Stories for January 2001

Thursday, January 25

I Don't Do Operational Stuff

When Governor Gray Davis announced last month that he had awarded $100 million of the state surplus to UCSD and UC Irvine to create one of three new California "Institutes for Science and Innovation," a ...

No Room for Whiners

Chet Varns takes a lot of guff from people he doesn't know and likely won't see again. A volunteer at the sign-in desk at Palomar Hospital's emergency room in Escondido, Varns passes new patients a ...

Never Say Retreat

Harry Truman's so-called "police action" in Korea is lately being remembered as "The Forgotten War" despite casualty figures that rival those of Vietnam. But if you were an Army brat as I was during the ...

What's the deal with fast-food combos and pricing?

Matthew: What's the deal with fast-food combos and pricing? You're looking at, say, one of the breakfast combos at Carl's Jr. and decide you don't want their shitty coffee. So you say, "I'll have the ...

Do identical twins have identical fingerprints?

Hi, Matt: Do identical twins have identical fingerprints? -- Bob, telephonically Their DNA will be a match, but their fingerprints won't be. The human genome carries only so much basic information, beyond which our developing ...

Trees and shrubs

Fallen mayor and radio talk-show host Roger Hedgecock is being sued by a Pacific Beach neighbor who accuses him of encroaching on her property, unlawfully bulldozing a line of Italian cypress trees, and threatening a ...

Follow Horsethief Canyon's trickling stream into the Pine Creek Wilderness, south of Descanso.

Horsethief Canyon offers one of the quickest escapes into a designated wilderness area available to urban San Diegans. The canyon is a major entryway into the 13,000-acre Pine Creek Wilderness, south of Descanso and Pine ...

Wednesday, January 24

Why does dust in my eye hurt, but my contacts don't?

Matt: Why does it hurt when I get a speck of dirt in my eye but when I put my contact lenses in, I don't feel much of anything? -- Eyes, San Diego The human ...

Why is it blue for boys, pink for girls?

Dear Mr. Alice: Why is blue the universal color for boys and pink for girls? -- Wondering, San Diego The blue/pink thing isn't universal. But our link to it goes back into our murky, superstitious ...

All the facts about sleep-sneezing, sleep-yawning, and sleep murder.

Hey, Matt: What's the relation between sneezes and yawns, two bodily functions that won't happen in one's sleep? -- Tired, with a Cold I assume you've kept one eye open at night, so you're positive ...

Thursday, January 18

Scum Busters

Cops like to tell stories. They’re good at it. They’re trained to think in specifics, to make precise observations. Atop an arrest report, right beneath “officer’s report,” it says “narrative.” On one of my first ...

Rules for Your Life

'Not everyone who comes to this country comes for economic reasons. Money. I hate money. I don't even like to talk about money. I don't think Americans understand that. There are many things more important ...

Each Week Is a Great Adventure

On October 26, 1999, the county Board of Supervisors voted to approve a $644 million, seven-year contract to "outsource" the county's computer and telephone operations. The move was heralded by the supervisors as a bold ...

Gifts in a basket

Members of the San Diego City Council and their staffs have filed their so-called "assuming office" financial disclosure statements required by law. Mayor Dick Murphy reports owning a couple of rental units in his old ...

Is it true that the fax machine was invented before the telephone?

Hey, Matt: I seem to gravitate to people who think they know everything, and I usually buy what they say. But here's one I finally have to ask about. A friend who's right about a ...

Where are all the baby seagulls?

Matt: I've lived near the ocean for almost 50 years. I have never, never seen a baby seagull. Where are they? -- John P., Coronado Yeah, you have, John. You've seen lots of them. You ...

Is it true that there was once a vaudeville performer whose act consisted of nothing but farting?

Dear Matthew Alice: A friend of mine has been trying to convince me that there was once a vaudeville performer whose act consisted of nothing but farting. My friend prides himself on knowing strange facts, ...

Search for a small waterfall and grotto in Los Pinetos Canyon, near Santa Clarita.

Barely ten minutes' drive from the northern San Fernando Valley and the sprawling suburb of Santa Clarita, Placerita Canyon Natural Area nestles comfortably at the foot of one of the more verdant slopes of the ...

Wednesday, January 17

What's the origin of the name "blue bark"?

Matthew Alice: I am a civilian employee working at 32nd Street Naval Station. The files of deceased service members are referred to as "blue barks." Can you find the history of this name? -- L. ...

Why can't I see my farts?

Matt: It's kind of a gross question, but that doesn't make it any less worth wondering about: In the cold I can see my breath, but how come I can't see my fart? -- Matt, ...

Hike alongside a bubbling stream in Anza-Borrego's Oriflamme Canyon to reach a 15-foot waterfall.

Oriflamme Canyon's gurgling waters are borne to the open air high on the east slope of the Laguna Mountains. For five miles they trickle over polished granite and schist bedrock, tumble over small waterfalls, and ...

Thursday, January 11

Jenna's Dad

Last spring I had only begun to follow the renowned psychologist Ken Druck and the grief he bears for losing his 21-year-old daughter, Jenna, when he called one day to say he was with two ...

Something Fishy in Paranoia Bay

Despite a recent scolding, the city, some watchdogs say, continues to disrespect Mission Bay Park and those citizens who care about it. On April 18, you might remember, a San Diego County grand jury released ...

Class Warfare in City Heights

Julee Vaughan remembers the first installation of portable buildings at Central Elementary School during the 1960s, when she was a pupil there. That those temporary classrooms eventually became permanent reminds Vaughan that the San Diego ...

Golding handshake

While she was mayor last year, Susan Golding picked up more than a little spare change on the side. According to her leaving-office disclosure statement filed late last month, Golding collected greater than $10,000 from ...

What materials are used for the making of the violin strings and violin bows?

M.A.: Please settle a soon to become violent topic where I live. What materials are used for the making of violin strings and violin bows? And also, why do Cremona violins sound that good; is ...

If you die in a dream, will you will also die in real life?

Dear Matt: Have you ever been told that while dreaming, if you die, you will also die in real life? I have never been able to test this theory, because if I am close to ...

Seek out evidence of prehistoric landslides at Anza-Borrego's Split Mountain.

So crazy is the juxtaposition of rock formations at Anza-Borrego's Split Mountain that it makes your head spin. You can't help being amazed at the appearance of orderly sedimentary rock layers in one spot, curved ...

Wednesday, January 10

Are birds smarter than I am?

Matthew, Sir: How smart are birds? Smarter than cats? Smarter than snakes? Smarter than me? The birds around my house seem to have learned when and where I feed them and have even told some ...

Thursday, January 4

One Hundred Years Ago Today

One hundred years ago, fewer than 18,000 people lived in the city of San Diego. Fewer than 40,000 lived in the county, which then was twice its current area. The San Diego Union was one ...

Is there an existing society where gender roles are opposite of what goes on here?

Dear Matthew Alice: It's said to be a "man's world," which I truly believe is unfortunate, I mean, obviously unfortunate. Is there an existing society where the roles are culturally the opposite of what goes ...

Who is/was Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone?

Heymatt: I was driving north on Interstate 5 the other day and noticed a sign at Camp Pendleton naming that section of the freeway for Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. Then a little farther north at ...

Discover intertidal-zone marine organisms at Malibu's Point Dume.

Like the armored bow of an ice-breaker, flat-topped Point Dume juts into the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles west of Santa Monica. East of the point itself, an unbroken cliff wall shelters a secluded beach ...

Wednesday, January 3

St. Bernards, kegs of brandy. Whose idea was that?

Oh Wise and Merciful Matthew: Did St. Bernards really carry around little barrels on their necks, and if so, what was in them? -- Ida Know, Escondido Here's your answer, Ida-- no. The little brandy ...

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