Archive for March, 2008

How Much Did You Say?

Monday, March 31st, 2008

I’m giving up my plan because of the ridiculous pricetag. See this piece of outdoor furniture below?

 lounge.jpg

The wood bits are in need of a sand down and maybe a refinish and a sealing along with some new seat slats, but it’s a unique kinda ranchtastic piece that deserves some TLC, which is what I’d been wanting to do for Susan’s birthday later this week, finished off some new cushions.

The cushions as they appear seemed like a good lowcost solution some three years or so ago when we purchased them, but obviously the elements have not been kind to the light-colored floral pattern, and if one wants to stretch out across them it’s not all that comfortable.

In putting off visiting Diamond Foam & Fabric on La Brea until this past Saturday I knew there was no way in hell I could deliver the finished project by next Friday, so with an eye towards our anniversary in June I biked over with the measurements for single seat and back cushions at 74 x 28 x 3 inches and 74 x 12 x 3 inches, respectively. After picking out a nice brick-red Sunbrela-brand outdoor fabric to work with our patio umbrella and chair cushions, I approached the guy behind the counter, who worked up an estimate for me. From the moment I told him the dimensions he took one look at me in my bike helmet and backpack and started shaking his head, which is an odd sales technique to say the least. I wasn’t sure why at first, but I soon found out.

See, from my untrained eye I’d been thinking the ballpark cost for the upholstered foam would be somewhere between $200 – $300. After all, it’s two pieces of foam and two pieces of fabric, plus whatever labor was involved.

Silly me.

When all was said and done and all calculations had been calculated, the grand total for those two pieces of foam, two pieces of fabric and whatever labor was involved putting the latter around the former was going to be…?

Eight hundred and fifty dollars!

My eyebrows arched so high they physically left my head and  I repeated the number back with extra incredulity and dared to ask why.

The estimator just shook his head some more and said “Because it’s custom work, that’s why.”

I didn’t physically run from the store but I certainly beat a retreat out of there hopefully towards a more reasonable and ready-made solution.

‘Round Midnight

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

It’s after midnight. Restless. Maybe it’s the biz trip I leave for early Wednesday morning to Charlotte for four days. Maybe it’s some residual over-thinking about a couple aspects of my behavior on what was an otherwise awesome bike ride upupup essentially to Descanso Gardens then back down to Eagle Rock around to Highland Park with a stop at King Taco and then home. Maybe it’s just because the cats were restless and agitated tonight after I went to bed. Maybe it’s the cup of TiGeorge’s espresso grind Haitian coffee that I had at 8 p.m.

Whatever, I can’t sleep. So with that, and with counting sheep out of the question, instead I’ll share something new I learned today and it doesn’t have to do with how defensive and vocal I can be on a bike or how troubled Bink the cat was, or how things will go in North Carolina next week, or how strong the coffee is.

I discovered that blue jays have a carnivorous side. First hand. Out in the backyard this morning. The jay up in the tree caught my eye because we don’t get many jays around here. Not sure why that is. Mockingbirds, yes. Jays, nope. But then I saw the jay was eating a lizard it had caught — really going at it — and I was amazed enough to gawk at it and call Susan over to show her before I ran in to grab my camera.

Of course the bird had relocated with its breakfast to a much more higher up and much less visible location by the time I got back  outside, but I still managed to relocate it and get off a couple snaps of it with the lizard remains, neither of which are very clear in the darkness of the tree and the morning’s diffused light, but nevertheless offer up muddled proof of the predatory and meat-eating aspect of the jay’s  ominvorous nature (click thumbnails for full size):

jay2.jpg  jay1.jpg

I was 12 when I killed a jay once. Accidentally. In Hollywood. With my eyes closed. And a slingshot.

Sweet dreams.

Ash Tree Waking

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

As I do around the beginning of every new year, I dutifully trundle our Christmas tree to the city’s treecycling station set up at the L.A. Zoo where I drop it off (along with however many other curb-side discards I can pile into the bed of my truck, which in regards to this year was seven — a record) and am subsequently rewarded with coupons for free mulch, a low-energy light bulb and a baby tree of some sort.

Last year two twiglings in the form of an Afghan pine and a Carolina cherry came home with me and those are doing very well in their respective pots. This year my option was limited to some species of ash tree, and I have to say when looking upon the motley collection of saplings it was not love at first sight, particularly because the individuals were basically three feet tall and entirely devoid of leaves. They looked like dead branches somewhat had jabbed into pots of soil.

img_8636.jpg“Those are alive?” I asked the attending worker, and he chuckled telling me they were dormant. Somewhat reluctantly and randomly I chose one and transported it home where I put it in the backyard among our avocado babies for company.

Three months later, as can be seen by the clickable thumbnail at right the ash has awakened nicely and so I graduated it yesterday afternoon out of the confines of its six-inch plastic container into a clay one.

Siriusly

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

The satellite radio scene got bumped to a bigger blip on the radar in large part because of the announcement this week that the Justice Department’s anti-trust busters have given the proposed $4.6-billion merger of Sirius and XM corporations a hearty thumbs-up.

Chances are this doesn’t mean much to most people who receive their radiowaves terrestrially, but as a long-time Sirius subscriber I’m paying it some attention, primarily because of the rumors I’ve heard that should the merger be approved by the FCC, my current Sirius equipment might become obsolete in that I would still receive Sirius programming, but not whatever former-XM channels get ported over. In order to do that I would of course need to “upgrade” my hardware at a cha-ching of a several hundies.

Coincidentally this morning I got a call from a Sirius telemarketer looking to send me a new free radio with a 45% discounted additional subscription ($irius is $et up in $uch a way that one can’t get a new radio added to a current $ub$cription; each box need$ to have it$ own… but that’$ another topic entirely and all right I’ll stop it with the dollar signs).

I expressed my concern to the telemarketer as to buying equipment now that might be programming impaired post-merger and the representative put me on with her supervisor who assured me that would not happen, and when I asked him to provide me with something in writing, he instead directed me to siriusmerger.com where he told me the writing I sought was there in black and white.

Sort of.

Here’s what Sirius has posted:

“If our merger is approved, the combined company will offer consumers the best of each service on your current radio – at a price well below the cost of the two services today.”

Sounds good, right? On the surface yeah, but my skepticality looks at “best of each service on your current radio” and sees a position that craftily reinforces the separation of the two entities. Notice the use of “each” and the singular “service” instead of “both” and “services.” Big difference.

But wait, there’s more at the bottom of that page:

“We guarantee no radio will become obsolete. Your current radio will continue to provide you with the programming you enjoy, whether you keep your current service or change to a new subscription plan. “

Again at first glance this looks solid. But on second pass it’s basically a thinly veiled statement of the obvious that tells me Sirius radios will continue to receive Sirius programming and XM radios will continue to receive XM programming.

As a result of that cagy language and at Sirius’ invitation I utilized a form letter page on their website to send the following email to my elected officials in Washington, DC, and the FCC, with the subject line: Concerns About Hardware Obsolesence Following Sirius/XM Merger.

Honorable Senators, Representative, and the FCC:

In the guarantee posted to the Sirius website, it states:

“…that that no Sirius radio will become obsolete as a result of the merger. The two companies have millions of radios in the market, including many that are factory-installed in automobiles. After the merger, you will not need another radio to continue to receive the programming you now enjoy.”

This statement is ambiguous and frankly disingenuous in that it does not specifically address new programming. While I understand that my current Sirius hardware will continue to receive the Sirius programming I presently access, what remains unaddressed and vague is whether or not that hardware will allow me to access any new programming brought over from the former XM.

I am a long-time and mostly satisfied Sirius subscriber but since the buyout was announced  I have abstained and will continue to abstain from purchasing new hardware in this pre-merger interim. I am satisfied that existing Sirius programming will be available to me with my old radio, but I’m not going to upgrade my equipment if there’s even the slightest doubt that it will not support any new programming should the merger be completed.

Unless this is specifically addressed by Sirius I will wait out the merger before buying rather than buy now only to be forced buy again to enjoy any combined programming — which would not happen because I would cancel my subscription rather than allow myself to suffer such bait-and-switch tactics.

Sincerely,
William Campbell

It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Burrito Project

Friday, March 28th, 2008

It’s amazing how 10 pounds of rice and 10 pounds of beans can fill up a backpack.

I’ve had these foodstuffs for several weeks, but the Burrito Project I’ve been involved with went dormant after I bought them.

With intentions expressed toward getting the Hollywood Burrito Project going again next week, I hauled these a couple miles over to the young lady whose kitchen will be used to make the burritos.

I’ll be out of town for next week’s run but hopefully I’ll be able to help out the following week.

This Is Why I Hate Cyclists (Next In An Occasional Series)

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

No photos or videos to illustrate this morning’s tardish behavior, sorry. Just words, and I’ll try to keep those to a minimum, too (yeah, that’ll be the day).

So I’m biking in to work today as I’ve now done every consecutive workday since March 10 and 17 out of 19 total workdays this wonderful month of March because I’m a dyed-in-the-Lycra biking monster mofo (except without the Lycra) who’d be batting .1000 if it hadn’t been for bouts with the flu and a lost crown that turned into not one but two root canals. But let’s whoa about my woes and focus people, dammit!

Anyway, I’m on 4th Street at Wilton Place waiting at the interminable light there long enough for my fingernails to noticeably grow and to be joined by two fellow cyclists (which , coincidentally, at a total of three represents 74% of the cyclists on the streets in L.A. at any given moment, according to the MTA, the LADOT, and the OMF&G). A guy rolls to the crosswalk next to me on my left and another to my right hangs back around my five o’clock at the curb.

The guy to my left I’ve seen before — last week I think — and when I passed him then further along through Hancock Park I gave him a “good morning!” and he didn’t so much as give me a grunt in return. So from the “blow me off once because you’re a dick, shame on you” school I didn’t bother trying to be cordial twice — which was a good thing because before I would have had time to say anything for him to ignore he bolted on the red across the intersection, leaving me and the other fellow looking either law-abiding or chicken or both.

That’s happened before. The most recent was a couple weeks earlier at the much busier intersection of Venice and Hauser where a be-spandexed road geek ahead of me had pulled to a stop long enough for me to come to a stop near him. No sooner had I arrived when he charged ahead through the cross traffic against the red, I’m guessing because he was mortified that the standstill would drop his average pedal cadence below 90. Egad!

Certainly I can’t force my ethics on other riders, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it when my personal commandment is if there’s any number of cyclists accumulated at any given red light — obey it. Together we stop, divided we suck.

But never mind what I abhor, the twist is that Lefty t’weren’t no speedster and by the time the light turned green he wasn’t more than a block and a half away from me, which means without much effort my law-abiding ass was passing him on the western side of Norton, three blocks hence where his slow-going self stayed in my rear view mirror the rest of our time together.

The other rider, heavier laden with an unnecessary winter-weight jacket and riding something of an off-the-rack-at-Target clunker was a bit of a surprise in that he was the stronger of the two. He wasn’t so much drafting as he was pacing me, staying a few bike lengths back and showing every sign of keeping up — not that I was particularly blazing at anything more then 15 mph — but it was enough to put Lefty far enough to the rear as we traveled a few blocks further west, which is where this second cyclist’s moment in the suck comes in.

Well amidst the manses and estates of Hancock Park I approached Windsor Avenue, and from the north a large pick-up truck pulled to the stop sign. In deference to his being the first to arrive at that intersection way ahead of me I came to a halt at the four-way stop so that he could proceed, where I remained clipped in to my pedals and balanced, figuring the rider shadowing me would either do the same or coast and at least slow, let the truck pass and we could both get a move on.

What an idiot I was to ASSume such a thing. The truck begins to go just as Clunker pulls abreast of me to my left and with no intention of obeying the posted stop sign or slowing down he just keeps on going even though the truck has begun entering the intersection and, needless to say, has the right of way. In response to Clunker’s epic failure to yield, I have to unclip and put a foot down as the truck hitches to a stop and then Clunker half-hitches like he’s going to stop and so the truck starts to go again but then Clunker cranks it across the intersection while the swarthy driver of the truck has to hit the brakes again and glares after him with fire in his eyes before turning that fire back to me and all I can offer is a motion for him to continue and a shrug which translated to “That guy’s an idiot but if you wait another 15 seconds you’ll meet another one, too!” He shrugged back which I read to mean “Fucking cyclists! Another time, maybe,” and moved across 4th to points south.

I caught up with Clunker at the next block and on approach I mulled over a variety of verbal options, among them being:

  • “Wow, that bonehead maneuver certainly made things easier for everyone, didn’t it huh?”
  • “Just to be clear I’m not your personal intersection blocker, but you are a dipshit!”
  • You rode the little bus in elementary school, didn’t you?”
  • “WTFOMG! Tard much!?”
  • “What you did back there is why cyclists will always and forever suck. Thanks for perpetuating!”

But instead I just pulled beside him and opted out of speaking to instead opportunistically hawk up a loogy that I fired across his bow. Then I said “Pace this motherfucker” and gunned it, putting him far enough behind me to enjoy the rest of 4th Street to myself idiot- and incident-free all the way to La Brea.

Yeller Jack On Dirty Glass

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

On occasion I’ll look out the window of my south facing office and find something clinging to the outside of the glass. Such was the case this afternoon of what I’ll guess was a yellow jacket catching a respite (click to triplitize):

yeller.jpg