Sunday, November 30, 2014

7 Things You Didn't Know About ... Pearl Harbor and the War in the Pacific Theater

Compelling stories of World War II in the Pacific Theater still captivate history buffs and casual viewers. Iwo Jima, Midway and Pearl Harbor produced indelible images during key turning points in the war. But what of lesser-known details surrounding the combat? Here we present seven surprising facts about Pearl Harbor and the Pacific.

The USS Arizona could leak oil for at least 600 more years. According to the National Park Service, the ship still contains an estimated 500,000 gallons of Bunker-C fuel within its hull, compared to 1.5 million gallons when Japanese fighters hit it. Currently, the ship leaks 2 to 9 quarts each day.

The USS Oklahoma sank—twice. The first time was during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Park Service recounts that after the ship was raised in 1943, a California scrap company bought it in 1947. But while it was towed to Oakland, Calif., the Oklahoma sank for good about 540 miles northeast of the Hawaiian Islands.
Compelling stories of World War II in the Pacific Theater still captivate history buffs and casual viewers. Iwo Jima, Midway and Pearl Harbor

There were two flag raisings at Iwo Jima. The Feb. 23, 1945 raising captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal is known worldwide. But the Navy Department Library recounts that three hours earlier, Marine Corps Sgt. Lou Lowery photographed the first flag raising. The enemy hurled a grenade and Lowery hurled his body over a crater's edge. He survived after tumbling 50 feet.

A non-Navajo invented Navajo Code talking. World War I veteran Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary to Navajos, was one of the few non-Navajos who spoke the language. The Naval History & Heritage Command says Johnston suggested Navajo for Pacific operations because it had no alphabet or symbols, and was spoken only on Navajo lands.

The Battle of Midway was connected to Pearl Harbor. In defending Midway, U.S. forces sank all four Japanese carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More than 200 of Japan’s most experienced pilots and several thousand sailors perished. The pivotal battle scene is today a wildlife refuge.

The Zero had a top speed of about 332 m.p.h. By comparison, American P40s used in the Pacific could reach up to 355 m.p.h. but their weight limited them to combat below 16,000 feet. Zeros could climb as high as 25,000 ft. and reach higher speeds by diving, says the Pacific Aviation Museum.

The USS Bullhead was the last ship lost… and never found. The Bullhead was the last U.S. Navy ship sunk by the enemy, lost off the coast of Bali, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. The ship was never recovered, and the event happened on Aug. 6, 1945—the same day the first atomic bomb hit Hiroshima.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

7 things you need to know to survive Thanksgiving travel

If you're traveling during the Thanksgiving weekend, you expect crowds on the roads and at airports. Here's are 7 things you need to know to survive the madness.

Survive? Well, yes. That's because you'll be one of 3.5 million Southern Californians predicted to be driving to Grandma's house or somewhere else between Wednesday and Friday.

Or you may be one of almost 2 million passengers who were expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) between last Friday and next Monday.

Either way, delays on the roads and at airports are inevitable during the holiday weekend.

Here are some ways to make your travels smoother.
If you're traveling during the Thanksgiving weekend, you expect crowds on the roads and at airports. Here's are 7 things you need to know to survive the madness.

1. Keep a watch on the weather: LAX is predicted to be the busiest airport in the country, but that's the least of your worries. A major storm expected to hit the East Coast from Virginia to Maine on Wednesday and Thursday could mean flight headaches for travelers across the country.

Accuweather says New England could receive 6 to 12 inches of snow starting Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year.

Many airlines are allowing ticket holders to change their flight date -- going earlier or later -- without penalty, but flights may be packed.

Keep in touch with your airline (ask for text messages or or email alerts from your carrier) for up-to-date information on flights. If your destination is the Northeast and you plan to drive, Accuweather has compiled a city-by-city list of when you can expect to encounter the worst weather conditions.

2. Get an LAX pedestrian map: Do you know your way around LAX? Several airlines have changed terminals, and parking lots 3 and 4 are under constructions (though they remain open).

Some walkways and elevators have been shut or rerouted as LAX continues its massive make-over. You can view and download the map "Walking Terminal to Terminal Routes During Construction" that shows the best ways to get around the airport. And arrive early for your flight to allow plenty of time to find your way.

3. Double-check your carry-on contents: Even if you think you know what's allowed at Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints, check the list to make sure you aren't bringing forbidden holiday goodies.

Jam, jelly, gravy, cranberry sauce or your favorite home-made salad dressing -- leave it home (unless you bring 3.4 ounces or less) if you're planningn to carry it on unless it's 3.4 ounces or less. And don't even think about wrapped gifts or a bottle of wine in your hand luggage.

Consider too that hand-carried pies and cakes could slow you down; they may require additional screening, according to the TSA.

4. Double-check your carry-on size: No one wants to check luggage anymore, but make sure your carry-on bags don't wind up costing you money as checked bags. Review the size and dimensions as well as the number of bags your airline will allow you to carry on board.

5. Try to work around traffic on Wednesday: You probably already know L.A. is bracing for the worst Wednesday road traffic in the nation.

If you can, avoid driving between 2 and 5 p.m., when delays may be the worst (3 to 5 p.m. being the worst of the worst time to travel), according to the INRIX Thanksgiving Traffic Forecast.

Portland, Ore.; San Francisco and Seattle, in that order, are predicted to be next in the worst-traffic lineup. Avoid driving in those cities from 3 to 4 p.m. if you want to try to avoid peak time for clogged roads. New York City comes in at fifth place with a suggested do-not-drive time from 3 to 5 p.m.

6. Fear not the price of gas: California's gas prices aren't as low as the national average ($2.81 a gallon nationally, down from $3.28 a year ago) but they are much lower than last year.

AAA's Fuel Gauge shows that an average gallon of gas costs $3.09, compared with $3.56 a year ago in California. The price drop is likely to please the 5.65 million Californians who the Auto Club of Southern California says will be on the road this year.

7. Expect company at these top Thanksgiving destinations: Southern Californians are heading to Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Grand Canyon National Park, and Santa Barbara and the Central Coast, Auto Club says.

If you're going to one of these destinations, make sure you book a hotel room in advance. The same goes for restaurants, especially if you're hoping to have a relaxing turkey dinner without having to cook.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Man Arrested in LA After Protesters Take to Streets Following Ferguson Decision

A man was arrested outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown LA early Tuesday as protests continued following the announcement a grand jury had decided not to bring charges over Michael Brown's death.

The police headquarters was the site of the most sustained protest, which carried on well into the morning, and it was largely peaceful, despite the arrest. The crowd eventually dispersed at around 3:30 a.m, with another protest scheduled for Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It came after crowds of protesters had marched through parts of Los Angeles on Monday, blocking traffic and threatening to get on freeways, Monday night following the grand jury decision not to prosecute Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed teenager Brown in August during a confrontation.
A man was arrested outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown LA early Tuesday as protests continued following

One protest reached the world famous Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where demonstrators sat down in the middle of an intersection as police kept watch. The protesters gathered in silence for 4 and a half minutes, symbolizing the amount of time Brown wa on the street in Ferguson without medical attention.

LA Activists, Police Urge Calm After Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

A group of up to 70 protesters were blocked by LAPD and CHP officers from getting onto the 10 Freeway at La Brea Avenue. There were no arrests and all lanes remained open.

Police also shut down ramps to the 110 Freeway in Exposition Park to dissuade demonstrators from entering the freeway. Shortly after 11:30 p.m., a large group of protesters caused the 110 to close near the Los Angeles Convention Center by blocking traffic and refused to follow a request from CHP to disperse. However the road had reopened by 12:29 a.m. in both directions. Police used non-lethal projectiles to disperse crowds when crowds refused to leave the downtown area.

The USC campus was placed on lockdown as demonstrators marched past. A splinter group of about 50 people began marching down Crenshaw Boulevard as police helicopters monitored them.

The protests remained mostly small and peaceful.
A man was arrested outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown LA early Tuesday as protests continued following2

In a statement issued from Asia where he is on a trade mission, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, "Michael Brown's death has ignited deep passions across the nation, and Los Angeles is no exception.

"Tonight's decision is one that will be heatedly debated -- but we should do so through dialogue and peaceful action. City departments are mobilized to assist in the exercise of peaceful protest."

The demonstrations came as Southern California community leaders and elected officials continued to plead for calm.

However, at a public rally being held in in Leimert Park, where passions were running high.

"He got away with murder. He murdered Michael Brown. And right now he's going to get away with it," Najee Ali of Operation Islamic Hope said.

"We're getting ready to tell America in a very bold non-violent way that we are tired of the murder of our boys on the streets of America," Pastor William Smart said.

"We're getting sick and tired of it, and we're going to continue to demand justice at a federal level," Rev. K.W. Tulloss of the National Action Center said.
A man was arrested outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown LA early Tuesday as protests continued following3

The LAPD was placed on a citywide tactical alert in anticipation of the potential unrest. LAPD’s Department Operations Center was activated in anticipation of the Ferguson decision.

This is a significant, rare move by law enforcement only done when trouble is anticipated, police said.

The DOC acts as central hub to manage citywide response and call in extra resources. Incident commanders and watch commanders will be report to the DOC.

Businesses, including stores and bars, were notified of the impending announcement should they wish to close for the day.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said last week the department was reaching out to the community to encourage peaceful protests in response to the Ferguson decision. He said officials were also keeping in touch with Missouri authorities so the LAPD can be prepared in advance of the announcement.

"We've done significant outreach in all our communities," Beck said. "All our commands are ready to increase deployment if that is needed. We believe the outreach we have done will ensure that people are not only able to protest if they so desire, but will protest in a lawful matter."

"This is an issue that we are all concerned with, but I believe the relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department and the communities that are most concerned is very strong," he said. "And we have made sure we have had discussions with leadership all over the city about what our position is and how we will support their lawful demonstration of either support or discontent with whatever the grand jury does."

Monday, November 24, 2014

In 1915, 'human semaphores' took over traffic control in L.A.

A police officer named F.M. Wilson made Los Angeles traffic history 99 years ago..

He was hailed as one of the first "human semaphores" who ushered in a new way of directing traffic in downtown Los Angeles at a time when exploding car traffic along with trolleys, buses, pedestrians and the occasional horse were making getting around the city an ordeal.

Until 1915, Los Angeles officials often used a complex whistle system to tell drivers and pedestrians when to move and when to stop. The system was confusing and ineffective, officials at the time said.

In the new system, police officers stood in the middle of intersections directing traffic in a new way.

The Times described it this way: "The traffic men are instructed to stand with face and back directed towards the traffic that is stopped and when the change is made for the traffic the other way, the policeman will make a half turn with the body to the left, at the same time bringing the right arm around with a becoming motion as a signal for traffic in the other direction to proceed."

Police officials were bullish on the new process because it didn't require drivers and motorists to listen for commands.

"There were several serious objections to the whistle signals at the crossings," a Lt. Butler said at the time. "and the new system had entirely eliminated them.

"Now pedestrians and drivers of vehicles cannot become confused once they understand the system," added Butler, who headed LAPD's traffic division. "All they have to do is look for the uniformed policeman. If his back or face is toward them they know traffic is closed, but when they see either side of his face they know it is safe to negotiate the crossing. Under the old system many accidents were narrowly averted because of failure to hear the officer's whistle and sometimes because of inability to discover in time which way was being opened."

That's where F.M. Wilson came in. The Times noted he was "in charge at Fifth Street and Broadway. During the rush period between 3 and 6 p.m., he keeps on an average 15,000 pedestrians an hour moving, a fraction more than five street cars per minute and about 1,500 automobiles, wagons and other vehicles each hour."

"This is a big improvement over the whistle," Wilson said. "I used to blow the old whistle so much it made my head ache and I know the shrill tone was an annoyance to the public. Now traffic moves more rapidly and with less confusion. I believe that by eliminating the whistle we can be more benefit to the pedestrians, too. In the past we were compelled to interrupt interrogators with a shrill whistle blast, but now we can talk away even though it is necessary to change our position."

Of course, traffic cops became more artistic since the days of Wilson.

By the 1970, it took more than polite hand gestures to move traffic in L.A. In 1979, The Times introduced readers to Officer William Melvin, who was not shy about giving difficult drivers a nasty glare.

"Melvin isn't one to hide his emotions. He mans the rush hour post at 7th and Figueroa Sts. When he wants you to GO, you know. When he wants you to STOP, you know. And when something about the way you drive, or the looks of your vehicle, or anything else leaves him just-plain-disgusted … well … you know about that too."

In 2002, The Times introduced readers to Rodney Smith, who "directs traffic as if he's conducting the world's greatest symphony orchestra. A traffic officer with L.A.'s Department of Transportation, Smith has been unclogging intersections and drawing crowds with his kinetic moves for 14 years.

"On holidays, Smith, 36, can work at as many as eight intersections, looking at times as if he's dancing a hula, petting a dog or auditioning for a scene in a Jackie Chan film. Unfazed by power outages, bad weather or presidential motorcades, Smith bends his body like rubber and creates a fluid perpetual wave with his hands, often rebuking cell phone users by hanging up a pantomimed telephone. We asked the maestro about his chops."

Smith described the music he danced to: "Barry Manilow won't work. Before I go out, I may listen to an old George Benson CD or James Brown's "Payback." One day it was the Stray Cats."

Smith directed traffic at intersections across the city — from Century City to Los Angeles International Airport. He said his performances sometimes drew crowds who would look on at the show. He said the worst intersection to cover is Century and Aviation boulevards near LAX — when it's raining.

"I had women flash me when I was younger. Or they say, 'Those hands are sexy.' I've had phone numbers thrown at me. Or they asked me, 'What else can you do with those sexy hands?'" he said.

Recently, Los Angeles has been adding personnel to direct traffic on downtown L.A. streets.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Earthquake early alert system ready to expand in California

Officials are planning the first major rollout of California's earthquake early warning system next year, providing access to some schools, fire stations and more private companies..

The ambitious plan highlights the progress scientists have made in building out the system, which can give as much as a minute of warning before a major earthquake is felt in metropolitan areas.

Until now, only academics, select government agencies and a few private firms have received the alerts. But officials said they are building a new, robust central processing system and now have enough ground sensors in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to widen access. They stressed the system is far from perfected but said expanded access will help determine how it works and identify problems.
Officials are planning the first major rollout of California's earthquake early warning system next year, providing access to some schools, fire stations

The warnings would allow fire stations to get garage doors open before a quake can jam them shut, instruct students to duck and cover, and, eventually, automatically shut off sensitive equipment at private companies and tell surgeons to halt surgery. When the data is more reliable, even amusement parks could have time to shut down rides.

The prospect of expanding the system — which is dependent on federal funding coming through — has brought excitement for both emergency officials and some businesses. Even a few seconds' notice to duck under a sturdy desk could be a matter of surviving a building's collapse, fire officials said.

In Japan, one semiconductor firm that lost more than $15 million in quake damage in 2003 installed machines to automatically shut down sensitive equipment that etches circuit boards. When much larger quakes hit later, the company lost only $200,000.

The prototype developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and universities including Caltech and UC Berkeley has scored a series of successes, generating alerts in Pasadena before shaking arrived from the 4.4 Encino, 5.1 La Habra and 4.2 Westwood earthquakes earlier this year. San Francisco got eight seconds of warning before strong shaking arrived from the 6.0 Napa earthquake in August.

More money is still needed to install sensors across the state and improve the computer programming. The system struggled during the recent swarm of earthquakes in the Mammoth Lakes area.

It's still the "duct-tape and baling-wire version of it, which we've been watching for two years," Doug Given, earthquake early warning coordinator for the USGS, said. "Sometimes, it does make mistakes. We want to make sure it doesn't do that."

The 2015 rollout would be ready as long as Congress approves funding. Committees in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have already approved $5 million for the fiscal year that began in October, but a full vote on the budget was put off until after this month's election. The system needs $16.1 million a year to be completed and maintained.

"This is proven technology that will save lives and reduce the economic impact of an earthquake. It simply needs to be properly funded," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and both of California's senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, said in a letter asking President Obama for his support. They were joined by 30 other congressional members and all four senators from Oregon and Washington, which would be added to the early warning network.

The West Coast of the United States has lagged far behind other countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and Turkey, which had warning systems built after large earthquakes killed thousands of people. The last California temblor that killed thousands was the great San Francisco earthquake in 1906, which was estimated at 7.7 to 8.3.
Officials are planning the first major rollout of California's earthquake early warning system next year, providing access to some schools, fire stations2

The early warning system works on a simple principle: The shaking from an earthquake travels at about the speed of sound — slower than the speed of light. That means it would take more than a minute for, say, a 7.8 earthquake that starts at the Salton Sea to shake up Los Angeles 150 miles away.

Seismic sensors stationed at the Salton Sea would detect the first shaking waves in as little as 5 seconds, and blast a warning throughout Southern California. In this scenario, Palm Springs would have 20 seconds of warning; San Bernardino, 45 seconds; and the Los Angeles area, more than a minute.

One private firm has already begun selling early warning tools to cities and businesses in certain areas of California, using its own proprietary system. The ShakeAlert system envisioned by the USGS would be free to the public.

The USGS has begun sharing the prototype early warnings with private companies who want to invent machines that trigger automatic safety actions.

One idea is to hook up warnings to the public announcement system at a select number of interested schools to warn students and teachers to drop, cover and hold on before the shaking arrives.

In Universal City, county firefighters tested the early warning network. In September, the station's garage doors automatically opened after an automated system got the signal of a simulated earthquake.

"The last thing you want is to have your trucks trapped inside the fire station and have to take another 10 or 15 minutes to physically cut those doors open," said county fire Battalion Chief Larry Collins.

The system, developed by Early Warning Labs of Santa Monica, also could eventually activate the emergency power at a hospital or open up elevator doors at the nearest floor before shaking begins.

The company has developed a smartphone app, QuakeAlert, that researchers have used to get the warnings, which Early Warning Labs wants to make available to the public for free, according to the firm's chief executive, Josh Bashioum.

Meanwhile, Louisiana-based Global Security Systems has designed a machine that would be like a weather radio for earthquakes, listening to warnings carried over a commercial FM radio frequency and then flashing a strobe light or sounding an alarm.

That firm already sells an Alert FM device that issues warnings for hurricanes and tornadoes. A home version costs about $35, while a $300 version could be installed in malls or offices and issue voice commands on what to do. "We can have this deployed in California in less than nine months" once the data is ready, said Matthew Straeb, Global Security Systems' executive vice president.

Officials are still developing city-wide alerts.

The city of San Francisco would like to eventually broadcast alerts to the public by phone and text message, and possibly on the 112 sirens throughout the city, which now go off only sparingly, like for tsunami warnings, said Francis Zamora of the city's emergency management department.

To finish a West Coast network, California needs to more than double its network of 400 sensor stations — mostly in areas outside of Southern California. An additional 275 stations are needed to roll out the network in Oregon and Washington, Given said.

Southern California is in significantly better shape after local officials directed a $5.6-million U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant on urban security to build 100 new seismic stations and upgrade 25 more.

Having a broad network of sensors is critical to a properly functioning network.

"If you don't have enough sensors, then what happens? The software doesn't work," said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson.

While the $5 million is needed for the current fiscal year, lawmakers have asked President Obama to propose in his next budget $16.1 million annually starting in the next fiscal year, which would be enough money to build and maintain the system for the entire West Coast.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

California fall colors: Valyermo's red blush

If you haven't seen any fall colors in California this season, there's still hope -- but just a little. In Southern California, colors are showy in the tiny community of Valyermo in north L.A. County and along waterways at Mt. Palomar State Park in north San Diego County.

The leaves may not last long, particularly if Santa Ana winds start blowing. California's fall color season began at high elevations in September and ends in the flatlands in late November. It's a good long run,  especially when other parts of the country are already deep in snow.

Trees in Valyermo turned bright red this week and likely will last at least through the weekend.

Color spotter Frank McDonough of the L.A. County Arboretum and Botanic Garden reported in that he visited Valyermo (not far from Palmdale and Antelope Valley) and was "amazed at the intensity of the fall color. It's easily 70% to 80% there."

There are other good reasons to go to Valyermo too.

Late fall is perfect to tour the Benedictine monastery at Saint Andrew's Abbey and stop at the gift shop where monks make ceramic angels to sell to the public. Not far from the abbey is the Devil's Punchbowl, a canyon of twisted and folded rock slabs that you can hike down into.

But back to the colors.

Scott Turner reports that Palomar Mountain State Park  has come into its own. Look for black oaks turning orange which are just about at peak near Doane Pond, in the Lower Doane Valley and along part of the Weir Trail (Here's a trail map you can follow.)

For those tight on time, a quick trip to the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia will show exotics turning colors through Thanksgiving, the website says.

Urban landscapes in the Santa Clara Valley, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and Sacramento are peaking now too.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Teen Motorcyclist Killed in 14 Freeway Accident

A teenage motorcyclist was killed after being while riding southbound on the 14 freeway near Palmdale at around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The 17-year-old was entering the freeway from Pearblossom Highway at a high rate of speed, and collided with a 2001 Audi A8 which was driivng at 60 mph, according to the California Highway Patrol.

He applied the brakes in an attempt to avoid the collision, and his motorcycle slid out from under him. The bike slid on its side, hitting the right rear of the Audi.

The rider was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision. No one else sustained any injuries, and the cause of the crash is still under investigation.

A sig alert was issued for the Pearblossom onramp at 9:21 p.m., and it reopened at 1:33 a.m.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At Disneyland, 'Frozen' characters are icing on holiday festivities

The 2013 Disney blockbuster "Frozen" and its characters play a big role in this year's holiday season at Disneyland.

If you're visiting the Anaheim park between now and Jan. 6, expect to see the 60-foot-tall Christmas tree in Disneyland's town square and other once-a-year events and decorations.

First off, sisters Anna and Elsa as well as Olaf the snowman join the Christmas Fantasy Parade which marks its 20th year at Disneyland. Santa and Minnie and Mickey Mouse are featured too in the march along Main Street.

The parade starts at 5:45 p.m. Monday through Thursdays and 3 and 5:45 p.m. Friday through Sunday. (Parades are added Christmas week and other times; check the online schedule before you go.)

Olaf and songs from "Frozen" are featured in the return of "World of Color: Winter Dreams" at Disney California Adventure Park.

The outdoor show brings clips of Disney films, songs and characters projected on a 19,000-square-foot water screen. It's accompanied by 1,200 fountains, fog and other special effects.

Starting this week, shows will start at 8:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 and 10:15 p.m. Friday through Sunday. (Show times change Thanksgiving week and on other dates; check the online schedule.)

Other things to check out:

--Sleeping Beauty Castle, adorned with 80,000 icicle lights and fireworks and then falling snow on Main Street, outside It's a Small World (which itself is transformed with decorations) and New Orleans Square.

--Disney's Viva Navidad at Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure, which includes mariachi and samba bands, folklorico dancers, Disney characters and 12-foot-tall puppets of Santa and Mrs. Claus. It ends with a celebration Jan. 2-6 to mark Three Kings Day, a Christian celebration of the day the Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Manhattan Beach School Closed Over Online Threat

A Manhattan Beach school will be closed Tuesday after an online threat was made against it.
Mira Costa High School was placed on lockdown Monday after a student discovered the message on anonymous social media website Yik Yak, which said, "If you go to Costa you should watch out very closely at school today."
Students and parents were notified while Manhattan Beach Police Department officers and school officials investigated the threat, though nothing was found. Later in the afternoon a second message was posted which said, "Nice try costa, today was just a drill."
The school was initially going to remain open but late Monday the school’s principle Ben Dale, in consultation with Manahattan Beach Unified School District superintendent Dr. Mike Matthews, decided to shut down the school on Tuesday.
"My priority one is the safety of students.... we have teaching and learning going on in these classrooms every day, diligently, and so there is always a concern for that and making sure that our instructional program continues. But all that comes to a screeching halt when we feel the safety of our students is in jeopardy in any way." Dale said.
A decision will be made Tuesday afternoon on whether the school will reopen on Wednesday.
So far, no arrests have been made, though the investigation into the threats is ongoing.
It is not the first time a threat made through Yik Yak has affected Southern California. Back in March San Clemente High School in Orange County was on lockdown for four hours after a hoax bomb threat was posted through it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Virus of the Caribbean: Another Cruise Cut Short

For the second time in a week, illness has cut short another cruise line vacation, this time on the Caribbean Princess.
The ship, operated by Princess Cruises, is heading back to Houston on Friday, a day early because of an outbreak of suspected norovirus, according to An outbreak of gastrointestinal illness has sickened at least 173 people on board, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That includes 162 of the 3,102 passengers and 11 of the 1,148 crew members, the CDC reported. Two CDC health officials were expected to board the ship on Friday. The vessel launched on a seven-day cruise to the western Caribbean on Jan. 25. It was scheduled to return on Saturday.
Princess Cruise line officials did not immediately return calls to NBC News.
The move follows a high-profile outbreak of illness on the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas, which returned early to New Jersey on Wednesday after a fast-moving stomach bug sickened nearly 700 people.
This is the third cruise ship outbreak to occur this year alone. A Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Star, reported that 130 passengers and 12 crew members fell ill on two-week cruise that launched Jan. 5 from Miami.
About 20 million passengers take cruises in the U.S. each year, fueling a $37.8 billion annual industry, according to the American Association of Port Authorities. There were nine vessel outbreaks in 2013 and 16 in 2012, according to the CDC.
Cruise ships that carry 13 or more passengers and have a foreign itinerary with U.S. ports are under the jurisdiction of the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program and cruise lines pay voluntary fees for inspection and training services. They’re required to tell CDC if 2 percent or more of passengers on a ship fall ill, the CDC says.
Norovirus is a common culprit in outbreaks on cruise ships, in nursing homes and other confined places. It is a fast-moving gut bug typically spread by infected people or contaminated food or water. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S., resulting in about 21 million illnesses, between 56,000 and 71,000 hospitalizations and as many as 800 deaths, the CDC says.
The virus lingers on surfaces and spreads very easily. Thorough handwashing with hot water and soap and meticulous environmental cleaning can help stop the spread.

cut short another cruise line vacation, this time on the Caribbean Princess.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reconnecting with The Shawshank Redemption

Some films, such as the Oscar-winning 1939 Civil War epic "Gone With the Wind," resonate with audiences on release, but others, such as Frank Capra's 1946 yuletide tale "It's a Wonderful Life," take time to become part of the cultural lexicon..

In that latter category is "The Shawshank Redemption," which languished at the box office in fall 1994. It became enormously popular on home video and cable after receiving seven Oscar nominations, including best film, lead actor for Morgan Freeman and adapted screenplay for director Frank Darabont.

On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the humanistic prison drama, which is No. 1 on IMDB's Top 250 list of films voted on by the website's users.

Darabont believes audiences initially stayed away because it was a prison movie without any action. "It looked to the casual observer like a spoonful of medicine," he said. "One of those movies that just kind of looks like it's going to be a difficult chore to sit through."

He felt the turning point was the Oscar nominations. "Nobody had heard of the movie, and that year on the Oscar broadcast, they were mentioning this movie seven times," he said.

The academy's director of programming, Bernardo Rondeau, believes the film has become a modern-day favorite because "it balances humor and poignancy."

"It takes a very hard look at the realities of incarceration, and then sometimes, it almost has a dreamlike feel to it," he added. "I think it connected to people, because it feels timeless in a way."

The sold-out screening Tuesday evening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater will reunite Darabont with his stars, Freeman and Tim Robbins.

Based on Stephen King's 1982 novella, "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," the story chronicles 20 years in the lives of two inmates at the brutal Shawshank State Prison: Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Freeman), a convicted murderer and long-term prisoner there who narrates the film, and Andy Dufresne (Robbins), a young banker falsely accused of murdering his wife, who finds a strong ally and friend in Red.

"It was the best script I had ever read," said Robbins.

Freeman recalled being sent the script by his agent. "Nobody said what part to read for," he said. "So I read it and when I called to find out what part they wanted me to consider, he said Red."

The actor was thrilled because Red was the lead character. "He was the movie," said Freeman. "I said, 'I'll do it.'"

"Shawshank" was a true passion project for Darabont, who made his feature directorial debut with the film. He had previously adapted and directed the 1983 short film "The Woman in the Room," based on a King short story. It was an offer Darabont couldn't refuse.

"He had done a dollar deal with me for 'Woman in the Room,' which was a policy he had for student or young filmmakers who wanted to make a short movie out of one of his shorter pieces," said the filmmaker.

Darabont recalled writing a check for a few thousand dollars to option "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption."

"But the truth is, Stephen never cashed the check," said Darabont, who later adapted and directed the 1999 Oscar-nominated adaptation of King's "The Green Mile."

"He held onto it and sent it back to me years later framed," said Darabont. "He signed on the matte of the frame — something to the effect — 'Just in case you ever need bail money, Love, Steve.'"

Though Red is a middle-aged Irishman in the novella, as soon as Freeman was suggested for the role, "he became a very good, obvious choice," said Darabont. "Certainly, he never dawned on me when I was writing it. But when someone like Morgan is mentioned, you get the surprise and delight of picturing that actor in the role."

Darabont was drawn to Robbins after rewatching him in the 1990 psychological horror film "Jacob's Ladder."


"I thought there is something enigmatic and fascinating about this actor," recalled Darabont "I thought he and Morgan would have terrifically interesting chemistry on-screen, and they did."

They also developed a deep bond off-screen.

"I did feel from the start that Morgan was a person I could hang out with," said Robbins. "We were on the same page regarding the script."

The film was primarily shot at the old Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, which had closed in 1990. Darabont noted that the cast and crew couldn't help but feel "the weight of all of those years of human suffering and misery" when they entered the prison.

"It was palpable," agreed Robbins. "I walked my son Jack, who was 4 years old, on the cell block with me and he said, 'Daddy, this place is very sad.' He could tell."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

California fall colors: go now

Yosemite Valley in the national park was a bright spot for fall colors this week, and travelers who go this weekend may be lucky enough to catch the tail end of peak colors

Those hues are captured in Nicholas Barnhart's photo of Half Dome reflected in the Merced River. (It's the black oaks that add the orange glow.)

"All areas in the national park are at peak or past peak," California Fall Color reports. "Yosemite Valley and Wawona have a week, perhaps two (depending on wind), of peak color left to go."

In Southern California, golden cottonwoods at the campgrounds continue around Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains. Good color at Lake Gregory in the San Bernardino Mountains should hold through this week.

In other areas, California's autumn spread shifts to the flatlands of urban areas.

The website recommends the drive from Yuba City to Red Bluff along Highway 99 to see walnut trees that have turned yellow.

Stop in downtown Chico where the Esplanade and Bidwell Park are showing canopies of yellow, gold, red and orange.

In the Central Valley, Sacramento's London plane trees are turning throughout the city. More colors are bursting along the American River Parkway, where valley oak and black cottonwood leaves take their turn.

Farther east, Napa Valley's north county grapevines show "brilliantly colored crimson, yellow, orange and lime green grape leaves," California Fall Color says.

And then there are creatures that add colors on the fly. Orange-and-black monarch butterflies on their annual migration route have returned to the eucalyptus trees of Natural Bridges State Park and Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz.

"I've never been surrounded by more butterflies," color spotter Cory Poole says on the fall colors website. "Even at special butterfly house-type exhibits you rarely have more than a hundred or so butterflies, while here there were thousands."

Friday, November 14, 2014

1 Killed In Fiery Crash On SB 405 In North Hills

Authorities say a woman has been killed in a fiery multi-vehicle collision on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles that briefly shut down the freeway and backed up rush hour traffic.
The California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang says an occupant of one car died in the chain-reaction crash Friday morning in the North Hills area.
One person has been hospitalized with minor to moderate injuries.
Three completely scorched vehicles are wedged up against the freeway divider. Two other vehicles nearby were also involved.

All lanes in both directions were briefly shut down while crews extinguished the fire.
All northbound lanes are moving again. Officials have opened one lane on the southbound side.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Burbank Bob Hope Airport increases parking for holiday travelers

Burbank Bob Hope Airport has a gift for holiday travelers: more parking spaces.

The airport will open two extra parking lots on Monday in anticipation of the holiday crowds, an airport statement said. These aren't new lots, but ones that had been shuttered temporarily.

Parking Lot G adds 253 spaces and joins Lot E as another convenient place to park within walking distance of terminals. Both charge $23 a day.

The airport also will open Lot B with 637 spaces on Hollywood Way, about a quarter mile away, which connects to the airport with a free shuttle. It costs $13 a day.

Existing parking options include Lot C, which costs $13 a day, and Economy Lot A, which costs $10 a day. Both are serviced by airport shuttles that run every 10 minutes.

To pay for parking, travelers may use credit cards or buy tickets at payment stations located at lot exits.

(There's also short-term parking next to the terminal for those picking up passengers that cost $3 for the first 30 minutes, $5 for an hour and $31 a day.)

If you want to skip the drive to the airport altogether, Metrolink (weekdays only) and Amtrak service the airport's train station on Empire Avenue that's a short walk from terminals. Here are the timetables.

Or you can hop the Burbank Bus that stops at the airport and connects with the North Hollywood Metro Station's Red Line.

Check out the airport's Buses & Trains Web page for more ground transportation options.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

LAX will be busiest airport in U.S

Orbitz makes this forecast for people who will be flying over Thanksgiving: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will be the busiest in the nation and John Wayne Airport (SNA) among the least-crowded.

It's the second year that LAX was predicted to be the top airport based on passenger volume. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and JFK (JFK) in New York City came in next, followed by San Francisco International (SFO) and Boston Logan International (BOS).

"We’re seeing the same high-traffic holiday destinations this year as we did last with only two newcomers to the busiest airports list," said Jeanenne Tornatore, Orbitz's senior travel editor. "Thankfully, there are a number of new additions to the Least Busy Airports lists, with several offering alternative options to large metro areas."

Airports in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Syracuse, N.Y., are forecast to be the least busy, followed by John Wayne in the No. 3 spot, and airports in Florida cities of West Palm Beach and Oakland.

Airlines for America, a trade organization for U.S. carriers, predicts 24.6 million fliers will take to the skies from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2. It says busiest days will be the Sunday (Nov. 30) and Monday (Dec. 1) after Thanksgiving and the day before (Nov. 26).

So what should you do if you're flying in or out of the busy airports? Plan ahead and allow plenty of time for your trip to or from the airport. Here are some more tips:

-- Check in for your flight online before you get to the airport, and sign up for electronic alerts that will keep you apprised of the status of your flight.

-- Make sure your carry-on bag meets your airlines' guidelines and doesn't contain anything that could slow you down through airport security. (Travel light if you want to save on airline fees for checked baggage.)

-- Arrive at the airport two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights if you're traveling during peak hours. At LAX, those hours are 6 to 9 a.m., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m.

-- Enroll in the Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck Program to get through airport security more quickly. PreCheck travelers keep their shoes and coats on and aren't required to remove liquids and laptops from their carry-on bag. It costs $85 to enroll.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stuck in bad traffic?

Crawling along Southern California's freeways at rush hour, you might have wanted to scream: "This traffic is the worst!"

If it was a Thursday evening, you probably were right. At least, that's the consensus of three companies that analyze traffic patterns using GPS technology.

All agree that Thursday evening is one of the slowest — if not the slowest — drive times of the week in greater Los Angeles. TomTom, the Dutch GPS company, estimates that during the Thursday after-work crunch, drivers in an area extending from Simi Valley to Costa Mesa spend 40 minutes of every hour sitting in traffic.

Ranking congestion and delays by day and time is complicated, and there's some noise in the numbers. One firm says Friday afternoons are just as congested. Another says traffic on Wednesday is equally sluggish.

According to Inrix, a Washington-based technology company, the worst delays are between 5 and 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, when an average trip takes 47% longer than it would with no congestion. On Fridays, freeways begin backing up earlier, but Thursday's congestion lasts longer, according to company spokesman Jim Bak.

That general pattern is the same in every major U.S. city, with the most severe traffic tie-ups coming near the end of the workweek, Bak said.

Inrix, TomTom and Waze, all firms that gather data from GPS-equipped vehicles or users of their traffic services, agree Tuesdays have the worst morning delays. On average, Tuesday trips at 9 a.m. in the Los Angeles area take about a third longer than they would if highways flowed freely, Inrix says.

Every route seems jammed during rush hour, but several stand out as consistently bad. At 50 minutes of delay, on average, the eastbound 10 is the most delayed route of any in the greater L.A. area, and the second-most congested in the United States, the company says.

Los Angeles takes the dubious honor of having five of the top 10 most congested freeway corridors in the country: the eastbound 10; the northbound 405; the southbound 5; the eastbound 91 ; and the northbound 101.

According to Inrix, the southbound 405 through the Sepulveda Pass is at its worst Wednesdays between 8 and 9 a.m., when congestion on average adds a half-hour to the commute. The longest delays northbound through the pass are Thursdays between 5 and 6 p.m., when congestion adds 40 minutes to the drive.

The worst time to drive between Santa Monica and downtown on the 10 Freeway is Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. — in both directions, Inrix says.

The data-crunching averages, of course, don't reflect the pantheon of problems on any given day that can clog up commutes: a crash, a brush fire, a couch falling off a truck.

And they don't answer the question: Why Thursday?

"If people knew the answer to that one, we'd fix traffic," said Kajon Cermack, 89.9 KCRW's longtime traffic reporter.

Researchers have some theories. One is that commuters leave work early, and more in the heart of rush hour, near the end of the week, particularly on Thursdays. That's partly because some Los Angeles-area commuters who work flexible schedules, either taking Friday off or working from home, are getting a jump on their long weekends. Also, college students often commute to evening classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And there's just more going on around town on Thursday and Friday nights.

"If you think about Los Angeles, and the surrounding area, you have a lot of destinations," said Bill Eisele, a senior research engineer at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. "There's always something going on somewhere in the basin, not only for locals, but for people who are visiting."

Peter Kallman, 28, of Mar Vista gets that. "People come visit and they're like, 'What are we doing tonight?' And I'm like, 'I don't care, as long as it's close by,'" he said. "If we drive anywhere on Thursday or Friday, we end up sitting in the car for two hours."

Ultimately, Cermak said, avoiding L.A. traffic comes down to individual drivers taking responsibility for congestion — and adjusting travel plans or the modes of transportation they use.

"It's so easy to think, 'All those other cars are making my drive worse,'" Cermak said. "But you are a part of traffic. You are the traffic."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Heat, drought worsen smog in California

Heat and extreme drought have worsened smog in California over the last year, stalling decades of progress toward cleaner air and increasing health risks.

The state's prolonged dry spells have brought more temperature inversions, with a layer of warmer air trapping cooler air below, concentrating pollution near the ground. Mother Nature could clear away much of the bad air with rain or wind, but high-pressure systems have resulted in fewer storms, less circulation and unusually stagnant conditions.

"There's a steady trend of air quality getting better, but layered on top of that is the meteorology, which is a crazy, up-and-down thing that is very hard to predict," said Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center at UC Davis.

Relief could come as soon as this winter — if enough storms blow in to stir up the air and sweep out pollution.

Forecasters say a weak El Niño has a 58% chance of developing in the Pacific Ocean this winter and could bring more rain to California, cleansing the air.

"Even absent an El Niño, if we can just get back to a normal winter, air quality will be significantly better," said Seyed Sadredin, who heads the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Over the winter, the district recorded the worst air pollution in more than a decade. And last week, the valley's fine-particle pollution again jumped to unhealthful levels.

Many Californians have experienced the jump in pollution as more hazy vistas and bad air days. Others have faced noticeable health consequences.

"You see it, and for someone who has breathing problems, you feel it," said Pati Calzada, 27, a college student who lives in the Inland Empire city of Colton, one of the smoggiest areas in the nation.

Both Calzada and her 7-year-old son, Abraham, who was recently diagnosed with asthma, have trouble breathing when pollution levels go up.

"It feels like a weight on my chest, and I know I'm not the only one," she said. Her frustration with polluted air led her to join a Sierra Club campaign to advocate for solar power and other clean energy.

Conditions grew worse, in part, because higher temperatures accelerate the chemical reactions that form ozone, the lung-damaging ingredient in warm-weather smog. In a vicious circle, heat also boosts demand for electricity, increasing smog-forming emissions from power plants.

Hot, dry conditions also have led to increasing numbers of California wildfires, which release more smoke. And dry farmland has been kicking more dust into the air.
There's a steady trend of air quality getting better, but layered on top of that is the meteorology, which is a crazy, up-and-down thing that is very hard to predict. - Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center at UC Davis

When drought caused air pollution to increase across California last winter, conditions were worst in the San Joaquin Valley. Fine particles jumped to their highest concentrations since 2001, more than three times the federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

The troubles continued this fall, as the valley and Southern California reported more bad air days from ozone.

Another unusual spell of high temperatures and a strong inversion layer hit the San Joaquin Valley last week, causing fine-particle pollution to build up to dangerous levels. The region's air quality officials are telling residents to stop burning wood and reduce their driving. Activists have called for school sporting events to be canceled to protect children's lungs.

Though air pollution is a year-round problem in California, it peaks in two distinct seasons.

In the summer, ozone is the main pollutant of concern. It is not emitted directly but formed after cars, trucks, power plants and factories release reactive gases and unburned hydrocarbons. Those pollutants cook in heat and sunlight to form ozone, a corrosive gas.

Breathing ozone can harm children's lungs, trigger respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis and worsen heart and lung disease. On days with high ozone pollution, hospital visits for asthma rise and the risk of premature deaths increases.

In winter, another type of air pollution called fine particulate matter, or soot, becomes the main problem.

Tiny particles emitted by diesel engines, fires and other combustion sources measure less than 1/30th the width of a human hair. They are of great concern to health experts because they are inhaled deep into the lungs and can impair breathing and damage the heart and blood vessels.

Chronic exposure to fine particles is linked to thousands of premature deaths a year in California, mostly from heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Most of those fatalities occur in Southern California, where a 2010 economic study found that fine-particle pollution contributes to as many early deaths as traffic accidents.

Pollution regulators have downplayed the recent uptick in smog as a blip in a decades-long trend of improving air quality.

Peak ozone concentrations in Southern California are down to about one-third of what they were in the 1970s and '80s. The region's fine-particle pollution has been cut in half since measurements began in 1999.

Emissions from cars, trucks, ships, power plants and industrial facilities are falling because of local, state and federal regulations that ensure the air will keep getting cleaner in the long term, regulators say.

Still, California is far from meeting air quality standards.

To meet a 2032 deadline to comply with current standards, the South Coast Air Quality Management District will have to slash smog-forming gases, called nitrogen oxides, more than 75%, regulators say.

Reaching that level will require near-zero emissions across much of the economy. And in the long term, rising temperatures from climate change will make controlling smog more difficult, posing new challenges in the district, which includes 16.7 million people in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The San Joaquin Valley faces similar obstacles. Air quality officials say new rules adopted this year place the valley under the nation's most stringent wood-burning restrictions, virtually banning the use of traditional fireplaces during the winter season to control a major source of lung-damaging soot.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Western Sierra road trips

The best road trips to see fall color in California this weekend are in the Western Sierra, where the leaves are turning at low elevations around 3,500 feet, according to leaf-spotters at California Fall Color..

Colors at high elevations in the Eastern Sierra that were must-sees in October are now done for the season.

Road trip 1: El Dorado County. Drive on Newton Road from Placerville to Pleasant Valley and north to Sly Park Recreation Area, stopping at Jenkinson Lake.

The lake is a good place to get out of the car and hike around to see the oranges and reds of black oaks, big-leaf maples, cottonwood, dogwood and willows.

The loop around the lake covers about eight miles, but you can sample part of it if you don't want to go the entire distance. "Fall color should remain at peak through the coming week, weather permitting," the California Fall Color report says of the area.

Trees at nearby orchards and vineyards near the town of Camino are near peak too.

Road trip 2: Mendocino County. Take a spin on the Redwood Highway (U.S. 101) where the trees alongside the roadway are near peak. From Willits and Laytonville, "a beautiful canopy of yellow, green and orange oak trees drapes the highway," the report says.

which received enough snow last weekend to close the east-west Tioga Road until Friday, shows colors from black oaks and big-leaf maples that are expected to last until Thanksgiving.

For those who want to go farther, colors are near peak in the Shasta Cascade area, particularly along the Sacramento River and in Redding; Modoc National Forest; the Trinity River near Weaverville; and Mt. Shasta and its surroundings.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hike to Defeat Cancer

The Alma J. Cameron Foundation for Cancer Awareness (AJCF) will host its 1st Annual Fundraiser, “Hike 2 Defeat Cancer,” on Sunday, November 9, 2014. This spectacular scenic 3 mile hike will take place along the beautiful trails of the Temescal Gateway Park and is open to the community. This is a fun and festive hike for the family, kids and friends that will help raise critical funds for supporting minority women who are currently fighting lung cancer.

FACILITATORS Michael Dyer and Darnella Ford will guide participants of the Alma J. Cameron Foundation for Cancer Awareness on a gentle hike through nature expanding awareness as the group blends with the healing energies of nature. Darnella offers a unique blend of teachings with regard to alleviating depression, balancing the bio-rhythms of the body, and blending the complexities of nature into everyday life. In addition, Michael brings his own very unique gifts in sharing "experiential" teachings that enable participants to have a hands-on approach to their own transformation and expansion. Combined, they are a dynamic and engaging duo.

With your help, this 1st inaugural fundraiser will raise $10,000 to support 10 patients who are seeking integrative and holistic cancer treatment. With every $1,000 raised we will provide free support to a patient for an entire year at the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology.

According to the American Lung Association, Lung Cancer Fact Sheet, “Lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast and pancreatic). An estimated 159,260 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2014, accounting for approximately 27 percent of all cancer deaths.” During 2014, an estimated 224,210 new cases in California of lung cancer are expected to be diagnosed, representing about 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses.

Our hope and our mission is to spread awareness and raise much needed funds for programs & services to help women and their families in the fight against cancer. With your support, together we can bridge the gap between conventional and integrative cancer treatments, one woman at a time.
Price: $25

Friday, November 7, 2014

Deal: Anaheim Marriott near Disneyland

The Anaheim Marriott hotel is rolling back its rates about 15% for those who visit in December. It's close to Disneyland and Downtown Disney at a fraction of the price for resort hotels.

The deal: The 19-story Anaheim Marriott next to the Anaheim Convention Center has almost 1,000 rooms, each with coffee makers and mini-fridges (could be useful for families). It's a good time to visit Downtown Disney's Winter Village, which will feature a 30-foot Christmas tree and Olaf's Frozen Ice Rink (named for the character in "Frozen"), starting Nov. 14.

Holiday room prices start at $119 a night plus tax. As a comparison, I found rooms on the same nights starting at $440 a night at Disneyland Hotel and $428 a night at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. Amenities vary among these hotels, of course.

When: The offer starts Dec. 1 and is good through Jan. 4, based on availability.

Tested: I found rooms for $119  plus tax for the weekend Dec. 13 to 15. It's a good deal, but watch out for extra fees. For example, hit the lobby and other public areas for free Wi-Fi rather than pay $12.95 a day to check emails in your room. Parking costs $24 per night and $30 per night for SUVs.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bargain Hunter: Catalina Adventure Package

Save up to 27 percent on your next island getaway with a Catalina Adventure Package through July 2.

Travelers who book the overnight deal can choose between Pavilion Hotel or Hotel Atwater, both in downtown Avalon and including a choice of land or sea activity adventures.

They include one round of golf at the Catalina Golf Course, a glass-bottom boat excursion, Descanso Beach chaise reservations and nightly movies at the Catalina Casino.

Call 877-778-8322, and mention the promo code ACTPKG14.

For more information, check out

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

southern California ski resorts

southern California ski resorts are hopeful about the weekend's thin layer of snow that fell in the San Gabriel Mountains. It wasn't significant enough to think about opening, but it was enough for local Mountain High ski resort to crow "It's Snowvember!"

Mammoth Mountain ski area farther north got the real deal: 12 to 16 inches of snow fell at the Sierra resort during the weekend, and it has been making snow too.

"We have had the [snow] guns blazing since Friday and will keep them on as long as [temperatures] allow," a spokeswoman said in an email.

When will resorts open for the season amid the state's record drought? It's all weather-dependent, not just based on how much snow falls this month but also how cold it gets.

Mammoth is aiming for Nov. 13, with the first chair heading up the mountain at 8:30 a.m. (Mammoth does a countdown.) Lift tickets for the day cost just $50 each.

In the Lake Tahoe area, Heavenly and Northstar California plan to open Nov. 21, and Squaw Valley is aiming for Nov. 26.

June Mountain Ski Area has set a Dec. 13 opening date, and Alpine Meadows plans to open Dec. 12.

Southern California ski resorts enjoyed an early dusting, but hot, dry weather is about to return. Mountain High near Wrightwood has assembled a "first snow" gallery on its Facebook page and is hoping for a mid-November opening. (Average opening date for the past decade is Nov. 16.)

bear mountain resort in Big Bear Lake closed its seasonal bike park and chair lift Saturday because of the inch or so of snow it received. Its website says the resort will return to summer activities for now, with no prediction of an opening date for skiing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Renting a car at Burbank airport? little problem

passing through Bob Hope Airport in Burbank can leave you downright dirty these days. The handrails on recently installed moving walkways are leaving some travelers’ hands covered in black grime.

How dirty? Well, bless the woman at the Avis counter who saw me approaching a few days ago and sympathetically pulled out a tub of wet wipes so I could clean the fingers and palm of my right hand.

The agent told me she had stocked up on the wipes after witnessing a steady stream of customers arriving at the new rental car facility with sooty hands. She said the culprit was the handrails.

If you haven’t been to Burbank’s compact airport in the last three months, you’re in for a surprise. The rental cars used to be parked in an oh-so-convenient lot right outside the terminal.

But to accommodate an expanding fleet and to allow seven rental car companies to move onto the airport from satellite locations, a new, three-story garage was built out along Hollywood Way. It opened in July.

The new facility--and the Amtrak/Metrolink rail station just across the street--are now accessed by an elevated platform. Three moving walkways shorten the trek to and from the terminal.

Airport spokesperson Victor Gill wasn’t aware of the issue when I contacted him, but he soon discovered that the airport operations team knew all about the messy matter. Gill said they had already obtained “an emergency purchase order” to cover the cost of cleaning.

The first wipe-down, conducted sometime around Oct. 22, didn’t work, as I discovered a few days later. On Thursday, Gill and some other airport employees tested the handrails for themselves.

“We easily replicated your experience,” he told me. In the future, the janitorial team will be directly supervised by airport staff so the need for a wipe-down can be eliminated.

Gill, however, acknowledged that at least some of the black residue could be coming from the rubber rails themselves. If that’s the case, regular cleanings may not solve the problem.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Napa Valley wine country

sky-high hotel and restaurant tabs are commonplace in the Napa Valley wine country, but with a little advance planning you can still eat and sleep on the cheap. We scoured Napa and Sonoma counties — from Calistoga in the north to Napa in the south and Santa Rosa in the west — looking for deals for travelers. Our penny-pinching tips include hotels and restaurants, including some of the priciest in the region.

We discovered nightly rates as low as $79 for a double during the week and $99 on weekends. In all, we found six great little hotels with reasonable rates and nice-to-excellent accommodations.

We also found 10 restaurants where you can get a wonderful meal for $20 or less. Many are locals' favorites — places where you'll line up with Napa and Sonoma residents to get a super deal on a super meal.

We want you to hobnob with the trust-fund class. Just don't tell them how much less you're paying for the privilege.

Here are five ways to save money on a visit to Napa Valley's wine country:

1. Visit during the off-season, November to April, when lines are significantly shorter and prices lower.

2. Stop at the Napa Valley Visitor Center (600 Main St., Napa; (707) 251-5895, as soon as you arrive and pick up coupons for deals on wine tasting and other activities. They vary, but some offer significant savings.

3. Saturdays are the worst days to visit — and to drive on crowded wine country roads. Additionally, most hotels require a two-night stay on weekends. You'll find lower prices on midweek visits.

4. Take along a designated driver and don't try to visit too many wineries in a day; experts recommend four or five as the limit.

5. Many wine country fans say to sightsee in Napa but eat and sleep in neighboring Sonoma County, where prices are lower.

6 money-saving hotels in Napa Valley wine country

Want to spend a few days tasting wines but can't afford the tab? Raise a toast to the six hostelries below, where you can stay for as little as $79 a night. Rates listed are for the off-season, beginning this month.

El Bonita Motel

St. Helena

Pretty landscaping, friendly desk staff and super-low prices create a winning combination at this roadside motel in St. Helena. El Bonita — named for former owners Elmer and Bonni — is a '60s-vintage motel with wings added in the '80s and '90s. At $79.99 weekdays and $99.99 weekends, it is one of the best deals in the region. 195 Main St., St. Helena; (800) 541-3284,

Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa

Santa Rosa

You'll find a sleek and cool look at the Flamingo, a Midcentury Modern hotel with lots of personality. As a matter of fact, it's part of the Personality Hotels group. Ask for the renovated rooms, which are gray on gray with touches of pink (flamingo motif, of course). Internet specials, which begin at less than $100, are common in the off-season. Doubles begin at $129 weekdays, $139 weekends. 2777 4th St., Santa Rosa; (800) 848-8300,

Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery


If you're looking for cheap and cute, this turn-of-the-last-century Napa County inn might be what you want. The only drawback? Shared baths. Remodeled a little more than a year ago after an attic fire, the inn has fresh paint, plump duvets and low prices. But you may have to wait in line for a shower. Doubles from $119 weekdays, $149 weekends. 1250 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga; (707) 942-4101,

Jack London Lodge

Glen Ellen

The great adventure writer Jack London would be proud of this small hotel — and even prouder of the colorful saloon next door that's also named for him. The nicely landscaped lodge has a pool, fluffy duvets, free Internet and flat-screen TVs. Walk to tasting rooms nearby. Doubles from $99 weekdays, $129 weekends. 13740 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen; (707) 938-8510,

Sonoma Creek Inn


If you're fond of the retro California look, you'll love this inexpensive motel in downtown Sonoma. Vintage furnishings, Sunset magazine covers and photo-illustrated lampshades decorate the small but stylish rooms. Doubles from $79 weeknights, $129 weekends. 239 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma; (707) 939-9463,

Ivy Hotel Napa Valley


This Best Western hotel, four miles from downtown Napa, offers some nice perks, including a free breakfast buffet and fitness center. It also has 42-inch flat-screen TVs, a pool and guest rooms furnished in rich blues and browns with white duvets. Doubles from $169 per night. 4195 Solano Ave., Napa; (800) 937-8376,

10 restaurants for $20 or less in Napa Valley wine country

You can chow down on pumpkin tamales, smoky barbecue or bruschetta to go in wine country without emptying your wallet. Great meals can be found for $20 or less — if you choose carefully. Here are 10 places where you can dine finely for not too precious a price.

Kitchen Door


The words "local, seasonal, handmade" set the theme for Kitchen Door, a contemporary cafe that specializes in Asian-inspired comfort food. Fans praise chef and owner Todd Humphries for his mushroom combinations and unique flavors. Try the out-of-this-world mushroom soup ($8.25) and the wood-fired chicken wings ($9.95), a local favorite. Oxbow Public Market, 610 1st St., Napa; (707) 226-1560,

Auberge du Soleil


This dreamy hotel on a hillside overlooking the Napa Valley has a Michelin-starred restaurant, a multimillion-dollar view and an A-list clientele. It also has a menu that fits our criteria. Enjoy breakfast on the terrace overlooking the valley or lunch in the bistro, also on the terrace; both menus offer many items for less than $20, including the three-cheese Margherita pizza ($18). Then ask at the front desk for a key that will allow you to roam the grounds, explore the sculpture gardens and indulge your dreams. 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford; (800) 348-5406,

Gott's Roadside Burgers


Wine Advocate founder Robert Parker once called a Gott's burger the best meal he'd had in a year's time. We're not sure where Parker ate that year, but we do know that this burger has a huge following. Gott's burgers are advertised as being 100% Angus beef, aren't fatty or greasy and are topped with a secret sauce with a spicy kick. Prices start at $6.99. Four locations including Oxbow Public Market, 644 1st St., Napa; (707) 224-6900,

Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ


This wine and spirits cafe and bar, set in a late-1800s building that once housed a speak-easy, has a distinctive look and flavor. Find it on the walls, which are decorated with the heads of long-dead animals, and in the smoky barbecue specialties, especially the pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches ($13.50). Visit during happy hour, 3-6 p.m., for the best prices. 975 1st St., Napa; (707) 226-3976,

El Molino Central


Fans of Mexican food queue up daily at this tiny cafe in Sonoma's Boyes Hot Springs District. El Molino, known for its street food and tamales, offers authentic flavors keyed to the seasons. During fall, for instance, pumpkin tamales ($9.50 for two) are popular. Another great bet: enchiladas suizas ($11.50). 11 Central Ave., Sonoma; (707) 939-1010.

Redd Wood


Yountville is known for the three-star Michelin-rated French Laundry restaurant and for a multitude of other high-priced dining establishments. But you don't have to go broke to dine here. The Redd Wood, a chrome-on-black gastropub with a nice vibe, serves up excellent pizzas and pastas, many of which are within our price limits. Try the sausage and smoked mozzarella pizza ($17) or the fettuccine and Gulf shrimp pasta ($19). 6755 Washington St., Yountville; (707) 299-5030,

Norman Rose


This family-owned, contemporary gastropub sits in the heart of the earthquake zone, but closed for just days after the August quake. Try the Tillamook Cheddar mac and cheese, a rich meal in itself ($7.95), or the local favorite, beer-battered fish and chips ($17.95). 1401 1st St., Napa; (707) 258-1516,

Villa Corona Cocina Mexicana

St. Helena

Grab a giant burrito on the go or take a seat in this colorful Mexican restaurant and order traditional favorites such as carne asada, chile verde and carnitas. Combination plates are $12.75; burritos start at $5.95. 1138 Main St., St. Helena; (707) 963-7812,

Clif Family Bruschetteria

St. Helena

The Clif family — the people who brought us Clif Bars — have wheeled out a new taste treat: bruschetta to go. They now have a food truck, parked just off the back patio of its Velo Vino tasting room in St. Helena, that they call a bruschetteria. From Wednesdays through Sundays, the truck serves seasonal Italian-inspired bruschetta, spiedini and salads. Most prices are less than $10. Try the pomodoro with heirloom tomatoes and burrata, $8. 709 Main St., St. Helena; (707) 301-7188,

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen


The spicy Venezuelan pocket sandwiches featured here, called arepas, are hand-made daily from maize and filled with slow-cooked beef and other fillings. Locals and food critics love them, as does the Michelin guide, which features them. Try the pork ($8.95) version or the garlic and yuca arepa ($4.95) for an international experience. Oxbow Public Market, 610 1st St., No. 5, Napa; (707) 251-3757,

Sunday, November 2, 2014

LAX shooting recalled on 1-year anniversary

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and government officials on Saturday commemorated the one-year anniversary of a shooting attack at Los Angeles International Airport that left a U.S. Transportation Security Administration officer dead.
Garcetti was joined by TSA Administrator John Pistole at the airport’s Terminal 3, where Officer Gerardo Hernandez was killed in the attack on Nov. 1, 2013.
New Jersey native Paul Ciancia is charged with targeting TSA officers in the shooting. He has pleaded not guilty to 11 federal charges, including murder of a federal officer.
Hernandez’s killing was TSA’s first line-of-duty death since the agency’s inception in 2001. Two other officers and a passenger were wounded.
Pistole said in a statement that Hernandez was “a dedicated, well-liked and respected employee, and a devoted husband and father. As our first fallen officer, his loss serves as a poignant reminder of how dangerous today’s world is.”
The ceremony included a moment of silence at 9:20 a.m., the time the gunman began shooting.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Weekend Escape:San Jose's Santana Row

once upon a time, the best reason to stop in San Jose was to visit the Winchester Mystery House (525 S. Winchester Blvd.; [408] 247-2101, Although that's still a good excuse to get off Interstate 880, San Jose is no longer a one-trick pony for tourists. Silicon Valley and the tech industry have transformed the city into something more than just an inexpensive place to stay on the way to San Francisco. Nothing exemplifies the new San Jose better than Santana Row, a 647,000-square-foot mixed-use development with about 70 retail shops, 20 restaurants, a movie theater, a hotel and, perhaps most important, free parking. The tab: One night at Hotel Valencia is $199 to $700; dinner for two can be found for $40 to $300.
The bed
Hotel Valencia (355 Santana Row; [408] 551-0010, is the only hotel on Santana Row, but you wouldn't want to stay anywhere else even if there were options. The 215-room hostelry includes hand-painted murals of a flamenco dancer on each floor that welcome guests to their abodes. Cielo, a seventh-floor seasonal bar and terrace, provides gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Because business is a major attraction in San Jose, Hotel Valencia offers about 4,000 square feet of meeting space. When guests aren't talking shop, they can relax on 300-thread-count Egyptian linens, enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast at the on-site Citrus Restaurant or have a drink at Vbar.
The meal
With 20 restaurants, Santana Row serves a variety of tastes. Those looking for Italian can enjoy sausage and peppers at Maggiano's Little Italy (3055 Olin Ave.; [408] 423-8973,; no single item more than $45.95); steak lovers can find 24-ounce prime porterhouses and 12-ounce rib-eyes at LB Steak (334 Santana Row, Suite 1000; [408] 244-1180,; steaks from $28). There's even a Veggie Grill (3055 Olin Ave., No. 1030; [408] 296-6473,; no single item more than $10.95) for vegans and vegetarians. Wherever you eat, make sure to save room for the vegetable taco at El Jardín Tequila Bar & Restaurant (368 Santana Row, Suites 1050, 1060 and 1070; [408] 246-1744,; no single item more than $15) because the caper vinaigrette makes it one of the best you'll ever have.
The find
Santana Row features numerous examples of art and architecture that provide a different — and free — experience. Perhaps the most obvious stands in front of Vintage Wine Bar (368 Santana Row, No. 1040; [408] 985-9463,, where a neo-Gothic church façade was shipped from Montpellier, France. "Tabula Selenographica," an art installation that highlights the 28 phases of the moon, isn't as easy to find: Guests need to look up when walking below the overhang on the eastern side of Santana Row Boulevard. Tunisian wrought-iron grillwork hangs on Tatum Lane around the corner from Anthropologie (356 Santana Row; [408] 249-0436), and you'll find an oversize chess board in Santana Row Park.
Lesson learned
There's more to San Jose than a creepy house that might or might not be haunted.