California

Sticking Around: The La Brea Tar Pits

The following article is from the book Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into California.

(Image credit: Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD)

How much do you know about the Angelenos of the Pleistocene? Yeah, us either. Read on.

FANCY TAR?

Hancock Park, an affluent area of Los Angeles, is well known for its celebrity sightings, million-dollar homes, and the famous Hollywood sign in the distance. But some of the neighborhood’s “residents” are even cooler. World-famous fossils—like the extinct dire wolf, saber-toothed tiger, and Columbia mammoth—are among the millions of specimens that have been excavated from the La Brea tar pits. Located on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile, the tar pits contain one of the richest deposits of late Pleistocene era (the last ice age) fossils in North America. The fossils date from 10,000 to 40,000 years ago, and more than three million of them—including plants, mammals, birds, lizards, and insects—have been excavated since paleontologists first began digging there in the early 1900s.

The tar pits on display today were once excavation sites where workers dug for asphalt or scientists dug for fossils. Over the years, humans dug more than 100 pits throughout Hancock Park, but most of them have been refilled with dirt, debris, asphalt, and water. About 13 tar pits remain—the largest, called the Lake Pit, measures 28 square feet and is approximately 14 feet deep.

STICKY, GOOEY DEATH TRAPS

The La Brea tar pits formed thousands of years ago, when gas and oil beneath the ground came under pressure. The molten mixture pushed up through vents in the earth’s crust. Once it reached the surface, the oil pooled in natural depressions aboveground. The lighter part of the pooling oil evaporated—left behind was a heavy, sticky oil. Then rain and underground springs added water, forming ponds and lakes on top of the oil and creating what we now call the tar pits.

The water on the tar pits’ surface was especially attractive to thirsty animals, and during the warm spring and summer, the thick oil underneath was especially sticky. Animals that ventured into to the pits couldn’t escape. Often predators chased their prey into the pits and got stuck too. Paleontologists once found a large bison fossil surrounded by a pack of fossilized wolves. The dead animals eventually sank completely, and their bones and teeth turned brown from the oil. But otherwise, they were almost perfectly preserved for more than 30,000 years.

THOSE STRANGE CATTLE BONES

Hundreds of years ago, local Native Americans used the thick oil at the tar pits as waterproof caulking for their baskets and canoes. When the Spanish arrived in the 18th century, they used it to waterproof their houses. In 1828 the tar pits were part of a Mexican land grant called Rancho de la Brea (brea means “tar” in Spanish). When the United States took over California in 1848, the area was part of the deal, and ultimately, it came into the possession of lawyer and surveyor Henry Hancock…

Snapchat Went Public, and This Silicon Valley School Made a Cool $24 Million

When I was in high school, we held bake sales, car washes, and carnivals to raise money for things like shiny new uniforms and ski trips. Now – at least if you go to school in Silicon Valley – investment opportunities have gotten quite a bit more sophisticated.

And, if I remember the $200 we made after an entire day washing cars in the heat correctly, quite a bit more successful, too.

It all started back in 2012, when venture capitalist Barry Eggers came home to find his children at the kitchen table playing with a new app – Snapchat. In a world bogged down with social media, Snapchat offered something new and just different enough, with its filters and the disappearing content element.

At least that’s what Eggers thought, and he subsequently negotiated a $500,000 investment in the company.

That’s where St. Francis High School (where Eggers’ children go to school) came into play. The school set up a fund in 1990 that aims to…

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Bob Marley’s Son Turns Former California Prison into Pot Farm

Marley’s prison-turned-pot-farm became an overnight success pretty much as soon as the sale went through in the fall of 2016.

By the time the city of Coalinga decided to sell the former prison – closed in 2011 – it had already accumulated over $3 million in debt.

Photo Credit: EZRA DAVID ROMERO / VALLEY PUBLIC RADIO

The sale to Damian Marley and his partner Ocean Grown Extracts not only wiped that debt out, it also left the town with over a million in the coffers before anyone even planted a single seed.

The new farm is sure to turn a profit; pot is bug business, and the city paved the way for the large scale operation by voting to allow commercial cultivation, delivery, and distribution in the jurisdiction.

Plus, the compound is surrounded by fence and barbed wire, so the crop will be as well protected as any in the country.

California also voted to legalize recreational marijuana about a month after the sale, which is expected to lead to exponential growth in demand throughout the state for the new farm’s product.

Marley told Billboard:

“Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up……

Egg Vending Machine at Glaum’s Ranch

View all photos
$4 for eggs and a floorshow
Easter is a cacophony of chickens Sebastian “Seb” Frey (CC BY 2.0)
Fourth of July chickens Inside Santa Cruz (CC BY 2.0)
The chicken floor show at Glaum Egg Ranch biobetl (CC BY 2.0)
Christmas at the egg ranch Yuriemedia/CC BY 2.0
Eggs Yuriemedia/CC BY 2.0

Sure, you could go and buy your eggs at the grocery store like everyone…

Are These the Skeletons of the First European Colonists in the U.S.?

When Hurricane Matthew roared through St. Augustine, Florida, in October 2016, many of the town’s historic buildings were damaged. But it wasn’t until a building owner decided to tear up a flooded floor to mitigate water damage that an historic discovery was made—what may be the skeletons of the earliest European colonists in the United States.

The city of St. Augustine was founded by admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who had sailed from Spain and spotted land in what is now Florida on August 28, 1565. Menéndez became the first governor of Florida, and St. Augustine was its capital for two centuries. Although Pensacola, Florida, is the oldest multiyear European settlement, founded by Tristán de Luna in 1559, St. Augustine, located in the northeast part of the state, wins the title for being the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the contiguous U.S.

Given the age of the city, St. Augustine’s archaeological team has worked for decades to shed light on various phases of occupation. In 1572, the town was relocated from a barrier island onto the mainland, following difficulties defending it from the Timucua Indians. Shortly after this move, the first parish churches were established: Nuestra Señora de la Soledad and, slightly earlier, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, the parish church of St. Augustine.

The sites of both churches, which were in use between the 16th and 18th centuries,…

Famously Gigantic Sequoia Tree Topples in California Storm

Northern California’s famed Pioneer Cabin Tree, a giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park that was carved out to form a tunnel big enough to drive through, fell down during a recent rainstorm, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGATE. The tree had been a tourist destination for more than a century.

In the late 19th century, the owners of the Calaveras North Grove carved out the tunnel in the tree in response to a similar tree tunnel in Yosemite that was drawing visitors away from Calaveras. The tree was chosen because a large fire scar already prevented a tree top from growing [PDF]. At one point, the park…