Posts Tagged ‘Silicon Valley’

California Water

June 26, 2016

There is a fair wind that blows eastward off the Pacific. It renders the state of California a most agreeable place in which to live and prosper. In the middle of that state’s long coastline the San Francisco region is kept– perpetually it seems– pleasantly cool in summer and moderately warm in winter.

And so, a most amicably crisp climate cloaks the Bay area with weatherilogical favor.  Sharp, brilliant sunshine is tempered  from time to time by the marauding presence of this deep dark fog; it rolls up from the ocean like some kind of commandeering trade midst on a mission.

Tumbling across the coastal ranges, these magnificent, mist blankets drape down into the Silicon valley like an overly ecstatic angel investor. As far as precipitation, it doesn’t seem to amount to much, but surely it helps to periodically clothe the Bay area in a perpetual curtain of mystery, and the Peninsula in a cloud of digitally enhanced inspiration.

Such fairly weatheric environs does not however, assure sufficient water for the millions of people who live there. And so, many and many a year ago, the powers that be among Bay Area movers and shakers put their heads together and devised a plan or two to bring water from the far (160 mile far) east so’s people could have water to drink and bathe in and live in.

Over there on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains they found a deep valley in which a cold river flowed so luxuriously. It was on the northwestern end of the Yosemite area. A river ran through it; Tuolemne River. Men put their arms and legs and picks and shovels and machines together and built a huge dam there. Beginning in 1919, they labored on the project through 1923; but one delay or another kept dragging the project along. Finally, they got the thing going, delivering water to the coastal regions, long about 1934. They named the reservoir Hetchy Hetch.

So Hetchy Hetch catches water for San Franciscans.  From the air, I think it looks something like this:


Down in the deserty California southland, similar projects had already been undertaken, but on a larger scale because that arid region requires more massive hydrous acquisitions, and from farther regions. About 1905, San Fernando valley-dwellers and their Los Angeleno neighbors set their sites on the Owens Lake, which is found beneath the eastern slope of Sierras in southern end the Owens Valley, about 233 miles northeast of their dry metropolis-in-the-making.

An engineer named Mulholland was the ramrod of their hugely ambitious aqueous project. By the time of its completion in 1913, 3900 workers had labored on its very long mountain-valley-through-desert 233 mile course. According to Wikipedia, the Los Angeles Aqueduct project

. . . consisted of 24 mi (39 km) of open unlined canal, 37 mi (60 km) of lined open canal, 97 mi (156 km) of covered concrete conduit, 43 mi (69 km) of concrete tunnels, 12.00 mi (19.31 km) steel siphons, 120 mi (190 km) of railroad track, two hydroelectric plants, three cement plants, 170 mi (270 km) of power lines, 240 mi (390 km) of telephone line, 500 mi (800 km) of roads[15] and was later expanded with the construction of the Mono Extension and the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct.[16 

History shows, then, that Californians have, to say the least, gone to great lengths to get their water.

Owens Lake, the original low-hanging-fruit that initially attracted thirsty southern Californians, had pretty much dried up by 1926, provoking the water-seekers to set their sights and sites farther afield, farther north up into the Owens River of the Owens Valley, all the way up to an endorheic basin called Mono, where Mono Lake languishes in the dry heat. By 1941, the slakers of Los Angeles had extended their aqueous acquisitions to Mono’s sparsely hydrous resources, which now seem to be going the way of the Owens buffalo, as a visit to the Mono Lake Committee will confirm.   

Last Friday, I caught a view of Mono Lake as we began our flight home to our most-hydrous misty Appalachian domicile, after our son’s wedding in the San Francisco Bay area.

Mono Lake, being an endorheic, 13-mile-by-9-mile, big-but-diminishing pond is surrounded by salty, dusty particulate deposits which appear as white beaches around its perimeter.

However, the most notable feature of my Friday aero-view was a long plume of smoke drifting eastward from Mono Lake’s western shore. I later learned that a fire, which had begun at a marina, has been raging away on that Sierra slope for several days.


I hope they can stop that fire.

And I would like to propose a toast: to all the Californians– best wishes for responsibly sufficient water conservation activities in the years to come. Cheers! May you live long and hydrate.

Glass half-Full

From Panhandle Park to Park Presidio

September 22, 2013

In San Francisco this morning, we drove westward out Fell Street. We passed along the north edge of Panhandle Park, which is an 8-block long strip of greenery that provides overstory of shade and repose within this city that seems to vibrate  continuously with energy and good will.

As we crossed Ashbury, I glanced through the narrow park toward the Haight, and my mind traveled back in time, as it would for so many of us boomers who vividly remember the color and serendipity of the late 1960s, and how the untamed zeitgeist of that era was expressed here so freely and recklessly.

‘T’was here that the shot heard round the world was fired, or so it seemed to us at the time. No gunshot is it of course, of which I speak, but rather, a double shot of my baby’s love, yeah yeah yeah.  On a good day you could loosely refer to the late 1960s free love movement that way. Or, on a bad day, you might think of it as a big shot of what James Taylor referred to, figuratively, as “hot steamin’ junk.’ That’s a phrase that could mean different things to different people, as I’m sure the bard intended when he wrote the song, so I leave the true meaning of the shot to your active, or inactive (as the case may be) imagination.

As it later turned out, however, my subsequent life, after that heady, youthful time of vicarious hippie wannabeism took a different turn.

And so, on this brilliantly sunny Sunday morning in September of 2013, our son was driving me and Pat to a nearby church.

Yesterday over breakfast, you see, I had been explaining to some of Micah’s friends, one of whom was our friend, pastor Toby, how things used to be in San Francisco before they were born, back in the day. How the shot heard round the world had been fired by Life magazine and Time, and the record companies. It was a huge shot of flower-power publicity that softly propagated the Haight-Ashbury pipe-dreams of peace, love, and turn on tune in drop out, etcetera etcetera etcetera onto my g-g-generation, a generation that was, for a while, lost in space, as brother Don later called it.

And so I had explained on Saturday morning to the thirty-somethings that, while the Panhandle Park groupies of forty years ago had  sat, anesthetized on gonja, and drifting into a zone where logic and proportion Fell far behind– even as their post-beat dharma-laden layback lifestyle was  being lionized by  pop culture–there  was another noteworthy group in the vicinity.

This other group was a dorky, uncool assemblage of zealots of a different homo sapiens breed. They, like, wore, like, plastic protectors in their shirt pockets and sported horn-rimmed glasses instead of  the Lennonish granny glasses.  Collectively, these guys developed an obsession with transistors and solid-state circuits into a totally new industry that would, before too long, change the world in a very big way.

Focused and driven, and forty miles from the epicenter of hippie heaven, these Silicon Valley guys  were busily shaping our future. Ultimately, they invented and developed the electronic hardware, programming, and text through which you now catch my drift.

Situated down the peninsula, around Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino, etc, they broke ground on new frontiers of calculation and communication, fomenting breakthroughs that have profoundly shaped the future, and generating thereby as-yet-unimagined career opportunities for many an enterprising post-’60s young person, including, long about the late 1990s, our son.

Although our son is certainly not a dork, he nevertheless has followed in the electronic footsteps of those Silicon Valley pioneers. His life path has taken a far different trajectory than mine did. My personal development, you see, had skipped a beat or two during that comfortably numb time of Alice’s distractions, when Grace Slick had posed a few questions over in the Park and together we took a detour through a Haight-Ashbury rabbit hole. Not that I was actually there, you see, but I was one of those dreamers who strung along, vicariously, from out in the hinterlands.

But this morning, well, we zipped right on past all that flashback stuff this morning, going to church–Christ Church of Park Presidio, a few blocks north of Golden Gate Park. Does that sound really old-school? Well, yes. But hey, Truth trumps pipe dreams in every Time.

So there we  were at Christ Church this morning.  And there we heard our friend Toby teach from the Bible about a forty-day flood, long ago, that imposed, like it or not, the judgement of God, and there we learned of Noah, who participated in our Creator’s redemptive processes upon the earth. And we understood more deeply, through the Noahic foreshadowing,  Christ’s grace, which redeems us and enables us to flush away the rabbit-hole distractions  that had flooded our youth with chaos and confusion.

Forgive me for putting it in these terms: Jesus was the original flower child; but he didn’t have to do LSD or any other such thing to accomplish our salvation.

All the bad stuff of this world that would destroy the good in us–it descended like all hell breaking loose, on him at the cross, and took its fatal toll. But then he raised from the dead, somewhat like, thanks to Noah, the human race had emerged from the Flood. You believe that?

You gotta believe, baby. Faith is what keeps this whole damned world from falling apart.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been a beautiful, beautiful Sunday in San Francisco. On days like this, I think life is just a walk in the park.

Listen, y’all:  Bless the Lord, O my soul! 

Glass half Full