June 17, 2022

Something Stinks, Do You Smell It Too?

For years now, Arden Wallum and Nancy Wright have treated MSWD board meetings as if they were their own little coffee chats, speaking spontaneously and freely without recognition from the board president, even interrupting other speakers, including board members, staff and members of the public.

Since the board meeting where then-President Duncan called the cops to eject Director Grasha, every board meeting has begun with the attorney reading the "rules of procedure." I'll summarize:

  • The rules of procedure were adopted by the board;
  • Rosenberg's Rules of Order are followed;
  • Directors should refrain from responding directly to public comments;
  • The President is responsible for maintenance of order and decorum;
  • No one speaks who has not been first recognized by the President;
  • No board member should speak more than once on a subject until every other board member has had a chance to speak;
  • No board member shall interfere with the orderly progress of the meeting; and
  • The President regulates the amount of time spent on each agenda item.

These guidelines are applied to Director Grasha but usually to no one else. Let me say up front that they do really need to be applied to Director Grasha. He cannot control himself and attempts to run amok at almost every meeting.

The board President is Russ Martin. Nancy Wright is Vice President, but that gives her no special rights when the President is present and presiding.

At the June 16, 2022, study session the discussion of the budget begins at 6:56 in the video of the meeting. President Martin said that before they began to get into the budget, he wanted to discuss some good news about the financing of the new wastewater treatment facility. He recognized staff member Steve Ledbetter to deliver the good news. Arden Wallum began speaking immediately, without asking for recognition and without apology. Mr. Wallum said it was good news, indeed, and asked Mr. Ledbetter if he would like to share the info. Then Mr. Wallum just kept talking. But Director Grasha interrupted with a "point of order," saying "This kind of news should be backed up with documentation." Vice President Wright, unrecognized and unapologetic, said something but she was too far from her microphone to be heard clearly. Mr. Grasha continued, "Making assertions that certain things have happened without the documents being forwarded to the board prior to the meeting." Then Mr. Grasha, never knowing when it's in his own best interest to just shut up, wandered into vague accusations that there have been many lies from other directors and staff. His suggestion that the board should never hear any news unless it's backed up by solid, printed documentation that has already been distributed to the directors is just nonsense. It's common for staff of any agency to share good (and sometimes bad) news with their respective boards as soon as possible, even though sometimes the paper verification won't be received for weeks or even months. If the staff did not do this, directors like Mr. Grasha would accuse them of attempting to hide something.

Ms. Wright began speaking again (unrecognized, of course). She said this is a public meeting so it will be public information...as if that were some sort of satisfying logic.

Mr. Grasha countered with another point of order, "Would you get your board member under control, please." President Martin asked Mr. Grasha if he had made his point. There was no response, so Mr. Martin again recognized Mr. Ledbetter and this time Mr. Wallum let Mr. Ledbetter speak.

He reported that he spoke to the State Water Resources Control Board on June 15 and was told that the assistant deputy director has approved that the new wastewater treatment facility can proceed "at 100% grant funding." Those grants will come from a number of different buckets, but the important thing to my ears is "100% grant funding" which on the bare face of it says to me that someone else will be paying for the construction of the new facility, and it doesn't get any better than that. 100%. He said 100%. The documentation will not be finalized for two to three months, because, jeez, do you have to ask? It involves water and government money from multiple sources. That is not a small and nimble operation.

Mr. Wallum, unrecognized, thanked Mr. Ledbetter and continued to talk, adding no substantive information. Then he asked President Martin if he would like him to introduce the budget. Mr. Martin said he would.

Here's the link to the agenda for the June 16, 2022, meeting with budget info included.

The board had discussed the budget at a workshop earlier this month (video).

Mr. Wallum introduced Finance Director Arturo Ceja. The district has 53 staff positions and this budget seeks to add one more in wastewater. The salary matrix is unchanged from the previous budget.

Director Grasha interrupted to repeat, using different words, his wish to see some documentation of the agreement by the state to 100% fund the construction of the wastewater treatment facility. Mr. Ceja repeated what Mr. Ledbetter had said, in essence. The documentation isn't there because the district doesn't have it yet.

Then Mr. Grasha went on to say that he couldn't find anything in the budget to reflect "the $10-million fine that we're facing that will be required to be paid in October." He's talking about the fine for untimely reporting of a sewage spill at the Horton wastewater treatment plant. The maximum possible fine would be $9-million, but nobody expects the maximum possible fine.

Several voices erupted at once; one of them might have been Mr. Ceja's. Someone sounding like Mr. Wallum said "Irrelevant." Other voices were unclear. Then President Martin spoke saying "You're getting off-topic." Mr. Wallum said "There is no $10-million." Mr. Grasha (who was never recognized to begin with, either) spoke up, "This is a board meeting, not a staff meeting, Mr. General Manager. This is between the five directors. This is the directors' budget. This is what you expect us to provide you and it needs to be complete and the public needs to be assured..."

President Martin called him out of order. Mr. Grasha countered saying Mr. Martin was out of order. Mr. Martin acknowledged that he never recognized Mr. Grasha, but he let him proceed until he "went on this rant."

So, while Mr. Martin may have been right on procedural matters, Mr. Grasha was right in what he said. If Mr. Wallum wants to interrupt a director he should seek recognition from the president before he does so. The only person who had been recognized to speak was Mr. Ceja.

The budget is anticipating a 38% increase in revenue from property taxes, from $1,517,480 this fiscal year to $2,099,989 next fiscal year. Salaries and wages are budgeted to increase about 12.3%, from $4,268,359 to $4,795,173. The biggest increase in budgeted expenses is in capital improvements which will rise from $30,589,349 in 2022 to $87,180,394 in 2023; an increase of $56,591,045, or 185%.

At this moment, the board secretary interrupted to report that Russell Betts had a question. The secretary's interruption was out of order, IMO. She should have either notified President Martin silently (but I don't think they have a way to do this) or wait until Mr. Ceja had finished his presentation. A public comment is not quite an emergency. Mr. Betts said he would be happy to wait until the public comment period, whereupon the secretary responded "Thank you. We'll allow Mr. Ceja to finish his presentation." Oh, we will, will we?! Who actually is presiding at these meetings? The board secretary and Mr. Wallum act as if they're in charge.

Director Grasha (recognized!) said he saw nothing in the budget to address the expenses of meeting the as yet unestablished chromium-6 standard two years hence. We don't know what the standard will be, we don't know what the expense might be, and it's not going to be in the next fiscal year, so what does he want? President Martin called on Mr. Wallum to answer that. Mr. Wallum said the district has no idea what the standard will be. Mr. Ledbetter pointed out the budget does have a line item for a chromium-6 compliance study.

Mr. Grasha continued, failing to acknowledge that no one knows what the target level will be, saying in essence that the district should follow the credo "Ready. Fire. Aim."

Ms Wright spoke up, unrecognized, saying that in the last few years some water agencies have found less expensive ways to deal with chromium-6.

President Martin called for public comments. Pamela Edmondson spoke first. She had three (maybe four) questions

  1. It appears to her that the total budget is $114-million. Is that correct? Does that cover some of the things brought up by Mr. Grasha?
  2. The budget shows a revenue increase. What is there to substantiate those increases? Can you really count on that revenue?
  3. Will those increased revenues provide for hiring additional employees, covering unexpected expenses like chromium-6, or even paving 20th Avenue to the new wastewater treatment facility?
  4. How close was the district on the 2021-22 FY budget?

Mr. Wallum suggested Mr. Ceja would be the one to answer these questions. President Martin said he was concerned that the board couldn't have a back and forth with a public commenter. "You can," Mr. Wallum incorrectly advised.

The $114-million figure is the Gann limit, not the total budget. Mr. Ceja said he was very conservative in estimating future revenues. (The budget anticipates an increase in water revenue of only 1% and a 2.7% increase in sewer revenue.)

Ms. Edmondson asked if she could ask a follow-up question. President Martin told her to go ahead. Will the interest rate hikes have any influence that the district can foresee? Mr. Ceja said that the district has access to loans at lower than market rates as well as grants. Mr. Wallum spoke again without asking for recognition, saying that the district has already locked in some loans at low interest rates.

Ms. Edmondson said she had one more question. What about new employees or paving that road? Mr. Wallum said that the district had not yet been required to pave the road, but they might be expected to.

Now Mr. Martin called on Mr. Betts for his comment. He spoke about the spill at Horton and the impending fine. He said DWA had been fined $1-million for a sewage spill that they had. Ms. Wright began to speak. Mr. Betts addressed the President saying he would like to get his statement out without being interrupted. Mr. Betts said the Desert Sun reported the DWA fine was $1-million. His question was how is a fine ($10-million or whatever) handled in a budget. President Martin responded that the district was never facing a $10-million fine. The maximum is $9-million. "That's splitting hairs. I'll correct myself to $9-million," Mr. Betts said. Mr. Martin responded, "You're interrupting me."

At this point in the meeting there had been many interruptions by different people, and President Martin sat there silently every time. But now, when a ratepayer calls in with a very legitimate question of how to budget for a potentially large fine of an unknown amount, the President gets snippy and decides the rules will be enforced. Mr. Martin went on to say there had been a lot of back and forth (between whom he did not say) and they were not prepared to give any info. Then Attorney Pinkney spoke up to say there wouldn't be a $9-million fine or anywhere near that figure. The district has been in discussions over the matter but the discussions are still confidential.

Mr. Betts spoke again, "Mr. Chair, may I ask." Mr. Martin replied "Just a moment, just a moment." But Mr. Betts continued speaking "We're way off of the question. I didn't ask for any of these answers."

"You brought it up, sir," Mr. Martin replied. "No I didn't bring...I brought up a very specific question."

"Okay, that's enough. You're cut off," Mr. Martin announced.

There you have it. If you've followed MSWD meetings for as long as I have, you've seen their well-established practice, regardless of who is board president, of being very sloppy in allowing back-and-forths with public commenters. I don't think they should do it that way, but there is no question that the standard of conduct at MSWD board meetings permits casual back and forth conversations between the public and either staff or the board. But now that someone wants to ask a real question about how a potential $9-million fine can be budgeted for, the ax drops, the board is going to work to the rules and the ratepayer can just shut up and fuck off.

This is from the same board that knew about the spill and the potential fine, but never informed the public until Director Grasha brought it up at a board meeting. Some shit stinks here. I just can't tell yet how deep the shit is or who has stepped in it.

President Martin felt the need to add "One of the things that was another mistake that Councilman Betts made was the fine for DWA. Nancy can you clarify that?" Ms. Wright said the fine was $150,000-$160,000 plus building some project. "The $9.5 million what it was in the newspaper, that was somebody else made those. They took what the maximum fines could be. I don't think I've ever seen a maximum fine actually used." The $9.5-million figure was never put out by the regional board.

All still leaving Mr. Betts question unanswered. I'd like to know the answer too. Yes, the board can mut a public commenter who is abusing his privileges, but that doesn't mean the comment and question just go away. I'd like to know how it is budgeted and I'd really like to know why the board is so defensive that they can't even hear the question. The answer might be as simple as "We just don't put it in the budget; when we know the final amount, then we'll adjust the budget." Maybe. But nobody was willing to say that.

BTW, the DWA fine was $181,947, but half of that amount will go to "purchase and install the Cathedral Canyon Lift Station Flow Meter Monitoring Vault and Sample Box to detect flow variations that indicate pipe breakages and take water samples to identify pollution in the river channel and local groundwater." But DWA's fine was for the sewage spill. It's my understanding (not that anyone on the MSWD board would ever feel the need to explain to the public) that MSWD's violation was that the sewage spill was not reported in a timely fashion, so we may be comparing apples and applesauce.

Mr. Grasha had another point of order. But now that President Martin had strapped on his testicles, he interrupted Mr. Grasha to say he was not recognized and Mr. Grasha stopped.

That was the end of the budget discussion. The board meets again on Monday, June 20 (no Juneteenth holiday for them!) to vote on it.

If you'd like to see a meeting properly and efficiently conducted in accordance with the Brown Act, you only need to look to the City Council of Desert Hot Springs. It's extremely rare for the City Manager to speak up unless called on by the Mayor. If anyone tries to speak over another person, Mayor Matas will shut that down instantly. He never, never, ever permits a back and forth with a public commenter. And no one is on a first-name basis while the meeting is proceeding.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | June 17, 2022 at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

Death In Death Valley

Sounds like same ol', same ol', but not. David Kelleher [my age!] died trying to walk from the parking lot at Zabriskie Point to Furnace Creek. This foolishness was entirely survivable. I acknowledge it's June and we just had a heat wave, but Zabriskie Point is one of the more popular and easily accessible sites in the park, located right on state highway 190 that bisects the park, east to west. If you're out of gas at Zabriskie Point just sit and wait. Someone will be along eventually, even in June. There are the standard well-built toilets at Zabriskie Point that one could shelter in during daylight. Walking from Zabriskie Point to Furnace Creek is very do-able AT NIGHT. It's all downhill and nighttime temps are certainly below 100°(F), possibly even below 90°. Of course, while walking that route one should stay on the highway, on the chance that some other night traveller will come along in a motor vehicle. Once one gets to the gas station at Furnace Creek, one should wait to get a ride back to Zabriskie Point, since it's all going to be uphill in the return direction.

Kelleher left Zabriskie Point. His body was found about 2½ miles down highway 190, thirty feet from the pavement where he was hidden from view.

Filed under California | June 17, 2022 at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)

Anza Prefers Its Cannabis To Be Illegal

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors has denied a permit for a cannabis dispensary in Anza. Anza, which has been plagued with numerous illegal cannabis cultivation sites (and nearly equally numerous raids from the Sheriff), prefers the status quo. I imagine a great number of the residents of Anza are the sort of people who think that things just go away when you make them illegal.

"Supervisor Chuck Washington, who represents Anza, said he’s 'not naive enough to not think that no one in Anza Valley is using cannabis.'" Anyone who can accurately translate that string of negatives is entitled to one free reefer from any dealer in Anza.

Filed under Marijuana | June 17, 2022 at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2022

A Variety

Atlas, Rockefeller Center (1)
Rockefeller Center
, Agfachrome, 1983. This one had taken on a bit of a magenta cast and the easiest way to get rid of that was just to make it black & white.

One Financial Center & Shadow of Federal Reserve (0786)
One Financial Center in Boston with the shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank falling on it
, 1983.

Boston Pride, 2001 (2)
At gay pride in Boston
, 2001, Kodachrome.

Wrigley Building (3)
Wrigley Building
, 1984.

Filed under Architecture,Gay Issues,Photography | June 16, 2022 at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

Another Wrong-way Driver On Comm Ave IN THE SAME PLACE!


Actually, this one is going the wrong way outbound, while the other was inbound. The problem lies in the confusing intersection shown below. The outbound Green Line runs right up the middle of Comm Ave until it reaches this corner. After the run, Comm Ave picks up two additional side roads for local traffic, while the Green Line shifts to the right so it runs between the outbound Comm Ave lanes and the outbound local Comm Ave road. Sometimes cars going outbound will turn onto the Green Line tracks and get stuck. This intersection didn't even have traffic lights until the 1990s.

However, the confusing intersection at Packard's Corner is no excuse for the driver in the earlier video who was driving inbound in the outbound lanes. Probably just drunk.

Filed under Cities/Urbanism | June 16, 2022 at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2022

Photos From The MSWD Groundbreaking

Yesterday was the groundbreaking ceremony for the new wastewater treatment facility for the Mission Springs Water District.
MSWD Wastewater Facility Groundbreaking (2265)

MSWD Wastewater Facility Groundbreaking (0765)

MSWD General Manager Arden Wallum (0772)
MSWD General Manager Arden Wallum
.

Mayor Scott Matas (0762)
Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas
.

Free Lens (0774)
If you're missing a 50mm Canon lens
, you left it sitting like this atop a loudspeaker.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Photography | June 11, 2022 at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

June 7, 2022

Comm Ave, Allston


A bit of Commonwealth Avenue in the neighborhood where I used to live.

Filed under Automotive,Cities/Urbanism | June 7, 2022 at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 5, 2022

Mosquito Repellers

Wirecutter researched mosquito repellers and found a few that actually work when there's no breeze. The top pick is a $40 gadget. Second pick is a $35 gadget. But their "budget pick" is nothing more than classic mosquito repelling coils that you light like incense. "These inexpensive mosquito coils work as well as our picks, but they’re not as portable, versatile, or durable. And unlike our picks, their burning ends release a smoke that has an odor." [Emphasis added.]

Filed under Health | June 5, 2022 at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

June 4, 2022

Power-Generating Fabric


We will be able to use our muscles to make our machines run, turning the idea of labor-saving device around 180°.

Brief article.

Filed under Technology | June 4, 2022 at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

The Fire Was Where?

There was a fire last night around 7 PM in Desert Hot Springs. The Desert Sun phoned it in, relying on the fire department's tweet that said the location was "66700 Blk 6th St." But the fire department included a map in their tweet that pointed to the coordinates 33°58'07.4"N, 116°29'47.1"W, which is on 8th Street just east of Mesquite.

KESQ actually sent out a reporter and camera, but they were even less specific than the newspaper. KESQ said it was at "Mesquite Avenue, just off of Palm Drive." Since Mesquite parallels Palm, that's the equivalent of saying "somewhere on Mesquite."

So I put on my Brenda Starr boots and headed out to investigate. The fire was right where the fire department's map was pointing; they just mistyped 6th for 8th.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Public Safety | June 4, 2022 at 08:08 PM | Comments (0)

June 3, 2022

Louie Gohmert Whines About The Rule of Law

Filed under Politics | June 3, 2022 at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

Angeli Gomez


Braver than any cop in Uvalde.

Filed under Public Safety | June 3, 2022 at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2022

Thoughts & Prayers

Filed under Politics | May 29, 2022 at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2022

Getting My Legs Back

Palm Springs Vista (2253)
The view across Palm Springs from the popular lookout point on what might be called "Palm Hills Road,"
the road that climbs into the hills behind Vons Rimrock Plaza. Today is the first time I've been able to reach this point since my hip replacement surgery this past October. I'm sure I have not been able to hike to this point since at least 2019, maybe earlier than that. Even more satisfying than simply making it is that I caught up to three 20-something men who had a good head start on me, passed them and made it to the lookout point well ahead of them. Age and experience count for something.

Palm Springs Vista (2252)
The view from a lower spot on the trail
. You can see the silhouettes of the three young men I passed resting (they took 4 or 5 rest breaks on the climb) in the right half of the image, at the top of a rise. You might need a larger image to see them.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Health,Photography | May 28, 2022 at 03:46 PM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2022

Times Square & Silver Lake

Times Square 1996 (3)
Times Square
, 1996, Ektachrome.

Jacaranda Blooming Time Again! (0536)
Jacaranda in Silver Lake
.

Plumbago auriculata (0538)
Plumbago, also in Silver lake
.

Eric Lloyd Wright - 2371 Cove Avenue (0539)
A home in Silver Lake designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright
.

Filed under Architecture,Photography | May 25, 2022 at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2022

Neutra Homes In Silver Lake

A week ago I headed into Silver Lake for a tour of homes designed by Richard Neutra. It was part of Modernism Week which seems to take place three times a year now. This tour started at the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences at 2300 Silver Lake Boulevard. This was Neutra's home and office. There are nine homes designed by Neutra in the immediate neighborhood. The tour started with the interior of the Neutra VDL Studio, followed by a walk-by of the other homes, concluding with an interior tour of Reunion House at 2440 Earl Street, which the Neutra Institute took possession of just this past February. The complete set of photos is here. These are some samples:
Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (9933)
Neutra VDL Studio and Residences
.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (9948)
Neutra's remains are interred in the courtyard of the house
.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (9956)
The courtyard
.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (9962)

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (9997)
They let us climb these apparently insubstantial stairs to the penthouse
.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (0106)
Balcony overlooking the courtyard
.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (0121)

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (0141)
View from the penthouse
.

Sokol House - Neutra (0362)
The gate to the Sokol House at 2242 Silver Lake Boulevard
.

Inadomi, Kambara and Yew Houses - Neutra (2241)
L to R: the Inadomi, Kambara and Yew Houses
on Silver Lake Boulevard.

Inadomi and Kambara Houses - Neutra (0208)
The entrance area for the Inadomi and Kambara houses
.

Yew House - Neutra (0217)
Yew House
at 2226 Silver Lake Boulevard.

Ohara House - Neutra (0227)
Ohara House
at 2210 Neutra Place.

Reunion House - Neutra (0347)
Reunion House
at 2440 Earl Street.

Reunion House - Neutra (0280)
Reunion House
.

Reunion House - Neutra (0325)
Reunion House
.

Reunion House - Neutra (0331)
Reunion House
.

Filed under Architecture,California,Cities/Urbanism,History,Photography | May 22, 2022 at 05:43 PM | Comments (1)

I opened up my Voter Guide

Joker Candidates For U.S. Senator From California

  • Obaidul Huq Pirjada submitted no text for the Official Voter Information Guide, but did list his contact information, including his website: https://sites.google.com/view/obaidul-huq-pirjada
    So, yeah, you have to type that whole thing in (or copy it from me). How can a candidate for office not realize the importance of a short, easily typed URL for their website? Pirjada.org was not taken. Go to his website and you'll see he lists his 19 goals and objectives. He includes no specifics for how he would accomplish any of these goals. For example, "1. To help Californians so that the grocery, gasoline and power (electricity) prices do not go up, rather to make sure the prices go down." Or, even better, "9. Help Central Valley farmers so that they may receive uninterrupted supply of water." Yeah, why hasn't anyone thought of that before? He's got a video on his site where he tells us he is an attorney. He reads his written statement badly, rarely looking at the camera. He seems to have difficulty reading, which is surprising considering he claims to be an attorney. What he reads is nearly the exact text that is displayed on his single-page site, so the only purpose of the video is to show what a poor, uncharismatic speaker he is.

  • Douglas Howard Pierce used to do someting, but now he's running for the Senate. He doesn't say what he used to do, but maybe he was a private investigator. "I took on the perils of solving homicides across the nation, including cold cases." He does not claim to have been with any law enforcement agency. Caution: something on his website triggers background music that I could stop only by refreshing the site. He has a "platform" with "SPECIAL MESSAGE BLACK-AFRICANS" which is blank except for a generic 17-second video that plays music and says nothing. It's the same for "SPECIAL MESSAGE REPUBLICAN" and "SPECIAL MESSAGE YOUNG VOTERS 18+" and "SPECIAL MESSAGE ASIAN AMERICANS" and "SPECIAL MESSAGE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS" and "MILITARY SERVICE - PROTECTORS OF FREEDOM" and "GREAT NATIVE INDIAN TRIBES." For "LGBTQ PRIDE AMERICANS" it's the same 17-second video, but he also throws in a couple images with rainbow colors and a photo of the L.A. LGBT Center. For "SPECIAL MESSAGE LATINO-HISPANIC" he translates the statement on the front page of his website into Spanish. He's got two YouTube videos. In the first, the phone follows behind him as he slowly limps towards a helicopter. He stops before he gets there, turns to the camera, does a weak little wave and then reaches out to take the phone from whoever is holding it. The other video is nothing but still images, including selfies, of him in Mexico.

  • John Thompson Parker is the Peace And Freedom candidate as well as the Socialist Unity Party candidate, according to his website. He doesn't have a lot of info on his website, but he does have four "Statements." Three of those express his support for Russia and his opposition to Ukraine in the current war there. So much for peace and freedom.

  • Dr. Akinyemi Agbede is one of those candidates who doesn't understand what a U.S. Senator is. "I will be focusing on ensuring that we invest the state’s revenues in the right policies and programs that help the common man," he says. He should run for state treasurer or maybe governor. He claims to have a "Ph. D. in Mathematical Analysis from the world most prestigious Ivy League University, University of Cambridge England, United Kingdom." Here is the list of Ivy League schools: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale. You may notice that all of these are in the United States. They don't travel to England to play American football against Cambridge. But this is the best sentence on his site: "[S]ince being in the United States, I have tremendously used my super genius brain to the benefit of the American students by instilling in them skills, confidence and competence in solving ANY Mathematical problems."

  • Chuck Smith is a Republican and might be smarter than most Republicans. While he does support the usual things Republicans falsely claim to support like limited government, restraint in taxation and fiscal responsibility, he avoids any racist statements or dog whistles. He says nothing about Trump or immigration.

  • Dr. Cordie Williams is also a Republican...and a chiropractor. He mentions being a doctor frequently, but only specifies he is a chiropractor once. COVID seems to be his top issue, but he's not specific about what he would do. He opposes Critical Race Theory. He thinks there is voter fraud, but is not specific. "Cordie will work with his California colleagues to end the current vote by mail system immediately." That's outside the scope of a U.S. Senator's job. Maybe he wants to be a state senator. He claims to be "the only military veteran who volunteered for combat." Let's just call that an obvious lie. On the subject of homelessness "Dr. Cordie is committed to creating a task force to study these issues and finally help." Oh, a task force! Does that come with electricity, running water and a lockable door? He wants to restrict property ownership to citizens and legal residents. He is endorsed by the California Tea Party Caucus.

  • Don J. Grundmann is officially no party preference, but on his website he says he running as the Constitution Party candidate. His top issue seems to be homophobia - he's all for it. His website is not much more than bigotry and a lot of broken links.

  • Eleanor Garcia is also no party preference, but is the elected leader of the Socialist Workers Party. She has no campaign website, but simply points to themilitant.com where we learn that the SWP is supportive of Ukraine and opposed to the Russian invasion so, therefore, more sane than Socialist Unity Party.

  • Mark P. Meuser, Republican, fought to let COVID run rampant. He's got the Republican Party endorsement, so that tells you quite a bit. "Meuser is a prolific reader, on average reading one book a week." I'm not sure he knows the meaning of "prolific."

  • James Conn, Green Party. He wants us to stop using wood. Yes, really. "Before the abolition of slavery our country collected taxes on the sale of slaves. That money still exists in our federal reserves." Wow! The little I can find about a sales tax on slaves indicates that tax would have been levied by the state or local government, not the federal government. He supports free medical treatment for Type 1 diabetes (the kind one is born with), but he says nothing about Type 2.

Filed under California,Politics | May 22, 2022 at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2022

Mountain Lion M317

The track of a young male mountain lion since he was collared in March 2022.
Mountain lion track

News story here. He has managed to traverse the 5, 241 and 91 freeways! The news article says there are no female mountain lions in the area, as if humans have 100% perfect knowledge of the location of all mountain lions. I think what they mean to say is that we don't know of any female lions in the area, but the article suggests there are other males in the area. One wonders how and why there are so many male lions in the area if there isn't even one female?

UPDATE: M317 spotted in Newport Beach.

Mountain lion seen in Port Streets is captured

By City News Service and Hunter Lee

A mountain lion spotted roaming around the Port Streets neighborhood in Newport Beach, the same cat seen earlier this month in Laguna Beach, was captured on Friday [May 20, 2022]. The cougar was seen in the community near Andersen Elementary School on Friday afternoon, according to Newport Beach police.

The school was put on alert while authorities searched for the mountain lion, which authorities believed to be M317, a collared cat that was seen in Laguna Beach earlier this month and at an Irvine shopping center in late March. The cougar is one being tracked by a UC Davis research group.

On Friday evening, Tim Daly of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the Newport Beach visitor was, in fact, M317.

“The lion appears to be healthy, and is currently being transported to nearest suitable habitat, in the Santa Ana Mountains,” Daly said.

Christy Labarthe, a Port Streets resident, said she was aware that a mountain lion was in the area after receiving several alerts from authorities. She moved her dogs indoors and kept her eye on the backyard.

Around 1 p.m., Labarthe noticed a tree rustling from something that was “definitely bigger than a squirrel.”

It was the mountain lion, she realized — a big one.

“It appeared to have blood near its leg, probably from a tranquilizer dart,” Labarthe said. “It was up and walking around my backyard, jumping on and off the (embankment) for awhile, before it finally started falling asleep.

“My dogs were barking the whole time,” she added.

Labarthe waited for authorities to arrive. Once they

did, they confirmed the lion had been shot with a dart, and after about an hour, the cougar was removed from her yard.

Drones were used to aid in the search, Daly said. And after sheltering in place, the Andersen students were safely picked up, said Annette Franco, a spokeswoman for the Newport- Mesa Unified School District.

Though M317 has been hanging around for at least a couple of months, officials believe the recent Coastal Fire in Laguna Beach may have pushed some wildlife from their natural habitats into urban areas.

Anyone seeing a mountain lion should stand tall and wave their arms above their head, make noise, act defiant and unafraid — and slowly back away.

Filed under California,Science | May 21, 2022 at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2022

That Was A Nice Slam!

Heard it coming. Felt it coming. And then it came. Most distinctive slam of an earthquake that I've ever felt. It didn't sound like I had any damage. It was small, but sharp. I'll get you the numbers as they become available.

It was in Long Canyon, within walking distance (a long walk). 4.27 miles (6.87 km) from me, measured on a direct line according to Google. Some boulders have moved.

USGS info. Currently estimated at 3.8. Noticeable.

Filed under California,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Science | May 15, 2022 at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2022

County Health Inspectors Busy In Coachella Valley

From the Press-Enterprise:

Pho Na 92, 14220 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs

Closed: May 11
Grade: 75/C, failing
Reason: Cockroach infestation. The inspector saw live and dead roaches throughout the kitchen, as well as egg casings on the dishwashing sink and roach droppings under the food-prep table. There was also a dead roach in the sanitizer compartment of the dishwashing sink, which was filled with dirty water and food equipment. Among the 13 other violations, an employee didn’t wash hands after handling raw shrimp and eggs, raw eggs from an unapproved source were left at room temperature, and the facility needed cleaning, including a cooler that had food debris and a mold-like substance inside.


Santorini Greek Cafe, 68375 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City

Closed: May 10
Grade: Not graded (most recent was 90/A on April 4)
Reason: Cockroach infestation. During the April 4 inspection, there were two roaches crawling on a wall and some roach casings in a storage area. During this week’s follow-up, the inspector saw a live nymph cockroach and several dead ones on the walls, and also noted some holes in the walls as well as food debris and standing water that could be attracting pests.


Bill’s Pizza, 119 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

Closed: May 5
Grade: Not graded
Reason: Overflowing sewage. An inspector responding to a complaint found an active sewage overflow from the facility’s shared restroom. The restaurant had already self-closed and a plumber was on site.
Reopened: May 6


Jalisco Market & Deli, 17725 N. Indian Canyon Drive, North Palm Springs

Closed: May 3
Grade: Not graded
Reason: Operating without a valid health permit. A health department spokesperson said it was long-expired.


The Del Taco at 14290 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs was inspected May 12 and received a failing grade of 77/C with two critical violations. An employee used a lid that had just been rinsed but not washed or sanitized. Also, there was an issue with food not being hot enough. Among the 11 other violations, there were flies throughout the facility, an employee didn’t wash hands, employees didn’t know proper cooking temperatures and multiple surfaces needed cleaning.

The Denny’s at 82120 Highway 111 in Indio was inspected May 11 in response to a foodborne illness complaint. It received a failing grade of 83/B with 14 violations. Among them, some food was at unsafe temperatures, including items in a prep cooler that was impounded for not keeping cold; the men’s restroom soap dispenser wasn’t working; and surfaces and floors throughout the kitchen needed cleaning.

Tacos Los Olivarez, a food truck based at 83711 Peach St. in Indio, was inspected May 5 while it was at a “Concerts in the Park” event at the Palm Desert Civic Center. It received a failing grade of 84/B with one critical violation. The truck’s hot and cold water weren’t operational. Staff chose to self-close and leave the event, so this was not counted as an official health department closure, a spokesperson said. Among the seven other violations, food was not being kept at safe temperatures and there were numerous flies in the vehicle and in the open flip-top salsa unit, which didn’t have a screen on it and was available for customer self-service, which is not permitted.

Filed under Food and Drink,Health | May 14, 2022 at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)