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Saturday, October 03, 2009

The time for trucks has passed

More on this soon, I guess.



I might call him Wolf, with the German "v" sound.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Golf balls, National Parks, Memory, and the Newspaper

I grew up in a newspaper reading family.  Even as a child, I liked reading the newspaper.  We got the afternoon paper most of my childhood and then switched to the morning paper when I was a teenager.  Let's pause for a moment and think about that.  Morning paper.  Afternoon paper.


I grew up in Atlanta and the two papers were co-owned in my lifetime.   Of course, they had been separate newspapers once upon a time.  Though co-owned, they maintained separate newsrooms through 1982 and maintained separate editorial boards through 2001.    The Journal was liberal.  The Constitution was not.


Now the combined Atlanta Journal-Constitution, according to my Dad, who reads it every day, is "terrible."  It's delivered once a day (morning) and focuses on local news.  My parents get the New York Times every day as well.  They're newspaper readers and getting the Times means they still get a real newspaper.

I went through a period of not reading the paper much.  I read Salon and Slate, checked the Los Angeles Times web site when there are wildfires, watched Rachel Maddow with Teresa sometimes, and listened to NPR most of the time.  I figured I was getting my news.  I never gave up the Sunday paper thing, though.  I always read the Sunday paper, even as it got gutted.  No more Book Review, no more Opinion, no more Magazine.

I've been lucky, in my adult life, to live in cities with decent papers.  The Washington Post does pretty well.  The Los Angeles Times has something to say most days.  I moved away from Washington before the decline of the newspaper.  I am certainly not qualified to speak on the newspapers' decline in any expert way.  There are those far more in the know who I have asked about the situation (folks who teach or taught journalism at my University, for example) who just shake theirs heads when I ask about the future.

And, of course, the future looks bleak.  The LA Times runs large number of corrections every day because they've fired their fact checkers and copy editors.  One day last year, their Calendar briefs had stand-in headlines that read "sub head here" printed instead of the actual sub head.

For a while I was getting the Thursday-Saturday papers for free and paying $1.25 a week for the Sunday paper because every time I tried to cancel, they'd offer me a better deal to keep me as a single number on the subscriber list.

Lately, though, I'm glad to get the LA Times.  It may not be the great paper it was even ten years ago, but they employ a number of writers and critics I really like.  I would read anything Dan Neil writes about anything.  Mr. Neil, here's a box of hair, please write about it and I will read it.

I even sent Neil an e-mail some years ago praising his review of a car Chevrolet (the SSR) put out that was supposed to look like it had been chopped and altered.  Neil's take on the difference between mass-manufacture and art was one of the best things I've ever read about folklore.  I told him so by e-mail and have used the piece in my class.  He, in turn, worried in his e-mail response to me about what happens when a writer's writing makes it into a college class.  Does he lose his edge?   Even recounting the incident here now makes me happy.

I always read Susan Carpenter (who they should let review motorcycles again).  I like Robert Lloyd and Ken Turan.  Mary McNamara and Sandy Banks.  Steve Lopez.

The paper may have had the great short-sightedness to fire its copy editors and fact checkers (surely a necessary group of folks).  I am glad they kept some  of the people they did.  And so I read it Thursday through Sunday.  I'm not looking to it for the latest news any more.  I'm looking for in-depth reporting.  Good writing.  Stuff I didn't know.

I guess an aside is worth making about the other daily Los Angeles paper, The Daily News.  I don't read it, but one of the reporters calls me a lot to be a quoted expert.  I'm sure it says something about the self-absorption of the city and time in which I live when I say I always look those articles up online to see if I sound good in the quotes.

All this lead-up brings me to the piece they ran on page A3 in yesterday's (9/18/09) Los Angeles Times Valley edition by David Kelly.  I won't hotlink, since at some point it won't be available any more, but here's the first paragraph:

"A man claiming he was paying tribute to dead golfers tossed up to 3,000 golf balls into the biggest sand trap he could find: Joshua National Park."



Yes, indeed.  That right there is why the paper is worth reading.  This item didn't go viral on the internet (maybe because it didn't involved Kanye West).  It didn't get picked up by NPR because it's a little too long for a quip and doesn't have the pathos needed for a feature.  Rachel Maddow didn't mention it.  Salon and Slate didn't cover it.  I read about it in the newspaper.  The same daily print newspaper that had a very interesting piece from Neil about Diesel/Electric hybrids (want!), an hilarious panning of the Matthew Modine play making its world premiere at the Taper, a good review of both The Burning Plain and Bright Star, as well as a bad one of The Informant! (Very helpful--I now will not go see it).

I also read an interesting piece about why the NFL is helping the Washington football team keep its racist name and an obituary of Frank Coghlan, Jr. who played Billy Batson in the Captain Marvel serial.  (Shazam!)  Just so you know, Southerners read the obits.  Every day.  There was also a well-done (and scary) feature by Richard Fausett on the Oath Keepers.

To get back to the golf balls, I read every word of the story.  Twice.  Thought I should tell Teresa about it.  Thought I should say something on Facebook about it.  Then, I decided to blog about it.  Because, of course, my connection to and fascination with the story was about more than the golf balls in the National Park.  It was about why newspapers should still matter.  Do still matter.  It's good to slow down, read the paper.  Think about it.  Talk about it.  It's also good to listen to NPR, read the web, follow blogs, tweet (I suppose, though I'm not yet convinced).  None of these things have to be either/or zero sum things.

Quoting again from Kelly's piece, wherein park rangers noted that the golf balls had some tennis balls mixed in, he writes:  "Rangers also found cans of fruit and vegetables left in the desert along with park literature tossed around."

According to Ranger Joe Zarki, Jones [the accused] spread the golf balls around the park, "'to honor all the golfers who had died.'"

"Contrary to what rangers originally though, Jones wasn't chipping golf balls into the desert with a club.  He was hurling them from his car."  Mr. Kelly, you've got me hooked.  Tell me more, please.

"Jones was unavailable for comment Thursday.  He lives with his 84-year-old father, Douglas, who didn't know about the incident until a reporter called him.  'It certainly sounds strange,' said his father.  'He hikes out in Joshua Tree every three months or so, and he golfs maybe once a week.  But I don't know where he got that many golf balls.'  He did, however, say that his son works at a local golf course."

Well done Mr. Kelly.  Well done LA Times.

Support your local newspaper.  It may be dying, it's certainly flawed, but it's still worth having around.

Now, about afternoon delivery...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Serial carogamous

"Am I obsessed with justifying this decision?"  I asked Honey.

"Every human want to justify her decisions.  It's what makes us human," was her reply.

I had noted that I would be glad not to have to worry about the size of open parking places in the really impacted Whole Foods parking lot.  This was after saying early this very afternoon, that I would be glad:

1) Not to have to worry about the enormous blind spots on the FJ

2) Not to get 18 mpg

3) Not to have my car mistaken for a Hummer ever again

I may have come up with another thing or two or three.  Or eleven.

You see, friends and blogreaders, it's a mere three years after procuring my Toyota FJ Cruiser and enduring the summer of 08, where filling it up was a $65-75 endeavor that had to be done every 300 miles (or fewer).  Usually fewer.  And my time with the FJ is drawing to a close.  Not because I leased it.  Not because there's anything wrong with it.  But because I just can't deal with it any more.  I've got other reasons.  I'll throw some around now:

I've been furloughed from work two days a months with an accompanying 10% pay cut.  I would like my car to be cheaper.

It has faux-suicide doors and very few adults want to get into its back seat.

It will need new tires in the next six months and that will cost $1000 or more and I still won't be able to change them by myself, given how large they are.

Gas is back up over $3.00 a gallon.

Americans still want "cute" SUVs and the FJ is cute.  And newish.  And retro.  Someone will want it.  It still has value.

I don't like having to hoist up into it.

I would like to make less impact on the environment.  It qualified for Cash for Clunkers.  A 2007 vehicle.  Seriously.

I know, by the by, that someone else will buy it and use it and they will make an impact on the environment with it.  That will be partially my fault.  I'm ok with that.

Ok, see what I mean about justifying what I want to do?  A lizard brained serial carogamous, I am.

Anyway, all of which is to say, I put a deposit down on a 2010 VW Golf TDI.  Clean Diesel.  40mpg.  German made, just like my Passat of yore.  $1300 tax break.

It won't be here until December or January.  In the meantime, though, I'm a little obsessed.  In a good way.  Want to see what it will look like?!


That one is British, but it's the color I ordered.

We had our usual terrible time with car dealers trying to get one ordered.  We went to test drive the Jetta TDI (same engine) to make sure I liked it and to order one.  It's not even worth going into much detail about how much both dealers we visited did sucketh.  Van Nuys VW and Livingston VW both refused to take my order, had marked up the TDI cars above MSRP, and said that the dealers who would take orders were "lying."   Commonwealth VW has my business in buying the car for sure.   Some car advice:

1) Do your research on the interwebs before you go

2)  Walk away from people who call you "ma'am" in a condescending way and

3)  Always always always always bring Teresa.

Then you'll be fine.

More details to come, I'm sure.  Vroom (in a clean diesel way).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

License to Carbonate

The name is Sporks, the license is Alco2jet 220579.  That is all I can say or I might have to kill you.


Or not.  But that is my license number.  I'm a licensed carbonator.  Yeppers.

A week or so ago, Teresa sent me a link to a product I didn't know existed.

The SodaStream Fountain Jet.



I've always had a thing for old seltzer bottles.  We have some Teresa bought at a yard sale in the garage.


Ours are not this pretty but you get the idea.  William Powell could make you a drink from them.  Especially if you were Myrna Loy.

I also have been trying to be more green.  I ride my scooter when I can.  I would like someone to buy me this:


Audi A3 TDI.  45 mpg.  Thank you very much.

I'd buy it for myself, but I've recently taken a "state budget" furlough pay cut.  (Don't ask).

The SodaStream hits exactly the right marks.  I can have (really, really slight) thoughts of Powell and Loy while making carbonated beverages.  It saves me from buying and discarding plastic bottle containing fizzy water every week (my average was 3 bottles per week).  It fits my newly "dehanced" salary.   (Thanks California economy!)

So, how does it work, you ask?  I'm so glad you did.  So, so glad.

First, you need to secure your license for the Alco2jets.  I have two licenses and two jets.  I am special.


That's the spare.


That's the one currently in use.  See just how special I am?

License 220579.  That special.

Ok, so here's how it works.  You fill your specially provided SodaStream bottles from your handy Britta picther.




Please note that two bottles full is more than the (*cough*stupid*cough*) Britta pitcher can hold.  No offense to Britta stockholders.



This will mean filling and waiting for the Britta to take its sweet time draining itself through the (probably only mildly useful) filter.  Now, I could just skip this step and use tap water.  But what if L.A. tap water isn't pure and clear as the driven snow?  What if, indeed.  So, once the Britta has finished its "job," here's what I've got:


Yep, still water, two plastic bottle.  Awesome.


Now I secure one bottle on the machine.


Then I push the magic button.


And watch the bubbles fill the bottle.


If you try this at home, you will probably be joined at this point by one or more dogs.  They do not like the sound.  Especially the loud burping sound it makes indicating a certain level of carbonation.


I manage to ignore the dogs and persist.

4 burps for plain or flavor enhanced water.


How about orange?


Just a drop.

Now, let's get fancy and have some Diet Pink Grapefruit--"compare to Fresca!"  I'll want five burps on this, dog concern be dammed.


Measure the syrup.


Pour in bottle and gently shake. I register slight alarm at the pinkness.


Pour into juice glass.  Serve to spouse.


Seems ok.

Secure made soda in fridge.


Put soda maker in it's place (on floor, away from flammables, near wine and drinks)


Pour self a (slightly larger) juice glass of pink drink and sit down to blog.


Generally I'm only slightly excited by kitchen gadgets.  This one, though, is beyond fab.  No electricity, less plastic. A source of creativity.

Burp burp burp burp burp.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Shoe Musings

On Friday I rode my scooter to work.


That's not me on Friday, but I know people like visuals.  It is me, and it is my scooter, it's just not Friday.

Anyway, I had on "nice" jeans, a white shirt, and boots.  It was Friday, I had no meetings, it's summer.  I looked fine (for me).

These were the boots I had on:


Ok, if any people who ride two wheeled vehicles would like to have an internal dialogue about how safe these are, go ahead.  I'll wait.  I've been having some foot soreness lately and these are the most comfortable boots I own.


Anyway, I was walking down the stairs mid-afternoon as two women were walking up them.  Both women had on high heeled sandals that were (and this really is the only word for it) bejeweled.


Something like that.  I was admittedly clumping a little--as I was trotting down the stairs.  They, on the other hand, were walking slowly and carefully, undoubtedly not to trip and fall as they ascended.  They were undergrads going to class.  Trust me when I say I know that's who they were.

Both of them glanced at my feet and then at each other and shared a moment (I saw it, no ambiguity) of disapproval.  I simply kept going but have been thinking about them and their shoes and me an my shoes ever since.

Yesterday, I asked Teresa, "when did women start wearing such stupid shoes?"

She replied, "oh, they always have."


That's Claudette Colbert "walking" her dog in 1938.  Those shoes wouldn't work for me.  Seem fine for Ms. Colbert, though.

Here's the thing, though, even if women have always worn shoes that make them less, um, functional than men, they didn't use to ALWAYS do so.  By which I mean, they may have had the less functional shoes, but they only wore them sometimes.

For example, when I was in college, women didn't wear those kinds of shoes to class.  They wore comfortable shoes.  Or flats. This trend of comfort predated my college years, of course.  Behold:


You don't even need to see these two women's shoes to know that they have no resemblance whatever to the bejeweled numbers above.  I would like to see the bejeweled numbers over thick socks.  I really would.

The judging of shoes--I might add--was prompted herein not by me, but the bejeweled folks ascending.  I wonder if their feet hurt.  I expect they did.  Maybe still do, here two days later.

I was thinking about that today as I surveyed my shoes.  I cannot say that they reflect any particular trend but my own sensibilities, size 11 feet (which constrains choice, of course), and some practicalities.  I've selected a few for a brief tour.

Shall we begin?  Do make sure your seat belt is tightened before we depart.

First, let's start with the "special interest" shoes.  Those that must serve a particular function (and may not serve another).  Representing this category are:

Shimano's fine M160 shoes.  Clip in to my fine SPD pedals and be off.



They're certainly my shiniest shoes.  Truth told, I keep platform pedals on all three bikes most of the time, but sometimes, I like to clip in.  The M160s are ready when I do.

Special interest shoes #2 are also related to two wheeling, though motorized this time.  Behold the Sidi Slash.



Pretty, fancy, no?  Those are motorcycle boots for when you want to ride your 250cc scooter HARD (and safely).

On the casual end of things, I have what we use to call "tennis shoes."


They're Go Lite Trail Fly shoes.  Meant for running on scree.  I wear them for tennis shoe occasions.  I have worn them on scree.  In Hawaii.  More often I wear them on pavement.  In Los Angeles.

When I first moved to California, I insisted that one of the best things about it was the ability to wear sandals year-round.  I have had sandal love affairs (Birkenstocks, Doc Martens, Keens), but my true sandal love has always been and will always be...


Teva.  Tee to the vah.  My only pair at the moment, but I've another one on order.  There's also a pair in the "going to Goodwill" bag that Halo chewed on.  I may rescue them and try again to compensate in some way for the cat chew marks.  (Update:  I did rescue them and they may not be the chewed upon pair, as I am currently wearing them and there is no pain.  No pics, you'll have the trust me).


Six pounds of calico hellion right there.

As some people may have heard, my old friends at Crocs are in trouble.  They may go under.  Belly-up.  Bankrupt.  I let all my Croc clogs go some time ago, as I was getting rashes from the rubber on the tops of my feet.  I did acquire some Crocs flip flops recently.  Every time, I wear them, I think "last running of the Crocs."  Or last flipping of the Crocs.  Or last flopping of the Crocs.


For work, I tend to practical, brown or black and loafer-esque.  Thus:


Those are Earth Compasses.  The next ones are on the "fancier" end for me.  The last time I wore them, I got a blister which got infected.


Some kind of Merrell slide.  I have them in black and brown.  Teresa and I refer to them as my "Associate Dean" shoes.  I got them as I was starting my new(ish) job and associate (ha!) them with it.  Right now, they're not in circulation...  Infected blisters, you know.

I have a deep appreciation for Nike's Considered line.  Launched in 2005, it lasted two years and produced several shoes that I adore.  They're now all wearing out.  Here are the Gems from that line:


And there is no finer shoe in my life than the last-gasp Considered offering:


I have tan ones, too.  Both pairs are on the worn side of new.  I'll miss them when they go.  I look through Nike's current offerings every once in a while.  Then I sigh.  I'm out of the demographic, you see.

I expect I'd have gotten less of a look from the bejeweled crowd had I had these on:


My Earth Scenic boots.  I've even been known to polish them.  More hippie than clunky.

Whatever that theoretical outcome on the stairs might have been, there still seems to have been a meeting of women that I missed.  A meeting where it was decided that comfortable shoes were banished.  I'm good about keeping my calendar up-to-date, so it may be that I wasn't invited to (or wanted at) the meeting.

Just as well I guess. Clunk clunk, flip flip.