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August 25, 2013

Waking Up In Reno

On the drive up 395, the smoke from the fires was pretty dense in the Owens Valley/Lone Pine area. By the time I got to Big Pine it was clear. Then it returned as I got near Bridgeport, but it was dark so I couldn't see it. Stuck with me past Carson City where the moon was orange. Here in Reno it's smoky this morning.

There was a "Drivers License Sobriety Checkpoint" in Bridgeport. Instead of pulling over suspect vehicles on the spot, they would pass them through and a law enforcement vehicle would follow them, turn on the lights and pull them over - a block to half a mile later. I filled up with gas just a little ways past the checkpoint and saw them pull over three Burnermobiles this way. I had been behind one of the Burnermobiles before Bridgeport and he was driving his RV with big toy hauler fairly squirrelly: too slow and signaling right turns three times when there was nothing on his right but trees and no shoulder. He finally did an oddly slow left into a cafe, then caught up to me in Bridgeport. On the toy hauler he had taped the message "Hubba Hubba."

I saw two Burnermobiles on the shoulder of 395 just north of Bishop with a highway patrol vehicle between them. One RV, one fifth-wheeler. Off the highway near the fifth-wheel were two camp lounge chairs. I got just a glimpse of the Burner decorations and thought it might be our Steve from Pomona. Most of the RVers in our camp stayed at Mammoth last night and are on their way to Reno as I write this. They reported two breakdowns on the way, but didn't say who. Communication spotty, except George posting Facebook photos of every step of the process.

Didn't see as many Burnermobiles on the way as I usually do, but I'm a day earlier this year. Here at the lovely Hampton Inn Reno it's a different story. My first few years staying here it was mostly empty. Two years ago I wrote on TripAdvisor what a good spot this was for Burners to launch the final leg of their journey into Black Rock City (comfortable, not expensive, secure, safe, very close to a Walmart). Last year there were a couple other Burners. Last night I arrive to a parking lot filled with Burners! People unpacking their crap and repacking their crap in the parking lot. I had to park on the street! The neighborhood's gone to hell and I had to pay $20 more than usual.

I have entertained myself during the drive by alternating between Burning Man electronic music and the audiobook version of Churchill's history of WWII. We are almost up to 1938 and this guy Hitler is turning out to be a very rotten apple.

| permalink | August 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2013

Lookie What's Out On The Playa!

Mike Garlington's Photo Chapel
This is not the Temple.
It's the "Photo Chapel" by Mike Garlington, who was a collaborator on last year's EGO piece. In Photo Chapel, Garlington displays some of his photos. He does not intend it to be a place of reverie and silence. "I want loud and raucous," he said. "I want people to rage."

Okay, that's it. I just needed to take a rest from packing and loading. Now back to it.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | permalink | August 23, 2013 at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)

Read BRC Weekly (formerly Piss Clear) In The Comfort Of Your Non-playa Home!

The folks at BRC Weekly, one of the tabloids that circulates around Black Rock City during the week of Burning Man, has made next week's copy available as a PDF for the world's less fortunates. Looks like it's going to be eight pages, so two sheets of paper.

The exterior sheet includes these headlines:

  • Are you hot enough to get on my art car?
  • Welcome home, bitches!
  • You, personally, are ruining Burning Man
  • Radically self-rely on this
  • And it includes this infographic to help one distinguish Burner nerds from Coachella nerds.

The interior sheet has stuff like this:

  • How I learned to stop worrying and just trust Larry
  • Hypocritical tits
  • Next year I'm totally building an art car
  • How to dress like a sparkle pony!
  • FAFFF - Fucking Around For Fucking Forever [which is not about fucking]

See, it's a big love-fest!

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | August 23, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

Robert F.D. Adams, DHS Interim City Manager

The City Council has hired Robert Adams to serve as Interim City Manager until a permanent City Manager is hired in the near future. Mr. Adams was selected from a group of six qualified candidates. Mr. Adams' first day on the job will be September 3, 2013.

Since Mr. Adams is a retiree of the CalPERS, the State's retirement system, he is only permitted to work a maximum of 960 hours per fiscal year. Mr. Adams will be paid an hourly wage of $93.75 per hour and mileage reimbursement with no benefits.

For those who don't like to do math, if you annualize $93.75 it would come to $195,000 - but, like it says, Mr. Adams won't work more than 960 hours. He will get no compensation for "holidays, medical and/or other personal leave." The city will provide no housing expense reimbursement.

The following comes from a Nov. 21, 2009, article in the Vallejo Times-Herald about some of the challenges Robert Adams faced in Vallejo.

Leadership class ponders Vallejo's fiscal woes

By Sarah Rohrs

It was the proverbial $1 million question when a Leadership Vallejo class member asked Interim City Manager Robert Adams on Friday how Vallejo can get out of its financial troubles.

Adams addressed this year's Leadership Valleo class at its monthly meeting at USA World Classics Event Center in downtown Vallejo. Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert and newly elected Vallejo City Unified School District board member Adrienne Waterman also spoke.

Adams told the 16-member class that the city is Scheduled to present a financial recovery plan at the Dec. 15 City Council meeting,

"We have to lower the costs of providing services." Adams told Leadership Vallejo participants, who learn leadership skills and launch projects designed to improve the city

Vallejo's recovery plan should involve lowering city labor costs (the city's largest expense) and bolstering economic development to bring in increased sales and property taxes, Adams said.

After a brief summary of how city government works, Adams answered questions about consultant costs, council member training, preparing for meetings and awarding contracts. Inquiries on the economic development efforts, and the city's dire financial condition also surfaced,

Vallejo filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in May of 2008 when expenses fell far short of revenues [sic]. Since then a federal Judge has dissolved employee contracts, but has yet to approve a reorganization plan.

The recession and the foreclosure housing crisis has taken its toll, stripping away property tax income to fund city services, Adams said.

Last month, a new report indicated the city's deficit could increase by $12 million on top of previous year's shortfalls. The report also showed revenues had dropped 20 percent over prior years and could fall further in the coming months.

Adams said the future "bodes well" for Vallejo. However, the city must overcome challenging financial times in the next several years, he added.

Meanwhile, Seifert said, the county also faces a tough fiscal picture, citing revenues falling short due to the housing crisis and general fund reserves being used up.

With health and social services a key component of county services, Seifert said, everything must be done to maintain services and to support struggling non-profit agencies.

Further, the county must find the best ways to cut costs while keeping people employed and maintaining comprehensive services, Selfert said.

Mr. Adams' education and employment history, which was included with the city press release, says...

  • He has a BA from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Public Administration from BYU.
  • In 1974 he started as an Administrative Intern in Visalia, then moved up to Personnel Director/Administrative Assistant.
  • From 1977 to 1981 he was Administrative Assistant in Santa Rosa.
  • 1981-1988 City Manager of Dinuba where he established the city's first Redevelopment project area.
  • 1988-1996 City Manager of Lafayette where he oversaw creation of their Redevelopment Agency.
  • 1996-2008 City Manager of Manteca where he oversaw the redevelopment of a defunct sugar refinery into a commercial/industrial complex. He was responsible for the recruitment and negotiation that led to the creation of the shopping center that has Bass Pro as the anchor store. [So many times I've driven past that on Hwy. 120 on my preferred route to the Bay Area and wondered "Who managed to get that big Bass Pro out here in backwater Manteca?!" - and now I know.]
  • 2008-2010 Interim City Manager of Vallejo.
  • 2011 Interim HR Director in Madera where he negotiated four expired labor agreements.

Looks like he qualifies for the job.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 23, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2013

DHS Police Shooting

The Coroner has identified the man who died after being shot by DHS Police very early this morning as Eulizez Rodriguez of Desert Hot Springs.

The Sheriff's press release:

Press Release: Officer Involved Shooting
Agency: Central Homicide Unit
Station Area: Palm Desert
Incident Date: August 22, 2013 Time: 12:21 AM
Incident Location: 13000 block of La Mesa Drive., Desert Hot Springs
Coroner's Release: 2013-07672

On Thursday, August 22, 2013, shortly after midnight, a resident from the city of Desert Hot Springs reported their vehicle as stolen. At about 12:21 AM, officers from the Desert Hot Springs Police Department observed the vehicle in the area near Hacienda Avenue, in the city of Desert Hot Springs. The officer initiated a traffic stop and a short vehicle pursuit occurred through local streets. The suspects abandoned the vehicle on El Cajon Drive and fled on foot towards La Mesa Drive. Desert Hot Springs officers confronted one of the suspects and an officer involved shooting occurred in the 13000 block of La Mesa Drive. Officers immediately summoned an ambulance and the suspect was transported to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased. A search of the area was conducted for the second suspect, but he was not located. The identity of the second suspect is unknown at this time. He was described as a male wearing dark clothing.

Investigators from the city of Desert Hot Springs responded to the incident and requested assistance from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Central Homicide Unit responded to the location and assumed the investigation. The identity of the deceased suspect is pending next of kin notification. The officer involved in the shooting is a six-year veteran law enforcement officer. The officer was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Anyone with information concerning this investigation is encouraged to contact Investigator Paz at the Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit at 760-393-3500.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Public Safety | permalink | August 22, 2013 at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

Burning Man RV Rentals

I have been told that many of the RV rental businesses will not allow their vehicles to be taken to Burning Man. El Monte RV is, however, one of the bigger chains that does rent to Burners. You might want to bear that in mind if you are renting an El Monte RV for something other than Burning Man.

The Contra Costa Times has published a little article about the business of renting RVs to Burners - and they put it in their "Breaking News" section like it was a plane crash or hostage situation.

"It's probably the busiest time of the year for us," said Joe Lane, director of marketing for El Monte RV, which has a busy location here in Dublin. "Basically, everything we have west of the Mississippi makes its way to Burning Man. We have almost a small army of drivers moving vehicles (to the west)."

Filed under Burning Man,Travel | permalink | August 22, 2013 at 07:35 AM | Comments (0)

The Needles View Of Rick Daniels

The Needles Desert Star seems to be a weekly that comes out on Monday and then they update the website on Wednesday. Somewhere amidst all that hustle and bustle I hope they find time for a siesta.

Nonetheless, here's their report on the hiring of Rick Daniels as City Manager.

The vote didn't come without questions and concerns from the public. Some of the questions presented to council included, "Why hire a new city manager when one exists?" and "What reasoning could the council have for hiring a new city manager and at such a high cost?" It was also asked what consideration was taken of recent labor negotiations and the fact current city employees are on furloughs and have to pay more into their retirement program.
[Council Member Linda] Kidd said the city needs expertise in finding money for the city. A coach is needed and while Elaine Cullen, who was hired for a time as an economic development consultant, helped and got things started, more is needed.
Council Member Jim Lopez said the financial situation for the city is to the point where employees who took a five percent pay cut are likely to lose their jobs if something isn't done. The goal is to bring employees back to where they were and to remove the furloughs.

After their vote, Mr. Daniels addressed the Council:

"No one will work harder, no one will work more creatively than I to help you realize your expectations," He said. "I thank you for your vote of confidence."
In a press release the City Council said...
"Our city has a great deal going for it: recreation on the Colorado River, Route 66, the Historic El Garces Hotel that is being revitalized into a regional multi-modal transportation center, an 18 hole municipal PGA golf course and a vibrant and involved community. With all that we are doing in Needles, we really need someone vibrant and optimistic even when confronted with opposition and we found that in Mr. Daniels," added Council Member Jim Lopez.
"Mr. Daniels was very candid and open with us about everything we asked him about and we found his openness and honesty refreshing. We think he is a perfect fit and as to his former city we wish its city council, staff and all of its residents the very best and hope they are successful in the future," added Lopez.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 22, 2013 at 12:09 AM | Comments (2)

August 21, 2013

DHS City Council Ready To Choose?

Another closed session of the Desert Hot Springs City Council has been scheduled, this one for tomorrow, Thursday the 22nd at 5:30 PM at the Carl May. The item for the closed session is the expected "Public Employee Appointment Regarding Interim City Manager Position." They seem to be prepared to make the selection and offer the job to someone tomorrow because the second item on the agenda is in open session. It is "Interim City Manager/Interim Executive Director Employment Agreement." A template for a contract is included in the agenda packet with blanks for the name and salary. As to termination, it says "Employee shall serve at the will and pleasure of the City Council and Boards of the Affiliated Agencies and may be removed from office (terminated) for any reason or no reason as provided herein, upon a majority vote of the City Council."

And this: "The City and Affiliated Agencies shall provide Employee with written notice at least five (5) calendar days in advance of his termination. Employee shall not be entitled to any payment (i.e., severance) beyond the effective date of termination other than any wages earned through the effective date of termination. Employee shall have no right to appeal or grieve his termination and/or the terms of this Agreement."

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 21, 2013 at 06:46 PM | Comments (0)


Black Rock playa from near the top of the Man
One of the first photos from atop the Man.
This looks along the 3 O'Clock axis, so our campsite is in this shot! Somewhere to the right and back a bit a little pink dot will begin to grow on Sunday evening.

Many more photos from the Man and of his construction are here.
Burning Man 2013
Here is the Man. Photos by John Curley.

This one's a photo shot from a boom at the Man, looking toward Center Camp which looks basically complete, but undecorated. Behind it you see the 6 O'Clock road extending through the unbuilt city and in the distance the dust from vehicles on the entrance road.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | August 21, 2013 at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

Garmin VIRB

Garmin has announced two cameras to compete in the GoPro market. Features of the VIRB: 1080P, waterproof, built-in display (reflective to save power), 3 hours of video on one battery charge, image stabilization, lens distortion correction which can remove the fisheye effect, the ability to capture still images (16 MP) while recording video, GPS, Wi-fi, remote control functionality, microSDXC. GPS and Wi-fi will be on only the "Elite" model. There is "an available industry standard mounting adapter" - translated, that means you can make it work with GoPro mounts. A heart rate monitor will be available as a separate purchase. The Elite model has a "ski mode" which allows the camera to distinguish skiing downhill from riding the lift up, so that it automatically shuts off on the lift. Apps for iOS and Android will be available. These will require Wi-fi which is available only on the Elite. On-camera control is a sliding switch rather than push buttons. Plain VIRB $300, VIRB Elite $400.

They don't say when it will actually be available, but I would guess it's for the Christmas market. Amazon has a spot staked out for the plain VIRB ($276.36).

Garmin's page for the VIRB.

Specs for the VIRB Elite:

  • Unit size (HxWxD): 32 mm x 53 mm x 111 mm
  • Display size: 1.4" (205 x 148)
  • Unit weight:
  • Without battery and battery door: 4.40 oz
  • Without battery: 4.79 oz
  • With battery: 6.26 oz
  • With battery and cradle: 7.16 oz
  • With battery, cradle and flat mount assembly: 8.31 oz
  • Image sensor: 16 MP, 1/2.3" CMOS
  • File Type: .mp4
  • 1080p HD video: 1920 × 1080; 30 fps
  • 960p HD video: 1280 × 960; 30,60 fps
  • 720p HD video: 1280 × 720; 30,60 fps
  • WVGA (slow motion): 854 × 480; 120,60 fps
  • Still photo resolution: 16 MP (4664*3496); 12 MP (4664*2632); 8 MP (3264*2448)
  • Photo burst: 6/s
  • Photo time lapse (seconds): 0.5,1,2,5,10,30,60
  • Internal microphone: Yes
  • External microphone: Optional USB to 3.5 mm stereo mic adapter
  • Bluetooth®: No
  • ANT+™ compatible: Yes (remote & sensors)
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • HDMI output: micro HDMI
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 bgn
  • GPS: Yes
  • Temperature range: -15° to 60° C
  • Memory: microSD™ card (up to 64 GB); card not included
  • Accelerometer: Yes
  • Altimeter: Yes
  • Water resistant: IPX7 (1 m/30 min)
  • Image stabilization: Yes (digital)
  • Lens distortion correction: Yes
  • Battery type: Removable Li-ion
  • Battery capacity: 2000 mAh
  • Battery life: 1080p (30 fps); up to 3 hrs

Filed under Photography | permalink | August 21, 2013 at 02:47 PM | Comments (2)

Body Identified

Press Release: Suspicious Death Investigation
Agency: Central Homicide Unit
Station Area: Palm Desert
Incident Date: June 12, 2009 Time: 5:06 P.M.
Incident Location: Long Canyon Rd., / Hacienda Ave., Desert Hot Springs


On June 12, 2009, at 5:06 P.M officers from the Palm Desert Police Department responded to the area of Long Canyon Road, and Hacienda Avenue, in the unincorporated area of Desert Hot Springs, regarding a reported call of found human remains. Investigators from the Palm Desert Station and Riverside County Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit were called out and assumed the investigation.

At the time the remains were located, investigators were unable to make a positive identification due to the condition of the remains. For several months investigators attempted to identify the victim but had no success. DNA was collected from the remains and submitted to the Department of Justice in a further attempt to identify the victim.

On August 15, 2013, investigators from the Central Homicide were notified by the Coroner’s Office of a DNA match on a subject from Nevada County. The subject was identified as Isaiah Marsh. Marsh was reported missing by his family members in April of 2009.

Investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Central Homicide Unit are investigating the incident as a suspicious death. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is encouraging anyone with information regarding the incident to contact Investigator Corey of the Central Homicide Unit at 951-955-2777.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM | Comments (0)

Hollywood For The Salton Sea?

Eh, maybe. Ecomedia Compass has organized a benefit concert on September 15 at the Viper Room at 8852 West Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood [this links to a Facebook page, so if you don't use Facebook I don't know what happens]. But it isn't going to be a huge fundraiser because tickets are only $10 with a flyer, $15 without.

But it's Hollywood (okay, West Hollywood) so there should be a big name or two to get the ball rolling, eh? Clive Farrington seems to be the biggest name on there (and I never heard of him before).

How about Emile Hirsch or Hal Holbrook or Sean Penn who all spent so much time shooting parts of Into The Wild at the Salton Sea? Or, since it's West Hollywood, why not John Waters who narrated Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea. I think he's got a real interest in the sea, although I'm sure his interests would be unusual to most people.

Here is a link to that video above which does NOT autostart. It's low-res, which ought to impress the Hollywood people. The music would be totally appropriate for a video showing fuzzy little woodland herbivores, forest trails, waterfalls or vast grasslands. It does not, however, work for a video showing the Salton Sea...which IS (IMO) a beautiful place, but does not fit well with the stereotype of bunnies on a lawn wet with dew.

On a related subject, at this week's MSWD board meeting it was said that the people in Sacramento are looking at trimming back that big $11-billion bond proposal for water projects that has never come to a vote in California. One of the items that would be cut out would be about $100 million for the Salton Sea, which is a pittance both in terms of the size of that bond proposal and what is needed to keep the Salton Sea area livable.

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | August 21, 2013 at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

Craigslist Would-Be Robber Gets 13 Years

In November last year the Desert Hot Springs Police Special Enforcement Team arrested Darius Mark Anthony Griffin for attempted robbery in Desert Hot Springs. He was accused of using a Craigslist ad to get people to bring cash to a location in Desert Hot Springs to buy a (probably fictional) used BMW. When they showed up, he would try to rob them. He actually failed at robbing his victims twice and they reported the crimes to the police. Yesterday Mr. Griffin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Desert Hot Springs man pleads guilty to Craiglist robbery attempts

INDIO — A Desert Hot Springs man pleaded guilty Tuesday to trying to rob two people who showed up to buy a car he advertised for sale on Craigslist and also admitted a separate prostitution-related charge.

Darius Mark Anthony Griffin, 22, entered his plea to a pair of felony attempted robbery counts for which he will be sentenced to 13 years in prison, and one count of trafficking a person under 18, court records show.

He will be sentenced to two years in prison in that case, in which he was also originally charged with pimping and pandering a person under 16, according to court records.

Griffin was originally charged with 14 felony counts in the Desert Hot Springs case. The counts to which he didn't plead guilty in both cases are expected to be dismissed at his October 1 sentencing hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Griffin was arrested in connection with the attempted robberies November 10, 2012, in the 12500 block of Miracle Hill Road in Desert Hot Springs.

He had posted an ad to sell a 2000 BMW 328i, and on November 6, one potential buyer showed up at the Miracle Hill address with $3,250 in cash and was ambushed by a masked robber, who emerged from behind an apartment building with a handgun and demanded the money, Desert Hot Springs police Commander Dan Bressler said.

He said the victim managed to escape without surrendering the cash.

On November 7, Griffin agreed to meet another potential buyer, also at the Miracle Hill address.

"The victim saw two black males talking with each other. One walked past him and the other approached with a beanie over his face and started yelling at the victim to hand over the money," Bressler said. "When the victim refused, the suspect pulled out a handgun and tried to open the victim's door. The suspect was also trying to shoot the victim, but the gun appeared to malfunction."

The would-be car buyer got away without losing any cash and called 911. Police soon identified Griffin as the suspect, according to Bressler, who said further investigation led detectives to believe Griffin "would be attempting another robbery based on the same Craigslist ad he used previously."

Officers began watching the area and soon saw Griffin leave his residence and walk toward the Miracle Hill location.

"When officers saw him put the beanie over his head, they attempted to take him into custody. Griffin tried to run but was quickly captured," Bressler said. "As he ran, he threw a loaded handgun and the beanie to the ground."

Griffin was on probation for other felonies at the time of his arrest, Bressler said.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Public Safety | permalink | August 21, 2013 at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2013

Art Car Construction

From the makers of Walter, the world's largest VW bus...
Walter - Burning Man 2010

...two more vehicles. "Heath," a fire truck that shoots both water and flame. "Kalliope," an enormous sound and light car. Most of the video was shot (with a GoPro) while the vehicles were under construction so they can show you some of the internal guts and details of the work.

Their camp, Camp Walter, will be hosting Hot Pink Happy Hour on Tuesday at 5 PM.Camp Walter is just a few easy blocks from where I'll be camping, so I'm pretty sure I'll be there!

The video makes the claim (and I haven't found anyone to dispute it) that Heath now hosts the world's largest "combustible vortex ring generator (CVRG)," that is a thing that can generate fire rings. Not like those little fire rings on beaches and in campgrounds. But rings of fire that ascend in the air.
Heath With CVRG
This photo is from the Facebook page for Walter The Bus.

Gordon Ogden shares another photo here.

Matt Steiner discreetly describes his participation in the project on LinkedIn:

Team Leader - AAE 535 Rocket Propulsion Design, Build, Test
Purdue School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Educational Institution; 10,001+ employees; Higher Education industry
January 2013 – Present (8 months)

I am the team leader of an externally sponsored Purdue class project to develop a large-scale combustible vortex ring generator (CVRG), which will be used in a pyrotechnics show in the summer of 2013. The final design will produce 8-foot combustible vortex rings, which we anticipate will be the largest ever purposefully created.

Filed under Burning Man,GoPro,Photography | permalink | August 20, 2013 at 02:43 PM | Comments (6)

GoPro & Quadrotor Over Manhattan

Lots of opportunities for invasions of privacy here, but this photographer avoided them all. Others may not be so thoughtful.

Filed under Architecture,Cities/Urbanism,Photography | permalink | August 20, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

Early Burning Man

Burning Man 1989
Photo by Stewart Harvey. In 1989 the Man was in built in seven pieces and transported on seven pickups to Baker Beach. More historical Burning Man photos are on Huffington Post.

Filed under Burning Man,History,Photography | permalink | August 20, 2013 at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2013

Temple Of Whollyness Construction

Temple of Whollyness construction
The Temple is being built entirely of wood. No metal fasteners. Photo by John Curley. Many more photos of the construction here including one of the French crew making a 3D IMax movie.

UPDATE: yet more photos taken on Tuesday as the Temple was topped off.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | August 19, 2013 at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

Pinhole Photography At Burning Man

Pinhole Temple

Pinhole photographers at Burning Man are meeting up via this Facebook page.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | permalink | August 19, 2013 at 10:15 PM | Comments (1)

MSWD Board Meeting - August 19, 2013

Usually the MSWD breaks its monthly board meeting into two sessions. The voting happens at the meeting on the third Monday, while almost all the substantive discussion goes on at the study session which is held on the Thursday preceding the Monday meeting. In August, there was no study session, so today's meeting was a combined study and voting session.

Comments on MSWD v. Verjil

We'll start at the end of the meeting. Prior to going into closed session to discuss the Verjil case, Attorney John Pinkney delivered some remarks. Here's a recording of that much of the meeting. It's only 3 minutes 46 seconds. When it begins Mr. Pinkney's microphone is off, but he turns it on and you haven't missed anything.

Apparently there has been some indication by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association that they may be seeking review at the Supreme Court. And that is very unfortunate, because I think that their primary motivation is, frankly, seeking an award for their attorney fees. So this is all about the money for the in-house attorneys, you know, well compensated attorneys at Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. And where are they going to get that award of the attorney fees? From the ratepayers in this district. Not to mention the fact that it's been costly for the district to deal with the appeal that they filed after they lost at the trial court. And if we go to the Supreme Court that will be costly. And it's unfortunate that they are planning to seek review and force the ratepayers to take care of their expense.

President Martin asked if the district could also seek our attorney fees from them. Mr. Pinkney explained that almost never happens in a case involving a SLAPP motion. Mr. Pinkney continued...

It seems to me the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association which may have been a noble organization at one time with a worthy objective has lost its way as its actions are clearly not in the best interest of this small community and the ratepayers. It's really unfortunate.

President Martin asked if there was ever a case where the losing party is able to get attorneys fees paid. Mr. Pinkney said that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association would have to prevail at the Supreme Court in order to get their attorney fees paid by MSWD. In such a case they would seek attorney fees back to the beginning of the case. "It's in the interest of Howard Jarvis and the lawyers that work there, but I can't see how they could possibly justify that that is in the interest of this community or the ratepayers that are here. "

Director Furbee asked if Howard Jarvis loses at the Supreme Court wouldn't that affect all of their future cases. Mr. Pinkney said he'd rather not comment on that in open session.

Vice President Wright confirmed that in court the attorney for Howard Jarvis said their goal now was simply to get their attorney fees reimbursed.

Solar Power Project Cost Analysis

As you recall Mission Springs Water District was one of the favored recipients of a grant of Sentinel Mitigation funds through the AQMD. The grant will be $3,330,546 for a 1.48 MW solar power facility which the district will build at the future site of the regional wastewater treatment plant south of Dillon, between Little Morongo and Indian. [Not the one you see being built ON Dillon - that'a a private, for-profit venture.] Staff presented four additional possible scenarios for enlarging that deal. Here they are:

  1. Build it as granted, $3.3 million from AQMD for 1.48 MW
  2. Borrow $1 million, finance that over 10 years, combine that with the grant money to build a 1.94 MW facility
  3. Same as B, but finance it over 20 years
  4. Borrow $1.45 million, financing over 10 years, and build a 2.14 MW facility
  5. Same as D, but finance it over 20 years

Assumptions in their calculations include...

  • Southern California Edison's rates will rise at an average of 4% a year. This almost certainly too conservative. A couple years ago when the same staff did a similar calculation they found that over the last 10 years or so Edison's rates had gone up an average of 7%.
  • The solar panels will lose ½% of their efficiency each year. This is an industry standard, but solar panels erected in our windy desert may degrade faster. Staff didn't have numbers on how solar panels degrade in a windy desert. My guess is that the info wasn't available because (1) there haven't been enough solar panels in the desert long enough to derive a reliable average; or (2) some companies with solar panels in the windy desert do have those numbers but aren't sharing; or (3) we didn't ask for it.
  • We would need to replace the inverter after 15 years.

I scanned the spreadsheets they handed out, so you can run your own numbers if you want.

At first glance it looks like you've got some real differences because the projected savings range from a low of $8,543,719 (the grant only) to a high of $10,453,132 (borrow $1.45 million for 10 years). But...when you chart it out, you see that all five scenarios stay fairly close together until about the 20th year and in my completely unqualified opinion a projection based on future electric rates and the unknown rate of degradation of these solar panels is pretty darn shaky beyond 20 years.
MSWD Solar Cost Analysis Chart

Director Furbee spoke in favor of the 10-year $1 million deal (option B, the red line in the chart) and made a motion to that effect, but it died for lack of a second. Vice President Wright moved to go with the grant-only option (option A, the blue line), and that was approved 4-0 (Director Brown was absent).

UPDATE: One other element in the discussion about the solar power facility that I neglected but should have mentioned is that the staff believes that while AQMD is "flexible," when it comes down to having the actual bid in hand, it may be too late for revisions to the grant. As I understand it, the grant is intended to be for $3.3 million for a 1.48 MW facility. If the bid for a 1.48 MW facility comes in low, like $2.8 million for example, then all we get from AQMD is $2.8 million and we build a 1.48 MW facility. That extra half million (in this example) goes back into the pot and AQMD re-distributes it according to the same old Sentinel mitigation funding rules. There's a good chance it wouldn't come into this community.

But let's say the MSWD board set the target higher: a $1.94 MW facility, with MSWD picking up the difference in cost between the 1.48 MW and 1.94 MW. The project goes out to bid and it comes back (more examples) that a 1.48 MW facility would cost $2.8 million, a 1.6 MW facility would cost exactly $3.3 million and something more would get us a 1.94 MW facility. In that case, AQMD gives us the full $3.3 million, paying for a 1.6 MW facility and the district covers the rest of the cost to build up to 1.94 MW by borrowing what is now less than a $1 million. The result would be that MSWD gets the full benefit of the $3.3 million, the ratepayers get the benefit of (for example) 1.6 MW of free solar power plus another .34 MW of solar power that we built with proceeds from bonds.

But that is not the direction the board went. They chose the smaller option.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 19, 2013 at 09:36 PM | Comments (0)

Hotel Lautner Listed With The Big Boys

Desert Hot Springs' little Hotel Lautner is included with 7 larger hotels on CNN Travel's "8 hotels that take you back in time." Other landmarks on the list are the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, the Plaza Hotel in NYC, Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, Beverly Hills Hotel, Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado, Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, and The Biltmore in Coral Gables.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Travel | permalink | August 19, 2013 at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)