Category Archives: Los Angeles

Thunderstorm

This afternoon we experienced a rare thunderstorm in Los Angeles. Only some drops of rain in my area, but some nice thunder and lightning. Here is a snapshot of the thundercloud remnants, as seen from my desk just before sunset.

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The Los Angeles Air Raid

The Battle of Los Angeles, also known as ‘The Great Los Angeles Air Raid’, is the name given by contemporary sources to the rumored enemy attack and subsequent anti-aircraft artillery barrage which took place from late February 24 to early February 25, 1942 over Los Angeles, California.

Read more details here.

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Double Rainbow

This week, Southern California was drenched by record-breaking rainfalls, resulting in the usual traffic chaos, power outages, floodings, mudslides and other theatrics for which the area is notorious.

But there were also moments of beauty. I snapped these pictures from a moving car while traveling south on the 405 Freeway. The entire arch of the double rainbow was visible, but it didn’t fit into the frame.

Somehow I think John Lennon, who was killed 30 years ago, would have loved these images. (Click to enlarge).

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Mystery Missile: Cause For Concern

A Pentagon official, taken by surprise, called the incident “bizarre”. The U.S. military seems stumped, and nobody has been able to offer any explanation so far.

Last night just before dusk, a KCBS news helicopter captured footage of what appears to be a large missile launched about 35 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. The launch site, destination and who launched it are part of a mystery.

Of course, this could just be a strange visual illusion — most likely the con trail of a passenger jet, illuminated by the sinking sun. But if it is not, we should be seriously concerned.

If it was indeed a missile — could it be American? Theoretically, yes, but not likely. California is home to several weapons test sites. And the state is home to several U.S. Navy surface ships and submarines capable of executing such a launch, which can be done from a submerged sub. However, the U.S. Navy has denied that any exercise or test took place in the area last night, and has denied any involvement. A spokesperson of Vandenberg Air Force Base, on the coast a little further up north, denied that the con trail originated from there. Neither Navy, nor the Air Force, NORAD or the Defense Department have been able to come up with an explanation so far. And the Federal Aviation Administration had not approved any commercial launch activity in the area on Monday, a spokesman said.

A secret weapons test seems highly unlikely because such tests are not usually conducted in plain sight of a major metropolis, and not in one of the busiest shipping routes along the U.S. West Coast. And firing a large rocket in an unrestricted, civilian airspace would be a violation of all kinds of aviation regulations. And very stupid. Furthermore: judging from the video footage, the con trails seems far too big to come from an amateur rocket.

All the above seems very improbable. Whoever did this must have anticipated (or even desired) the incident to be seen. In the absence of other likely explanations, there are not many plausible scenarios left. But all the remaining ones are all rather disconcerting.

(1) It could have been an accidental firing off a U.S. Navy vessel. (Again, highly improbable, and it would be unwise to attempt a cover-up).

(2) It could have been a demonstration of a hostile foreign nation such as North Korea, which may have secretly developed a submarine-based launch system of their own. In addition to the U.S., Britain’s Royal Navy and the French and Russian navies have the capability as well. And while the first two are allies without a need to conduct such an exercise, Russia would seem disinclined to provoke an international incident with a silly stunt. Besides, the official Russian military has no need to demonstrate their abilities in this area either. Which leaves China and India, both of which have very limited submarine-based missile capability. Both have some new systems believed to come online this year. (Obama is in India at the moment, on his first official visit there. Could this have something to do with it?)

(3) The missile may have been launched from a surface ship disguised as a cargo or shipping vessel — possibly by a terrorist organization or other cartel using a commercial weapons system clandestinely brought close to the American shore. The possible purpose? A demonstration, test or exercise of some sort.

Such systems do exist. The most dangerous I know of is a Russian system developed by Concern Morinformsystem-Agat.

Known as the “Club K Container Missile System”, it consists of 4 surface-to-surface missiles and their launch tubes, concealed in a standard 40-foot shipping container. Such containers are ubiquitous around the world. Tens of millions are traveling on ocean ships, trains and trucks at any given moment. Their sheer number means that they cannot be effectively monitored.

The Club K system is unique in that it appears to be quite autonomous and automated. Concealed within their standard shipping container, the missiles and their launch system could travel, undetected, around the world. Any regular container ship, truck or flatbed train car are possible carriers. Once the container comes within 136 miles (220 km) of its intended target (as determined by GPS), the launch system inside the container activates, erects the launch platform and fires off the missiles. And after that, there is no defense. Ingenious — and very, very difficult to neutralize.

To show how this works, here is a video simulation:

This will be a fascinating story to follow. Clear is only: unless the Pentagon knows something it is not telling the public (and that too would not be unheard of), there is a flurry of major investigations going on right now.

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中秋節

Originating in China about 3,000 years ago, the “Mid-Autumn-” or “Moon Festival” (Zhongqiu in Chinese, Tết Trung Thu in Vietnamese) is one of the year’s most important holidays in much of Asia.

Having admired and loved the Moon since childhood, I have come to think that the Chinese had the right idea by giving the Moon its own holiday. There are of course many beautiful myths and customs surrounding it, the details of which vary by region. But the roots go back to the beginning of science, as the festival marks both Autumnal Equinox and Full Moon. This year was very special, because both occurred simultaneously, which has not happened in 20 years.

Full Moon and Jupiter over West Los Angeles. Photo: Reinhard Kargl, 2010. Click to enlarge.

I took the above picture from a hilltop west of Los Angeles, looking east just before 11 PM last night. (B&W, digital SLR, ISO 50, 24 mm lens, f/2.8, 15 sec., 2 stops underexposed. Digitally processed and vignette added. The blur was natural and caused by moist marine layers drifting in from the ocean).

PS: And yes, I did get to enjoy the traditional moon cakes. (Three different kinds!)

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The Great (Smoking) Divide

The overall percentage of smokers in Los Angeles County has reached a new low of 14.3% on average. But recently released reports illustrate a sharp difference in smoking rates along racial, cultural and geographic divides.

The lowest smoking rates were found in expensive, white areas with high education levels, such as San Marino (5.3%), Malibu (5.8%) and LaCanada-Flintridge (6.4%).

Broken down into ethnicity and gender, the highest rates of smoking were found to be among:

Korean-American males: 44.8%
African-American males: 32.1%
Vietnamese-American males: 24.8%
African-American females: 19.6%
Latino-American males: 17.7%
Filipino-American males: 17.1%
Chinese-American males: 16.4%

It is believed that in 1 of 7 deaths, smoking was a major contributing cause. Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disability.

Although lacking necessary funding in every area of operation, Los Angeles County agencies are currently spending $4.3 billion in tax money to pay for the costs of tobacco related diseases. Of this amount, the County is sinking $2.3 billion into direct health care expenditures.

Download the report here.

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R.I.P. Mrs. Death

I must confess that I like old cemeteries. I don’t perceive them as eerie, but as peaceful and tranquil. To those with open minds and eyes, cemeteries offer a glimpse into the lives of people who have long gone.

Here is a picture I took in a Southern California graveyard. Mrs. Death passed away 98 years ago, at the age of 81. Who was she? And how did she get that name? Surely, introductions at social gatherings would have resulted in some comical consternation.

I assume that Mrs. Death must have possessed a sense of humor — otherwise she would have changed her name at some point. (Quite easily accomplished in America, name changes are a time honored tradition among immigrants).

Peace be upon her.

R.I.P., Mrs. Death. Photo: Reinhard Kargl, 2010. Click to enlarge.

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Night Hike

Something I love about the Los Angeles area is that despite all its insane sprawl, it still offers the possibility of escape from the urban mess; to seek moments of refuge and relative solitude in the wilderness of the mountain chains surrounding the basin.

These pictures were taken on a night hike last weekend. (Click to enlarge).

Venus is hanging low in the east as the Sun is setting over the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Reinhard Kargl

Seen from Parker Mesa Overlook in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Moon has risen over West Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Bay. Photo: Reinhard Kargl

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