Category Archives: Strange World

Murder Hornets? Really?

Remember the opening from the 1980s Flash Gordon, where the villain has a dashboard with buttons labeled with various disasters? He used it like a sound effects board: Press the Earthquake button and it would trigger an earthquake. Press the Hurricane button and trigger a hurricane. Press the freaking Hot Hail button and it would trigger a fiery hailstorm. (seriously).

I kinda feel like “Murder Hornets” is another button on that patch board.

For what it’s worth, the Smithsonian has a more…measured take on them: No, Americans Do Not Need to Panic About ‘Murder Hornets’

The Asian giant hornet, seen for the first time in North America in 2019, is unlikely to murder you or U.S. bees, according to Smithsonian entomologist

Theater for Nobody

This is fascinating: A college theater production of Sophocles’ “The Women of Trachis,” a rarely-performed Greek tragedy, was interrupted by the pandemic. It’s been transformed into a one-night only automated performance featuring video clips of the actors (each sheltering in place at home), collected by TikTok and iMovie and assembled by the director to be shown in an empty theater.

As director Michal Zadara puts it, “It’s theater for nobody.” It’s kind of mind-bending in the way it makes you think about the very nature of performing arts and stories — and more, the kind of story it is.

No one on stage.

No one in the audience.

A tragedy that no one will see.

Looking Back at Camp Myford

A gate across a two-lane road heading downward through the hills.

I’ve been looking through photos from back when we could, you know, go places and found a set from the hills above North Tustin during a year that we got enough rain to turn the hills green. There were some really clear shots of Peters Canyon, Saddleback, and even some south Orange County hills that I couldn’t identify. There was a spot that I remember being a turn-out that’s finally eroded away to the point that it’s been fenced off.

And there was this gate, which I think might have been across the road to Camp Myford, a Boy Scout camp on the Irvine Ranch that closed back in the late 1980s. I remember working as a camp counselor for a Cub Scout day camp during the last month — possibly the last week — it remained operating, before the bulldozers came in.

I remember lots of eucalyptus trees, hiking trails and dirt roads, a couple of buildings (though I couldn’t tell you what was in them), a fire ring, and a whole lot of giant pipes that were going to become the sewers and storm drains of the housing tract that was going to be built any moment now. And I remember being told in no uncertain terms that we were supposed to watch our language around the impressionable younger boys (who were, of course, a lot more foul-mouthed than we were).

And I found this article from the Tustin Area Historical Society, summarizing the history of the canyon as far back as the Mexican Rancho system, when it was named Cañon de las Ranas (Canyon of the Frogs) because it drained into the Newport Back Bay, known then as the Marsh of the Frogs.

Old photo of Camp Myford gate and sign over a dirt road.Peters Canyon was once Canyon of the Frogs
Camp Myford, an Irvine Co. gift to the Orange County Council Boy Scouts of America, was named for James Irvine’s youngest son. Peter’s Canyon Regional Park offers a well-used oasis of wilderness amid the sprawl of development in the North Tustin area…

The Shrinking Outdoors

Last weekend, a lot of people in the Los Angeles area tried to go hiking, or to the beach, or otherwise outdoors…to the same places. Which ended up creating the crowds that the shutdown was supposed to prevent, just in different places. 🤦‍♂️

So over the last few days, various cities, counties and the state have closed a bunch more parks, beaches, hiking trails and bike paths. It’s still OK to walk in your neighborhood as long as you keep your distance from people, but destination-based going outdoors is mostly off the table now.

Meanwhile the coronavirus continues to spread, and cases continue to climb, driven by people who were exposed before “social distancing” became a thing as they start developing symptoms. And in some cases succumb to them.

It’s been almost three weeks since I last went for a photo walk or a hike in anything resembling more nature than a patch of weeds in someone’s lawn. It feels like a year ago. And they just closed that beach and the paths along the bluffs.

Though I’ve got to say: in retrospect I’m relieved that I couldn’t find parking closer to the pier because of the kite festival, and ended up at a less crowded part of the beach. I could have gotten exposed to Covid-19 the same day the flu hit me, which would’ve been a really fun one-two punch. As it is, the whole household has been mostly isolated since then, and not only have we avoided picking up Covid-19 as near as we can tell, but I managed to not give anyone else the flu. So that’s good.

Back to the outdoors, though. Over the last year or so I’ve realized that getting outside really helps me de-stress. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a search for songbirds, a hike through nature (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), or heck, a search for Pokémon, spending at least some time outside with sky and sunlight makes a difference.

It’s probably going to be mostly walks around the block for a while. Most of the open nature spaces in the area are either closed outright (Madrona Marsh, for instance), or are open but with their parking lots closed (like Hahn Park). Even the bike path where I’ve spotted hawks and scrub jays and a wide variety of plants (not just puncture vine) is closed. The South Coast Botanic Garden is still open for now, but they’ve instituted an appointment system to limit the number of people inside at a time. I’m debating trying to go this weekend. While it’s still possible.

Though to be honest, if the process of getting there and back induces too much anxiety, it’ll pretty much defeat the purpose.

CA Lockdown Confusion

On Thursday, Los Angeles County ordered that everyone stay at home except for essential activities like buying food, getting medical care, taking care of someone, or going to an “essential” job. Later that evening, California issued a similar order.

But something was unclear: The county specifically mentioned that the guidelines didn’t apply to just going out to walk your dog, hike, or get exercise as long as you maintained your distance from other people and didn’t try to use facilities that were closed, like playground/gym equipment. The state didn’t.

And while I’m reasonably certain that we’re not at the point where they’re going to be arresting or fining people just for walking around the block, I don’t want to be like the guy who explained to Italian police that “I have to hunt the Pokemon” when they charged him for breaking quarantine.

State officials clarified it to the press on Friday:

“Californians can still go hiking and biking outdoors without violating Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “safer at home” order issued Thursday, state officials say. Though many activities have been curtailed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, going outdoors isn’t one of them.”

Good – that explains why South Coast Botanic Garden sent out the notice that they were still open for hiking despite cancelling events. They have stopped taking payments at the gate, though, which is understandable.

And today the state’s official page on the directive features this clarification:

Can I still exercise? Take my kids to the park for fresh air? Take a walk around the block? Walk my dog?

Yes. So long as you are maintaining a safe social distance of six feet from people who aren’t part of your household, it is ok to go outside for exercise, a walk or fresh air.

For now, at least.