First and foremost, happy new year to you all. I hope it’s a good, blessed one for many of you. :p

So, kidding aside, hopefully you rang in the new year in whatever way you wanted to ring it in. As for me, I traveled….again. It’s somewhat of a common theme, in between those new years eve nights where I literally do nothing aside from having a beer and/or glass of champagne while watching TV. On the more exciting occasions, I’ve celebrated NYE in Times Square, Washington DC, Cincinnati, and now San Francisco. It was a blast (no pun intended, considering the fireworks!) Let me tell you alllll about it.

 

Rearview Mirror Reflection of Clouds

Reflections on the Past


 

So, the first stop on this roadtrip, six hours north of home, was Napa Valley. The last (and only) time I had been there, I was 17. When you’re that age, wineries aren’t very fun. Back then, I was offered a lovely tasting of water. It was a real bummer, as my father and brother lived the life of connoisseurs, analyzing the wine bouquet and notes of lovely-sounding things like chocolate and berries.

As for this recent visit, the quick stop in Napa was sort of a letdown. The area is always so hyped up, but I didn’t find it to be any more impressive than the central California/Santa Barbara-area wineries. Both areas are beautiful, and in both regions you’ll find a combo of hits and misses. Also, it’s worth noting that tastings in Napa are more expensive than the other wine regions I’ve visited. At some places, the pours are very conservative, and you might only get to taste three wines for $20. I’ve read that some Napa tastings even run about $40!

A coworker highly recommended Gott’s Roadside (formerly called Taylor’s Refresher), which is a small, three-store burger joint. On location is in Napa, another is in St. Helena (near Mondavi Winery), and the third is in San Francisco. We stopped at the St. Helena location and, despite the frigid temperature, there was a long line at the outdoor order window. It didn’t take too long to figure out why the place was so hoppin’… it was delicious! My Wisconsin Sourdough burger and onion rings seemed really fresh, and excess grease was minimal. That’s not to say I didn’t feel sick to my stomach a while later, after gorging myself… but that’s my bad.

 

From there, the next notable destination was the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. My first impression was the location was really surprising. Photos seem to give the feeling that it’s fairly isolated or perhaps situated at the forefront of a suburban neighborhood. That’s not really the case at all. Rather, the home is effectively surrounded by a business/mall complex, movie theaters, and a freeway. Except for the heavy mall traffic on a Saturday night, that discovery wasn’t off-putting or anything… just very different from what was expected.

 
Rear View of Winchester Mystery House in San Jose
 

Taking the first Grand Tour of the morning was probably a wise move. The group seemed small – about 10 people – and, for the basement tour, there were four of us. The tour guide was expecting 12, so it was great to have that more-personal attention. The basement wasn’t too exciting, except for seeing how much the wood beams supporting the house wore down during the 1906 earthquake.

As for the main tour, I really enjoyed it. Imaging little ol’ Mrs. Winchester (it’s said she was 4′ 10″) wandering the corridors, forever trying to appease the spirits, was really something. The architecture is beautiful, and the monstrosity of the house is amazing, yet the mansion didn’t have that creepy factor like I always expected. It was a daytime tour, though, so maybe that had something to do with it. And maybe my previous work on Ghost Hunters has made me a little more skeptical of those types of situations. Weird, unexplainable occurrences have happened – I can attest to that – but they are so few and far between that you can’t anticipate much.

 

San Francisco was next on the agenda. I had been warned against driving in the city, due to parking being next to impossible. Maybe it was a fluke due to the holidays and such, but it worked out okay.

 
Golden Gate Bridge Wide
 

The first night, we parked a few blocks south of the marina. It was right at 7 PM, and as I was about to put coins in the meter, the light on it stopped flashing and it shut off. So did all the other meters up the street. Free parking and perfect timing! Cha-ching! So, metered parking isn’t 24/7, which can help save you some cash.

Ending up in the same neighborhood the following day, I discovered some free, 4 hour max. parking near Ghirardelli Square. We parked there, spent a couple hours biking to and across the Golden Gate Bridge, moved the car to a different parking spot, and spent a couple hours at dinner. It worked out great.

 
Night View of Golden Gate Bridge
 

As the day started to wind down and the New Years Eve festivities were starting to pick up, we headed east. We finally had to pay for garage parking, and walked to the Embarcadero. 200,000 revelers fill up that area every year for New Years Eve, so it was pretty wild. Plenty of people had apparently spent the hours leading up to midnight at the bar, so there was a lot of inebriated energy in the air.

 
San Francisco Ferry Building
 

With the giant crowd concentrated near the Ferry Building, we headed up the street and staked out a spot on Pier 3. It turned out to be perfect, as the firework display looked awesome with the Bay Bridge as the backdrop.

 
New Years Eve Fireworks over San Francisco Bay
 

Overall, it was a great, quick roadtrip but a great way to end one year and kick off a new one. Have a great year, everyone. Cheers!

 
Painted Ladies Row Houses in San Fran
 

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This is one of those days I say a thankful prayer for. Alongside a huge group of giddy residents, I chased the retired space shuttle Endeavour as it was being transported from the Los Angeles International Airport to its new home at the California Science Center. The move is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. No doubt, more space vehicles will be retired one day, but there will never again be another space shuttle moved through the streets of L.A. Here are some photos (and a video) I took today:

 

Retired Space Shuttle Endeavour on the last leg of its new home in Los Angeles at the California Science Center.

 

Space Shuttle Endeavour Name Badge

Closeup of the Endeavour cockpit area and entrance hatch

 

Space Shuttle Endeavour’s three main engines and two Orbital Maneuvering System pods.

 

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villiagarosa welcoming Endeavour in front of the California Science Center – Oct. 14, 2012

 

Young girl wears a Space Shuttle inflatable hat behind Endeavour

Walking behind Endeavour and loving the inflatable space shuttle hat!

 

 

Luke Wilson must be a fan of the Space Shuttle, too.

All this talk about the space shuttle Endeavour coming to L.A. is pretty exciting. Like a ton of kids, I had dreams of piloting a mission to the moon or beyond, or even just floating around on the space station in an 18,000 MPH orbit.

These days, the constant coverage of the shuttle piggybacked atop a modified 747 Jumbo Jet has got me wracking my brain, trying to figure out if I might be able to look to the skies and see it chug along. But timetables keep changing, and the L.A. arrival of Endeavour has been delayed yet again because fog is expected in……San Francisco. Dang you, San Fran! The shuttle is currently about 100 miles NE, at Edwards Air Force Base. So, sensibly, the shuttle will be ferried nearly 400 miles NW tomorrow to San Francisco, then nearly 400 more miles south to Los Angeles. Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that this was all originally planned for a Thursday. A Thursday! In the middle of the day! Now it’s changed to a Friday. In the middle of the day! I sent a Twitter message to NASA, pointing out that the unemployment rate here is high, but it’s not THAT high. People here work, especially in the middle of the day!

Anyhow, at the very least, I feel extremely honored and blessed to have seen the space shuttle “Discovery” launch back in 2008. I won a Blue Man Group sweepstakes trip to Orlando that I could never recall entering… but after verifying it was legit and knowing that you could see a shuttle liftoff from the other side of Florida, I looked up the space shuttle launch calendar and specifically scheduled the trip around one of those dates.

From 60 miles away, the shuttle was like a fireball rising in the sky. It was so cool, even despite the distance. Eventually, the smoke trail stopped, and the shuttle was a small, white dot flying on a higher and higher arc. Eventually, like watching a jet crossing the sky, the shuttle got smaller and smaller until it just disappeared. You can see most of that in the video I shot below.

The whole experience was rather simple, but it really left a lasting impression. Although there’s so much negativity out there in the world, it can sure be refreshing and intriguing to consider human ingenuity and the good we’re capable of.
 

 
 
UPDATE! 9/21/12
Okay, so I take some of what I said back. As it turns out, I was incredibly blessed (yet again) and had a bunch of cards fall into place. It’s really rare for me to work in Hollywood, but today I ended up doing just that. Additionally, the Endeavour was originally scheduled to land in Los Angeles yesterday/Thursday but, due to weather, that got pushed to today. Jackpot! That meant I was in Hollywood while the space shuttle was strutting around town.

It was the hovering helicopters and people on all kinds of high-rise rooftops that tipped me off that I needed to be scanning the skies. While driving on La Brea, south of Santa Monica Blvd., I spotted the shuttle on its carrier in the haze. “Are you freakin’ kidding me? That’s all I’m gonna get?” I thought to myself. Turning down a side street to try to catch another look, I got cut off by two garbage trucks and decided to continue on to the next work destination.

The rooftop there was filled with people, and all the people pointing made it easy to keep track of the shuttle’s approximate location. So there I just stood in the parking lot. Endeavour, the 747 it was mounted on, and two military chase jets made one pass and then did so again after a couple minutes.

I wish I would have been sharing that moment with someone, anyone, because it was so astonishing and unreal. I could feel the adrenaline jolting through my body, and profanities were spilling out of my mouth. I didn’t know a moment like this could cause me to be mistaken for a pirate.

Endeavour on its Final Mission

Vasquez Rocks!

08/10/2012

I dipped out of work a little early yesterday, telling the bosses I had something to do. Considering it was a slow day, the fact that I get no official time off, and we all-too-often work the standard 12 hour day (standard in our line of work, that is), they understood and didn’t ask any questions. I packed up my bag and made the 15 mile drive to the Vasquez Rocks for a photo mission.

If you aren’t familiar with this particular geologic structure, it’s a collection of smallish, sandstone mountains that have shot diagonally out of the earth. The rocks have been used in numerous productions over the years like Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, NCIS, 24, Roswell, Blazing Saddles, The Big Bang Theory, Power Rangers, Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video, etc.! etc.! etc.!

Sometimes I am a little long-winded, so I am going to post a few photos and let them do most of the talking.

 

 

 

 

The middle photo gives the best perspective for demonstrating how large these formations are. They are a pretty easy climb, and it’s so peaceful atop the peaks. They even have a haunting whistle when the wind is blowing, in a way similar to blowing on the top of a bottle. It’s worth a quick visit if you’ve never been and ever get the chance.

The Vasquez Rocks are located in northern Los Angeles County, about 40 miles north of Hollywood. If you go hiking in the area, bring plenty of water and watch out for rattlesnakes!

What a great gift! For my birthday last year, my lady bought (us, technically) a voucher for a hot air balloon ride in Temecula, CA. It was going to expire at the end of this month, so we booked a ride about a month ago. That fell through, as the weather didn’t cooperate, so we ended up rebooking for yesterday.

I had imagined it as being just the two of us and the pilot. In fact, it was us, the pilot, a co-pilot, two other couples, a pair of brothers, and a pair of sisters…. quite different from what I expected!

We all met at a winery at 5:30 AM, and we were then driven to the launch site in an open field a few miles away. It took probably a half-hour to get the balloon set up and we were up, up, and away!

Temecula Hot Air Balloon

Inflating the Hot Air Balloon

There was a heavy marine layer at about 900 ft. so, while the balloon was up in the clouds, we were hanging just below it. The pilot occasionally took us completely up into the clouds so he could get a better feel for how the wind was blowing. I have driven through fog more times than I can count, but it’s a completely different feeling to be floating through through the clouds.

The scenery was gorgeous, with huge estates, vineyards, and grapefruit groves for as far as the eye could see (and the marine layer would allow). At one point, the pilot took us way down, and we gently glided over a vineyard. We were so close you could see grapes on the vines, and my photos look like they were taken from a ladder.

Temecula Vineyard

Flying Over a Vineyard

When the hour-long flight was coming to an end, the balloon was guided down to a field. From there, the ground crew grabbed a hold onto the basket and steered us right onto the trailer! It felt even more calculated than an aircraft carrier landing… pretty amazing.

Fruit Basket at a Temecula Winery

Celebratory champagne (mimosa) post-successful hot air balloon landing

I had never heard very much about the wine in Temecula. Most winos I know haven’t been there, whereas they have all been to Santa Barbara for tastings, and many of them have been even further north to Napa. It now seems like Temecula is a well-kept secret. My expectations were admittedly low, but much of the wine I tried was really, really good. We have never joined a wine club before but couldn’t resist on this trip. I’m looking forward to getting my first, two-bottle shipment in August!

The longer I am here, the smaller the city seems. At first, it seemed like this vast, never-ending land. I guess it is really big, but Los Angeles becomes smaller based on what parts of it apply to you. I don’t really factor in parts south of the city like Compton and such, anything east of downtown, and northeastern parts other people might consider like Sherman Oaks. Even North Hollywood seems like a stretch because I hardly go there and become is seems weird that Hollywood and North Hollywood are separated not only by a giant mountain, but also by Studio City and the Valley Village neighborhood.

Also, the longer I stay, the more dull it becomes. Every once in a while, I look at the Hollywood sign and think “I’m really glad to be here – I could be in Ohio.” But at other times I wish I were in Ohio. I guess the magic gets lost when you’ve hit up all the tourist spots countless times. I have taken family and friends to see Hollywood Boulevard – Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the legendary clubs (the Whiskey, Roxy, Viper Room, etc.) – the barely visible Playboy Mansion, the former (Aaron and Candy) Spelling Mansion, Paramount/Warner Bros./Universal, the Santa Monica Pier, and the freak show in Venice…not the one you have to pay for, but the free one outside along the boardwalk.

I suppose not enough time is spent at some of these places as the guests might like. I should ask, because the visit is really about them. As a host, it seems difficult to find a rigamarole of things to do because all the aforementioned sites can be seen in a day on a driving tour.

This all comes about because some visitors will be here next week, so it’s back to the drawing board again. Come to think of it, LACMA is nearby and often goes overlooked. They have the cool city light sculpture……and really that’s about all that’s there that excites me. I have no intention of turning this into a tirade or anything, but I wish the Getty Center and LACMA could swap places. The Getty is free and has priceless, massively famous art, while LACMA seems to be more of a collection of a bunch of huge buildings that don’t seems to contain a whole lot. Maybe that’s because they waste so much space. I used to have a membership and recall one entire room filled with nothing but a giant, weaving steel sheet that was like ten feet tall or whatever. Another building is totally devoted to simple Japanese paintings. The Tim Burton exhibit was cool but, after a while, it all started to look the same, in a similar way to the simple Japanese paintings. So maybe LACMA isn’t such a great idea, except for those lights.

One place that always seems to be worth the trip is the Greystone Mansion. Nestled in the actual hills of Beverly Hills, the huge property built by the notorious Doheny family is meticulously maintained and was probably used, in some way, in one of your favorite movies or shows. Plus it’s free to park and walk around. You can’t beat that.

The Griffith Observatory is another good option. On nights when they have star parties, which happen once a month, cars are parked on the shoulder way down the winding canyon road. Despite all the people, it’s a lot of fun. Amateur astronomers bring out their huge telescopes and everyone patiently waits in line for a turn to look at Saturn, the moon, stars locked together in a gravitational pull, or whatever. And like the Greystone, it’s all free.

Okay, okay, I take it back. I take it all back that there isn’t anything fun to do in L.A. anymore…that the magic has worn off. I guess once the dust settles and everything becomes familiar, that’s when it becomes important to step back and told another look at what you have.

Frivolity

04/18/2012

It breaks my heart a little bit to think about the rather asinine, incomprehensible choices people sometimes make. Police pursuits aren’t exactly unheard of here in Los Angeles, but they really should be. It’s one thing to think you can outrun another car, but when a helicopter gets involved, the little chase over is effectively over. The LAPD always has a presence in the skies, so any manhunt or pursuit can be followed from a much different perspective in a matter of minutes.

The latest police chase making headlines took place last week north of L.A. – in Woodland Hills – which resulted in the death of 19-year-old motorist Abdul Arian. Police had attempted to pull Arian over for reckless driving. He then fled, and a police chase ensued. When his car finally came to a stop, Arian exited the vehicle and ran, backpedaling and putting both hands up in front of him – in the same “aggressive shooting stance” manner the LAPD proclaims. Ultimately, the police fired 120 bullets at the driver, who turned out to be unarmed. Arian’s family is now suing the Los Angeles Police Department for $120 million.

News footage of the pursuit can be found online and, if the family were to watch it, they would see the young man trying to outrun the police and witness the aggressive actions he took just before he was gunned down. There is no need to seek “justice” in this case because there is nothing that needs justified. Ignorance IS NOT bliss and truth will ultimately prevail.

It really is a shame that this young man’s family has to deal with such an aftermath. No doubt, for them, there are more questions than answers, and some of the usual, defensive positions are being taken: “He didn’t even own a gun” and “The police responded with excessive force.” To address the latter notion, the police did what they had to do to eliminate a threat. Whether it was perceived or real in this case doesn’t matter because Arian clearly made it look as though he was brandishing a firearm. There is no simply no reason to hold a cell phone – or anything – and point it at officers who are already under duress.

The fact that there is even a lawsuit seems to demonstrate that some people will do anything for money. Quite frankly, the family should be embarrassed to look past most of the facts in this case and simply say “The police killed my boy, and they didn’t have to.” But the point is, the police had to protect themselves from a lunatic that called 911 during a car chase and said “If they (the police) pull their guns, I’m gonna have to pull my gun out on them.”

Updated (6/28/12):

Levitated Mass rock, LACMA, Los Angeles

Walking on the way to CBS last Friday, I noticed something – there sat the “Levitated Mass” rock all by itself, uncovered and alone, with temporary fencing still around the premises. I thought it odd that there had seemingly been no fanfare or updates about it lately. In order to not be late to my meeting, I planned on snapping some pictures of the exhibit on the way back home.

In the few hours that had passed, though, the giant rock had been covered back up by what was basically the biggest car cover you’d see ’cause, you know, it was customized for a boulder. At that moment, workers were tying up the strings at the bottom. “That’s so weird they’re covering it back up,” I thought.

I made another trip to CBS on Monday, and the temporary fencing and rock’s “car cover” were gone. People were happily walking down the slope, taking photos, and discussing Levitated Mass and all the challenges and criticism the exhibit brought.

Now having walked under it and checked it out, I still don’t get it. As you walk down the slope, it’s supposed to appear as if the boulder is floating. Well, that’s pretty dang hard to imagine, considering it’s supported on two sides. Maybe you can see it, but I can’t.

Anyway, I am happy to be so close to something that some people out there would like to see. I get the desire, but I advise against making a special trip to see the exhibit! Overall, LACMA is pretty lacking compared to the Getty Museum (which is free!), but LACMA sometimes does offer great exhibits, and the La Brea Tar Pits are also right next door. It’s free to visit Levitated Mass, and that makes it the best part.

Original Post (3/10/12):

Levitated Mass rock by J Kilmer
Levitated Mass rock, a photo by J Kilmer on Flickr.

Apparently some people still haven’t yet heard about this utterly chaotic display the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is working on. It’s a 340 ton boulder that, as of this morning, has just completed the 11 day, 100+ mile trek from a quarry in Riverside, CA to here – the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles.

The move required a massive trailer contraption with 196 wheels, powered by three trucks, and was moved only during the night so as to not bump up L.A. traffic a notch, from really, really bad to really, really, really bad. Light poles and traffic lights had to be taken down along the way and certain bridges and roads had to be avoided since, of course, 680,000 lbs. greatly exceeds the weight a typical truck might be hauling on any random day.

Given the $10,000,000 price tag for the whole operation, the whole thing seems kinda….stupid. Thankfully, however, funding came from private donations, and I will give it a fair chance once the exhibit opens at LACMA.

What comes next is the rock will be moved parallel to the display and, somehow, will be hoisted onto its supports. “Levitated Mass,” as it’s to be called, will consist of the large boulder with a channel running underneath it, so that visitors can walk under the rock.

It’s expected that the exhibit will open sometime during this coming summer.

LACMA
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Levitated Mass rock, LACMA, Los Angeles

The channel where the Levitated Mass boulder will rest

Levitated Mass, LACMA, Los Angeles

196 wheels and a whole bunch of axles

Computers Vs. Taxes

03/08/2012

$20 bills by J Kilmer

I almost bought a nice, shiny, brand new computer last night. Due to some shipping restrictions set by the retailer, this purchase has been in the works for quite some time now. I thought everything was finally squared away…until reaching the “purchase now” page and seeing that additional $78 tax tacked on to the price. Oh yeah, there’s that.

I live in Los Angeles. We have one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation. One of the security guards at work was recently telling me of a trip to Colorado and how the 2% sales tax was really conducive to spending more.

It’s all relative, and things are much, much different here at home. I moved to California from the Midwest a couple years ago and left the TV behind. Although it certainly made the relocation a little simpler, the 3.25% higher tax rate and eWaste disposal fee significantly added to the cost of the modest 32″ replacement TV I bought. By the way, you have to pay the disposal fee regardless of whether you are disposing of an old TV or not. Thinking about it, it’s rather interesting to consider how many different taxes and fees our (cash-strapped) governments collect from us. Here are some of the common ones I pay on:

-gasoline (county, state, and federal tax)
-electricity (City of L.A. Bureau  of Sanitation Charges, Energy Subsidy charge, City of L.A. Utility Tax, State of California Energy Surcharge, Multi-Family Bulky Item Fee)
-natural gas (State Regulatory Fee, Public Purpose Surcharge, L.A. City Users Tax)
-income taxes (local, state, and federal + Medicare, FICA and CA State Disability Insurance)
-groceries (local and state)
-property (built in to rent)
-phone (Utility Use tax, 911 tax, California High Cost Fund – A, California High Cost Fund – B, California Relay Service and Communications Device Fund, California Advanced Services Fund, California Teleconnect Fund, Universal Lifeline Telephone Service Surcharge)
-cable TV
-internet
-California Redemption Value ($.05 – .10 deposit on all drink cans/plastic bottles purchased)
-annual license plate renewal/registration (Registration Fee + License Fee + County/District Fees)
-smog check

Until last year, Amazon had been in a long fight with California legislators over collecting taxes. Too many “brick-and-mortar” companies complained that it’s unfair to compete with giant, online companies not required to tack on that extra charge in most states.

But don’t begin to think you are off the hook for non-taxed, online purchases. The slimy creatures in this state responsible for passing laws and regulations that ensure your freedom/rights (huh?) implemented a “Use Tax” in 1933, which makes consumers responsible for paying sales tax if the seller doesn’t collect it.

Some people may argue that this helps ensure people pay their “fair share” of taxes. But I guess what I am missing about what is “fair” is how we give and give and give and the money is misused and public employees game the system to ensure their own longevity. Some examples:

1) Some L.A. Department of Water and Power (LA DWP) auto painters are being paid $100,000+ a year (see L.A. Times link at bottom). According to the 2010 U.S. census, the recent, median HOUSEHOLD income in California has been nearly half that – $60,000.

2) “Any state or local government employee in California who commits a felony — theft, embezzlement, extortion, bribery — in the course of performing a public duty is still entitled to a pension.” (L.A. Times)

3) The public employee system is currently under fire because retirees have been found to be “spiking” their pensions. Unused sick days are being saved up and cashed in at retirement. When confronted, representatives of these former employees tend to always say the same thing: “Mr. So-and-so deserves the compensation.” Well guess what? I work in the private sector, so my bottom-line minded employer would never allow that kind of trade-off. Hell, I am officially “entitled” to exactly zero sick days every year. If I do get sick, we can work out some time off to recuperate, but it’s not set up that way. Paid sick days should be used to make sure employees can pay the bills if they get a cold, rather than being given as a bonus later on if they aren’t used up.

4) Another huge expenditure: The LAPD boasts having 19 helicopters and 1 airplane. Fourteen of those choppers are the Eurocopter AS350B2. An online search reveals that used AS350B2s range between $1.1 – 2 million each. The other four helicopters range between $325,000 – 750,000 each, also in used condition. In addition to the immense cost of owning these, it would be interesting to know how much the upkeep on a fleet of 20 aircraft costs.

So, back to that “fair share” thing again… we should all pay equally to support excess and bloated, self-serving payrolls? We should all evenly contribute to much-higher-than-average salaries and what amounts to bonuses for not getting sick twelve days a year? The thing is, even if a “fair share” could be justified logically, we all earn and consume at different levels. Thus, by nature we all contribute different amounts monetarily to the government. The rich are able to mitigate part of the income tax rates the middle and lower classes pay, so the only thing that can be fair is a flat tax rate for all.

At the same time, governments must certainly be aware that historic tax revolts have considered to be a contributing factor to the downfall of the Roman, Egyptian, and Aztec empires. So there may actually be a danger in leveling the playing field because everyone paying the same tax rate opens the door to transparent accountability.

Another issue to consider is utility rate increases used to supplement shrinking pension funds. If I make bad investment choices and the value of my portfolio falls, who is going to bail me out? NO ONE! Not that we should be putting people out on the streets, but some other agreement needs to be reached. We all know that stock markets have ups and downs and that the downs might last a long time. Raising utility rates to pay retirees, because some investment choices didn’t pan out, seems a little something like “taxation without representation.”

I have been paying taxes on a lot of things for a long time. It simply wouldn’t be to such a degree if those individuals voted in to represent the people, you know, represented the people. When it comes down to it, unions are “special interest” groups. They don’t represent the will of the majority. Their power comes from strength in numbers so, unfortunately, they can strong-arm city commissioners and councils so that auto painters, carpenters, and cabinet makers can all make in excess of $100,000 a year. Why does the Department of Water and Power have auto painters and carpenters to begin with? Don’t those seem like jobs that can contracted in a competitive bidding process?

As for this computer purchase discussed so long ago, I am off to visit Craigslist. Hopefully there I can find a nice, gently used computer with an included warranty… and no included sales tax.

L.A. Times – “L.A. catching up to Chicago in sleaze”
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0226-lopez-roundup-20120226,0,5730418,full.column

L.A. Times – “Commit a crime, collect a pension”
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cap-pensions-20120213,0,2131610.column

Ron Kaye – Why Your DWP Bills Keeping Going Up and Up
http://ronkayela.com/2012/02/carpenters-dwp-102732-general.html