tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:/posts A Drop in the Bucket 2017-03-26T04:19:49Z My Profile tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1141565 2017-03-26T04:19:49Z 2017-03-26T04:19:49Z Expanding where Water will not Flow

As aptly titled: “Cadillac Desert”, Norris Hundley contends that in the long run, California is going to run out of water. His book came out in the late 1980’s. California went through a severe drought from 2009-2016. The seven year period was pretty standard, but the severity pretty extreme. What made it more so, was the greater demand on water in that period. Groundwater is depleted at an excessive rate, causing the Central Valley to sink from the crumbling of cavities where once water was stored. California has an abundance of groundwater, relative to its surface water capacity, but the consistent depletion, and draining of the Central Valley wetlands, changed the landscape, dramatically reduced the salmon population and other wild-life species. Theo asked the Water Commissioner once: 

“How long does it take water to percolate into the ground, get “cleaned” through the layers, and become accessible for pumping up?”  

“Twenty years,” the commissioner replied. 

“So the wet winter of 2016-17 is merely a drop in the bucket?” Theo asked.

“That is right! It will be enough for the next few years, but does not answer the question about the long-term effect. California, through Governor Brown, is trying to manage groundwater, as are riparian rights, but it will take years before those laws take effect. Meanwhile, groundwater will be pumped up at an excellerating rate, pushing the replenishing date out twenty years by each year before the laws take effect!”   

 To give it some perspective: 1,000 acre/ft of water can quench the thirst and keep 16,000 jobs in the high tech sector, vs. 8 jobs in the agricultural sector. This can be countered by the fact that California has an ideal climate for agriculture. Its soils are ideal as well, but deteriorating in places like the Central Valley due to salination as a result of pumping up water, using it, and contaminating it with fertilizer salts before the remainder settles in the ground again.  Another factor are Reno and Las Vegas, which provide 95% of Nevada’s economy, but use 10% of its water. Most water is used to grow alfalfa..!  "Nevada has no business growing alfalfa," Ben concluded.

“So,” Theo surmised: “For better water management, should cattle be raised in the East and Mid-West, and ship beef out to California? California is already shipping out water to China in the form of almonds!” 

Theo and Ben were discussing the water issues for California. They figured that in the short-run, nobody in California is going to worry about water shortages. The drought, still existing in the Los Angeles area, is decreasing in size as the rains continue to come. “For California we should be talking about short-term and long-term drought,” Ben surmised. Theo could not argue with that. The short-term drought is over for 2017 through 2018. In the middle of February (2017) everybody is still concerned about levees, dams, roads flooding out, land-slides, leaks, etc. After the winter, sometime in April, when the state will take inventory, should we look at the long-term drought, which will never end for California? California is still driving the water guzzling Cadillac. It is time to look for a more efficient operating vehicle. Maybe it is time to look for the ideal operating water system. Here are some rules: 

  1. It should not reduce natural habitat any further.
  2. It should gradually do away with special water “rights” such as the Central Valley cheap water. Water costs should be more equally shared. 
  3. Identify the current rights of various water districts. Compare those to other water districts and users. 
  4. Ground water rights needs to be managed as are the riparian rights.   
  5. What needs to be done to separate water rights from money? In other words people with money should have no more rights than the less fortunate or the State and Federal governments. 

That is where Theo and Ben ended their conversation. They were not going to solve the water problems that day...

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1132207 2017-02-17T20:35:01Z 2017-02-17T20:35:01Z The Last Dam in California vs. Water Space in the Netherlands

The New Melones Dam was the last big dam built in California between 1976-79. It was controversial. Environmentalists would reside in the canyon of the Stanislaus River, the deepest limestone canyon in the country, in an attempt to save it. To no avail. In the winter of 1979 the rainfall was enough to fill up the whole canyon for the first time.  With the growing population, increasing industry, and increasing irrigation for cattle feed, this was another must-have project. The Army Corps of Engineers provided the final blow again. Unfortunately the water yield was lower than expected. Even in the wet 2017-18 year, when most of the reservoirs were at 75-90%, the New Melones was only at 30-50%. Most of the rainfall that year fell in Northern California, which the New Melones dam is not part of.   

“Well,” said Theo, “here we have another project, later labeled as: ‘a case study of all that can go wrong with a project’!”  

“Then what is the answer?” Ben asked. 

“Ironically, the whole idea of needing more dams went away, and even existing dams have been, and are, demolished so the salmon can travel freely between the spawning grounds and the sea instead of becoming chopped liver through the power plant pumps,” Theo surmised. 

“And, while the California population keeps expanding?” Ben asked.

“The population has been demanding an accounting of where water was going and increasingly realized that water was really cheap, courtesy of the California and American tax-payer.  If farmers would have to pay the full price, they would not grow tomatoes in the Central Valley, let alone irrigation of cattle feed, which is the most un-economical use of California water,” Theo replied.  

“That sounds like a similar development in the Netherlands,” Ben continued. “We used to see straight canals built, for the convenience of shipping routes. We would build pretty high dikes to keep the water funneled, and be able to expand industry and towns in the area around the canal. In years of extreme storms with high tides, especially during full moon, people around the canals got nervous, hoping the dikes would hold. Then around the end of the 1900’s, beginning of the 2000’s, water management philosophies changed. In places where there was a secondary dike, the main dike was broken, for the water to have an expanded area to flow into, like the Yolo Causeway, along the Sacramento River, in California. Along the big rivers, secondary dikes got reinforced and primary dikes broken for the same reason. In the winter these areas become excess water reservoirs. In the Spring and Summer it becomes grazing land for cows. In the East of Holland, rivers that had been ‘straightened out’, were allowed to meander in their prior river beds again, which allows for expansion of water flows and time for water to percolate back into the ground. This brought back wildlife, like fish and birds, plus plant species that had almost become extinct.”     

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1125449 2017-01-24T00:51:15Z 2017-01-24T00:51:15Z Reflections on Water Management

The experience of water management in California has not been all positive. Some critics have attributed California’s land, water, labor, and environmental problems to “immense centralized institutions” ruled by oppressive bureaucratic elites who have manipulated water resources in their own self-interest. There is some truth to that, but the reality of a war of fragmented authorities contradicts some of that.  “That is confusing,” Theo thought, as he was in the middle of the book: The Great Thirst (page 547). It reminded him of what Senator Wolk had been fighting for, in California. 

She submitted a law, or what she hoped would become law, limiting the drilling of new wells for irrigation. The ground water levels are going down at an alarming rate, especially in the Central Valley. Water consumption in California way outpaces the amount replenished through rainfall and snow, that melts in the Spring and is collected in reservoirs.  California water rights are still based on the old rule that groundwater is accessible to any grower, however deep he has to drill, limited only by economics. Surface water is something else. Only the land owner through whose property a river is flowing, has water rights to that water, as much as he needs. The governor can put limitations on surface water use, but not on ground water consumption for irrigation purposes. Theo had mixed feelings about that. He was fortunate to live in Northern California, where there was enough water for farming operations, but his farm friends in the Central Valley had to rely on a lot of well water. 

The law did not pass, because the Farm Bureau was able to put a stop to it. This was the same Farm Bureau that had been so helpful to Theo over the years.  This issue was going backwards on water consumption in California. There is no all-encompassing program on water consumption and water allocation in California. It is all these “immense centralized institutions” making it impossible to have a uniform water policy. What reasons did the Farm Bureau give for fighting the limits on new wells? They would not say, except give some vague response, like: “Who will grow food for the population, if water was not supplied in sufficient amounts?”  If the farmer had to pay the real price of water, they would not grow tomatoes, plant almond trees, and the like. That land would require other purposes. It reminded Theo about what happened in the Klamath Valley Basin.

The Klamath is the most important coastal river south of the Columbia River for anadromous fish migration. Its salmon, steelhead and rainbow trout have adapted to unusually high water temperatures and acidity levels relative to other rivers in the Pacific Northwest. The numerous fish were a major source of food for Native Americans, who have inhabited the basin for at least 7,000 years. The first Europeans to enter the Klamath River basin were fur trappers for the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1820s; they established the Siskiyou Trail along the Klamath and Trinity rivers into the Sacramento Valley. Within several decades of white settlement, native peoples were forced into reservations. Most human use of the watershed is limited to the upper basin. Despite the semiarid climate, dams have been built, irrigation water has been supplied from the Klamath and Lost rivers, and plentiful groundwater has been drawn to transform most of the upper Klamath Basin to farmland. At least 11,000 years ago, Lower Klamath and Tule Lakes in the rainy season would combine into one giant freshwater marsh that was nearly 290 square miles (750 km2) large. This, combined with the over 100 square miles (260 km2) of Upper Klamath Lake, formed a temporary habitat for millions of migratory birds.[25][26] These lakes are all remnants of a large Ice Age lake, Lake Modoc, that covered about 1,100 square miles (2,800 km2). Although all of the marshlands have been developed with the exception of Upper Klamath Lake,[27] about 3.7 million migrating birds still pass through the watershed each year. (Wikipedia)

The Valley Basin is a semi-arid section of Oregon, that receives relatively little water. Ground water was plentiful, at one time. Farmers, settling there, by the middle of the 20th century were feeling the pressure of an increasing population, and industry needing more water. The area had been known for being the 2nd largest salmon river after the Columbia.  For Indians the land also represented an ancient, sacred, and spiritual inheritance. It became clear that the natural flows would not be enough to satisfy all parties; farmers, Indians, industrialists, and growing population. About every 6-7 years or so, an extreme drought would make it really hard to allocate the water. Volatility between parties became understandable. Farmers succeeded to have the federal government build four power generating dams that helped light up the area, blocking the salmon from swimming up stream to lay their eggs and pumps churning up the fish that came back down the river. Feeder lakes were drained to make arable land. Later the power generators were not needed anymore, but the damage was done. Then in the mid-nineteen fifties, the federal government, as part of its efforts to assimilate the Indians, duped the tribes into selling off their land, leaving them without a home, overlooking one important provision in the 1864 treaty: It allowed tribes to hunt, fish and gather on their former lands. This included retaining their water rights, so the farmers found themselves as second in line. Beyond that, the “sucker fish” had to be protected which caused a lot of small farmers to go bankrupt. 

Theo could imagine the arguments and bad feelings that created among the Valley Basin constituents. You would have a pickup full of teenagers going through town, shouting obscenities at the Indians they encountered, derogatory comments, putting bullet holes through signs in front of businesses. At one point, during a drought, the President allowed the release of water to save the salmon, but it was too late. The water was too warm for salmon to survive. The government tried, but only provided temporary relief, and was too far removed to understand the battles and history of water provisions for Oregon and California. 

Enter Jim Root, a newcomer to the Medford based fruit export business. He bought a farm which had a river running through it, so had one of the oldest water rights available. But that did not exclude him from seeing the water wars and pain around him. He had more water than he needed. The water spread out over his pasture land, was not the most economical use.  Jim’s conscience played a role in deciding to not irrigate for pasture anymore. This provided people downstream access to more water. His decision did not go unnoticed by the Indians, and he gained their respect. Not only the tribe, but also his neighbor, a rancher noticed it and soon the two became friends. They both saw how big the problem of the water shut-off was and they tried to figure out a way to solve it. Thomas, the neighbor, had a good standing with the ranchers and Jim had the respect of the tribe. 

Jim had attended a Rotary International Convention which had generated discussion to attempt to end the Falkland Island war between Britain and Argentina. Jim was intrigued in the way the dialogue was moderated. Rotarians from both sides, listened to each other and talked to their respective governments, which contributed to ending that war. Jim was impressed! It was seventeen years after that convention that Jim Root found himself in the above described situation. He wanted to give all sides an opportunity to speak, in a safe place. No editors with paper and pencil or cameras! He knew the importance of sharing a meal, where it was a lot more than just eating. When the tribal representatives arrived they suggested an age old plan of putting the tables in a circle, so all would be facing each other. It was their first break-through. Remembering some simple points that were put up at that Rotary intervention report, seventeen years earlier, he put up four bullet points: 

  1. Develop trust.
  2. Actions that consider the entire community.
  3. Balance the flow of water in- and out- of the community.    
  4. Improve water quality considering: “good ecology equals good economy.” 

Jim would ask for facts, and wrote those down for everyone to see. The initial goal was to meet from 8-noon, but by lunch time there was so much energy in the room, that he decided to have the place serve up some sandwiches and salad, so they could continue for awhile. “Awhile” ended up to be a full eight-hour meeting! The meetings became a weekly event. People felt free to get up and take a stretch, there would be rest periods when informal conversations would take place. Even if someone had to vent, they vented, that was ok. There were local events, like the potato festival, where the tribe offered to cook the salmon. The ultimate was this question posed by a farmer’s wife:

“What would it mean,” she asked the then Klamath Chairman foreman, “if somebody just said they were sorry?”

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1122812 2017-01-13T04:59:51Z 2017-01-13T04:59:51Z Global Warming vs. Global Warming

Ben drove up, and saw Theo inspecting his tomato field. It was the second planting, which they had just been finished thinning, and about ready of another irrigation. The plants were big enough now, to where Theo did not sprinkle anymore, but ran water in every other grove between the beds. It was the end of March and they had just a sprinkle of rain, which did not amount to anything.

 “Well,” said Theo, “global warming is making itself known; we didn’t have much rain this season.”   

“Really,” Ben replied, “and what is the definition of global warming?” 

“That includes a lot of things. The way the ice caps are melting, sea levels are slightly but continuously rising, and what we humans add to the equation from our pollution, like CO2 and other greenhouse gasses.”

“Oh,” Ben replied, “you mean the melting of the ice caps and current increase of the oceans is due to us polluting?” 

“Listen to this, Theo replied: Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”  

“Oh yea, that is based on computer models in which the more recent and more sophisticated data is extrapolated over hundreds or even thousands of years prior! I’m not saying that global warming is not taking place. The Dutch are very aware of it as they see the sea level inching up and the below-sea-level ground sinking, just as is happening in the Central Valley. They are getting scared of having to raise the dikes all the way around,” Ben responded all in one breath. He went on: “here in the USA, global warming, also called climate change, I believe, is so heavily impregnated with CO2 expulsion created by carbon discharge of the use of carbon fuels and greenhouse gasses, emitted by humans. If we control all of that better, that would reduce global warming and the Dutch would not have to worry so much about having to raise the dikes.” 

“So,” Theo replied:  “is it not better to reduce our pollution?” 

“Of course we should control our pollution, but not with the expectation global warming will be controlled,” Ben replied, and went on: “We are sterilizing the earth, reducing the bee population, redirecting water, so Los Angeles can grow bigger, and much natural life gets killed off. For the most part we currently don’t even know we are doing that. Aren’t we learning anything from history?” 

Ben went on to explain that “global warming,” in Holland and much of Europe has an entirely different meaning than in the USA. “In Europe, global warming is seen much more like a long-term process from ice-age to ice-age, which takes place over a much longer period than from the time the first automobile was produced until now. I’ve seen Los Angeles with brown polluted skies during the 1970’s-1990’s. But that has to change through stricter car and industry air pollution legislation. Of course we need to control pollution better, but that is an entirely different story than global warming.”  

“Got to go, we’ll continue this conversation later,” said Theo as he got in his pickup to go and prepare for the next irrigation.

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1119455 2017-01-01T00:01:22Z 2017-01-01T00:06:05Z How to Proceed with my story

 So I started NaNoWrimo, this November 2016. The first day was great. Almost got my 1667 words for the day. The next day got another 500 or so words in. Then, about November 8 I went dry, but let me backtrack. I am pretty good at setting parameters, the historical setting, and what I call, the technical components of my book: A Drop in the Bucket. The parameters are the timeframes, theme, and locations. The timeframes are dictated by the locations and the theme. The theme is water and how it is used in different cultures. The timeframes are determined by what is happening at the various locations. The technical components are what I use in the various locations, and concerns mostly in agriculture, water engineering, floods, precipitation or the lack thereof.

I start with farming and water conditions plus its uses in the Sacramento valley during the 1970s. One of my characters came from Holland, and as the story unfolds, he compares water management in California with water management in Holland. He refers back to the 1953 flood in Holland and how that is managed to this date. In the third phase, his water engineer brother comes over and wants to see the consequences of Katrina in New Orleans, which took place in 2005. He also used to live in Bangladesh, working on water projects there. Notice that all four locations are part of a delta from one or more rivers that culminate and flow into the ocean; different oceans, which in turn dictate how these water flows are affected. 

So far so good. This is where the MS writing group comes in. Each Wednesday we go to Sacramento, have lunch together at the Carlton Senior Center rest home, then go to the library where we write for about 1 ½ hours and read our writings out-loud. Len writes pieces on how MS affects him, and some detective-like stories. John, in Oregon, writes about a theme in what I call exaggerated tale form, but right-on. David often writes light-hearted stories. Harold writes short stories and Irene wrote a very nice piece about her mother-in-law last week. Marise is expanding on her life story, and John can write much to the point about characters. It is all about characters, for each one of the team. That is what I like. That is what I need to flesh out my characters and to make the story more interesting. To make the story a story. I also need some drama such as the mis-use of water policies, policies developed for selfish reasons by its authors. And I need some intrigue, which I notice in all of the other team’s writers. How do I do that? That is where I am stuck. What are the questions I should ask?

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1089506 2016-09-13T03:18:29Z 2016-09-13T03:18:29Z One California, Two Water Philosophies

California started out as a Spanish colony. Spanish law permeated the area; California, Mexico, and all Spanish colonies. Spain developed laws over its history, including those pertaining to water. Spain is a semi-arid country, where water is at a shortage, many years. The main philosophy has always been that all residents shared the royal patrimony in common. “We have ordered that the pastures, woods, and waters be common to the Indies,” proclaimed the monarch in 1541 in a decree reaffirming an even earlier pronouncement, “… and the foregoing shall be enforced where no title or grant of ours orders differently.” To the missions of California, grants of land and water were strictly temporary. Title remained with the crown and missionaries as trustees for the Indians. Civil pueblos  had title to approximately 27 square miles, which became permanent if the residents met certain prescribed requirements, but they could not obtain title to water. Under Spanish law, water in a municipality did not belong to separate individuals, but was passed on from the monarch to the entire community. “Pastures, woods, waters, hunting, fishing, stone quarries, fruit trees, and other privileges shall be for the common benefit of the Spaniards and Indians residing therein.     (Source: The great Thirst, by Norris Hundley Jr.)

When there was a limit of water, Spanish legalisms took on great significance.  Water remained under rule of the Spanish crown. 

Moving forward to 1846, when California was taken over by the USA and two years later gold was found, just outside of Sacramento. The whole philosophy changed. People came in hordes to go for the gold. Those were all free-thinking people, wary of Washington government intervention. They wanted local control, somewhat similar to the Spanish law which acknowledged that land use should be controlled locally as much as possible. But to the new locals that included water rights. Gold diggers need water, but soon water was becoming limited in California, like it always had been in Spain. What about newcomers, who would prospect between you and the water source?  The law did not really address that yet. Soon the locals created their own law: First in time, first in right. That became law, and to this day people in California defend that position. That is why we see two farms side by side; one lush with fruit trees, row crops and big barns, while their neighbor barely gets by with dry farming. One inherited water rights, his neighbor was not as fortunate. 

In later years, California law distinguished between surface water and ground water. Surface water is regulated, but ground water is not. A farmer can dig as deep as he wants to pump water, no matter that such water was not limited to the area under his own land. That is why the Colorado river appears to be providing less and less water. Water gets sucked up by adjoining fields pumping out ground water, which then gets replenished from Colorado river water. 

Today, Governor Brown is trying to control groundwater as is surface water, because the San Joaquin valley is dropping!
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1083002 2016-08-22T00:09:06Z 2016-08-22T00:09:06Z Deep Work

Blacksmithing may not interest you, but the underlying focus on craftsmanship is what attracts you. The blacksmith focusses on his work, hammers where it is needed, re-heats the iron to make it more plyable. You are fascinated by the work that goes into it.

Compare that to going through e-mails. Anybody can do that. Everybody does that. How productive is it? No one really knows because there is no measurement tool. It is like an assembly line. Each time you run out of a part you are instructed to just go to the parking lot and get another piece. You have people going back and forth to the parking lot. It is a lot easier, than having someone figure out what is needed, how much, and by when. The latter is much more efficient, but takes deep thinking, or, as the author Cal Newport names his book: Deep Work

Train your brain to be bored, like when you are playing with the kids with LEGOS all the time. Instead, do you use that time to catch up on your e-mails…? Productive meditation is when you go for a walk and take a challenging math problem with you. When your mind wanders off, bring it back to the problem. Do this for a few months and you’ll get to the point where you can do a lot of mathematics on foot. Boring, but you train your mind and you become more efficient. 

My son would sit there, doing nothing, and his mother would ask: "Isn’t there something you can go and do?" 
“… but I am, I am thinking!”, he would reply. It even goes back further: My mother would get irritated when I tried to fix something and spend an hour or so on it, while it would have been a lot cheaper and easier to just get another one. “Why don’t you do something more meaningful?” I can still hear that ringing in my ears. Sometimes she would have a point, but now I realize that often it was my way of becoming proficient at a task. 

Going through emails can look good in that I get questions answered or meetings organized, but in the end it is not gratifying. Not as gratifying as watching a blacksmith at work. At the same time Deep Work can be boring in that you are not going to have some stimuli in your life for some period of time because you are concentrated on just one thing. If my mother would not have been nagging me, would I have become more proficient in some areas of my life?

Having access to Facebook, your e-mails and other social media keeps you informed and up with your profession, right? It’s all lies.  Press on, and commit to training your ability to focus. It has to be practiced. You need to fight and protect your time to support getting good at something valuable. It also reduces stress and helps you to understand a difficult piece better and quicker. 

Oh, and leave your phone in the car when you get home.
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1081509 2016-08-17T03:47:16Z 2016-08-17T03:47:16Z Are you an Outliner or a Pantser?

Economics has fascinated me for some time. I even started a blog on it, until I came to the conclusion that there are hundreds of blogs about economics. I started to focus more on "water", driven by the drought I encountered, upon return to California in 2009. But just writing about the drought, or "water" in California was also a subject that was overdone, and only of interest to Californians. Other states in the country heard about the drought, but could not grasp its intensity. Even in California people felt it was not that bad and could be legislated out of existence, if the government would get their act together. 

The waterway from the harbor of Rotterdam to the North Sea. Rotterdam used to be world's largest port for many years.

I like the big picture, so decided to incorporate economics, politics, geography, history, and culture into the equation. But to what could I compare it? The first thing that came to mind was how water is managed in Holland (the Netherlands). First there was the Afsluitdijk, a dike built across the Zuider Sea in 1932, making it a lake. Then we had the big flood in 1953 and how after that plans were solidified more quickly to protect the country from it happening again. Then there was hurricane Katrina in the Mississippi delta in 2005, just as Holland is a delta. My brother, who was a water engineer, put projects together in Bangladesh, which is a humongous delta where the snow melt from the Himalayas streams into the ocean.

So here is how my story is developing now: 

Theo migrated to Missouri with his family. His dad started a dairy farm in the early to mid 1800's. Theo is the oldest son who would be expected to take over the farm, but is not so inclined. He will move to California, following the gold-rush crowd. Not so much to dig for gold, but to get involved in the politics of water management. His grandson will meet Ben, who immigrated from Holland with his new bride. Ben is also interested in water and the two get together to share notes about water management in California vs. Holland. Ben's brother, Rudolf, visits his brother in California, but is also interested in the ramifications of hurricane Katrina, being a water engineer himself and having worked on rebuilding the dike systems in Holland after the 1953 flood. His company sent him out to Bangladesh to engineer water projects there. He also was sent out to Israel to maintain and raise the levees around the Dead Sea for potassium winning. 

Fascination comes into play, to see how different politics plays out in each of those developments, and how the geography and economics play a role in each. It will become a novel for which I need to develop personal challenges for my characters, yet. 



   Move into action. The note-taking, list making, and research has to end at some point. Your plot comes one of two ways: from outlining or from diving directly into the writing and engaging in a process of discovery. Either way, you’ve got to start getting words onto the page.

Are you an Outliner or a Pantser?

You know what an Outliner is. Pantsers are the opposite. They write by the seat of their pants, by process of discovery. Like Stephen King, they try to put interesting characters in difficult situations and write to find out what happens.

Let the fun begin with whichever style fits you best. It may take some experimenting, but most novelists are one or the other. Neither is right or wrong, and whichever one you are, at times the other seems preferable. But pick one and run with it.

Outliners carefully map out the story before they write the first word, sometimes even developing a detailed plan for each scene. They find they can’t write a novel any other way.

Dostoyevsky wrote eight outlines of The Idiot, changing his conception of the story dramatically each time. Henry James wrote detailed scenarios of his novels before he began his first drafts; his scenario for The Ambassadors ran 20,000 words.

Pantsers believe that if they can be surprised, delighted, disappointed, horrified, or moved in the course of writing, the reader will be too. I happen to be a Pantser. author: Jerry Jenkins

I have referred to "Outliners" and "Pantsers" before. The above quote is from Jerry Jenkins Fiction Jumpstart course.

These are the basic two forms a writer uses, depending on his / her personality. I think I am also a "Pantser". My characters develop as I write, and as I "need" them to make a flowing story. Theo's personality comes from the Dutch book Soldaat van Oranje's main character. When I wrote my first book, my memoirs, I used more of an outline writing it in chronological order. 

Let me ask you again:


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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1077750 2016-08-01T03:52:23Z 2016-08-01T03:52:24Z Onze Groote Rivieren

All white area would have been sea without dikes

Onze Groote Rivieren, by Dr. Jac. P. Thijsse. What does that mean? Only a Dutchman (or woman) would understand. A Dutchman, younger than, say 25 years, may not know the whole story of what it means, but will understand the title of the book, at least. 

Onze Groote Rivieren, translated into English is: Our Big Rivers. Maybe Our Large Rivers fits better, as opposed to the smaller rivers in the delta of which Holland is comprised. When you talk to a Dutchman and ask “Which are your large rivers?”, he probably understands you but not with the same feeling, or emotion, as if you would have asked it in Dutch. The word large, or groote, in itself can mean anything, but in this setting, Dutch geography and history give it a special meaning. Also the spelling dates the title of the book. A 25-year old may point out that the spelling is outdated: We now write “grote” with one “o". Just like when we talk about the gold rush in California. There have been many gold rushes, but this one has its own meaning to Californians and Americans in general. If we say “goud trek”, the Dutch translation, you would get a blank stare and need to explain further what you mean. If the Dutchman knows you are from America, he may make a stab at guessing. 

We can describe stories about how water is pictured in various cultures in different translations. We can describe the water engineering principles and why certain ones apply in one situation, but other principles in another.  But then there are the historical and cultural issues behind it. We may know how to funnel a river to meet the objectives, but what kind of safety features have to be implemented to funnel that river in the right direction? What are the economical implications? Or are there more pressing survival issues to address? Take Bangladesh, for example: It depends on the sediments that come down with the run-off from the Himalayas, flooding the delta, in order to maintain world’s most productive rice production. Should those floods be dammed in for the safety of a town, when those floods redirect the water trajectory?   

Then there is the author: Dr. Jac. P. Thijsse. A young person in Holland may remember that name from their history class, and that he was a well-known author about nature and biology, especially plant biology, in the early 20th century. In 1938, when this book came out, most of the current water technologies that have been implemented, were only a dream. 
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1071379 2016-07-10T03:50:06Z 2016-07-10T03:50:07Z Putting your toe in the water

We all know the story of Joshua leading the Israelites into the promised land, but were stopped at the turbulent Jordan River. God promised for them to make it into the promised land and commanded Joshua to step into the river. Just imagine: Joshua and some others stuck their toes into the water. Nothing happened. Then they went ankle deep. Still nothing happened. They got to their waist and could not really go further without the risk of being swept away. Then the water started to build upstream, so they kept on walking. By now the rest of the Israelites were probably reluctantly following, as the water dammed up all the way. 

When we want to accomplish something, we have to start somewhere to get going.                                         Just “preparing” is not good enough! 

I started to develop a character for my first chapter of the book: A Drop in the Bucket, by using the main character in Soldaat van Oranje (see previous blog).
  1. I needed a name. I wanted him to live around 1800 in order to make him a character going to California during the gold rush. So I Googled names used in the 1800’s.  
  2. I needed for him to live somewhere. I chose Missouri, since that was from where the gold rush trek started, and decided to put him in a farm setting. 
  3. I listened to Jerry Jenkins podcast interview with Brandilyn Collins. Brandilyn compared creating fiction characters with those created in theatre setings. She gave some great examples of how to develop realistic characters. 
  4. Then I started writing: putting my toes in the water… 
  5. Several other characters emerged: Theo had two brothers and at least a sister, so they too needed a name. Those, or some of them, might develop yet as well in my story. I also need to check out what crops were planted at that time, the economy, and how water was used in Missouri.

What is your next step ... to put your toe in the water?

Here are a few paragraphs:
He was just cleaning up the milk buckets, adding some hay to the feed trough, looking out over the flat landscape of Missouri. His father’s dairy farm was a challenge, but Theo learned a lot! His dad was not the easiest person, demanding a good job be done. Every day it became routine to milk the cows twice a day, feed them, or send them out to pasture in the spring and summer.  Next, get ready for school, saddle his horse or get the buggy ready if he had to take his brothers and sisters as well. Mom would have a hearty breakfast ready and then it was off to school.
Would Theo be looking over those fields for the rest of his life? There was plenty to do and he would be very capable of taking over from his dad, should the time come. Maybe his dad even expected it?  Owen, the neighbor boy, who was about as old, was clearly expected to take over the farm, but Theo’s dad kind of left it up to him. Did he secretly hope Theo to take over? Caleb, the next one down probably never would, but then there’s Emmett who might.
“Hey Theo, you’re ready?” Emmett would holler across the barn shaking Theo back to reality. It was a nice Missouri spring day, so getting to school shouldn’t be a big deal. Mom had the eggs ready with the ham from the hog they had butchered about a week ago. Hattie had made some nice bread the day before, and there was plenty of strawberry jam yet from last summer. It could be tough living in Missouri, but life was pretty good on the farm, Theo thought.
This day Theo took the buggy. All of the McDermott kids would go together. Theo put the horse to the buggy and off they went. It was about a ½ hour ride to town, first down their driveway, then following a hard packed sandy road. It was wide enough for oncoming traffic to pass and there was a walking path along the road as well.
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1066951 2016-06-25T04:29:30Z 2016-06-25T04:52:53Z Soldaat van Oranje

Soldaat van Oranje is a play going on its six’s year. Go figure: 2-3 shows a week 50 weeks a year and still sold out after 5 years straight! Only if you know Dutch can you understand it fully. Otherwise maybe 50%? The theatre is located in a hangar on an air force base. The theater seats about 2,500 people. The audience sits on a big platform that turns toward the following scene. Sometimes the platform turns a full 360 before settling onto the next scene to emphasize drama.

The play takes place, starting with a student rag of the Minerva Society at the Leiden University in the year 1938. Leiden University is like the Yale of Holland. Minerva is a society of students, mostly from prominent families. Either their parents, an uncle or aunt attended there before them. It becomes clear that something is brewing in Germany with this Hitler guy coming to power. 

May 10, 1940, the Germans invade the Netherlands, despite their assumption that Holland would remain neutral again as it did in WW I. The Germans get too much resistance, so they bomb Rotterdam, and that brings the Dutch to their knees. Each student reacts different to this situation. There are the strong minded ones who already know they will resist, those whose parents join the Nazi regime, the weaker ones not knowing what they can do, and so on. 

                                                        "If not us, then who?"

The main character with some of his friends, figure out to get to England across the North Sea and convince the Dutch government, which had fled there, that they need radio equipment for the underground. They make like 27 trips across the North Sea before they get caught, some of them killed by the Germans, others who walk over to the enemy.

In the end, the queen returns to Holland. The scene takes place with a real DC-3 sitting on the turmac just outside the hangar, propellers turning, when the queen sets foot again on national soil. 

Why am I telling you all this?

A week after returning from Holland, the scenes passed by again and all of a sudden i connected it to the book that I want to write. I still need characters! Why not include characters of a strong will, like the main character in the play? One statement he made early on, was:
“If not us, then who?” 
He referred to what they could do to defeat the enemy; to be able to continue their studies, to be free! They tried to cross the North Sea in a dingy, but didn’t get very far. Next he figured out how to get on a fishing boat to get across, and they made it. After crossing 27 more times, he and his friend got awarded by the queen for their courage. He became known as Soldaat van Oranje, or Soldier of Orange in English. Soldier because of what he did, Orange because that is what the color the Dutch Royal family stands for. 

What if one of my main characters would come from a prosperous farm in Missouri, but knew he would be bored if he stayed there? Instead, he wants to join the people going after the gold rush in California. He would not necessarily “strike gold and live happily ever after”, but would go through the process of gaining water right laws for processing the gold. Then I can show how those laws are still on the books today, resulting in one farm able to grow any crop they want and the neighbor having to lay his land fallow due to lack of water. 

How about you? What are you excited about? What is driving you?
How did something that made an impression on you, as did Soldaat van Oranje for me, affect your progress? 
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1051177 2016-05-15T02:43:52Z 2016-05-15T02:43:52Z Why Raja didn’t go to school

When the Americans came to town, the first thing they noticed was the lack of kids being in school, especially girls. They figured kids needed an education in order to get ahead in their future. This was in Pakistan, but also in Niger and Zambia Americans saw the same thing. They tried to raise support in America so schools could be built in Pakistan, Niger, Zambia and many other places, especially on the African continent. They built the schools but many girls would not come to school. Or they would come to overcrowded classes and not really learn anything, so their parents took them out. They were far more productive helping on the farm. 

In Niger the boys worked in the fields and the girls had to make hours-long trips to get water. Niger is over 80% Sahara desert.  These basic jobs kept kids out of school. Water was desperately needed at home. On their way to the pump, the girls passed by the big houses with running water. So, water was accessible, but only to the priviledged. The girls were struck by the opulence for the rich and poverty of the rest, like them. These economic gaps triggered frustration and anger among the poverty stricken. We think about economic aid or education required to have the basics, but more basic is the provision of water. 

The lack of water, or inequality of water distribution triggers tribal or religious conflicts. Rival factions will use water as a weapon. Maybe they blow up a water line, for instance. Then, Raja and her friends have to travel farther to get water for their families.

It is under those circumstances that Americans start to see that each community needs individually designed systems. Having to go after that water, kept the boys and girls away from school. This in turn kept them from getting ahead economically. Economic improvements don’t come like magic. 

One time, Ben was in England, helping out with soccer camps for children. He stayed with a doctor from Nigeria. Nigeria was poor. The doctor explained that it was not for a lack of water. There was plenty of that, but what happened to the crops storage facilities? What about the roads those crops had to be transported over? There was no upkeep because of corrupt governments.

Raja cannot go to school now, because she has to carry water. She had to carry water because waterlines were blown up. Waterlines were blown up because people were angry about the inequality of water distribution. The inequality of water distribution was in part, the result of government corruption: Officials took care of themselves. They had houses with running water. Those were among the houses Raja and her friends passed on the way to, you guessed it: get water. 
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1049147 2016-05-10T03:51:45Z 2016-05-10T03:51:46Z California Water Management

Folsom Lake

The Sacramento area got almost 4” of rain in the foothills on this February day in 2016! That happens more often, but this time it was so welcome because California has been in a drought for 5 years. The news media have been telling us that we need to conserve water. Governor Brown even demanded a 25% reduction every month based on the 2013 water use, so the media duty fully reported the actual reductions each month. For the month of February (2016) it was 24.6 %, just below the required 25%.

“But who cared, we were getting some rain and snow now so we can cheat a little, right?” Ben thought.

 As Ben was watching the news with his friend Paul, it showed the huge Folsom Dam with water spilling over two of the spillways and the newscaster saying two more spillways would be opened later that day.

 “How can they do that?” Paul fumed.  “Here we are in the drought, and they are wasting all that water. What are they thinking?”

 The newscaster was prepared for that question and resumed:“ We have people calling in asking why they are releasing so much water in this drought season; we’re only at 83% of average precipitation!”  He went on: “Folsom Lake is filling up fast and if we don’t release water now there will be no room left for the snow melt come this spring.”  It takes 10x more time to release the same amount of water, than it takes to fill Folsom Lake with a couple of 3-4” rainfalls. 

“How could Lake Folsom fill up so fast with an average of 83% precipitation to-date, when only a few months ago the lake was literally just about empty?” Ben thought. “If the lake fills up this fast, and we got very little snow and rain in February, we are way short of storage capacity!” Ben couldn’t believe he said that, because a week ago he was still thinking: Just because the lakes are filling up does not mean we are out of the woods yet, concerning the drought.

 “Didn’t we read just a few weeks ago that even if we got 100% of the required precipitation, California would still be short because there are aquafers to be replenished yet?” Paul lamented.  “How did we do it before this drought season? They must have been releasing at least as much water, then.”

 “Then nobody worried about not having enough water after the winter,” Ben replied.

 Ben changed his mind and believes we actually are behind in building dams.  Before, he thought that more dams wouldn’t make any difference; that all it would do is increase our consumption and there never would be enough water in California anyway. Now he realizes that those reservoirs fill up so fast that a few more will be very helpful. 

Ben’s son recently told him that the release program of water is based on outdated information. That information was valid years ago when there was plenty of rainfall and more water had to be released to make room for snow run-off. Now that we use more water, the program has to be updated, but that will become a story for another time.

It’s all just a drop in the Bucket. 

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1045165 2016-05-03T02:17:08Z 2016-05-03T02:17:09Z The Scroll

Far into adulthood I automatically assumed that my English was just average, like no more than 8th grade level. I came to that conclusion because I went to Jr. High school in Caracas, Venezuela. It was an American school where English was the common language. After eighth’s grade my family returned back to Holland where I attended Dutch schools. English was one class I was good in. I always knew the answers without the grammatical instruction given by the teacher. I was just fluent, so got straight A’s. I did not learn anything new, and I didn’t pay much attention to the grammar lessons. 

As an adult, many of my writings / reports were criticized, including grammatical errors. I automatically assumed that I only had 8th grade level English, so probably never would be any good in writing. I did not distinguish between asking someone for reviewing my writing for improvements, and pure grammar. I blamed my struggle in college, on not having been brought up in the Dutch secondary school system, which is far more rigorous than the American school system. I blamed / contributed getting criticized for my writing in my career, to the fact that I did not pay attention to English grammar beyond eight’s grade.

Fast forward to 2012-13 when we took a writing class where I got serious in writing and became aware that I could write. Even to the point that I took our teacher serious when she titled her last class: “finish your book…!” It was a class where we were taught how to write our life story.

The scroll started to unroll…

I ended up writing and having my life story printed in book form. That felt gooood, holding that book in my hands! The purpose of the book was for my grand children to learn more about their past. It turned out to be more than that. I passed a copy around in my bike club and soon a list developed so those interested could read it. I got a lot of positive comments.

Next I started blogging. I learned a bit from my daughter and son-in-law about that. Then I took a course from Michael Hyatt (Get Published), and next from Jerry Jenkins (Jerry's Guild), as I described in my previous blog. 

The scroll unrolled some more...

Simultaneously, I am following Rick Warren’s sermons about dreams and how those can turn into goals. That all sounds very good and well, but it is still so mechanical. What is it all based on? I say it is based on a world vision that everybody has, consciously or unconsciously. What is yours?

My world vision is that God exists, and that the Bible is His Word. You may have a different world vision, but you have to start somewhere.
We all have dreams. Where do those come from? That depends on your world view.
What have you always wanted to do? What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
When we put a date on our dream it becomes a goal. Goals require faith!
I will … by …December 31, 2016.  How do you know that?

How big should my goal be? That depends on the next question: How much time do you have? Do you want to accomplish your goal in one year? You can only do so much in a year. If you have ten, fifteen years, then you can dream BIG, and set bigger goals.
We over-estimate what we can do in a year and under-estimate what we can do in 10, 15 years. That became clear to me when I sat down with my financial planner recently, as to what my financial future will look like, given certain parameters. One of those parameters was age. He assumes I will reach 90 and calculated my financial needs accordingly. Ninety??? All of a sudden it hit me: that is 17 years away yet, but not impossible since both my parents reached 90! 

The scroll is unrolling some more, again… 

Now I want to write this novel. Just because my dream seems impossible, is not a reason to give up. 
Behold the turtle: he only is willing to take risks when he sticks his neck out.    Rick Warren
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1040189 2016-04-26T04:12:56Z 2016-04-26T04:26:45Z A Leap of Faith

A dream? Yes, but to make it a goal, a reality, it needs a deadline. That deadline is now set: December 31, 2017. But there is more to this…! 

This is how my last blog ended. When we set goals, and put a deadline on it - making the dream a goal by definition - isn’t that a leap of faith? Why December 31, 2017? Why not December 31, 2016? This goal did not just come falling out of the sky.

1. Start Writing

In 2012-13 Marise and I followed a writing class about writing your life story, held at the Senior Center on the South-East end of Woodland, California. We got a writing assignment each Thursday afternoon, then sign up to read it in class the next week and receive a critique from the teacher and fellow students. We also had to listen to a reading by the teacher of a good book - Sonia Sotomayor’s life story - wherein we were to listen for well written passages. We attended a second semester, sub-titled: "Finish your book!" It was not until  2015 for me to complete and have printed: Five Cultures Later, a life story. It was a dream-come-true, to feel a copy of that book in my hands!  

2. Get Training

I started to follow Michael Hyatt in July 2014, and signed up for: Platform University on September 11, 2014. There I learned what WordPress stood for, the definition of a blog, the use of several apps, such as Evernote, DayOne for journaling, getting a logo from 99Designs, and his course: Get Published. In the Get Published course i had to write out a book proposal , which I did, even though I still have to write the book! 

3. My Weekly Planning Habits since 2000

So I wrote a book proposal for editors, but still have to write the book. This is Habit 2: With the end in mind, from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , by Stephen Covey. I do not have a good ending yet for my book, but for the most part my book proposal is written:

4. How Do You Write a Novel? 

Since January 23, 2016, I follow The Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild (author of the Left Behind series); a course on writing. Here I am learning what a novel entails and how to go about it. Following him, makes me realize that I have a long ways to go. I am just at the beginning. That is why I set the deadline a year later. Developing characters is my next task. As I write, the story is developing, and I expect to come across the ending somewhere along the line. 

 Jerry Jenkins explains that there are basically two kinds of novel writers: Those who have an outline, meticulously defining every scene or at least the chapters, and those who go and develop a story on the run. I belong to the latter. So far I have developed two characters and a third one is emerging. I do not even know the ending yet. You, the reader can be part of this development. Here, I will write episodes which will become a chapter of the book. Go to fivecultureslater.org (just google it…!) and read some of the previous blogs to get an idea of where this novel is headed.

So, there you have it. I have read many how-to websites, books, and newspaper articles. The how-to’s can be sterile, but as I look back over the above stages, those how-to steps come alive. Whether it is writing a book or any other dream you want to see come true: 
1. Realize that you probably are already on the way. 
2. Identify those steps to establish a starting point. Where are you now? 
3. Then set a deadline. 
Scary, and what happens if you don’t get your dream accomplished by your deadline? Adjust it, and keep at it! 
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1036293 2016-04-18T22:55:16Z 2016-04-19T04:25:47Z a Dream + a Deadline = a Goal

What is your dream? What are your dreams? One of my dreams is to write a book about water.

“Water," you say?
“Yes, Water!"

Having lived in five cultures, five years or more in each, I have seen how water is used, misused, how a culture thinks about water, affected by whether there is too much water or not enough, and how old that culture is. Not only that, but how does a culture deal with its water politically? Geographically? Culturally? Financially? So often we read articles in the newspaper about water issues, but they are very narrow minded and short-term oriented. A politician has a great idea, but it will turn out to be very limited, exclude consequences, and the politician will be long out of office before the short-term benefits have run out!

California has had five years of drought. Its reservoirs were almost empty around Oct-Nov. 2015. Yet the law required those reservoirs to continue to release water to sustain the natural habitat, protect almost distinct species, and prevent the concentration of chemicals in the water. In December, January and March enough water fell in the form of rain and snow, especially in Northern California, that by the end of March 2016 the reservoirs were full, or at least up to average as had not been seen for the last five years! “Full", to the extend, that enough space is required to remain for the coming snow run-off from the Sierra Nevada mountains. For the first time in years, complaints surfaced as to why all of a sudden so much water is released from Shasta Lake, the Yolo Bypass had to be opened up again after four years of seeing nothing, and the ground water levels are still way down, depleted over the past five years, causing the Central Valley to sink several inches per year?

In the past, multiple spillways would release water, to allow for snow run-off and potential further precipitation space, to raise the level. Nobody questioned it. It can take ten times as long for the same amount of water to be released, as it takes to fill up a reservoir with only a few rains of 2-4” at a time. Now, that we’ve had five years of drought, people notice it, report it in the news, when extra spillways are opened to release more water.

What about the flood of 1953 in Holland? Many people died, a lot of destroyed property, big cities like Rotterdam were threatened. It took about 50 years before those damages were repaired and the country had a reasonable level of security again. Fisheries in the province of Zeeland, between the islands, got wiped out. People in that industry had to be re-schooled into other jobs. Areas had to be created for excess water during the winter when the Rhine and Meuse rivers bring down tremendous amounts of water that cannot be channeled within the river dikes. The oceans are rising. The North Sea has been steadily rising over the past 40 years, which means dikes need to be raised.

What about Katrina? Everyone in the USA understands that word: “Katrina”. Every hurricane each year gets a name starting with the first letter of the alphabet. Katrina was the 11th hurricane in 2005, that just about swept New Orleans off the face of the earth! People were not prepared. They get so many hurricanes on the East and South coast of the USA, that Katrina was just another one, maybe a bit stronger, but “we can handle it,” was the attitude. 

What about the drinking water shortages in Africa, today? Rotary International has as one of its goals through the Foundation, to support water projects. We cannot simply send a couple of pumps to Africa, as we use here! Who will maintain them? Where will the spare parts be stored? Where will the power come from to run those pumps?

Along Hwy.1 which winds its way along the Pacific Ocean, you now find warning signs about the level of Big Sur State Park:
  Tsunami danger
Those signs were not there before the Tsunami hit the Japanese atomic plant along the coast, or the tsunami that hit the island of Sumatra in Indonesia! Have Tsunamis all of a sudden become a threat along the California coast, from the time when the California Missions were built - between, 1769 and 1823, along what is now Hwy 1  - and now?

We have to look at the big picture, at all aspects of water. That is what I dream to write about. It will be in the form of a novel. A novel needs characters, and a story line. It needs a title. The title that's emerging is:
  A Drop in the Bucket. That is the name of this blog. The blog is to help flesh out the story. You can follow this blog on:  
                    fivecultureslater.org    ( ... google it! )
A dream? Yes, but to make it a goal, a reality, it needs a deadline.   That deadline is now set: December 31, 2017
But there is more to this...

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/1030541 2016-04-13T03:42:57Z 2016-04-13T04:06:39Z Dreaming

Dreaming is a nice past-time. It doesn’t hurt you but gives a nice sensation. The question is, what to do with it. You dream you don’t have MS. You dream about a vacation in Hawaii. You dream about blogging, or writing a book. All good ideas. It is where ideas start. 

They get ruined because you have to finish your taxes, or the yard really need mowing. You promised to …; just fill in the blank. Writing a book is a big endeavor, but writing a newspaper article is do-able in a short time. It also is writing, right? It will help you fine-tune your skills.

Think of it as a triangle: on the left are the daily tasks such as washing the dishes, mow the lawn, take a shower, etc. On the right are the more like-able things such as writing a story for the newspaper, or a poem. At the top is what you really want: writing that book, but when do you have time for that?

A dream without a deadline will never come about! A dream with a deadline is a goal. You need faith to set that goal! What if you don’t make it by the deadline? So it goes all around in circles. How do you determine when to finish the book? In six months? A year? Two years? What faith do you need?

Very simple: set your goal for a year or two years. Based on what? Does not matter. I made that up! A novel starts with the main character charting a course, then he or she encounters all kind of challenges and at the peak there is no way out. Now what? Guess what: the author figures it out, our hero finally accomplishes the intended purpose. Isn’t that what movies are made of? If it is a good story, our main character develops character and learns from each challenge on the way. 

You dream you will be without MS one day. Maybe that is not a realistic goal, especially if you are 70 or older, but you can make life easier by adapting and asking your neurologist for help with side effects. But your goal has to be just out of reach, otherwise there is no challenge to it. Why get out of bed every morning? If you don’t have a goal you will stay the same; it is a status quo. Most of what we do requires no faith. If you aim at nothing you are certain to hit it. Plans give you hope. What kind of hope?

Watching a TV show every day may not be a good idea, because where will it lead to? Will you remember it a month from now? It is just not worth doing. Many things are not worth doing. We set goals too low and try to accomplish them quickly. Reach for the moon, but you may only reach the fence post. It is the journey.

The bottom line: A goal is a dream with a deadline.
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/969117 2016-01-12T03:52:32Z 2016-01-12T18:11:25Z Water for Food Production

                                       Almond trees blooming in the Capay Valley, Northern California

In my last chapter I gave an example of how water is used in a tomato cannery. This time, let's look at the bigger picture how water relates to food production, worldwide.

According to FAO data for 2015, almost 800 million people globally are undernourished. Insufficient daily calories and proteins means that they go to bed hungry. And this is without counting those who are not necessarily falling short in terms of the quantity of food but are not being adequately fed in terms of the quality of food. I know, these numbers are estimates, difficult to measure. We should, therefore congratulate FAO who developed methods for the measurement and is making sure this issue does not completely disappear from political agendas. 220 million of the undernourished people live in Sub-Saharan Africa, this is more than 23% of its total population.                                                                                                                                  (Food and water security Nov 26, 2015  Peter Brabeck-Letmathe   Chairman of the Board at Nestlé S.A.)

Brabeck-Letmathe goes on and states that: The inexcusable fact is that today the world is producing more than enough basic food to feed everybody.

There is a disproportionate distribution of food in today’s world. He goes on and gives some reasons; one of the main ones being:

Mainly as a result of the high water requirements to produce our food, we are already withdrawing 20% more water than what is sustainably available (Defined as natural renewal minus needs for environmental flows in specific watersheds) – mostly at the expense of nature. By 2030, if there is no change in the way we manage water, withdrawals will exceed sustainable supply by more than 60%. In 30% of the main cereal-producing regions of the world, water withdrawals will be even twice as high as sustainable supply. The buffers we have - underground aquifers and lakes - are quickly drying up. The long and short of it is that within some 15 years a massive food production crisis with massive food shortfalls is highly probable. 

Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, Twente Water Centre, University of Twente, the Netherlands, writes:
Water management is no longer an issue restricted to indi­vidual countries or river basins. Even a continental approach is not sufficient. The water footprint of Europe – the total volume of water used for producing all commodities con­sumed by European citizens – has been significantly externa­lized to other parts of the world. Europe is for example a large importer of sugar and cotton, two of the most thirsty crops. Coffee is imported from countries such as Colombia, soybean from Brazil, and rice from Thailand. European consumption strongly relies on water resources available outside Europe. How is Europe going to secure its future water supply? China and India are still largely water self­-sufficient, but with rising food demand and growing water scarcity within these two major developing countries, one will have to expect a larger demand for food imports and thus external water demand. Water is increasingly becoming a global resource.

Although in many countries most of the food still originates from the country itself, substantial volumes of food and feed are internationally traded. As a result, all countries import and export water in virtual form, i.e. in the form of agricultural commodities.

A good example closer to California is the export of almonds, mainly to China:                                                                      From 2012 to 2013, China imported more than 94,428 tons of almonds from California, making it the largest export market destination for California almonds for the fourth year in a row, according to the Almond Board of California. Export volume of almonds from the US to China increased from 10,000 tons in 2002 to 100,000 tons in 2010, with shipments doubling in the past six years. 
Waycott said he didn't expect future almond sales in China to grow as quickly as they have over the last five years, but the long-term opportunity for growth in China was still very significant.  "From the 94,428 tons today, we could easily be doubling or tripling that in the years to come. We see a very promising future in China," he added.      By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily USA) 

As those of you in California are aware, the almond crop is growing exponentially, in leaps and bounds! More and more almond orchards are planted. California prides itself on the great crop and export, but has anyone looked at it from a “virtual water export” point of view as described by Professor Hoekstra?

The virtual­ water concept was introduced by Tony Allan when he studied the possibility of importing virtual water (as opposed to real water) as a partial solution to problems of water scarcity in the Middle East. Allan elaborated the idea of using virtual ­water import (coming along with food imports) as a tool to release the pressure on scarcely available domestic water resources. Virtual­ water import thus becomes an alternative water source, alongside endogenous water sources.
(Food and water security Nov 26, 2015  Peter Brabeck-Letmathe)

The water footprint of a product (a commodity, good or service) is the volume of fresh water used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced. It refers to the sum of the water used in the various steps of the production chain. The ’water footprint’ of a product is the same as what at other times is called  its  ’virtual  water  content’
Table  1  shows  the water footprint for a number of common food items:

So, with California’s drought situation, should almond orchards be increased to supply China and India?

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/964318 2016-01-05T19:28:46Z 2016-01-05T19:28:47Z Water Properties Used to make Tomato Paste

Water has so many properties and functions which we take for granted. Ben thought of using a tomato cannery as an example to look at all the different ways water is used in the process.

Tomatoes are harvested into two big gondolas, one on each trailer. This goes back to the late sixties before tomatoes ever could be harvested into larger containers than a crate without getting all crushed. Especially the University of California - Davis (UCD) was very involved with developing varieties that would provide firmer fruit and could be harvested all at one time, instead of the time-proven method of being harvested in stages. Neither could they be plants that needed to be trellised. Ben got into the industry in 1969. By then Jack Hanna was very well known at the University and in the industry. California grows about 95% of canning tomatoes, so his research and development of varieties were mostly geared for California. New harvesters had to be developed which also was heavily researched by the UCD mechanical department. 

Ben’s father and mother came over that summer of 1969, so Ben took his dad to the fields. Being an avid photographer, his dad had his film camera with him. Yamamoto, one of the farmers Ben had contracted with, was suspicious and asked who this person was, filming during the harvest. Mechanical harvesters were still in the development stages, so it might well have been a competitor trying to take pictures of Yamamoto’s harvester. Ben assured Yamamoto that it was his father who wanted to take pictures to show in Holland. At that time tomatoes were harvested into bins which were then loaded onto a flatbed, two rows by 6 bins long.

In the 1980’s, canning-tomato varieties had been further developed and gondolas were tied onto a flatbed and pulled alongside the harvester. There were about 5-6 people on each side of the harvester, to take out green , over-ripe, and blemished, tomatoes, along with any vines that came up with the tomatoes. A truck towed two of those trailers to the cannery where they are staged. The cannery has a few tractors to take the trailers along a channel filled with water. The water is circulated in that channel, or flume. The trailers are pulled onto a tilted pad. They have a little gate on either side, which is opened and a hose of water is used to flush out the tomatoes into the flume. 

  • Water carries the tomatoes toward an elevator, where they are elevated to the next level and dropped in the second flume.
  • Tomatoes are rinsed again in that second flume. they then come onto the next elevator which drops them on a sorting belt where sorters take out any foreign material, like stems, branches, blemished tomatoes missed in the harvester, and even an occasional field-mouse scurrying its way through. After that the tomatoes fall into a crusher to make juice for further processing.
Once the tomatoes are crushed, pectin breakdown sets in, what we want to avoid because the pectin is important to maintain thickness of puree and tomato paste. Especially for puree it is very important to maintain a thick consistency, because that is how quality is measured. To avoid the breakdown, crushed tomato needs to be heated right away. The crushed tomato falls into a tank from which the juice is circulated through tubes surrounded by steam. Where doe the steam come from?
  • Water is used to make steam. The cannery has a set of boilers where steam is created from water. Water is pumped through tubes surrounded by burners, lit by gas or oil. The water gets super hot and turns into steam which is then piped to wherever it is needed; “hot-breaks”, as the tanks are called for the crushed fruit, is one of those places.
Tomatoes consist for 95% out of water. To make tomato puree and paste, the 5% solids of a tomato is concentrated to 12.5% or 24% solids. 
  • Water is evaporated. This can be done several ways. You can crush tomatoes, then let them cook on a stove until enough water is evaporated in the form of steam. This takes a lot of time and reduces the quality of the puree or paste dramatically, plus the color will get very dark. Professionally it is done under vacuum. That way water will evaporate at a much lower temperature. To create a vacuum, steam is used to "suck out" air from a vessel and the tomato mass will evaporate water at a much lower temperature.

The tomato paste is sterile enough, but the can it is put in, is not. The paste would soon spoil. 

  • Water, in the form of steam will sterilize the can and tomato paste. When the paste is put into the can and sealed, the can passes through a sterilizer which consists of a wide slow-moving metal chain belt going through a box with steam injection. The heat creates a vacuum in the can, so a can of tomato paste has a shelf life of more than a year.

                                        CAN YOU THINK OF MORE WAYS WATER IS USED?

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/950189 2015-12-15T05:13:32Z 2015-12-15T05:13:32Z They know who they are

Roland visited his brother, Ben, in California. Roland was making this an “American” trip, in which he included several locations. His first was with Ben and his family. Ben lived just west of Sacramento, and planned a camping trip with his brother to see some sights. He also took the little Sunfish sailboat along, on a trailer behind the car.

Ben had trained his kids how to sail on Folsom Lake north-east of Sacramento, in the ’80’s, when the lake still was full. He taught them what to do if the boat tipped. Trying to tip the boat on purpose turned out not to be that easy. But they succeeded, and gradually lost track of the mast as it slowly turned up-side down submerging in the water, and the hull sticking up. They had to turn the boat, so that the front would be facing the wind, because once they managed to get the mast up again, the wind would be caught in the sail and they did not want to try to tilt up the boat against the wind.

One place Roland and Ben ended up was at Lake Tahoe. This is a very deep lake up in the Sierra Nevada with half of the lake in California and half in the state of Nevada. It is a very well known lake, especially in the winter when it becomes a ski heaven. The winter Olympics have been held there. They launched the boat, but became aware very soon that even at the end of May, the water is still extremely cold. In the sailboat, it was nice, basking in the sun, but you did not want to tip over and end up in the cold water! Neither of them were afraid of tipping over, but the cold water did not attract them to even think about it.

Here they were, Roland and his brother Ben sailing on Lake Tahoe, in a nice breeze with the mountains surrounding them. It was a great day. That afternoon they found a campsite, did their cooking, and had a nice evening by a campfire. They traveled Highway 395 along the Sierra Nevada ridge and found multiple, nice campgrounds.

From California, Roland went to New Orleans. He was especially interested in seeing the results of hurricane Katrina. With his education in dike and dam construction, he wanted to compare the damage done there, in comparison to the 1953 flood in Holland. Not only the physical damage done, but the influence of politics and culture caught his attention. He realized his prejudice as to how the Dutch took care of floods, versus Americans. After all, he knew the background of how the Dutch try to control water, but really not so much about the background in America. He realized that his description about the 1953 flood would appear far more descriptive and fascinating that his description about Katrina, by comparison.
Roland figured he should ask Ben about American culture, since Ben emigrated to California about 25 years ago. What was the culture like in New Orleans? What background should Roland include? In Holland, he knew that protection was so critical, because ⅓ of the country would be under water.

Even Ben had trouble helping! He lived in California. He had read about Katrina, but it was somewhat removed from California, to really understand it. After all, California had its flooding, but that was nothing compared to New Orleans. California dealt more with drought. Even seeing the news about Katrina, or flooding in the Mid-West, did not quite resonate. People in the Mid-West are scared stiff thinking about all the earthquakes in California…! Ben was more afraid of hurricanes he would have to face if he lived in the Mid-West.

It is a challenge to write a story about flooding and drought in different countries, even in different states within a country, and be balanced on both sides of your story. You have to know who you are, to identify your prejudices.

Are you prejudiced about the functions and uses of water?
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/943123 2015-12-04T04:40:31Z 2015-12-04T04:40:31Z Prejudices

Roland realized that he knew far more about the 1953 flood in Holland than the 2005 Katrina flood in New Orleans. Of course he was born and raised in Holland so could identify very well with the culture, history, and language of Holland. He probably has preconceived ideas which he may not be aware of. As he delved into reviewing the 1953 flood, he realized that he could identify very easily with the different aspects, even if in unwritten form. He could not do that with the Katrina flood details. Would he have to go back even to the days of slavery to get a picture of the history in context with that flood? Would he give more credence to what happened in 1953 than the 2005 Katrina flood?

If Roland had lived all his life just in Holland that might have been the case, but as a youth he lived in Indonesia and Venezuela. He finished high school and college back in Holland and spent several years in Bangladesh as an engineer. It is also a delta like Holland and Alabama. Roland had a pretty good idea how to balance the consequences of flooding and the cultural plus historical differences.

     Bangladesh is a country riddled with side arms of the  Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers. 
                                  It is low-lying and thus very accessible to flooding.

When we read books about certain states and countries, or subjects, we assume the author is familiar with those areas geographically and historically, which may not necessarily be true. An author can write much more elaborate about areas or subjects he or she knows very well, but leave out details when writing about other areas on the same subject. Thus it might appear that one area is more attractive or better prepared for conditions such as flooding, just from the description. That in turn can result in cynicism, and an “us” and “them” way of thinking. “We” can do it better than “they”.

The Dutch knew very well where the weak spots were, in 1953. They were much more concerned about Rotterdam getting flooded, than The Hague or Amsterdam. They had predictions as to which dikes could break and not worry about it because the water had to go somewhere, and which were the important dikes to save. Same with the New Orleans flood. The National Geographic ran an article about two years before  the flood, suggesting what could happen and where, in the event of a hurricane. It happened exactly as predicted! (Swain, Christopher. "Then & There." National Geographic Adventure (September 2002), 42-3.)

Each of us comes with a set of assumptions and prejudices, some of which we may not be aware. From there the challenge when comparing topics among different countries. Who is the author? What might he / she favor in one country over another?

  Can you relate to something you read and assumed the author had a balanced view point?
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/939533 2015-11-26T03:00:45Z 2015-11-26T03:00:45Z 1953

Green portions were flooded  (from: de Deltawerken by Hilde de Haan and Ids Haagsma)

Interesting how certain dates or weather patterns will trigger our minds towards the same subject. For example: 9/11 is all I need to say and everyone will know what I’m talking about. Or Katrina, and you all will know I’m talking about the 2005 flood in New Orleans.

1953 is another such trigger, but not for Americans. After Roland had been on vacation in New Orleans and kind of cynically concluded that much of the flooding could either have been contained or construction of subdivisions should not have taken place in certain areas in the first place, he was wondering how the flood in Holland, in 1953 could have been better contained. In other words, Roland kind of presumed that the Dutch were much better at containing the water threats than the Americans. He started with 1953, a date to which every Dutchman can relate, either from experience or the history books in school if he or she did not exist yet in 1953.

Roland himself was about eight years old when that flood on February 1, 1953 took place, but he did not live in Holland at that time. His family had just moved to Venezuela, where his dad was assigned to help direct making Heineken beer. When his family heard about the flood, it was dramatic, but Roland could not exactly visualize it.

After returning to Holland where Roland finished high school and got his engineering degree in water management, specifically about dam construction, he got a better idea about that fateful February 1, 1953 flood. After his vacation to New Orleans recently, he realized that he could relate much better to the 1953 flood, because it was in the country where he was born and raised part of his life; maybe a bit prejudiced? 

New Orleans is also at the mouth of a delta, the Mississippi, just as most of Holland forms the delta of the Rhine and Maas rivers. Roland knew the history of this Dutch delta from his school days. That history goes back to the 1200’s. Since then, documentation about water management had become pretty good. The urgency to maintain control of water is much higher in Holland than around the Mississippi river, because without the dikes and dunes 50% of the country would be under water. Amsterdam would not even exist. Rotterdam would never have been the largest harbor in the world between 1964-2004. About 65% of the Dutch population lives in that below-sea-level area of the country.

Much of the flooded area from Katrina was inhabited for a large part by the poorer black population and only involved a small % of the state. Roland realized that floods were not just a matter of engineering to prevent or manage them, but included political, historical, economic, and cultural issues as well. 
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/937407 2015-11-22T00:27:26Z 2015-11-22T00:27:26Z No dikes, no Amsterdam

About half of Holland lies below the sea level. Cities like Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Volendam, and many more would not exist. That is where more than half of the Dutch population lives!

Rotterdam served as the largest port in the world for 42-years between 1962 and 2004 before it was surpassed by Singapore and Shanghai, in that order. The Rotterdam port is the largest port in the whole of Europe. (AUGUST 11, 2011 BY MI NEWS NETWORK)

After Roland returned from New Orleans, he was determined to go back in history and see how the Dutch fared all those years. Since 1200, the documentation about flooding became more reliable. Every history book mentions the St Elizabeth flood of Nov.18-19, 1421 which formed the Biesbosch; a miriad of water flows among the little islands formed where the Rhine and Maas rivers come together before it all flows out to sea. More floods followed in 1530, 1570, 1574 when dikes were purposely broken to keep the Spaniards from reaching Leiden. In 1775 another one, which created describing meteorological factors in connection with the flood. Others in 1808, 1825, 1894, 1906, 1916, 1944 when Walcheren was bombarded, and the latest flood in 1953.
(from: of Dikes and Windmills, by Peter Spier)

Roland finally got the whole story together about the moon and its correlation to the tides. He knew the basics but did not realize the total effect it had on the Dutch fight against the water. Every 24 hours and 50 minutes the sea level rises and recedes twice into high tide and low tide. This is influenced by the magnetic force of the sun, but even more so by that of the moon. This is the strongest with full moon and new moon, when the sun and the moon are in alignment, and pull simultaneously so high tide is extremely high. That is why there is an extreme high tide and extreme low tide every 14 days. Even the tide differences vary by location. Thus the difference between high tide and low tide in the South-West can be as much as 9 ft., while in the North (Den Helder) it is only 3 ft. It all depends on how much “space” / how deep it is, for water to go. Also the wind can influence the water levels independent from the tides. A Wester storm can really make the water go higher and an East wind will do the opposite.

And that is what happened that fateful day of February 1, 1953!

Roland was almost 9 years old, then, and had left Holland with his family to live in Venezuela, so age plus distance made it difficult for him to visualize the extend of damage done. It was not until the 1970’s when Roland became part of the solution as an engineer fresh out of college, assisting with the Delta Plan to strengthen the dam and dike system in Zeeland and Zuid-Holland provinces, that he started to see the effect. 

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/934805 2015-11-17T04:38:53Z 2015-11-17T04:38:53Z Pisek, Czech Republic and Folsom Lake, California

   In Pisek, I would take walks around town. Each time was a joy, even if it was the same route as previous. I would go down to the river from our apartment on Velké Námēstí and turn along the  Otava river, just before the old bridge; the oldest stone bridge in Czech, and walk along the river on one side and the castle wall on the other side. At the end I would run into the electric generator building.

Písek was the first town in the Czech lands to have permanent electric street lighting. It was installed by the Czech electrotechnician, František Křižík, on 23 June, 1887, who lit several arc lamps in the town centre. A year later, the street lighting was extended and the provisional traction engine drive was replaced with a power plant (the first in the Czech lands) built by the citizens in an old watermill on the Otava River. Dynamos for power production were first driven by a waterwheel, which was replaced with two Francis turbines in 1901. These turbines were reconstructed in 1994, old technical equipment was brought back into operation, and the power plant now generates electricity again. In 1997, a small museum dedicated to street lighting in Písek was opened here, documenting the history of power generation in Písek and showing old power generation equipment in operation. (Official portal of the town of Pisek)

    František Křižík was a contemporary of Thomas Edison and competed with him as to who would first invent the light bulb. November 1879, Edison officially patented his light bulb. 

     The opening on the left is a little tunnel which gets you to the other side of the mill. As you come out on the other side you can hear the humming of the belt which drives the generator via the turbines.

This picture is taken from the opposite side of the river. You can barely see the “dam” in front, built to redirect the water to the opposite side of the river, to feed the power plant. 

  All throughout South-West Czech, towns by rivers have these power plants. So, what does that have to do with Folsom Lake? Why didn’t they build a higher dam in Pisek?
The land behind Pisek is pretty flat, so there is no way taller dams are possible, but by each town having its own power plant every bit of water flowing down-stream can be used. Folsom Lake is not that different, other than that it is bigger, but water still has to flow through the turbines to generate electricity.

On this picture you can see how the water is funneled into the power plant on the upper part of the river.

Compare this to Folsom Lake (1955) north of Sacramento, California. It is a much higher dam, but very dependent on precipitation which has been lacking for the last four years. It performs the same function: generating electricity for Sacramento. Because of the elevation difference, the dam could be built higher. Besides electricity, adequate amounts of water are released to keep salt water from the San Fransisco Bay to seep inland into the delta, when it is high tide. It also provides water for Sacramento. Now the lake is almost empty.

A full lake on the top, and how it looks now (November 2015) below, after 4 years of drought.

Hundreds of people headed out to Folsom Lake to see ruins from the old Mormon Island settlement.

Mormon Island thrived during mining years with as many as 2,500 people, complete with four hotels, a school and seven saloons, according to some historical accounts.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, Folsom Lake has about 168,000 acre feet (1 acre foot = 1,233 cubic meter (m³)) at the moment, about 17 percent of capacity and only about a third of the typical average storage of 502,146 acre feet. A year ago, the reservoir had just under 556,000 acre feet stored.  Brian Hickey/KCRA

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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/933953 2015-11-15T05:09:24Z 2015-11-15T05:09:24Z The Dead Sea

Our Dutch engineer, who visited New Orleans, has a name: Roland Winter. Roland got his engineering degree from Delft University in Holland. Delft University is very well known and respected in Europe and really all over the world. It is an engineering school with numerous venues of study. Water management is probably one of the most prominent areas, and that is what Roland did. His study had to do with dike construction. After his studies, he worked with the Delta werken team for a year or so. The Delta Works (in English) project jumped out after the 1953 flood in South-Western Holland. The ideas were not new, but that flood sped up the process. Basically, instead of strengthening every dike around each island of the provinces Zeeland and Zuid Holland, the islands were connected with dams on the ocean side, and the water behind those dams, controlled.

Then Roland joined an engineering company, which dealt with dike and dam construction. He was involved in various projects but a big project on the Dead Sea in Israel became his long-term responsibility. The Dead Sea has a very high salt concentration, but also is rich in potassium, which is used primarily in fertilizers. To win salt, was not economical. That is more economical in places like the San Fransisco Bay, where you can see the salt beckons from the air, as the plane approaches San Fransisco airport.

"A process is proposed for the recovery of potassium from brines by precipitation as potassium perchlorate, followed by conversion to potassium chloride by liquid anion exchange with a tertiary amine in the form of its hydrochloride. Regeneration of the amine salt is effected by means of lime and hydrochloric acid. The process was tested on Dead Sea brine, containing 13 g/l KCl. Precipitation at 30 °C gave a 40% yield of potassium, cooling to 0 °C increased the yield to over 80%. The anion exchanger used was the hydrochloride of trioctylamine dissolved in toluene; this performed satisfactorily and phase separation was easy. A separation factor of 130 was obtained for the ClO4/Cl separation. Regeneration of the amine was tested with various bases."  (The recovery of potassium chloride from Dead Sea brines by precipitation and solvent extraction   J.A Epstein,  D Altaras, E.M Feist, J Rosenzweig   Copyright © 1975 Published by Elsevier B.V.)

In Israel, the salt beckons are just that, but the process of extracting potassium is attractive. So, what to do with the salt? It is just left after the water, that is pumped into the beckons, evaporates. This means that the dikes around the beckons need to be raised every 7-8 years, and that was Roland’s job to design how much higher they should become. Also, because the Dead Sea level is lowering, the water got further and further away from the pumps, so they had to be relocated closer to the water. That also was Roland’s responsibility to figure out for the contractors. Every 4-5 years Roland would go down to Israel for a month or so to evaluate the situation, take the measurements, then redesign the new dike elevation. He did this for his whole career, besides smaller projects in between.
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/932999 2015-11-13T00:32:03Z 2015-11-13T00:32:03Z Delta’s: how they influence lives and culture

A Dutch engineer visited New Orleans on a vacation. Being involved with water projects in Holland and Israel, he was curious how people in and around New Orleans had dealt with “hurricane Katrina” and the consequences.

Early in the morning on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. When the storm made landfall, it had a Category 3 rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale–it brought sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour–and stretched some 400 miles across. The storm itself did a great deal of damage, but its aftermath was catastrophic. Levee breaches led to massive flooding, and many people charged that the federal government was slow to meet the needs of the people affected by the storm. Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were displaced from their homes, and experts estimate that Katrina caused more than $100 billion in damage.

New Orleans was at particular risk. Though about half the city actually lies above sea level, its average elevation is about six feet below sea level–and it is completely surrounded by water. Over the course of the 20th century, the Army Corps of Engineers had built a system of levees and seawalls to keep the city from flooding. The levees along the Mississippi River were strong and sturdy, but the ones built to hold back Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne and the waterlogged swamps and marshes to the city’s east and west were much less reliable. Even before the storm, officials worried that those levees, jerry-built atop sandy, porous, erodible soil, might not withstand a massive storm surge. Neighborhoods that sat below sea level, many of which housed the city’s poorest and most vulnerable people, were at great risk of flooding.  (from: HISTORY article, "New Orleans after 10 years.")

The Dutch engineer traveled the area, observing the dikes, dams, and water management projects in the area. He noticed that a lot of the damage could have been prevented, and a bit of his Dutch pride about how water management is handled different in Holland, kicked in. After all, Holland was also a delta of the Rhine and Maas rivers! He wondered why a lot of houses were built in marginally protected areas of the delta. He wondered if technology about water management was more advanced in Holland.
Did You Know?
During the past century, hurricanes have flooded New Orleans six times: in 1915, 1940, 1947, 1965, 1969 and 2005.

       Our Dutch engineer became more interested in the “why’s” of flooding, because he realized that American and Dutch technologically about water management were not that different. Engineers in both countries have a good idea of the conditions and risks that exist at any time. Didn’t they manage to not have such a high density populated, or expensive businesses, in flood prone areas in Holland? He would try to find that out after his return to Holland, from vacation.


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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/929519 2015-11-07T19:27:22Z 2015-11-07T19:27:22Z Language, culture, and floods

We had taken a language learning course before going to the Czech Republic. In the course the challenge was: “to learn a new language like a child”. This was not entirely possible, like we learned our native language, but in the adult world, language is taught like a subject together with science, math and history. Our teachers disagreed with that concept. You learn a language to communicate the same thing in a different way than your native tongue. It is not strictly language. You have to learn the cultural setting in which the language is used, as well.

With this knowledge we went to Pisek, Czech Republic. Of course, Czech is all we heard around us, most of which we could not understand. Most of the people we came there to serve, were at English camp that first week, so we were pretty well on our own. The second week we would get to visit the camp for a day.  

It had been raining a lot, which is common in July and August. We also had some nice days, so we had no concept of how much rain had already fallen. Pisek lays on the Otava River. The north shore rises pretty steep above the river, while the south shore is just flat land. One afternoon  it started to rain pretty heavy, into the evening. We went to town, shopping as best we could and were exhausted by evening hearing Czech all day. We went to bed, but around 2 am, heard people go by under our window at a steady stream. We also heard loudspeakers, but could not understand it. We lived in the center of town, on the main square with a lot of activity during the day, but at 2 am was unusual. It had pretty well stopped raining. We decided to get dressed and follow the crowd, gravitating across the square down to the river. There we found a pretty large crowd watching as the water rose. At several places, openings along the levy were boarded up, in case the water got that high. Well, it did get that high! We stood by the oldest stone bridge of Eastern Europe from the 1340’s, connecting the southern side with the entry gate on the north side, into the old town. Heavy tree limbs were caught on the bridge pilers, creating a dam-like construction. Helicopters were flying over and loudspeakers were used to warn the people on the south-side of the river to leave their houses and apartments, as we later learned. 

Along the south side just behind the levy, was a block of apartments built by the city. It was pretty modern with shops on the ground level and an underground parking garage. The roof line was rounded on both ends which made it look like an upside-down ship. It became known as the “Titanic”. This night, that was very appropriate as the water kept rising. Then it happened; it went over the bridge and over the levee on the south side of the river. Everybody was silent, watching from “our” side, the north, as the water was flooding the homes and stores across the river. Gradually people went back home again, wondering what the next day would bring. We also went back to bed.

The next day we watched some Czech TV which showed the extend of the flooding. It was pretty far-reaching. Helicopters were back, flying over the Titanic, where people were lifted out. Those people did not believe it would be that bad and that sooner or later they could get out. They forgot that even though they were on the second and third floors, power had to be disconnected, and though the water was receding, it took several days before they had access to their apartments. It was called a “400 year flood”. Due to the extend, this kind of flood was to occur about every 400 years. The roads into town were pretty well all blocked off, so we could not get our container until two weeks later because Prague was also affected by this flood. We were urged to buy bottled water since the water supply system was contaminated due to the flood. We only found out, because we saw people coming out of the grocery store across the street, with many bottles of water. 

The English camp we were to visit that week was also on a small river, which exceeded its boarders. Fortunately the building remained dry, but the campers could not leave there for several days. Thus we never made it to visit the camp.
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/918345 2015-10-18T03:46:14Z 2015-11-14T18:16:10Z Dobra voda

  This morning I got overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, as I remember from mornings in Pisek, Czech Republic sitting in the living room nook looking both ways overseeing the park across the street with the tall trees and the railroad levee in the back. I thought back to the saturdays I went to the spring to get water. I would meet people there doing the same, sometimes people I knew. That was such a restful place, up in the forest. Sometimes I walked, sometimes I went on my bike with a backpack full of plastic bottles. In Czech plastic bottles were always saved for something, in this case to get water at the spring. There was enough water for a week, to use for coffee and tea, for cooking, or just for drinking.

Dobra voda, in English means: good water.  
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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/916929 2015-10-15T04:56:45Z 2015-11-11T23:15:20Z What is a drop in the bucket?

A drop in the bucket deals with water. Not just the California drought, though that will be a large part of this blog. People in the Mid-West probably don't care much about the California drought, having to deal with their own flooded homes. People in the South-East coast have to fix up again their places due to hurricane damage, for the umpteenth time. They hear about California drought a lot, but have no idea what that entails.

The average rainfall and snowfall in the USA is about 30" a year, and is neatly broken down as to where it all goes. That does not help those who could not plant their crops in the San Joaquin Valley, nor those whose homes were flooded and those whose businesses were torn apart by the hurricanes.

Neither does it address the many landscape changes in Holland from the floods and redirection of the Rhine and Meuse rivers over the centuries, culminating in the 1953 flood on the South-West islands of the Zeeland and South-Holland provinces. Nor does it help those who lost their homes and businesses in New Orleans as a result of hurricane Katrina.

Water is not just what we use it for and its purposes, but also deals with the geography it is in. There are political ramifications and cultural differences, depending on the area, history and technologies.

This is only one part. Ultimately it will become a book! As chapters become available, I will make some of them available for your review.   Sign up with your email address on the left bottom, and you will receive an email with the next blog.


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tag:fivecultureslater.org,2013:Post/909301 2015-09-24T23:29:27Z 2015-10-14T23:21:54Z Global warming, scientific or political?

Fire survivor wants GOP to debate climate change

Daily Democrat, September 18, 2015

I can feel for Jessica Jennings Pyska, losing her home in the Valley fire. I have never experienced such loss, so cannot imagine what it is like. I just started to write a book on “water”, so this subject interests me immensely. I said: “started”, so still am gathering information for the chapters on California: how water is used, how people see it, and what solutions are pursued to manage water.

I lived in California for 25 years, from 1968-1993, most of them in Woodland. During those years a common saying was, that California goes through 7-year cycles of dry and 7 (more or less) wet years. If that is true, then the current 4-year drought period, referred to in the article, is only just over half of such a cycle.  Maybe the fifth and sixth year were not very “wet” either, because upon my return to California in 2009, the reservoirs were only half full or even less; something I do not remember seeing that extensive from my 25-year period prior. Yes, the reservoirs would go half empty, but that lasted only a few years on average, as I recall.

Because of the current global warming debate, I decided to include a section about that in my book. First, I am finding out that California and Nevada, are the states with the most outdated water management laws. Frequently, water rights issued during the gold rush are mentioned. Those rights are still currently on the books, meaning that landowners with such rights can pump as much water as they want, without a required measurement history, as to how much. California has, or maybe better said: had an enormous amount of ground water, so pumping that has not been an issue, until now. Now California is depleting ground water at an alarming rate.  It will take years to replenish, but that is not fully possible, because underground water basins are caving in and might not be restored to the original size.

Growth in population, extensive expansion of farming in the Central Valley (but not only there), which has an arid climate, and increasing water use to help salmon survive and prevent salinization to creep inland, has taxed the amount of water California receives to the limit.

Enter the global warming debate. If we look at science vs. political management, most of the time science is ahead of policies to control them. For example, the increasing use of drones causing near accidents and creating privacy issues, have not been addressed yet by the legislature.  There are many more such examples, but with global warming, it is the opposite. Science has not “caught up” with politics.

I just picked up a book: “The Global Warming Debate”, a report of the European Science and Environment Forum (1996) in which Roger Bate, Director of Economic Affairs in London, Britain, starts a summary with: “Global warming is a political issue.” John Emsley, a science writer for the Department of Chemistry at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, writes in the next chapter:

Most people are unaware that the predictions of global warming are based mainly on computer simulations, backed up by carefully selected evidence and special pleading.  (Pg.23) 

I just started the book, so this is just the beginning, but I am very suspicious that it will lead to what I stated above: politics is ahead of scientific research on the subject.

This does not mean that the GOP should not address the water issues of California, and for that matter the Democratic Party as well. Nor does it mean that Governor Brown should not pursue accountability for the reduction of pollution caused by human endeavors. So far he has been successful by using global warming as being caused by us humans. California has one of the strictest legislation concerning pollution, which I am all for!

In the ‘80s the Department of Forestry suggested that forest fires are a positive natural development, which has been going on for centuries.  But the GOP and the Democratic Party need to support the funding of resources and further research, to protect the homes of people like Jessica, whose husband helps to control these fires on the front lines!

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