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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)

A Fresh Direction In Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuits

"North Carolina prohibits couples of the same gender from obtaining a marriage license and makes it a crime for ministers to officiate a marriage ceremony without determining whether a couple has a license." The U.S. Constitution (and probably the North Carolina Constitution) guarantees freedom of religion. The United Church of Christ performs same-sex weddings. So you see where this is going. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court saying the law is a restriction on their religious freedom.

Filed under Gay Issues,Religion | permalink | April 28, 2014 at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2014

Jumbo Rocks Campout

These are some photos from the Great Outdoors campout at Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park a couple of weeks ago.

Samuelson's Rocks (5860)
We visited Samuelson's Rocks again
.

Samuelson's (5842)
We were able to find the site of Samuelson's cabin for the first time
.

Samuelson's Vehicle (5848)
And Samuelson's parking lot
.

Scott in Samuelson's Cellar (5846)
This is Scott in Samuelson's cellar
which was in pretty decent shape.

Jumbo Rocks (5907)
The Jumbo Rocks campground was completely filled
.

Jumbo Rocks (5897)
There were Joshua Trees and rocks
.

Jumbo Rocks (5892)
I think I was standing in front of my tent when I took this shot
.

Great Outdoors HIke
That tortoise again
.

Desert Flowers (5857)
Flowers were abundant
.

Cypress at Jumbo Rocks (5881)
Fellow campers informed me that a few million photos of this cypress and and rock were already on the internet
.

Crown Prince Lookout - Live Oak Canyon Loop (5918)
We went looking for the Crown Prince Lookout
which was an observation point during World War II. We made a wrong turn. The lookout is in those rocks over there, which we did not explore.

Cactus Flower (5926)
Flower with bugs
,

Many more photos here.

Bonus. Here's a brief GoPro video of our lunch spot one day.

Filed under Cactus,California,Photography | permalink | April 27, 2014 at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

Netflix Roulette

Too tired, lazy or intoxicated to fire up the necessary brain cells to select something at Netflix to watch? Netflix Roulette to the rescue.

  1. Select movies, TV or both.
  2. Select a genre, or not.
  3. Select a range of ratings (1 - 5 stars), or not.
  4. Click "Spin."
  5. One title is displayed. If you want to watch it, click "Watch On Netflix."
  6. Otherwise, spin again or just go to bed.

Netflix Roulette doesn't ask for access to your account, which is good for privacy, but it means it may show you movies you've already seen. But what do you care? You're tired. It also doesn't let you filter on MPAA ratings, but that's critical only if you have kids in the house and kids don't need Netflix Roulette to pick a movie. "Let's watch ___________ again!"

Filed under Film/Movies,Television | permalink | April 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

DHS Wild Life Sanctuary

Desert Hot Springs Wildlife Sanctuary (2137)
Can anyone provide some background on the Desert Hot Springs Wildlife Sanctuary?
I'm especially interested in seeing what the ordinance said/says. The ordinance was approved in the 1970s, I believe, but "Ordinance 117" doesn't correspond to the way our ordinances are numbered now and simply searching the city code doesn't turn up anything about this for me.

This sign faces west on Mission Lakes Boulevard between Little Morongo and West. I seem to recall there were one or two more when I moved here 10 years ago. I think there was one on Little Morongo at the former city line, but it's no longer there.

It'd be interesting to know the scope of the ordinance and whether it's still in effect. The day comes when polar bears wander our streets, we'll need to know if it's legal to chase them away.

BTW, I recall seeing this sign within my first year of living in Desert Hot Springs and being shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that the city had a leash law! I think the city was operating its own animal control then and it was worthless.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 27, 2014 at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2014

"Koyaanisqatsi in 5 minutes"

For those who have never been able to commit 86 minutes of their life to watching the full movie but were curious about the visuals, here ya go. It seems to include all the scenes in the film, but that is not the soundtrack...although it is by Glass.

You can hear the original soundtrack here.

Inexpensive digital photography and remote control copters have made many of the effects seen in this film almost ubiquitous. The film was released in 1982, shot entirely on film (what else?) and no CGI. At the time, there was nothing else like this of similar length.

Filed under Film/Movies,Music,Photography | permalink | April 26, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

Drunk Driver Turns Herself In

But not in a well planned manner. While enjoying our roads in a state of inebriation she came upon a collision investigation underway on DaVall Drive in Rancho Mirage, whereupon she sideswiped an unoccupied police car. No injuries. The driver was arrested.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Public Safety | permalink | April 26, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

Rudy Acosta Moves Up

Rudy Acosta has taken the position of Assistant City Manager in Palm Desert with a base pay of about $136,000.

Most recently Acosta was acting public works director for Desert Hot Springs, after starting out as economic development manager and ultimately working in eight departments. He oversaw construction of the city’s new Health & Wellness Center, and won a leadership award from the International City-County Managers’ Association last year for the project.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 26, 2014 at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2014

Available Before The Winter Holidays

So they say.

Filed under Technology | permalink | April 25, 2014 at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

Coachella In Infrared

Coachella Infrared
Click here for several more photos of Coachella Fest in infrared
by Mark Davis.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Photography | permalink | April 25, 2014 at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

Mullin

Earlier this month I visited the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard to see part of Mullin's collection of Bugattis and art related to the Bugatti family. This collection is open to the public only one or two days a month until the end of this year, then it ends. Advance ticket purchase is required, but it's only $15 for adults.

Bugatti Windscreen (4474)
Back when windscreens were literally wind screens
.

Bugatti (4281)
A re-imagination
.

Bugatti (4237)

1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster Chassis No. 2461 (4244)
1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster
. Go here to read the story, but basically this was pushed into Lake Maggiore in Switzerland in the late 1930s, suspended by 35-foot chains. The chains eventually failed. The car was found in 1967 resting at the bottom of the lake. In 2009 it was brought to the surface.

Schlumpf Collection of Bugattis (4304)
Let's hope they bring back the electric running board some day
.

Schlumpf Collection of Bugattis (4264)
Included in the display were several cars from the Schlumpf Reserve Collection
. These cars are unrestored. The Schlumpf brothers began collecting cars in the 1950s. They lost control of their collection from 1977 to 1999, during which time the cars sat unprotected in a barn. Go here to read the story.

Bugatti (4296)

Bugatti (4470)

Bugatti (4507)

Many more photos here.

Filed under Art,Automotive,History,Photography | permalink | April 25, 2014 at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)