October 31, 2005
How to do...
Los Angeles Public Library, Central Branch
Because I got off the Red Line at the wrong stop when I was in L.A. I got the chance to walk by the public library. I went in to give myself a little tour. What an amazingly beautiful building this is! It's got a rotunda. It's got an atrium. And a zillion books. Here are photos:
2005 California Propositions
All right, here's what you've been waiting for. I sat myself down (in front of The Man Who Wasn't There with the commentary ON) and read through the official California voter information guide so that I could form a reasoned opinion, and guide you (the voters of California) to the best way to vote. In short, we call shit shit. We'll not be finessing any distinctions between bullshit, horseshit and dog shit. If it's manure you want, head to your favorite garden supply store. I prefer my balloting place to be shit free.
Prop 73 which would require notification of parents 48 hours before performing an abortion on a minor. Well, we didn't even have to get into the details with this one. Easy NO vote. If a girl wants to tell her parents about her abortion, she can do it. Hardly need a state law for it. If the girl doesn't want to tell her parents, what the hell are we doing interfering with that?
Prop 74 presents some subtle reworking of public school teachers' employment rights. Basically, it's an increase in power for the school administrators. And it's funny, I haven't heard anything about any problems in California schools due to inadequate administrative power. Maybe they don't have enough money. Maybe there are pinheads in administration that are fucking up the education process. Maybe. But not enough power to harass teachers? Is that a problem? The people who argue for this proposition claim it will reward good teachers. But I see nothing in it to do that. It only reduces the rights of some (or all) teachers. Any indecision on this prop will be resolved when we consider that it is one of the Schwarzenegger proposals. So it's a NO.
Prop 75 is an anti-Union measure that pretends to protect the free speech of union members. Nonsense. When the government comes in and interferes with the relationship of an individual and any private organization to which he belongs, then that's a restriction of free speech (or freedom to assemble). No need for 1984-speak here. Vote NO.
Prop 76 is a scheme to put some kind of limit on the budget (I think), to change school funding, and to give the governor some sweeping new budget powers. This is some kind of shit. I don't know how California got to this spot with a totally dumbass passive legislature, but weird schemes like this one that move us farther away from the ideal concept (a legislature that passes a budget) don't deal with the real issues and just make things worse. It's another NO.
Prop 77 is a tempting one. Even though it, too, is a Schwarzenegger proposal, the idea of getting some sense into redistricting appeals to me strongly. The process of selecting the three judges to the panel that would draw district lines is hilariously Rube Goldbergesque, but it would probably work. It makes sense to me to use judges for the job. I don't imagine that they'd be non-partisan, but no one would be non-partisan. What the job requires is someone with a good knowledge of law and government, and judges are a pretty good population to draw from to find people like that. Would the opponents prefer 3 people randomly selected from the registered voters on their street? No, the reason this is getting my NO vote, is that after the judges draw their lines the whole shebang goes to the voters for approval. If they reject it, then the cycle starts over anew. No, believe it or not, I would prefer a more paternalistic approach. The judges draw their lines and that's it. If anybody objects, they can get themselves together and sue. Take it up to the California Supreme Court. We can't be voting on every goddamed thing in this state.
Prop 78 is some nonsense about using the state to administer a voluntary drug discount program. To hell with that. If the pharmaceutical companies and the pharmacies in the state want to offer discounts that's just great, but they can pay for and administer it all themselves. It's a NO.
Prop 79 is Schwarzenegger's mandatory drug discount scheme. Need we say more? Vote NO. If Arnold wants lower drug prices, I think he ought to lobby his good friends in Washington and get them to free up the drug market in this country. He should take advantage of his position in the majority party to do that — while it lasts.
Prop 80 deals with electric utility regulation. To back up just a little, what we have in California now is an example of Republicans and Democrats getting together to lie about the benefits of a free market. The system we have now has been called "deregulated" and even "free market," but it ain't. Electric power is regulated by the state. It's regulated differently now than it was before the current system, but it's still regulated. The regulation may have been reworked to make it look more like a market system, but that's like what they do in China. They can try to make their economy look like a free market, but as long as it's a one-party Communist government, it's not going to be free. We do not have a free market in electricity in our state, but lots of people want to believe we do so they can blame the recent insanity in electric rates on the free market. Nonsense. What we have here is fascism, the government working with big corporations to maximize profits and to hell with everybody else. Prop 80 would move us on to another level of regulation, something more like we used to have, but regulation still. So, bullshit we say (or horse or dog). They system certainly needs to be reworked, but good old government administration ain't gonna be it. NO vote.
There you have it citizens. Ron's easy guide to the California propositons. Vote NO on every damn single one of these shitty things.
The Man Who Wasn't There
I just recently watched The Man Who Wasn't There on DVD and want to bring it to your attention. It's beautifully filmed and fascinating to watch. The plot is terrifying — or a black, black comedy. You decide. If you're trying to quit smoking, you won't want to watch it.
Strangelovian Shelter For Sale
A subterranean complex built in the 1950s to shelter the U.K. Prime Minister, the Cabinet and 4000 select civil servants is being put on the market by the Ministry of Defence. It's 240 acres (and 60 miles of road) near Corsham in Wiltshire.
A spur line was built inside a tunnel on the main London to Bristol railway, linking it to the bunker. It was meant as an escape route for the royal family to flee London in the event of an attack.
So, in addition to all of those listed above, add the royal family to those who would have been sheltered there.
"It was like a set from The Avengers," said Nick McCamley, author of Secret Underground Cities, who lived locally and first discovered the existence of the site in the 1960s.
The place is still full of furniture from the 1950s.
October 30, 2005
An article at Red Herring about IBM and Google teaming up (on the subject of enterprise search technologies for office computers) and I thought I could make some witty about Microsoft shaking in its boots, and how the Google OS, when it is finally released, would be called OS/2 (or maybe GOS/2). But then I spotted this sentence in the article: "Under the plan, the world’s No. 1 computer company IBM, will create a new plug-in...yadda...yadda...yadda" Does IBM even make computers anymore? Does IBM make anything at all now, or are they just a service provider?
I visited L.A. yesterday. Here's what I wrote up last night. The Coral Sands has no internet connection, and I didn't feel driven to walk the hundred feet to the neighboring Starbucks to use their connection, so that's why I'm posting it today.
The Coral Sands is a gay hotel at Hollywood and Western that every decent gay Southern California man I've met has warned me away from. That means I had to check it out. It's usually described as one step up from a bathhouse - in that way that means it's not even that nice. Rates, however, are cheap ($70) and the place is very conveniently located just a couple hundred feet from a Red Line station.
It's a rectangular, motel-style place with a private, narrow central courtyard. The pool and jacuzzi look very clean. Some of the furniture around them, however, are coated with such a heavy layer of dust that one would think they had been brought in from Desert Hot Springs special for me.
My small room shows a lot of wear and hasn't been redecorated since at least the mid-1980s, judging from the fact that the sole decoration is a framed print of the original Soloflex boy. For those of you too young to remember him, I'll explain that back then infomercials took the place occupied by the internet today. The room smells heavily of a baby-powder odorizer. That's better than cigarette smoke, but not by much. The bed is covered in a spread that will hide any stain, guaranteed. There is an air conditioner and TWO small refrigerators - but only one outlet. When I got here only one fridge was plugged in, but its plug wouldn't stay in the outlet so both refrigerators were warm. The A/C was not plugged in either. I've plugged it in and set it to fan. The heater in the corner seems to putting out a little heat. I have no idea how to adjust it. There's no thermometer, but there are some valves near the base that I'm not going to touch.
The bathroom, I'll say, is fine and looks like it's had new fixtures installed in just the last few years. Well, major fixtures anyway. The classic medicine cabinet looks good enough to use in a horror film. And there's no GFI plug.
The TV seems to get only OTA stations, with the exception of the 24-hour DVD gay vanilla porn feed from the office.
When I checked in (the front desk guys seem to be very pleasant and efficient) I was given two slips of paper. One, with small print, explains in 7 numbered paragraphs the policy on overnight guests. I can have two. If they are here anytime between midnight and 6 AM I will be charged $10 each. The office will hold my guest's photo ID (how French!), and if my guest should decide to become someone else's guest during the night, then that guest may be banned from future privileges. IOW, while they may be just one step above a bathhouse, they don't want this to become a whorehouse.
The other slip of paper says (in large type) "For your own protection, Nudity is not allowed within the public view. Even if you are in your own room. Thank you for your cooperation." I don't know if "public view" refers to some newer neighboring apartment buildings that are tall enough to see into some parts of the courtyard, or if it means anyone outside my room. IOW, can I go naked in the pool? I could ask, but I'll wait to see what the other guys do. [Later research showed that nudity in the pools was common, but away from the water everyone stayed clothed.]
I went to give the subway a test ride. I haven't picked up on as much chatter about the L.A. subway as other city's systems, so I was unsure of a lot of details. I went to their website and noticed that they liked to use their graphical representation of the system a LOT, but I didn't find a real-life map so that I could relate the stops to reality. I'm sure that info must be in their system, but it wasn't as obvious as it is on other system's websites. You can ask it to calculate a route for you, but it doesn't seem to include popular landmark destinations. So I had to go to the L.A. Philharmonic website to find the street address for Disney Hall! The station here at Western & Hollywood didn't have a real street map that I could find, so I just guessed that Metro 7th was the right place to get off. I was wrong, but not too badly. At Metro 7th there was a real street map and I saw that the Civic Center stop is just two tiny blocks from Disney Hall.
To back up, as I entered the subway I was expecting a complex zone-based fare system like BART or the DC Metro, and I was ready for secure turnstiles like New York's. So wrong! It's so amazingly, wonderfully simple here in L.A.! You get your choice: $1.50 for a one-way trip on this line only; or $3 for an all-day pass good on all lines! What a bargain! For $3 I could go all the way to Long Beach and back - twice! But wait, that's not all! The $3 pass is good on buses, too. And (here's the best part) there are no turnstiles. It's the European system, where you buy your ticket and just walk on in. Enforcement depends solely on spot checks! No jam packed turnstiles with slow people making you miss your train! How heavenly.
Hollywood/ Western Metro station.
Hollywood/ Western entrance.
Civic Center Metro station art.
Civic Center Metro station entrance.
Today, just by coincidence, the new Orange Line opened. It's actually a dedicated busway connecting from the North Hollywood station on the Red Line to San Fernando Valley. They're doing some grand opening today, and it must be more than just free rides, because the Red Line operator warned us that the waits for the Orange Line were up to one hour! How Disneyland! They must have had face painting for the kids and everything.
October 29, 2005
Joshua Tree Photos
October 28, 2005
Tecopa Hot Springs Photos
I think I've got all the photos from last weekend's trip to Tecopa Hot Springs edited and uploaded. They're in a set here. They include not just Tecopa photos, but Kelso, Shoshone, and anywhere else I fired up the camera.
Ravi Jain has started a weblog where he posts videos of his commute from Jamaica Plain to North Allston. His route ends on North Harvard, just shy of Western Ave. I don't think he works at Bicycle Bill's. There's a little bank there. I'm sure he's not a clerk at the 7-Eleven or Dunkin' Donuts. If he turns a block to the east, he could be working at the cable TV company.
Anyway, the content would have to be riveting (he promises guests) to maintain interest. He's only produced two programs so far. One on October 10 and one on the 21st. Not like a daily fix. Would someone volunteer to be a guest on his show and ask him why he doesn't take the T? Orange Line to Red Line to Central Square. At the times he's commuting, the Western Ave bus from Central Square runs really frequently.
Ah, here's his resumé. He works at WGBH. So does 'GBH have a parking lot over there on North Allston?
Mr. Sulu Comes Out
You may also know him as George Takei. He was the helmsman of the Enterprise. Now at age 68 he tells the world he is gay. Being Japanese-American, he had also lived in an internment camp as a child.
A Few Los Angeles Photos
Alex Bias For Mayor
The Desert Sun has dropped that other shoe and endorsed Alex Bias for mayor in Desert Hot Springs. Their editorial also has nicely nasty words for Mary Stephens, the city council member who is running against Bias. I have intended to dig through Mary Stephens' website and the mailed material I've gotten, but it's been too demoralizing. She's probably the worst person on the city council and I think she honestly has no insight and does not realize what a shit she's been. She has been the big cheerleader for Jerry Hanson, the recent city manager who, besides getting paid fabulously, also got the city to agree to a "$13 million pension." I'm assuming that figure which is tossed around quite a bit is the total the city would have to pay if Hanson lived to an average age.
Hey, I know a California attorney who'd like to change his job. The DHS city manager's job is still open. This attorney could come down here with just as much experience as Hanson had, negotiate a wonderful pension, move in next door to me, pave a street or two, and call it quits.
Local Marijuana For Health
Earlier this month, with little or no public input, the Palm Desert city council passed a ban on marijuana dispensaries. Now the owner of just such a dispensary in Palm Desert has come forward to convince them to put a hold on their ban.
The Desert Sun included very useful information in their article (unlike their usual editorial policy). They printed the address of the dispensary: Hempie's at 73-350 El Paseo, Palm Desert. Elsewhere I've found their phone number is (760) 449-3373.
October 27, 2005
PSSST Hike to Pushawalla
Desert Sun Endorsements
The Desert Sun has endorsed Bosworth and Evenson for city council in Desert Hot Springs. They don't say a word about the mayoral race, though. Does that mean they aren't making an endorsement, or that they'll publish it later? Who knows?
In an earlier editorial this week, The Desert Sun opposed proposition 80. Here is a screen grab of a subhead in that editorial:
Palm Springs Art Museum
My friend Evert has been visiting Palm Springs this week, so I had the opportunity to make my first visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum (which everyone calls the Desert Museum) with him and a couple of his friends. Here's a sample of what I saw:
October 26, 2005
Marijuana Smoke NOT A Lung Cancer Risk
A report from Dr. Robert Melamede of the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs says that the THC in marijuana offsets any cancer-causing action of the smoke itself. Is there ANY evidence that marijuana is unhealthy?
The Klan Supports Texas Prop. 2
I don't understand it, but some supporters of Texas Prop. 2 are bothered to find themselves in agreement with the policies of the Ku Klux Klan. What'd they expect, to be able to choose the path of bigotry and hatred and be invited over for cookies with the local Methodist Ladies Tea Society?
Flickr Photo Printing
NOW, finally, you can print my photos on Flickr. To do so you must be a registered Flickr user. This doesn't cost you anything, but I imagine you are going to have to enter credit card info in order to use the print function, because it's gonna cost you to print. Currently you also must have a U.S. billing address on your credit card. I don't get any of the money may you pay for the prints. A 4x6 print is 15¢ 4 wallet size prints are 99¢, a 5x7 is 59¢ and an 8x10 is $1.99. You can pick up the prints at Target, in which case there will be no shipping charge, but you can only get glossy. Or, you can have the prints mailed to you. If you choose the postal route you can select either glossy or matte and there will, of course, be a shipping charge. You can choose how the photo is cropped for printing in either case.
It seems not every Target store qualifies. My closest store, Cathedral City, isn't listed. Instead I'd have to drive to Palm Desert to pick up.
Look for this icon on each photo page.