Saturday, December 10, 2011


Not much change on the weather front this week...or for next week either, say the weather gurus. I'm getting a little verklempt what with all this waiting. I want to have some skin in the game!

Yesterday I put away my builders tools and tidied up the garage to give myself some elbow room for the pickup's distributor project.

Friday I ran down to Reno for some provisioning and a tank of gas. As I entered the Truckee River Canyon, I realized that I forgot to grab my camera.

I'd hatched a little photo scheme in the morning...I'd take the Mt Rose Highway home and maybe get some photographic evidence of the Temperature Inversion Layer that's been giving us fits all month.

As it turned out I didn't need the camera...the air has been so still that the air is heavy with has been wood-burning cold in the valleys while the higher elevation have been barely freezing. No need to climb Mt Rose I thought...with this heavy haze, I probably couldn't even see the Lake...never mind the inversion layer!

Reno was a madhouse! I pulled right up to the pump at COSTCO, but I couldn't find a parking place anywhere at the warehouse. I bailed, and made my way to WINCO and grabbed a couple of sacks of groceries while the last of my patience evaporated. Way too much hustle and bustle for such a fine fall afternoon.

I cancelled a trip into downtown...those were discretionary shopping lists anyway...I wanted to hit the Truckee Safeway before the rush.

Heading up the Truckee River Canyon in the afternoon light, I noticed something new. The hills were golden...golden like California's grassy hills once summer heat toasts them. These hills had always been Sage Green...they were sagebrush scrub on volcanic soils and rock...they were supposed to be sage grouse color, period.

These were the hills that burned in 2001. The Martis Fire burned for two weeks and consumed 15,000 acres between Hirshdale, just east of Truckee, Incline Village, over the ridge on Lake Tahoe's North Shore, and Verdi, NV where the Truckee River Canyon opens into the Washoe Valley. Even Peavine Mountain, south of Stead Field, which has burned annually for a decade, had the new coat on. Whatever had been the indigenous ground cover had burned off and had been replaced by a low growing grass that didn't turn the hills green in spring, but did turn golden before winter.

I wondered how the Sage Grouse were holding up now that their camouflage was useless...

I pulled into Truckee, picked up my mail, and found a parking spot right in front of Safeway. I got everything on my Safeway list except the first item on the list, the best Loss Leader in this week's circular, T-Bone Steaks $6.99/lb in the Extreme Value Pack...damn

Back at the DaveCave, I put the groceries away and fired up the internet...I wanted to know more about that grass that took over the Truckee River luck. I searched and found the Truckee River Watershed luck...I spent an hour or so before I surrendered. I filled out a Contact Form to email my question to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Info Address...we'll see next week...

I watched another Martin Scorsese film, "Casino" I won't belabor the Academy's slights come Oscar time. Scorsese is one of the living legends of American Cinema. Not only does he make amazing films, the music he puts in his soundtracks is sublime.

While I finished dinner and my movie, I opened my mail. BajaBabe wins the Christmas Card Sweepstakes.

She gets me...notice the lack of snow?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Living History

This week I discovered two very cool Twitter Accounts. These are folks who tweet events from history, WWII to be exact.

I discovered @RealTimeWWII a week or so back. It tweets events from 1939 in real time. 72 years ago, the Soviet Army was fighting it's way into Finland, while The Fascist Grand Council in Rome just voted to confirm the "Pact of Steel" alliance with Germany, but also to stay neutral in European war.

@RealTimeWWII has a cadre of followers, many who translate and retweet in other tongues...German, Italian, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French,  Portuguese, and Russian so far.

Readers who don't do Twitter can like @RealTimeWWII on Facebook

I've found @RosiesWWII to be much more compelling. Written by "Rosie" who lives in 1940's Seattle, and tweets events from 1941 This account feels much more like literature. A Novelized account of events in real time from 70 years ago if you will.

Perhaps it was so compelling to me because I began following @RosiesWWII a few hours before sunrise in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. This is the only event from WW2 that I know personally "the Count and the Amount". It's no accident that every momentous event in history was measured against Pearl Harbor Day.

About My History
I was born six years and eight months after V-J Day, September 2, 1945 the day that the official surrender documents were signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.

General MacArthur reads his opening speech at the Surrender Ceremony while Allied signers look on. September 2, 1945
Here's a link to the photo above and the names of the other Allied Signers.

Every adult I knew when I was a kid "remembered Pearl Harbor". The 1950s and early 1960s were a time of growth, optimism, and unlimited possibilities for Americans.The national mood was powered by equal measures of pride and relief. America had helped to remake the World and come out of the Great Depression, and was confident in it's future for the first time in a decade and a half.

Little boys of my age all "played Army" or "Cowboys and Indians" before our teen years when we discovered cars and girls. America was the Victor, and proud of it. Our victory over Nazism, Fascism, and Imperial Japan was virtuous, and as a country we were all looking forward.

I was in sixth grade when I first heard the phrase "This Generation's Pearl Harbor" The Baby Boomers' Pearl Harbor Day was November 22, 1963, another "Day that will live in infamy" President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas that day.

JFK had visited my town just two months earlier, and his motorcade passed my school on September 23,1963 on his way out to the airport. The whole school got out of class and walked to the end of the block to see the president's convertible limo go by. I don't know for sure that it was the same Lincoln Continental limo he was riding through Dallas' Dealey Plaza near the grassy knoll that fateful November afternoon, but even in the black and white television images we all watched that day and after, it looked to be the same car. JFK's Assassination was "my Pearl Harbor" until the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster in 1986, and then September 11, 2001....but I digress...(Some day I'll be at the dais, addressing a roomful of people, and I'll say "but I digress" as a laugh line)

World War Two history was never something I studied in depth in school. Growing up in it's living history aura, it wasn't anything I paid any serious attention to. WW2 was "Settled Science" in my world..enter the Internet Age...

The Internet Age came to the DaveCave in 1996, and in 2004 I justified a Broadband Connection. As part of the broadband provider's come-on, they gave me a $50 Gift Card. I'd never shopped at Amazon at the time...Amazon was mostly books back then, and I was very chauvinistic about book stores then because my two favorite books stores in Reno were run out of business when the first tiny little Barnes&Noble set up shop...I did however, spend the Gift Card...

I ordered "World War II Day By Day" a coffee table book of the war in pictures and newspaper clippings. Each pair of pages covered a day in all theaters of the war, and the capitol cities where the war was steered from. After having WW2 DNA in my veins so to speak, this book was a revelation. This was the first time I understood the scope of the war...until I began reading this tome, everything WW2 had been organized by Theater...Europe or the Pacific...the relevant Capitols? MIA

I read the book a day at a time, sixty years after the actual events, and finished up in 2005 around V-J Day. Now I understood the concepts of World War and Total War. The War happened all across the Earth. Even after experiencing events in chronological order on the real timeline, my perception was still colored by my early upbringing in post WW2 America. That changed finally in 2007.

"The War- a Ken Burns Film" series on PBS delivered the final pieces of the puzzle to my impossibly resistant history filing system. Burns' documentary focused much more on The Homefront during the war. Four cities including Sacramento, CA were featured to focus the war's costs at home and abroad, and to tell the story of how Americans and America were changed by the War. Until I had a few hours of Burns' film under my belt, I never realized that for most of the war, the outcome was in doubt. That there was ever any doubt was a huge shock to the kid who grew up in the war's victorious aftermath, where the "Homefront" was a forgotten concept...or one never taught to yours truly.

I asked my mother about it (she had just turned 22 when Pearl Harbor was attacked) She said yes, we had our doubts all along. She related her memories of the aluminum drives, the USO dances, the troop trains crossing the country passing through her town, Americans even saved and donated bacon grease for munitions manufacturing. News of the war trickled in by newspaper, newsreels and radio, and by mail from soldiers abroad.

Getting WW2 news is much easier than ever to get today thanks to Twitter, @RealTimeWWII and @RosiesWWII give 'em a whirl...better yet, hip your kids to their accounts. Kids should know America's history. I hated history back in my school days, and I doubt public education has found a way to induce a love of history in today's students. Today's kids all have smartphones, add a Twitter App, and drip, drip, drip...history is knocking!

In his oft misquoted axiom, American philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Those with a basic knowledge of history at least have the option of remembering it or not. But what of those who were never taught the past in the first place? Like idiots, they wander aimlessly about stumbling into wars, recessions and social disasters.

The Internet Age
Today the real internet delivery of history is possible thanks to folks like @RosiesWWII and @RealTimeWWII I hope other tweeters will follow suit...I would so follow tweets about Roman history, The Crusades, The Space Race, America's Founding, and The Civil War...there's a lot of history back there...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Waiting History

I'm having mixed feelings today, they started last night while I was watching 2004's "The Aviator", the Martin Scorsese biopic about Howard Hughes, played by Leonardo DeCaprio. Leo DeCaprio never did a thing for me until I saw his Howard Hughes in "The Aviator".

After the movie I went back to scanning the 'net for snowmaking views, and the latest forecast prognostications...this is the major component of my increasing funkiness I'm afraid...The temperature inversions are back in control of our snowmaking microclimates again, and production is way down.

As I knocked around cyberspace, I saw these two things...Alec Baldwin got thrown off an American Airlines flight at LAX, and veteran character actor Harry Morgan passed away at 96. This was a little unsettling for me as I just watched Baldwin and Morgan's M*A*S*H costar Alan Alda in several pivotal scenes in the movie.

Alda played US Senator Ralph Owen Brewster and Baldwin portrayed PanAm founder Juan Trippe, who were a little too chummy in the Crony Capitalism way that's become far too commonplace in America today. DeCaprio's Hughes testifying at Brewster's Senate Hearings was the movie's tour de force performance, setting up the film's climax.

As my day turned to Wednesday, I realized  that it was the 70th unhappy anniversary of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Although certainly the most infamous event of all December 7ths, some other stuff happened that pulls my strings too...

NASA introduced Mercury Mark II in 1961. We now know it as the Gemini Program.

In 1995, NASA's Galileo became the first spacecraft from Earth to orbit Jupiter.

My life has been pretty wrapped up with history these past few months...I've taken on the Lincoln Highway this summer, and visited a couple of historic WW2 fighting vessels, the battleship Iowa, and the Victory Ship Red Oak Victory.

There's lots of history to Baseball, Formula One auto racing, and the Tour de France is nearing it's Centennial Year, too.

Tons of baseball news has come out this week, including SF Giants trades. Baseball is having it Winter Meetings in Dallas. Some of my favorite players from the Giants' miracle 2010 World Series season are gone. Reports say the Giants have maxed out their 2012 budget. Cody Ross, Andres Torres, thanks for the memories...

In bicycle racing, teams are coming together while reacting to the continued downturn of sponsorship money worldwide. Team RadioShack merged with Team Leopard Trek, the AMGEN Tour of California has announced the 2012 Start and Finish Cities, but not the routes.

What really had me on tenterhooks was waiting for news from FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in New Dehli, about the inaugural US Grand Prix at Austin, TX. Promoters of the race were shocked when F1 honcho Bernie Ecclestone threatened to void the 10 year contract to hold the US Grand Prix on the under construction Circuit of the Americas unless promoters paid several years in advance! Construction had been halted last month when the "new deal" became public. Time is of the essence for the November 18, 2012 race...a race I plan on attending!

The news was good when I got up Wednesday resumes immediately outside Austin. In other F1 news for the New Dehli meeting, Finnish racer Kimi Räikkönen returns to F1 next season with Team Lotus after racing rally cars last season. That makes six World Driver's Champions on track next year!

March seems a long ways off today...let's hope Winter gets going soon...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quick Phobos/Grunt Update 2

Some more Phobos/Grunt news streamed through my Twitter stream this morning...

The ESA is helping Roscosmos again, utilizing their Maspalomas 15M dish, and will continue in support until Friday December 9th.

Spaceflight 101 updates efforts to contact the Mars Probe

Space Safety Magazine mulls Phobos/Grunt's likely reentry.

Twitter has been my best source. Here's who I'm following:

While your following the above, you can follow me too @CorduroyPlanet

Thanks! More as it trickles in.

Kids, Don't Try This At Work

A Ski Resort Owner in Maine is recovering from injuries after being run over by the grooming machine he and an employee were working on. The newspaper said "David Beers, 40, and another man were trying to fix a track on the vehicle when it accidentally slipped into gear, onlookers said Sunday."

As with all things Slope Grooming that I read in the Civilian Press, the details are pretty sketchy here...not sketchy are Mr Beers' injuries. Surprisingly, besides cuts and bruises, the only real damage is a broken jaw and dislocated ankle! He's one lucky guy!

Grousers and belts on the machine's right hand track
It sounds like Mr Beers and his helper were "tracking-up" the snowcat when the accident happened. "Tracking-Up" is Snowcat Mechanic-Speak for installing the tracks. These tracks are made of steel "grousers" driven by reinforced rubber belts. Each belt is fastened to itself with "lacings" which are nothing more than hinges really. A hardened steel bolt with a locknut keeps the connection secure.

The grooming machine in question is an LMC 3700CF It's a mid-engine cab-over hydrostatic driven tractor, built by Logan Manufacturing Company. Until his legal troubles with the DEA and DOJ began, LMC was owned by John DeLorean, and named DMC as in DeLorean Manufacturing Company. Back in the day I demoed it's predecessor the Bear Cat. It had to be in the mid to late 90s.

Hydrostatic snowcats don't have gears in the sense that automobiles have gears. Hydrostatic drives are oil driven motors and controlled with valves that select forward or reverse and zero to 100% speed. There's a center detent (think neutral), and a parking brake which blocks the control oil pressure from activating the drive. Modern cats have door safety interlock switches that prevent the pumps from being stroked so no motion will be generated by the track drive motors.

This is why I don't understand the accident. When I'm sitting in the Driver's Throne of my BR350 groomer, and I'm working with a mechanic, I either have the parking brake set, or have the RPMs set to idle with my finger on the Parking Brake Switch. I've never run over a mechanic, or anyone else for that matter...(Oh, I did "pinch" a lift operator between my tracks and a fence once, but no harm, no foul, he became a rookie groomer the following season, was a quick study, and enjoyed a good career for a few years at My Mountain....earning the handle Cap'nDan.) Man, I loved working with him...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Quick Phobos/Grunt Update

The news trickling in about Phobos/Grunt is not good.

Two second exposure shows Phobos/Grunt is tumbling Click to enlarge
Experienced ground observers have seen signs that the spacecraft is tumbling. That's a dead spacecraft's signature.

Spaceflight101 has a roundup.

NASAspaceflight has the story too.

The brightside? It should be quite the fireball when it reenters!

PhobosGruntWatch should resume in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Grind

As I was grinding the French Roast this morning, I noticed the trees outside the DaveCave's kitchen window were still for the first time in what, Four days? The weatherdude on this morning's Trainwreck News said the wind would return Sunday night.

Damage-wise the Tahoe Sierra got off easy. The blustery winds became hurricane-strength Santa Ana Winds in SoCal and really tore things up. Even the Big Valley suffered worse than the mountains. Sacramento TV News was full of fallen trees on cars and houses.

So where does all this wind come from? Well, there's a huge Blocking Ridge parked on the Pacific Coast. This ridge of high pressure causes all the storm systems spinning out of the Gulf of Alaska to travel up and over the ridge before diving down in to the Rockies. The wind is from the system's western edges, the dry side of the low.

The winds rekindled some hot spots from the Caughlin Ranch Fire that burned into Reno on November 18th. Reno Fire Dept doused the little hot spots in no time. Originally, it was another blast of high winds that caused the Caughlin Ranch Fire in the first place.

As the coffee began to course through my veins...doing it's magic, my curiosity began to reach cat-level, so I clicked around the local webcams, weather stations, and PWS pages. In total, since the winds brought the snowmaking-friendly tempeartures the crews were able to make snow fourty hours straight, and overnight for a couple of days. Temps raised above freezing about the time I started dripping this morning's pot of French Roast.

So snowmaking looks to be a long grind this's that watched pot thing, I'm afraid. Snowmakers are earning it while groomers are payin' their dues. The blocking ridge isn't going anywhere for the next week, and the forecasters don't look more than a week ahead anyway.