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.