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Moonlight over Stinson Beach

The view as I came home last night. The lights at right are Stinson beach. Beyond it is Bolinas bay, and the tip of land is my town of Bolinas.

Japanese Hand Saw: The Ryoba

I've been hanging out with serious craftsmen/carpenters and virtuoso builders in Canada over the last year and seen that many of them use Japanese saws. Bruno Atkey, who builds split-cedar cabins in the remote woods, told me he uses the Ryoba exclusively; he's abandoned his American push-saws. I bought a Ryoba and was amazed at how much better it is than my big ccollection of American handsaws. It does everything better. It has two different types of teeth.

Traditional Japanese Ryoba Handsaw with two types of teeth

$42.50 from Lee Valley Tools

Septic Systems: Excessive Engineering and Overzealous Regulations

I've been working on a revision of our book Septic Systems Owner's Manual for about 2 months, and just finished today. The book ended up being a lot more revised than I had anticipated. Almost a quarter of all North Americans are on septic systems, so it's a major subject. In following the onsite wastewater field for several years I've seen an incredible amount of corruption in the name of "clean water." Following are a few paragraphs from one of the new chapters in the book. We're blowing the whistle. The new edition should be out by the end of the year:

"You might say it all started with the Clean Water Act of 1972, when billions of dollars were allocated to clean up America's water. With all that money floating around, it didn't take long for some engineers and some regulators to devise a methodology for extracting the maximum amount of grant money available. It was all so easy. First, septic systems are underground and out of sight; low visibility. Second, who could argue with the idea of "clean water?"
So 15-20 years ago, engineers and regulators (some of them) decreed that simple gravity-fed septic systems were inadequate. They tightened up requirements, instituted new regulations, and thus began the new world of overblown, over-expensive septic systems. I got personally involved in a typical such scam in my hometown in 1989, and it was actually out of this experience (fighting against an albatross of plan) that led to this book.

"I considered writing about this situation when this book was first published in 2000. But the amounts of money were so huge, and the schemes so well orchestrated, I didn't think anyone would believe it. This was corruption completely missed by the media. The sums were huge. No one had an inkling. Well now, almost seven years later, the same things are going on, and more so. In this chapter, we'll give you the background, the history, and then case studies of small towns caught up in distorted engineering and excessive onsite wastewater disposal costs. In Chapter 10, “The Tale of Two Sewers,” John Hulls describes how two California towns took two very different approaches in dealing with over-inflated wastewater projects. This leads into Chapter 11, “Small Town System Upgrades,” where we describe how a community can take control of its own wastewater destiny and utilize local power in dealing with engineers and regulators."
-from the revised edition of Septic Systems Owner's Manual