February 28, 2005
XM To Raise Price
Desert Hot Springs Motel
The Desert Hot Springs Motel is the building that I read about while I was still living in Boston and got the misapprehension that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was actually designed by John Lautner who was a student of Wright. I ran across a website describing this property a few weeks ago, but it didn't give the address of the place. Only this morning did I happen to run across the motel's own website which included its address and even a map. It turns out I'd driven by it a few times back when I was shopping for a house in DHS, but I never noticed it.
During The Great War The French Were Using Color Photography
And maybe if they had just stuck with reliable B&W they could have shot a few more bullets at the Germans...but that's the benefit of hindsight. French foresight has given us this little supply of color photos of WWI. The site doesn't give any explanation for why they happen to have this collection posted where it is. They just say "The color photo was invented in 1903 by the Lumiere brothers, and the French army was the only one taking color photos during the course of the war."
Here is a thumbnail of one of the images. In it you will observe a French soldier behind a barrier to protect himself from the inexorably advancing shrubbery. You can feel the tension! We suspect that soon the soldier will disappear into a box hedge.
A more informative site says this:
In 1907 Louis Lumiere brought out his autochrome process of colour photography entirely new and of exceptional quality. The autochrome plate took the form of a transparency: it originated from Louis Lumiere's discovery in 1904 of the properties of potato starch. The photographic plate was covered with minute grains of starch, dyed orange, green and violet in equal proportions. Washed with an emulsion of silver gelatin-bromide, the plate was exposed in the camera, the untouched side of the glass foremost. The coloured grains acted as selection filters. Development turned the negative into a positive reproducing the original colours by the phenomenon of complementarity.
These autochrome plates yielded their maximum intensity when projected, but they could also be printed on paper with excellent results. On the strength of these results, and backed by the technical proficiency of their laboratories in Lyons, the Lumiere brothers marketed their invention in 1907 and enjoyed a great success, since it was easy to use.
The autochrome plate for the first time put colour photography within the reach of everyone. It held the field until 1932, when the glass plate was replaced by film; but the annual production had already reached the rate of one million plates.
February 27, 2005
3 Irrigation Equipment
More Good DHS News
Renovated spas reviving city's glory -- and economy
10:53 PM PST on Sunday, February 20, 2005
By HENRI BRICKEY / The Press-Enterprise
DESERT HOT SPRINGS - Two years ago, you'd have to pay people to stay at the Monte Carlo hotel on Hacienda Street.
Abandoned and boarded up for 15 years, pigeons were the only regular guests at the aging inn.
"It was totally bombed out," said Steve Lowe, who bought the Monte Carlo in 2002 and has spent the last two years renovating the eight-room hotel.
Today, people come from all over the country to stay at the Beat Hotel, which opened a year ago this month and has become a popular destination for writers, poets and other artists looking for creative inspirations or a soak in the hotel's mineral hot springs.
Lowe, a former friend of renowned American writer William S. Burroughs, has dedicated the hotel to the memory of Burroughs by displaying the late author's works and memorabilia throughout the hotel. The Beat Hotel is Lowe's second project in the area. In 2001, Lowe opened a hotel originally built by the modernist architect John Lautner in 1947.
"We're trying to reshape Desert Hot Springs and bring it back to what it is supposed to be," Lowe said recently while flipping through a book of postcards from the 1950's featuring Desert Hot Springs' bygone era as a spa resort city.
One way the city is helping people like Lowe is by offering money to hotel and spa owners willing to renovate their buildings.
Ken Feenstra, a redevelopment consultant for the city of Desert Hot Springs, helped launch the grant program as a way of promoting the city's spa industry.
In the past three years, eight hotel spa owners have used the grant program to make renovations.
The city pitched in about $15,000 towards the Beat Hotel's makeover.
To qualify, the hotel must include a spa and consist of no more than 10 rooms. Those who do qualify are eligible to receive $2,000 per room, up to $20,000 total.
The results, Feenstra says, are amazing. Former slums are now on the cover of magazines like Travel and Leisure.
"It's incredible what the owners are doing," said Feenstra. "There have been some major, major improvements to some."
Feenstra estimates there are about 10 more run-down hotels - most of which are now being used as apartments - that could qualify for grants.
One of those places is the Broadview Lodge on Eliseo Road. The former hotel was converted to apartments years ago. The toppled flamingo-pink hotel sign still sits in the parking lot, fading in the desert sun.
Across the street from the Broadview Lodge, the Sagewater Spa attracts guests from all over the country.
Just a few years ago, Sagewater wasn't so different from the decrepit lodge across the street.
"After we bought it, we found out it didn't have a roof," said Rhoni Epstein, who bought the seven-room hotel and spa in 2000.
A year later, the renovated spa was on the cover of Travel and Leisure Magazine.
Making a Comeback
Not since the 1950s has so much attention been focused on the spas of Desert Hot Springs. For years, the town suffered an economic slump and had a hard time attracting businesses or tourists. A lawsuit finally forced the cash-strapped city to file for bankruptcy in December 2001.
"Six years ago, people wouldn't even build an outhouse in Desert Hot Springs," said Mary Stephens, a Desert Hot Springs councilwoman. "Three years ago the spas started making a comeback ... Now, I've got developers calling me saying they're intrigued with the turnaround of the city."
Today, trendy Santa Fe-style homes selling for over $350,000 are popping up around the spas.
Neighborhoods that were once avoided by visitors are now destinations for out-of-towners looking for a piece of Desert Hot Springs real estate.
Stephens said the city is aware of the new tourist presence and is trying to do what is can to keep those visitors in town longer. To start with, she said, the city needs to tidy up a little more.
"The blight has been holding the city back," Stephens said. "You can't invite people to your home until it's clean."
To do so, city officials are trying to add additional code enforcement for neighborhoods around the spas. One way to fund extra enforcement could be through bed taxes the city is pulling in from all the new spa hotels.
"The bed tax is a really big part of our general fund revenue," Stephens said.
Feenstra, who worked 18 years as the redevelopment director for the city of Palm Springs, said the spas are Desert Hot Springs' economic linchpin.
"Economically, it's very important to the city," Feenstra said. "I think it's one of the major future attractions of the city."
A Powerful Place
Over that past few years -- thanks in part to its spas -- Desert Hot Springs has been building a growing reputation as a health-minded community where people come to seek relief from their physical and mental ailments.
A pamphlet written by the city's Chamber of Commerce likens Desert Hot Springs to the famous spiritual center of Sedona in Arizona. It is said that Desert Hot Springs is located at an "energy vortex" created by five converging power sources -- earthquake faults, geothermal underground water, the alignment of the nearby mountain peaks, the wind channeled into the city through the pass and the sun.
"People are drawn to energy vortexes and power spots in search of enlightenment and inner peace," the chamber's brochure reads.
Whether it was the city's energy vortex or just pure coincidence, when Sayward Ayre left Washington state five years ago in search of a new place to live a more spiritual existence, she ended up in Desert Hot Springs.
"I sold my house, quit my state job, bought a motor home and went out on a wing. I went to find the sun and a new life," said Ayre, 52, who holds fasting retreats at the Sunset Inn spa in Desert Hot Springs.
Ayre, 52, said she decided to settle in Desert Hot Springs due in part to the city's surroundings. With towering mountains and the solitude of Joshua Tree National Park close by, plus the energy of the ocean only a few hours away, Desert Hot Springs is a perfect central location, she said.
While not a newcomer to the area, Karl Furrer came to the city on a similar quest.
Furrer, who ran a physical therapy practice in Switzerland, came to Desert Hot Springs 12 years ago and opened a spa that specialized in his own form of Swiss aqua massage -- a technique Furrer dubbed Swama.
Until five years ago, Furrer kept his physical therapy practice in Switzerland.
"I wasn't sure which way to go," Furrer said.
Then in 1998, Furrer decided to devote all his time to his Swiss Health Resort in Desert Hot Springs. Over the past five years, he has sunk $150,000 into renovating the hotel.
Today, Furrer says, people come from all over the world to stay at his spa retreat.
"It was a wise decision to stay here," he said.
February 26, 2005
Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival
85° and clear, it was a great day to hit the Date Festival (especially since tomorrow is the last day!). I visited the booths of the three date dealers there: Davall, Oasis and Santa Rosa. Best stuff was, of course, in the animal barns where sales were going on today. I believe I saw at least one FFA kid with brimming eyes after her cow was sold.
You can go see the whole set of photos here, or pick individual ones below:
February 25, 2005
Thirty years ago today I walked into what we called "Gay Lib" at the Ecumenical Center just barely off the campus of the University of Missouri, and I met Bill Shepardson, and I haven't been back in the closet since. First date was a production of Much Ado About Nothing.
Better With Captions?
I don't think I even mentioned it when a new house appeared on an empty lot diagonal from mine. There had been some site prep for quite awhile, but when they finally decided to go at it, they got the slab in and the frame up and mostly enclosed in less than 5 days. Since then a couple of boxes of nails left on the roof have been slowly decaying with each day's rain. I can't see the street lights on the Tram Road anymore, but my view of the mountain itself is just as great.
Last Friday a guy showed up with some big piece of equipment to strip bare the empty lot that's directly across the street from me. That lot didn't have any signs of previous construction on it, but it would be hard to call it virgin desert. The kids from the block rode their bikes there all the time. In fact, that evening after being stripped of its creosote and weeds, the kids tried to ride it again. The kids have been back every evening as digging and leveling has progressed, but they gave up on bikes after that one day. Now they roll down the piles of dirt.
Today I saw the worker over there using a device that's probably been around awhile, but I never saw it in use before. It's a one-person surveyor's thingie...or maybe more accurately a site level. In one corner of the lot is a yellow tripod bearing a device which has under it what appears to be a continuously, rapidly rotating mirror (and also possibly lens) doodad. The worker takes a big fat yellow ruler that's about 10 feet long and sets a gadget on it. Then he walks all over where he has dug on the lot carrying the rule in a vertical orientation. One of those doodads makes a noise when both doodads are on the same horizontal plane...or maybe it does it when they're NOT in the same plane. He was moving fast and I was watching from across the street. I was impressed with the efficiency. The only time there's been more than one worker there at a time was when they used a front end loader to lift dirt into dump trucks. Then you had the truck driver and the operator of the loader. Not Union labor for sure.
God Save the ALA
Back on December 17 an op-ed article entitled Google And God's Mind by Michael Gorman appeared in the L.A. Times. The Times has since taken down the article...or at least taken it away from free access, but Google has cached it at the link above.
Mr. Gorman is dean of library services at Cal State Fresno and president-elect of the American Library Association.
I don't know what got up Mr. Gorman's ass (surely not a fist), but he does seem to be bothered. He starts right out "The boogie-woogie Google boys, it appears, dream of taking over the universe by gathering all the 'information' in the world and creating the electronic equivalent of, in their own modest words, 'the mind of God.' If you are taken in by all the fanfare and hoopla that have attended their project to digitize all the books in a number of major libraries (including the University of Michigan and New York Public), you would think they are well on their way to godliness."
"Boogie-woogie Google boys?" What's that mean? It doesn't sound complimentary, but it's not exactly a clear insult either. And the reference to "the mind of God?" That comes from an interview with Sergey Brin when he was asked what the perfect search engine would be like. Brin didn't say Google was the mind of god.
Further down Gorman says
I am all in favor of digitizing books that concentrate on delivering information, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and gazetteers, as opposed to knowledge. I also favor digitizing such library holdings as unique manuscript collections, or photographs, when seeing the object itself is the point.... I believe, however, that massive databases of digitized whole books, especially scholarly books, are expensive exercises in futility based on the staggering notion that, for the first time in history, one form of communication (electronic) will supplant and obliterate all previous forms.
He wants any book that contains real "knowledge" (non-dictionary, non-encyclopedia, non-gazette) to remain in its paper form and to be available only in libraries and bookstores. And why does he want that? Well, earlier in the piece he says it's because people won't choose to read the entire work of knowledge, but will only read some excerpts on-line. But in this paragraph he says its because the process will be expensive and futile, presumably because electronic communications will never replace all previous forms of communication.
What's it called, that logical fallacy he's using...or one of them at least. Is it the straw-man argument? I haven't heard anyone claim that electronic communications will supplant and obliterate all other forms, least of all Google. As for expensive, what does he care? It's being paid for by Google (or their advertisers). Not coming out of his library's budget.
I hate to sound like a person who is my age, but this guy sure sounds like an elitist. There in Fresno, I'm sure the university library is a fine place, accessible by many. There must be decent city and school libraries too. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few rare or specialized libraries in a fine city like Fresno. And Fresno's a medium size city with mostly fair weather and not too many hills. Anybody with a bicycle could surely get to a library and get some knowledge.
But I have news for president-elect Gorman: we aren't all fortunate enough to live in Fresno. Some people in the world are a long way from Fresno, but they might be curious about and even benefit from some partial bit of knowledge that they could get from Google, but not from their local library because (A) the local library is 500 miles away; (B) the book is not in their language and will never be picked up by their local library; (C) the book is forbidden by their local government; (D) they are physically unable to get out of their home (I include prisoners here); (E) the local library has short hours (or is completely closed) due to inadequate funding (surely that would never happen in Fresno!); (F) the library is private or at least not open to those without some academic status; or (G) the person might want to benefit from Google's indexing and linking which (in my sorry ass opinion) can often be much more efficient than the library's traditional Subject/Author/Title indexes.
I'd like to hear from the much more well-informed librarians on this subject. Also wouldn't mind comments from other library workers, archivists, library users, and even those who sell supplies to libraries. Here is a reply by Kevin Drum published in the Washington Monthly. Well written, but Mr. Drum doesn't seem to be a member of the ALA. Here's something at the Yale site. [We think it helps to drop names when we are up against an ivory tower like Cal State Fresno].
None of this would have come to our attention, but now Mr. Gorman has published this attack on weblogs! He starts out like this:
A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.
Same style as his piece on Google. "Blog People" sounds uncomplimentary, but it's too vague to hang him.
I've been writing this weblog for a few years, and have been reading lots of blogs for longer than that, and I sure don't think I could say anything useful about ALL of them. They cover such a wide range. But Mr. Gorman, who hadn't paid too much attention to blogs until a couple of months ago has no such problem. He does go on in pretty much the same style that he used to attack Google.
I see that he is STILL president-elect. What, is the ALA run like the U.S. government? When is the big inauguration?
Why Not Another Flickr Rumor?
This time the rumor is that Yahoo is trying to buy them. I guess I slightly preferred the rumor that Google would buy them, because Yahoo seems to be down about a half dozen times a day...but anybody but Microsoft is probably okay.
More on the "Somerville Gates"
"I'll ram my fist up your ass!"
This is Bill Cadman, Republican, who represents the proud 15th district (Colorado Springs) in the Colorado house. He's the Minority Caucus Chair (which I take to mean that the Republicans are in the minority there — rather surprising).
Val Vigil, a Democrat who represents the 32nd district (Thornton), was trying to do a favor for the family of Lance Corporal Thomas Slocum who was killed March 23 near An Nasiriyah in Iraq. The family wanted to be allowed to use a license plate on their car that the state of Colorado only issues to Marines. The family said that the Marines are their family now. So the Honorable Mr. Vigil (D) proposed a bill to do just that.
In committee the bill was changed to create special license plates for families of servicemembers, but these would be different from the ones issued to the servicemembers themselves. When that bill came back to the floor Vigil proposed an amendment to change the bill back to his original proposal. That was when the subject of this post, Bill Cadman (R), got up and called the amendment "garbage." Whereupon, Vigil (D) called Cadman (R) "garbage." But before the proper student of debate could decry that ad hominem attack, Mr. Cadman (R) came back with "If you try that again, I'll ram my fist up your ass!" Which we think is a really unusual thing to yell. The usual stuff along this line would be "I'll kick your ass" or "I'll slap your tits." One could wonder if maybe Cadman (R) really does ram his fist up asses (or ass, at least).
February 24, 2005
New Google Movie Enhancement
Just in time for the Oscars, we've created a new "movie:" operator that enables you to find movie-related information faster and more easily, whether you're looking for titles or actors, director or genre, famous lines or obscure plot details. Can't remember the name of that film where Tom Hanks made friends with a volleyball? Search for [movie: Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball] and Google will tell you: it was Cast Away. Want rental recommendations? Try searching for [movie: awesome car chase] or [movie: good chick flick].
Looking for a multiplex near you? Use "movie:" followed by a U.S. zip code or city/state to find theaters and showtimes in your area (a search for [movie: Mountain View, CA], for example, will show you what's playing near the Googleplex). You can also just search on "movies," "showtimes" or the title of a current film, and your top result will be movie-related info for your area (if you haven't already saved your location using Google Local, just fill in your U.S. zip code or city/state and click the "Get Showtimes" button). And for those on the go, movie showtimes are also available on Google SMS (send a text message to 46645 -- aka. GOOGL on most phones -- to look up showtimes for nearby theaters).
I Have A Camera
Met this guy at Daddy's in the Castro some time back. He just couldn't believe I really had a camera, nor that I would really take a photo of him. I think I also detected some doubtfulness about my claim that I had a weblog and would post this. I don't know why he felt that way. I think I have an honest face.
Wildlife in the Mecca Hills
Last week we were on another PSSST hike in the Mecca Hills. It was cloudy but non-raining day sandwiched between weekends of flooding. Flowers were great, but we also found some animal wildlife...or at least signs thereof. Occasionally we've spotted one or two hoofprints of the rare bighorn sheep, but on this hike we found oodles. We followed one long track all the way down a canyon, across Box Canyon Road and into the Meccacopia trail. We never saw the sheep however. Here are some of the prints:
While we missed the elusive sheep, we did spot something more our speed: this young desert tortoise, also rare and endangered:
And there were plenty of flowers and plants just on the verge of blooming:
And, like I said awhile ago, there was the ubiquitous deflated mylar balloon. This one lying next to a nice big hunk of quartz.
Tippi Hedren Was Livid
There had been these recent reports of some large feline in Ventura County over the last week or so. A big cat was glimpsed, huge pawprints found. It all sounded like one of those southern California myths until they shot the tiger yesterday. Now we can focus on whether this was an over-reaction by fish and game officials (no L.A. Police officers were involved), rather than trying to find out who the hell lost a tiger and forgot to tell anyone.
It would have been interesting to have been able to see this tiger interact with mountain lions!
Check out this foolishness. The article cites 3 dog attacks on babies: a 2-week old boy attacked by the family pit bull; a 9-week old boy attacked by the family pit bull while Dad napped nearby; a 3-month old boy attacked by the family dog (breed unspecified) while the parents slept. And what do they think is the problem here? Swings. Yeah, really. Someone thinks that if the kids hadn't been bouncing around in swings the dogs wouldn't have attacked.
How about an alternate conclusion: if the parents weren't so irresponsible as to sleep and leave only the family pit bull in charge of this little hunk of wiggly tender meat, these kids would be fine today.