, Utah where the Golden Spike was driven in 1869. Even though the golden spike was driven 95 years earlier, there were still many rusted, abandoned Ames shovels laying about the two roadbeds.

I've been shoveling my driveways in Truckee for more than 22 years with the same Ames square-point gravel scoop shovel.

I'll be digging in the garden Saturday with an Ames shovel, too.

Procrastination Pays Off

Some days anyway...

Tuesday's surprise lesson
The big bad plumbing nightmare back in the Ancestral Diggins didn't turn out to be as tough as I figured. The best part is, I didn't open any cans of worms! I was worried about that, too. Rust Never Sleeps goes the old saw, and there was plenty of rust on the old piping I needed to remove and remodel.

I dug the access holes a month ago, and worked on other irrigation stuff while I put off the inevitable. Tuesday the day finally came that I couldn't go forward unless I addressed the task at hand.

It turns out that the rust that I feared would thwart me at every turn was bad, but it only changed my choice of tools...the only truly mission-critical fitting that could be my mega-colossal trophy "Can Of Worms", was the single cooperative one! Once I had everything removed, a quick blast down to the local hardware emporium filled the parts list, and all I had to do was make up the valve stack, install it, and I could turn the water back on.

Just one problem...wouldn't you know it...

I'm trying to match an existing 3/4 inch union that's poured into the sidewalk slab. The new union from the local Medium Box Home Improvement store was different where it wasn't a match inside where the seal is. Drat! This meant a trip to the Real Plumbing Supply two towns away...grrr...

I pulled my sweaty t-shirt off and kicked back with some iced French Roast for an hour...resigning myself to the late afternoon visit to the plumbing supply.

After a half an hour, I threw on a clean shirt, wrapped up my WD-40 soaked union in a rag, and headed to the shop. I caught the red light downtown, and in the 30 seconds I waited for my turn, I decided to hit the other hardware store on the off chance that they might have the mate to my union.

Saints be praised, the Helpful Hardware Man had just what I just over twice what I paid a quarter mile away...but twice the price was still under $9.00, and saved me an hour of back and forth motoring..."green" too!

There's a new wrinkle to our weather today...humidity...lots of it, too.

The marine layer never completely burned off today, and there's not enough breeze to mix thing up either. Consequently, the marine layer is acting like a lid on a saucepan and I feel like poached eggs!

I saw a tweet from @CBS13rightnow touting a fire at a junkyard in Roseville, so I clicked on it and what a dreary looking sky they have up in the Big Valley! It looks just like high overcast on the webcast...similar to what we have today in the Inland Valley.

Well, breaking news being what it is, when I tuned in the Channel 13 News, it turns out the "junkyard" wasn't a junkyard, and the fire wasn't in Roseville either...

The weather tease at the end of the fire segment said hazy sunshine today with cooling ahead...

Thursday's drizzle
Our weird summer weather continues with drizzle and cold blustery conditions today. The Sun didn't burn through the marine layer until after 2PM.

The gardeners come Thursdays, so I stayed out of their way...I went grocery shopping instead of getting on the Diggins job. By the time I got back and had leftover pizza for lunch, my fervor to dig had waned...I watched the internets for political news...Tennessee Primary...and some Weathergeek goodies.

NOAA issued their Hurricane Outlook Update...nothing to see here...they stood pat, no changes to their prediction...they still call for an active hurricane season.

I looked again at the SST Data for the's just not that hot. Most of the area where hurricanes are born is at normal temps to +1.5C. The Gulf of Mexico is normal to -1.5C.

We are going into the heart of Hurricane Season, and we've had three named systems so far. I still don't think this will be one for the record books. It seems to me that there's just not enough heat in the system to get things off simmer.

I found another Ocean Oscillation too...the Arctic Oscillation. This one impacts the Ice Cover in the Arctic. This one will be difficult to find a proxy for going back through historical records...not a lot of data collected up in the Pack Ice Region...

Most of the historical oceanic data came from Ships' Logs. This is a problematical source given the wide range of care in taking and recording such data, not to mention the variability of the instruments. Early thermometers all erred to the cold side.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What's Ahead This Winter?

Watts Up With That? has been a goldmine this week. The Truth be told? I'm procrastinating on the heavy-lifting plumbing project back in the Ancestral Diggins. It's easier to dilly-dally when there's fascinating weather and climate news to ponder!

Today's distraction is: Global Sea Surface Temperature Cooling Continues. In the Comments, I found a new Climate Acronym: AMO is the newly discovered (or newly postulated, I'm not sure which yet) Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. The Atlantic's version of the Pacific's PDO, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

The AMO is so new, that there hasn't been enough time to compile it's footprints going back into the historical record. This makes any models highly volatile going forward...for the near term, anyway...

It's going to be interesting to follow this new cyclic climate variation as it becomes better understood. Time will tell if this new data set will evolve scientifically, or does become politicized? All the better to beat the fast-fading Human Caused Global Warming Drums!

I can't wait to see the AMO, plotted over 2000 years overlaid with the same plot for the PDO. Do you suppose that the All-Time Record Temps might coincide with the alignment of these cycles at their combined peaks? How long between these alignments...I wonder. What about Atlantic Hurricane Activity, or Intensity. ENSO/El Niño/La Niña, and the Sunspot Cycles all get to play here.

Related comments cited the rapid "rise" of the new La Niña (rise could be confusing, the Pacific is cooling into the La Niña state, and cooling rapidly) Couple the effects of the new La Niña with the PDO getting farther into the Negative (read cool) Phase and we're looking at Winters trending cooler for the next decade or two.

La Niña often results in drought for many regions...usually the American Southwest, and the Southeastern States. The Pacific Northwest gets drenched, and in Central California, it can go either way. Fortunately for My Mountain, La Niña's lower temps are good for snowmaking, in case a dry winter does visit.

What might be shaping up in the years ahead, is the possibility of a big El Niño coming into play to coincide with the forecast Solar Maximum in 2015. If the Sun cooperates, (and that's far from a certainty, given the Sun's capricious nature of late) That El Niño could rival 1998's strong El Niño, that brought all kinds of exotic tropical gamefish into our NorCal waters. There were Striped Marlin taken as far North as Westport off Washington State!

Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, and Dorado were taken off the San Francisco coast during the 1998 El Niño, and the associated warm water currents brought the White Sea Bass back to Bay Area waters, where they are seen increasingly seen in catch reports every season.

Though still an incidental catch in Bay Area waters. White Sea Bass (WSB) nicknamed "The Grey Ghost" are highly prized for their fighting skills and they make excellent table fare. I can't wait until I catch one. The California State Record WSB is 78 pounds, it was taken in 2002 in Monterey Bay... unverified reports have WSB going to 90 pounds.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just Another Weather Story?

In the near term, the weather here in the Inland Valley will continue it's cool theme. Bill Martin, KTVU's Senior Weatherdude noted that:
"Our cool summer pattern continues. The Jet - Stream continues to sag south over the west coast. If this were winter we would be wet, wet , wet. Instead the summer version is fog, fog, fog".

After I spent some time this afternoon in the Ancestral Diggins, I found some interesting weather stories on Anthony Watts' Blog today...

"July in San Francisco coolest since 1970"

"NOAA to Issue Updated Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook"

"Mallory and Irvine on Everest: Did extreme weather cause their disappearance?"

I wrote in this space about the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook when NOAA issued their original Outlook. I noted the ENSO/La Niña coupling and it's usual effect on Atlantic Hurricane numbers, and opined that this season wouldn't be as vigorous as their outlook was promising. I cited the rapidly falling Eastern Atlantic Ocean Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) to justify my position.

I won't talk out of school, and NOAA issues their update Thursday morning, August 5, 2010...I will say that it seems like a quiet hurricane far.

Back in May, I wrote about my month of May fascination with Mount Everest...May is a big month in my world. Done grooming for another season, May is alive with outdoor things and the beginning of my Summer-long Motorsports Marathon. Even though I indulge in a near orgy of racing, I always keep an eye on the Himalayas and Mount Everest every May.

May is the most favored month to attempt the summit of Everest, fitting nicely between Winter and the arrival of Monsoon Season. It helps that the days are nice and long, too.

George Mallory was what we'd call a "Rockstar Mountaineer" in today's jargon. Seasoned and confident, with a killer skilset, his death was a mystery for 75 years. In 1999 the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition climbed Everest in search of remains of the man who uttered the three most famous words in Mountain Climbing..."Because it's there"

The unknowable details of Mallory and Irvine's demise had been Everest's greatest mystery. The new research postulates a fate far worse than any my imagination conjured up since I first read about Mallory when I was a kid...Mallory and Irvine were last seen disappearing into a blizzard near the summit atop the Northeast Ridge. The new study of the historical weather data from the day cites some truly terrifying conditions:

“We analyzed the barometric pressure measurements and found out that during the Mallory and Irvine summit attempt, there was a drop in barometric pressure at base camp of approximately 18mbar. This is quite a large drop, in comparison the deadly 1996 ‘Into Thin Air’ storm had a pressure drop at the summit of approximately 8 mbar,” said Moore. “We concluded that Mallory and Irvine most likely encountered a very intense storm as they made their way towards the summit.”

“Mount Everest is so high that there is barely enough oxygen near its summit to sustain life and a drop of pressure of 4 mbar at the summit is sufficient to drive individuals into a hypoxic state,” said Dr. John Semple an experienced mountaineer and the Chief of Surgery at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

"Into Thin Air" is John Krakauer's bestseller on the 1996 Everest disaster that took eight lives on a single day near Everest's summit.

Mallory's remains were found by the expedition about 1000ft below the Ice Axe that belonged to Sandy Irvine. Examination of the well preserved remains shows Mallory was alive for most of his slide off the ridge. Cause of death appears to be a puncture wound to the forehead of Ice Axe size, that might indicate that Mallory was attempting to self-arrest with his Ice Axe but it hit rock causing the fatal injury. Aside from a rope-jerk injury around Mallory's waist, his body didn't have the characteristic damages of a big fall from the Northeast Ridge. (There have been too many examples)

I've stood outside on the top of my mountain in ferocious's violent and scary, even though I'm only a foot away from the door of my BR350 Groomer. Being out in that on the Real Top of the World, wearing the state of the art garments from 1924, and standing on a knife edge ridge with thousands of feat of sky below you on either side is quite another. I would have preferred to believe that the sudden, severe drop in barometric pressure rendered them unconscious so they didn't endure the incredible fall into the abyss.

Alas, my beliefs had to succumb to the fact the way they went wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared as a kid with a hyperactive imagination. The mystery will endure, as there was no conclusive evidence on Mallory's body to prove if they made the summit or not.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Random Thoughts Again

It's almost "The Dog Days of Summer" on the calendar, but the diffusion of thought has already arrived in my head. Nobody is in the driver's seat of late. All I've got are snippets...random snippets.

Gee, it seems like Reno has been having a rash of fires since the Red Flag Warnings first went up last week. It's not what you'd think...these are structure fires, not wildland fires sparked by dry, both occupied and empty (read abandoned), apartment fires, the Bio-Diesel fire, motel rooms burned, and travel trailers went up in smoke.

It seems like a lot to this observer, though I must admit that I usually don't pay attention to municipal fire calls, unless they're in Truckee or near the Ancestral Digs.

I see the Red Flag Warnings are up again on the Eastern side of the High Sierra...Hwy 395 corridor from Susanville South to Carson City. Reno's AFD cites the winds, temps, and low humidity, not lightning.

Perhaps my diffusion is a product of sleep deprivation combined with the void left by the absence of Le Tour de France. I set my alarm for 0500 this morning to watch Formula One Qualifying LIVE from Budapest. I watched for about 35 minutes until I fell back to sleep. I woke up again at 0830...just a little late to catch the yellowjackets still snoozing in their underground lair...I blasted the nest with half a can of Black Flag Wasp&Hornet Killer before the yellowjackets began arriving from their morning stings again...but there's still those annoying loose ends. Next up, I'll give 'em another blast before I hit the sack tonight...they should all be in the nest after midnight!

What a satisfying ballgame!

The San Francisco Giants hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers, and played a close game at AT&T Park today. It was another in the century-long blood feud between the two teams.

Today's game had the atmosphere of a Playoff Game. There was high drama in front of a sellout crowd, three Giants batters were hit by pitches, and with the Giants trailing 1-0 in the 8th inning, Giants' left fielder Pat Burrell blasted a two run homer into the bleachers to give the Giants a 2-1 lead that they held for the win. The crowd went wild, and they even lingered after the game to celebrate the victory over the arch-rival Dodgers. For Pat Burrell, who grew up in the Bay Area and rooted for the Giants as a kid, it must have been a dream come true.