Southern California at night from space (via NASA).

Last night, I saw more stars than I’d seen from home in years.

I’d just gotten back from a midnight grocery run (on which I’d had the disorienting experience of watching a three-quarter moon rise — talk about a “grin without a cat”), and the combination of recent rain, fewer house lights at that hour, and my own dark-adapted eyes made the night sky look more like what I remember from home in the suburbs when I was younger.

It was still depressingly few stars compared to those times I’ve been out camping in the desert, or even the time we went to San Simeon and I drove out of town a few miles to try to spot a comet (it didn’t work)…and nothing on the time we stopped in the middle of the Ka‘u lava fields on Hawai‘i. But it was enough that I could make out part of Orion’s arm and club, which is a lot more than I usually see here in the southwest of Los Angeles. If the moon hasn’t risen, Juipter would have dominated the view, and it seemed as bright as Venus had been just after sunset, though I now know that’s an illusion of memory. Even the Hyades were clear.

Of course, that was only in part of the sky: straight up, to the south, and to the west. North and east faded into the general haze of light from greater Los Angeles. Even the Pleiades, sadly, used to be easy to spot, but I could barely pick them out.

Earlier in the evening, I’d tried to point out Orion and Cassiopeia to my almost-three-year-old son, but he’d been completely uninterested. I wonder: Have I missed the window to show him how awesome the night sky can be?

On my flights up to San Francisco and back a few weeks ago, I noticed that the Los Angeles area at night, rather than being mostly dark with islands of light, is mostly light with islands of dark: the mountain ranges and hills. Today I stumbled on a photo from space that really demonstrates it: Artificial Light, taken by, well, it doesn’t actually identify the astronaut, but since it’s credited to NASA and dated July 21, 2013, it’s probably Karen Nyberg (unless the site is confusing it with this shot of hers).

In this image, south is up and north is down. San Diego is at the top of the frame. The lower half is Orange County, the Los Angeles basin, and the San Gabriel Valley. The Santa Ana Mountains form an empty gap in the middle, bordered by the communities along the I-15 to the left. A narrower gap, Chino Hills and connected hills, extends downward to the right, ending at a bright spot that marks Downtown Los Angeles. The San Fernando Valley is covered by clouds, though you can see a glow from beneath. I had no idea Hemet had grown so big.

I grew up next to that empty area in the middle, and at the time it was even bigger. A lot of farmland and open space has filled in over the last 25 years. And all those street lights leak light upward into the sky, where it scatters and hides more and more stars.

We don’t need all that light leaking into the sky. It doesn’t help visibility down on the ground, it’s a waste of energy…and it hides what used to be a basic source of wonder that anyone could experience.

Jurassic Park SUVComics, costumes and cars…writers and artists…Young Justice and scenery by the sea. I had a good time at Long Beach Comic and Horror Con on Saturday, though I felt like something was missing. At first I wasn’t sure what, but by the end of the day I realized two things:

  1. I didn’t have any real goals for the convention, which was why it felt so aimless.
  2. I wished I had time to come back for a second day to do the things I thought of late in the afternoon.

Skip to the photos if you want, or read on.

The con is starting to feel like two conventions. No, not comics and horror. Five years on, it’s still the most comics-focused “comic con” I’ve attended. I find myself wondering why they still have “Horror” in the name. No, the two cons are: costumes in the lobby and around the edge of the main floor, and books-and-art inside. There were cosplayers I saw repeatedly in the lobby and wondered whether they ever managed to make it downstairs at all. Continue reading

Los Angeles skyline in shadow, foreground in light. Los Angeles skyline in light, foreground in shadow.

I went out for a brief walk Thursday afternoon (sometimes you just need fresh air). It had been raining, but had stopped, and the sun had broken through the clouds. Something made me go up to the top of the nearby parking structure where I could see downtown Los Angeles. It turned out to still be completely in shadow, as the gloom stretched inland. But it made for a great contrast with the sunlit hotel in the foreground.

The next day, another of intermittent rain and sun, I glanced out my office window shortly before sunset and took another short walk, this time straight to the parking structure for a better view of the mountains. The sun was sinking past open patches in the cloud layer, and I realized it was only a matter of time before it lit up the city in the distance.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, downtown Los Angeles was lit up by the sunset, and while I was at the wrong angle to see the towers turn completely orange as I did once on the train nearly three years ago, I was able to line up the same angle as the photo from the previous day…because this time the nearby hotel was the building in shadow.

I set up 404 Notifier when I moved my Les Mis commentary to its own blog, to catch anything I might have missed while getting content moved and the new site set up. I then added the RSS feed to Feedly.

After a few weeks, I started noticing some odd links showing up to /r/bienvenu, but I couldn’t find anything that linked to that URL. Then I looked closer and realized it was Feedly itself that was hitting the link!


  1. Broken URL gets hit.
  2. 404 Notifier adds the hit to the feed.
  3. Feedly retrieves the feed.
  4. Feedly follows the URL!
  5. Return to step 1.

The timing is inconsistent, but I think Feedly might be hitting the URL whenever I look at the list of “articles,” maybe checking for an image to use for the card in magazine view. And based on the first instance in the DB, I think it may have been a URL I used to test the plugin when I first installed it, then forgot.

For now, I’ve just removed the feed from Feedly. I’m considering altering the plugin to skip hits from Feedly, but I can probably just turn it off now that the blog has been up for a month. It’s served its purpose. If anything, it might make more sense to put it on this site to see if I missed any redirects (though I haven’t actually removed the old copies of the posts yet).

I’ve found my lunchtime patterns fossilizing. Mostly, there aren’t a whole lot of places to eat within walking distance that aren’t hotel restaurants and therefore expensive, and parking is such a chore that it’s not worth driving anywhere. So I end up going to two fast food places and two cafes, over and over again.

The other day, I started to walk to Subway, and realized I just couldn’t bring myself to eat there again. So I did something I’d never done: I kept walking. As it turns out there wasn’t anyplace to eat past it, just two more hotels (neither of which advertised a restaurant) and an abandoned office building. From there I walked along Sepulveda until I reached In-N-Out.

Along the way, though, I spotted some interesting items, like this old warehouse:

Continue reading