Wednesday, January 2, 2008

First Real News of the Year

Ok, enough of the revelry, and while many are still taking the week off, a continuation of last week, many are back to the real world outside friends and family. And after a few good days of weather here in paradise, the rain is back, and for the rest of the week into the weekend. But all this rain of late has brought us back to near normal snowpack, which at Paradise in Mt. Rainier NP is now about 9 feet at the 5,400 foot level and more in higher elevations.

Ok, enough gloating about our snowpack, which is important since we're now in until early March, the real snow season. We're past the periods where warm fronts can melt feet of snow in hours - which is usually early November to mid-late December. We can still get these storms but the upper elevations are usually cold enough now to inhibit significant snowmelt, and usually on a few hours of the passing of the storm front. And this time of year there usually is very cold weather behind these storms.

The news? Well, effectively yesterday it is now illegal to text message or use e-mail on any device while driving in Washington State. The law is a result of a serious accident caused by someone using their PDA to send/receive e-mail while they were driving. On top of that effective July 1, talking on cell phones while driving can only be done with hands-free devices, no more one hand on the steering wheel and one on the cellphone.

I for one applaud these laws. I've seen far too many drivers with cellphones stuck to their ear and not watching traffic. They become blind to the flow of traffic and cars and trucks around them. Like everyone, I've seen some really stupid driving at 60 mph on an interstate by someone talking on a cellphone, including being cut off by someone trying to merge or change lanes (cellphone in left ear and not looking), and pulling in front of a semi-truck who had to brake to avoid hitting them.

Ok, enough ranting. Not. The federal government took this into account over 3 years ago when they banned employees talking on cellphones while driving a government vehicle. You have to pull off the road to talk, and if you are caught, like it's not hard to hear them driving or ask them, "Hey are you driving?" while talking to them, you can be fired immediately for creating a hazard. I talked to a field person once who almost drove off a forest service road while driving. All I heard was, "Oh shit, that was close." He pulled off onto a turnout to finish the conversation.

Anyway, an interesting story, love in a sinkhole. Gives you a feeling things aren't so bad, and you can make a difference.

On the other side of the environmental coin, Three Gorges Dam is proving to be the worst man-made environment and national disaster in history as water rises behind the dam creating all sorts of problems, emigration, landslides, sediment accumulation, etc. The only thing the Chinese can do now is minimize the devastion and damage. It's said and done and we have to live with it.

The problem that folks have stressed with the dam is the silt and sediment going through the reservoir system. This is always a problem with dam, but especially so with this dam as the drainage basin produces more than a normal sediment load compared to other river basins. This sediment accumulates behind the dam and must be flushed through to the river below the dam so the normal sediment deposition keeps the lower river hydrology stabilized. It's the constant battle to balance the inflow and outflow of sediment.

Something else? Can I rant about the Iowa primary news? Not? Ok, enough said, I'm tired of hearing the same media rhetoric about or from the candidates. And gladly it's over by Friday with the analysis and pundits. But it's off to New Hampshire now. Geez, let's move everything to the summer before the election so they don't waste our time. Why is it that our nation has the longest election campaign of any major nation? Most of the European countries have about 3 months, and many there and in South America less.

Something else too? Or two? Well, Social Security, as told in the NPR story. The Social Security system is solvent well past 2040 with only minor tweaking now and slowly over time. We don't need private investment plans, major new taxes, decreasing benefits, or whatever else the politicians tell you. It's campaign hype and rhetoric, and remember to ask them the specific questions to prove their case.

Why? Because they can't. They're skimming the bad news to hype a problem that doesn't exist. Several prominent economists have long studied this and said that increasing the taxes slightly on higher incomes (six figures and higher) and raising the ceiling (maximum contribution) will solve the problems for another 75 years. It only takes a 1% tweak. That's not a big issue is it?

The real problem is that we have to do this now than talk about big solutions. It's the issue the politicians don't want to discuss, it doesn't help their voter approval as a problem solver and wins votes for their agenda, all of which will make the problem worse. You see the baby boomers aren't the problem, the polticians are.

Ok, enough for a holiday week. Parting jesture, a photo, and don't forget to look at this photographer portfolio going back over 30 years. Real world stuff. Have a good week.

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