Sigh…

You know, lately every time I want to go somewhere it’s always a pain in the ass.

Of course it’s not actually just because I’m trying to go somewhere. It’s that I’m trying to go somewhere and that requires that I get in the car.

A couple of weeks ago I needed brakes. OK I knew it had been a long time… Like NEVER! Since the brakes had been done. 7 years and 100,000 miles later isn’t all that bad.

Unfortunately that’s where the mechanic stopped in his diagnostics. Instead of throughly checking out the whole braking system, including the ABS system, the mechanic thought, “Customer reports squealing / howl, brake pads are near end of life, we’re done.”

No doubt the computer(s) said, “Yup, everything is good, no errors posted,” and because of the pressure to turn vehicles over in his service bay, the mechanic disregarded the rest of the customer report.

The howl only happens in the morning.
It only happens once right after the car is pulled out of the driveway.
The sound is more a howl than a squeal.

Sigh…

This morning the howl started then stopped. I went to my first stop then I’m heading to my next stop and there’s the howl again along with the distinct smell of something burning.

Okaaaayyy! NOT GOOD!

Cancel the rest of my day! Get the car repair place on the phone and tell them I need to get my car back in, and they need to put me in a rental. Thankfully, the repair place is pretty accommodating.

One flatbed tow truck ride later, I’m at the repair place handing them the keys to my car. They’re handing me the keys to a brand new 328i and I’m on my way again. Now lets see if I can pick up the pieces of my day and get something productive done.

I’ve discovered that I don’t like BMW automatic transmissions, they have a very weird shifting pattern, especially if you’re heading up a hill. On the plus side, I’ve got a nice ride for a few days.

I have a bad feeling that this is going to be another expensive repair.

It must be the apocalypse…

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But if it’s the apocalypse… I’d have expected less traffic!

In the course of one day sitting here minding my own business I’ve seen alerts for Flash Flooding, The sky is clear and blue.

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Then we’ve had a big fire. Which went from 50 acres to over 2000 acres and which our amazing firemen have taken care of.

The I-15 was closed north and south for several hours. I’m really glad that I didn’t go off the mountain today.

And THEN I got my first Emergency Alert EVER on my cell phone. BOY that is A LOUD sound if you’re not expecting it!

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But the real kicker is what the alert is about.

I’d have maybe expected something about the fire. I might even have been good with something about the potential for flood.

But this one… I have no clue, where am I? The Sahara???

All is fine, there’s nothing anywhere near us.

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There’s not even any wind to speak of. I don’t even want to think about what you get if you mix brush fire with dust storm.

I suppose it would be…

Apocalyptic!

Was watching the end of a car jacking the other night…

Pursuit

I was watching this carjacker as he was driving his 2nd car trying to evade the cops.

As the chase came to its inevitable end, I found myself wanting blood!

I was screaming at the TV “KILL HIM, KILL HIM”. When he bailed out of the vehicle I was genuinely hoping someone would run him over. When he went down due to a gunshot, I was saying “LET HIM DIE!”

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I really was hoping the dumb ‘load his daddy should have jacked down the toilet‘ would bleed out right there on the road.

I wanted him to be a shining example of stupidity and it’s immediate consequence.

Unfortunately, LA Fire was too efficient in getting paramedics to that asshole. 

I complement the LAPD and Paramedics of LA Fire. Those guys did a great job, the police in trying to be take this guy  alive (Although personally a bullet in his head would have been acceptable at ANY point), and LA Fire working to save this guy.

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There are times when I find myself wanting a Blackhawk helicopter to just cut a car jacker, or a high speed chase vehicle in half.

No warning, nothing spectacular just 5 or 10 seconds of .50 or .60 caliber fire. The vehicle turning into a burning shell with no survivors.

How many of those would it take before folks just stopped doing this stupid shit?

Probably not too many!

Then I realized that I was probably thinking like the ancient Romans during the gladiatorial games. After a nice lead up, you see the battle, (In this case the chase, the destruction during multiple accidents), then the finale.

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BLOOD! Death, and a feeling that the killing was well deserved.

Especially in this situation.

The guy stole one car, then on live TV shoves a gun in a woman’s face and jacked her car. The news showed the accidents he’d been involved in prior to him jacking that lady’s car.

I joined right as he took the lady’s car and watched the rest of the insanity unfold. I lost count of how many cars he damaged. 

I was pissed, I wanted to see him die.  I was thinking, “Oh yeah, he deserves to be screaming in agony and die on that street.”

All I need is a toga, and wine.

It’s been an interesting week…

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Though not without its price. I’ve apparently caught a cold or flu. I feel lousy!

Monday, we realized that the Pompeii exhibit was closing on the 11th of this month. We’d been meaning to go see it and for some reason thought it wasn’t going to close until the end of Jan. OOOPPPPSS!!!

As things turned out there were tickets available for Tuesday, and we got in to see the exhibit. The only problem was the number of people who were stopping in front of each of the items in the exhibit then listening to the prerecorded message thingy while crowding in, to completely obscure the items being described.

There was a time when children and people in wheelchairs were given room to get close, so they could press their noses against the glass.

Those days are gone! Folks you’re totally on your own. I had several really rude FEMNAZIS, (based on their attire, complete lack of courtesy, lack of personal hygiene and ample stink-eye toward any and all males,) actually shove their damn iPhones in front of my face so that they could take pictures. 

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They were afforded this opportunity because I was maintaining space between myself and the display cases, allowing children to press their noses against the glass!  

Had I been thinking I’d have snatched the phone(s) out of their hand(s) said, “Thank you” then walked away. These women were handing me the phones weren’t they? 

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the exhibition. I’d prefer to see Pompeii and Herculaneum “In Person” and perhaps someday I will.

I did find the exhibit a bit daunting simply because there was a ton of people in a very confined area. Picture the 405 in LA or I-10 in Houston, or the Holland Tunnel in NY, at 5PM. You know, a whole lot of people going absolutely nowhere!

I didn’t bother to take any pictures. To get decent quality you’d have to be able to get to the exhibit itself (or shove your camera phone in front of someone else) then angle the camera such that the glare from the overhead lights reflecting off the cases wasn’t obscuring what you were taking a picture of. In other words why bother trying to take photos yourself when professional photos of all the pieces are available online.

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They had a VERY TAME representation of a brothel that they also allowed you to bypass lest you were easily offended. Honestly, there was nothing, and I mean NOTHING in that brothel that was more racy than you’d see any night on TV.

I expected polished alabaster or marble phalluses that had been used as sexual toys. The only representation of phallic art was a horny little fertility god, who had a small penis growing out of a larger erect penis. BIG DEAL! (I can’t locate his image at the moment.)

This statue of what looks like a satyr having sex with a goat on the other hand, would have warranted a “Caution Parents, your children shouldn’t see this!” warning. However, this statue wasn’t on display in the LA exhibit.

I would have thought the casts of the bodies would have been far more disturbing, “Mommy, will that happen to us?” especially for children living in Los Angeles.

With the pointed explanation that earthquakes preceded the eruption of Vesuvius which then destroyed Pompeii, I picture that being of more immediate concern to a child than some goat thing wrestling with goat. 

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The glasswork, farm tools, cooking utensils, coins, and jewelry were impressive. The jewelry was beautiful work. The tools and cookware were as common and comprehensible as anything in my kitchen or garage.

FYI, the LA version of the exhibit was very minimalist.

I know from photos, reading archeological reports, and generally being interested in both Pompeii and Herculaneum that there is a surprisingly large amount of well preserved artifacts from both sites.

At a guess, I’d say the LA exhibit was far less than 1% of the artifacts recovered and catalogued.

Looking at the artifacts on display at the Field Pompeii exhibit, it seems  that for some reason LA didn’t put out all the artifacts that the Italian authorities provided. Perhaps this subset of artifacts was due to space restrictions. I’m somewhat disappointed, given the significance to archeology of this particular find.

One thing that was really interesting is the stark contrast in human achievement afforded visitors to the California Science Center.

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After spending 2 hours patiently waiting for people to move along so that we could see the Pompeii artifacts, we found ourselves in a section of the museum dedicated to space. Apollo, Gemini, and a wide variety of space probes were well represented. But the crown jewel was the Endeavor.

One thing that might have been particularly interesting would have been to place the Pompeii exhibit in the Endeavor’s hangar. The contrast underscoring how far we’ve come, the skill of our hands, and our capacity for achievement might have provided food for thought.

For me exhibits like Pompeii are touchstones. Reminders, that our technologies may not have made us “better” only more technological. At our core we’re still humans seeking solutions to everyday problems and dreaming of the next horizon.

Insurance AGAIN…

Shopping

I swear I have other things that I’d rather be doing. You know, living my life, taking a huge dump, jerking off, drilling my own teeth, (although Dr. F would probably be pissed off if I did that.) In short, I’d rather be doing ANYTHING and I mean any fucking thing aside from dealing with trying to sort out the insurance bullshit again.

Yet here I am, dealing with web sites Cigna (for example) that has incorrect information published about which providers currently take their insurance. Yep, they say my Doctor is accepting the Cigna plans, but turns out Cigna only offers HMO policies in Orange County and my Doctor doesn’t actually take any HMO patients from Cigna.

So who do I believe?

You know who I believe? I believe the lady that handles the billing and money.

Which leads me back to the bullshit of shopping policies. Anthem Blue Cross is right the fuck out. They’ve already screwed me for a year.

As it turns out Blue Shield actually offers a real PPO to people like me, and that PPO has no regional limits. However THEY demand a bunch of information before you even get a chance to ask them IF they sell private policies at all. 

They wanted to know how much money I was making BEFORE they would even let me talk to an agent. I pulled a number out of my ass. Then I’m talking to an agent that tells me I should go to Covered California, get a number of some kind, and then we’ll talk because I’m eligible for a subsidy based on the number I just pulled out of my ass.

This agent was all excited to tell me that I was eligible for a subsidy and something inside me twisted. That subsidy money is taxpayer money and honestly the unsubsidized premium wasn’t all that bad.  She was all excited about my getting money from other taxpayers to pay for my insurance.

Is it me??? Am I the only person that has a problem with this?

Pragmatically, she’s right in telling me not to leave money on the table that can effectively halve my premiums. But there is something so inherently wrong with this that I can’t wrap my head around it.

This is SOCIALISM, plain & simple. I’m greedy, I’d love to have someone pay my premiums for me, but I can’t help but think this is wrong. 

SO what to do? Follow my ethics and pay full pop even thought I can’t really afford it, or sign up on the exchange and get a subsidy even though I fundamentally disagree with the whole system. 

If I go for the subsidy, does that make me a sell out?

The meeting that wasn’t

I was at a meeting last night, well… it was supposed to be a meeting but the main speaker called and explained he was unable to get to the meeting due to traffic.

I’m not sure that I buy his excuse, he was only over in Santa Clarita and there are multiple ways to get here from there.

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On the other hand I can understand that he might not have wanted to speak at this particular meeting, it’s possible that traffic was really bad and presented a convenient excuse for him to bail on the meeting. As I said, I understand.

I think the poor guy was being sent as a sacrificial lamb and folks in town were prowling like a pack of hungry wolves.

Why were we prowling around like hungry wolves?

There’s a Congressional Representative named Judy Chu. I don’t know what she’s done for the constituents in her district during her tenure.

Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less.  However, NOW, she is trying to do an end run around her colleagues in congress to get the San Gabriel Mountains declared a national monument, by presidential order instead through congressional approval.

You see this meeting was to discuss what I think of as a slimy underhanded potential land grab.

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One problem is that Rep. Chu seems to have forgotten is that her plan crosses county, city, and congressional district, boundaries.

A second problem is that she has completely failed to include the people her proposed designation would affect in any discussions about her proposal. It is apparently by accident that anyone in town heard about the plan.

Third, and this one really burns me up if it’s true; It’s been reported that Rep Chu has gained President Obama’s attention through Michelle Obama.

President Obama is reportedly considering making the area a National Monument without Congress by Presidential order under a provision of the Antiquities Act.

This is not how our legal system works.  This is NOT an Imperium, one does not curry favor with the emperor by approaching a member of court, or the first wife of the emperor. For this blatant disregard of the law alone, I believe Judy Chu should be removed from her congressional seat. 

Again, I’ve been unable to 100% confirm Rep Chu went through the First Lady to get this measure on the President’s desk. I’m still trying to track the source of that report down.


Rep Chu claims that a national monument designation will provide more funding to the forestry service which in turn will pay for the clean up of trash. TRASH!?!?!?!

Let me tell you about trash. I took my dog to a favorite creek last year. I’ve taken my dogs to this creek for years, and have a few photos of the creek over the last decade.

This last time, I was at the creek, I didn’t hear a word of English, there was grafitti, trash, gang signs, and just about anything else you could imagine strewn all over the area. 

Representative Chu says the money will be used to make trails more accessible and increase the number of visitors to the area. 

If just 3 Million visitors to the area are doing the kind of damage I’ve seen, I think we might need to build a 20 ft high razor wire topped fence to keep people out! Oh wait… We don’t build fences to protect anything.

Time for show & tell.

The first couple of photos to the right are what the creek looked like in 2002

The remaining photos are what the creek looked like last summer.

People had actually climbed the trees and then using their weight, they’d torn them out of the ground so that the dying trees formed a bridge across the creek.

REALLY???

Gang signs on the rocks, trash all over the place. Human feces unburied, this is what Judy Chu seeks to fix. Her desire is perhaps a noble one, her implementation is where we have a problem.


My concern is this:

If successful, This designation sets the stage for potential land grabs. There are approximately 3500 residents in the town I live in, There are also scattered clusters of people throughout the mountains. If I recall correctly, there’s a priory in the designated area. 

If the mountains are designated a National Monument, what happens to all the people that live here?

Do we get forced out when an EPA representative discovers the four legged bat winged whooping snipe?

It’s happened before. There are many examples of people who purchased land or homes in good faith, or who lived for years in a particular place and then one day are told that they have to leave because either the National Parks System claims imminent domain.

Or folks are prevented from building on their land because an endangered hopping stick was discovered, and their property was now part of a National Monument.

We all know that fighting the Federal Government in court over land is a pointless exercise, you’re pretty much doomed to lose. Even if you win, the government will pass a law with a pork inclusion, that changes the rules so that you lose.


Solving the problems Rep Chu cites, isn’t about cleaning up the mess. The solution is in preventing the mess in the first place. What’s changed?  I have one word, respect.

Back in the ‘70s there were a series of PSAs which featured a  Native American shedding a single tear when he looked at the trash accumulating all over this country.

Those PSAs helped to change our perception of what it meant to respect our environment. We as Americans generally took the message to heart and decided as a people that it was important to clean up our messes. 

Remember “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute”?

Even poor neighborhoods would band together to pick up trash from their streets if there were bins to put it in. I can remember telling my father on family trips he shouldn’t toss paper out the car window. After only a couple times, Dad decided that putting the trash in a bag and disposing of it properly was better than having to send me to my room for telling him what he should do. 

Flash forward 30 years and we have a very large number of people from other countries living here. These people never saw those PSAs. Let’s face it, what is considered perfectly acceptable in their countries, is very different from what we in the US consider acceptable.

There is no guarantee that designation of the San Gabriel Mountains will bring additional funding to the forestry service.  Even if additional funding is forthcoming you’re still reducing the forestry service to the role of maids.

Money might be better spent and have a more far reaching impact if a PSA campaign were mounted across the nation in several languages including English.

We need to educate people. 

Perhaps we could be a little more direct about it. Something like, “You came to this country because it is beautiful, don’t destroy one of the reasons you came here.


Whatever Rep. Chu’s intentions, she’s going about this the wrong way. Thus far she’s been exclusionary. She’s forgotten that what she’s doing affects more than the folks who use Azuza Canyon.

I’d bet that Rep Chu isn’t even aware that people live in these mountains, I’m sure that she’s never taken Hwy 2 from Glendale to Big Bear. 

Living here as long as I have, I know without a doubt that folks from LA think it’s too far to come up to the mountains for a visit. Unless there’s snow or they’re camping out in their motor homes. 

I think that we as citizens who are being affected by Ms. Chu deserve the opportunity to speak directly with her. I think that she should be compelled to tour all the areas that her National Monument designation will encompass.

Representative Chu should have to look everyone in the eye and answer their questions.

I’m offended that she abdicated her responsibility to speak for herself.  Instead she unfairly delegated her responsibility to face the public to a forestry service representative.  

I’m offended that yet another faceless government official is making decisions without regard for all the people that their decision will effect.

Just last year we put up with months of noise, dust, and outright nuisance from the flood control district, again without much in the way of notice, or more importantly choice, because a select group of individuals decided what was best for us. In reality they were deciding what was best for themselves and the people affected by their desires be damned. By the time we found out about the project it was too late to register our dissent.

I can’t help but wonder if Representative Chu isn’t doing the same thing. She’s up for re-election, is this grandiose plan nothing more than her bid to look like she’s taking care of her electorate in hopes of retaining her seat in Congress?


As of last night, I learned that the Board of Supervisors in my country has voted “NO” and will be fighting Rep Chu’s plan.

From a call to our Congressional Representative’s office, we’ve learned Rep. Chu hasn’t bothered to discuss this National Monument designation with the Representative of our district.

Perhaps it’s time for Representative Chu, to read the law, and accept that she, like The President, is supposed to be bound by it. 

Just like every other citizen of this country…