Thursday, September 24, 2009

Big improvement at Eaton Canyon falls

Okay, this picture may not be the most inspiring, but for anyone who may have felt a bit depressed by my June post with photos and video of the extreme defacement of Eaton Canyon, north of the Mt Wilson Toll Road bridge, I have some good news .

Last weekend I hiked the trail, and was pleasantly surprised. First, while the creek was dry about 1/3 of the way up, the water was running over the falls, and was still creating enough of a pool that there were people swimming and enjoying themselves in it.

But more importantly, all the June graffiti was painted out. As you can see from the photo above, some tags have reappeared, and some of the abatement paint jobs are not the most artful, but before you gasp in horror at the thought of painting over rocks to "remove" graffiti, it really is a gigantic improvement, and the ham-handed cover-up paint job shown in the photo in only obvious because it's on a smooth surface. On rocks, the texture forces the paint-over to be more mottled and blend much better than this. I didn't get any photos of the cover-up of the "murals" at the falls (there were some women swimming and I didn't want to be creepy), but they're far less noticeable, and a major improvement.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Selected Station Fire Time Lapse Videos

These are both worth watching full screen (they are embedded as HD already)

View from Mt Wilson Sept 4th - 7th

View from across town, Aug 29

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dodging the Station Fire

Our family's two-week summer vacation started the weekend before the Station Fire. We came home for two nights (Thursday 8/27 and Friday 8/28) before it was seriously threatening our neighborhood in northeast Altadena. The breeze delivered two days of clear skies and two nights of choking smoke.

Thank goodness the wind never presented the seasonal Santa Ana pattern that can happen at this time of year, with the characteristic hot gusting winds out of the north that fanned the local fires of 1993. The Station Fire has only been fanned by the gentle Foothills breathing rhythm that residents rely on to draw the day's hot air out to sea every night. The Stonehill anemometer chronicles this pattern of gentle south breeze all day and gentle north breeze all night. A look at the current 5-day readings illustrates the breath-like regularity of this pattern.

With our windows closed all night, we contemplated our vacation plans and decided that they were in some ways a blessing. So we voluntarily evacuated to escape the smoke and enjoy the second half of our vacation on Saturday 8/29, and monitored the email lists, web cams and blogs from afar all week. The steady flow of information made it possible for us to enjoy our vacation with one eye on how things were progressing online. At one point early in the week, we contemplated flying me back home to help defend the neighborhood should it come to that, but decided against it. Amidst the bounty of near-real-time information, these photos were among some of the most reassuring to me personally. They were emailed by Dan Gollnick, showing professional Hot Shot crews fortifying the perimeter defenses along the Altadena Crest Trail.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How to subscribe to the email loop

I just had an email inquiring about getting on the stonehill news email loop.

Subscribing to our email loop is a simple self-serve process. Please feel free to share this link with your neighbors.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

KCAALTAD1 Reporting

Bill Westphal (Wunderground call sign, KCAALTAD1) sent me his precipitation stats going back to 03-04.

1999-2000 19.76" -- --
2000-2001 21.22" -- --
2001-2002 8.27" -- --
2002-2003 24.47" -- --
2003-2004 15.47" 14.72" --
2004-2005 62.56" 56.66" 61.61"
2005-2006 24.06" 22.37" 23.35"
2006-2007 6.81" 6.52 " 6.15"
2007-2008 26.04" 24.66" 23.64"
2008-2009 16.34" 15.77" 15.09"
(04+) Avg 27.16" 25.20" 25.97"

Bill calculated averages from all the data which I thought was a really interesting; I included averages from the 04-05 season to the present.

I added lines from both Stonehill stations to Bill's station. According to Google Maps, Bill is at 1640' and is approximately 1.25 miles WNW of here.

That puts him at the exact same elevation as PacRad, but he's on slightly flatter terrain (no canyon walls directly adjacent to him). I speculate that the shape of the terrain more than the elevation is causing Dan to average almost 2" more than Bill and me about 3/4" more than Bill.

View Stonehill Weather Stations in a larger map

An Actual Nigerian Scam in 2009

The message below happened to make it through my spam filter this morning. Hard to believe that the venerable Nigerian Scam is still circulating in almost original form. You'd think they'd change up the country at least.

Here is a hilarious description of how one scambaiter gets over on this kind of scammer (some scambaiter pranks aren't but this one is family friendly):

And here is a good article on I crave your distinguished indulgence (and all your cash) by Douglas Cruickshank

Date: Sat, 11 Jul 2009 10:00:29 -0500
Subject: can i confide in you

Dear Friend

I am John Enoh Ewan the Chairman House of Committee on Finance, National Assembly Chambers of Federal Republic of Nigeria I write to honorably request your assistance in helping to receive amount of money into your account for safe keeping and for future investment in your country.

By virtue of my position as the chief supervisor of foreign contracts, the sum of US$25,000,000.00 (Twenty Five Million United States Dollars) is available in escrow account that I intend to transfer overseas through your assistance as a foreign partner.

This money is as a result of Over provision in the Federal government budget for unpaid contract amount to foreign contractors who executed contract in the Niger - Delta in Petroleum industry.

As soon as the contract amount is paid to you, I will share with you 40% and 60% for me, my share you will help me to invest in any profitable and lucrative business in your country or any other country that you will so

You can reach me by return mail, including
(1) Your full names and Age
(2) Your contact address and country of Origin
(3) Your company's name (if any) Your Position /Occupation
(4) Your confidential telephone (cell) and fax number

The above information will enable me brief you more details of the transaction and also start the application process/documentation that will lead to the release of the funds to you through bank to bank transfer. While waiting for your quick response I remain your potential investment

Best Regards,

Honorable John Enoh

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Rain wrap-up 2009

The rain season of July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009 ended with 15.09 inches recorded on the Stonehill News weather station. I also have made a habit of reporting what my neighbor at the top of Stonehill has recorded, going back to 1999. Here are the available seasonal totals:

Season PacRad SHN Difference
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" 2.6%
2005-2006 24.06" 23.35" 3.0%
2006-2007 6.81" 6.15" 9.7%
2007-2008 26.04" 23.64" 9.3%
2008-2009 16.34" 15.09" 7.7%

PacRad consistently logs a bit more rainfall, collecting 750 feet due North and 100 feet higher elevation. We assume this is due to micro climatic differences, not calibration or placement problems. The fact that the percent difference is not consistent year over year supports this assumption.

View Stonehill Weather Stations in a larger map

Here are the previous wrap-up posts:
Rain wrap-up 2008
Rain wrap-up 2007
Rain wrap-up 2006

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More June Rain

For the third time this month we recorded June rain. 2mm today puts us at 15.08" for the season. The wind pattern was very unusual too.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Eaton Canyon Falls Graffiti Survey

Today I hiked up to the Eaton Canyon Falls, and I took a picture of every surface that had paint on it, either covering old graffiti, brand new graffiti or both. As you can tell by looking at all the painted over rocks and walls, graffiti is nothing new under the bridge and along the whole creek bed, however make sure you go all the way through to the end of the slide show. The walls and rocks of the canyon by the falls have been spray painted on a scale that is unusual, judging by the fact that many of the surfaces that are defaced do not have abatement paint behind them.

It's hard to tell from the photos just how disturbing it is to see in person. It reminds me of pre-Giuliani Central Park. This video, panning around the falls area helps illustrate how terrible this is.

I plan on calling this defacement into the graffiti hotline now, and will update this post with the confirmation number(s). The county has previously been extremely prompt about taking care of graffiti. We'll see how long this takes to clean up, as it's far less accessible. I suppose they'll hike in with supplies, as a helicopter drop off seems overkill for graffiti.

Update: I just got off the phone with the Graffiti Hotline.

LACO Graffiti Hotline 800-675-4357 option 2

The woman who answered told me they should have it cleaned up by Wednesday. (confirmation #108516)

More June Rain Registered on the Gauge

The odd cloudy weather has persisted and today and yesterday the light drizzle brought our annual rainfall total up another 4mm (.16") for a nice even 15" this year.

Chart of June's annual precipitation to date as of 6/13/2009

Friday, June 05, 2009

June Rain Registered on the Gauge

Despite the facts that we've had low rainfall overall, and that it's almost the end of the rain season, today's unseasonable sprinkles actually ticked the rain gauge up another millimeter (.04")

Chart of June's annual precipitation to date

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bobcat on Chaney Trail

Received these amazing photos via email today:

Here is the note that came with it:


I read the Stonehill News blog occasionally, because I'm an avid hiker, and I like the wildlife updates. I wanted you & your community to know about this bobcat I saw today on Chaney Tr., which was acting unusual. I was driving back from Millard, and saw it cross the road. It stopped to look at my car, then walked into the brush. I pulled forward and stopped, and got my camera out, hoping to see it down the embankment.

When I got out of my car, it had walked back up to the road. It simply sat there looking at me for a few minutes, which wouldn't be too strange, except it was vocalizing - sometimes growling, sometimes meowing like a housecat. It then walked back across the road one more time, and up the road cut on the other side.

I have seen a couple of bobcats on hikes before, but they always run away quickly. So I wanted to give you a heads up. I'm sure everyone knows the standard advice - keep pets inside at night, don't leave food out, and just generally be aware. Hopefully this cat isn't sick, and I just had a lucky sighting.

This is a very young animal, weighing probably 10 pounds or so. Not a physical threat to anyone, unless it is in fact rabid.

Attached are the best photos, cropped and zoomed (I only got within about 20 feet, which was close enough for my comfort). The full set of pics are on my photobucket page, here.



Sunday, May 03, 2009

Prohibition has failed

Another strong argument for repeal of prohibition, this time being made by The Economist:

Failed states and failed policies
How to stop the drug wars

Mar 5th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Prohibition has failed; legalisation is the least bad solution

A HUNDRED years ago a group of foreign diplomats gathered in Shanghai for the first-ever international effort to ban trade in a narcotic drug. On February 26th 1909 they agreed to set up the International Opium Commission—just a few decades after Britain had fought a war with China to assert its right to peddle the stuff. Many other bans of mood-altering drugs have followed. In 1998 the UN General Assembly committed member countries to achieving a “drug-free world” and to “eliminating or significantly reducing” the production of opium, cocaine and cannabis by 2008.

That is the kind of promise politicians love to make. It assuages the sense of moral panic that has been the handmaiden of prohibition for a century. It is intended to reassure the parents of teenagers across the world. Yet it is a hugely irresponsible promise, because it cannot be fulfilled.

Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless. That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.

“Least bad” does not mean good. Legalisation, though clearly better for producer countries, would bring (different) risks to consumer countries. As we outline below, many vulnerable drug-takers would suffer. But in our view, more would gain.

The evidence of failure

Nowadays the UN Office on Drugs and Crime no longer talks about a drug-free world. Its boast is that the drug market has “stabilised”, meaning that more than 200m people, or almost 5% of the world’s adult population, still take illegal drugs—roughly the same proportion as a decade ago. (Like most purported drug facts, this one is just an educated guess: evidential rigour is another casualty of illegality.) The production of cocaine and opium is probably about the same as it was a decade ago; that of cannabis is higher. Consumption of cocaine has declined gradually in the United States from its peak in the early 1980s, but the path is uneven (it remains higher than in the mid-1990s), and it is rising in many places, including Europe.

This is not for want of effort. The United States alone spends some $40 billion each year on trying to eliminate the supply of drugs. It arrests 1.5m of its citizens each year for drug offences, locking up half a million of them; tougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars. In the developing world blood is being shed at an astonishing rate. In Mexico more than 800 policemen and soldiers have been killed since December 2006 (and the annual overall death toll is running at over 6,000). This week yet another leader of a troubled drug-ridden country—Guinea Bissau—was assassinated.

Yet prohibition itself vitiates the efforts of the drug warriors. The price of an illegal substance is determined more by the cost of distribution than of production. Take cocaine: the mark-up between coca field and consumer is more than a hundredfold. Even if dumping weedkiller on the crops of peasant farmers quadruples the local price of coca leaves, this tends to have little impact on the street price, which is set mainly by the risk of getting cocaine into Europe or the United States.

Nowadays the drug warriors claim to seize close to half of all the cocaine that is produced. The street price in the United States does seem to have risen, and the purity seems to have fallen, over the past year. But it is not clear that drug demand drops when prices rise. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that the drug business quickly adapts to market disruption. At best, effective repression merely forces it to shift production sites. Thus opium has moved from Turkey and Thailand to Myanmar and southern Afghanistan, where it undermines the West’s efforts to defeat the Taliban.

Al Capone, but on a global scale

Indeed, far from reducing crime, prohibition has fostered gangsterism on a scale that the world has never seen before. According to the UN’s perhaps inflated estimate, the illegal drug industry is worth some $320 billion a year. In the West it makes criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens (the current American president could easily have ended up in prison for his youthful experiments with “blow”). It also makes drugs more dangerous: addicts buy heavily adulterated cocaine and heroin; many use dirty needles to inject themselves, spreading HIV; the wretches who succumb to “crack” or “meth” are outside the law, with only their pushers to “treat” them. But it is countries in the emerging world that pay most of the price. Even a relatively developed democracy such as Mexico now finds itself in a life-or-death struggle against gangsters. American officials, including a former drug tsar, have publicly worried about having a “narco state” as their neighbour.

The failure of the drug war has led a few of its braver generals, especially from Europe and Latin America, to suggest shifting the focus from locking up people to public health and “harm reduction” (such as encouraging addicts to use clean needles). This approach would put more emphasis on public education and the treatment of addicts, and less on the harassment of peasants who grow coca and the punishment of consumers of “soft” drugs for personal use. That would be a step in the right direction. But it is unlikely to be adequately funded, and it does nothing to take organised crime out of the picture.

Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated. Governments would tax and regulate the drug trade, and use the funds raised (and the billions saved on law-enforcement) to educate the public about the risks of drug-taking and to treat addiction. The sale of drugs to minors should remain banned. Different drugs would command different levels of taxation and regulation. This system would be fiddly and imperfect, requiring constant monitoring and hard-to-measure trade-offs. Post-tax prices should be set at a level that would strike a balance between damping down use on the one hand, and discouraging a black market and the desperate acts of theft and prostitution to which addicts now resort to feed their habits.

Selling even this flawed system to people in producer countries, where organised crime is the central political issue, is fairly easy. The tough part comes in the consumer countries, where addiction is the main political battle. Plenty of American parents might accept that legalisation would be the right answer for the people of Latin America, Asia and Africa; they might even see its usefulness in the fight against terrorism. But their immediate fear would be for their own children.

That fear is based in large part on the presumption that more people would take drugs under a legal regime. That presumption may be wrong. There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer. Embarrassed drug warriors blame this on alleged cultural differences, but even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the number of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates. Legalisation might reduce both supply (pushers by definition push) and demand (part of that dangerous thrill would go). Nobody knows for certain. But it is hard to argue that sales of any product that is made cheaper, safer and more widely available would fall. Any honest proponent of legalisation would be wise to assume that drug-taking as a whole would rise.

There are two main reasons for arguing that prohibition should be scrapped all the same. The first is one of liberal principle. Although some illegal drugs are extremely dangerous to some people, most are not especially harmful. (Tobacco is more addictive than virtually all of them.) Most consumers of illegal drugs, including cocaine and even heroin, take them only occasionally. They do so because they derive enjoyment from them (as they do from whisky or a Marlboro Light). It is not the state’s job to stop them from doing so.

What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.

By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope.

A calculated gamble, or another century of failure?

This newspaper first argued for legalisation 20 years ago (see article). Reviewing the evidence again (see article), prohibition seems even more harmful, especially for the poor and weak of the world. Legalisation would not drive gangsters completely out of drugs; as with alcohol and cigarettes, there would be taxes to avoid and rules to subvert. Nor would it automatically cure failed states like Afghanistan. Our solution is a messy one; but a century of manifest failure argues for trying it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use

This article in Time Magazine about the repeal of prohibition in Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, supports the idea that the repeal of prohibition is the solution to the violent crime issue in the US and Mexico which has been in the media lately.

The illegal drug trade is obviously a revenue source for criminals around the world. Decriminalizing production would move that revenue into the legitimate tax base. While it seems likely that the crops and finished products command artificially high prices, due to the added risk and expense involved in the supply chain, if prohibition were repealed in a significant global way, it would still provide profitable alternative crops for farmers, even if prices dropped.,8599,1893946,00.html

Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?
By Maia Szalavitz Sunday, Apr. 26, 2009

Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It's not the Netherlands.)

Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled "coffee shops," Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don't enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to "drug tourists" and exacerbate Portugal's drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.

Portugal's case study is of some interest to lawmakers in the U.S., confronted now with the violent overflow of escalating drug gang wars in Mexico. The U.S. has long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world's harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E.U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U.S., it also has less drug use.

"I think we can learn that we should stop being reflexively opposed when someone else does [decriminalize] and should take seriously the possibility that anti-user enforcement isn't having much influence on our drug consumption," says Mark Kleiman, author of the forthcoming When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and director of the drug policy analysis program at UCLA. Kleiman does not consider Portugal a realistic model for the U.S., however, because of differences in size and culture between the two countries.

But there is a movement afoot in the U.S., in the legislatures of New York State, California and Massachusetts, to reconsider our overly punitive drug laws. Recently, Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter proposed that Congress create a national commission, not unlike Portugal's, to deal with prison reform and overhaul drug-sentencing policy. As Webb noted, the U.S. is home to 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners.

At the Cato Institute in early April, Greenwald contended that a major problem with most American drug policy debate is that it's based on "speculation and fear mongering," rather than empirical evidence on the effects of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country's number one public health problem, he says.

"The impact in the life of families and our society is much lower than it was before decriminalization," says Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual's "drug czar" and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, adding that police are now able to re-focus on tracking much higher level dealers and larger quantities of drugs.

Peter Reuter, a professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Maryland, like Kleiman, is skeptical. He conceded in a presentation at the Cato Institute that "it's fair to say that decriminalization in Portugal has met its central goal. Drug use did not rise." However, he notes that Portugal is a small country and that the cyclical nature of drug epidemics — which tends to occur no matter what policies are in place — may account for the declines in heroin use and deaths.

The Cato report's author, Greenwald, hews to the first point: that the data shows that decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Since that is what concerns the public and policymakers most about decriminalization, he says, "that is the central concession that will transform the debate."

Friday, April 24, 2009

PSN: On Rampant PC

After a recent editorial in PSN that was a typical uninformed anti-gun propaganda piece, I was surprised to see this article on page A22 today.

By Glenn Garvin: Why can't students say `guns' in school?

Posted: 04/23/2009 04:23:20 PM PDT

Media snicker of the day: those crazy gun nuts, worried the government is out to snatch their constitutional rights along with their AK-47s. "60 Minutes" is the latest to have a chuckle, playing a commercial for a Washington, D.C.-area firearms show that urges viewers to "Celebrate the Second Amendment and get your guns while you still can!"

My own hunch is the sheer number of Americans who own guns (the low estimate is something over 40 million) will keep their Second Amendment rights off the endangered-species list for the foreseeable future. Their First Amendment rights, however, may be another matter. Those are taking a beating these days, right in the place that's supposed to be America's rowdiest free-speech zone: college campuses.

A student who speaks up about the right to own or carry a gun stands a good chance of getting suspended or even arrested:

When a Central Connecticut State University senior fulfilled a communications-class assignment by giving a presentation on why students and professors should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus, his professor reported him to the police, who called him in for questioning. Professor Paula Anderson, questioned by a reporter from the school paper, was unrepentant: The student was a "perceived risk" and she had a "responsibility to protect the well-being of our students."

Like old Soviet commissars clapping dissidents into psychiatric hospitals, administrators at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., responded to a student's e-mail criticizing school policy on concealed weapons by suspending him and ordering him to undergo a "mental health examination."

Trying to recruit new members, the Young Conservatives of Texas club at Lone Star College near Houston passed out fliers lampooning gun-safety manuals. ("No matter how responsible he seems, never give your gun to a monkey.") Administrators confiscated the fliers, threatened to disband the club and - when the worried students sought legal counsel - wrote their lawyers that any "mention of firearms" amounted to "interference with the operation of the school or the rights of others" because it "brings fear and concern to students, faculty and staff." Oddly, the administrators did not suspend themselves, even though their own e-mail included a "mention of firearms."

Tarrant County College, near Fort Worth, took the no-mention policy a step further, banning a student from wearing an empty holster to protest the campus ban on concealed guns. "We're protecting the learning environment," explained Juan Garcia, the school's vice president for student development and, clearly, a devoted scholar of academic doublespeak.

It's tempting to consider these cases as simply an extension of academia's batty response to the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, in which toy guns, wooden pirate cutlasses and even an entire production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins were banned from campus drama clubs, as if American colleges were a giant firecracker of homicidal psychosis just waiting for any tiny spark to go off.

But Virginia Tech and the blind panic that followed it are two years behind us now, and the treatment of gun advocates feels a lot more like intellectual bullying than over-protective nannying. Like campus codes that lay down ideological rulebooks under the guise of outlawing sexual or racial harassment, labeling any reference to guns as a threat to public safety is a way for lefty baby boomer administrators and faculty members to impose their 1960s political orthodoxies on a younger generation.

"It's no coincidence that a lot of these things involve e-mails," says Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a public-interest law firm that defends campus civil liberties and has helped students in several of these cases.

"That's the popular new way for colleges to regulate speech, through technology-use policies. No college dean wants to go on record as saying he restricts free speech on his campus, so instead he says, `We're just making a rule that you can't use e-mail for offensive material."'

Of course, their definition of "offensive" has a distinct political overlay. I've never heard of a college student being suspended for calling George Bush a moron or Dick Cheney a war criminal. But making fun of feminists (Colorado College), opposing gay marriage (Los Angeles City College) or reading a book - a critical book - about the Ku Klux Klan (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) will bring down the wrath of administrators in a politically correct heartbeat.

A couple of years ago, FIRE even had to defend a hapless philosophy grad student at Marquette University who made the mistake of posting a "patently offensive" Dave Barry quote on his office door: "As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." Geez, he didn't even say "booger."

Glenn Garvin is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132.

Friday, March 06, 2009

PUSD School Board Elections

Well, the slate for Pasadena Unified School Board (on the ballot Tuesday, March 10, 2009) is pretty grim. Two seats are going uncontested. Here is the line up:

Seat 1:
Elizabeth Pomeroy

Seat 3:
Scott Phelps
Terri Darr

Seat 5:
Ramon Miramontes
Charles Nelson

Seat 7:
Ed Honowitz

Charles Nelson evidently isn't very serious about winning. He has no web site, he hasn't answered the PEN Candidate Questionnaire and he didn't appear at the Candidate's Forum on Feb 28th in Altadena. Even the candidates running for uncontested seats managed to do this kind of due diligence.

So as far as I'm concerned, the only contest is seat 3. Interestingly, Phelps, the incumbent and a former Muir teacher with children in the district, did not get the Teacher's Union endorsement. Somehow that makes me want to vote for him.

In an effort to get an even measure of all the candidates, PEN has created 10 questions which each has been invited to answer. You can find these and many other details in pdf form on their School Board Election page. I wanted to see the answers to their 10 questions side by side, so I have copied and pasted them in full below for those who are interested.

In a nutshell, I like Phelps because he's got young children in the district, he's got teaching credibility, he's got Board experience, and says things like "Our schools are not very user-friendly." I think we need people on the Board who think in terms of making the schools more "user friendly."

I've made my personal choices bold in the slate above.

Full PEN Candidate Questionnaire responses

Consolidated PEN candidate responses for Seat 3

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mount Wilson Toll Road Reopening

The neighborhood was aflutter with the news that bulldozers appeared out of nowhere yesterday, and started clearing the landslide off the Mount Wilson Toll Road. This has be closed for how long?! I guess this is a "shovel-ready" project if ever there was one.

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And here's some video that might look a bit boring to the uninitiated, but to locals, this is exciting stuff!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Graffiti in E Loma Alta section of Altadena

Below are pictures of graffiti that appeared recently on the fence of the
Rubio Debris Basin:

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These marks look similar to those which appeared in other places near by in
a similar time frame pictures also attached.

On the yellow directional sign at Loma Alta & Sunny Oaks the letters "HOES"
appear very similar to those on the basin fence locations.

One of the large words on the block wall on Porter (under the word "TRAGIK")
appears also to be "HOES"

We are hoping this is just a delinquent kid, but concerned that it may be a
precursor to more serious crime and/or graffiti.

In any case, I'd like to see this cleaned up as soon as possible.

Update: I just got off the phone with the Graffiti Hotline.

LACO Graffiti Hotline 800-675-4357 option 2

The woman who answered told me that there would be different response times
for each of the marks based on the surface they were on. And she gave me
three separate confirmation numbers. If any other neighbors want to call you
can reference these. In particular, the owner of the block wall may want to
have some say in how the county plans to clean it.

She said the block wall and the utility box would be cleaned in two business
days. (confirmation #97312)

The debris basin sign 3 business days (confirmation #97314)

The yellow directional sign longer because it has to go through a different
department (confirmation #97313)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Recycling those difficult items

Neighbor Dan Westphal forwarded some great info about recycling household hazardous waste. He included a link to this blog and this pdf from Los Angeles-Glendale
S.A.F.E. Collection Center. Here are the details from the S.A.F.E. Collection Center flier:

Los Angeles-Glendale S.A.F.E. COLLECTION CENTER

For the Residents of the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles

For security purposes, participants will be required to check-in with guard at front gate and show a valid California I.D.

Residential Special Materials and Electronic Waste

paint and solvents;used motor oil and filters,anti-freeze,and other automotive fluids;cleaning products;pool and garden chemicals; aerosol cans; all medicine; auto batteries; household (alkaline) batteries;fluorescent tubes and bulbs,thermostats,and other mercury-containing lamps.

computers, monitors, printers, network equipment, cables, telephones, televisions, microwaves, video games,cell phones, radios, stereos, VCRs, and electronic toys.


business waste, ammunition, explosives, radioactive material, biological waste or tires. Bulky Items: furniture, refrigerators, washing machines/dryers, conventional ovens, paper, computer software.

It is against the law to transport more than 15 gallons or 125 pounds of hazardous wasteto collection sites.Please pack your waste properly to prevent tipping or spilling of the waste during transportation. No business and/or commercial waste drop-offs

Hours of Operation
Saturday and Sunday
9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.

4600 Colorado Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA90039

Google directions from Lake and the 210:

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

T-minus Bush

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New ACT Trail Markers

Well someone's been busy. On my walk this morning, there were two brand new signs that weren't there yesterday morning.

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