The Long View

This blog has been looking like my personal obituary section, and I suppose it is. While I promise to change that, for this post I’ll stick with the theme, and surface some correspondence with an old friend who recommended that I read The Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom. In the correspondence that followed, I shared some of my own views across life’s horizons. Thinking those perhaps blogworthy, here’s what I said:

Just ordered the book.

Odd that I’m a lifelong Christian (technically, Catholic) who (thanks to my wife, who is observant) attends mass every Sunday. Yet I believe the most useful teachings of all the major religions at their best are about kindness and mercy toward other people and the world, and that our sum purpose as conscious and responsible beings is to leave the place better than we found it. In this sense, eternal life is gravy, not meat and potatoes.

So I will be surprised and pleased if there really is an afterlife of some kind. And I would dearly love to hang again with those five people, plus my parents and other loved ones who are, as we say in this world of time and space, departed.

However, absent proof here in time/space world, the way to bet is pure absence: an afterlife like the beforelife.

Did you know I was working for the Psychical Research Foundation, which studied the possibility of life after death, at (but not of) Duke University when I met David Hodskins and Ray Simone? This was an occasion without which I would likely never have met Gil Templeton, Kim Cameron, Craig Burton and others I’ve memorialized online. It see now for the first time that the poetry in that, with those guys—all younger than me—while I’m still here. Wherever this is.

Our favorite priest, Father Sean Olaoire, calls people “spirits in space suits.” This is consistent with Bill Hicks‘ take: “It’s just a ride.” Sean and Bill’s case: we are timeless beings who catch a ride in time and get off when it’s over. We need Wise Ones like Jesus to tell us that our world view is insufficient, and the real myth is mortality.

So, we’ll find out. Or not. Either way, it’s best to clean up first. I’m at that stage now, even though I still have work to do. Back to it.

So I’m back. See you soon.

Posted in Blogging, Books, Friends, Future, Obituary, Quote | Leave a comment

Remembering Heather Armstrong

My email archive contains dozens of postings in which Heather Armstrong* and I are among those writing, receiving, mentioning, mentioned, cc’d or otherwise included. Most postings are from the ’00s and between bloggers in the brief age before media got social and blogging was still hot shit. Heather, with her Dooce blog, was the alpha among us, but never snotty about it.

Heather wore her heart, her head, her life, on the Web page. At humorous, opinionated, and wince-worthy self-disclosure, Heather even out-raged Chris Locke, aka RageBoy. Heather, Chris and I might have met for a panel at the 2006 SXSW, had Chris made the trip. Wrote Chris, “I was nearly as bummed as Doc said he was that I wasn’t there in Austin today on the ‘Cluetrain: Seven Years Later’ panel. What can I say? If God had wanted people to fly, he would have given them upgrades.” Best I recall, that panel was the only time I met Heather in person. She was fun.

Her final post was on April 6. It is mostly about, and for, her daughter Leta Louise. The closing line is “Here at 18 months sober, I salute my 18-year-old frog baby, she who taught me how to love.” According to news reports, Heather had fallen off the wagon. Whatever the reason, she fell all the way, and we will be forever lessened by her loss.

*On her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, all branded Dooce, she identified as Heather B. Hamilton, her birth name.

Posted in Obituary | Tagged | 3 Comments

A Santa Barbara itinerary from ChatGPT

I asked ChatGPT for a three-day itinerary to give visitors to Santa Barbara. Here ya go:

Day 1:

  • Start the day with breakfast at the Shoreline Beach Cafe, which has a beautiful view of the ocean.
  • After breakfast, head to Knapp’s Castle for a scenic hike and exploration of the ruins of a 20th century mansion. The hike offers stunning views of the Santa Ynez Valley.
  • For lunch, grab some sandwiches or salads from the nearby Panino’s, a local favorite with fresh, high-quality ingredients.
  • Spend the afternoon exploring downtown Santa Barbara, with its charming shops and cafes. Don’t miss a visit to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a stunning Spanish Colonial Revival building with a beautiful clock tower that offers a panoramic view of the city.
  • For dinner, head to Tee-Off, a local institution that has been serving up classic American fare since 1949.

Day 2:

  • Start the day with a hike up La Cumbre Peak, which offers stunning views of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands.
  • For lunch, grab some tacos from La Super-Rica Taqueria, a casual spot that was a favorite of Julia Child.
  • Spend the afternoon exploring the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, which showcases native plants and offers a peaceful escape from the city.
  • For dinner, head to the Stagecoach Inn, a historic restaurant that serves up classic American fare in a cozy setting.

Day 3:

  • Start the day with breakfast at Jeannine’s Bakery, a local favorite known for its delicious baked goods and breakfast items.
  • Spend the morning at Hendry’s Beach, a local favorite with beautiful views and great walking trails.
  • For lunch, grab some sandwiches or salads from South Coast Deli, a local favorite with fresh ingredients and creative flavor combinations.
  • Spend the afternoon exploring the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, which features a diverse collection of artwork from around the world.
  • For dinner, head back to downtown Santa Barbara and choose from one of the many restaurants in the area, depending on your preference. Some options include Olio e Limone Ristorante, Los Agaves, and The Lark.

I wouldn’t disagree with any of it, except maybe to note that Hendry’s Beach at sunset (where and when I shot the photo above) is mighty fine.

Of course, the answer will vary with every regeneration, but what the hell. It’s very early in our co-evolution with whatever the hell we and AI are together becoming.

Posted in AI, Photography, Places, Travel | 2 Comments

Unstill life

Her name is Mary Johnson. Born in 1917, the year the U.S. entered WWI, two years before women in the same country got the right to vote, she died in 1944, not long before the end of WWII. She was buried, unembalmed, in the cemetery of a Chicago church that was later abandoned. Her grave was unmarked. To make room for new commercial development in 2023, the church was razed and occupants of the cemetery were respectfully and quietly disinterred, and moved to a working cemetery elsewhere in town. In the midst, efforts were made by the coroner’s office to discover the identities of the bodies from unmarked graves before they were to be reburied. Mary’s was among them.

The difference with Mary was that her body appeared to be unchanged: a bit dusty under bits of casket lining, with light flecks on her dark skin. Except for that, she looked like she had died yesterday. When they removed her body from the casket in the hospital morgue where she was taken for DNA sampling, she was still flexible. I asked the pathologist what would account for her perfect state of preservation. The pathologist said she had no idea. Even the best embalming jobs age in the ground.

When the pathologist was out of the room, I reached to lift one of Mary’s eyelids. Before my fingers touched, both lids opened, slightly. I called out, “Come here! Come here!” Nobody came. Then both eyes opened. Her body shook as she tried to breathe.

“Code Blue! I yelled.

She was alive. Somehow, alive. After what, eighty years? At the time we didn’t know.

I was ready to do CPR when she started breathing and tried to sit up. “Hang on,” I said. Let me help.” As I did, she was becoming warm. She stood up and looked around.

I looked at my watch. It was 5:15 AM. The dream was too interesting for me to completely awaken, so I dropped back in. As a half-conscious dreamer, I often do that. For the next hour, I followed several different story threads. Each visited what happened in the eighty years of Mary’s suspended life. The Cold War. israel. Civil rights. Rock & Roll. Space travel. Disco. Hip hop. Rap. Digital everything. One of her questions: “What’s television?”

I thought about the backstory of her own short life: a child in the twenties, a teen during the Depression, a young adult during The War. What interesting stuff happened in those years? Was she in love, maybe with a guy who went off to fight? What work did she do?

I thought about the science questions. How was it possible for someone to lay undead for so long? Who else in that cemetery, or any cemetery, might still be alive? Was she a one-of-one, a one-of-some, or a one-of-many? Though not a horror story, it did recall Poe’s The Premeture Burial, in which the protagonist’s undead state was “catalepsy.” I imagined in this thread that the story might be one Michael Chrichton would like to write, if he was still alive.

Dreams have no more detail than one gives them, and being a white guy from New Jersey, born after Mary went cataleptic, I didn’t have much to furnish any storyline about Mary’s life, past or present. But I could still think of questions to address. What perspective and wisdom could Mary bring to our time? How would she cope with finding nearly all the people and things she knew were now dead and gone? What would she marvel at, and what would appall her? What would she be, or mean, to the rest of us?

No surprise that I would dream of a resurrection on Easter morning, even though that wasn’t in my head at the time. So, might Mary (not hard to guess from what corner of my unconscious that one came from) be a Jesus for our time? Hmm.

At 6:15, I finally had to get up and do my business, and the dream ended there. Still, “This has to be a book,” I told myself. But I have other books to write, ones that have sat half-written for years. And writing fiction isn’t my thing. So I decided I’d blog it instead. And here we are.

She is alive now, on this page, and in your mind. All she needs is for someone to finish her story.

The image above is courtesy of DALL-E, the artificially creative image generator. Took four tries to get this one. Since DALL-E seems to know only how to make grotesque faces, I made sure the woman here is looking away.

Posted in Dream, Future | 4 Comments

From sea to rhyming sea

states and capitals

While discussing ChatGPT with my teenage grandkids, I put it to a number of tests. In one I asked it to write a poem that includes all the capital cities in the U.S. Here is its reply:

From sea to shining sea, Across this land so grand, The capitals of every state, Await us to take a stand.

In Montgomery, Alabama, We begin our noble quest, To climb each statehouse staircase, And put our wills to the test.

Through Juneau, Alaska, To Phoenix, Arizona’s heat, The halls of power beckon us, With challenges we must meet.

Little Rock, Arkansas, And Sacramento, too, We march to their state capitals, To learn what they can do.

From Denver, Colorado’s heights, To Connecticut’s Hartford town, We cross this land of liberty, To see our nation’s crown.

Dover, Delaware, And Tallahassee, Florida’s heat, We journey forth to find our place, In every statehouse seat.

Atlanta’s Georgia peach, And Honolulu’s island breeze, We’ll walk the halls of power, To achieve our lofty dreams.

Through Boise, Idaho’s hills, And Springfield’s Illinois pride, We’ll take the steps of governance, With courage as our guide.

Indianapolis, Indiana, And Iowa’s Des Moines, We’ll stand in every capital, To honor each state’s joins.

From Topeka’s Kansas plains, To Kentucky’s Frankfort pride, We’ll learn from every leader, In whom we can confide.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, And Augusta, Maine’s coast, We’ll listen to the wisdom, That each statehouse host.

In Annapolis, Maryland, And Massachusetts’ Boston town, We’ll seek to find our purpose, And rise to wear the crown.

Lansing, Michigan, And St. Paul’s Minnesota pride, We’ll climb each capital’s staircase, And never be denied.

Mississippi’s Jackson town, And Jefferson City’s Missouri call, We’ll cross this land with honor, And never falter or fall.

Helena, Montana’s heights, And Lincoln’s Nebraska plains, We’ll march through every capital, And honor each state’s gains.

Carson City, Nevada, And Concord’s New Hampshire pride, We’ll stand in every statehouse, And let our voices be our guide.

Trenton’s New Jersey call, And Santa Fe’s New Mexico sun, We’ll climb the stairs of governance, And learn from everyone.

Albany’s New York pride, And Raleigh’s North Carolina charm, We’ll honor every state’s glory, And never let it harm.

Bismarck’s North Dakota plains, And Columbus’ Ohio pride, We’ll journey forth to every capital, With honor as our guide.

Oklahoma’s Oklahoma City, And Salem’s Oregon call, We’ll stand in every statehouse, And never let our spirits fall.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, And Rhode Island’s Providence town, We’ll climb each capital’s staircase, And never let ourselves drown.

South Carolina’s Columbia pride, And South Dakota’s Pierre call, We’ll cross this land with dignity, And never let ourselves stall.

Nashville’s Tennessee music, And Austin’s Texas pride, We’ll stand in every statehouse, And let our voices rise.

Salt Lake City’s Utah heights, And Montpelier’s Vermont pride, We’ll march through every capital, And let our dreams be our guide.

Richmond’s Virginia charm, And Olympia’s Washington crown, We’ll honor every state’s valor, And never let ourselves down.

Charleston’s West Virginia hills, And Madison’s Wisconsin pride, We’ll journey forth to every capital, And never be denied.

Cheyenne’s Wyoming pride, And Washington, D.C.’s White House, We’ll cross this land with honor, And never let ourselves douse.

From sea to shining sea, We’ve walked each statehouse hall, And learned the lessons of governance, That make our nation stand tall.

Redraw your own conclusions.

Posted in data | 1 Comment

A workflow challenge

I shoot a lot of pictures. Most are from altitude (such as the above). But lots are of people and places; for example, here are a few I shot at DWebCamp last summer with my new Sony A7 IV camera (to which I migrated last year after many years shooting Canon):

Importing and curating photos is the only organized thing I do in life. Let me explain.

Under each of those photos is the name of the file. These are the actual file names, not ones stored in the library of some app and remembered at the meta-level. None are called DSCN0401.JPG, IMG_4523.JPG, or IMG_1874.PNG. I’ve give all of them meaningful names, all by the same convention: YYYY_MM_DD_name-of-event. Every file in every folder has the same name as the folder, with a number appended to it. The numbers are chronological. Each event’s folder goes into a month folder, each of those goes into a year folder, and all years go into a folder called pix-by-year. That folder has years going back to 1869. (The earliest are scans, such as this one.) This way I can search in the Finder for, say, dweb-camp, or 2022_08_24, and find the files and/or their folder easily.

I organize and name all my photos with a piece of software originally called iView Media Pro, then Expression Media 2 (after Microsoft bought it), and finally Phase One Media Pro (after Microsoft abandoned it). I like the second version best, so that’s what I use. (One reason is that Phase One changed the file type, with a new suffix, which confused things, and then itself abandoned the software.)

Here is a short and partial list of all the things Expression Media 2 can do:

  1. Rename files in the Finder, very selectively, alone, or in batches (much more smoothly and easily than can be done with Adobe Bridge or Apple’s Shortcuts or Automator).
  2. Search for any variable, or combination of variables
  3. Sort by up to 24 variables (file name, size, date created, date modified…)
  4. Resize selectively
  5. Open any files with any other app
  6. Bring multiple photos (files) from multiple directories into a single catalog, to organize any way one wants. Also to export, rename, or whatever, including—
  7. Run a slide show, with many choices of presentation (much more than with Apple’s Photos and Preview apps), and save shows as movies
  8. Open any file or collection of files in any other app (for me that’s usually Photoshop 2021)
  9. Basic image edits
  10. Rotate, flip, zoom in and out
  11. See and edit EXIF data for every shot, and add new comments in blank fields
  12. Find missing and duplicate items
  13. Show or hide any file or combinations of files
  14. Move files in the Finder
  15. Operate in lieu of the finder when dragging or dropping into a Web page or another app, for example into an WYSIWYG HTML editor such as Adobe’s DreamWeaver
  16. Arrange or tile photos by hand or by sort
  17. Log and show actions
  18. Place images on a map
  19. Make a .pdf of any image or collection of them
  20. Turn galleries into pages in .html
  21. Import and export to and from .xml

I don’t do all that stuff, but I list it because I want to remember what I know I will lose when I move from this 2017 MacBook Pro running Mojave to my new 16″ 2023 M2 Max MacBook Pro. That will happen later today after I upgrade both machines to the latest version of Ventura. When that happens, Expressions Media 2, a 32-bit program last updated in 2013, will be kaput. And I will need to find another workflow.

Or maybe one of ya’ll has a better way to manage workflow than I’m using now. I’m open.

Meanwhile, here goes…

[Later (May 10, 2023)…] I am now working with my new M2 Macbook Pro, and I feel like I am missing limbs. The only prostheses I have are the limited choices that come with Apple’s Finder and Adobe Bridge. So again, help is welcome. Thanks.

Addendum: If you’re wondering why I’m not running my life on Linux and free and/or open-source software, the main reasons are Photoshop and Lightroom. I’ve tried Gimp and it doesn’t cut it. Photoshop knows the camera and lenses I’m using, and its tools, such as dehaze, are extremely useful. See the photos here? Thank dehaze for making the detail pop out. (Yes, Gimp de-hazes, but not easily.) I hate being trapped in Apple’s castle as much as the next serf, but shooting as much as I do requires tools I can use quickly and easily.

Posted in Apple, Art, data, Photography, problems | 3 Comments

Is Mastodon a commons?

Groups of people under bubbles at sunset on the grounds of Versailles

Glenn Fleishman has a lucid and helpful introduction to Mastodon in TidBITS that opens with this:

Cast your mind back to the first time you experienced joy and wonder on the Internet. Do you worry you’ll never be able to capture that sense again? If so, it’s worth wading gently into the world of Mastodon microblogging to see if it offers something fresh and delightful. It might remind you—as it does me, at least for now—of the days when you didn’t view online interactions with some level of dread.

Mastodon isn’t a service but a network of consensually affiliated, independently operated servers running the Mastodon software. It’s the best-known example of the so-called Fediverse…

Then, a few paragraphs later, he provides the best metaphor I’ve yet seen for what Mastodon is and how it works:

You can think of Mastodon as a flotilla of boats of vastly different sizes, whereas Twitter is like being on a cruise ship the size of a continent. Some Mastodon boats might be cruise liners with as many as 50,000 passengers; others are just dinghies with a single occupant! The admin of each instance—the captain of your particular boat—might make arbitrary decisions you disagree with as heartily as with any commercial operator’s tacks and turns. But you’re not stuck on your boat, with abandoning ship as the only alternative. Instead, you can hop from one boat to another without losing your place in the flotilla community. Parts of a flotilla can also splinter off and form their own disconnected groups, but no boat, however large, is in charge of the community.

Since my day job is working as a visiting scholar in the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University, and Customer Commons has been imagined from its start as a potential commons for customers (or as many commons, flotilla style), I find myself wondering if each of Mastodon’s boats is a commons. Or if some of them could be, or already are. Or if Mastodon itself is one.

My first experience with Mastodon came early on, in a boat that I abandoned before it sank. But now that Mastodon is hot again, I’ve jumped with two crowds onto two boats: (here) and (here).’s occupants are the community of hosts, co-hosts, and participants in the TWiT network.’s occupants are a collection of journalists. The two communities are different, though not entirely: journalists abound in both of them.

The question for me here is if any of these boats qualify as a commons. Or if Mastodon itself is one.

To qualify as a commons, a canonical list to check off is provided by Elinor Ostrom. In Governing the Commons (Cambridge, 1990), she outlined eight “design principles” for stable local common pool resource (CPR) management. I’ll make notes following each in italics:

  1. Clearly defining the group boundaries (and effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties) and the contents of the common pool resource. Mastodon is designed to support that.
  2. The appropriation and provision of common resources that are adapted to local conditions. If we’re talking about code, yes. Maybe more. Gotta think about that.
  3. Collective-choice arrangements that allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process. Depends on the instance, I suppose. 
  4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators. Not sure about that one. 
  5. A scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules. Up to the person or people running each boat.
  6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access. I think these range from informal to formal, and draw from rules developed for mailing lists and other fora. But, not sure.
  7. Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities. At the top level, it’s othe Mastodon dev community. At the boat (instance) level, it’s the captain(s) of each.
  8. In the case of larger common-pool resources, organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs (common pool resources) at the base level. A thought: the common pool resource is the authors of posts (aka toots) and the posts themselves.

Ostrom and others have also gone deeper and wider than that, for example by examining socio-ecological systems (SESes), defined here in 2004. I’ll leave digging into that up to scholars more schooled than I (or to a later post, after I finish schooling myself). Meanwhile, I think it’s important, given the sudden growth of Mastodon and other federated systems with flotilla-ish qualities, to examine how deep research and writing on commons apply.

This work does matter: Ostrom won a Nobel Prize for it, and it may matter more now than ever.

And help is welcome.

About the photo up top: Lacking a royalty-free visual for a flotilla of boats, I settled on the collections of people you see through bubbles in the photo above, which I shot on the grounds of Versailles. Kinda works, methinks.

Posted in Architecture, Commons, community | 2 Comments

Does Sirius XM sound far worse than listening to music on YouTube?

That’s a question asked on Quora and deleted before I posted my answer. So I’m posting my answer here.

This is like asking if a car radio sounds better than a TV. Because it’s a matter of where, how, when, and what, more than a matter of sound.

There is some overlap in the sense that both SiriusXM and YouTube are fully useful on mobile apps. But you don’t watch your radio in your car or listen to your radio on your TV, even though it’s possible to do both through apps that are native to both the road (through Android Auto and Apple Carplay) and the living room (through Roku, Amazon, Apple, and other TV app platforms).

As for the sound itself, YouTiube lets you select audio quality bitrates up to 256kbps AAC & OPUS. SiriusXM’s default bitrate is also 256kpbs, but over the satellite link bitrates are typically lower—sometimes much lower. But, since SiriusXM does not (to my knowledge, so far) publish their bitrates in a place that’s easy to find, its bitrates are subject to debate. Here is one of those on Reddit.

But, again, it’s a matter of where. when, and what, more than how. If you want to see and hear a piece of music, YouTube provides enormous optionality, with its almost boundless collection of videos. If you want radio-like music programming, SiriusXM offers more—plus sports, talk, news, sports (including play-by-play for all the major ones), and more.

Yet the Internet has more than both put together. That’s why the image above is of Radio Paradise, which is one of the oldest and best Internet music stations. It’s live on the Net and the Web, and it has Best Of collections on YouTube as well.

Bonus link (and a lot of fun): There’s an app for that too.

Posted in data | 2 Comments

FM Stations Down on Gibraltar Peak

[Update: 11:20 AM Wednesday 18 January] Well, I woke this morning to hear all the signals from Gibraltar Peak back on the air. I don’t know if the site is on generator power, or if electric power has been restored. This pop-out from a map symbol on Southern California Edison’s Power Outage Awareness Map suggests the latter:

However, I am listening right now to KZSB/1290 AM’s FM signal on 96.9 from Gibraltar Peak, where the show hosts are detailing many road closures, noting that sections of Gibraltar road are “down the hill,” meaning not there anymore, and unlikely to be fixed soon. I think I also heard them say their FM transmitter is on generator power. Far as I know, they are the only station covering local road closures, buildings damaged, farms and orchards damaged, and related topics, in great detail. It’s old-fashioned local radio at its best. Hats off.

Looking at the power requirements up there, only two stations are high-power ones: KDB/93.7’s transmitter pumps 4.9kW into a stack of five antenna bays that yield an ERP (effective radiated power) of 12.5kW, and KDRW(KCRW)/88.7 uses about 5.9kW to produce 12kW ERP through a stack of four antenna bays. Those are on the poles at the right and left ends of this photo, which I shot after the Jesusita Fire in 2009:

All the other stations’ transmitters require less wattage than a microwave oven. Three only put out ten watts. So, given typical modern transmitter efficiencies, I’m guessing the site probably has a 20kW generator, give or take, requiring about 2.5 gallons of propane per hour. So a 500-gallon propane tank (a typical size) will last about 200 hours. Of course, none of that will matter until the next outage, provided electrical service is actually restored now, or soon.

[Update: 3:34 PM Monday 16 January] Two news stories:

  1. Edhat: Gibraltar Road Damage., by Edhat staff, Januraly 11, 2023 12:30 PM. It’s a collection of revealing Gibraltar Road photos that I wish I had seen earlier. Apologies for that. This is the text of the whole story: “A resident of Gibraltar Road shared the below photos from the recent storm damage. A section of the road appears to be washed out with a Tesla trapped under some debris. The Tesla slide is located approximately a quarter mile past the Rattlesnake Canyon trailhead and the washed road is about a mile past the radio tower before reaching the west fork trailhead.” If “mile past” means going uphill toward East Camino Cielo on the ridge, that means travel was (and is) impeded (at the very least) in both directions from the transmitter sites. The photos are dramatic. Please check them out.
  2. NoozhawkSeveral Radio Stations Still Off the Air After Storm Knocks Out Power to Gibraltar Transmitter Site by Giana Magnoli, by Managing Editor Giana Magnoli, January 16, 2023 | 1:47 pm

From the Noozhawk story:

  • “… they’ve helicoptered up a new battery and 600 gallons of diesel fuel to the site’s backup generator, but they haven’t been able to get it to work.” I believe this is for lack of the expected banjo valve. (See below.)
  • “Southern California Edison, which supplies power to the transmission towers site, first reported an outage for the Gibraltar Road area at 2:34 a.m. Jan. 9, the day of the big storm.” That was Monday. At least some stations would have switched over to generator power then.
  • “Repair crews haven’t been sent to the site yet, according to the SCE Outage Map, but Franklin said he heard there could be new poles installed this week.” That’s John Franklin, who runs the whole Gibraltar Peak site.
  • “KCLU (102.3 FM) went off the air on Wednesday and was still off as of Monday.KCLU (102.3 FM) went off the air on Wednesday and was still off as of Monday. KJEE (92.9 FM) went down for several days but came back on the air on Thursday.” Note: it’s not on now—at least not on the radios I’m using.
  • “Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Kelsey Gerckens Buttitta said there are cell and radio station towers off Gibraltar Road that requires fuel to operate, and Gibraltar Road and East Camino Cielo Road are closed because of slides, debris and slipouts.” Fixing those roads will be very difficult and time-consuming.

The story also lists signals I reported off as of last night. One correction to that: K250BS/97.9, which relays KTMS/990, is on the air. This I presume is because it’s at the KTMS/KTYD site. All the signals from that site (which is up the road from Gibraltar Peak) are still up. I assume that’s either because they are fed electric power separately from Gibraltar Peak, or because they are running on generator power.

[Update: 11:40 AM Monday 16 January] In a private group discussion with broadcast engineers, I am gathering that a stretch of Gibraltar Road close to the Gibraltar Peak site has collapsed. The location is 34°28’05.2″N 119°40’21″W, not far from the road into the transmitter site. This is not the section marked closed by Santa Barbara County on its map here. It is also not an easy fix, because it appears from one photograph I’ve seen (shared on a private group) that the land under the road slid away. It is also not the section where power lines to the site were knocked out. So we’re looking at three separate challenges here:

  1. Restoring electrical service to Gibraltar Peak, and other places served by the same now-broken lines
  2. Repairing Gibraltar Road in at least two places (the one marked on the county map and the one above)
  3. Getting generators fueled and fixed.

On that last issue, I’m told that the site with most of the transmitters can be powered by a generator that awaits what is called a banjo valve. The KDB facility requires propane, and stayed up longer than the others on the peak while its own supply held up.

Gibraltar Peak isn’t the highest landform overlooking Santa Barbara. At 2180 feet, it’s about halfway up the south flank of the Santa Ynez Mountains. But it does provide an excellent vantage for FM stations that want the least obstructed view of the market’s population. That’s why more local signals come from here than from any other site in the region.

Except for now: a time that began with the storm last Tuesday. That’s when power lines feeding the peak were broken by falling rocks that also closed Gibraltar road. Here is a list of signals that have been knocked off the air (and are still off, as of the latest edit, on Sunday, January 15 at 11:15PM):

  • 88.7 KDRW, which has a studio in Santa Barbara, but mostly relays KCRW from Santa Monica
  • 89.5 KSBX, which relays KCBX from San Luis Obispo*
  • 89.9 K210AD, which relays KPCC from Pasadena by way of KJAI from Ojai
  • 90.3 KMRO-FM2, a booster for KMRO in Camarillo
  • 91.5 K218CP, which relays KAWZ from Twin Falls, Idaho
  • 93.7 KDB, which relays KUSC from Los Angeles (down after running on generator power for 5 days)
  • 96.9 K245DD, which relays KZSB/1290 AM in Santa Barbara
  • 97.9 K250BS, which relays KTMS/990 AM in Santa Barbara (and is on a KTMS tower, farther up the slope)
  • 98.7 K254AH, which relays KPFK from Los Angeles
  • 102.3 KK272DT, the FM side of KCLU/1340 in Santa Barbara and KCLU/88.3 in Thousand Oaks

KTMS/990AM, KTYD/99.9FM, and K231CR/94.1, which relays KOSJ/1490AM, are still on the air as of Sunday night at 11:15pm. Those are are a short distance farther up Gibraltar Road. (In the other box in the photo above.)

Here is a guide to substitute signals for some of the stations:

  • KCRW/KDRW can be heard on KCRU/89.1 from Oxnard (actually, Laguna Peak, in Pt. Magu State Park)
  • KDB can be heard on KDSC/91.1 from Thousand Oaks (actually off Sulphur Mountain Road, south of Ojai)
  • KCLU can be heard on 1340 AM from Santa Barbara and 88.3 FM from Thousand Oaks
  • KPCC can be heard on KJAI/89.5 from Ojai (also transmitting from Sulphur Mountai Road)
  • KSBX/KCBX can be heard on 90.9 from Solvang (actually Broadcast Peak)
  • KPFK can be heard on its home signal (biggest in the U.S.) from Mount Wilson in Los Angeles at 90.7
  • KZSB can be heard on 1290 AM from Santa Barbara
  • KMRO can still be heard on its Camarillo main transmitter on 90.3

The two AM signals (marked green in the top list above) are strong in town and most of the FMs are weak but listenable here and there. And all of them can be heard through their live streams online.

Published stories so far, other than this one:

The Independent says the site is a “relay” one. That’s correct in the sense that most of the stations there are satellites of bigger stations elsewhere. But KCLU is local to Santa Barbara (its anchor AM station is here), and the ratings reflect it. I wrote about those ratings a few years ago, in Where Public Radio Rocks. In that post, I noted that public radio is bigger in Santa Barbara than anywhere else in the country.

The most recent ratings (Spring of 2022), in % shares of total listening, are these:

  • KDB/93.9, classical music, relaying KUSC/91.1 from Los Angeles: 7.9%
  • KCLU/102.3 and 1340 in Santa Barbara (studios in Thousand Oaks), public broadcasting: 7.3%
  • KDRW/88.7 in Santa Barbara (main studio in Santa Monica, as KCRW/89.9): 4.6%
  • KPCC/89.9, relaying KJAI/89.5 and KPCC/89.3 in Pasadena: 1.3%
  • KSBX/89.5, relaying KCBX/90.1 from San Luis Obispo: 0.7%

Total: 21.8%.

That means more than a fifth of all radio listening in Santa Barbara is to noncommercial and public radio.

And, of all those stations, only KDB/KUSC and KCLU-AM are on the air right now.

By the way, when I check to see how public broadcasting is doing in other markets, nothing is close. Santa Barbara still kicks ass. I think that’s an interesting story, and I haven’t seen anyone report on it, other than here.

*Turns out KSBX is off the air permanently, after losing a coverage battle with KPBS/89.5 in San Diego. On December 29, they published a story in print and sound titled Why is 89.5 KSBX off the air? The answer is in the atmosphere. They blame tropospheric ducting, which much of the time makes KPBS come in like a local signal. Also, even though KPBS’s transmitter on Soledad Mountain (really more of a hill) above the coast at La Jolla is more than 200 miles away, it does pump out 26,000 watts, while KCBX puts out only 50 watts—and less in some directions. Though the story doesn’t mention it, KJAI, the KPCC relay on 89.5 for Ojai, is audible in Santa Barbara if nothing else is there. So that also didn’t help. By the way, I’m almost certain that the antenna identified as KSBX’s in the story’s photo (which is also one of mine) is actually for KMRO-2. KSBX’s is the one on the left in this photo here.

Posted in Broadcasting, california, data, infrastructure, Journalism, Santa Barbara | 1 Comment

Heavy Weather

2005 Landslide at La Conchita

Most of California has just two seasons: rain and fire. Rain is another name for Winter, and it peaks in January. In most years, January in California isn’t any more wet than, say, New York, Miami or Chicago. But every few years California gets monsoons. Big ones. This is one of those years.

The eighteen gallon storage tub in our yard is sixteen inches deep and serves as a rain gauge:

Yesterday morning it was less than half full. While it gathered rain, our devices blasted out alerts with instructions like this:

So we stayed home and watched the Web tell us how the drought was ending:

Wasn’t long ago that Lake Cachuna was at 7%.

So that’s good news. The bad news is about floods, ruined piers and wharfsdowned trees, power outages, levee breaches. The usual.

It should help to remember that the geology on both coasts is temporary and improvisational. The East Coast south of New England and Long Island (where coastal landforms were mostly dumped there or scraped bare by glaciers in the geologic yesterday) is a stretch of barrier islands that are essentially dunes shifted by storms. Same goes for the Gulf Coast. The West Coast looks more solid, with hills and mountains directly facing the sea. But Pacific storms in Winter routinely feature waves high as houses, pounding against the shores and sea cliffs.

Looking up the coast from Tijuana, within a few hundred years Coronado and Point Loma in San Diego, La Jolla, all the clifftop towns up the coast to Dana Point and Laguna, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Malibu and Point Dume, Carpinteria, the Santa Barbara Mesa and Hope Ranch, all of Isla Vista and UCSB, Pismo and Avila Beaches, all of Big Sur and the Pacific Coast Highway there, Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula, Aptos, Capitola and Santa Cruz, Davenport, Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, the headlands of San Francisco, Muir and Stimson Beaches and Bolinas in Marin, Fort Bragg in Mendicino County, and Crescent City in Humbolt—all in California—will be eaten away partially or entirely by weather and waves. Earthquakes will also weigh in.

The photo up top is of La Conchita, a stupidly located town on the South Coast, west of Ventura, four days after a landslide in 2005 took out 13 homes and killed 10 people. All the land above town is a pile of former and future landslides, sure to slide again when the ground is saturated with water. Such as now or soon.

So that’s a long view. For one that spans the next week, visit and slide the elevation up to FL (flight level) 340 (34000 feet):

That yellow river of wind is a jet stream hauling serious ass straight across the Pacific and into California. Jet streams are why the headwinds and tailwinds you see on seat-back displays showing flight progress on planes often say 100mph or more. Look at Windy before you fly coast to coast or overseas, and you can guess what the flight path will be. You can also see why it may take as little as five hours to get from Dulles to Heathrow, or more than seven hours to come back by a route that touches the Arctic Circle. Your plane is riding, fighting or circumventing high altitude winds that have huge influences on the weather below.

To see how, drop Windy down to the surface:

Those eddies alongside the jet stream are low pressure centers full of the moisture and wind we call storms. They spin along the sides of the jet stream the way dust devils twist up along the sides of highways full of passing trucks. Those two storm centers are spinning toward California and will bring more wind and rain.

Beside the sure damage those will bring, there will be two benefits. One is that California will be as green as Ireland for a few months. The other is that wildflowers will bloom all over the place.

The Death Valley folks are hedging their bet, but I’d put money on a nice bloom this Spring. Watch for it.

Bonus link: There’s An Underground City Beneath Sacramento In Northern California That Most People Don’t Know About. Excerpt: “…Old Sacramento was built up during the time of the gold rush, but the frequent flooding of this area obliterated its first level time and time again, until finally, the city abandoned that level altogether. It’s both fascinating and creepy to tour the abandoned level…”

Posted in data, Nature, Santa Barbara, weather | Tagged , , | 2 Comments