(Image credit: LA Times)

Posted by Ellen

California's self-inflicted budget mess is no secret, making it no surprise that the state has begun closing down at least seventy of its state parks and recreation areas. Kevin Forrester, a parks-department supervisor, is shown here in front of the locked, shuttered, and recently boarded-up visitor center at Mitchell Caverns, a state park unit in the Mojave Desert that was closed a few months ago because it needed budget-busting repairs to its water system.

Burglars broke into the closed-down visitor center and stole all its copper wiring and plumbing fixtures, along with two-way radios, binoculars, and other emergency gear. Those same intruders or other vandals broke all the windows and glass exhibit cases and caused an estimated $100,000 worth of damage.

After welding shut the doors to the visitor center, Supervisor Forrester observed that the state will need to find a pot of money if it is ever "to bring this place back to life." What happened at Mitchell Caverns, predicts Forrester, will happen again and again around the state as more and more parks are closed to visitors.

A Californian who gave his name as John Houck read about the troubles and offered assistance. "I am 60 years old and very healthy and able," he wrote in a message to the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know where this e-mail will end up, but I hope it might be read by someone of importance.

"I am a builder in many crafts (new construction and maintenance). I am currently unemployed and have been for quite some time now. I am just looking for for some kind of work to give me something to do, and maybe be helpful at the same time. I am not looking to become rich, just helpful. If anyone of any importance reads this e-mail, please contact me....."

What's the matter with this country?

Posted by Ellen

The judges assess the form of this ski jumper as he flies past the referees' tower during last week's Team Tour World Cup competition in Klingenthal, Germany. No winners were named; high winds forced an early halt to the event.