Saturday, October 14, 2006

Texas kids trained to swarm

I read the article quoted at the end of this post in this morning's paper. Inexplicably, it elicited a kind of primal emotional response from me, much stronger even than the stories of the Amish school or any of the seemingly endless tide of stories of sociopaths/terrorists victimizing innocents.

I think this story in particular caused a notable emotional reaction in me because it underscores how numerous almost imperceptible shifts in reality have combined over time to the point where people are now beginning to train children in our civil society how to fight a gunman.

Whether the idea that our neighborhoods in the U.S. are more dangerous is real or imagined (aside: I am skeptical), there seems to be a shift in society's acknowledgement of (dare I say, obsession with) the fact that the world is a dangerous place. What I have always found irritating about typical media hype and irrational fear is the implication that innocence equals weakness, which this article does not. Somehow we generally think of an adult, and generally a man, when we think of the stereotype of "hero". So this story hits me from two sides. I feel righteous pride at the thought of innocents pooling their power to overcome evil, even as I balk at the thought of them having to be concerned with such things, which, while frightening, are unlikely to an extreme.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lion Kill

Neighbors may recall a post in January with pictures of deer and a concern being discussed about the ever tamer deer attracting mountain lions.

Well, last night I got the email below via the neighborhood email loop (you can subscribe here).

So on our way out to dinner (yum) this evening we stopped at the trail head to see what kind of kill it was David had seen. We easily found the carcass of a young doe.

Sure looks like the work of a lion to me. I took a few pictures with my phone. Note the wide shot where you can see Norah standing just off the road through the trees. That's where the carcass is.

------ Forwarded Message

Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2006 21:37:16 -0700
Subject: mountain lion kill

Today we found a fresh mountain lion kill about 50 ft off the road across the street from my house at the top of Tanoble Dr. It is right by the trail head for the crest trail. Please be careful if you are hiking in the trails!

David Lewis
Tanoble Dr.

------ End of Forwarded Message

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Pine Fire

Yesterday the huge column of smoke rising to the North West, just beyond the ridges had us curious and concerned, but we weren't able to find any reports about a local incident. As of this morning, InciWeb still has no listing of what the Pasadena Star News is calling the Pine Fire. The Star News has a slide show and video of the fire.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rain wrap-up

The rain season of July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006 ended with 23.31 inches recorded on the Stonehill News weather station. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to resetting the total on the weather station until today, and we got a millimeter (.04") of rain on Aug 4. So my seasonal reading is off by a millimeter… oh well, 23.35" it is then. This is only the second complete year that I have been accurately logging precipitation, but my neighbor at the top of Stonehill has been keeping records since 1999. Here are the seasonal totals from both stations:
Season    Theirs   Ours
1999-2000  19.76"    --
2000-2001  21.22"    --
2001-2002   8.27"    --
2002-2003  24.47"    --
2003-2004  15.47"    --
2004-2005  62.56"   61.61"
2005-2006  24.06"   23.35"

Friday, June 16, 2006

Unseasonable isolated gusting

This morning we were awoken by Santa Ana-like wind at about 5:40am. We had uncharacteristic gusting up to about 20mph until about 8:45. The wind was hot. I talked to some folks who live in Pasadena this morning, and they reported nothing unusual further down the hill. Other Altadena stations recorded similar gusting, although not as strong. It appears that the Weather Underground servers were down for over an hour starting about 6:30, as all three Altadena sites reporting today ( 1 2 3 ) have a data gap there.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Uplifting day on Loma Alta

Today Loma Alta was closed to through traffic so a crane crew could set up and hoist replacement utility poles to hard-to-reach locations. The large (160 ton) crane was brought in to reach over neighbors' homes and drop two new utility poles into holes which were prepared in advance by SCE.

The first one was on the north side of the Gooseberry catch basin (south of Loma Alta), a couple hundred feet west of the Stonehill intersection. The other was on the west side of the Gooseberry flood channel, just north of Loma Alta. Both were basically in people's back yards, so lifting the 40 foot poles in from above was the only practical way to get them in.

Once each new pole was secured in it's hole next to the old one, the power lines (which run at the top of the poles) were moved over to it. Then the crane was bridled to the old pole, and the crew chainsawed off the top 8 feet or so. Once the top of the old pole was cut loose, the crane hoisted the piece of scrap back up over the rooftops, leaving the shortened old pole in place until the other utility crews can come out and transfer lower telephone and cable lines to the new pole. Then the old poles can finally be removed altogether.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

June 3, 2006 hits 103 °F

Well, it's really summer now. We just missed a high 103 up here on the hill today.

Other local stations report similar highs, but KCAALTAD3 on Mount Curve seems to either be having technical difficulties, or knows something we don't know. Also, unfortunately, KCAALTAD5 seems to have gone offline sometime after lunch, but not before they posted the highest high for the day at 103.1 °F

KCAALTAD1 102.4 °F
KCAALTAD2 102.9 °F (Stonehill News)
KCAALTAD3 _94.0 °F (?!)
KCAALTAD5 103.1 °F

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A penchant for PUSD

With just over 500 subscribers to their online newsletter, the Pasadena Education Network <> may seem to have a small footprint relative to the 20,000 families in the district, but I don't think the impact of word of mouth should be underestimated. Word of mouth is how I first heard about PEN (before the even had a website). It seems to me that PEN families ripple the PEN message out to other families in their neighborhoods via the "mommy network," as I have heard it called. Many of these families may never subscribe to PEN's email announcement loop, but the advice of a family friend is far more robust than any form of parent outreach the district could hope to engage in itself.

This kind of message spreads slowly, but is strong if it takes root. Other parents we know started considering their education options years before they were ready to make a commitment. In my family's case, we started looking at schools almost three years before we were ready to enroll in kindergarten. According to a recent PEN newsletter, they are just two years old, so if my observation is true, the district should just be starting to reap the benefits of the seeds that PEN has planted.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Amy's offensive defense

In a strange tale of mistrust and dare I say paranoia, I was banned from posting to Rene Amy's "greatschools" email group last week, and over the weekend he kicked me out altogether.

After Amy's troubles stemming from being temporarily shut down by Yahoo! either due to allegations of violating their Terms of Service, or a hacker, he defensively closed his reincarnated list archives to the public.

I am guessing that Mr. Amy was suspicious that I was somehow behind his troubles. Not only is this false, but I think turning him in to Yahoo! was a counterproductive cheap shot. I reached out to Mr. Amy privately, offering technical support, etc, but I suppose these offers may have been viewed as a Trojan Horse if he suspected that I was somehow involved.

Anyway, given the circumstances, I emailed him privately to see how he felt about me quoting from his posts outside of his group. In his reply explicitly requested that I "*not* post material" from him.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Report from St. Bernard's Parish

This story is obviously not local fare as Stonehill News tends to be, but it is an inspiring tale of civic responsibility and commitment. My wonderful, beautiful, twenty-something cousin, Amata, filed this report yesterday from New Orleans:

Hey Everyone!

I'm writing from St. Bernards Parish - 20 minutes outside of New Orleans. I have spent the last two months living here at a FEMA camp called Camp Premier. We leave here on Monday and are very sad to be moving on as this has been two of the most amazing months.

St. Bernard was the most completely destroyed region in the gulf. 67,000 plus residents all had their homes destroyed. There was only one structure in the Parish not ruined. The area was hit not only by Katrina, but a total of 4 catastrophes. Hurricane Katrina hit August 29 th, 2005, which caused not only severe wind and rain damage, but also the second disaster, a flood from the levees breaking. The 5 to 28 feet of floodwater that remained in the Parish for roughly 14 days receded only days before hurricane Rita brought about a second flood.

Friday, May 05, 2006

PUSD: to give us pixels not pulp?

I just got back from tonight's PUSD "7-11 committee" meeting where I was promised pdfs of all the new demographic data that was compiled for the committee to use, as well as all the handouts and reports that were distributed tonight and here forward.

Let's hope this comes to pass and becomes the start of a new habit for the district, because I also came away with a 6" stack of historical reports that I had requested copies of, including the huge "District-Wide Facilities Master Plan" from 1999. Unfortunately these (recent) historical documents were not easily available in anything but paper, so that is what they gave me.

What do I want with a huge stacks of paper? I'm a pixel-pusher (as in pencil-pusher, not the other kind of pusher). I will just be digitizing them as time permits over the next few weeks (thank goodness we have access to high speed scanning, but even then it is a bit of a time consuming chore). And even then, the documents will be basically opaque to search. It would save the district plenty of money if they could satisfy even a small percentage of their information requests with pdfs instead of paper.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Clark takes Noyes off table

In response to the massive showing that Altadenans for Action mustered at last night's Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Percy Clark took a moment to speak on the non-agenda item.

Clark stated that he and the board officially withdraw Noyes as a potential site for a high school program. This proclamation was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the audience, and numerous Altadenans who had filled out public comment cards in anticipation of having to argue against the proposal, modified their comments to express thanks to the board for being responsive to the community's concerns.

During the comment period there was still broad concern conveyed by the community about the potential for segregation in the implementation of the proposed high school reform plans. It was evident that the board also strongly heard and agreed with this message in their discussion of Attachment R-1 titled "Priorities 06-07" which ensued later in the evening.

The board ended up approving a motion by Mike Babock to endorse the seven general priorities presented by staff, however specifically refrained from providing the weighted "A or B" prioritization staff was requesting. Noteably, they did make a special point of setting the high school reform plan aside as the one priority of the seven that specifically needed more study before it could move forward. It seemed that those on the board who had expressed concerns about the high school reform proposal at last month's meeting were emboldened, an any who may have been neutral or positive about moving forward for fall of 06 are taking a serious second look at the issue.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

[greatschools]: "uncle!"

After three days of having his Yahoo! Group email list deluged by me, Rene Amy sent me a polite back channel communique requesting a cease fire. He peppered it with minor digs and rationalizations such as
"it seems that you don't know a lot of answers to simple questions about the district that longer-tenured members are already somewhat painfully aware of"
"I hesitate to respond to many of your posts because I do not
wish to alienate list members by boring them with the answers"
But for the most part it was a respectful and tactfully worded letter full of phrases such as
"I don't want to appear to limit you"
"your enthusiasm and concern are most welcome to the list"
In a follow up email in which I agreed to contain my "flood of politeness", Mr. Amy consented to my publishing of his request, saying, "I've always adhered to the principle that one should never put anything in print that shouldn't be expected to show up on the front page of the newspaper."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Surviving [greatschools]

In a (rather lengthy) open letter to Rene Amy which I recently posted to Amy's private Yahoo! Group called greatschools, and circulated to the media and other interest groups, I have consciously stepped into the debate with a challenge to all parties to reign in the rhetoric.

Amy's [greatschools] Yahoo! Group is archived online and can be searched by members of the group. Non-members cannot read the archives or post to the list, ostensibly to prevent spammers from polluting the list, although I am not sure why he also restricts read-only access to his archive. Anyone who wants to read it can subscribe to the Yahoo! Group for free. Access to the Yahoo! Groups archive requires a Yahoo! ID.

I was extremely ambivalent about weighing in on Amy's list, because he and his main supporters are often acerbic in their public and semi-public "discussions" which often seem more like drubbings. I came down in favor of engaging with him in the (probably naive) hope that I might be able to influence the general tone of things.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Altadenans for Action takes shape

Steve Escovar, Isaac Garcia, and I represented the newly formed Altadenans for Action (AFA) at the Pasadena Education Foundation (PEF) meeting yesterday which (I think) was originally scheduled as a fundraising and general community outreach event.

According to the host, Jeanne Register, the turn out was much larger than predicted, most likely due to the heightened community concern about the proposed use for Noyes.

In attendance were, PUSD Superintendent, Percy Clark, President of the PUSD BOE, Ed Honowitz, the PEF supporters (somewhat bemused), the usual cohort of angry parents and rabble rousers that seem drawn to controversy, and neighbors of Noyes with an agenda.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Coordinating opposition to Noyes proposal

Isaac Garcia set up a "Central Desktop" for collaborating and coordinating opposition to the proposed use of Noyes.

I contributed as a shortcut in case anyone finds it an easier name to remember than the direct url.

Please forward any factual information you may discover (with complete provenance please) to Isaac or me if you don't see it on the site already and can't figure out how to contribute directly.

We would like to make a special point of avoiding all speculative, unsubstantiated, unattributed, mean-spirited, or generally useless information.

Let's stick to the facts and play nice. Many of us feel strongly about this issue, but it is still early, and I am optimistic that the practical problems are so obvious that this plan will founder under it's own weight. This is not to say we shouldn't speak out strongly and quickly, but again, let our voice be constructive and solution oriented.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Convert Noyes for 700 Troubled Teens?

An article in yesterday's Pasadena Star News reports that PUSD "officials want to turn the Noyes Elementary School campus into a continuation school for struggling high school students."

This is a major problem as far as I am concerned, and yes, I admit I am exhibiting NIMBY syndrome here, but an influx of "
600 to 700 students in grades 10 to 12" into this neighborhood is not to my liking. Even if they can somehow find enough parking for that may high school students and support staff, it will still mean huge neighborhood parking overflow. This is not to mention the incoming commute-time crush of vehicles converging on Allen and Altadena. The thought of 700 teenage drivers flowing out and around this neighborhood does not make me happy.

Friday, March 17, 2006

PUSD Still on the Right Track

Pasadena Star News ran an article today stating that due to the (smart IMO) budget cuts made by the School Board, "the projected ending budget balance has increased, and officials expect to have enough funding for teacher raises and to implement secondary interventions in math next year."

This is totally in line with what I have been predicting since the discussion about cuts was first made public. I wish we could see more factual
positive articles with headlines like "District steadies budget." I realize that drama and controversy grab headlines over plain vanilla good work, so Kudos to the Star News for making space for this kind of story.

Updated 3/18: Well so much for the Star News sticking with the facts. Today Staff Writer Gene Maddaus leads off his City Beats column with pure unsubstantiated drama, stating "
As the Pasadena Unified School District crumbles, administrators are losing control of internal information."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Neighborhood Watch: Update (sort of)

Well a busier than usual week got by me, and I didn't get a summary posted of what happened at last Wednesday's Neighborhood Watch meeting until now.

Very briefly, it seems there has been a "rash" of minor burglaries in the last six to eight weeks. There are at least two other incidents in addition to the ones previously reported here, bringing the total to at least four burglaries, one stolen car (and of course the break-in at Everest).

One of the people who was burglarized has developed his own pattern MO. He says that based on the facts he has unofficially compiled, they are all in the day-time, involve a minor break-in (screen latch, etc.) and result in, at most, losses of about what one person could carry in one trip (example, a flat screen TV and some jewelry). He also added that some unwanted items are often (or always?) discarded in the front lawn.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Neighborhood Watch Meeting

We just got a flyer delivered to our front door by one of the neighbors:
"Deputy Estrada with the Altadena Sheriff's will be at the home of Rick and Theo Engen's house on 1602 Woodglen Lane from 7 - 7:30 pm this Wednesday, March 1st for a Neighborhood Watch Meeting. I'm sure there will be discussion afterward, but this is when the deputy is available."
See you there :)

Mountain Lion Story with Pics

Thanks to Isaac for the tip off. CBS2 News is reporting that a mountain lion was tranquilized and removed from a yard near Pine Street and Fair Oaks. According to CBS, sheriff's Sgt. M. Jacobs said that Edison Elementary School was locked down as a precaution.

Read the CBS News story (has good video)

NBC4 News has the story too with pictures and video:

Read the NBC News story
NBC Slide Show 1
NBC Slide Show 2

NBC Video (Windows IE only)

[added: 9pm]

The story and pictures are showing up on national outlets like CNN and Rueters.

Also LA Times has a good picture of the cat getting an ear tag.

[added: 2/28 10am]

Pasadena Star News came out with the story and a great slide show.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Snail-mail Spam?

If you're like me, the unruly circulars full of ads and coupons that show up in your real mail box bother you almost as much as their modern equivalent in your email inbox or your fax machine. The good news is, the "real" spam costs the sender money, unlike email spam which is "free" or fax spam where the spammer actually steals your supplies to advertise to you.

I have had a surprisingly easy time getting in touch with the senders to remove my address from their lists. I decided to tear off the address portion and contact portion of all the junk mail circulars that arrived in January. I discarded all duplicates and came up with four publishers so far.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Crime Wave?

Hey, I thought this was a crime free area! What's up with this? First the reports from last month and now this. According to Nick, the owner of our local lunch stop, Everest Burger got broken into and robbed the night before last. They were installing the new glass today at lunch time. I snapped some pics of the smashed door with my phone.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Seasonal Wind Storm

As you can see from this chart, we've been having one of our regular winter wind storms since about 2 pm yesterday. It really started to get going around nightfall, and then got quite intense overnight. Not too many people slept soundly in greater L.A. last night. So far our maximum gust has been recorded at 41.6 MPH. Lots of trees and branches are down, flaky power and utilities everywhere, the usual. These are the so called Santa Anas winds. Other reports indicate that we have not been getting the brunt of the Santa Anas, with other communities seeing nearly 70 MPH gusts.

Lucky me, I have not actually lost power for more than a few moments so far. The "logic" of wind driven power outages is never clear. For instance, I couldn't gas up at the local Chevron this morning and the traffic signals are down a few blocks away, but for once my utilities are mostly still up. My power has fluctuated enough to make the clocks start blinking, but all my computers, and network gear are surfing through it on the UPSs. I did lose one of my internet connections for a while, but my backup DSL is still holding.

Check out this 3.7MB video of the anemometer going nuts.

Here's another 3.7MB video of the blowing trees behind our house.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Renovation Boom

If you live in the greater LA region (or maybe anywhere in the country for that matter), you would have to be particularly un-observant to have missed the hot real estate market. A look at the LA County Assessor web site can be quite astounding. I created the composite image at right by overlaying one of their maps on a satellite image of our neighborhood. The tinted tracts are ones that recently sold.

All this activity seems to be fueling an equally hot home renovation boom, no doubt spurred by the ironic fact that homes are "worth" so much, people who already own can't afford to trade up. Home equity loans, on the other hand, are a fairly painless way for home owners to tap into the real estate bonanza, without having to move out of state. Surely home equity is behind this flurry of additions and remodels. In our little part of the world, it is particularly obvious. I snapped these pics this morning in less than a one block radius.

"1 wall standing" remodel. Almost a new house.

Gutting interior. Enclosing back porch.

Nice addition on the front (living in rest of house).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stolen car and burgled house?

A couple worrisome things our neighbor Isaac heard recently:
1. Right before Christmas a house was broken into on Windfall. It happened during the day. Not sure of what was taken or what happened.

2. Another neighbor on Loma Alta (between Noyes and the Rubio Basin) had their Cadillac Escalade stolen right out of their drive way. The thief must have had a key since the alarm didn't go off and there was no sign of entry (no glass etc). My wife's parents live down on La Paz Road (a mile south of here) and their neighbor also had their Escalade stolen out of their drive way the same way. The cops say that 4 were stolen in the area within a few days. They were found stripped out in San Bernadino somewhere. Cops think it might be an inside job with a dealership or a body shop.
Thanks for the heads up, Isaac. If anyone knows more details (without posting private details please) about these stories, we'd love to know. Stay vigilant, everyone. Sometimes it's hard to remember to treat security like we live in a major metro area, even up here in our little town.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Critter Talk

Doris Finch dropped by today to report on her sightings of bear, coyote, coy-dog (maybe) and fox (past tense). Thanks Doris. We haven't seen anything with claws over here lately, but we do have a small family group of deer that graze our hillside. They are quite tame, so Norah was able to walk quite close to them and snap a few pics. Unfortunately the light was a bit low for our digicam so they mostly came out blurry. You can check out the ones that more or less came out here. (There are also some interesting recent insect pics to see at that link.)

I have been wondering if we should try to frighten the deer so they don't become too used to people. I remember in the story of Gentle Ben (a grizzly), when it was time to send him off into the wild, the boy tossed fire-crackers and things to make him shy of people. I must admit, I worry about tame deer attracting mountain lions further down. Our new kitties are strictly indoor cats. We lost our two previous cats recently, suspecting coyotes, but as Isaac pointed out, it could just as well have been the mountain lions.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Weather Underground

It looks like Altadena has become a hotbed for personal weather stations. As of today Weather Underground is displaying data from four stations in Altadena. I note that the station IDs skip a number so chances are we will see KCAALTAD4 come online soon, if they can figure out how to get hooked up.

Weather Underground Tips & Tricks:

1. Check out the new feature that allows you to view Personal Weather Stations using Google Maps.

2. Using a tabbed browser, open up each of the four stations in tabs. Carefully scroll each page down so the graphs are showing and all aligned with each other. Click from tab to tab and observe the similarities and differences in the Altadena foothills micro (nano?) climates. Note: If you have trouble with one of the pages being a tiny bit off alignment from the others, try reloading it. Some of the banner ads are shorter than normal.