Cracking irrigation system leads to lessons in drip lines
A geyser can be refreshing when it’s 100-plus degrees out. But when that water is jutting into the air from the irrigation system, it is so not a welcome relief.
At least I knew how to turn the system off.
I am not a gardener. I am not into irrigation. But I am a homeowner, so it was my responsibility to figure it out. Oh, this damn adulting business is so tiring.
My sister, Pam, who is into gardening and irrigation helped fix the flaw. In the process she taught me a few things.
But then it kept splitting from the blistering sun beating down on the black plastic tubing. Each time I could fix the problem on my own. Even so, I was skeptical of this line; so worried that when mom and I both were gone at the same time last summer we had neighbors on call to turn off the system in case water was shooting everywhere but on the flora.
I knew this spring I would be replacing the entire line to feel confident about taking off and wanting to not be wasteful with water.
I started digging. This was after getting the rock cleared out so I could see the dirt. This dirt. It’s hard to call it that. There are so many rocks. It’s so hard. It’s amazing anything grows in it.
I got to a point where I didn’t want to dig anymore. My sister said keep going, and that she would be coming to help. Phew. We found where the line tied into the main system. We saw how the PVC pipes went under the driveway.
A text to the former homeowner resulted in photos from when the system was first put in. Very educational and could be good to know in the future.
The folks at Ace (always knowledgeable workers there in every subject matter!) got us outfitted with what we needed to do the job. They knew we meant business when we walked in looking super grubby; my sister with her gardening knee pads still on. She did all the talking, explaining what we were doing.
Back at the house we put in the new line. But it was cold on this particular May day so we called it quits.
I waited until it warmed up to make the holes in the line in order to add the thinner tubing and nozzle. I’m sure these things all have more technical names, but that part of my education is still to come.
We had two sand bags that I used to fill in the hole and cover the line. Back went the rock.
Yes, the lines were tested multiple times before they got covered. Let’s hope there are no geysers in the yard ever again.
Graduation season triggers memories of high school, college
It’s easy for graduation season to conjure up memories of your own walk across the stage to receive your diploma, be it high school or college.
June marks 40 years since I graduated from Clayton Valley High School and May was 35 years since getting my degrees from San Francisco State University.
I wonder about graduates today who didn’t get to enjoy all of the rituals of high school or antics in college because of the pandemic. Or maybe they are stronger for having gone through such uncertainty at an early age.
Graduations are such a celebratory event—as they should be. But you couldn’t pay me to go back to high school or college.
While adulting comes with a slew of obstacles no one tells you about (which is probably a good thing), I will take this phase of life over my teen years. It’s not that high school or college were bad years; I just don’t want to repeat them.
Still, it was fun to discover some photos from way back when. To remember friends, to see what I looked liked, to be reminded of fun times.
I’m one of those rare people (or so it seems) who knew the career they wanted from an early age, pursued it, stuck with it, and am still a writer to this day. I have fond memories of working on the paper in high school, less so about the paper in college.
Still, college afforded me the opportunity to be president of our chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which allowed me to go to the national conventional that was mostly comprised of working journalists, not students. I was also president of a political science group that took an annual trip to Sacramento to meet with legislators. We hosted an event where then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown was the guest of honor. That was a big deal.
What I remember about the actual graduations is the high school event was at the Concord Pavilion—so much nicer than a football field. The principal, Chuck Jordan, gave me a hug—one of only a few he handed out. That probably wouldn’t be allowed today because of the many (mostly men) who don’t understand unwanted touch.
Anyway, Principal/Mr. Jordan, was a tennis player. That’s how we got to know each other. His wife, Lee, coached tennis at one of the other area high schools. He and I kept in touch after graduation until he died in 2008.
At SFSU, graduation was on the field. I would say football field, but they didn’t have a team while I was there. It was one of those typically gray, foggy San Francisco days where you should have an umbrella to stay dry, but it’s not raining so you don’t have it. Graduates and attendees were soggy by the time it was over.
I had become so frustrated with the journalism department that I walked with the political science group. (I majored in both.) I received a great education, but there were instances that rattled me—like one instructor (who just died this spring) who was so strung out on coke that he often skipped class or barely functioned if he showed up. Our complaints to the administration went nowhere. Oddly, we became colleagues at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle.
While working on the college paper I told the advisor, a different guy, I was going to be gone a week and asked to turn in assignments ahead of time or more afterward. He said fine. I got back and he had no recollection of this conversation. My memory is I got a D that semester on the paper. Thank goodness no future employers asked to see my transcripts.
Like most phases of life there are good and bad memories. Fingers crossed life continues to bring mostly positive experiences that turn into wonderful memories.
Monthly bills in South Lake Tahoe 20% higher than national average
For those who live in the Lake Tahoe Basin it’s not news that it’s an expensive place to reside.
Nonetheless, a study by the bill paying company Doxo came out with a report this spring pointing out that South Lake Tahoe residents pay $5,032 more per year in household bills compared to the U.S. average, which is 20.5 percent higher.
The state average is $2,838/month and the national average is $2,046/month.
The bills include mortgage/rent, utilities, auto loans, cell phone, auto insurance, cable/satellite, health insurance, life insurance, and alarm/security.
Note that food is not included on the list.
Of the 431 cities in California that were ranked, South Lake Tahoe comes in at No. 316. The average cost of the above mentioned bills is $2,466/month. This comes to nearly $30,000 a year.
The other El Dorado County cities on the list were El Dorado Hills, coming at No. 97 for most expensive with an average monthly bill of $3,432, Shingle Springs at No. 251 ($2,749/month), and Placerville at No. 352 ($2,260/month)
Truckee came in at No. 256, with the average household expenses being $2,886 a month.
California is second among all the states when it comes to average monthly household expenses.
Some other stats from the study:
- California’s monthly bills average is 38.7% higher than the national average.
- California households spend 40% of their income on household bills.
- Annually, California residents pay $428 billion in household bills.
- South Lake Tahoe households spend 47% of their income on household bills.
Smart restroom elevates experience of public toilet
A smart restroom doesn’t do everything for you, but there are a lot of automatic features.
It’s amazing what can amuse, entertain and provide conversation for three women who have been using bathrooms for 50, 60 and 70 some years.
This was the first time any of us had used a smart bathroom, which in large part explained our fascination with the contraption.
St. Helena’s $183,600 bathrooms (there are two side by side) were installed in summer 2020. The New Zealand company that makes it calls it The Exeloo Jupiter Platinum Twin Toilet.
It was definitely one of the best public restrooms I have been in. No smell. Plenty of room. Except for the graffiti on the walls it was clean. This has to with the self-cleaning mechanism that is triggered after 30 flushes.
Each of the two is unisex and handicap accessible.
With a push of the button the doors slid open and a soothing voice welcomed me.
It flushes automatically after someone washes their hands or the doors are opened.
To prevent people from doing things other than what a bathroom is designed for the doors open after 10 minutes. If you don’t leave, the police will be summoned. Remember, it’s a smart restroom.
But it wasn’t smart enough to put down the toilet seat in between users.
Multi-Page Survey By Census Bureau A Time-Consuming Endeavor
For someone who likes to use U.S. Census Bureau data in stories, it’s amazing how reluctant I was to answer the American Community Survey.
I finally logged online to the survey. Wow, it was so dang long. I don’t have that kind of time during a workday and didn’t want to spend my off time sitting at my desk doing what would feel like work.
I didn’t realize the U.S. Census Bureau would be so persistent. I was notified by mail and email to fill out the electronic form.
Then the 48-page survey arrived in the mail. It sat on my desk for a couple days before a postcard came reminding me of the necessity to respond.
I finally realized these people were serious and unrelenting. If I didn’t fill out the form, I could expect a Census worker to contact me. I didn’t want that. That could take even more time and surely was never going to be convenient.
Before filling out the form I did a little research.
The Census Bureau website says, “If your address was selected for the American Community Survey, you are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can.”
I also found out every year the Census Bureau randomly contacts more than 3.5 million households to participate in the American Community Survey.
I decided I could fill out the paper document while watching the Giants. The survey will be in the mail this week.
I had to answer questions about me and mom because we are considered a household. Some were about our respective incomes, our health insurance, the house, taxes, insurance. Other questions were about education, ethnicity, where we were born, kids, and so much more.
“Answers are collected to create up-to-date statistics used by many federal, state, tribal, and local leaders. Some American Community Survey questions have been asked in the decennial census since it first began in 1790,” according to the Census.
If I didn’t answer the questions, I faced a possible fine of $100. If I gave false answers, the fine goes $500. While not a ton of money, it was a bit of an incentive. More important, though, I know that the data collected is important for the powers that be to make decisions.
Appreciating creativity of online videos
Watching videos (aka reels) online can be far more entertaining than anything on TV. I access them through Instagram or Facebook, but they are on TikTok, YouTube, and other sites.
For me, it’s a way to pass time when I’m “stuck” someplace like at an airport or doctor’s office. It’s also how I wind down at night when I don’t want to read or sleep.
Of course it’s the dog videos I enjoy the most. If you don’t know Layla the Boxer, well, you are missing out. Such creativity.
Iampoliticsgirl is great for those who have a political bent that is similar to mine. But it’s everyone else who ought to hear what Leigh McGowan has to say. This month she won a Webby Award; pretty much the highest award one gets for internet content.
I didn’t become a fan of “dad jokes” until I stumbled across Dock Tok. I’m sure it was noticing right away that these were shot at Lake Tahoe that grabbed my attention. Logan Lisle is the mastermind behind these shorts. His brothers take turns being part of his fun.
One that I came across recently that makes me laugh is Laura from HR. It reminds me of all of the incompetence at an office.
Jimmy on Relationships is designed as a dose of relationship help for men, but I think anyone can get something from him. Watch it while you’re on the couch—therapy for free.
Then there are the people who have spent time to post iconic clips from popular TV shows. Those are great trips down memory lane.
The way people spliced parts of Miley Cryrus’ Flowers video were captivating. Earlier this month I came across Diane Keaton dancing to the song, even though she posted it on Instagram in January.
All of those video/reel creators are doing so for free or are trying to make a buck somehow off what they post. All that is good.
What I worry about are videos that make fun of people without their knowledge. Well, they might have known video was being taken, but didn’t necessarily know where it ended up.
If a photo or video was taken at a public place, it’s usually fair game. When it’s often not legal, is if someone is making money off the image without your consent. Seeing all these reels makes me realize wherever I go and whatever I do someone could be recording me or taking a photo. Oh, well, not much I can do about it when we are all essentially walking around with a camera in our pockets.
Watch reels; there are some really good ones out there.
State, federal lawmakers want to put kibosh on junk fees
The listed price for a concert ticket, hotel room, internet, airline seat and so many other items is seldom what someone actually ends up paying. The final bill is often much higher because fees that are often hidden.
California and federal lawmakers want to stop the practice of what they call “junk fees”.
State Senate Bill 478 would eliminate many of these mandatory fees through truth in advertising.
“Time after time even in my own world as I’m online making reservations or buying products I see hidden fees. The price you get upfront is people trying to lure you to buy their product or service, but by the time you check out the price is different,” state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, said.
Dodd introduced the legislation this year with state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland.
“Hopefully, the advertised price will be what people pay,” Dodd said of what the bill will do for consumers.
The Consumer Federation of California, a nonprofit advocacy group for consumer rights, on March 6 unveiled a six-bill package targeting specific industries that attach junk fees to rental housing, small business financing, electric vehicles, event tickets, lodging, and car rentals.
“A number of industry sectors have convenience fees. They ought to be disclosed,” CFC Executive Director Robert Herrell said after the press conference.
He sees this bundle of legislation and SB 478 complementing each other.
Also interested in the California legislation is state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is advocating for the passage of SB 478.
“Transparency and full disclosure in pricing are crucial for fair competition and consumer protection,” Bonta said during a press conference. “Unfortunately, from car rental and hotel fees to concert ticket service charges, these hidden costs have been normalized in the purchasing process. Today’s legislation seeks to hold businesses accountable for their deceptive and misleading practices at the expense of the financial security of millions of Californians.”
The state law complements what is being talked about at the federal level with the Junk Fee Prevention Act.
It is of such importance to President Bident that he spoke about it at the annual State of the Union speech in February.
“We’ll ban surprise resort fees that hotels tack on to your bill. These fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts,” Biden said in his national address. “We’ll make cable internet and cell phone companies stop charging you up to $200 or more when you decide to switch to another provider.”
Some of the other junk fees being targeted include charges applied by rental car companies, on airport parking, restaurant service fees, food-delivery charges, and the automobile industry.
United Airlines heeded the call for change with the elimination of its hidden fee for parents wanting to book seats with their children
Momentum has been gaining to put the kibosh on junk fees at the federal level since last fall.
The Federal Trade Commission in October said it was going to begin exploring regulations that would curtail or stop the practice of junk fees.
In a statement FTC Chair Lina Khan said, “No one has ever felt that a ‘convenience fee’ was convenient. Companies should compete to provide the best quality at the best price, not to see who can squeeze the most added expenses out of consumers.”
Slow to react
Advocacy groups with members that would inevitably be impacted by at least some of the proposed legislation are on the sidelines for now.
The California Travel Association, a membership organization that lobbies for the industry, met at the end of February with SB 478 on the agenda.
After the meeting, Emellia Zamani, director of government affairs, said, “CalTravel still doesn’t have enough information to take a position on SB 478. I think we’ll know more as the bill gets closer to its first policy committee hearing this spring.”
The California Hotel & Lodging Association doesn’t believe the bill would affect a large number of its members.
“Resort fees no longer are common practice, with only about 7 percent of California hotels currently using them. These, typically, are properties that have far more available amenities than other lodging facilities,” Pete Hillan, spokesman for CHLA, said.
He did not provide a list of those properties.
According to research firm IBIS World, there are 4,998 hotels and motels in the state. Seven percent of that figure is about 350.
Hillan contends, “The small number of California hotels that have resort fees fully disclose to guests the charges up front.”
When it comes to SB 478, Hillan said CHLA has not taken a position.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association also has not taken a stance on SB 478.
“What we have always advised our members is if you are going to include a service charge, you need to make it clear on the menu,” Amy Cleary, director of public policy and media relations for the GGRA, said.
Note: A version of this story first appeared in the North Bay Business Journal.
Walking for Water event proves how easy we have it
I’m not cut out for living without indoor plumbing.
This isn’t a new discovery.
Nor is it new that I would not do well if I had to carry water from the source to my home. I got an extremely small taste of what this might be like on April 15 during the 15th annual Walk4Water event in Chico that is put on by Bridging the Gap.
The nonprofit raises money to bring drinking water to places in need. It has provided 55,000 Africans clean water, sanitation, and hygiene training.
The tiny taste of hauling came via having the bucket I brought that was then filled with ater from Big Chico Creek. (The walk was in Lower Bidwell Park.)
From seeing the ground marked with splotches of water it was clear not everyone was going to arrive with a full bucket. If our loads really mattered, would we be more careful? Probably.
We didn’t even have to walk the whole 1.5 miles with the water.
My right arm has had issues for decades. Carrying anything in my right, stronger, dominant hand causes pain mostly in the elbow area. That’s why horseshoes isn’t fun for me and bowling usually is via my left arm. So, mostly I carried my bucket with my left hand. But it’s weaker. So then I hung the bucket of water on my right forearm, but that was a less steady endeavor. Back to the left arm it went.
I didn’t complain. Really, what was there to complain about? This was all my choice to participate.
I know I have it easy with all the modern conveniences of the 21st century. I also know I take for granted that I have potable water in my home.
As we (me, mom and Priscilla) walked, volunteers walked in the opposite direction carrying informational signs that said things like: “3 hours a day is the average time spent collecting water by women and children.”
Would I suck it up, endure the pain to provide water for my family? Of course. But one can only do so much. Maybe it would take me more trips or longer than three hours.
When my family lived in Stanley, N.D., in 1962 (before I was born) mom had to walk about four block every other day with two 5-gallon buckets to retrieve potable water. This was because what came out of the faucet had so much alkaline that it was impossible to drink or cook with it.
In the winter her hands froze to the handles.
I didn’t know any of this until we started talking about doing the walk.
Several informative stations were along the route. One had us try four types of water—tap, well, cheap bottled water, high-end bottled water. Mom and I liked the tap the best. I thought I could taste minerals in it. It tasted real. The others tasted bland for lack of a better description.
It was certainly an educational morning.
Struggling to reposition hands on steering wheel to improve safety
I’ve been driving wrong for a very long time.
What I learned in driver’s ed in high school many moons ago is no longer accurate. It took my mom going to a senior driving class for both of us to be re-educated.
No longer are we supposed to hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2. Instead, the recommendation is for hands to be at 4 and 8.
“This is the preferred method of steering. Two and 10 o’clock is not recommended because it can be dangerous in vehicles with smaller steering wheels and equipped with air bags,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
That’s exactly what mom was taught, and then shared with me.
I tried it. Wow, did it ever feel awkward. At first it didn’t seem like I had the same control at 4 and 8 as I do at 10 and 2. I said I just couldn’t change what has been ingrained in me since I first got my license at age 16. But I’m still trying. I can’t argue with the logic behind this new hand positioning. I figure if mom can change, and she’s been driving a lot longer than me, then I can change.
With the NHTSA and the CHP (there was an officer at mom’s class) and others are saying 4 and 8 are the way to go, well, I better just get used to it.
Also part of mom’s class was an aggressive driver assessment. My score today would not have been what it was in my 20s or even probably my 30s. I got the best—“cool customer”—you are polite and don’t take the actions of other discourteous drivers personally.
The only “bad” thing I do often is brake suddenly to punish a tailgater.
No agency can save historic Tahoe residences
Wrecking balls are eviscerating Tahoe’s history one property at a time.
One reason this can happen is because the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is the final decision-maker for land use issues in the basin. Another is no regulations mandate privately owned historical structures in the Lake Tahoe Basin be preserved. Plus, many people want new instead of old.
Two parcels in Tahoma illustrate the conflicting desires to preserve what exists vs. private property rights and the rules of today.
“For privately owned parcels like this there is nothing in the county or TRPA codes that precludes development,” land use planner Nick Exline said. He is representing Bob Buccola who owns the two historic parcels. “Part of problem with historic buildings is that none of them meets current building code.”
Already torn down were a 2,383-square-foot home built in 1932 and a detached garage. What should be completed later this year is about a 4,200-square-foot house on the same lot at 8305 Meeks Bay Ave.
One thing that concerns residents in this El Dorado County neighborhood is what they call the piecemeal approach to permitting. They believe structures on both parcels that Buccola wants to tear down and rebuild should have been heard at the same time.
However, TRPA can only make decisions on what is presented, not what might be.
Buccola withdrew the application for 8307 Meeks Bay Ave., and now is requesting a property line adjustment to increase that parcel so it could accommodate a larger structure. TRPA expects a decision on the lot line this spring.
Buccola doesn’t deny he intends to tear down the 1,634-square-foot structure built in 1930 at 8307 and replace it with a more than 13,000-square-foot house that will have nine bedrooms. He said the space is needed to accommodate his growing family.
The Meeks Bay Vista Property Owners Association wrote a 31-page letter to the TRPA hearing’s officer outlining all the reasons why its more than 100 members believed the demolition should have been denied.
Considering TRPA has never denied a demolition permit, according to principal planner Jen Self, that request fell on deaf ears.
Bill Magrath, secretary of the HOA, said the group ”is a voluntary membership group—for the betterment of our neighborhood.” He was one of the signees of the letter.
That letter quotes from a 1947 deed recorded with El Dorado County that was also submitted in full with the HOA protest.
In part the deed says, “That the premises shall be used and occupied only for private residential purposes.” “… no mercantile business of any kind or nature shall be carried on, on any of said lots or portions thereof, nor shall any hotels, rooming houses, or places of amusement be conducted thereon.”
The deed also says, “No person of African or Mongolian descent, or any person other than of the Caucasian race shall use or occupy, except when employed as domestic help by the owner or occupant, said premises or any part thereof.” (That language is worthy of another story about racism in the basin.)
Using the properties as a vacation rental, according the HOA, violates the deed. Buccola has a VHR permit through the county for both parcels. According to the county, to remain valid the permit will need to be updated with the current house configurations.
The HOA letter offered an olive branch of sorts, “If the applicant were to agree as a condition of a TRPA permit to record a deed restriction that the proposed expanded buildings on 8305 and 8307 will never be rented as a short-term rental and will only be used by the owner without paying guests, much of the neighborhood concern would dissipate—although concerns about traffic and parking on the right-of-way would remain.”
Buccola said he would be “surprised” if the houses were rented for than 30 days in a given year. But nothing legally prevents him from changing his mind.
When it comes to defining what is historical, all structures 50 years and older in the basin go through a basic review.
While TRPA has deemed both Meeks Bay Avenue residences historical, preservation by its definition is to have pictures taken, and a historic resources inventory and evaluation report created. TRPA’s Code of Ordinances says it must present its historical findings to the state, be it California or Nevada.
But in many ways this is a waste of time, at least in California.
“The Office of Historic Preservation has no jurisdiction over any private property,” Julianne Polanco, state historic preservation officer, said. “… decisions about changing or demolishing private property rest with the agencies that have jurisdiction over the property.”
Even though El Dorado defers land use issues in the basin to TRPA, Melanie Shasha, senior planner with the county, said, “TRPA sends reports, sometimes just the assessors records, sometimes an archaeologist report, to SHPO to see if they are ‘eligible for designation’. TRPA does not request comments from any other agencies such as the Lake Tahoe Historic Society. SHPO comments are the only document used to determine if a site is ‘eligible for designation’. ‘Eligible for designation’ means they can be noted as a historic resource.”
So, the county, like TRPA, is also under the misconception the state is an overseer of historic private property.
The historic report done by a third party noted “the cultural landscape appears eligible for listing on the National Register.”
Polanco at the state was asked if that designation would have mattered. “No” was the simple answer. “Whether a property is listed or not doesn’t change our authority.”
Not everything is straightforward when it comes to what happens with the demolished building.
“When we initially developed the historic resource recovery plan we suggested a ‘Craigslist’ approach where community members could stop by and pick up any of the deconstructed items for use in their projects. Ms. Self informed (my colleague) Molly (Armanino) and I that this was not possible because TRPA could not track how the historical items were re-used and that the re-use would not be from a recognized entity,” Exline said.
When asked about such requirements, TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen said, “No one on our staff is aware of any such restrictions.”
Buccola, the property owner, believes he is doing more than required. He said he spent $30,000 to have the architect redesign the 8305 house to preserve iconic boulders, worked with his contractor to have nearly 100-year-old windows and other items repurposed in other projects, and is getting rid of a pier and boathouse that he could have left standing. He also said he paid extra money to ensure the quality of the photos of the historic buildings are such that they should last for a couple centuries.
Note: This story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.