Posted in Around Town, Books, Uncategorized, Writing

Putting the Me in Media

I didn’t make it out to UCLA for the LA Times’ Festival of Books this year. “Festival of Books” is something of a misnomer…the event could be called “Festival of Panels” or “Festival of Opinions” or even “Festival of Talking Heads.”

Anyway, here’s a link to a short article about the “New Media: Blogging and Beyond” panel. Kevin Roderick of LA Observed :

…commented on the transition from print to blogging. “I had to make a transition, learn to put more of myself in the writing ⎯ even in print because I think readers are hungering for much more of a connection with the writers and journalists they read.”

In this age of information, we crave community. Information is important, it is a tool for effecting change–but without community, information does not have a context.

We are all suspicious about where information comes from. In the early days of television, when it was time for a commercial, they used to say, “And now, a word from our sponsor.” At this point we know/feel that every word we hear on television has been approved by the sponsor. We get our news from someone trying to sell us something. Ugh.

That’s part of the immense popularity of political blogs. We get information that traditional media outlets don’t cover. The writer’s opinion comes through as well. It only makes sense that we would want to know a little about the person who is doing the reporting.

Posted in Around Town, Uncategorized, Writing

Natasha Wood – Rolling With Laughter

My friend Natasha Wood has a show at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood entitled Rolling With Laughter. Monday & Tuesday evenings, 8:00 pm, through May 8, 2007.

Go. See. It is fabulous!!!


Final two weeks before London and Edinburgh!!!
conceived and performed by Natasha Wood
written by Natasha Wood and Beverly Sanders
directed by Cameron Watson

Tickets are half price on & or you can quote “wheelies” at the El Portal box office.

Monday & Tuesday nites at 8:00 pm at the El Portal Forum Theatre
5269 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA
It’s a one hour and five minute ride of a lifetime – apparently!

“Wood has a graciousness and lack of sentimentality that serves the work very well…It shows us that sometimes the greatest liabilities can be turned into remarkable advantages.”–Backstage West – Pick of the Week

“an UNFORGETTABLE solo show that everyone should see!
Do see this show! It will be one of the most rewarding sixty minutes of your life!”–Tolucan Times

This production is ONE OF A KIND!”–Accessibly Live Off-Line

“Thanks to the godsent team of Watson, Sanders and Wood, the indelible ROLLING WITH LAUGHTER provides a SPECTACULAR evening bombarding us with laughter yet subtly guaranteeing to make almost everyone leave the theatre with a new spark of hope…”–Entertainment Today/Review – Critic’s Pick

Posted in Grindstone

Jessica Starr

Hello from Oregon. I’m here in Forest Grove, northwest of Portland. I’m visiting my mom, who is in the hospital. Usually, being in the hospital is not a good thing. It means something bad has happened.

In this case, being in the hospital is good. My mom is bipolar, and she is having a manic episode. She needs to be in the hospital right now; she needs care, and she needs medication to facilitate a reduction of the mania.

“Mental health care is broken in our country.” This is what Ann, one of the Emergency Department (ED) nurses at St. Vincent’s Hospital said to me at 5:15 am this past Sunday morning. We had arrived at ED at 1:30 am, and it was full of other patients, including a larger-than-usual number with some form of mental illness. St. Vincent’s psych unit was full, and other patients were already in line to get in there.

“There are no psychiatric beds available–in the whole state of Oregon.” I had just settled into the idea that I might need to schlep the 90+ miles to Corvallis or someplace else in Oregon to find a psych unit with an available bed when Ann (the nurse) said this.

Enter Jessica Starr, superhero. I love it when people have a name that describes them perfectly. Jessica is one of the social workers at St. Vincent’s Emergency Department. Thanks to Jessica’s determination, perseverance, and tenacity, my mom was transferred to a geriatric psychiatric unit at Tuality Forest Grove Hospital (less than 10 miles from my mom’s apartment). A hospital-to-hospital transfer is a big deal because of the legal and financial issues involved.

I overheard a little of what Jessica had to do to find a place for my mom. She had to persuade the physician that my mom was “that bad.” She had to emphasize the many hospitalizations over the past 15 years. She had to confirm that the payor source (in this case, Medicare parts A, B and D) was in place and would cover the stay.

Jessica waded through several phone calls to make the right thing happen. I happened to be standing near the nurse’s station when Jessica got the final okay for the transfer. She hung up the phone, heaved a smiling sigh of relief, then held up her hand to me for a big ole high five.

When we got to Tuality Forest Grove, one of the employees told me that there are only 14 geriatric psychiatric units left in the entire United States. I felt like we’d won the lottery.

Jessica, you rock.

Posted in Uncategorized

Change, or Stay the Same?

The Virginia Tech tragedy has unleashed a firestorm of public comment at the New York Times web site.  Those who believe in gun control have had their worst fears confirmed.  Those who believe that gun ownership is a right talk about the lack of mental health care for those who need it.  Or else they want to pretend that the guy who did the shooting lived in some kind of vacuum and was not influenced by anything external.

It is hard to embrace diversity in a time of grief, but free speech is the American way.  Is there a lesson to be learned from this tragedy, something that needs to be changed?  Or do we go back to business as usual?

Let’s start with some strong federal laws regarding gun ownership.

Posted in Around Town, Grindstone

You Have to Be A Specialist

Pasadena’s Water and Power Department (PWP) is one of my favorite city departments. For one thing, they have the best swag at community events…nice bottles of water, suggestions on planting not-too-thirsty plants…I even got a low-flush toilet and a low-flow shower head from them a few years back.

My Star-News did not show up today. Never mind. Here’s from their web site:

PWP seeks input on resource plan

PASADENA – Pasadena Water and Power is encouraging input from its customers in response to the proposed Integrated Resource Plan.

The proposed 20-year plan will ensure reliable and environmentally responsible electric service with stable rates and energy independence.

The IRP, in development, takes into account future energy demand, advances in renewable energy resources, conservation, forecast changes in regulatory requirements and more. It is PWP’s blueprint for meeting the future needs of its customers over the next two decades.

The proposed plan is available at; for a hard copy call (626) 744-7567. Comments, documents, studies and reports relevant to the proposed draft IRP should be submitted by April 23, 2007, via e-mail to; or to Pasadena Water and Power, 150 S. Los Robles Ave., Suite 200, Pasadena CA 91101; or fax to (626) 744-6432.–From staff reports

I think it is great that they are soliciting public comment. I don’t feel qualified to comment, but how great is it that I can if I want to? Just the invitation to think 20 years in the future is awesome. I want to read the proposed plan to see how someone else does that.

Ah, I’ve just downloaded it. Yet another city document in Times New Roman. I regret to say that I have come to associate Times New Roman with bloated bureaucratic bulls#@*. Thank God my church uses Garamond.

I hope that some community members who have some knowledge about energy issues take the time to comment on the plan, some Caltech-ers or JPL-ers or anyone with the requisite background. My MA in Theology equipped me to deal with the white-shirted Mormons who just knocked on my door. Am I qualified to comment on an energy plan?

Well, I am interested in the topic of how people change their behavior. How do we become more efficient consumers of energy? How does the plan address the people who let the fridge door stand open as they take the mayo over to the counter? Or those who let the water run while they brush their teeth?

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A general observation about modern life: It helps to be a specialist. The thing is, you need to be a specialist on every topic. Having a baby? Start reading now. Birth is not a pathology, but women go to the hospital to have babies. How medical do you want this natural process to be?

Buying life insurance? Well, just what is the purpose of life insurance? Is it to protect income, or is it an investment vehicle? I’m from the school of thought that believes the best thing is to “buy term and invest the difference.” But I only know that because my mom used to sell term life insurance.

Any time I do anything big…have a baby, buy a car, pick a vacation destination…I research like crazy.  I read so many prenatal books when I was pregnant that the only thing left was the medical textbooks.  But I had a home birth, so all that reading was the responsible thing to do.

It is terrifically time consuming to become a specialist.  It isn’t practical.  But I want to know what I’m doing.  I want my thinking to be informed.  I rely on the Internet for information, and the Internet relies on energy to keep it running.  So my city’s 20-year plan on energy is of vital importance to me, no matter what my academic pedigree is.

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Wacky “Insurance” Charges

Discount Tire.  I have been a customer of Discount Tire for many years.  They used to be on South Arroyo Parkway, but had to move because a big ole Whole Foods  is going to open at that location, so now they are on east Green Street.  Their prices are pretty good, and the location is convenient.

But read the fine print. “Waste tire disposal charge” is $3.00 per tire (up from $1.95 last July). Then “State required tire fee” is $1.75 per tire. Isn’t that also a disposal charge?

A few days ago, I had to buy a tire (unrepairable flat).  We had paid the $8.95 for “Life of the Tire Service Agreement” but apparently it doesn’t cover tires once they get old. Well, first they told me if I could find my original invoice, I’d get the tire for free. When I made it clear that I was going to do that, the story changed.

The guy said the life of the tire was over, the treads were too worn down.  The $8.95 covers tires that are still good (still “lively”). I couldn’t really argue with this (the tire was pushing 3 years old), though I was tempted to get out a penny and see what Lincoln’s head had to say about the issue.

I pointed to my other old tire and said, “Well, is that tire still covered?” The answer: “That tire is old too, so if you had to replace it, your new tire would be prorated. You’d have to pay about $25 for the new tire.”

I didn’t press the issue, but I don’t think any of this is spelled out in print anywhere. The whole discussion seemed to be based on the opinion of the Discount Tire employee, not any written policy. Probably I should just go back there and get my tire for $25 before it busts and I have to pay $65.95 (plus $2.95 for new valve stem, $10.95 for wheel balancing, $3.00 for waste disposal charge and $1.75 for state required tire fee). Then the big decision…do I plunk down the $8.95 for the “Life of the Tire Service Agreement”?

Charges like that $8.95 are in the category of funky insurance to me, like the $4.99 that Verizon  charges to “insure” my mobile phone.  What the $4.99 per month really provides is assurance that if I lose my phone, I will only have to pay $50 to replace it. Which I guess is better than paying the retail prices that wireless companies charge when you buy a phone without a service. I have used this “insurance” on several ocassions (like when I accidently flushed my phone down the toilet).

On their website, Discount Tire lists the ten reasons to buy from them. Reason #3 is “Free flat repair with tire purchase.” Wait a minute…I think it’s really called “Life of the Tire Service Agreement” and they charge $8.95 for it.

How about a little truth in advertising? Consumerist to the rescue…