Kelly’s first fish

Monday, May 18th, 2009
I spend far too much time in my office. Fortunately, I only have to step outside to enjoy the beauty of God's creation. Yesterday, I took the girls fishing at the lake down the street. Within minutes, Kelly had caught her first fish, an 11" Bass.  A wonderful day and a delight to see the smile on my daughter's face when she proudly displayed her catch!

Kelly catches her first fish at Fern's Lake, in Pine Mountain Club, CA

We did see 24" Catfish swimming around, but it was not the least bit interested in our measly worm. Perhaps another day...
This evening, the planets Jupiter and Venus briefly aligned to form (nearly upside down) two eyes and a frowning mouth in the southwest night sky. If you missed it, you can see it again in May 2013. Meanwhile, here's a picture from my back deck. (Click on picture to view larger image.)

2008-12-01 - Planetary Conjunction as seen from Pine Mountain Club, California.  Photo by Eric Mack
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. - Psalm 19:1
Learn more: Wired Science: Planets Align in a Frown

Magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Southern California

Thursday, November 13th, 2008
At 10:00 AM this morning, people all over California will be ducking, covering, and holding on to anything they can  to escape the devastation of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. The Great Southern California Shakeout will be held November 13. It's designed as a wake-up call -- literally -- to get all Southern Californians ready for the Big One.

What the next So Cal Quake may look like

Geologists say it's not a matter of if, but when, the big one hits and this effort, in the planning stages for months, is hoping to put that awareness squarely on the minds of all residents.

The shakeout scenario what would happen if California were to get a jolt of 7.8 or stronger along the San Andreas fault. (To give you a mental and physical picture of what that would be like...geologists say that would be 5,000 times larger and stronger than the 5.4 quake that struck on July 29.)
Source: KNX1070

I live next to (on top of, really) the San Andreas fault line, so we are aware of the dangers of earthquakes. But, are we as a community as prepared as we need to be? I think not. I think many of us have this picture that the government will come to our rescue. I think we need to be prepared to be much more self-sufficient. Do you have an emergency preparedness kit in each car? For each member of your family? Do you know what to do when the ground starts moving?

ShakeOut Resources
A colleague at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne sent me an email this evening to let me know that one of their rockets would be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, at 7:28 PM PST, this evening. Here's the photo from just a few minutes ago...
It gets dark early and since it's already dark in the forest, we had a perfect night sky for viewing. Shortly after lift-off, we saw a bright trail of fire moving upward. As the rocket headed off, the trail turned into a fireball as we looked directly into the rocket from behind.I'm not a photographer, but I managed to get a shot without the flash. This does not do it justice.

Apparently, it was a Delta 2 Rocket, carrying an Italian Radar Satellite into space. Details and the launch sequence are available here.

In memory: Fred Gilman Westlund

Thursday, September 20th, 2007
I met Fred Westlund 13 years ago at Pine Mountain Christian Community Church in the sanctuary he helped build. Fred built many buildings and homes in PMC but the church was his favorite. It was his labor of love and he could always be found tending it.


When we built my new offices, Fred volunteered to help coordinate and manage the contractors. I cannot imagine having completed the project without him. Much more important to me, however, is Fred's service in the AWANA program and as a leader to my children.

Continue Reading "In memory: Fred Gilman Westlund" »
The idea of Office 2.0, that you can move your applications and data into the cloud has people on both sides of the fence. Some argue that they feel more safe, knowing that their information is always accessible to them from any computer. Others argue that unless you can maintain a local replica of your data you are at the whim and mercy of the availability of power and internet access providers. They point to the recent internet and power outages in San Francisco as an example. I often find myself in this camp. Today, I got a new perspective on Office 2.0 and while I'm not sure I'm any closer to a conclusion one way or another I thought I would share the experience...

20070903LightningStrikeinFrontyard.jpgEarly today, we had a downpour accompanied by... a thunderstorm accompanied by... a lightning strike... at the power pole... in our front yard.

I'm still assessing the damage but the net effect so far is that it blew out the power transformer and sent a massive power surge into the house over the power and phone lines. This did several things: first, it shocked my daughter who was upstairs turning on a light, it also shocked me, right through the keyboard. Then it  blew out much of the network equipment in my office.
Continue Reading "A look at two sides of Office 2.0 Accessibility" »

It’s good to be back home

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006
After a week away, due to the fire, it's good to be home. On Sunday, the evacuation restrictions were lifted for the mountain communities. Kathy and I made trips back and forth to shuttle belongings, supplies, children and Lassie. Like everyone in our small mountain community, we are thankful and grateful for the dedicated work of the firefighters in battling this historic blaze.


Continue Reading "It's good to be back home" »

Recommended Evacuation for Lockwood Valley

Monday, September 18th, 2006
The Ventura County Sheriff's Office has issued a recommended evacuation for the Lockwood Valley Rd. between Highway 33 and Frazier Park Road.

An evacuaton Center at Frazier Park Community Center is now open and awaiting the arrival of the American Red Cross. The Community Center is located on Frazier Park Road in the 300 block of Park Drive and Monterey Trail.

Day Wildland Fire
2006-09-18 17:05:00 ET

Source: Incident Information System

Incident Contact: Los Padres Information Center (805) 961-5770

Continue Reading "Recommended Evacuation for Lockwood Valley" »

A 150’ Antenna Tower in Pine Mountain Club?

Sunday, September 17th, 2006
I remember hearing last year that there were plans to build a large radio communications tower in Pine Mountain Club. I don't remember where I heard this number, or if it was even true, but I thought the proposed tower was to be 80' tall. In any case, the antenna tower fell off my radar until I opened this week's Mountain Enterprise to see, on  the front page, that I missed the PMC forum set up to discuss this proposed new tower. According to the newspaper article, the proposed tower is to be 150' tall, plus, I assume, whatever antennas they may place on top. Apparently (and I do not have facts to quote) the proposed tower will be situated at a location next to or at the transfer station.

I wonder what a 150' antenna tower will look like in our beautiful village?  
150' seems like a very tall tower for the intended site. Pine Mountain Club has been unable to hide the RVs in the RV lot and I think they are each probably less than 10 feet tall. I wonder what a tower as tall as 10 or 12 RV's would look like? It might be kind of hard to hide this size of a tower in such a prominent location. I think it would be amusing if they decide to erect a huge palm or pine tree in the forest. I might even cheer for that. According to the article in the paper, however, a stealth tower is not in the proposal. The newspaper says it will be your typical grey metal "lattice" tower.

Continue Reading "A 150' Antenna Tower in Pine Mountain Club?" »

Putting out fires

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
For the past several days, we've had monsoon-type weather here in the mountains. The other day, the golf course looked like it was covered with snow. It was hail - for about 10 minute we had marble-size hail stones everywhere. The thunder and lightning were spectacular, too.  Where there's lightning and dry forest, there's often more than one fire...
20060725 - Geomac fire map.jpg
Each one of those triangles represents a major wildfire incident. We have a not-so-small (> 2,000 acres) forest fire nearby that's been growing for the past 4 days.
Continue Reading "Putting out fires" »

Take time to look outside

Thursday, October 13th, 2005
It's all too easy to forget to open the shutters on my office windows. Look at what I almost missed ...


Only you can prevent ...

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Earlier this month, a wildland fire burned in Gorman and Lebec - the gateway to our mountain communities. As you can see from the picture I took, the fire burned everything, leave a creepy landscape behind it. Today, a 17,000 acre fire rages in the mountains between Los Angeles and Ventura counties. I'm thankful for the heroes - the men and women who labor tirelessly on our behalf to protect our lives and our homes.


If you want to follow the track of the fires, visit my WeatherCam and look for the link to "Wildfire Maps" on the right column. That link will take you to the GEOMAC wildland fire page which provides real-time satellite updates on wildfires across the U.S.

Meteor Shower Tonight

Thursday, August 11th, 2005
In case you're still up, the best viewing of tonight's Perseids meteor shower is still to come.
Jason Womack's already posted the details from my e-mail to him, so I won't post them again. Check out Jason's site for details.

We are very fortunate to live below Mt. Pinos as we have one of the most remarkable views of the night sky. Each year, we are treated to an especially fantastic view of the Perseids and Leonids meteor shower.

A few years ago, the girls and I logged over 750 meteors in one hour! And those were the ones we could count!
It's been a busy week, with meetings, family health issues, product development, and management courses. I hope to upload some draft blog entries soon. Meanwhile, I'm sure that my friends, Jason and Michael will be happy to say anything I would say. :-)

Drama in real life

Saturday, July 16th, 2005
Given the remote location of where we live we don't see helicopters often. When we do, it causes a lot of excitement and anxiety. Tonight was no different. I heard the whoosh of the blades first, then I saw the flashing lights as the helicopter cleared the mountaintop opposite my home and began its descent towards the quiet community below. The chopping noise in the air alerted everyone to its arrival. Everyone knows what it means.

When a helicopter descends into our mountain-top community, it's usually for one of three reasons: search and rescue, to pick up water for a forest fire or to pick up a patient for a 20-30 minute flight to the emergency room in Bakersfield or Valencia. (Actually, there's one other reason, and it's a fun one: the Lilac Festival)

Since it was already dark and I did not smell smoke, I knew that a water pick-up was unlikely; I got in my car and headed down the hill toward the fire department. When I arrived a block away from the emergency helipad, I pulled over to the side of the road and parked my car. I pulled out my binoculars to see what was happening. I saw the Hall air ambulance; the paramedics and the medics from the medical flight-team were tending to a patient in the ambulance.

I stopped for a while to pray. I prayed for the patient, the medical personnel in attendance, and the family and concerned friends outside the ambulance. I have no idea who it is, but in a community as small as ours, it's possible I know them. It really does not matter whether I know them or not, and it has no bearing on the impact of my prayer for divine intervention. A person is hurting, in need of care and compassion. That's all that matters.

After about 10 minutes, the medics removed the patient from the ambulance and wheeled the gurney to the waiting helicopter. Moments later, the air ambulance lifted off from the helipad. It's probably on it's way to Bakersfield Heart Hospital as I write this.

Twice, I've been taken off the hill by the Hall Ambulance paramedics. Fortunately, my condition did not require an air evacuation, but I remember how frightening it was, nonetheless. I'm sure it was even more so for my family.

I'm thankful for the men and women who care for us up here, whether they provide us with fire or paramedic services, or security and a number of other services that allow us to enjoy life in the mountains.

I'm thankful that their training and technology are available to us, even in this remote mountaintop community.

I hope that this person - anonymous to me - will rest peacefully in flight tonight and that they will be well cared for when they arrive.

A quick tour of Pine Mountain Club

Monday, July 11th, 2005
Kathy said that it's not good for boys to play inside all day - even in the Digital Sandbox, so she told us to go outside and get some fresh air...

I decided to take Michael on a quick tour around our community.


2005 Lilac Festival

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
Pine Mountain Club is known for its Lilac festival. People travel great distances to come up to the mountains to see the lilacs in bloom. Unfortunately, in past years, the Lilacs have bloomed either before or after the festival, but rarely during the festival.

This year's Lilac Festival was a real treat - we actually got to see Lilac's in bloom!


The parade was entertaining, as usual, and the artisan booths were interesting. It was warm during the day, but cool in  the evening.  Mt. Pinos is still buried under several feet of snow. The waterfalls and streams are flowing again with run-off from the snow melt.

At this year's festival, I did something that I've always wanted to do ...  (Hint: It has to do with flying) More in another post.

Make way for ducklings

Saturday, April 30th, 2005
This afternoon, I took Kelly down to the lake to feed the ducks. Two of the ducks had ducklings in tow. We saw a mother duck with three ducklings and another with eight. What a treat!


And of course, my little duckling ...

When I moved to Pine Mountain Club, 11 years ago, I knew that there would be no wireless coverage in the mountain communities and that I would probably not see any cellular providers offering coverage in the decade to come.  That suited me just fine; I live with technology all day, so the absence of it allowed my mountain retreat to remain a place of quiet reflection, far away from the hustle of the city life I had left behind.

Lately, there has been talk of a new wireless tower being built in Pine Mountain Club. While many people are excited at the prospect of mobile phone service in the mountains, I am less enthusiastic. I'm not against technology or mobile phones and I would certainly enjoy the peace of mind of having reliable phone coverage to deal with roadside emergency issues. What concerns me, is how mobile phone service will change our way of life in the mountain communities.

As I think about my most recent local restaurant experience, Not one patron was talking on their cell phone. No, they were conversing with ... one another. They were even conversing with people at the tables next to them. Imagine that!  Whenever I go to the town post office I know I will find a bunch of people, talking with one another as they wait in line to be served by our cheerful postmistress. I hope that this won't change.

Without the escape of a mobile phone with which to call someone, far away, people resort to ... conversation with their neighbors.

I do look forward to having local cell phone coverage in our community, (I even hope that SprintPCS will be the provider so that I can use my Treo 650). I just hope that residents of our community will not adopt cell phones in the way residents of big cities have; where it seems like many people have become self absorbed in their compulsive cell phone conversations at the expense of politeness, courtesy, and even public safety; where it is nearly impossible to attend a meeting or movie or eat diner without a someone's cell phone going off to some annoying musical madness.

While many will cite the public safety benefits of having a cell phone to call for roadside assistance, I wonder about something else: what will travel be like on the mountain roads and S-curves once drivers find out that they can talk on their cell phones while passing in a no-passing lane at the same time?

I don't want to escape to the mountains only to have to listen to other people's private conversations as they sit at the table next to me or stand in line in front of me. I would prefer not to have another reason to be fearful of distracted drivers on the mountain roads.

Again, the issue is not about technology; it is about courtesy.

Please, friends, as you enjoy the mobile phone service that will eventually come to our community, let's not forget the tranquility of mountain living; a way of life that we are truly blessed to enjoy.

Eric Mack

Sage & Cinnamon

Saturday, February 19th, 2005
Last night, I took Amy & Wendy out on a date to a new local restaurant, Sage & Cinnamon, located in Pine Mountain Club. The restaurant opened this past year and it is already well known in our community.

Image:Sage & Cinnamon

I now understand why reservations are highly recommended, if not required. The restaurant is quite popular. By early evening, almost all of the tables had patrons at them, and everyone seemed to be enjoying their meals. It was obvious that great attention had been paid to every detail, from the carpet to the walls, to the decorations and accessories - even the extension cords had sewn covers so that they would blend in with the decor. Relaxing lighting and music contributed to a relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy our repast. (I was not quite sure what to expect since the prior restaurant was a deli, however the new owners have completely remodeled the restaurant for an intimate dining experience.) The service was excellent, too; available when needed and out of the way when not. Pat, our hostess, welcomed us to the restaurant and seated us, while Leaf, our waiter and his attentive assistant made sure that we were lacking in nothing throughout our two and a half hour dinner.

The most difficult part of the meal was choosing between the various dishes. Fortunately, I was able to sneak a taste from my daughters' dishes as well. The French Onion soup was outstanding and the pumpkin bisque light, sweet, and creamy. The house salad had a raspberry vinaigrette dressing that was surprisingly refreshing. We all enjoyed the Ribeye steak with broccoli and garlic potatoes. Did I mention the bread? Good stuff.

After the meal, I introduced myself to the chef and owner, Kim Busio, to thank her for a wonderful experience.  Kim and her family (Pat's her mom) recently move to Pine Mountain Club from Santa Barbara, where she worked at a B&B. No wonder we were treated to such fine hospitality!

I'm delighted to know that we now have a fine-dining opportunity in our local community. I'll be sure to return again with family, friends, and clients.

In the 11 years that we have lived in Pine Mountain Club, we've enjoyed many of the restaurants in the mountain communities. This one was worth blogging about.  I asked Kim if they had a web site, she said not yet; she's been very busy serving customers and growing the restaurant. The phone number is: 661-242-1978
I hope that this update will be of some assistance to anyone who is stranded off the hill or concerned about loved ones up here on the hill.

The storms hit us pretty hard last night and numerous trees and power lines are down, including those in my yard. The power has been out for Pine Mountain Club and some of the surrounding mountain areas since late last night. I have not heard any estimates of when the power will be restored and I have not yet seen any SCE trucks come by to repair the downed power lines on our street. My personal guess, is that it could be a long time, especially with tonight's expected storm.  Avoid travel on or off the hill if at all possible.

I have activated the heater on my primary web camera; I have also updated the weather links on the ICA WeatherCam. There, you will find current links for the latest Winter Storm Warning and Hazardous Weather Outlook, for the Kern County Mountains.

20041228 - Snow Storm

Scott's Frazier Mountain weather update has not yet been posted for today, so I'll share the little that I can:  

We still have 10'-12" of wet packed snow at 5800 feet; expect to see more at the higher elevations. Earlier today, the snow started to melt a little on the south facing roads, however this will mean any roads that may get cleared today may have ice on them this evening, so drive carefully.  The weather service is reporting another storm for this evening with another 1-2 feet of snow. As the temperatures drop this evening, expect additional snow and ice.

Due to the downed power lines, the road crews have not yet plowed some of the streets. If you must go out, I do not recommend doing so without 4WD, Chains installed, and emergency provisions.

If you can avoid travel on or off the hill, I would recommend it. If you are already off the hill and heading home tonight, be sure to check Caltrans for conditions on the 5 freeway. Be sure to pack groceries, blankets, food and water.

If you live in the PMC area and have updated information or if you have travelled through the mountains today and would like to post an update on the weather/road conditions, please use the comments to do so. The ICA WeatherCam will remain operational.

Stay warm & safe!


Plane crashes nearby

Saturday, March 6th, 2004
A small plane crashed into the mountainside across from my home in Pine Mountain Club, CA.
Image:Plane crashes nearby
Early last Saturday morning, February 28, I awoke to the sound of helicopter activity on the mountain directly across from my home.  This continued for several hours. Usually, the only time we ever hear a helicopter up here is when the Med-evac ambulance comes in or when there is a forest fire - either way,  it is usually not good news.  Since it was still snowing and quite foggy, I knew that it was not likely to be a fire.  At the same time, the helipad is to the left of my house down in the valley -- not across from my house where the sound was originating.  I knew something serious was going on.  The fog was so thick that the helicopter was barely visible as it ascended the mountain; yet I could hear it and I could occaisionally see the marker lights as it went up and down the hillside.    

Apparently, the night before, during a snow storm, the pilot of a Cessna 172 single engine aircraft reported troubles with his aircraft to the control tower in Bakersfield.  Shortly after, his plane crashed into the mountainside and exploded into flames.  At the time, it was snowing, and the temperature was about 26 degrees.  Due to the rugged terrain, the heavy snowfall, and the freezing weather, the search and rescue teams were unable to reach the crash site until 12 hours after the impact.  They drove up the mountain on SnowCats and then had to descend on foot to the crash site.  Unfortunately, the pilot died at the scene.

The snow on the mountainside melted this past week, and this morning while sitting on my back deck, I noticed something bright on the mountain. Using a pair of binoculars, I could tell that it was a small aircraft, or at least parts of the frame and wings -- the main fuselage was burned out.   My sympathies go out to the family of the pilot.  I doubt that there are any plans to remove the plane, so this will probably become a permanent marker to this tragic event.

Mr. Freeze pays a visit

Tuesday, November 4th, 2003

We have had quite a cold snap lately.

Here's a graph from my WeatherCam that shows the temperature last night. A brisk 24 degrees. Brrrr.

I guess it's time to defrost the freezer and move the contents outside. No sense paying for electricty when I can get a deep freeze on my back deck for free. :-)

Image:Mr. Freeze pays a visit

Beautiful & Spacious Skies

Wednesday, August 13th, 2003
All too often I forget to step outside and admire God's creation.  We are truly blessed.
Image:Beautiful & Spacious Skies
I took this photo from my back deck.  You can see a live photo from my weathercam.

Fire on the hill!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003
Early this morning, Wendy came into our bedroom to tell us that a house across the valley was on fire. Sure enough it was and we could see the flames high above the tree tops from our bedroom.  Due to the heroic efforts of our local fire department and with backup support from other units, the fire was quickly extinguished before the flames could spread to adjacent homes or forest.  Fortunately no one was hurt, however, one home was destroyed.
Even though the fire was a mile away, when you live in the dry Southern California mountains, surrounded by Pinion Pines (think rockets), in a Cedar home (think firewood), coated in Penofin (think diesel oil), you take any threat of fire very seriously.
We had been remiss in practicing for a fire drill, but we did have an evacuation checklist, which we began to work through.
Image:Fire on the hill!
The fire appears to be out now, but my webcam is still picking up the smoke.
Let me encourage you, wherever you live, to have and test your evacuation plan -- especially if you have children or people who need special assistance in your home.

When the moon hits your eyes

Thursday, May 15th, 2003
Tonight, Kathy and I drove the kids up to the top of the mountain (which is basically a few hundred feet from our house) to watch the total Lunar eclipse.

Here is a photo of tonight's eclipse, taken shortly after totality.
Image:When the moon hits your eyes
I tried to do a time-lapse sequence, however, the kids were getting restless.  :-(


PS. For those of you on the West Coast, if you run outside, right now, you can still see the eclipse in progress.

Remember party lines?

Sunday, April 27th, 2003
I'm not talking about the type where a bunch of lonely people call into a party circuit on a Saturday night, hoping for romance or a date.  

I'm talking about the days of yesteryear, when there were not enough copper lines for every American to have (or want) a phone in their home.  Typically a bunch of houses on a street shared a single line, known as a "Party Line."  The operator or phone company switching office would use a sophisticated method of digital signalling (yes, digital signalling) to alert the parties on the line who an incoming call was for.  The Jones's might be one ring, while the Smiths across the street might be two short rings.

I vaguely remember that our family had one of these lines when I was very young, living in the San Fernando Valley (California).  I remember that people would blow a whistle on the line when a rude party would refuse to give up the line for an outbound call. I also remember picking up the phone to call my grandparents and hearing other people on the line in conversation.

Things have sure changed.  I bet many kids in America cannot imagine sharing a phone with anyone -- even their parents.

Blacksmithing is hard work

Thursday, May 31st, 2001
Image:Blacksmithing is hard workImage:Blacksmithing is hard work
There is a local living history event near our home at Ft. Tejon.  I took Wendy and Amy, and we joined several other families in our homeschool group.  We dressed in 1850's costumes and spent 24 hours making candles, making butter, learning carpentry, doing laundry outdoors, and making adobe bricks in a mud pit.  I ran the blacksmith's shop.  (see above) We camped in a building at the fort, and cooked our meals over an open fire - just like Little House on the Prairie. It was fun, but I'm glad to be home and to sleep in my own bed.

In Search of Sushi

Sunday, February 11th, 2001
What do you do when you have a craving for Sushi and the nearest Sushi bar is 70 miles away?  Exactly. I decided to roll my own!

After visiting one web site to learn how to cook Japanese rice and another to learn how to prepare a California  Roll, I was ready to begin.

Image:In Search of Sushi
Chef Eric

Equipped with a plastic bucket for the rice, my supplies, and the printed instructions from the Internet, I set off to make my homemade Sushi rolls.  (Fortunately, I had thought ahead and purchased the Japanese rice, Nori rolls, and imitation crab meat at Pavilions a week ago.)

Image:In Search of Sushi

By the time this adventure was done, it cost as much to purchase the supplies and took as long to prepare the Sushi as if I had simply driven the 70 miles to Santa Clarita.

I guess I won't be opening the first Sushi bar in the mountains, but it did satisfy my craving.

Snow Dog Day

Wednesday, January 31st, 2001
There has been more snow than we have ever seen since we moved to Pine Mountain Club.
Image:Snow Dog Day
Lassie went outside and disappeared. The snow was taller than she was!

Let it Snow!

Friday, January 12th, 2001
Here is a  panoramic view of Pine Mountain Club from our back deck.
Image:Let it Snow!