July 29, 2014
Video at the Tour de France
I didn't know until today that the Tour de France had changed its rules this year to permit action cameras mounted on bicycles. According to Gizmodo most of the on-bike cameras are the Shiman CM-1000 which is 40% lighter than a GoPro Hero3+. $289 at Amazon. Besides its lighter weight, it supports private wireless connections to Shimano receivers, which would be in the team cars...essential for bike racing.
Here's the best one, starting at the best part. This skips the first 51 seconds which includes the part where we see first hand what TdF riders do to stupid spectators who encroach on their route: quick, physical violence. The videographer apparently was wearing his camera on his helmet which he was holding out at arm's length. The camera went down onto the pavement and was picked up by Kevin Raza who rides with Team Europecar. He fumbled with it for a bit and then finally got it pointed at his massive legs, which we watch for quite a bit. Eventually it got handed off to a team car. I can't remember ever seeing video of the interior of a team car before. Not too interesting.
One minute of sped-up Stage 1 by Cannondale.
On the pavé in Stage 5, with rain, of course.
And finally, this one isn't with an action cam, nor mounted on a bike, but it was shot by the guy who dropped his GoPro in that first video. This shows the very lead of the Tour going uphill. First you get motorcycles coming through to push crowd back in order to reduce the amount of fisticuffs in which the riders have to engage; then the lead riders for the stage; then the peloton; and finally the yellow jersey of the overall leader.
Bonus: the descent of Col D'Izoard, which was Stage 14 on this year's Tour, but this was shot on a training ride before the Tour...with a chest-mounted action cam. You will see when the view switches to the accompanying motorcyclist that the speed reaches 95 kph which is 60 MPH.
Rock Island (and Moline)
Rock Island, Illinois, is considering hosting a large marijuana cultivation facility while neighboring Moline considers permitting a dispensary.
The Rock Island City Council approved the sale of the land with a 5-0 vote. And that's all they've done. The investors still have a lot of hoops to jump through before they can get their hands dirty. The facility will be 30,000 to 50,000 s.f. and create at least 30 jobs, they say.
The city describes this as "difficult to get to." In California when they say that it means it's either so far up in the mountains that you will probably be shot as you try to make the slow ascent up the narrow, potholed road. Or it means it's so far out in the desert that you will die of thirst after your vehicle becomes trapped in that soft sand pit they craftily put right in the middle of the road. But in Rock Island "difficult to get to" means it's hard to get to if you have no vehicle, are unable to walk, and do not have access to a wheelchair. It's a little more than a mile on straight, flat roads from the loop highway that encircles the city. If you told me there was a bus stop there I wouldn't be too surprised.
The proposed site for a dispensary in Moline, OTOH, is at the very convenient SouthPark mall.
July 28, 2014
What We've Missed On TV
Kyle Kingsbury at his weigh-in. The video is better. From his Wikipedia page: "Kingsbury faced Patrick Cummins on July 26, 2014 at UFC on Fox 12. He lost the fight via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-25, 30-24) and subsequently announced his retirement from MMA."
DHS Planning Commission - July 17, 2014
CUP Flamingo Hotel
This is a proposal to re-establish the 33-room hotel with spa and restaurant. The main issues are the architecture and landscaping. The restaurant is not included in this proposal. "The proposed improvements including rehabilitating the destroyed area, repainting the facades, making parking lot improvements to comply with current ADA standards, installing new landscaping, installing private outdoor patios on some of the units, new trash enclosure, providing drainage improvements and interior tenant improvements." The building is legal nonconforming in its setbacks. The legal requirements for setbacks are "20 feet in front, 10 feet at the rear, and 15 feet on the sides adjacent to a street." The actual setbacks at the Flamingo are "11 feet from the Pierson Boulevard, 3-10 feet on the street side yard, and 112 feet from the rear property line." [Wow, if only they could just average all their setbacks, they'd be fine.] With 33 rooms and a 1,040 sq.ft. restaurant, the hotel is required to have at least 51 parking spaces. The proposal provides for 55 parking spaces.
Improvements along Pierson:
- Provide a new porte-cochere at the entrance for customer drop-off with sky blue catamaran wind sails fabric covering the entryway.
- Install a 16-foot tall pink flamingo sculpture in a rock bowl fountain that will have a pink lava appearance (at night) under the porte-cochere.
- Maintain existing aluminum frames to the doors and windows that will match the new porte-cochere frames.
- Provide new channel letter signage with LED Illumination on building frontage as detailed on Sheet A-11.
- Resurface the existing block walls with new plaster.
- New meandering sidewalk.
- The predominant color of the block walls and the structure will be "egg shell" with the exception of the flamingo and fountain.
On the drawings the pink flamingo is described this way: "16' height pink flamingo metal sculpture made out of reflective metal back light with hidden yellow/red flickering LED light to give a 'rise of the phoenix.' (Sculpture oriented in direction of fault line vortex.)" There will be water air jets located in the bottom of the fountain to give the appearance of boiling water with blue light.
If they don't play a recording of "The Firebird" every evening when they turn the lights on for the fountain, then they just don't know what they're doing. The version by Yes would be advisable since it's only 3m49s long compared to 47 minutes when the Vienna Philharmonic plays the original (this link will take you directly to the 43-minute mark because that's where you want to be, with volume up high - get that man a towel).
- Renovate or replace "Egg Shell" block wall*.
- Provide new "Blushing Bride" pink wrought iron fences, gates, and railings.*
- New Butterfly roof with "smoke tan" plaster surface and decorative columns.
- New standard sidewalk.
- Window and door frames will be extruded aluminum with a grey color.*
- The Porte-cochere and fountain elements will also be a major part of the Tamar Street Elevation.
Otherwise along Foxdale:
- The ends of the "smoke tan" Butterfly Roof will be visible on Foxdale Drive.
- Complete removal of public restroom on second floor; no guest rooms will be impacted.
Interior, besides all the obvious things (new paint, new smoke detectors, etc., etc.) these are the changes:
- Provide a handicapped lift for the large pool.
- New Day User Facilities to include lockers, restrooms, and showers.
- Provide covered areas to the laundry, bar, and spas to match porte-cochere.
- Refurbished pink railings on stairs.
- New Pink doors to guest rooms.
- "During the evening hours the LED lighting will provide a pink glow to the eaves."
- Butterfly roof will have major view from all vantage inside the facility.
- New private catamaran covered seating areas with flame pit.
The project will be done in phases over a 5-year period. Here are the phases as initially presented.
- Will include renovation of the front lobby, exterior walls along street frontage, exterior landscaping, day guest locker room, laundry room, new butterfly roof, on-site pools, and guest rooms 11-19.
- Will include slurry seal of the parking area and the southern perimeter wall along the property line.
- Will include the remainder of the hotel rooms, the porte-cochere, the pink flamingo, rock bowl fountain, covered patios, covered spas, and covered bar area.
- will include the retention basin, landscaping in the parking lot, and the regrading of the parking lot.
But during the Commission meeting the owner said he had decided to put the pink flamingo and fountain in phase 1.
The developer will also be required to install ribbon gutters on Tamar and Foxdale, and to complete the 7-foot sidewalk on Pierson and install 4-foot sidewalks on Foxdale and Tamar.
New commercial facilities are required to agree to be annexed into Community Facilities District No. 2010-1. New developments are also subject to PTAX2, a public safety parcel tax that never expires, and is different from the better known PTAX1. But at the time of this hearing it was not clear if the Flamingo Hotel would be subject to either of those, because it is not new. Conditions 56 (CFD) has been modified to say "...unless the City Attorney determines that existing facilities are not required to join the CFD."
Condition 75 required the hotel to dedicate an additional 10 feet to the public right of way along both Pierson and Tamar, but the building is so close to the right of way now, this change would put it IN the right of way, so the condition will be deleted.
Commissioner Gray asked if the recommendations of the ALRC were binding on the Planning Commission. Rich Malacoff said that the Commission can revise ALRC recommendations.
Martín Magaña came to the podium to make a public comment and related some of the history of the hotel in the last few years.
Attorney Quintanilla said he is researching the issue of whether the hotel must join the CFD.
Vice Chair Sobotta moved to approve the CUP with no revisions other than some corrections made by staff. Approved 5-0.
Location of Marijuana Dispensaries and Cultivation Sites
City Attorney Quintanilla laid out the legal issues for the Commissioners. He explained that the cultivation process and the dispensary have to be tethered together. Everyone who cultivates, works at the dispensary or acquires medical marijuana must be a member of the collective. Some cities, however, do not permit cultivation. Some dispensaries cultivate in the same building where they dispense.
[It's entirely possible that when the laws are in place to permit dispensaries and cultivation in Desert Hot Springs that the Palm Springs dispensaries might move their cultivation facilities to DHS, where land prices are cheaper and we have award-winning water. I don't know if the quality of water can be a selling point with marijuana, like it has been with beer.]
Attorney Quintanilla said that regulations on placement of dispensaries do not have to be in place for the City Council to submit a tax to the voters or for the voters to vote on it. So the Planning Commission has a good amount of time to study this. The City Council, however, is working under tighter time limits to get a tax on the ballot in November.
Michael Picardi came up to comment. He is a medical marijuana user. He and his partner go to Palm Springs tow or three times a month and spend close to $300. He said dispensaries should be treated like liquor stores - you have to be 21 to buy, you have to have an ID. He sees deliveries happening at dispensaries, so he's not sure cultivation has to go hand-in-hand with a dispensary. He urged the Commission to put dispensaries in commercial districts. His preferred location would be the northwest corner of Palm & Hacienda [the almost Fresh & Easy location]. It's open there and on a busy corner and on a bus line. [Is it a coincidence that a real estate sign has appeared on that property in just the last few weeks?]
Attorney Quintanilla said that all ages can have medical marijuana, but if they're under 18 they have to have a guardian get it for them.
Andrew [last name unclear] came up to comment. He said bills before the legislature will probably pass in the next couple of months. One provision in pending legislation is the separation of cultivation and dispensing.
The specific bill he was talking about is SB 1262. Attorney Quintanilla said he has stopped trying to track medical marijuana bills. If one gets to the Governor and he signs it, then Mr. Quintanilla will look at it.
Tom Miller, President of Express Delivery, came to the podium. He said the suggestion that the dispensaries be one mile apart wouldn't work.
A Mr. Hernandez spoke next. He's a grower for a couple of collectives. He asked the Commission to consider the square footage tax. [The Planning Commission will not be considering the possible taxes at all.] He said there are a lot of growers who steal electricity. Some dispensaries, he said, are looking at the bottom line price, not the health of their members. He is of the opinion that a square footage tax would help to correct these problems. He said the marijuana needs to be tested for pesticides.
Chair Gerardi asked Acting Chief Neujahr to give his perspective on this issue. The Chief came to the podium and said medical marijuana in California is approved by law. There is a law on the books. It must be understood that we are administering a law, not trying to prevent it. This is different from dealing with things you don't want to happen. "We're massaging it to make it fit in our community."
"The two most important things from a safety standpoint," the Chief said, "are drugs, which is marijuana, and money." The collectives know how to conduct business. They know how to sell. They know customer service. There is still a big black market for high quality marijuana. As a result, the collectives are prime candidates for burglaries and robberies. Then there are those stacks of money. Federal law is only now changing to allow banks to accept cash money from marijuana retailers. That means "stacks and stacks of money" build up until they can get it into the system. Therefore, there is a potential for serious crime.
Chair Gerardi asked him where he would suggest locating dispensaries. Chief Neujahr used Las Vegas as an example. They did not consider the tourist areas to be appropriate locations for dispensaries. So they have barred them from The Strip and from Fremont Avenue. They did allow the dispensaries to be in areas with easy access. He said the Commission might consider whether they want a dispensary right on Palm, or would it be better a half a block back from Palm, but still in the commercial area.
[Chief Neujahr may not have noticed that most of the commercial areas along Palm Drive are only as deep as one parcel. Go back a half a block and you're deep in a residential zone.]
The Chief said he would not suggest placing them in industrial areas. Most industrial areas are rural, unlighted, and in Desert Hot Springs the biggest industrial zone is down by Indian and I-10, where response time would be slow. If the Police have to run out there, then they're taken away from the rest of the city for quite a while. He said that any time you want to prevent something from happening, you want it close in, you want it visible.
Commissioner Gray said that a dispensary in Yucca Valley in an industrial area was robbed several times. He would not support a requirement that cultivation and dispensing take place in the same building.
Acting Chief Neujahr came back to the podium saying he wanted to add a couple of things to the discussion that are best practices. It is recommended that the same location restrictions that are put on a hard liquor bar be applied to dispensaries in terms of distance from schools, churches and parks. A lot of cities regulate it that way.
Commissioner Romero said that "in a former life" she was a banker. When the Bank of America burned down, the only thing left standing was the vault. The new Bank of America now has glass "this thick" between the teller and customer. She said the city can regulate how a facility is constructed, what it looks like inside. She also pointed out there are four pharmacies in town, they are not very far apart, and they're in convenient, safe, well-lit locations.
Attorney Quintanilla said that if the requires a Conditional Use Permit for dispensaries, then the city will be able to deal with the needs of a specific location (lighting, security, etc.).
Commission Parker said that a good location would be near medical clinics. He said the dispensaries need to be seen as part of the medical industry, rather than as something like a bar or liquor store. He said dispensaries should be in commercial zones and on bus lines, but otherwise the city should not regulate the location.
Mr. Parker said he had heard of a proposal to charge a $50,000 fee for a dispensary to open. He's opposed to that, if it's true. That would make it impossible for a small business person to operate and all we would have in town are "the big corporate players. The Coca-Cola of pot," he said. [Applause]
Commissioner Gray said "Today's it's medical marijuana; tomorrow it's recreational marijuana." He said he uses medical marijuana himself for anxiety. He described some of the security provisions at the dispensaries in Palm Springs. He proposed city staff to use the same rules as Palm Springs. The only difference between DHS and Palm Springs in this issue, is that we don't have industrial areas integrated within the populated parts of the city. He did not think that there should be a distance requirement between individual dispensaries, but there should be distance requirements from schools, churches and playgrounds. Mr. Gray moved to adopt the security requirements that Palm Springs has for its dispensaries. Vice Chair Sobotta seconded that.
Chair Gerardi said those security features are the same any good business would use. He also wondered if dispensaries on Palm Drive might have a negative effect on family tourism.
Mr. Gray said that some of the unpermitted dispensaries in Palm Springs don't have all the security features that the permitted dispensaries have. Mr. Gerardi said the fact they are illegal tells him that they are not following best practices for the business.
Mr. Gray said he would consider withdrawing his motion if the Commission could meet again in two weeks with a copy of Palm Springs' regulations.
The Commission settled on July 31 at 6 PM for their next meeting. Mr. Gerardi asked staff to provide a copy of Palm Springs rules and regulations on medical marijuana along with our own regulations for liquor stores and bars.
Mr. Malacoff said the Vortex Specific Plan needed to be addressed as well. If the city wants to permit dispensaries in the Vortex Specific Plan area (or not), then that should be explicitly stated in the final action so there won't be any questions.
Code Enforcement Activity Update
This item was placed on the agenda at the request of Commissioner Gray specifically to discuss a banner at 13279 Palm Drive and delivery of the Desert Star Weekly to vacant homes.
Mr. Malacoff said the banner at 13279 Palm Drive has been taken down.
Mr. Gerardi asked about a banner behind Starbucks that says "Valley Meat Market" that has been up for a long time; and the banner for the gym in the shopping center at Mission Lakes and Little Morongo has been up for ten months. He said the rule on banners should be enforced uniformly.
Mr. Gray said that the Las Brisas project has a McDonald's banner. He went on to repeat his little fantasy that the city pays code enforcement "a million bucks." [In public meeting after public meeting over the last few months it has been stated repeatedly by reliable people (like Amy Aguer) that the cost of code enforcement in the 2013/14 fiscal year was under $600,000 and no one ever projected it to be in the neighborhood of a million.]
Mr. Gray said the code enforcement officers don't see the banners.
Mr. Malacoff said he would pass along the instruction to code enforcement to do a "banner sweep." Attorney Quintanilla pointed out that each Commissioner could pick up a phone and report these things to code enforcement and there's even an app you can download for your smartphone. Mr. Gray said code enforcement doesn't respond to his complaints. Mr. Quintanilla said that the party who reports the violation should then let city staff know that code enforcement has not acted on a report. Mr. Malacoff said he has had success using that app.
Mr. Malacoff has spoken to the managing editor at Desert Star Weekly and he will follow up to make sure they are not delivering to vacant houses. Mr. Gray said the newspaper is delivered to the middle of his street and his street is littered with Desert Star Weekly trash.
Mr. Gray said all the "for sale" signs on the Skylight Lodge (Palm Drive across from Stater Bros.) exceed the limit and he wants someone to look into it.
Here's what the city sign ordinance has to say about real estate signs from 17.44.050 H and I:
H. Real estate signs for residential sales provided, however, that there shall be 1 sign per street frontage not exceeding 4 square feet in area and 5 feet in height and the sign is unlit and is removed within 15 days of close of escrow or the rental or lease of the residential property. Open house signs, for the purpose of selling a single house or condominium and not exceeding 4 square feet in area and 5 feet in height, are permitted for directing prospective buyers to property offered for sale.
I. Real estate signs advertising the sale, rental, or lease of commercial and industrial premises provided that the following requirements are satisfied: (1) one sign per street frontage not to exceed 32 square feet in area, (2) eight feet high maximum, (3) such sign shall be removed upon sale, lease or rental of the premises or 24 months, whichever comes first. Thereafter, 1 sign per premises not to exceed 16 square feet in size and 5 feet in height based upon a 1 acre lot area is allowed for the sale, lease or rent of the premises. Real estate signs shall only be placed on vacant property for 1 year as long as the sign is maintained in an orderly manner. A sign application, but no fee, shall be required to be submitted in order to monitor the time frame of real estate signs. Any real estate sign left unmaintained on vacant property shall be considered an illegal sign and subject to removal or abatement at owner’s expense, as provided by this chapter.
Skylight Lodge has only one street frontage, so it's permitted only a total of ONE "for sale" sign.
Planning Services Contract Procedure
What this concerns is how to pay for additional personnel in the Planning Department that are hired to handle an increased workload created by a developer. There are two basic ways it can be paid for: 1) the city can bill the developer for the actual expense of the new personnel, or 2) the long suffering taxpayers can pick up the tab. Specifically, the development we are talking about will be Walmart. Processing Walmart's paperwork will require a big chunk of city time. Who should pay?
Mr. Malacoff explained that even though a developer may pick up the expense for additional personnel, the developer has no control over the personnel and doesn't decide who the city should hire (or sign a contract with).
Mr. Gray said that having the developer pick up the expense "just skews the results." "It doesn't feel good to me." Commissioner Parker agreed, saying whoever pays dictates the results. Mr. Gerardi asked him to specify how that affects the results. The alternative is the city hires someone and the taxpayers pay. Mr. Parker suggested that it could be done without letting the developer know who the city has hired to work on their project.
How many people have we got that are nominally in the Planning Department? Two? Three? If there's an additional body one day, how are we going to keep that a secret from Walmart?
Zoning Ordinance Review
It was after 8:30 PM at this point, so Mr. Malacoff suggested putting this item off to the Commission's regular August meeting. But Cliff Lavy had put in a public comment card, so he came up to speak. He said there was a lot of misinformation at the previous Planning Commission meeting. He provided a copy of the parts of the City Code that apply to RV parking. He said that the misinformation was expressed at about the 2-hour point in that prior meeting.
He then talked about the mobile home park on the 5th Street and the plans to get someone from the state to begin to do something about it. Mr. Lavy asked to have all the Planning Commissioners present at the planned inspection.
Attorney Quintanilla referenced Title 25, the mobilehome parks act. That prevents the city from enforcing certain state rules, but it does not prevent the city from enforcing its own code. There is a state mobile home park inspection office in Riverside which is not very responsive, he said. Mr. Quintanilla said that in Cathedral City the city has a rent control ordinance for mobile home parks and encouraged the tenants of a rundown mobile home park to request reductions in their rent.
The only item left on the agenda was fences. The Commission decided to put that off to the August meeting.
Mr. Malacoff said some residential developments are being reactivated and are going through plan-check. The city is hoping to hire an Administrative Assistant for Community Development soon, and they need to fill the Director position. A Public Works Director is needed as well.
Mr. Gray asked if a payment of about $250,000 is due from Skyborne. [At the November 19, 2013, City Council meeting the City Council approved a deal whereby Skyborne would pay off a debt of $200,000 to the city in annual installments of $50,000 each, the first one being paid in 2013.] But Mr. Gray said there is some debt of $250,000 that is several months delinquent. Attorney Quintanilla said a payment schedule had been worked out.
Mr. Parker said that if development begins anew in Agua Dulce, the city should be aware that the previous developers left a big pile of junk there right behind the post office that needs to cleaned up first.
Mr. Gerardi said he wanted to publicly encourage the Mission Springs Water District to be a little more aggressive in administering rules and regulations to reduce water usage. He suggested smart timers and incentives to residents who take out their lawns. He said DWA and CVWD do this, "but our water district, for some reason, seems so focused just on making revenue that they don't provide an incentive for residents to reduce their water consumption."
Mr. Gerardi seems to be unaware that MSWD's tier pricing (which DWA does not have) is intended to encourage people not to waste water. Water use in MSWD is already far lower than it is in other districts. Here are the numbers from 2009:
DWA - 1.87 acre-feet/year/account
CVWD - 1.22 acre-feet/year/account
MSWD - .78 acre-feet/year/account
After the rate increase a few years ago, consumption dropped considerably and never rose back. Here's my report on an MSWD meeting in 2011 where water consumption was discussed. It's easy to see that overall water consumption and water consumption per capita have been consistently dropping by significant amounts since 2006 and 2004, respectively. Conservative projections are that in 2020 water consumption per capita in MSWD will be 231.6 gallons per day. The state law at the time set a goal of 264 gallons per day. So, whatever MSWD is doing, water consumption is dropping. If people want MSWD to spend ratepayer money to get the customers to do faster what they are already doing, that can be done. It just takes money - which can be obtained through another rate increase...which will have the beneficial effect of lowering consumption still more.
Also, Mr. Gerardi said he has filed papers to run for the PSUSD board.
Wildlife Bridged In Agoura Hills
Caltrans has put in for a $2 million grant to help build a wildlife bridge especially for the benefit of mountain lions.
Fourth Circuit Decision
It's like an old zombie story...I repeat old zombie story. You know, the original ones where the zombies were slow and had no intelligence. But there were so many of them and they had such a drive to achieve their single-minded goal: brains. In our story the old slow zombies are played by religious conservatives who, totally lacking in the brains department, simply keep repeating the same useless words over and over: protect the children, protect marriage, follow the Bible's instruction to have no more than 500 concubines - or something like that.
Today it was the 4th Circuit's turn. Virginia, specifically, where the Attorney General refused to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage, leaving the fight up to two county clerks. The 4th Circuit includes Virginia, Maryland, DC, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The zombies in Virginia made the procreation argument. The court rejected that quoting from Griswold v. Connecticut which was the decision where the Supreme Court ruled that bans on contraception were unconstitutional.
Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.
The zombies ran through all the zombie arguments we've heard before, without any improvement. You'll read nothing new in the court's decision: "we conclude that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment."
The decision includes a dissent by Judge Niemeyer who argues that "same-sex marriage" is not the same as "marriage," therefore all preceding Supreme Court decisions that affirm a right to marriage simply do not apply to this new thing which is not marriage.
Today, North Carolina's Attorney General said the state will not defend its ban on same-sex marriage, so it will go the way of Oregon. There will be a brief formality at some point before the ban is declared unconstitutional. "In addition, the State of North Carolina will acknowledge the 4th Circuit opinion that marriage is a fundamental right and that our office believes that the judges are bound by this 4th Circuit decision."
Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin has produced the graph shown below. The time span is 1961 (when Illinois became the first to repeal its anti-sodomy law) to today. The vertical scale is the percentage of U.S. population. Red represents people living in jurisdictions with anti-sodomy laws. Green represents the population in jurisdictions where there is marriage equality. Blue is for bans struck down. I think the pale blue at the top of 2014 represents today's 4th Circuit decision. It boils down to 81% of the U.S. population living in jurisdictions with marriage equality.
Around El Paseo
Filling In For Susan Sarandon At Burning Man This Year Will Be...
Grover Norquist?! Would Twitter lie?
Its official. Samah and I are off to "Burning Man" this year. Scratch one from the Bucket List.— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) July 28, 2014
If he gifts me on the playa, I'll let you know.
I wonder if he delayed this announcement until he got his tickets in the mail or if he was in the STEP program and just got the email that his tickets will be at Will Call.
Black Rock City Reincarnated
With the driving of the Golden Spike today, the rebuilding of Black Rock City has commenced. The Golden Spike indicates dead center for the city. The Man will be constructed directly over the spike.
Photo by Logan Mirto.
July 27, 2014
James Webb Space Telescope Sunshield Test
This is the test version of the sunshield that will protect the James Webb Space Telescope from the sun when it was tested on July 10 this year. This is the description provided by NASA:
The Sunshield on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the largest part of the observatory—five layers of thin membrane that must unfurl reliably in space to precise tolerances. Last week, for the first time, engineers stacked and unfurled a full-sized test unit of the Sunshield and it worked perfectly.
The Sunshield is about the length of a tennis court, and will be folded up like an umbrella around the Webb telescope's mirrors and instruments during launch. Once it reaches its orbit, the Webb telescope will receive a command from Earth to unfold, and separate the Sunshield's five layers into their precisely stacked arrangement with its kite-like shape.
The Sunshield test unit was stacked and expanded at a cleanroom in the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California.
The Sunshield separates the observatory into a warm sun-facing side and a cold side where the sunshine is blocked from interfering with the sensitive infrared instruments. The infrared instruments need to be kept very cold (under 50 K or -370 degrees F) to operate. The Sunshield protects these sensitive instruments with an effective sun protection factor or SPF of 1,000,000 (suntan lotion generally has an SPF of 8-50).
In addition to providing a cold environment, the Sunshield provides a thermally stable environment. This stability is essential to maintaining proper alignment of the primary mirror segments as the telescope changes its orientation to the sun.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
July 26, 2014
All permits will be closely examined
A 50-foot by 25-foot section of a subterranean garage in Century City collapsed when the heavy weight of landscaping materials overcame its structural integrity.
it was determined that construction crews working on a landscaping project were using small skip loaders to handle lava rock and dirt. The heavy weight of this material was too much for the structural integrity of the parking garage, contributing to the collapse. No one was injured.
"LAFD Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) specialists performed a systematic search of the impact area along with LAFD K9's to ensure no one was trapped in the parking structure."
As If I Had Heard Of Ike Taylor Before Now
That's Ike Taylor arriving for training camp wearing and shooting with both a GoPro and Google Glass. Shots from the GoPro video are included.
I just want to say that somebody could make some money by redesigning the GoPro Chesty mount using a Hawaiian shirt print on the straps. Other fun designs might also bring a designer a couple of million bucks. Go wild.
Bird (it can be so much more than just birds) Photo Booth
This is one of those new devices where the developer is so very excited to share with you his very exciting news about his exciting new device that he forgets to slow down and tell you h-o-w y-o-u m-a-k-e i-t w-o-r-k. But I think I've got it figured out now. If you want to skip the explanation you can go buy the Bird Photo Booth (BPB) from Amazon right now for $119. But the makers of BPB will sell it to you for only $100 "for a limited time only."
For this you will need an iPhone 3, 4, or 5; or an iPod Touch 4th, or 5th generation; or a GoPro camera. They say "any" GoPro, but you do need Bluetooth or Wifi, so I would guess only Hero2 or Hero3.
Basically, you take your camera-device (iPhone, iPod Touch, or GoPro) and stick it in the Bird Photo Booth, which you have mounted beside your bird feeder, or next to your hummingbird nest, or (really) next to ANYthing that you want to take multiple macro photos of remotely. An ant nest? A sprouting flower? A rotting banana?
The BPB includes its own macro lens that your device shoots through. If you're using an iOS device, then you use existing third-party apps that allow you to use your device remotely as a camera. Using a GoPro seems simpler to me, but that may be just because I use a GoPro and not an iOS device. Turn on your GoPro, turn on the Wi-fi remote (which can either be the little GoPro remote or your own smart device - even an Android device). Then you can do all the things with your GoPro that you always can with the remote. Change modes. Shoot video or stills. They do suggest using the medium-angle setting. But the GoPro does not do motion detection. There is a 99¢ app for iOS that will do motion detection.
Here's a sample video from a GoPro with GoPro-appropriate grand heroic music:
Here are some sample still photos shot with an iPhone 4S. An iOS device, since it also a two-way audio device, can also be used to listen and talk to the subject of your photo.
July 24, 2014
UAV View Of Downtown L.A.
The Long Wait Is Over
Or, the first long wait is over. Now we wait until the last week of August and then we can wait on the entrance road.
Burning Man went with a new ticket vendor this year, Ticket Fly. Tickets were supposed to go out in mid-June, but they didn't actually start sending them until July. I've heard numerous reports of Burners who changed their address with Ticket Fly after buying tickets and well before tickets were mailed, but Ticket Fly overlooked that and used the old address. Worse, when tickets are returned to Ticket Fly for a bad address, they just sit on them. They say they don't know what to do.
I was disappointed there was no jawbreaker this year. Some people got jawbreakers, but not me. I'm hoping this is because somebody realized they could increase their productivity by X% if they eliminated the candies.
Half A Million
Santa Ana banned medical marijuana dispensaries in 2007. But, of course, illegal ones have appeared. The Santa Ana City Council voted to allocate an additional $500,000 for police overtime in order to focus on eight illegal dispensaries. An initiative that would repeal the ban and impose a 2% tax has qualified for the ballot. The City Council has responded with its own proposal which would put dispensaries in industrial zones and levy a 5% tax.
UAV Rules At Burning Man
The Burning Man org recently promulgated its revised rules for UAVs/drones which are based on the FAA rules and one more year of real world (by "real world" I mean the playa) experience. They were just sort of dropped out there harshly with little explanation. But "The System" (that's his playa name) the Air Commander for the Black Rock City Airport has provided some explanation and expansion on Reddit. He even provides a good reason for the ban on FPV, which makes sense on the playa, but not every other place. I'm just going to copy the whole thing here:
My playa name is The System and I am the Air Commander for Black Rock City Municipal Airport. My job is to oversee and manage the airspace that occupies Black Rock City. FireFly who is my RCBRC manager directed me to this site.
I am glad you are all talking about the new rules, policies and procedures we have in place this year. I know some of you will like them, some will not and everyone else will fall in-between. This is expected and I have similar conversations going on with the Aviators as well.
If you haven't seen the RCBRC rules and registered, please go to 88nv.burningman.com and look under the RCBRC tab. It is all there.
When we came up with this program it was with much thought and respect for the RC community and a burning desire to see the RC community thrive and grow. FireFly is an avid member of that community and with 25 years experience is very well qualified. He has set-up RC safety programs before.
Our goal is safety first. Safety for the citizens of Black Rock City. Through personal experiences, videos of multi-copters posted last year and other sources it was very apparent that we needed to create a new department. There was a bunch of very dangerous and bad flying out there. Flying over very large crowds, flying at the airport where airplane operations are taking place. Are you kidding me? There was more and because of this, rules were created.
Burning Man has a history of this. Behavior "X" is cool, then gets a little out of hand, then really out of hand, then rules come into play. There are no more guns allowed, airplanes can't land by the Man anymore, vehicles cannot be driven. All of these and more came about when things got out of hand and in some cases, after deaths occurred.
I hear RC pilots say that this is an at your own risk event. To a point that is true. If you climb a structure, fall and get seriously injured that was your fault. You get hit by an out of control RC flying something, that is not your fault. That is the fault and responsibility of the RC pilot.
With radical self reliance also comes radical self accountability, not radical selfishness. You are free to express yourself but you are not free to hurt other people either physically or emotionally.
I like the new Multi-copters. 1st video I saw of Niagara Falls I wanted one. I used to fly RC Airplanes with 3.5hp gas motors back in the day. So I do have some experience with RC. When you learn to fly an RC Airplane you need to join a local RC club and have someone teach you. They don't fly right out of the box. They crash really well though! During your training you learn the rules for safe model flight, what to do and not to do. You understand why the rules are there.
This doesn't happen with multi-copters except maybe in the rare instance. Bring them home, they fly right out of the box, on your own, no instruction and no acculturation to the sport and no appreciation for the limitations of your RC model. This is a huge problem and one we are taking the world-wide lead in trying to solve.
To solve this or at least begin to, we have set up a firm set of rules and guidelines. We are requiring each member of the RC community who wishes to fly to register their aircraft. There is an educational component to this process both pre-playa and on-playa. Airplane pilots btw who are rigorously trained to FAA standards have to do a similar but far more in depth program. We are not picking on the RC community.
Responding to some of the general themes below. Will we enforce he new rules? Absolutely. If you violate the rules what will happen? Depends on you. At a minimum your RC transmitter and aircraft will be taken away and stored. You may pick it up when you are ready to leave the Event.
FPV. Absolutely forbidden. The problem with FPV is technical in nature. The bandwidth for FPV flying is very very small and only so many people can be on it at a time or you run into radio interference problems and aircraft crashing because they get the wrong signals. If we had all FPV pilots in one area taking turns it might be feasible. The problem arises when someone on the other side of the Event starts using theirs and someone else does and you don't know about it and too many people get involved.
Have a question, ask FireFly about it. He is my expert. Have a problem that he cannot help you with, come and see me. I am at the Airport and available by radio and pager.
I am going to close with the following thought for you to consider. You have all heard the phrase, Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? You have that choice to make this year and this is how it will most likely play out. If, as a community, you abide by the rules then next year we can probably expand the number of RCers and continue to build the program and show the world what is possible. Or, you can be radically selfish, do what you want and screw everyone else and the RC program could easily close and RC's will be banned from Burning Man. This is happening all over the world right now. Major concerts and festivals are banning RC use. My counterpart in AfrikaBurn told me they banned RC period. Too much risk. I think we can do better and show the world, literally, that RC's can be flown safely, respectfully and with care at Burning Man which may lead to other festivals opening their doors to your hobby.
It is your choice.
System Air Commander Black Rock City Airport
July 23, 2014
Why We Need A Walmart
This is gonna bring everybody over to the pro-Walmart side: their ice cream sandwiches never melt. Never! Think of what a great relief that would be to the kids (and adults) of hot, hot Desert Hot Springs. (Didn't that 114° bring a smile to your face?!)
What I visualize is, after the Walmart has been approved, built and opened, we the residents of DHS celebrate summer by using Great Value Ice Cream Sandwiches to build a scale replica of the Washington Monument in the parking lot of the Walmart. Leave it for days. I think this would be good to do starting about July 1, so we could then blow it up with fireworks on July 4 (or 5 or whatever).
Ice Cream (Milk, Cream, Buttermilk, Sugar, Whey, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Contains 1% Or Less of Natural And Artificial Flavors, Mono & Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Calcium Sulfate, Carob Bean Gum, Cellulose Gum, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan, Annatto (For Color). Wafers (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Soybean And Palm Oil, Cocoa, Dextrose, Caramel Color, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Flour, Food Starch-Modified, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Artificial Flavor).
One customer tells us that besides not melting, they don't freeze either!
I am avid shopper for good deals and decided to get these instead of my usual, which is Mayfield. Now, granted that the name Great Value should mean just that, but by no stretch of the imagination or taste buds are they as great of a value than spending a little more to get your favorite. The ice cream was extremely soft, bland tasting and the cookies were bland as well. I mean I kept them in the freezer for about a day or two to see if the sandwiches would harden and I have to say, I was extremely disappointed with the ice cream still being soft and the cookie wafer did not improve the overall taste of the sandwich. I will not be purchasing these or any of the ice cream products from Great Value again. I have some right now that I have not touched.
Ingredients for their Great Value 97% Fat Free Sugar Free Vanilla Flavored Ice Cream Sandwiches:
Fat Free Ice Cream: Fat Free Milk, Sorbitol, Polydextrose, Maltodextrin, Whey Protein Concentrate, Contains 1% Or Less of Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Mono-And Diglycerides*, Carob Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Polysorbate 80, Vanilla Extract, Vanillin, Sucralose, Calcium Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate. Wafers: Bleached Wheat Flour, Isomalt, Sorbitol, Caramel Color, Palm Oil, Cocoa, Corn Flour, Food Starch-Modified, Salt, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor, Sucralose. *Adds A Dietarily Insignificant Amount of Fat.
A customer review makes me wonder if perhaps Walmart sells a vanilla flavored bleach.
Previously I purchased the Great Value Ice Cream Sandwich with both Chocolate and Vanilla ice cream mixed together. Now that one was really good.
However, the store sold out of that particular flavor, so I figured the original flavor would be just as good, right? Haha, NOPE.
Best I can describe the ice cream taste is Bleach. It literally tastes like frozen bleach cream, with no resemblance to vanilla whatsoever. What's worse is the chocolate wafers, which turned out to be completely tasteless, like cardboard. I could have asked for a small favor for the darn thing to actually taste like chocolate so that it can mask out the bleach taste, but oh well.
It's a shame I bought two boxes of this stuff, since the other flavor left a really good impression on me. If you want to get any ice cream sandwich, definitely don't get this one. Get the one with chocolate ice cream mixed in.
P.S. The packaging is shoddy, too. It takes a long time to peel off the wrapper.
81-Year Old Virgin At Burning Man
A Burning Man virgin, that is, a birgin/burgin (debate the spelling amongst yourselves). He wears a media tag and is either a professional videographer or accompanied by one, so the video quality is good. There is some sort of filtering applied to the daytime outdoors scenes that I think is supposed to make it look like Kodachrome colors. Maybe.
A little bit of nudity, he describes the burning of the Man as a celebration of death:
SCAQMD Monitoring Station
Mistitled GoPro Video
The title is "Fox Kills and Eats My GoPro, but, as you will see, the the camera is far from dead. It records everything up to the moment the owner retrieves it.
Medical Marijuana in San Bernardino
The County of San Bernardino and every city in it, including the City of San Bernardino, ban medical marijuana dispensaries. The result has been something like this:
That's the Weedmaps view of San Bernardino. Weedmaps is fairly inaccurate, but it's more accurate than any of the other online marijuana guides. Each marijuana leaf icon on that map is supposed to be a medical marijuana dispensary. The little trucks represent delivery services.
"We will present a plan which essentially acknowledges the futility and high cost of attempting to completely eradicate marijuana dispensaries with our current system, by which we will continue to spend hundreds of thousands and eventually millions but will never significantly achieve success," Saenz said, reading from a prepared statement on Monday. "Instead, by conceding to California's policy of allowing marijuana use for medical purposes, and permitting dispensaries that are highly regulated, we can move the distribution of medical marijuana from the black market to the regulated market."
He promised aggressive enforcement against landlords and property owners.
"Civil injunctions have been used effectively to end dispensary operations at specific locations," he said. "However, the injunction process is the most costly for the city to pursue, and therefore, can have little effect on the entire city unless we are willing to commit substantial resources in an extensive city-wide pursuit. We continue to expend valuable and limited police, code enforcement and attorney resources with frustratingly insignificant results."
Beginning on page 4 of his written report the City Attorney describes the difficulty of enforcing the law against illegal dispensaries. In an administrative process, "Administrative Civil Penalties" are issued against both the operators and the landlord of a dispensary. The most effective ones are those issued to landlords.
In a criminal process, misdemeanor criminal citations are issued to the operators of a dispensary. Although jail time is unlikely (thanks to AB109), the prospect of a misdemeanor criminal record gets some dispensary operators to comply.
The civil injunction process is the most expensive for the city, but can be very effective in shutting down a dispensary at a specific location (which to me sounds like spending a lot of money just to get the dispensary to move a few blocks). The attorney estimated that one of these injunctions would consume 40 hours of attorney time.
The City Attorney's recommendation, then, is to form a committee! The committee might discuss spending more money on more law enforcement; or discuss engaging in focused enforcement in certain areas; or study SB1262; or study the possibility of creating zones where dispensaries would be permitted; or research possible rules for the operation of dispensaries; or do some research into collecting taxes and fees from the dispensaries.
The report seems to be suggesting that the city needs to back down from its total ban, while not actually saying that. It was written by an attorney, you know.
July 22, 2014
Leica T Mirrorless
For its 100th anniversary Leica has released the mirrorless T camera system. The body starts at $1,850. it has a new lens mount and there are only two lenses. The cheaper one, the 27-84mm equivalent (18-56mm actual) zoom, f3.5, is $1,750. You can get an adaptor for $395 allowing you to use Leica M mount lenses. The usual extras you buy with a new camera will set you back a bit as well. Spare battery $140; detachable electronic viewfinder $595; camera bag $275; or a really nice camera strap (it's actually a holster) $225.
The camera has some very nice features. 16 megapixel. Built-in 16GB of memory and uses SDXC cards. The body is machined from a single block of aluminum, like a MacBook Pro. There is no battery door - the battery is designed to mount flush with the body. Most of the controls are accessed via the touchscreen. In Auto ISO you can set a maximum acceptable ISO and you can specify a minimum shutter speed. In addition to the usual choices for white balance, you can specify a color temperature in one of 20 increments from 2,000 to 11,500. You can set an "acoustic signal" to trigger for certain events including touch, full SD card, and autofocus. I don't know if by "acoustic signal" they necessarily mean something audible. It might be a vibration you feel.
On the downside, it's got a very slow start up...as long as 3 seconds.