Quite A Spectacle

Last night was the night of the lunar eclipse.

lunar eclipse.jpg

Even though it looked as if a cloud cover would obstruct the view, in the end the sky was clear enough to watch the moon wander through the Earth’s shadow, disappear and appear again.

Watching this I was reminded of the total solar eclipse in August 1999. At that time I was at the University of Cambridge in the UK and lectures stopped for all of us to go outside and watch this rather rare “special performance.”

What struck me most was not so much the drop in light level – that was to be expected and was quite remarkable, even somewhat eerie. It did not get really pitch dark, but noticeably grey (for lack of a better word) and it felt as if temperatures had dropped quite a bit. The totally unexpected thing was that at one point the birds stopped singing. Apparently, for them, the drop in light level and temperature was the usual signal to stop their racket and settle in for the night. Which they did, at least for a short while. Once the eclipse was over, the usual chattering and singing was heard again. Maybe some of the birds even complained: “What’s up? Short night, blimey.”

Much more complaining certainly went on down in Devon and Cornwall. Those who had traveled down there to watch this rare event were disappointed twice: weather conditions were not good and getting back was near to impossible, as all major roads were gridlocked with rather miffed eclipse watchers.

I assume the twittering down there was rather more graphic than that of the birds on the lecture site in Cambridge.

Not A Good Move After All

A coffee in the middle of the afternoon over a game of chess in a café tucked away in a remote corner of Glendale. Real cups, comfortable chairs. Other people at other tables engaged in quiet conversation. No noise. No laptops.

Hold it there. No laptops.

A couple of years ago I was all for hot spots everywhere. Yes, Wi-Fi the city, all cities, make the internet accessible everywhere for everybody all the time. My outlook has changed. I do not want to have people hogging all the seats in all the coffee places with their laptops. I can understand taking the laptop to a library to do some work on some research. Business travelers at an airport – yes, by all means, use those empty hours while waiting for the flight to do some work. But a café is different, at least in my opinion. I go there to have some coffee and relax. Have a quiet chat. Read the papers. Play chess. Fill up on the latest delicious gossip from the latest party. Nowadays however it is hard to find a place which does not look like an office with people tapping away on their computers.

So my excitement from a few years ago has changed to the opinion that Wi-Fi everywhere is not a good move.

Incidentally, this opening wasn’t either. White lost. Ouch.


Weather Patterns

Weather patterns here in our region are very simple – the weather is good all year round with a few colder days in winter and some rain between October and March, with most of the precipitation falling from January on.

We also have something called ‘June Gloom.” Nasty minded people not from the region insist that this is just a nicer name for smog. Well, let them wag their tongues, but the June Gloom is a natural phenomenon easily explained:

Around the middle of May, when the inland temperatures are already quite high, the Ocean temperatures are slowly rising, too. Marine clouds form, which are then blown towards the coast, settling there in the morning. By noon all clouds have then burned away and it is sunny as always. This condition prevails until approximately end of June.

This morning, however, we had real fog. The palm trees looked quite pretty in this soft gray and cloudy light. But by 7:25 AM the fun had ended – it was a typical California morning again, with blue skies and sunshine.


Huzita-Hatori Axioms

“The axioms assume that the operations are completed on a plane (i.e. a perfect piece of paper), and that all folds are linear.”

That is one way to describe origami. I like the hands on approach better:


This beautiful collection (only parts of it are shown) came from Boston via Burbank to L.A. Thank you, what a wonderful gift.

Lotus, fish, turtles, cranes… such delicate examples of an old art still very much alive today. So very much alive that even the mathematicians could not keep away from it. Although I must say – any origami master would probably tell me that the secret is indeed a linear fold without having to throw out some complicated formulas of the axioms.

Don't Mess With Nature

We finally had the long desired rains. Lots of it. Good. We are at 97 % of normal rain levels in downtown Los Angeles after two years of drought conditions. The last year was the most severe.

The dreaded mud slides in the burn areas (from the fires last October) did not happen. Good.

But even in the city, far away from burn zones and hills prone to mud slides one can see examples of what happens when man messes with Nature.


This is a California Pepper tree (Schinus molle). Despite the name it is not a native tree, its natural habitat are the Peruvian Andes. It became very popular in California because it is a fast growing tree and drought resistant. Perfect for SoCal, one might think – hey, let’s plant them everywhere. Which is exactly what happened. Hence the name California Pepper tree.

However, dear Schinus molle is not quite as perfect as one might think. Even though the foliage stays lushly green even with very little to no water, spending lovely shade, the branches and the trunk react in a different way – they hollow out and become brittle. The root system of the tree is another weak point, it is rather shallow and does not work itself very deeply into the ground. Why should it? Coming from the Andes, you don’t dig deep for water through rocks and stuff, you spread out to get whatever water you can gain from the surface seeping down.

So there you have it: A rather large tree, the perfect picture of health with full foliage, but with brittle, hollow branches and trunk and a root system only about a foot deep. Along come heavy rains with quite strong winds and… well, see photo above.

In the end Nature always has the upper hand.

Delayed By Parcel In Burbank


Sometimes a trip to the airport can be an interesting experience, provided one does not need to catch a plane. Today was one such example, attempting to drop off friends who had to fly home. As they did have to catch a plane, they could have done with a lot less of “interesting.”

Apparently a suspicious parcel had been found in the terminal. That resulted in an evacuation of the building and the surrounding area. A bomb squad moved in and took care of the parcel, which was found to contain a small TV set. (This information is unconfirmed, but was given by an airline employee.) Suspicious parcel-scare over, business returned to normal and the whole incident didn’t last too long anyway.

The interesting fact however was this: The day before an anime convention had begun at a hotel near the airport. So amongst the many passengers milling around outside the airport waiting for some kind of information about their flights were quite a few convention goers who for some reason or other had to leave earlier. They were easy to spot, they wore full anime regalia.

Which leads to the question: What rattles a check-in employee more – a bomb scare or Mituki Shinomiya and Itachi Uchiha turning up at the counter?

Isn't It Romantic?


Candles glowing in the dark always conjure up such romantic images. These candles were lit to greet the first power outage of the rainy season. They were first and foremost an emergency measure, not so much lit to cast a warm glow on a dreamy winter evening.

Yes, even though it is hard to believe, all it takes is a little rain (oops, a rain storm) and whole areas lose their power. The electric power, I mean. No true Angeleno loses inner power over such a trifle as a few hours without electricity. They improvise. They love the challenge. They cherish this sense of adventure. They are cool.

I, not being a true Angeleno, rely on my big bad Back-UPS. Once the computers are all safely shut down without loss of any data (the mother of all nightmares) I reach inside me and out come: improvisation skills, love of challenge, sense of adventure. I am not so sure about cool. After all, I am still an Angeleno in training.

And then, then it is time for a lovely glass of wine, sipped in the warm glow of candles. It is also a very interesting occasion to contemplate how people read before the introduction of electricity or even gas or oil lamps and such.

Lesson learned: Reading by candlelight is not something one wants to do every evening.

Chapeau, Metro

Yes, that is a good move. Excellent and to the point.


  • Leave the Driving to Metro

Metro will offer a special Holiday Free Fare Program for all Metro Bus and Metro Rail lines operating on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The free fare program, approved by Metro’s Board of Directors, will be in effect between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. only on the nights and early morning hours of December 24-25 and December 31-January 1.

Patrons boarding a Metro Bus, including the Metro Orange Line or the Metro Red, Purple, Blue, Green or Gold rail lines during the hours designated will receive a free ride to their destination.

The free rides are being offered during this period to promote safety during the holiday season. Metro is an option for people attending holiday parties so they don’t have to drive.

Metro’s fleet of more than 2,200 buses, The Metro Orange Line, a dedicated bus transitway in the San Fernando Valley and Metro Rail lines offer patrons alternatives to driving solo in their vehicles with convenient travel opportunities throughout the region.

The Metro Purple Line operates from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Wilshire/Western and the Metro Red Line from Union Station to North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley. The Metro Blue Line operates from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles, the Metro Green Line runs between Norwalk and El Segundo and the Metro Gold Line operates between Union Station and Pasadena.

For complete route and schedule information patrons can call 1-800-C-O-M-M-U-T-E or visit Metro’s web site and access the Metro Trip Planner at www.metro.net.