Palm Springs: Why Moby should visit our desert oasis

Moby at Palm Springs Modernism Week

Grammy-nominated musician Moby is seen Feb. 23 at a Palm Springs Modernism Week event. (Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun)

Dear Moby,

I woke up this morning to an email from my boss about you: “Moby disses Palm Springs. Sort of.”

To refresh your memory, Moby, you wrote in an open letter about the “remarkable mid-century architecture” you saw during Palm Springs Modernism Week in mid-February. Then you added this:

“palm springs fascinates and baffles me. it’s beautiful and it seems like a great place to live, even if it’s a desert furnace that without irrigation is probably incapable of supporting biological life for 2 or 3 months out of the year.”

Moby, no confusion necessary. You’re flat-out wrong on the last part.

Let me take you on a virtual tour of the Palm Springs area to show you why desert living isn’t what you think:

The Living Desert can explain how desert animals have evolved to solve the heat and water problems. Visit ‘em — they’re open all year.

Coachella Valley Preserve

Hikers tour the Coachella Valley Preserve in this August 2011 file photo. (Richard Lui/The Desert Sun)

Or check out one of my favorite hideaways: Coachella Valley Preserve Systema 20,000-acre sanctuary for rare species like the fringe-toed lizard.

We even spent more than $2.2 billion on a 75-year plan — the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan — to protect 27 endangered and protected species that live here.

While you’re at the preserve, don’t miss the amazing palm oases that pop up along the San Andreas Fault Line because of the water that flows underground.

Oasis Date Garden in Thermal

Or check out the Oasis Date Gardens in Thermal, seen in this August 2011 file photo. (Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun)

Then swing out to Shields Date Garden to learn more about our robust agricultural economy and learn how we became known as the Date Capital of the World. The 123-mile Coachella Canal that brings in water from the Colorado River is far from our only source of water.

Or pick up fresh produce at one of three Certified Farmers’ Market every week. Again, they’re open all year ’round.

Wrap up your trip by soaking in the lush green of 124 golf courses — and, of course, a margarita under the misters in downtown Palm Springs.

Palmer Course at PGA West

The 18th green is shown here at the Palmer Course at PGA West in this January 2013 file photo. (Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

Still not convinced? The Los Angeles Times once explained that Palm Springs, which gets mere inches of rain each year, sits atop “a vast sea of ground water, which has been carefully managed.”

As our then-Mayor Sonny Bono said: “If we hadn’t taken good care of our resources, we wouldn’t be in good shape. But we did.”

Moby, we can’t wait to welcome you back for your DJ sets at Coachella.

When you’re here, will you meet us at the Coachella Valley Preserve to see if you’ve changed your thoughts on the desert?

Sending you warm wishes,


2013 may be off to a frosty start for the Coachella Valley

Desert frostParty-goers flocking to Palm Springs for New Year’s Eve festivities may want to add a few layers. On Monday, the National Weather Service issued a frost advisory for the Coachella Valley from midnight through 9 a.m. January 1, 2013.

According to the advisory, temperatures could fall below freezing tonight across inland valleys and lower deserts with lows in the mid-20s possible.

While revelers can keep warm inside, homeowners may want to protect sensitive plants which could be damaged or killed if left uncovered.

Low-lying areas of gardens are at more risk than plants set atop berms. According to, newspapers, plastic tarbs, sheets, glass jars, milk jugs and upside-down paper cups can be used to protect sensitive plants. Just remember to remove them in the morning to avoid having them act as ovens once the sun is shining.

The desert’s top 100 golf holes, or what I did on my summer vacation

When the idea of me selecting my personal top 100 golf holes in the desert came up early in the summer, and then the idea of filming a short video of each hole was bounced around, I’m not sure I understood just how much work it would be. I know for sure that’s videographer, Marilyn Chung, didn’t know how much work she would be in for.

The fruits of a summer and early fall of labor, often in the extreme humidity and the heat of the summer that nearly melted poor Marilyn a time or two, will be revealed this Sunday on the One hundred holes from across the desert will be featured with more than 60 courses allowing Marilyn and me access to their courses to film the holes I think are particularly interesting in the desert.

Recognize this famous desert hole? It the 18th green of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage (Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun)

The criteria for the list was pretty simple. There was no criteria. This was not particularly the 100 most beautiful holes, or the 100 toughest holes. They are just, well, my holes. Holes that have in some way shape or form said something to me through the years. They might be on the list for beauty, or for difficulty. But they also might be on the list because they are kind of quirky and stand out from the crowd. Or they might be on the list because they are historic holes in the desert in some fashion.

What you will see is that even for the holes that we shot in the summer, the desert is a beautiful and compelling place for golf. The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop, but they also provide interesting opportunities for course architects to use those mountains. You will also see that the desert, at least in the hands of a talented golf architect, can be anything but flat and boring.

The holes on the list are as diverse as I could make them (understanding that some courses just never returned my call when I wanted to include them on the list). There are ultra-private courses, resort courses and daily-fee courses. There are, for the record, 25 par-3s, 22 par-5s and 53 par-4s on the list. But as a way of trying to make sure as many hidden gems in the desert made the list, we decided to limit each 18-hole course to no more than two holes on the list.

The credit for the project goes to Marilyn Chung, who not only shot the video but edited it, gave the videos styles and even produced the opening credits for each video. And Nick Bolland of our editorial online department did wonderful work in producing the pages for each video.

I’m sure I had something to do with this, but I can’t remember what now.

So please enjoy the list when it debuts on the web site over the weekend, or you can access the list directly at And if you want, please take a moment over the new few days and tweet me a comment or a suggestion of a hole you would have had on your list. After all, everyone’s list is a little different. My Twitter account is @mydesertgolf. Use the hashtag #my100holes.

Enjoy and debate.



Palm Desert girls should still smile despite rugged final tournament

It’s pretty safe to say that the ride home from the CIF girls state championship in Rancho Cucamonga was a quiet one for the Palm Desert High School team. Entering the tournament with some hope of winning the state title at Red Hill Country Club, the Aztecs instead produced one of their worst days of the year to finish fourth in the event. The 440 total team score was actually kind of shocking in how uncharacteristic it was of the team.

Looking back on the day, the players and coaches, head coach Jack Stewart and assistant Debbie Koyama,  are sure to feel like they let an opportunity slip through their golf gloves. They finished 39 shots out of first place and 20 shots out of second place and one shot out of third, but the team has to know that there were 30 more more shots that logically could have been shaved off the team’s score. Surprisingly high scores from some of the team’s players seemed unexplainable, even if you know the Red Hill course had amazingly fast greens that even had coaches shaking their heads, lots of trees and lots of elevation changes, things that aren’t usually found in the desert.

Junior Mackenzie Raim, left, and freshman Jiyoon Jang of the Palm Desert High School girls golf team on a happier day earlier this season (Wade Byers,/The Desert Sun)

But hopefully after the depression of the day disappears in a few days, the Palm Desert girls will be able to focus on the positives of the year. Like another undefeated season in the Desert Valley League. Or the fact that the team reached the state tournament for the third year in a row in a year that was supposed to be about rebuilding after losing three solid seniors from last year’s team.

And there is the fact that the Aztecs finished as the fourth-best team in the state of California. That’s alone is a remarkable statistic.

Oh, and there is this: The six players the Aztecs played in the state tournament Tuesday are all back next year. That would be four juniors and two freshmen. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but some opposing coaches Tuesday (after the Aztecs had packed up and left) were talking about just how tough Palm Desert could be next year.

So for the moment there is some pain and a lot of self-questioning among the Aztecs for sure. But in the coming days and weeks, hopefully the players and coaches will understand what a special year they had, even if it ended on the wrong note.



The Arctic and the desert: Climate change lessons from Greenland

As we in the Southern California desert wait for the end of a summer with seemingly endless triple-digit days, the long hot summer of climate change has had more dramatic impacts in the northern reaches of Alaska and Greenland.

Warren Olney’s To the Point news program on KCRW Sept. 23 looked at the receding Arctic ice cap and the changes it is driving in Greenland, an autonomous state of Denmark, with a population of 57,000 and apparently huge resources in rare earth minerals — which, with the ice melting, are now possible to mine — as well as offshore oil.

The program includes interviews with Elizabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times, who has written an article on the current changes underway in Greenland; Jens B. Frederiksen, vice premier of Greenland;  Alice Rogoff, publisher of the Alaska Dispatch, an online news website, and Jon Hoekstra of the World Wildlife Fund.

It’s all worth a listen, and is still available online, because what’s happening in the Artic — in Greenland and Alaska — has parallels with our renewable energy development in the Southern California desert, where resources that were previously not economical to tap, whether solar, wind, or geothermal — are now being developed.

For example, Hoeskstra talks about the Arctic as the last frontier, presenting an opportunity to develop resources while also protecting the environment — it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation, he said.

“We have the scientific tools to quantify the risks and rewards; we have the opportunity to map those and consider the tradeoffs carefully; we don’t have to repeat the mistakes we have made when we’ve developed other frontiers.”

Frederiksen was extremely thoughtful on his country’s ability to control development of its resources and think about what its national priorities should be.

“What is it we want – is it only money, only the value of money we need. Do we need other things? Do we need political influence in the Arctic? Do we want to have influence on worldwide climate policy?”

In the desert, the process for balancing all the competing interests, through the federal Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and the state’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan,  has shown just how difficult this can be. The DRECP has most recently come under fire from its own panel of independent science advisors who released a report slamming the plan for its lack of good scientific research.

Another key point coming out of the KCRW program is the federal government’s predictable foot-dragging on climate change policy and its impact in the Arctic. Rogoff pointed out there is no deep water port on Alaska’s Arctic coastline, which is just as long as the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida. There are huge economic and national security issues at stake, she said.

The melting of the Arctic ice could open up a northern shipping passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that would be 45 percent cheaper than the Panama Canal, she said. Rosenthal noted that while scientists originally thought it would be decades before such a passage opened up, if melting continues at the current pace, it could happen by the end of the decade.

The Alaska Dispatch reported recently on the record summer ice melt this year:

“The (National Snow and Ice Data Center) reports that the melting season appears to have ended Sept. 16, and at that time, it covered about 1.32 million square miles. The record low came more than a quarter-million square miles before, when scientists measured the extent at 1.58 million square miles in late August. The previous low was recorded in September 2007 at 1.61 million square miles.”

Olney ended the discussion with a connection to the presidential election or rather why climate change and the opening of Arctic have not been major issues. The U.S. has not even ratified the U.N. convention on the law of the sea, which would ensure the country’s access to Arctic resources along the Alaskan border.

When Rosenthal called the State Department for her Greenland article to find out its position on these issues, the answer she got was that there is no position.

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess what it’s going to take to get the presidential candidates and the country in general to get serious about climate change and all the complex, critical issues its spawning.

Frederiksen had the last word:

“When the candidates are running for the presidency, it should be a very big issue, the climate change,” he said, speaking from a boat in a fjord, with ice bergs floating all around.

“That’s the only way you can focus worldwide attention on it, the only way the big countries can take it seriously and reduce the outlet of CO2. That’s the only way you can save the world.”


Blackhawks football knows it going up from here

Forget for a moment that the La Quinta Blackhawks looked a little like a M*A*S*H unit after their 63-14 loss to Mission Viejo. It seemed like a lot of players had ice packs on shoulders and arms and ankles after the game.

And forget for a moment the talk from some around the Blackhawks program questioning how some of the Mission Viejo kids had recently played (in some cases as recently as this year) for teams like Santa Margarita and Orange Lutheran.

The upshot of Friday night’s 63-14 Mission Viejo win over La Quinta was that things aren’t going to get any worse than this for the Blackhakws this year. Meaning that things are going to get better, and perhaps very soon.

Always the desert school with the toughest non-league schedule, that schedule has kind of backfired on La Quinta this year. At 0-4, La Quinta has shown some signs of solid play, but that wasn’t really true against a bigger, faster and stronger Mission Viejo team

But with just one non-league game coming up in a Saturday game next week, La Quinta will soon be back in familiar territory in the Desert Valley League. It seems safe to say that La Quinta will be a strong contender for the league title and certainly a strong contender to make the CIF playoffs.

La Quinta ia a banged-up team right now, and the Mission Viejo game didn’t help matters. But with a bye week after next week’s non-league game against Roosevelt, the Blackhawks could get healthy before launching into league against Indio on Oct. 5. Not knowing much about Roosevelt, La Quinta could be 1-4 or 0-5 in non-league. Then will come league, where La Quinta could wins all five games. Then will come the team’s third season, the playoffs.

It’s just shaping up to be a tale of three seasons for La Quinta, with the third season the great unknown for now.


A big loss, but signs of life for PD Aztecs football

The scoreboard said Damien High School beat Palm Desert High School by four touchdowns Friday night, and honestly Damien was the better team in the game played at Palm Desert.

But during and after the game the feeling around the Palm Desert team was that the Aztecs had played better than a 28-point loss would indicate. And if you think about it, there is some logic to that thinking.

Two plays could have changed the game entirely, and both plays went against Palm Desert. First was a fumble by Palm Desert quarterback Joseph Castelli that was turned into a 62-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Damien and a 14-0 lead. Hold onto that ball and the game could have been at least one touchdown closer.

Then there was the Castelli pass that was tipped by a charging a relentless defensive line for Damien. Instead of a Palm Desert touchdown pass, the ball fluttered into the hands of a Damien defender at the goal line. Four plays later, Damien scored itself.

So, two plays could have been a 14-point or maybe a 21-point swing in the game.

Okay, in all Palm Desert turned the ball over too many times (two intercepton, two fumbles) and the Aztecs were no match for the speed of the Spartans.

But the score looks perhaps a little worse than the reality of the Aztecs performance. Still, Palm Desert will have to improve to play compeitively with Redland next week.


What is your favorite valley golf hole?

Okay, so here’s a question all golfers have to love: what is your favorite golf hole in the desert?

Is it a tough hole? A beautiful hole? A quirky hole? A hole you’ve never played but seen on television? Or just a hole where you made your first birdie or where you feel comfortable being able to make a par on a regular basis.

This is a question that I’m thinking about a lot these days, and so I’m soliciting your ideas on the subject.

Please send me your suggestions for great holes in the desert, either by leaving a Facebook comment at the bottom of this blog or my e-mailing me at

And remember, there are no wrong answers to the question, “What is your favorite golf hole in the desert?”


USGA, SCGA give the desert its due

For years when the SCGA would come out to the desert to run a local qualifying event for the men’s U.S. Open golf championship, I would wonder why there was just one sold-out qualifier in the desert. I was sure golfers would flock to the desert for a second qualifier.

Then, when a second qualifier was added and immediately sold out, you had to wonder if there wasn’t room for a third qualifier.

And now, we know. There will be three local U.S. Open qualifier in the desert next month, one at Ironwood, one at Bermuda Dunes and one at Indian Ridge. And all three are sold out, according to the USGA’s web site.

Now consider that there are 108 local qualifying sites across the country, and as of this moment, only 18 of them have sold out. And three of those sold-out sites are in the desert.

Why do the desert courses sell out so quickly? Well, let’s start with three pretty good golf courses. Better players love playing at Ironwood’s South Course, for instance, because they know the course’s toughness will weed out pretenders.

Second is the weather, which is almost always perfect. Third is the locale, in the golf-crazy desert and just a morning’s drive from Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

So the desert is a great place for qualifying for the U.S. Open.

I wonder if anyone at the USGA or the SCGA has through about bringing a fourth qualifier to the desert. Just asking . . . .



Kraft Day 3: And the desert/sports weather problem continues

So let’s get this straight. at the Humana Challenge, the wind was so strong they had to suspend play in the third round.

At the BNP Paribas Open tennis event, there was a three-hour rain delay for a Roger Federer match.

And today we are in discussions about suspending play if the wind gets much stronger.

What exactly is wrong with the sports/weather connection in the desert this year?

No suspension yet, and the LPGA is saying until balls start moving on greens or things start fly through the air (like a house in Kansas), they won’t suspend play.

Yani Tseng is 2 under for the day through 5 holes and doesn’t seem to know the wind is blowing,