January 9th, 2006


They're Off

I keep smelling skunks outside. In the kitchen, I keep smelling dead ants. I killed them. I cleaned everything thoroughly, and the ants came back. I finally discovered the attraction. My dad had left a dark cup with a residue of fruit juice in it, covered with no more than a paper napkin, sitting on top of the dark microwave. The ants had found their way into the cup, unseen against the dark backgrounds. I moved it to the sink and drowned about two hundred of them in and on the cup, after crushing as many who were crawling about the counters. The whole room stinks of formic acid. Good thing the skunks have been active. They smell much better than dead ants.

Anyway. Clear and cold, and no more rain due for a couple of days. I might get the last of the mulberry leaves cleaned away. It's almost time for the camellias to bloom.

Poking around in the USC image archives, I came across this interesting picture of a herd of 1920's era cars on a mountain road. It turned out to be a photo of the opening of the Mulholland Highway in 1924. This is the road which runs along the crest of the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains for many miles, from Cahuenga Pass to somewhere west of Sepulveda Pass. Though I spent most of my life in Los Angeles, I never went up to look at this road. I heard about it all the time though. The views are supposed to be spectacular, especially at night.

This picture doesn't show the view, though. The thing which caught my eye is that herd of cars. There's something about those dangerous, gassy, noisy, inefficient, absurd looking early machines that I find very appealing. There were still af ew of them on the road when I was very young. My dad actually had an old Model "A" Ford I remember riding in a few times. It had a running board. I remember my dad racing a train to a crossing in that car. In those days, he sometimes drove with the same abandon with which he now treats kitchen utensils and cups of fruit juice. It's a wonder I'm alive today, to kill the ants his carelessness attracts.

But the cars are appealing. They look a bit silly, crowding the dirt road which gives every appearance of being in the middle of nowhere. That they are seen from the back makes them look even sillier. The rear ends of those cars were always their silliest part. Well, aside from the running boards. But the sight of all those drivers out for the adventure of driving on a new and dangerous road on that sunny day eighty years ago has a certain naive charm. As always, I think how little they knew of what lay ahead. As always, I think of how all of them are probably gone now, and their silly cars too. Looking at this picture is like seeing the start of a race that I know everyone is going to lose. Strangely, it still makes me happy.

On the Road
On the Road

Traffic gathered for the opening of the Mulholland Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles, 1924.

(click the image to see larger versions.)


Much unaccustomed sunlight and an absence of rain induced my participation in outdoor activities today. When moving leaves from the walk, I exposed the water they had protected from evaporation. That water always has an interesting odor, slightly musty, like a tiny swamp. If I had a microscope, I'd have been tempted to take a sample of it and see what was going on in it's non-depths. I'll bet it's full of little organisms munching bits of decaying leaf tissue and each other. Not too different form our world, in other words, but without the Internet.


Mark Shmitt has a point when he belittles Congress' lobbying reform efforts.
"This is not a lobbying scandal. It's a betrayal-of-public-trust scandal. Lobbyists have no power, no influence, until a public servant gives them power.

"... every time we say "lobbying reform," we reinforce the idea that it is only the lobbyist who is the wrongdoer. Sure, many lobbyists are slimy and aggressive. (Others, in my experience, can be helpful and informative, as long as you understand that they represent only one side of an argument.) But no one forces any legislator or staffer to accept lunches, trips, or favors from a lobbyist. And the reason not to do that is that the legislator risks surrendering some of her power, which is a public trust, to these private interests."

As some point out in comments below the article, members of both parties are susceptible to the temptations offered by lobbyists. Maybe before they consider the content of a bill controlling lobbyists (or appearing to control lobbyists), maybe everybody in Congress should read Mark Twain's The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.


I suspect that many of my readers (especially those over age 40 or so) might enjoy vasco_de_gramma's haiku in athb.

Now, moon needs watching.