Friday, November 29, 2013

Boob Tubes

I enjoyed a lazy Thanksgiving bereft of most of my family. We all have more than one family these days which makes for scheduling fun every time the Holiday Season rolls around. I don't mind really, sometimes the all week prep and all day kitchen marathons are nice to avoid.

Still, I will be baking a 14lb Free Range turkey later this week...with Sausage and Spelt Cornbread Dressing...without the rest of the requisite Thanksgiving Feast hoopla.

Unencumbered by responsibilities, I plugged into some NFL football on TV while keeping an eye on the internet for Breaking Space News...

SpaceX, the private space launch company wrangled by Tesla Motors' head honcho Elon Musk, was set to launch a TV Satellite from Florida's Space Coast.

Mysterious traveler, Comet ISON was swinging around the Sun, and skywatchers were on pins and needles on whether it would survive the close encounter. ISON was predicted to pass our star at one Solar Diameter's distance from the Sun's surface, enduring (or not) temps high enough to melt iron.

Football it turns out offered a twofer in the form of the Raiders vs Cowboys game. The first half looked like the 70s/80s Raiders crushing America's Team 21-14, only to look like a different team in the second half only scoring 3 points to the Cowboy's 17, in the end, losing 31-24.

SpaceX ended up offering a twofer of sorts as well...

A dramatic Aborted Launch seconds after engine ignition, when sensors showed the Falcon 9's main engines' thrust ramp-up was out of spec. The launch was "aborted by autosequence due to slower than expected thrust ramp," Musk posted on Twitter.

The SpaceX Launch Team secured the rocket and began failure-analysis while concurrently recycling the vehicle for a second attempt at launch within the hour! NASA never double clutched ever!

The Launch Team ran out of time to understand the anomaly, and ran up against the edge of the satellite's Launch Window. They'll try again after the Holiday Weekend, when the FAA will let them launch once the holiday air travel eases up a little.

Comet ISON was a twofer as well. All Solar Viewing satellites recorded images of ISON's swing through it's late morning (PST) perihelion...comet observers held their collective breath...then nothing!

I had tried to view ISON before it's close encounter to no avail...hazy skies at the Ancestral Digs made the highly improbable observation impossible.

After sunset, the first images of ISON reappearing after it's blast furnace rendezvous, show something on ISON's path. Observers were of two minds: ISON didn't survive...or...ISON did survive without it's nucleus...or something. As of 'Black Friday' afternoon, whatever it is has brightened quite a bit! Sky & Telescope Magazine has the latest Comet ISON blow-by-blow.

Here's a movie of the comet's two+ day solar flyby.

ISON may yet be a naked-eye wonder! Stay Tuned...

What a nice Thanksgiving night surprise...ComcastSportsNet replayed Tim Lincecum's No Hitter against the San Diego Padres from this past an early Christmas Present!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cranky History


I'm cranky today...reminded from midnight on that I was around to witness this sad milestone in America's history.

I wrote about it a couple of years ago. What I wrote still stands: "Living History"

I'll go be cranky somewhere else now...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What's At Stake

...last week.
It was Boreal's slog to get enough snow to sell lift tickets for Halloween. After a long, warm, uneventful Fall...Mother Nature just barely bailed out their annual Marketing Push (read Stunt...hey...whatever gets you through the night)

Saturday November 2nd
How'd that Halloween thing work out for ya, Boreal? quote Agent 86..."Missed it by that much!"

Boreal opened at noon on Friday October 32nd according to their website. I looked at their webcam around 4PM that November afternoon and things looked pretty threadbare...

Saturday morning their website was touting: "Snowmaking continues" they'll reopen when conditions allow.

According to the Reno NWS Forecast Office's AFD, snowmaking temps will arrive overnight. Alas the moisture tied to this cold front is hanging north of the I-80 Corridor, so none of Mother Nature's Finest will accumulate. However, good cold temps will hang around for a day or two, though warming is forecast into the weekend...

Bigger Picture
If the Winter 2013/2014 is another dry one, the West will be in trouble.

The 'D' Word, drought will become a stuck record on weather reports, the Six O'clock News and The Weather Channel.

The Drought is much more serious for the Colorado River where it's been 14 years of substandard precip.

I have a special place in my heart for the Colorado River. I've hiked both the Grand Canyon from the South Rim, across the river and up the North Rim to Roaring Springs, and Havasu Canyon from the South Rim all the way through Supai, down Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls to the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado.

My tally is three Grand Canyon trips and two Havasupai trips.

In the years since those adventures, I've taken two dozen fishing trips to Baja California.

The Colorado River empties into Baja's Sea of Cortez...or it used to. The mighty Colorado is so totally utilized to irrigate the Southwest, that barely any of the Colorado runs into the Cortez anymore.

The Cortez needs that water at least as much as lawns in Phoenix do.

I still haven't drawn a bead on this coming Winter...the Sun is still too quiet...

Like I said last time, I've got a bad feeling about this.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let The Prognosticating Begin!

August 25, 2013
I'm scanning the Sunday Chronicle online, and on the Entertainment Tab (Think Pink Section), I found a story about the '2014 Farmer's Almanac' which publishes Monday August 26th, 2013.

Last week I blogged about the Fire Weather. KirkVallus quizzed me: "no snow news? but you cover all the rest that I need to know, thanks Dave...."

Even my Sainted Mother has been asking about 'the signs'...wooly worms and such, that help make those folksy winter weather predictions...

Truth? I haven't given it any thought lately...oh, the one weathergeek who I respect (for his accurate forecasts going out three weeks) @TahoeWeather tweeted: "Some Winter hints... " on August 13th.

Tahoe-based snow forecaster, Bryan Allegretto was checking in early with some thoughts on our upcoming winter...when KirkVallus quizzed me and I gave the coming winter a bit of thought, I came up with the same data points as @TahoeWeather... ENSO Neutral, PDO Negative. I keep an eye on the Sun's behavior too, and it's still quiet...too quiet.

In his August 13th Blog, @TahoeWeather demurs from offering a forecast this far out.
October 15, 2013
I tried to view the Climate Prediction Center's website, to view the September 90 Day climate Outlook Discussion, but the site is unavailable to civilians due the the incremental Government "Shutdown". Shutting down 17% of our $3.8 Trillion+ Government is hardly a shutdown...even the furloughed "Non-Essential" bureaucrats will get paid when all is said and done (think extra paid vacation) 

October 20, 2013
OK, the "Shutdown" is over, and Government websites are open to Citizens again. The CPC's 90 Day Outlook published October 17, 2013, says ENSO Neutral through the 2013-2014 Winter. No El Niño, no La Niña. The PDO is still negative short the "Signs" look about like last year.

The Siskiyou Wing of the family was here at the Ancestral Digs for a long weekend telling tales of near-suicidal squirrels braving traffic to collect as many sugar pine nuts as possible before winter sets in.

Here, hundreds of miles south, Indian Summer holds sway. There's a notable dearth of yellowjackets, and this isn't wooly worm country. There's a slight cooling trend forecast for this week, roughly 1°F cooler each day through the weekend, so we'll still be in the high 70s. There was a 'nip' in the air overnight. The mercury fell to 43°F between 6-7AM this morning.

The Reno NWS Forecast Office put a photo of the famous "Blocking Ridge" up on Facebook.

This was the culprit that kept us dry last winter.

It's eleven days until Halloween. A quick look at Boreal's webcam shows one snowmaking fan sitting forlornly near the bottom of their hill. The forecast says no snowmaking weather up there this week. They're gonna need a modicum of luck to blow enough snow to sell lift tickets for Halloween, in my humble opinion...

OK, so what about my winter forecast? I'm waffling still. In 30+ years on My Mountain, we've never had three below normal winters in a row (read dry winters) so the odds say normal or above precipitation. Why am I not sold on the wet winter forecast? Too many cold signs so far.

By cold I mean the Negative PDO, the sun is still hibernating even though we're at or near the Solar Maximum for Cycle 24, plus another weak Atlantic Hurricane Season. (Last year's Hurricane Sandy, that slammed New York and New Jersey was the second named system that made landfall on the United States during the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season)

Sandy came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, but did massive damage to the Jersey Shore and coastal areas of New York City as it came ashore at high tide and was 'funneled' into Lower Manhattan by the shoreline topography. Beachfront developements were especially hard hit.

With under two months of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season left, there's been only eleven named systems, of which two have become hurricanes. Hurricane Season ends November 30th. No hurricanes have made landfall on The States yet this year. Pretty quiet overall.

Gotta say...I've got a bad feeling about this...

Stay tuned...
Snow Forecaster Bryan Allegretto
Snow Forecaster Bryan Allegretto
Snow Forecaster Bryan Allegretto

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What I Saw Sunday

Sunday in The Valley Of Speed was the windiest day of the weekend. There was rain near sunset again Saturday, just like Friday evening, though not quite the gully washer intensity. Rain should settle the dust, smoke and haze, but the rain was minutes in duration not hours…

Sunday’s wind certainly raised plenty of dust…my tripod, set up as a monopod with only a single leg extended was too much of a sail when the wind gusted. I made only photos Sunday, it was just too windy to follow the race with a 432mm telephoto lens! Trust me many of the photos were shaky too!

I looked at the skies and mountains several times to see the ‘Autumnal Light’ that traditionally I notice for the first time every year at Reno/Stead Airfield. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what I was looking at by Sunday.

A months-worth of Rim Fire smoke had blown away before I arrived, but isolated thunderstorms and their brief but powerful Outflow Winds kept the particulate counts high over the High Desert…waddya gonna do?  

I saw two good Unlimited races Sunday…

The Silver Race was almost stately compared to Saturday’s Gold Heat. Without Strega in the heat, the pace was…let’s say…graceful…

As the winds freshened Sunday afternoon, I began to fear a Gold Race cancellation for high winds. Fortunately there were no looming thunderheads…no chance of rain, and the wind was steady, not really that gusty.

Finally we heard the Racer’s Introductions over the radio…at last the planes took to the sky and formed up with the Pace Plane and flew out behind Peavine Mountain, to line up for the start.

Down The Chute they came…Voodoo on the Pole, and Strega bringing up the rear.

“Gentlemen, you have a race” crackled the radio and the throttles went forward.

Voodoo lead September Fury, followed by Czech Mate and Rare Bear. Strega was passing the backmarkers like they were standing still. Voodoo’s first lap was 504MPH and change.

Strega was flat out flying! By the fourth lap, September Fury May-Day-ed and landed safely. Strega passed eternal nemesis, Rare Bear, and blew by Czech Mate. She was 7-8 seconds behind Voodoo…

The two highly modified P-51s outclassed the rest of the field, my favorite, Precious Metal ran around in fourth, sounding like a million bucks.

That’s the way they finished. Kudos to Stephen Hinton in Voodoo who took his fourth Reno Gold in four years of racing! His first three wins were in Strega.

Had Strega qualified without drama, what a race that would have been!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Annual Autumnal Light Review

Well I reached my annual milepost on the way to Winter. I’m up The Hill for a weekend of National Championship Air Racing at Reno/Stead Field. This is the 50th Anniversary Championship.

I rolled out to Stead Friday afternoon about 45 minutes before the Unlimited Gold Heat, under partly to mostly cloudy skies. I wasn’t thinking about the quality of the sunlight while chewing the fat with the fenceline regulars I know from previous years in The Valley Of Speed.

The impending thunderstorms encroaching on the race course cancelled the final race of the day…the same Gold Heat I’d bet my whole stake on…time-wise…

Saturday morning I ran downtown to poach the Truckee Library’s wifi signal to post Saturday’s blog, and through the narrow slice sky of my street, I could see a pretty thick smoky haze partially obscuring the Carson Range…on the bright side however, I see where the Great Smoky Mountains got their name...

I arrived in the VOS a half an hour before the Unlimited Heat Silver 3B. Catching up on the day’s news with my fellow Fenceliners, I learned that the Unlimited Bronze Class was cancelled due to a dearth of entries.

Three time defending Unlimited Gold Champion, ‘Strega’ would race her way in via the Silver Class.

There was an AT-6 Heat, and the highly promoted “Jetman” did his show…from our vantage point he wasn’t even a spec in the sky…

Finally the big warbirds launched for the Silver Heat. ‘Strega’ easily went from worst to first.

It was hot out in the High Desert…I took shelter in the car…it’s like the seats fold down into a chaise lounge! I’m reading “Hidden Warbirds” by Nicholas A. Veronico a new book chronicling the finding, recovering and restoring of lost WW2 aircraft.

Still a couple of hours to kill, I looked at Twitter. Oh my God! @AmericasCupLIVE tweets: TIM TNZ Capsize! What? Via Twitter I sussed that the Kiwi
S capsize wasn’t terminal…TeamOracleUSA won the first race, the second race was abandoned on the second leg due to the Wind Limit.

Finally the Gold Unlimited competitors took to the sky. Large puffy Cumulus clouds filled the sky. Their shade was more than welcome. It was almost 5PM, winds were still MIA

Fenceline view of show center in the distance

‘Voodoo’ the P-51 lead them ‘down the chute’ and it was ON First lap was over 500MPH! Sadly we heard a pop pop pop  sound and Race 232 ‘September Fury’ pulled up, called May Day and made an emergency landing with Space Shuttle Astronaut Hoot Gibson at the stick.

‘Czech Mate’ finished second, ‘Rare Bear’ third and ‘Precious Metal’ fourth.

With ‘September Fury’ likely down for the count, there’s still three planes with a shot at Gold Sunday afternoon: ‘Voodoo, ‘Strega’ and ‘Rare Bear’

I got home to the DaveCave just in time to watch my San Francisco Giants destroy the LA Dodgers in their house. Final score? 19-3 The most runs scored against the Dodgers ever in Dodger Stadium!

After the ballgame, I caught the replay of the America’s Cup Race. The Kiwi’s didn’t capsize ‘all the way’, their wing never touched the water…it was close. The blew a turn by not reversing the wing. It didn’t ‘pop’ and over they went. 45° of heel easy before the wing popped and the yacht righted itself, committing a right of way foul on the Americans in the process! Wing trimmer error…perhaps a hydraulic problem?

The bigger news is the Americans made some changes to the boat, and I suspect fitted it with new foils, they looked faster Saturday. The proof in the pudding awaits Sunday.

Saturday's skies were too busy to get a glimpse of Autumnal Light conditions...I know it's's time...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Win Some, Lose Some

Yin and Yang…whatever…

So I shorted my Reno Air Races week so I could take in at least one America’s Cup Final race…The way things are going for TeamOracleUSA against TeamEmiratesNewZealand, there might not be any more races to see after this weekend.

The Kiwi’s boat is slightly faster until the winds are knocking at the upper safety limit of 23 knots, and it really outshines the American boat on maneuverability. Even the untrained eye can see that the Kiwi’s zoom through their turns while the American’s boat visibly lumbers around the corners…

SturgeUrge and I took in the race Thursday, though as it turned out, through reduced circumstances…back in early August, we took in the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semi-Finals. I blogged about the difficulty I had finding parking info via the site. We got lucky and stumbled onto the best free seats in the house!

We headed across the new bridge and back to our Valhalla only to find the Park Services have closed our spot because it was too good…which is to say, neither the National Park Service, or San Francisco Parks & Rec. could be bothered to police the wharf, so closed it was…

Thursday’s race was contested in lightish winds…which favor the Kiwi’s. Our alternative viewing perch was OK, but crowded…some young woman dropped her iPhone5 on my shoulder and into my camping chair (luckily for her, no case on her expensive phone) while her friend kept bumping into SturgeUrge’s hat from behind…

We didn’t hang around for the second race of the day opting instead to beat the afternoon rush across the new bridge.

I’m thinking: “Great, I’ll have time to get packed before the Giants/Dodgers game, and head up the hill after the game, thereby missing Sacramento’s afternoon rush too”…

Ooops…I thought the game started at 6:05PM…1st pitch actually 7:15PM…who’da thunk it? Yep…extra innings…sigh I finally hit the road at 11PM…Giants lost…Winning pitcher? exGiant’s Closer Brian “The Beard” Wilson…oh the humanity…

Into bed at 0230, alarm rattles me awake at 0800…still not done sleeping…

After doing the post office/post office box shuffle, I wasn’t going to make the Air Races in time to catch the Silver Heat at 1:10PM, so I opted to go later and catch the Gold Heat.

I got out to the fenceline about 45 minutes before the scheduled time…I caught up with the regulars who’ve been out there every year since the lion’s share of the fenceline was closed.

I was anxious to hear how the Silver Heat went at 1:10PM.

Three-time defending  Breitling Gold Reno Champion, Race 7, Strega had some drama in qualifying Tuesday. Just after takeoff, his canopy ‘exploded’. Not the windscreen, but the ‘bubble’, that portion of the canopy above the pilot’s helmet, came apart…Strega may-day-ed and landed safely.

Repairs were made, but not in time to get into another qualifying run, so Strega will have to race into the Gold, by winning the Silver on Sunday, forfeiting the win for entry into the Gold field, and he’ll start last in the Breitling Gold Race Sunday. Drama anyone?

So, there was a Jet Heat, and The Patriots Jet Demo Team before the Gold Heat was scheduled…then some thunderheads began to intrude on Stead Field, a few large raindrops fell, and before too long, all the pylon watchers, got into their trucks and drove towards the pits. There would be no Gold Heat today…

My fellow fenceliners said: “Strega was faster than all the Silver racers…like twice as fast”…

So there’s four genuine contenders for Gold on Sunday…oh, boy!

Sometimes you win, sometimes you have drama…

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Déjà Vu

I was out the door early today. My plan went this way: COSTCO Gas, COSTCO, Saw Shop, Chick-Fil-A for lunch, Drug Store, Safeway...all so I could get home to the Ancestral Digs and do a little baking before things heated up too much.

Too late... it was hot when I left...but when I returned it was 93°F.

As I was getting ready to leave, I strode down the driveway to get a clear view of the sky and I was struck instantly with a sense of the ol' déjà vu. I could feel the sun's heat on my skin, it's heat reflecting up from the driveway, and I smelled wood encoded memories took me south of the border...all the way to Los Cabos, at the southern tip of Baja.

That's how it felt...Tropical, though the relative humidity was only 22%, and not a breath of wind.

That smell of smoke is coming from the newest wildfire to settle into my consciousness, the Morgan Fire, on the southeast flanks of Mount Diablo.

As the crow flies, the Morgan Fire is the same distance east from the Ancestral Digs, as San Francisco is flying west from the Digs. It takes 30 minutes from the Digs to go through the tunnel, across the bridge, and into The City. It's funny, Mt Diablo seems so much closer...I guess it's a human thing...almost everytime I go anywhere out of town, there's Mt Diablo towering over everything. It takes almost an hour, given the tiny neighborhood roads to get to the South Entrance to Mt Diablo State Park from the Ancestral Diggs.

KirkVallus and I made the trek up the Devil Mountain in 2012 to see a stage of the Amgen Tour of California Pro Bicycle Race.

The last time Mt Diablo burned was in 1977. At that time I lived in Walnut Creek with a buddy. We could see the peak from our kitchen window. Back in '77, I was at the kitchen sink when I saw lightning strike Mt Diablo's southwestern flank. It burned for three days.

I did Chick-Fil-A for lunch because their parking lot has a panoramic view of the mountain...there were no spaces that faced Mt Diablo, so I headed south and pulled into one of the many alleyways between small businesses, found a shady east-facing spot, and had lunch.

The mountain looked fully least the backside did from my vantage point. Even the North Peak had a pall of smoke rising up from behind it. As I took in the scene, a commercial-sized aircraft came into view as if it came from the Livermore Airport.

It flew high above the fire, and just past the summit, it turned 180° and dove towards the southern ridgeline. It was a huge jet air tanker, and it laid a line of pink fire retardant just west of the ridgeline. That swath was nearly a half mile long!

I recorded a video of the whole thing...sadly my vantage point was through a bunch of powerlines and the camera's auto focus had trouble coping. However, I found a photo from the backside of the mountain capturing the same drop! Thanks Twitter!

By the time the 5 O'clock news came on, the almost 800 firefighters on the line and the air attack had really tamed things up on the mountain. The near lack of wind helped a bunch too!

Once I got cooled off in the pool, I settled in for some Giants Baseball pre-game radio blather, and I went online...fired up twitter and searched #MorganFire.

Through the magic of twitter, i was treated to an almost continuous stream of tweets loaded with photos, news and views. Much less dramatic that Sunday night, when photos from AT&T Park showed the towering plume of smoke over the East Bay Hills!

I found out the big jet air tanker is called a VLAT DC-10 that is, it's a DC-10 widebody, converted into a Very Large Air Tanker. You gotta love government-speak...

Last I heard it was 'some kid doin' illegal target practice in his yard' that sparked the thing off. At 8PM Monday night, CalFire is reporting the Morgan Fire stands at 3,718 acres and 20% containment.

Reports from Reno/Stead Airport, home of the Reno Air Races say the unlimiteds have arrived, speed trials are underway...and oh yeah, the smoke from the Rim Fire has dissipated!

My next shot at an America's Cup race (and my first trip across the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is Thursday, so I won't be in the Valley Of Speed until Friday morning.

This Sunday afternoon photo covers all the to speak...

The whole story: America's Cup recer, new Bay Bridge, Morgan Fire pyre.
More later...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sporty Too

The America's Cup got off to a roaring start Saturday. Close racing and great pictures on NBC's broadcast.

I think Emirates Team New Zealand has a slight edge speed-wise, though it could be sailing prowess not a design weakness on Team OracleUSA's boat.

We'll see tomorrow...

Friday night I witnessed a near miracle while watching the SF Giants play the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With Giants' starting pitchers Chad Gaudin and Matt Cain on the 15 Day Disabled List. Giants' journeyman right hander, Yusmeiro Petit got the call. I watched his last start at Arizona where he was the winning pitcher, going six innings, allowing seven hits, two earned runs, one walk and ten strikeouts. Swing and miss stuff, too...

Friday, Venezuelan Petit looked sharp. When he retired his twelfth batter in a row it dawned on me that he had a 'Perfect Game' going.

Now baseball players are credited with being 'The Most Superstitious Athletes', and no facet of the game carries more superstition baggage than the perfect game and no hitters, or No-Nos...

In dugouts across The Fruited Plain, there's one Ironclad Rule...If there's a No-No underway, you don't say No-no, no-hitter, perfect game, or any other combination of words that indicate same...'You'll jinx it' they say.

By the sixth inning, AT&T Park was got more electrified as Petit retired each batter.

Giants' Manager Bruce Bochy made some defensive substitutions to help keep the No-no going, and that paid off instantly when speedy outfielder Juan Perez made a circus catch.

In the bottom of the ninth, everyone in the sold-out AT&T Park was standing, cheering every out, two strike, two strikes...and with the count full, pinch hitter, Eric Chavez hits a line drive to right, Speedy Giants right fielder, Hunter Pence races to it, but it bounces inches from Pence's glove...the Perfect Game dashed.

Petit got the final out on the next batter...ballgame, Giants win...but 40K+ fans in the park and millions tuned in around the country only thought of what might have been...sigh...

Had Petit rung up Chavez, it would have been the 24th perfect game in baseball history. Alas, he became the 12th pitcher to have the perfect game escape with two outs in the 9th...he did tally his third victory since the Giants brought him up from AAA Fresno.

Today I heard first baseman Brandon Belt say: "It's my fault. I didn't sit in his spot" I couldn't tell if Belt was kidding or not.

No superstitions I'm aware of in "The World's Fastest Motorsport" This week is Air Race Week! The 50th Anniversary Reno National Championship Air Races kick off Wednesday September 11th.

I can't wait to get out to "The Valley Of Speed"

Gotta turn in early alarm (and DVR) are set for 0430. Formula One races in Italy tomorrow...Monza, Ferrari, Tifosi...high speed and history on display.

Good Night!