September 18, 2014

"Holy crap!"

That's the considered opinion of the videographer who shot this flash flood in the Town of Joshua Tree a couple of days ago. I was impressed at how loud it was approaching, before you could see any of it.

(Thanks, Ed!)

Filed under California | September 18, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2014

The Temple Of Grace

Temple Of Grace - early morning (0658)

Temple Of Grace - Mr. Mink (0641)
Mr. Mink's memorial was in a prime spot and heavily photographed
and I'm sure that pleases him.

Temple Of Grace - Oh Captain, My Captain (0668)Temple Of Grace - Oh Captain, My Captain (0671)
I had not seen duplicate Whitman quotes at the Temple before. It could just be that more gay English majors came this year, but I'm bettin' these are Breaking Bad fans maybe because, you know, they misspelled "O."

Temple Of Grace (0569)

Temple Of Grace (0562)

Temple Of Grace (0560)
I was surprised at how many non-disabled (? upright?) people did not use the little disabled access slot

Temple Of Grace (0542)

Temple Of Grace (0014)

Temple Of Grace (0534)

Temple Of Grace (0639)

Temple Of Grace - Mormon message (0676)
I didn't realize these were Mormon underwear until I got home and looked at this photo

Temple Of Grace (0634)

Temple Of Grace (0576)

Temple Of Grace (0674)

Temple Of Grace (0669)

Temple Of Grace (0648)

Headed To The Temple Burn (4741)
Heading to the Temple on the night it will burn

Temple Of Grace (4768)

Temple Of Grace (4789)

Temple Of Grace (4778)

Temple Of Grace (4827)

Temple Of Grace (4811)

Temple Of Grace (4848)

Temple Of Grace (4838)

Temple Of Grace (4830)

Temple Of Grace (4873)

Temple Of Grace (4883)

Temple Of Grace (4910)

Watching The Temple Burn (4810)

Temple Of Grace (4915)

More of my photos of the Temple of Grace can be found here.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | September 17, 2014 at 08:38 PM | Comments (1)

An Onion Kickstarter?

I'm hoping that it is, but fearing that it isn't.

Filed under Technology | September 17, 2014 at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

Huge Burning Man Inner Playa Panorama

It's a Gigapixel image by Michael Holden where I can see some things better than I could in reality. All it needs to achieve greater verisimilitude is a cup of playa dust dumped into a fan aimed directly into my face...while at least three different sound sources are playing EDM at full volume.

Look for the three green laser spots on the mountain.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | September 17, 2014 at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)


All I can tell you is that this is not Russia.

Filed under Automotive,Photography | September 17, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2014

DHS Planning Commission - September 9, 2014

Wenzlaff School

A representative of PSUSD gave a presentation on the construction work going on at Wenzlaff School. The school is about 40 years old and almost all of it was still original, which explains the extensive work that's we've seen going on. They will be putting up a new sign facing the parking lot that will make it more obvious where the entrance to the school is. Work is ahead of schedule and they expect it to be complete in Spring 2015.

Future Warehouse Facility On Indian

This is the annual extension of permits for the proposed big warehouse development that will be on the east (DHS) side of Indian. No changes proposed. There is no limit to the number of extensions, but each extension is limited to one year.

The name of the owner is currently Wrightwood Capital. Commissioner Gray pointed out that the project is still called "Palm Springs Business Park." The representative of the owner said "Possibly." Meaning that it will likely be changed to something more appropriate when the shovels come out.

The representative said the biggest hold up is the lack of a sewer system. (FedEx is going ahead with their new building in Palm Springs by building their own non-septic tank means of dealing with sewage, but that's very expensive.) Over at MSWD, gradual progress has been made in the cat-herding task of getting a super-majority of landowners (measured in acreage) to support an assessment district that will allow the land owners to pay for the construction of a sewer system. They have found that a large chunk of the owners are people who have held the property for years and expect its value to rise. But those people do not want to pay for a sewer system and don't realize that without a sewer system the value of their property will never appreciably increase. Large financial interests in the area are attempting to reach out to those people and make their long-delayed dreams come true by offering them cash for their nearly worthless chunks of desert.

Commissioner Parker said he is concerned that he is being asked to vote on something he just got. "Everything's always a big rush job." He said the Planning Commissioners should get their packets thirty days before the meeting.

I must point out that the reason this item was on the agenda was because the August meeting (about 30 days ago) was cancelled due to lack of a quorum, partly because Commissioner Parker was not present and had not told staff ahead of time that he would be absent. The information for this item (as well as the following item) were included in the August packet. IOW, Commissioner Parker has already had his request fulfilled: he got the packet for this 30 days ago. Apparently no one told him to read it.

He complained that it was a couple hundred pages of detailed information. He said that if he had gotten the packet on the preceding Thursday, maybe he could have studied it. The packet was, in fact, available on Thursday...electronically. Mr. Parker is complaining that he himself did not come to City Hall to get his paper packet until Monday. And this is somehow the fault of city staff. He moved to postpone this item until the October meeting. He said his concerns are around the Environmental Impact Report. The EIR was not material to this agenda item, which was only to grant a time extension. He pointed out that the project would draw a lot of truck traffic. He wants to know if "we" understand what's planned for that area at all. He's heard rumors of a BP fueling station and storage facility. He's heard another rumor about refurbishing a pipeline to transport oil. There could be major pollution. DHS never voted on the EIR, because it was approved by the County Board of Supervisors before this area was part of the city.

Mr. Malacoff said that when it was annexed into the city, the city re-examined all the work, including the EIR.

Mr. Parker said the Riverside County Planning Commission doesn't have much of a great record on the environment. "They approved the Sentinel plant." In his opinion that is a big mistake and it is a huge polluter. Mr. Parker moved to postpone this item until the October meeting.

Commissioner Gray agreed that Commissioner Parker hadn't had time to digest this and seconded the motion.

Mr. Malacoff explained that when a Commission or the City Council approves something, the developer has the right to expect some guarantee that things won't continually change. Cities can't go in and change things every year, he said. The only question on the table is the one-year extension.

Commissioner Parker asked what "mitigated negative declaration" means. I think this has been explained to Mr. Parker before, but if he wants to educate himself as a Planning Commissioner he could have simply Googled that term before the meeting and found very clear answers.

Chair Gerardi said that when they accept their positions as Planning Commissioners, they must be dedicated to do the work in the amount of time given. Those who are not committed to the assignment should step down. Commissioner Gray said "A little harsh there, John." Mr. Gerardi continued saying that he had heard these complaints several times and that Commissioner Parker was not willing to put in the time. Mr. Parker said that wasn't the case, so Mr. Gerardi asked him why he had not done his work.

"I didn't get the packet until yesterday," Mr. Parker said.

"Why?" asked Mr. Gerardi.

"Because for one thing...the city offices are open Monday through Thursday and I don't understand why. I don't understand how that saves us any..." Mr. Parker said before Mr. Gerardi interrupted him to say "Why don't you just ask the Council?"

Mr. Parker objected to being interrupted and then continued, "They get the privilege of working from 7 AM until 6 PM, Monday through Thursday, and then they get a three-day weekend every weekend. Pretty good deal, I think. So why can't they work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, and then if the packet's available on Thursday and I don't check my email in time to pick it up that afternoon, I can go get it on a Friday and it would be easier to carry out my responsibilities. But I just think that there's nothing...I don't see why the packets cannot be made available thirty days before a decision has to be made. I just think that's more of a reasonable amount of time to actually study this material and be able to make a decision on what we're looking at. Because my feeling is the city staff knows what the hell is going on and we don't. Not really. I mean, you may say you have mastered all this in detail, but I'm not in a position to question it, but I think if you had more time you could master it even better. And it's always a question of rushing around. The project down there...the store they want to put in, the Rio Rancho market they want to put in the KMart building. That was approved last May. Nothing's been done. That other project we've discussed up there on - between 2nd and 3rd Street on Palm, an office complex. That was approved months ago. Nothing's been done. So obviously, it's not like a life and death rush to the finish line to get these decisions made because these developers...finally we approved the project for Two Bunch Palms four or five months ago, I think. Finally, they started doing some work down there that you can actually see. So I really don't see what's so unreasonable about me asking city staff to give us a little bit of clue what's coming down the road. Why do we have to wait until three days before a meeting to know what's going to be on the agenda this month? I'll bet Rich knows what's going to be on the agenda next month, November, December. Probably. I mean more than likely. If he's got to prepare this much stuff, he knows what he's got on his plate. Why can't he give us a little heads up?"

Chair Gerardi responded that some of the responsibility falls on the applicant to provide the material that staff needs. He went on to explain that the applicants need to get city approval first in order to go look for funding. He said that he also did not get his packet until the day of the meeting, but he had already gone online and reviewed it all there. He took his personal time to do that because when he accepted his appointment he said he would do it to the best of his ability.

Commissioner Romero (who also missed last month's less-than-quorum non-meeting) said she concurred with everything Chair Gerardi had said. Being on this body is a work in progress, she said. She was on a vacation until the day before this meeting, got her packet that morning, and has looked it over.

Vice Chair Sobotta said they looked this over a year ago and he's confident circumstances have not changed since. He said some other cities do provide greater lead times on their agendas, maybe a couple of weeks. "As far as I'm concerned for this project, I'm familiar enough with it and feel confident work has been done to sufficiently move forward on it."

The motion failed 2-3 with Commissioners Gray and Parker voting in favor.

Mr. Gerardi moved approval of staff recommendation (to extend for one year). Approved 3-2 with Commissioners Gray and Parker voting against. Mr. Gray said he is in favor of the project, but voted no about the process.

Vista Palms

Vista Palms

The developer is planning to resurrect this long-dormant development, but he wants to change the footprint and elevations of the homes. There are 95 vacant lots. The builder plans to build six homes at a time. There is no phasing plan with the city, but they do plan to build the project in three phases. The developer will have to build paved temporary turn-arounds so that emergency vehicles can access the development before roads are completed that go all the way through.

All of the revised floor plans will be larger than previously approved. The more noticeable change is that the new designs are in the style of mid-century modern. The original designs were in the style of the ubiquitous plague of Orange County suburban sprawl "Spanish style" houses. Not every house will have a pool. They are optional extras. Somehow the previous approvals had no landscaping requirements, but the current proposal does include specific landscape requirements.

Chair Gerardi asked for public comments before hearing from the developer in this public hearing. Mike Platt came up first. He said he was glad to see something coming in to the city. He thinks the proposed designs are beautiful. We need something a little bit different from what we already have.

Frankie Trollope spoke next. She lives in Vista Hacienda. Her house is taller than the proposed designs and has a tile roof. When she bought, the real estate agent told her that her house would gain in value. Her house is still under water. She considers the proposed new homes to be substandard.

James Hullet emailed the developer to ask the prices of the new homes and got no response. He objects to the fact that there will be construction in his neighborhood. That means trucks driving on the street, and after work is finished construction workers sit down for a beer. He thinks all 95 homes should be built at once, not six at a time. Also there needs to be a stop sign at Via Domingo and Mountain View.

Frank Pinsky owns a home that he paid more than $400,000 for. He kind of likes the new proposal. He thinks the city should get a commitment from the developer as to the price that the homes will sell for. [Not, I point out, the asking price, but the price "these homes will sell for".] He can't approve the project without that. If they cost under $200,000 he will be sucking them up and renting them out.

The developer said that ordinary tile-roofed homes aren't selling, but mid-century modern homes are. He said they plan to initially offer the new homes at $310,000 to $325,000. The price has to be above $300,000 for it to work.

Commissioner Parker said he would like to see future homes to be energy efficient and have rooftop solar. He said it would cost about $20,000 to $25,000 per house.

Andrew Cirner came up as part of another round of public comments. Said the city is facing bankruptcy and has a high crime rate. The city has no "draw." [I know some hoteliers who would disagree with that.] We have no shopping. We have nothing that will bring the type of revenue to justify the asking price of these proposed homes. He commutes to Palm Springs for everything, because there is nothing in this city that brings his level of shopping. The city needs a Walmart and a Target. The city needs businesses that will keep people shopping here. He said "You lack the vision and reality base of what's really in front of you." [It was not clear if by "you" he meant the Commissioners or the developer or both.] "You don't have anybody wanting to come to Desert Hot Springs and buy a home for three-hundred plus when you don't have the shopping; you don't have the image; you dont' have the police force to take care of the particular crime." Nine shots were fired at three homes not 200 feet from his residence.

[Mr. Cirner has put his hat into the ring, requesting to be appointed to the CCAC.]

The next speaker said he buys homes in Desert Hot Springs because they are inexpensive. He owns a home in Vista Hacienda. He is glad to hear this will not be low income housing. He believes there are people who want a modern home, but can't afford Palm Springs prices.

Commissioner Gray moved to approve with no changes, except for a couple of corrections that Mr. Malacoff wanted made. Commissioner Romero said that homes like this will attract people with disposable income, and that's what we need. Commissioner Parker made a last plea for solar. Chair Gerardi said he agreed, that every house built in the Coachella Valley should have solar.

The motion was approved 4-1 with Mr. Parker voting no.

Skyborne Development Agreement

Commissioner Gray said that on November 19, 2013, Skyborne had agreed to make a $50,000 payment on December 1, 2013. But when I check my own write up of that November 19, 2013, City Council meeting I see that Jim Kozak did offer to pay the $200,000 that is owed to the city in $50,000 installments beginning December 1, 2013, and Councilmember Matas included that in a motion. But Attorney Quintanilla said the deal should go to the Planning Commission for review. Mr. Matas revised his motion, removing the payment agreement. The motion passed 3-2. I've reviewed all the agendas for the Planning Commission since then, and the development agreement or the payment of $200,000 never came to the Planning Commission. So it seems to me that while Skyborne acknowledges owing $200,000, there is no payment plan in place.

If you think I got that wrong, below is the audio of that portion of the meeting. The source of the confusion is, more than likely, that after the City Clerk types a motion to be displayed on the screen, it cannot be revised and the record has to be based on the audio/video record and the written minutes. Could we please upgrade our city voting system to version 1.1 - or whichever version can reflect the reality that motions are often changed after first being stated?

Mr. Gray moved to revoke the Skyborne development agreement. Mr. Malacoff interrupted to advise that revocation of a development agreement requires a properly noticed public hearing. Mr. Gray disagreed, saying that the revocation of the agreement with Dr. Shah was a revocation of a development agreement. [Ya gotta know what the words mean to be a Planning Commissioner.] Mr. Malacoff explained the difference. Mr. Gray continued to disagree, saying these were exactly the same and the city had a development agreement with Dr. Shah. Mr. Malacoff explained more slowly this time that a development agreement is a contract between the city and a developer and it is adopted by ordinance.

The attorney, knowing nothing of the deal with Dr. Shah nor the Skyborne development agreement, tried to explain the matter as well, but was necessarily vague.

Mr. Gray said it was a breach of contract. The attorney said if, indeed, it was a breach of contract the development agreement would include default provisions. Mr. Gray interrupted to say that the default position was revocation.

Now, the problem with saying things like that is that the Skyborne development agreement was included in its entirety in the agenda packet for that November 19, 2013, City Council meeting and it's still there for anyone to download and read. Go down to page 17, section 8.3 "Termination or Modification of Agreement for Default of Owner." First the city has to give written notice to the developer. The developer gets 60 days to deal with that. If the developer is still in default, then the City Council can modify or terminate the agreement. Skip back to page 15, section 6.4 for the instructions on how to do that. They have to decide to have a properly noticed public hearing. Then they have the public hearing and then the City Council is empowered to do whatever the hell they want to with that development agreement. In short, the default position is not revocation, it's communication with the property owner.

Mr. Gerardi explained that the development agreement was made by the City Council and they are the only ones who can revoke it. OTOH, he said the Planning Commission could recommend to the City Council to do just that. Mr. Gray restated his motion to recommend to the City Council that they consider revocation of the development agreement (this was eventually refined to recommend they "review" the situation). The attorney said that he hadn't read the development agreement, but he felt confident in saying that the procedures would require a notice of default prior to revocation.

The motion was approved 3-1-1 with Chair Gerardi voting no and Commissioner Romero abstaining.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | September 16, 2014 at 02:44 PM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2014

How 'bout more Burning Man pics?

Camp Walter's VW Bug On The Night Of The Temple Burn (4745)
The Bug from Camp Walter at dusk just before the Temple burn

Mutant Vehicle (0659)
Submarine art car
. This was parked exactly midway between the Temple and the Temple's porta-potties, so it was anybody's guess.

Gerlach (1093)
Welcome to Gerlach
. This is during the exit.

The Man on Saturday Morning (0688)
Think what you'd have to pay to rent one of those rooms if it were in San Francisco!
No, really, it was Saturday morning and they were cleaning out the interior of the Man in preparation for the big Burn...and this was probably when there was that previously secret accidental spill of fire retardant.

What To Do With A Couple Of Used Trombones (0699)
If you've got two old trombones hanging around

Flowers between the Man and the Temple (0679)
Oh, those flower thingies
. I know someone is going to come along and tell us the correct name.

Alex (4733)
Alex, a Burner Buddy
. Saturday night and all dressed up to go to a Burn!

LOVE (0593)
Hot love!

Library of Babel (0537)
The Library of Babel interior at dusk
. THe first time I came to the Library of Babel it was just as dusk was getting a bit darker. Looked in, and there was no lighting in the interior. It was very dark. I thought it was a wild experiment to see if Burners would respect the obviously delicate, handmade paper books and the unusual custom furniture. Or would they just turn it into a big sleep/fuck casita serving the Temple crowd? (I don't know which way I'd bet on that question.) But then it turned out their photosensor or clock simply needed adjusting. There were lights. The place stayed safe all week. And I don't think it burned. It was there on my way to the Temple burn, and there are no more ceremonial burns after that. Just trash wood.

More of my 2014 Burning Man pics are here.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | September 15, 2014 at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

Walk Los Angeles

Some organized walks coming up in L.A.:

  • Saturday, September 7, Three Is A Magic Number. Twelve mile loop walk starting at Grand Park, downtown, 9 AM. The 12 miles is broken into three parts, and you can bug out when you want to.
  • Friday, November 28, Post-Thanksgiving Epic. Starts at Chinatown Gold line station, 9 AM. Fifteen mile loop.
  • Saturday, January 17, Ten Bridges Epic. "Walk over every bridge crossing the Los Angeles River between Broadway and Olympic Blvd." About 12 miles, 9 AM at the Chinatown Metro station.
  • Saturday, February 7, Stair Trek VIII. 25 miles which include 92 stairways. Meet the in Laurel & Hardy Park, across from the Music Box stairs at Vendome & Del Monte, 8:30 AM. "You will walk every single staircase in the area bounded by the 101 Freeway (south); Riverside Drive (north); Elysian Park (east) and Hillhurst Avenue (west.)"

Filed under California,Cities/Urbanism | September 15, 2014 at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

GoPro - the whole ball of wax

The New Yorker has published the most comprehensive (and literate, it almost goes without saying) article on GoPro cameras ever. The history, the culture, the danger, the blandness, the abuse. If you feel like there's any sort of GoPro information you missed, it's there...except for details about the hardware or where to get the best prices.

Zak Shelhamer, a photographer and former professional snowboarder, joined the company to help edit and produce snow-sport videos and now runs the adventure-sports division. He told me that he'd recently been talking to a pair of young Frenchmen who were planning to row a boat from Monterey to Hawaii. They'd submitted a proposal for a contest the company ran called How Will You GoPro? They didn't win, but Shelhamer gave them some cameras anyway and promised to take an interest in what they might come back with. In discussing the risks, he mentioned a guy who had tried rowing from Australia to New Zealand. "How'd he do?" one of the Frenchmen asked him.

"He drowned," Shelhamer said.

"How'd they figure that out?"

"They found his camera."

Filed under GoPro,Photography | September 15, 2014 at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

White Ford Mustangs Outta Control

Odd coincidence in the overnight Sheriff's reports:

  1. "The investigation revealed the driver of a white 2015 Ford Mustang was heading westbound on Country Club Drive, just east of Portola Avenue, when she veered her vehicle south and collided with the south curb."
  2. "A white Ford Mustang collided with a parked vehicle and fled the scene."

Filed under Automotive,Coachella Valley | September 15, 2014 at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2014

Walk-In Camping

This year at Burning Man I gave walk-in camping a test for just one night. The walk-in camping area is on the east-ish side of the city. Motors are not permitted in it. I had, over the years, thought the people who camped there wanted a quieter environment with less exhaust from motor vehicles. But it turns out that more than 90% of the campers out there are within 100 feet of the outermost road (Lapis Lazuli this year), so they are getting just about as much noise and exhaust as I do two blocks into the city.

But they also get virtually no restraints on space. You can build a camp as spacious as you like, so long as you have some way of hauling your stuff out there that does not require a motor.

I decided to give it a try, but I didn't want to camp up close to Lapis Lazuli like everybody else, so I carried my gear as far as I was permitted. There are signs out there that say you can't camp within about 100 feet of the perimeter fence. I found out that it's hardly any quieter. The roar of the city carries quite well. But you won't hear individual conversations when you're that far out. The air is probably a bit cleaner, less dusty. But it's colder too. Wise people have observed that the temperature at night decreases the farther you get from the Man. I've observed that, but never measured it to prove it. I suspect it's actually that on the long walk home I just begin to cool down my own body and begin to feel more and more tired.

OTOH, walk-in camping had the cleanest porta-potties in the whole city. No one even tracked mud into them when it rained! You can see them in the photo above at the extreme right edge.

View of Black Rock City from Walk-In Camping
My tent and bike pretty far out in walk-in camping

Walk In Camping
Walk-in camping is highlighted in green on this map. I see now that I could have gotten further from the city if I had camped closer to the 2:30 axis. I was concerned that my tent would be hard to find at night, so I put it near the 4:15 axis, so it was nearly a straight shot from my tent back to Burner Buddies...although I did have to loop around Danger Ranger's camp, which was one of those up close to Lapis Lazuli, right on the 4:15 axis.

Or, I could have moved my tent the other way, closer to the 5:00 axis, but that would put me next to an active road and the airport...although I'm pretty sure the airport is closed after dark. I was able to observe from my tent that commuter helicopters coming in to the airport had to park farther from the terminal than airplanes, thus requiring their passengers to walk farther with the little bit of baggage they are permitted to bring aboard. That might have been the most challenging part of Burning Man for some of those people.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | September 14, 2014 at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

Most Useful GoPro Accessory Yet

The PowerPole: It's a pole. It's got power. Inside the pole is a 5400mAh battery. The regular battery for the GoPro Hero3 is 1180mAh. The PowerPole is only for the Hero3.

Filed under GoPro | September 14, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

Six States Proposal Goes Down

The Sacramento Bee has provided this map showing county-by-county the rate of valid signatures. Mono County, for example, has a validity rate of 81%, but that's only 98 signatures. Imperial's validity rate is only 60.4%, but that's 1,939 valid signatures.

Filed under California | September 14, 2014 at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2014

In A Hurry?

See the Man burn in only 37 seconds. This might be the best summary of the Burn experience I've seen. Honest.

Filed under Burning Man | September 13, 2014 at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)


Embrace - ready to burn (0601)
Embrace on Thursday night, being prepared to be burned in the morning

Through an eye on Embrace (0559)
Looking out through an eye on the feminine figure

Embrace - inside the feminine head (0007)
Inside the feminine figure's head

Inside Embrace (0005)
Inside the masculine figure

All my Embrace photos.

Other people's Flickr photos of Embrace.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | September 13, 2014 at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

Stealth Burnermobile

20140825 Burning Man (174)
This is the kind of Burnermobile you need if you want to just drive past all those DUI checkpoints
. Photo by Ed.

Filed under Automotive,Burning Man,Photography | September 13, 2014 at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

Flying Over Black Rock City

Earlier this summer I was surprised and delighted to find a fundraising campaign being operated by Burning Sky to help pay for a new, better terminal building at the Black Rock City airport. The reward for a contribution of a measly $70 was a ride in an airplane around Black Rock City. What, so instead of flashing big breasts and a skimpy outfit, all I need to do is pay $70 to get on a plane?! I must be living in America. So I ponied up my $70 and on Thursday just after lunch I showed up at the Burning Sky camp at 5 & G. I signed a waiver of liability that was more comprehensive than any other I had signed. I could be tortured, mangled and killed with cold-blooded intent on my flight and the matter wouldn't even go to arbitration. I lose.

They drove us straight out on 5:00 to the airport where we showed our red exit bracelets as we went through the "security gate." The bracelets were to get us back into the city, but I was carrying my Burning Man ticket anyway. Only gradually did I realize that the flights were primarily for skydivers (who, I think, also must pay something before they get to the playa). When a plane isn't full of skydivers, the extra spots go to donor "observers." They had told us we would be limited to one camera and one small bottle of water. I thought they were being excessively conservative and brought my GoPro camera as well as my smallest pocket camera, plus one 16 ounce bottle of water. Once aboard the plane I saw that the restrictions were exactly right. In fact, they should tell people not to bring a DSLR, or even any camera with a lens that protrudes more than about an inch. Passengers sit straddling one of the bench seats (probably just a long board) on either side of the plane. The next passenger in front of you (we faced backwards) would squeeze between your legs as closely as possible. Burning Sky had not specified, but I thought it would be better to show up wearing clothes, so I did this dressed. I saw guys on other flights wearing nothing more than underwear and shoes.

We all had to wear parachutes. FAA requirement. Our instructions were only that if they had to be used we would be pushed out of the plane. Then we were to count to two and pull the big handle on our left side. If someone accidentally pulled that while aboard the plane, everyone was supposed to jump on the parachute as quickly as possible, otherwise the parachute wearer would be sucked out the door.

We had 6 or 7 jumpers and 6 or 7 observers on my flight. We took off south, got a good view of the entrance road (and last year's entrance road), then turned left to go around the city counter-clockwise. I think in the past all flights were clockwise. About three-quarters of the way around the loop we had reached about 13,000 feet (the playa is at about 4,000 feet of elevation) they opened the door and the jumpers began to jump. As soon as they were all off, the door closed and the pilot went into a dive that would have been suitable at the Battle of Midway (or pretty close to it). Then we circled back and landed.

We got pretty good views of the various textures of the playa. It's not all like the perfect flat dust where Black Rock City is built. We could also see some other smaller playas on the other side of some mountains.

Once we were aboard the plane, I ran my GoPro continuously.

Update: I've uploaded a longer version (24:34) of this video with ambient audio and minimal editing.

On the southeasterly side of the playa you can see the very dark line that is the railroad. Roughly parallel to that and closer to Black Rock City is an officially designated road on the playa. That two-lane road, even though it goes through the Burning Man closure area, remains open as a public road so that non-Burners can get to their camps farther up the playa.

About To Jump (2473)

Burning Sky Mutant Vehicle (2454)
Burning Sky's art car

Burning Sky (2450)
My ticket/boarding pass
. Nobody ever asked to see it.

Parachutes at the airport (2471)
The parachute rack out by the runway
. Just like life vest racks when you go whitewater rafting.

Aerial View Of Black Rock City (2472)
Why is the area between 2:00 and 12:00 always more chewed up than the rest of the playa?
Every year it's this way, even though the city is moved to a slightly different spot every year.

Arrivals at the airport (2478)
I suspect these are some of those rich plug-n-play people we keep hearing about
. My clues are two (other than flying in): (1) they are getting picked up in a plain ol' RV which is totally not permitted (it should be an art car, unless all these people qualify for a disabled placard), (2) one of them is carrying a bag from Jeffrey, which I think is this Jeffrey of New York and Atlanta (but it also could have been Jeffrey of Beverly Hills, a jeweler). I use Trader Joe's bags exclusively when I'm on the playa, and when I need to get from the airport over to 9:00 & Kandahar I pedal a 25-year old beach cruiser and hope my Trader Joe bag doesn't fall out of my bike basket.

Prep Area at Burning Sky (2452)
This is the area at Burning Sky camp where skydivers prepare their gear

Terminal One at the airport (2468)
The existing airport terminal
, with an art car in front of it.

Filed under Burning Man,GoPro,Photography | September 13, 2014 at 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2014

DHS Public Safety Commission, just the Police - 9/11/2014

This is only the Police portion of the September 11 Public Safety Commission meeting. Interim Commander John Holcomb was representing the Police. He is another PERS retiree who will work for us up to 960 hours. He's been working here for about three weeks. He retired from Cathedral City Police as Captain in 2008.

The Police have slightly liberalized their impound policy. Now if you are caught driving without a license and you have never had a license and you have never been cited for driving without a license before, then the vehicle you were driving may be handed over to a licensed driver to take away, or it may be parked on the spot if the Police think it will be safe, or if it has to be towed it will kept only for storage not as a 30-day impound. Commandeer Holcomb said that in this narrowly defined case, the driver "gets one bite at the apple."

He talked about the "stand off" at the apartment on Calle Las Tiendas. The victim had told the Police that he never took his eyes off the apartment as he went to the nearest payphone to call the Police and he did not see the fourth suspect exit. The Police came and caught three of the four suspects. The Police relied on the victim's statement, which meant the fourth suspect was probably still in the apartment. After a long stand off ("believe it or not, the SWAT team can't do anything quickly," the Commander explained) they found the apartment empty, so the fourth suspect is still at large.

The gun fight on Desert View was two gangs battling. One man was shot in the chest. Two of his friends got him in a car to take him to the hospital. On the way they wrecked the car, so the two friends abandoned their wounded friend there. The Palm Springs Fire Department got there in time to save the shot man. It was determined that the driver of the vehicle was the son of the registered owner. That man has turned himself in.

The recent event on Second Street involved one of the suspects in an robbery and auto theft. When the Police arrived on the scene the suspect took off on foot. One of our new officers who had just been released from field training took chase. She caught him and convinced him to give up his knife and to surrender. Money saved and won't make the national news. All is well.

A mini Police Academy is coming up on Saturday, October 18, 9 AM to 4 PM in the Lozano Center. This allows citizens to get a broader knowledge of the Police Department and how it works. If you are interested, RSVP to Jim Knabb at There is no charge for this.

Commander Holcomb pointed out that DHS Police and Cathedral City Police are handling very nearly the same number of calls. Actual numbers, not per capita numbers. Cathedral City, however, has twice the staff in its Police Department and the city's population is 52,600, while the population of DHS is 27,700.

Officer Larry Gaines has been brought back from the Gang Task Force in order to assure adequate numbers of officers here for their safety. One day Commander Holcomb was going to lunch with the Chief and the City Manager when a call came in. There were two officers and one Sergeant in the field. Another officer was at the Banning jail. One of the officers here in town was trying to stop a woman bleeding to death from her jugular vein. Another was at a domestic violence disturbance where the male was alleged to have a gun. Meanwhile, the Sergeant was in foot pursuit of a burglary in progress. Commander Holcomb didn't say, but I imagine City Manager Magaña ended up having lunch alone.

Recruitment is difficult because (1) there's that Sheriff's contract sitting in the corner like the 800-pound gorilla [my description, not his], (2) the severe pay cuts to less than competitive rates, and (3) the existing staffing shortage. But still, only "quality" people will be hired. There are currently seven candidates in process. Maybe one or two good candidates will come out of that bunch. Two new officers are in field training with another officer. Two other officers recently completed field training and are now working.

Recruitment and maintaining a safe number of officers in the field are the top priorities right now.

Even so, Commander Holcomb is working on updating the policy manual. He's also working on finding grants.

Commissioner Stephens asked if the Police are falling behind in report writing. The Commander said they are backed up by about 40 reports, which he and Commissioner Stephens agreed was not too bad. The real backlog is investigations. There are leads that need to be worked. Short response times to calls is being maintained.

Commissioner Lavy asked how they may be handling the squatter problem. The answer boils down to it's only a misdemeanor and more serious crimes get a much higher priority.

Vice Chair Meyer asked how many openings there are right now. The Commander said they are authorized 26 positions and they have 18 now. That's counting everybody. Mr. Meyer asked the Commander to bring back an overtime report next month.

Code Enforcement is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Police Department, but is now under the wing of Community Development. I suppose that if they will show up at any Commission meeting, it will probably be Planning.

The city has recently put out an RFP for restriping all of the roads in the city.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Public Safety | September 12, 2014 at 05:09 PM | Comments (2)

High Quality Photos Of Burning Man 2014

I've seen some high quality photos and I've seen some big collections, but this collection of photos by Duncan Rawlinson is both big and high quality. During the Embrace burn he was up in an airplane with a good telephoto lens.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | September 12, 2014 at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

Fundraising For The Orca Mural

Great news DHS! Paula Terifaj and Dana Johnson have teamed up to put on a fund raiser here in town at the Dog Spa to benefit the "Orca Family" mural to be painted on the Town Center Mall by John Coleman. Here are the details. And here is the link to donate on Kickstarter. We only have 26 days left and we have a long way to go. Please donate today! Let's do this folks!

Artist Fundraiser for Orca Mural in Desert Hot Springs
September 20th at 6pm
67840 Hacienda Ave at the Dog Spa Resort
“Wine for Whales Cheese Party”
Kindly RSVP
Paula and Dana


Blank Wall On Two Bunch Palms Trail
There's the blank canvas
- that long blank wall that the kids from Desert Springs Middle School walk past twice a day.

Orca Mural as proposed
The proposal as presented to the CCAC last month

Orca Family Kickstarter.

Filed under Art,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | September 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Comments (5)

The California State Song

It has only now come to my attention that I Love You California is the official state song.

And now you know why you never hear it. Maybe the Governor sings it when he gets sworn in. I don't know, I've never seen that ceremony.

Worse than that, though, California has only that one state song! Let me show you how the other state does it:

Massachusetts state song All Hail To Massachusetts:

But wait, that's not all. Massachusetts is nearly 400 years old, so it's had a lot longer to celebrate music.

The Massachusetts official folk song is Massachusetts (sung by the official Massachusetts state folk song singer).

The Massachusetts state march is On The Road To Boston.

The Massachusetts state ode is Ode To Massachusetts. I cannot believe California doesn't have its own ode.

The list is not complete yet, but I've not found an audio version for these:

  • Massachusetts patriotic song: Massachusetts (Because of You Our Land Is Free)
  • Massachusetts glee club song: The Great State of Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts state polka: Say Hello To Someone From Massachusetts

The Massachusetts General Court is an industrious body that has made additional official designations for the state flower, tree, bird, beverage, horse, insect, fish (take a guess), dog, gem, marine mammal (the right whale, Eubalaena Glacialis), fossil, mineral, poem, rock, historical rock (easy one there), explorer rock (Dighton Rock, an obscure site which I've visited), building and monument stone, heroine (Deborah Samson, veteran of the Revolution), muffin, shell (New England neptune), cat, soil (Paxton), Vietnam War Veterans Memorial (the one in Worcester), game bird (you don't even have to think to get this one), Memorial to honor Southwest Asia War veterans (also in Worcester), bean, berry (easy one), folk hero (John Chapman was born in Leominster), dessert (also easy), cookie, peace statue (the World War I veterans memorial in Orange), Korean War Veterans memorial (the one in Charlestown Navy Yard), MIA/POW memorial (the one in the National Cemetery in Bourne), children's book (it's obvious once you know the answer), children's author (Theodor Geisel was born in Springfield), donut, District Tartan (the Bay State Tartan), blues artist (born in Harlem, but grew up in Springfield), sport (easy - the one invented in Springfield), inventor (born and lived in Boston until age 17), reptile, artist, and glacial rock.

Massachusetts has been debating choosing a state rock song. The battle (I don't know if it's been resolved yet) is between Dream On by Aerosmith (Aerosmith originating in Boston is the only possible explanation for this) and Roadrunner by the Modern Lovers.

California, despite its state song, has also shown some effort in gathering state emblems. We've got an official amphibian, animal (it's extinct), bird, dance (West Coast Swing), fife and drum band, freshwater fish, flower, folk dance, fossil, gemstone, gold rush ghost town, grass (purple needlegrass), historical society, insect, marine fish, marine mammal, marine reptile, military museum, mineral (oh, just try a wild guess!), prehistoric artifact, reptile, rock, silver rush ghost town, soil (San Joaquin), tall ship, tartan (California tartan), theater, and tree.

Filed under California | September 12, 2014 at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2014

Hurricane Marie

I'm sure my east coast friends were filled with sympathy and concern when they learned that Hurricane Marie would be hitting southern California. Here we are having to deal with wildfires and earthquakes, when nature piles on with something that really only Florida deserves. Here, then, is a video documenting the force of Marie as she slammed into Malibu:

Oh, the humanity! Here the LA Times reports on the loss of historic structures in the area, especially the Point Mugu lifeguard station built in the late 1950s. It was used as a location in the film Hitchcock.

Filed under California,Film/Movies | September 11, 2014 at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)