Category Archives: Los Angeles

More Fires

We’re safe. Nothing near our homes.

Nothing near Saturday’s wedding venue, although there have been two small brush fires that were in locations that could have exploded into Malibu Canyon. Fortunately, both were put out quickly and held to under 10 acres. The worst problem was some spectacularly lousy traffic on my commute home. (Remember that bottleneck I mentioned about the Calabasas Grade on the 101 Freeway? The small fires were on either side of that, one yesterday, one today, right in the heart of that pass.) Our undying thanks to the fire crews that jumped on those and saved us from a worst-case scenario.

There have been relatively few homes lost – just a few dozen across Southern California. Northern California is worse off.

But I’ve never seen the sheer number of fires all starting up at once. Watching the news where they were listing just the ones that were at least 30-40 acres up to 300-400 acres with freeways closed and evacuations ordered, there were at least seven or eight today. Plus the one by the Getty Museum from a few days ago that’s pushing 1,000 acres and is still burning. Plus the one that started this morning near the Reagan Museum (remember these views? – they were all on fire today, literally), surrounded the Library right up to the building perimeters, which is at 1,645 acres with 0% containment as of three hours ago.

And the winds are still howling. For 24 hours straight they’ve been blowing at 20-30 knots steadily with gusts much higher. And they’re expected to do that for another 24 hours – or more.

And all of the power outages are horrific, all over the state. The killer part is that the power companies, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, are shutting off the power for days at a time to millions of people and leaving them totally stranded with spoiled food, disabled people left in life-threatening conditions, businesses and schools shut down, lost wages… And they’re doing it to “prevent” more fires, which would be caused by their shoddy, ill-maintained power lines.

Yet several of the local fires look like they were started by…failures of shoddy, ill-maintained power lines.

These idiots are shutting off the power AFTER the fires start to try to prevent the fires from starting.

Even if we can’t get the morons of our society to accept the reality of climate change, can we get them to accept that time travel isn’t possible, no matter how bad they feel about the legal liability of being complete screw ups?

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Layers Of Smoke In The Sunset

I came out of the hangar on my way home at just the perfect time. The sun was just hovering on the horizon, blood red through layer after layer of smoke.

While the worst of the smoke (for the moment) isn’t hitting where we live, the smoke from the past several days of fires has been blown out over the ocean, where a lot of it is lingering. You can see different strata of smoke across the horizon.

It’s beautiful, in a horrific sort of way.

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Smoky Commute

One thing that the new job has a bit of (not too much) which the old job didn’t is a commute in LA traffic. To get to my old office in the morning or back home at night was 10-15 minutes or less and with the grid of local streets available there were a hundred different routes to take if one street or the other was blocked by an accident or something. The new job is 20-45 minutes in the morning (depending on if there’s an accident in the bottleneck through the Calabasas Grade on the 101 Freeway) and typically 40-60 minutes back home in the evening.

*sigh*

Today there was the additional complication of multiple brush fires in the area, which despite being 20 to 40 miles away, filled the air with smoke and ash.

Map from arcg.is/0Pvq0f using data from County of Los Angeles, Esri, HERE, Garmin, METI/NASA, USGS, Bureau of Land Management, EPA, NPS, USDA | FEMA NSS, EGIS | USGS, GeoMAC, Esri | County of Los Angeles, Esri, HERE, Garmin, METI/NASA, USGS, Bureau of Land Management, EPA, NPS, USDA | NOAA, Esri | NASA, Esri

For those of you not familiar with the Los Angeles area, I’ve indicated the general area of home (red circle, red arrow) and the new office (red circle, green arrow). That freeway (white line) where it says “Calabasas” is where the 101 Freeway goes through the Calabasas Grade between the San Fernando Valley (Canoga Park, Winnetka, Reseda, Encingo, Granada Hills, etc) and the Canejo Valley (Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks).

Someone at the office noticed the smoke about 16:00 and our first thought was that for it to be that thick there must be a fire nearby – fortunately, that was not the case. Still, here’s the view from the office parking lot when I left at 17:00. I wish there was a way to convey the choking stench in the air.

I knew the commute would be tough for a couple of reasons, even though the fires weren’t near us. First, people get freaky when it smells of smoke and your eyes are burning and you’re starting to cough and it’s hazy and threatening… It’s a very base, animalistic response from somewhere way down on the brain stem left over from our lizard ancestors.

Secondly, with that “Basin” fire at the junction of the 101 and 405 Freeways 20 miles ahead there would be massive slowing. Part of it is people slowing down to simply watch the fire and smoke near the freeway, some of it is the reduced visibility. A lot of it is that many surface streets used as commuting shortcuts in that area had been shut down as fire crews moved in and possible evacuations were set up.

Sure enough, about two exits after I got on the freeway near the office, I saw this:

For reference, if there isn’t any traffic at all, this sign generally shows 7 minutes to Topanga Canyon and about 18-20 minutes to the 405 Freeway.

Welcome to LA – bring fire extinguishers!

 

 

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Disney Concert Hall

From last Sunday’s visit, some pictures showing the outside lobbies and stairwells of the concert hall, taken as we were waiting for the elevator. Not only is the venue spectacular from an acoustic standpoint with an iconic exterior, but the interior architecture is also amazing. Lots of it reminds me of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Wait – where are my pictures from the Guggenheim? What do you mean, I never finished the “New York, New York” series of pictures from our August 2016 trip? What the hell have I been doing for the last twenty months, slacking off?!!

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Ash

I hadn’t driven the Volvo in a while, but I had left the windows cracked open so that it wouldn’t fry inside setting in the sun.

When I did get in there, I realized that it had been open like that while last week’s brush fires had been going on about ten miles upwind from us.

Configured like that, it made a perfect little trap for ash and debris blown by the wind. The seats, floor mats, window sills, and controls were all covered with ash, twigs, and detritus. (I love that word!)

It’s also a good indicator of how these fires spread so damn fast in high winds. All of this was obviously cool by the time it got here, probably because it was fairly light. But much closer to the fire line, where the hot, heavier stuff is being carried, the fire will keep jumping and jumping, a couple miles at a time, hot embers falling into dry brush, dead leaves, the tops of palm trees…and the cars of people who left the windows cracked open.

Something to be remembered for next time, especially if the fire isn’t ten miles away!

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Fancy Music

In an effort to broaden our horizons a bit, this year we’ve picked up a subscription to a small series of concerts for the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown.

It was spectacular!

Gustavo Dudamel is the legendary conductor and neither he, the LA Phil, the soloist, or the music disappointed.

The acoustics could not be more perfect, even sitting in the second balcony at the back.

We started by hearing two pieces that I was unfamiliar with – Sinfonia India (Symphony No. 2) by Carlos Chavez, and a Piano Concerto, “Universos Infinitos” by Esteban Benzecry. Both were wonderful.

We finished with two favorites of mine by Aaron Copland – Fanfare for the Common Man and Rodeo.

Hearing Fanfare for the first time live by a world-class orchestra was absolutely stunning. I had no idea how strongly it would affect me.

Rodeo was just a lot of fun. The way Dudamel and the orchestra played with the different instruments and musical lines was both humorous and joyous. Since it’s music for a ballet I was wondering how it might be presented differently in a ballet setting since it would be secondary to the dance. Maybe I’ll get a chance to find out some day.

If you’re in LA or visiting and you have a chance, go see the LA Phil! They do more pop music concerts at the Hollywood Bowl (“Star Wars” music, “Game of Thrones,” etc) but their classical concerts at Disney Hall are even better!

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Door

We found a new place to eat last Sunday. The food was very good, interesting, different – but also different was the door to the restaurant.

It was a mosaic of cells, each about 6 inches by 6 inches, and each filled with a different sort of seeds or nuts or spices.

On the one hand I found it beautiful and fascinating – on the other hand, I had questions. Like, how do you keep tiny critters (mice, bugs, etc) from getting in to eat the nuts? What about mold?

I didn’t ask. I just went with it being different, interesting, unique (at least, to me), and pretty.

That was enough.

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