The Mole reads the papers (and other things) so you don't have to

The Los Angeles Times printed a sad article(1) about an accident involving a Blue Line train, downtown. Three things about the piece really bothered me. One was a quote which said: “... the driver may have misread the traffic signal ...”, which shows how little time and effort is spent in developing clearly understood traffic signals. The second is Fire Battalion Chief Gomez quote - “I've been here 4½ years and I've lost count of the number of accidents I've seen with this train”. Finally, it seems that a basic element of reporting was ignored in that no specific time of day, other than “Sunday morning” was given. Was darkness a factor??

I believe that this tragedy foreshadows accidents which we will experience if the ill conceived, poorly planned “Expo Line” is – and I sincerely hope that this will NOT be the case – built. The money wasting, unnecessary “Expo Line” will be 100% at grade level, unlike the Blue Line, which is mostly elevated.

Which makes me wonder, have the local newspapers stopped reporting on “Orange Line” accidents?

In mid-August the LAX City Bus Center was cleaned, more or less anyway, and the graffiti cleaned. Now three weeks later it is filthy again, with the usual detritus: cigarette butts, fast food residue and newspapers. Old newspapers, especially around the periphery of the site where the fences stop and trap the papers which are blown there.

Speaking of litter, the “Los Angeles Times”, reporters Kenneth R. Weiss, Ms Usha Lee McFarling, photographer Rick Loomis and other supporting staff all deserve a “Well Done” for their work on the “Altered Oceans” series.(2)

Unfortunately, like man's other assault on our planet which is leading to “Global Warming” the future, this case too, seems bleak.

Unlike the spokesperson for 'Heal the Bay”, who wrote an optimistic letter to the Times Sunday, 6 Aug. 2006 page 1), I have a dimmer view and cannot share his provincial naiveté. In stating that “... these problems are solvable ...”, he takes only the narrowest view and looks only at our local situation. It seems to me that the status of Morton Bay in Australia is not easily reversible. A careful reading of Part One of the series (Sunday, 30 Jul. 2006, page 1) attributes the present situation there to over fishing, runoff of fertilizer and other material from land based sites and the constituents of combustion which also contribute to “Global Warming”. Replacing the fish population in what can only be described as a “dead zone” controlled by the lyngbya majuscula bacteria, is an immense and expensive task.

In Part Four of the Times series, the western gyre [an accumulation of floating trash] is described as being “... twice the size of Texas. ...” - certainly a cleanup of this and the eastern gyre will require more that a weekend of beach cleanup and is quite possibly Sisyphean in nature. Modern day agriculture is likely impossible without fertilizer and countries such as China, arguably the most environmentally damaged country in the world(3), add to atmospheric pollutants daily.

Looking toward the future, our hopes for a solution by future generations are diminished by several factors. The “dumbing down of America” continues unabated, today's young people seem to be self centered and focused on new cars, perpetually plugged into various personal entertainment devices, and, by viewing “fake news programs” they reduce what very little time that they might have to focus on real news, including environmental issues.

More than a generation ago, Rachel Carson, in “Silent Spring(4)” foretold the future. She was, over the longer term, with the exception of some reduction in DDT usage, ignored. This seems destined to be the fate of the Times series as well. People just don't care!

As I read about the various kinds garbage which is washed out to sea, I considered other litter which originates on land. In their May 2006 issue, “Vanity Fair” included a brochure(5) which cited the fact that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide annually. With this as a starting point, I computed that this is the equivalent of 124 shipping containers full of cigarette butts each and every year!

Much of Los Angeles' contribution to this litter washes through the gutters, into the storm drains and ultimately into the ocean where no nets will stop them. In many, if not most parts of the city of the city one can see this litter all around.

Until we can educate our citizens and the entire world's population to stop all forms of littering, curtail runoff from the land and the explosive growth of lyngbya majuscula etc. can be stopped and reversed, mankind may be near its final chapter.

Ear to the Rail

For those of you who must keep up with the economy and financial news, http://www.bloomberg.com/ (Yes, it is the company owned by the mayor of NYC). Has podcasts too, here is a sample of what you will find there: http://media.bloomberg.com/bb/avfile/veILdo3AFsOw.mp3

For others, who might appreciate the British take on the news, try http://news.sky.com/skynews/home and SkyTV's podcasts at

Here is an interesting example which includes a reference to Bush's call to PM Tony Blair, “Yo Blair”:

Now, Sky’s podcasts are OK, but, I have found that the some reporting doesn’t always give credit where credit is due. For example, Sky headlined an aircraft safety story indicating that they had spent six (6) months on it. I used a simple Google search with “boeing +ducommun +suit” as the search arguments and found Mother Jones piece of last October as the fourth in the list. Someone at SkyTV has not done a creditable research job. Here is what MJ had to say.

Here is the link to the Sky piece:

The Mole Rides Again - so that you will still hear about a mother and child in conversation

The homeless, at least the ones which are easy to see from the bus have AGAIN taken up residence in bus shelters along Airport Bl. One is located at the Arbor Vitae bus stop and the other short block away at 96th St. It would seem to me that the Airport Police, which I believe has the responsibility for this area would want these people relocated – for obvious reasons.

I am riding a line 232 bus. I overhear a rare (in English anyway) sweet conversation between a mother and her young daughter. The mother explains to the kindergartener why the mother's favorite swimming suit for the little girl is too tight - “... the swimming suit stayed the same size but you got bigger ...”.

As I look down at the Green Line tracks on the north side, from the platform of the Aviation Station, I notice something. Two cables, in PVC conduit, run down the center of the tracks for the length of the platform. They originate from a padlocked metal box on the east side of the station. I assume that they carry signaling control. The PVC piping is parallel to the tracks and is supported in place by transverse members, about one yard in length, about 8 inches above the roadbed. The problem is that five of these supporting members have broken off their fasteners and one is missing completely! Ah, Metro Maintenance at work – or is it at rest? I ride the next train and report it to the “motorman” on the emergency intercom. He tells me that he will “radio it in” . We will see.

I am at Lake and Colorado in Pasadena. There are lots of fairly large posters around the intersection. They offer a no questions asked $1000 reward for the return of a “GE Vivid ultrasound machine”. The picture shows it to appear laptopish. The detail states that this machine is needed in order to diagnose babies with heart defects. I hope that they find it! The telephone number given is: 626.791.3365. If you can help see to it that this machine is returned, please do so.

The man seated in the bus shelter near the bus stop has a large wart below his nose and exactly in the center of the nostril divider, whatever they call that? The torn back sleeve, at the shoulder seam, of his jacket is held together by a single safety pin. He has two shopping bags which are actually comprised of 7 or 8 similarly sized shopping bags layered one inside the other. The outmost bag, lending an element of class, is a Bloomies “Big Brown Bag”. I have never seen anything like this near 59th and Lex in NYC!

On the Foothill 187 line – it is clean, quiet, cool and comfortable with high backed seats. Although it seems to have too many “rattles” for a bust of its apparent age. The woman across from me has some kind of cough (yes, in the era of H5N1, I have become more sensitive) so I move to the only other appealing place to me on this ride, the rearmost seat. The bottom cushion is poorly anchored and keeps sliding around. As soon as a seat opens up, I move again. Unlike the Metro system this ride was cell phone free :-).

Line 79 bus number 7637 operator number 10311. This driver can't shut up! He makes redundant stop announcement and other unnecessary comments. I think I know him and that he used to deliver a sermon of sorts, but, I am not sure. Anyway, no “Have a blessed day”, whatever the hell that means, from him. It is annoying. His chatter, together with the AVA (Automatic Voice Announcements) and the stupid Transit TV with the brain damaged duo of wanna be Martha Stewart cooks and their single hot plate, are cutting into my meditation time.

The driver tells us about seeing a weekend Superman movie. I am not entertained and would like a siesta after a big lunch at Nordstrom’s Santa Anita Shopping Center store. He notifies us that the next stop will be, my destination, the Law “Lieberry”.

I am riding a 720 line to Santa Monica. When I board the passengers are educating the (by accent) Indian or Pakastani driver in the fine points of the American language, viz., cursing. Apparently, he closed one of the back doors on someone – this is a double or articulated vehicle – too soon. So, the topic of the moment is the F word in its infinite inflected forms. Everything is great until a bag lady sits next to me on one of the center facing seats. She tries to strike up a conversation with a young Latina who seems less than enchanted by this, yet manages a smile.

(1) Cleeland, Nancy “2 Killed 2 Injured in Car Hit by Train” 21 Aug 2006 Los Angeles Times:B4

(2)N/A “Altered Oceans series” 30 Jul~10 Aug 2006 Los Angeles Times
(3) Economy, Elizabeth C. “The River Runs Black” 2004 Cornell University

(4)Carson, Rachel “Silent Spring”, 1962 Houghton Miffin Co.

(5)”What You Can Do: 50 Ways To Help Save The Planet” which accompanied Vanity Fair's May 2006 issue.


The Mole reads the papers (and other things) so you don't have to

The Times(1) produced a good laugh for me. The piece described how an LACMTA committee, which fortunately for the members was unnamed who I believe have IQs lower than their body temperatures, came up with a plan to allow police officers to ride the Metro system free. According to the article here are a few requirements with which the free-riding police officers must comply:
· They must be in full uniform;
· The must carry their side arm (backup pieces are not mentioned);
· The must stand if there are no seats OR when requested to by a Metro operator.

I have also put together the following “side effects” of this ridiculous plan, which is yet another ill considered attempt by the LACMTA to “penny pinch”. Please consider:
· That the police officers taking advantage of this “free ride” will have to leave home, on average, several hours earlier than usual. This, to avoid late busses/trains and to ensure that they will be on time for work (vide infra, Daily News piece);
· They are expected to work for their ride;
· They will have a work day that is likely to be 50% longer than usual;
· They may encounter extra uniform expense because they sat in a thoughtlessly discarded wad of gum or fresh tagging;
· Their pay for all of this will be a “free ride”, the actual cost to the LACMTA is limited to $3 – the cost of unlimited riding on a day pass;
· They will return home, on average, later than they usually do, too;

This plan was also reported on the local news on TV, Channel 9?

I suggest to the LAPD management that if they find any officers are accepting LACMTA's offer that they immediately take them out of the field, with pay, for a week. During the week they should be allowed to consult with all the counselors available to the department, because, obviously, something is wrong with their thinking.

The really funny part of this is that next week the full LACMTA's board of directors will consider this proposal. How will they decide??? It is something like the passengers on the Taitanic deciding on what colour to paint the shuffelboard grid - it has no bearing on reality.

When politicians attempt to be businessmen this, the LACMTA, is what one ends up with :-).

The Daily News(2) covers the bus rider problems in the valley – which may be the home area for many Los Angeles police officers. Here is a short sample of the rider comments: “If I have to be somewhere at a given time, it becomes difficult to rely on public transit ...”; “ ... if the bus is late, early or doesn't come at all, then you are stuck waiting for a long time”.

The article states that “... one driver who was suspended for 30 days after accumulating 20 customer complaints for being rude and making inappropriate remarks to customers.”
Please follow the link below to read it in its entirety.

Ear to the Rail
Your mole has two recommendations for those of you who want to stay more current on the news than Comedy Central allows.

1. www.FAIR.org which publishes a weekly CounterSpin “Podcast”. The host, Janine Jackson has a beautiful voice! A recent example for you to copy to your MP3 player or listen to on your computer is: http://www.fair.org/audio/counterspin/CounterSpin072806.mp3

2. Www.IanMasters.org has lots of politically oriented MP3s. Give http://ianmasters.org/masters_llc_081306_80.mp3 a listen.

The Mole Rides Again - so that you, won't have to be concerned that you didn't carry your hand sanitizer today.

On a 720 bus to Santa Monica, the man two seats ahead of me is vigorously picking his nose. When finished he flicks away his work product then grasps the bar on the top of the seat ahead of him for added security – oh yes, same hand.

On a 439 bus to the LAX Bus Center. The man off to my left is corkscrewing his finger into his ear. He too, flicks away whatever had adhered to his finger and then wipes his hand on his trouser leg.

On the same bus the driver directs the passenger who is seated across the aisle from me to take the 109 (a new Beach Cities Transit route) to Redondo Beach. This is part of the old 439 route abandoned in the most recent (25 June) “shakeup”. The driver, who has been carrying on a conversation with her friend, continues to do so. I suggest to the passenger that she buy a “Muni Transfer” which will allow her to ride the BCT 109 for 25 cents rather than their usual one dollar fare. In truth, the usual bus driver doesn't much care how you get where you are going or how much you have to pay to get there.

One indication of this, and it may be due to LACMTA “policy” is that when the fare box is out of order, the usual operators will not give you a “Muni transfer” for free. This can mean that rather than paying 25 cents for your next ride you are forced to pay full fare. These transfers are ordinarily pre-punched with times and dates and will expire so the paper becomes worthless. Against the interest of the passenger too, is that the given bus with the out-of-service fare box will take transfers from other lines thereby shorting Metro because the Metro passengers end up paying the full fare on the next line and Metro gets nothing. I have seen drivers that understand that people need to commute economically and just give out a free Muni transfer when asked for one when the fare box is out of service. If you expect to see their ID numbers published here, expect again :-).

Realistically, the LACMTA should formulate a policy of supplying free Muni transfers when fare boxes don’t work – which seems to be the case every other day for me. After all, it is not the passenger’s fault that Metro can’t maintain its equipment!

"Lost in Translation" or why outsourcing to China is a bad idea.

I was walking in Brentwood, from the “Whole Paycheck” store to the Rapid 720 bus stop which is located on Wilshire at about the midpoint of the VA property. The VA has built a new park just to the north-east of the intersection of San Vicente and Wilshire BL in West LA. The park has a large gate which is chained shut.

To the right of the gate, embedded in the lower part of the gate foundation are the words: "Beauty Honor Country ". As a veteran, I am sure that the words should be "Duty Honor Country"

All in all, this has been a funny week!

(1) Guccione, Jean “Plan May Give a Lift to Police, MTA” 18 Aug. 2006 Los Angeles Times:B4
(2) Uranga, Rachel “Valley has most bus complaints: Bypassed riders, reliability are sore points, MTA says” 17 Aug. 2006 Daily News .



The Mole reads the papers (and other things) so you don't have to

AFP(1) (Agence France-Presse) carried a nice piece on the a law against engine idling which is being considered in Hong Kong, SAR. In Japan, one often sees parking attendants waving signs encouraging those waiting on line for a parking spot, to shut off their engines. I don't know whether the Japanese advisory has the status of law or not.

In an editorial(2) The Los Angeles Times argues against Mayor Villaraigosa's plan for free Metro rides in an attempt to lure future paying riders. The Times editors make a compelling case against the plan citing an influx of homeless on hot days here even though all had paid fares. In San Francisco which is the source of the idea (can't we ever originate something here??), they experienced teenagers engaging in food fights and vandalism on “Free Days” there. The Times editorial says, in part, “... The best way to get commuters out of their cars is to create a public transit system that is fast, efficient and blankets the city. ...” This is certainly NOT the plan which the LACMTA is attempting to implement as evidenced by the reduction in service every six months (See: Beach Cities Transit below).

I won't say much about a silly argument about calling the money wasting Expo Line the Aqua Line(3). This is somewhat like arguing about the best placement of deck chairs on the Titanic.

Ear to the Rail

The Mole is constantly looking for interesting MP3 downloads and other audio, to which he can listen when the ride is too rough or too short, for reading. Here is a link to Fresh Air.

Unfortunately, these broadcasts cannot be downloaded, but, you can listen on-line, beginning on July 17th and continuing for four days, Terry Gross provides us with an excellent surprisingly balanced background briefings on the Israel's main areas of conflict, viz., Gaza and Lebanon.

On July 24, 2006, in a broadcast called Republican Strategies in the 21st Century ,Terry interviews Los Angeles Times reporters Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten about the Republican party's approach to forcing their priorities. On item discussed was the Washington, DC “Wednesday Meeting” showing how seemingly disparate conservative groups can be brought together to kill proposed legislation, e.g., improved CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy or Clean Air for Europe) standards which, to my way of thinking, then lead to a worsening of Global Warming.

Fresh Air is just one of many excellent NPR offerings . www.NPR.com

Your Mole also likes to be entertained and is interested in history. An excellent source for podcasts which cover both of these bases is an OTR (Old Time Radio) site. e.g..

Listening to these programs, some more than seventy years old, can be entertaining AND, some say, can sharpen one's listening skills and improve concentration. There are many OTR sites, this one offers a samples of “Mysterious Traveler” the host takes a train ride and “Nero Wolfe” a well developed character based upon novels by Rex Stout (1886 – 1975).

The Mole Rides Again - so that you, won't have to listen to the driver's (and other's) inane cell phone conversations

On a 232 bus (No. 11059), it's 2006-07-22 qt 14:20. The bus is behind schedule but the operator (No. 70835) doesn't mind as he chats on his cell phone and seemingly slows down a little with each word.

I experience a sense of déjà vu on another bus. As I wait to exit, the operator tells me: “I do that a couple of times a day, forget where I am”. This was by way of explaining his indecisiveness about which lane to take, after hanging up upon completing his cell phone conversation. Sooner or later – CRASH!

Mathew, a visitor from Canberra Australia, echoed my feelings about the 333 Line from Santa Monica, which abruptly terminates in a less than desirable part of Los Angeles. He told me that he was given a ride out of the area by the LAPD and a friendly cautionary lecture about the people who live in the area and it's dangers. The 333 should terminate at Union Station, or at least the 7th/Metro Red Line Station, which is only several blocks away. See Line 333 route map on page 4. But, that would be “systems thinking”. Mr. Snoble are you listening??

Once again, today, 1 August, the LACMTA showed that its customers are the furthest thing from its mind. Today, the Beach Cities Transit Line 109 supposedly went into operation, but, there were no announcements, no schedules, no notices – no nothing. This is definitely par for the course for an agency that is more secretive than the CIA, and I mean this in a bad way. Additionally, the value of one's pass has depreciated because extra fare is now required to accomplish the same trip – if, indeed, the trip is even possible under with the reduced service (think old Line 220) - that was included in the pass until the 25 June 2006 “shakeup”.

The woman, holding a faux Louis Vuitton bag on her lap, is pronouncing each word silently as she reads. The man, seated across from me, is dressed in maculate clothing and wearing a hat which mostly conceals his long hair, seems to have experienced a corporal failure. His mid-section seems to have melted and reconstituted itself around his mid-thigh. Daliesque might be properly descriptive of his condition.

  1. N/A “Polluted Hong Kong mulls laws on idling engines” 25 July 2006 Agence France-Presse

  2. N/A No Free Metro Rides” 31 July 2006 Los Angeles Times

(3) Guccione, Jean Parks Aims to Derail 'Aqua Line'20 July 2006 Los Angeles Times

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