Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Autumn in the Southern California Garden

The climate of Southern California is great for creating a garden that bursts with color and blooms virtually year-round. Fall and winter is the time to rest, but a little pruning, fertilizing, and organizing can give you a leg up on the rest of the year. Come springtime, garden activities include mowing and fertilizing, as well as plant prep for hotter summer temperatures. Prime growing season tasks include keeping on top of weeds and spent flowers and supplementing water when needed. Unlike much of the country, Southern California gardeners spend fall planting again before waiting for winter rains and restoration. Through all the seasons, help your garden by planting a few favorite, super-easy perennials and hardy native plants. Even though the sun shines almost year-round in Southern California, deer can be an issue; check out plants less palatable to these pesky animals. If you're looking for inspiration, tour a Southern California garden where the gardener uses spaces to create garden rooms. Rink Rats recommends in Claremont, California the wonderful Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

Two of The Best Perennials for Your Garden –

Every region has its share of extra-easy plants. These time-tested favorites have become classics of country and cottage gardens and are full of heirloom charm. Pick these perennials and you can enjoy a colorful, almost carefree yard. We've pulled together some of the easiest-to-grow perennials in the Southwest. Add them to your landscape for season-long color.


A sprawling native wildflower with pretty trumpet-shape flowers, datura blooms all summer long. The beautiful white flowers are fragrant in the evening hours and the gray-green leaves make a nice foil.
Note: All parts of this plant are extremely poisonous.
Plant Name: Datura meteloides
Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 4 feet tall and wide
Grow it with: Salvia, which offers wonderfully contrasting spiky blooms.
Zones: 7-11; often grown as a self-seeding annual in colder areas


This dramatic, shrub like succulent offers interesting texture and foliage. It's no wonder agaves are becoming favorites of gardeners everywhere -- their bold, architectural form really stands out in the landscape.
Plant Name: Agave americana
Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 25 feet tall in bloom and 6 feet wide
Grow it with: Western columbine for a bold combination of color and texture.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – Another law school has joined the war of tuition. Wayne State University Law School in Detroit is the latest law school to slash its prices. Reports the Detroit Free Press: Wayne State University’s Law School will freeze tuition next year and give a scholarship to every incoming student in a move designed to make a law degree more affordable, while boosting sagging enrollment at the Detroit school.

In total, the tuition freeze and additional scholarship money will amount to the equivalent of a 14% tuition cut for all incoming students, the school is to announce this morning…

The move will keep annual tuition costs at $28,138 through at least the 2015-16 school year. By comparison, the University of Michigan law school costs $25,490 per semester. Like many law schools, Wayne has had to deal with shrinking enrollment. The school, which placed 87th in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent law-school ranking, saw its enrollment fall to 419 students this fall, down from 484 students the previous year, according to the Free Press. “For us, it is really important to ensure that everyone has access to quality legal education,” Wayne’s dean, Jocelyn Benson, told the paper.

In the last couple of years, several other law schools have trimmed their prices, seeking to lure price-sensitive students amid a national decline in applicants. University of Arizona, Penn State Law, Brooklyn Law School, University of Iowa College of Law and University of La Verne College of Law have also lowered their tuition.

The law schools may be taking a page from the “Crazy Eddie” school of marketing, but their strategy is not insane.

Three institutions that trimmed tuition for some or all students were set to boost their first-year class sizes by 22% to 52% this fall compared with 2013, according to an analysis of preliminary enrollment data by The Wall Street Journal from September.

NATURE OF THINGS – Many wild animals are returning to Southern California this time of year, specifically to Claremont. Students have returned to the numerous Colleges and Universities we have in the area. The Acorn Festival returns in November to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. The over hyped Christmas decorations and gift shopping returns earlier and earlier every year at this time. “The Snub” returns after a brief stint with the Republicans down south.

Finally, the Parrots have returned to the Southland and Claremont, flying west every day at 6:00 PM. The popular theory is that the Parrots came from Simpson's Nursery in east Pasadena on East Colorado Blvd in the Lamanda Park area. It caught on fire in 1969. (Alternately I've seen some stories state the name was Simpson's Gardenland and Bird Farm which burnt down in 1959) Either the parrots were released to save them from the fires or they managed to escape on their own in time. From these parrots, the Pasadena Parrots came about. Other stories claim that the parrots have migrated up from Mexico but others still state they were originally black market birds released by smugglers .

Although no one seems sure how they actually ended up in Southern California, at least six and possibly as many as thirteen different species have been spotted in southern California. The different species even inter-breed at times: Sources say that they are yellowhead amazon parrots, an endangered species that has been kept as pets for decades because they are some of the best "talkers" amongst the many different species of parrot. Additionally California's Parrot Project and California Flocks keep track and offer up information on the different species of parrots found in the state.

Species that have been identified in Southern California by CaliforniaFlocks.org include: Yellow Chevroned Parakeets, Mitred Conures, Blue Crowned Conures, Indian Ringneck Parrots, Nanday Conures, Yellow Head Amazons, Blue Fronted Amazons, Lilac Crowned Amazons, Green Cheeked Amazons, Red Masked Conures, Red Lored Amazon and White Fronted Amazons.

2014 ELECTIONS PICKS – WELCOME TO THE FINAL WEEK OF THE MIDTERMS (MAYBE) - The 2014 midterm elections should end next Tuesday. But there is a good chance they won't. In fact, they could easily drag into January and the completion of the likely (though not certain) Georgia Senate runoff between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. And Louisiana, where Democrat Mary Landrieu is trying to hold on, is almost certainly headed to a December runoff. Republicans need six seats to take the Senate and are near certain to pick up three open seats currently held by Democrats in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana.

Rink Rats Election Picks:
California Governor – Jerry Brown    
CA 27th Congressional – Judy Chu
CA 41st Assembly – Chris Holden                              
CA Super. Public Ed. – Tom Torlakson
Claremont Measure W – No                                      
CA Proposition 1 – Yes
Michigan Governor – Rick Snyder
Illinois 17th Congressional – Cheri Bustos 

U.S. Senate – Republican 51, Democrat 47, Independent 2
U.S. House – Republican 241, Democrat 194


'Right to work' impact?

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry & Labor Group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said next year's talks with Detroit automakers will include a "whole list of things that are going to be really hard."

With younger, lesser-paid workers representing a bigger chunk of UAW membership than in 2011, the union will need to have their support to ratify contracts. That's why the UAW will need to win benefits for both new and older workers.

And because of "right-to-work" laws, Michigan workers will be able to opt out of the union if they don't like it. "We haven't been in this situation," Dziczek said. "We don't know how it will play out."

It's going to be a balancing act, Dziczek said. "I don't think they can get rid of second tier, but I think they can get darn closer." She said the UAW might be able to win a phase-out of the two-tier contract in the next negotiations in 2019.

Dennis Williams, President of the United Auto Workers said the fact that UAW members in Michigan will have the right to quit the union after the next contracts take effect is not going unnoticed: "This is new to our members, this is new to the state of Michigan — so we'll deal with it, but it's not going to be a total focus of mine."

He said that in other right-to-work states, the union has been successful in retaining the vast majority of its members. "I've always believed that if you do your job representing people, that people will be there to support you."

Beyond wages, other issues will be contentious. Dziczek said automakers likely will seek to reduce pension costs as they did with salaried retirees. GM and Ford Motor Co. both offered lump-sum buyouts to salaried pension recipients if they agreed to forgo future benefits. GM off-loaded its pension plans to Prudential, while last year Chrysler froze its salaried pension plans for 8,000 people.

Harley Shaiken, a University of California Berkeley professor and labor expert, said the labor talks will pose a challenge. A deal "is going to be tough. It's going to require some swallowing hard on both sides." Much may depend on the economic conditions a year from now and if U.S. automakers are still posting billions in profits.

Williams dismisses suggestions that the UAW will focus solely on the Detroit's Big Three automakers: "We're not going to give up on organizing. In fact, actually we have more organizing going on right now than we've had for a long time — but we're going to approach it in a different way."

Beyond negotiations with Detroit automakers, the UAW will have to negotiate major contracts with John Deere, Mitsubishi and UAW Local 6000, which represents 17,000 state of Michigan employees. "This is not going to be an easy task," Williams said. "It's a full plate."

Growth opportunities seen - Williams, who moved to Detroit four years ago, has kept a low profile since winning election in June at the union's constitutional convention in Detroit. He's been meeting members, visiting plants and local union halls.

Since taking office, Williams has met with GM CEO Mary Barra and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. He plans to meet with Ford CEO Mark Fields soon. The meetings haven't been a "deep dialogue," he says. Rather, he characterized them as sessions to get to know each other.

The 2015 contract talks will be the first with Fields and Barra at the helm. In an interview last week, Barra said GM has a strong relationship with the UAW and a good relationship with union leaders. "We're having productive conversations about our approach," she says. "We're going to work together. There's a lot of creativity."

In 2013, the UAW's membership rose about 2 percent, or nearly 9,000 members to 391,415 — the most since 2008. It was the fourth straight year of membership gains for the union. Membership is still down about one-third since 2005 and down dramatically from when its 1.53 million members in 1979. Williams says the union sees foreign automakers, parts companies, the gaming industry and higher education as potential areas for new members. "The UAW has a great opportunity to grow," he said.

Williams' election marked the first time in the union's history that the president is someone who has not worked in an automobile factory. Williams, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a younger man, got a job as a salvage welder at tractor company J.I. Case and joined the UAW in 1977. His past isn't lost on him: Williams sits behind the president's desk in a makeshift tractor chair with his name and UAW logo embossed on it. It was built by an Iowa UAW local.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: John Cleese (75), Rochelle Hanson …famous public servant and finance expert, Juli Roberts …famous educator.

STEVE BALLMER TALKS MICROSOFT'S COMPETITION - Given the chance to do it all over again, what would former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (Detroit Country Day ’73) do differently? 'I probably would have started us doing hardware earlier so that we could have been more effective in the phone business,' he told Charlie Rose in an interview last week. A few other tidbits for the tech set: he still thinks Microsoft is the company to bet on in the long run. "If your time frame is one year, I'd probably take Apple, because they get the most earnings. If your time frame is 30 years and I'd probably take Microsoft and Google. And I - I'd pick Microsoft over Google because I am completely non-objective."

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 11/1, 7:30 PM ET, Fox; Stanford Cardinal (5-3) at #5 Oregon Ducks (7-1); RR smells an upset Pine Trees 38 Ducks 35. Season to date (5-4)

1.      Mississippi State Bulldogs
2.      Alabama Crimson Tide
3.      Oregon Ducks
4.      Notre Dame Fighting Irish
5.      Florida State Criminals

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 11/1, 4:00 PM ET, Bravo; It is Homecoming at Maxwell Field, Willamette Bearcats (4-2) at #5 Linfield Wildcats (6-0).  No contest Wildcats 45 Willamette 14. Season to date (4-4)

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 11/2, 8:30 PM ET. NBC;  Big game in the AFC North, Baltimore Ravens (5-3)at Pittsburgh Steeler (5-3). Big Ben prevails, Steelers 32 Ravens 28. Season to date (4-4)


Friday, October 31
Race #7, Dirt Mile – Goldencents; Rafael Bejarno Jockey, Leandro Mora Trainer
Race #9, Distaff – Untapable; Rosie Napravnik Jockey, Steven Asmussen Trainer

Saturday, November 1
Race #7, Turf Sprint – No Hay Never; Wes Ward Jockey, Lanfranco Dettari Trainer
Race #8, Juvenile – American Pharoah; Victor Espinoza Jockey, Bob Baffert Trainer
Race #9, Turf – Telescope; Ryan Moore Jockey, Sir Michael Stoute Trainer
Race #12, Classic – Shared Belief; Mike Smith Jockey, Jerry Hollendorfer Trainer

“Bet with your head, not over it.”

Season to date (61 - 51)


AMAZON TANKS ON BIG LOSS - Amazon reported one of the biggest losses in its history and admitted that some of its investments had not gone well as it vowed to be 'selective' about where it put its money in future. The ecommerce group's shares plunged 11 per cent in after-hours trading ... after news of a $437m loss in the three months to the end of September sharpened questions about its ability to generate long-term profits. ... Under pressure from analysts on a conference call to discuss its quarterly figures, Amazon's chief financial officer struck a tone that was contrite by the standards of a company that usually says as little as possible.

"With anything new that we do . . . there's certainly a wide range of outcomes,' said Tom Szkutak, Amazon's finance chief, when asked about its investments in hardware and overseas markets including China. ... Amazon's profits have been sapped by big investments in new Kindle devices, cloud computing infrastructure and warehouses across the world. ... But losses that exceeded Wall Street expectations have caused its shares to drop by close to or more than 10 per cent after each of the past four quarters' earnings announcements.

DRIVING THE WEEK – President Obama on MOnday meets with his "Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee" and plans to announce some new efforts to boost U.S. manufacturing ... Pending home sales at 10:00 a.m. Monday expected to rise 1 percent ... Durable goods orders at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.3 percent headline and 0.5 percent ex-transportation ... Case-Shiller home prices at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday expected to rise 0.1 percent ... Consumer confidence at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday expected to rise to 87.0 from 86.0 ... FOMC announcement at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday expected to include end to QE3 but continued dovish language on rates ... First read on Q3 GDP on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. expected to show growth of 3.0 percent ... Personal income and spending on Friday at 8:30 a.m. each expected to rise 0.3 percent ... Employment cost index at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to rise 0.5 percent from 0.7 percent, showing moderating wage and benefit costs ... Twitter reports third quarter results today with user growth still the big issue ... Facebook reports Tuesday.

Social Security checks will rise by 1.7% -- which translates into $22 more each month for the average retired worker.

In 2015, the average worker will receive $1,328 a month, or $15,936 a year, according to the Social Security Administration.

Next year's annual cost of living increase is up from 1.5% this year, but still less than 2012's increase of 3.6%. Seniors received no increases to their benefits for two years prior as prices fell due to the recession.

Next week: Dear Rink Rats, and Jack Ass of the month.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

October 28, 2014
#V-28, 237

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Peanuts, Charles Schultz

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