Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

Blogger Meet-Up

17 April, 2008

You Are Invited! It’s the ultimate shout out: Bloggers, readers, residents of the San Gabriel Valley and Parts Beyond. Anonymous people, both those with with noms de blog (Centinel, Publius, Dormitas and commenter Howey) and those sans noms de blog (anonymous and all the other anonymous ones). Readers, commenters, lurkers. People who are embarrassed they even read these silly blog thingys. You. I’m talking to you. Yes, you.

Join the Gathering of People Who Try To Find Meaning in Life Via Blogging Who Aren’t Jewish Because It’s Passover, Silly.

When: This Saturday, 19 April 2008

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (I’m arriving noonish.)

Place: Sunnyslope Park, Pasadena (Google it yerself. I’m outta here.)

* * * * *

Uh-oh. That was my hangover channeling my dad. In truth, we owe all to Miss Havisham. I just read the comments at her post, and there are three separate parts of Sunnyslope Park. The Real Zajac:

“Yes! Another fun meeting of Bloggers Anonymous!

Just so no one gets lost, there’s actually three separate parks crammed into this area: Eaton Sunnyslope, Gwinn, and Vina Vieja. Vina Vieja is the dog park to the south of Orange Grove and just to the east of the Eaton Canyon Wash. To the west of the wash are Gwinn Park (south side of Orange Grove) and Eaton Sunnyslope Park (north side of Orange Grove).

Which one are we going to be at?”

Not the dog park. It’s a potluck, and pooches will not be permitted to filch food. Based on Miss Havi’s description, we’ll be at Eaton Sunnyslope Park, on the north side of Orange Grove.

Comments on Pasadena City Council: 7 April 2008

8 April, 2008

First, my offering for those for whom my Pasadena-related posts are the equivalent of a permanent snooze button. Thanks to our friends at Nokia, 10 May 2008 is Pangea Day. From the web site:

One of Pangea Day’s goals is to change the way we think about other countries. What would you think of Kenyans singing the Indian national anthem? Australians singing the Lebanese national anthem? Japanese singing the Turkish national anthem? French people singing the US anthem? Watch this anthem series and see for yourself what hundreds of thousands of people are talking about on YouTube.

NB: Actually, not that many people have seen the videos yet, but they are pretty cool.

- – - – - – - -

Okay, my comments for the comfy-chair clan:

First, on the smoking thing. We all know that smoking is not good for you. Just google “bladder cancer” and look at the Mayo Clinic’s website (“Smoking is the greatest single risk factor for bladder cancer”). That being said, I’m not in favor of passing ordinances that we don’t can’t enforce. Do we really want our law enforcement folks handing out citations at Paseo Colorado for smoking? Frankly, I’d rather have them help identify all the school-aged kids who aren’t in school (truants and drop-outs) so we can pry the guns out of their cold, dead hands and get them into vocational education or something.

Before I launch into the Youth Development and Violence Prevention Committee, a few words about the visceral experience of watching Pasadena City Council from the comfort of my couch. I watched intently for 90 minutes.  When it was over, I felt like I was in a fog. The only consistent voice of clarity is Sid Tyler. Mr. Tyler is on point and manages to say things in three sentences or less. Perhaps that is because he is the only council member with significant management experience.

It’s a miracle I can watch at all, because The Scout practically goes ballistic when Channel 55 (KPAS) is on. Gin and tonic in hand, he circles the room spouting, “Did Bill just say ramp up? Did he say ramp up?”

Now on to the Youth Development and Violence Prevention Committee. I’m still unclear on the goal of the group. ‘Let’s have a committee and produce a report!’ seems to be the scope of the thing.

Accomplishments of the committee to date (in the order presented in the Staff Report, with comments by yours truly):

  • They showed up to the meetings – Such an accomplishment! Oy.
  • Violence is down – Just a wild guess here…that is NOT related to the fact that these meetings happened.
  • They have a “deeper knowledge” of issues, and community members stepped forward to offer help. – And request money, even though the committee had none to give.
  • Young people were given direct access to leaders – Because apparently no one has bothered to tell young people about public comment at city council meetings. Or how they can e-mail city council members.
  • The City and County talked to each other – Probably one of the better things to come out of this process. But shouldn’t intra-governmental communication be de rigueur?
  • Numerous programs received favorable exposure – Because if we read about it in the public record, it must be good.
  • Communication with the State Legislator’s Office is happening – Not sure which city department is having this communication or what it is about.
  • The Neighborhood Outreach Worker program is effective – Can you toss me some data to support this, please? Quantitative? Qualitative? Anything besides comments from someone who is employed by the program? What is the plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the $130,000 the city invested in this program?
  • There are “best practices” models out there that we could use – But we need to hire a consultant to package it for us in a report which we will fawn over and then promptly place on a shelf. Then another kid will be killed, and we’ll go back to hand-wringing and head-scratching. Then we’ll have another ad hoc committee!

The Scout says people will be mad at me for the above (so nice to have a spouse and a devil’s advocate in one sexy package), so I’ll try to say something positive here. I’m glad that community folks got together with other community folks to talk about the good things that are happening. It wasn’t realistic to expect this group of people to come up with a “plan or set of recommendations” or “develop a sustainable community-wide policy” in six months, so I can’t blame them for not doing that. It takes six months just to get disparate committee members working from the same general body of knowledge. That may have been achieved. (I’d have to administer a pre- and post-test to know for sure.)

What they wanna do now: With thanks to all ya’ll who participated in the old ad hoc committee (Keep in touch! Don’t be a stranger!), the City Council would now like to form a new ad hoc committee composed of four council members who will work with city staff (from Police, Human Services & Rec, and Public Health) to come up with a “master youth plan.”

“A budget of $50,000 is being recommended that will assist staff in carrying out these responsibilities.” Staff in which department? Will the money be divided between departments? We all know how interdepartmental money-grubbing gets the focus off the issue faster than anything. Will the money be used for a consultant? Maybe. There was a lot of discussion about the $50,000 that ended in general muddiness. Is this $50,000 part of the $40,000 already approved as matching funds? So far, only Pasadena City College has offered $10,000, so the city is only in for $10,000. Oh what the hell, let’s just approve it…it’s only $50,000. No line item breakdown, no idea which department(s) gets this money, and no idea how much is going to a consultant.

On With The Blather:

1. In previous posts I’ve mentioned The Pasadena Policy on Children, Youth and Families 2006 Update, which was adopted by Pasadena City Council one year ago (March 2007). This isn’t last year’s news. Oh no, this puppy’s got it all: Historical context, policy recommendations, and the recommendation that the city “create a children, youth and family coordinator staff position with responsibility for ongoing implementation of the Policy.” This is a fairly comprehensive document. Could this document be the foundation for the “youth master plan”? Or is this document the youth master plan? Is there anything missing that we need to add?

As he summed up the discussion, Mayor Bogaard said that the staff working group would be assuming “significant responsibility” and he hinted at adding FTEs. See previous paragraph.

What is the participation of the Human Services and Recreation Department in the current process? Why hasn’t the Human Services Commission been included in a meaningful way? Why can’t I find a link to recent Human Services Commission meetings with agendas and minutes on the city’s web site???

You know what I want in a city manager? I want a city manager that will hold department heads and other staff accountable. I want an efficiency expert. If there is dead wood flotsaming and jetsaming around, let’s take care of it.

2. A word about collaboration, the buzzword of the nonprofit world for the last two decades (at least). The idea of multi-agency collaboration is lovely. Lots of similar groups are working on similar issues: Shouldn’t they be working together?

The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. It makes sense for organizations to join together in a learning community, like Northwest ECHO. But as Mayor Bogaard pointed out at last night’s council meeting, “maintaining working relationships” with the big agencies is not best accomplished by meeting every two weeks to simply share information about who is doing what. (Insert discussion about meaningful collaboration here.)

It would be nice for someone to keep a running inventory of who is doing what. I nominate the Human Services and Recreation Department. Oh wait, don’t they do this already? Anyone? Anyone? Since face time is important, I’d propose one big quarterly meeting during which everyone can give an update about what they’re doing (aka: what they just got funding to do).

3. The public safety issue – This is significant. Parents/guardians have every reason to be wary. When young people say they are afraid to leave their homes, that is a rational response to a real situation. Heck, The Scout does not like it when I walk from the bus stop back home in the dark, and we live in the good part of the bad part of town. I have empathy for the police–they thought they were signing up to fight the bad guys and it is ever so much more complicated than that. They didn’t know they were going to be responding to social crises as well.

Big Questions: We have many non-profits doing all kinds of good work. How can the city support this work? Does the city have a particular role as a catalyst? Are there things the city could be doing that are difficult for non-profits to do? What kinds of programs should be city-sponsored?

Last night, at the beginning of his summation, Mayor Bogaard said, “I don’t want to disagree with anything that’s been said.” That’s our Bill. My point is that we need to be clearer about what we want at the end of this process.

I Am a Winner!

4 April, 2008

Winning isn’t everything, but it is nice from time to time.

1. Last week I got a call, and yesterday I got the letter.

Dear Valued Gelson’s Customer,

Per our telephone conversation last week, it is with pleasure to notify you are a winner from a recent enter to win contest at Gelson’s Markets for A Snow Valley Getaway. (sic)

The prize awarded to you is lift tickets for two (2) to Snow Valley in Running Springs, CA and a case of vitaminwater and vitaminwater winterapparel. (more sic and emphasis theirs) ARV: $225 (Actual retail value may vary depending on price of vitaminwater and rate changes for accommodations, equipment rental and lift tickets. An difference between stated approximate retail value and actual value of prize will not be awarded.)

To claim your prize, simply fill out the attached Affidavit of Eligibility/Publicity Release, which must be notarized. (emphasis mine)

The good news is that the lift tickets are good through 2009, and The Scout loves to ski.

There’s a gob of legalese on the Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability/Publicity Release. I have to swear that I will never sue hold harmless Gelson’s Markets, Arden Group Inc. (no idea who they are), Energy Brands, Glaceau, Vitaminwater, Snow Valley, and their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, blah blah blah against any liability, claims. losses and damages arising out of my participation in the Promotion or any Promotion-related activities and the acceptance, use, misuse or possession of any prize received in connection with this promotion.

Basically, this is one of those “prizes” that will end up costing money. Once I factor in the gas, ski rental, etc. it’ll add up. Also, Running Springs is a bit far for a day trip. The ideal is to go up the night before, ski all day, spend that night on the mountain, and then go home. That way you’re not driving at all on the ski day. Note how the ideal costs the most.

If I get the case of vitaminwater in time, I’ll bring it to the bloggers’ picnic on April 19. (Sunnyslope Park in Pasadena, 10 am – 3 pm) Bloggers AND READERS are invited. Bring something to share.

Moving on…

2. Remember how I got an e-mail from Ann Lau of the Visual Artists Guild telling me that I won the “Turn Your Back” photo contest? Actually, I came in second. But guess what? They sent me a check for $500!

Here’s a bit from the letter:

As you know, the Visual Artists Guild is dedicated to promoting human rights internationally. We have been greatly encouraged by all of the support we have received from community leaders and residents of California to oppose the propaganda tool that Beijing is using in the great City of Pasadena through the use of a parade float to kick off the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Beijing has broken its promise to improve human rights in China that it made before receiving the bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

Enclosed please find a check for $500.00.

We wish you the very best and encourage you to continue to promote respect for human rights.

Frankly, this is humbling. I really appreciate how the VAG (gotta love that acronym) went to Pasadena City Council meetings week after week to protest the float. They brought much-needed attention to an important issue. Fellow bloggers, I’m sure you are glad you can blog freely without ending up in prison like Hu Jia (Chinese Blogger Sentenced to Three Years for Subversion, Libel).

Anyway, here’s the photo if you missed it.

Was (Not Was) 2

16 February, 2008

I have unabashed love and enthusiasm for music.

I have unabashed love and enthusiasm for Was (Not Was). Who was the chick dancing by herself at the concert? Moi, of course. Join me people, join me. This stuff is too good to miss.

Lovely review by Ann Powers of the concert in today’s Los Angeles Times. The article even uses the words I chose in my previous post…”mash-up.” I used it to describe the line-up of artists, but Powers uses it to describe Was (Not Was):

“Was (Not Was), like Detroit, is an endearing mess,” Creem editor Brian J. Bowe wrote in 2004. More of a mash-up than a mess, I’d say. It resurfaced like a beautiful mirage at this Valentine’s Day party, which also featured guest artists Kris Kristofferson and Brian Wilson broadening the map from Nashville to California.

Wanna have some fun? Go to the Was (Not Was) MySpace page and have a listen. Check out “I Feel Better Than James Brown.” (NB: not for you faint hearted romantics)

Hey kids–the new album “Boo!” drops (love that lingo) on April 8.

Need more persuading? From TrouserPress.com:

Shattering the imaginary divisions between “black music” and “white music,” Detroiters David (Weiss; sax, flute, keyboards, vocals) and Don (Fagenson; bass, keyboards, guitar) Was use undated soul and funk as a flexible backdrop for their alternately serious and sarcastic commentary. The historical problem with a lot of dance music has been its rabid dissociation from intellect; more than almost any other group, Was (Not Was) obliterates that gap.

Was (not Was) – Earth to Doris/Robot Girl

16 February, 2008

Yes, AP, they did “Walk the Dinosaur.”

Was (Not Was) – Walk The Dinosaur

Spy in the House of Love

14 February, 2008

Was (Not Was) – Spy In The House Of Love

Jeffrey Eugenides was on NPR yesterday talking about the book he edited, My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro. I’ve leafed through this hefty tome at the bookstore and it looks fantastic. At the end of the interview, he mentioned that he and his wife do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. He referred to the day as the cheapening and commoditization of romance. When one is in love, one can celebrate the romantic aspects of that on any day, in any fashion (picnic springs to mind for me).

I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Eugenides, but I also appreciate an excuse to do something fun. So tonight, The Scout and I are going to The Orpheum to see Was (Not Was), Brian Wilson (yes, the Beach Boy) and Kris Kristofferson. A most lovely mash-up of fantastic musicians. (Many thanks to Metroblogging L.A. for pointing this out, though I’m crestfallen that I didn’t win tickets.)

Wind Farm – Coachella Valley

14 January, 2008

Wind Farm Approach

Approaching the wind farm in the Coachella Valley.

Wind Farm 2

Wind Farm 1

Wind Farm 4

Wind Farm 5 Train

Obviously, this is not a passenger train. Still, the sound of a train makes me think of Joni Mitchell’s song “Just Like This Train

Well I’ve got this berth and this roll down blind
I’ve got this fold up sink
And these rocks and these cactus going by
And a bottle of German wine to drink

Wind Farm 6 row

Wind Farm 7 Train

I love trains in an irrational, Fellini sort of way.

Wind Farm double row

Wind Farm Row

Best use of this wind farm as a location in a feature film? Robert Altman’s The Player, of course.

Millard Canyon

5 January, 2008

One of the very best things to do after a hard rain in Los Angeles is take a hike up Millard Canyon. So that’s what I did today. Kinda.

Millard 2

I didn’t have my National Forest Adventure Pass with me (required for parking) so I didn’t go all the way up to the big waterfall.

Millard waterfall wide

There was some weird white foamy stuff (you can see a bit at the far left) created by the rushing water.

Millard waterfall cu

Hearing the water is as much fun as seeing it.

Millard 1 wide

I must go back soon.

Here’s a little more on Millard Canyon.

FYI – That first link (up at the top) says: “Be aware that entrance and exit along Chaney Trail (Road) is between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm only.” The signs I saw today said 8 pm (new number 8′s have been pasted over the 10′s).

Phil Collins Gorilla Ad Cadburys Dairy Milk

29 December, 2007

This is the sort of thing that makes me miss living in England.

Happy Boxing Day!

26 December, 2007

Thanks to spending several years in the UK, I celebrate Boxing Day. It’s a day to hang out with family and friends, watch sports (Portsmouth vs Arsenal, the team my brother supports, is about to start), and play with your new stuff. I have the new Joni Mitchell CD to play with.

No one really knows the origin of Boxing Day, but there are theories.

For your reading pleasure:

What British kids say about Boxing Day

Encyclopedia Britannica on Boxing Day

Snopes on Boxing Day

Wikipedia article on Boxing Day

Update: Well, here’s proof that great minds think alike.


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