Realistic Drought-Busting

Sod the sod: xeriscape!

5 Ways to Bust California’s Drought | TIME.

Bryan Walsh at TIME is probably getting as tired as we are of all of the finger-pointing taking place around California about water wasting. Enough of the mutually vilifying PR battles between almond growers, city water districts, and the oil industry. Finger pointing and calls for draconian measures (uprooting the state’s avocado trees, shutting down hydrofracking, and rationing drinking water) will not solve the water shortage.

Walsh suggests five sensible, intelligent, and sustainable ways to cut back water without turning the state into a lousy place for people to live. Longtime readers of this blog will recognize xeriscaping as a step very dear to the hearts of GWR editors.

SoCal’s wettest July on record and rumors of a Monster El Niño notwithstanding, we’re going to be in a drought for a while to come, and when we’re out, we need to give the State’s water resources a chance to recover. Each of these steps should be on your radar.

The Bigger Boeing Long Beach Story

Boeing is leaving Long Beach, and California is no longer in the business of manufacturing aircraft as it has done for over a century. It is the end of an era, and this video offers a glimpse at what was the final hope for the airframe assembly business in California.

One point of note in the video is that the reporter actually reached out to Governor Jerry Brown’s office to see if they were talking to Boeing about keeping an assembly facility open in Long Beach, but the office was gently evasive. If that has you scratching your head, that is because this reporter did not tell the whole story. Boeing still has around 18,000 employees in the state, a far cry from the heights of the Cold War, but still one of California’s largest employers.

All of this points to a larger fact. While aircraft are no longer flying out of factories in California, there is a large and thriving aerospace industry here still. According to A.T. Kearny, 203,000 direct jobs and 511,000 indirect jobs can be attributed to the aerospace industry in California, more than Hollywood and agriculture combined. The industry is a lot harder to see, but it is still there, even as airplane factories across the Southland fall under the wrecking ball.

Werner Herzog on LA

“I moved to Los Angeles because my wife and I decided we had to live in the city with the most substance in the United States. And I do not regret it for a second. Don’t be misled by the superficial glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It’s the city with the most cultural substance.”

Werner Herzog

via Werner Herzog’s Thoughts On Los Angeles Are Pretty Great: LAist.

Amen. Though I think San Francisco and LA run pretty much neck-and-neck…

Living in the Age of Airplanes

Living in the Age of Airplanes.

In the new National Geographic film “Living in the Age of Airplanes,” narrator Harrison Ford says that aviation has changed our world permanently.

With respect to the creators of this wonderful film, may I offer some moderation: perhaps aviation has not changed our world. It has, however, changed our species and the way we relate to our world.

More than perhaps any other single factor, the perspective afforded by aviation and its offspring, space exploration, have made us aware of how tiny, how fragile, how isolated, and how precious this planet is for all of us.

Like no other place in the world – whether Kitty Hawk, Seattle, or Toulouse – California is the cradle of aviation and aerospace. True, most of the great, cavernous airplane factories and their satellite subcontractors no longer punctuate the California landscape the way they used to. But flight runs deep in the bones of this state, and if you know where to look, you can still see how aviation formed California, how California formed aviation, and how the quest for the sky and the stars is a core part of our future.

To understand how, though, we must begin by exploring the past. In the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of pieces examining California and aerospace.

We welcome your thoughts.


On Why LA is Not Brooklyn with Sunshine

Los Angeles vs. New York City – The Atlantic.

Conor Friedersdorf’s riposte to The New York Times’ contention that, hey, it is now okay to live in LA because, at its best, LA is just like Brooklyn.


Friedersdorf quite correctly suggests that anyone coming out here looking for New York With Twelve Months of Sunshine should save the airfare. There is much that is wonderful about New York, and there is much that is wonderful about LA, and unless you come seeking what makes LA different, why bother leaving your bloody fifth-floor SoHo walkup in the first place?

Anyway, read the article in The Atlantic. It is far more eloquent and less apoplectic in its defense of the City of the Angels than I am in this post.

Why Old Style Cities are the Future of California

Cities for People—or Cars? | The American Conservative.

“Modern development represents not just a step backward in sophistication but an abandonment of complexity in favor of systems that are efficient, orderly, and dumb.”

Civil engineer Charles Marohn explains why the quest for the post-modern city is a step in the direction of not only sustainability, but durability, livability, and genuine community.

In doing so he offers a blueprint that no state needs more desperately than California, and no city more than Los Angeles.

Books and Places

It has been said that the Divine Comedy is a book that reads us: one of those rare works of art that compels deep self-examination. In a similar way, Europe, despite its decline, is a place that places us.

via From Disneyland to Dante | The American Conservative.

I feel much the same way about the truly old and timeless places in California. I am attracted to places like the Missions and Yosemite not just because of their beauty, but because they evoke a kind of contemplation that can only be found in the presence of deep history, whether natural or manmade.

US Census Data on Gender and Employment in LA

Mapping the Los Angeles Neighborhoods Where Men Have Jobs and Women Don’t
Benjamin Gross

Cool Map Thing
Curbed LA
12 January 2015

There are great disparities in employment between men and women across the heart of LA, and this fascinating map shows where those gaps exist.

What the map doesn’t show, of course, is why. And this is important, because the map reveals strong similarities in gender employment in south L.A. and on the West Side. Now, we can surmise that women in poorer neighborhoods can’t get a job – or cannot afford to, or lack the skills, or do not have adequate jobs available to them. We could also guess that women in more prosperous neighborhoods simply choose not to work.

Those would be the easy answers, but we should not accept them. If anything, this map tells us nothing more than that there is a phenomenon worth investigating.

Cars and Kicks


Is that Flo? Wigwam Hotel, Holbrook, AZ. Photo by Aaron J. Wolf
Is that Flo? Wigwam Hotel, Holbrook, AZ. Photo by Aaron J. Wolf

In the twelve-hundred miles of our journey that lay along Route 66, we saw a dozen places that hinted at Pixar’s fictional hamlet of Radiator Springs. No single place captured the essence of that town more than the little burg of Holbrook, Arizona.

Turning a corner where the Route 66 sign pointed to the right we suddenly saw spitting images of Mater and Flo from Cars hanging out at the iconic Wigwam Hotel, itself the model for the film’s Cozy Cones Motel. At some point we all had to wonder whether Pixar’s filmmakers were drawing their inspiration from points along America’s Mother Road, or whether they were providing the inspiration themselves.

Red as a Tow-Mader. Photo by Aaron J. Wolf
Red as a Tow-Mader. Photo by Aaron J. Wolf

Either way is fine with me: I give the Pixar flickmeisters full credit for helping to set the stage for our road trip. The images inspired my son, but what inspired me was a quote from Sally, the Porsche 911 who was Ligthning McQueen’s love interest.

“Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”

Driving across America proved that beyond a doubt. When we wanted to make time, we got on an Interstate. When we wanted to have fun, we went looking along two-lane roads. If we came home with a single resolution, it was to spend more time on the slow roads. That is, after all, where the real “kicks” are to be found.