June 30, 2006
Now Parks and Stephens, two of the DHS city councillors who voted against the MSHCP have sent a letter to the Coachella Valley Association of Governments saying there will be no backpedaling and their rejection will stand.
Samuelson's Rocks 5, 6, 7 and 8
You will recall that not long ago I explored Samuelson's Rock with Andy and Jon. We found 4 carved messages. When I got home I Googled and found out there are EIGHT carved messages there. You can imagine how half-assed that made me feel. After some prodding from w9jim I got out there today and found the four I had missed earlier.
To refresh your memory, here are links to the four I found the first time:
Here are the four additional carvings:
5. Wake up you tax and bond slaves...
6. The milk of human kindness...
7. Mother time...
8. Are you the fellow Mr. Mellon...
Additional images of these rocks and and other interesting vistas around Samuelson's Rock can be seen in this Flickr set.
The Grand Jury Has Its Say
Before we get this rolling, I want to say I was surprised to learn that Calfornia counties (or at least Riverside County) have standing Grand Juries ready to go on a moment's notice on any issue. I'm really sure (or embarrassingly ignorant of judicial methods) that this is not done back east, where scandalized public officials would have to call for a Grand Jury to be convened, while here a simple request to investigage is sent to "the Grand Jury." It was that phrasing, "the Grand Jury," that confused me many months ago. "Whadda ya mean, 'THE Grand Jury'?" I'm guessing that Prosecutors here have less power than the ones in New England, and have to go through the Grand Jury for most of what they want. I live in quiet terror that I'll be called to sit on a Grand Jury in Riverside for 6 months! I don't suppose they send a limo every day to pick up the jurors.
The reason the Grand Jury has come up is because it has finally dropped its shoe (not just the other shoe, because this thing is a well-shod millipede) on the subject of recent scandals in Desert Hot Springs. Yes, indeedy. Many months ago, the city council requested the Grand Jury to investigate Jerry Hanson (infamous former City Manager) and other eyebrow-raising issues in DHS. Here are the findings, in PDF format. Surprisingly lukewarm. It is suggested that unnamed persons may have violated some codes of ethics. Thank you Grand Jury. I could have learned as much by simply sniffing the air outside a city council meeting. Here's a bit:
A former City official held five positions (city manager, executive director of development agency, city engineer, building official and development director), simultaneously within the City administration. This may have been in conflict with the Common-Law Doctrine of Incompatible Public Offices for a Charter City.
Who could they be talking about? Let's just run down the list of all the people who have simultaneously held the positions of "city manager, executive director of development agency, city engineer, building official and development director." I keep that list right here next to my Mac on a Post-It Note. My, my! It does seem that Jerry Hanson is the only name on the list.
Desert Sun article here, wherein we learn that Hohenstein is out of the country. Maybe that's why he hasn't joined the two girls on the City Council who are backpedaling on the MSHCP vote. More Grand Jury reports are due today. No word on whether any other investigations, specifically criminal investigations, are going on.
Libertarianism at Whole Foods
Well, I must admit I was pretty surprised to read this article saying that John Mackey, President and CEO of Whole Foods is an active libertarian. The article is written from the liberal point of view, as many anti-libertarian articles are, and, as usual, the author conflates libertarianism with the right wing. Nonetheless, one can pick a few grains out of his chaff.
Mackey says that Milton Friedman is his hero.
He’s a devotee of Ayn Rand.
He’s opposed to national health insurance.
John Mackey has his own blog on the Whole Foods website. Go here for a long, interesting "debate" between John Mackey, Milton Friedman and T.J. Rodgers that was originally published in Reason magazine. In it Mackey says
The business model that Whole Foods has embraced could represent a new form of capitalism, one that more consciously works for the common good instead of depending solely on the "invisible hand" to generate positive results for society. The "brand" of capitalism is in terrible shape throughout the world, and corporations are widely seen as selfish, greedy, and uncaring. This is both unfortunate and unnecessary, and could be changed if businesses and economists widely adopted the business model that I have outlined here.
To extend our love and care beyond our narrow self-interest is antithetical to neither our human nature nor our financial success. Rather, it leads to the further fulfillment of both. Why do we not encourage this in our theories of business and economics? Why do we restrict our theories to such a pessimistic and crabby view of human nature? What are we afraid of?
Mackey lays out his own philosophy more completely here in a speech entitled Winning the Battle for Freedom and Prosperity. In it he admits he's a capital "L" Libertarian, and he criticizes the harsher aspects of Ayn Rand.
June 29, 2006
Eric Rofes, 1954 - 2006
Eric Rofes has died in Provincetown, Mass., apparently of a heart attack. I met him at Gay Community News in Boston in the early 1980s.
June 28, 2006
All The Zion National Park Photos
They are all uploaded and ready for your viewing. Get yourself in there and look at 'em. Here's a single sample, requested by Alan who is now back in Maine without internet access (hell, he doesn't even have electricity!).
What's The Deal With Germany?
We're all familiar with some of the stereotypes about Germany: super industrialization, rigid efficiency, and beer without parallel. And so, when we learned that in addition to a problem soaking up all the urine produced by World Cup fans, Germany is IN DANGER OF RUNNING OUT OF BEER before the end of the matches, the scales fell from our eyes. In reality, Germany may not be run any better than, say, FEMA or California's DMV.
They're blaming it all on England, but that's probably because they're still too scared to blame it on Russia.
July 4 is coming up, and digital-photography-school.com has provided this useful guide on how to photograph them using a digital camera. I can't fault a single point they make. Just be sure to share your results with the world!
A misleading story about a proposed skyscraper in Brahmasthan, India. They claim it will be the world's tallest at 677 meters, comparing it to the Petronas towers which are 452 meters. They also claim it will be completed "soon." I don't know if that means soon in skyscraper terms, or in normal terms. Nonetheless, if you are going to set out to build the world's tallest building, you can't just be taller than exisiting buildings, but taller than all buildings that are built while you are building. And everyone knows the tallest building currently under construction is the Burj Dubai skyscraper which will be 705 to 950 meters high. Not sure why there's 245 meters of wiggle room there.
The Indian skyscraper will, however, certainly be the largest building on Earth, with a base measuring 339 meters square. That will certainly require some tremendous technological advances.
BTW, the tallest completed skyscraper is the Taipei 101 at 509 meters, which was completed in 2003.
Get out your cereus bloom chart, 'cause here are more:
Sophia Hawthorne is home now, having been reinterred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery near her celebrated husband, Nathaniel. Her remains were carried to the cemetery in the same carriage that brought Nathaniel's in 1861.
But it's NPR who gets down to the guts of the story. Only NPR was wise enough to interview NPS Ranger Robert T. Derry, who runs The Wayside, one of Hawthorne's homes, for the NPS, and who generally keeps the entire Minuteman National Historical Park from going to hell in a handbasket (or at least he's slowing down the process). Yes, you'd better get yourself out to visit Concord before he retires, which should be just about any minute now by my calculations.
June 27, 2006
The headline for this post was going to be "What Was That?!" Tonight I was bicyculating to the post office a little after 8:30 when I saw what appeared to be Saturn, but with a fuzzy, curving contrail. It was a much broader and more tightly curving tail than one would see from a commercial aircraft. It was to the southwest of me, appearing to be over Mt. San Jacinto. Then the "contrail" quickly faded and disappeared and I saw what seemed to be an aircraft. I thought I saw multiple lights on it. I was beginning to think the contrail had been just my imagination when I saw a sudden spray out from the object. It covered an angle of nearly 90° and the source object began to move eastward. I thought this could only be a commercial aircraft dumping its fuel in preparation for an emergency landing, but I hoped it wasn't dumping on our Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument.
The object continued to move east, shrank to a point and seemed to disappear, as a satellite might. But then it reappeared, seeming to show multiple lights like an aircraft, and it seemed to be turning. I thought, again, it was an aircraft in distress heading for an emergency landing at Palm Springs, but it still seemed to be higher than 20,000 feet, so it would have to make a vertical descent to a crash, if that was its destination. Then the lights faded and it was totally gone.
By then, however, further to the west, near where I had seen the original contrail, there appeared a brilliant white cloud, not like any natural cloud I've ever seen. It hung on, very efficiently reflecting the sunlight long after sunset.
So when I got home I went to Google News and found this:
A classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office was launched Tuesday night aboard a Boeing Delta 4 rocket.
The rocket blasted off at 8:33 p.m. PDT from the central coast, leaving a thin trail in the twilight sky.
UPDATE: Kevlar has provided this video of the launch. About the midpoint of his video you will begin to see what I saw, a seemingly curving contrail on a "planet," followed shortly by the big spray which must be a booster separating. At the end he has good shots of the bright, glowing cloud I saw. He's also posted these still photos of the launch on Flickr. Thank you, Kevlar!
We've been having humid weather since Friday, and unlike our usual humid weather that will come later this summer, temperatures are still going above 100° every day. This Desert Sun story on the weather says that the humidity began yesterday (they were probably out of town over the weekend) AND it says it's coming from the Gulf of Mexico! Now, this is the first time I've heard of any of our weather coming from the Gulf of Mexico. I strongly suspect this is another howler from the Desert Sun, and that actually our humid weather is coming from its usual source: the Gulf of California. But if anybody knows that the Desert Sun is right (and I'm wrong) I'd be delighted to follow your useful link to a reliable source that will explain this weather pattern. I will also begin making mental preparations for dealing with a desert hurricane some day.
BTW, to put it in perspective, our current humidity level is 14% according to Accuweather, 20% according to my own little devices, 15% according to WeatherForYou.com, and 15% according to the Weather Channel. So we are not talking about anything that passes for humidity out in the real world.
South Park & Scientology
You can download the South Park Scientology episode here. It's only 8.6 Mb, and if you wonder how they fit a whole 22-minute program in that little bit of space, the answer is the obvious: gross over-compression. The sound and picture are really poor, but if you just want to know what people are talking about, it's better than nothing.
This is the episode with jokes about Tom Cruise and John Travolta coming out of the closet.
Further on the subject of strange religions, I got my first visit from Mormon missionaries today. They were white and English-speaking, so they must be doing some kind of market research to know who lives where. When the door bell rang I grabbed my emergency non-naturist pants that I keep near the door (I'm sure you've got something similar) before I greeted them. The pants are entirely respectable long-legged black pajamas, but one of the boys gave me quite a visual inspection up and down. It was way too hot to sit around in clothes and discuss their prophet with these pimply-faced boys with bad haircuts. So I just gave them some cans of cold seltzer from the fridge (they were standing there all dressed like they do, with sweat pouring off their heads), told them it was too hot to be working in the afternoon, and wished them luck.
You probably already heard about the Oklahoma judge who was accused of using a penis pump DURING a trials over which was was presiding. Now the case has come to trial, and the court reporter has testified that in addition to the penis pump, she witnessed Judge Donald Thompson urinating into a wastebasket and shaving his scrotum(!) while at the bench.
Sam's Club - Such A Deal!
As just about everyone in Coachella Valley knows, the new Sam's Club finally opened last week, next door to Costco and a dozen other big boxes in Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. I had no intention of going there because a Wal-Mart by another name still stinks. But then I found a coupon in my mailbox (of the postal kind on a stick out by the street) from them offering me the opportunity to shop there one day without a membership. Well, I thought I might go and just walk through and if I saw something at a good price that I just couldn't get anywhere else, I might buy it...even though it would mean another half dozen children would go without any health care. So I read the fine print on the coupon and was honestly shocked and amazed to see that I would have to pay a "10% service fee" on my purchases as a non-member.
Now, maybe Sam's Club turns this into a marketing ploy by telling these non-member customers that they can "save 9.1%!" by joining before they cash out, but I doubt it. If they were going to use it to get new members, why did they bury it in a paragraph of very fine print? No, I think they'd like to charge you the extra 10% and THEN get you to sign up.
If anybody went to Sam's Club using one of these coupons, I'd like to hear what your experience was like.
Twits Begin To Backpedal
Yvonne Parks and Mary Stephens, two members of the DHS city council who voted to kill the MSHCP last week are now backpedaling. This strengthens my belief that their excuse is simply lack of intelligence. Parks is hoping there is no retaliation for the "No" vote. Yes, that would be nice, wouldn't it. But I think retaliation is pretty much assured. Stephens, OTOH, thinks that she can still negotiate her list of 5 points. Hello? If she wanted to negotiate further, she shouldn't have been part of the rush to veto the plan last week.
Hohenstein, the third NO vote, is bright enough not to backpedal...at least in public.
San Francisco - 1963
A scan from Kodachrome by Cliff Stone. This was taken from the "Top of the Mark."
The Kodachrome group on Flickr (which I administer) is a great place to see historic tourism photos, Kodachrome being so stable and the film of choice for world travelers for decades.