Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunny and cold in Van Nuys

I thought fall would never come. And Nov. 10 is 10 days too late. We always mark the real beginning of fall as Halloween, but it's still been plenty hot until now.

And it's barely rained. For years.

Could use some rain.

I rebuilt the shower fixtures today with the help of my 4-year-old assistant. Took them apart, cleaned them up and put in new washers (and greased everything up). Then I cleaned the shower, took a shower, and we're about to eat at Leonor's. Yeah!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Old Van Nuys Library sold

Before it leaves forever, don't miss the story that recounts the fate of the old Van Nuys Library -- the 1926 Deco/Spanish/Colonial mixed breed building that, unfortunately, is leaving the public domain for that of a new owner who's got a little money. Since, for reasons that don't hold water, stories only last two weeks on, here it is:

Auction of Van Nuys Library is one for the books
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:10/01/2007 10:46:09 PM PDT

The historic Van Nuys Library fared well on the auction block Monday as a longtime admirer doled out $1.52 million to become the building's new owner.

Winning bidder Tony Nasr with NTR Consultants said he's admired the 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival-style building for more than 20 years and used to frequent the building for business when the Fire Department used it as an office.

"I was in love," Nasr said after placing the winning bid during an auction at City Hall.

"I studied in Greece and I love the history of the buildings. I respect historic things. I want to keep the building as it is."

Nasr - who paid more than a half-million dollars above the library's appraised value of $950,000 - said he plans to restore the building and use it as an office.

The auction capped several weeks of controversy as some San Fernando Valley groups tried to persuade the city to retain ownership and let a local nonprofit use the building as a public space.

The one-story masonry building at 14553 Sylvan St. is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by Allison and Allison, which built many public buildings - including Royce Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The building was among the Valley's first libraries but was vacated in 1964, when the library moved to a more modern home in the Civic Center complex.

The Fire Department used the building as an office until 2005, and it's been vacant and surrounded by a chain-link fence since.

The city decided to auction the historic building to expand library services in the area and, perhaps, build a new, larger library if the city can raise additional money, officials said.

Said Reginald Jones-Sawyer, director of real estate for the Department of General Services: "$1.5 million, that's a lot of books."

The money from the sale will be used for libraries in Council District 6, which includes Van Nuys, Arleta and Sun Valley.

"The proceeds of this sale will give the other libraries in the Valley the resources necessary to better serve our families," said Councilman Tony C rdenas, who represents the area.

"If we had not sold this facility, we would have denied these families a vital funding opportunity and we would have risked burdening the taxpayers with hefty costs."

Some in the community noted that the library's final sales price was higher than they had expected.

"That's certainly higher than I would have been able to bid," said Sara Fisk, president of the New Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Fisk had collected about $500,000 in pledges toward buying the building and is still hoping to find a home for the orchestra.

"I'm so sorry," Fisk said. "We already have a glut of office space in Van Nuys. It had the feel that it should have been an arts center," she said.

Bidding on the library started at $950,000. Although the building has been modified over the years and the interior looks more sterile than the original version, bidders quickly pushed the price up to $1.52 million in the fast-paced auction.

Susan Kudo-Leeds, who owns Leeds Investment and Management with Ben Leeds, was hoping to buy the library and restore it to its former glory.

"It's stately and old," she said. "And it just needs a little help."

(213) 978-0390
Copyright ©2007 Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

How does Blogger compare to Movable Type

Blogger kicks Movable Type's ass.

But at the Daily News, we're getting Movable Type 4.0, if the upgrade ever goes through.

Blogger will continue to kick its ass, but MT will at least be better (and eventually have Captchas to keep out the spam comments).

Ilene update

Ilene has a lot going on. Besides teaching nutrition to five dozen or so at CSUN, her father is in a coma after falling from a ladder. In lighter news, she got a new bike.

Other things we're doing: dealing with clutter. Ilene moved a bunch of our Lulu's boxes o' crap out of the living room and into the kid's own room. It's her crap, and she's got her own room, so there. The 4-year-old loves to collect and save any old thing.

We've got bags upon bags of old clothes, toys, baby detritus, plus assorted electronic gear and other various and sundries in The Back Room. We need to have a garage sale to get rid of as much as we can. We must reclaim The Back Room, which is also filled with various two- and four-wheeled vehicles, has become a staging area for crap and the spiders who love it.

It's easier to make mess than it is to deal with it. But dealt with it must be.

Van Nuys auto dealers shuttered

Have you noticed the now-closed car dealerships on Van Nuys Boulevard. One is the Suzuki dealer (who ever bought a Suzuki car, anyway?), and I'm not sure, but I think the other one is/was Miller Nissan. There's still Miller Infiniti a few doors North.

Is it me, or is Van Nuys Auto Row (or whatever it is they call it) going totally updscale. Sure, there's Toyota and GM on the other side of Burbank Boulevard, but with Keyes replacing its Hyundai dealership with Acura, which is directly across the street from Hummer.

And south of Burbank Boulevard, I think used BMWs are now in the lot that used to be Chrysler. So you've got BMW, Mercedes (Keyes European), Lexus, Infiniti -- I don't even think Honda is there anymore (yeah, I do drive by every single day, and it's still a bit of a blur. And I already name-checked Acura and Hummer.

Still, I bet that Toyota dealer sells more cars than just about all the others combined.

Al fresco dining in Van Nuys adjacent

Four 'N' 20 Pies used to be in Van Nuys proper, in that funky, totally-early-'70s building that was replaced, I believe, by the Toyota dealership on Van Nuys Boulevard.

After the demolition, Four 'N' 20 moved south of Burbank, into what is nominally Sherman Oaks. No matter.

Anyhow ... they have a few outside tables, and we had a nice coffee/tea 'N' pie afternoon there last Sunday while the little girl was at grandma's.

As always, the service, the coffee and the pie were all great. And at 2-ish, the place was packed.

2,000 Days, 10,000 page views

I'm almost never over here, yet this site manages somehow to draw 15 to 20 page views a day.

Kinda makes you think. My Van Nuys-ish site under the auspices of the Daily News, Come on Feel the Nuys, is similarly neglected, and I bet it doesn't get as much traffic as this one.

As has been the case for almost a year now, most of my blogging is about technology. It's just easier, for the most part -- both to write and in terms of finding an audience.

When you focus on one subject over almost all others, your world closes in. I haven't been to L.A. Observed in a few months. Not because of anything over at the blog itself, just because my attentions are elsewhere.

It wouldn't kill me to pay a little more attention.

More Van Nuys items coming right up.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


The L.A. Times reports on what we already know. Possums may be ugly, but they get medieval on your snails and slugs:

But as disgusting as the animals may appear, they actually do quite lovely
work in the garden. Opossums are nature's clean-up crew, working the
graveyard shift. Like little dust busters, they cruise the landscape, round
ears tilted like satellite dishes, fleshy pink snoots to the ground. They
feast on snails and slugs, perhaps even a cockroach or two.

Gardeners may blame opossums for the messes and mischief made
by rambunctious raccoons, skunks and squirrels rooting out insect grubs, but
the reality is that opossums don't dig. They can't. The soft pink skin on
their paws is too delicate for such manual labor; their weak nails are built
for tree-climbing.

Though opossums are excellent at scaling trunks, they rarely sample the
fruit above. Instead, they might salvage a fallen peach or munch avocados
knocked down by squirrels. Opossums prefer their produce at ground level and
well rotted — all the easier to sniff out as they forage the night garden.
It's all true, Angelenos. And Southeast Van Nuys is lousy with possums. We've got a big family in the back yard. And who broke into my compost? Not possums. It was rats. I've since secured the can and have had no problems. Then again, it could be the fighting cats who are keeping the rats at bay.

The cat's out of the Daily News bag

The new features section we've been planning isn't a secret per se, but it's not exactly something that has had the benefit of a pre-launch PR blitz, either. Since L.A. Observed has reported on another blog's reporting of it, I guess it's OK for me to hold up the cat for a little inspection.

(Clicking through Kevin's L.A. Observed link, Laura Stegman's PR blog, which has an interview of sorts with our entertainment editor Rob Lowman, looks like a pretty good source for those who practice the craft of flackery).

But back to the matter at hand: Yep, we're starting the new section -- called or Go!, depending on your locale -- this Monday. It also means all the features content from the Daily News (and the entire Los Angeles Newspaper Group) is moving from to There will be much less duplication of effort among the various newspapers in the group, but there will still be room for zoned stories from the various communities our papers serve. That's the PR version. So far I've enjoyed working with the features people from the Daily Breeze, MediaNews' most recent acquisition, and they've already added a lot of good copy to the pages of the soon-not-to-be-called U section.

One thing we do have at the Daily News that isn't part of the entire LANG group is a dog-choking monthly "expanded" health section. The most recent one ran last Monday. And with the many three-week vacations that have hit our staffing in recent months, I nearly expired trying to get the damn thing out the door. I counted five stories inside that, on a regular week, would each be cover-story worthy.

Back to the new section. It'll be called for the Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram and Torrance Daily Breeze. The title will be Go! in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino valleys. Combined sections, with some zoned pages, aren't exactly new in the newspaper game, but it's a big deal for the features departments at the various LANG papers.

Local coverage will not go away from these newspapers. One thing I can tell you -- as an "efficiency" move, this whole deal should make a stronger section, one that has the potential to increase advertising both in print and online, giving us all a better forum in which to what it is we do here. When it comes to the Daily News, I've always told anybody who'll listen that there are a whole lot of great writers in this features department -- and that is something that won't change at all as we make the move from U to

Blogger -- I've missed you

In the time I've written 300 or so Movable Type blog posts, I have lost touch with the Blogger Dashboard interface. It's pretty great. Writing, formatting and saving happens so quickly (I suspect a lot of Ajax improvements in the Web interface, for those who know what that means, and I don't include myself in that number).

One feature I like is autosaving -- it's hard to lose something in a browser crash or by inadvertently closing a window. There's more polish coming to everything Google offers, and Blogger is no exception. Google Docs is also getting better, but until it includes a browser extension or other kind of app for printing that doesn't have the constraints of the browser itself, it won't be of that much use to me. I still need to make printouts. It seems that we live our lives -- and our writing lives -- exclusively online, but I'm not all the way there just yet.

While musing on the greatness of Blogger, let me also say that I'm using the new Yahoo Mail beta, which attempts to mimic a standalone e-mail client -- and does a great job at it. Add to that Yahoo's promise of "unlimited" storage and integrated chat client (which works OK but not great) and when it comes to e-mail functionality, Yahoo is currently beating Google's Gmail (which I've never used very much but recently revisited to make just this determination).

It isn't often that Yahoo bests Google, but it's a great thing for Yahoo Mail users.

I wouldn't cry if Yahoo added a Google Docs-like Web-based office suite and an AOL-like storage service like Xdrive. Than I'd never need to leave Yahoo for anything. More than likely, though, Google will steamroll over both Yahoo and AOL with its own office suite and still-in-the-planning Gdrive storage service, along with an improved Gmail.

But for now, there's more than my e-mail address keeping me with Yahoo Mail.

L.A. Voice revisited

See my post below on Mack Reed's departure from L.A. Voice?

There was some talk at transition time about the new L.A. Voice blog-runners being politically conservative. That's not the problem. While I enjoy many conservative bloggers (beginning with the late, very great Cathy Seipp, and continuing today with Bridget Johnson, even conservative Daily News editor Chris Weinkopf, a fine stylist, to be sure), I sense a certain listlessness, lack of focus and some fundamental design errors over at today's L.A. Voice (the wideness of the type, and its persistence in being centered are the main design errors).

I guess I miss Mack. And ever since Cathy's death, I haven't really kept up with the L.A.-centric blogs. Most of it has been my focus on the Daily News' Click technology blog, for which I've written hundreds of often-lengthy posts in the past few months, mostly about free, open-source software (and specifically the Linux operating system). I don't even keep up with L.A. Observed much these days (although I do try to drop in every other day, at least -- Kevin Roderick is still the barometer of L.A. media, and that barometer needs checking).

As far as writing about Linux goes, it's been pretty easy for me to get a large readership. The Linux community is rabid, wants to read anything. And mostly, as a user of LXer, I can put up links to my own stories (and others that I find interesting, but mostly my own). You can get drawn in by what "works," by what draws readers, and it's not musing about San Fernando Valley bedroom communities, or random thoughts.

But there is room for that.

And there's a certain value to blogging on my own time, on my own sites. So I'll be doing that more and more in the weeks and months ahead. I still have the blogs you see at the right, along with the many at the Daily News to which I contribute either heavily or lightly, and I plan to add at least one Blogger site related to my life in technology. I'm not sure what I'll call it, or what the focus will be, but it will appear when I've figured it all out.

2,000 Days comes back to life

Here I am, Van Nuys.

Our pockmarked street isn't fixed, our driveway is turning into an arena for two orange tabby cats to square off in a turf war, the only vegetables doing well in the garden are ones that sprouted on their own, we still have housepainting to do (the project began last October), I still need to call the city for a bulky-item pickup to get rid of my water heater (which we replaced ourselves, thank you), and I've entered the kids-birthday-party zone.

Yep, went to Chuck E. Cheese last Saturday and Sunday for birthday parties. It's not as bad as I thought. There is a stage with animatronic Chuck E. and his pals singing an endlessly rotating string of summer-related songs, and a rat-suited employee does come out to help the birthday boy/girl celebrate, dancing in step with one of the other Chuck E. employees. Refreshing: our 3-year-old Lulu loves it, the whole damn place is pretty clean, and all the games and rides go for one token, i.e. a quarter.

And the pizza isn't artisanal, but it could be a lot worse. And there's a real salad bar for those who crave something less greasy. Don't know if they had coffee, but Starbucks should do me a solid and open up next door.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mack Reed getting out of the game

(Note: The Daily News blog server is ailing, so I'm posting here for the moment instead of the usual spot for this sort of thing.)

As far as I'm concerned, the top three L.A. blogs are L.A. Observed, Laist and L.A. Voice. Now comes word that L.A. Voice creator and ringmaster Mack Reed is leaving the blog in a couple weeks due to his other (paying) commitments.

Can you believe that a leading L.A. blog isn't a rampant moneymaker? I can -- it's tough out there, even for somebody with the talent and passion of Mack Reed.

But he wants L.A. Voice to keep going and is willing to set somebody else up in his seat to shape, run and grow the blog. He says it requires a commitment of 12 to 15 hours a week, but I can't believe he ever spent that little time on it, ever. Here's part of his pitch:

If you're interested in taking on a virtually non-paying, 12- to
15-hour-a-week job - for the chance to re-shape, grow and drive a
well-respected, L.A.-centric community blog toward being something brilliant,
edgy and cool, then maybe this gig is for you.Here's who I'm looking for:

A strong, clever writer with solid content-development
skills in Photoshop, HTML, Unix and a willingness to get your hands dirty with a
little code. I'll train you on our crazy-quilt platform and provide tech support
where necessary.

A die-hard Angeleno - someone who has a long history (7+ years in greater
L.A.) and a healthy love/hate (or love/love) relationship with all of Los

A serious blogger with an overwhelming desire to write two to six times a

(Very important)
An open-minded citizen of the world, with strong
opinions but complete respect for all points of view - even the ones you
disagree with violently.

I sure do hope somebody comes out of the woodwork to run L.A. Voice -- I can think of a few current contributors to the site who would be great stewards of all that Mack has built. You know who you are ... but who's got the time for this kind of thing?

Another thing I hope for is that Mack Reed continues to contribute to L.A. Voice, or continues his blogging and writing in one capacity or other -- his voice is an important one both online and in the general conversation of Los Angeles.

And while I'm here, I'd like to thank Mack for linking to me back in the dayswhen 2,000 Days in the Valley was new, the Daily News didn't have blogs, and I needed all the linking and blogrolling I could get.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The best TV show you're not watching

It's "Campus Ladies," on the network you're also not watching:
Oxygen. It's also a network I'm not watching because, A)
I don't have cable, and ... B) I don't have cable. Oh, also,
I'm not a woman.

I've seen two episodes of "Campus Ladies" on DVD, fishing
them out of a bin replenished during the infrequent visits
of Daily News TV critic David Kronke. That and TiVoed DVDs
from Ilene's mom are our only sources of cable programming.

Anyway, I get the feeling I'm somehow supposed to know who
the ladies of "Campus Ladies" are. I don't. They are very,
very funny, though.

The premise of the show is that two housewives of a certain
age (and no, I don't know what that age is), one widowed,
the other divorced -- and both lifelong friends (can you
see why Oprahcentric Oxygen bought this?) decide to go to
college together.

They move into the freshman dorm, fall in with three college-age
friends, and hijinks most definitely ensue.

It's like a 3-minute "Saturday Night Live" skit extended
to a half-hour, except that it doesn't suck.

Is "Campus Ladies" better than my other favorite show,
"The Office"? No, but it's very close -- it's that good.