Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Heretical thoughts

Driving up to Sonora Pass (see below) I listened to the two CDs of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew for the first time in a while, and I had two reactions:
1. The sound is still really, really cool.
2. They are basically noodling for 20 minutes at a time, with no apparent musical purpose aside from sounding really, really cool. Maybe I am missing something, but I much prefer the focused rocking intensity of A Tribute to Jack Johnson. Then again, maybe I'm just too old to pay attention.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mountain blogging

Having never explored the Sonora Pass area (just north of Yosemite), I decided to toss the tent in the Prius and head up for a couple of nights in the lovely (despite the name) Pigeon Flats campground, 20 minutes west of the summit on Hwy. 108.

The area has a few things going for it:
1. Spectacular scenery.
2. Less than four hours from the Bay Area.
3. Once you escape the fishermen, RVs, and dogs in the rustic "resorts" along the Stanislaus, you only have to share the place with the occasional backpacker making her or his way over some portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. (For the record, I have nothing against fishermen, RVs, or dogs, in their proper place.)

My main excursion was a day hike south from the Pass on the PCT. The air is a little thin for a sea-level geezer like me, but after your lungs adjust it is only the view that leaves you gasping. E.g., chilly Latopie Lake (photo).

I would say the wildflowers here are not quite up to the standard at Carson Pass to the north, but then again what is? Up on the bleak moonscapes near Sonora Pass you do encounter plenty of sturdy alpine wildflowers, such as the brilliant alpine penstemon.

One more picture, and two puzzles:

1. I understand why, from an evolutionary standpoint, the alpine plants use bright colors to advertise heavily with the pollinators during the short growing season. But what is the adaptive advantage to a lichen of being dayglow yellow?

2. How can the Prius still average 46 MPG in the Sierras, when it has to rely on the gas engine to make it up the climbs?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Viva Argentina!

Nice to know civilization exists somewhere in our hemisphere.
Now if only they could learn to play soccer...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Say it ain't so, Bob

For a 50-something, I like to think I have pretty up-to-date and broad-minded (I hesitate to add good, but why not-- yes, good) taste in popular music, and for that I have Robert Christgau to thank more than anyone else. Christgau's Consumer Guide to popular music has been a mainstay, always fun to read and insightful, and even more important highly reliable. I don't hesitate to buy an album when Christgau grades it A. Even when I don't like it, I understand why he did, and most of the time I do too. Christgau introduced me to rap and African pop, and my life is much richer for both. I mean that sincerely. Now he is retiring from the Consumer Guide, and it would be selfish to expect him to keep it up forever. Still, I don't have a ready replacement, and it will be a little scary navigating the popular music scene without my trusted guide.

Thanks, Bob.

Friday, July 2, 2010

OK, Meg, you can have it

Dear Meg,

Bombarded nightly by your TV commercials, which range from cloying and disingenuous to grating and dishonest, I think it's time to make a deal. By November, you probably will have spent something like $200 million of your own money trying to buy the governorship of California. This has got to be one of the most thankless and fruitless jobs in the country (just ask Arnold), but you really seem to want it, and frankly the state government is so dysfunctional that it probably won't make any difference whether it's you or Jerry.

So Meg, here's the deal. We ask Jerry, very nicely, to concede the election to you right away. You, in turn, hand over the $200 mil, plus an estimate of what Jerry is going to spend, say another $50 mil, to the state coffers. Sure, some of it is money you have already spent in the primary whipping Poizner's ass, but frankly you are still behind in some polls and I think you should be happy to kick in some extra for the certainty of victory.

Of course your quarter billion won't make much of a dent in the projected $20 billion budget shortfall, but it would be twice the amount needed to fully fund the Healthy Families program that Arnie has threatened to axe. Just think, you get to play governor AND help California's low-income moms and children stay healthy!

So what do you say, Meg?