Tag: Top Stories SGVT

How has Covid-19 affected your life? These older adults discussed what they’ve learned

How do you describe a meeting that evoked the following responses? “Thank you for the gift today!” “So inspirational, educational and meaningful.” “I was so uplifted.” “Amazing, warm and inspiring.” “Brilliant insights.”

This was the 11th year of meeting with a group of men and a group of women in mid-to-later life with a track record of professional success who continue to develop their new life stage commonly referred to as retirement. The men in the group are members of the Life Transition Group; the women part of Renewment®.

Here is the back story: Several years ago, Ron Dresher and Brian Harris, both long-time successful marketing professionals, went for a bike ride along the beach and began to talk about their retirement. Both were passionate about their work. They questioned what they would do with their energy and commitment when no longer working. They felt motivated to become more knowledgeable and were ready to share experiences with others. Subsequently, they formed a group of like-minded men and have been meeting for 13 years with scheduled monthly speakers. There are three such groups in Southern California.

The women are from Renewment, a forum and movement started by my co-founder Bernice Bratter and me in 1999. Renewment women, also with successful careers, want to create the next chapter of life to be equal to or even more satisfying than the previous ones. We also meet monthly to discuss subjects relevant to not only the retirement transition but also to changes throughout a lifetime. We have about 40 Renewment conversation groups across the country that have grown virally. Since the pandemic, we have created 10 virtual renewment groups meeting monthly.

For the current combined meeting, professions ranged from rocket scientist to coffee consultant as well as careers in law, business, education, journalism, academe and media being represented.

The question we addressed: What has been the impact of Covid on your life? Several themes emerged.

Slowing down/having time: Slowing down seemed to have a positive effect with a renewed appreciation of time. One man who was always up and out early in the day now has his leisurely morning coffee in bed with his wife. He finds he is nicer to people, thanking restaurant servers and store clerks, realizing being kind, tolerant, mindful and thankful is more important than ever. Time worked in favor of another. A widowed man and his widowed girlfriend lived in separate residences. During the lockdown, they decided to live in her home and realized they thoroughly enjoyed being together. Subsequently, each sold their homes and together bought a condominium where they both live happily.

Purpose: One woman’s top priority has always been to foster relationships. Since Covid, it has become more important. Another woman commented that her purpose and goal was to transition her business to her daughter. During Covid, this became possible; mother and daughter are now launching their own CPA firm. Being a friend and working with the community were part of another woman’s Covid purpose.

Spirituality: A stronger spiritual foundation gave another more confidence about the present and future. He felt that what is occurring today is part of a master plan, a feeling that has increased during the past 18 months. He also realized the importance of leaving a legacy to his family on who he is. “One’s sense of immortality continues to be severely challenged,” he added.

Relationships: One woman found that during Covid, she bonded with her adult single children. Another acknowledged she has been judgmental and now is working on that. A woman with parents age 81 and 90 and with a friend and sister who both have cancer acknowledged the increased importance of both friend and family relationships. Another noted that Covid took away his travel, which left more time to spend with his wife and resulted in a deeper and more committed relationship. And another kept the family together by organizing a weekly Sunday Zoom call. As a result, family members now also call one another by phone during the week and actually speak to one another rather than texting.

Selfless giving: A successful CEO has a more paternal feeling for associates in his company. He did not lay off anyone during business uncertainty and instead provided needed funds to the company. He intentionally had some home-improvement work done to give workers a job and purposely ordered out to restaurants to keep them in business.

All acknowledged the tragic aspect of the pandemic, yet were determined to find or create something worthwhile from the experience in a quest to get better at life every day.

So, “that was the meeting that was,” heartfelt, caring, honest and appreciative. Let each of us find something from our shared experience to help us get better at our lives – every day.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging, employment and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulagingCommunity

Alhambra Historical Society votes to dissolve, but some members are fighting it

Board members of the Alhambra Historical Society voted in late August to dissolve, but the move has been met with strong resistance from other members who hope to resurrect the nonprofit.

Those members say they didn’t receive proper notice that such a vote was in the offing, and now they’re fighting to save the 55-year-old organization. The Historical Society operates an 11-room museum at 1550 W. Alhambra Road, a property the city owns. The city has the right to take it over upon dissolution.

  • The Alhambra Historical Society Museum property is owned by the city of Alhambra. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • A side view of the Alhambra Historical Society Museum displays the beautiful landscape. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Members of the Alhambra Historical Society will get a chance to keep the non-profit alive and museum open after a recently contested vote opted to dissolve the organization. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)



Convinced that there may have been errors, Alhambra Mayor Katherine Lee has given remaining members 45 days to sort out the issue and establish a new board.

“Vice Mayor (Jeffrey) Maloney and I, we discussed this issue. …  We both feel that if there’s a dispute among the members about the vote that was taken on Aug. 26, then the city should give the members the time, which they requested 45 days,” Lee said.

She said she sent out an email Thursday to the parties saying as much.

“We are going to expect in that 45 days, they would have to have another meeting held,” Lee said. “If that meeting was to be held, we would like to know the results of that meeting, whether the dissolution is still going to take place or that a new board is formed.”

The agenda for the Aug. 26 meeting does not mention the dissolution, but an email from a city employee indicates that the board will discuss “1. Consideration of dissolution of the Alhambra Historical Society Inc. 2. Possible consideration of process for appointing new officers.”

Members hoping to keep the organization going say they believed a possible dissolution was open to discussion but not a vote.

According to an email from members Melissa Michelson and Joe Castillo, during the meeting the board cited that they were “getting old,” the work was “too much” and COVID-19 as reasons for dissolution.

In a phone interview Friday, Michelson said further confusion was created because the meeting was billed as a board meeting, not an all-members meeting, and that a vote of dissolution requires a vote of all the membership.

Michelson said at last count, there were about 90 members in the nonprofit.

The Board of Trustees consists of president Rosemarie Markus, vice-president Annette Vanila, secretary Mary Louise Bunker and treasurer Duane Markus. Rosemarie Markus confirmed the reasons for the action taken for dissolution.

“The board members were old,” she said. “The secretary was 98 years old and going blind. My husband had been diagnosed with three blood clots. I had fell and fractured my shoulder in three places.

“And two of our board of trustees had been fighting cancer. And so it was just that for years, no one was stepping up, and the board was just getting old. And no one would take over.”

Lee, the city’s representative on the society’s board, took in the 10 a.m. Aug. 26 meeting via Zoom.

“During the meeting I could hear some members didn’t seem to really have all the information,” she said. “Long story short, the meeting was held, and the vote was taken from the board as well as the members that were present, and the result that was given to the city was, yes, the dissolution got passed” by a 15-7 count.

Not so fast.

“However, since then I’ve received a couple of phone calls from concerned members questioning how the meeting was held,” Lee said. “The member who called me said, ‘Had I known that the meeting was about the dissolution of the society, I would have taken time off work.’ That was the first call I received.”

The Alhambra Historical Society Inc. was established in 1966. The city in 1987 granted permission for it to use city-owned property for its museum, and in 1992 an agreement was signed by all parties that included a directive about possible dissolution.

“The arrangement is that if the Historical Society ever dissolved, then the property, all of its contents and any other assets of the Historical Society, would transfer to the city,” said Maloney, also a member of the organization. “The Historical Society has primarily been run by the same set of community volunteers, really dedicated folks, for many years now.

“My understanding was that the board felt that they got to a point that they weren’t able to sustain it themselves as a separate entity any longer.”

Lee and Maloney both would like to see a new board established, so the Historical Society can continue on the way it’s been.

In an email Friday to this news group, Castillo expressed joy that members still have a chance to do just that.

“We have drafted a letter for the (Alhambra Historical Society) to send out to the existing trustees and members explaining the current situation and their agreement in working with our group to continue the operations of the AHS and Museum,” he wrote.

“Once the letters are accepted, they will be sent out and a general membership meeting will hopefully be held to elect a new board. The letters will explain the reason why the vote was invalid, so that those who voted for dissolvement will have an explanation.”

Michelson is optimistic.

“Yeah, it looks pretty good,” she said. “Seems like it’s smooth sailing that we’re actually going to be, how should I say, kind of turning the tide for the better.”

The volunteers are getting up in years, Michelson acknowledged, “and it was hard for them to run. So I think some new blood will be good.”

She added the museum was rarely open even before the pandemic.

If the election of a new board does not come to fruition and the nonprofit is indeed dissolved, the city would then put out a call for another nonprofit to take control of the museum.

“Meanwhile, if the city can operate it in a different way, then that’s up to the (City) Council,” Lee said. “I have no idea of which way it’s going to go.”

If no other organization is willing to step up, “then the City Council will have to look at other options,” she said.

One option is to contract with a steward to at least care for the museum’s contents, Maloney said. From the perspective of the members who don’t want to dissolve, that likely won’t be necessary.

“Since this meeting there really has been a lot of energy and excitement among members and others in the community to step forward and keep the society going,” member Mike McCollum said. “We’re really excited. We’re going to be electing a new board in the coming weeks.”

Pasadena residents critical of planned purchase of gas-powered vehicles

Pasadena City Council will consider spending nearly $750,000 Monday to update an aging fleet of city-operated trucks and sport utility vehicles, but local residents contend the environmental costs far outweigh any savings that will be had by purchasing the gas-powered vehicles.

The decision to acquire eight Ford Edge SUVs, two light-duty trucks and seven heavy-duty trucks for the Police, Public Works and Parks, Recreation and Community Services departments was first debated by the council in July before it was pushed to the Municipal Services Committee, which took up discussion on the matter Tuesday, Sept.14.

Martha Zavala, president of Pasadena’s League of Women Voters, was one of nearly three dozen residents who submitted a letter to the committee arguing against the contract’s approval, saying it goes against the values laid forth in the city’s Climate Action Plan, a 101-page document released at the tail-end of 2017.

The 2018 climate plan

Containing a loosely written set of goals and 27 broad measures, city leaders touted the plan in 2018 as a commitment to confronting the challenges of climate change. Meanwhile, environmental activists asserted it didn’t go far enough in addressing transportation’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

Greg Gunther, chair of the city’s Transportation Advisory Commission at the time, said transportation “clearly has the most significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions,” but little had been done up until that point to approve bike lanes and other mitigation measures in the city.

So if change is to come, he said in 2018, then residents must speak up at City Council meetings for alternative transportation projects that reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution, “and make their feelings known.”

Zavala said in an interview Friday that’s exactly what she and others in the organization are trying to do ahead of this Monday’s council meeting.

The push for green power

“We recognize the city does have plans in place, but we feel that unless they step up the pace a bit more, then it will be difficult for Pasadena to combat the difficulties associated with climate change,” Zavala said. ”That’s why we were kind of taken aback when we saw the agenda indicating vehicle purchases, because we feel it heavily conflicts with our goals as a city.”

Staffers at City Hall disagree, stating in a report, “Replacing these aging vehicles, ranging from 10 to 16 years old, will reduce the overall tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by approximately 25%.”

Considerations and research for zero emission alternatives to replace these particular vehicles were also conducted, according to staff. “And at this time, there are no feasible alternatives, including electric or hybrid models, currently on the market that will meet department needs and specific vehicle duties there-in associated.”

A question of transparency?

Zavala and a coalition of environmentally minded peers aren’t sure the math works out, particularly because there’s been a lack of transparency, she said.

“They make a lot of statements but because we believe in transparency, they need to show how they arrived at their recommendations,” Zavala said.

“It’s a lot of money to spend, and we feel there has to be some rigor to take that extra step and do the research that’s necessary to advance the goals that they set for themselves,” she added. “That is what we’re trying to bring up to the forefront — the fact that council needs to go above and beyond because our long-term goals are now short-term goals.”

Recognizing the task will indeed be difficult, Zavala doesn’t believe that gives the city a pass. Little decisions add up.

“We’re hoping that they really start focusing on the everyday decisions that are being made by the different departments within the city because there needs to be a shift,” Zavala said, “a shift in the way we work together and the way they’re doing business. It starts with this decision.”

SpaceX’s tourist trip to orbit ends with splashdown in Atlantic

By Marcia Dunn | Associated Press

HAWTHORNE — Four space tourists ended their trailblazing trip to orbit Saturday with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.

The capsule from Hawthorne-based SpaceX parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier.

The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.

The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.

SpaceX’s fully automated Dragon capsule reached an unusually high altitude of 363 miles (585 kilometers) after Wednesday night’s liftoff. Surpassing the International Space Station by 100 miles (160 kilometers), the passengers savored views of Earth through a big bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.

The four streaked back through the atmosphere early Saturday evening, the first space travelers to end their flight in the Atlantic since Apollo 9 in 1969. SpaceX’s two previous crew splashdowns — carrying astronauts for NASA — were in the Gulf of Mexico.

This time, NASA was little more than an encouraging bystander, its only tie being the Kennedy Space Center launch pad once used for the Apollo moonshots and shuttle crews, but now leased by SpaceX.

The trip’s sponsor, Jared Isaacman, 38, an entrepreneur and accomplished pilot, aimed to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donating $100 million himself, he held a lottery for one of the four seats. He also held a competition for clients of his Allentown, Pennsylvania payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments.

Joining him on the flight were Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a St. Jude physician assistant who was treated at the Memphis, Tennessee hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, and contest winners Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator, scientist and artist from Tempe, Arizona.

Strangers until March, they spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight, dubbed Inspiration4. Most everything appeared to go well, leaving them time to chat with St. Jude patients, conduct medical tests on themselves, ring the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and do some drawing and ukulele playing.

Arceneaux, the youngest American in space and the first with a prosthesis, assured her patients, “I was a little girl going through cancer treatment just like a lot of you, and if I can do this, you can do this.”

They also took calls from Tom Cruise, interested in his own SpaceX flight to the space station for filming, and the rock band U2′s Bono.

Even their space menu wasn’t typical: Cold pizza and sandwiches, but also pasta Bolognese and Mediterranean lamb.

Nearly 600 people have reached space — a scorecard that began 60 years ago and is expected to soon skyrocket as space tourism heats up.

Benji Reed, a SpaceX director, anticipates as many as six private flights a year, sandwiched between astronaut launches for NASA. Four SpaceX flights are already booked carry paying customers to the space station, accompanied by former NASA astronauts. The first is targeted for early next year with three businessmen paying $55 million apiece. Russia also plans to take up an actor and film director for filming next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.

Customers interested in quick space trips are turning to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The two rode their own rockets to the fringes of space in July to spur ticket sales; their flights lasted 10 to 15 minutes.

Coronavirus hospitalizations fall below 1,100 in LA County

The number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals continued to fall on Saturday, Sept. 18, dropping from 1,125 on Friday to 1,070, according to state figures.

The number of those patients in intensive care also fell, from 337 to 324.

The county also reported 29 new deaths and 2,130 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the county’s cumulative totals to 1,442,808 cases and 25,828 fatalities since the pandemic began.

Of the 29 deaths reported Saturday, three people who passed away were over the age of 80, nine people were between the ages of 65 and 79, seven were between 50 and 64, and seven were between 30 and 49. Three deaths were reported by the city of Long Beach.

Health officials have said about 90% of the people who’ve died of coronavirus complications in Los Angeles County have had underlying health conditions.

Testing results were available for more than 8,450,000 individuals with 16% of people testing positive. Saturday’s test positivity rate was 1.3%.

“With hundreds of outreach teams and promotoras fanning out across the county, we are hopeful that those not yet vaccinated are getting their questions answered and being connected to vaccination sites,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “We can’t afford to be complacent with an average of 2,000 new cases and dozens of deaths each day. In order to be better prepared for the fall and winter, typically seasons when many viruses thrive, we need to immediately reduce COVID transmission. Given the powerful tools at our disposal that we didn’t have last fall — rapid antigen tests and highly effective vaccinations — the high number of cases is troubling and reflects the unevenness of vaccination coverage and screenings.”

Ferrer said Friday that officials have the network in place to offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to people eligible for them, adding that she was not surprised by a federal recommendation to limit the boosters to older residents and those at high risk of severe illness from the virus.

During an online briefing, Ferrer said the county has 1,300 fixed vaccinated sites in its network, with the overall capacity to administer 130,000 shots a day — and quickly able to expand if needed to 200,000 per day.

But access to booster shots is reliant on approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An FDA committee on Friday recommended that booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine be limited to people 65 and older and people who are at particularly high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

“The FDA has indicated for the last couple of weeks that they’re looking for more information and more data, particularly information from the experiences in this country and not relying so heavily on the experiences and the data that’s coming from other countries,” Ferrer said. “And we appreciate their due diligence. That affords all of us a sense of security that they are looking very thoroughly at the evidence as they make their recommendations.”

She said the county’s data indicates that there are “vulnerable groups that may benefit from an additional booster.”

“We’ve already noted in our data as well as other data nationally that immunocompromised people were not mounting as effective a response (with the vaccines),” Ferrer said. “I showed data today as well that we’re concerned about older people who are vaccinated as also having increased tendency to show up post-vaccination in the hospital and potentially and unfortunately pass away. The numbers are still very small but it does indicate that there’s higher risk in that age group.”

The county continues to struggle as it works to improve vaccination rates among some groups. Thus far, only 52% of eligible Black residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and only 61% of Latino/a residents. That compares to 71% of white residents and 80% of Asians.

Ferrer noted that “additional surges (in COVID cases) are likely in the absence of better vaccination coverage.”

Countywide, 76% of eligible residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 67% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall 10.3 million populace, including those 12 and under who are ineligible for shots, 65% have received at least one dose, and 58% are fully vaccinated.

In hopes of boosting vaccination rates, the county will begin enforcing vaccine requirements next month at large event venues and in high-risk settings such as indoor bars, breweries, nightclubs, wineries and distilleries.

A new county Health Officer Order issued Friday will require proof of vaccination for all customers and employees at those indoor settings. All patrons and employees will need at least one dose of vaccine by Oct. 7, and a second dose by Nov. 4. The order will recommend, but not require, vaccinations for people at indoor restaurants.

The new order will also require all attendees and employees at outdoor mega-events with 10,000 people or more to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours. That requirement, which will take effect Oct. 7, will affect all major outdoor sporting events, and will also impact large theme parks, such as Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Attendees at indoor mega-events of 1,000 people or more are already required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Ferrer, who announced the order on Wednesday, reiterated Friday that the goal is to raise vaccination rates while lowering the chances of virus transmission in high-risk settings, hopefully avoiding a repeat of the surge in cases the county experienced last winter.

“I know none of us wants to go back to last winter,” Ferrer said. “So anything people can do right now to create a lot of safety that reduces transmission is kind of the name of the game. We started with these very high-risk settings. Our hope is we start seeing less transmission and that gets coupled with a much faster acceleration of people getting vaccinated.

“… If we end up back where we were last year, we’re all in a lot of trouble,” she said.

Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott, from Ohio State roommates to Sunday opponents

There’s a place for everything. When you’re in college, that place is often the floor.

“I remember stepping over boxes to get to the couch,” Joey Bosa said. “I was like, ‘Ah, whatever, I’ll figure that out later.’”

Bosa’s roommate was Ezekiel Elliott. Each was the master and commander of his side of the ball at Ohio State in 2015. The Buckeyes won the first College Football Playoff championship.

In the spring, the Chargers picked Bosa No. 3 in the first round of the draft, and the Cowboys followed by picking Elliott No. 4. So far, Bosa and Elliott have made $36 million in guaranteed money.

Trash disposal is easier when custodial help is affordable.

“I’m sure he’ll say I was the messier roommate, but we were both pretty terrible,”  Bosa said. “There is not a winner in that. Luckily, that has changed over the years. No more pizza boxes on the floor.”

Defensive end Bosa hasn’t had the privilege of tackling running back Elliott since their training days in Columbus. That changes Sunday at SoFi Stadium, where the Chargers try to alter their tradition of dismembered Septembers.

Elliott’s Cowboys are coming off a 31-29 loss at Tampa Bay in which they cruised the field at will. Bosa’s Chargers are coming off a 20-16 victory at Washington, in which he got whistled for two roughing-the-passers but his defense gave up just one touchdown.

The 2015 Buckeyes are a prime example of how talent seeks out talent in today’s college football. Cornerback Eli Apple was the 10th pick in 2016. Tackle Taylor Decker was 16th. Linebacker Darron Lee was 20th.

There were four other Buckeyes picked in Rounds 2-3, including Michael Thomas, who went to the Saints at No. 47 and has twice led the NFL in catches, with a league-record 149 in 2019.

The NFL mined Ohio State for three more first-rounders in 2017.

“My brother Nick (the No. 2 pick in the draft for San Francisco in 2019) and I played different competition in college than my dad did,” said Bosa, referring to John Bosa, a first-round choice by the Dolphins in 1987 after he played at Boston College. John’s NFL career spanned 31 games.

“Every day I was lining up against Taylor Decker (Detroit) or Pat Elfein (Carolina) and other guys who are playing in the league,” he added. “But we also had great coaches like Larry Johnson, who were technicians, who knew what they were talking about when it came to technique and how to play the position.”

This is how college football’s rich get super-rich. Who else but Alabama can promise a young cornerback the chance to guard DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle on a daily basis? Who else but Clemson can tell a wide-out that Trevor Lawrence will be delivering footballs his way each practice? That is sometimes the tie-breaker in recruiting, a self-fulfilling prophecy that creates a College Football Playoff club almost as exclusive as Augusta National.

“It breeds excellence,” Bosa said. “Kind of a corny line, but it’s true.”

But not all excellence is bred in that playoff club, nor in the first round of the draft. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were the first two players taken in 2016, by the Rams and Philadelphia. Late in the fourth round, Dallas thought Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott would be a decent investment. From the first play of Prescott’s first preseason game, against the Rams in the Coliseum, he has looked like he just came off the assembly line. He put last year’s injuries aside and threw for 403 yards at Tampa Bay.

“It’s the story of the D-line every week,” Bosa said. “Keep the quarterback in the pocket. Yeah, they’ve got weapons, but if we neutralize Dak, he can’t get the ball to those weapons. We just have to be sound as a group and not give up those gaps or get too high.”

Through the five-game mark, the Chargers are 10-20 in their past five seasons and were 3-2 only once. That’s why the win at Washington, homely in some ways, was such a keepsake.

They hogged the ball for the final 6:43 and Justin Herbert picked up third-down conversions of 16, three, seven and four yards.

“When you’re mixing up the snap counts and the tempo of the throws, it’s good,” said Joe Lombardi, the Chargers offensive coordinator. “But the biggest thing is your protection holding up. That builds confidence.”

So would a win over Dallas, with a trip to Kansas City looming. Joey Bosa and Zeke Elliott might be landlords now, but there’s still trash to discuss.

LA County reports first West Nile death this season

The first death from West Nile virus in the 2021 season has been reported in Los Angeles County.

The victim, a resident of the eastern region of Los Angeles County, was hospitalized and died from WNV-associated neuro-invasive disease, the county’s health department announced Friday. No information was released on the person’s age or gender.

“To the family and friends feeling the sorrow of losing this person due to WNV, we send you our deepest sympathies,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “West Nile virus can be a serious health threat to people who get infected. People should regularly check for items that can hold water and breed mosquitoes, both inside and outside their homes, and to cover, clean or throw out those items. I encourage everyone to protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes by using EPA-registered mosquito repellent products as directed, and wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.”

Humans get the virus through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus; therefore, most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to it. Those who do get West Nile virus may experience mild symptoms including fever, muscle aches, and tiredness. In some cases, especially in persons over 50 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes, severe infection can occur and affect the brain and spinal cord causing meningitis, encephalitis, and paralysis.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile disease and no vaccine to prevent infection.

A total of 10 cases have been documented in Los Angeles County so far this year (excluding Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments).

Warm temperatures can increase virus activity and mosquito populations.

The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District encouraged residents to take an active role in reducing the West Nile virus threat in their neighborhoods by:

— Eliminating standing water in clogged rain gutters, rain barrels, discarded tires, buckets, watering troughs or anything that holds water for more than a week

— Ensuring that swimming pools, spas, and ponds are properly maintained

— Changing the water in pet dishes, bird baths and other small containers weekly

— Requesting mosquitofish from the local vector control district for placement in ornamental ponds

— Wearing EPA-approved and CDC-recommended insect repellent when outdoors where mosquitoes may be present

— Reporting neglected (green) swimming pools to the vector control district

— Sharing this information with others to decrease mosquito populations

Residents can contact the GLACVCD at glacvcd.org 562-944-9656, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Enjoying the unexpected delights of a night of music at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

The last concert of summer was my first time back at the Pasadena Pops since George died. It was also the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Searching for a parking space on a side street near the Los Angeles County Arboretum, Sara and I got an unexpected surprise. Peacocks.

Confident and aloof, they wandered up and down the street oblivious to the danger of being hit by a car. It was the ultimate innocence. They believed they were safe in their own territory.

“We were once peacocks,” I said to Sara after the moment of silence for the fallen heroes of 9/11. We lived in the innocent naivete that safety from terrorists in our homeland was a given. Until it wasn’t.

Although it began with somber thoughts, the evening was enchanted.

As we entered the Arboretum, a crooked smile of moon lit the crowded lawn where a rare uninhabited patch of grass called to us.

I spread out the purple comforter that has accompanied me to the Pops for many years, and, almost on cue, a cool breeze caressed me as I sat down. I was at home again in a place I hadn’t realized how much I had missed.

While life could not protect me from terrorist attacks, or the death of a man I adored, it still offered possibilities of unexpected delight.

Masked music lovers, vaccination cards in hand, gathered on a lawn during a deadly pandemic because they needed the nourishment that music provides. Even if it came with risks. I was proud to be among them and to be reminded that serendipity was alive and well.

People still wrote music. Created poetry. Fell in love. Babies were born. Ordinary people performed extraordinary deeds.

As though he was reading my mind, Pops Conductor Michael Feinstein’s ambiance, as he smiled his way to the stage, encouraged us to indulge in the music moments. Sing along. Hum along. Sip some wine. Enjoy.

And so it was that my summer ended with a pop of music and a mixed metaphor of innocence lost and hope renewed.

Email patriciabunin@sbcglobal.net follow her on Twitter @patriciabunin

Enjoying the unexpected delights of a night of music at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

The last concert of summer was my first time back at the Pasadena Pops since George died. It was also the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Searching for a parking space on a side street near the Los Angeles County Arboretum, Sara and I got an unexpected surprise. Peacocks.

Confident and aloof, they wandered up and down the street oblivious to the danger of being hit by a car. It was the ultimate innocence. They believed they were safe in their own territory.

“We were once peacocks,” I said to Sara after the moment of silence for the fallen heroes of 9/11. We lived in the innocent naivete that safety from terrorists in our homeland was a given. Until it wasn’t.

Although it began with somber thoughts, the evening was enchanted.

As we entered the Arboretum, a crooked smile of moon lit the crowded lawn where a rare uninhabited patch of grass called to us.

I spread out the purple comforter that has accompanied me to the Pops for many years, and, almost on cue, a cool breeze caressed me as I sat down. I was at home again in a place I hadn’t realized how much I had missed.

While life could not protect me from terrorist attacks, or the death of a man I adored, it still offered possibilities of unexpected delight.

Masked music lovers, vaccination cards in hand, gathered on a lawn during a deadly pandemic because they needed the nourishment that music provides. Even if it came with risks. I was proud to be among them and to be reminded that serendipity was alive and well.

People still wrote music. Created poetry. Fell in love. Babies were born. Ordinary people performed extraordinary deeds.

As though he was reading my mind, Pops Conductor Michael Feinstein’s ambiance, as he smiled his way to the stage, encouraged us to indulge in the music moments. Sing along. Hum along. Sip some wine. Enjoy.

And so it was that my summer ended with a pop of music and a mixed metaphor of innocence lost and hope renewed.

Email patriciabunin@sbcglobal.net follow her on Twitter @patriciabunin

If you find this plant infestation in your garden, here’s what you should do

Gil Martinez, who gardens in Encino, sent me pictures of a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) infested with cochineal (KOTCH-ih-neel) scales. Martinez was concerned since he has a sentimental attachment to the plant, having grown up with nopales (the edible cactus leaf pads) in Mexico, the prickly pear’s habitat. The scales in question, white in color, are often mistaken for a fungus. They also bear a close resemblance to mealybugs, which are actually a kind of scale, except that adult female mealybugs have motility – that is, the ability to move around their plant hosts at will. Other female scales — including cochineal scales — are basically sessile in their adult stage, meaning they attach themselves to stems, leaves, or fruit and stay in one place as they suck sap.

Cochineal scales are famous for carminic acid, which constitutes approximately 20% of their bodies, and is used in the manufacture of red dye. This metabolite helps them deter ants and is toxic to potential predators. Certain moths, however, do make the scales part of their diet, becoming toxic themselves to moth predators in the process. The abdomens of female cochineal scales, which contain their eggs, are especially concentrated in carminic acid and dye manufacturers are skillful in separating pregnant females from the rest of the scale population.

Carminic acid has multiple uses. As a food colorant  (E120 or Natural Red 4), it is found in frozen fish, meat, beverages of all kinds, yogurts, ice cream, candy, ketchup, and canned soup. It is also found in cosmetics such as eye shadow and lipsticks. A small percentage of people are allergic to these dyes and therefore, by law, products that contain them must be labeled as such.

From the middle of the 16th century, when the Spanish first found the Aztecs using carminic acid as a red dye for fabrics, until the middle of the 19th century, when synthetic dyes were developed, the cochineal scale was the main source of red dye throughout much of the world.

Prior to that, the main source of European red dye was the kermes scale that infested the Mediterranean kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). This textile dye had been in use since biblical times. In the book of Exodus, a fiery dye used in the Tabernacle tapestries was said to come from a “scarlet worm,” which has since been identified as the kermes scale. However, the scarlet dye extracted from the cochineal scale was eight times brighter than that produced by the kermes oak scale, and so that the former took the place of the latter in the manufacture of red dye.

  • Spineless prickly pear cactus. (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

  • Madagascar periwinkle Vinca rosea. (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

  • Prickly pear cactus close up with fruit in red color, cactus spines. (Photo credit: Getty Images)



A completely infested cactus pad should be cut off in its entirety at the joint. Salvage partially infested pads by blasting the scales with a pressure hose. Even if the scales are not knocked off the pads, this procedure will compromise their waxy protective covering and weaken them. I recommend the utilization of a hose attachment that adjusts the stream of water from a diffuse, gentle spray (excellent for watering newly planted seeds) to a powerful jet, which is the adjustment suitable for scale removal. Alternatively, you could scrub off the scales with a brush, attached to a long stick or pole if the pads have thorns. (Note: Although the leaf pads of wild prickly pear cactus have thorns, there is a thornless prickly pear, bred by Luther Burbank, as well.) Scales that remain attached after a hose blast or vigorous scrub can be finished off with a dish soap solution (1 teaspoon of dish soap per gallon of water) applied from a spray bottle. Should scales still make a return, you can repeat the above treatments after ten days. Be aware that prickly pear cactus exposed to full sun is less likely to develop scales than when it is growing in some shade.

A number of years ago, Nick Kurek from Granada Hills sent me simple instructions for preparing prickly pear fruit (tunas) and pads (nopales) for eating. “The flesh of cactus pears,” he wrote, “is sweet and flavorful, even if seedy. Needles come off the fruit by rolling them in the dirt, and then they can be peeled.”  As for the pads, “cut the young ones only, slice off the spines (if present), dice them and then boil them with onions. Serve either hot or cold.”

Speaking of insect pests, “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook” (Cold Springs Press, 2021), by Susan Mulvihill, is excellent, more instructive regarding its subject matter than any I have seen. The photographs alone make it a worthwhile addition to any gardener’s library. Insect pests are shown up close on the plants they inhabit along with the damage they do. “Mugshots” of beneficial insects are also included.

Although organic chemical remedies are thoroughly discussed, the author recommends them as a last resort, noting that organic sprays may kill certain beneficial insects and pollinators along with the pests. Besides, patience alone may sometimes solve an insect problem.

“A few years ago, I was walking through my garden and stopped to check on the currant bushes,” Mulvihill writes. “When I saw a lot of puckered leaves, I inwardly groaned. Aphids. I turned over some leaves. Yes, lots and lots of them were on the undersides. I debated about what to do but decided I didn’t have the time at the moment. You guessed it. My schedule got busy over the next few days and I completely forgot about those aphids. A few days later, I suddenly remembered them and dashed back out to the garden. Instead of witnessing more aphid mayhem, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that almost all of them had vanished. In their place was a collection of adult ladybugs, their larvae, and even some pupae, which are essentially pre-adults.”

One way to prevent aphids and cabbage loopers (that turn into white butterflies) from bothering your cabbage family plants is through the use of bridal veil netting, or tulle, as opposed to more typically used, yet opaque and somewhat suffocating, row cover. “Since these crops benefit from good air circulation, I’ve found the netting works better than regular row cover. It also allows me to more easily see what’s going on under the cover without having to lift it and peer underneath. You can purchase tulle by the yard at fabric stores or by the bolt from online suppliers. Be sure to buy a very fine mesh with tiny holes because aphids are small and sneaky.”

Among the practices that the author recommends to keep insect pests at bay are crop rotation, reflective silver polyethylene mulch (makes it difficult for pests to find their target plants), planting flowers that attract beneficial predator insects among your vegetables, and constructing insect hotels. “Once you build an insect hotel, you’ll soon discover that watching it is both fascinating and cheap entertainment.” Incidentally, scales are not mentioned in this book because they choose their hosts (shrubs and trees) for the long haul and therefore leave annuals, whether flowers or vegetables, alone.

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Several readers responded to my enthusiastic advocacy for planting oleanders – now that oleander leaf scorch disease is under control – with a caveat regarding the extreme toxicity of these plants. If you are roasting marshmallows, for example, never use oleander stems as roasting sticks. Grazing animals have died from oleander ingestion so it would be advisable to keep pets at a distance from them. Lucky nut (Thevetia peruviana) is an oleander relative with an even more toxic reputation. It is distinctively ornamental with shiny green foliage and silky yellow flowers.

Tip of the Week: Vinca (Vinca rosea or Catharanthus roseus) – in pink, red, lavender, or white — is an oleander cousin that is a staple of the flower garden despite its toxicity. Pets that eat it get seriously ill so make sure to keep them at a distance from it. Having said that, under the right circumstances, no plant is more rewarding. Although usually grown as an annual, vinca will live for several years where soil drainage is good, half-day sun prevails, and watering is an afterthought. My neighbor has had a planter full of vincas for more than two decades. They flower abundantly year after year with little effort on his part. The plants grow to a height and width of around three feet and drop seeds that germinate in place. Also known as Madagascar periwinkle, this plant shares its African island habitat with snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) along with many other species that are legendary for their drought tolerance.

Please send questions, comments, and photos to joshua@perfectplants.com.