I came up with that law in the last millennium and it applied until Chevy discontinued the Cavalier in 2005. Now it should say, “You’re going to get whatever they’ve got.”
The difference is that every car rental agency in days of yore tended to get their cars from a single car maker, and now they don’t. Back then, if an agency’s relationship was with General Motors, which most of them seemed to be, the lot would have more of GM’s worst car than of any other kind of car. Now the car you rent truly is whatever. In the last year we’ve rented at least one Kia, Hyundai, Chevy, Nissan, Volkswagen, Ford and Toyota, and that’s just off the top of my head. (By far the best was a Chevy Impala. I actually loved it. So, naturally, it’s being discontinued.)
The geology meeting at the Santa Barbara Central Library on Thursday looked like this from the front of the room (where I also tweeted the same pano):
Our speakers were Ed Keller of UCSB and Engineering Geologist Larry Gurrola, who also works and studies with Ed. That’s him in the shot below.
As a geology freak, I know how easily terms like “debris flow,” “fanglomerate” and “alluvial fan” can clear a room. But this gig was SRO because around 3:15 in the morning of January 9th, simultaneous debris out of multiple canyons deposited fresh fanglomerate across the alluvial fan that comprises most of Montecito, destroying (by my count on the map below) 178 buildings, damaging more than twice that many, and killing 23 people. Two of those—a 3 year old girl and a 17 year old boy—are still interred in at places unknown in the fresh fanglomerate, sought
When rains locals called “biblical” hit in the darkest hours last Tuesday morning, debris flows gooped down the mountainside canyons that feed creeks that weave downhill across Montecito, depositing lots of geology on top of what was already there. At last count twenty people were dead and another three missing.
Our home, one zip code west of Montecito, was fine. But we can’t count how many people we know who are affected directly. Some victims were friends of friends. It’s pretty damn awful.
We all process tragedies like this in the ways we know best, and mine is
Our home is in the orange Voluntary Evacuation area, and we made a round trip from LA to prepare the house as best we could, gather some stuff and go. Here’s a photo album of the trip, and one of the last sights we saw on our way out of town:
This, I believe, was a fire break created on the up-slope side of Toro Canyon.
That was yesterday. Hard to tell from just looking at it, but that’s a 180° shot, panning from east to west across California’s South Coast, most of which is masked by smoke from the Thomas Fire.
We weren’t in the smoke then, but we are now, so there’s not much to shoot. Just something more to wear: a dust mask. Yesterday I picked up two of the few left at the nearest hardware store, and now I’m wearing one around the house. Since wildfire smoke is bad news for lungs, that seems like a good idea.
I’m also noticing dead air coming from radio stations whose transmitters have likely burned up. Here’s a list that I’m pretty sure is off the air right now, because they’re within the Thomas Fire perimeter:
KJAI/89.5 Ojai, which is (Pasadena-based) KPCC/89.3’s signal for Ventura County
Then I wrote this in 2015 (when I also took the screen shot, above, of a local pirate’s ID on my kitchen radio). I got a couple people interested, including one college student, but we couldn’t coordinate our schedules and the moments were lost.
Pop hated not fighting in The War. So he re-enlisted even though he had already served in the Coastal Artillery. Grandma wrote on the back of this picture… “Pvt Allen H. Searls, 42103538, Camp Croft, S.C., Spartanburg, March 1, 1944.” He was promoted to corporal thanks to having served once already, and assigned to the Signal Corps in part because he scored 159 on the Army’s IQ test. He never bragged on that, by the way. (Though I will.) It was also very hard to get it out of him. Not that we needed to. We all knew how smart Continue reading "Props to Pop on Memorial Day"
My given name is David. Family members still call me that. Everybody else calls me Doc. Since people often ask me where that nickname came from, and since apparently I haven’t answered it anywhere I can now find online, here’s the story.
Thousands of years ago, in the mid-1970s, I worked at a little radio station owned by Duke University called WDBS. (A nice history of the station survives, in instant-loading 1st generation html, here. I also give big hat tip to Bob Chapman for talking Duke into buying the station in 1971, when he was still a student there.)
As signals went, WDBS was a shrub in grove of redwoods: strong in Duke’s corner of Durham, a bit weak in Chapel Hill, and barely audible in Raleigh—the three corners of North Carolina’s Research Triangle. (One of those redwoods, WRAL, was audible, their slogan bragged, “from Hatteras to Hickory,” which is about 320 Continue reading "Where the nickname came from"
I’ve long thought that the most consequential thing I’ve ever done was write a newspaper editorial that helped stop development atop the highest wooded hilltop overlooking the New York metro. The hill is called High Mountain, and it is now home to the High Mountain Park Preserve in Wayne, New Jersey. That’s it above, highlighted by a rectangle on a shot I took from a passenger plane on approach to LaGuardia in 2008.
The year was 1970, and I was a 23-year-old reporter for a suburban daily called Wayne Today (which may still exist). One day, while at the police station picking up copies of the previous day’s reports, I found a detailed plan to develop the top of High Mountain, and decided to pay the place a visit. So I took a fun hike through thick woods and a din of screaming cicadas (Brood X,
Emanuele Orazio Fenzi, better known as Francesco Franceschi (1843-1924), was an Italian horticulturist responsible for vastly increasing botanical variety of Santa Barbara (introducing more than 900 species). He was also for awhile the primary landowner on the Riviera, which is the loaf-shaped hill overlooking the city’s downtown. Most of that hill is now covered with houses, but a large part that isn’t is what remains of the Franceschi estate: 18 acres called Franceschi Park, featuring a crumbling mansion and the bust above, carved from the top of a boulder on the property.
The city doesn’t have much to say about Franceschi, with a website devoted to the park that goes one paragraph deep. Which makes sense, because the state of neglect in the park is rather extreme. I won’t go into details, because they’re well presented all these stories:
To get away from the heat today, into a little less heat and an excuse to exercize, I drove up to Mt. Wilson, where I visited the Observatory and walked around the antenna farm there. As it happened, the Bluecut Fire was also visiting the same San Gabriel Mountains, a few miles to the east at Cajon Pass. Starting at 10:36 in the morning, it was past 10,000 acres with 0% containment by the time I observed it in the mid to late afternoon.
Here’s a photo set. If anybody wants to use any of them, any way they please, feel free.
The view is to the east, across 10,064-foot (3068m) Mt. San Antonio, also known as Old Baldy.
I’d say more, but I’m fighting flying insects back at the house.
I’ve been fascinated for years by what comes and goes at the Fort Irwin National Training Center—
—in the Mojave Desert, amidst the dark and colorful Calico Mountains of California, situated in the forbidding nowhere that stretches between Barstow and Death Valley.
Here and there, amidst the webwork of trails in the dirt left by tanks, jeeps and other combat vehicles, fake towns and other structures go up and come down. So, for example, here is Etrebat Shar, a fake town in an “artificial Afghanistan” that I shot earlier this month, on June 2:
And here is a broader view across the desert valley east of Fort Irwin itself:
Look to the right of the “town.” See that area where it looks like something got erased? Well, it did. I took the two shots above earlier this month, on June 2. Here’s a shot of the same scene
Once, in the early ’80s, on a trip from Durham to some beach in North Carolina, we stopped to use the toilets at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. In the stall where I sat was a long conversation, in writing, between two squatters debating some major issue of the time. Think of the best back-and-forth you’ve ever read in a comment thread and you’ll get a rough picture of what this was like.
So I sat there, becoming engrossed and amazed at the high quality of the dialog — and the unlikelihood of it happening where it was.
Until I got to the bottom. There, ending the conversation, were the penultimate and ultimate summaries, posed as a question and answer:
Q: Why do people feel compelled to settle their differences on bathroom walls?
A. Because you suck my dick.
That story became legendary in our family and social Continue reading "BYSMD"
At the uptown end of the 59th Street/Columbus Circle subway platform there hangs from the ceiling a box with three disks on fat stalks, connected by thick black cables that run to something unseen in the downtown direction. Knowing a few things about radio and how it works, I saw that and thought, Hmm… That has to be a cell. I wonder whose? So I looked at my phone and saw my T-Mobile connection had five dots (that’s iPhone for bars), and said LTE as well. So I ran @Ookla‘s Speedtest app and got the results above.
Pretty good, no?
Sure, you’re not going to binge-watch anything there, or upload piles of pictures to some cloud, but you can at least pick up some email, look some stuff up on the Web, or otherwise tug on your e-tether to everywhere for a few minutes. Nice to have.
So I’m Continue reading "Speeding on the Subway"
That’s what cemeteries are, presumably: places where the dead await those who miss them, or who wish to honor and respect them.
I suppose the original purpose of burial was to hold the stink down, or to recycle nutrients where the process can’t be seen. (Beats watching vultures and less grand creatures do the job.)
Anyway, I found myself thinking about that when I decided to visit my Irish ancestors at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. Long familiar to drivers as a vast forest of monuments and headstones flanking the intersection of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (I-278) and the Long Island (I-495) Expressway, it is also the largest cemetery in the country, with more than three million idle occupants.
Nine of them are relatives, most of which died more than a century ago. The main one is Thomas Trainor, my great-great-grandfather, one of seven children of John or
One of the things that fascinates me about Prague are the skewers atop the spires of its many iconic buildings, each of which pierces a shiny ball. It’s a great look.
I am sure there’s a reason for those things, other than the look itself.
I am also sure there is a word for the ball. The skewer too.
I know it’s not spire, because that labels any conical or tapered point on the roof of a building. Prague is said to be the city of a hundred, or a thousand, spires. Most of those have these balls too, and I’ve become obsessed, while I’m here, with finding out what the hell they’re called.
I’m sure more than a few people out there on the lazyweb know. So tell me.