Archive for the ‘weather’ Category


Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

I have lived in the Bay Area since 1979. I have never personally seen the Lexington Reservoir off Highway 17 near Los Gatos as low as it is currently, although historically it has been lower both due to construction and previous droughts.

The East side is currently at 18.1% of capacity.

[photo of Lexington Reservoir, East side, at low water levels, taken Monday, July 21, 2014; photo by Stephen Mack]

The West side is drained:

[photo of Lexington Reservoir, West side, at zero water level, taken Monday, July 21, 2014; photo by Stephen Mack

Someone has started an art project in the lake bed. Or finished one, I’m not sure which.

[photo of Lexington Reservoir, West side, with the words I MISS written in stones, taken Monday, July 21, 2014; photo by Stephen Mack

I’ve heard news reports that water boards across the state aren’t setting penalties for wasting water — because when water usage is reduced, they lose money.

So it’s up to us.

At my house, we’re flushing less, trying to reduce bath water use, and not watering the lawn at all. I wonder what more we can do.

Beach day #1, 2012

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Last day of Spring Break = first day of Summer, right?




Where’s safe?

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Today we in the Bay Area of California experienced another memento mori, another price tag that comes along with coastal Redwoods and mild weather year-round. A 4.3 magnitude earthquake struck near San Jose at 10:45am. I personally didn’t feel a thing — our office building is near a freeway and wobbles like Bambi on ice every time a semi goes past. I have heard no reports of any injuries or damage. But status messages (including my own) were fired off rapidly all around the Bay, to the amusement of the non-Californians on our contact lists.

The traditional spin is that a minor earthquake like this one is the perfect opportunity to make sure you check your earthquake preparedness kit.

It’s also when I hear from out-of-towners who express wonder that anyone could live in an earthquake zone. While California is certainly the state most associated with earthquakes in popular culture, it’s actually Alaska that should be:

Alaska is the most earthquake-prone state and one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Alaska experiences a magnitude 7 earthquake almost every year, and a magnitude 8 or greater earthquake on average every 14 years. (USGS, Fact #29.)

In fact, only a handful of states did not experience earthquakes in modern times:

From 1975-1995 there were only four states that did not have any earthquakes. They were: Florida, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. (USGS, Fact #20.)

The USGS historical list of earthquakes by state shows that the majority of states have experienced an earthquake at least as big as 4.3 in the last 20 years.

But even if you’re living in a state that doesn’t have a significant earthquake history, chances are you experience some other kind of natural disaster: Floods. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Extreme cold. Extreme heat. Zombies.

Which led me to wonder, what’s the safest place to live in the United States?

After some half-hearted exploration of CNN, the Red Cross’s site, some out-of-date government publications and a few breathless realtor sites, I have come to the not-so-startling conclusion that no place is safe. Everywhere is vulnerable to something.

So for me? I don’t mind the occasional earthquake if it means I don’t have to shovel snow off my driveway or nail up boards on my windows or make walls out of sandbags.

But, you say. At some point, though, the big one’s going to hit. California’s going to sink into the sea. Right? So how can you live there?

Possibly. But maybe it’s just as likely that wherever you live will be hit by a different “big one” — an off-the-chart hurricane or historic flood or category 5 twister or record freeze or biblical heat.

Short sleeved

Monday, January 26th, 2009

It’s not quite warm enough to wear short sleeves, but I’m wearing them anyway, to freak out my East coast relatives. 54 degrees, bright, sunny.

My sympathy to those of you buried in the snow or suffering in 0 degree weather.

Weather map from, January 26, 2009

I’m impressed with how circular the weather bands are here; it all seems to radiate outwards, as if a cold bomb were dropped in the north.

To quote Matthew Broderick in Biloxi Blues

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

It’s hot.

It’s damn hot.

This is Africa hot.

Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot.

I don’t think I can stay here if it’s going to be this hot.

* * *

It’s only 91 — it just feels hotter. Two birds flying overhead just exploded. The paint has melted off my car, forming a black matte puddle, boiling and bubbling. Squirrels are lying in the middle of the road, panting. The Pacific ocean has evaporated. My mind is going. Going. Gone.

Variegated miscellany

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Today I attended Jack and Andy’s fifth birthday party at Hoover park, and watched Bob get pelted by water balloons and shaving-cream-filled sponges by ten ecstatic kids. (How I escaped that fate, given I’m a co-godparent? Dunno! But I am oh so grateful.) Aunt Beth made two cakes, one a race car, and the other a chocolate volcano with lava made from melted orange lifesavers. Amazingly beautiful cakes.

* * *

While I was feting twins, Kimi took Sammy and Sophie to the Hiller Airplane Museum, which never gets old for Sammy.

Me: Sammy, what did you see at the airplane museum today?
Sammy: Airplanes.
Me: What kind of airplanes?
Sammy: Old airplanes. With wings!

* * *

Yesterday was Sophie’s eight month birthday. She babbles incessantly now, has the tiniest of teeth buds coming in, gives a smile to everyone, likes to wave somewhat erratically at people, and can roll over, but seems to show no interest in crawling. We’ve started the ferberizing to break her of her 3 a.m. feedings, and so far so good; she slept through the night for the last two nights.

* * *

Yesterday was also photo day at Sammy and Sophie’s school, and in addition, teachers’ lunch out for Sophie’s class. This semi-annual event asks the parents to donate their time and a little money for the teachers to get an escape, while parents come in during the lunch hour to watch the kids. There are eight kids in Sophie’s class, ranging from four months to almost a year old. For the noon to 1 shift where I helped out, we had five parents. When we first started our shift, the teachers had left us well-fed, happy, clean-diapered kids. Within about, oh, ten minutes, half of the kids were bawling, and most had dirty diapers. We parents just looked at each other and laughed. What a profoundly difficult job. The two teachers handle four infants each, with aplomb. We parents were having difficulty with less than two each. Things soon settled down though, and the hour ended up flying by.

* * *

While the photographers set up outside the school and we lined the kids up to have their individual and class photos taken, smoke and haze filled the sky from the nearby Santa Cruz mountains fire. Yesterday morning over 3,400 acres had burned, dozens of homes were destroyed, and the fire was less than 1% contained. Even though we were fifty miles away, kids rubbed their eyes and coughed; and the strange air reminded me of a smell from my childhood, in London: walking down the street in winter evenings, with seemingly every house having a fireplace with a blazing wood fire, smoke pouring out of chimneys, getting on your clothes.

Chim chimminee, chim chiminee, chim chim cheroo.

I was very glad to see the unexpected and unseasonable light rain today, giving the firefighters the break they needed to control the mountain blaze. The dull weather was not so much fun for five-year-olds attending a birthday party, but everything in life is a trade-off.

* * *

Earlier in the week, I caught Speed Racer and then snuck in to a showing of Prince Caspian. It took me about thirty minutes to catch on to Speed Racer’s vibe, but once I did, I loved it. I think this is a vastly underrated movie. The critical smackdown is somewhat intense; I guess most of the critics never watched the original cartoon, because I think the movie catches the goofy tone of the movie pretty much perfectly. And the visuals do not disappoint, exceeding even the hype.

Prince Caspian, on the other hand, is a dreadful bore, missing all spark of charm and whimsy of the first Narnia movie, laying the religious theme on over-thick, and really missing the point of the book (which I read probably twenty times before I was 12).

Speed Racer is over two hours but feels like 60 minutes. Prince Caspian is over two hours but feels like three or four.

* * *

Rob and I have been playing a new card game, Race for the Galaxy (which Steve and Larry introduced me to when they visited a couple of months ago). We play whenever we get a chance. I love this game. It’s a bit fiddly to learn, and the fact that you’re not directly interacting with your opponents takes a few plays before you understand how you can actually have a huge effect on your opponents’ play — but it’s such a short and intense game, I find myself even dreaming about it. Get this game!

* * *

Kimi gave me the new Flight of the Conchords CD for my birthday (among a lot of other CDs, thanks sweetie!). Although I loved the first season of the HBO show, I had thought some of the songs were hit or miss. But I was able to really listen to the lyrics (thanks to the iPhone making it easier for me to carry around music), and now I love all the songs. Buy this CD. Please mister, you won’t regret it.

* * *

There’s a friends-and-family deal at TiVo right now for a TiVo HD. If you’re a friend or family and want a new HD DVR, drop me an e-mail.

* * *

While I do aim to generate content, rather than pass along content from elsewhere, here’s a link. I have to say I applaud these two for their convictions and avocation.
* * *

Kimi: “Your blog is so random. No one likes all the content. No one!”

Guilty — variegated miscellany is what this is. I do tend to be all over the place. Everything’s connected, somehow. Just think though — there are half of the categories listed on the right not even touched by this post. But comments are what I like best, so let me know what you’d like to see more of, and less of.

I now know what it feels like to live in Seattle

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Or London, for that matter.

[Forecast for Mt. View? Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain]


Saturday, January 5th, 2008

As if in revenge for me questioning its all-mighty strength, the storm knocked out power to our house from 10am on Friday until a few minutes ago. We were right on the edge of the affected area; the church right behind us and further North was all fine, as was downtown.

So, what to do with no power? Sushi of course! With Tracee along for the ride, we took the kids out to Yakko’s for dinner (how California of us!) and then went to bed early. No TV, no computer, no lights — why, poor me, I only had my iPhone for entertainment.

It’s always good to get a quick reminder of how dependent we are on technology. Certainly we could have lasted a while with no power, but the biggest inconveniences are not having a fridge and microwave, making meal preparation much more difficult. Sammy missed his night light but otherwise seemed to think it was all fun; plus he loves to play with flashlights so this was a perfect opportunity for him.

The strangest sight for me was the Safeway and surrounding businesses being closed and that whole complex pitch black. I’m so used to the Safeway being 24/7 that seeing it shuttered was very disconcerting.

I wanted to do some stargazing with no light pollution, but alas the cloud cover made that impossible.

Sophie woke up at 4 and was just starting to settle down when the lights came back on. Blinking clocks everywhere. We’d left the light switch on in Sammy’s room, so when I peeked in it was too bright for him and he was squirming, still asleep, trying to cover his eyes with his arm. So cute. He immediately settled down when I switched off his light.

I still maintain this storm coverage was overblown (overblown, hah!). Sure, some areas got nasty winds and the associated damage from downed branches, some bridges were closed briefly, and a few cars were overturned. But the rainfall wasn’t that much, and the warnings about continued batterings overnight have not come true. It’s calm and quiet out there right now.

Compared to folks who live with hurricanes and tornadoes and know what a “storm” really is, we’re awfully wimpy here.

UPDATE: Saturday featured a second round of revenge against my mockery, with a cable outage of about six hours. Ever since my switch from DSL to cable about six months ago, that means both my TV and internet source is in one basket. Can’t remember any outages before this (entirely understandable) one, fortunately.

Tempest in a teapot

Friday, January 4th, 2008

The foreboding shadows gathered in the distance. The newspapers warned of an impending storm. Weather web sites urgently flashed scary iconography of dark clouds and thick rain. Shopkeepers read me weather reports in panicked voices. Co-workers warned me of frightening Doppler readouts, and sent memos telling me to make sure my emergency provisions were stocked.

Ten inches of rain starting at noon! Thirty mile an hour winds! Flood warnings from overflowing creeks! Ten feet of snow in the Sierras!

And so far, what? Nothing. A few sprinkles. The clouds were certainly impressive this morning and moving fast, but it seems to have blown right past us. Storm? What storm?

In most parts of the world, a “storm” means thunder, lightning, floods, hurricane-force winds, hail, thick sheets of freezing rain. Only in the Bay Area do we use the word “storm” to refer to what other parts of the world call “showers” and “some rain.”

And at the first drop of water here, the freeways back up for miles…

UPDATE, January 4th: Some decent winds, and it’s certainly raining fairly hard, and sure our power’s out at home, but I’m still unimpressed with the reality compared to all the hype.

Snow gone

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

Spring is less than a week away, and while the weather cannot make up its mind, the snow is gone.

Rich T. did manage to take a picture, which he sent to me today:

Snow, in California, on the hills east of Milpitas. Photo taken in March 2006 at TiVo HQ by Rich Thomas of Sad Salvation

I believe Rich took this from the levees behind our parking lot — it’s quite normal for folks in a one-on-one meeting to take a “levee walk” for some privacy, fresh air and exercise.

Yes, Virginia, it snows in California

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Driving in this morning, the hills east of 237 above Milpitas (do these hills even have a name?) were covered in snow. I knew it was cold last night, but I had no idea that last night’s heavy rain would turn into so much snow.

I didn’t have my camera with me. I asked Rich T. if he could take a picture, but by noon when he was free, the continued rains (or, per Harry, hail if you live in Marin) washed the snow away.

Nonetheless, Rich T. pointed me to this beautiful photo at Flickr.

I was born in London, where it snows reliably, and I even used to go to school on the bus in the snow wearing shorts. Third form and lower, you see, must wear shorts; that’s the uniform. You had to be in Lower Remove to wear long pants. Those were the rules at King’s College Junior School near Wimbledon. And we are, after all, a society of rules.

Now I usually only see snow in Tahoe. So it was delightful to see snow on the hills on the way to work.