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October 2007
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December 2007

November 2007

Ethiopian Tourist Attraction: Feed Wild Hyenas



Joel Maybury learns from a local in Harar, Ethiopia, how to feed raw meat to wild hyenas without getting your arm chewed off. You may wonder why anyone would do this. I know I did, but then I have come to appreciate my younger brother's adventurous spirit. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time. We await further explanation from Joel. Note: No humans were harmed in the taking of these photographs.

Hybrids Can Help Save the Earth


Check out HYBRID CENTER from the Union of Concerned Scientists to really learn about what today's hybrids could do for you, and also what you can do to make sure tomorrow's hybrids are best for our planet and pocketbooks. For current information, sign up for the Driving Change Network monthly newsletter and learn all the latest news about advanced vehicle technology, connect with hybrid car owners and other clean-vehicle enthusiasts, and learn how you can help drive the advanced vehicle market in the cleanest, most efficient direction. To sign up, click this link:
SIGN UP FOR DRIVING CHANGE NETWORK. To take action today in support of hybrid vehicles, visit HYBRID CENTER ACTION. And in related news—read "Dirty Secret: Green Cars Automakers Won't Sell You," by MSN car columnist Lawrence Ulrich, who explains how it's not justice for all when it comes to hybrid cars: DIRTY SECRET.


Foreclosure Watch: ARM Wrestling

"Housing Crisis or Opportunity, Only history will show" screams one headline in a newspaper ad that features a reassuring chart of the median price in San Mateo County rising dramatically. "Sensational newspaper articles are running headlines talking about the 319% increase in the foreclosures in San Mateo County. ...This is absolutely the time to be buying" shouts another ad in our local paper.

Is it really? I would have thought the larger crisis of credit tightening and financial giants teetering on the edge of bankruptcy would give pause. Well, let's look at the Bay Area in general :

"Home prices tumbled further during the month of October in Solano and Sonoma Counties. Alameda and Contra Costa also saw declines. Although median home prices were up in other areas, asking prices fell in every county within the nine-county region."

"Bay Area home sales fell once again during the month of October. The number of homes sold slipped 35.7 percent in a year-over-year comparison—the lowest level seen in decades. Including October, sales have decreased on a year-over-year basis for 33 months in a row."

"With the exception of San Francisco, every county within the nine-county Bay Area region saw a year-over-year sales decline of at least 28 percent. The largest declines occurred in Napa, Solano, and Contra Costa Counties."

"Fair market rents have changed very little in the last year. Average rents have increased slightly; however, it is still less costly to rent in the Bay Area than it is to buy. The average mortgage payment was $3,000 in October—much higher than average rents for homes and apartments in the same area."

(Source: DataQuick)

Our local real estate agent in her full-page ad in the Pacifica (Calif.) Tribune assures us: "According to a panel of sucessful REALTORS(r) speaking to other REALTORS(r) the advice is to buy now."

Talk about self-reinforcing logic! Truth to tell, though, if I saw my living evaporating in front of my eyes, I might panic as well. But listen to what a slightly less biased source says:

"Most experts believe that 2008 will be a tough year for the Bay Area housing market. Mortgage resets are expected to flood the market with more foreclosed properties. Sales and prices are likely to decrease as a result. At a recent real estate symposium hosted by the UC Berkeley Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, economist Ken Rosen predicted price drops of 20 percent in some parts of the Bay Area. A rebound isn't expected until 2011." (Source: HomeGuide123)

Now what person would look at that and not want to wait for the possible fire sale prices in the next couple of years? And what about those darned "mortgage resets" that are going to cause loans to blow up in the faces of many parties who never should have been loaned the money in the first place?

Well, here's a chart put together by those nutty, madcap gnomes at Credit Suisse, which shows the timing and quantity of ARM resets for the next eight years. Kinda gives us a good idea why the turnaround in real estate prices isn't expected until 2011, or later:

(Courtesy of Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis)

Number of foreclosures in the Pacifica Tribune this week: 29.


Space Weather: Solar Wind Dries Out Venus

SOLAR WIND DRIES VENUS: The European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft has made an important discovery: the solar wind dries out Venus. Unlike Earth, Venus has no global magnetic field to deflect particles from the sun; when solar wind hits Venus it actually strips away some of Venus' upper atmosphere. Hydrogen and oxygen atoms fly into space, removing from Venus the chemical building blocks of water. This process makes an already hellish planet even worse. Links to more information may be found at SPACE WEATHER

Plaintiffs Awarded More Than $36 Million in HMB Beachwood Case

Plaintiffs were awarded more than $36 million in damages today in the case of Joyce Yamagiwa v. The City of Half Moon Bay and the Coastside County Water District, according to city attorney Adam Lindgren.

There will be a special closed session of the city council tonight at 5pm for the city council to consider its options and next steps. The city has one month to decide what to do next.

The closed session will be preceded by a brief open session, and followed by an open session to report to the public. Lindgren anticipated that the closed session would finish by 7 or 8pm, but there's really no way to know how long it will take.

We'll post more details as they become available.

For more info on the case, click COASTSIDER.

Bamboo Breakthrough: Feel Good About Wood

Do you want to feel good about using wood? Switch to grass . . . the bamboo type, that is!


Possibly the modern world's most perfect plant -- BAMBOO. Buy everything from plates and bowls to hardwood flooring and furniture made from bamboo, and feel good about supporting a plant that supports your health and the environment.             

  • Bamboo stands are known to release 35% more oxygen into the air than its tree stand equivalents.
  • Its fast growth rate (some species as much as 12" a day), makes it an excellent choice in replanting deforested areas.
  • Products made from bamboo are incredibly durable (see cocktail fact), so you get great, long-lasting value with every purchase.

The first site is a great, all-encompassing bamboo resource - from table top products to retail outlets to a brief history on bamboo. The second is a great example of how beautiful and affordable the flooring can be.


Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs)

Our architect friend Leal Charonnat enjoyed our posting today of a media tour of the Devil's Slide tunnel dig site, with photos. He sent this note:

"Very impressive - looks like the tunnel is a about  6-10 feet deep. As a reference, I prefer tunnels for lots of things that move (trains, cars, etc) through our cities, etc., so I enjoy knowing such companies as Robbins exist: ROBBINS TUNNEL COMPANY. Now they have REAL Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs)." [see schematic drawing below]


Thank You, Oil Spotters

A BIG thank you to all of the Oil Spotters over the Thanksgiving weekend from me, Captain Realyvasquez, and the City of Pacifica. Thanks to you, each of the Pacifica beaches was monitored daily from Thanksgiving through Sunday. For a while longer, they will continue to be monitored by the Public Works Dept. There were small instances of oil or tar balls reported two or three of the four days on Linda Mar beach and Sharp Park beach. Rockaway had one instance on one day and no other reports.  Esplanade had no reports of oil. Two to three dead birds were reported on each day from the beaches combined. They were scattered on each of the beaches. Few of the birds had outward evidence of oil. Sharp Park, Rockaway, and Linda Mar each had oil sightings, although they were very minor, unlike the week before when the Haz Mat Teams cleaned all of Pacifica's beaches both Sunday and Monday (November 20-21). See photos below.

Pacifica Beach Coalition



Devil's Slide Tunnels Dig Under Way


Courtesy of Caltrans and Kiewit Construction, we were invited along on a media tour of the tunnel dig site today. After grinding and blasting through a soft granite layer, the excavators and their carbide-steel  road header will encounter a much harder layer of sandstone in the middle of the mountain, and then an unpredictable layer of mudstone, before breaking through on the north side, where the Disney Company is busy building a gigantic bridge across Shamrock Ranch to bring Highway 1 up to the mouth of the north portal. Vast quantities of rock and dirt are being dislodged and moved to a giant pit on the southern end of the project. Nothing will be trucked away, to the relief of Pacifica motorists who were dreading highway gridlock. Julia Scott of Media News Group will file a full report on today's visit, which she will kindly share with us for posting on this site. Meanwhile, take a gander at our pictures in the Devil's Slide Tunnel Dig photo album (right sidebar).


Shelter Cove Beach May Be Reclaimed for Public

By Julia Scott, STAFF WRITER



The last west-facing road in Pacifica ends with a chain-link fence and a "No Trespassing" sign. This is the entrance to Shelter Cove, for many years a favorite weekend beach spot for crowds from San Francisco and Pacifica. These days, people are more likely to invite themselves onto the privately owned property...