Thursday, December 28, 2006

I'm on the new Blogger now

It took about two hours to move the four old Blogger blogs over to the new Blogger, and this is my first 2,000 Days post with the new system.

I was pleased to find out, in my pre-move tests, that the new Blogger is just as good with old browsers as is the old Blogger. In fact, I started a new blog, This Old Browser, just to test this theory before making the move. Then it took Blogger a whole month or so to re-invite me over. I don't mind it taking two hours, but the first message I got indicated that it would take two minutes. I guess it gets more complicated when you have multiple blogs on both the new and old systems. But it happened, and everything looks great.

And publishing a blog post in the new Blogger is quicker than it was before. There's a benefit for you.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I haven't posted here in over a month

... and still this blog gets more traffic than This Old PC and This Old Mac, the latter of which I've posted to about 50 times in the past month.

I can feel myself getting to a point where I will write less about the arcane technology that enables me to do this work -- and do more ... work.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What I'm up to

It's been more than a month since the last 2,000 Days post, but I've been pretty active on the Daily News blogs.

We started a technology blog called Click, which has been mostly me, so that's a good place to dump every techy-geeky think I come across.

I've done a few entertainment updates lately at Hollywood Babble-On, including a quickie on Tom Cruise's ascent to the head of UA, and a few entries on Bob Barker's exit from "The Price Is Right," with my first suspicion of who will replace him, then a more educated guess (and a push for my most unlikely candidate).

At Table Talk, I pimp the Daily News food pages, and keep up with the controversial "ghetto latte."

And there's 2,000 Days' Daily News doppelganger, Come on Feel the Nuys, which is where everything else goes. Including a visit to the Museum of the San Fernando Valley's Museum Sundaes event, where we screwed around with markers at the kids' table. Then there's the excitement involved in painting our house ... which will continue tomorrow with Scraping: Part V.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Thanks for showing up, you 23 people you

The Daily News blogs, including Come on Feel the Nuys, were down again this morning, not even accessible to readers, let alone the bloggers who write them. But once again, all is well with the server in Denver, and we're back in the proverbial saddle.

This site's been pretty much fallow, not counting my Writely rantings in previous entries. That's a quick and sloppy way to link four blog posts in a single clause. Apologies.

And I'm only excited about 23 people hitting 2,000 Days yesterday because ... guess I don't know.

If you blog in the forest, and nobody reads it, is it still there?

That makes no sense whatsoever.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Daily News blogs in stasis


The reason I don't post here too much is that I do a whole lot of blogging for the Daily News.

But today the Movable Type interface over which we blog is down, even though most of the blogs themselves are up (although comments are kind of wobbly at present).

Stiill, we can't post. Over here in the Blogger universe, I've been keeping This Old Mac and This Old PC going pretty good, and we're in the process of creating a new, technology-related blog over at the Daily News, so all the techie crap will go there when the time comes.

Quickly, here's what I saw today that's cool:

Get the first five years worth of BoingBoing, the world's premiere techno-geek blog, in one big, geeky 17,000-post file. This link isn't the file itself -- would I subject you to that without warning? -- but it will get you there. Seriously, if you want to know what's what with the Internet, technology and just plain geekiness in all its forms, BoingBoing is there for you, multiple times a day.

I know you use Mac OS X, but have you ever tried Mac System 1.0? You can read about it and actually download the damn thing here. Go back to the Mac's very beginnings ... although I suspect this bad boy will only run on 68K machines. Don't have a working Mac Plus lying around? Didn't think so. Go here to emulate it. Even a PC can do it.

Does "Marmaduke" puzzle you. This guy explains each and every comic.

The U.S.-Mexican border ... as volleyball net. From the L.A. Weekly.

A Nietzsche-"Family Circus" mashup from Losanjealous.com.

And last but really first, because it's a blogger doing real get-out-of-the-house journalism, Mack Reed of L.A. Voice does an LAPD ride-along on Skid Row, where a greatly increased police presence is trying to deal with a very out-of-control drug-fueled situation.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Your applications are moving

Besides Gmail, Writely, Google's web-based spreadsheet, the calendars offered by both Yahoo! and Google, and the big daddy, Microsoft's rumored Web-based Office, the move is on from programs installed on individual PC hard drives to hosted applications and storage on servers somewhere out there on the Internet, maintained and upgraded automatically for you, with functionality from any Web-connected device.

Of course, we'll have to pay for it, but if prices are good, it just might be worth it. And some might be ad-supported and hence free to users. It's where computing -- and the world of work -- is headed.

Writely to Blogger -- what's the frequency?

As I said a couple of posts down, Writely is a cool tool for posting to Blogger, but is there a compelling reason to use it instead of the Blogger Dashboard?

Well, the big fly in the Writely-to-Blogger ointment is that none of my Writely-created blog posts come over with the title, even though they are titled in Writely.

The thing is in beta, so I can't expect the world, and as I said in the post directly below, Writely does what it does pretty well -- but is it worth doing?

As a replacement for the little-known Pote, which has proven very useful to me when I wanted to write a review and save it to the Web for later downloading and e-mailing, Writely is a proverbial quantum leap forward. The fact that it's so darn fast is a serious plus. Also in its favor are the ability to save in some key formats: Word, Open Office, HTML and RTF (add Save As Text, please!).

As I've said, true Word format with margins and smart quotes are what I really need. Have you ever sent a text file without the smart quotes and relied on your editor to get them right? I have. It's never worked out. And that's why writers NEED to submit copy in Word format with the smart quotes all set up -- it saves work for the editor and makes the writer and editor happy. And we all want to be happy.

Writely can indent and print ... but nothing's perfect

Someone suggested that using the Tab key in Writely would indent the paragraph -- and possibly also work in HTML.

Now I'd prefer a true indent that Microsoft Word recognizes as such and would be able to modify in Word format, but even looking like a paragraph indent would be preferable to the typical Web situation in which all paragraphs begin flush left and the only way to tell one paragraph from another is to double-space in between.

Hey, that tabbing worked. Not as good as an automatic indent when you hit the Enter key, but I'll take it. (In case you didn't notice, the tabbing didn't hold up as HTML in this blog post.)

And how's the printing? I'll try it now.

Well, it prints great ... except for the "Page 1 of 1" at the top and the URL at the bottom. I guess for REAL printing, you'd have to Save As Word or Open Office and print from there. Not having to do that -- another feature that Writely needs, along with margin control, to be ready for prime time. Meanwhile, I'll publish this to the Blog.

For those reading this -- and not This Old Mac or This Old PC -- you may be wondering why I'm blogging on this very computer-centric topic at 2,000 Days in the Valley. If you need a reason, let that reason be that, at its core, it's about blogging and blogging tools, so maybe it's OK at 2,000 Days. And it's equally PC- and Mac-related, and not so teched-out that the average person couldn't potentially benefit from.

One thing about Writely, what it does, it does pretty seamlessly and quickly. There's almost no waiting for the page to refresh because little pieces refresh on their own. I think it uses the browser's ability to write HTML on the fly to do this -- a programming triumph that really makes the user experience better. And the reason why it won't work with Safari, I believe.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Writely just a few rocks short of a full load

Yeah, I get that Writely can do basic HTML, like bold, italic and such, and there's even provision to bring in photos.

But to make this useful for writers who are submitting material for publication, it's vital that Writerly kick out both text files and Word-formatted documents with "smart quotes." So far, the quotes don't look all that smart.

And I can't seem to get an indented first line on a paragraph. That's HTML-y but not very writerly -- sorry Writely.

I appreciate such HTML hacks as writing in different colors. But what about turning all this mush into a traditional Mac or PC file that can be e-mailed to an editor?

Wait!

Click on the File menu and you can Save As a Word, RTF, Open Office (yeah!), or PDF (double fuckin' yeah!) document. Do it, and a dialog box pops up with a file name ready to be saved on your own PC. Yeah! Now we're talking.

All they've got to do is keep building this thing, and when the Internet flows like air and water, we'll never "buy" applications again. While Writely, Blogger, Gmail and the like are free at present, I'm not opposed to paying if they help me get stuff done.

At present, as an aid to writing on Blogger, Writely is pretty much a toy -- it uploads instantly, but the title of my Writely document doesn't make the leap -- I'm left with title-less blog posts, for which I have to insert said title via the Blogger Dashboard.

And you can only configure Writely to post to a single blog. That wouldn't work for me, since I've got four Blogger blogs. And while the HTML formatting is great, why wouldn't I just work in Blogger's Dashboard in the first place? Well, one reason is that Blogger chokes on browsers that aren't IE 6 and above or Firefox. Writely, like Blogger, doesn't work on Safari, but if Writely functions as promised -- and continues to do so -- on such oldies as IE 5 and Netscape 4, it'll be a boon to my Powerbook 1400 and the whole world of This Old Mac.

If for some reason I didn't have instant Web access (and this happens a lot more than you'd think), Blogger already allows posts to be e-mailed in. I can blog offline with a mail program on This Old Mac, for instance. That means Netscape 4.7. Writing blog posts, if you don't factor in HTML links and photos, is pretty simple and well-suited to e-mail composition.

So is Writely more than a toy at this point? Well, it's better than Pote, which I actually have used to compose documents. But any competing text-editing product, in my view, must confront the basic formatting of Microsoft Word, and by that I mean indents, smart quotes and adjustable column widths.

Give me that, and I'll be pig-in-shit happy. That's what makes Open Office such a marvel of free-software success. You can play in the Microsoft Office world without paying $300 plus whatever it takes to upgrade periodically for the privilege. Even the Daily News is on board with this one -- we all have Open Office, not Microsoft Office.

For now, just give me my Writely paragraph indent. And soon.

What the hell is Writely anyway?

Want to try Google's latest assault on the desktop before it even becomes Google-ized?

Well, I'm doing it right now -- Writely, the technology that Google recently bought, brings Microsoft Word-like text editing to the browser, with a toolbar surprisingly like Word's, document length of up to 500k, and the ability to take what you write here and open it to collaboration with others. No extra software required. And you can create and modify documents from anywhere with Web access and with a ton of browsers, old and new. It even supports Netscape 4 and IE 5, both of which I use on This Old Mac .

Did I mention that it's wicked fast? Hell, give me a ton of disk space on some Google server somewhere, and I'd pay real money for such a service, as will, I suspect, businesses large and small. Imagine never having to update or maintain an application, nor a server. That's where Google is headed -- and the world wil march with it, I expect.

There's even a Print button, which I assume takes your document and prints it out on your local printer. Have to try that one.

You can also bring in documents from various formats (I'm a bit shaky on which ones besides Word and regular text at this point) and take your Writerly documents and directly publish them to your blog. I'm not quite sure why you'd want to do the latter, but it can be done, and if there's a compelling reason to do it, I'll sure tell you.

Until now, I've used the little-heard-of Pote.com to write text files online -- and Writely sure looks better, as it has actual formatting, like bold, italic, underline and even did the links you see above.

I tried to start a Writely account a month or so ago, in the wake of the Google announcement, but they were closed to new users. No longer.

Update: It took a couple of tries but I did manage to publish this entry to 2,000 Days in the Valley from here. It was pretty easy to set up (about 80 percent intuitive) and of course works on Blogger because both Writely and Blogger are owned by Google. All went well except that the entry had no title -- I thought it would pick up the document title from Writely, but it didn't, and I finally entered it manually through Blogger Dashboard.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Valley restaurants get robbed, New York Times notices

We can debate from today to tomorrow, or from today to an hour from now, why it's a big deal when the New York Times covers L.A. or the San Fernando Valley, and I really don't keep an eye on what the NYT is doing.

Luckily Kevin Roderick does it for me, so I have him to thank for pointing me to this New York Times story on the takeover robberies plaguing Valley restaurants, including the new Barone's location in Valley Glen and the Valley Inn (in Sherman Oaks??).

The biggest thing I got out of the story is that the Ski Mask Bandits, as they're being called, just might have a law-enforcement or military background:

“I heard the rumors like everyone else that it is ex-cops,” said Sophia Brodetsky, who owns the Valley Inn, a restaurant in the Sherman Oaks section where robbers struck this month. “They used very short sentences, were very on top of what they were doing and had this whole intimidation routine.”

Police officials say those theories are pure conjecture, but they concede they are baffled.

“Anything’s possible,” Sergeant Sands said. “We don’t know who these people are. Sometimes people who are organized may have had some prior training, but there are police magazines that show the movements, too.”

Wearing ski masks and sometimes two sets of clothes, the robbers enter restaurants at closing time and order everyone to the floor. One robber presses his gun against the cheek of the bartender, while the other brandishes a rifle for the cashier.

Within three minutes, it is all over; the till is cleaned, and the safe, too. Sometimes, they take the money and watches of any customers unfortunate enough to have lingered until closing time.

“They had their finger on the safety of the gun,” said Mr. Monteleone, a co-owner of Barone’s in the Valley Glen section. “They were very, very calm. There was no shaking, no range even, in their voices.”



Alas, they're not all THAT bright when it comes to the risk/reward equation:

Because most restaurants make most of their money in credit card purchases, the take for the robbers is usually under $1,000, the police said.

“Who would do an armed robbery for a few hundred dollars?” said Rodolfo Costella, the owner of Ca’ Del Sole, a restaurant popular with Universal Studio executives, and the latest one hit by the robbers. “If you think about the time they spend planning this, if they really worked, they would make more money.”


So it's true -- crime doesn't pay. And one of these Ski Mask Bandits could end up a very unhappy, seriously wounded camper, like one of the guys who tried to knock over the Maxon's Pharmacy in Sherman Oaks on Aug. 18.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it

I followed a few links from the Blogger site, and it lead me to the Blogger Help Group, where people have been plagued by this problem SINCE JULY.

The upshot: Blogger ain't gonna do nothing. But you can get your photo capability back by DUMPING INTERNET EXPLORER AND SWITCHING TO FIREFOX. I've been avoiding Firefox because I like Safari on the Mac and use IE at the office, but I finally bit the bullet and downloaded Firefox, and as you can see, I can get photos on the entries with no problem.

How could Microsoft let this happen? They've already lost the entire Mac market for browsers, now the same thing has happened for PCs? Guess they're too busy with Windows Vista to notice.

Another day and Blogger is still screwing me

I STILL can't succesfully upload a photo. What gives? Megan uploaded a photo. What makes her so special and me a pile of shit? I've got photos I want to upload, dammit.

And now I learn that Blogger, already owned by Google, is being assimilated into the whole Google Accounts nexus of services. Voluntary at this point, eventually the Blogger-only accounts will be eliminated and you'll have to convert your blogs over to the new Google Accounts system in order to keep them. I hesitated, because they say you "can't go back," but I'll do whatever it takes to get the godforsaken photo uploading to work again.

I looked over the new "features" of what they're calling Blogger Beta, and nothing there excited me too much. They say it will be easier to do new posts in the Dashboard, and there will be no waiting for a blog to be republished when an entry is added. Instead, the blog will build itself "on the fly," whenever it's accessed by a reader. Can't say that I care about that, but if it works better, I'm all for it.

And there's a whole thing about creating "private" blogs that can only be accessed by those whose e-mail address are approved in the system. It's supposed to be for "family" type blogs, or perhaps business-related ones. I guess it's just another way to communicate between individuals or groups. My whole idea of blogging is that it's supposed to be there for all to see (or ignore, as it were), but I can see the value in using blogging technology for other, less-public forms of communication.

I remember when I first heard the word "blog." I had no clue. In the past, I had published my own Web pages through Yahoo, but I didn't understand what a blog was all about. Well, the whole thing blew up pretty fast, and the Web became, for a short while, all about blogs. Now that blogging has jumped the shark (was it the Huffington Post that signaled the "jump the shark" moment?), it can be seen as what it is: a software mechanism and organizational method for presenting content on the Web. How's that for heavy theory? More simply put -- blogging helps people manage the information they want to publish on the Web. It arranges it by chronology and topic, and it streamlines the presentation and programming required. That wasn't any simpler. Damn.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why can't I post a photo?

Why, Blogger, oh why, can't I upload a photo?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The end is nigh


Don't let our daughter get wind of this.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Six Thousand

The counter just hit 6,000 visitors (there are 7,475 total page views), so I'd like to thank all of you who have clicked over this way in the past year since I started counting. Between my other Blogger sites and the new Daily News blogs, I haven't been posting here quite so much, but 2,000 Days in the Valley will continue.

I know blogging has jumped the shark, but I can't say exactly when it happened, or what specifically caused the shark-jumping, but it's probably all for the good. It has gotten me writing (albeit not for money, but that's another story for another day), and there's something very attractive about instant, middle-man-free publication.

And now that I've used Movable Type over at the Daily News, I have to say that Blogger is pretty darn good as far as blogging software goes (although, as I've said before, I am waiting for Safari support, you Blogger people, you).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pin the tail on the blogger

Since I'm posting to, at last count, seven separate blogs, it's time to sum up:

At the Daily News' Hollywood Babble On, I go on about CBS' summer reality staple in He Ain't Heavy, He's My Big Brother.

Over at Table Talk, there's Bubba Gump's Shrimp Vegan Co., on the city-mandated vegan menu at the Santa Monica location.

At Come on Feel the Nuys, I whine about what it takes to keep a blog atop the Dailynews.com home page in The Daily News Is a Harsh Mistress, and I bemoan our rising electric bills -- and the plasma TVs that use as much electricity as a refrigerator -- in Our Friends Electric.

I take my musical temperature at Jazz Guitar Journey (it's tepid at best) in I Have a Confession to Make.

At This Old Mac, I examine the recent Internet-borne love for a 10-year-old Macintosh laptop in Powerbook 1400 love.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

2,000 degrees in the Valley

It's 99 degrees at 9 o'clock at night -- hell, it hit 110 today on both of my outside digital thermometers. One hundred ten. The air conditioning can't keep up. We've had it on 80 for the past two weeks -- otherwise it stays on all the time. Now it's on 80 and the house refuses to dip below 82 degrees. There's just too much heat.

We did escape. One of the grandmas babysat the almost-3-year-old, and we went to a barbecue in Pacific Palisades. Yeah, it was sort of cool enough to be outside, but not really. We left at 5 p.m. schvitzing plenty, just in time for the 106-degree return.

It's all numbers. And way too many over 100.

Gotta prep for tomorrow's 6:30 a.m. tricycle ride. See ya.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Recent rants


In keeping with the Daily News' recent outpouring of blogging, I've been doing a lot of ranting and raving over there. Here's a summary:

Get ready for Talk Like Gordon Ramsay Day

It's called 'raw food' because it's not cooked

The New York Times discovers the Valley, sort of

And over in computer geekdom:

Wireless Internet -- so close ... so close and yet so faarrrr-rr

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ted Greene -- fighting over the legacy

Over at the Daily News blog, I've written about the controversy over what will happen to the musical legacy of Ted Greene, the legendary guitarist and teacher who was found dead in his Encino apartment little more than a year ago (and who I saw perform exactly a year before his death).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Is your blog backed up?


Ilene brought this up recently, and I have started to look into how you can back up a blog. Of course you could just go through the archives and save each page, month by month.

But there are services that will take care of it for you, including BlogCollector and Backupmyblog.

And for users of Blogger, there's How do I create a backup of my entire blog? but sheesh, that looks complicated.

Over at Come on Feel the Nuys



A posting flurry today over at Come on Feel the Nuys:

Today Van Nuys, Tomorrow the World

The Potty Chronicles Part I and II

Joe Pass and the San Fernando Valley

Friday, June 16, 2006

Movable Type vs. Blogger


The new Come on Feel the Nuys blog uses Movable Type, so that's a bit of an adjustment. The best thing about the Blogger front end is that it handles photos so easily. You upload the image, select the size and placement, and it does all that Photoshoppish crap for you. I've resisted image editing of any kind up until now (even though I semi-regularly post to the big Daily News Web site and should be uploading photos with the stories.

But overall, Movable Type is intuitive enough to let me upload photos, create links and add to the blogroll. Police-reporter-turned Web guru Josh Kleinbaum cleaned up some of the problems -- he outclasses me in geeky knowledge and is so enthusiastic, I think we'll have to hose him down periodically.

So for the moment, this blog is turning meta -- a blog about blogging. Is blogging all about compulsion? Yes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Come on Feel the Nuys

With the online world of the Daily News cranking itself up -- way up, my official Daily News blog, Come on Feel the Nuys, makes its debut.

I've been blogging as an "amateur," or whatever you call blogging for yourself and not for The Man, for over a year now. Hard to believe that. And I don't know how it's going to feel writing a blog with the official Daily News logo on it. It may be no different, but I can imagine there will be things that will fit better over there, some over here. I'll work that out as I go along. I do feel that blogging is somewhere between total wanking and a transformative force in journalism, literature and self-expression. Depends on what day you catch me. So raise your double espresso. Then drink it.

Later.

Peeling the Orange

So even though the Orange Line is the most popular thing since double espressos, the Westbound Ventura Freeway has been total, absolute shit the past two days.

Here's part of Rachel Uranga's story:

With the Orange Line nearly surpassing its 15-year ridership goals in just seven months, transit experts say the MTA should consider expanding the line and even adopting a light-rail system - sooner rather than later - to meet soaring passenger demand.

and

Considered the Cadillac of the MTA system, the ($330 million) busway boasts its own landscaping, right-of-way and a bike path. The 57-seat, train-like buses see more riders than the $898 million Gold Line that runs from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles.


I figure the line will eventually get tracks and electric trains -- but they've got to finish the final station somewhere near Canoga Park High and get the buses off the streets of Warner Center first. There hasn't been any news of late about buses running into cars and vice versa, but if they do go for rail, they'll have to put up crossing arms at all the intersections. There just aren't enough Camrys to go around otherwise.

Shifting at the Daily News

Usually the way inside-the-Daily News news gets out there is through business reporter and union guru Brent Hopkins' The Paper Trail. But since he's the news in this case, I figure he won't be trumpeting his move from the business desk to the news side.

He's not moving desks or anything -- that would mean toting all his junk less than 5 feet to the west, anyway. But he shifts from one editor (Dan Anderson) to another (poker aficionado Aron "All In" Miller), and since he does so many great features anyway, he'll continue in that capacity, but probably in more of a general-assignment and less of a business vein. (He never did the "Netflix of porn" in Van Nuys story I tipped him to, but what can you do?)

Anyway, Brent is an all-around great guy, with a superb collection of hats and an impossibly cool 1960s Mustang (just don't get behind it -- those old cars can really kick out the exhaust).

Coming into the business slot is Julia Scott of the Newark Star-Ledger. Let's all say it together: "Neuwak!"

In other Daily News transitioning, police reporter Josh Kleinbaum leaves the dead bodies behind to become the new Newsroom Online Content Editor. Yes, there is now an actual Editorial person in charge of the Web side of the operation. Josh has been tearing it up something fierce for the past two weeks, so expect to see big changes at Dailynews.com.

In the wake, Susan Abram moves from nights to days, and Angie Valencia goes from the Simi bureau to nights in Woodland Hills.

And I'm not just saying it because I work here, but the business and metro staffs have really been cranking it out over the last long while. Those who don't see the paper every day, especially on the weekends, are missing out on some quality journalism and insight into what makes the San Fernando Valley tick. If I felt otherwise, I'd just say/write nothing, but what these men and women are able to do, given their small numbers and all the space they have to fill is pretty inspirational.

Starbucks Gossip

Jim Romenesko's Starbucks Gossip has been very busy of late. And our local Starbucks has been plenty busy as well. The line was out the friggin door the other day, and I really, really wanted a double E (that's double espresso for those who don't know my idiotic slang). Where else can you get so much pleasure and wakefulness for $1.75? At least when the line is long and it's the morning, the crew at the Van Nuys SB knows how to move it along, with one barrista calling out for drink orders and relaying them to those manning the machines.

One thing that annoys me: the new board on which the coffees of the day are posted. It's too small for me to read without my glasses. Shit, I'm old, but not THAT old. Oh well, since I'm in a double E stage of life, it really doesn't matter anyway.

By the way, Romenesko's main blog is where all the action is in regard to inside-ish journalism news. I try to get there once a day just so I know all the poop in the chute.

Another Daily News blogger

How could I forget Bridget Johnson, she of the news copy desk and the Viewpoint section, who blogs under the title of GOP Vixen? I'm not saying I agree with her politics, because I don't, but she a very nice woman who gives out candy. Literally. And candy can help get you through a day here in Woodland Hills.

Bridget has a very good blog. To find out a whole lot about her, start here.

Two new blogs

I haven't been posting much lately for a variety of reasons, so it's a great time to start two new blogs. As you may know, in addition to 2,000 Days, I also have Jazz Guitar Journey.

What I've been doing and thinking about lately hasn't had much to do with the generally accepted topics, not to mention blogish vibes, of those two forums, so I've started This Old Mac and This Old PC, which have a whole lot to do with my recent activities.

It's all part of my quest over the past couple of months to rehabilitate and make useful two 10-year-old computers, one a generic PC with a Pentium II-MMX 333 mHz processor that's currently running Windows 2000, the other an Apple Macintosh Powerbook 1400cs/117 mHz now running OS 7.6.1.

Through about a hundred Web sites and online forums, as well as the expertise of my friend Bruce -- computer guru and junk purveyor extraordinaire -- I've been able to make these two ancient hunks of metal, silicon and plastic into usable computers that don't have to be thrown out or recycled. Part of it is the expense of getting new hardware (and the new software that inevitably goes with it), part is the environmental factor and the desire to not be wasteful. And part is just the "fun" that goes along with the tinkering, tuning and prodding to get this junk up and running. And don't forget the "free" factor. When stuff is this old, you can often get all the parts and software you need for little or no money. Once people know you're doing this kind of thing, they're practically begging you to come over and look through their junk, hoping you'll take some of it away. Really though, all you usually have to do is ask, and you'll soon be receiving free stuff.

Part of the urgency for those who will gift you with freebies is that it's ILLEGAL to dump computers in the trash, and most charitable collection agencies like Goodwill and the Salvation Army WON'T TAKE IT. You either have to haul it to the city refuse collection site in Sun Valley ... or find someone who wants it.

How many of you are using a decade-old computer? If your crazy-nuts about technology, you might get a new computer every two or three years. Regular people? I'd say the average PC (or Mac, for that matter) probably has a five-year shelf life, seven years if you stretch it. But after that, there's usually some kind of software you can't run, add-on gadgets that won't add on (like digital cameras and all the crap that comes with them). One of the sorest points of all this is that the No. 1 use for computers by far is Web browsing, and the people and companies that create Web sites are constantly packing new technologies into their Web pages that increasingly can't be handled by older computers (or any kind of Mac -- even the newest ones -- in many cases). Flash, Java, and a host of other add-ons muddy the HTML waters, and the new browsers that can handle the increasing complexity often run slow as mud on older computers, or not at all. On my Powerbook, for example, I can't -- and never will -- be able to run OS X, and since Firefox won't run on the "classic Macintosh" OS, and Microsoft infamously ceased support for the Mac version of Internet Explorer (for both OS X and classic Macs), there's not much to turn to. The best I've found is IE 5.0, believe it or not -- thanks to Dan Palka of System 7 Today for that and so much more.

My bottom line: Something that costs $1,000 shouldn't have a three-year shelf life. That' s just wrong. These things should be more easily upgradable, or a lot cheaper out of the door. The fact that you can get a bare-bones PC for $200 or less at Fry's goes a long way toward pacifying me, but it's just crazy that this industry has lulled us into a constant upgrade path.

In closing, a lot of this was borne out of my frustration at the old Daily News computers, which we just got rid of a few months ago. They were mostly Celerons that ran at about 400 mHz with 32 MB RAM and Windows 98. Crashing ... every ... five ... minutes. For the editorial software system, there was adequate resources, but to run that AND an IE5 browser window? Forget it. We were rebooting between five and 20 times a day. For our new Unisys system, we all got new Dell Optiplex GX520 computers running Windows XP, and I must say, these are really sweet. If you are in the market for a new PC, you won't go wrong with one of these Dells. IE7 still crashes about six times a day, but you don't have to reboot the whole machine. It's just that IE happens to suck, although it's does feel like a well-worn glove. (Say it: Smell the glove.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

I will be back

I've been gone for awhile. Apologies to all. I will be back.

You know how blogging is. It all begins in a torrent of activity. Posting all the time, checking the counter, looking for stuff to link to, finding kooky, illustrative photos. Then you sort of get tired of it. Other things start to shuffle to the front of my brain queue. Yes, there's a line, so get in it, blogging.

You may have read my previous post about the Powerbook 1400cs. I've been getting this 10-year-old laptop ready as it can be for use in the '00s, and that's been my extracurricular pursuit for the last long while. I've toyed with starting a blog just for this Macintosh project, but I'm wary of this geeky side eclipsing all others -- hence the lack of posting here over the last month and a half.

Among things Ilene and I have been doing is getting our back yard in shape. Yeah, it's been more than 10 years since we moved here, and we're just getting to it, but hey, life intervenes. We've done quite a bit of cleaning up, including taking out half of the patio, which consisted of heavy 12-by-12-inch paving stones and poured concrete in a checkerboard fashion -- that's where the eventual lawn will go. After I dig for and subsequently install sprinklers. And Ilene did a great job getting plants in the side portion (we took out a few dead trees and such -- and I only inadvertently cut off our phone service once).

She just trimmed the giant fountain grass and surrounded it with marigolds and nasturtium, and I began trimming the giant trees that are depriving our future lawn of the sun it needs to keep from dying. I'm doing my own tree trimming BECAUSE GETTING PROFESSIONALS TO DO IT IS FREKIN' EXPENSIVE. So far I've used the 5-foot stepladder and loppers, but Bruce, Mr. Jack of all trades, is providing one of those trimmers-on-a-pole, albeit not one with a saw on the end. I'll try to get that and the extension ladder in my car sometime this weekend so I can really start trimming away the canopy in the Van Nuys rain forest (with no rain).

And there's also been Big Cat's surgery and subesequent move into the house. Yes, we live with a cat. A big cat. Formerly, we thought, a tabby, but now a Norwegian Forest cat.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Old computers don't always die

Geek alert:

I'm posting via e-mail from a Macintosh PowerBook
1400cs, with System 7.5.3 and Netscape 4.7. Ilene
saved this computer from way back in her record
company days, and lately the kid has been banging away
on it.

I remembered that its modem card (22K speed, I
believe), also has an Ethernet option, so I was able
to configure it and get it on a network connection (I
think you need a router to do this -- I don't think it
would work straight through a DSL modem).

So that's my geeked-out moment.

(For those keeping geek score, any art that appears on
this item was added with a "modern" computer that is
supported by Blogger.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Village People


The former lead singer of the Village People was arrested in South San Francisco.

Yes, they arrested the cop:


REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) -- Victor Willis, the original policeman in the 1970s disco band the Village People, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to drug possession and giving false identification to a police officer.

His arrest Sunday ended a five-month search for the former hitmaker.

Willis, 54, was pulled over by a South San Francisco police officer for a routine traffic stop but was arrested after cocaine and drug paraphernalia was found in his car, Lt. Jeff Azzopardi said.

The officer did not immediately recognize Willis, who was the subject of a bench warrant after failing to appear at his sentencing hearing on drug and weapons charges in October, police said.

Both Willis and his companion, Staci Brandt, who also was wanted for a parole violation, initially gave false names to the officer, Azzopardi said. Willis was later identified through fingerprints.

Brandt also pleaded not guilty to the same charges Tuesday.

Both are scheduled to return to court on April 10.

Last July, Willis was arrested in Daly City for possessing cocaine. He agreed to a plea bargain that would have resulted in a prison term of no more than 16 months, but he never showed up for sentencing. His bail jumping now gives a judge the right to impose the maximum four-year, four-month sentence.

A new sentencing date for that case has not been set, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Willis, who co-wrote such hits as "YMCA" and "In the Navy," left the Village People in 1980. His case was first featured on the television crime show "America's Most Wanted" in December.

For those who are, shall we say, deficient on their Village People trivia, rotten.com is here to help.

Here is Victor Willis' bio from that page:

Victor Willis

(b. 1952)

The Policeman

Victor Willis performed lead vocals for the Village People from 1977 to 1980.

In the late seventies, he was married to actress Phylicia Rashad - better known as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show.

He indulged in a generous hit of freebase prior to each performance, prompting a meeting among the producers. They replaced Willis with Ray Simpson.

Willis was arrested in February of 1997, charged with robbery and cocaine possession.


MARRIED TO PHYLICIA RASHAD??? And did you note the FEMALE companion in the arrest story?

Why has there never been a movie of the week about the Village People's coke-guzzling, woman-loving, cop-impersonating lead singer?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Daily News bloggers -- they are out there

There have got to be more Daily News bloggers than this, and if you know of any, I'd like to hear about it. Besides myself, of course, there are:

Editorial assistant Ben Jauron's edgy, whacked-out, noirish, insert your own adjective here, http://www.sgtwest.com/, which features in one of its "episodes," Ilene's and my long-ago boss Gregg Miller. Yes, Mr. Jauron is currently the coolest, edgiest Daily News blogger, or more precisely, Web artist, since this doesn't really meet the definition of "blog."

Columnist Mariel Garza's lightly updated http://www.marielgarza.blogspot.com/.

Editorial page editor Chris Weinkopf's also lightly updated http://www.weinkopf.com/.

Cops reporter Josh Kleinbaum's also lightly updated http://kleinbaum.org/.

Who could forget the official Daily News Red Carpet blog http://www.insidesocal.com/redcarpet/, featuring the bloggish stylings of Fred Shuster, Valerie Kuklenski, Bob Strauss, Glenn Whipp, David Kronke, Sandra Barrera and who knows who else.

And last for now but never least, business reporter Brent Hopkins' blog, which is mostly filled with items pertaining to our CWA union local (of which he is the more-than-capable leader) http://thenutgraph.blogspot.com/.

I'll start a special blogroll for all of these when I get a chance. But for now, enjoy them starting right here.

Is the real-estate bubble bursting?


Mack Reed of L.A. Voice thinks it might be. One thing's for sure, it can't go on like this forever, and another catastrophic event (earthquake, oil shock, terrorist attack) could really bust the market down.

What I always say is that the current run-up in home prices is due largely to the lending industry's radical change in the kinds of loans available. Home prices are based on what you can afford to pay, or what the bank thinks you can afford to pay, with crazy terms such as interest-only, variable-rate, 80 percent principal with 20 percent second, balloon payments, 40-year terms, and more that I don't even know about. And this is OK for many people because they figure they don't need to have any real money tied up in the house -- equity will fall from the sky in the form of 20 percent and higher yearly appreciation. The best way to tap that equity is to sell and get the hell out of Dodge. But if you need to live somewhere else, you plough that money right back in and at least have some actual cash equity in your home. Find all these colors annoying?

Let me pose this colored-type question: Has your income risen by 20 percent a year? How about 10? Do I hear 5 percent? I didn't think so.

All I can say is that the current pace of appreciation can't last forever.

Best case: Prices will stabilize for a period of five or so years, then will rise again, provided the economy can support it.

Worst case: The aforementioned catastrophic event throws the economy for a loop and prices plummet, making it impossible for people to recoup in a sale. Of course, if you didn't put anything down, it's like you had a very expensive rental for a few years, and "walking away," isn't quite so painful as if you put 20 percent down in cash money when you bought. But then again, if you based your purchase on equity gained from a previous home sale ...

Other worst case: Economic conditions cause the loan industry to stop offering so many "creative" products (notice how everything is a "product" these days?) and the amount of house that new buyers can afford is substantially reduced, leading to a crash in prices in which a overwhelming number of homeowners rush to sell before prices really fall, further lowering the prices due to oversupply.

Back to Van Nuys: Curiously, in our neighborhood the more expensive homes seem to be selling quickly. Stuff from $700,000 to $1 million (never thought you'd see the $1 million Van Nuys home? Well, it's about to happen) is going a lot quicker that the "lower-priced" houses. That's probably because the homes that have a bit more square footage and which have been extensively refurbished are going for $650,000-$850,000, while the trashed-out properties that will need $50,000 or more just to become habitable are starting at $550,000 and going up to $600,000.

The other part of this lopsided equation is buyers who are looking to flip the property and make quick money vs. those who actually need a place to live. I think the speculators are realizing that they need to get a below-market price to actually make money on the deal. The entire low end of the market seems to have a large percentage of sellers who:

a) inherited the property and for some reason think it's worth more than market value (and don't need to sell in a hurry)

b) bought the home with the expressed intent of flipping it and need to hit a certain price to make their profit.

Nothing scientific here, just anecdotal meanderings on my part.

Still who wouldn't want Rainn "Dwight K. Schrute" Wilson's house?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Breaking News on Dwight Schrute!


Rainn Wilson will be in tomorrow's (February 28th) Daily News talking about his blog, Schrute Space. Mr. Wilson writes his own stuff! No studio flak for him. Here's something that didn't make it into the article: Many of the times he writes it when they're shooting a multitude of background shots. So, he says, if you see him in the background looking particularly busy and pounding on the keyboard, he's probably writing something to post.

The story didn't make it to the Daily News Web site, but you can see the full story here. Ok. You've been warned. Yet again, I've given you something to make that click from your
Google search for Dwight Schrute worthwhile.

And there's also this: Dwight K. Schrute is an heir to Barney Fife. And here, Rainn Wilson says, "I think Dwight is America." And, Rainn Wilson gets a film role. And Rainn Wilson speaks to Newsweek.

And this tidbit: I figured out which house for sale was his, and they even had an open house this weekend, but even with Steven nearly jumping up and down wanting to go, it just seemed to much like a sicko stalker move to tromp through his house.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Before and after

Before ...

... and after (note the change in clock time).



Hair by Ilene.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Remembering Busch Gardens

(Image from Kenneth A. Larson via Places Earth)

I do remember Busch Gardens in Van Nuys. A bit of tropical/jungle paradise in the middle of a brewery. Now all that's left is the brewery (and the overpowering smell of hops malt), but it used to have exotic birds, tours, a tram (the tracks are still there) and, of course free beer. Did I taste the free beer as an 8-year-old. It was the '70s, so I'll leave the answer to you.

(Discovered via L.A. Observed), this guy has virtually re-created Busch Gardens and other amusement parks -- past, present and future -- in an Atari game program called Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 .

There's a disclaimer on his site: You may not host the files at your site. They are only available here. So click to see what Busch Gardens would look like in a video game.

Here's a quote from the text:

Most of Busch Gardens Van Nuys was scenery and drinking lots of low cost, high quality Beer!

Not so sure about "high quality," but we'll let that pass.

Note: Hops/malt controversy addressed in the comments here and on The Valley Observed, Kevin Roderick's revamped companion to L.A. Observed. Suffice it to say, it kinda smells like urine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The 2007 Camry Hybrid, America's Automobile




Like it or not, the Toyota is America's Automobile (yes, Automobile with a capital "A"), especially if you're not, shall we say, under 65. Why just today, while passing through one of the "watch out lest you get T-boned by a Camry" stretches of my morning commute, I turned onto Van Nuys Boulevard and got into the middle of three lanes behind a new Camry -- it didn't even have license plates yet. The woman drove no faster than 34 miles per hour. I know the speed limit is 35, but let's face it, it's morning rush hour, and 34 was her top speed. So I pull into the right late to get on the Ventura Freeway and speed ahead because I am NOT driving a Camry, nor do I drive like I'm driving a Camry.

I pass the Camry but watch in my rearview mirror. It suddenly shifts into the right late - "Hey, I'm actually going somewhere, and wouldn't you know it, I'm already here." Then it makes a full stop and rolls up the driveway sans accelerator, using only the power of the transmission in Drive (and stopping traffic behind it). Ah, Camrys.

That brings me to my other point, only tangentially related of course, but the title of this post nonetheless: the 2007 Camry Hybrid, which Pulitzer Prize-winning Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times assesses here. This link probably won't be here forever, so click TODAY but enjoy the following excerpt, which will be here for the foreseeable future:

By certain lights, the 2007 Camry Hybrid is not particularly revolutionary. Here we have a nicely equipped, 3,637-pound, five-passenger sedan with 192 horsepower, costing about $30,000 (final pricing has yet to be confirmed). Styling reminds me of the old Merle Travis song: So round, so firm, so fully packed. The ride and handling are straight-up Pink Floyd: comfortably numb.But, ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is the Buick from another planet. Beneath the almost laughably stately sheetmetal is a still-slightly radical, state-of-the-art gas-electric powertrain allowing the sedan to post estimated EPA fuel economy numbers of 43 miles per gallon city, 37 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined driving.

...

There's nothing rakish or aggressive about the car's new styling, no trick graphics or plunging hood lines. What the Camry is on the inside — safe, reliable, sturdy, bourgeois — it is on the outside. This car is the radon of midsize exurban transportation: odorless, colorless, invisible.How does it drive? Quintessentially Camry-like. Unlike the spanking-quick Honda Accord Hybrid, which uses the hybrid power to boost the performance of its V6 powerplant, the Camry moves at a deliberate and unhurried pace — which is to say, it's kind of slow. Although it has enough asphalt savvy for ordinary driving, it's rather yacht-like in its cornering and steering responses.
(Check out the Camry Hybrid's computerized console, above right. Does it come with Photoshop and Word? How about Frogger?)

You can't make the Camry fast, because ... well, just because. And on a serious note, the trade-off of better mileage for non-sportscar-like performance is what a hybrid should be, in my opinion. And making America's Automobile, its best-selling car, in a hybrid version is probably the smartest thing any car company has done in recent memory.

Now if they could only hybridize my Ford Focus (not exciting, but not a Camry either), which can haul ass if called upon, but which also gets less-than-stellar gas mileage.

Previous Camry musing:

Orange Line vs. Camry
The ultimate car

And from Ilene:
Duck and cover, it's a Camry!

"The Office" on Valentine's Day

Dwight Schrute with his bobble-head.


The Valentine's Day episode of "The Office," summarized here by Northern Attack, was a television masterpiece. It deftly yet subtly explored many stages of romance, from Ryan the intern and Kelly's "hookup" the night before (they kissed, she thought she now had "a boyfriend," he tried to pull his own hair out), Pam's endless engagement to Roy, who in lieu of a gift, offered "the best sex of your life"; Angela's gift of a Dwight bobble-head to her secret sweetheart, and his gift in return of a mystery key (to the cellar at the beet farm, maybe? There was also Phyllis' endless parade of gifts from her refrigeration-obsessed husband, Meredith's passing out drunk, Oscar's gift from a mystery admirer who only we know (yet with whom Dwight Schrute has been comfy on the couch), and of course that kiss between Jan and Michael after he first dropped her ass into the frying pan and subsequently saved it.

Note that I didn't mention Jim and Pam? Because NOTHING happened between them. And that's the story there. I'm not in "The Office" for what Northern Attack readers call the JPI or Jim-Pam Index -- there's so much more to the show, and a coupling of these two threatens to be a shark-jumping moment, for that matter. There are already 133 comments on the episode at Northern Attack, and I just don't have the will to go on.

Here's the Dwight K. Schrute quote of the night, and I quote Dwight Schrute because quoting Dwight Schrute, heck, even mentioning the name Dwight Schrute is like catnip to Internet searchers who should be enjoying the witty repartee herein. Anyway, back to the quote:

Dwight : Women are like wolves. If you want a wolf, you have to trap it. You have to snare it. And then you have to tame it. Keep it happy. Care for it. Feed it. Lovingly, the way an animal deserves to be loved. And my animal deserves a lot of loving.

Food as heroin REVISITED

REVISED: Per Ilene's queries, the FlavorBlasted Color Changing Goldfish turn either red or blue in your mouth, and they do so almost instantaneously. And here's the relevant Nutrition Facts: In 51 crackers (yes people, a serving is 51 crackers -- check it!), 14o calories, 6g fat, 1.5g saturated fat (1.5g polyunsatured, 3g monounsaturated), 5 mg cholesterol (cholesterol???), 250 mg sodium, 17g carbohydrates), less than 1g fiber, less than 1g sugars (how do they do that??), 3g protein. 4% calcium, 4% iron.

These were floating around the office -- the best Goldfish crackers ever. Why? Because they're "flavor blasted," and they also supposedly change color in your mouth!

Seriously, though, if you didn't think that original Goldfish crackers could be improved upon, think again, cause these things are freakin' great. Here's Pepperidge Farm's description:

Flavor Blasted® Goldfish® CrackersBlast off to a new galaxy of flavorful fun! Just one bite will send your taste buds into orbit. When you're ready to try something extreme — try satisfying your hunger with Xtra Cheddar, Xplosive Pizza, Nothin' But Nacho or Burstin BBQ Cheddar Flavor Blasted® Goldfish® Crackers. They blow other snacks away.


Indeed, they do blow other snacks away. Ilene would want to know the nutritional information, but it's not on the Web site, and I'm getting too logy with carb overload to get out of the chair. Hey, at least they've eliminated trans-fatty acids.

I remember Goldfish crackers from when I was a wee-little, finicky kid who didn't eat much besides Cheerios, dry.

Seriously again, I should never, ever be around these.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know about Muppets and Sesame Street but were afraid to ask


Thanks to our Big Bird-loving daughter, we've seen enough "Sesame" for a few lifetimes, and she's only 2.

For those who want "Sesame Street," and especially the Muppets, in exhaustive detail, here's a Wiki on everybody's favorite puppets. It's not that old, and is still growing, but there are currently 5,615 articles there.

Drill down to "Sesame Street" right here. For a sample, click on Big Bird Through the Years.

As for Cookie Monster, who seems to enjoy chewing things but never swallowing them (such is the life of an overgrown sock puppet), HE USED TO HAVE TEETH. Yikes.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Northern Attack, another "Office" Web site


I came across yet another "The Office" fan Web site, Northern Attack.

Particulary notable is Northern Attack's exhaustive synopsis of the "Boys and Girls" episode, complete with dialogue and analysis throughout.

The many people commenting on this site even have something called the JPI, which I think stands for Jim-Pam Index. But they're all talking about whether the JPI is up or down. I guess it's like the NASDAQ or something in "Office" terms.

Here's a quote:

About the JPI…
I know we all want to be as optimistic as possible (me included), and I know events in this episode are setting up events later that will most certainly send the JPI skyrocketing, but just considering the situation at the exact end of the episode (and I’m pretty sure that’s what must be done, instead of including parts of hypothetical future episodes), it’s gonna be a negative.
But hey, I might be wrong. Just my thoughts.


and this:

The thing I love best about this show is that it’s so great to watch the first time around, and even so every episode is always better the second time through.
My take on Pam’s final look at Jim is that having just transferred a call, she’s acknowledging to herself what Jim said about always being a receptionist – and that transferring calls is much of what that life would be like. The look shows that what he said is already hitting home.


And yes, they have lots of screen shots (see above).

Friday, February 03, 2006

Dunderball on "The Office"

A great fan site for "The Office" is Dunderball. Lots of quotes from the show, news and more.

Curiously, it's hard to find out the character and actor names for the supporting players in "The Office." Even Imdb doesn't have complete info.

The Van Nuys Diet

(Isaac Newton Van Nuys,
patron saint of the Van Nuys Diet)


The Daily News is awash in cookies, doughnuts and fudgy confections, and with that in mind -- and under my nose -- the Van Nuys Diet begins RIGHT NOW.

Much of this comes from Ilene, who besides her training in nutrition and food science (now culminating in her master's thesis) has a lot of good ideas on how to avoid going face first, entire body second, into the plethora of sugary foods that dot the file cabinets and desktops of newsrooms and offices everywhere. She says that if a free dessert is that good, you should have a container ready and take some, holding it for later when you can eat it at the proper time and enjoy it (i.e. not while standing up over a trash can).

Nothing here today is good enough to do that, and I brought food for lunch and snacks, so I'm sticking to it.

Another major component, not endorsed by Ilene, is coffee, and lots of it. America's wonder elixir is my friend. As is the double espresso. They're building a Starbucks across from the Daily News, and it is taking a very, very, very long time. But right now, despite two cups of coffee, I could really use something stronger.

More on the Van Nuys Diet later, including my weighty history.

How a 2-year-old thinks



Find insight into the mind of our toddler at Ilene's blog. Gum, candy, ice cream, little cars, 50-cent rides at the mall, what she refers to as "little men," stickers, "Sesame Street Karaoke," these are a few of her favorite things (although she's only had gum once, and wasn't exactly clear on the concept, swallowing it pretty quickly).

Valentine's Day on "The Office"



Last night's "The Office" was not the Valentine's Day episode, though it was one of the better shows this season. Michael's boss Jan (a recent divorcee with whom he had a drunken tryst after a successful sales meeting at Chili's on a previous episode) comes to the office to conduct a seminar exclusively with the female staff. Michael just can't leave them alone -- and Jan banishes him from the office when he starts his own men-only meeting outside the female-filled conference room.

The men go to the warehouse, where Michael gets the idea of forging a white/blue-collar dialogue, during which he nearly destroys the downstairs part of Dunder-Mifflin with a forklift. In the middle of this, warehouse worker Roy, longtime fiance of receptionist Pam, confronts Jim, longtime admirer from much closer than afar of Pam, about what everyone at the company now knows of as Jim's "crush" on her. Roy assures Jim that he's "cool" with the seemingly former crush, and he appreciates Jim's friendship with Pam because all the talking the "Office"-mates do during the day saves Roy from having to do it at night.

In the middle of all this, the warehouse workers realize that the upstairs employees make much more money then they do, and they think things can be made right by forming a union, and they bully Michael -- who's pretty much wrecked the warehouse with the forklift mishap -- into meekly supporting (or at least not opposing) them. Upstairs, in Jan's women's seminar, she tells the "documentary" crew (whose interviews are part of every "Office" episode) that one of the purposes of her meeting is to scout for potential female executives. So she asks the women what their hopes and dreams are, and when Pam says she loves art and graphic design, Jan tells her that Dunder-Mifflin offers a graphics training program at Corporate in New York. The usually meek Pam finds reasons why she can't do it, but the hard-charging Jan convinces her to seriously consider it.

When Michael informs Jan (during the women's seminar, of course) about the unionization effort, she tells him to deal with it, but knowing he cannot, she goes down to the warehouse herself and lays it all out: Forming a union will mean one thing -- the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin will be closed down, and everybody will be out of a job, simple as that.

Back upstairs, the camera sees Roy and Pam through glass, and we see (but don't hear) Roy convince her that nothing will come of her going to New York for the graphics training program. When Pam talks to the "documentary" crew, she has an emotional moment over the dreams she is deferring.

Along with this Pam's other deferred dream, her non-relationship with Jim. He confronts her about passing on the New York training program and whether she wants to be a receptionist forever, but what's really at issue here is the chance they are not taking in terms of pursuing a relationship together (which means she'd have to dump fiance Roy, and she's not the breaking-up or rocking-the-boat type). While Jim pushes Pam to do what she really wants, he can't bring himself to lay it on the line and tell Pam that he is, in fact, in love with her.

So it was an emotional episode, probably one of the best of the series so far. And it sets up next week's Valentine's Day show. Here's the description from NBC:

VALENTINE'S DAY 9:30pm 2006-02-09 ALL NEW!
'THE OFFICE' GOES ON LOCATION TO NYC -- When Michael (Golden Globe nominee Steve Carell) visits Dunder Mifflin corporate headquarters in New York on Valentine's Day, he and Jan (Melora Hardin) are both in for a surprise. Meanwhile, back in Scranton, the office staff celebrates Valentine's Day grade school style. Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, B.J. Novak and Rainn Wilson also star. TV-14


Go to Ilene's blog for more "The Office" fun, including pictures from next week's episode and a tribute to Dwight Schrute, Scranton's No. 1 beet-growing paper salesman.

In case you need to catch up (and I've probably missed a couple of these myself), season one of "The Office" is on DVD. And in case I haven't mentioned it, "The Office" -- yes, the American version -- is the best show on television, period.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Does Blogger's Dashboard work with Internet Explorer 6.0?

Not so well. I don't think the problem is in the composing of blog posts but in the reading of them via IE 6.0.

Trying to center type or do block quotes in the "compose" mode is an exercise in frustration, and photos that appear at the top of a post often obscure the headline below. It might look OK to users of other browsers, but it looks like hell on IE 6.0.

And type is occasionally not appearing but does show up when you screw with the window a bit.

NONE of these problems happen on the Mac with Safari (which doesn't support full Blogger functionality). Guess I'll have to go back to Firefox, even though the Blogger help pages insist that IE 6.0 works just fine (although the Blogger people all use Firefox, so you know which browser gets all the love).

Maybe I'm missing an IE update.

The troubles of KCRW

Chris Douridas, above, from his Web site.


Famous Van Nuys resident Sandra Tsing Loh guest-blogs for Cathy Seipp on the trouble, past and present, of KCRW-FM, touching on her own firing for the expletive that indadvertently reached the air, but centering on the current controversy surrounding Chris Douridas, who is under suspicion of attempted kidnapping and drugging a teenage girl at a Santa Monica bar. (Note to all: L.A. Times is requiring registration these days, but you don't have to be a subscriber to do it). Sandra's comment was prompted by the break in the media silence by L.A. Times columnist Megan Daum, who I think was pretty darn kind to all concerned. At one insipid point, this happens in Daum's piece:

Others, though, are nearly choking on the drool of their schadenfreude. When the news of Douridas' arrest broke, even the fact that it was buried on page B3 didn't keep people from circulating e-mails filled with catty conjectures about who might be next. What if Daniel Schorr was caught shoplifting at Wal-Mart? Imagine if Terry Gross was nabbed on Sunset Boulevard in a compromising position with Divine Brown. Imagine!
Is she outing Terry Gross here? That aside, the whole paragraph trivializes a serious matter -- potential kidnapping and rape of a child. If I was her editor (and I am not), I would kick that one right back with a "What are you thinking?" note.

However, Sandra hits it right:

KCRW, of course, has a long history of removing people from the air any time for any reason. After (was it?) 10 years, Ruth (Seymour, who runs the station)
recently thought afternoon announcer Cindi Burke’s voice suddenly sounded funny -- gone. Joe Frank has a horrific story to tell about being fired by Ruth just before his new series was scheduled to start, with the twist that KCRW then issued a statement that Joe had decided to take a voluntary leave for health reasons. . .

...

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere (aka: in LA Times), I came of age in a time when KCRW’s signature broadcaster was Joe Frank, a writer who spoke openly to us, across the ether, about our deepest, darkest, weirdest, most embarrassing, and at times most hilarious predilections. When he satirized KCRW’s own pledge drives ("Do you enjoy long moonlit walks on the beach in Bali? Do you. . . ? Do you. . . ? Sorry--in fact no, you DIDN’T win the Bali sweepstakes"), it was the break in the sonic wash that gave KCRW, for me, a kind of. . . call it a kind of three-dimensional personality. It was something recognizably human.


My "relationship" with public radio in general, and KCRW in particular, is, for want of a better word, fragmented. I do listen to a lot of public radio, but my listening time is divided between KCRW, KPCC, KKJZ and KCSN, and I'm mostly trying to catch NPR news and jazz or classical music (the latter two of which barely appear on KCRW and are nonexistent on the mostly talk KPCC). So I was happy to see Sandra's commentaries picked up by KPCC, including the new "Loh Down on Science" (am I spelling that right?), produced by Loh's alma mater Caltech and which airs at 9:20 a.m. weekdays in the middle of "Day to Day" on 89.3.

I've blogged recently on the salaries of top public radio on-air talent, and I don't know where Douridas falls in this spectrum. But he went from host of the daily "Morning Becomes Eclectic" to a much-lower-profile weekend shift, supplementing his income all the while by doing soundtrack supervising and other record-company work. While not disturbing as alleged kidnapping, the fact that most of the big KCRW DJs (including Nic Harcourt and Tom Schanbel) have outside jobs in the record industry is a giant red flag (as in conflict of interest). Especially if you're dragging in $100k from the station, do you really need to be supervising soundtracks or doing A&R?

I don't know Ruth Seymour or any other KCRW employees for that matter, but it's pretty clear from listening to the station and reading about it that the whole operation is basically Seymour's personal fiefdom. It may be a "public" station, it may be housed at Santa Monica College, but Seymour is firmly in control of it. One thing's for sure, the station's profile has risen tremendously under her tenure. It's a big business that drags in a lot of money from listeners and corporations. I don't know if this is good or bad, and I don't really doubt that the public interest is being served to some extent, but I sure do miss Cindi Burke and Joe Frank.

I also miss the great jazz shows I remember from the '80s -- "Smoke Rings," and "Straight, No Chaser" (although I can't for the life of me remember which one aired on KCRW and which was on KPFK). I also think it's a crime that Marian McPartland's excellent "Piano Jazz" has no L.A. outlet.

But it all comes down to this. I don't have cable TV, so for news it's all about NPR in the car. As long as the "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Day to Day" keep flowing, I'm reasonably happy.

Other things I love about public radio: Chuck Cecil's "The Swingin' Years," on KKJZ and KCSN (no, I'm not 80, I just act like it), KPCC's Larry Mantle (he deserves his $100K) and Kitty Felde, Les Perry's "British Invasion" show on KCSN, Chuck Southcott's KKJZ bop program on weekend mornings and afternoons, those "Car Talk" guys, Terry Gross (gay or not) and "Fresh Air," the fact that "Day to Day" is produced in Los Angeles (or is it Culver City?), the entire KPCC news team, KCRW's "Left, Right and Center" (so that's where I know Robert Scheer from).


Monday, January 23, 2006

Modular, baby

Andrew at Here in Van Nuys has this ultra-cool Van Nuys-manufactured KitHaus entry. These prefab structures are so freakin' cool, it hurts -- you can make lots of different dwelling configurations and bolt them together. A bit pricey though, the free-standing one-module model is $59,500, and that doesn't include all the work you have to do to get electrical and plumbing in there.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I'll see YOU over on the couch


I turned on the charm, laid back these flappy ears and wagged my tail, and damn if someone didn't spring me from the joint! It's very exciting. I hope they have a decent couch, or at least sprung for an Isaac Mizrahi dog bed from Target. Funny thing, though, I went to lick my nuts this morning and they're gone! What do you make of that? Oh well. I have to concentrate my efforts on finding someone's bed to sleep in at night, and endearing myself into some really expensive chow, or even better, table scraps. Then I can go look for my nuts. See ya!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Get me outta here!


I'm at the East Valley Shelter, ID #A771906, and you can find me at www.petharbor.com, East Valley Shelter site. I will be ready for adoption in 2 days. TWO long days. I was found with no tags, and despite signs no one has come for me.

I'm part Chihuahua, part dachsund and maybe some mini-pinscher, which accounts for my outstanding good looks.

I have my jingle bells, they need to come off because at the moment I would hump absolutely anything. The shelter will be taking care of that. I love everyone though. Well, except cats, and birds, and well, the idiots who found me weren't pleased that I tried to chase and eat their pets. They won't let anything bad happen to me and are monitoring me, but who needs them anyway, they can keep their overgrown bastard of a cat and little yellow bird. Take me home, feed me something, hold me because I like that, and I will be your best buddy. I am housetrained, very well mannered and love every person I meet. Look at this face, would I lie?

Chainsaw Chick

Check out Cherie Currie, formerly of the runaways, on the cover of the Daily News, doing chainsaw sculptures. Rocker chick wielding a chainsaw, now THAT's how you get the 18-24 male demo, ladies and gentlemen.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ilene is here

Thanks to Ilene, my much better half, for writing about Vista Ford and the Woodland Hills area way back when. Anything past Encino seemed like a foreign country to me in the 1970s, and there were certainly no pastures of any kind in Van Nuys and North Hollywood at that time.

Look for Ilene's other blogs, Drawerspace in a Cluttered Mind and Food Smack for more good writing, including her master's thesis on antioxidants in rooibos tea, a noncaffeinated beverage from South Africa. (Nothing is perfect, unless you don't like caffeine -- and in that case, what's wrong with you?) Rooibos is surprisingly good-tasting, especially the unfermented or "green" kind. Since rooibos means red bush (at this rate I'll be speaking Afrikaans by morning), green red-bush tea, as a beverage name, would seem to pose a marketing problem. I also say this because we can only find one kind of green rooibos on the shelves, and that is a rooibos-honeybush blend made by Numi that Whole Foods carries. Try it -- it's probably one of the best herbal teas out there.

Vista in the Valley

Woodland Hills, 1949, courtesy the CSUN Oviatt Library digital collection.

Steve Shuken, the founder of Vista Ford on Ventura near Canoga, has died. In his obit, it says that he opened the place in 1974. I was raised in the West San Fernando Valley, and it must have been funny to open a place in that spot back then.

It was pretty damned nice, but fairly rural. I was still a squirt in 1974, and we'd hop on the traffic-free 101 for a few stops to the Canoga exit to get to Topanga Plaza. At the bottom of the exit there were horses in a very large pasture (now the Warner Center apts that were just converted to condos with some more fabulous sounding name). Kaiser Permanente's rather large campus off DeSoto was a corn field. Pierce College had more acres of unencumbered farm land.

Topanga Plaza, now in the process of becoming a behemoth Westfield Shopping City was a big deal -- an enclosed, air conditioned mall that featured (to us kids) a "fountain" that dripped beads of oil down large strings suspended from the ceiling. It was surrounded by a circular rainbow tiled floor (!) and my sister and I pondered it a lot as kids after a trip to The Jolly Roger, where it was dark, foreboding and at one time they even had a magician who my sister called "The Man Magic" after the Heart song (She was 3 at the time).

As you can see, 25 years or so before Steve moved in with his Fords, it was pretty much farmland. Our house in the Van Nuys went up that year. Thirty-two years later and it's a suburban metropolis by comparison. I'm not entirely against progress, but a little nostalgic about the open space. Let's hope that they keep Pierce from becoming some horrible development. Meanwhile, Burt Boeckman might be rubbing his hands together over at Galpin Ford. We bought a car there, and the employees were swell, but I hope Vista stays open because Mr. Shuken ran his service dept. a bit better. Bye Mr. Shuken, we're glad you came to the party.

Dutton's North Hollywood is closing

L.A. Observed reports via the Daily News' Dennis McCarthy that Dutton's Bookstore in North Hollywood is closing after 45 years in business.

I remember spending many hours of my youth at this great, unkempt mismash of books on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Magnolia boulevards. I'd pedal a mile and a half or so from our North Hollywood house, lock my Schwinn 10-speed out front next to the boxes of stuff they were trying to blow out the door, and head in to see what I could discover. I wouldn't call the layout logical, and it certainly bore no resemblance to a modern-day Borders or Barnes & Noble.

At Dutton's, books were (and probably still are) stacked on the floor in such a way as to allow minimal passage for a human book-seeker, used volumes mingling with new and shelved two-deep in a chaotically beautiful series of corners, warrens and nooks. (If there's a difference between a warren and a nook, I'd sure like to know, but it just is so English-languagy to use both, no matter what they mean.)

I discovered Charles Bukowski among those shelves, as well as numerous (and more dubious) authors in science fiction, along with everything from impenetrable literary criticism and philosophy to music, science, history and more. I'd also pick up the New York Times Book Review there for something like 50 cents. Yep, I was more high-minded in those days (but no so high-mined as to have any interest at all in the New York Review of Books).

Owner Davis Dutton was a nearly constant presence at the store and didn't seem to mind the hours of browsing that only led to a few minutes of actual buying. You really could get lost in the store's far back recesses.

The North Hollywood never got the publicity that the other Dutton's in Brentwood (independently owned by Davis' brother Doug) sought, and that's too bad, but they really were different kinds of stores, the Valley one being a whole lot more scrappy and just simply packed with books.

I'm not much for used-book buying these days -- it's more about getting rid of stuff then acquiring more, and the North Hollywood area isn't exactly on my current itinerary (which runs more through Van Nuys' Bargain Books, which I hope stays open a long while), but for the whole Valley, the closing of Dutton's is a loss, to be sure.

Seems like nobody was crazy enough to buy Dutton's, but I somehow wish there was such a person. Guess if you're rich, you're not so crazy as to get into the retail book business ...