Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, blah blah, I've been busy, blah blah.

All I have is this neat link.

Be safe and happy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Map Art

Sorry I've been gone for awhile. Although I've been trolling the internet relentlessly it's kind of been The Fall/Winter of My Discontent. Yes I shamelessly ripped that off from my fave author John Steinbeck but it's also an allusion to the past and future Best Summer Ever, which will be reappearing in style in 2009. Even though it seems like I spend ALL DAY online, there hasn't been a whole lot that has piqued my interest anywhere on the internets, interweb, intertron, or real life. Well, this video definitely brought a smile to my face.

Momentarily pulling me out of the doldrums, when I was dawdling on NotCot the other day I saw a really neat collection by the artist Shannon Rankin (aka selflesh on Flckr). Turns out she uses old maps to create some super sweet art. Like art I wish I could create if I could create art. She has all kinds of stuff from flat pieces with map cut-outs (as seen below) to textured images (see her Topography gallery).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Community Mapping Sweeping the Nation

I was reading the Los Angeles version of Streetsblog on my igoogle and came across this neat blog post about community mapping. Seems like its all the rage these days for cool projects like mapping foot and bike paths or the locations of different species of trees.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart: past posts have maps of the 60 worst intersections in Los Angeles, the 25 most ticketed/towed roads in Los Angeles, Los Angeles area colleges and universities, the Tour de Ballona, and Red Line Barhop. I also have a couple of public google maps of my summer vacation to Italy, a proposed itinerary for a 2009 Rust Belt baseball trip, proposed sites for NFL stadiums in Los Angeles, and the Boston Marathon Course (don't worry - I have no plans on running. ever).

The ability to create spatial representations is extremely powerful and, for me, an awful lot of fun. I can't wait until I have time to work on some REAL projects.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Striking Road Segment Map/Picture

I was on NotCot today and found this great map of the United States. It doesn't have any geographical or political features because the map only consists of roads. The really neat thing is how various features come out because of road density (like various large metropolitan areas, Lake Michigan, or the Appalachian Mountains). Neat-o!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Brand New NYC Subway Line

I saw this awesome transit-related art today from a totally sweet design site, NotCot. I don't know if I really have anything to add except that I hope the WestSide subway doesn't end up causing too much douchebaggery.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Red Line Barhop

My friend Tannaz sent me a link to this Red Line Barhop from Thrillist. I've only been to 3 of these bars before (Gopher, Good Luck, and Pig & Whistle). So what better way to represent this than on a Google map? It's a bummer that MTA doesn't share all of its transportation info with Google yet but at least Google shows where the stations are. There area couple of strange choices, IMO, in regards to the station locations (especially around downtown). I haven't done a detailed analysis but the approximate walking distance would be like walking from LA to New York. That's not the point, though. The point is to see some cool bars, walk around a little bit, and use public transportation.

View Larger Map

Monday, November 17, 2008

Atlas of the Real World

No, not MTV's Real World. The Atlas of the Real World is a series of maps from WorldMapper that skews the areas of countries by such statistics as population, carbon emissions, and forest loss. Pretty interesting stuff.

(Image from WorldMapper)

Monday, November 3, 2008

No on Prop 8

This blog is pretty nonpolitical but I was just looking at my front-page and an ad for Yes on Prop 8 was on the top. That really pissed me off so I just wanted to go on the record as VEHEMENTLY NO on California Prop 8. It's ludicrous for several reasons but I'm most indignant about the fact that it's a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT that discriminates against a particular group of people. Here's the opening of the state constitution:


SECTION 1. All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy."

I'll let Samuel L. tell it like it is:

It's tough to Americanize when you first have to Mexicanize

I saw an interesting article in the LA Times today about El Salvadorans in Los Angeles. Often the immigrants are forced to adopt the language and customs of Mexico in order to gain employment and avoid harassment or discrimination. There was a little bit about food but unfortunately I saw no mention of nachos. I'm not sure how delicious El Salvadoran nachos would be since it seems like they go light on the spicy but I would sure love to find out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shrimp Nachos? Whoa.....

I was perusing the internets today and was pointed to a recipe for shrimp nachos. The picture looks really freaking good. And I can attest to the skills of the cook, who also has mean recipe for Asian BBQ sauce.

My only potential consternation is the mixing of the cheese and shellfish. It's not usually done but I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because I'm like Garth and fear change. But I do know that I love cheese and I love shrimp so maybe this change will be delicious. Plus the fried wantons sound amazing. Back Home in Lahaina in Manhattan Beach has Hawaiian nachos that substitute friend wantons for tortilla chips. They are unbelievably light and crispy and hold a surprising amount of toppings.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More International Day of the Nacho

I'm too lazy to write about what I did yesterday for the International Day of the Nacho but my good friend All Kinds of Yum saved my ass.

Suffice it to say that Loteria Grill in Hollywood is good. Reeeeeeeaaaaaaal good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy International Day of the Nacho!

Just wanted to wish everybody a happy International Day of the Nacho!

I'm working on getting it declared a national holiday but until then the best way to celebrate is to eat, drink, and be merry.

In doing so, however, please remember Carmen Rocha who recently passed away. Raise your cheese covered chip, margarita glass, or salt dusted Tecate and give a toast to a great lady.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tour De Ballona October 25

I was reading StreetsBlog Los Angeles today and read that there has been some nefarious activity on the Ballona Creek Bike Trail. In order to raise awareness and make the trail safer, Damien Newton and other involved people organized a Tour De Ballona on October 25. As usual, I was bored at work today. And that means a google map. The google estimate of distance is 3.82 miles. Friends, this is super duper easy. It will take less than an hour even for the neophytes out there. I encourage you to go (and if you're feeling spunky make a side trip to Venice - riding through the Marina is really cool).

View Larger Map

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

25 Most Ticketed/Towed Rush Hour Streets in Los Angeles

Last week LAist posted about the 60 worst intersections in Los Angeles and I made a map. Today they posted the 25 most ticketed/towed rush hour streets in Los Angeles. There must be something about Tuesdays because I was again inspired to create another map to scratch my mapping itch.

A couple notes:
- The same stretch of Figueroa is listed twice (for AM and PM). I listed the numbers in the notes but did not include two lines.
- East 7th is broken into two lines because the it goes through the East LA Interchange and the Ramon Garcia Recreation Center.
- Some stretches of streets are really long (like in the Valley) and some are extremely short (like Gayley near UCLA).
- It looks like only 3 of the 60 worst intersections are located on the 25 worst rush hour streets. Maybe because people are going so slowly they are less capable of breaking laws? I would have figured that road rage incidences of knuckle sandwiches to trend higher.

Please let me know if there are any errors.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

60 Worst Intersections in Los Angeles

Today LAist posted about the 60 worst intersections in Los Angeles. While it would be more complete and relevant to citizens if this list also included other areas and cities (like Santa Monica or the South Bay) it is still pretty interesting. I hope to check back periodically to look at the real time traffic statistics. It would also be interesting to see which intersections were busy in an overall sense vs. busy only during rush hour. Last night, for instance, I was driving on Vermont with AKOY and we went through 4 of the 60 intersections driving from Scoops to her car in Ktown around 10pm and traffic wasn't bad (certainly not rush hour) but the town definitely wasn't dead.

But I'm a dork and wanting to view this spatially I created a Google Map:

View Larger Map

Monday, August 18, 2008

European Vacation - London

I went to London and Italy this summer with my sister and a bunch of other family members. It was a blast. Someday I'll get my London pictures posted. I even took a couple pages of notes which I will transcribe here:

July 4th
TIRED!!!!! Flew from LAX EARLY in the morning. Stopped at New York for a couple hours and got our first beers of the trip (Blue Moon) at DRINK! (it's a bar at JFK).

July 5th
Still tired! Flight cloudy - couldn't see anything although rumor has it that we flew over Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, etc. Took the Tube from Heathrow - look at all the old row houses on the way into the city. Very impressed by the Underground - nice trains and every train has a route map. Lots of lines around London and very easy to navigate. Went to Borough market with Mo and Nathan. Bought a pig butt and saw them butcher and wrap it right in front of us (would this place get a C in LA?). Also had some beers, mmmmm.

July 6h
Not tired. Saw Assassin in some neighborhood (can't remember). Also went to Borders and it was totally packed! Evidently everything in London closes by 6pm even though there were a ton of people. We went around some crazy shops that were unfortunately closed but did go to a bar with several animal skulls on the walls. Kronenburg beers is yummers and English appetizers are very fried (did I mention delicious?).

July 7th
Walked from Mo's apartment to Tate Modern (on the south side of the Thames). Kind of raining otherwise weather has been great. Was Judit Reigl (' Mass Writing'), Karl Schmidt Rotluff, Joan Miro, Henri Matisse ('Then Snail'), Fernand Leger ('Acrobat'), Max Beckman ('Prunier'). Took a ferry to have lunch with Mo near her job at Canary Wharf (go boats!). Saw Covent Square (lots of kitsch), had some pints and pics w/ Evan. Walked to Picadilly in the rain. Tried to go to the Cheers bar but their tap system wasn't working. Went to Chequers pub instead and were definitely the only Americans there. Fortunately I bought a Tube map T-shirt to really look like a tourist. For dinner we went to a Tapas bar. OMG it was so good. We got Chorizo but it was in sausage casing. Also had champaign with dinner which was a first. The Flamenco guitar guy was a trip - he sat on a stage over the door and played down to us.

July 8th
Adventures in the Tube with no tickets. Visited St. Paul's cathedral. Looked inside but didn't take a tour. Saw the standard London stuff - Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey. Walking toward Buckingham we stopped at a pub and got Fish & Chips and Kronenburg. I could really get to like London. All 400 pounds of me. Stopped at a Post Office to mail postcards - the employees were SO FREAKING HAPPY. I guess there's something to be said for a socialist welfare state? Walked to Buckingham where they were having some crazy party (also saw a Duck boat!). Ever single lady had on a crazy hat. Some of the foreign guys had military uniforms on with all kinds of crazy medals. But the hats. Wish I had some pictures. Some were big, some small, they all had feathers and were of varying colors. Walked through Green Park and got ice cream and coffee. Then walked through Soho and Canbury Street (FANCY PANTS). Stopped at a Blue Posts pub and got some Leffe's (best beer ever). Made it to the British Museum right before it closed so no Rosetta Stone for us. Did see a cool exhibit on masks from around the world (southeast asia were probably the scariest). Did some HW back at the flat (ugh). For dinner met some Raytheon people (hi Janet) at Village East. I got the hamhock thing. We also had some really good scallops. Went home and got ready for Italy.

July 9th
Left London by Tube to Heathrow. To be continued on next post.....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

He's Not Really Semi-Back!

More stuff's been going on:

1) I'm taking a class at work
2) I'm taking a class at USC
3) Went to Vegas for a bachelor party
4) Went to Cambria for a cousin's graduation from Cal Poly
5) Went to Vegas again for another bachelor party
6) Went to the Kern River for camping/rafting

Basically I'm in the midst of another Best Summer Ever (sorry TSP). And, unfortunately, the BSE does not include blogging, at least in the near future. Because on Friday morning I leave for Europe for 2 weeks. Specifically London, then to Italy (Florence for a couple days and then a week in a villa outside of Montepulciano). It's a murderer's row of family: my sister, mom, a first cousin and husband, two aunts, one uncle, and two of my mom's cousins plus one wife and kid. 12 in all. Staying in one villa. For a week. Should be super duper fun but at the same time totally infuriating. At least we get gelato.

But that's not all. Because once I get back there's this huge review at work that I have to prepare a bunch of charts for. Then after that I start a volleyball class. And continue basketball. And two weddings that bookend August. Maybe there will be some relief in September but don't count on it.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

He's Semi-Back!

Hey kids. I realize I'm been on a month+ unannounced blog break but a few things caught up with me:
Vacation - I went to the East Coast for a week to watch some baseball, get my Revolutionary War history on, and see some old friends. Highlights: DuPont Circle in Washington, DC, Independence hall and Pat's King of Steaks in Philadelphia, New York City (and the Millers!), the 'Bury, and everything Boston has to offer (including Allston Mass. aka Rat City, USA).

School - I started a class at work, am winding down a class at SMC, in full swing at a class at UCLA Extension, and start a class at USC next week.

Work - still sucks. There are two things that make it bearable (see above).

So I hope to get back to a semi regular posting schedule but instead of MWF, maybe Tuesday/Thursday? We'll see.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


So UCLA lost in the Final Four last Saturday. Their third trip in three years. 1-2 in FF games, 0-1 in championship games. Very humbling one hand but hard to complain about our overall success on the other. Some Kansas fan actually developed an interesting algorithm to determine how safe a lead was. For "fun" I put in UCLA's two biggest leads (4 points at 10-6, 16:13 and 5 points at 5-0, 18:00) as well as their last lead (12-11 at 15:27). Not surprisingly their leads were 0% safe. I hate basketball.

In other UCLA BBall news, the LA Times reports that Kevin Love is definitely going pro while Darren Collison is undecided. It even mentions the possibility of Shipp going (unlikely), Mbah a Moute declaring but not hiring an agent and likely coming back, Aboya staying in school but not playing (in order to get a masters degree), and Dragovic to go back to Serbia and play professionally (what?!?!?!?!). In another article, ESPN says they're both leaving as well as Russell Westbrook even though Love's mom is denying he made a decision.

One thing I was pondering in my semi-drunk stupor during the second half of UCLA's loss was how I (and so many other people) are so wrapped up in all this sporting hullabaloo. My rationalization is three-fold; I've played a LOT of basketball in my life, I went to school at UCLA, and watching the games is a chance to build community.

I played in youth leagues, Jr. High, High School, Intramurals, and adult leagues. I currently play with a bunch of guys on Tuesdays at a gym off of Venice. I probably pay more in gym fees for those 3 hours (or so) a week than I would if I were a member of Bally's. I truly enjoy playing and is one of the few ways I can be induced to run around and get some exercise.

I also graduated from UCLA in 2001. As I said, I played Intramurals there, saw a bunch of games while I was in school (although it was during the dark Lavin years and I stopped really going during my 2nd year and only attended sporadically until I got season tickets a couple years ago). My friends and I would see the players on campus, knew who they were, and had random encounters with them over the years (I got to help Ray Young with a pager problem once while my buddy almost got into an altercation with J.R. Henderson). We joked about drafting Jelani McCoy onto our IM team after he quit the real team for smoking pot.

But do those reasons adequately explain how caught up people get in the games? Does the joy of winning outweigh the negativity of loss? Is it just a reason to act like we did in college and remember our revisionist histories of when everything was great and we had no responsibilities (I say revisionist because while college was great I still somewhat remember drinking too much, eating too much, not having enough fun with the opposite sex, having no money, and stressing over school). Or is it a way we build community and shared experiences? I've been to the SF Salooon so much the past three Marches that I know who the owner is, his daughters, and even his wife. We know that he got new TVs this year and changed some of the booths but kept some of the tables that are a couple inches too short.

I guess that the overall experience is still gratifying since I'm still going to buy tickets for next year and will probably watch most games on TV. However, instead of going to every game it looks like a couple friends and I will band together so that we aren't obligated to go to all of them. I'm not sure if this means we're emotionally drained or just apprehensive about the prospects for next year's team. So I pay my money, hope the kids all make the best decisions for themselves (get your degree if you aren't a first round pick!), and wait to see if I catch the fever again next season.

Friday, April 4, 2008

All The News That's Fit To Print

A friend forwarded me a sweet link today about my hometown of Cambria, CA. The link is from the Real Estate section of the NEW YORK TIMES! Crazy. For a sleepy town on the coast of California, Cambria has hit the big time. Of course, you may also remember the infamous post written by Tannaz about the best vacation she's ever had, or a little movie by the name of Arachnophobia.

The totally rad part about the article was that the place I used to work in high school, Main Street Grill, got a huge shout-out. There are a ton of really good restaurants in Cambria (my favorites are Robin's and the Sea Chest) so getting named is pretty neat. I usually end up eating at the Grill when I go home and my favorites are the ABC Burger (Avocado, Bacon, and Cheese) as well as the Tri-Tip steak sandwich and the beef and pork ribs. But the fish sandwiches are also good and the fries, when fresh and crispy and hot, are tremendous because of the special seasoning salt. Hell, the only thing I don't recommend is the calamari sandwich. It's a pressed steak of squid and it's like chewing a big piece of rubber. They also grill it instead of deep frying it so it just sucks that much more. As an aside, Main Street Grill's sister restaurant is the Firestone Grill in SLO.

Alas, the comment about it being an old fogey town is also true. I never even considered moving back there after college (although I did briefly flirt with moving to SLO). The only bar that stayed open late, the famous dive Camozzi's, closed down last year and it's supposed to reopen as more of a high-end lounge named 'Mozzi's. Boo000. The Cambria Pines Lodge only stays open until midnight although they do have live music almost every night. Just ask my mom who's playing (she likes Louie Ortega).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Birds of Paradise

The LA Times, led by columnist Steve Lopez, is having a neat contest: leading up to the Festival of Books during the last weekend in April, they are taking user submissions for a serial novel. Lopez wrote the first chapter and all other chapters are submitted by users and voted on by editors. I gave it a shot (and failed, but thanks to The Bird for helping).

Without further ado, my entry:

Falco looked down Wilshire from his fourth floor office. The cacophony of voices in his head were being drowned out by the pounding of his hangover. He asked his secretary Diane if there were any messages.

"For the third time, Councilman, NO." Diane was a slender brunette divorcee. An out of work actress, he hired her as a marriage supplement but soon realized that his tenuous council position required at least one person responsible enough to answer the phones and deflect his wife. "Nobody has called in the last five seconds, five minutes, or five hours. Do you need an aspirin?"

He sighed and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his brow as he tried to piece together the previous night. Bonner's attitude worried him but not as much as the black Mercedes . A gulp of his Baileys-fortified latte did nothing to clear the fog in his mind. He was trying to get Carmen into the cab with him after the club closed and thought the sedan in Jumbo's lot was the same as the one from this morning. It didn't help that the car from the morning was standard issue for strippers, actresses, and all the rich kids from the Valley to Torrance. Hell, the parking lot had been full of them when he spoke at the commencement ceremony at USC last Spring.

Carmen had never been less willing to go home with him. In the months since their initial meeting at Charlie's Labor Day pool party he had been to the Clown Room at least three times a week. Always the big talker, Falco never paid much heed to the questions Carmen asked about his work on various committees. He thought she was only being polite - getting to know him so she could brag to her girlfriends who were dating pimps and pushers. Now Falco realized she was much more dangerous; a girl with memory, connections, and an agenda.

He called out to Diane, "Lady Di, you'd better make it four, this is going to be a long day. Can you clear my schedule and pull all the notes from all of last month's BF and HCED meetings?"

Diane silently walked into Falco's door and dropped the tablets onto a notepad. She returned to her desk, opened the Council's database, and did a query on Business & Finance and Housing, Community, & Economic Development. She formatted the report, emailed the bundle, and printed the file. As Falco read the report, Diane discreetly went to the Ladies' room, turned on her Blackberry and wrote a message, "C, F asked about meetings. Said nothing about last night. See you at 7. D"

"Di, can you please get Ernie on the phone?" Ernesto Garcia, or Ernie to his friends, had gone to school with Falco nearly 40 years ago. Falco never would have survived growing up white in Latino East Los Angeles without a friend like Ernie. He couldn't count on Ernie for campaign contributions or door-to-door canvassing but he could rely on him for all the other services a politician in LA needed.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The ONLY reason to go to the Coliseum

The last time I was at the LA Memorial Coliseum, UCLA got beat by USC by about 9803672038697 points. My friend Jake and I left at the end of the 3rd quarter and we made a pact that we were never going there again. The benefits simply do not outweigh costs (especially for the case of the ever-under performing UCLA football team).

When another friend, let's call him Alan, asked me to go to the Coliseum to watch a Dodger exhibition game I accepted with more than mild trepidation. The Dodgers are celebrating their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles this year and because they played their first 4 seasons games at the Coliseum before Dodger Stadium was built, they had an exhibition game there Saturday against Boston.

For those who have been to the Coliseum you know that this was not an easy feat. For those that haven't, there are a couple of problems. The major problem stems from the fact that when the Dodgers played there it was a track and field facility, in addition to a football stadium. In the intervening years, USC has built a T&F stadium on campus and the Coliseum was retrofitted to support mostly football (Trojans, Raider, and Rams all played there as well as UCLA for a few years) with the occasional soccer match thrown in, meaning the grass field was reduced in size and more seats added. This totally threw off the dimensions of the baseball field that was constructed for the game; now the left field fence was only about 200 feet from home plate, which is shorter than an official LITTLE LEAGUE field. To make sure people didn't die a mesh net was erected - kind of like Fenway's Green Monster. Or the 'Invisible Monster' of the Coliseum as it were. Center and right field overcompensated for minuscule left and combined to form a veritable ocean of grass. There was also general admission seating beyond the right field fence where the east end zone grandstands usually are.

All told there were over 115,000 people there, which is estimated as the largest crowed to EVER see a baseball game. Pretty cool. I got there 45 minutes beforehand (after watching UCLA DEMOLISH Xavier in basketball and earn a berth to their third consecutive Final Four) and was able to park off Exposition west of USC. For such a large event I was pleasantly surprised at how the streets just a few blocks away were relatively unaffected - Normandie and Exposition were surprisingly free of traffic. I imagine the parking lots at USC and Exposition Park were a nightmare but since I am familiar with the area and don't mind a little walk I had no problems parking for free and getting in a little exercise.

Once I walked to the stadium there were a ton of people still tailgating, there was a crazy line to get in, and ludicrous lines to get beer and snacks. Once I got into the seating are the view of the spectacle was amazing. Having been to a few football games there, I was used to the stadium being full but for USC they generally get about 90,000 and don't fill in all the stands, leaving the seats around the peristyle empty and filling the aforementioned grandstand. It was really neat seeing the entire stadium full and as an added bonus the Olympic torch was lit, which I don't remember seeing before.

The only bad parts were that the game didn't really feel like a game (lots of 'stars' weren't playing), it was hard to see the game and the batter from where we were sitting, and the sound system was TERRIBLE. It can't be easy to have a good sound system for such a large facility but I thought it was especially bad. Singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch was disjointed and there were several times that you couldn't hear the organ music because someone got too close to a microphone on the field and let the entire Coliseum know how terrible their voices were.

As these pictures (which are not mine) show, however, it was a pretty neat spectacle and I'm definitely glad that I was a participant. It got me thinking that the Dodgers should really try to have something like that during every spring training but in different places around LA. For instance, you could do it in the Rose Bowl, Home Depot Center, and maybe even Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, the racetrack at Fontana, or even a college or minor-league stadium. It would be a great way to build Los Angeles loyalties and have funky stories for kids. They probably wouldn't because it wouldn't make any money but I think it would be awesome. Anyway, Go Dodgers!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Great Video for UCLA BBall Fans

Unfortunately I don't have a real post but I DO have a really funny video (at least for those of you who are UCLA fans and watched last weekend's Texas A&M game).

Also, I'm glad we won last night and everything, but do they have to give me a heart attack?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Your mom goes to college

In lieu of a real post, I'm publishing a Google Map I put together of LA Area colleges and universities. It's by no means complete so if you see any glaring errors or omissions let me know. Or pass along to any and all of your friends.

The reason I was thinking about it was that I finished a class at UCLA Extension. It was about economic geography, dealing with themes of globalization and developed/developing countries. Pretty interesting. It was nice because it A) wasn't super hard and B) was online and did not require a weekly drive to Westwood. I already drive to Santa Monica College once a week and Westwood is that much further and infinitely worse traffic. I can actually get to SMC in ~30 minutes from El Segundo (that will be a separate Google Map, along with my routes to the Rose Bowl and Staples Center).

View Larger Map

Friday, March 21, 2008

Several Odds and a Couple Ends

The LA Times' Joel Stein had a really interesting take on the latest actions by the Federal Reserve: infusing the market with $200 billion and JP Morgan Chase rescuing Bear Stearns with another $30 billion. It was really toned down in this article and his points came across more concisely. I read Stein's stuff occasioanlly but more often than not I find his humor heavy handed. As far as Times' columnists, he and Jonah Goldberg are usually orthogonal to each other, but I am usually orthogonal to the both of them. Basically, it's like a 3 dimensional space and we're the X,Y, and Z axes. Linear algebra references aside, Stein's piece was actually written really well - he seems to know what he's talking about without confusing people with too much technical detail.

The LA Land blogger, Peter Viles, did an interesting analysis on the real estate market declines in Los Angeles. He did a simple zip code breakdown to see which classes of houses were declining the most. His results show that the low end (Palmdale/Lancaster) is declining more than the high end (Palos Verdes, Mar Vista). As the houses increase in value, the percentage decline decreases, until there's actually an increase for houses over $800k. What this means is that the market is really starting to sort itself out and to echo Stein, the faster we get to the bottom, the better.

In sports news, UCLA won it's first round game against Mississippi Valley State in the NCAA tournament while USC got smoked by Kansas State. KSU was robbed by selection committe, only getting an 11 seed (3rd Place in the 2nd toughest conference only gets an 11 seed? Come on....). Ken Pomeroy could have told you that the Trojans drew a really tough first round game. Great news for the Mighty Bruins as they should be getting Luc back for Saturday's game against Texas A&M, which starts at 6:15 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Birthday Wishes

So today is my birthday. In lieu of an actual post I will post the 10 most interesting facts (5 dates and 5 births) about March 19 from Wikipedia:

1687 - Explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle, searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, is murdered by his own men.
1863 - The SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is destroyed on her maiden voyage with a cargo of munitions, medicines and merchandise then valued at over $1,000,000. The wreck was discovered on the same day and month, exactly 102 years later by then teenage diver and pioneer underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence.
1918 - The U.S. Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time.
1931 - Gambling is legalized in Nevada.
1941 - World War II: The 99th Pursuit Squadron also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, is activated.

1590 - William Bradford, Pilgrim and First Governor of the Plymouth Colony (d. 1657)
1813 - David Livingstone, Scottish missionary and explorer (d. 1873)
1848 - Wyatt Earp, American policeman and gunfighter (d. 1929)
1891 - Earl Warren, 14th Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1974)
1900 - Frédéric Joliot, French physicist, Nobel laureate (d. 1958)

Interestingly enough, 8 of the 10 are American related. The exceptions are David Livingstone ("Doctor Livingstone I presume") and Joliot. Livingstone is also the name of a hugely popular basketball game and Joliot was Marie Curie's son-in-law (go radiation!).

Monday, March 17, 2008

About Loving Nachos Anonymously

I'm Brad and I write NachoLoversAnonymous as a hobby and creative outlet. I am an engineer in the defense industry and have far ranging interests from nachos (duh) to urban issues of geography and economics. Having already done a stint at graduate school, I am looking at going back. As I learn about prospective subjects and participate in different activities relating to our built world of Los Angeles I will post about them here, hopefully bringing logical arguments and keen insights. In the process my writing should improve and this 'about me' and the blog will become more focused. You can reach me at Hurrah!

The above paragraph will become my new 'about me', replacing the venerable:

He was a giant of a man and a friend to none and when he rode into town he blocked out the sun.

That line was from a Jack In The Box commercial for their Outlaw Burger. It's about five hundred years old and I barely remember the commercial itself - Cowboy Jack does battle with the Outlaw or something like that. My friend Aaron and I can sing that song like there was no tomorrow and with little prompting. It's definitely my favorite commercial theme song, Taco Bell's Bonanza-inspired song coming in a close second (no links to either commercial because they occured before the advent of the internet and YouTube - otherwise both of these would have totally sweet video and audio). Fortunately Jack is bringing it back (not really) because the burger itself is what my mom would call a fat bomb. It certainly looks delicious though. Take that Boca Burger!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Return of the Real Estate Ranter

The real estate bailout plans slowly gain momentum while the market continues to decline. As I ranted about earlier, I am not a big fan of any of this bailout business. I continue to be outraged that significant steps are being taken without giving thought to their long-term consequences. Don't get me wrong, I am all for making changes to help regulate the system. But how can anyone (be it consumers, investors, mortgage brokers, or bankers) be expected to change long-term behavior if they face no penalties when engaging in inherently risky activities. The conformal loan limits is a good example - I don't disagree that they should be raised. But instead of raising them by almost 100% (from $417,000 to $729000), why not raise them by a more modest amount, say a percentage tied to inflation?

And then comes the data that of all people who own homes, a third don't have a mortgage at all. Of the remaining 2/3 there are about 2% who face foreclosure. We're really not talking about a large percentage of people. But because people had been using their homes to finance consumer spending, and the demand for homes had driven the construction industry, there are significant portions of the economy that are being affected. Here's an interesting post about how a small percentage of people can affect the economy.

So we trudge along. LA Prices are still declining (generally now back to 2005 and even 2004 levels), the conformal loan limits have been raised (most dramatically in California), and the bailout plans are being fleshed out by the powers that be. At some point there will be a confluence where the external factors and my personal situation intersect and I am able to purchase a house. As I wait I vacillate between outrage and fear, wishing that everything could achieve some kind of impossibly peaceful balance. Serenity now, serenity now, serenity now.

Also, Calculated Risk is a really good blog. I just wish I had a firmer grasp of the concepts they talk about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wire Finale

Watching the last episode of season five (and the series), what do I expect?

A montage? No, not really in line with the rest of the series.

How will the series play out? Still trying to figure out what happened to Omar (and the switching of the body tags), will Marlo get got, what happens to Avon. Will Templeton get found out or win the pulitzer, does McNulty come to terms with himself (no), will he get found out and fired (yes). Can Kima live with her decision? What happens to the rest? Does the scandal go public? Will the Sun comply with any coverup? Does Gus quit? Get fired?

Bill Simmons and Jason Whitlock also spoke about the series (and last episode) on Simmons' latest podcast. Even though they are both sportswriters, there were a couple of interesting points, notably Whitlock's introspective comment of the cycle of the street (not his exact terminology but nonetheless). His premise starts with someone watching the show, who has no idea of what the street is like, asking questions like "How did these people get to be this way". And The Wire, by virtue of his story arcs that include kids (notably season 4), tells stories that show not only specific events and how they shape people's lives but more importantly it shows how self-sustaining the 'cycle of the street' is.


My roommate and I watched the finale last night. It wasn't quite as good as the last episode but covered a ton of ground and tied up a lot of loose ends. I was wrong about a couple of points (no montage? Perish the thought!), right about a couple of others, and simultaneously happy and annoyed how things turned out. I was annoyed because everything turned out just a little too well for some (Carcetti, Templeton, and Rawls), and not well enough for others (what happened to Kima?). On the other hand, I was happy that Daniels didn't take the commissioner's job, that Marlo had to get down and dirty in the street, and that they didn't shy away from Duquan's descent (more on that later). For some strange reason my roommate and I were a little too excited that Michael is the new Omar - speaking of, we never did find out about the switched body tag.

Is it just me or is Duquan the most tragic character on the show? He's already living on the street and then he burns the only the bridge he has so that he can buy dope to get high. He has a sweet disposition, a way with kids, and is smart and computer savvy. I think that's what Simon was trying to say about the street - it does not discriminate, it is harsh, and once you're there getting out is nearly impossible.

To me that's the biggest shame of all: unchecked, the cycle feeds on itself. With the current social system, the cycle feeds on itself. With corrupt government systems, the cycle feeds on itself. While there are many ways of dealing with poverty in our culture, it seems there are very few good ways. Even those good ways have a high chance of being abused and in turn feeding the cycle. While the show did have many personal stories of redemption (notably Bubbles) it was deservedly harsh on the systems that have failed so many.

Monday, March 10, 2008

LA Bike Tizzle

On Sunday, March 2nd, I participated in the annual Acura LA Bike Tour. This was the 14th annual and the second year I did it. The backdrop of the tour ensures a unique experience: Not only are all the streets (23 miles snaking through downtown LA!) closed off but the race starts at 5:45am.

But my story gets weirder - I stayed the night at my friend Tim's in Gardena. I got to his house at 2am so I only had about 3 hours of sleep. When he woke me up at 5 I thought I was still asleep. Going down to load the bikes, I met one of his neighbors who was leaving for the same event. The neighbor's wife was even going along to watch - ouch. As we got on the freeway my sense of community only increases as I realized that most of the other cars had bike racks and similarly exhausted riders - almost comical that we Angelenos still relied on cars to get to a bike ride.

The ride itself was incredible. Starting at the Coliseum to the sound of Randy Newman and the shrill encouragement of the LA Bike Tour harpy, the mass heads generally east, then north, zigzagging across the LA river via a couple historic bridges. We meandered through the Toy District (my guess for the next neighborhood to be gentrified in downtown), eventually through the heart of downtown, through Koreatown, and back to Exposition Park. A Google Map of the route would be appropriate.

As the sun rose over Los Angeles, I was overcome by how connected I felt. Connected to the other riders and to the city. Isolated in a car it's easy to neglect the neighborhoods who's main purpose in my life are as barriers keeping me from where I am usually headed. When those neighborhoods become the destination they take on much more significance - like a Thomas Brother's Guide coming to life with people, places, and things. In other words, nouns.

There are other rides I want to do: Long Beach Bike Tour, LA River Ride, City of Angels Fun Ride. I doubt I do more than one or two but just the thought gets me excited to explore and connect.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Best Episode of The Wire EVER

Phew, exhale. Breath again. Remove crap from pants. What the hell just happened?!?!?!?!?!

I don't really know where to begin. I think I just watched the best episode of television ever. The Wire, Season Five, Episode 59. I'm not a television critic; I don't have the ability to dissect a TV show into its constituent parts. I had a conversation about the Oscars the other day and it went something like this: I feel like I can watch a movie and be able to discern relative quality of only a couple of the specialties it takes to create a motion picture. For instance, take acting. I believe it's possible to separate good and bad. Cinematography is another example of a specialty I feel comfortable talking about - the use of backdrops, locations, sets, etc. Think No Country for Old Men. The use of camera angles, colors, locations, etc. gave a feel of authenticity and added tremendously to the film.

On the flip side of the coin is directing. I have a much harder time comparing the relative merits of movie direction. I lack the toolset and vocabulary and only "know it when I see it." It's kind of like eating food: you can tell what most of the parts are and whether they're good. Who doesn't like chips, cheese, and salsa? Good directing makes those parts come together like a heavenly plate of Loteria nachos.

Well the latest episode of The Wire was like that plate of nachos after eating nothing but rice and beans for a year. The performances were fantastic - drug dealers that come off as sympathetic, police officers that are loathsome, and drug addicts searching for redemption. The writing is incredible even if the overarching storyline of this season is a little out in left field. And the cinematography makes the city of Baltimore an integral castmember. But those descriptions fail to encompass just how riveting the episode was and why TV and movies can be so powerful.

Unfortunately The Wire is about to end - only one more episode left. But there's hope. A David Simon show in New Orleans? Yes please.

A couple links about economics and what real gangters think (it's a multi-part series).

** UPDATE (11/22/2009)
I have a new rant about this post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

British Nachos? More like British Crappos

Language is an incredibly interesting concept that I do not claim to understand one whit of. I looked up comparative linguistics on Wikipedia and the article verified my basic concepts of langauge - it can be used to study history, geography, and culture. Unfortunately it did not give me any additional insight into a linguistic curiosity I have been attempting to learn more about. It did make me really want to use the word lexicon in game of Scrabble.

As I am wont to do, I was perusing the internet the other day. I looked up "organic nachos" in Google and came across this site. It took me several minutes of reading before I realized that I was reading a blog from England (the spelling of 'colours' gave it away), and that he wasn't really talking about the kind of nachos that I am accustomed to.

I came to the following realization: In England, because chips are fries, then British nachos are the equivalent of American chips. WTF?!?!?!?!?! A truly egregious and insulting error, I wanted to find out just how pervasive this mislabeling was. I found a snack food company that sells "organic nachos". I also found an encyclopedia entry, dictionary definition, and a couple Wikipedia articles on French Fried Potatoes and Potato Crisps (which appear to be the bastardized version of American chips). I also found a couple of blogs from a temporary expat and a traveler in search of a taste of home.

This gets more interesting within the context of nacho history. In a border town in Texas (long a source of Mexican-American irritation), a Mexican nickname is ascribed to a dish that we would now say was "inspired by traditional Mexican cuisine". The shit proved to be delicious and spread like the proverbial wildfire. Spread so far that it went back across the Atlantic. Once back across the pond, there was a vacuum in the snack product hierarchy and a name was needed to describe a tasty snack. Fortunately the key ingredient of nachos are tortilla chips, which would now bear a new moniker. When did this first happen? Where the expats not savvy or strong enough to set the record straight? Where they too obliterated from Guinness and Bass that the couldn't tell the difference? So many questions and very few resources to investigate this history. Fortunately my trip to London will provide me ample opportunity to research this vast gulf in human knowledge and perhaps correct England's woefully unrefined lexicon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Real estate rant

One the many subjects that interests me is real estate. I am fascinated by the geography of how people congregate in areas, the way those areas change over time, and the value we ascribe to them. There are elements of sociology, history, race, greed, corruption, and all the wonderful emotions that make up good drama.

I am also interested in economics. Not in the supply-and-demand sense that we all learned in high school, but in the Freakonomics sense of how markets react to people and the unintended consequences of market intervention (I also read Jim Jubak on MSN and particularly liked his explanation of what the hell is going on with the credit market).

In case you haven't heard, we're currently in a housing crisis, which is wrapped up in a credit crisis. There are talks of bailouts, cash infusions, tax breaks, and other plans to right our course (i.e. market intervention). One particularly irritating plan that looks like it is going into effect is that the conformal loan limit is going to be raised. The conformal loan limit basically sets the level of mortgage that the federal government will purchase. Anything above and the loan is called Jumbo, and sits on the open market. Anything lower the federal government will purchase, thereby lowering the interest rate and making everyone feel safe.

So why would that irritate me? Well, for one, there has been a crazy run-up in real estate prices, especially in Southern California where I live. People have been given loans and bought houses that were not justified by their incomes. Much of this was speculation, people thought that prices would always go higher so there was no danger in stretching now, they could sell later for more. People that already owned homes did this as well through refinancing. Well this couldn't go on forever and once prices started to go down (as adjustable rates started resetting and people couldn't afford their payments and had to sell for less than what they bought for), more and more people realized they needed to get out. The psychology of the thing is that if people owe more than they think their house is worth, they're more likely to sell or be foreclosed upon. Once started, the cycle is viscious. People sell for lower prices, values of houses decrease, people start getting foreclosed, values decrease even more, etc.

The thing about a foreclosure is that if it's a conforming loan, the cost is eaten by the government, spread among the 300 million americans, and people don't get as hurt. Well, for the nonconforming loans that were sold as debt instruments the situation is sticky. Those are still owned by banks and they also want a government bailout. The government also wants to bail out people who bought too much and are in over their head.

Why does this piss me off? Because I could have bought any time over the last 3 years but didn't because the econmics didn't work. Now I have to finance (through my taxes) a bailout of either people who bought foolishly or the banks who loaned foolishly, or both. Now I'm not a free-market at all costs conservative. I believe in government social programs for those who can't take care of themselves. But I am against bailing out people who made conscious bad decisions, greedy corporations, or the millionarie CEO's that are crying because they won't be getting yachts for Christmas this year.

I was even irritated enough to post on the LA Land real estate blog on the Times website:

"How's this for a conspiracy: new larger conforming loan limits allow people to refi their large mortgages, the 'bad' mortgages owned by banks and investors are paid off, and the new mortgages are backed by Uncle Sam. When people have trouble paying those new conforming mortgages who's in trouble? Not the banks, who would be off the hook, but you and I, John Q. Taxpayer."

So what's the solution? I don't know - move to Canada? With global warming Vancouver could be the next Los Angeles. Either way I can't complain too much, I do live (rent) near the beach after all. In any event it is a learning opportunity and maybe I'll be able to take advantage of some government subsidies to write more about things that matter, like nachos.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Peruvian Organic Bananas Have Infiltrated My Life

Two themes have cropped up starting with the last post: stealing ideas from All Kinds of Yum and organic food. While I am a junkie of AKOY I am not really an organic die-hard although there are really good reasons to support organic food. My current philosophy is that if I see an organic version of food I usually buy and it isn't too much more expensive than the regular version I'll buy it (I have similar easy to follow policies regarding plastic bags, recycling, carpooling, and other forms of activism). It's the lazy fat white man's way to partially save the world without really trying (or really saving the world).

But AKOY's post about organic banana farms is totally awesome and has me rethinking my lackadaisical policies in one important respect: I'm nearly willing to buy only organic bananas from Dole. This seemingly arbitrary decision is based in large part upon Dole's masterful method of marketing its organic bananas. Each bunch of organic bananas has a tag that lists the farm the banana was grown on and country of origin. You then surf to Dole's organic website, input the farm number, and up pops details about the farm, including pictures, other crops grown, location, and the organic certification credentials.

For example, my farm (number 998) is located in Tumbes, Peru, only grows bananas, and was certified BCS Oko Garantie for both European (ECC) and US (USDA) markets. Plus there are five pictures of the farm and farmers and a link to Google Earth (which is untested since I still live in the 20th century). But seriously, how cool is that? And for those who want to be in the green-loving, pit-hair-cultivating, tech-savvy, enviro-geek crowd, there's even a blog that Dole set up that is a sort of clearinghouse of green ideas. They also have nice blog colors.

View Larger Map

Friday, February 15, 2008

Organic Stuff Is Good

Originally I wrote this for All Kinds Of Yum and decided to retread it here. Double Credit - Sweet!

Being a friend of Tannaz means reading about food. Sometimes I try to give her suggestions about articles to write, mostly because I want her to cook for me. But she threw me for a loop when I told her about Blog Action Day.

You see, this was a one-way facet of our relationship, and I was happy to continue in that vein, but this time she asked if I wanted to be her second guest blogger. Realizing that saying no was tantamount to self-induced exile from Persia (in the cuisine sense at least), I set about trying to figure out an appropriate post. The conclusion is a short list of reasons why there is such a big fuss over local organic farming. This post is by no means inclusive -- if anyone has more specific info, or differing opinions, I would be very interested in hearing about it.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about organic farming, both local and far, but there are a few simple reasons why it is such an attractive alternative to our current food system:

Close Food vs. Far Food

Transportation costs. This is a fairly easy one, just think of the salad you ate today: was the lettuce grown in a huge corporate farm in Salinas or a small farm in Corona? The distance between these to locations is roughly 350 miles. It is not hard to imagine further distances, especially when food is imported to (and from) other countries. Transportation uses energy, which contributes to air pollution and other bad ecological problems.

Locally adapted varieties. Most corporate farms use the same varieties that maximize yields. Losing local varieties decreases genetic diversity, which could result in losing important beneficial traits between varieties. From a taste perspective, this means the homogenization of fruits and vegetables (imagine if there were only one kind of apple?).

Organic vs. Non-organic

Pesticides. Organic farming, especially polyculture, reduces the needs for pesticides. Also, there is the energy cost to produce the pesticides (especially nitrogen, which must go through an intense heating process).

Sustainable Agriculture. Organic farming usually implies (although this is not universally true) more sustainable agriculture practices. Farms and soil are better taken care of in order to decrease the effects of soil erosion, and degradation of soil health. One popular method of sustainable agriculture is to rotate different crops; planting crops for sale on the market and other crops that naturally replenish nutrients in the soil. Polyculture takes it another step forward by planting complementary crops at the same time.

Farming Techniques. Another exciting benefit of small organic farms is that they are able to experiment with farming techniques on a smaller scale that might not be feasible on a larger farm. Polyculture is one example, but other methods include planting more trees to increase soil stability and shade, and to provide a habitat for birds.


A major reason that people do not consume as much local organic produce is that the prevailing wisdom is that is much more expensive than “regular” produce. In a sense this is true; if your local supermarkets stocks organics they are typically about 10% more expensive than the same non-organic varieties. Farm subsidies artificially keep our food costs down, and until the subsidies are the same for the small farmer as they are for the large, then it will be harder for local organics to achieve the same price performance.

So what’s the takeaway? Our food system is not built for everyone to start buying 100% organic food at their local Farmer’s Market. But the next time you’re at Ralphs or Whole Foods, notice that they have a lot of organic options. The more you buy, the more they sell, and more will be available in the future. And if you’re at a Farmer’s Market, you don’t have to insist on organic. By supporting local farmers you are helping decrease the energy cost of agriculture. The best of both worlds is buying local organic produce. But you know what’s even better? Getting Tannaz to cook it for you.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Loteria and Stick and Stein

The past week was dominated by anonymous nacho loving. On Friday, All Kinds of Yum and I went to Loteria Grill at the Farmer’s market. AKOY sent me a chat earlier in the day expressing how cold our Los Angeles was and only nachos could save her. She was right, it was cold and rainy and windy and not at all like we remember from the Best Summer Ever of years past. The only way to break the doldrums was by totally stuffing ourselves with vegetarian nachos, a carnitas taco for me, and followed by a delicious banana-strawberry-nutella crepe from the stand next door. I tried to take a picture except the camera immediately disintegrated, leaving only the pale imprint on these poor eyes. The nachos were everything I love – lots of jack cheese, melted in the oven, covered with black beans and green salsa. The full-size order comes on a huge plate. We did not measure the semi-major and semi-minor axes of the oval and cannot give you an exact area but it was about the size of a football field. The only gripe was that they could have left the plate in for just a smidge longer to melt all the cheese.

Upping the ante, on Tuesday I ventured to the Stick and Stein in El Segundo accompanied by my faithful sister and two college seniors (one being my cousin). I played coy with my sister, contemplating a salad, but when the server came I threw down the chicken-nacho gauntlet. Fortunately my cousin’s friend doesn’t like all the stuff so the triumvirate went to town on a plate full of chips, cheese, beans, chicken, guacamole, jalapenos, sour cream, tomatoes, olives, and salsa. It was a full frontal assault that left my mouth on fire, fingers sticky, and belly full (and the schooners of Bud Light helped put out any remaining fires). To put it another way, Success!

If the nachos from Loteria evoke thoughts of a simple yet beautiful day spent drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, then the Stick was like going to see a demolition derby at the Menard County Fair. Each has its place, and that place is my stomach.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My First Rant

I consider myself a reasonably savvy person and semi-knowledgable in the ways of computers. But getting websites set-up to do stuff is still proving to be quite a bit more time-consuming than I thought. My idea (I'm going to be intentionally vague - kind of like The Spanish Prisoner and "The Process") shouldn't be that hard - A user goes to my homepage, puts in some data into a couple of boxes, the server then gets some data from a database, performs some computations, uses the results and creates a mash-up using another website. Easier said than done.

So far I've registered a domain at Go-Daddy and done some basic front-page type stuff. But learning PHP, which is how I'll likely do the downloading, parsing, calculating, and blah blah blah, has so far been just out of my reach. Then there’s idea #2 which is probably going to require me to use Wordpress for blogging stuff so I’ll have to figure out how that works. I guess I should be glad that right now I’m not looking at setting up my own MySQL database or maintaining a web server and installing Apache and PHP and any other ‘real’ web stuff that is required. It is more than a little surprising I even know that much.

Anyway, someday this site will actually have interesting information about nachos and where to get the best nachos in Los Angeles. I even heard that the nachos at the Underground in Hermosa Beach were good but I remain a little dubious as the report was from my roommate who’s nacho palate is not nearly as discerning as mine.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Show me the money

I added an ad banner to the bottom of the site. Because the site generates so much traffic. And with all the cash I can retire.

But seriously, it's a pilot project to further my aims of world domination through anonymous nacho loving.

Speaking of nachos, everybody should try the 'chos at Loteria Grill in the Los Angeles Farmer's Market. Possibly the best ever, rendering this entire blog, perhaps even my life, moot.