Orange County Great Park tries again for greatness

The troubled not-so-great Great Park in Irvine will be hosting the DOE Solar Decathlon 2013 this October. As exciting as that sounds, it is doubtful that the event will in any way help turn the park into the grand urban park that has been envisioned, debated, funded and defunded for years.

Balloon ride over Orange County Great Park

Balloon ride over the Great Park? $10. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Only a tiny section of the park is open and publicly available. Previously free attractions from the carousel to a balloon ride now are pay to use. Yes, the park’s only merry-go-round costs $2 a ride! That is just sad. A decade ago, OC voters approved the repurposing of the former Marine air base into the Orange County Great Park — beating out those who wanted to see an airport there.

The Solar Decathlon is actually a great event. Promoted by the Department of Energy, the competition fields teams of college students who build environmentally friendly houses. The 2012 decathlon was in Washington D.C. It promises to bring plenty of paying visitors, benefitting not only the park but local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses serving tourists.

But will it be worth the cost? See the L.A. Times for the discussion.

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It’s time to eat!

Orange County Restaurant Week begins Sunday, February 24.

Orange County Restaurant Week

Orange County Restaurant Week

This fifth annual event features 100 restaurants throughout OC that have created special fixed price menus for lunch and/or dinner that showcase their offerings at really special prices. It’s a great opportunity to explore restaurants you may have never visited or to revisit some old favorites — and to just pig out.

Reservations where accepted are highly recommended. This has become a very popular event.

For more information, visit the official website or Open Table or the Orange County Register.

Happy and delicious dining!

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San Onofre and the Monks

monks protest San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

Steven Georges, for the Register

I live less than 5 miles from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) here on the coast in Orange County. The plant has been shut down since January when workers discovered a small radioactive leak. Southern California Edison, which owns 78% of San Onofre, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission assured us it was a tiny leak that was perfectly harmless. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Now, Edison feels that it can restart (at reduced power) one of the two reactors that did not leak back in January. And so they presented their case before the NRC at an overflow crowd public meeting yesterday in Laguna Hills. Although there was extensive questioning, the regulators have not indicated how they expect to rule. If this is a typical case, the regulators will side with industry and Edison will get its way and re-start reactor 2.

Meanwhile and eerily coincidental, Edison has reported that there has been tampering, perhaps sabotage, with the coolant used to keep the reactors within safe range. The FBI is taking over the investigation. As Democratic Underground reports:

This facility has the worst safety record of any nuclear plant in America, its workers are speaking out to warn of dangers, and 9 cities within the evacuation zone have now raised serious concerns.

And because we are in Southern California, a small group of Buddhist monks held a protest march from Dana Point to San Clemente where they plan to fast and pray near the pier. Their mission is to block the restart of the reactor and to shut down the plant permanently. From the Orange County Register:

“We need to shut down the San Onofre,” Gyosen Sawada of Los Angeles, who said he was born in Fukushima, Japan, told the group before beginning a three-hour walk from Dana Point Harbor. “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki. No more Three Mile Island. No more Fukushima. No more San Onofre.”

Sawada and two Seattle-area monks – Senji Kanaeda and Gilberto Perez, who told the group he was a “homey from the projects in New York city, born in Cuba” – then set off down Pacific Coast Highway.

Look for a great slideshow at the Register of the monks and the NRC hearing.

Curiously, Edison has added a virtual tour of the power plant to its site. No mention of sabotage on this tour.

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Endeavour comes home

Space shuttle Endeavour lands at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

What a thrill it was to see the space shuttle Endeavour land at Edwards Air Force Base this afternoon even though I could only watch on TV. My father worked in aerospace his entire life beginning with his time in the USAF when he was barely more than a kid. He worked on many space projects but not Endeavour. When we moved to California (I was 7), our first home was up in the high desert right by Edwards.

So I feel a personal attachment to this beautiful spacecraft, as do so many others.

This was truly a farewell tour for the spacecraft. From the OC Register:

Endeavour’s highly anticipated homecoming was twice delayed by stormy weather along the Gulf of Mexico. Early Wednesday, it departed from its Cape Canaveral, Fla., home base, soared over NASA centers in Mississippi and Louisiana, and made a layover in Houston, home of Mission Control. Crowds craned their necks skyward as the shuttle flew low over Florida’s Space Coast and Houston.

After refueling in El Paso, Texas, Thursday, it flew over the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, an emergency shuttle landing site used once. Kelly requested that Endeavour sail over Tucson to honor Giffords, who is recovering after suffering a head wound in a shooting rampage last year. Giffords was a member of the House committee on science, space and technology. The couple watched from the roof of a University of Arizona parking garage.

Former Giffords aide C.J. Karamargin said Giffords was “elated” and started “hooting and hollering” as soon as she spotted Endeavour.

Tomorrow, Endeavour will make a loop up to San Francisco, Sacrmento, the Silicon Valley, and here in Orange County before flying over Los Angeles and then landing at LAX. Then the craft will make its way through city streets to California Science Center, its final destination.

Welcome home.

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Great white shark spotted off of La Jolla

Those beautiful beaches of La Jolla had their Jaws moment Monday afternoon when a lifeguard spotted a great white shark, estimated 12-15 feet long, heading north. They have been unable to spot the shark since that sighting but not for trying.

But as a lifeguard interviewed for a story in the North County Times said:

… its a big ocean, and you never know where these things are gonna go.

La Jolla Shores was shut down completely and advisories were posted at La Jolla Cove, Black’s, and the beach below Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Shark sightings are not that uncommon in the waters off North San Diego County and southernmost Orange County. Here’s a photo of one catching waves with some mostly unsuspecting surfers in the same waters in 2011:

shark sighting off La Jolla in 2011

See Anthony Adragna’s post for another remarkable shot.

What’s an Independence Week without a shark or two?

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