San Andreas Fault at Wallace Creek

We drove to the Carrizo Plain to see the wildflower bloom, so an opportunity to see visible effects of the San Andreas fault was an unexpected bonus. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake on the San Andreas fault led to fires that burned much of San Francisco.

According to a geology tour brochure from the Carrizo Plain National Monument, the San Andreas fault is about 700 miles long, and it’s “the boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates.” The land on each side of the fault has slipped sideways as the tectonic plates moved, and you can see this at Carrizo Plain.

In the above aerial view from Google Earth, the red arrow points to where Wallace Creek crosses the San Andreas fault. The diagonal line running parallel to the Temblor Range is the San Andreas fault. From wikipedia, temblor is “from the Spanish word for ‘earthquake’ (terremoto)”.

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Wildflowers of Carrizo Plain

After the heavy rains that ended California’s five-year drought, our state’s wildflowers have made a comeback. Enjoying last year’s superbloom at Death Valley, we visited the Carrizo Plain National Monument, a premier place for California wildflowers. Shown above, coreopsis and fiddleheads bloom above Soda Lake, an alkaline lake ringed by salt. Reflected in Soda Lake, the Temblor Range is painted with swaths of wildflowers. I can see an impressionist painter splashing bold strokes of color on the canvas.

When rain falls, the water dissolves salts from the soil and usually flows to the ocean, already salty from past rain. Like Death Valley, Carrizo Plain has no outlet for rainwater, so water collects in the lowest spots and evaporates, leaving behind salts. Invasive plants struggle with this salty environment, while native plants that evolved here flourish without invasive competition. Consequently, Carrizo Plain has vast fields of California native plants and their spring blooms.

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Los Altos Weather – Spring is in the Air

After the storms of January and February, the San Francisco Bay Area is drying out and getting ready for spring. Our first iris bloomed in late March. It’s a Douglas iris, iris douglasiana, a California native plant. Hardy, drought-tolerant, and disease-free, these irises are stars for a California garden, with beautiful flowers in the spring and green leaves year-round. They’re easy to divide and move to new places in our yard.

California’s reservoirs are full, and the mountain snowpack is very large, so there’s lots of water to distribute to farms and urban users. Future challenges will be whether the water conservation forced by the drought will persist and dealing with groundwater overdrafts.

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Stanford

This March Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke at Stanford University. Answering questions from the Law School Dean and students, Justice Sotomayor offered advice and told us about her life through her stories. While answering student questions, she wandered through the audience shaking hands and taking photos with the students without pausing. I came away thrilled by her accomplishments, lessons, wisdom and accessibility.

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Water is for Fighting Over

The American Southwest has always been parched, so water supplies become overextended as farms and cities grow. John Fleck’s Water is for Fighting Over examines legal and political fights and settlements for water from the Colorado River.


From this experience we can find lessons learned and paths to share water.


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The Self-Driving Cars Are Coming

On March 10, California released proposed rules for self-driving cars to be tested and operated on public streets and highways without a driver.

Google set up an independent company, Waymo, to develop a self-driving car. Waymo says “We’ve self-driven more than 2 million miles mostly on city streets.” Waymo cars have driven through our city streets for several years. Shown above, a Waymo car with a driver is in front of our home.

We may soon see cars without drivers. According to Waymo, “94% of crashes involve human choice or error in the US”. Self-driving cars promise to reduce these accidents and the resulting damage and injury. Self-driving cars will increase the independence of senior citizens who no longer drive.

But self-driving cars will mean changing some habits. I recall coming to an intersection with cars waiting on three streets while a person walked a dog. Drivers used hand signals to communicate who should go first. How do we signal to a self-driving car with no driver, and get acknowledgement?

As a pedestrian, I catch the driver’s eye before crossing in front of the car. To cross in front of a self-driving car, do I assume that the car sensed me and won’t proceed unless it knows I’m safe?

With time, we’ll figure this out. We always do.