Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Ilene is better at the Sudoku puzzle than I am. I file Sudoku under "too hard, head hurts," for the most part. By following the puzzle's rules, it is possible, by process of elimination, to figure out where one missing number goes, then another, and so on, until the puzzle is complete. That works for the easy ones. But in the harder puzzles, you reach an impass very quickly, and that technique no longer works. You can't find a single 3x3 grid in which there aren't multiple possibilities for every missing number. So what do you do? Guess? Or is there another technique?

Not that I'm going there myself, but there is more than one way to skin the Sudoku, as Wikipedia illustrates. And for a look at the mathematical implications of Sudoku, try American Scientist Online, which also includes some history on the puzzle, and how it was probably invented by an American way before it became a nationwide obsession in both Japan and the U.K.

If I was better at these kinds of puzzles, I would probably be a mathematician, theoretical physicist, or, at the least, grooming-challenged eccentric.

To check the New York Times Crossword Puzzle here at the Daily News, I have to figure out at least two clues to make sure the grid matches the clues, and let me tell you, that's sometimes pretty difficult.

We also run the poker column by Chicago Tribune writer Steve Rosenbloom. I can pretty much figure out what's going on, but poker is so jargon-heavy, I think you have to watch about 20 hours of it on TV before you can speak the language (and no, I haven't done that and furthermore won't do it).


Update: More Boing Boing readers use Firefox than IE.

Do you have Firefox? It's rapidly becoming a must. On the Mac, the Blogger is one of the sites that works somewhat with Internet Explorer 5, a bit better with Safari but only functions fully with Firefox.

The move away from IE and toward Firefox, especially for Mac, is being hastened by Microsoft's announcement that it will no longer support IE for Mac, with the reasoning being that they're unwilling to put any resources into it now that all Apple computers ship with Safari.

And for those still using OS 9 on the Mac, there's NO Firefox or Safari (both are available for OS X only). You have to stick with the aging IE 5, or possibly Netscape. It's getting to the point where pre-OS X Mac users can't really use the Web properly, since many developers are assuming that you have Firefox or IE 7 (which will never make it to Mac).

I like Firefox and all the things you can do on Blogger with it, like WYSIWYG for photos, bolding and italic, block quotes and more. But Safari is still faster for the Mac, and I can only hope that Blogger's promise to fully support the Apple program comes through eventually. And if Firefox gets even more stable, I might be able to live with the slowness at startup.

Speed and stability are my No. 1 and other No. 1 criteria for a Web browser -- quickness is everything, and I don't want it to ever crash. And for Mac, Safari beats Firefox on this count.

Meanwhile, Firefox seemingly went from nowhere to a major player, and I have no idea how Microsoft is going to counter it.

For Mac users, I hope Apple doesn't give up on Safari. And at least ONE of these developers should take pity on users of pre-OS X Macs and offer an updated browser.

Does Microsoft's abandonment of IE for Mac mean it will do the same for the Office software package? Since Apple is already in that space, too, with its iWork bundle, it could happen. It would be a bad move for Microsoft, but getting out of the Mac browser business -- when surfing the Web is what many computer users do about 99 percent of the time -- seems just as bad.

Friday, December 23, 2005

LAvoice.org has it much worse

Mack Reed of L.A Voice has DSL problems of his own, and he took notice of my broadband journey, which is thankfully complete. I did a speed test last night, after DSL Extreme bumped the line back to 1500 bps, and everything is running better than ever. We can use the Internet and make phone calls at the same time in perfect digital harmony.

For those having trouble with DSL, here are some resources:

For no apparent reason, a picture

of the Fonz on the phone.

For speed tests and techies, disgruntled and not, discussing the fine points of broadband, go to DSL Reports and start digging in.

If you suspect a problem with your inside wiring, want to upgrade your telephone setup or even add a heavy-duty DSL filter that will eliminate your need for those little ones on each line, go to the Phone Man's Home Phone Wiring Advice Page.

And, of course, there's always DSL Extreme, which will provide you with broadband service in areas wired by both SBC and Verizon.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How well do you know YOUR DSL support tech

DSL Extreme has been calling for the last day or so, and I finally caught one of their calls at 8 this morning. Seems my friend Dan wanted to check on how the service was working. I said great, because that's how it is, and he inquired about my Xmas preparations. Sure my name is Rosenberg, but since Christmas and Hanukkah coincide, I'm giving everybody a free pass. Thank you, Jesus and the Maccabees. I inquired about HIS Christmas shopping -- he still has to get something for "the wife." Well, since everything was working, I asked him to bump up our speed from 768 bps to 1500 bps. He checked the line, and since it was working fine, said he would do it.

He calls back 5 minutes later. I pick up the phone, "Hi, it's me," he says. Yes, Dan became a "me" in my life. But now that all is flowing fine on the DSL line (I'll check the speed tonight just to make sure), I expect my relationship with the tech support staff at DSL Extreme will become a more distant one. One can only hope.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

DSL, you complete me

It's been three months or so, but we FINALLY got the DSL working right. I converted our DSL Extreme dialup account to DSL (at $14.95 a month vs. $12.95 for dialup, resistance is futile) At first, we couldn't get a signal at all. I'm not sure what happened, but we did get up and running. But the signal would cut out whenever we picked up a telephone to make or receive a call.

Now I had already dragged the modem, telephone and cables outside to the NID (that's network interface device), unplugged the house's wiring at the test jack and plugged in everything there to eliminate any influence of the household wiring (which the DSL Extreme techs were CONSTANTLY blaming all my problems on, even though I was outside bypassing it entirely). Glad I didn't spend five hours under the house rewiring the phone jacks (all two of 'em) because being under the house is a special thing that should only be done once every two years, and I'd already been under when we had termites last year.

Don't get me wrong, the Billing and Technical Support staff at DSL Extreme (both of which I've had to deal with) are extremely helpful and responsive. But they are loathe to get SBC involved. See, even though DSL Extreme sells the service and has the routers and other techie equipment at their Winnetka, Calif., headquarters, the lines themselves are still the responsibility of SBC (and yes, I could've ordered the DSL through them,.but I liked the DSL Extreme deal and terms better, and I already had an open account with them for the dialup, which was way more rock-solid than any other dialup service we had, including AOL and AT&T). And e-mailing Tech Support with my signal problem was not enough. I had to call them from home and be ready to do wiring and modem gymnastics in order for them to get "a ticket started" with SBC.

"NID," "a ticket started," it's a whole new language.

Finally I bit the bullet on Sunday and called them. First they lowered the speed of the line from 1500 bps to 768, and the line supposedly got more "stable." They figured I was too far from the phone company office. I told them, "Van Nuys is the center of the entire fucking universe, and if we are not close enough to the central office, nobody is.'' Stability be damned, the speed reduction didn't work. We still lost DSL signal when using the phone.

So finally, they agreed to open a ticket with SBC, telling me that there could be a $125 charge if the problem was with my inside wiring. Since I was 100 percent confident that this was not the case, we proceeded to set up an appointment. SBC came a day early, the guy right away went to the phone box (or NID, for those who have been paying attention), got into the "phone company only" part and removed an MPU, which is some kind of electronic circuit that's either supposed to remove interference or alert the phone company when there's a problem on the line. The SBC guy told Ilene that these now-ancient circuits are a real pain in the ass.

Now everything works great. We can talk on the phone and use the Internet simultaneously -- and hopefully DSL Extreme will soon see fit to bump the speed of the line back up to 1500 bps. DSL Extreme offers a speed test on their support page, and it's easy to check up on how fast it's going.

With a little more dogged determination, I could've gotten this all resolved in the first month (I still have to caulk the bottom of the toilet, and we all know how long THAT's been going on -- and I do have all the things I need to complete THAT job), but the thought of having to spend an afternoon on the phone with DSL Extreme wasn't high on my personal list of ways to spend said afternoon, so I delayed.

Still, the tech support from DSL Extreme is pretty good. I've only had to wait on hold once when calling -- there's usually someone on the line to help right away, and for $14.95 per month, it really is a whole new world for those of us who have been stuck with dialup.

So problems notwithstanding, I would recommend DSL Extreme. But the whole process of getting a working line should be easier for those with nary a computer-nerd bone in their bodies. Both SBC and DSL Extreme are praying, when they start a new customer on the service, that everything in the physical setup -- from the telephone pole to the wiring down to the house, the DSL filters, the house wiring, the home computers -- is working fine so they can send a "self-install" kit and not have to physically show up. For newer dwellings and newer computers, this probably works a whole lot better "out of the box," literally and figuratively.

I think when we get to the next generation of broadband, whether through an upgraded fiberoptic network or via wireless, this will all be easier. I suspect that ease already extends to cable Internet service, but I promise you nothing.

Monday, December 19, 2005

L.A. Times does Tom Cruise

The L.A. Times ran a large Tom Cruise/Scientology story Sunday, but the whole affair is just a rehash of pieces that appeared in Radar magazine and on Salon.com

What left me thinking "huh?" in Sunday's L.A. Times piece was all the talk about excessive pampering for Tom Cruise and Scientology leader/Cruise buddy David Miscavige. So what if the leader of a large, profitable religion and its most well-known adherent get a lot of special treatment? And it's no news that the worker bees of Scientology do a whole lot for a little, all the while signing "billion-year contracts." It's also no news that the advanced teachings of Scientology are wacky.

What I want to know about is the money, what happens to the lives of the regular Scientology people, how the lower-level Scientology "celebrities" are treated, and what kind of proselytizing is done in the many Scientology splinter organizations (which, like Narconon, often don't mention Scientology in their names) that are concered with drug abuse, education and especially the organization's fight against psychiatry.

And it took the Times about 40 inches of copy before they mentioned a few other celebrity Scientologists in the context of the religion's recruitment efforts among actors and musicians. In the case of singer Beck, his parents were/are Scientologists, as are/were the parents of current Scientology celebrities Juliette Lewis, Danny and Christopher Masterson, Giovanni Ribisi and Erika Christensen. Would be nice to hear about how celebrities present and hopeful, are treated. Some say that you can get a leg up in Hollywood by joining Scientology and networking through the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood.

Still, kudos to the Times for covering the subject at all, even though I got all I needed from Radar a couple of months ago.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Public radio pays

The silence about public radio salaries either means they're abysmally low or unashamedly high. Are these seemingly dedicated people filling the commercial-free air and shilling for pledge dollars only to live like paupers themselves?

Well, here's something: Laist reveals that KPCC's Larry Mantle, host of "Air Talk," makes $115,000 per year, and Nic Harcourt, keeper of the "rare, live import demo remixes" * for KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" makes "a little over $100,000, all this information presumably gleaned from the stations' annual reports.

Now I don't know about you, but I find $100,000 to be a lot of money, but I don't begrudge it to these guys one bit -- especially Larry Mantle, who I admire very much and who works very hard for that money.

We all know the kind of money Howard Stern and Katie Couric are making. When you're in a certain stratosphere, it's national news. And we all look at and judge the salaries of others through the prism of how much we, ourselves, have earned.

Still, I don't think people knowing that the top public radio on-air talent drags in $100,000 a year will be much of a help to the stations' pledge-drive efforts. And it begs the question: Do these people's salaries have a direct link to their ability to pull in donations, both individual and corporate?

*Neither a direct, nor indirect quote. Just my summation of Nic Harcourt. Have a live, cassette-only B-side remix demo -- on the house!.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Another one rides the bus

It wasn't that big a deal, since I've ridden MTA (and formerly RTD) buses plenty of times in the past, but I did make my maiden Orange Line journey last night. The bus neither struck nor was stricken (is that proper verb conjugation?) by other vehicles, and our driver, whose voice announcing the stops could've been way louder, duitifully slowed down at all intersections.

I hoofed it out of the Daily News about five minutes after 6 o'clock and got to the "transit hub" across from the Promenade mall on Owensmouth Avenue at about 6:15. The bus was idling about 30 yards from the stop, and the lighted signs said it would leave at 6:22 p.m. I bought my ticket from the fancy electronic kiosk with an MTA token, and the bus pulled up right on schedule.

Suprisingly, I was joined by about 20 other people (this is NOT the portion of the day when buses arrive every 5 minutes, but it damn well should be). More people got on with every stop, and it was soon standing room only. And hot. They had the heat cranked up to 79 degrees.

Yes, I carry a thermometer with me at all times. What's it to you?

I couldn't see much -- it was dark outside, and the lights inside the bus make it hard to see out. I sat in one of the "high" seats, about 10 feet ahead of the "bend" in the accordion-style bus. If I looked at the moving floor too long, I started to get bus-sick. So obviously no reading or looking at the floor for me on the Orange Line.

The trip was uneventful. As said before, the driver did call out the stops -- essential at night, because you really can't see much, and the busway is at many points off the beaten (or auto-driven) path.

We arrived at the Van Nuys stop about 6:50 p.m. Not bad, but I wish I could have caught an earlier bus. There were transit cops at the station checking tickets, so anybody who thinks they can get away with not paying, think again.

Then came the choice, should I wait for a bus on Van Nuys, or walk the rest of the way? I hadn't bought a transfer but still had another token. I chose walking, and a good thing, too, because three buses passed me going the wrong way -- and none going the right way. You get to see the neighborhood, too. I witnessed one guy yelling at somebody on a cell phone outside a stretch of storefronts and couldn't help noticing the strong marijuana smell coming from an apartment building.

So I got a brisk walk in on both ends and arrived home about 7 p.m., just in time to feed the kid her nighttime snacks and read her the customary eight books before bed.

Back to the bus: I couldn't figure out where the supposed on-bus bike racks were, and it was so crowded, I wouldn't recommend traveling with a bike anyway.

After dinner, I went to Auto Zone, bought a gas can, filled it up across the street, came home, walked the gas to my car, figured out how the gas can worked and poured the 2 gallons into the Focus. It started, and I drove to the gas station to fill up the rest of the way. Back in the solo-driving business.

Will I ride the Orange Line again. Probably will. Check back with me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Orange Line virgin

Sorry to be late to the party. I missed at least two Orange Line accidents, including one on The Worst Stretch of Road in the Entire East Valley, which is today's pet name for Kester Avenue between Victory Boulevard and Oxnard St. I swear I saw a llama crossing the other day, along with various and sundry produce trucks, bicycles, pedestrians AND Orange Line buses.

Never mind all that. My car is dead. Whenever I go under 1/8 of a tank, it won't run on a cold morning, so it's parked a block away from home awaiting gas. Me, I've got plenty, but nothing that can run an automobile. Ilene gave me a ride this morning, but it's me and the MTA on the way home. Even though I'm hot-blooded (check it and see), Ilene wisely insisted I take a jacket, a garment I've pretty much dispensed with over the last few years (that along with anything long-sleeved, since the Daily News' windowless megabox in Woodland Hills maintains a constant 73 degrees year-round).

After the original hoopla died down, I knew it would take auto-related desperation to get me on the bus. Newly minted daily Orange Line rider and Daily News cops reporter Josh Kleinbaum is NOT riding the bus today, so I will be representing, as it were.

Notice how you can deflect the absurdity of a white guy using rap phraseology by following it with as it were? Trust me, you can. Peace out, as it were.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Meeting the neighbors

Ilene has a great post on how we're meeting the neighbors. It's definitely been getting more Mayberry-like in our corner of Van Nuys, partially because our kid is so darned cute ... also because of the rash of daytime robberies. This led to a Neighborhood Watch meeting with somewhere between 70 and 100 attendees who listened to our senior lead officer talk about what the LAPD is doing to stop the robberies and who/what to look out for.

Whatever the reason, when it comes to strolling the neighborhood, there's a lot more stopping, chatting, dog-petting, ball playing, flower picking and baked-goods-exchanging going on lately.

The Honda Civic

Aaron of Partial Transcripts reads the Toyota Camry rants and wonders what kind of person drives a Honda Civic. He asks, presumably, because he has one.

Now I've owned two Honda Civics over the years. The first being a 1979, which looked much like the one pictured above. That Civic and today's model bear little resemblance. Cars back then were much smaller. Over the past 20 years, the size of small cars has gotten bigger and bigger -- just look at what's happened to Hondas and Toyotas over that time.

This Civic was small. It was dwarfed by whatever car was parked next to it. Being so tiny, it was easy to lose in a parking lot between two normal-sized cars.

It took unleaded or regular gas, although the cheaper leaded variety tended to gum up the carbuerator. Said carbuerator also cut off the flow of fuel on sharp turns, stalling the vehicle as it swung around the corner into the California State University Northridge "A" lot. The tape deck duitifully included an alternator whine that went up and down with engine RPMs. And above 60 MPH, the whole thing would shake uncontrollably.

Then there was the time I removed the back seats and the passenger seat, built a wooden platform and slept in the damn thing for awhile. What a car.

It eventually met an untimely (or was it timely) end on the 110 Freeway downtown.

In between I got a sweet 1978 VW Bus, another untimely end there, too, but after that I got a 1983 Honda Civic Wagon with 80,000 miles on it. It was the last model of that Civic redesign phase, and was just a great car, running until about 160,000. It needed a new engine and some bodywork, and wouldn't come anywhere near passing the smog test. At that time, the state was buying back "gross polluters," so I got the paperwork done, took it to a wrecking yard in Sun Valley, and they gave me about $500, which I put toward my current car, a 2001 Ford Focus, which, on the surface seems like a better car than the Civic (except for gas mileage, which is a bit low at 21-24 MPG).

You see, round about the 1990s, the Civic (and Hondas in general) got pretty boring. And the domestics started beating them in price and just about matching them in quality. Reputation aside, a Honda is just a car. I went through my share of water pumps, clutches, transmissions, thermoswitches, alternators, even radio antennas, and more -- like any car.

The 2006 Civic looks a lot better (and is available as a hybrid), and Honda has that cool/quirky Element, so all is not lost. Maybe Honda can get back some of that '80s mojo. I haven't checked the prices. It'll be 10 more years and 150,000 or so total miles, auto gods willing, before I need or want a new car.

You need a newspaper

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but it never got posted. The numbers have probably changed, but no newspaper fairy has sprinkled any pixie dust on anyone, that's for sure, given the latest news about layoffs at the Tribune papers, including the L.A. Times.

According to L.A. Observed (via password-protected L.A. Business Journal):

Weekday circulation at the Daily News fell 5.1% to 169,379.

L.A. Times down to 843,432 (or 869,819, depending on who you ask), a drop of about 3.6% to 3.7%.

As an employee of one of these publications, I think what these newspapers do is often vital and entertaining, comprehensive in a way that television news is not -- and simply the vital trunk from which blogs like these form the weaker, more annoying branches.

Ah, the convenience of taking the newspaper with you to the breakfast table, the local Starbucks, even the bathroom -- surely a place no laptop need venture.

And newspapers are changing. They want to be relevant, and nobody has their head in the sand. Nobody's talking about the magazine business closing up shop because people like to read things on the Web for free. All print media, newspapers and magazines alike, is experimenting with the right mix of paper, traditional Web pages, blogs, e-mail, even cell-phone-delivered news, to figure out the best way to grow their news business.

I will say one thing. You will be smarter if you read a newspaper daily. At least you will seem smarter, and that's what counts, isn't it?

Bush's second term in the crapper

(Another old post that for some reason didn't make it until now)
Do poll numbers really matter when you never have to face re-election again? President Bush's overall approval rating is down to 37 percent, according to the latest
    last month's
USA Today/CNN Gallup Poll. Approval on his handling of terrorism -- Bush's bread (guns) and butter issue -- 48 percent. Approval on Iraq, 35 percent. The economy, 37 percent.

Love him or hate him, it's not looking good. And reports are that Bush's inner circle continues to isolate him from dissenting voices. He also hasn't spoken out about the Rove/Libby Plamegate situation, nor has he cleaned house. This is the kind of disaffected, remote president that can be used as fodder for Democratic gains in the 2006 elections. The GOP needs a clear, emphatic and engaged leader to convince voters to stick with them through to 2008. The Democrats need that too (and no, Howard Dean does not qualify).

So whichever party nails down a clear, consistent philosophy and plan for where they want to take the country -- AND gets a viable presidential candidate out front to articulate that vision -- stands a good chance of dominating Washington beginning in 2008.

Pick that up -- and put it down PROPERLY

(My favorite line from the film of "A Clockwork Orange" that is in the movie but not the book)

Who knows what evil lurks beneath your plumbing. Adee-do. And I do, too.

Licensed tradesmen are not in the budget, so we take care of the plumbing ourselves, and the toilet has been leaking out of the base -- between the toilet and the drain pipe.

I'm no virgin in this department. Upon moving in 10 years ago, Ilene and I, after first flush with the supplied water closet (that's what it's called "across the pond," as it were) immediately hoofed it to Home Depot and picked out a new American Standard (which is, as I learned Sunday upon examining its underbelly, was made in Costa Rica), got a wax ring (which up to that point I'd never heard of), picked up the old bowl, dropped the new one in, assembled the tank and lived happily ever after ... until recently that is.

Yes, Ilene told me that something suspicious was happening down there, and yes, I initially wrote it off to "condensation" (we're living in CALIFORNIA -- THERE IS NO CONDENSATION), but it did get me to keep an eye on it, and I saw the error of my ways.

This time I planned. I got all the parts I'd need -- new wax ring, new "johnny bolts" (attaches toilet to floor), new seals and bolts for tank, plus adhesive grout with which to replace tiles (two pieces of concrete "wonderboard," upon which the tile sits, meet there, and it has cracked all the way across).

Disclaimer: When we had the tile put in by A LOUSY INSTALLER WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS (principally because I forgot his name), he had to remove the toilet and re-attach it to do the job, so I blame this all on him.

I figured I would knock out the bad tiles that were half-under the toilet while I had the bowl and tank in pieces on the floor, then wait for the tiles to dry an hour or so and then replace the bowl.

Now in plumbing, as in all home repairs, there's a lot that can go wrong (remember the sink trap I tried to remove but which disintegrated as soon as I turned the nut?).

First I turned the water off outside (the little shutoff to the toilet stopped working long ago -- those things REALLY don't work), then flushed all the water out and unbolted the tank. Then I removed the nuts from what are called the "Johnny bolts," which attach the toilet to the floor and the flange around the waste line.

I had towels ready and laid the bowl on its side next to the tank (I eventually took both outside -- it gets mighty crowded with toilet parts everywhere).

Yeah, it was a little leaky, all right. I spent a long time cleaning up, wearing one of many pairs of latex gloves and using ample bleach. The subfloor appeared to be in good shape, the tiles, though cracked, were still stuck down pretty good, so I decided NOT to chisel them out and replace, mostly because I'd have to cut the new tiles in order to fit them around the toilet flange. And in a one-bathroom house, you've don't have the luxury of leaving the toilet unassembled -- A household of three needs somewhere to, shall we say, conduct business, if you get my meaning. If you don't, you probably have more than one bathroom.

I had all new hardware, Johnny bolts and tank bolts and washers, plus a new wax ring -- which attaches between the bowl and the toilet flange to keep things water-tight. Now these wax rings last about 10 years, the package says, so I guess it was time. But it's probably sufficient to watch for leaks at the base of the toilet and around the Johnny bolts (that was our first clue), and for those as fanatical as myself, to get under the house (provided you have a raised foundation) at least once a year to check all your drains and pipes for leaks. It's great exercise crawling under a house, believe me.

So I got the wax ring on, firmly attached the bowl to the flange, squished the wax around as instructed, then put the nuts on the Johnny bolts, taking care to tighten them -- but not so tight that I broke the bowl (a disaster that can only be remedied with a trip to Home Depot for a new toilet). Then I bolted the tank to the bowl, reattached the water line, turned the water back on and FLUSHED, checking for leaks between tank and bowl, and bowl and floor.

All looked good. We had a toilet, if not an uncracked tile floor. I also reattached the toilet seat better -- it doesn't wobble so much now.

Sitting on the toilet, however, I did hear a "clop." I'd hoped to avoid caulking around the base, but it turns out the floor is not exactly level, and the toilet was rocking slightly, so I stuck a few folded-up magazine-subscription cards (1,001 uses for those) into the gap to level it out. And I will caulk the base, then remove the cards and caulk where they were, but I'm just so glad to have a non-leaking toilet ...

I will finish the job, I promise. But after rebuilding the shower valves, snaking the bathroom sink (a hair-clog magnet) and figuring out how to hook up our portable dishwasher (thanks, Mom!), all I have to do is fix the leaky kitchen faucet (a Dishmaster ... now that's another rant for another time), I'm taking a break from amateur plumbing. Nothing's leaking TOO much, after all.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Daily News begins blogging

It's starting out slow, but blogging has begun over here in the Daily News Features department, where I ply my copy-editing trade. It's kind of hard to find at the moment, but hopefully that will change soon -- and I hate when one graf of a post appears and you have to click to get the rest. That's what I hate most about L.A. Voice, too, which I otherwise think is pretty great, by the way.

In today's entry, the wonderful Valerie Kuklenski challenges readers to guess who the anonymous torsos are in the new Oscar posters. We'd all love to know.

Anyway, the Daily News blog is called Red Carpet, presumably to compete with the L.A. Times' much-hyped The Envelope, which, among its "stable" of writers includes recently-ex Daily News Tinseltown Spywitness correspondent Elizabeth Snead. She bequeathed the Daily News column to her husband, Joel Stratte-McClure, but they supposedly troll (or is it trawl?) the beat together. Sounds like a sitcom pitch, no?

Elizabeth wrote a great story for us on her double hip replacement. She's 52, but sure doesn't look it (no pictures with the story online, unfortunately). She had a new, minimally invasive form of the surgery that they don't offer at Cedars-Sinai. Her recovery was swift, to be sure:

Even with an attentive husband/nurse, the first week home was challenging. But I did twice-daily neighborhood walks, tossed one crutch at day five and the other at day nine. At week three, I was swimming with a kickboard in the West Hollywood pool and seeing personal trainer/therapist Paul Drew. He'd long treated traditional hip replacement surgery patients and observed traditional HRS but devised a new drill for me, his first anterior client.

"The anterior surgery lets you rotate your hips at all angles with no fear of dislocation," Drew told me. "Using fitness balls and bands, you'll be able to restore your balance, strength and flexibility much faster."

I got back on track - weights, yoga and spin classes - fast. And at six weeks, I hiked the French Riviera, climbed the Maui volcano and snorkeled the Molokini Crater.

Mannnn. That's the jet-setting life all right. Double hip replacement, then traveling around the world. Such is the life of a high-powered gossip columnist.

So that's why over 100 people have looked here today

Turns out this blog was listed in the box alongside today's blogging story in the L.A. Times. I even read the story online -- after discovering that Cathy Seipp ripped it and its writer a new one -- but didn't bother to even look at the side of the screen. Daily News film critic Glenn Whipp says to me, "What's the name of your blog? Didn't you get mentioned in the L.A. Times today?" I said, "I don't think so, I read the story and didn't see anything." But a check of the Bravenet referrers (Ilene clued me in on how to do that) reveals that tons of people are coming here from Calendar Live.

Anyway, nice to see you. Do stay for a spell.

Orange Line vs. pickup truck

I knew something was up when the helicopters were hovering over Van Nuys and Robert Blake wasn't on trial for anything.

An Orange Line bus and a pickup truck collided at Kester Avenue at 6:30 a.m. today. Here's the full story from Channel 4:

LOS ANGELES -- A Metro Orange Line bus and a pickup truck collided Thursday on a busway in Van Nuys, and two ambulances were sent to the scene, authorities said. Following the collision, aerial video showed that the bus ended up with its front end up against a building.

The ambulances were sent to Oxnard Street and Kester Avenue at 6:30 a.m., said Ron Myers of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The circumstances of the crash were under investigation. The collision is the latest involving the reticulated buses, which recently went into service along a limited-access roadway.

Channel 4 even has this image gallery.

The latest I heard from flipping through TV channels is one injury.
    Three injuries.

Can't remember if I've blogged on this street before, but Kester Avenue between Victory Boulevard and Oxnard Street (the bus crosses just north of Oxnard) is one of the busiest, most unpredictible and dangerous stretches of roadway in the entire Valley. You have to drive it every day, know it and respect its capricious nature to avoid an accident. The area is at once heavily populated, crowded with auto repair shops, and a major crossing for trucks, cars, bicycles, strollers, darting children, and now giant buses.

We've called it the Valley's own "Paper Boy" game, for those familiar with the video-game equivalent.

You have to really watch out, drive cautiously and know anything can happen.

Still, the TRAFFIC LIGHT at the busway, which is clearly marked with a sign that says "Busway," makes it plain that YOU NEED TO STOP WHEN THE BUS IS COMING AND THE LIGHT IS RED.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Columnist back from the brink

Via Romenesko, from the Chicago Sun-Times. Neil Steinberg begins this way:

THOSE COLUMNS I WROTE ABOUT MY HOME LIFE OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS WERE NOT A LIE. I really live in a rambling old house with a pair of eager, mischievous boys and a pretty, wisecracking wife. We really remodeled our kitchen on a pharaonic scale. We really have three cats.

But the stories in the newspapers (and on TV, and radio) last month were also true. I probably shouldn't say that. But you have come to expect a certain candor in this space and now does not seem the time to change. I got drunk and slapped my wife during an argument. I immediately knew it was a mistake -- I used to say that if I ever hit Edie, I would draw back a bloody stump, and that wasn't far from what happened. She called the cops, they came, clapped me into handcuffs and hauled me off to jail. When I asked her later why she had to have me arrested, she said, "Nobody hits me, buddy." Pithy as always.


The next day in court my wife made a statement that can be accurately condensed as "He drinks too much and needs help." When she had tried, again and again and again, to tell me that in previous years, I would always muster my charm, lie low a few days and wriggle out. Drinking was what I did, who I was, my comfort and my joy and I wasn't about to give it up for any lecturing wife. But after 14 sleepless hours behind bars, I passionately wanted to get out, and when the judge offered me the choice of going through the fine rehab program inside the Cook County Jail, or somewhere else outside, I eagerly opted for the latter.

Go to the link above for the rest.

The dream is alive

David Letterman has Starbucks coffee pumped directly to his desk.

In order to make this work, they need to insulate the tubing so the beverage remains hot on its journey.

From the Letterman site, via Starbucks Gossip, which, curiously is run by Jim Romenesko of the vastly more famous media site:

Dave is thirsting for some Starbucks coffee and tonight, to satisfy his desire, we rigged up something really special. From the Starbucks across the street and down the block, we have a direct link via 550 feet of clear plastic tubing. Dave has a spigot at his desk. The source is in Starbucks. The power to get the coffee from Starbucks to Dave's desk is supplied by a nitrogen tank at Starbucks. We turn on the camera at Starbucks and meet and greet Brad Simanski at the counter. ...

When all is ready, Brad the Barista turns on the power and Dave's decaf coffee is sent on its way. The camera follows the coffee leaving the n/e c/o 54th and Broadway. Across 54th is goes, then across Broadway, through the Ed Sullivan Theater doors, through the lobby, down the side of the theater and to the spigot. Dave turns on the faucet to enjoy a nice delicious cup of Starbucks. Complains the customer; "It's too cold." This technology is still in its infancy stage and portions still need to be worked out. Over all, though, a success. The coffee from Starbucks was a success. Big money was lost on this bit. No, not on the creating of the whole thing . . . but on the money bet that it wouldn't work. It was rehearsed once with a modicum of success. For the show, we were very happy with the results.

Robert Hilburn takes a buyout

L.A. Times music critic Robert Hilburn is taking a buyout but will still freelance for the paper, L.A. Observed reports.

Back in the days before the Web, in the late '70s, I looked to the Times and Hilburn for my pop-musical education and was introduced to the wonders of punk rock through its pages. Yes, in those days the Times was somewhat ahead of the curve. It was before the L.A. Weekly became a big force, and all the local clubs -- the Starwood, the Roxy, the Whisky -- would advertise in the Sunday Calendar.

The whole Dylan and Springsteen fixation was annoying yet amusing; it's been a newsroom game over the years to count the grafs until one of them is mentioned in just about any Hilburn story, no matter who or what the subject. Still, he remains a legend.

The most fascinating person of 2005


HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, nee Camilla Parker Bowles, was named the most fascinating person of 2005 in the world of Barbara Walters on last night's prime-time special.

My pick, Jon Stewart, didn't even make the list. Well, I guess he was more fascinating last year.

I almost forgot the show was on and didn't start taping until the halfway point. Most of the interviews were EXTREMELY short, and there was no Camilla chat. Is that the way it always is with the "most fascinating person" -- no interview? That way they're not tipped off as to their fascination, I suppose.

Yeah, Camilla is plenty fascinating all right, having caught Prince Charles' eye some decades ago, not being suitable, but carrying on an affair for years and finally marrying him some years after the death of Princess Diana. Sure, the prince of Wales is pretty much an idiot, but she's gotta be comfortable with that, having known him all these years.

Here's the screwiest take on the list, from the Manufacturers Blog:

The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2005: Barbara Walters Misses the Boat

The Blogger-in-Chief was hesitant to write on this topic, so it looks like his humble apprentice gets the leftover scraps.

We were only just slightly annoyed when we turned on ABC last night to watch the Barbara Walters' (anybody remember Barbara WaWa?) special, "The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2005."

We waited in great anticipation through the entire hour-long special to see if she decided to lump a manufacturer--any manufacturer--into her list.


Here was her "list" of "fascinating people":

Dakota Fanning
Jamie Foxx
Condoleezza Rice
Teri Hatcher
Thomas Mesereau
Lance Armstrong
Beth Holloway-Twitty
Tom Cruise
Kanye West
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Wup dee do. Kinda lame, if you ask us.

A couple questions:

Where are the manufacturers in that list? We only make everything that these "fascinating" people use everyday.

What was Barbara Walters' criteria?Perhaps these people were chosen because many are considered popular and "cool?" Manufacturers are cool too, ya know. We even make cool stuff. In fact, this blog has a whole section on Cool Stuff Being Made.

When was the last time Barbara Walters went on a plant tour? We think if she went on one, she'd surely find it fascinating.

Loyal readers of this blog (both of you) will recall that when People magazine listed their Hottest Beach Bodies we called for a boycott because not one manufacturer was included in that list.

Somebody should call for a boycott of Barbara Walters.

Any takers?

Oh, and Barbara, 2005 isn't over yet. There's still a month to go, by our count. Anytime you want to amend the list, we'll happily invite ourselves.

By the way, Cool Stuff Being Made is, indeed, cool. Today's movie is on makin' bacon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

L.A. Observed is back out of commission


L.A. Observed is back. The explanation herein. The world can continue to spin on its axis.

"Bandwidth limit exceeded," is the message I get when I go to L.A. Observed. Guess you can be too popular. Hope Kevin Roderick gets it sorted out soon -- it's like we're in the dark here.

Mack Reed elaborates and sympathizes at L.A. Voice.

This underscores the order I go in. Fire up the browser, go to L.A. Observed, then L.A. Voice, the two best sites for this particular city. And even though L.A. Voice is billed as a community of bloggers, it's pretty much Mack who pulls the freight. L.A. Observed is all Kevin, of course. A great job done by both gentlemen, and quite a public service as well.

Here in Van Nuys on leaf blowers

Andrew defends leaf blowers, on the grounds that they offer a tangible benefit along with their noise and pollution.

Our gardener (yes, we have a gardener, don't start with me), Larry, has a rather quiet leaf blower, but it's a blower nonetheless. I'm ambivalent -- those things sure do work -- but I also have a broom.

I also favor letting leaves stay where they fall and/or moving them into my compost bin. Composting is the best thing we can do to both fortify the garden and dispose of organic wastes (both yard and kitchen varieties) with maximum efficiency -- no truck needed to haul it away, all processing done by critters and micro-organisms.

I'm off track and not betting. So goodbye.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Holiday hell week

Any week that includes a "day off" holiday is HELL WEEK at the Daily News. For the privilege of having a day away, we spend an entire week inundated with extra work and earlier deadlines, no time to breathe.

And there's not enough free food here. Just as well, since I could stand to drop a few pounds. (I've gained 5 to 10 pounds since I returned here in 2002 for my most-recent Daily News stint. It's a long story, but I have worked here three separate times.)

So that's why posting is low to nonexistant at present. I know you all want to hear about my toilet repairs, why I'm pissed off about winshield wiper refills and how the dry weather is affecting the inside of my nose, but it'll have to wait.

Until then, all the best to you and yours for the happiest (blah, blah, blah) of Thanksgivings. Vegetarians that we are, we will be feasting on this, made by Ilene from the new Real Food Daily Cookbook.

The great Real Food Daily restaurant offers full Thanksgiving meals, praised in this case by Laist.
Alas, it's too late to order, but if you drop by in Santa Monica or West Hollywood, you can probably get yourself a nice plate of faux turkey breast, potatoes and more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

L.A. Times cutting 85 jobs

L.A. Observed has the memo. L.A. Voice says it's going to hit the copy desk the hardest because LAT is heavier there than other Tribune Co. papers.

Deadline to apply for a "separation package" (a.k.a. buyout) is Nov. 25 (a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Orange Line: Honeymoon phase?

Daily News staffer Lisa Mascaro looks at the zeitgeist of the Orange Line, with Joel Kotkin offering the following:

The (Red Line) subway, Kotkin reminds, carries only a fraction of its projected ridership more than a decade after it opened.

"They go through an early honeymoon period where everyone takes it," Kotkin said about shiny-new commuter lines. "Try it in three months. When the Red Line started, there were all sorts of people in ties and jackets."

He thinks Orange Line supporters should see the busway for what it is - a cheap alternative to rail for transit-dependent people - and not fantasize that the Valley is a new center of world-class urbanity.

"We're not talking about sashaying on the Champs-Elysses," he said. "If people want to get all enthused about it, that's great. ... Cafes and dancing seals at every stop? That's not what you're going to get."

Forget the "dancing seals," but a lot could happen along the busway, both commercial and residential. And yes, your friends from Starbucks and Coffee Bean could be a part of it.

Kotkin doubts middle-class riders will trade their cars for buses in great numbers in the long run.

But he still thinks the Orange Line should be extended to crisscross the Valley and go out to Thousand Oaks - since busways are so much cheaper than rail lines. The Orange Line's original plans included similar north-south busways near Canoga Avenue and Van Nuys Boulevard.

Van Nuys Boulevard, especially, is primed for a busway. The street is WIDE because the famed Red Cars used to travel along tracks in the middle of the street. All MTA has to do is reclaim the median.

Now I know Zev Yaroslavsky is set on Canoga Avenue, but I think the second north-south busway should be on Reseda Boulevard.

On the Ventura Boulevard end, you would hit Tarzana and the Tarzana portion of Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, then head by the park at Victory Boulevard (and the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, which is nowhere near Sherman Oaks, by the way), by a whole bunch of businesses, including the hub at Sherman Way and eventually up to California State University Northridge -- which is notoriously hard to reach by bus in a timely manner. After that, head up to the 118 Freeway.

Next candidate for an east-west line (besides Ventura Boulevard, which MUST be dealt with at some point) would be Nordhoff Street, which takes in Panorama City to the East, CSUN and the Northridge Mall farther West. Ideally it would head south where Nordhoff hits Corbin Avenue and eventually link to the Orange Line around Victory.

L.A. Times cuts itself, reports on it, too

The L.A. Times cuts its Outdoors section. Can't say I love reading about catching trout and bagging elk, but that seems ominous. Again, the Times seems to say more than it seemingly shoud, what with morale and all:

There will be further cuts at The Times in coming weeks, (Dean) Baquet said, but he declined to elaborate.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A painful play on words

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley on Oprah:

She is a media mogul who is to self-improvement what Martha Stewart is to home entertaining, but Winfrey's multiple personalities -- celebrity confidante, self-help evangelist and benefactress to the needy -- are unmatched. She is her own version of a U.N. educational and cultural organization: "O"-nesco.


How about exchanging names first?

Seen on Craigslist: The hot brunette at Coffee Bean on Hollywood Blvd - m4w - 32

Nanny Nanny Nanny Nanny

How many nannies does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Seriously, if you want to know what's really going on out there, look here.

Opinions on the L.A. Times Opinion firings

No love lost at Laist. And Mack Reed of L.A. Voice is pro-Scheer but anti-Ramirez.

Mickey Kaus is pro-Ramirez and, curiously, both pro and extremely anti-Scheer at the same time:

I would have kept Robert Scheer, though. He's an annoying egomaniac, certain of his own authority even when he's wackily wrong. I remember him assuring me, shortly after 9/11, that we would discover it was the work of a rogue European cell and not Osama bin Laden. He once attacked my parents. (That was in the course of reviewing my book.) If I could press a magic button and end his career I probably would. But the op-ed page is a good place to explore alternative universes--that's better than just "piling on," as Maureen Dowd recently described her role. And Scheer is a skilled polemicist who's right more often than a stopped clock. (Though it's close, as Jackie Mason would say.)

Laist experiences the Orange Line

Laist rides the bus. Also with tips and some cool pictures. A quote:

The local papers can't get enough of The Orange Line. The Daily News ran what seems like their hundredth front page story on the new transitway today and the Times took it to the editorial page making the case for more parking at the orange line/red line transfer location. LAist rode the Orange line for the first time last week and was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable the ride was. It felt a little like riding BART up north and gave us the opportunity to see parts of the valley we don't normally get to enjoy when we're in the car avoiding distracted cell phone drivers and aggressive red light runners along Victory Boulevard. The Route is actually pretty darn attractive.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Has a Pulitzer, gets fired anyway

I thought winning the Pulitzer Prize was a guarantee of lifelong employment and untold riches. But the L.A. Times is firing political cartoonist Michael Ramirez (emphasis below is mine, especially on the word "discontinuing"). One thing you gotta give the Times credit for is letting the two fired guys be quoted. You don't see that happening very often:

In a major shake-up of its editorial pages, the Los Angeles Times announced Thursday that it was discontinuing one of its most liberal columnists as well as its conservative editorial cartoonist.

Editorial Page Editor Andrés Martinez said that Robert Scheer, a Times reporter for 17 years before he began writing a column on the Op-Ed pages in 1993, will be dropped. Cartoonist Michael Ramirez, The Times' cartoonist since 1997, will leave the paper at the end of the year and will not be replaced.


Scheer and Ramirez said Thursday that they believed their strong political stances played a role in their dismissals.

Scheer said he thought The Times had grown tired of his liberal politics. "I've been a punching bag for Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh for years and I think the paper finally collapsed," he said. He said he and Ramirez "both had strong opinions and [I think] the owners think they can improve circulation by making the paper bland and safer."

Ramirez, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, said: "I can't help but think it's also a philosophical parting of ways." He said he also believed his removal was partly due to budgetary concerns, as well as a desire to change the look of the editorial pages.

Ramirez's departure leaves The Times without a permanent staff editorial cartoonist. (Ramirez's predecessor, Paul Conrad, won three Pulitzer Prizes, two of them at The Times).

"You have a newspaper that has such a grand tradition of editorial cartooning," Ramirez said. "I think it makes a lesser product and I think the readers lose."


Ramirez's cartoons will continue to appear in The Times through December. After that, he said, his cartoons will continue to be syndicated by Copley News Service, which has distributed them since 1988.

I grew up with Paul Conrad's L.A. Times cartoons, and he formed and shaped my opinion of what a good editorial cartoon should be. There was a level of sophistication that was and is lacking in the work most other cartoonists -- and I had no idea because I only knew from Conrad, who won three Pulitzers.

And while I'm thinking about it, Paul Conrad is STILL drawing cartoons, but NOT for the L.A. Times. I'll have to look into the circumstances of his parting with the paper. Here's a particularly good example of Conrad's recent work and his Rosa Parks tribute.

Here's some of Ramirez's work. And Scheer's, which I confess I've never read. Was I the only person excited by Michael Kinsley's arrival and thunderous tenure (and then dismayed that it ended so quickly)?

But seriously folks, has a Pulitzer Prize winner ever been fired up until now? If so, I'd like to know.

And for those keeping score, the Daily News does employ a staff political cartoonist, Patrick O'Connor. You might've seen his GIANT BILLBOARD at the corner of Burbank Boulevard and Woodman Avenue a few months back.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Double Espresso

Coffee from Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf can be bitter and over-roasted. And it takes longer to drink than the 2-year-old will allow without constant pleas of "Have some," ... "Have some coffee" ... "I want coffee." She's 2, for the love of God. And I also have to be awake, at least a little bit, some of the time.

Enter my not-so-secret weapon. The double espresso.

Sure, it takes longer for them to make it (they have to shoot it out of the espresso machine, not just let it drip into a cup like regular coffee). But it's both economical ($1.85 or so$1.75 at the local Starbucks for a double), and with TWO SUGARS mixed in, you can drain it in one or two good swigs and begin to enjoy the caffeine high right away.

Call it the difference between snorting and shooting, if you will. I will.

Now, before the little one is three sips through her Trader Joe's individually boxed soy milk (with cool retractable straw), I'm ready to face the day, or the next few hours if it, anyway.

Espresso tip: Look for the crema on top -- you'll know it's been made right.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Our polling place changed

(If you want to understand Arnold, you have to see "Pumping Iron." It's all about winning and using psychological warfare to do so. Even when Arnold could win a bodybuilding competition (for which prize money was negligible, by the way) on his own physical merits, he felt both a need and compulsion to "psyche out" the other participants. Guess it's not working so well these days, but what the hell.)

Forget the neighbor's garage, a couple blocks down, with plenty of parking. Instead, for the "special election" we had to find a new polling place, in a largish apartment building's rec room. Not all that far away, but not much parking, either, so Ilene and I piled the girl into her stroller and hiked it over there first thing in the morning.

Just as we got there, a woman was in a tizzy about her pre-marked absentee ballot, on which she "made a mistake," as she said. Did she confuse Propositions 78 and 79? Easy enough to do. But did she have to get in front of us? Yes. And was her name in the same part of the alphabet (and same book of registered voters' names) as ours? Yes.

The other drama concerned the County-issued cell phone that the precinct workers couldn't get a signal on.

Anyhow, we Inka-Voted (we had discussed the issues on the 10-minute walk to the polling place -- about all the whole slate of issues merited) and left.

Even though I'm in "the media," I was surprised to find that Proposition 80 would have re-regulated the state's electric-power industry. I hadn't heard a thing about it, but considering the problems we've had with Enron and rolling blackouts (which, thankfully, didn't affect the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power), I figured some re-regulation would be a good idea.

Well, Prop. 80, along with everything but the LAUSD school bond, was defeated. I'm just shocked that there was a proposition that flew so far under the radar that I had no idea it was on the ballot until walking toward the polling place.

As to how I voted on everything else, I've been registered as "non-partisan" ever since I've been in the news business. Now I don't think that's a requirement, or even some kind of high moral ground on which to stand, but I just feel more comfortable that way as both a journalist AND a private citizen because I'm not happy with either the Democrats or Republicans. And the way our system is structured, minor parties are virtually shut out of any role in actually governing. Makes for a different kind of democracy than in Europe. Not better or worse, just different.

I could go on about how the collective political consciousness in the U.S. produces two parties that encompass the blended ideological soup of the electorate, pleasing a few and causing indifference or disgust in the rest, but I won't.

I digress.

Can't say I'm a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'd hoped for less big-money pandering on his part, but I can't see Gray (or is it Grey?) Davis or Cruz Bustamente doing any better. And I thought Arnold's close connection with former Gov. Pete Wilson was a plus. Not that I'm a fan of anti-immigrant measure Prop. 187, because I'm not, but I have a great admiration for Wilson due to his dogged determination more than anything. When I worked at the Glendale News-Press in the '90s, he'd come by on a regular basis, roll up the shirt sleeves, answer any question and plead for whatever was on his mind. Just the fact that he came to those little papers and wasn't full of BS stuck with me. I hoped Arnold would emulate Wilson more than he has, but what can you do?

Again I digress.

Nobody can think the California Legislature is working. I'm not sure if it was better before or after term limits, but anything that could be done to make the seats in the Assembly and Senate less safe for either party is OK by me, so I voted for Prop. 77. Had to go along with Prop. 79 (and against 78) because something has to be done about prescription drug costs. The whole buy-drugs-from-Canada thing is just a symptom of a system that's horribly out of whack, and, again, better to do something rather than nothing.

And even though I'm now a father, the whole Prop. 73 abortion-notification measure just isn't right. You hope a girl will tell her parents in such cases, but you don't have to have a law about it.

Love to tell you about the rest, but even I'm bored.


The ultimate car

Expect to see these in every other driveway in my neighborhood. Beginning in 2006 ...

Hybrid option for Camry -- America's Most Popular Car

Appealing to our patriotic tendencies, the car will be assembled in Kentucky (albeit of mostly Japanese parts).

Here's the pitch:

Camry is America's most popular car, with sales topping 425,000 units in 2004. A large number of buyers who might not otherwise choose a hybrid car will select the Camry Hybrid. These buyers will enjoy improved fuel efficiency, uncompromised performance and the most advanced hybrid system on the road: Hybrid Synergy Drive®.

Most of Camry Hybrid's electrical powertrain components will be imported from Japan, but the 4-cylinder engine will be assembled in Georgetown, Kentucky. As with all other Toyota vehicles featuring Hybrid Synergy Drive®, the Camry Hybrid powertrain will be engineered to achieve the model's specific performance specifications and to exceed buyer expectations.

The growing hybrid market
Camry Hybrid was born of Toyota's commitment to produce environmentally sensitive vehicles and the increasing market demand for hybrids. Toyota has sold more than 400,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide. The company is on target to produce 300,000 hybrid vehicles annually by 2005, and one million by the end of the decade. Camry Hybrid follows Prius and Highlander Hybrid as the third Toyota hybrid in the U.S. market.

Toyota will continue to release information about Camry Hybrid performance, specifications, options, price and first date of sale. Hybrid Synergy View will keep you up with the latest news!

Check out the U.S. Camry Hybrid launch announcement for more information.

Fun facts on this page: 425,000 Camrys sold in 2004, 500,000 hybrids sold worldwide by Toyota, with goal of 300,000 per year.

Our friends Brad and Lara are NOT seniors yet have a Prius AND a Camry. They live on the Westside, where seniors presumably drive other kinds of vehicles and thus don't understand the phenomenon that is the classic Camry driver.

The Most Fascinating People

The names of a select few of Barbara Walters' "Most Fascinating People" have trickled out, as Andrew reports on Here in Van Nuys. As I said there, who can remember the name of last year's "most fascinating person"? Last year's best-picture Oscar winner? Not that I've won anything ever or am thought of as "fascinating" by anybody, but these things have an incredible burst of power followed by quick amnesia.

Now back to the fascination. Presumably none of those currently mentioned are in the running for "Most Fascinating Person." Here's what we have so far:

NEW YORK (AP) - Tom Cruise, Teri Hatcher and Kanye West are among the names on Barbara Walters' list of the 10 most fascinating people of 2005.The list of the year's most prominent names in entertainment, politics and sports also includes Lance Armstrong, Michael Jackson's lawyer Tom Mesereau and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ABC announced Monday.

"Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005" will air Nov. 29 (10 p.m. EST). The No. 1 most fascinating person of the year will be revealed on the special, now in its 12th year.

Presumably the "most fascinating person" is not among these six, so that leaves four more "fascinating" people, with one of those "most fascinating." By process of elimination and elucidation, I will attempt to, at least, name Babs' No. 1, if not get a few of the others remaining on the list. Return her Nov. 30 to see how well I did -- and feel free to supply your picks in the comments.

They could be fascinating:

The politicians

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (long shot)

Arnold Schwarzenegger (long shot)

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (not as long, but still a long shot)

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (good bet)

The activists

Cindy Sheehan (leading anti-Iraq War voice is a good bet)

Morgan Spurlock (the "Super Size Me" guy who's an advocate for the working class)

The anchors

Anderson Cooper (most-buzzed-about anchor of the moment)

Shepard Smith (defied Fox News conventional wisdom by critizing government during Katrina aftermath)

MY PICK FOR MOST FASCINATING: Jon Stewart (incredible buzz, best-selling books, the ear of the under-40 generation and the ability to get bow-tied talking heads yanked from all-news networks)

The Actors

Angelina Jolie (she stole a "world's sexiest man" candidate from one of "America's sweethearts" and is also intent on saving the world -- and not just by adopting children at a Mia Farrow-esque pace)

Charlize Theron (could repeat as Best Actress Oscar winner)

Jennifer Aniston (had "world's sexiest man" stolen by "world's sexiest woman" ... what does that make her? A freakin' martyr with patentable hair)


Gwen Stefani (she's being played in every boutique in L.A. Barbara Walters wants tutorial on how to pronounce, "Hollaback.")


Ashley Smith (the woman who kept a fugitive from killing her by quoting out of preacher Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life" ... and offering him some of her crystal meth, the latter of which she renounced after getting her own book deal)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Camrys can be dangerous to your health

Ilene said it much better than me (or is it I? We'll let the "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" lady sort that one out).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A special corner

Yesterday's Orange Line crash, in what used to be Van Nuys but is now Valley Glen, made me think about the corner of Woodman Avenue and Oxnard Street. I grew up in what they call a "garden apartment" not far from there. That it was an apartment complex was clear. The "garden" part was due to the trees and ivy, through which we would run, playing army, with baseball bats doubling as rifles, the last gasps of Vietnam nowhere on our grubby radar.

Back to Woodman and Oxnard. That corner was the center of my known universe. There used to be more shops than there are now. Most of those on the northwest corner were bulldozed to make way for apartments and condos. I remember when gas cost 43 cents a gallon at the Mobil station (which is still a Mobil station).

We used to go to a small grocery store on the southeast corner (since replaced by a mini-mall with seemingly nothing to offer -- who needs a water store?). The butcher once gave me a hand-made sausage that looked like it had every kind of animal part on the farm in it. It was spicy. And don't get me started on where or what the casing came from. I would get Bazooka bubble gum, with those little Bazooka Joe cartoons, for 2 cents apiece and Topps baseball cards, with equally card-like gum, for a quarter a pack.

There was a beauty shop where my mother went weekly to get her hair done, a barbershop where I got my hair cut.

On the northwest corner, right next to the laundromat, there was liquor store where I got comic books to read while our clothes were spinning. On the other side was Phillip's TV, run by a quiet man named Phillip, who used to fix our set. Those TVs with tubes needed a lot of fixing. He even replaced the channel-changing knob a couple of times. (We barely had color, let alone a remote.) Not like today when you pretty much have a TV for 10 years with no trouble at all and throw it out when it stops working.

Remember those tube-testing machines they used to have at Sav-On and Thrifty? You'd pull your tubes from the set, take them to the drugstore and plug them into the appropriate socket. (I think they gave you little stick-on numbers so you'd know which tube came from which socket when you went to re-insert them in the back.) Then the machine's meter would tell you if the tube was good or bad. We weren't the type to even open the back of the TV set, lest we never get it working again. When I got a bit older, I'd take everything apart, but this was before I had access to a set of screwdrivers.

What's now the Matterhorn Chef restaurant used to be called Old Heidelberg. I've never eaten there -- Bavarian food wasn't and isn't something that appeals to the vegetarian in me. A funny place for a fancy-ish restaurant, but it's nice to know it's still there after all these years.

Orange Line vs. Camry

How did I know a Toyota Camry was involved?

The most serious crash occurred when a Woodland Hills woman, who is believed to have been talking on a cell phone, ran a red light at Woodman Avenue, officials said. Her Toyota Camry hit the bus and then spun around and hit it again before stopping, they said.

The woman suffered a serious injury, but was in good condition late Wednesday.

Fourteen people on the bus were sent to local hospitals but suffered only minor injuries.

What is it about senior citizens and Camrys? Remember The Camry Death March.

I got a little sentimental, if not weepy, when I saw an elderly couple rolling along this morning in what seniors used to drive: A Ford Taurus. This was an '80s model. Now there's the Ford Five Hundred for those who want a V8 with a lot of metal. The Chrysler 300 looks stylish. Honda Accord. Nissan Maxima.

But they all want a Camry.

Remember, I pass both Sherman Oaks Hospital and Kaiser-Permanente Woodland Hills every morning, so I have plenty of Camry exposure. And to the lady in Sherman Oaks with the perfectly-preserved orange 1970s Volvo -- DON'T CUT ACROSS THREE LANES OF TRAFFIC WITHOUT SIGNALING.

There, I feel better.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Major Orange Line accident

At Woodman Avenue and Oxnard Street. FifteenThirteen injured.

And I hear one of those is a fatality.No fatalities.

And there was a minor accident earlier in the day near Corbin Avenue.

Thanks for stopping by

Two hundred people took a look here after the L.A. Observed link. Whether it's the Metro Orange Line or what I ate for breakfast that intrigues you, thanks for your interest. This morning, I had Cheerios with Rice Dream rice milk, shared with the child. (Trader Joe's O's are actually better than General Mills' Cheerios, though Wal-Mart's generic rendition is much worse).

There was pie sitting out overnight in the Daily News newsroom, but it mysteriously disappeared. Guess some misguided person thought that pie can't last overnight without risking food-borne illness. I, for one, am willing to live a little dangerously, especially when it comes to pie.

Photo by Andy Holzman/Daily News

I don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to give a shout-out for Mike Teatreault, the Daily News' letters editor. Mike, who I had the pleasure of working with on the Features copy desk at one point in our Daily News careers, wrote a great Orange Line piece. He gives our oft-photographed mayor a good ribbing:

I was going to ride the bus on Saturday but I was afraid of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Not Antonio himself, but of Antonio's almost mystical ability to get his picture taken. Where there is Antonio, a camera will appear. I don't like to have my picture taken; a picture steals part of our souls. Look at the movie stars, look at the celebrities, look at the politicians.

Another quote:

The bus arrives a little more than two minutes after I do. I get on through the rear door, just behind the strange accordion thing that allows the bus to turn on a dime. The bus is almost full, but nobody is standing. Half of the seats face the center of the bus. I choose a seat facing the aisle.

It's the best seat for the second part of why I rode the bus. The Orange Line is my retirement plan. A lot of people are worried about the dangers of this busway: No intersection crossing gates. Poor placement of light signals. Poor placement of warning signs. Neighbors will be kept awake nights by the sound of buses bumping into cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.

What if they aren't just dogs-in-the-manger, sour-graping-it, light-rail chauvinists? I intend to be on the bus. Even a slow-motion accident, a tai-chi collision, will be sufficient for my retirement. I have my lawyer's business card in my wallet.

I am the only coat-and-tie person on the bus. Everybody else appears to labor for a living. There are no blondes going west; perhaps they ride east in the morning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I made it on L.A. Observed

The king of L.A. bloggers name-checks me right here. Thanks, Kevin Roderick.

Also got a link from Andrew at Here in Van Nuys, who covers the same territory except with cooler original pictures.

(I will exit ass-kissing mode ... now)

Friday, October 28, 2005

First Orange Line crash

It had to happen. It's buried in Daily News staffer Lisa Mascaro subway story, but somebody finally crashed into an Orange Line bus:

The Orange Line had its first collision just before 4 p.m. Thursday when a northbound motorist driving on a suspended license ran a red light at Vesper Avenue and hit

an eastbound bus, authorities said. There were no injuries.

Now I'm not saying I know what kind of car the motorist was driving, but it could be one less Camry on the road.

The Rod report

I reviewed the new Rod Stewart standards disc in today's Daily News. The key in evaluating these kinds of records -- wildly popular, necessarily compromising -- is to put yourself in the shoes of those (and there are many) who buy them. Here's the lede:

Guys like Stewart have all the luck. The crooner has sold 13 million of these "Songbook" discs since the series began in 2002, with a new one issued each year. But can Rod the (former) Mod hit the notes? Yes, and some impossibly high, too. Are the arrangements top notch? Absolutely. And one thing about that voice - it's an original.

Here's a quibble:

As on Stewart's earlier standards discs, instrumental solos are limited to restating the theme in eight bars or less, no solos allowed, even by big-name guests. Trumpeters Chris Botti and Roy Hargrove, guitarist George Benson and saxophonist Dave Koz are wasted.

And a caveat (Ilene says this part is too musically nerdy):

But on all 13 songs, Kenny Asher's bread-and-butter piano and Bob Mann's steady rhythm guitar keep the proceedings humming along.

And summing up:

If you love Stewart's voice, there's no better way to hear it than here. And if you can't stand it, at least give the guy credit for tackling the Great American Songbook, although the millions he's made from the venture is probably thanks enough.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Not everybody lives so close to the Orange Line

So how to get there, or not? If you're close to Van Nuys Boulevard, take the Metro Rapid and get a transfer -- I'm gonna see how often THOSE buses come in the morning and evening.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Daily News and the Orange Line

My paper, the Los Angeles Daily News, is doing a pretty good job of covering the Metro Orange Line, offering a daily countdown -- "8 days to the Orange Line," says today's logo.

Go here for all the stories.

Today's story is all about the motorists failing to stop for the new traffic lights on the busway. The ticket is $350. Ouch. And in a previous story, Lisa Mascaro writes about resistance to using the Orange Line, with quotes like this:

"Why would anybody with a car want to take that, even with the cost of gasoline?" said John Nakahama, a retired architect in West Hills.

"I won't do it myself. I'm not even curious to try that. It's a bus."

Lisa also reports that estimates of only 5,000 to 7,000 riders per day are way too low, possibly to make it look that much better if/when they exceed expectations:

"I think the 5,000 number is really low-ball," said Professor James E. Moore of the University of Southern California's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. "They'll have absolutely no trouble beating that 5,000-passenger-per-day figure."

Moore hesitated to make his own ridership projection for the busway, Line 901, without doing formal computer modeling, but expects much higher numbers.

"Don't be surprised if it's double that. Don't be surprised if we hit that 20,000 to 25,000 this year, as opposed to 2020."

But there's also skepticism about whether the project is doomed from the get-go:

Veteran bus riders have also had a mixed response. While some look forward to a trip that's faster than current east-west routes, others say the MTA hasn't provided enough connecting buses to make the system effective - especially for those living in the North San Fernando Valley.

"It does nothing for us," said Bart Reed, executive director of The Transit Coalition, an advocacy group for bus riders.

"The amount of money they saved by not providing connecting services marginalizes the Orange Line," he said. "There is a huge amount of shooting yourself in the foot when you're spending one-third of a billion dollars and don't bring in the supporting cast to make it work."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Here in Van Nuys on the Orange Line

I totally missed that Andrew from Here in Van Nuys was in the L.A. Times story right here:

This is going to … join us again to greater metropolitan Los Angeles," said Van Nuys resident Andrew Hurvitz, noting that the opening of the busway comes three years after the Valley tried to secede from Los Angeles. "It's going to de-isolate the Valley.

"I feel like we're at a turning point," he added. "We are finally becoming less of a cliche than we were before. We're a dense, urban city and must live differently than we did in the 1950s. We can't [all] live in a single-family house with a three-car garage anymore."

But Hurvitz, an associate producer for a documentary film company with offices on Ventura Boulevard, said he's unlikely to ride the Orange Line, although he thinks a student to whom he rents a room in his house might.

Will the Orange Line work?

The L.A. Times' Amanda Covarrubias weighs in with the following think piece on the Orange line:

There's the hopeful:

"This is going to … join us again to greater metropolitan Los Angeles," said Van Nuys resident Andrew Hurvitz, noting that the opening of the busway comes three years after the Valley tried to secede from Los Angeles. "It's going to de-isolate the Valley.

"I feel like we're at a turning point," he added. "We are finally becoming less of a cliche than we were before. We're a dense, urban city and must live differently than we did in the 1950s. We can't [all] live in a single-family house with a three-car garage anymore."

The skeptical:

But the Orange Line "doesn't go anywhere you would want it to go," said Joel Kotkin, a Valley Village resident and Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "It's a tour of the industrial bowels of the Valley. And there's no place to stop to get a cup of coffee."

Kotkin and others believe the Orange Line, like most bus lines in the city, will fill a need for low-income workers and students. But, he adds, it won't do much to unclog the 101 — or even nearby surface streets, such as Ventura, Victory and Van Nuys boulevards.

"I think it might be a great thing for a teenager in Valley Village who's got a job three days a week at Nordstrom" in Woodland Hills, he said. "For a woman cleaning house in Chandler Estates and living in Reseda, for that person, it works."

L.A. Observed's Kevin Roderick:

"You won't notice it on the 101 Freeway. It won't be those kinds of numbers," said Kevin Roderick, author of "The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb."

Low expectations:

MTA officials ... calculate that the line will have 5,000 to 7,000 riders a day in its first year, low even by Los Angeles mass transit standards. They hope daily ridership will grow to as much as 25,000 in 15 years.

Future plans:

MTA officials point out that the busway could be converted to light rail if it became wildly popular.

And of course ... people who live in the Chandler Estates area and own not one, but TWO adjacent houses. The kind of people who throw stacks of $100 bills in the fireplace when they need a little heat ... not your typical L.A. bus rider, and they're not happy:

Mitch and Tess Ramin live in a small, one-story house on nearby Chandler Boulevard with their baby daughter and are renovating a larger home next door that they plan to move into. Their tree-lined neighborhood in Sherman Oaks resembles that of "The Brady Bunch," the classic family sitcom set in the Valley. (The "Brady Bunch" house is in Studio City about two miles from the Orange Line's eastern terminus.)

The Ramins question whether the busway belongs there.

The real estate investor and his wife are concerned that the bus corridor that runs behind their backyards will cause noise and crime, pointing out that a transient has already moved into the landscaped easement between the sound wall and their back fence.

MTA officials "don't care as much as we do because they don't live here," Tess Ramin said. "We moved here because of the backyard, to get away from the noise of the traffic…. Now there's no escape."

What's more, during test runs this month to introduce bus drivers to the new vehicles and the route, the Ramins said they noticed that drivers were honking their horns as they drove through the blind intersection at Ethel Avenue just up the street.

Do you know the way to San Jose Downtown L.A.:

West Hills resident Dan Blake, an economics professor at Cal State Northridge and director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center, said he's looking forward to using it to get to Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday nights. It costs about $6 to park downtown but only $3 for a Metro day pass to ride any bus, subway or light rail train in a 24-hour period.

"It really does connect," he said. "From one end of the busway, you can go to Long Beach and look at the aquarium."