November 24, 2008
Princeton Prop 8
Princeton students have organized a campaign for a proposition that would preserve traditional sidewalk values. Meaning, of course, sidewalks are intended as pathways for "sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduate students, faculty, staff, and other members of the university community;" but not freshmen. Being a freshman is a choice, of course, and they should walk on the grass, as they have traditionally. The article includes a comment from a resident of Berkeley who says that civil walkways for freshmen are good enough, and they should not traverse sacred sidewalks.
Virtual Town Hall On Prop 8, Tuesday Night
A 90-minute on-line forum on the subject of Prop 8 is being organized (or sponsored?) by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center starting at 6:00 PM, tomorrow, Tuesday, November 25. It will be audio only. You can submit your questions to TownHallModerator@gmail.com, but that's no guarantee your question will be read out verbatim so that the entire world can appreciate its beauty - so don't be like that shouting jerk at the UCLA forum 10 days ago.
Participants will include:
- Amy Balliett
Founder, Join the Impact
- Lorri L. Jean
Chief Executive Officer, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
- Geoff Kors
Executive Director, Equality California
- Rev. Eric Lee
President/Chief Executive Officer, Southern Christian Leadership Conference Los Angeles
- Shannon Minter
Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights
- John A. Pérez
Assembly Member-elect, California's 46th District
- Steve Smith
No on 8 Senior Campaign Consultant, Dewey Square
American Civic Literacy
An article saying that a random selection of Americans have done poorly on a civic literacy test that was prepared by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. A group of seniors at Harvard scored 69.56% on the test. The average score for people with a bachelor's degree was only 57%. It was 44% for those with only a high school diploma (or was that the score for ALL people with a high school diploma?). The official [PDF] press release can be read here.
Elected officials taking the test also got an average score of 44%.
And the quiz itself is right here. That's what you were waiting for, wasn't it? You too can answer the 33 questions and get your results scored. I did it and they say I got one wrong, giving me a score of 96.9%. But I have a dispute with that. You can stop reading here if you don't want to read about the possible answers to question number 33.
Question 33 says "If taxes equal government spending, then:" They say the correct answer is "tax per person equals government spending per person." Indeed, that would be the correct answer if it said "AVERAGE tax per person equals government spending per person." Instead I selected "government debt is zero" which I knew was incorrect because it doesn't address debt from previous years, but when you're faced with all incorrect answers, you make your best guess.
About Those Special Funds For The Desert Sun
My readers are well aware of my drive to buy the Desert Sun some spellchecking software (fund balance currently $1.17), but it's been a while since I mentioned my special fund to buy the Desert Sun a calendar. My lack of diligence is probably why the fund balance is still only 23¢. Today's article gives me a chance to ask for contributions to both funds. Not only does the headline misspell our name as "Deset Hot Springs" (which is at least not the usual misspelling), but also puts the city council special meeting this week on Wednesday, when it is, of course, on Tuesday, November 25, at 4 PM. I was pretty sure that no one would want to schedule a city meeting on Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, but I did double check it.
Chief Williams will be giving an "Animal Control Kickoff Presentation." "Kickoff" seems to be an unfortunate word choice in this context. Couldn't it be called the "Animal Control Inauguration Presentation?" Director Hoy will also provide a capital improvements update.
BTW, somebody should drop by the Carl May on Wednesday at 4 and take Marcel Honoré out for a drink.
November 23, 2008
My friend Andy has been visiting from New York recently. Last Sunday we went to the Living Desert. The photos are here, and these are a few of them:
Immediately upon emerging from its chrysalis, this new butterfly landed on Andy's ankle. One of the workers came over to alert him, explaining that the butterfly needed to dry, which might take about twenty minutes in sunlight, but we were in shade.
Other Interesting Things To Be Seen At Forest Lawn Glendale
A scan of the map of Forest Lawn Glendale. You might want to print this because the one they hand out at the cemetery is small and printed in blue, making it difficult to read. The complete set of photos from Forest Lawn Glendale can be seen here. And here are some of the more interesting:
Edward Bezazian Paul whose grave marker is interesting because, unlike 99.9% of the markers in Forest Lawn, it includes a biography:
Ed excelled in numerous fields of activity. He accepted his awards modestly. Candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship, Phi Beta Kappa, Graduation Cum Laude from the Chicago University with Honors in Geology, graduate study in astronomy, representative for the Illinois Geological Commission. President of Chicago Cinema Club with Honors in movie photography, outstanding service as President of the Post College Club, Evanston, Illinois.
Member of Edgewater Presbyterian Church, Chicago, buyer for the Killian Co., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, active partner and co-owner of Bezazian Bros. Carpets, Inc. in association with the Tobey Furniture Co. across from the Palmer House on Wabash Ave. in Chicago. Merchandise Manager of Broadloom City, Tarzana, California. His most loving devoted thoughts were of the perpetual well-being of his son.
Honor with remembrance.
Inside the Great Mausoleum which is, unlike much of Forest Lawn, genuinely stunning and impressive.
More Forest Lawn Glendale Celebrities
I have no idea how I missed the copy of Michelangelo's David at Forest Lawn Glendale on my first visit. It's huge and obvious. The full set of photos is here. These are some samples:
Two years ago Netflix announced a million dollar prize for anyone who could improve their recommendation system by a mere 10%. After two years of work, the closest anyone has gotten is 9.44%. All of the teams trying to get the prize have come to a plateau. The stumbling block for all of them is Napoleon Dynamite.
Mathematically speaking, "Napoleon Dynamite" is a very significant problem for the Netflix Prize. Amazingly, [competitor Lon] Bertoni has deduced that this single movie is causing 15 percent of his remaining error rate; or to put it another way, if Bertoni could anticipate whether you’d like "Napoleon Dynamite" as accurately as he can for other movies, this feat alone would bring him 15 percent of the way to winning the $1 million prize. And while "Napoleon Dynamite" is the worst culprit, it isn’t the only troublemaker. A small subset of other titles have caused almost as much bedevilment among the Netflix Prize competitors. When Bertoni showed me a list of his 25 most-difficult-to-predict movies, I noticed they were all similar in some way to "Napoleon Dynamite" — culturally or politically polarizing and hard to classify, including "I Heart Huckabees," "Lost in Translation," "Fahrenheit 9/11," "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," "Kill Bill: Volume 1" and "Sideways."
Personally, I find Napoleon Dynamite to be unwatchable - and Netflix currently does NOT recommend it for me.
Ed & Pete's RV
Ed and Pete have bought this vast RV. At future Burning Mans I will be able to set up my little tent on the lee side for protection from the wind.
Photo by Ed (well, probably Pete, actually, since that's Ed standing there).
November 22, 2008
A Visual Guide To The Financial Crisis
Two Celebrity Graves
In Forest Lawn Glendale.
'Homosexual Agenda' Upgraded to 'Gay Fascism'
By Newt Gingrich, no less. So now, in addition to keeping the 'agenda' nicely typed and up to date, I've got to wear a black shirt and jackboots while nailing it to the doors of churches. That's gonna make me sweat like a bitch.
November 21, 2008
Permanent Closures At Curry Village
In response to 46 rockfalls in the last dozen years, Yosemite National Park will be permanently closing 233 cabins in Curry Village. the 46 rockfalls is four times as many as occurred in the previous 139 years, evidence that Glacier Point is really on the move.
Malcolm at Burning Man
I had never heard that there was an episode of Malcolm In The Middle where the whole family takes a borrowed RV to Burning Man, but I happened to catch a rerun on TV this afternoon. Yes, I like to soak in cultural richness as I browse the web.
It's impressive how well they did recreating Burning Man on a modest budget. Especially the flaming catapult.
Here's a site where people talk about the episode, but here you can download the episode for your own viewing pleasure. The Windows Media version is about 42 MB. The Quicktime version is missing.
Exploration of the Salt Tram
On election day, I went with Pat, Ed and Don up to Lone Pine where we spent election night, setting forth the next day in Pat's and Ed's Jeeps to drive up the western side of the Inyo Mountains to see what we could see of the salt tram, Burgess Mine and Cerro Gordo. On previous trips into Saline Valley I've visited and photographed some of the remaining salt tram towers there near the salt lake.
Here's a brief history of the salt tram. And here it is even briefer:
The tram was constructed between 1911 and 1913 to provide economical transportation of the exceptionally pure salt deposits from the salt lake in Saline Valley to Owens Valley where it was milled and shipped via rail. The 13.5-mile aerial wire rope tram was electrically powered and capable of carrying 20 tons an hour. The tramway operated from 1913 to 1918, again between 1920-21, and later in 1929 and 1936. The ownership changed hands four times during this period. The cost of operating the tram proved uneconomical.
On the drive up, the road criss-crosses the route of the tram a couple of times, so we got to see decaying tram towers on the way. Up on the ridge of the Inyo Mountains we first visited Burgess Mine where I was amazed that we could see down into both Saline Valley and Owens Valley.
The salt tram was actually two trams: one on the Saline Valley side and the other on the Owens Valley side. The transfer station at the crest was where buckets from one side were moved over to the other side. There has been some restoration work done on the transfer station, and even more of it on the cabin where the workers lived. But even so, it's surprising how much of the stuff is still there after sitting out in all weather (at about 9,000 feet elevation) for more than 70 years.
Google satellite image of the transfer station. The Burgess Mine. And here you can look down on the Cerro Gordo mine which is still an active mine. On the road leading to Cerro Gordo there are dozens of enticing mines begging to be explored, but the area has just as many No Trespassing signs, so we respectfully motored on by.
Go here for my complete set of photos. Here are some samples:
Pano of the remains of the salt tram transfer station at the crest of the Inyo Mountains. Here is where the buckets were transferred from the cables on one side of the mountain to the other. Owens Valley is on the left, Saline Valley on the right.
Pano looking north along the ridge of the Inyo Mountains with the transfer station in the center. Saline Valley is on the right.
This is what the hot springs in Saline Valley look like from atop the Inyo Mountains. The white areas are travertine formed from the minerals in the springs. The little dark patch in the leftmost white area is the foliage around the lower springs. In the full size image you can see the palms near the Volcano and Wizard pools on the right edge of the travertine.
The control station tender's cabin with the Sierra mountains in the background. One of those peaks is Mt. Whitney.
Bear Hunting In The San Bernardinos
"When the acorns start dropping," says [California Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Kevin] Brennan, the bears "will feed almost exclusively on acorns."
It provides some of the best tasting meat of any game, he says.
"The last thing you want is a bear that's been feeding on garbage, because that's exactly what (the meat) tastes like," he says.
Veterans Day in DHS
November 20, 2008
I Thought Schwarzenegger Was An Austrian
I've been told the Governor grew up in Austria. He's got that accent. And Austrians speak German, generally. So why in this video does he mispronounce Porsche the same way as your average NASCAR fan: like "porsh." The name is German, so it's got two syllables: "porsh-uh." What the hell? Did Arnold actually grow up in Kentucky?
Desert Hot Springs News Bump
In the official news release from the Kansas City Royals it says that Coco Crisp "now resides in Desert Hot Springs, Calif." I don't know if he really, really lives here, or is just using his father's address for business matters. In any case, a lot of weblogs are picking that up and quoting it verbatim, so the words "Desert Hot Springs" are probably getting more national play than usual. We need to capitalize on this, and we can't just wait until the Christmas parade. A photo of Mayor Parks (or maybe the whole council) wearing a Royals cap is a place to start. Then we just need to get it into the Kansas City Star.