Sunday, January 20, 2019

Watch Where You Park Your Jet!

I hate it when my jet has too much snow on its wings! It slides down the wings toward the rear, which tips the plane teeter-totter-style, and lifts the lighter front end up in the air.

A Cessna Citation Jet at the Truckee Airport
Thanks to the Sierra Sun for the story.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Whole Foods Is Nearly Finished

The new Whole Foods store in South Lake Tahoe is nearly finished. We don't have an official opening date yet, however they are estimating being open for business this summer.

Whole Foods taking shape.
It is on Lake Tahoe Blvd, just west of Ski Run Blvd.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Tahoe's Mountains From The West Slope - Nice!

A few days ago, we were hiking on the West Slope, below the snow line. We came to a place with a nice view across a reservoir to the Sierra Crest, the mountains directly to the west of Lake Tahoe. These include (on the right side of the picture) the Crystal Range, those "Desolation Wilderness" mountains that house Lake Aloha and a hundred other lakes. You can see these mountains from the East Shore and, if you're out on the water, from all over the lake.

While on a very clear day, you can see the the Sierra Crest from the coastal pass just east of Vallejo in the Bay Area, seeing these mountains from the west is not so easy and common as seeing them from Lake Tahoe. But they are still beautiful! After today's storm, they will be even whiter.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

How To Start A Book Club

A Reader wrote and asked how to start a book club. I thought there might well be other people who are wondering as well. So I'll paste in my response to her.

Thanks for asking about book clubs.

Although I've visited around 100 book clubs over the years, I'm not much of an expert in how to form one. What I can say is that most book clubs meet once a month. Some are very informal, where the books are mainly a reason for a social event (but what a good reason!).

Some are more formal, with organized discussion of a book. The most common approach is that each month one of the members will pick a book to be read and discussed the following month. Sometimes that person will pick a few titles and people vote on their preference. Each month, the member who chooses the book rotates.

Then everyone reads the chosen book and prepares to talk about it at the next meeting. Once in awhile - if the book is by an author who isn't too far away - the author of the book is invited.

Of course, there is always food and usually wine. Sometimes, it's potluck at a local clubhouse. Some clubs meet at restaurants.  Other clubs will rotate houses and the host provides food.

The average book club is about 8-12 people. A few are more than that, although more people makes things less organized, louder, and less suited to discussion. I've been to some clubs with only 5 or 6 members. Once in awhile several book clubs will get together at the same time to host an author at a larger venue.

Organizing a book club is as simple as inviting people to join. Often but not always, there will be some kind of general focus to the club, like mysteries or romances or literary or "anything goes." I've been to one club that chose from all genres except romances. (I suppose that was because romances are the most popular genre and the club wanted to expose readers to other genres.)

One of the obvious attractions is that in book clubs people will meet other people who are highly intelligent, educated, and interested in an intellectual world. I've been to clubs where people became best friends with each other. I've been to clubs that have been meeting continuously for over twenty years. 

Another attraction of book clubs is that they generally don't have hierarchy and officers and minutes and raffles and pledges and all the other stuff that service clubs have. Book clubs don't "come to order" and have motions etc. They are simply fun gatherings focused on books. (Please know that I very much appreciate what service clubs do. I'm just pointing out differences.)

I hope this helps.



Sunday, December 23, 2018

Tahoe Skydrop Will Be Free On Kindle For Christmas

Happy Holidays

As in years past, I'm making my latest title, Tahoe Skydrop, free on Kindle for five days beginning on Christmas.

This free promotion runs from December 25th through Dec 29th.

There's no catch. My thanks to all of you for keeping the art of reading alive (and helping authors pay their mortgages!).

Click on the book or title below for the link to the Amazon page.
Tahoe Skydrop, #16 in the Owen McKenna Tahoe mystery series.
Have a great holiday... Reading!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tom Cruise In South Lake Tahoe

A whole lotta movies have had scenes shot in Tahoe. Long-time locals are used to seeing movie stars.

Add Tom Cruise to the list.

Cruise is finally shooting a sequel to Top Gun called Top Gun: Maverick. For that, he reportedly is doing his gig at South Shore locations including Washoe Meadows State Park, a little known park with no real access, a hideaway that South Shore locals enjoy and don't generally tell tourists about. Thus, perfect for Cruise to get some private space to film action sequences in the mountain forest. Additional reports say that military helicopters have been involved and are using the South Lake Tahoe airport as a base.

Watch for the film in June of 2020.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Robot Cars In Ski Country?

Some of you may have seen the news stories on Google's Waymo self-driving car division and the other AI (Artificial Intelligence) cars. One story in particular really brought home how amazing these cars are, and also how they still have a way to go.
A Tesla. Nice electric car that drives itself?
Cops noticed a man behind the wheel who appeared to be asleep. He was in a self-driving car, which I think was a Tesla. They tried to pull it over, but the car wouldn't stop. (Oops, the software designers hadn't yet made the car able to recognize when the cops were pulling it over.) It took several miles for four cop cars to surround the car on all sides, trapping it and forcing it to slow to a stop. At that point, they discovered that the driver was indeed asleep, drunk at the wheel, taking a nap.

The incident shows just how far self-driving cars have come.

Then came a story about Waymo, a self-driving taxi. Kind of like Uber and Lyft. Except Waymo's program has no human drivers.  It is apparently going to launch soon.

A Waymo self-driving taxi.
Like most people, I'll have to witness it to become convinced. Especially in snow country. But how nice would it be - when you are eating out and you want to have a glass of wine or two but not drive to or from in the snowstorm - and along comes a robot car with all-wheel-drive. How cool would that be?

Anyway, Wall Street analysts think that Waymo could be doing 100 billion dollars a year in business in just a few years. Whoa.  Google already controls much of the internet and our knowledge world. Soon they'll control much of what goes on along the highways.

Things have changed... 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Skiers... Just How Much Snow Has Fallen?

Have we had epic snow yet this year?
Is it looking very good for this early in the season?
Are all the lifts and runs open?
Will they be soon?

Squaw Valley

A quick check shows that Squaw has a base depth of 37 inches.
That is more than Vail or Whistler Blackcomb or... Take your pick.

Maybe it's time to book your trip to Tahoe.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Big Storm, Big Resort Openings

What a great start to an early ski season! The mountains got up to 30 inches!

Current open areas include:

North Shore:
Boreal, Squaw/Alpine, Northstar, Soda Springs, and Mt. Rose

South Shore:
Heavenly, Kirkwood

Note that only portions of the areas have lifts currently running. But more snow is on the way, and the resorts will be fully open soon.

Have fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Skiing Is Here!

This last week, the ski areas have started making snow. I saw a bright white patch up near the top of Heavenly, and they opened Friday! The snow coverage may not be huge (Heavenly started with 15 acres), but it will be fun to get out on the boards.

Boreal and Donner Ski Ranch have opened.

Squaw/Alpine report a couple of runs open - I believe on the Squaw side.

Better yet, the forecast calls for a wet period beginning this coming Wednesday. And while wet can mean rain at lake level, that can translate into significant snow at higher elevations.

It appears that winter is about to arrive.

P.S. Before you make plans to drive up the mountain, double check the areas to see that they will be open.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Which Neighborhood Will Burn Next?

California has had terrible firestorm tragedies in the last two days. I mourn the loss of life. It is so very sad and hard to grasp the extent of the disaster. My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

The title of this blog is a difficult question to confront, but we have to face the issue.

I’m writing this from the Bay Area, where I’m exhibiting books at the San Mateo Harvest Festival. The Bay Area is choked in smoke from a fire that yesterday burned the entire town of Paradise, which is near Chico. It makes me ask questions about our response to the situation.
What should we do? One of the most sensible approaches is to reduce fuels in the forest. We’ve had 120 years of active fire suppression (putting out all fires). The result is a massive fuel buildup. Forests naturally burn every decade or so. Some forests burn more often. It has been estimated that Tahoe's forests used to burn every 7 years on average.

Fire is a natural part of the forest. If we could go back to that natural state -regular small fires in most of the forest - we wouldn't have anywhere near the problem we have now.

Putting out all those fires over all those years means we now have ten or fifteen times as much dead branches and trees as normal. Try to walk through a forest like that. You can’t. They are continuous thickets, impenetrable. Any source of flame makes them an explosive.
If there is a high wind and low humidity and no recent winter storms, all it takes is a lightning strike, or a sparking powerline, or a campfire that isn’t dead out, or a sparking trailer safety chain dragging on the highway. The result is a “Blowup,” which is an uncontrolled fire that can’t be stopped by any current measures.
(I’m not an “experts’ expert, but I know something about forest fire, having written a book about it. Tahoe Blowup.)
Anyone who is observant can see that the climate and the forest is not the same as it was even as recently as 20 years ago. The forests are drier, and they are burning up faster and taking with them anything (like houses) in the fire’s way.
I’ve read and heard many unreasonable responses to the fire danger.
Some say we shouldn’t live here. Maybe so. But where would we live? Nebraska? Do you really want most of the residents of the Western States to move to your neighborhoods back east?
Some say we can live in California but we shouldn’t live in the forest. Maybe so. But cities burn, too. It seems to me that more people have died in California’s “city wildfires” like the one in Santa Rosa last year than in “forest wildfires.” This isn’t a new situation, and it isn’t just in California or the other Western States. The Peshtigo fire in Wisconsin in 1871 is estimated to be the deadliest fire in American history, having killed over 1500 people. Possibly the second deadliest wildfire was the 1894 fire in Hinckley, Minnesota when 418 people died. The two worst American fires in history were 2000 miles from California.
Fighting fires takes money. Some people say that we already pay enough taxes, and if we want more money to deal with fire, it should come from other programs. Okay, which programs? And if you say that California has many superfluous programs that could be cut, then what do you say about other lower-tax states that don’t have such programs yet still have fires?
Some people say we shouldn’t do major controlled burns because the smoke they produce is bad, and they destroy wildlife habitat. Some people say that even driving on the forest floor compresses the soil and damages roots and wildlife. No doubt that is all true. But these major fires are uncontrolled and produce vast quantities of smoke, kill vast quantities of wildlife, and they don’t just compress the soil, they annihilate it, turning it into fine silty ash that runs into the rivers and pure lakes like Lake Tahoe, killing fish.

We need a huge plan, a Wildfire "Marshall Plan," to go into forests everywhere and remove a sizable portion of the trees and shrubs. In the 19th century, California’s forests were open enough to gallop a horse through them. They were kept that way by regular, natural fires, mostly caused by lightning. Those fires came in all varieties, but most were low intensity, what are called ground fires, clearing out brush and grass and some trees. Forests evolved with such fires. Most of those fires did not go into the tree canopies, what we now call Crown Fires. Because we now have so many communities near trees, we can’t let wildfires take their course. So we have to shape them by physically taking out the fuel. Some would be cut up for lumber. Some would be chipped for ground cover. And some would be burned in controlled burns.
Yes, we would still have damaging wildfires. But they would be fewer and less intense.
Please spread the word. If we don’t dramatically reduce the fuels in the forests around your house, your house may be the next to burn.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Cal Neva Resort Still Lives... Sort Of

The Cal Neva Resort renovation is still in progress. For those who don't know, the Cal Neva become famous when Frank Sinatra bought it in 1960 and then invited his Rat Pack buddies Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop to hang out there. Many other celebs hung out there as well, including a young actress named Marilyn Monroe.

The Cal Neva sits on the state line at Crystal Bay on the north end of Lake Tahoe

A vintage photo with cars from the early '60s.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the resort stumbled. New owners went through bankruptcy, and the resort has resembled a ruin more than a hotel.

Then, in January of this year, along came Larry Ellison, the big cheese at Oracle Corporation. If you aren't familiar with Mr. Ellison, he's one of the richest of billionaires, and he likes to invest in land. Among other places where he has a large stake is Incline Village, where he has been building what will no doubt be a grand residence. One of his last big deals was buying nearly all of the Hawaiian island of Lanai for a mere $300 million. (The Cal Neva ruins only cost him $36 million.)

So finally, the Cal Neva has a deep-pockets owner.

Local word is that Ellison's "team" presented renovation plans to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. That alone is a significant step forward and gives locals hope that the Cal Neva site is on track to once again become a glorious hotel.

I'll try to update as appropriate.

P.S. The Cal Neva and Sinatra and Monroe all figure in my novel Tahoe Blue Fire, one of the favorites of my books. It has 505 reviews at an average of 4.6 stars. You can check it out for only $3.99 on Kindle. Here's the link: Tahoe Blue Fire