March 7, 2014
GoPro In A Real Movie
Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut discusses the use of GoPro cameras in the shooting of Need For Speed ("one beautiful work of art" according to Mr. Hurlbut). You can watch the trailer for Need For Speed at that link and enjoy the rather obvious homage to Thelma and Louise, which I guess is not the end of the movie in this case. (Oh, wow, I hope that wasn't a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen Thelma and Louise.)
But whacha really wanna see is this short video in which Mr. Hurlbut identifies all the cameras used. Boy, I'd like it if every cinematographer did something like this. You will see the GoPro comes in for only two quick shots.
Mr. Hurlbut says their goal was to use no CGI, no green screen. He doesn't say how successful they were at achieving that goal. In this article he shows how they attached GoPros using Gorilla Tape rather than gaffer tape. So maybe that Chevy will have tape glue left on it, but at least they didn't lose very many cameras.
"What inspired me about the GoPro is that we could not kill it. I mean, we went to extremes once we saw how powerful this tool was becoming — lighting them on fire, throwing them off bridges, grinding them into asphalt and dirt," he says. It had not occurred to me to try to burn my camera. Maybe at Burning Man this year there will be an art project that involves burning a lot of GoPro cameras while they are shooting. Then we'll see how rugged those microSD cards really are.
Golden Eagles Nesting In JTNP
Some rock climbing routes in the Indian Cove area of Joshua Tree National Park have been closed so as not to disturb a pair of nesting golden eagles. Hikers are also advised to avoid that area.
The article goes on to say that other parts of the park are closed due to flood damage which, they say, has "churned up heavy metals over the past few years have shut trails to Cottonwood Spring Oasis, Los[t] Palms Oasis, Mastadon [sic] Peak and Cottonwood Wash in the south end of the park." I had never heard that before, but I hasten to point out that gold and silver are heavy metals. There has been gold mining activity in that area of the park at times in the past.
Opulent Temple Returning To Burning Man 2014
After a one-year hiatus Opulent Temple will return to Burning Man this year. No word yet on what their design will be like, but I think we can be sure it will be neither small, quiet nor dark.
Video shot in 2012.
Opulent Temple podcasts if you want a lot more music.
New Flag For West Hollywood
Affordable Care Act Enrollment Survey
Of those selecting a plan available via ACA, 27% were previously uninsured.
Of those who were uninsured, 10% have enrolled in a plan.
More than 50% of those who have not enrolled cited cost as the reason. 80% of those people are eligible for subsidies. 66% of them were not aware of the subsidy or the amount of subsidy
The equivalent of 1,000 Burning Man admission tickets
A charcoal drawing of a Burning Man scene by Robert Longo was auctioned off this week for $380,000.
Untitled (Burning Man) by Robert Longo. The original is 90 × 96 inches, charcoal on paper.
I'm left wondering what sort of deal Mr. Longo has negotiated with BMORG, if any.
Floridian Dreams Up Odd Things To Worry About
The particular Floridian is Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist who also sits on the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board. What should Tampa International Airport do if Florida voters or legislators approve the use of medicinal marijuana, he wonders, and will the airport have to create smoking areas for legal users of the drug. Sheesh! Why not wonder if 7-Eleven will have to distribute rolling papers at no charge?
Here is the full text of the Florida initiative. You will see it is shockingly brief at only three paragraphs. It's even shorter than the original California Prop 215 text. Most states have learned from California's mistakes, but maybe not Florida.
The initiative does not establish any requirement for public facilities to provide "medication rooms" for marijuana patients. If Mr. Crist wants to know how airports will handle medical marijuana in general, all he needs to do is look at what goes on in states that already permit medical marijuana.
One thing the Florida question has that Prop 215 lacked is this provision: "The legislature, however, may provide by general law for ... the regulation of the distribution and sale of marijuana to persons intending to exercise their rights hereunder." This will allow the Florida legislature to whip this into proper shape, if that's what the legislature wants to do. It would also allow the Florida legislature to so overburden it with regulations that it becomes a dead letter.
Delahunt Flubs His Metaphor
William Delahunt, whose company managed to secure three medical marijuana permits in Massachusetts solely through his plucky, Horatio Alger-esque hard work (we are told) warns that medical marijuana is not the golden calf. This metaphor had me wondering who he thought were the Jews fleeing Egypt in the medical marijuana business, who was Moses, and what would it mean when the golden calf was destroyed.
But farther down in the linked article is a quote from Taylor West, deputy director with the National Cannabis Industry Association. "It's an interesting situation in [that] a lot of people think that the industry is just one massive cash cow," she said. I think probably Delahunt heard that and ran it through a sort of George W. Bush transformation engine to come up with his reference to the golden calf.
TL;DR - the medical marijuana industry will be neither golden nor bovine, "experts say."
The Sky Is Falling [repeat as necessary]
I cannot believe it's been almost six years since California voters approved new regulations for housing egg-laying chickens. The national standard is 67 to 86 square inches of living space. The California law requires at least 116 square inches. Now, Attorneys General in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and two other states (that I have not yet identified) are filing suit to stop this claiming that California is attempting to regulate agriculture in other states. Pish posh, all those other sovereign-loving states can simply refuse to sell eggs in California. Californians, when faced with the reality of starvation, eating tofu, or repealing the law will obviously cave. Uh-huh.
If the logic of the lawsuit were correct, no state would be able to regulate anything that could potentially be imported from another state.
In Europe egg-laying chickens get "enriched cages" which have an elevated platform and a separate nesting area. Initially it was proposed that they all get condos in central Paris, but they backed away from that.
March 6, 2014
The Alcohol Kept Her Alive
According to this story in the Mirror an 18-year old woman drank 10 Jagerbombs in one evening (it was two-for-one). A Jagerbomb* is a shot of Jagermeister (70 proof) in a canload of Red Bull (80mg caffeine in 250ml). The alcohol protected her for 8 hours, but when that had pretty much worn off by 10 AM, the Red Bull took over. She had three cardiac arrests and was put in an induced coma for 52 hours. Now she lives with an implanted defibrillator.
* In the linked Wikipedia article about Jagerbombs it is noted that the Finnish name for this drink translates into English as "battery acid." I think the Finns generally have a firm grip on reality.
The MassDOT recently shared this timelapse video showing how they simply installed a new bridge on River Street in Hyde Park in 2012.
"The probe is on"
At a cricket match this past Sunday between an Indian team and a Pakistani team in Kashmir, "dozens" of Kashmiri students were heard cheering for the Pakistani team. The students have been suspended at their university and police are seeking 66 students for questioning. Some may be charged with sedition, which carries a possible life sentence. "However, the Indian Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said any sedition charges would be 'unacceptably harsh'." Some of the students were accused of chanting "Hail Pakistan!"
India lost the match.
New DHS City Manager Status
At this morning's meeting of the Desert Hot Springs Historical Society Councilmember Jan Pye gave us a status update on the City Manager search. The city received applications from 86 people for the job. They narrowed that down to 7 and scheduled interviews with them this past weekend. One got hired away, so they only had 6 to interview. They've come to a consensus on one candidate and Attorney Quintanilla begins negotiations with him or her today.
This is Interim City Manager Robert Adams' last week regardless.
Photography In Joshua Tree
Using a variety of techniques and lenses, but no music.
March 5, 2014
Planning Commission Approves Oasis Plaza
This was a special meeting of the Planning Commission on Thursday, February 27. Commissioners Romero and Parker were absent.
The Planning Commission had first considered this item about ten days earlier. They had some requests for changes and clarifications. The developers hurried to respond because they want this project to be open before October this year. The proposal is to erect two buildings for retail or offices in the vacant lot on the east side of Palm between 2nd and 3rd.
The dry well can handle 3.3 cu.ft./sec with a capacity of 250 cu.ft. Bomanite paving has been specified for the central driveway extending from Palm to the alley. ADA access has been double checked and it all meets code. Adjustments have been made in the parking lot that will eliminate some potential problems. Landscaping at the corners has been revised. Two Tipuana Tipu trees have been added to the street frontage. The earlier plans had shown vines growing against the building. Now the plan is to have the vines grown in a framework that will keep them about an inch away from the wall itself. This will reduce the likelihood of trash or mold collecting in the vines. The trash enclosure which is designed as in inset to the building to reduce the likelihood of blowing trash now has a gate and a hose bib. The details of the signage will be brought back for a final approval before a Certificate of Occupancy is issued.
The staff recommendation was to continue the item to the April meeting of the Planning Commission to allow the applicant time to provide more detail in response to the requests made earlier. Commissioner Gray asked Rich Malacoff why he recommended a continuance, since the things still undone are pretty minor. Mr. Malacoff said the recommendation for a continuance was made out of deference to the Commission's requests at the earlier meeting, but he said if the Commission decided to approve this project this night, staff was prepared for that too.
Chair Gerardi said he didn't want to negotiate with the applicant from the dais. He said he expects staff and the applicant to bring forward a proposal and the Commission would vote on that proposal.
Mr. Gerardi said he thought the Commission had asked for a more decorative fascia, and he thought the applicant should expand on that subject a bit, since it wasn't shown in the plans.
The project designer said that as signage was incorporated and lights were moved, those items begin to take up space on the fascia, so that when they tried to put a design there it was obliterated by them. Nevertheless, they trimmed the fascia all around and carried that detail around to the back of the building. The signs will be recessed about 1.5 to 2 inches.
Other discussion items on the agenda were postponed because Martín Magaña was indisposed and unable to attend this meeting. These items were to have been "General Plan/Coachella Valley Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Code Update" and "Vortex Specific Plan Review & Discussion." Mr. Gray pointed out that the Vortex Specific Plan was never officially adopted.
Remarks & Comments
Mr. Malacoff said planning staff has been very busy recently responding to requests for information, but there are not a lot of active applications in the pipeline right now. He said that 95% of the requests that come in by phone are responded to within 24 hours.
They are working closely with code enforcement. Non-compliant facades will generate conversations between planning staff and the property owner which, Mr. Malacoff believes, is gradually improving the appearance of the city. He cited a recent case where a business owner simply did not want to replace a broken pane of glass on the front of his building, but after some discussion he has replaced the glass.
Mr. Malacoff said that the developers of Pierson Professional Plaza are preparing to request a one-year extension of their entitlements. They are supposed to have a September 2014 deadline for the county building that will go there. He said they have been working on engineering issues but they are moving forward.
Someone Needs To Get A Clue
The Dating Ring, a dating website, has discovered that New York City has 100,000 more single, dating age women than men and San Francisco has 40,000 more single, dating age men than women. So, they have created a Crowdtilt page to try to raise $50,000 to fly New York women to San Francisco to meet men. Yes. Really.
The problem with this idea is obvious to everyone except The Dating Ring, a handful of women and the three single allegedly straight San Francisco men they were able to find. One of the New York women actually says that the problem with single New York men is that they are either "gay or awful." So she's hot to go to San Francisco. Well, at least the weather will be better.
What's going to happen is that some of these women will actually go to San Francisco and have their hopes dashed and their hearts broken and the responsibility will once again fall on the shoulders of gay men to comfort and entertain those women who have been unappreciated by straight men. They'll see the sights, eat at some very nice restaurants, drink drinks, smoke medicine and generally have a marvelously platonic time. Realizing that there's no place like home, they will return to NYC resolved never to venture very far away again.
Kentucky AG Joins The Club
The club of Attorneys General who refuse to waste taxpayers' money trying to defend a losing cause. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, said "I would be defending discrimination. That I will not do."
However Governor Steve Beshear, also a Democrat, has promised the citizens of Kentucky that more and yet more of their money will be poured into the rathole of lawyers defending the indefensible.
That the Nevada State Fossil is the ichthyosaur? It is, and that's why the ichthyosaur that was at Burning Man last year has a new home in the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno.
The California State Fossil is, of course, the sabertoothed cat.
March 4, 2014
It's "Scenario 3"
The City Council voted 4-1 to put "Scenario 3" ($372.68/acre on undeveloped land) on the June ballot. Councilmember Matas was the single "no" vote.
Pelican As Stabilizing Device
That's Not The Playa
Equipment used seems to have been right off the shelf DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter with Zenmuse H3-2D Camera Gimbal for stabilization and a GoPro Hero3 Black. The drone and gimbal are only $869 at Amazon. Not very expensive, but this photographer had at least two. He says one crashed and sank (can't do that on the playa!) losing not only the drone and gimbal, but also the $400 GoPro camera.
March 3, 2014
Hasselblad 50MP Medium-format
I just wanted to see what it looked like. €20,900 (US$28,680). For that you get one (1) shooting mode - and that is Single Shot. What, you need more than that? Get off your butt and do some work, photographer. Uses Compact Flash. No SD. Or you can just cable it right into your computer. If I read the specs correctly, it has only one port and that's Firewire! No USB. With a lens mounted it would be 2,290 grams - which is about 5 pounds. Better get that motorized tripod. You want a lens for that camera? Nothing under $2,000.
Okay, now we've got the camera for the astronauts to use when they first walk on Mars. So we should probably start planning that trip.
Got A Spare Tomato Harvester?
Burning Man tickets sold out, burnal equinox passed, everybody knows the next step: Kickstarters for Burning Man art projects. First out of the gate this year is a proposal to convert a tomato harvester into a Bixi, a creature with the body of a tortoise and the head of a dragon. Bixi. They say they need $15,000 to pull it off.
Public Safety Parcel Tax On The City Council Agenda March 4, 2014
Under the current parcel tax there are four classes of undeveloped land: commercial, industrial, hotel and residential. The parcel tax is assessed per acre for commercial, industrial and hotel. Undeveloped residential property is assessed per parcel.
The city covers 14,192.14 acres. 2,107.2 acres (14.8%) are developed; 12,084.94 undeveloped (85.2%). The total parcel tax in 2013/14 is $1,956,213.10. $1,596,137.28 (81.6%) comes from the owners of developed land; $360,075.82 (18.4%) from the owners of undeveloped land. If you take those figures and calculate an average/acre this is what you get:
|Total Acreage||Total Parcel|
Developed residential land covers 1889.22 acres. The total parcel tax being assessed on developed residential land is $1,120,624.16. That averages out to $593.17/acre.
The proposal coming before the City Council on Tuesday, March 4 is to revise the parcel tax so that all undeveloped land would be taxed at the same rate regardless of whether it is residential, commercial, industrial or hotel.
Staff has presented the calculations for five scenarios to the City Council, and the City Council can select one of those rates or any other rate or means of assessment that they like, or they can even do nothing.
|Scenario||Parcel Tax/Acre On|
|Total Parcel Tax|
From Undeveloped Land
|Total Parcel Tax|
From All Owners
It's Scenario 5 where the rate on undeveloped land matches the rate on developed residential land. It is about the same as the rate for developed industrial property, but much less than the rate applied to developed commercial property. Also, Scenario 5 is the one where the parcel tax would generate revenue that begins to be in the neighborhood of our costs for public safety.
I'd like to bring up a point that was discussed in 2010 when we approved the parcel tax extension, but I haven't heard it brought up this time - yet. Unavoidable facts:
- We are basically a bedroom community. Our retail sales (and therefore our sales tax proceeds) are much less than other city's in the valley (except, believe it or not, Indian Wells). We get about $1 million a year from the bed tax, but that is far less than, for example, Palm Springs which simply has a lot more hotel rooms. In Palm Springs they collect about $1 million/month. Our property values are low, so the ad valorem tax is not going to produce much, and only a tiny sliver of that goes to the city.
- We want prime quality police services as good or better than any city's and that requires more and better paid police. We want a 5-minute response time from the fire department, which means we have to have at least one more fire station. We want code enforcement that gets so good it becomes a money-losing operation that we will have to pay for. We want good animal control...I think we want better than what we have now.
We can either tax ourselves to pay for what we want and deserve or we can forget those things and resign ourselves to being a second-class city plagued by underfunded public safety. When we get more retail here, an increased sales tax would be an effective way to get nonresidents to contribute to our city coffers, but until then it's taxes on us. And by "us" I mean all property owners and residents in the city.
Down To Two Marijuana Initiatives In California
- California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014
- The Control, Regulate, And Tax Marijuana Act
- The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014
- The Cannabis Policy Reform Act of 2014
Then, a few days later, Ed Rosenthal, the primary backer for #4, "The Cannabis Policy Reform Act of 2014" "announced that he was abandoning his ballot measure this year and joining a growing coalition in support of putting forward a 'winnable' initiative in 2016. "I didn't have to get mine on the ballot, I just had to put in enough effort to make it difficult for the (Drug Policy Alliance) to get on the ballot," Rosenthal said.
NORML supports #3, the "Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act" and their executive director says "We're going to win this year." #2, "The Control, Regulate, And Tax Marijuana Act," the suspended petition backed by the Drug Policy Alliance, includes a 25% tax, which some people think would encourage black market sales.
A successful petition requires 504,760 valid signatures.
March 1, 2014
Hiking Long Canyon
Waaaay back in January I did my first ever hike of Long Canyon going all the way from Yucca Valley down to Desert Hot Springs. I wore my GoPro on my head, so I had thousands of dull, repetitive photos to delete as I narrowed it down to a few hundred somewhat less dull, and mostly not very repetitive photos.
Click for bigger. North is to the right. We started at the very end of pavement in Yucca Valley, walking down a dirt road a couple of miles before we got to the trail leading down into the canyon. The vertical grayish line is the county line running east-west. The loop in the middle of the hike is where we explored the area around Chuckawalla Bill's cabin.
Ah, now I see on this chart, north would be to the left! How terribly inconsistent. Should I flip it? The text will be backward. The route first ascends on that dirt road before beginning to descend into the canyon. The peak in the middle is where we went up the hillside behind Chuckawalla Bill's to enjoy the vistas.
Eventually we came upon what looked like the track of one motorcycle. It's pretty faint in this photo.
Eventually we came to this "stone chute," which is what keeps 4-wheeled vehicles from coming up the trail we had been hiking on. It's not legal to drive a motor vehicle in Long Canyon. It's part of Joshua Tree National Park and the canyon is not a recognized road.
Then, just below the "stone chute" the signs of heavy motorized traffic are all too obvious. From this point on it was like hiking a sandy a road. Before this it was like hiking the desert.
Scott examines some of the objects at Chuckawalla Bill's, a site that is protected under federal law I might add.
Undoubtedly something is up there. Pointing back up Long Canyon the way we had come.
Because immediately past that line we begin to find the ruins of the buildings that were here for the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct. This is Metropolitan Water District property.
The complete set of photos. I suggest the slide show version - just let it run in some window off to the side.
By my calculations, today is the Burnal Equinox - that is, half way between the burn of 2013 and the burn of 2014. At least that's how I think it should be counted. I see that others are celebrating the date as well, so I think I got this right.
In a brief battle of wits, the monkey defeats the guy who likes Venice, California. Not surprising was that the monkey grabbed the camera. Surprising was that the owner had no more sense than to take his hands off his little camera while there were monkeys all around. Also not surprising was that the monkey managed to pull out the battery. Surprising was that he was able to open the waterproof case, which takes a little bit of coordination and effort to do...but we probably share all the genes for taking stuff apart with monkeys.
February 28, 2014
Disney World Breaks With Boy Scouts
Disney World has announced they will no longer make charitable contributions to the Boy Scouts of America because of their discriminatory policy. The Boy Scouts still do not permit gay adult Scout leaders.
Emerson College Opens In Hollywood
Olivia McLean, 22, an Emerson senior who is studying film and television production, said she feels safe in the Hollywood neighborhood, although she does not go out alone at night there or in Boston. She and other refugees from Massachusetts' tough winters especially enjoy the facility's outdoor gathering spots several stories above Sunset, including one with gas cooking grills.
"Its amazing. It's like living in the Guggenheim," said McLean, who has an internship at the Comedy Central network in Santa Monica and plans to return West to look for permanent work after graduation this spring.
Crystal Palace To Be Rebuilt
In London on the original site, full scale. I assume that the original site they mean is the one in Hyde Park. Wikipedia article here. Plate glass had been invented in 1848 and the Crystal Palace was designed around the largest pane of glass that could be made at the time which was 10 inches by 49 inches.
100 Best Places To Eat In The USA
According to Yelp reviewers, not food critics. #1 is Da Poke Shack on the Big Island in Hawaii. The #3 spot goes to the very deserving Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Kansas City, Kansas.
This is Oklahoma Joe's. Really. Not kidding.
Highest on the list in southern California is Porto's Bakery in Burbank which sounds like it also has very low prices.
I'm sorry to say the list has only one (1) restaurant in New England, and it's in Providence, Rhode Island. Los Andes Restaurant landed in spot #69.
History Of The Creation Of The Salton Sea
Yesterday I attended a two-hour presentation on the history of the creation of the Salton Sea given by Will Kleindienst at the Oliphant Auditorium on the Palm Desert CSUSB campus. It was very entertaining and included more detail on the earlier attempts to irrigate the Imperial Valley and a lot more detail on the final successful attempt that led to the great flood that created the Salton Sea than I knew about before. I had often wondered about the effect of this great disaster on the greater disaster in San Francisco that occurred while our flood was happening, but none of the histories I've seen discuss that in any depth. Mr. Kleindienst went into it and shows that the San Francisco earthquake had a profound impact on attempts to end the flood - mostly because labor, equipment and money were all moved to the Bay Area. He showed us a photo taken in San Francisco in 1906 that appears to show pieces of a gigantic dredging barge that was being built to try to re-route the Colorado to stop the flood. The equipment and the factory where it was being made were both destroyed in the quake.
At the beginning he made it clear that he would not address any matter relating to the Salton Sea that occurred (or will occur) after 1907. This made it easier to stay on the subject. His presentation ought to be committed to video and shown to every high school student in the valley.
But even better than his very informative and entertaining delivery, Mr. Kleindienst created a powerpoint presentation that should be studied by just about everybody who has ever made a powerpoint presentation that I have seen. In almost every powerpoint presentation the maker lets the medium overcome his message. but Mr. Kleindienst kept the gee-whiz to an absolute minimum. Fonts were plain and clear and big and in colors that clearly contrasted with the background. Sometimes there were only 2 or 3 words on the screen. He never tried to use the display as though it were a substitute for an 8½ x 11 piece of paper. No borders or frames. No transitions. And perhaps most important, he really knew his presentation. He knew when to push the button to advance the presentation. That's a challenge for some.
Less is more with powerpoint presentations, and much less is much more.
Finally, I'm going to provide a little assistance to those who have never been to Oliphant Auditorium. Google "Oliphant Auditorium" and you will find many events scheduled there, but try to find anything on the web to tell you just which building it's located in. I know it's a small campus and it couldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes to visit every building, but still... It is customary for colleges to provide some kind of map to indicate what's where. This is what passes for a map of the campus. Four buildings are identified, but none of the contents. I guessed that an auditorium would be in the building that is obviously a theater, the "Indian Wells Theater." I guessed wrong. There are small maps on campus which are not helpful. The map at the campus that identifies Oliphant Auditorium is right outside the door of Oliphant Auditorium and by the time you see that you will have already seen the sign "Oliphant Auditorium" on the side of the building. So here:
That's Cook Street on the left and Google says the road at the top of this picture is Berger Drive West, but I don't think the street sign says that. I think it's something like Gateway Drive. Anyway, Oliphant Auditorium is in the Mary Stuart Rogers Gateway Building, so you don't have to look confused when you visit.
Another thing new visitors might be looking for are administrative offices. Sorry, I didn't search those out, so it's up to somebody else to tell us.