Sunday, December 21, 2014

Limiting land use is Important too

After getting through a few good environmentalist books recently I have realized that: my biggest gripe with the environmentalist movement today is they seem to under-value the importance of using land efficiently.

For example, if it is possible to feed the world with organic food but the total land required will be 25% higher than with conventional crops that is a loss for the environment. The gains which come from less pollution will be completely eaten up by the fact that we will need to bulldoze over native habitats.

In the energy world, if it is necessary to cover large areas of the earth with wind or solar farms we would be far better off by simply going with nuclear power. The small risks from a bunch of radioactive elements stored in a desert mountain are negligible compared to the damage which will come from ripping up desert ecosystems for space to put solar panels.

With urban planning, higher density cities, which environmentalists have historically fought against, require less land to be destroyed to make way for homes and offices. Manhattan style tall skyscrapers packed close make the most efficient use of space, leaving the most space possible for nature. Also, subways are the best form of transit because not only can they be operated off of electricity but because unlike cars they take no land away from wildlife.

Five thousand identifications

My odds of beating the all time high record of 6695 identifications in a month are looking good. Right now I am sitting at a total of 5447 identifications with another week to go.

Unfortunately the all time record is not going to come so easy, right now another person is at 5,327 identifications so my lead is a slight one. One of us will have managed to beat the record during the next few days, but I am not sure which one.

The only way I was able to get as far as I have is that a user under the name Maractwin has an absurd number of really high quality images of fish.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Aquarium List

I have been trying to put together a list of things to buy if I get an aquarium. I will update this over the next few weeks as I figure out what I want. This is probably a year or two off as I have a hard time doing something that isn't over priced.

The first choice is the tank. I measured the spot I want it in. It really needs a 4 foot by 2 foot tank. This probably means getting a 120 gallon tank which is 4ft by 2ft by 2ft. However there is also a possibility of a 150 gallon tank which is 4ft by 2ft by 31in tall. The price difference between the two seems like it might be more than I can justify though.

For filters, I don't think I can resist trying an algae turf scrubber. Unfortunately there are very few commercial products, so I am probably stuck with one from Santa Monica. Perhaps the HOG 1.3. Then I need a protein skimmer.

For rock, I am unwilling to go all out and buy a ton of live rock. However there are some dry rocks which are the same type of rock and should grow into good live rock in time. I will probably use some sort of cement to make a more porous structure with lots of hiding spots.

For livestock, I am thinking to start as fish only with live rock, then upgrade to soft corals if I think that the fish I get won't completely destroy corals. I have a few ideas:

Traditional predator tank:
  1. White Tail Triggerfish or Zebra Lionfish
  2.  Tobacco Basslet
  3.  Snowflake Moray
A tank with a grouper, moray, and triggerfish always sounded like a neat tank to me. Unfortunately the four foot tank is rather limiting but the above species seem like they could all work in a 120 or 150 gallon four foot tank.

Box of little terrors:
  1. Neon Dottyback
  2. Bicolor Dottyback
  3. Maroon Clownfish
  4. Arc Eye Hawkfish or Blood Red Hawkfish
  5. Blue Damselfish
  6. Four Stripe Damselfish 
  7. Rainbow Wrasse
  8. Indigo Hamlet
That group of fish includes some of the meanest fish below six inches. After some thought, I removed the Domino Damselfish and Lyretail Dottyback from the above list. Both of those species are famous for clearing out whole tanks of fish so they can live alone, even in that tank I might end up with a large tank holding one fish who is too mean to allow any other fish in the tank with him. If they were a little more pretty, I might have kept them on the list but older Domino Damselfish get fairly ugly, and the Lyretail Dottyback is one of the less colorful Dottybacks.

The advantages of that list of fish is that it is some of the most colorful fish, and hardiest fish. So if they don't all kill each other than it should be an impressive tank. Also, it is a reef friendly group of fish. The number of fish is low enough I should be able to keep corals without too much trouble. I probably can't keep all that many invertebrates, but snails should be able to survive if nothing else.

The roof is on fire:
  1. eight to twelve Firefish.
Firefish are schooling fish, and I just think a Firefish tank would be fun. I could go all out on corals and invertebrates with that tank because they are fairly peaceful. Doesn't sound as fun as the box of little terrors though so I probably won't proceed.

Crab Crushers:
  1. Snowflake Moray
  2. Blue Spotted Puffer
  3. White Tail Triggerfish
  4. Coral Hogfish
The local Asian markets have all sorts of odd seafood which is kept live. I always wanted a tank I could toss live clams, shrimp, snails, and maybe even blue crabs into as food. That tank is unlikely to work with corals though.

The price has be afraid enough to try and make a price list.
  • Aquarium - $400-$900
  • Stand and canopy - $500-$1300
  • Lights - $200
  • Heater - $30
  • Dry live rock - $200
  • Sand - $80
  • Sump - $250
  • Sump Pump - $100
  • Protein Skimmer - $200
  • Algae Turf Scrubber - $200
So if I get lots of used parts and go cheap on the tank and stand I might be able to pull it off for $2,000. If I get what I actually want I am talking something in excess of $4,000. Unfortunately I am reluctant to buy the tank, stand, and canopy used. Those turn out to be the most expensive components and the ones I cannot put off. If I wanted to it would be easy to wait on all filtration until a couple fish are in the tank.

Looking at the total makes me think that just going ahead to get the 150 gallon, instead of the 120 gallon probably makes sense.  I would use the same filters, stand, and lights for either. May as well squeeze some extra out of it. It also makes me think just going saltwater makes the most sense. I was originally thinking a 120 gallon planted tank, but with the cost of the tank and stand being so high I may as well go all the way.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Two thousand identifications

iNaturalist has a lot more people submitting pictures than confirming what is in those pictures. So I decided to spend some time confirming the entries people have sent. After a while I noticed that the site keeps a list of the people who have made the five most identifications each month. So I decided to try to make the top five.

Right now I have twice the number of identifications as the second place person. It is only four days into the month and I have more identifications than the fifth place person had last month. Perhaps I need a higher goal. The record high for a one month period was 6,698 identifications. That might be a worthy goal to attempt.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

iNaturalist is expensive

One of the nicest things about making Calflora submissions is that it was cheap. A little gas money, occasional parking money, it was about the cheapest hobby I was likely to get.

It is becoming increasingly clear that making iNaturalist submissions is not cheap. Sure, it starts out cheap. Taking pictures of insects in the back yard. But to really take pictures of insects which can be identified I am going to need a dissecting scope. Then if I am going to be able to catch pictures of birds in the yard and any mammals which wander in at night I am going to need to get a game camera. Then if I want to take photos underwater, I will need a camera for that. Then I need a big vacation to somewhere far enough away to have interesting things to photograph.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Costa Rica iNaturalist Submissions

I realized that I have a huge number of pictures from Costa Rica which show what in many cases are identifiable species. So I decided to submit the pictures to iNaturalist. What surprised me is just how many I recorded considering that I didn't spend all that long looking. I ended up with over 50 species! Virtually all of these are insects. I saw a ton of birds and a few mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. However most of those were too fast for me. Despite being in one of the best birding places in the world, I only was able to get one photo of a bird I considered good enough to identify.

Monday, November 24, 2014

36 species and counting

So far on my tiny lot I have identified 36 species of animal. I don't think I am even close to getting all of them. There are several species of birds which regularly show up in my yard, but I have yet to photograph. I also seem to be able to find at least one new species of insect whenever I go through my yard looking hard for one.

A few of them are easy to identify, but a great many are like this insect. I know it is some sort of insect, but actually figuring out the species may be beyond me. A good dissecting scope would probably be necessary to be certain.

Searching the nearby area shows that I have found a very obscure hobby. Very few identifications have been made near me. Including four adjacent towns in a search of all identifications showed a total of 54 submissions. Of those 36 are by me. I knew there would be few people sending in all the insect identifications, but I really expected that at least the birds would have good records. Even a search in and around Laguna Beach only showed 85 submissions. It seems like it should be easy to see that many species of life in even a short walk.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Moved up to March 2043

I decided to start making extra mortgage payments. This is a somewhat controversial thing to do, there is a real chance that inflation will eat my entire mortgage meaning that I should have just waited to pay it. Also, money in a mortgage is not very liquid, if something goes wrong it is very difficult to get it out.

Still, most people pay most of their money to housing and transportation. If I can get to the point I don't have a mortgage that frees up quite a lot of money for more interesting uses.

This year the couple of extra payments I made pushed the last date from July 2043, up to March 2043. I am not sure if that is impressive or depressing.

Here is a graph comparing what my balance verses time would be with and without my extra payments. It appears I will need quite a lot more extra payments to make the blue line significantly diverge from the pink line.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fuel costs are negligable

I am a big optimist when it comes to space travel. One of the big reasons can be explained by the fuel costs for a SpaceX rocket which is only $200,000. This is pretty remarkable, a $55,000,000 mission and only 0.4% of that price is fuel.

On a per pound basis, the cost of fuel to get to orbit is about $10 a pound. This means that all the rest of the cost is hardware or employees. As spaceships become reusable the hardware costs could easily drop by a factor of 10, and a factor of 100 or even 1000 is plausible. All it would take is a ship which could go to space, land, refuel, and launch again without needing to do much other than refuel. As for the labor costs, most of that will ultimately be reduced by better robots and computers. So a cost of $100 a pound to get to orbit is not that implausible and lower may even be achievable. At that price a trip to space still costs about the same as a nice car. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

City Ventures Development in La Habra

Continuing with my plan of being a pesky neighbor, I sent this letter to the planning department in La Habra to encourage them to go along with a new development which is being proposed

                The City Ventures development is exactly the sort of project La Habra needs so that it can create a decent downtown. While the Civic Center and Church site is better for the city than the office building site, both are a huge improvement over what we have today and should be encouraged to proceed as quickly as possible.
                The best part of this development is that it is high density housing within walking distance of a lot of underutilized commercial space. It will bring hundreds of customers to the area bringing it new life. At slightly greater than twenty homes per acre, this development is high enough density to encourage a vibrant walkable neighborhood. It might be possible to fit a few more homes into the development but under no circumstances should that number be reduced. La Habra needs all the new housing it can get.
                Another encouraging feature is that the design includes large number of three story townhomes. This type of construction makes very efficient use of space and should be encouraged across La Habra.
                If only one of the two options is to be chosen, the superior option is the civic center and church site. Not only does it bring twice as many new homes to La Habra, but it uses land unlikely to be used for a better purpose. The office building site would be better used for a large mixed use building with apartments on top and retail fronting La Habra Boulevard.
                Surface parking is a low value use of space which should be discouraged. This project does a reasonable job of avoiding excessive use of it, but thought should be given to relaxing the city parking minimums or putting the parking in a parking structure to free up space for more homes.
                More thought should also be given to ensuring a walkable design. There are several Cul-de-sacs in this proposal. Those are fine for cars, but really interfere with pedestrians by increasing the walking distance to nearby destinations. A grid of pedestrian paths should be created by installing paths between adjacent streets anywhere a cul-de-sac is present. This is particularly true for the office building site; Pedestrian paths to La Habra Boulevard, and Euclid Street are needed to ensure that residents can quickly walk to nearby businesses.  On the Civic Center site, pedestrian paths are also needed to reduce walking time to the Library and to connect the cul-de-sac near the corner of Euclid and Florence to Euclid Street.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I ignored the talk of Ebola until a few days ago. Ebola has been famous for being really deadly, but really quick to burn out. Because the virus is so deadly, it typically is easy to find. Once doctors find patients they must only keep them isolated for a few weeks before they are either dead or no longer contagious. Close contacts can be monitored so they do not spread the disease much should they get infected. It seemed to me that this new wave of Ebola would follow that model.

The stories from Western Africa are getting pretty scary though. The disease has been destroying the medical teams which fight it, and few volunteers can be found to fill their ranks. Since two of the cases which have been treated outside Africa resulted in a nurse being infected, I just don't see how Africa has a fighting chance. There are probably another three months where a big international effort could bring the situation under control, but exponential growth will soon make even that sort of intervention implausible. The most likely outcome is that the disease will kill millions before it is brought under control.

Ebola still doesn't seem like a threat to any reasonably run country though. Even in Liberia, an average case of Ebola only infects one or two other people. In America, we could easily isolate cases quickly enough for the average case of Ebola creates less than one new case. Only a major terrorist attack or a mutation making the disease much easier to catch could make this disease scare me as much as car accidents.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I decided to try another nature submission app other than Calflora. The one that seemed the next logical choice was iNaturalist. Today I submitted identifications of about a dozen insects living in my backyard

For plants in California it is inferior to Calflora as a submission tool. The lists Calflora develops make it really easy to quickly input every plant you know on a site. However once you submit, the iNaturalist app has a much better system for people to check your identifications. For example when I misidentified an ant, someone came back to me within minutes pointing out my error.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book ratings

I decided that it is time to update my book list. I have stuck with a hard criteria of keeping old ratings the same and only adding new books. In a few cases I am sure I would have moved things around, this is particularly true with some which I rated highly nearly a decade ago. However I maintained that whichever my first review stands since I am likely to forget good things about a book I read so long ago.

No books got a 1 or 2 stars. This bugged me for a while but it makes sense because most of the books were non-fiction on subjects I am interested in. It is much less hit and miss than when reading fiction. Science fiction and fantasy are full of series which start off well, then have a horrible book meaning it is much more likely I will give them a 1 or 2 stars.

Only one new book got 5 stars, The Last Rhino. I suspect that is a problem of higher standards. Several of the books which were rated 4 stars were better than The World is Flat or Stumbling on Happiness. None was as good as Surly you're Joking Mr Feynman! Guns Germs and Steel,  Green Metropolis, Outliers, in Defense of Food or the Black Swan though.

5 Stars
The Last Rhino
Green Metropolis 
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
For the Love of Physics
Triumph of the City
Hyperion (4 book series)
Song of Ice and Fire series books 1, 2, and 3
Energy for Future Presidents
The Black Swan
Made to Stick: Why some Ideas Survive, and Others Die
In Defense of Food
Kabloona: Among the Inuit
Guns Germs and Steel
The Solar Fraud
A Case for Nuclear Generated Electricity
The World is Flat
Surely you're Joking, Mr Feynman!
The Omnivore's Dilemma
The Tipping Point
Ender's Game
Speaker for the Dead(book 2 Ender's Game)
Predictably Irrational
Stumbling on Happiness
Beyond Oil
Atlas Shrugged
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Glass Castle

4 Stars:  
Wizard - the Life and Times of Nikola Tesla
The Sixth Extinction
Capital in the Twenty-First Century
AC DC the Savage Tale of the First Standards War
The Mushroom Hunters
Mission to Mars
The Hunger Games Series
The Better Angels of Our Nature
Galactic North
Death by Black Hole
The End of the Suburbs
The Double Helix
Falling Upward
Einstein His Life and Universe
Benjamin Franklin
Galactic North
Four Fish
Agent to the Stars
Powering the Future
House of Suns
Lions of Kandahar
The Invisible Gorilla
Dark Elf (3 book series)
Gang Leader for a Day
Quantum - Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality
Rama (4 book series)
At Home
Song of Ice and Fire Books 4 and 5
Stranger in a Strange Land
Ender's Shadow
Sword of Truth Series Books 1 and 2
Earth Abides
The Alchemist
Disc World (40 book series, I have got through perhaps 30 of them) 
The Invisible Man
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Eragon (4 book series)
Relationship Cure
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Animal Farm
American Soldier: Audiobiography of General Tommy Franks
The Republic
American Gods
Darwin's Radio
The Father of Spin(biography of Edward Bernays)
Sleeping with the Devil
The End of Oil
The Art of the Long View
The Wheel of time(11 book series)
Harry Potter(7 book series)
Team of Rivals
A Scanner Darkly
The life of Pi
The Kite Runner
I am America(and so can you)
Don't Lets go to the Dogs Tonight
A decade of Curious People, and Dangerous Ideas
Confessions of an Economic Hitman
The Know it All
Our Inner Ape
His Dark Materials (3 book series)
The Origin of Species
Starship Troopers
Sway: the irresistible pull of Irrational Behavior
Altered Carbon
Anansi Boys
Snow Crash

3 Stars  
Wicked Plants
This Immortal
When Oil Peaked
Napoleon's Buttons
The Disappearing Spoon
The Most Powerful Idea in the World
The Education of Henry Adams
Wicked Plants
Packing for Mars
The Left Hand of Darkness
The World Until Yesterday
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
History of Western Philosophy
Call of the Wild
Shannara (long series I got three or four books in then stopped)
The Dark Tower(7 book series)
Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
The Bear and the Dragon
The Soul of Battle
Slaughterhouse five
A Man in Full
Fast Food Nation
The Case for Democracy
The Bottomless Well
Microtrends: The small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes
What Happened

2 Stars
The Sound and the Fury
Sword of Truth Series Books 3 through 12
The hero with a Thousand Faces
Fahrenheit 451
Death of a Salesman
Revolutionary Wealth
The World of the Ancient Maya
The Warning
The Ancestor's Tale
On Bullshit
Status Anxiety
Alexander the Great and His Time

1 Star
Tomorrow's Energy
Are Men Necessary?
Xenocide(book 3 Ender's Game)

Over 1500

Calflora has stopped telling me how many entries I have made. I can only see the most recent 1500 submissions.

I didn't realize how unusual this was until I looked at how many plants other people were submitting on their observation hotline. My submissions look to be something like 20% of the total number for the last few months. There are a surprising number of plants where I am the only one who has submitted an observation with a picture. For example: Sphaeralcea ambigua, Cylindropuntia ganderi, Agave deserti, Funastrum cynanchoides, Larrea tridentata.

I also brought the California Native Plant subreddit from about 30 subscribers up to over 150.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More Economists Supporting Increased Housing Supply

I was happy to see that Paul Krugman put out an article stating that housing supply is one of the main problems in rich Democratic states. It seems like this viewpoint is starting to be taken seriously by enough people that something might actually happen to increase supply.

Road Widening

I decided to continue harassing local government in [La Habra]( about bad planning choices.

The road widening project on Whittier Boulevard is a waste of city money, and should be called off. This project will make the street less safe, negatively impact businesses in the area, all to solve a problem which does not exist.

There was a recent fatality of a pedestrian walking across Whittier Boulevard. Unless drastic changes are made, these deaths will continue to be a regular occurrence. The road is simply designed to be too fast for how close it is to homes, schools and businesses. This road widening project just makes that problem worse; it encourages cars to speed up even more when it has been shown that drivers are not capable of safely traveling at the speeds they are already at!

As for businesses along the road, cars traveling at high speeds make too much noise and make pedestrians in the area feel unsafe. Removing the buffer provided by parking just makes the existing problem worse. Making the local environment less friendly to pedestrians is a good way to drive business away from an already economically depressed area. Not only that, but this is a road commonly used by people leaving La Habra to visit businesses in nearby cities. By cancelling this project, the city would be encouraging people to instead patron local businesses.

Beyond that, there is no problem from bad traffic near this intersection and probably never will be. While traffic engineers continue to make wild projections about future increases in traffic these projections have been proven to be wrong again and again. Total vehicle miles traveled have not been increasing for nearly a decade. Now that CEQA is being modified to stop using level of service as a criteria for environmental impact reports and instead try to make projects take actions to reduce total vehicle miles traveled it is all but inevitable; the total amount of driving people in California do will decrease for the foreseeable future.

The city should be working to upgrade its roads for the future. However the future it should be preparing for is one which has fewer cars, not one with more. Much better uses for this money include: adding bike lanes, widening sidewalks, improving the landscaping along roads, increasing the time pedestrians have to cross roads at traffic signals, and cleaning up the large amounts of trash many parts of La Habra have along the roadside. Trying to increase the level of service on a road, right before the level of service stops being used as a metric used to judge environmental impacts is however a very poor way to spend money.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

Took the long way home from Palm Springs. This was one of the most impressive sections of desert I have driven through. I managed to get the first Calflora observation with a picture for quite a few species without ever walking more than five feet from a turnout:
Desert Agave, Schott's indigo bush, Gander's buckhorn cholla, Desert mallow

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seeds and Berries

Growing leaves is hard. Some like Basil and Sorrel seem alright, but most seem to have problems. For one, everything wants to eat the leaves. So for example the Collard greens require too much work to clean off all the bugs before eating them. Then, it is hard to get up motivation to even bother to pick the leaves so they have a way of just sitting out there.

Berries have been better. Small berries like goji berries and alpine strawberries survive well and actually get eaten. So I have decided do grow less leaves and more berries. The alpine strawberries in particular should be easy to get to spread across a large area.

Habitat restoration projects in California have long had a problem with getting seeds. It is getting better, but seeds for many plants are just not commonly available. Even with the more common ones, there is need for quite a lot more seed. So I decided to start trying to grow seeds for donation. I already have one endangered species, and could easily pick up another plant or two on the CNPS rare plant inventory. It wouldn't take much space devoted to some of these species to be producing more seed than just about anyone in the state.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fusion startups

Somehow I didn't know about one of the more impressive companies which is in Orange County. There are a whole bunch of new attempts at nuclear fusion. Perhaps the most impressive, or perhaps just the most secretive, is Tri Alpha Energy.

Southern California might start giving Silicon Valley a run for its money. SpaceX is by far the most exciting thing to happen in space research in my lifetime. Assuming they actually manage to produce reusable rockets, which it actually seems that they will, space colonization will finally be practical. If we also get nuclear fusion, we will finally be living in the future.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Iphone coding

The calflora people are tired of me complaining about bugs in their app. So I decided to see how difficult it would be for me to just learn to code on the app myself.

Step 1: buy a Mac.

Uh, never mind. I don't want to learn to code apps that bad. This explains a lot about why android has been gaining on Apple. It is a whole lot easier for most people to get started coding for an android device since they don't need to buy a mac.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

More Calflora Observations

I am up to almost 700 observations submitted to Calflora.  It really does give a sense of the scale of California. For example, a bulk of my observations were made in the hills on the north end of Orange County. After quite a few hours, I have only searched a small percentage of the hills. 

To get a really good idea of what is there, I would need to search the mountains a few times. Some plants are dormant, dead, or otherwise really hard to identify at certain times of the year. So I would need to walk the trails in a couple different seasons until I actually had a decent map of what is there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Just found a Monarch

I planted a narrowleaf milkweed plant last December. Amazingly a monarch seems to have managed to find the small plant hidden in my yard because I just found a monarch caterpillar.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Traffic Calming

My quest to be that annoying neighbor who always harasses local government continues. La Habra is looking for comment on some traffic calming projects, so I sent them the following letter:

In general I support the idea of traffic calming projects. High speed traffic in La Habra should be restricted to Beach, Whittier, Lambert, Harbor, and Imperial. I therefore have nothing negative to say about the changes in the proposed neighborhoods.

The choice of places to use traffic calming strike me as a little odd though. Traffic calming should be done to make roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Therefore the greatest impact will be had where there are the most pedestrians or bicyclists. The proposed areas don't seem like where the bulk of pedestrians are. Traffic calming should primarily be based around slowing traffic in two areas: around schools and on and near La Habra boulevard.

For example, it seems strange to me that area O extends from Lambert to Imperial. There isn't much there in the way of pedestrian traffic that far south on Walnut. A much better choice would be to extend it from La Habra to Whittier. There is a school there and businesses on La Habra boulevard and Walnut are within walking distance of homes so lots of pedestrians are on this part of Walnut compared to the Lambert to Imperial stretch. I have personally been involved in an accident there, so I can vouch for too high of car speeds for the neighborhood.

There is also no mention of the place in La Habra with by far the most pedestrians. La Habra Boulevard. This is the only place in La Habra where large numbers of businesses are an easy walk from large numbers of homes. There is also a school and a library so there are large numbers of children walking along the road. Because of the high speed of cars, and the large number of pedestrians this is the road which would most benefit from traffic calming projects. At the very least they should alter the timing of the lights to give pedestrians crossing the street more time to cross and widen sidewalks. I would even support more drastic proposals such as protected bike lanes or eliminating a lane of traffic and installing angled parking. Some of these proposals will undoubtedly be fought by those who want faster traffic at all costs, but Whittier, Imperial and Lambert all parallel La Habra Boulevard and could easily take all the longer distance commuting. 

As far as proposals for what type of traffic calming should be used in the neighborhoods described in this proposal. I am a strong advocate for items which make the road feel less safe to drivers, causing them to slow down. Many of these are described in the 2006 NTMP document such as making the lanes less straight, more narrow, or installing roundabouts. In general I don't much like speed bumps, but the elevated crosswalks seem like a good idea.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

55 plants in 4 days

I may have got a little carried away this weekend. I managed to identify 55 plant species in 4 days and post them to Calflora. Actually, a lot were duplicates, just posting that the same plant was in multiple locations. So it was probably only 40 plant species.

What was impressive is how often I was wrong. Luckily I used the what grows here application from Calflora to check the most likely ID on a bunch of plants. That application lets you see a list of every reported plant within any map you choose. Often I found that what I thought was one plant, was actually some very slightly different plant.

I have had worse hobbies, at least this one involves exploring the area and getting a moderate amount of exercise. 

Friday, May 30, 2014


I am a bit of a sucker for citizen science projects. The latest one I have jumped on to is Cal Flora. They have been compiling information about California native plants for some time now. I just discovered that they have an iphone app. While in some ways the app is very crude, it only lets you submit data not search through data others have submitted, it is also very easy to use for submissions.

In the last two days, I submitted 9 plants to the site. Once you have submitted a particular plant one time, a second plant of the same species can be submitted in seconds so it is quite efficient. This might even be more of a time waster than the time I signed up for Snapshot Serengeti. At least it is more exercise.

Little details may drive me crazy though. For example I just learned there are many very similar mustard plants growing in this area, Sinapis arvensis, Brassica rapaBrassica nigra and Hirschfeldia incana. I can identify mustard, but telling those apart is rough. The same for wild oats, telling Avena barbata from Avena fatua is not trivial.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Apple is slipping

After getting lost one too many times from relying on Apple maps I switched back to Google maps a few months ago. It has some flaws, for example it is not as easy to bookmark common destinations and if it does not know a location it will sometimes send me to the center of the city, or even the state, where I said to go without telling me it did this. However, it does not give absolutely ridiculous directions nearly as often as Apple does.

Now I just switched to Chrome as my browser on the iphone. Apple has refused to implement the most basic and necessary feature I need in a browser. The ability to turn off mobile sites. In Chrome I just select one option, and magically all mobile sites disappear. After years of pressing "desktop site" buttons which don't work, and trying to find covert ways to avoid the mobile version of sites I feel stupid for not making the switch years ago.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What's this plant?

In some ways, the What's This Plant subreddit is the most remarkable crowd sourcing I have seen. On a couple occasions I submitted pictures of plants to the site. So far the subreddit has never been wrong. Now, it doesn't actually have a perfect record. I am sure a good botanist could stump it. It still manages to come up with identifications for most plants which is no small feat given how many millions of plants there are.

Matching its ability with a computer would be a neat trick. The pattern recognition of humans still seems like it is ahead of computers but I imagine we are getting close to the point a computer would do this. Would make for a neat iphone app, take a picture of a field and get all of the plants tagged.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Regional Connector

I took a metrolink train from El Monte to Downtown L.A. for the first time today. It definitely reinforced a lot of my perception that the trains here go from nowhere to nowhere.

The El Monte station was little more than a parking lot next to a train track. It looked like there was a three story apartment building down the street and a couple blocks away there was a bunch of run down shops. Still though, that was El Monte so I didn't expect much.

Then I got to Union Station. My plan was to try to walk to see some of the new construction sites such as the Wilshire Grand Tower. I figured that the train would take me somewhere central. When I got out, I found myself at the very edge of downtown. There seems to be very little of interest actually within a half mile walk of Union Station.

That experience makes me understand why the new Regional Connector subway is so important. Most of the rail going into downtown doesn't actually go to a central location. The only exceptions I see on this map seem to be the purple and red subway lines.

That is where the regional connector comes in. The Gold, Blue, and Expo lines will have three new stations downtown. Not only that, it will be convenient to go from Long Beach all the way to Pasadena helping increase the number of destinations easily available to someone who takes the train.

Still though, a much better solution would be transit oriented development. If train stations go from nowhere to nowhere the obvious solution is to build things right next to stations. A hundred 6+ story mixed use buildings within a half mile of stations is the easiest way to transform the rail into something actually useful.

Monday, April 21, 2014

More native plants

I posted another batch of plant pictures to the gardening subreddit.I limited it to plants from a single seed packet of shade friendly plants I bought from Larner Seeds.

SpaceX seems to be doing it

I rather misunderstood what SpaceX planned to do with the first stage of its rocket. I got that they planned to land it, but I pictured something much more like the space shuttle where they would land it like an aircraft. What they are actually doing is a whole heck of a lot more impressive:

They are really quite close to making this happen. On the launch to the space shuttle they had the first stage land much like in the video, except in the water. Within the year it is reasonable to expect they will be setting down the rocket on land. Since that first stage is such a high percentage of the cost that will result in an amazing price savings.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Worms are attacking

After all the propaganda I have heard in my life about how good earthworms are for soil, I somehow always assumed it was right.

This is apparently only true if you live in Europe. European earthworm species are apparently really a problem for forests in North America.

Plants Everywhere

They say that when you learn a new word, you see it everywhere and wonder how you could not have known that.This month has been that way, but with plants.

I was looking for good butterfly plants, so one of the plants I got was California buckwheat

After I bought the buckwheat, I noticed a bunch of plants along the freeway which looked like it. I stopped to investigate and sure enough it was. I have been passing at least two varieties of buckwheat on my commute but never knowing what they were.

Then I bought some deerweed seeds. A weed later I drove from Rialto to Victorville. There are hundreds of deerweed plants along the road there. I am even pretty sure I found one on my commute home from work. I must have seen them thousands of times, but never paid any attention to them. Unlike the buckwheat this doesn't seem surprising. deerweed blends in with mustard because they both have small yellow flowers.