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April 30, 2014

Family of John Winkler Seeks $25 Million

John Winkler, who was being held hostage by a murderous nutjob in a West Hollywood apartment, was shot and killed by L.A. County Sheriff's Deputies as he was escaping the nutjob earlier in April. His parents have filed a claim for $25 million. The family's attorney says that someone had shown the Deputies a photo of the actual nutjob before they went into the situation.

Filed under Public Safety | permalink | April 30, 2014 at 09:30 AM | Comments (1)

The Secret History Of Desert Hot Springs

Last week's Soup Supper with Audrey Moe speaking. This is a production of the DHS Historical Society. Ms. Moe shares the stories of some of the celebrities who have been coming quietly to Desert Hot Springs since before there was even a Desert Hot Springs (and still come today).

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,History | permalink | April 30, 2014 at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2014

Earlier Tonight In Oklahoma

Mother Jones summarizes the challenges states are facing in getting drugs to carry out lethal injections. Sodium thiopental, traditionally used in lethal injections, is no longer manufactured in the United States. European manufacturers refuse to ship it to the United States because they object to its use for lethal injections. States have been trying other drug cocktails. The article describes some of the problems that have occurred because states have bought contaminated drugs. Some states have gone overseas to buy drugs and then brought them into the U.S. illegally. Oklahoma pays for its drugs with actual Federal Reserve Notes so there will be no record of the purchase.

Oklahoma settled on a three-drug process which has been used in Florida. But in Florida, they inject five times as much midazolam as Oklahoma would. Midazolam is used as a sedative before medical procedures.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were scheduled to be executed by lethal injection tonight in Oklahoma. Their attorneys had fought in court to have the sources of the drugs made known, but they lost. Tonight Clayton Lockett went first. His execution was scheduled to begin at 6 PM. The injection process actually began at 6:23 PM with midazolam. At 6:33 PM the doctor announced that Lockett was unconscious, therefore the administration of the remaining drugs could begin. One minute later it appeared that Lockett was not actually unconscious as he began to move his mouth. Two minutes later he began convulsing. One minute after that a prison official said "something's wrong."

Then the blinds were lowered so the observers could no longer see the process. Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said he then "stopped the execution." It would have been more correct to say that he had ordered the injection process to be stopped, because once you've started to put that load of drugs into a body, you don't know if it's going to be an execution or not until the prisoner either dies or jumps off the table laughing.

Twenty-seven minutes later Lockett, still strapped to the gurney, died of a heart attack. Patton said that there had been a "vein failure" and the state could not determine how much of any drugs had actually gotten into Lockett's bloodstream.

[David] Autry, Lockett's attorney, was immediately skeptical of the department's determination the issue was limited to a problem with Lockett's vein.

"I'm not a medical professional, but Mr. Lockett was not someone who had compromised veins," Autry said. "He was in very good shape. He had large arms and very prominent veins."

Charles Warner's execution has been stayed 14 days by Governor Fallin. "She also ordered the state's Department of Corrections to conduct a 'full review of Oklahoma's execution procedures to determine what happened and why during this evening's execution.'"

Filed under Public Safety | permalink | April 29, 2014 at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

Long Beach Police

There are a number of poorly written news articles out there about the incident on Sunday afternoon where Long Beach Police shot and killed a man. The chronology seems to be:

  • Security at a Target store tried to detain him.
  • L.A. County Sheriff's Deputies arrived at the Target to help.
  • The man pulled out a weapon (scissors) and managed to escape to his vehicle.
  • Sheriff's Deputies pursued him.
  • Long Beach Police joined the pursuit.
  • He stopped at a dead end at the beach.
  • Cops ordered him out of the vehicle, but he didn't budge.
  • Fifteen minutes later he emerged from his vehicle with a big stick.
  • He ran for a stairway down to the beach.
  • A police canine was released and a Sheriff's Deputy fired a stun-bag, which was ineffective.
  • Long Beach Police who had stationed themselves on the beach fired on the man with real bullets and killed him.
  • Police on the beach say their view was obstructed by foliage, but they saw him reach for his waistband, so they fired.

The whole thing videotaped by a civilian in a nearby building with a good clear view of the stopped vehicle scene and the beach scene. Mainstream media stops the video just before he is shot, but this is the unedited video that runs until the Long Beach Police get to the man. They certainly took their time doing that. There is no visible gore or blood, no screams or moans, but you are watching a man die.

The L.A. Times has a video from a helicopter overhead which shows the same thing as the civilian video above. He dropped the stick; was empty-handed and never reached for his waistband.

L.A.'s Channel 4 has a video interview with "former LAPD detective Tim Williams, a police use of force expert, however, believes the shooting was unjustified" based on his viewing of the civilian video. I don't know, but this seems very similar to those psychologists who make definitive pronouncements on the mental health of the perpetrator when they get interviewed by TV reporters right after any especially heinous crime. Former detective Williams could have qualified his opinion with something like "but I'd need to see the police videos first" or "I'd have to see the whole body of evidence" before offering an opinion. But he didn't.

My guess (and what do I know?) is that the LBPD on the beach heard the shot when the the stun-bag was fired and failed to distinguish the sound as a non-lethal shot. Then they over-reacted when they saw him coming.

The man's name was Jason Conoscenti.

Filed under Public Safety | permalink | April 29, 2014 at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

Apple Breaks

Breaks with tradition, that is. For as long as I've been using a Mac, the base price for the cheapest laptop has always been $999. As technology advanced, Apple just kept improving it to hold that price. But now, now for the first time, Apple has dropped the prices of MacBook Airs by $100, across the board. The cheapest is now $899. This is despite the fact that they have upgraded the processor.

For $999 you can get the 13-inch Air. The top o' the line Air, 13-inch with 256 GB drive starts at $1,199. Naturally, you will want to double the RAM to 8 GB for $100 more. You can also get a faster chip ($150) and double the storage ($300).

They really like that 100 number at Apple, because they dropped the price in the UK by £100 which is $168.31 today. The starting price there is £749 which equals $1260.64, so no need to rush over there to try to score a bargain.

Filed under Shopping,Technology | permalink | April 29, 2014 at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Chasing With GoPro

I ran across this video shot by a self-designated "storm chaser" of the recent Tupelo tornado. My first thought was "what a jackass!" Driving alone, unseatbelted into a storm while holding a video camera in one hand. But other observers are of the opinion he is even stupider than that.

Most of those issues I could shove aside and ignore because it is, after all, Mississippi. But there's that video camera and I wondered why so many (not that I actually follow these things) of the storm chasers do so with standard, narrow angle, handheld video cameras. You're bouncing down a rough dirt road while a 200 MPH wind is jostling you and your passenger (if you had the foresight to bring a passenger) is simultaneously panicking and trying to video the whole scene, jerking the narrow angle view from this gray thing to that gray thing, all the while supplicating some god, any god, to help.

Why, why, I asked, do these people not use mounted GoPro cameras. Everybody else in the world uses them. I went on a search for some, and wouldncha know, there are storm chasers out there using GoPros. Some are better than others. The best ones (probably from the smartest storm chasers) are shot with a GoPro mounted on the roof facing toward the rear of the vehicle...because the smart storm chaser is running away, not driving into it.

Julesburg, Colorado, May 28, 2013 - only 1:10, timelapse. This chaser includes some still shots from the GoPro as well. His Facebook page has more photos.

Same photographer, Booker, Texas, supercell, June 3, 2013 - 5 minutes, timelapse.

El Reno, Oklahoma, May 31, 2013, the widest tornado in recorded history (2.6 miles), winds approaching 300 MPH, lasted for 40 minutes while traveling 16 miles. Wikipedia. Lots of running away in this one, and he almost doesn't make it. I imagine speed limits were not observed in the last couple of minutes of this video.

Now this guy has the camera mounted inside the car. It seems to me it's six of one, half a dozen of another whether you put it inside or outside. Outside you run the risk of losing it and rain inevitably gets on the lens cover. Inside you won't lose it, but you've got the windshield wipers and occasional sheets of blinding rain hitting the windshield. Also, if it's inside you will probably want to remove the audio before making it public. I'm sure that when a tornado is hitting, you can't say "Oh my God" too many times, but afterwards in the video it gets a bit distracting. This guy seems not to be a storm chaser, but drives toward the May 20, 2013, tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. He gets right to the edge of the path of destruction before he is stopped by downed power lines. What's interesting is that even though he's not in any sort of official vehicle, not even a media vehicle, he considers it entirely acceptable to take whichever side of the road he wants in his rush to get to the scene. He must know this is not dangerous, because there couldn't possibly be other drivers on the road, and even if there were, their driving could not possibly be encumbered by blinding rain or the adrenaline rush of the nearby tornado. So away we go!

This video is not very successful. The GoPro is mounted on the roof of their Toyota Highlander, facing forward. They end up driving nearly into the tornado. "The tornado did crack our front window, took part of our roof rack and left debris embedded in our grill and front window." The trouble is, it's shot at night in the rain, and the power is out for some segments of it, so all you can see is the light from the headlights. I couldn't even tell when the tornado hit until I read the comments. It starts when they finally stop moving at about the 8-minute mark.

A suggestion I have for GoPro-using storm chasers is to do like we do at Burning Man. The first image on the memory card should be a picture of a clearly lettered sign with your name, address, phone number and email. Next of kin couldn't hurt either. Even if the camera is lost, some day the camera or memory card will surface somewhere and you (or your survivors) will want it back.

Filed under GoPro,Photography | permalink | April 29, 2014 at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

Ottawa Citizen Gushes Over Palm Springs

Somebody from Ottawa got treated really well on some recent visit here, and I suspect that visit may have included a visit to one of Palm Springs' three special health emporiums (soon to be four). They say all kinds of extremely positive things and seem to think that it's highly significant to Canadian visitors that Leonardo DiCaprio owns a house here now. I just double checked that DiCaprio is an American, not a Canadian, so I don't think our snowbirds will have any greater chance of being invited over for cocktails by the pool than anyone else.

Here's the mention of Desert Hot Springs: "It's so worth the trek out to Desert Hot Springs, and the unlikely situated but utterly sublime four-unit Hotel Lautner, a private compound that has a little dipping pool, to-die-for sunset views and couldn't be more perfect for an intimate wedding or, better yet, a girls-only weekend."

That's part of a list of features of the valley that they consider somewhat less than the One Big Prime Star Attraction. The list includes polo clubs, Coachella fest, Palm Springs Art Museum, PNB Parabis Open, the Uptown Design District, Just Fabulous, Trina Turk, margarita bars, mid-century furniture stores, the Food and Wine Festival, Bearfoot Inn, the Ace, the Saguaro, Hotel Lautner, DiCaprio, the film festival and its celebrities. Those are the lesser attractions.

This is how they describe what they consider the Numero Uno attraction:

This year, Facebook millionaire Ezra Callahan, who was one of the social site's first employees and reportedly walked away with $60 million in his pocket, is about to open his own Chris Pardo-designed modernist 32-room boutique hotel right on North Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, all kitted out with luxury amenities and sustainable sensibilities.

If that's what brings the Canadians, well then okay.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Travel | permalink | April 29, 2014 at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2014

Giant Agave

The Sumner-Wilsons of Candlesby planted a Giant Agave (Agave americana) in their greenhouse with a 12-foot ceiling. The agave's "time" finally came. Hilarity ensued. There's a photo.

| permalink | April 28, 2014 at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

Alaska To Arizona

A couple of bicyclists ride from Alaska to Arizona and document the trip with a variety of cameras, including a GoPro...but most of the shots come from some other camera. Their route included Tioga Pass (arrgh!) and Death Valley.

Filed under Cycling,Photography,Travel | permalink | April 28, 2014 at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

Some Utah Republicans Supporting Some Equality

Ivan DuBois, former Executive Director of the Utah Republican Party, is actively campaigning for non-discrimination legislation that would forbid discrimination against gay people in housing and the workplace. The LDS church, BTW, supports similar legislation. Naturally, there has been some opposition, but the usual objections have been modified somewhat.

"Marriage is not a right; it is a privilege granted by government. That's why it requires a license." (This was said by a Republican candidate for county council in Salt Lake County.) Fifteen states plus DC recognize common-law marriage, which requires no license. The first colony in America to require marriage licenses was [drumroll please] Massachusetts in 1639. So before that time and outside of Massachusetts no one was married? The requirement for marriage licenses in England and Wales began in the 14th century, but those licenses were granted by the church not the government, so they would be invalid in that Republican's point of view. It was not until 1837 that England and Wales recognized statutory (non-church) marriages. If marriage comes from God, then why does that Republican think the permitting system should be handled by the government?

"The needs of children as a result of a marriage between a man and a woman should be foremost in the law." They used to say The needs of children should be foremost in the law. Now only the needs of children of heterosexual marriage are of concern. Children of unmarried parents, children of single parents, children of same-sex married parents are of no (or little) consideration. Well, okay, that does simplify their court defenses to the point of utter ridiculousness.

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | April 28, 2014 at 02:24 PM | Comments (2)