Archive for May, 2020

Flat!

31 May 2020

…being a slightly decorated listing of unfortunate events.

It was threatening rain yesterday (Saturday) so I postponed my shopping trip until today. Probably just as well, as there was a demonstration downtown yesterday around the issue of the recent killing of a black man in Minneapolis. I have not seen the video.

This morning some people – volunteers I guess – were trying to clean off the spray paint left by a few out-ethics “demonstrators” on the Supreme Court Building (and legal library) across from the Capitol building.

volunteers try to remove paint defacing the Supreme Court Building in Sacramento

I had been in Folsom doing my shopping when I found I had run over something (looked like broken ceramic) that had punctured my front tire. So I came back home on the train, then got on my other bike to take a second try at a bike ride.

flat tire
Flat tire!

The demonstrators had walked across the “tower bridge” to visit West Sacramento. I thought I’d ride over that way, too. Someone defaced some utility boxes with their message. It’s a valid message, but not good to deface public property with it. Makes your “cause” look questionable, doesn’t it?

black lives matter

And another box near Macy’s:

defaced utility box near Macy's downtown.

Macy’s is one of many department store chains having problems competing with online shopping sites. And the pandemic lockdown doesn’t help. This quite large store hasn’t closed for good yet, but it very well might.

Government and Corporate

Governments and business have been intertwined for a long, long time. When something goes wrong in a society, where can you find the causes for it? The answer, of course, is the criminal. It might be a criminal in government, or one in corporate, or one not much connected with either.

Governments are usually expected by businesses and the public to capture and punish street criminals, such as the ones who defaced those utility boxes. However, punishment has not been found to be effective in reducing such crime. In places like the U.S., governments have also been leaned on by the public to capture and punish “white collar” criminals, usually ones thought to exist in business. But governments and businesses have always been so intermingled, that such actions are seldom very thorough.

Businesses, for their part, often don’t have definite methods for keeping their employees honest. They may choose to fire someone who is not performing satisfactorily. But what about someone who appears to making the company more money by engaging in questionable activities? The business may choose to try to hide such people from outside scrutiny or protect them in other ways. This is a long tradition in both business and government.

Thus, when a police officer acts like a criminal, most people expect him to be treated like one. But government (and business) would prefer to handle such matters more quietly. And so, the public are likely to perceive that an injustice has occurred in such a case.

My ride down Capitol Mall took me past the Wells Fargo Center. This is an old American bank with a colorful tradition.

Wells Fargo Center front plaza

Inside is a restored stage coach – one of their favorite things to display.

stage coach inside

This company made it’s wealth, we can suppose, by providing valuable services to its customers, like package and letter transport before the transcontinental trains went in. Those actions can be respected.

But those coach routes were being “made safe” by the U.S. Army’s program of rounding up and killing or encamping all the disgruntled native Americans who saw their lands being given away and destroyed. In like fashion, the British Navy used to protect East India Company merchant ships. And later the Company itself, with its own private army, took over much of India in order to protect is ports and other assets.

West Sacramento

I rode across the bridge, stopping for a minute to watch the boats on the river.

boats on Sacramento River

Across from downtown Sacramento, where the waterfront is set up as a tourist destination, is the West Sacramento waterfront – a decidedly corporate creation.

West Sacramento waterfront

There is a “nice” walkway and park along that side of the river, but a man found a bench there a convenient place to indulge in a somewhat fitful sleep.

Man sleeps on bench at entry to West Sac riverfront walk

What could he possibly be worried about? From a corporate perspective, everything is going fine, “we’re all in this together,” and we’ll all get through it somehow. Corporate, however, owns large and expensive assets, while this man probably doesn’t even own a bed.

We can see that an intention existed at one time to make this area a nice place. But how firm was that intention? How much did it include the local government and nearby residents?

West Sac waterfront walk

While this part of the waterfront remains tidy, the area is not in really good condition.

At the north end of the walk is an old railroad-and-car bridge (built 1911). The bridge can swing sideways to let bigger boats through, but I’ve never seen it do that. There are plans afoot to move the vehicle traffic to a new bridge. A much higher bridge to the south carries freeway traffic.

The view across to downtown Sacramento gives us a look at the steam locomotive they have parked in Old Sac with newer, higher buildings behind.

view of downtown from West Sac

I judge the Sacramento side to be in better shape, probably because of all the foot traffic in Old Sac.

I return to the vicinity of Tower Bridge to explore in the opposite direction.

donuts in an intersection

Someone has been using this intersection to make “donuts!” There are reports from many places that “car nuts” are taking advantage of the not-so-busy streets in many cities to do show-off stunts like this.

Just to the right of this location is Raley Field (for Raley’s a local grocery chain) which recently became Sutter Health Park. It is a successful minor league baseball park.

Beyond the ballpark is a lot of undeveloped land. Just before the I-80 bridge, several apartment complexes have been built, with some still in-progress.

apartments being built

The older building is called The Foundry.

the Foundry apartment building

The newer buildings are called 980Central.

980 Central

There is a cute little park in the middle…

new west sac mini park

Both were developed by the same company. They rent apartments to singles, young couples, and small families, starting at $1500/month.

Across the street is the beer garden/pizza restaurant and play field.

the Barn from the playfield

Beer is big in this area. But the pandemic lockdown has made this empty on what would normally be one of its busiest days.

the Barn

YOLO!

I have previously addressed the issue of YOLO here: https://lecox.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/notes-from-the-wild-side-and-yolo/

YOLO!

Perhaps YOLO is part of the problem we’re having. It’s…not true, of course. But what happens to a person if he totally believes it? On the one hand, its sentiment might entice you to throw caution to the wind and feed your hunger for new experiences, the supposed original intention of the phrase.

On the other hand, it could lead someone to be much more averse to experiencing “bad” or “unsafe” things that could cut one’s “only life” short! This could be related to the expression “I’m good” which had one boost in popularity in 1980 and another around 2000 (according to Google’s N-Gram Viewer, which I like to use on all unfamiliar expressions). It really means “please don’t bother me with that because it’s beyond my comfort level.”

It’s easier to go ahead and wear a mask than to wonder why someone supposedly representing the medical establishment told us that we need to all wear masks and be six feet apart to “stay safe.” There is actually no study demonstrating that these precautions, applied the way we have applied them, would slow a pandemic. It’s just a guess. But when YOLO crashes into “I’m good” your result is an economic crash of unprecedented proportions.

Next, I found this sign next to an art installation on the river. No one wants to wipe the bird turd off. Not even me!

A few interesting things

This well-known flowering plant (this one at Folsom Winco) is called agapanthus.

agapanthus flowers

However, these ones, planted near the new apartment buildings, aren’t fully identified:

pink liliaceous flower

And out in back of the Barn, beyond where the paved trail ends, I saw a pair of jackrabbits playing around in the weeds. They were chasing each other, but I was too slow for that with my camera.

jackrabbit
jackrabbit
jackrabbit running

On my way back home, I took this shot of my other bicycle, with a pretty girl riding a bike in the background, among other things.

girl riding bike, etc.

At the foot of the bridge stands this sycamore tree. I think it is the largest sycamore I have ever seen.

rhododenron and

Beside it grows a little rhododendron bush. How did it get there?

Oh – and the lizard with its tail broken off. I almost forgot this one. From Folsom.

Fun with LED arrays

24 May 2020

I have been playing around with simple ways to make patterns on LED arrays.

Here’s one demonstration of how the same numeric pattern looks on a regular “square” array (cartesian coordinates) and on a circular or radial array (polar coordinates, you could say).

The circular array is quite suited to my work, because I am working with repetitive patterns and polar coordinates are usually used for things that repeat, like rotating planets or the sine wave that comes out of your wall socket.

Here we have a demonstration first of what x=y (cartesian) looks like on square and circular arrays. On the square array it’s just a diagonal line from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. On the circular array it’s a spiral.

When I flip the switch to take the x and y signals out of synchronization, where (in this case) x and y are different by about a ratio of 2 to 3, we get a slowly moving slanted line on the square array and a pulsing pattern – basically a set of spirals – on the circular array. So this condition looks more interesting. Many patterns are possible using this sort of system, and this is one thing I’m working on while stuck at home.

Circular arrays

Circular arrays that use base-2 numbers (8 or 16 for instance) are, as far as I can tell, non-existent as manufactured items. That means I have to make them myself. Here’s what my recently-constructed 8-by-8 array looks like in the back:

circular array rear view

Without going into laborious detail, you can see this took a bit of work.

I continue to look for pre-fab boards with circular patterns, but so far have only found ones used for clocks (12 points in the circle, or some multiple of 12). Digital ICs (old school CMOS) almost all use binary counting. As the standard IC has 16 pins, the most places you can pull out of one is 8. The binary number comes in as 3 bits (up to 8 places) or 4 bits (up to 16 places) and can be resolved to 8 places with one IC, or 16 with two, etc.

I may learn how to design my own boards for this purpose. We’ll see about that.

Memorial Day

23 May 2020

Memorial Day came early this year. That’s because now it officially falls on a Monday – the one closest to the end of May (that’s in May). Otherwise, we would have had to wait until June first.

Freedom

Downtown the conservatives were having a freedom rally.

Though Memorial Day is about war dead (originally, the Civil War), we have a current pressing concern about freedom. So a bunch of folks brought out their flags and came down to the Capitol to hear speeches and so forth.

I was not there long. I was listening to a Hispanic guy talk about how his people don’t want to be on the public dole, but would rather work and make a good living. He was talking about how most of his people are Christians. He was talking about how valuable freedom is to his people. This, of course, is not unique to Hispanics.

memorial day rally

In the old days, they used to call it “Liberty.” But whatever you call it, the real point is that one can use one’s freedom of will or freedom to act to enrich oneself at the expense of others or for the benefit of others. It was the “liberty” taken by the colonizer of North America that lead to the colonists desiring their own “liberty.” We know (more or less) what happened to the native Americans and to the imported Africans as we as a “free” people pursued our own sense of what “liberty” meant to us.

It sometimes must be pointed out that happiness usually arises from a good balance of freedoms and barriers. If, back then, there had been more barriers in place against the killing of native Americans or the enslavement of Africans we might be in a happier condition today.

However, governments and other institutions charged with managing people tend to err on the side of barriers. And so we have the current situation. (It should be noted that there was never any real medical consensus that the steps recommended by the CDC or the WHO were the best steps to take in this situation. It was a political choice made about 15 years ago.)

The barriers begin to fall

Nonetheless, a new consensus is arising – after three months of “shelter in place” – that it is time to start opening things back up. And so this Saturday, I saw a LOT of people rafting on the river.

rafting on the American river

And then I saw even more people rafting on the river!

even more river rafters

I also saw people sitting outside restaurants at tables eating, and even going into some restaurants. And I saw signs announcing re-openings.

However, for this pool at Sac State to be usable by people again, there’s going to be some real cleanup needed!

More flowers

a garden-quality mullein (verbascum)

The floral scene continues to alter weekly as we move closer to Summer. The above flower was on the Folsom trail I use to get to the river. It is a mullein (verbascum) – a variety I have never seen before.

everlastings

These flowers are known as everlastings. They dry very well, and are often seen in flower arrangements dyed different colors. This plant is the only one I have ever seen in the park.

wild grapes in flower

Grape flowers have basically no petals. These are wild grapes and grow as a weed throughout this area. The grapes they produce are small but sweet.

mock orange bush in flower

I have never seen this mock orange in flower. I had a similar bush outside my window in Seattle. It is very showy right now.

St. John's wort

I thought I should take a photo of a St. John’s wort. It is widely known as a medicinal plant and is also very much in bloom in the park. The plant has some unusual characteristics, such as numerous small translucent dots in the leaves, and an odd serrated edge on the flower petals. I caught a bee in this shot as a bonus.

Dry hills

Across the river in the Folsom area, is a south-facing hillside. It has already been baked brown by the hot sun. This is a very typical scene in many places in California that aren’t directly on the coast.

It could be that these hills were once more verdant. Many of these places have been grazed for quite a long time. But I suspect hills that look like this have been the norm in inland California for hundreds of years. One looks at a slope like this with Permaculture in mind, and tends to think, “Wow, could that land use some swales!” Such land is at constant risk of catching on fire, and my understanding is that the natives used to set fires on purpose to control the dry underbrush.

Hyperbaric Medicine

19 May 2020
hyperbaric chamber single patient
James Heilman, MD at en.wikipedia / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Recently Dr. (Joseph) Mercola has brought up the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to treat blood oxygenation (breathing) difficulties in COVID-19 patients. He linked to a presentation done by Dr. Kelly Thibodeaux about his experience with HBOT at his hospital in Louisiana.

I listened to the one hour presentation (which was done with the help of the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care – AAWC). What struck me the most about the presentation was the doctors’ use of diving terminology.

Diving and Hyperbaric Chambers

Water pressure increases at a rate of 1 atmosphere (or 1 bar) per 10 meters (33 feet) of depth.

Thus, if you are diving without the protection of a pressure chamber (such as in a bathyscaphe or submarine) then you must breath pressurized air in order to prevent your body by being crushed by the surrounding water.

Breathing air under pressure means that the dissolved gasses in your blood are being kept in a dissolved state by that pressure, not just chemical factors. Thus, if the pressure around you goes down (back towards 1 atmosphere, surface air pressure), the gasses in the blood can undissolve, creating bubbles in your blood and tissues. These bubbles can cause anything from pain to death.

The original development of hyperbaric medicine was for the purpose of saving divers who had surfaced too rapidly, and were experiencing “decompression sickness” (formerly known as “the bends”). They would be thrown into a pressure chamber and the air inside pressurized (usually to not much more that 2 atmospheres) to help their bodies handle the gas bubbles.

Thus, a session in a chamber is called a “dive.” And the target air pressure is described as “at depth.” So, if someone is given a “dive with one hour at a depth of 1.6 atmospheres” it means he was kept in the chamber while the inside pressure was gradually increased to 1.6 times sea level air pressure, then maintained there for an hour, then gradually reduced back to normal air pressure.

In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the gas inside the chamber is often close to pure (100%) oxygen. This is for no other reason than its therapeutic effects. Other gas mixtures may, or sometimes must, be used for other types of treatments.

Mercola states that HBOT has been shown to be widely therapeutic. It increases availability of oxygen in the blood, in spite of any breathing difficulties the patient may be experiencing. And oxygen in the blood, within certain limits, is a very good thing.

The Louisiana doctor that gave the presentation took us through five case histories of patients who had COVID-19 with blood oxygenation complications (which is very common in severe cases). Several of these patients were hospital employees. They all benefited tremendously from their treatments and recovered from the disease. Of course, they were getting other treatments besides the HBOT. Most patients with severe symptoms are given antibiotics and a blood thinner. Some hospitals also administer nutrients like Vitamin C.

Availability and use of chambers

For this to work, hyperbaric chambers must exist in the hospital and be located relatively close to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). This may not always be the case, as many doctors and hospitals are relatively unaware of hyperbaric medicine and the benefits of HBOT.

Special disinfectant procedures must be used when the chambers are used for ill patients. They are more commonly used on people who are otherwise not contagious with anything.

Treating multiple people at once is possible with some chambers. However, all the chambers (six) in the Louisiana hospital were single-person chambers very similar to the one pictured at the top of this post.

hyperbaric chamber - multi-person
ד”ר יהודה מלמד עין הוד / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The above image is from the Elisha Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.

In multi-person chambers (or rooms) the concentrated oxygen is delivered locally to each patient, so that the entire space does not have to be filled with it. This assumes that most absorption will be through the nose and mouth, which is normally the case except in the treating of wounds or burns that aren’t healing properly.

Mayo Clinic has a good page on HBOT, although it is characteristically conservative concerning what conditions may benefit from the therapy.

Mercola is less conservative in his communication, so gets into trouble with “the authorities” regularly about things he says or reports on his site. But besides the Louisiana experience (up to 11 patients treated last I heard) there is also a Chinese paper on treatment results on a small number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms. Beyond that, a Kansas City doctor treated Spanish Flu patients with HBOT, though apparently failed to fully document his results. And of course HBOT is routinely used for all sorts of other medical conditions. As a procedure, it is routine, relatively safe, and relatively non-invasive. No drugs are involved with it at all.

I agree with Mercola that it should be more widely used.

Signs of the Times

16 May 2020
state parks flatten curve sign

…being a collection of images of local signage, mostly recently posted….

Older Signs

I think the first time I got an idea that I should take pictures of signs was the first time I saw this one in Folsom. It’s cute, sort of witty, right?

attentions dogs!

This next one is everywhere on the bike paths. I thought I should include it because of how confusing it could be if you didn’t know the context. Some people don’t know why this should be done and/or don’t do it.

walk left, ride right

And please limit your bicycling speed to 15 MPH! If I could go that fast, I could get home in less than an hour and a half. It usually takes me close to 3 hours. I figure I ride at about 6 MPH. The “racers” maybe go 10.

bikes stay below 15 MPH!

COVID-19

“Social distancing” (whatever that is) was one of the earliest concepts introducing into the pandemic “handling.” (Sorry about the quotes, but several sources including my gut call BS on a lot of this stuff.)

social distancing (winco)

Instruction signs were also posted along the bike path, but I haven’t seen them recently. Here’s another one in town:

keep US safe

Later on, WinCo put this one up…

leave your bags in the car

…then stopped charging for plastic bags. Here we have a huge plastic conservation initiative defeated by a microscopic RNA fragment!

And worse than that, the playgrounds are closed. This breaks my heart.

closed playground

I don’t know how the kids can stand these limitations on their movement.

I know a lot of them are learning how to ride bikes.

shelter in pace virtual run

I’m not sure what a “virtual run” is, but I guess these guys have it all figured out.

Closed restaurants

restaurant open for take-out

There are lots of signs like this around town. This restaurant is a very upscale place (across from the light rail station near downtown) so the sign had to look good.

There are roughly 1,400 restaurants in and around Sacramento (California Restaurant Association figure). The street I return on (L Street) is full of them. A cluster of rather chic ones occupies the ‘teens streets area.

thank you for supporting local businesses

Heroes

Suddenly health care workers are “heroes.” Are they getting hazard pay?

Heroes work here - Sutter

This sign is at the Sutter Health center. Sutter is a not-for-profit health care company that operates numerous hospitals.

health care heroes and home for sale

Kaiser gets to toot its own horn, I guess. It is the biggest health care provider of its type in the country. The Plan is strictly non-profit, but doctors can form for-profit groups within the structure.

Though I included a “home for sale” sign, the housing market does not seem to be particularly involved with what is going on right now.

Enjoying the early summer

party at a park - with social distancing

People who want to have an outing in the park usually try to pay their respects to the current restrictions.

people rafting on the American River

Rafters? Maybe not so much.

Medicine

At this time, perhaps more than ever before, the world of medicine has intersected with the world of public life. The result has been – from my viewpoint – a disaster.

learn pharmacy ad on train

The world of medicine is attached at the hip to the world of pharmacy. This is not because drugs have been found to be the best way to treat illnesses. But they are certainly the most simple-minded way to treat illnesses. So everyone agrees. And pharmacy has become big business.

Birds and Flowers

What would my weekly post be without some bird and flower photos?

brodiaea

This flower looks a lot like the ones I identified as allium (wild onion) earlier, but this new one is brodiaea.

asters

These asters appeared “out of nowhere.” Flowers really change a plant’s character and visual impact.

bluebird feeding young

The bluebird is now busy feeding its young. I can hear them tweeting inside their box whenever more food arrives.

And the geese at Hagan Community Park have been very productive this year!

Geese with many goslings

Happy Mothers Day

13 May 2020
Happy Mothers' Day sign

I was supposed to post this on Sunday, but got busy with other things.

After I got off the train to go to Winco, one of the first things I ran across was this outdoor “celebration” of the holiday.

Jesus Culture event

This event, in which people could drive in and get a bouquet for Mom, was being put on by Jesus Culture Sacramento. It turns out that this group came out of the Bethel Church in Redding, which we were involved with when we helped with wildfire relief efforts in 2018.

Bethel Church appeals to well-educated higher-income people who want to be Christians, but in a more modern way than how this faith is offered and presented in more traditional churches. They utilize the power of prayer (and group postulates, as we might call them) and believe in playing a leadership role in society. They train their people to be professionals.

Flowers for Mom

All the rest of this post is flower pictures. I usually take both a longer shot and a closeup of most plants I photograph, and have included the longer shots here (when I took them), though the closeups are definitely the bigger eye-catchers.

pea flower

On the trail from Winco to the park, there is a little stand of pea plants. Their flowers are very showy, though these have been out long enough to start fading. I usually don’t bother to photograph them because they aren’t wild plants.

clarkias

Here is another example of plants I don’t see in the park. However, these flowers are very common in California. They are related to fireweed which is a very common wildflower in many places. They are called “clarkias.”

clarkia flowers

Blackberries are common everywhere. This particular bush is one of several that are eagerly harvested when the berries ripen. In the park these berries tend to be ignored.

blackberry flowers

These are in the Rose Family just in case the thorns and flower shape look a bit familiar. The Rose Family also includes a lot of fruit trees.

The most obvious flowers in the park are the buckeyes (California horse chestnut).

buckeye tree in ful flower

These are now in full, full bloom. The weather this year was just right for this, so now they are putting on a real show.

buckeye flower spike

New members of the aster family also keep appearing. This family is so numerous with so many similar-looking plants that it is hard to know exactly what genus some of these plants belong to.

new yellow asters

While the new asters dominate the foreground in this shot, just behind them are a bunch of monkey flowers (covered earlier) that are still blooming quite profusely and have been for some time.

yellow aster flowers

At the aquatic center they have taken pains (apparently) to bring in some native plants that would otherwise not be seen very often any more. One of these now in bloom is the tree poppy. These are huge bushes with very big white flowers.

tree poppy bush

I have been by here many many times and don’t remember seeing these before, so these flowers must not last very long.

tree poppy flowers

I hope you all had a good weekend, and wish I could share these sights with more of you in person.

Vacant Urban Land

6 May 2020

Every time I go down the stairs to get the mail, I have to look out on this scene across the street.

This used to be the location of the “Clunie Hotel.” I believe it was burned down about ten years ago. This lot appears to have been vacant for quite some time.

This scene keeps hitting me in the face as “wrong.” So I wanted to write about it.

Other unused land

There are several pieces of land close to city center that have been marked for redevelopment but so far stand empty and unused.

One such area in Sacramento is the “railyards” area just to the north of downtown. It was established around the time of the Civil War as a major maintenance depot for local and transcontinental trains. A plan to make this area into a living part of the city has been on the table for years.

sacramento railyards looking into the city

If you get up on that overpass (which goes over the existing rail line) and look to the north and east, you see how large this area is.

railyards area looking away from the city

As was obvious from the previous photo, the city has already put in a road grid with street lights and storm drains. Nothing else has really happened, though, since that time.

Vacant land in the “old days”

In the mid-1800s, as California opened up to immigration from the Midwest and East, people who could afford to would go in and buy large quantities of land and then sit on it until the people came, and sell it to them at a big profit. This has been called “land speculation.” This made a few folks very rich and started a popular trend of “investing in land.”

Well, back then there was a lot of open land and most U.S. cities were still quite small. The money was thought to be in agriculture until industry started to build up in cities.

In the late 1800’s land speculation was a big problem in cities, too. It kept urban land out of production and forced workers to seek cheaper lots further away from where they worked. A thinker of that time, Henry George, proposed that communities should force more urban land into productive use by taxing only the value of the land, rather than land plus improvements. He argued that communities owned their land and gave it value by their very presence, and that land “owners” really only owned the improvements they added to the land to make it productive. A “land tax” would provide incentive to someone holding title to land to make it and keep it productive.

Various modifications to this scheme were tried in a few places, sometimes with good results. But most areas stuck with the traditional way of valuing land, which meant that the owner was basically penalized for improving the land to make it more productive. There was pressure from land owners to keep property taxes low, and cities started relying more on other forms of tax, like sales tax. Investing in land continued to be a “thing to do.”

Vacant land now

Today there is still a problem with unused/undeveloped land in or near cities. The problem these days tends to be that the original owner cannot afford to continue to use the land. They have experienced some economic setback that prevents them from repairing or replacing structures, keeping up mortgage payments, or even paying property taxes. When taxes go into arrears, the county or city government usually gains control of that land. If one defaults on mortgages, the lender will foreclose. But most lenders are not prepared to be land owners and will try to get the land resold as soon as possible. There is still room for land price speculation in these scenarios.

The most common solutions I have found for getting land into use are to either tax it more heavily until it goes into use, or get it into the local “land bank” where it can then be sold cheaply to someone who promises to actually use it for something productive.

Per reports I have read, penalizing vacant land owners does not seem to work that well. They just find sham ways to get the land to appear on paper like it is in use. I suppose such people are speculators, or they would just sell the land and rid themselves of the problem.

Land Values and Property Tax

Most land is assessed for tax purposes by an “Assessor” who follows certain guidelines of good practice, along with whatever the law in his state dictates. It is usually assessed at some percentage of what he thinks it would sell for if put on the market for sale. He compares the land to similar land that has recently been sold to estimate this value.

This is a problem for most municipalities when there is an economic downturn, because the sale price of unused land tends to decrease, and so their tax revenues. If they don’t have a land bank system set up, they can’t do that much when an owner defaults on his taxes except to hope that a new owner will come along who can afford to pay the taxes.

City (urban) planning

The problem of how communities could get more control over their land and how it is used has been a big issue for quite some time. Most communities do not want to challenge the “free market” aspect of land ownership and use, yet have made various attempts through “zoning” and other urban planning strategies to increase their control. Sometimes this process just results in stalemates, because existing residents will pile up against some new idea for using land in their area in fear that it will result in reduced property values (their “investment”).

There is also a push for more open space among some sectors of the urban population. This usually means turning a lot into a park, which the community will then have to maintain at its own expense.

However, none of these dynamics are very evident in downtown Sacramento. The residents here are mostly not land owners and not organized. The land owners are mostly governments, developers, and some big corporations. They normally have buildings on their land (which may include nice park-like areas) which are there for commercial (or governmental) purposes. If a major player wants to build a skyscraper next to my apartment building, they’d probably get their way, though the parcel is currently part of a “special planning district.” Special districts offer incentives to developers to provide certain types of business and residential spaces in their areas. The city planners want K Street to be a “multi-use” type of street, which means more people and less cars. The overall idea is to reduce the costs of commuting by allowing more people to live near where they work and/or near public transit (although public transit isn’t currently less costly than cars, just more compact).

How all this has impacted the plans for the vacant lot next to my building is hard to say. I don’t know how to find out what the current owner is planning to do with the property. And then there is the issue of the economy….

Criminals create poor economic conditions

If a criminal element or operation is bleeding the economy generally, everyone suffers and regular expenses, like taxes, mortgages, and construction loans, become more difficult for everyone to afford.

Criminals find their way into communities by various means. Some (like psychiatrists) pose as “experts” who know how to handle some sort of problem plaguing the community. This can also be done on a “protection racket” basis. In this operation, the criminals create a problem in the community, then offer themselves as the solution to that problem. This has happened in some places in Central and South America where criminals now “run” whole neighborhoods or towns, because they caused so much trouble for the existing honest managers that they gave up and left.

Crime is no minor concern in today’s world, and there are lots of pressures in the direction of increasing use of criminal methods instead of honest methods in handling situations in life. Such is our current condition in this “COVID Crisis” per my best estimates.

It should be noted that the Nazis started in Germany as a more-or-less popular political party and ran the government there for many years. This is even though they openly supported Eugenics and other racist ideas. Eugenics was also widely supported in the United States (and many other places) back then.

Any concentration of power is attractive to criminal elements because if they can gain some control of it, it gives them more “freedom” to commit more crime. This should serve as a warning to anyone who seeks to concentrate or centralize power and authority to “solve” local or world problems. It won’t work if criminals take over, so you need an active and working protection against their incursions. We already have the IRS in the U.S. It has only been kept somewhat in line by good sense and constant oversight. It has had many criminal episodes, and is based on a basically criminal idea.

Remedies

If the lot across from my building is vacant because of unfavorable economic pressures, then Sacramento is still dealing with a criminal scene somewhere in its midst. I’ve spotted psychiatry as one for sure. It is strong here for some reason, but just as ineffective as always, and so should really be fired from its current position controlling “mental health” in the city. For now we can use psychologists who are a little more ethical.

Major drug trafficking lanes run through the city, so there is some criminal attention on letting their traffic pass through on the freeways. They probably also traffic people (slaves) on the same routes. There are probably a variety of other unseen forces at work, as this is, after all, the capital city of one of the largest states on the planet.

Remedies in terms of law, policy, and “community development” are often discussed on the internet. Getting the bleeding to stop by kicking out the criminal elements in a community or society in general is less commonly mentioned, but I think is obviously a more key action to take. Not only will criminal activity ruin a community financially, it will ruin it spiritually, too. And then reviving it will become that much more difficult, because somewhere along the line it started to decide that it was easier to give up and die.

This is, in essence, what had been happening to various communities – including the global community – over the years as the pressure from criminal interests and activities has increased. They are, individual by individual, beginning to give up.

This is an old pattern. It has caved in – if not entirely erased – many civilizations on this planet (to say nothing of other planets). We now have technology to remedy this problem, but it goes up against an attitude of defeatism that actually runs quite deep.

However, if we don’t take the needed steps to revive ourselves, we could all end up living like this guy:

tent of a homeless person.

And the whole city will look not much different than these vacant areas he looks down upon. If buildings remain, they will be unusable – no electricity or water – and probably guarded by armed gangs as superior shelter. This is what we get if we give up!

COVID-19 Mascot and other Animals

3 May 2020
turtle hiding

This guy was sitting on the Folsom bike trail I use to get to the American River Parkway from Winco. Apparently he had started across the trail but something must have happened to startle him and he stopped. He was right in the middle of the trail – anything could have come along and run into him. I set him over to the side and took this photo.

It was another beautiful day on the trail – a bit cooler than previously.

people on the bike trail Rancho Cordova area

A lot of people were out, as has been mentioned regarding my other recent trips. These ones aren’t hiding inside!

Also out were the model train enthusiasts in their park-like area next to the big park in Rancho Cordova known as Hagan Community Park.

maintenance locomotive at Sacramento Model Stream Train Museum

Various flowering trees were also making themselves known.

Buckeye (or western horse chestnut):

buckeye in bloom

Elderberry – now fully blooming in most locations:

Elderberry in bloom

Some catalpas by the river were also noted:

catalpa in bloom

Animals

Many animals were also out and about. The birds of course are always the most obvious. Here is another attempt to photograph the bluebird that lives in one of the bird houses erected in an area that is being replanted:

bluebird

I was shooting into the sun, thus the bird was mostly shaded and underexposed. In this photo I have asked the image software to correct for the underexposed subject, which brought out the blue on the wings. Most of the bird house inhabitants are not bluebirds, but this one pretty clearly is.

A deer:

I’m wondering if we’re going to see some new fawns soon.

Canada geese on the lawn:

geese on park lawn

As mentioned in other posts (https://lecox.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/goose-poop/ ) many Canada geese have settled into urban parks and made them their homes. I also see them in larger ponds and in the river and sometimes on suburban commercial or residential lawns. They can make quite a lot of noise but otherwise seem rather well-mannered.

Bees:

bee on clover

The lawn at George Pond Recreation Area was full of clover, and the bees were taking advantage.

So: Life goes on! I feel more and more like that turtle that needs to get out of its shell and walk around a bit. Hiding was not enabling it to “stay safe” in that particular situation.