Is The Future Streamlined? (Part 2)

Sadly the Encounter Restaurant at LAX has been closed for at least six months. This came on the radio news today.

The reason seems to be some structural difficulty; a 1,000-pound piece of stucco fell off the underside of one of the arches.

Hopefully the damage can and will be be repaired. On the other hand, knowing the speed with which buildings disappear in this city, I am not quite sure whether it will be repaired.

I am hoping for the best. The Encounter is one of the landmarks of Los Angeles, dearly loved by many Angelenos. Even though we poke fun at it – but always with a smile.

Pretty Critters (Part IV)

Last September this pretty critter

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was kind enough to share his habitat with us. He was one of several roadrunners living in front of a holiday bungalow we stayed at.

Roadrunners are uniquely adapted to life in the desert. They are also fun to watch. One late afternoon I saw this particular bird snatch and eat three dragonflies and two lizards. The MO was always the same:

o stroll over the grass

o pretend to be totally oblivious to one’s surroundings

o walk by a bushy hedge several times

o jump up suddenly

o stick beak into hedge

o descend with food in beak

o eat

o don’t mind wriggling tails or flapping wings

The lesson I learned from this: if one gets reborn as a small lizard or dragonfly, never hang out in a bush without making sure first that no roadrunners are around. Those blighters sure have sharp eyes and quite an appetite.

Thank you, Ma'am

Thank you, Mrs. Barnsdale, that is. Aline Barnsdale.
Thank you for being interested in the arts und independently wealthy
enough to commission Frank Lloyd Wright to build a house for you.

Hollyhock House.

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Hollyhock House was the first structure FLW built in Southern California,
one of eight buildings ultimately built by him in and around Los Angeles. Only quite
recently Hollyhock House has been reopened to the public after lengthy
and thorough restoration works. This project included not only the building
itself, but also the restoration and/or replication of furniture and
artworks.

The House in Barnsdale Park is well worth a visit, or two, or three. The superb
combination of architecture and the surrounding landscape is quite breathtaking.
FLW knew a thing or two about extending the living area to the outside and
bringing the outside into the interior. Right now the surrounding gardens are
being redone and hopefully in a few months time the ensemble will be complete
again.

There is only one sad fact about Hollyhock House: Mrs. Barnsdale and FLW came
to loggerheads over it. Both had their very distinct ideas about this project
and the final outcome did not overly please Mrs. Barnsdale. FLW had, in a way,
won the battle but lost this particular war – Mrs. Barnsdale lived only
a few short years in the house and then donated it to the city of Los Angeles
as a place for the arts.

So, once again, thank you Mrs. Barnsdale; for the house, the park and the
headache you went through to give us Angelenos all of this.

We appreciate it very much.

(A 30 minute video about the restoration project can be viewed here.)

Today's Weather

New York: Fair, 26 F (-3 C)

Chicago: Partly cloudy, 7 F (-14 C)

Lawrence: Cloudy, 29 F (-2 C)

Dallas: Cloudy, 44 F (7 C)

Salt Lake City: Cloudy, 50 F (10 C)

Los Angeles:

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A Mantra, A Fence and A Lot of Water

My mantra is “No, Los Angeles is not just freeways and cars.”

Contrary to widespread opinion one can find a lot of beautiful spots in the city. One such little gem is the Rowena Reservoir. It is also an example for a few interesting facts re. city development and neighborhood activities.

In 1992 the city passed a new ordinance that all open reservoirs had to be drained and were to be replaced by tanks. That made sense in an area threatened by earthquakes. The plan for the Rowena Reservoir was to drain the 31 million gallons of water stored there and to put in a new storage tank for 10 million gallons.

Above ground.

To be able to imagine the size of such a tank, one only has to do a few calculations to come up with numbers quite mind-boggling – that would be a cube with an edge length of 33 meters (or 108 feet). Even a tank only 16.5 m high (54 feet) would still have a length of 66 m (216 feet) and a width of 16.5 m (54 feet). Any variation whatsoever leads to the same result – a tank for 10 million gallons of water is a humongous structure.

To be placed above ground.

Understandably, people in the neighborhood were concerned and protested, which lead to talks with the Department of Water and Power. Incidentally, this was the very first instance for such cooperation between the DWP and citizens of LA. In due course an alternative plan was agreed upon: to drain the lake, put in a storage tank for 10 million gallons below ground, landscape the area, fill up a new, smaller lake and fence the whole area in, so that nobody can use it. For safety reasons, you know…

2002 the work was finished. The Rowena Reservoir is beautiful. To look at, quite longingly, but not to use. Unless one is a duck.

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However, a tank above ground would have been much, much worse. There are also rumors that talks have begun about opening access for the public to the area. Maybe in another 10 years one can see a photo of the reservoir here sans fence.

I am sure that the DWP will then have to put up with a lot of complaining ducks.

My Favorite Month of Rugby

Irish Rugby

We’ve been subscribing to Setanta Sports through DirectTV for a year now. They air all the Rugby that’s fit to watch, including Magner’s League, Premiership and Super 14. All very high level and watchable at times, but this time of year is the time for the very best: Heineken Cup and Six Nations.

After watching the Heineken Cup drama of 2006 with both Leinster and Munster going for the cup vs. the best of English and French Rugby, I was hooked. Seeing these teams fight it out in the Magner’s League paled in comparison. Both teams are still in it this year, but not favored. I’m beginning to appreciate the Llanelli (Wales) Scarlets after watching them dominate Ulster and London Irish.

This month the Heineken Cup takes a break for Six Nations Rugby. This is the year for Irish Rugby fans. 2006 was slightly satisfying, with Ireland taking the Triple Crown (wins over England, Scotland and Wales). This year should see them seal the deal over France. The best Irish players are at their peak: O’Gara, O’Driscoll, O’Connell. Oh my.

England is falling back on some old geezers, trying to capture the faded glory of 2003 and Jonny fever. Good luck with that. France is dropping out of the race, despite all their brilliance last year. The big test for Ireland will be this weekend vs. Wales. Thank goodness for Tivo.

Wildlife in the City

Take a walk in Griffith Park and this is the view:

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One gets a very good impression of how this huge area of unchanged natural habitat nestles right here into the city. One can observe a wide variety of wildlife – from woodpeckers to Red-Tailed Hawks, from lizards to snakes, from bunny rabbits and deer to – yes, coyotes.

Coyotes have been here forever. It’s their land, so to say. They live and thrive and multiply. That’s what coyotes do. They also leave the park now and then and wander down into residential regions. First of all, it is their land and second, food is quite easy to find. The odd small pet gets caught and taken away. Ever since I saw the spectacle of two coyotes trying to round up a cat in a residential street, I know. Granted, the coyotes were young and somewhat inexperienced and the cat was a true city cat, thus thumbing its nose at the intruders while making a clean getaway. Interesting was that this happenend on a Thanksgiving afternoon. Maybe the two young coyotes wanted to have a barbeque – and there are more cats in LA than turkeys.

So, yes, they do come down from the park for food. Lately however, they seem to become more sophisticated. Coyotes have been seen on Melrose. For a spot of shopping? Where would they go? To “Aardvark” for some retro fashion or to “Urban Outfitter” for the latest in city chic?

A Luxury Commodity?

Will the tasty but quite humble orange

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soon become a fruit affordable on the income of the more affluent only?

The recent cold wave had some devastating effects on the California citrus industry in the San Joaquin Valley. Temperatures dropped as low as the middle teens to near 20 degree F for three nights running. According to reports there was close to 1 Billion dollars of fruit on the trees before the frost hit (on 1/12/2007) with 70 % of the crop damaged now. Lemons with their thin skins and low sugar content are even worst hit than oranges, the strawberry crop is badly affected, as are the flowers and avocados being grown in the valley.

The effects of this loss will soon be felt in the stores. Grocery stores, that is. Maybe some clever entrepeneurial spirit will come up with the idea of a device to wear an orange like a brooch and make a killing of another kind with this:

“Orange, the New Platinum.”

Strange and Lovely

The desert is strange. One knows that there is an abundance of life out there and wonders how flora and fauna survive. Because survive they certainly do, have done so and will forever.

The desert is lovely. One only has to become atuned to the different scale of climate, distance and color. That might take a while, or happen rather swiftly. For me, it was love at first sight.

How can it not, with vistas like this:

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Here are some more informations about Joshua Trees and Joshua Tree National Park.