To a committee of San Diego Symphony orchestra players, the 50-odd people behind a black drape are faceless, ageless and even genderless. The hidden French horn players are supposed to be represented by nothing more than the sounds of their instruments.

The scene is “as sterile as possible,” says the symphony’s chief operating officer. There’s even a strip of carpet on the floor so the judges — the orchestra committee — don’t get clues about gender from the noise made by shoes.

At stake is an opportunity to join the symphony itself. This audition round, which began yesterday, is designed to winnow down the applicants for a solo seat on the orchestra, potentially a lifetime position. Kelly Bennett explains how the process works and talks to a hopeful. “You want to make sure the muscles of your embouchure are feeling really fresh the day of your audition,” he says.

Guilty Plea in ‘Bomb House’ Case

The L.A. Times reports on a guilty plea in the case of the man who filled his rented North County house with explosives, creating such a danger that authorities blew up the home last year: “A 54-year-old Escondido-area man admitted in federal court Monday that he made a wide variety of explosives and kept them in his rented home, and also that he used a firearm in two bank robberies.” He faces at least 30 years in prison.

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NFL Lockout Akin to ‘Act of God’

We’ve been wondering whether the Chargers will have to pay rent to the city if the NFL goes dark next season. It looks like the answer is no: the Chargers’ original stadium lease says the team can avoid paying $2.5 million in rent due to “any act of God, strike, lockout, etc.”

The team says the wording is in force. It may not be bad news for the city: it might save money if the team doesn’t play. And on the bright side, the wording allows us to practice our French accents by saying the legal term “force majeure,” or “superior force.” (Or as I like to call it, “mother.”)

Bid for County Pension Names

The U-T is joining other newspapers around the state in a legal bid to force the county pension system to cough up the names of 350 former workers who make more than $100,000 a year in pension proceeds. The pension system says it fears for the safety of the ex-employees.

Fewer Teachers in the Pink?

You may have read about the San Diego school district’s decision to send layoff warnings to hundreds of employees. It’s hardly the only one dealing with what’s become an annual ritual: teachers get freaked out about losing their jobs but often stay in their jobs. In three large California districts last year, a non-profit group calculated, 78 percent of teachers who got warnings didn’t actually get laid off.

Maybe the warning deadline should be moved later. Teachers might not like that, but we were surprised to hear from a local source who says it’s not a bad idea.


In the wake of the disaster in Japan, locals are still talking about the threats of earthquakes and tsunamis. Last year, Emily Alpert wrote about how the state’s strict building codes for schools don’t apply to all campuses. One prominent school that’s exempt: the charter campus that will be housed inside the new downtown public library.

When the district and city came up with the plans, she writes, “one reason they made it a charter was to dodge the stricter seismic rules and their added costs.” For more background, check this account from UC Berkeley (complete with a stunning photo) about how the state cracked down on weak school buildings after the devastating 1933 earthquake Long Beach. The quake’s 78th anniversary came just five days ago.

Leadership in Action

The U-T notes that it asked District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis last year whether she supported Prop. D., the city’s doomed attempt to ask voters to raise sales taxes in return for reform at City Hall. Dumanis, who’s now running for mayor, declined to answer, as did a few other potential candidates.

Hardly Colorless

There’s something about the wilderness that makes black-and-white photography look good (or vice versa). Case in point: photographer Sam Hodgson’s images of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which he took this past weekend.

A Few of Our Least Favorite Things

Fact Check TV examines claims about a couple of the most unpleasant things about living in San Diego: long commutes up and down the I-5 and polluted beaches.

‘Permanent Dangling Tongue’ Alert

Yes, as the NCT reports, last weekend was time for another ugly dog contest. The winner totally licked the competition.

In the Lap of Locker-Room Luxury

“Businesses can exclusively use the Padres’ luxury locker room for board and executive meetings. Personalized jerseys with board members’ names are hung in the players’ lockers upon arrival,” reports FOXBusiness on corporate retreats at the Omni San Diego Hotel, which is connected to PETCO Park.

There’s no extra charge for that special eau-de-sweat-sock in the air.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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