Monday, June 30, 2008

The Smoke Clears

After more than a week of foul air, the southwest "Delta Breeze" has finally strengthened sufficiently to push the smoke out of the Valley. Air quality is supposed to be "good" tomorrow. There's still some haze, but I can no longer taste the smoke when I'm outside. And the breeze has kept it a bit cooler than usual, which isn't surprising. When we have a good strong breeze, it's foggy in San Francisco and, given that we're coming up on the 4th of July, fog should be expected. In the 28 years that we lived in the Bay Area, it was foggy on the 4th, oh, about 24 of those years.

The fires are still burning, but the smoke is being blown elsewhere.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Smoke and Speculation

The fires in Northern California have made it smoky up and down the Valley. The sky is an eerie greyish-white color and the sun casts an orange glow morning and evening. Air quality has been unhealthy for everyone for days--not just the usual "unhealthy for sensitive groups" that we have through much of the summer. You can taste the particulates. Ugh. Worse, it's likely to go on for several more days.

And I've given my nephew the investment banker a small sum with which he is to speculate for me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fleeing the Heat

It was 103 degrees here today. J and I will be fleeing tomorrow, going to the coastal mountains, where the highs for the week are expected to be in the mid-70s.

And I forgot to note that the summer solstice was on Friday at 4:49 PM.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Water Water Water

Summer in Sacramento, as I've noted before, is really, really hot. We should hit 100 degrees today. So my garden work for the day will be watering the plants.

Monday, June 16, 2008


David Brooks, formerly of the National Review and now ensconced on the Opinion page at the New York Times, has produced yet another silly piece, this time on the decline of Amurcan values with respect to debt. Once upon a time, good Amurcans lived debt free, saving up for goods and services, paying cash, and living below our means. We didn't gamble, go to loan sharks or otherwise get ourselves in to financial trouble.

Uh, what world does he live in? Not only was the United States a debtor nation through most of the 19th century, but we regularly defaulted on the debt. British banks were forced to eat huge losses and, when the United States made good on some of those losses, the government was never able to recover the money from those who had incurred the debt. (The land on which Stanford University sits was very nearly confiscated to pay off the railroad debts incurred by Leland Stanford.)

Indeed the present debt crisis is very much like earlier ones, where rich people get bailed out and poor people pay for it. It's as Amurcan as apple pie.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where Trends Go To Die

It is unfortunate that I was not the first to note that Sacramento is the place where trends go to die. I do remember mentioning to J when we were first looking for places here, and had stopped at a local sandwich shop for lunch, that I hadn't had bean sprouts in my sandwich for years--like about 20 of them. But it was not until I moved here that I became so aware of trends coming here to die.

It's not always a bad thing. I happen to like bean sprouts on sandwiches, and am glad to see that it's no longer required that the sprouts be served with the kind of whole grain bread that takes a full two weeks to digest. But, yeah, mostly it's a bad thing. For instance, we now have "loft" apartments and condominiums. Sacramento was never an industrial center and, therefore had few industrial facilities appropriate for loft conversion, so developers here started creating them. First they converted former auto dealerships (the place where you used to buy your car) to lofts. Then they started building them from scratch. Some of them are just a little silly--glorified studio apartments with exposed ductwork--but others make me wonder who plans this stuff. There is a loft development in West Sacramento (across the river from Sacramento) where "lofts" were constructed right next to one of the main arteries connecting the two cities. The buildings are built right to the sidewalk and have large windows facing the street. What does this mean? The people who live there keep their shades drawn most of the time. Otherwise they get to drink their morning coffee in full view of the commuters waiting at the stoplight just outside the front windows.

Another planned project will have a roof garden. Yes, a roof garden in a city where we have approximately 30 days every year with temperatures of 100 degrees or above. A roof garden in a city where the daytime high is above 90 degrees for four months of the year. I just hope they aren't planning to put any plants there.

Then there is the attempt to bring the New York brownstone to Sacramento. This is supposed to be "urban" living. I guess it is, after a fashion. But the builders of these brownstones don't seem to have taken a tour of our more urban neighborhoods. Had they done so, they would have noted that most older houses are surrounded by trees and other green stuff. And why? See the paragraph above. Before air conditioning Sacramentans kept their houses cooler by planting trees that shaded the house and yard. (It means that you're often limited to shade plants--lots of ferns, hellebores, and an occasional campanula--but you don't have to turn on the A/C at 10:30 in the morning.) So they've built a bunch of "townhomes" with no shade--just what we need to combat global warming. One project even has open concrete patios--which will be very pleasant from, say, April 30-May 19 and October 25-November 15.

Worse there seems to be a cuteness to the whole thing. It's not urban, as there is no real urban living in Sacramento. We have a central core, with a whole lot of government offices, surrounded by a series of suburbs. The suburb just outside the central core has some decent restaurants, but the shopping otherwise is pretty pathetic. (An ad for one of these places has a couple heading home with shopping bags. Where did they go, I think? Probably San Francisco.)

And when lofts and other urban structures become cute, you can be sure that the trend is going to die.