Up the hill. Down the hill. Repeat many times.

So the last time I was skiing was roughly twenty years ago: new wave was still king and MTV had yet to air a single video. So it was rather random to go up to Mammoth for a couple of days (credit goes to my mom, who’s 78 and still skies a couple weeks every year).

Amazingly, there’s still a lot of snow even this late in the season and no one is skiing on Mondays. So I had the whole mountain to myself, which is just as well since I was pretty much a public health hazard for the first couple of hours while I got my ski legs back.



By the afternoon, I was right back to where I left off in high school when I was skiing all the time. Could have stayed another couple of days!

Feds cut back California water supply

First it was manipulation of California’s electricity, now it’s manipulation of California’s water. Water officials have shut off three of eight massive pumps on Lake Havasu that transfer water from the Colorado River to California after the federal government called for a suspension of the state’s use of surplus water from the Rocky Mountains. Is California just using water stupidly? Probably, but there’s Republican political fingerprints all over this…

Interior Secretary (and ex-Colorado Attorney General) Gale Norton and Assistant Secretary Bennett Raley, a Denver water lawyer before joining the Bush administration, are, in the words of the Denver Post, “directing the most punitive measures in the history of Colorado River politics.” After California water agencies failed to meet a December 31 deadline to reach an agreement to reduce its withdrawals from the Colorado River, Norton and Raley ordered an immediate reduction of California’s withdrawals from the river. California had been overdrawing the river by over 800,000 acre feet a year, or enough water to serve 1.4 million people — although much of the overdrawn water was being used to grow fruits and vegetables in the Mohave Desert.

From up here, the California water cutoff looks like pure politics. Cutting off California’s irrigators will undoubtedly help Bush in Colorado and the other Colorado River Compact states (AZ, NV, NM, UT and WY). While the electoral votes of these states combined do not equal California’s, the thinking could be that California is a lost cause and anything Bush can do to hold the mountain states (and pick up New Mexico) is worth doing. And if Gale Norton ever decides to run for state office again, you can bet she will be trumpeting how she stood up for Colorado’s water rights when she was in Washington during the great drought of the early 2000s.

Welcome to Isla California

isla_california We always knew that California was culturally separate from the rest of the U.S. and for a little over a hundred years in the 17th Century it was geographically separate too.

Anyway, I was looking for some images of the “Isla California” map today and discovered that not only are there a lot of different variations of the map – it’s also a popular subcategory for map collectors.

Some fun facts cribbed from the PRigsbee site

The “California as an island” map originated in 1625 when British cartographer Henry Briggs used reports from Spanish sailors that had mistakenly combined the Gulf of California and San Francisco Bay. Briggs’ map was picked up by Dutch and then German mapmakers who in their hurry to crank out new maps perpetuated the mistake which continued until 1747 when King Ferdinand VII of Spain declared that California was not an island.

Which leads to a question: Is that decree on display in the Spanish archives somewhere? I’d love to see it.

As for the future, there’s always the complete meltdown of the polar caps, but until then we’ve got that John Carpenter movie to hold us.

In Smog And Thunder: The Great War Of The Californias

smog-thunder1A couple of years ago I caught Sandow Birk’s history of the Great War down at the Laguna Art Museum and was totally blown away. In Smog And Thunder details a fictional historical war between Northern and Southern California with historical paintings, dioramas, topological maps, model war machines, propaganda posters, and an audio CD with war songs, recruitment commercials.

I picked up the book and CD at the show. Now it’s a film