ped·ant – noun: a person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules.

Here in the greater Los Angeles area we’re blessed with not one, but two excellent public radio stations, KCRW at 89.9 FM and KPCC at 89.3 FM. The former operates out of Santa Monica College and the latter out of Pasadena City College.

I’ve personally always been a KPCC’er, I guess ever since my stint in the mid-to-late ’90s first as a freelancer and finally for a spell as editor of a local weekly newspaper in Pasadena — my allegiance probably had a lot to do with location and also the fact that one of the station’s “stars,” Larry Mantle, would occasionally have me on his public access TV program to discuss issues facing the area. But in the ensuing years since the dawn of the new millennium as a satellite radio subscriber, my commercial radio listenership of any channels had fallen off dramatically.

A few weeks ago, though, I was driving home from work and because I hit a deadzone that blanked out the Sirius satellite music channel I typically listen to, I clicked over to the FM band on my stereo and found myself at KCRW. It had been awhile since I’d listened to public radio and found the news and views a welcome change.

But whether it was that specific day or one shortly thereafter, their traffic reporter came on and referenced an accident on the “east” 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley, and though I had a minor physical reaction to the error at the time, I really thought nothing of it until over the course of several days and reports she did it again and again; “East on the 101 at White Oak there’s a collision blocking the No. 1 lane,” West on the 101 at Coldwater Canyon a stalled vehicle has been moved over to the shoulder…”

What’s my problem? Like any and all of our nation’s roadways, The 101 Freeway runs a specific direction, in this case: north/south. Period. To my knowledge there is no highway anywhere that officially changes direction just because it doesn’t happen to literally go in the figurative direction it is originally designated.

My other problem is that I’m a proud and entirely unapologetic card-carrying member of Pedantics International whose motto is “There Is No Detail Too Small Or Meaningless Upon Whose Error We Will Not Fixate.” Or is it “Miniscule” instead of “Small?” See what I mean?

As yes: That Pedant, I was compelled to go that extra step of seeking out and finding the traffic reporter’s email address on the KCRW website and thus send her a polite attempt to redirect her to correctly refer to the 101 Freeway by its proper directions, like so:

I enjoy and appreciate your afternoon traffic reports and the enthusiasm you bring to them, but I would like to respectfully point out that every time you refer to incidents on the 101 Freeway as occurring on the “east” or “west” sides, the traffic gods disable a Prius. The 101 has been, is and always should be referred to as a north/south thoroughfare:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_101

Humbly submitted,
Will Campbell

To which I received the following polite reply:

Hi Will! I’m glad you like my reports! Thanks for taking the time
to write! I hardly ever get to engage one-on-one with listeners.
Technically, you are right, the 101 is a North/South freeway. However, due to the topography of the State, like in the San Fernando Valley & Conejo Valley it literally runs east and west from Burbank into Ventura County. It runs North/South geographically speaking at the 134. You may or may not know the 134 runs east and west. In Studio City if you stayed straight on the 101 and didn’t take the turn into Hollywood it becomes the 134. By turning South you stay on the 101. It is that section, as well as the area of northern Ventura county into Central & Northern California that it actually runs north and south. Even the on-ramps onto the freeway, say in Thousand Oaks for example, are marked East 101 and West 101.

As far as your Prius is concerned, she may just need a spa day. Take her to a nice car wash and get her insides vacuumed. And tell her to pull it together – you’re the one in charge.

While she is certainly correct that the 101 does follow an east/west trajectory through the San Fernando and Conejo valleys, I was surprised that she’d sacrifice accuracy in truly believing such a deviation qualified as an official directional change, and frankly I was entirely blown away at her insistence it was signed accordingly through those stretches.

So of course I wrote back proving her wrong (images biggable if clicked):

I appreciate the response, but with your rejection of my attempt to correct your error the Prius has sadly committed hybridicide. The 101 is in its entirety officially designated and posted as a north/south roadway, regardless of segments that you point out do indeed traverse along an east/west course. Case in point, attached is a Google Streetview image, say in Thousand Oaks for example, of a 101 SOUTH onramp. Show me a single 101 Freeway entry point that says EAST or WEST and I’ll show you a Caltrans sign hanger who made a mistake.

south101

Unwritten at the end of that last sentence was “…and a traffic reporter who believes it as fact.” Curiously the only thing she responded with was… this:

image1

Huh. Anyway, a few days passed with no other contact and I was surprised to hear her refer on-air to incidents involving the 101 as occurring in the north or south lanes. The rub was those incidents hadn’t occurred in the valleys so it was unclear if she had come to see the light or hadn’t. Then came this to my inbox:

Hi Will. Hope you are doing well.
Here are a couple of screen shots from two of my traffic sources I thought your Prius might find upsetting. California Highway Patrol considered the authority regarding traffic information. Better put the hybrid on suicide watch. 😉

image1

Sigh. Should you click on the above screen shot you’ll find the CHP does indeed and wrongly refer to an incident through the valley as occurring on the “US101E / Las Virgenes Road. EB101” Below that is another incident “US101E / Coldwater Canyon. EB 101.” That explained a lot, which I elaborated on in the following farewell:

Prius, still dead. Buried even. In your honor I now have a 1968 Chevrolet Caprice convertible with an eight-cylinder 404 engine and I actually put a dose of lead additive in the tank every time you call the 101 wrong. On the good side, it’s a relief to know it’s not your fault, but on the bad side the old adages of “you’re only as good as your source,” and “if it’s on the internet it must be true” stand up. I appreciate knowing that you’re blaming a law enforcement agency because the police are never wrong and almost always justified even when they are.

I personally recommend Caltrans, which would be the actual authority on our state’s roadways. They also have an awesome traffic mapping system (http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov) that you should check out some time.

But in case you’re too busy with the CHP you’ll note in this latest edition of Disproving Your Misinformation, I’ve attached a screen grab of the Caltrans Cam on the 101 SOUTH at Los Virgenes. It’ll also be my last attempt because frankly it’s time for me to humbly surrender the fast lane to you. I’ve given you concrete proof that refuted your initial all-too-confident assertion as to the highway’s signage, and you give me pixels on a screen that allow you to proudly perpetuate in the east/west myth. I gave it my best shot and failed. You go girl.

caltrans

I said at the top, we here in the greater Los Angeles area are blessed to be able to choose between two public radio stations. The subtext in surrendering the fast lane is that I also surrendered the station to her and moved (south, not west) down the dial to good ol’ KPCC. Of course in doing so, I run the risk of hearing their traffic reporter make the same mistake. It hasn’t happened yet, but if it does, I’m thinking I’ll be able to refrain from picking that same battleflag up again. In fact, I’m pretty sure. Mostly.

I read a poem this morning shared by an acquaintance on Facebook. It was written by a woman who explained with regret why she killed a harmless spider that startled her and with some recognition that fear was no excuse. I appreciated that sentiment but not enough to dispel the disappointment at its demise.

I have chosen to be a partner with the creatures that inhabit this world. I am not one so pure; after all, I had bacon for breakfast this morning, and a hamburger for dinner last night. But I am otherwise avowed to coexist as best I can with those to which I come in direct contact. And I default to disdain for those who aren’t. I will go out of my way to pardon a housefly from the window screen prison it finds itself. I will praise the praying mantis, rescue the ant. Relocate the house centipede. Driver 35 miles to get an injured opossum care. Be late to work to free a gull from a certain and horrible death. No cockroach goes stepped on that crosses my path. Spiders are a marvel and an amazement that command my respect. Our perimeter is home to countless brown widows, our garage a haven for their black cousin. When rodents ended up doing several hundred dollars damage chewing up the wiring of my Baybee’s Ford Escape, I didn’t employ inhumane traps or poisons, but instead deployed a spray solution of Peppermint oil and water and one of those electronic sonic devices. And don’t get me started on how much I adore those creatures people proudly love to hate: coyotes, skunks, pigeons, raccoons, rats, snakes, sharks. Any fear of them is based in an ignorance and/or a bias that too many stubborn people seem sadly only too righteous to maintain.

I do have a footnote to that code of coexistence: If you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you. Thus I don’t suffer the mosquito or the tick or the flea attempting to feast off me; or pretty much any parasite or predator regardless of their number of legs — but especially those of two who have this ability to maliciously and intentionally harm. They are the worst.

We all lived in a world this week full of tragedy. The latest in a succession of the them, and the next undoubtedly yet to come. But this one was of police officers killing people and of people killing police officers. It was enough unnecessary and vile death to cut me to the core and its culmination was enough to have my concerned superior exercise caution and order me not to do my job on Friday. We stayed in the office and did paperwork. I understood and respected the decision but my impulse when I got up yesterday morning was to suit up get in the field tall with my head on a swivel because the need for me doesn’t go away just because sanity does.

Which brings me to what happened this morning. A nothing. A trifle. I was in the backyard and dark of mood at Buster the tortoise’s hutch with her breakfast and the requisite spray bottle full of water to moisten the meal and top off the water bowl from which I’ve never seen her drink. The sun bathed the area in light and the air was cool. I did a doublecheck of the cone created by the antlion larvae that’s taken up residence in a corner of Buster’s space and, no I didn’t destroy it. Instead I admired the tiny ambush predator for its diligence in maintaining the delicate structural integrity of the trap and its patience in waiting for a hapless meal to fall in. But that’s another story.

bushie1359

Here’s a low-res still of a bushtit exiting a nest in our backyard from 2010 (click to enlargify).

I was spritzing Buster’s greens with the water bottle when to my left I heard the telltale chirps of a gregarious group of “bushies,” more commonly known as bushtits, that were gathered in the quince tree from my neighbor’s yard whose branches overhang the fence. On an impulse I directed the spray in their direction and within a few moments others were drawn to it and there were at least ten of the little birds chirping and bouncing up a storm around the trees boughs and leaves shimmying and fluffing and rubbing themselves against the leaves where some of the water drops had landed in appreciation at the surprise spritzing to such a degree that the whole tree took on a jolly air in its shaking. If I’d redirect the spray to another part of the tree they’d move to it. Even a hummingbird joined in. And dang if I didn’t stand there cranking out the water in that full bottle until my hand was tired and it was empty. And doubledang it if I didn’t suddenly find water falling out of my eyes because in this latest of a seeming unending series of hells we’re going through I was just struck by the absolute beauty of this interaction and how gloriously blessed I was both to experience it and more important to appreciate these lovely little birds bopping around and literally soaking it all up. I think I’ll make this a habit.

The moral to this belabored ramble? Find beauty wherever you can and be a part of the world, not apart from it.

Note: I warn you ahead of time this post may change the way you feel about me as a potentially normal human being. I’d advise not dwelling on it too much and just chalking it up to “Oh that Will… the lengths he’ll go to about something so trivial — and then write about it!” But if you want to overthink my sanity or lack thereof, that’s OK.

Whilst most of my communication is done via fingertips and a keyboard, my job has me writing violation notices in triplicate on an almost daily basis, and as such I’m always searching for a gooooood ballpoint pen to provide whatever boost to my crappy penmanship. My journey has led me to find two of my favorites. The Staples 1.0  and the Paper Mate Profile 1.4. Both of these instruments are gloriously smooth. In fact the latter claims to be the “World’s Smoothest Pen.” I am unable to refute that trademarked boast, but I don’t agree with it, I think the Staples 1.0 edges it out.

Trouble is the pen containers themselves that encase their ink cartridges are relatively bulky –additionally so with the inclusion of rubber grips — and as a result, carrying the requisite two (“always have a back-up!”) in my uniform shirt pocket while on duty is not an option.

Enter Pen No. 3. The Bic Clic Stic, the very model of compact and slender efficiency, two fit in my pocket like they were custom built for it. See how it and the Staples 1.0 compare, below:

IMG_0702

The only problem is the Clic Stic does not write to my satisfaction. Not that it’s bad, it’s perfectly acceptable. But in the environment within which I scribe, i.e., usually while on my feet outdoors holding a ticket book at somewhat of an awkward angle while trying to write information legibly in very small areas on a slightly unstable surface, it’s just does not feel as comfortable as either the Staples or Paper Mate.

With an acceptance of form over function, I made do with the Clic Stic because of its overall design until it dawned on me a few weeks ago, that I might be able to do a simple hack involving the taking of the ink cartridge out of the Staples and/or Paper Mate and swapping it for the one that comes standard with the Clic Stic.

Of course, when that dawning occurred I was down to my last Staples 1.0 and upon removal of the pens’ respective guts I found the Staples ink cartridge was about a quarter-inch longer than the Bic’s. Since an irreversible trim would be in order with no guarantee of success, I wasn’t about to risk sacrificing it without some back-ups on hand.

And that brought me to a local Staples last weekend, where I spent 10 minutes wasting my time scouring their huuuuuge selection of pens only to find that particularly store on that particular day didn’t have a single Staples 1.0 in stock. Much grousing ensued and led to me taking a box of Paper Mates to the register. When the cashier asked me if I’d been able to find everything I wanted, I curtly told her absolutely not. When her bored looked turned to one of mild surprise I insisted she not worry about it because the last thing I wanted to do was waste more time talking about it. After all, a pen’s a pen, right? Wrong.

Next I went to Staples.com and found a box of a dozen of them was only going to cost $5.29 — but get this: the only shipping involved a whoppingly excessive $9.95 charge. Much WTFing ensued until I discovered that Staples offers free delivery to its stores for customer pick-up, so I selected that option and a couple days later after being notified via email that my order was delivered, detoured on my way home to pick it up. I was humorously not surprised to find my box of pens — roughly 5″ x 3″ x 1″– had been shipped in a box that was easily 18″ x 12″ x 4″. Ironically, Staples has apparently never heard of padded envelopes, which they sell.

Long story short, I sat down yesterday with six of the Clic Stics and six of the Staples 1.0s, and about six minutes later, having successfully completed the final pen hack I now had the best of both worlds where form equaled function: a half-dozen fully operational Clic Stics holding their freshly trimmed and installed supersmooth Staples ink cartridges. And there was much rejoicing.

 

A couple days ago over on Facebook I posted about getting a pair of cheap seats to the Vin Scully Appreciation Game at Dodgers Stadium in September and how by not spending $1,400 for butt rests down near the field I would have mooooore than enough to get a “SCULLY 67” customized Dodgers jersey honoring The Greatest Broadcaster Of The Last 67 Years And Of Aaaaaaall Time who I unabashedly idolize and cherish!

Turns out easier said than done.

Almost immediately after securing the tix, I went to the store at MLB.com and tried with aaaaaalll my might to order one but for reasons unknown to me, when you enter “SCULLY” in the name box, it gets rejected. Period. To paraphrase the pop-up error message: “Noooooot! Please try again.” Don’t believe me? See the screengrab below (click to enlargify) and/or go try it for yourself.

failjersey

Suitably apoplectic, the only alternative I found to circumvent the heinous ban was to enter Vin’s last name backwards — “YLLUCS” — and then actually consider making the purchase and taking the jersey to a tailor to have the letters re-reversed into the proper order, at additional expense of course. I kid you not, this was a length I was willing to go. This is how much I want to celebrate and recognize the retiring institution that is My Vin, who has been around every spring and summer of my e-n-t-i-r-e-t-y  — all the more remarkable because it’s happened in my native city where history and longevity don’t mean shit. Additional disclosure: This fervent drive to represent is augmented by the fact that for the previous two seasons as a DirecTV subscriber, thanks to the greedy SportsNetLA debacle, I was unable to watch games and hear Vin at will as I had been aaaaaall my previous years on this planet.

But first bless me, I opted to do a desperation search for “Scully Custom 67 Jersey” in faint hope of finding any other options. And as miracles would have it found an eBay page for a obscure little local El Monte outfit called TNS that was offering what appeared to be Exactly What I Wanted readymade for sale — and at $6 less than what MLB.com was charging.

So I went ahead and ordered it, triple-crossing my fingers that I wasn’t getting supreeeeemely ripped off.

The jersey arrived from TNS (here’s their Facebook page) Tuesday night — and boy did I NOTNOTNOT get ripped off. In fact the jersey deserves a triple OMG for being beyond my expectations. Feast yer eyes at the authenticity and gorgeousness with details like an embroidered Vin Scully signature and a microphone patch on the sleeve!!! And the fit? Perfection!

I will wear it soooo proudly for Vin Scully Bobblehead night Tuesday, September 20, and Vin Scully Appreciation Day, his final home game of his illustrious and incomparable 67-year career, September 23.

Whether the pitcher hits the stone, or the stone hits the pitcher… It’s gonna be bad for the the pitcher.

Silence!

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I’m not sure if Christmas as I used to anticipate/celebrate it is a thing of the past. This is the second year Susan and I collectively shrugged when the topic of a tree came up at the beginning of the month. And when it came time to mount the lights to the house, I was notably bah-humbuggy in doing so and then didn’t add the decorative reindeer and light trees to the yard.

1934191_211594125839635_3439375567731108525_nAs for gifts, there just weren’t any big ticket items on my list… though I suppose I could’ve used a new clutch for my truck. But how do you wrap that much less put it under the tree we didn’t get? The one thing I told Susan I needed was a new watch, as the date function on the cheapo one I bought at Big5 a few months earlier had crapped out, and she fulfilled that and then some with a solar-fueled Casio. She also surprised me with a cool tripod for my iPhone and a magnification stand thingamajig that’ll probably be more practical as a conversation piece than an actual tool.

Susan gave me no ideas what she might want. So I got her the new Adele album and a hardcopy of the sequel to “To Kill A Mockingbird,” plus a few other stocking stuffers that she enjoyed. I also picked out a new area rug on the fly to replace the one Bonnie the pitbull had peed on to death. Ever the romantic, I know.

10270284_210791665919881_2697434772938340703_nSpeaking of Bonnie, the news that she was adopted last weekend was probably the best gift Susan and I could’ve gotten.

It disturbs me a little, my holiday harumph. I do love the season. There’s not a decorated house I pass be it ultra-elaborate or strung up with just a single sloppy strand that I do not sigh with joy at.

In the end our Christmas, while not one charting high on the memory meter, was still one filled with cheer and good will. And egg nog.

Last night/this morning showcased the first Christmas Day full moon since the year Nineteen Hunnert and Seventy Seven so of course having gotten up early, I snapped it from our porch pre-dawn as seen below. Murry Christmas!

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