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James Hubbell’s property in the backcountry town of Santa Ysabel is home to 40 acres of nature and artwork designed to pay tribute to the natural world. Nature may not notice his art in return, but the world sure does.

One of the problems with our culture is that we’ve been trying to control the world too much. I think we think we can think up the future. And I think we need to begin to appreciate that the world is magical, and that we don’t know.

And it’s all right. Nature doesn’t always tell you what you’re going to do.

In this week’s Q&A feature, we talk to the 80-year-old Hubbell about the language of his work, the appeal of the backcountry (you don’t have to go out to dinner, he says) and the interplay of light and stained-glass windows. If you like those photos, we’ve got even more.

• The latest episode of Behind the Scene TV checks in on UCSD’s Stuart Collection, a group of artworks — including the school’s famous Sun God — that have intrigued and bewildered students for decades. Among them are the so-called “giraffe nets” and the talking/singing dead eucalyptus trees embalmed in lead casing. Among other things, they aired President Obama’s inauguration live.

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There’s a new collection artwork on the way — a house that will be built askew on the side of one of the engineering buildings.

Political News Blips

• Craig Gustafson reports in the Union-Tribune that over the last two years City Council staff have received raises totaling $291,000. Eight workers had pay increases of 33%, including one worker whose pay increased 67% as the result of two raises attached to promotions.

• Time Magazine says it looks like the job of governing California is too tough for anyone. A professor at the University of San Diego says the problem is “fundamental gridlock built in as part of the rules.”

Checking Out

San Diego has 1.3 million people and 33 library branches. Escondido has about 10 percent of San Diego’s population but, now, just a single library: the city’s branch library closed its doors on Thursday because of budget cuts, the NCT reports.

Library boosters offered to provide almost $100,000 to keep the library open, but the city said no, with the mayor saying he didn’t want donations with conditions. As for the library’s existence, he told the U-T that it “didn’t make it as a core function” and is “a luxury we could not afford.”

He’ll Have a Pint

Leave it to our British-accented reporter to find an excuse to visit an English pub on the job. It’s all part of the latest edition of “San Diego Explained,” which looks at “the ridiculously complicated issue of building affordable housing.”

What’s housing got to do with a pub? Our intrepid reporter found a way to tie the two (if not tie one on).


What We Learned This Week:

Redevelopment’s Nine Lives Keep Dwindling: The state’s urban renewal programs, including those in our county, survived another near-death experience this week. Well, maybe not quite near-death, but it was certainly close to it.

The state legislature approved a new budget that would hack funds for redevelopment, but not kill urban renewal efforts for good. Then Governor Brown surprised plenty of folks by vetoing the budget. Where does that leave redevelopment’s future? It’s a question without an answer.

Mission Unaccomplished

A mini-school at San Diego High was supposed to set a new standard for students who need to learn English, but it’s turned out to be anything but a success. Now the school board president says it should be shuttered, saying “it was a school that was designed to fail.” We explore what went wrong.


The Coffee Collection (engaging stories to savor over a cup of joe):

Why Police Chief Shines Amid Storm: Quick, name the city’s police chief. If you can’t, you have plenty of company. Even as the police department faces a blizzard of accusations of misconduct by individual cops, Bill Lansdowne’s name isn’t on everyone’s lips. He’s not being attacked or even criticized, even though his decisions may have played a role in the department’s problems.

In a profile, we examine the police chief’s past — he has a history of managing messes — and look into how he’s managed to inspire trust among city leaders even amid an onslaught of bad news.

A School that Actually Works

For 15 years, every graduate from Barrio Logan College Institute has gone to college. That would be a good record at even many of the county’s wealthiest schools. How does it do it? By teaching kids about college (if no one in your family has gone before, they might not know much about it), getting them pumped up about living on campus, helping them with applications and making sure parents don’t take the easy way out.

The story was also published in the July issue of San Diego Magazine, one of our media partners. The issue also includes a profile of skating businessman Tony Hawk and a rundown of typical and actual salaries in San Diego. For example: Chargers quarterback Phil Rivers had a 2010 base salary of $11,710,000.


Quote of the Week: “And the unspoken but clear message being sent to me from (the San Diego teachers union) is that you are a union that wants to prioritize the interests of the senior, not junior, members.” — teacher Sarah Mathy, whose letter to the union sparked dozens of comments on our site this week. She has less experience than many other teachers and has received two layoff notices since the district has a “last hired, first fired” policy that doesn’t take teacher quality into account.


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

Randy Dotinga

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

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