Wednesday, September 23, 2009

smooth cruising

Cruising on a cable car northeast down Market Street, 1905 (San Francisco, California, USA)

A year later, most of these buildings would be shaken or burned down, or both.

The Ferry Building is still there. What else can you see?

Please note that the interplay of pedestrians, bicycles, automobiles, and public transit was only a little less chaotic then than it is now.

the truth about the dust storm is revealed

It was just a cover:

the dust was just a cover for... on Twitpic

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spring came in like a big red lion

After several years of Australian drought, Broken Hill, on the west side of New South Wales, goes black in a dust storm:

But that's not all. Sydney is hundreds of kilometers to the east, and is getting whacked with it too, as is Queensland farther north. This is pretty much kicking ass in the western third and northern two thirds of the whole huge country.

It brings to mind images I've seen of the storms heralding North America's dust bowl of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic dust storm in Sydney

Reuters covers some of the reasons for the dust storm. A friend of mine was reporting rain where I used to live, in Australia, with some of the creeks flowing across roads. (This is normal, it's rural, and the bridges are concreted smooth spots across the creeks.) The front that caused those storms stirred up the dust:
During winter in Australia low pressure storms are generated in the Indian and Southern Oceans, whipping up huge seas and creating severe cold fronts which sweep across southern and eastern Australia.
This caused a thunderstorm with winds of 100+km/hr in South Australia. Those winds lifted the dust from dessicated outback and marginal lands. Just as happened in the thirties in North America (and Australia too, for that matter), the soil was loosened and blew east into Queensland and New South Wales.

And addressing the question of whether climate change caused the dust storm:
....dust storms are usually restricted to the inland of Australia. Occasionally, during widespread drought they can affect coastal areas. Australia is battling one of its worst droughts and weather officials say an El Nino is slowly developing in the Pacific which will mean drier conditions for Australia's eastern states.

We also, for what it's worth, can't say whether climate change caused Hurricane Katrina. (Al Gore was wrong to imply that it did, and it affected his credibility for me, when I saw An Inconvenient Truth.) We can only look at patterns, not isolated events. But we do know that this dust storm was caused by changes in Australia that have come about as a part of a pattern of change in their part of the world. Did climate change cause the dust storm? No way to say. Did climate change cause the conditions that led to it? So far, probably. We shall see.

Dramatic pics in this story
Quite a lot of pictures here
My friend David Morgan-Mar has a dramatic set of photos, and his reaction, here.
@paddyplasterer pointed me at a live stream of photos posted on twitter.

Slipping past another marker on the orbital calendar

This is the September equinox. I grew up calling it the Autumnal Equinox, but having traveled in the Southern Hemisphere now, I'm going to have to go with the global flow and call it the September Equinox. Here in central California, summer has been droughty, not as hot as it can be, but with some sizzling days. As much as that autumn is still dry most of the time, and grasses turn from gold to brown, I welcome it. I welcome the shifting of the stars, the return of Orion to prominence. I welcome being able to sleep at night without tossing and turning on top of the blankets in a sweat. I welcome the buckeyes falling from the buckeye tree next door. This year I intend to plant quite a lot of them in cans, to keep the species going through habitat loss.

Points along the path as the earth turns aren't part of a religion for me. I notice the Pagan and Christian, and sometimes other markers for stops along the seasonal paths, but I don't notice them in terms of gods or goddesses or the supernatural.

They keep my eyes and ears open.

They tie me to the earth, and that's important for me. Keeping my awareness on the planet (and the universe) that, probably without even knowing it, keeps conditions so that I can live the life I live now, helps me remember that one of my responsibilities is to care for it. One reason I like geography is that it's about something, some place, I love -- and if we love something, why wouldn't we want to learn more about it and take care of it?

Not only does the Time and Date link have a great explanation of how and why the equinox is what it is, it's full of more awesome links to information and fun.

Today, I'm heading out into the garden to separate the green-bin pruning from the compost-pile pruning, to pull down the remains of the corn, harvest some potatoes, sort out some pole-bean seeds for saving (and feed the rest to the chickens), and start preparing the planting beds for fall's parsnips, spinach, lettuce, carrots, and sugar snap peas.

Photos thanks to Wolfgang Staudt and kganes via Flickr's creative commons search.

I figure the bad guys can take care of themselves.

When the polar ice melts and the secret lairs are exposed, Superman will be at risk, too -- that's a terrifying thought.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

sense of place - Beach Chalet

Beach Chalet mural
Originally uploaded by marymactavish.
The Beach Chalet, with breathtaking Depression-era art downstairs, and fabulous burgers, beer, and ocean view upstairs, is probably one of the least well known of San Francisco's most wonderful places. It's in the northwest corner of Golden Gate Park, across the Great Highway from the beach. When you visit, I will take you there.

Before my sister died, this was on the list of places she wanted to go again. I'd never been, had no idea it was there despite years of hanging out (and a few months of living in) San Francisco. Now, it has emotional value for its art, as well as having been the last place I had a coherent conversation with my sister. (Brain cancer sucks.)

(Clicking through to the flickr page will give you more info, and lots of links.)