November 30, 2010
Art At The Welland Seaway Mall
Shulman Home Closes For $2.25 Million
The Laurel Canyon house designed by Raphael Soriano sold for only $245,000 below the December 2009 asking price. The new owners do not plan to make major changes.
Clean-Up Playa Restoration
Here's a long-ish article by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, a virgin Burner, about his first visit to Burning Man. His main focus is on the
clean-up playa restoration efforts, but there's a lot of other info too. His bio: "Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor of WorldSweeper.com, is a Masters-level economist with over 20 years of reporting on the power sweeping industry. He is the world's most prolific investigative reporter on the topic of power sweeping and has won numerous writing awards over the last two decades. [He] has over 30 years of experience in providing a variety of consulting services to the business community. He is the author of the award-winning book 'The Rise of BioDiesel,' and co-author of a recently released book on socio-economics entitled 'The Great Prosperity of 2020.'"
Because Burning Man is known as the most successful cleanup and restoration of any United States event monitored by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), I have long had a professional interest in seeing how it's done in person. You see, not only are 50,000+ people camped for a week with no food or other items being bought or sold; even more astonishing, no trash disposal whatsoever is provided or available.
With a scant 72 hours notice I received an opportunity to attend Burning Man this past Labor Day when my friend Tom, who is a Seattle Fire Chief, was unable to go at the last moment. As an added enticement for a 'newbie' like me, Tom was still able to arrange for our four-person group to be able to be part of the camp of the fire department personnel in charge of fire safety. It was an opportunity I simply could not pass up. However, those three days of preparation were some of the most intense I've experienced. Yet they would soon be eclipsed by the event itself.
He camped with the Volunteer Fire Department enclave. As a special treat, available only to virgin Burners, he was allowed to help prepare two meals a day for the fire department. For this privilege he only had to pay $75 additional. Tom Sawyer lives!
He provides a link to the 2009 Burning Man finances which I had never noticed before. Total expenditures for 2009 came to $12,317,000. The attendance in 2009 was 43,558. 43,558 gazinta $12,317,000 282.77 times. Ticket prices for Burning Man range from $210 to $300, or $360 if you buy at the gate. Only about $300,000 is used to subsidize the art. Over $1 million goes to BLM. Law enforcement costs $304,000. $919,000 goes to taxes and licensing fees. Toilets cost $661,000.
And then he gets to the
clean-up playa restoration.
Although zero debris left behind by all is the goal, that is, of course, not actually 100% attainable. I set out to find out if there was an established benchmark of allowable debris an annual theme camp was allowed to leave and still pass inspection. What I learned during my investigation was astonishing: The debris left behind per acre by any of the many theme camps could not exceed what would fit onto a 9-inch paper plate!
Large scale burns sit atop a metal barrier covered with "a locally available decomposed granite-based product." After the burn, that's cleaned away so that no burn scar remains.
There is an aluminum can recycling facility (which I have never taken advantage of). He includes a video:
The Restoration Team is about 85 people who stay to return the playa to its pristine status.
To accomplish its goal, the Restoration Team is separated into two components. One group, called "The Line," sweep the city from end to end in grid formation. If the Line Sweep Team finds an area that is excessively problematic, they designate the area as a "hot spot," mark it with a cone and continue moving forward. The second group, called "The Cone-Killers," concentrate their efforts on cleaning up and restoring all of the problematic hot spots, such as burn scars, broken glass, fireworks debris, oil spills, grey water spills, etc. Using landscape rakes, shovels, magnet sweepers and their bare hands, they work until the hot spot is cleared spotless and the cone can be removed, aka "the cone is killed."
Comments On The Rice Solar Project
Energy Commission Staff comments on the Presiding Member's Proposed Decision for the Rice Solar Energy Project have been made available on the Energy Commission's website. Staff, we read, strongly disagree with the PMPD which says that the proposed Rice Solar Project would not create significant visual impact. They say the daytime glow of the tower will be one-quarter to one-half as bright as the sun, and that since this is going to be along a scenic wilderness highway that constitutes a significant visual impact. It takes them 10 pages to say that, but that's what it boils down to.
Staff also wants the requirement for a full scale highway rest stop reduced to a "historic interpretive roadside stop" with parking, an information kiosk and a trash can. IOW, it'll be the same as those signs you see when entering a BLM area, except there will also be a trash can. Requirements for the documentary film and pamphlet remain unchanged.
- Small: a nanosatellite has been put into orbit by NASA. Smaller than a breadbox, they say. It should be compared to a cookie jar, since it is called "O/OREOS" (Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses).
- Big: the Air Force launched what is called "the largest satellite in the world" for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. It's a spy satellite, so details are few. They don't say how "largest" is defined. Greatest mass? Greatest girth? Most equipment? And the English language question is left entirely unanswered: when it's in orbit is it "in the world?"
- One to rule them all: plans were announced for a Russian-made satellite whose sole task would be cleaning the geosynchronous lanes of junk, knocking it into the ocean. It won't be ready for testing until 2023. I don't know how you'd test it. Send it up to do its job. If it works, the test is a success. If it doesn't work, the test is a failure. It should be noted that the geosynchronous orbit is just one small part of what's up there. As for how "space junk" is defined, that obviously will be handled by technicians in Russia who will be working for the highest bidder. This will at least assure very few spy or military satellites will just park themselves in a stationary geosynchronous orbit.
Those Damn Routers Are Going To Deforest The Entire Planet!
In the most thoroughly verified, triple-blind, absolute fact-finding study ever conducted in the history of humanity, it has been proven that wi-fi is harming "all deciduous trees in the Western world." Naturally, we all want to know what's different about Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian and even Siberian wi-fi that it will permit those parts of the world to remain lush and green, while Europe and all of the Americas will be made to look like the Coachella Valley on a dry day.
The study, which is above criticism, put a wi-fi "radio" close to 20 ash trees for three months. The upper and lower epidermis on the leaves of those trees died. Also, the growth of corn cobs was inhibited. Well, if they were looking for corn cobs on the ash trees, I guess the logical conclusion was that their growth had been inhibited. The study also found that wi-fi radiation causes "bleeding" in trees. Well, there's your problem. Somebody put blood in the trees. That can't be good for them.
"The researchers urged that further studies were needed to confirm the current results and determine long-term effects of wireless radiation on trees." I think that was mistranslated from the original Dutch which actually said something like "the researchers would like lifetime tenure so they can live comfortably while putting wi-fi routers close to trees, preferably in places that are very nice to visit, starting with carnival in Rio - there must be a lot of wi-fi there and the Amazon forest has to be protected."
"Path To Freedom"
Path to Freedom
THE ORIGINAL MODERN URBAN HOMESTEAD
Pioneering a journey towards self-sufficiency, one step at a time
Founder of the worldwide Urban Homesteading movement, Jules Dervaes, visits the Coachella Valley Sunday, December 12th at 11:00 AM at the Palm Springs High School Auditorium. California State Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez will be on hand to welcome Mr. Dervaes, who will speak and show his family's short film, Homegrown Revolution. Jules Dervaes is the founder of the modern urban homestead movement which began at Path to Freedom in 2001 in Pasadena, California. Their family-operated, viable urban homestead project was established to promote a simpler and more fulfilling lifestyle, and to sow a "homegrown revolution" against the corporate powers that control the food supply. Palm Springs High School faculty and students who are members of the PSUSD Organic Garden club will also make a presentation on their project after the film. The first half of the event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit http://desertecoevents.org.
Following the film and discussion, there will be an organic early supper benefiting the Palm Springs Unified School District's organic gardening projects. Individual tickets are $35. Students volunteering to help set up and serve the meals will eat free. Tickets are available online at www.desertecoevents.org and through various PSHS student groups. The organic banquet will be catered by Palm Greens Café, and the fresh produce is being provided by County Line Harvest. Student members of the PSHS organic garden club will help serve the feast. The City of Palm Springs' Office of Sustainability helped make this event possible through their generous support.
In his presentation illustrated with stunning photos of his Pasadena urban homestead, Jules Dervaes will share the steps individuals can take, where they are and with what they have, to become self-sufficient and live as responsible stewards of the earth.
This program will include a screening of the family's popular, multi award-winning documentary Homegrown Revolution, which was produced in-house as a short film to introduce their urban homestead and explain the steps and brief history of its creation and share their struggles, joys, defeats, and successes on this pioneering journey. This highly acclaimed film is being shown at film festivals around the world. Mr. Dervaes and his family have been the subject of numerous articles in newspapers and magazines worldwide, including the New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Earth News, Telegraph Magazine (U.K.), the Times of India and FAZ [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung?], and were recently featured on ABC's Nightline, CNN, Sundance Channel, and Food Network. Mr. Dervaes is a sought-after speaker on a wide variety of topics related to urban homesteading and pressing environmental issues. Clips from the film were featured on Oprah's Earth Day 2009 special."So we figure we're preparing ourselves to live simply. If you look around, you'll see riches here but it's in the form of tomatoes and peppers and animals. So we're going backwards, and I say a step backwards is progress." JULES DERVAES
Since the mid 1980's he and his three children have been on a journey -- a path to freedom -- to live and eat off the grid. After 20 years of trial and error, they have become so successful that they now produce nearly three tons of organic food a year from their fifth-of-an-acre property. Along with other rather unusual suburban features, such as a mini farmyard with goats, chickens, ducks and bees and a hand powered washing machine, their urban homestead is only a 15-minute drive from downtown L.A.
30 Days To Go
Smog Eating Tile
November 29, 2010
German Electronics - 1956
That device, mein Herr, is the 1956 model of a German walkie-talkie. Why it is so much more massive than the walkie-talkies used in World War II, I cannot imagine. It has a range of two miles. This and much more on German electronics can be found here.
"John Doe" Graveyard
In that 60 Minutes video that I included in my post about the All-American Canal they mentioned and included a few moments on a "John Doe" graveyard in Imperial County where they bury the unidentified, deceased illegal aliens. Well, if you didn't think that made me sit up and take notice, then you don't know me. What! A cemetery of "John Doe" illegal aliens nearby and I never heard of it?! Where!?!
So I go to my cemetery resources, which are good for locating the graves of celebrities, which leads me to this digression. In my use, over the years, of these cemetery websites I have noticed a lot of sloppiness and carelessness, and I just don't understand the reason for it. One would presume that anyone submitting data to a cemetery website is interested in the subject. Most people do it for genealogical reasons, some do it for history, some for the aesthetics, some for the celebrities. They've all got their reasons. You are dealing with a subject that is often literally written in stone. It just stays where it is - usually forever. It's usually in a place (a cemetery) where it is socially acceptable to walk up to a grave marker and stare at it. One can take his time in a cemetery. One can write down notes, usually photos are permitted, or you can memorize the information. You've got all eternity to get it right. It's not like "Hey, I was driving down the 10 and I saw some weird kind of car speeding in the other direction!" It's a grave! So why, please tell me why, there is so much misinformation or completely missing information when you dig around in the cemetery websites? "Joe Blow is buried in this 50,000 acre cemetery." Good luck finding him.
I managed to put together what I thought was a complete list of all the cemeteries in Imperial County and searched for information on each one. No one mentioned an unusual un-landscaped "John Doe" graveyard in any of them. I began to narrow them down by looking at Google satellite images and picking out the ones that had big dirt sections - and that was more cemeteries than I expected. And at about that point I just gave up on the cemetery websites and Googled '"john doe" graveyard imperial' and, voila, the information leapt forth. The L.A. Times did an article on it in 2001. The N.Y. Times covered it in 2004. That article refers to Imperial County as "the poorest in California." Apparently, they are basing that statement on the per capita income in the county, which is the lowest ($13,239) in California. The article gives some numbers for the first 9 months of 2004:
Border authorities here in the southeastern California sector called El Centro report 36 deaths so far this year, down from 56 last year, though federal agents count only the bodies they recover and not those recovered by the local authorities. The Imperial County sheriff's department says 25 people have been dragged this year from the milky waters of the irrigation canals, and county health officials say they have taken custody of the bodies of 45 undocumented immigrants. There are, most likely, bones bleaching on a desert floor that at times reaches 125 degrees.
Five, so far this year, have been buried without a name.
So, at least 106 dead, and 5 buried as unidentified. Unfortunately, they don't tell us how many were identified and how many are still waiting in the Frye Chapel and Mortuary in Brawley where the unidentified are held pending investigation.
You can search further and find some insane ravings about this graveyard. Some assert that the burials there are done at the direction of the Border Patrol. Obviously, a graveyard like this is a county function, not a service of the federal government. Another site claimed that burials only took place in the wee hours of the night and were performed by "slaves." That site put "slaves" in quotes, so I don't know what they were trying to say.
The "John Doe" graveyard is in Terrace Park Cemetery which is on the west edge of Holtville. You enter a small, landscaped cemetery. At the backside of that area there are a couple of roads that lead back to the "John Doe" graveyard, but there are chains across them and "No Trespassing" signs. There is, however, a way around that I thought would give me plausible deniability, if I needed it. I never entered the "John Doe" graveyard, but just came up near it.
The "John Doe" graveyard can just barely be seen from the landscaped part of the cemtery, if you know what you're looking for. It's behind that row of trees.
The "John Doe" graveyard is outlined in red. Click for the Google map.
Perry v. Schwarzenegger Update
The names of the judges to hear the appeal on Monday have been released: Stephen Roy Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins, and Norman Randy Smith. Some bio info:
- Judge Stephen Roy Reinhardt. He was confirmed in 1980 after being nominated by President Jimmy Carter. He served in the Air Force. On Nov. 18, 2009, the judge ruled in favor of a gay couple who were having their spousal health care benefits denied - Brad Levenson and Tony Sears were married during the period gay marriage was legal in California during 2008, and was seeking benefits for his partner while working as a public defender for the federal government. Judge Reinhardt also wrote an opinion relating to "standing" in a 1997 case relating to Arizona voters amending the state Constitution to make English the state's official language. In that opinion written by Judge Reinhardt, the court held that the sponsors of the ballot initiative could intervene. But later that year, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously thought the Ninth Circuit had "lost sight" of the limitations of federal courts to decide definitively on the meaning of state legislation.
- Judge Michael Daly Hawkins. He joined the court in 1994 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. He was U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1977 to 1980 and then as Special Prosecutor for the Najavo Nation from 1985 to 1989.
- Judge Norman Randy Smith. He was confirmed in 2007 after being nominated by President George W. Bush. Born in Logan, Utah, Smith graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in 1974, and received his J.D. from Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark School of Law in 1977
A Good Story From WikiLeaks
It's like a story from Sir Fitzroy MacLean, the man who may have been the model for James Bond. Only this story is set in the 21st century. It's about Hossein Ghanbarzadeh Vahedi, a 75-year-old American of Iranian descent who visited Iran in May 2008. There his passport was seized either because they wanted a bribe ($150,000) or because his sons promoted Persion pop music concerts.
The actual content of the diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks is here. He escaped by riding horseback over the mountains in January to Turkey.
The two escorts were paid $5000 at the beginning of the journey and the three set out as soon as it was dark. For all his planning, Vahedi did not have clothing appropriate for the weather and had a very difficult time with the cold. At one point during the 14-hour ride, the escorts had to physically hug him to keep him warm. As an inexperienced rider hours into the climb Vahedi lost his concentration and fell off the horse tumbling into the woods. He told Conoff that at this point, he really believed he was going to die by freezing to death on a mountainside. However, his only partially-paid escorts came to his aid and put him back on the horse. Although he had thought he would be able to walk part way, the altitude proved too much for him and his only choice was to remain on the horse. Vahedi said that he believes they were following known drug smuggling routes, evidenced by the way the horse knew exactly which way to turn. Vahedi said the horse often led the escorts, even going off the normal path in what seemed to be the wrong direction. Knowing that the escorts could also be trying to smuggle drugs on this trip, he covertly went through the one pack they had thrown on the horse and said he found nothing.
Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010
Leslie Nielsen's filmography. His first TV appearances were in 1950. His first movies came in 1956, including Forbidden Planet.
November 28, 2010
Yesterday I went down and visited the Pioneer Museum in Imperial. I only learned of its existence on that CVWD tour of the canals last month. Before we start, check out that website. It gives every indication of not being updated since 2002! I've seen out of date websites before, but none untouched for 8 years when the subject is a going concern. I think if you want current information on the museum you should rely on their Facebook page which is very up to date.
Anyway, I was just blown away by this place, and now I understand why they timed our bus stop there last month so that we would arrive and leave before the museum opened. You could easily spend an entire day in this place if you wanted to give everything the time it deserves. It's open from 10 AM to 4 PM every day except Monday. Admission charge is $6 for adults. But admission to the grounds is free and they are open before 10 and after 4. I don't know the hours for the grounds, but I can't imagine they just leave them wide open 24 hours.
I think the museum's underlying philosophy is not academic purity, but simply to accept anything and everything that anyone wants to donate, and then figure out a way to squeeze it into a display. A lot of the museum is used for displays that focus on the different ethnic groups that have settled in Imperial Valley - which is, basically, everybody. It's a great way to generate broad interest and support for the museum. You get some people from some organization that represents a particular ethnic group to help maintain their display and maybe even find new items to bring in for display. While I was there a couple of girls from the Greek church were decorating the Greek exhibit for Christmas.
The museum building sits amidst a very large area that is filled with historic buildings, vehicles, farm equipment, railroad trains, and even a cactus garden. Take a look:
The museum building is to the right of center. I only had time to explore a little bit of the grounds before the sun set.
It was a little interesting to note that what forms the northern edge of the museum's property is a water course - a river maybe, or maybe irrigation drainage. I'm no expert in identifying all the things with water in them in Imperial Valley. But this water course was not lined with concrete, so I know it was not carrying water TO crops. There was no fence or barrier of any sort. The parking lot goes right up to the soft earth edge, which drops off at a 45° angle, going down about 20 feet to the water itself, which is rushing very swiftly eastwards where it crashes down into an underground concrete structure. There were no buoys or lines in the water. IOW, one step over the edge and I don't know how you'd keep yourself from rolling down into the water, and once in the water I can't imagine any way to prevent yourself from being swept into that underground concrete passage, eventually to become one with the Salton Sea, I suppose. Imperial Valley can be an exciting place!
I like the little tiny wheels under it. Any bets on whether the museum staff has played matador with this?
This building looked so old and delicate I avoided touching it as I approached from the rear. I was stunned when I came around to the front to see the door standing wide open, allowing me to go in and look around. This, like all of the exterior exhibits, and many of the interior exhibits was accompanied by NO explanatory information.
How many historical museums do you know that have a functioning pipe organ? This one used to be in the State Street Christian Church and is now installed in a room that looks like it should have terrible acoustics for music.
Presentation is everything. Not sure what this machine was used for, but I guess if you're going to run it in the desert you're not going to skimp on the radiator.
I know, you're asking yourself the same question I did: why doesn't the Mission Springs Water District have its own rail cars? The simple answer is it's because there are no railroads within the MSWD, but just as soon as we get rail (maybe a monorail), you can be sure that the MSWD will find an appropriate use.
There were vast piles of valuable and dangerous antique equipment just sitting there, and no signs warning you to stay off. Yes, if you've got an overactive child who needs to lose a limb or an eye, this is the place to bring 'em. Just give 'em a cup of coffee and let 'em go.
These are not bowling balls, but polished mineral spheres.
Here's one outside of that glass case and the price tag says $295.95. I don't know if that's a joke, or if it's on loan, or if it's really for sale. I guess I could have carried it down to the front desk and asked. Most of the time I was completely alone in the place.
Little bit of everything going on in this wildlife display. Mountain lions, big horn sheep, a coiled rattlesnake and a vulture. In the end, it's going to be the vulture who wins.
Sculpture of Sheriff Mobley Meadows, the first Sheriff of Imperial County, 1907-1915.
Presidents of the Imperial County Historical Society. First one was 1928.
A vast map of the Colorado River watershed - north is to the left. I think the Desert Hot Springs Visitors Center will need a similar map on the same scale of the Mission Creek watershed. We may need to break through the roof to display it.
It looks like a golf cart for rail. Every good golf course should have a rail system.
That tiny metal plaque on the left fender bears instructions on how to shift the gears. Anyone sitting in the operator's seat who tries to read those instructions will need a chiropractor.
The current Board of Directors of the Imperial Irrigation District. Upper left is Stella Mendoza, who you may recall was interviewed by 60 Minutes. This is a museum so, of course, it was entirely appropriate that she submit a photo from decades ago, before the years of heartless callousness left their deep tracks on her face.
Dr. Dan Angel - Superintendent-President Imperial Valley College 1978-81; a time when college presidents were cool.
In 1904-05 somebody said "Hey gang, let's try to redirect the entire Colorado River into the Imperial Valley!" And here's the map showing some of the details of how they did it. The attempt was successful - beyond their wildest nightmares.
A carrot Christmas tree as part of the carrot exhibit. Holtville is home to the Carrot Festival that Bugs Bunny sought in one of his short films. This carrot exhibit was planted in amongst the ethnic group exhibits. And for some reason, the German and Irish exhibits were relegated to the second floor, away from all the other ethnic groups. I don't have enough evidence to support a conspiracy theory yet.
Brawley High, Class of 1948. They had 'em all. I just randomly selected this one to show you.
California Assembly Speaker Pérez Tells His Coming Out Story
Risking Your Life For YouTube
You can watch it at 720p, but many of the source videos are lower resolution. If I was about to risk my life (or my mobility skills) I would ask the videographers gathered about like jackals if they were shooting HD. If not, I'd kick 'em out.
Super-zoom Compact Cameras
Neff and Lenny at B&H have something to tell you about four super-zoom compact digital cameras. Lenny specifically recommends super-zoom cameras for photographing airplanes landing, football players scoring goals, and the speedometer of a speedboat passing by. Uh, that last one is, IMO, a bit beyond the capabilities of all but the luckiest photographers. I might suggest one of these cameras would be good for photographing wildlife, sports in general (even if a goal isn't being scored), or your voyeuristic beach scenes.
The four cameras discussed are:
- Panasonic FZ100 ($400) 24x zoom (25-600mm equivalent), 1080p video, it also can shoot 220 fps video at a resolution of 320 x 240. That is, slow-mo with low resolution. Has an input for a separate microphone.
- Nikon P100 ($320) 26x zoom (26-678mm equivalent), 1080p video, also has 240 fps video at 320x240.
- Sony HX1 ($400) 20x zoom, 1080p video, has Sweep Panorama capability.
- Canon SX30 ($400) - longest zoom (35x - 24-840mm equivalent), but video is only 720p.
This is why you don't buy a non-HD video camera
Imagine the bragging rights! "Hey guys, I went and rode my dirt bike all the way into Saline Valley and then out on Steele Pass Road where I got a great view of Eureka Dunes and I captured all of it for you on standard-def video." His friends will try to be polite. Very good video. Coulda been great. Coulda been a contenda.