This one’s getting a case

After watching eBay for a couple of years, I finally found a Buy It Now listing with a decent price for this long-discontinued Corgi Sikorsky Sea King model – specifically, the chopper from the USS Hornet that picked up the Apollo 11 crewmen, and those from Apollo 8, 10, 12, and 13 as well. I happened to be at my computer at o’dark thirty when the new listing notification email came in from eBay, so I snapped it up within a few minutes of the listing being posted, thus avoiding any bidding starting, which for this model often results in a price inflated by 75% over the maximum that I was willing to pay. The Buy It Now price in this case happened to be exactly my maximum.

The diecast metal Sea King is well done, and more impressive in person than in photos I’ve seen. The only detail I see missing is the two capsule silhouettes behind the knight shield at the nose that represent its previous recoveries of Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 (see the Apollo 12 photo below, where it has silhouettes representing 8, 10, and 11), so I may paint those myself. This will most likely go in my office, so I’ve ordered a 15x12x9″ acrylic case for it. I’ve read in multiple places that the base has a tendency to warp over time due to the weight of the helicopter, so on advice of the customer support folks at Hornby/Corgi, who had a chat in their office about that problem yesterday and sent me a few possible solutions, I’m going to superglue the entire base to the floor of the display case.

Apollo 12’s recovery was also by the USS Hornet and the same helicopter

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When a debris basin overflows

From Burbank Firefighters Local 778, a group of whom were trapped in the Deer Canyon area until the landslide subsided:

Two people were in the car and survived. They made a beeline out of there after an evacuation order said the basin above them might be overtopped. It was, and they hydroplaned with the debris flow down the hill, then regained control and went up another road to escape the flow.

The debris basin that was inundated, Upper Sunset, is at the upper right. The car came down Country Club Drive, which emanates from the Sunset Debris Basin access road.

The debris basin after the landslide is below. The wall appears to have been breached but was not. There’s ongoing construction to raise the rim five feet to increase the capacity of the basin by 8,000 cubic yards – see the scaffolding – and that middle portion is not yet started.

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The wrong word

The prevailing term in government warnings and the news reports out of Santa Barbara County is mudslide, not landslide. Yes, it is primarily mud by volume, but mudslide seems far too mild a term to me when I look at these pictures from today in the northern part of Montecito, just south of the Santa Ynez range that’s northeast of Santa Barbara.

This sort of confluence of events occurs just once or twice a decade at this scale, with multiple fatality landslides occurring every second or third decade. Wouldn’t some people – specifically those who haven’t seen this before – think of mudslide warnings, “Oh, some mud? Whatever”? I doubt anyone would think that if the more apt “landslide” was used instead. A reaction of “Let’s get the hell out of here” would be a little more likely, I think – and a lot more sensible.

When I wonder how mudslide overtook landslide in Southern California, the cynical me answers immediately: decades of real estate agent subtlety, probably.

Click any image for a larger version

Photo: Mike Eliason, PIO, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Photo: Mike Eliason, PIO, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Photo: Mike Eliason, PIO, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Rescue of 14-year-old girl at right. Photo: Mike Eliason, PIO, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Photo: Mike Eliason, PIO, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Photo: Ventura County Sheriff Air Unit

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Now there are five

John Young, the Commander of Apollo 16 pictured loading the Lunar Roving Vehicle in the FQN banner above, died on Friday. He also flew on Gemini 3, Gemini 10, Apollo 10, and was the Commander of STS-1, the first orbital Space Shuttle flight, as well as STS-9.

Just five humans remain who have walked on the surface of another planetary body: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Al Bean (12), Dave Scott (15), Jack Schmitt (17), and Charlie Duke, who also landed in Orion on Apollo 16 and spent twenty hours over three EVAs walking and driving around on the moon with Young – with a leap or two thrown in:

John Young on the Descartes Highlands, 21 April 1972; click for a larger version

“Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world, knowing they’re going to light the bottom, and doesn’t get a little worried…does not fully understand the situation.”

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Los Angeles against the Mountains

A debris basin in Los Angeles County

You may have heard that, after the California wildfires, there’s a scramble to empty “debris basins” there because so many hillsides now lack any vegetation to halt or even slow landslides that will occur on burn-scarred hills after heavy rainfall. The debris basins are man-made bowls of varying sizes, whose construction first began in 1915, meant to catch landslide debris but allow water through. There are more than 120 of them near Los Angeles, where they’re essential because the tectonically active San Gabriel Mountains are disintegrating at one of the fastest rates on the planet. The basins are regularly emptied by crews, but because of the volume of material, it can be difficult to keep up.

The regional forecast for the next four days is not good: 1-2 inches of rain at the coast and up to 5 inches on west-facing slopes. As little as a quarter-inch of rain in an hour is capable of triggering a landslide in burned areas.

John McPhee wrote about the basins and the underlying geology of the region in The New Yorker in 1988. The second half of his essay is behind their paywall, but the fascinating first half is freely readable here:

Los Angeles against the Mountains, Part 1

Both parts are included in his book, The Control of Nature. When he wrote that essay thirty years ago, the basins had already collected – and been emptied of – over twenty million tons of landslide material. In the eyebrow-lifting words of McPhee: “Some of it is Chevrolet size. Boulders bigger than cars ride long distances in debris flows.”

The lecture notes about McPhee’s essay on this page summarize well the never-ending chaparral overgrowth/wildfire/rain/landslide cycle in Southern California.

“The low stuff, at the buckwheat level, is often called soft chaparral. Up in the tough chamise, closer to the lofty timber, is high chaparral, which is also called hard chaparral. High or low—hard, soft, or mixed—all chaparral has in common an always developing, relentlessly intensifying, vital necessity to burst into flame. In a sense, chaparral consumes fire no less than fire consumes chaparral.”

As a side note, there’s no need to find blame in campfires of the homeless, because Southern California wildfires are inevitable. They would, with 100% certainty, occur even if the region was completely uninhabited. It’s not a matter of if – it’s a matter of when.

The strangest aspect of the basins is where much of their debris is transported once removed: back up into the mountains. McPhee called this bizarre flood control district job security an “elegant absurdity”.

Traveling from the west in the area of the record-breaking Thomas Fire to the east, here are the Santa Barbara County debris basins:

Then Ventura County’s – a little rough looking because I cobbled this together from four zone maps of differing scales:

And finally, Los Angeles County’s debris basins, where you can easily see that the landslide problem is most acute:

This map of likely landslide paths after the Station Fire in 2009 is an example of just how acute. This area is near the centre of the map above and not far north-northeast of Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena:

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Almonds everywhere

Click for a larger version

Breakfast while handling the forwarded office phone and keeping out of the snow entirely today: Eggs – from Trader Joe’s because Ann the egg lady’s hens have mostly shut down production in protest of the cold – along with slow-cooked bacon and the last of the Croissants aux Amandes, sliced and toasted, that my best mate made using all-butter croissants from BJ’s Wholesale Club and brought over for Christmas. I’m not sure what recipe she used, but she experimented a fair amount with the mix of ingredients and decided that maple syrup was a step above sugar syrup. She’s right, you know.

BJ’s excellent croissants appear to be exactly – and I do mean exactly – the same as Costco’s and they both sell them for US$6 a dozen, and sometimes $5 on sale. I determined a while ago that the croissants a local upscale market sells are also identical – except their price is US$1.75 each, or $21 a dozen. There’s a good commercial bakery somewhere around here making those croissants for all three places. As soon as I discovered Costco’s were the same as that market’s, I starting buying by the dozen there and storing in the freezer.

 

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What a bunch of hooey

Perhaps I ought to be inspired by this article to come up with some daft product that my new company – how about Gullible You, LLC? – could sell, but the thought fills me with a pea-green gaseous mixture of nausea and shame. How do these people do it? Steelier guts than mine.

If you want to save some time, all you really need to know about “raw water” are these words from the article: “Mukhande Singh…(né Christopher Sanborn)”. Uh-huh.

“Nootropics”? Come now. Better hobbies for all, I say.

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What to do with all that Nor’easter bread and milk

GOES-EAST 4 Jan 2017 1512 UTC – click for a larger version

Nigella Lawson does her best in the segment below from 2006 to a) pad out the episode because they were two minutes short (I’m guessing), b) bolster the cliché of depressingly bland British food, and c) perpetuate the maddening sleb chef myth that putting a vanilla pod in dry sugar makes the whole bowl of sugar taste of vanilla – which I heard yet again last week, from Paul Ainsworth on “Saturday Morning with James Martin”. No one who has ever claimed this has actually tried doing it because it doesn’t work, full stop. Sure, the sugar bowl will smell of vanilla because – surprise! – there’s a vanilla pod in close proximity to your nose, but that’s the sole effect, I’m afraid. The sugar will taste like sugar.

The smarter way: Put some vanilla extract into a small glass bottle with a glass dropper so you can use small amounts. For reference, the half-ounce size is about 3½”/9 cm high and holds about a tablespoon. A small plastic funnel will make it easy to fill.

I doubt all those TV chefs are eager to spout that vanilla sugar nonsense – I’ll wager it’s chuckleheaded producers who cram it into the scripts most of the time.

A much tastier way to make a pile of bread and milk is over here – best made with croissants, of course, but you could substitute regular bread and it would be almost as good. Almost.

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This bears repeating every now and then

Something I wrote seven years ago:

A friend mentioned during a lengthy conversation that, though he texts a lot and was about to set up a Facebook page for his restaurant ’cause that’s what you’re s’posed to do these days, he didn’t really get the appeal of Facebook. I told him that it exists primarily in order to teach youngsters early to undervalue and give away every last remnant of their privacy so that Facebook and others can make oodles of dough selling as much of their data as they can. He had just been regaling me with tales of how various customers had pissed him off in the restaurant during the day and how disgusted he was with people generally, so I concluded by saying that Facebook and Twitter were a lot like people, only condensed and therefore worse. My, how he laughed.

I still haven’t signed up to any of those things, for the same reasons that I don’t quaff sulfuric acid with my breakfast, jab at my eyes with knitting needles, or taunt rabid raccoons with sticks.

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Better than no clams

Before picking up the repaired Boop standup this week, I was disappointed to learn that J.T. Farnham’s closed for the season on Christmas Eve, but the nearby and year-round Woodman’s, more touristy but in relative terms quiet as a ghost town in late December, is a helluva lot better than no clams. Their combination plate of clams, buttery soft scallops, shrimp, cod, onion rings, and fries (US$31.99) was huge, nearly three times what you see here, so I saved some and had the leftovers just now.

The informative part of this post: I usually reheat fried food in a convection toaster oven at 225F/110C for 30 minutes, more or less, after taking it out of the fridge an hour ahead. The fan heat at a low temperature restores a good amount of the crispness without drying the food out. To be sure, it’s not like fresh, but it’s half to two-thirds of the way there – again, better than no clams at all.

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