New: Book Report: The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

I finished playing the excellent game Psychonauts! It was totally worth buying an XBox just to play this game. Actually, I didn't make it to the end of the game. I made it to the start of the "meat circus" level, peeked at a walkthrough, and figured out that I was at the end of the adventure-gamey part--you know, the part I enjoy. (That and figuring out ways to destroy hay bales.) So I stopped playing the game, opened up the bonus disc that only had cutscenes, and watched the final cutscenes. Wow, fun cutscenes full of funny and/or touching dialog. All the fun of the game without the tedious trapeze artistry! It was awesome.

Sometimes the path to maximum enjoyment of a product involves knowing when to stop. For yet another example, consider the book, The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy.

I didn't read the whole book. I read the introduction. The introduction was informative.

Hetch Hetchy is, of course, the big reservoir next to Yosemite where a lot of San Francisco's water is stored. It used to be a mountain valley; we dammed it. In hindsight, it wasn't such a great place for a reservoir in terms of beauty lost vs. water stored. John Muir, at the time, pointed out that it was a bad idea.

What I learned from this book's introduction: at the time when people were debating whether or not San Francisco should flood Hetch Hetchy, it wasn't rapacious developers versus nature lovers. It was public utility people versus private utility people. Pretty much everyone except John Muir figured that Hetch Hetchy would be turned into a reservoir; it was mostly a question of whether San Francisco or some private company would do so.

Some nature lovers who didn't want the valley flooded. But there weren't many of them. Cynical folks at the time didn't take these nature lovers seriously--and perhaps with good reason. The nature lovers wanted to build roads to Hetch Hetchy and turn it into a place for tourists. They didn't have any plans on how to do this, however. Private water and power interests exhorted these people--because private water and power interests didn't want the city to have public water nor power.

So I learned something from the introduction, yayy! Then I emerged into the book proper. I read a few pages and quickly determined that the author, Robert Righter, was going into more detail than I really wanted to read. So I stopped.

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Posted 2006-05-21