Archive for May, 2007


With my Memorial Day visit today I wasn’t at all disappointed not to initially find any new gravesites in the supposedly at-capacity Los Angeles National Cemetery. In fact I was almost relieved. But I knew that was to be short-lived. Especially when I came down one of the back roads in the northernmost area of the cemetery and found the above headstone gleaming, its engraving standing out in sharp contrast to the much older ones around it.

Walter Freeman, Jr. of Lancaster was killed last month in Baghdad. He was 20 years old.

It’s that time of year when the mockingbirds settle down in and around, building their nests, laying their eggs and raising their chicks.


(click to enlarge)

Our cat Jiggy, the youngest and most curious (and unfortunately best hunter) of our feline foursome, seems more than happy to draw their noisy territorial ire — not, as it seems, by proactively raiding their dens as much as just laying about way too close for their comfort and nonchalantly disregarding their divebombing efforts to drive him away.

Of course this just drives the birds to take greater risks and apparently the mate of the one pictured above atop the remains of an agave bloom got close enough to The Jig for him to relieve it of all of its tail feathers. Though the end result has left it looking quite odd,  the bird suffered no injury and certainly doesn’t seem to have lost any of its flight ability despite missing such crucial components. Certainly it’s more angry than ever.

Short of keeping all the cats inside, I do my best to discourage Jiggy from bothering the birdies, but that’s only slightly less difficult than standing in a rain storm and attempting to stop the drops from hitting the ground. So instead I pray a lot that the birds’ll maintain a minimum safe distance.

Bonus “bigable” photo: A bee busy at a prickly pear cactus blossom:


bottle.jpgAnd in other backyarcheology news, I unearthed another odd but entirely intact bottle yesterday (that cleaned up real nice) to add to the collection. The manufacturer is Ball, but even though the shape is rather unique, the bottle is seamed so I’m pretty sure it isn’t anything at all ancient.


A year ago today Susan, me and our friend Rachel had a weekender in Death Valley and they accompanied me on a day-hike in the Panamint Range to the 10,000-foot mark and then sent me on my way up the rest of the trail to the 11,049-foot summit of Telescope Peak. Breaking campe the next day I rang in my 42nd — or as my friend Mark would call it “the 13th anniversary of my 29th” — by going the other way in the form of an exhilirating 17-mile downhill ride from our campsite at 8,300 feet to the floor of the Panamint Valley.


Photoset of that weekend here on Flickr

Seeing as we’re but a week or so returned from our awesome European vacation, on this eve of the 14th anniversary of my 29th no activities so monumental or unique are on tap. Instead I’m going to put an end today to my three-plus weeks out of the saddle and bike over to the Los Angeles National Cemetery and back before mom comes over this afternoon and we fire up the grill and share the rough DVD/slideshow Susan and I created featuring some 1,600 images from the trip. It has the potential to be a home movie from hell but mom’s expressed a desire to see what we saw so we’ll see how durable that desire is.

To really get the gears turning back in the right direction again tomorrow will be a good day for the This Is My Life Ride that I charted out last October.

I hung Old Glory off the front porch this morning for the Memorial Day weekend. My first time doing so. The base was pre-existing except for being relocated to the column from the front door frame prior to painting the house last year. Had to improvise the pole from a garden stake that I drilled two holes in for the s-hooks.


The flag I’ve had since 2001. Bought it on september 12 from a small place in Burbank that was almost sold out of them. A lot of people were buying flags then. But I only displayed it once and very loudly that first weekend after the horror. I drilled eye hooks into a large wooden post that I then seated and secured to a weighted base used for patio umbrellas. The whole thing then went into the bed of my truck and I proceeded to drive all around the San Fernando Valley with the star-spangled banner flapping and whipping around in the back. Proud to be an American, and all that. Afterward, my pride went a bit more understated via a small flag that I mounted to the inside of the rear window. It hangs there still.

This one though, it came inside and has resided since in a variety of dressers and boxes until I stumbled across it last month and found it rather ingloriously lining the bottom of my sock drawer.

I’m happy to put her to a far more appropriate use.

Dear Olympus,

The only thing keeping me from unleashing an all-out, multiple-front complaint assault about the pathetic level of customer service you’ve provided me in regards to the broken digital camera I sent you for repairs at the end of April is the fact that I didn’t pay for the unit in limbo. That’s right, said Olympus Stylus 710 was awarded me as a result of my winning a “Super Shooter” photo contest sponsored by L.A. radio station KFWB last July in which I submitted my favorite Dodger Stadium moment and they liked it enough to send me the first prize valued at around $300 at the time.

That I didn’t have to pony up my own money for your camera shouldn’t really soften my anger, but it does makes it easier to let go. Still, you suck for your failure to take responsibility and repair the camera still clearly under the one-year warranty.

Overall it was a good piece of equipment before it began crapping out, which was sometime in March when the thing began freezing up after I’d turn it on. Usually powering it down and back up by removing and replacing the battery sometimes once, sometimes two or three times, would restore the camera to working order. But after several weeks of having to do this every time I wanted to take a picture became intolerable and so I contacted your customer service department where a representative said the malfunction sounds like a firmware issue that can only be resolved if I send it in — which I did with all the requested documentation showing the warranty was still in effect.

A couple days later, shortly before I was about to split for vacation, I then get a letter that tersely states:

Upon evaluation we have made the following notes about the product received. We have determined that the terms of the warranty coverage do not apply to this situation due to the following: received in used condition, dents on bottom left and right corners of camera.

Cost of repair (including tax, shipping and handling): $156.47

I turned around a WTF letter of protest the next day that I sent via direct mail to your service center in Irvine and copied it via email to your main customer service address:

Dear Sirs,

I am in receipt of a letter dated May 1 suggesting that I am responsible for the costs to repair my Olympus 710 digital camera because it was “received in used condition, dents on bottom left and right corners of camera.”

I submitted the camera for repair with the understanding as provided by an Olympus Imaging customer service representative that the warranty applied and am appalled at the implication that it does not.

While I did drop the camera in August very shortly after I purchased it (from a negligible height of three feet), it continued to work flawlessly over the next eight months after that incident. Though the camera has been dropped its current dysfunctional state is not a result of that incident.

Whatever is malfunctioning now is Olympus’ responsibility, not mine. But if Olympus is not willing to provide me with a warranty repair then send the camera back to me unrepaired. For the amount you dare to charge I can purchase a new camera and trust me it will not be an Olympus — nor will I ever purchase any product bearing an Olympus mark again.

William Campbell

I figured more than two weeks later when we got back from Europe was plenty of time for you to either reject or accept my demand and if not the camera I’d at least have some sort of reply waiting for me. Nope. There was nothing from either Olympus customer service nor your regional service center. And when I logged on to the Olympus website to check the repair status everything was still the same as it had been with the camera repair stalled pending receipt of the $156.47 you were extorting. It was then that I gave up the fight and went the final online step and checked the box declining to pay the ransom and requesting the return the unrepaired camera. And when the dialog box came up inquiring why I’d made that decision I believe I wrote something to the effect of “Because Olympus Sucks.”

In the aftermath of all this and with only a few days left until the arrival of my 43rd anniversary of life on this planet I rationalized taking the paycheck I received for the final couple days working at that gig in El Segundo and getting myself a new cam. Enabling just such a rebound are the fine and attentive folks at Costco who must’ve gotten word of my situation because in my inbox this morning with a subject line of Olympus Blows Digital Chunks! (not really) was a notice pointing me to a 7.1-megapixel Canon SD1000 bundled with a 2-gig memory card for slightly less than a hundred bucks over the $156 Olympus was pining after so adamantly.

Out in the backyard this afternoon hanging with some of our animals is a good way to begin the Memorial Day weekend:


 Hope yours is safe and sane wherever you may be.

I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said and better about the Eiffel’Tower other than regardless of all the pictures and footage you’ve seen of it nothing can quite prepare you for how totally massive and dominating it is once you get on under and up in it.

Susan and I voted unanimously not to bother with the time involved to get us up to the landmark’s highest level some 900 feet up. We were quite satisfied and exhilirated with the marvelous view found on the upper deck of the middle tier, such as this one spanning from the north to the east (you’ll wanna click to enlarge… and then max your browser window… then go out and get a bigger monitor and max the browser window on that):