October 13, 2011

Hurricanes in Mexico and fires in classroom buildings on campus

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Adm. Fox and I are waiting semi-patiently tonight for word from Arroyo Seco about how the people in the village fared when Hurricane Jova came ashore Tuesday night, about 15 miles north right through the area known as Chamela.

No one has heard much from anyplace along that stretch of coast. In Arroyo Seco, Jim Monaco, who lives right on the beach, reported he was okay in a brief telephone conversation with an amiga. But the phone lines are down, power is out and the whole coastal area waiting for water to recede and/or digging out from mudslides. Full tinacos (water tanks) with 500 gallons of water blew off tops of buildings in the wind. My two RVS (Grey Goose Express and the Grey Goose II) might have taken off like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz.

South of Arroyo Seco, La Manzanilla seems to have survived ok. But just south of that pueblo, the towns of Melaque and Barra de Navidad are a mess. Bridges are out, roads collapsed and shoreside restaurants partly washed out.

Highway near Manzanillo

But life continues, mudslides or not and so while waiting for the constant busy signal to stop today for calls into Mexico, I put together a video with some startling images of propane explosions. In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation has extended the period of time for comments on the proposed environmental nightmare proposed to be built north of our Watkins Glen house.

It's a 576-acre propane and natural gas storage facilty (using salt caverns as holding tanks) right above Seneca Lake. While the entire project is about as well planned as a kindergarten opera, the potential for what gas experts call a bleve (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion) is enough to scare the crap out of anyone. (Except developers of such projects, I suppose.)

Just one incident like the ones shown in the video could put a serious dent in the tourist traffic.

And just after I finished that video, I headed to the university to find that two buildings on campus had fires going on - one of which was in the hallway outside of my office!

Here's videos relating to the propane project and the university fires:

October 10, 2011

Quick trip up the mountain to visit Four Headlamps amigos

SAN ANDREAS, Calif., USA - Adm. Fox and I took a mountain road trip Saturday to visit with amigos Pat and Sanders, the other two members of the music group, The Four Headlamps.

We ended up eating at Pizza Factory restaurant - a local favorite of Pat and Sanders' was closed.

San Andreas is very much a Monday through Friday kind of place.

Still, it was a great reunion time and we had fun doing a little walking tour.

No talk of a musical reunion just yet. And, given that Hurricane Jova is bearing down on La Manzanilla - the site of our group's debut some years back with the hit song, 'Dancin' With A Man' - we're not too sure what we will do in January.

Here's a couple of photos from the trip:

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

October 8, 2011

Occupy Sacramento - a very laid-back, California event so far

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The Occupy Sacramento event in downtown Sacramento is within easy walking distance of the Sacramento jail (where a few protesters are likely to end up, eventually), was a laid back, quiet affair Friday afternoon.

There were plenty of signs, more than a few singers, but for the most part, the Farmer's Market on Sunday under the I-80 freeway is as raucous politically.

Still, there was genuine outrage popping out of a few mouths, but tempered by the many young children that were at the park, too. There was talk of marching to the Federal Building (a few blocks away).

All conversations took part while about 20 Sacramento police officers stood around the edges of the park, watching.

At one point, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson walked by across the street, setting off a media frenzy that included a female news producer trying to run in extremely high-heeled shoes.

Below is a short video:

October 1, 2011

Whirlwind trip to upstate New York leaves many tales to tell

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The trip to upstate New York was planned to be fast and relatively fun-filled.

It was fast, there was some fun, and it was filled. Really filled.

After careening across the United States Monday night, I arrived at the Syracuse NY airport (after a plane change at JFK) Tuesday noon, tired, more than a little grumpy but ready to charge into the Department of Environmental Conservation's hearing on a proposal to build a huge propane and natural gas storage depot three miles from my house.
With Cousin Roger and The Cube

I felt like a foreign correspondent, parachuting in to cover a story, at least until the rental car agency told me the only car they had available for me to take was the one pictured to the right.

The Nissan Cube is not exactly what Robert Redford was driving in the 2001 film, Spy Game, in which he starred with Brad Pitt. But I've lost my claims to bearing any resemblance to either of those guys so I suppose I should be happy that I could bomb around Watkins without much fear of getting a ticket in that blue roller skate.

The propane and natural gas storage project is about as bad an idea as I have heard in years, right on a par with when some bright light got the idea in the 1970s that it would be a good idea to store spent nuclear reactor fuel rods in the same salt caverns.


Sometimes, I do believe the world is run by greedy idiots.

Here's a link to a video with all the testimonyDEC public hearing in Watkins Glen, NY 

The hearing went well (for opponents, not so much for the company) and formed the basis for my Finger Lakes Times column Friday. Writing Wednesday morning, I fell asleep at the keyboard once, revived only by several cups of Earl Grey tea, each brewed with three tea bags.

I was up until about 2 a.m. Wednesday night, of course. Despite two glasses of wine with amiga Amanda at dinner and a hefty double slug of Grey Goose about midnight while writing some screed, I still had the energy of an adolescent.

Inergy's gas man
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the hearing was that it wasn't just that the people who spoke against the project were articulate (most were), prepared (ditto) and passionate (all were). They clearly are beginning to form ideas about what they want to see the area become, not just be in opposition to this disaster-in-waiting.

More than one person made it clear: we don't need or want more smokestack industries.

The balance of the trip - two days and some change - was taken up with domestic chores like running to the bank, dealing with an impressive stack of mail and lots of conversations with the folks who are opposing this project.

Oct. 10 is the last day to comment and there is a flurry of activity going on to ensure that the DEC hears from everyone about the flaws in the environmental impact report filed by the company, Inergy Midstream from Kansas City, Missouri.

Among the many flaws are issues related to earthquakes, lack of a plan for emergencies and the idea of building a 91-million gallon salt water pond with plastic liners (think industrial swimming pool liners). The pond will be perched on a hillside, just  2,500 feet above decidely freshwater Seneca Lake, and very close to the water intakes for the Watkins Glen Village water supply.

That pond, by the way, will contain water up to 12 times saltier than normal sea water, plus, it will likely have a few surprise chemicals lurking it in from being pumped in and out of the salt caverns as part of the propane storage method.

I suppose if the project is approved and the pond is built, when it has a catastrophic breach and the 91 million gallons goes cascading down the hillside to the lake, we could plant some marlin and other saltwater sports fish in the lake and see if they survived. And Watkins Glen homes? Well, perhaps the village can get a federal grant for a desalinization plant - run on propane, of course.

In the meantime, while the follicle-impaired president of Inergy Midstream (above) licks his wounds in Kansas City, Missouri, (after having his testimony contradicted by experts), he is likely remembering that when he testified, nearly 800 people in the audience suggested (some politely, some not so) that he could take his propane tanks, trucks, railroad cars and everything else he has planned for the 576-acre site and return it to, well, just about anyplace but the Town of Reading.

LINKS to stories about hearing:
Elmira Star-Gazette
The Observer newspaper