Lunaya Pravda

19 December 2007

Bye-bye, bulbie

I wrote some months ago about the impending start of the phase-out of the incandescent bulb.

It's here. In addition to massive biofuels subsidies, ridiculous fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, and other steaming, wafting piles of scientific nonsense:

One portion of the bill sets new efficiency standards for appliances and will make the incandescent bulb -- invented two centuries ago and improved and commercialized by Edison in the 1880s -- virtually extinct by the middle of the next decade. The bill will phase out conventional incandescents, starting in 2012, with 100-watt bulbs, ultimately ceding the lighting market to more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Labels: , ,

Tourist... terrorist... let's call the whole thing off

Nobody's Business brings us, from the Chicago PD's own website, their newest flier outlining how to spot potential terrorists. Among the "suspicious" behaviors?

Physical Surveillance (note taking, binocular use, cameras, video, maps)

Glad they cleared that up. Now I can clear all those pesky tourists from around my office with a quick 911 phone call.

Presence of individuals who do not appear to belong in workplaces, business establishments, or near key facilities

So, the odd guy who managed to gain entry to our office and didn't know who he was looking for? Terrorist. Not to mention the homeless, the crack dealers, and other suspicious individuals who hang out downtown and don't belong to any business establishment--they're all terrorists, too.

Mapping out routes, playing out scenarios, monitoring key facilities, timing traffic lights

Gasp! I should be reporting myself! And all that public role playing I had planned for my future sex life is now off-limits, too. Damn.

Stockpiling suspicious materials or abandoning potential containers for explosives (e.g., vehicles, suitcases, etc)

I've been known to park my car and (horror!) walk away. So does everyone else I know who owns a vehicle. How would anyone know we're planning to return?

Van Bakel sums it up nicely:
If terrorists do their dirty work by spreading, well, terror, what should we call public servants who promote fear and unhinged suspicions by telling the public to report note takers, binoculars users, camera enthusiasts, map owners, and motorists who time traffic lights?

I'm so glad the Chicago PD has so simplified the definition of terrorist to include, well, pretty much everyone I see. Takes the guesswork out of it.

Labels: ,

06 December 2007

Puck you

The hockey weekend has now come and gone, and overall, it was worth the trip.

Saturday, I got up painfully early for my shuttle ride to the airport. This time I was prepared with small enough toiletries that I could comply with the 3-1-1 (3 oz bottles, 1 quart plastic bag, 1 person) nonsense imposed by the transportation security assholes.

The shuttle made one other stop, and off we went to the airport. Along the way, it started to snow--lightly, not really sticking. When I arrived at the airport, I queued up with the other lemmings to get "screened".

Lately I've found that they've added, deleted, and changed so many stipulations that I just don't know what to do with myself anymore, and it's frustrating because I'm usually so organized and together that I can just breeze right through the process. Remove my shoes or no? Liquids out or not? Coat on or off? The myriad of steps to do the security Hokey Pokey makes my head hurt.

When I flew to San Francisco, I forgot to take my house keys out of my pocket before walking through the metal detector--thankfully, nothing happened, and I didn't end up being felt up or getting an anal probe in a back room. This time through screening, I forgot to take out my plastic bag of toiletries and place them in a tray, and nearly forgot to take off my shoes. Fortunately, the screener running the x-ray machine cheerfully reminded me to take my liquids out of my suitcase (after my possessions had gone through, no less), and no one said anymore about it. On the way home, I nearly forgot to take off my shoes (I just LOVE having to partially undress at the airport), and again forgot to take my toiletries out of the suitcase. This time, the screeners reminded me of these things before me or my luggage went through the scanners. No harm done. But it's still all bullshit that doesn't make us any safer. Hell, it doesn't even accomplish its true goal, which is really to make me FEEL safer, not BE safer. *sigh*

We had a beautiful flight once we got past the gray sky blanketing most of the northwest. By the time the cloud layer broke, we were over central Oregon, and I was treated to a gorgeous view of a snow-covered Crater Lake and Mt. McLoughlin. We landed in Burbank without incident, the air surprisingly clean from the previous day's rain.

M. picked me up at curbside. I really do long for the days when family and friends could have meaningful reunions at the gate, instead of hurried greetings at curbside where the security thugs rush you along lest you conspicuously stop your vehicle for more than a few seconds. But off we went to Pasadena to buy our tickets for the Gamble House.

We had more than a few hours to kill after picking up our tour tickets, so we drove downtown and had coffee at a local shop. I was in dire need of a caffeinated pick-me-up after my 3AM awakening. The television in the shop kept updating a map of freeway traffic speeds throughout the metro area, which amused me. The coffee was good, the service was friendly, and we enjoyed a nice leisurely chat.

After that, we decided to waste a little more time by driving up to Mt. Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains. As a Pacific Northwesterner, I'm always amused when I see signs saying we've entered the Angeles National Forest, and all I can see are sage, scrub, and cacti, and nothing that might even remotely qualify as a tree in any form that I'll acknowledge.

Along the twisty highway we went, with the temperature steadily dropping as we climbed. Being the geology geek that I am, I watched the road cuts far more than the actual scenery, except in the few spots where we could get glimpses of shining Los Angeles spreading in all its expansive glory far below.

As we approached the observatory, we discovered that access to the public had ceased for the season the day before, and we weren't able to see much of LA because of the chilling fog blanketing the mountains. The temperature--33 degrees--made me a little chilly, but M. was positively freezing. You just can't take LA natives anywhere cold without them looking miserable. We stopped and walked a little way up the trail towards Mt. Lowe, but neither of us was really dressed for a long hike in that climate, and after a quick look around, we headed back down.

The Gamble House was everything I expected it to be. Having been an avid fan of A&E's America's Castles, this is the only home they've ever featured that, were I wealthy enough, I'd enjoy owning. It is vastly different from those pretentious, nauseatingly gaudy Victorian and Renaissance homes popular with industrial giants such as the Vanderbilts during America's Guilded Age. (For you Firefly fans, Gamble House's exterior was shown as Simon and River Tam's childhood home in the episode "Safe".)

Built in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble) and designed by architect brothers Charles and Henry Greene, it is a fascinating, gorgeous example of arts and crafts architecture. Seventeen different kinds of wood are found in the house, which features hand-carved wood inlays, and even small mahogany caps to cover metal joinery used in construction. Much of the house, however, uses no metal bolts or screws or nails of any kind, and, impressively enough, the house has needed little seismic retrofitting over the years. In fact, the most signifiant earthquake damage it has sustained over the past 99 years is a toppled chimney.

In the home's design, the architects incorporated several motifs that can be found throughout the house, such as the Gamble family crest: a rose and crane. Most of the rooms contain the original furniture, also designed by Greene and Greene specifically for Gamble House. Our docent also told us that David and Mary's son Cecil and his wife briefly considered selling the home in the 1940s, and had a buyer lined up, until his wife overheard the prospective owners discussing brightening the dark rooms by painting all the woodwork white!

After our tour, we headed back to M.'s place for a beer, stopped for dinner, and then braved the traffic into downtown LA. We were pretty fortunate to find a relatively cheap parking lot only a block from Staples Center. Once we found our seats, we purchased beers ($10.50 each!!!) and settled down to listen to the starting lineups. To my dismay (and more than a little cursing), Joe Sakic was a scratch for the Avs, and, to add insult to injury, they put Jose Theodore in the net. Theo isn't fit to play for Lucretia's Home for Wayward Fat Girls, much less a professional NHL team. I grumbled (silently) about this development all the way through the national anthem.

And my boys didn't get off to a great start, either. The Kings took the lead with two goals in the first period, and the Avs, despite one goal, were giving a lackluster performance on-ice.

But starting with the second period, they rebounded spectactularly, swarming the Kings 17 shots on goal, and they carried that momentum through the third, winning 5-2. I did my best not to gloat too much, and I gave M. a little friendly reminder that if he was a sore loser who made me sleep outside, he'd be sleeping outside in Washington on New Year's Eve. I think that got my point across in a teasing-but-serious way.

My only complaint lies with Theo, and to a degree, the Avs' defense. I couldn't believe the sheer number of shots that slid right through the crease in front of Theo and weren't capitalized on by the Kings. Theo is NOT a solid goalie, and I wish the Avs would dump him already. And if the D had been doing its job, the puck would never have entered the crease that much.

The next morning, I woke up with just enough time to shower and have M. take me to the airport for my flight back to Seattle. This time, I slept for much of the flight, once we flew over cloud cover (again, my inner geology geek had to look out the window until then). I arrived home to patches of snow, driving wind and rain, and an overwhelming relief to be out of the vast mess that is LA. But it was still worth the trip.


- Even the dumpiest apartments in LA have BMWs parked out front. It's clear where they spend their money, and what comes first on the list if they can't buy everything.

- LA is painfully, staggeringly image-conscious, which, to an outsider like me, is exhausting. I have neither the desire nor the inclination to play that game like LA residents play it.

- Driving around LA is an art, perfected over years. It's not just knowing how to drive, but where to drive, and which shortcuts to take, and which freeways are more likely to be empty at certain times of the day. Again, exhausting.

- Security in smaller airports is likely to be a little more relaxed. The screener barely looked at my ID before he stamped my boarding pass, and I swear he was about to nap at his post. But the airlines aren't anywhere near as organized when dealing with unscheduled events like flights that get canceled because of mechanical problems. When you're boarding, and it involves walking out onto the tarmac to board a 737, and the podium agents are reading off seat numbers and crossing things off a printed list by hand, you know you're in a small airport. Best be patient.