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Moonlight over Stinson Beach

The view as I came home last night. The lights at right are Stinson beach. Beyond it is Bolinas bay, and the tip of land is my town of Bolinas.

Japanese Hand Saw: The Ryoba

I've been hanging out with serious craftsmen/carpenters and virtuoso builders in Canada over the last year and seen that many of them use Japanese saws. Bruno Atkey, who builds split-cedar cabins in the remote woods, told me he uses the Ryoba exclusively; he's abandoned his American push-saws. I bought a Ryoba and was amazed at how much better it is than my big ccollection of American handsaws. It does everything better. It has two different types of teeth.

Traditional Japanese Ryoba Handsaw with two types of teeth


$42.50 from Lee Valley Tools

Septic Systems: Excessive Engineering and Overzealous Regulations

I've been working on a revision of our book Septic Systems Owner's Manual for about 2 months, and just finished today. The book ended up being a lot more revised than I had anticipated. Almost a quarter of all North Americans are on septic systems, so it's a major subject. In following the onsite wastewater field for several years I've seen an incredible amount of corruption in the name of "clean water." Following are a few paragraphs from one of the new chapters in the book. We're blowing the whistle. The new edition should be out by the end of the year:

"You might say it all started with the Clean Water Act of 1972, when billions of dollars were allocated to clean up America's water. With all that money floating around, it didn't take long for some engineers and some regulators to devise a methodology for extracting the maximum amount of grant money available. It was all so easy. First, septic systems are underground and out of sight; low visibility. Second, who could argue with the idea of "clean water?"
So 15-20 years ago, engineers and regulators (some of them) decreed that simple gravity-fed septic systems were inadequate. They tightened up requirements, instituted new regulations, and thus began the new world of overblown, over-expensive septic systems. I got personally involved in a typical such scam in my hometown in 1989, and it was actually out of this experience (fighting against an albatross of plan) that led to this book.

"I considered writing about this situation when this book was first published in 2000. But the amounts of money were so huge, and the schemes so well orchestrated, I didn't think anyone would believe it. This was corruption completely missed by the media. The sums were huge. No one had an inkling. Well now, almost seven years later, the same things are going on, and more so. In this chapter, we'll give you the background, the history, and then case studies of small towns caught up in distorted engineering and excessive onsite wastewater disposal costs. In Chapter 10, “The Tale of Two Sewers,” John Hulls describes how two California towns took two very different approaches in dealing with over-inflated wastewater projects. This leads into Chapter 11, “Small Town System Upgrades,” where we describe how a community can take control of its own wastewater destiny and utilize local power in dealing with engineers and regulators."
-from the revised edition of Septic Systems Owner's Manual

Late October Trip Up The Coast/Old Growth Sitka Spruce Photo/Son House/Dr. John

I feel like the Volvo that goes 350,000 miles with no major breakdowns, and then kapow! Everything goes at once. I've had a bad shoulder I've been trying to heal with exercises, therapy, and supplements for a month now. I started running again recently, after an 8 month layoff and my knee was OK until I jumped on my skateboard yesterday and my knee pretty much collapsed. Couldn't run with the boys, couldn't even walk yesterday.
This morning I got up at 4 and drove up the coast to hang out with my pal Louie for a few days, using my left foot on the brake. Each time I'd get out of the truck it felt like I had bone-on-bone grinding in my knee. Am I whining?
There was a dense fog in the inland areas. When I got to the ocean at Jenner it cleared. I stopped in to see Pete and Bonnie at Sea Ranch at 8 this morning. The sparseness of Sea Ranch struck me. On this 1000+ acres of coastal development, landscape Laurence Halprin decreed that they leave the fields and trees exactly as is. Minimalist landscaping. It's such a contrast to the way we live, with our half acre burgeoning with plant life of infinite variety, needing constant attention and unending labor. Pete had this photo on his wall:

Virgin growth Sitka spruce trees in Oregon, early 1900s


Music du Jour: When I left home at 4:30 I put on a Columbia CD by Son House, called Mojo Workin'. It's strange, getting deeper and deeper into the blues at this late stage of my life. Son House was mentor to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, AND Robert Johnson. Sheesh! Just a guy and his guitar. This recording was made in the ‘60s, when he’d been rediscovered. Next CD, Mercernary, by Dr. John who is in fine and unique voice, singing his own interpretation of Johnny Mercer songs. Come Rain or Come Shine, That Old Black Magic, it's great to hear these old pop-ish songs come out in Professor Longhair/New Orleans Funk. If you like Dr. J., you'll like this. And last, George Thorogood has a solid new R&R album, The Hard Stuff.
I met Louie at 10 for breakfast at Carlini's in Pt. Arena, which ties in my mind for the best breakfast anywhere, along with Bette's Diner in Berkeley. Home cooking. After breakfast when we got outside and I was limping heavily, Louie was amused. "Look at you! Ha ha!" My friend Louie. Later he was talking to his ex-wife Donna on the phone and said, "Hey, I'm moving around more than Lloyd." Ho-ho.
We went down to the harbor and walked out to the end of the pier. Surf was pretty big, 3 guys were out, but seldom getting on a wave. Surfers in Pt. Arena are a tough breed. This is no stinkin' Southern California. It's cold, the beach is rock, there are steep cliffs, and there's a big flat rock out in the surf zone. The ocean was alive, the air was fresh and super-charged.
We came out to Louie's and played some songs on ukulele and guitar together.

Louie's house across the river


That night we cooked a wild duck and had it with a bottle of Louie's Cabernet. A few other pix:

Back of a chair in progress in Louie's shop


My neighbor Clu and his friend milling 1x6" boards from a big cypress tree that had just been cut down

Foot-Generated Electricity

I just ran across this on boing-boing, my favorite blog:

Commuter Generated Electricity


It was sent in by Lisa Katayama, a writer from San Francisco, California, whose TokyoMango Blog is here.
JR East's new experiment consists of energy-generators under ticket wickets, a milliwatt-tracking counter, and 700,000 daily commuters. For the next two months, the railway company will be using using the vibrations of human foosteps at Tokyo Station to generate up to 100 milliwatts per second per person that walks through. The idea is to be able to generate enough electricity to power the wickets themselves and their display panels regularly.
Don't even think about going there and stomping your feet like a maniac to fuck up their results. That wouldn't be nice.
-Lisa Katayama

Photoshop Wizardry On Worth1000 Website

Worth1000.com had a contest for creatively manipulating a photograph of an ordinary bathroom. Here is the "falling man" entry, which has been forwarded around the Internet recently, but with wrong information.

You open the door to the bathroom and fall into space.


To get the straight scoop, along with some 20 versions of wonderful Photoshop ingenuity, check out Worth1000.com.

Let It Bleed: Mick and Keith Ripped Off Robert Johnson

Let It Bleed is one of my favorite rock and roll records. Of course it would be: the first track is "Gimme Shelter." The second track, "Love in Vain," is a beautiful song. "Well I followed her to the station, with a suit case in my haind…" The other day I was listening to Robert Johnson — The Complete Recordings, Columbia/Legacy C2K64916 — and heard the original (done in two versions) by RJ in the 1930s. Wow! I always thought the Stones wrote it. So I looked at Let It Bleed: "All selections written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards." Hmmm. I wonder what other Stones songs may have been appropriated without credit to the original artist.
The Robert Johnson twin-CD set is stunning. I've had it around for a while, but really only HEARD it for the first time the other day as I was driving along the coast. His songs are each perfect, elegant, just the guy and his guitar, Delta blues. His influence is enormous. Eric Clapton called him "the most important blues musician who ever lived." See the writeup on RJ in Wikipedia, Robert Johnson in Wikipedia

And hey Mick and Keith, how about giving credit where due in reprints of the Let It Bleed. Also back royalties to family or relatives (if they exist) of Robert Johnson.