Mexico City Quake

On this date in 1985 Mexico City had an 8 point quake that killed thousands. I vaguely remember hearing about this on the news. Mexico and the USA are NOT friends, whatever you may be told. We have fought more wars with Mexico than we have fought with all other nations combined. Or that was true before 9/11/01.

Mexico City Quake
Picture by Edgar Calbalceta, minutes after the quake (used without permission under Educational Exception of Copyright law). 

Today mere hours after earthquake drills in Mexico City, there was a 7.1 quake and there’s buildings down, gas leaks, buildings exploding and over  20 77 100 119 199+ dead, with probably hundreds more doomed as well. Unlike 1985, the digital photos of the victims and damage and rescue workers are getting out quickly. This time, we can see it. This puts the human face on Mexico, a nation with a lot of problems and doesn’t get a fair shake in the first world because of all its illegals sneaking across our borders with drugs, and all the murders along our border. This country is more than its criminal element. Its a big country with a big population, and half its land is desert, and the other half is tropical.

Two weeks ago there was an 8.2 quake on a different fault (probably the subduction zone) SW of Mexico City, which is probably the cause of this quake. The energy transfers around.

Take the time to view articles on this event.  I find it ironic that the UK low-brow newspaper Daily Mail is a good source with good coverage. The LA Times also has some coverage of this, since so many residents are from there and have family in Mexico.

The LA Times wants to remind LA residents that the San Andreas fault is locked up and ready for an 8.2 quake between Riverside (east of LA) and San Diego (southeast), at least as far as currently estimated (and its a rough estimate). Anything over 7.2 is going to shatter so many water pipes that LA will need to spend billions to fix the damage, which would also shut off the water supply to 15 million people, and would required evacutation of the area. It would force them to abandon the region until repairs are completed. When your water pipes break next to your sewer pipes, you get poisoned water, filled with cholera, and millions die in coming days. That’s not an exaggeration. That’s a known public health disaster. The quake in LA will destroy the city, for at least several years if not permanently.

Mexico City is probably going to have similar problems with their water pipes in coming days, and the population, around 10 million, will need to evacuate out of the city to protect themselves. Unlike LA, Mexico City is not surrounded by desert (and sea), so getting out to safe areas should be much easier. Its terrible and it will take years to fix this. I would not be surprised if the F1 race there on Day of the Dead is cancelled. These are extraordinary circumstances.

So for all the terrible mess here, and the people they’re rescuing, Mexico City needs to carefully evacuation the population now and get started with the water pipe repairs, and the sewer pipes too. The gas leaks will probably need fixing FIRST, since they cause fires and explosions. Mexico City Gas Leak Explosion

Imagine seeing that in your town. You’d be horrified. Feel some empathy for Mexico right now. I hope they rescue as many survivors as they can. Its going to be really hard work, and its going to break a lot of hearts when they arrive too late, but a lot of people will end up owing their lives to this work. As a Californian, we have been through this already. It isn’t nice, not at all. Its terrible, but not doing this effort after a disaster is worse. Do your best, Mexico.




Next Generation Materials

In the old days, there was a horse and cart. This was clumsy, slow, and couldn’t carry much. It was faster than oxen, which is what you get when you geld a bull at full growth. If you geld a male calf, you get a steer, which eventually becomes hamburgers and steaks. The testosterone makes the oxen so much bigger, and foul tempered. But I digress.

The cart got perfected into the gypsy wagon and later the ultralight conestoga wagon, famous in the Oregon Trail and various westerns. Quite a few settlers parked theirs in the front yard in the last century to brag they came here before trains or cars. It’s a thing. These wagons were made out of wood and iron and canvas, and were meant to do a job, at least once, before breaking or wearing out. Time moved on. We got internal combution engines and replaced the horse or oxen with trucks, and the advanced materials like plywood replaced heavy planks. Trailers got lighter, and also larger and more comfortable. They became more than a cold rough wooden floor and a sheet to keep the rain off. They became comfortable.

Tear-drop-trailer-JimThe Craftsman movement gave us cheap plans to built your own trailer, called a teardrop, you could pull behind your motorcar, out of wood. It was simple and cheap and you could sleep inside and cook outside from under the flip-up hood over the back kitchen. It was more comfortable than a tent, and a good choice for a fisherman who wants to get away from the summer heat, out of the city.

airstream-flying-cloud-exteriorWith WW2, advanced materials like aluminum, mass produced for aircraft as part of the war effort, became useful to the trailer industry. Airstream Trailers used sheet aluminum and rivets to make a sturdy, reliable, iconic silver trailer you could tow behind a V8 engine car or pickup truck or power-wagon (early SUV) on the new Interstate Freeways introduced by President Eisenhower. Good times, comfortable luxury camping, and lots of places to go for a couple or family.

Keystone Montana slideoutsFurther advances in materials included glass fiber cloth and plastic resins to harden them, which makes a semi-rigid membrane which keeps out water and cold and easily conforms to most curved shapes. No rivets, much cheaper construction, and another surge of material advances comes to trailers, campers, boats, and other outdoors. There’s a catch, however. The resin is sensitive to UV rays. Most of these vehicles are used in summer, at higher elevations, where there are a lot more UV rays than elsewhere so they are damaged by the light. IN many cases, within 10 years of manufacture and sale the fiberglass is wearing out, and needs real maintenance or it will fall apart. The Airstream trailer, made of aluminum,  continues on without trouble and needs less maintenance. They retain value, and are considered a premium product despite their simpler and older design.

So here we are 70 years after the airstream, and the issues with fiberglass are well known. It is still a preferred materials for RVs and trailers, but they lose half their value in 10 years for this reason. Are there alternatives? Yes. Carbon fiber used in tennis rackets and race car bodies is stronger and more rigid than fiberglass. However, it has a tendency to shatter. It is brittle. It is also expensive to make, more than aluminum. And it still uses the plastic resin that falls apart in UV light, exactly where it gets used the most. And before you ask, NO you can’t change the nature of plastic. It is always going to get damaged by UV, regardless of the type. This is chemistry. UV photons are energetic and they damage the bonds in long chain molecules like oil and plastics.

Is there any solution? Yes. Not a perfect one, but yes. Replace the expensive carbon fiber (CF) with cheaper silica aerogel fiber fabric (SA), woven in a knit (impossible for carbon fiber or fiberglass, which is often called Glass Reinforced Plastic GRP in the industry today). This increases strength and durability while reducing weight. Accept the maintenance costs of applying a UV protective gel coat every year or two to replace the damaged resin. The underlying fabric will be okay, and its more fault tolerant to stress than CF and stronger than FG. If you add a sacrificial layer to absorb the UV you can peel off and replace annually, so much the better. The big advantage here is the strength of the SA is similar to CF, and its also lighter than aluminum, wood, or GRP. Your weight drops and you can tow one of these trailers behind a lighter vehicle, like an SUV or car, rather than a truck with bad MPG. The lower price that results from less materials in construction also nets higher sales.

How is this relevant? Florida is somewhat damaged by hurricane Irma. It was a Category 2 by the time it hit Naples, Florida, and mostly was strong winds and rain, not much for storm surge. The weathermen drastically overstated this hurricane, and people are ticked off for fleeing. Now they’re ticked off trying to get back. The power lines were predictably knocked down, and there’s debris in the streets which needs to be cleared before everyone can come home. With the power out, fuel stations can’t operate, either. Many houses have some damage. Not many are totally destroyed, though they are finding dead people in the Florida keys, which took a direct hit. That seems to be most of the dead.

Irma was not as bad as Andrew, in 1993. Andrew flattened Southern Florida. Down to the foundations. The disaster relief agency brought in trailers and hired contractors to start repairs when possible, and gave cheap loans for construction where not. There were lots of scams. There were books written about the scams. Plenty of people ended up losing their home to Andrew and getting a doublewide trailer to replace it. Or a singlewide. Not ideal, but better than a tent. Florida has very mild, sweaty weather.

Imagine if instead of fleeing from your house for the hurricane to destroy, you left a week earlier when Irma was first reaching the eastern Carribbean islands and was making an obvious play for Florida, by hooking up your trailer to your car and towing your house north, out of the trouble zone. Spend a month or two up in Carolina or something. Somewhere nice, with good restaurants or fishing, or both. Wait to hear from neighbors back in Florida that things are fixed up again and come back when its worth it. Or consider moving to a place without hurricanes. That’s the advantage of a trailer that’s light enough for your vehicle to move. Florida is flat. You don’t have to climb mountains to escape, just get out before the rest do. The lighter the trailer, the less of a hassle to go.

Large-5th-Wheel-RV-and-TruckNow consider that same issue in the wake of a major earthquake. Say you’re in LA. The water pipes break, the power is out, most of the freeways have broken overpasses, but it is possible to get out despite this. So instead of get dysentery and die in LA, you hook up the trailer and leave town, towing your house behind you. You move to the California Central Valley (San Joaquin and Sacramento, by names) or out to the coast. Or continue north to the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Its nice in the summer, but cold and wet in the winter. Maybe that’s okay, maybe it isn’t. You don’t have to stay. And you aren’t destroying yourself walking away from a mortgage in a region with a bad economy. The house comes with you. This is the big advantage of advanced materials in lightweight trailers. You can escape the regional disaster. People with trailers, if they survived the hurricane, can think hard about whether to stay in a state that’s going to be rebuilding for the next few years or risk the next hurricane of similar size, or move somewhere the weather isn’t quite so extreme.

toughstrongfiberA pity that SA isn’t common yet. While it was discovered in 1990, it hasn’t seen much industrial use despite costing a small fraction as much as CF does, and being a tougher and more useful fiber. I find it baffling, and this is a material whose time has come in the RV industry. It should be used for all travel trailers and RVs. It is stronger and lighter than fiberglass, and rigid and resilient like carbon fiber. It ought to be used in car bodies and replace the expensive tub in the McLaren with cheaper SA, and make that similar process for your basic Honda Civic, getting the weight down by half, meaning a smaller engine would feel more powerful, and drastically improve fuel economy. All cars should be built of this. It solves the CAFE standards mess, impossible with metal cars, even aluminum ones. Its durable like metal, with the UV exception dealt with through maintenance, and solves most of the problems we have, needing to modernize ourselves without the usual carpet bombing which was such a boon to the Europeans. Why this isn’t dominant is probably a legal mess, created by companies who have heavily invested in old technology, and old lawyers to keep away competition. Formula 1 race cars use the carbon fiber tub to protect the driver, with more parts bolted on around it, like suspension, wheels, and engine. Ferrari, McLaren, and various other top sports cars use carbon fiber tubs and body parts to reduce weight and make faster and more enjoyable cars. This should work down to cheaper civilian cars with cheaper materials, like SA. Screw going to the moon again. How about a carbon fiber Honda Civic for $18K? Gets 65 mpg city, 90mpg highway with a 1.3L engine and a CVT. Why not? It can be pretty like the BMW i8. We’re in the future already.

BMW i8

The Magnificence of SNAFU

My Teenage Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected (aka SNAFU) is one of the best anime Japan ever produced, and I say that despite the tropist characters, because the protagonist mocks them so harshly. My-Teen-Romantic-Comedy-SNAFU-SS-1There are several clues which reveal the depth of the story beyond its more obvious approach of a misantropist high school boy being mocked by classmates and teacher to conform. It isn’t that. For one thing, the title reveals the outcome. Fans always ask who he ends up with. The answer is in the title: nobody. His romance is wrong as he expected. Ponder that before assuming things about primary and secondary female characters. He gets nobody. That’s more or less what was in the unpublished final book the author wrote and the publisher rejected, fearing death threats and violence from angry fans who didn’t pay attention to the title. Hikkigaya Hachiman is NOT CUTE. Those dead fish eyes are repellant because they reveal his inner rejection of all the conformists around him. And yes, that’s sad, but talk to me after you get married and then divorce. I’m pretty sure the author did both of those things.

SNAFU is not a play by play description of the character’s life. Its a recount of high school after the fact. This is why the characters, and the speeches on the futility of high school friendship, are so poignant, and why they ring true. Those of us who did not have a good time in High School have similar views of the cliques and viciousness of teenage girls, and the petty ambitions of same as they manipulate the boys around them and will one day become the ugly fat crones we often see depicted in anime, gossiping poisonously as they try to hurt their competition for male attention. Mean old women despair at men getting sheds, taking up fishing as a hobby, or otherwise finding ways to be out of the house so they can’t hurt us (men) as they please. This is a truth all married men know about. And all married women rage at the universal truth of their behavior. SNAFU is not nice about this.

The other aspect of SNAFU which works so very well are the two adult women who interact with the protagonist. His teacher, and the older sister of the cute girl who says she is disgusted by him.

SNAFU Haruno

Haruno is only 20 years old in this story, to be fair. She’s not as old as you’d think, but she’s had a hard time dealing with politicians, famous for groping and rape, and her parents’ demand she marry politically rather than for love. Haruno is jealous that her younger sister will have real choices, and is cruel and relentless towards Hikkigaya because her little sister had her heart broken by a boy, later revealled to be Hikki’s classmate and who is almost certainly STILL in love with Haruno, despite her angry rejection of him. This is a simmering rage problem in the whole story, and Haruno is mean because she is testing Hikki to see if he’ll fail her sister too, and is initially impressed by his ability to detect her BS at the Mall incident. He sees through her, and she finds that attractive, which adds even more complexity.

As a teenager the author probably didn’t realize Haruno liked him. As an adult he sees the truth, so he writes her particularly well in the novels and she comes out perfectly in the anime. The voice actress is perfect at the delivery (Nakahara Mai). She totally nails the delivery, and its an Oscar winning performance, or would be if Oscars weren’t entirely about skin color these days. Small wonder nobody is watching. Ahem.

Then consider the more complex teacher Hiratsuka Shizuka, voiced by a favorite growling smoker from Black Lagoon (you knew you heard that voice before) and Full Metal Panic, Ryoka Yuzuki. Ryoka means wild girl, btw. So does Ryoko, Tenchi fans. This is probably a stage name. Shizuka chain smokes. Shizuka is worried about Hikkigaya’s future. She hates his essays. She hates his accurate description of how horrible real people really are. She hates that he’s right about people, and wants to turn him back into someone gullible and duped, and easily abused. She doesn’t realize that’s what she’s doing by rejecting his observations and contempt for people, but she is. She’s actually the villain of the story. SNAFU teacher

As a car guy, I am impressed they show her driving an Astin Martin DB7. Her family obviously has money. That’s an import from the UK, and starts around 170K Pounds. That’s a very expensive car for a school teacher without a sugar daddy and famously sexually repressed. She’s a very attractive woman, and she’s very invested in keeping Hikkigaya involved with other people, forced to serve them and upset when he proves they suck, consistently. Hikki is inherently right about people, and of course that would upset someone who thinks of themself as helping children.

Another aspect of the story is it showcases people who have been left behind and abused by the Japanese culture. Hikki’s insane writer-friend for example is roundly mocked rather than helped. The gay tennis player isn’t really helped either.


Hikki missteps when it comes to the student council race, and admits this internally, but doesn’t actually fix the problem. He also falls into self abuse when dealing with horrible people on several occasions and recognizes another victim of cliques in a middle-school/elementary girl on an outing into the mountains. SNAFU girlHe rescues another victim of circumstance by suggesting school financing, but we never find out if that actually happens, though she is quite grateful and seems interested in him. It is assumed. He wins fans and supporters and is ambushed by various girls who pretend to be uninterested, which is cleverly revealled actually. No high school student would realize those women were serious. High school boys are dumb. So are high school girls, though some are particularly vicious. These are truths you don’t realize when you’re young. You find out later. You find out these are not just truth, but universal. And that makes for a grim world. Most of the things people believe about our species is naive nonsense which is only repeated to create more victims. Most of what you believe about marriage is BS. It sells movie tickets. It sells stomach powder and pain reliever. It is not true. SNAFU is about truth, and it was a standout anime for that reason. Everybody in Japan watched it, because it said things everybody agreed was true, and rejected the BS that the government of Japan keeps selling. Memorize that little girl’s expression. That’s how real Japanese people actually feel on the inside.

Ouran HS Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club is an anime from about 10 years ago. I watched it days after broadcast in Japan thanks to Fansubs being the ONLY way to see it back in the day. I was really impressed. The animation style is stylish rather than the more current realism, but the dialogue and voice acting was top notch.

other haruhi

Ouran is superficially BL, but that’s only if you’re an idiot. Its actually about Haruhi being drawn out of the shell she’s built around herself after her mother died from cancer a few years earlier, and her loneliness and isolation being broken by the reverse-harem of young men that care about her. Its also about how silly rich kids are. It is important to remember that this Haruhi is Fujioka rather than Suzumiya. She isn’t God, capital G. She’s a law student in a high end prep school, on scholarship. She can’t afford to pay tuition so has to get very good grades. There’s lots of jokes about the wisdom of commoners, and she gets cranky about those. There are some especially funny eps about this topic, including a visit by the rich kids to her home, and her summer job, and one of the japenese department stores, which is a 7 story building. Haruhi is deeper than she looks, and her crankiness is justified, especially when you meet her Dad. Ouran is not, in point of fact, BL. It mocks it pretty hard, actually. Haruhi is saving these boys from their own lonely armor through her particular vulnerability. She’s makes them step up. Its shown in the first ep with the lightbulb metaphor. That begins everything, and its a brilliant metaphor because it shows the awakening of non-shallow experiences, because she forces them out of their shells. Each of the boys is armored in their way and subsequent episodes reveal them opening up to her. Even Kyouya has important moments with her. She sees through them.

Its this aspect of Ouran which makes it a classic must-see anime. Its far deeper than you’d think, up there with Honey and Clover or ToraDora or similar master anime. This is a show not to be missed, and a true fan will recognize its depth on viewing.

Lakes In The Desert

This is Lake Lahontan. Today it is a series of dry lakes and a few wet ones. Lake Lahontan existed during the Ice Age (Pleistocene) and gradually dried out in the last few thousand years. Burning Man is held on Black Rock desert, which is part of the Lahontan lake bottom in NW Nevada, west of Winnemucca and north of Reno and Pyrimid Lake. Lahontan existed when California got 200+ inches of annual rainfall, typical during the Ice Age, and when summer monsoons out of the South produced a dozen inches of rain every month, instead of 2-3 inches a season like today.


It is hard to imagine when you consider how dry Arizona and Las Vegas are today, but it was a thing. The desert wasn’t desert back then. It was tall-grass prairie with lots of juniper trees, cedars, big cottonwoods, and many lakes which received sudden flash floods. The volcanos which decorate Highway 395 were active back then, and earthquakes were common and frequent so it would have been a fun and exiting place to live with great fishing, birds to catch, herds of antelope, elk, deer, and sheep (sheep are from there originally) to hunt and eat. It would have been a real paradise. Today ranchers struggle to survive, summers are long and dry, and the youth are fleeing for the cities, leaving only the american indian tribes to take over again. There isn’t enough water, but that isn’t necessarily the way it will be forever. We’ve been going through a dry patch in the last few centuries, and one geological report I read states that if Reno stopped watering its lawns the lake would refill from average year rainfalls. Last winter was more than double average, so more like that would start Pyrimid Lake expanding beyond its current boundaries and the reservation on the North end would need to move upslope. Since they’re in trailers, this shouldn’t be too difficult, though the FedGovt should help with new septic installs and hookups since the cost is trivial compared to its other issues.

Lake Lahontan offers around 3500 miles of coastline, which makes it a massively valuable real estate scheme. All those docks and cabins and resorts and boat rentals for fishing etc. Causeways and bridges would need to be built, but it would take a decade or more to fill, even with all years hereafter having 100+ inches of rain. This is a huge lake. The advantages beyond recreation and real estate developments for tourists and visitors and restauranteurs who want to try endless resorts on the lake (family fun, better than Vegas, but a different appeal, too) also means that summer evaporation off the lake would fuel thunderstorms, creating natural rains east of the lake which then fall into the basin itself or go into lake Bonneville, the proto-lake of Great Salt lake which used to flow out North into the Snake River. lake bonnevilleOnce water levels get high enough they will break through and start diluting the water back to fresh, removing all the salt and borates. This flood has happened before a couple times in the prior ice age cycles so the Snake and Columbia Rivers will eventually recover their salmon, which are already resistant to salt water. Might require a break from irrigation though. You will see here that the lake is about 6x bigger than Great Salt Lake and covers around 1/3 of the state of Utah. Refilling the lake would require moving a lot of buildings, but also creates a lot of water supply once the salt dissolves and is flushed out of the system downstream into the Snake, then Columbia rivers and into the Pacific. Many of these internal-drainage basin lakes actually had outlets at one point, but eventually levels dropped past the natural spillway levels and they ended up spoiling with salt and drying up, as they are today. With proper fresh water they’d support many kinds of fish, including trout, salmon, and bass, so would be nearly ideal for fishing purposes. All the waterfowl and migratory birds would also return. These lakes used to host pelicans and large numbers of canada geese and flamingoes. Few people think about Flamingoes as common domestic birds in the desert West, but they were during the ice age.

Atmospheric River delivers large amounts of tropical water from near Hawaii to California in major thunderstorms and heavy downpours.

The Great Basin is much drier and more boring today than it was a few thousand years ago. It could be again, if only the prior climate returned. There is sufficient drainage with around 100-250 inches of annual rainfall, including summer monsoons and typical atmospheric rivers, which used to be almost constant to California a couple thousand years ago, would do it. The Great Basin would be very green and worth vacationing there for the fishing, hunting, birding, hiking and boating, and with all that game the restaurants would be well stocked. You could fit about 10 million people near each lake, and the conditions would be nicer than in California, which would be seeing serious flooding and landslides washing out roads and dams overfilling. Stuff happens and those conditions would quickly overwhelm today’s civil infrastructure. People adapt, and we have feet and legs to move them around, so we don’t have to stay in one place when that place stops making sense. We go where things are better. Duh!

JoeB_upwind Classic Moth

Sail Nevada: Lake Bonneville and Lahontan might one day be worth a visit. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. All the runoff this summer out of Lake Tahoe has worked downstream through Truckee, Reno, and eventually expanded Pyrimid Lake. Who know?

Thoughts on Mobility

If your community thinks of you as a slave, and pays just as little, you are in the wrong place. Most of California treats people with less than a million bucks to their names as slaves, peasants, and disposable. This is just how things are here. It isn’t right, but the rich Baby Boomers, and most of the Baby Boomers here are rich, laugh and insist that while they were stealing from our future with national debts and bond sales they had no intention of paying off themselves, it became our problem. The Baby Boomers were the greediest generation in history. They were awful. They mock and steal from everyone. Every president raises the Debt Ceiling, with the full support of the congress (house and senate) because they are run by Baby Boomers who mock the future. They are selling us down the river. And they get very upset when nobody is there to change their diapers once they arrive in the rest home. We all leave town so they can deal on their own.


The trailer is our big FU to the old people who stole from us. A house on wheels. The immediate ability to leave town, without notice. Abusive manager? Hook up the trailer and go. Hours cut at the factory? Hook up the trailer and go. Boss makes a pass at you, threatens your job if you don’t drop to your knees? Hook up the trailer and go. Earthquake? Hurricane? New taxes? Hook up the trailer and go.

I am not happy with abusive bosses, and that’s 90% of the bosses I’ve worked for. I suspect most people find this out themselves. If more of our population were mobile, bosses wouldn’t be able to get away with it as easily, or as long. GlassDoor used to be the place to report rapist bosses and bad deals, but they are taking bribes to hide the crimes now, and the police don’t give a damn about business-rapes. Its not even white collar crime. Women still get raped. They wouldn’t have to if they lived in a trailer and left town with the first grope or threat.

As a man I want a trailer because I don’t want to put up with vicious women bosses. Not all are vicious, but most are. Some go mad because they resent men. Some are just terrible people. The truth is sticking around is a bad idea when the first rude outburst will always be followed by a second, then a third, then a flood. Best to leave before things escalate. I wanted to have a trailer and work contract fill-in work, but I think that conditions don’t support this plan. Now I just want the trailer because I won’t have to deal with the same cruel people. Familiarity breeds contempt, and contempt leads to abuse and murder plots. Better to leave before they start planning your ambush.


Kayaks and Sailboats

I live in the Sierras. I’m about 70 minutes from Lake Tahoe.

The shore of Lake Tahoe near Tahoe City a month ago.

Its a nice drive up scenic Highway 20, then over to the noisy I-80, and Dad and I usually get off at Soda Springs to slip over the old Pass Road on highway 40 (so peaceful) which gets used in a ton of car commercials in this region. Its got a view of the annually freezing over Donner Lake, which remains just above freezing during the summer months and provides A/C cooling to the nearby cabins along its shore. The area has a free county boat ramp, no fees, where you can go water skiing or sailing if the winds are steady.

Donner Lake
Map of Donner Lake, west of Truckee, CA

Winds in the mountains tend to surge and calm rather than blow steadily. This is problematic if you like sailing. I learned to sail at a local lake up 20, called Spaulding. I was a boy scout at the time. I got a merit badge in it, with my buddy Eric Cecil. This isn’t him. This is a picture of some guy in a laser I found on the internet. Its a simple boat, used in the Olympics because they’re identical. They’re also tricky because when they’re going fast they want to tip over. That’s a kind of fun, but I’ve got an insulin pump and it isn’t waterproof, only resistant. Photo by Best DSC!

The downside of this boat is its also 130 pounds, by rule. And that’s more than I can lift without risking back injury, and most people can’t lift that onto a roofrack over a car, which are mostly rated for 100 pounds or less. This means you need a trailer to haul this around, which is a pain for backing up or parking and I-80 is not kind to light trailers which rely on their tires for suspension. Most boat trailers are like that, so they better be heavy or they hop. What are the alternatives?

Pico Parts BreakdownWell, I found other models which might work. The Laser Pico is a bit smaller, made for kids and teenagers. I’m too heavy. Another one for a wetsuit, too. I prefer a boat where I can sail but not get dunked. Water is just above freezing about 15 inches down, even in the summers. I could buy a Laser and fly a shorter and smaller sail to reduce speed and tipping potential, but the boat remains too heavy for the roofrack and too light for the freeway.

JoeB_upwind Classic Moth

The other alternatives are homebuilt wood boats, like the Moth. The Moth is a thin wooden boat that weighs around 85 pounds and requires stays (lines that hold the mast) which gives you the advantage that you can raise and lower the sail. The moth is a nicely made boat. You perch your behind on the sides depending on speed to counterbalance it, since you are the ballast. The Moth is an OPEN class, meaning it has been updated many times since its introduction 80 years ago. This is a Classic Moth. The International has a winged keel, which means above a certain speed the entire hull lifts out of the water and it sort of flies while resting on the keel in the water. Its complicated, and requires steady wind speeds, exactly like we don’t have here.

Is there a version which uses modern Carbon Fiber instead of wood? Yes. The Aero is about $8000 and weighs around 80 pounds, with sail and mast attached. It is so light that again you need a wetsuit. Neat, but don’t wanna. What about boats that go a little slower but don’t flip? Day sailers. They weigh a lot more, hundreds of pounds. You MUST use a trailer with them. My car can only tow 1000 pounds max, so I’d need something more like half that to be serious with one on these roads and not cause a wreck. What are the options? Oddly, there are some. Some are 450 pounds and interesting, but probably too heavy for our small lakes. The Stevenson Project Weekend or Vacationer look great for being only 14-16 feet long, but that also means they’re too short for the Pacific, with its 6 foot swells. That’s a capsize waiting to happen. And they’re too heavy for a little fishing lake. Pocketships are good on the East Coast, with all their inlets.

I need more options. Rowing, small motor, and sailing options. I found this at Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC) Boatworks, which sells kits of wood boats, including Kayaks and rowboats and also some sailboats and dinghys like this.

I have to say this thing looks really practical. The sides are tall enough to avoid flipping or getting wet. You can row it. You can run a small 1/2 horse motor, even an electric if you really want to. And there’s a sail if there’s enough wind to bother. The kit is $2500 or so. It would be fun to build.

Wooden kit kayaks are fun kits. See above hour long video showing the process. But all this said the most popular boat in the Sierras is the plastic kayak. There are many variations and they get cheap in Fall garage sales. The lakes are small, you can carry them on a roof rack and most are around 40-50 pounds, so you don’t hurt your back lifting them up and down, which nearly every Subaru has one with the curved bits for one. They are easy to carry to the shore and launch. You can use the wetsuit or not. Paddles are easy. Many people have the river model, with its smooth bottom. I like lakes, so that needs a ridge down the middle so its easier to paddle. Longer too. There are even kayaks made for photography or fishing or rowing instead. The difference between a kayak and a rowboat is the special oarmounts and the sliding seat so you can use your legs to help. I have a neighbor who was an Olympic rower, trains pretty often despite being 85 years old. You meet the most interesting people when you stop to say hello.

I won’t be buying a boat just yet, but I might if I saw one of these plastic lake Kayaks at a garage sale for $60. I’d rather have the Tenderly 10 Dinghy. That suits me better. I could put it into Lake Tahoe and row out far enough to catch the breeze, taking lunch with me, and my old Dad. He’d probably want to borrow and take his girlfriend up to the various lakes. He could go fishing. Its more trouble than renting a boat, but it gives you more options for the lakes without a boathouse, like Stampede Reservoir, or Prosser Lake. Either one would store in the basement or side-yard without much trouble or nuisance.

Anime Crossovers

There are anime that are dying to be crossed over with others.

Sakura Quest

There’s Sakura Quest, which is a story about a dying town in rural Japan which hires a few young ladies on contract to promote the area, one of them as “queen”. This means she goes around and gets photographed and recorded promoting the local tourism and businesses. She ends up making good friends there, but its still a job. I would cross this over with Non Non Biyori, which is also about a remote rural town dying of depopulation, and Bridge To A Starry Sky. Renge Triangle Mouth

Renge is the star of Non Non Biyori. She’s in first grade and is very proud of this fact. She’s adorable. She makes me want to have children. Her older sister is the school teacher at their one-room schoolhouse; well it has a dozen rooms but they use the one that doesn’t leak in the rain because there’s only 8 students, all grades. That’s a tiny town. But what other characters fit into this setting? ToraDora actually works. At the very end of the anime, the two lovers elope on a train heading out of Tokyo, for a life of their own.


The guy is a good cook who cleans obsessively and has scary eyes, and the girl is merely very fierce. There is an episode of Sakura Quest where they run a dating-bus into the town to try and convince couples to move there. At the end they admit they could turn it into a elopement hideaway.

What other stories cross over easily? Gate. Gate is a story that crosses over modern Japan with magical Roman invaders, who breach a magical gate into Shinjuku in Tokyo. They kill and kidnap a bunch of people before being slaughtered, chased, and captured by the JSDF. GATEIts a harem anime, with the bluenette a common law wife under gate-side rules. The rest of the show is about the expedition across the beachhead into this other world and dealing with the primitive screwheads who don’t understand that boomsticks kill them very fast. Gate offers all sorts of potential because the magic from the Gate leaks through into our world so it works here too once the gate opens. There’s long been a tongue-in-cheek joke that if a man makes it to 30 still a virgin he becomes a wizard. In Japan this is more of a title of permanent delusion rather than magical powers, but what if in this setting all those 30 year old virgins really do gain powers? Think of all the characters who are clearly qualifying. But who else?

Denki Gai takes place in Shinjuku, right on the street where the gate actually forms. Fuu and Chado-SommelierNotice the two characters here? See any resemblance? That’s Chad from Bleach. He’s retired, passed on the magic arm of punching to a lad who works as an exorcist (from Twin Star Exorcists), who is the father of the girl sitting beside him. Fuu Girl has the noteworthy shark teeth of her father. She has an older brother, who is a doctor from the story about a tanuki who takes the form of a child to help a broken hearted divorcee heal from the bad marriage and come to terms with his family restaurant in Poco’s Udon World. That’s him on the right. Pocos Udon World

He was supposed to be the 2nd coming of exorcists, but stuff happened so it wasn’t needed. Probably something from Bleach fixed the issue. So she’s the younger sister of a guy who wasn’t needed of parents forced to marry to satisfy some prophecy which turned out to be wrong. Small wonder she’s a rotten girl working at a doujin store. Her strong reaction to zombies is probably based on childhood memories rather than delusion. This explains a lot. fuu girl bat

The next crossover is on the other side of the gate. The fantasy world is bigger than the Roman empire. Weird stuff works there. There are dragons which weigh tons yet still fly and breath fire despite being covered in tungsten carbide scales, which weigh like lead. So something magical is responsible. What about Chaika Coffin Princess?Chaika.Trabant And Konosuba, because floating islands and airships are a thing there. There’s several other shows you could slip in there, including the Slayers Verse, which includes Record of Lodoss War, which is the Japanese version of an american D&D module, and later evolves into Louie the Rune Soldier, whose punch destroys an impenetrable shield of old magic. And you wondered where the gauntlet that Chad uses in Bleach came from… The elves in that place match those in Gate.

Which also gets us back over to Japan. There’s a character in a historical samurai drama. The daughter of a samurai rejects her marriage and wanders around Japan, slashing bandits and drinking sake. Her name is Ran.

Tsukikage Ran

She’s somehow managed to become immortal (accidentally eating merman sushi will do that) and is now a long haul truck driver in modern Japan. Her kung fu friend back in the day settled down to marry and raise children with special martial arts ability and strength which gets inherited down the line. Imagine Ran getting hired to drive trucks through the Gate, and takes her sword with her. Its centuries old, but she’s always been a master with it. There’s other important jobs at the base on the other side of the gate. They need cooks, like students from Shokugeki no Soma, and the guy from ToraDora, with his wife as a protector because she just hits that hard. And the cooks from Wagnaria because they are used to weird, and the senior cook has a bodyguard-wife with a sword, which in the Gate world is really important.

My-Teen-Romantic-Comedy-SNAFU-SS-1In a fanfiction I wrote a good chapter for, I combined all these and used the hero from SNAFU as the protagonist and Xander and the slayers from Buffy as his support structure because where doesn’t a Slayer fit into a crossover story? I wanted to include all the various Ogre-halfbloods from anime, like Naru from Love Hina, and the girls from Wagnaria and Ramen Fighter Miki, since Miki and her mom are both obvious ogres. MikiAnd the girl across the street from Miki is obviously a slayer, able to throw wooden spikes hard enough to sink into a concrete wall 4 inches is obviously ideal for vampire slaying. wagnaria wall

This girl with the red hair is so strong she can hug a concrete light post until it cracks in multiple places. She punched this plaster without hurting her hands. Its concrete under the plaster. Obvious ogre. There’s also a slayer watching the place. Wagnaria normal girlNot the girl with the sword, oddly enough. Its Normal Girl, Maya. She’s there, but hardly noticed. Japan has a lot of ogres and other youkai so they need a lot of slayers. So many that Xander gets stationed there after Africa to help train and support them. And Xander’s wife, according to the show and comic is destined to be Dawn, who makes perfect sense hanging around near the Gate since she’s a goddess of gates. Or rather, an Anthropomorphic Personification of Gates and portals.

Clearly, GATE offers a lot of potential fan fiction with anime crosses which actually make sense, like the above series. So many anime have some degree of magic, and a means to allow that and crossing over to a fantasy area makes sense.

Outbreak CompanyOh, and btw: ever wonder by the Roman empire was so agressive in their invasion? Ever wonder if one of the opening pre-gates near mount Fuji might have lead to a trade embassy code named Outbreak Company, with the prior empire, lead by a princess with rotten girl tendencies. The Japanese embassy providing doujins caused reactionaries in her empire to revolt against her and overwhelm her kingdom replaced by cousins: an elderly king, a stupid pair of sons, and a useless daughter. That leads to GATE itself. So the invasion was actually caused by the Japanese originally. How’s that for tidy irony?


My uncle passed away after long illness a couple weeks ago. We went to his funeral a few days ago. We drove down to LA from northern California. You have choices. I-5 is fast but really ugly and puts you in nasty traffic once you climb over the Grapevine. You could also swing through Tehachapi Pass and Mohave by going east from Bakersfield, a murky hole of pollution caused by LA’s reckless abuse of water pumping.

The alternative is highway 395. This road is one of the best scenic highways in America, perhaps the world. It hasn’t been on Top Gear or Grand Tour yet, but probably will some day. Some of it is only 2-lanes, and portions of it are 4 or more lanes. Some parts are difficult or dangerous to pass on, and others are trivially easy. The important bit is that once you cross the desert north of LA, you arrive at the start of the Sierras near Ridgecrest/China-Lake and the Sierras just get taller and taller as you climb beside them. You can take pictures, but I mostly just stare in wonder.

The tallest mountain in the lower-48 states is Mount Whitney, which is 14,000+ feet. The next tallest is White Mountain, which is about 100 miles North of there, and after that Pikes Peak in Colorado, and then Mount Shasta, also in California in the far North, beside I-5 just South of the Oregon border. Mount Whitney is the spikey bit in the right third of the picture here. The taller one in the center is mostly just closer to the camera so looks taller in perspective.

The valley in which much of 395 runs for its southern Sierra extent, most of the way to Yosemite, is called the Owens Valley. The head of the Owens valley runs into Long Valley, which was a caldera volcano which exploded a long time ago and probably won’t go off again because its lava source (magma) is cut off from the mantle by crustal movement. Many of the volcanos in California are not going to erupt again, despite bad journalism by SF. Gate newspaper.


Along the route, just east of Yosemite and south of Mono Lake is the June Lake Loop. If you have time, drive through there. It is glacial valley with steep sides, trees, campgrounds, and is a proper old-time resort area with lakes and good fishing, hiking and horseback riding, and bird watching if you like eagles. Right now the water falls are flowing so hard some trails are largely closed at certain points. There’s also been ice accumulation on the glaciers and snowpack. Another few years like this and the glaciers will advance once more. That’s not a joke. Consistent snow pack which melts less than falls is exactly how you make a glacier. Its not complex at all, but it does assume a longer time scale than most people can think. The highway ends at the I-15, just North of El Cajon Pass North of the San Bernardino Mountains. This is what the view looks like nearby at dawn.

Of course, LA itself is a special kind of Hell. I’m an atheist and the comparison is apt. That murkey stuff isn’t water or fog. That’s smog. Summer smog. This was dawn off the driveway of my uncle’s home. He put up Dad and I for the nights around the funeral service, and this was the sunrise on the day of the event. That’s mount San Jacinto in the far upper left, and Palm Springs is down the far side on the desert floor. This valley of murk below is San Bernardino and Riverside, well east of Los Angeles (city) but part of the greater hell of Los Angeles Basin. There are powerplants and millions of homes and twice as many cars, all belching out smoke which gets mixed with the fog from the coast and polluting the air. This morning it was relatively cool, but the day reached the upper 80’s later and it was A/C weather for sure. The site of this picture was the end of my uncle’s driveway on the absolute crest of the mountains above LA, in a town called Crestline. Its not a fancy home, being old and run down and needs a lot of maintenance, but it has fantastic views. I can’t recommend Crestline for visitors. Its got difficult roads to reach it, and its very quirky and struggling, like much of LA. LA is dirty, filled with angry and vicious people who all want more than they’ve got. Its worse than the Bay Area, but its more honest about it too. On my visit I have to ponder the value of separating the state of California into two or three parts, so the parts that are rural can focus on our core identity and needs, and the moralist hypocrites in the Bay Area can do their thing, and coastal LA can do its thing without us bothering each other by stealing tax dollars. They are welcome to visit and be tourists here, but stop pretending you have the right to maim us just because you have more votes. That’s Might Makes Right and that’s just abuse of Democracy. And that kind of thing will get retaliation.

Back in 395 there’s a lot of towns dying out. Some which seemed healthy if small a couple years ago are clearly ghosting into truck stops and fast food economy lodge territory for the tourists going to Mammoth or Yosemite. Once you pass the turnoff the road climbs and pass then loses lanes and its mostly 2 lanes from that point, all the way to Minden in the Carson Valley which is just east of Lake Tahoe. The last bastion of relatively healthy economy and civilization is Bishop. Everything south of there is pretty run down, and it basically peters out with the water supply. I used to think Independence or Lone Pine might hire me to be their librarian but now no way. They are too poor. They can’t afford me. Bishop has a branch of Cerro Coso Community College but their programs are basically medical and art. That’s it. You have to go elsewhere if you want to learn anything else. Bishop is hundreds of miles from everything, except mountains and desert. I can’t see myself getting paid enough to justify the costs of winter there. Same with Mammoth.

Library jobs don’t really make sense until you reach Minden/Gardnerville and Carson City. Reno has a healthy economy, and is only about 90 minutes from home during the dry season. Its icy in winter, so I would definitely need to upgrade my car to AWD to get around then. I am sorry that 395 is a beautiful driving road with poor employment prospects for me, but I enjoy the drive and I can certainly do it again in the future. If Placer County ever re-funds its libraries and hires staff again, there’s a lot to be said for Tahoe City and Truckee. Right now those are both understaffed and pay so little its a terrible joke, an insult on working librarians.

The Discworld

Discworld is a series of novels about philosophy pretending to be fantasy novels. The author was a devout humanist, meaning he was a polite atheist who turned his fury into humor, similar to PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams. He wrote, having passed away a couple years ago from alzheimers, 43 novels in this series, and they are magnificent. I can say that, having read them all. These are magnificent books. They are brilliantly written, polished, funny, observant, and remind us of our better natures. We are not perfect beings, but we can certainly strive, and what would the world be like if we were all the same? One of the reasons you can tell the series is truly great is because you don’t have to start at the beginning. The first few books are not as polished as the later ones. Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic can be read later. Same with Equal Rites. As a humanist, and a humorist, Pratchett knew that people tend to be selfish and dumb and thoughtless, and he reflected that in a usually humorous way. You can read any of his many character-centric series.

discworld_death no justice

He even has Death as a main character. And Death’s Grand-daughter, whose existence is a story in itself. Death begins with Mort, then follows on with Reaper Man, Soul Music, and makes various appearances in the various novels, because Death is always there, waiting, ready.


One of the important characters in the series is named Tiffany Aching, pictured here. Wee Free Men TiffanyTiffany is a shephard’s daughter, a master cheesemaker by age 8, and a witch. In the Discworld, a witch is a nurse, a doctor, a housekeeper, a troubleshooter, a coroner, a midwife, and the primary defender against dimensional incursions by demons, fairies, and sometimes negotiates with them when they can be reasoned with. Tiffany’s first novel is called The Wee Free Men.

Feegles are like smurfs who drink, and steal, and fight, and are tremendously strong and quick.

wee-free-men cover

The Feegles are a great example of his noteworthy characters. There’s a fine description of them in the sequel, called A Hat Full of Sky. These are YA books, and become increasingly grim, with the final book in the series also being the final book written by Pratchett before his death. Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight get to be more serious topics.

Another series to pursue are the story of the Wizards, who are basically dumb academics who are just smart enough to get into serious trouble. One of the more important wizards is the infamous coward, Rincewind. RincewindHe’s in the first two Discworld books, and he’s so good at cowardice he survives them all.

“Away is the important thing. Run away. From takes care of itself.” He’s a traveller, though he doesn’t want to be. “Rincewind always thought of himself as a racist: the 50, the 100 yard, the mile: he’d run them all. When he was told there was another meaning of the word he was quite confused.”

Rincewind is a library assistant. Its very safe in the library, if you are careful to ground the books before picking them up, and if you don’t get lost. The UU library is multi-dimensional, like the Tardis, and also loops through time if you take the wrong route through the building.

Discworld Librarian

The librarian, in the first novel Colour of Magic, gets turned into an orangutan and decides to remain so because it takes four limbs to shelve in the real world, and I know that personally, and he’s got thumbs on his feet so he’s pretty happy. The librarian is a recurring character as well, and get a part-time job as an emergency policeman when things get complicated in the other set of characters, known as The Watch. The first novel of that series is Guards! Guards! and Pratchett said he’d originally intended to make Carrot the main character but realized as he was writing it that he liked writing Vimes better. Vimes is like Dirty Harry with a crossbow instead of a .44 magnum, and he’s so strongly motivated to right wrongs that he is unable to function otherwise. Vimes is a serious man with a drinking problem he tries to avoid, a smoking habit that replaced booze, and a contrary nature. Sam VimesThe watch books are one of the best loved in the series, and quite a few of the books are about Vimes and his gradually evolving police force.

Vimes’ primary opponent is the Patrician, best defined as “one man, one vote, and I’ve met him”. The Patrician is in charge of the main city of the Disc, Anhk-Morpork which is best described as a combination of London, Paris, and Cairo, peopled with sort-of English people, trolls, and dwarves, who only get along uneasily. It stinks of rot and sewage, the river is so full of muck you can run across its surface, and the residents don’t go into certain areas because they are too unsafe to enter, even in daylight. The brass bridge doesn’t shine because the brass was stolen, and the city is built on top of earlier versions of itself. It is old, filthy, and corrupt. At the city center is the Unseen University, which is where the wizards live. They work hard to avoid using magic, but that’s a complicated plot point explained in the books about them. The wizards frequently interact with Death, who comes for them personally, and they are allowed to know precisely when, which is one of the perks for magical people.

Discworld Atuin This is Atuin, the name of the world-turtle. Its gender is unknown, and is a plot point in several of the novels. The basic turtle with elephants is a reference to the absurd beliefs of the Hindus, and the old joke:

“The world is flat. It rests of the backs of four elephants. They stand upon the back of a turtle.”

“What’s the turtle stand on?”

“Oh, its turtles all the way down.”

Turtles all the way down. That’s a special kind of crazy that only religious maniacs would consider an answer.

There’s also a seris of books on religion itself. Pyramids is about gods of Tsort, which is basically Egypt of the Disc. Small Gods is about the Catholic reformation. The Thief of Time is about both the goddess of Time and about Tibetan Buddhism, Death, and chocolates. Wintersmith and Hogfather are also about religion, folklore, and the movie for Hogfather while somewhat corny is also profound and gained Pratchett a Knighthood and award for protecting and promoting English folklore.

There are two sets of witches in the series, and they interact. Tiffany is the younger witch. The older witches, who first appear in Equal Rites, later in Wyrd Sisters, and then follow in Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, Carpe Jugulum, and eventually the final novel.Wyrd-sisters-cover The witches stories are about narrativium, and being outside the stories, seeing them happening, and interfering as needed. Narrativium is a driving force on the Discworld. And the colour of magic is a greenish purple. If you know any science, this is called 3rd order refraction, and is a reference to really complete rainbows which require just the right timing and conditions to see. A rainbow is 2nd Order refraction. So this is both a joke and a science reference to something true. I’m reasonably sure that Pratchett was friends with a geologist. He makes jokes about minerology and quantum physics pretty often during the stories, and you get more of the jokes the more you know. The better your education, the funnier they are.

The audiobooks for these novels are excellent, best of breed. I highly recommend them as a way to experience the books. They are professionally read with love and attention. I do wish that Carpe Jugulum and Jingo were re-released in the USA. Audible doesn’t have them, which is ridiculous since they sell them overseas. Just not here in the USA. It is frustrating. I do wish that Rhianna Pratchett would fix that publishing glitch.