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January 30, 2012

MSWD Workshop - January 11

Financial Master Plan Update

General Manager Arden Wallum said that the reason for this workshop was to show the board some of the information that would be shared with the citizens' committee that night, and to gather input.

Glenn Reiter said that John Soulliere had suggested saying that it's like MSWD had been playing football, but now the field has changed into a baseball diamond and MSWD had better change into baseball uniforms to stay in the game.

John Soulliere ran down some questions they had gotten from the MSWD 2.0 citizens committee. One had to do with staff compensation. He planned to present the committee with the salary matrix that's on the district's website. He said he would also explain how they got there - the history of the salaries. There had been a question about consolidation, and the answer would include information about the benefits of local control. Another question was about the completion of the sewer project and Brent Gray would be at the committee meeting that night to answer it.

Mr. Reiter said that they have analyzed the practices of the district, going department by department, looking at labor costs. They've inspected facilities and interviewed employees out in the field.

He said the cash fund balance is the most misleading balance of information when looking at any district. There are restricted and unrestricted money.

The sewage treatment facilities are working quite well, but Mr. Reiter asked the question, "How much money do you have set aside in case you lose your blowers or you lose one of your pumps?" There is none. Someday Horton needs to expanded. The Desert Crest waste water treatment plant is very small and inefficient and needs to be consolidated. "And you've got ID-E sitting out there that - the entire system, for a lack of better term, it wouldn't pass any AW standard by a long shot." (ID-E is the Whitewater/Desert Crest area of the district.)

Then the discussion turned to customer service policies. He said MSWD goes way out of its way to do a super good job in customer service. The question is, can the district afford to keep doing that? It's a big part of the budget.

Uniform rates are going away in other districts, to be replaced by rates that more closely reflect the cost of delivering service. Areas where water has to be pumped a greater distance or uphill get higher rates.

Mr. Reiter said the district expends a lot of effort before it shuts off someone's water.

The district sends personnel daily to visit every well and pump. If there were more back up facilities, it might not be so critical to send an employee every day. Or, if there was more electronic remote monitoring, there could be fewer visits by humans.

Making repairs on 80 to 100 service lines a month distracts from preventive maintenance.

Vice President Brown said that it needs to be made clear to the public that it's the cost of the maintenance of the district's infrastructure that is a big reason behind last year's rate increase - not the bugaboo [my word] of staff compensation. Director Martin said it should be emphasized that the district didn't get to this position through poor management, but because of the changes in the general economy.

The subject moved on to customer service. Mr. Reiter said the district provides very good customer service, but it's expensive and most of the attention goes to only a small percentage of the customers - about 2%. The district handles 10,000 to 12,000 service visits - visits to customer homes or businesses - per year.

Mr. Reiter suggested, as an example, one possibility would be to charge the customer for a requested re-read of the meter, if the district's initial read turned out to be correct. Another example would be charges for broken meters. Another district that is a client of Mr. Reiter charges $1,000 for broken meters.

Some districts charge extra for pumping water up above certain elevations. Half of Mission Springs' water goes through a booster system, which costs money.

They talked about consolidation. Whether it's a small district or merged into a bigger district, the miles of pipeline remain unchanged, the infrastructure still needs to be maintained. Consolidation would mean the elimination of five directors, but that's only a few thousand dollars year, and the real cost is loss of local control. [Consider the Palm Springs Unified School District - how much say does Desert Hot Springs get in the school district? Bupkis.]

Richard Cromwell, who made up a full 50% of the public audience at this meeting, raised his hand to make a comment about something earlier in the discussion. "I think one of the points you're going to have to give the folks, to remain transparent, is what is the status of the lawsuit. I heard today that they are going to appeal it. Those kind of rumors circulate. That's what's on everybody's mind. That's what started all this. I think you have to say where are we, what's the status of the rate suit."

John Soulliere displayed a slide that illustrated one example of the expense of customer service. A customer had a leak on his side of the water meter in a pipe that had been laid 20-some years ago. His bill jumped by $250. The high reading was caught by the district's system. Customer service went out to check the meter and notified the resident of the leak on his side of the meter. The leak was stopped. The customer disputed the bill. The customer service technician and the service supervisor are automatically involved in the dispute resolution. They spent about 2.5 hours working on this. The customer was not satisfied and appealed to the next level, the finance director. He spent another 2.5 hours on it with the account manager. A letter was written to the customer to tell him that a leak on his side of the meter is at his expense. The customer then contacted Congressman Lewis, even though this was far from being a federal issue. Mr. Lewis's office contacted the district's Washington lobbyist, Thane Young, who in turn called district offices. All the data was reviewed. The customer's residence was revisited and a discussion ensued. Another letter was written to the customer affirming the district's position in this.

The customer could then appeal to the public affairs committee. That's at least five hours of the board secretary's time. Agendas must be posted publicly. The hearing before the public affairs committee will involve two directors (and they're the least expensive part), the finance director, the general manager, the board secretary and possibly more.

Beyond that level the customer can then appeal to the full board (another $750 of district expense). Total cost of all administrative expenses for this one item could exceed $3,000.

A discussion ensued as to whether it wouldn't be cheaper to just give him the $250. General Manager Wallum's position is that it is not, because then you encourage everyone to pile on and dispute their bills. [While that is common sense, there is not necessarily an objective study to support that.]

But the point of this item was to get the citizen's committee to discuss what level of customer service would be appropriate.

Suggestions tossed out at this workshop of the board of directors were (1) ignore the Congressman (possibly facetious), (2) get rid of the public affairs committee and go straight to the board, (3) and to eliminate all steps between checking the meter for accuracy and going to a review by the full board of directors.

Vice President Brown suggested that it would be better to use an average example of customer service, rather than this extreme example. He said he could only remember the public affairs committee meeting twice on matters like this. He said it's important for the public to enjoy due process in their disputes with the district. He also said that the presentation included detail that would distract from the overall question which is "how much customer service should the district provide?"

In no case is it legal to simply waive a bill when the district's billing is not in error. It's not like private industry where a business might do something like that in order to maintain good public relations.

Richard Cromwell said the case of a Congressman being involved is extremely rare. In his 20 years of running SunLine he was contacted by government officials only twice. He said if something is the district's fault, then admit it immediately and set out to correct it. If it's not the district's fault, then work with the customer (payments over time, perhaps), but don't give anything away. He said the district would be amazed at how few people actually want to go to court.

Mr. Soulliere estimated the district had spent $10,000 to $12,000 on "the Whitewater guy" and easily more than $5,000 on Caliente Springs.

There was some discussion about the fact that the customers in the Mission Springs Water District are different and have different expectations of customer service, than customers in other parts of the valley. Mr. Brown said he would like to know, if possible, how many DWA customers walked into DWA offices to pay their bill, same for CVWD.

Mr. Reiter said that he has never before seen a water district act so transparently in this process as MSWD. Mr. Bowman suggested the district could use this as PR, saying that this district is leading the way for all others.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | January 30, 2012 at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

Occupy news

Occupy news today:

  • In Washington, DC, Occupy protestors have been camping in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza since October. The National Park Service has said they will begin to enforce the existing regulations against camping. The Occupiers are staying, but some expect the police to roll in when the media depart and/or it gets dark.
  • Oakland City Hall reopened today. About 400 protestors were arrested over the weekend. Chelsea Carter at CNN writes "The mass arrests, described by police as the largest in city history, appear to have injected new life into the Occupy movement as protesters in a number of American and European cities took to the streets Sunday to express their solidarity with the Occupy Oakland group." I suppose that's the media way of looking at it - if the media pay attention then it's alive, if they don't then it's dead. Occupy Oakland has jumped the shark, so it gets attention.
    OAKLAND_Municipal Auditorium_Stanley A. Piltz (Pictorial Wonderland; 259)
    The Oakland protestors were attempting to occupy the Henry Kaiser Convention Center, seen here in its earlier days.

    The front page of the website for the Oakland Police Department features a statement from Chief Jordan right at the top that begins "I want to thank you for taking the time to share your feedback concerning events associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement occurring in Oakland. We have received a large amount of feedback in the form of phone calls and emails from concerned residents as well as individuals across the country and around the world." I was impressed at the level of communication with the public...until I read further and found that this note was here from the October 2011 riots.

    The San Francisco Chronicle has a fuller report on how the rioting went. Based on that I made up the following map:
    Map of Oakland with Occupy locations in mind
    (1) is Ogawa Plaza which is in front of (2) City Hall. On Saturday the demonstrators started at Ogawa Plaza and headed for (3) the Kaiser Convention Center. The police say they slashed tires on the way. After meeting resistance from the police at the convention center, the protestors returned to City Hall and some proceeded north until they "burst into" (4) the downtown YMCA. 44 were arrested inside the YMCA. I'd like to know the story behind that. Has the YMCA taken sides on this, or were the protestors just looking for a restroom? Later that night was the break-in and vandalization of City Hall. And why City Hall? My guess is because it was a fairly easy target with, apparently, weak security. If the Occupy protestors were serious about rioting and making mayhem where it might count for something, there was a (5) Citibank right there. Only a little further away was a (6) Bank of America. But if they wanted to express anger at the only organization in Oakland who had done 'em wrong, the (7) police headquarters were closer than the YMCA (the YMCA?! of all places?!). What, if anything, was their point?

    Here's an article by Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock who participated in the Oakland Occupy movement. She describes the walk from City Hall to the convention center as peaceful and happy with kids and balloons and a religious altar. Her story doesn't extend beyond the encounter at the convention center.

    And then there's the news about the 15-year old Oakland boy who strangled his adoptive parents who had been having arguments with him about him spending too much time with the Occupy movement. The mother worked "as a physician assistant in a city-run clinic in the Tenderloin and [the father] as a clinical psychologist for inmates in the San Francisco County Jail system." The boy has a black belt in karate.

  • The Occupy camp in Charlotte, North Carolina, was torn down today. The protestors had been camping there since last fall. The city passed a new ordinance banning camping in the parks. It went into effect at midnight this morning. As police tore down the tents, some protestors sang the National Anthem and Hokey Pokey. Seven were arrested. There was some hair splitting. The law allows tents for protection from the weather, but not for camping. So the protestors say they removed all their belongings, which would show they weren't camping any longer. The police tore them down anyway. "When asked to explain how police determined what is a campsite, which is banned, and what is an acceptable temporary structure, police Major Eddie Levins said, 'You know it when you see it.'" Major Levins probably also serves on the Charlotte Arts Council.
  • The Wellington, New Zealand, police say their Occupy protestors have all been evicted without incident. No arrests were made. On the Occupy Wellington Facebook page the comments seem to be consistent with a peaceful departure. One commenter, JR Murphy, wrote this:
    Had a feeling this was going to happen, decided to come home last night after camping Sunday as they had decided not to fight security and the police - which I wanted to do so I could get in front of a judge about why I Occupy. What the hell are council and police doing - this is a direct violation of our human rights - gunna catch the train today and chalk Wellington with poetry in support of the movement!!!!! I would encourage others to do the same, the council hate it. When writing your messages on the street and buildings only use chalk and don't swear, then you havn't broken any laws. Warehouse have buckets of chalk for $4. Wairarapa train gets in about 12, will start on the streets around Parliament buildings, then the courts and move out from there. Occupy isn't just Civic Square, Occupy is all streets!
  • 11 Occupy protestors were arrested in Des Moines last night. They had been camping in front of the Capitol building. They are not planning to re-Occupy any outdoor public space (it is, after all, winter in Iowa), but... "Foremost on the group’s spring calendar is May 1, a day Goodner said Occupiers nationwide will promote as an 'American Spring,' referencing the Arab Spring revolutions in several Middle Eastern countries in Spring 2011." Yeah, May 1, Just randomly picked a date on the calendar when they thought the weather would be nice and it turned out to be May 1. They probably talked about April 30, but that's a Monday.
  • During the eviction of London Occupiers bailiffs were said to be "heavy-handed." There they had been occupying a bank-owned building.
  • In Seattle, Occupy protestors vandalized a Wells Fargo branch.
  • In Austin the Occupy protestors seem to have good communication with the city. The city has established a schedule whereby they clean the area where the Occupy encampment is located, on the steps of City Hall, three times a week. The cleaning includes a power wash. Protestors complain that they have to move their stuff, and then when they come back it's wet and icky, and they have to put down tarps to stay dry. The Occupy protestors have started a petition to request the city to reduce the cleaning frequency to weekly and to do it "during the day to save water." The logic behind that is not explained.
  • The Guardian has prepared what they say is a global map of all Occupy encampments. The map uses 3 symbols and you know what would be helpful? A key to tell you what the symbols mean.
  • There are still 19 tents at Occupy Buffalo with perhaps 10 to 15 people. An agreement with the city expires on Wednesday. There have been no arrests in Buffalo.
  • In Boise the state legislature is working on a bill that would prohibit camping on state grounds inside the city limits. If approved, the dozen tents would seem to be in violation of the law. Protestors say they are not camping, but holding a vigil, the essential legal difference seeming to turn on the lack of marshmallows. They claim to have good communications with the police. The Times-News of Magic Valley editorialized against the bill that would outlaw camping.
  • Occupy Providence has moved out of a public park. This was in exchange for the opening of a day shelter for homeless people which is run by the Roman Catholic Diocese. Private donors have promised to re-seed the park when warm weather returns.
  • Occupy Cork has been ordered out of an unfinished building that they began to occupy on January 1. Occupy has agreed to vacate.
  • Occupy Bend, Oregon, meets weekly "at Wabi Sabi, Wednesdays at 7 p.m." They seem to be engaged in targeted actions.

Filed under Politics | permalink | January 30, 2012 at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

Questioning The Data

Travel + Leisure has done a survey of 35 cities in America. Here is the methodology. It was conducted online from May through August 2011. "The survey results appearing in the print magazine are from respondents who identified themselves as non-residents." Online they present results for both residents and non-residents. And I'll guess that the respondents were self-selecting, not random, so the results are just for fun.

Here are the categories of questions:

  • People
  • Nightlife
  • Culture
  • Shopping
  • Food/Drink/Restaurants
  • Quality of Life and Visitor Experience
  • Best Times to Visit
  • Type of Trip

The site allows you to compare two cities, head to head. So somebody compared Los Angeles and Kansas City. Both residents and non-residents agree that Kansas City is number 1 among the 35 for barbecue. Los Angeles doesn't score any first or second places, but it does get third place for the luxury stores. L.A. residents give themselves third place in stylishness of people, but out of towners put it in fifth place.

The results of the L.A. versus K.C. comparison shows this:

  • Kansas City wins overall.
  • Kansas Citians are rated more intelligent, friendlier, better drivers, more sports-crazed [that's a positive in this case], and more proud of their city.
  • Los Angelenos are more attractive [well, yeah!], more tech-savvy, more offbeat, more athletic, more diverse and more stylish.
  • Los Angeles bests K.C. on all three subjects in the Nightlife category: cocktail hour, singles/bar scene and live music.
  • In Culture, K.C. wins in classical music, museums and historical sites. L.A. wins in theater. This one is grossly wrong. Los Angeles wipes Kansas City in culture, but I think it just gets forgotten or overlooked in the overwhelmingly blinding glare that is Los Angeles culture.
  • In the Shopping category Los Angeles is better in these items: luxury stores, independent boutiques, home decor and design, and flea markets. Kansas City wins in one item: antique stores.
  • In the Food & Drink category where it really, really matters, Los Angeles does better in fine-dining, pizza, cafes, ethnic food, street food, and coffee. Kansas City does better in barbecue, hamburgers, and microbrew beer. [See the above ranking about the attractiveness of the people.]
  • "Quality of Life and Visitor Experience" is won by Kansas City!? K.C. beats L.A. in cleanliness, safety, affordability [K.C. first place of all cities], wireless coverage [Sprint, Google], architecture [eh, maybe], public parks & outdoor access, public transit & pedestrian friendliness [hard to believe], and peace and quiet. L.A. does better in weather [big duh!], hotel options, and people-watching.
  • Best time to visit K.C. is fall [football] and Christmas [Country Club Plaza lights]. L.A.: all other times.
  • As for what type of visit, Los Angeles is best for a romantic escape, a wild weekend, and as a base for day trips. K.C. is best for a family vacation, "cultural getaway" [does that mean to get away from culture?], and for a pet-friendly vacation [go to the park with barbecue and feed the leftovers to your dog].

I'm not going to say anything about the comparison between Los Angeles and San Francisco except that, of course, L.A. wins in the weather item.

You may also want to look at Los Angeles vs. San Diego where San Diego beats L.A. (and every other city) in weather.

In Boston vs. New York there are some unbelievable wins by Boston, including: friendliness, driving ability, public transit and pedestrian-friendliness.

Filed under California,Cities/Urbanism,Travel | permalink | January 30, 2012 at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

DHS Community Policing Meeting February 23

Community Police Initiative City Wide Meeting Thursday Feb 23 from 6-8 pm at DHS High School Cafeteria. Hot Dogs, Chips, and Bev. Provided

Desert Hot Springs Police Department
Community Policing Initiative 2012

The Desert Hot Springs Police Department is hosting our second annual Community Policing Initiative city-wide meeting on February 23, 2012 from 6PM – 8PM. This meeting will be held at the Desert Hot Springs High School cafeteria located at 65850 Pierson Boulevard. Please join us to discuss quality of life issues affecting our community. This is your opportunity to voice your concerns to the police chief, city manager and mayor as well as meet the police officers responsible for serving our community. It’s a simple fact when police and communities work together our neighborhoods are safer! Some of the topics to be discussed:

  • Citywide crime statistics
  • Crime trends affecting our community and your specific neighborhoods
  • Crime prevention ideas to keep you and your family safe
  • Quality of life concerns (ie; traffic, graffiti, gangs, etc.)

We will be providing hotdogs, chips and beverages! Please help us build a safer community and get involved. Join us on February 23, 2012. You can RSVP by emailing Sergeant Brian Link at [email protected], Sergeant Gabriela Mendoza at [email protected], Sergeant Gus Paiz at [email protected] or by calling (760) 329-6411, extension 302.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | January 30, 2012 at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

Shopping & Shipping in the High Desert

Unity Home Thrift Shop (1722)
The Unity Home Thrift Shop
in Joshua Tree has a safe! We had stopped in there to rummage around and David & Flip found a great bargain in a great poster:

Flip & David With Poster (1772)

Already mounted and completely undamaged (as far as I could tell). Here's some detail from the poster to show you that those are matches:
Flip & David With Poster (1772) detail

We were in a vehicle that was way too small to transport this, so after paying for it, they left it there so we could come back and get it with my truck the next day - which we did. They did not want to risk damaging the poster by trying to unmount it and roll it, so the choice was to either ship it back to New Jersey as is, or leave it here with friends.

We had spotted a couple of FedEx/UPS shippers just a block apart in Yucca Valley. We ended up at Oasis Office Supply where the service is outstanding.

The poster, as mounted, is 65 inches high. When first told the size of the project, the ladies at Oasis were very optimistic about being able to ship it for some figure between $100 and $200. But the sum of all three dimensions, when measured accurately, put it outside the range of normal FedEx shipments and the price skyrocketed. Nevertheless, thanks to the negotiating skills of the ladies at Oasis and an amazing ability to actually warp 3-dimensional space as we know it, the price, including wrapping and everything, remained reasonable.

The Poster Before Packing (1775)
Here's the poster laid out at Oasis Office Supply before enwrapment.

I will tell you that one of the options I offered, when it looked like it might be prohibitively expensive to ship it to New Jersey, was to take it to Burning Man and put it to the torch with some appropriate ceremony. The boys, who are not Burners, did not cotton to my idea.

As we were leaving Oasis Office Supply, we were given gifts [maybe the ladies are Burners?] including a jar of a homemade spice mix (completely legal) and a handmade apron. I got the apron and here's a scan of part of it so you can appreciate its little ponies and cute elephants wearing blue bows on a background of pink with lavender trim.
Apron from Oasis Office Supply

I am definitely going to wear it the next time I feel like I have to wear anything while searing some cow flesh on the barbecue. Or maybe when serving drinks at Burning Man.

The poster is probably lounging around in a warehouse in Tennessee as I write this. It isn't expected in New Jersey until later this week. Upon its arrival, the boys have promised me a series of unpacking photos. I hope to be able to share one or two of those here.

Filed under California,Photography | permalink | January 30, 2012 at 09:03 AM | Comments (2)

About that Skyline Trail rescue

The full details of the rescue from Skyline Trail on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning are here, written by Donny Goetz. 26°F and a high wind advisory.

"our two subjects were lost on the dreaded Skyline trail. I had heard many horror stories about this trail. It has the dubious reputation of being the steepest trail in the country as well as one of the most deadly. I had never been on it and now I was about to head out on it at night, with high winds, snow and ice conditions and below freezing temps."

"Team 1 was out the door heading toward the small notch where the Skyline tops out. This spot is affectionately named the Launch Pad due to the potential for the unprepared hiker to catch some ice and launch off a thousand feet down the steep gullies below. As we approached the Launch Pad, we stopped to put our crampons onto our boots and swap out our trekking poles for ice axes. The wind was howling and it bit at any exposed skin. I pulled my zippers closed, snugged up my jacket, and pulled my fleece balaclava up over my face to fight the wind"

But then the helicopters arrived, so Team 1 was advised to pull back and seek shelter. They headed back to the Tram. And then the helicopters had to give up due to the wind, so Team 1 went out again. They found the lost hikers at around 6,000 feet. From there it would be a 2,200 feet climb to get back to the Tram, so they decided to descend instead. They suffered downward for about 5 miles and then called for the helicopter. Some day hikers (it was now Wednesday morning) brought water up them.

Here's the important part:

WHAT WENT WRONG: The subjects did not start hiking until noon, way too late for first time hikers on this trail. They did not have any headlamps, any extra food or water, or any extra clothing (only what they were wearing). They did not have a turnaround time; it was 5 p.m., getting dark, and they were in snow at around 7,000 feet elevation. They called on their cell phone for help and went down out of the snow, losing the trail, and tried to keep warm behind rocks and bushes.

As non-California residents, I believe these visitors to our fair valley will be billed for the full costs of this extraction.

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | January 30, 2012 at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2012

At the Art Queen

Art Queen in Joshua Tree (1730)

World Famous Crochet Museum (1725)
World Famous Crochet Museum.

World Famous Crochet Museum (1726)

Filed under Photography | permalink | January 29, 2012 at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)

Old Stuff From 2003

I have been going back and clearing out some old dead wood from Ron's Log. This version you are reading extends back to August 2003. A lot of links have died since then, so I'm fixing the ones that can be, deleting the ones that can't. In the process I've come across some items that I guess I included because either the technology was pretty gee-whiz for the time, or the price was impressively low, or both. Here is some of what I found between August and December 2003:

  • 4 Gb Microdrive $500 (Microdrives were little hard drives in Compact Flash format). I think they are no longer being manufactured, but you can buy a used 4Gb model for $10. A regular 4 Gb Compact Flash card can be had for as little as $13 now).
  • 4 megapixel camera with 10x zoom, $500
  • The 40 Gb iPod cost $500. Today it's 160 Gb and costs $250.
  • 6 Gb Compact Flash card for $5,000. They don't seem to be selling 6 Gb CF cards these days. You can get 4 Gb or 8 Gb. An 8 Gb card can be had for $15.
  • 2 Gb SD cards predicted to be available "soon." Today you can buy 128 Gb SD cards.
  • Recommendations for your first digital camera from SiliconValley.com:
    • 3 megapixels is enough
    • Don't go less than $200
    • Upgrade the memory card to at least 256 Mb. Yes, megabytes. You can still buy a 256 Mb SD card for less than $5.
    • Photoshop!
  • A 5 megapixel camera was introduced for $400.
  • A 20 Gb USB hard drive for $250. Today there are lots of choices in USB hard drives. I found a terabyte drive (1,024 Gb) for $145. It's hard to find one as small as 20 Gb, but I did, and it's $38.
  • Google labs unveiled a new experiment they called "Search by Location" which has since become their standard feature "Search Nearby."
  • A 20 Gb USB device with a built-in compact flash card reader. The killer feature was that it could output video and jpegs directly to a television. In addition it could simultaneously play MP3s while showing jpegs! Also, you could rotate the jpegs! It came with a remote control so you could use it in presentations. $400. Or you could go up to the 60 Gb model for $600. At the time I thought $400 was incredibly cheap for all this power.
  • Kodak announced that it would stop making slide projectors by June 2004, but they had no plans yet to discontinue any slide films.
  • A USB-powered "personal vibrator" could be had for £30 in 2003. The link is dead, so I can't say for sure exactly what features this might have included - remote control? Synch to music? A quick Google search turned up one available today with remote control for $11.80.
  • Stories of Google's impending IPO in 2004 were circulating. There were estimates the initial value would exceed $15 billion. It turned out to be $27 billion. Today its market capitalization is $205 billion.
  • A Pioneer DVR with an 80 Gb hard drive and the ability to burn DVD-R for $1,200.
  • A waterproof, 2 megapixel camera for $200.

Filed under Technology,Web/Tech,Weblogs | permalink | January 29, 2012 at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

Visit to Joshua Tree

Flip & David went to Joshua Tree National Park to visit the Wall Street Mill, Cap Rock, and see the sights.

Flip & David on their way to Wall Street Mill (2438)

Near Wall Street Mill (2469)

Woodpecker In A Joshua Tree (2495)

Cap Rock, What Else (2503A)

Wall Street Mill (2459)

The complete set of photos from this visit to Joshua Tree is here.

Filed under California,Photography | permalink | January 29, 2012 at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2012

Based on the City Manager's Memos

...as misconstrued by Ron.

  • At the Health & Wellness Center:
    • Framing continues at the Teen Center and kitchen area.
    • Electrical wiring continues at the Activity Center and Teen Center.
    • Pool excavation is complete; plumbing and piping work has begun.
    • HVAC and mechanical rough installation has begun.
    • Activity Center foundation has been poured.
    • Slab pour completed at Activity Center.
    • On-site utility trenching has commenced.
    • Trusses have been loaded at the Activity Center and in area south of Kitchen.
    • Plywood siding is being installed at the Teen Center.
    • Steel beams for the gym were delivered and will be installed on January 23rd.
    • Assembling easement and bill of sale documents for electrical and communication service to the complex.
    • Working to close the New Market Tax Credits. Secured the first $2 Million.
  • The traffic light at Camino Campañero has been repaired.
  • 8th Street repaving is complete.
  • As for Western Avenue and Scenic Drive: "Hazardous Waste Initial Assessment Survey has been approved by Caltrans and a Categorical Exemption has been filed. Sent Caltrans a request for an authorization to proceed with construction." [I'm seeing that at Caltrans roads are built one millimeter at a time.]
  • Vista Montaña really is going with the cholla idea: "Vista Montana has contracted to have the trees on the south property line trimmed to above the wall height and will install cactus along the wall as a deterrent. We are also negotiating with the HOA to remove a tree that is visually blocking the new stop light." [Well, maybe it will be something other than cholla.]

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | January 28, 2012 at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

Big Morongo Canyon Hike

This past week Flip and David from New Jersey have been visiting Desert Hot Springs and its southern suburbs. Tuesday I took them for a hike through Big Morongo Canyon.

Bird in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve (2425)
I'm waiting for an ID on this bird.

Flip & David in Big Morongo Canyon (2422)
Flip & David.

Illegal Vehicle Activity in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve (2424)
Remember the story a couple months ago about the illegal ATV wreaking destruction in Big Morongo Canyon?

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve (2398)

The complete set of photos from this hike in Big Morongo Canyon is here.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Photography | permalink | January 28, 2012 at 03:46 PM | Comments (2)

Newark Mayor Explains Marriage Equality

Not a sound bite. Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey, fills five minutes with sentences and even paragraphs about marriage equality.

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | January 28, 2012 at 07:17 AM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2012

Yesterday's Hike In The Mecca Hills

Mecca Hills (1770)

Flower in Mecca Hills (1752)

More photos.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Naturism-Nudism,Photography | permalink | January 27, 2012 at 07:47 PM | Comments (0)

Weird Mistake At Mydesert.com

Desert Sun mistake
Click for a larger image.

Today, somehow, the Desert Sun resurrected a few old articles about Desert Hot Springs. Above you see a partical screen grab of this article which I'm sure will not remain available for long. It's about the initial approval in 2009 of the contract for the Wellness & World Music Festival, but you'll see the date on the article is now "12:10 AM, Jan. 27, 2012." I especially enjoy that the article misspells "Tresed Ventures."

Scroll to the end of the article and you'll see links to a couple of other resurrected articles. This one is a long article from early 2011 that has been magically redated to "11:57 PM, Jan. 26, 2012."

There is also this article from 2009 that is now dated "11:58 PM, Jan. 26, 2012."

I suspect someone at the Desert Sun was researching the Wellness Festival stories and hit a few wrong buttons, but it seems a poorly designed system that would allow a story from archives to be redated and made public.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | January 27, 2012 at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

Burning Man 2012: Fertility

The Burning Man 2012
"This year the Man will stand astride a grand pavilion that is similar in shape and style to the Pantheon of ancient Rome."
That's what they say. You be the judge. I see temple envy.

This year's theme is Fertility.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | January 27, 2012 at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

This Is One Of The Reasons Why The Burning Man Ticket Price Is Forgettable

Among many other reasons. I never heard anyone at Burning Man complain about the ticket price.

BTW, these are not random Burners grabbed off the playa. They have done some training and practice.

During the descent there are a few times when you can make out our camp.
Black Rock City Parachute View Our Camp
Click here for an image without my scribble.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | January 27, 2012 at 04:24 PM | Comments (1)

What Happens When Non-capitalists Fiddle With Pricing Schemes?

The two week period for putting your name (and credit card info) into the primary Burning Man lottery for 40,000 tickets ended this past Sunday. And, as one might have predicted after last year's sell-out and the institution of this year's strange new system that attempts to allocate the tickets without being simply capitalist, "there are a lot more tickets being requested than there are tickets available." An average of 1.7 tickets/person were requested. They aren't saying how many total tickets were requested by how many people. You could only request 2 tickets, max. They are guessing that many people requested more than they really needed to help their campmates and friends. The Burning Man people who came up with this scheme (there wasn't a business degree among 'em) assure us there is nothing to fear but fear itself because "this means that there will be a large number of tickets in circulation within the existing community, tickets that simply need to be redistributed to those who need them." Translation: you can buy your ticket from a scalper.

But again they reassure us there is nothing to worry about because they are going to set up an online system in which valid tickets can be "redistributed" at face value. (It violates the Burning Man ethic to mark up the price of resold tickets). I myself have high hopes that this online ticket exchange system which will be set up by the same people who brought us this bizarre lottery, and last year's system crash on opening day, will lead to some unforeseen inequities.

If we were all in a crowd out in the desert where we could do this face to face while heavily intoxicated, it might be a lot of fun, especially if we could burn the ticket printing machines afterward. But this cold attempt to thwart the principles of economics is about as much fun as a Cuban sugar cane harvest.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | January 27, 2012 at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

Check Your Wallet

Press Release: Counterfeit Currency
Agency: Morongo Indian Reservation
Incident Date: January 26, 2012 Time: 4:27 PM
Incident Location: Morongo Casino, 49500 Seminole Dr., Cabazon


On Thursday, January 26, 2012, at about 4:27 P.M., a deputy assigned to the Morongo Indian Reservation was dispatched to the Morongo Casino & Spa Resort, located at 49500 Seminole Dr., Cabazon, regarding a subject attempting to pass counterfeit currency within the casino. Upon arrival, deputies contacted Casino Security staff and Movses Dermisyan, (22 years old from North Hollywood), who was being detained.

Initial investigation revealed Dermisyan was playing blackjack in the High Limit Room of the casino when he attempted to pass five $100 bills. The dealer, having been trained in counterfeit detection techniques, alerted security who then detained Dermisyan. Dermisyan claimed he only had the five $100 bills on him but a subsequent search of his person revealed an additional $2100 in fictitious bills.

Investigators from the Cabazon Station and special agents from the Secret Service responded to assist due to the unusually large volume and sophistication of the currency. The Secret Service advised the bills were part of a larger ongoing investigation and will be conducting additional investigation into the matter.

Dermisyan was arrested for 476 PC, Possession of Counterfeit Currency, 459 PC, Burglary, and 1203.2(a) PC, Violation of Probation, and booked at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility.

They don't say, but I'm sure the casino would tell you they enforce strict safeguards that would prevent the unintentional passing of counterfeit currency, but if the Secret Service says there's a larger ongoing investigation involving sophisticated counterfeiting of hundred-dollar bills, it couldn't hurt to double check the currency you're carrying.

| permalink | January 27, 2012 at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

Nothing Better To Do?

Ernest, Tracy and Angelina found themselves sitting around yesterday with nothing more than a stolen handgun, some meth pipes, a stack of stolen or forged state disability checks, and some other questionable paperwork with which to entertain themselves. What to do, they asked themselves. Then they came up with the plan: Put all of that felonious stuff into a stolen Honda and go race it around the roundabout at I-10 and Apache Trail in Cabazon. What could go wrong?

Press Release: Stolen Vehicle, Stolen Firearm, Felon with a Firearm
Agency: Cabazon Station
Incident Date: January 26, 2012 Time: 10:31 PM
Incident Location: Morongo Travel Center, 49020 Seminole Dr., Cabazon


On Thursday, January 26, 2012, at about 10:31 P.M., a deputy from the Cabazon Station was on routine patrol in a vehicle equipped with the Automated License Plate Reader, (ALPR), when he observed a Honda traveling at a high rate of speed through the roundabout intersection of Apache Trail and the I-10. The vehicle stopped near a gas pump of the Morongo Travel Center, located at 49020 Seminole Dr., Cabazon. The deputy's ALPR notified him that the vehicle had been reported stolen out of Redlands. A high risk traffic stop was conducted and three subjects were detained.

A search of the vehicle was conducted with the assistance of the Cabazon Station K9 Team. The search revealed a Springfield XD .45 caliber handgun that had been reported stolen by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Industry Station, three glass methamphetamine pipes, a significant amount of state disability checks which appeared stolen or forged, and miscellaneous identifying paperwork for subjects not in the vehicle. Investigators from the Cabazon Station will be conducting additional investigation regarding the checks and paperwork.

Ernest Hernandez (44 years old from Colton), Tracy Carr (40 years old from Colton), and Angelina Acosta (27 years old from Rialto), were arrested and charged with 10851 CVC, Vehicle Theft, 496 PC, Possession of Stolen Property, and 12031 PC, Felon with a Firearm. Acosta also had both felony burglary and misdemeanor burglary warrants for her arrest. All three subjects were booked at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility.

The Automatic License Plate Readers were purchased and provided through a gaming mitigation grant funded by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, in support of the Sheriff's Department's efforts to prevent and deter crime in the local communities. This is just one example of the effectiveness of their support and partnership in these efforts.

Ernest Hernandez, Tracy Carr, Angelina Acosta

| permalink | January 27, 2012 at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)

Animal Cruelty In Menifee

Larry Jaurequi
Larry Jaurequi

Press Release: Animal Cruelty
Agency: Menifee Police
Incident Date: 01/26/12 Time: 2:15 PM
Incident Location: High Ridge Circle and Summitrose Drive, Menifee


Officers from the Menifee Police Department responded to the area of High Ridge Circle and Summitrose Drive on a report of possible animal cruelty.

The investigation revealed two small dogs became loose while their owner was away at work. The two dogs were a Poodle-mix and a Chihuahua. The Chihuahua was estimated at six pounds. The dogs entered a cul-de-sac in the area. A nearby resident took a golf club with him to the area of the dogs. Without reason or cause, the male swung the club against the Chihuahua as if driving a golf ball off its tee. The force of the swing sent the animal flying through the air. The suspect was preparing for a second swing when he was stopped by people that had just witnessed his acts.

The owner found the injured dog suffering as the suspect was walking away from the location. The owner rushed the dog to an emergency veterinarian, but the animal is expected to succumb to its injuries.

Larry Edward Jaurequi (58 years of Menifee) was arrested and booked into county jail for felony animal cruelty.

UPDATE: The Press-Enterprise confirms that Lily, a 9-year old Chihuahua, has died.

| permalink | January 27, 2012 at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)