Category Archives: Los Angeles

Pillow Fort Day

Cold, rainy. Hard rain. At least three more days of it to follow.

T’would have been an excellent day to stay home, build a pillow fort, get a good book and some hot chocolate, and just hide for the whole day.

Maybe with some of those peanut butter filled pretzel things for snacks.

And M&Ms.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography, Weather

The Big One

We’re coming up this week on the 25th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake. For those who don’t know, it’s the biggest earthquake to hit the Los Angeles area in Southern California in about 165 years. It’s easily the biggest since we had a decent sized city here instead of a mission or pueblo. And historically on average we have them about every 100 year or so, so we’re overdue.

In part related to that, one of the local NPR stations has started a new podcast series.

I rarely listen to podcasts simply because I don’t have the time, but this intrigued me. I listened to the first episode tonight and it scared the shit out of me, as much as any horror story.

It’s very well done. I think what triggered me was not where they talk about Northridge (although that didn’t help) but the segment with a woman who survived being buried in a building collapse in a New Zealand earthquake.

If you’re interested, I recommend subscribing to the podcast. This first episode was about the actual quake and what happens in the first few minutes afterward. Subsequent episodes will follow up how we all try to survive the aftermath in the chaos of the weeks and months that follow.

One of the biggest problems that emergency planners have with getting the public ready to survive a major earthquake is that people don’t focus on a danger that’s neither imminent nor predictable. We know statistically that it’s going to happen, but we don’t know if it will happen tonight or forty years from now. When it does happen, we don’t know if it will be in the middle of the night (like Northridge) when most people are at home asleep in relative safety, or if it will happen in the middle of a work day or rush hour when tens of thousands of people could be killed on the freeways and in collapsing office buildings.

I like to think we’re above the curve on preparation. We have bugout bags prepared with water, flashlights, food, and so on. We have made a habit of having a flashlight at our bedsides, with shoes and clothes next to the bed if we should need them in the middle of the night.

But I have no illusions about how quickly those preparations will be proven to be woefully inadequate when the 8.0 quake hits, tens of thousands die, multiple tens of thousands are injured, hundreds of thousands are homeless, and there’s no water, electricity, gas, internet, cell phone service, or any other utilities for weeks or even months.

This week’s reminders in general, and this podcast series in particular, will help to remind all of us who live on shaky ground that no matter what we think we’ve done, we need to do much better. With luck, we’ll pay attention and do better.

First resolution to remember, courtesy of this episode’s simple tips at the end of the show – try to never let your gas tank get less than half full. Don’t go until you’re on fumes and then fill up as most of us (myself included) do. When the big one hits, there might not be any gasoline available for weeks. If you have to evacuate and it happens to hit on a day when you’re on fumes, you’re screwed.

Just what I needed, one more thing to worry about.

 

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Filed under Disasters, Los Angeles

Favorite Pictures – January 09th

Have I mentioned that I take a **LOT** of pictures? (Hint — I have)

As proof that if you do that, eventually you’ll take one that just pops, where you look at it and say, “Damn! I took that picture and it’s just about perfect!”

Here’s one of those that I took.

January, 2016, front yard of the old house in West Hills

No processing. Los Angeles doesn’t often have one of those truly spectacular sunsets, but when it does… Wow! (Of course, it’s often caused by smoke, which means there are a few thousand acres burning nearby and probably some homes in there as well, but you take what you can get, right?)

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography, Weather

No Right Turn

A few years back there was a dedicated bus lane built in the West San Fernando Valley. For the most part it runs parallel to some major streets, which causes some difficult traffic issues.

In particular, people travelling parallel to the bus lane and wanting to turn right to cross it had to get used to a new set of signals. “Right on red” is a California tradition, perfectly legal (for the most part). But all of a sudden it was illegal at these dozens of intersections.

The reason was safety. If you’re turning right onto a street crossing the bus lane, there may be a bus barreling along at 50 mph who has the right of way. The bus may be coming from behind you and you’ve never had to look in that direction when turning right on red in your life. Oops! You’re dead!

As a result, at dozens and dozens of these intersections they put in lots and lots of signage that indicates that there’s no “right on red” turn allowed. There are illuminated red arrows on the traffic lights. Some intersections even have additional, big, red, flashing neon signs indicating that a “right on red” is illegal.

This was a big deal back when this all got installed. It took a lot of people a couple of years to figure it out and get used to the new pattern. Accident rates were initially high, but fell steadily. Then stopped falling, while still being at a level that was too high.

In came the robot cop cameras.

Now if you turn “right on red” (or if you run the intersection from the left or right, or while turning left across the tracks but doing it just a little bit late after that yellow light has turned a really deep shade of orange, i.e., “red”) there are multiple flashes as the robot cop cameras take a series of pictures. Your car, your license plate, you – it’s a full set, and they’ll send you copies in about two weeks, along with a ticket for about $700.

The accident rate resumed falling.

So tonight as I’m driving home on De Soto, parallel to the bus lane, after dark, I’m startled by the lightning-like flashes as someone coming from the opposite direction tries to run through on that “deep orange” shade of yellow light and gets busted.

Someone did something stupid, and they’ll pay for it.

But how do you explain the guy going in my direction who, not two seconds after having seen all of the flashes when Moron #1 ran the light, and faced with an array of “NO RIGHT TURN ON RED” signs, goes and turns right on red right-turn arrows in about four different traffic lights at the intersection.

That’s a SPECIAL kind of stupid right there!

And the third guy… Words fail me.

With not one, but TWO displays in the previous ten seconds of what’s going to happen, with many signs, many traffic signals, how in Hell does the third guy not understand that turning right on red through that intersection is the stupidest thing done in Southern California today? How can you be that clueless and still be breathing without being hooked up to a machine?

Flash-flash! (Your car!) Flash! (Your face!) Flash-flash!! – (Your license plate!) – Flash-flash-flashflash! – (The whole intersection, including the bus that’s cruising in the dedicated bus lane and about to T-bone you into ICU!!)

People can be morons…

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Filed under Distracted Driving, Los Angeles

Monday Night Football

If you don’t follow sports, or if you’re not in the US and just don’t follow US pro football, you may or may not know that last night’s Monday Night Football game was an instant classic, being labeled by many as one of the greatest regular season games in history. But you might not care, so feel free to ignore today’s rant!

“I’m out of the office at 2:30, go to NoHo, Red Line to 7th Street/Metro Center, Metro Line to USC – should be there about 4:30” – 11/18/2018 text message to The Younger Daughter

“No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy” – Helmuth von Moltke, 19th century head of the Prussian army

It was much closer to 3:00 before I left the office. The freeway onramp at DeSoto was blocked by an accident. I tried to get to the Winnetka onramp, only to find a few thousand other folks had the same idea. It took twenty minutes or so to work my way through the side streets down to the Reseda onramp. Free sailing until I got to the Universal Studios Metro station, only to find ALL the parking spots full with dozens of Rams and Chiefs fans circling the lot in gridlock. I bailed and drove ten minutes out to the NoHo Metro station (which has a much larger lot), only to find ALL the parking spots full with dozens and dozens of Rams and Chiefs fans circling the lot in gridlock. I went to the NoHo Metro station overflow lot, only to find ALL the parking spots full with…

I started cruising the streets of North Hollywood, looking for street parking. All of it was metered, most for one or two hours max. (How much is a parking ticket compared to what I paid for the tickets that I was going to miss using? Would they just give me a ticket or tow me?)

I finally found a spot about eight blocks from the Metro station with a four-hour limit. So-so neighborhood judging by the graffiti and piles of dog poop, but any port in a storm, eh?

Got to the Red Line and on a train to Metro Center with no problems. A couple of Chiefs fans on the train, but LOTS of Rams fans. Let the friendly banter begin.

The Expo line train from Metro Center to USC was packed. Then they let us out to start the cattle herd to the Coliseum.

Fighting through those crowds, only to get to a twenty-minute-plus wait to get screened through security at the gate.

Finally at my seat with The Younger Daughter and The Fiance! “Should be there about 4:30,” he said in ignorance. The time stamp on the photo is 5:36.

But we were there!

There’s a lot of construction going on at the LA Coliseum. And it was absolutely packed.

We were in the end zone, about halfway up, so our seats didn’t suck, but weren’t fantastic either.

At half time, the ESPN guys were doing their report from right down in front of us. You can also get a good feel for how many Chiefs fans (dressed in red) there were compared to the Rams fans. Unlike the games we’ve seen at the Chargers’ stadium (where it’s literally more Chiefs fans than Chargers fans) here the Chiefs fans were in the distinct minority.

Also at halftime we got a three-song “concert” from The Chain Smokers – who I have never, ever heard of. But the fireworks were nice.

As I said at the top, theĀ game was an instant classic, being labeled by many as one of the greatest regular season games in history. It was something like the third highest scoring regular season game in history, and by far the highest scoring Monday Night Football game. The crowd was on its feet and just electric all night.

In the end, my beloved Chiefs fell to defeat, 54-51, in large part due to far, far too many penalties and three touchdowns for the Rams off of Chiefs’ fumbles and interceptions. We made more mistakes than they did. But we never, ever gave up. Even with all of those mistakes, we were driving with less than a minute less and could have easily tied it and sent it to overtime or won it outright in regulation.

It was utterly fantastic, and we were there.

It was a freakin’ adventure.

And if you think those crowds in the stadium and on the Metro trains were bad coming in (when the crowd arrived spaced out over four hours or so), you can’t even imagine how bad they were when 100,000 people all leave the game at the same time at the end. It took almost three hours to get home.

Worth. Every. Bit. Of. Effort!!

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Filed under KC Chiefs, Los Angeles, Photography, Sports

Luck

As some in the US might have noticed, there are a couple of lottery drawings that have built up large jackpots, if by “large” you mean “GARGANTUAN.” And that’s “gargantuan” as in “A BILLION FREAKING DOLLARS!!!!!!!” gargantuan. (I know, it’s advertised as a billion dollars but that’s if you take the money over several decades and if you take the cash it’s only $565,600,000 and then after Uncle Sam takes his share it’s barely $340,000,00 but what are you going to do? “Marketing” – am I right?)

Anyway, at lunch I walked down the block from the office to buy a Quick Pick ticket because it’s really hard to win without having a ticket (or so I’ve heard). On the way back, I damn near got run over crossing Ventura Boulevard when an SUV ran the red light.

A Bentley SUV.

“What the ACTUAL fuck???!!!!!” as the kids say.

Bentley makes an SUV???!!!!

Yes, indeedy, they do, as in this monstrosity. 600 HP, 664 lb-ft of torque, and it starts in the range of $250,000. One would think that a car costing a quarter million dollars wouldn’t have many accessories – one would be dead wrong. Read the bit in the article about the $160,000 Breitling clock that’s an option. It almost makes the $32,000 picnic basket seem reasonable.

So I didn’t win the lottery tonight – too soon to tell if anyone else did, but I figure I used all of my luck just getting out of the way of a luxury armored personnel carrier with quilted leather interior.

But at that MSRP it would no doubt have been an honor to have been smeared across two blocks of Ventura Boulevard if I hadn’t declined the opportunity. I mean, anyone can get picked off by a BMW or Mercedes in this town, they’re thick as flies. But it would be news if you got pegged by a Bentayga!

As long as they spell my name correctly, any publicity is good publicity?

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Filed under Los Angeles

Sunset From Anthony’s Deck

Meet your neighbors. Make friends.

The urban legend says that no one in LA knows ANY of their neighbors. This has a grain of truth to it – there were people who lived across the street from us for 27 years at the old house and I don’t know that I ever said two words to them and I most certainly didn’t know their names. On the other hand, the other five or six closest houses to us on the street as well as the folks who lived on the other side of the wall in the back were all at least casual acquaintances. We knew their names, we knew their dogs, if they were going out of town for the weekend we would keep an eye on their place and bring their trash cans up from the curb, and they would do the same for us.

Since we moved in May I’ve met several of our neighbors and I go out of my way to say hello, introduce myself, find out who they are, invite them over if they see the telescopes out in the front yard, and so on.

Tonight that paid off.

There are the remnants of a “small” hurricane to the south of us, streaming lots of moisture across Baja and into Arizona at the moment. That stream of rain and thunderstorms is shifting over us, so I figured there might be a decent sunset to look at. Fortunately, it came just as halftime started (where my beloved KC Chiefs were beating the Broncos to go 4-0) so I grabbed my camera and went out.

As I’ve mentioned, we’re at the top of the hill, on the side of the street where our back yard drops off to the east. To our west, there are a bunch of trees and lots of power lines.

Things were starting to look colorful – but trees, neighbors’ houses, etc. I wandered down the hill a couple of houses.

Back to the west, with all of these layers of clouds and the sun setting through the layers to the west, there were some interesting spots of color floating in a sky full of darker clouds.

As the sun started to get to the horizon and peek out from under the last layer of clouds…

…the colors started to get vivid near the horizon. But still, trees, antennas, neighbors’ houses. Better, not spectacular.

The pinkish mid-layers got even more pronounced.

One of the neighboring wives came out to leave and saw me, asked what I was taking pictures of. I told her – she called for her husband to come out. I had previously met Anthony and he told me I should come with him. They live on the other side of the street with the hill dropping away and giving a clear view to the west, and they’ve got a deck so that it’s a particularly spectacular view.

Down below in the gloaming are the West Hills Baseball fields where we spent so many hours with all of our kids. The central hill there we always called Castle Peak, primarily because it’s surrounded by Castle Peak Park.

Meet your neighbors. Make friends. One of them, like Anthony, might like sunsets just as much as you do, and they might have a great view of the western horizon.

 

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Filed under Castle Willett, Los Angeles, Photography, Weather