Category Archives: Los Angeles

High-Altitude Smoke

California’s been burning, a LOT. Most of the fires have been up in the Sierras and in Northern and Central California, and I’m sure many if not most of you have heard about Lake Tahoe coming within a hair’s breadth of burning to the ground. A lot of that smoke has ended up Colorado, Utah, and points east, as far as Chicago and Pittsburgh.

But very little has hit the Los Angeles area.

Today that changed, rather suddenly.

Most of the smoke is up at high altitude, so we’re not doing any choking. You can’t smell anything on the ground.

But it sure is orange.

It’s supposed to blow out of here again over the weekend. Say hello to Sheboygan!

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Filed under Disasters, Los Angeles, Photography

The Valley Below

I do enjoy the view at night from our back yard out to the east across Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

At some point in the not-so-distant future (or not, who knows?) we may end up in a flat place in a flyover state or back on the East Coast. I’ll probably miss the mountains and the views.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography

Grocery Jenga

I don’t know what the grocery store ecosystem is like where you are, but here in Los Angeles the self-serve checkout started moving in and taking over a few years back. Now, at any major supermarket, you’ll typically have one or two human cashiers and a dozen or more automated checkout systems. The only time I ever go to a human checker is if I have liquor of some sort. You can’t buy that at self-service because the robot can’t check your ID.

One of the problems with those automated checkout systems is that the area you put groceries in after you’ve scanned is is a bit on the small side. You don’t have an option of putting the scanned groceries somewhere else. The system is weighing each piece as you scan it, along with the overhead cameras and internal security cameras, to make sure that you’re not stealing. So if you have let some of the staples (canned goods, toilet paper, cereal, and so on) slide for a while and then decide to stock up, you can start to run out of room pretty quick.

When you have limited space jammed to the edge, then it’s time to start going vertical.

Grocery Jenga!

Our store has one employee attendant who babysits six stations and clears jams and helps those who are running into this system for the first time. My grocery mentor yesterday wanted to come and take a picture for winning this week’s “competition.” What the heck, why not? Do I win anything? Customer of the week parking? $20 off?

Let’s not be silly.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography, Silly Shit

Again, Something’s Up

Even with the noise-cancelling headphones and music on, the helicopter going overhead rattled the building. A minor disadvantage of living on top of a hill.

Then the second one went over.

Okay, pull up the Flightradar24 app. Where are they going?

Okey dokey! Not only these six, but at least one more, the big Sikorski Skycrane, was also flitting in and out of the area, probably going to refill its tanks at a local reservoir. All of these were registered to LA City Fire, LA County Fire, and Ventura County Fire. So the two that came over our head must have been the Ventura County pair, coming from Camarillo where they’re right next to the CAF hangars.

And there you go! Good thing that it’s a cool, cloudy, drizzly day (where did THAT come from?) with no wind to speak of. And six or seven helicopters dropping water might be considered overkill – until you remember that something much like this (albeit on a hotter, windier, drier day) led to THIS less than three years ago. And a couple years before that. And before that. And…

You get the picture.

Meanwhile, back on the 118 Freeway…

At least it’s open!


Filed under Disasters, Los Angeles

Somewhere Far Away Something Is Burning

When you’ve been living in earthquake country for long enough you learn something important about them.

Some sway – some shake.

The ones that shake, jolt, and dance? They’re nearby. The energy that is bending and shaking the entire surface of the earth like it was tissue paper hasn’t had the time or distance to dampen out. If you’re bouncing like you’re on a trampoline set on a flatbed truck going down a dirt road at high speed, that epicenter is close.

The ones that sway and wave and make you feel like you’re in heavy seas? They’re a long way away – but they’re huge. By definition they have to be to be making you shake hundreds of miles away from the epicenter. But the energy that is destroying a city over the horizon has had the distance and time that the shakers and jolters haven’t, so you’re going to spend five minutes getting seasick while nowhere near a boat, instead of thirty seconds on the above-referenced trampoline with the building collapsing around you.

Now we’re learning the same about brush fires.

There are those where the whole sky is black and brown and you’re choking on the soot. That’s a fire that’s nearby and you might lose your house, your neighborhood, or your city.

But there are also those that just make the sky orange when it shouldn’t be. That fire’s a long way away – but it’s huge. By definition it has to be to be filling your sky hundreds or even thousands of miles from the live flame.

We’ve been pretty lucky here in SoCal with few fires in our part of the state (but remember, it’s a BIG state!) while others in Utah, Nevada, Colorado, and all the way to the Midwest are choking on smoke from NorCal, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. That started to change today.

My first thought was that we actually DID have a local fire starting up. The conditions are all too ripe for it.

But there’s almost no smell of smoke, and a quick double check shows no new large fires near us, at least, not today.

Good thing we all have masks now. Right?

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Filed under Disasters, Los Angeles, Photography

Other Stuff I Learned This Week

First of all, what I as a kid referred to as a “steam roller” is obviously not run by steam any more (and probably wasn’t then). They’re now called just “rollers” and the ones being used in our street are smaller than the huge ones putting down interstate highways. (See #4, the combination roller, on this page.)

The second thing I learned is that the “HMA” these machines operate on are NOT “Health Management Associates” or “Health Management Administrators,” although after everything that COVID has put them through, I don’t doubt that those HMAs feel like they’ve been run over with a roller. No, in this case “HMA” means “Hot Mix Asphalt.”

I’m assuming.

Finally, you might have noticed that one page refers to “Vibratory Compaction Rollers.” It’s the “vibratory” part that sent me down this particular rabbit hole.

You see, during this whole re-paving process (which, as I said last night, isn’t over and will start over again first thing Monday morning) there has been a significant amount of noise. Noise-cancelling headphones help, but even they have met their match with the grinders, sweepers, dump trucks, pavers, rollers, asphalt spreaders, and so on. But the rollers have by far been the worse. When you get a couple of these right out in front of your house, maybe 30 or 40 feet from the house, the whole house starts to vibrate and bounce from the noise.

But I realized that it wasn’t just the noise. There were moments that got MUCH louder, accompanied by vibrations that had stuff on my desk bouncing around and pictures on the wall threatening to come down. But it wasn’t random. A little bit of observation made it clear that it was occurring when the rollers were rolling forward. It didn’t take too much of a leap of logic to figure out they were the cause and that they were probably doing it to more efficiently and thoroughly compact the newly laid layer of asphalt. And the results of the rabbit hole dive proved that guess to be correct.

On the other hand, before I figured it out… Well, let’s just remind everyone that I’ve lived out here in SoCal for over 47 years, including a VERY close encounter with the Northridge Earthquake back in 1994, so when everything vibrates and starts bouncing and getting very loud, my first instinct is to “desk dive,” assuming that it’s an earthquake. The repeated and rhythmic nature of the vibration events gave it away quickly – but the brain stem knows what the brain stem knows, and the PTSD memories come back quickly.

Monday we do it again!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Los Angeles

Patriotic Pipe Burst

What was the third most exciting thing of your weekend? (And the absolute MOST important indicator that you really, REALLY need to get a life?)

You know those little plastic (“Made proudly in America!”) American flags that real estate agents stick by the driveway of everyone’s house for miles around just before the Fourth of July? Most of the houses on our block still have them up. So I thought it was a little bit odd, but not too much, to see two of them down the block stuck in the middle of the street. I noticed it, but I wasn’t worried about it – kids goofing around was my assumption.

An hour or so later I heard some heavy, loud engines outside, which is unusual a bit since we’re on a very narrow, very steep street climbing to the top of a very big hill. They’re out there for a while, idling, then I heard them fire up and I saw two fire trucks passing by. Which is even more rare. So I go to take a peek.

The street’s completely blocked off in both directions. Time for a stroll.

As they said on Mythbusters, “Well, THERE’s your problem!”

That’s probably 20 to 30 gallons a minute being wasted there and we’re in the middle of a huge, dangerous drought. They’ll fix that quickly, right?! Or at the very least, get the water shut off. Right?!

But it’s odd that the fire department didn’t do that. Just shut off the water. Is this a “not MY department!” situation?

It’s 15:26 on Saturday.

It’s 26 hours later. We now have cones instead of “borrowed” tiny plastic flags.

The flow has increased and is probably 40 to 60 gallons per minute. So, ballpark figures, 26 hours x 60 minutes per hour x 50 gallons per minute = 78,000 gallons wasted.

It’s Sunday at 17:25

Ooooh, look! Trucks! And it seems that they’ve finally turned off the water. Round numbers, call it 100,000+ gallons wasted.

We’re doing something. Possibly surrendering.

We’ve dug a hole and now we’re filling it. One can hope that some sort of repair was effected while the hole was open.

Thinking about it, this is at least the third or fourth time something like this has happened in the three years we’ve lived here. At what point do the future costs of simply digging up and replacing the pipe all the way up and down the hill outweigh the sunk costs in all of these little halfway measures?

Everyone’s gone, there’s “something” filling the hole (“Siri, define half-assed job…”) that I’ll be trying to miss for years in order to save my car’s suspension, and there’s mud in the street all the way up and down.

Wow. Big thrills!


Filed under Los Angeles, Photography

My Own Micro “Urban Light”

An art exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art which I’ve always wanted to see but haven’t ever yet motivated my butt to do so is Chris Burden’s “Urban Light”. While out walking this last Saturday I noticed my own micro version.

I had walked from Here to There on a Quest. It was along some busy, wide streets and I had strangers ignoring my attempts to help them. On the way back from There to Here I saw this side street running parallel to the Big Wide Boulevard and decided to take it just for the variety.

The first two street lights on either side of the street were these wonderful, ornate, cast iron (probably?) street lights that are probably 100 years old. It’s not a LACMA exhibit by a favorite performance artist – but it will do for now.

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Filed under Art, Los Angeles

Midnight Moonrise

From last night, a pleasant surprise as I did a last lap around the back yard just before midnight.

The moon is a few days past full and it was a dark orange coming up over the San Gabriel Mountains and Griffith Park thirty miles off to the east. The air was finally a bit cooler, there was a breeze, the owls were hooting down by the ball fields, and through the light pollution and haze I could just see the brighter stars of Scorpius to the south.

I’m going to miss this view one of these days.

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Filed under Astronomy, Los Angeles, Photography

I’ll Reject A Little Help From My Friends

I was taking a stroll today in an unfamiliar area of town, having a couple of hours to kill and in need of some exercise.

Walking along a major boulevard (four lanes in each direction with an occasional center turn lane which was often replaced by a concrete center divider with plants & trees) I was approaching a driveway leading out of a small shopping center. A car was waiting to pull out of the parking lot onto the main boulevard.

It was obvious that this was a driveway in which a right-turn was the only legal turn. While there wasn’t a concrete center divider here, there was a broad painted divider that was painted in a cross-hatch pattern that indicated that crossing it was forbidden. This made sense since turning left involved crossing at least five lanes of traffic – very dangerous.

But the lady waiting to pull out was obviously waiting for an opportunity to turn left. I walked behind her car and checked just before the sidewalk – yep, two signs there that said “Right Turn Only.” I also saw something else across the street, in a church or school parking lot…

I waved at the lady and got her attention, pointed at the “Right Turn Only” signs. She flipped me off.

Okay, so much for counting on common sense or intelligence. So I waved again, got her attention, and pointed across the street. She once again indicated that she thought I was “number one.” Then she saw her opportunity and floored it, crossing four lanes of oncoming traffic, cutting left onto that painted center divider, almost hitting a car coming from the right in those lanes, and then continuing her illegal and dangerous left turn.

At which point the police officer in the black & white cruiser in the school or church driveway across the boulevard, who had been watching her the whole time just waiting for her to do something stupid and dangerous, lit up his siren and lights and pulled in behind her. She was pulled over within about fifty yards.

I understand that people make stupid, dangerous, illegal turns. I’m sure they do it in other cities, but it’s an artform in Los Angeles at times. But ignoring the cop that’s right there in plain sight and figuring that you can get away with something blatant? I don’t understand that at all.

Finally, a show of hands of who out there thinks that she learned anything from this? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Okay, who thinks she tried to blame me for distracting her or some other bullshit when she tried to talk her way out of the ticket after being pulled over?

Yep. Me too.

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Filed under Distracted Driving, Los Angeles