Archive for the ‘Stuff I saw’ Category

I went to the grocery today

Friday, March 13th, 2020

A trip to by some food and firewood is not worth posting about, but with the COVID-19 outbreak and response, I think it is. I was reaffirmed and calmed by the trip. I found a business well-stocked with food and other supplies – modulo an absolute dearth of toilet paper – filled with people being served in orderly lines.

Lines were long. I spent close to an hour and a half in line, but I passed the time in a delightful conversation with a couple of fellow citizens. We talked about quite a lot, but it really took off when the two others realized that they were fellow poker players. I learned quite a bit about local cardrooms and even less official venues where local folks play. I admit I was surprised that the cheerful grandma I’d been chatting with was such a knowlegable and succesful player. The fellow behind me bought a business that he still runs based on his winnings from a bowling tournament. He copped to only playing games for money.

One of the reasons I wrote this post is to report my experience. Some of the reports in my media bubble made shortages sound more widespread. I had stopped for the same items I bought today last night and I was alarmed to see the full parking lot and long lines. I knew I had what I needed, and bailed for home. I admit I was frightened by last night’s surprise, and left before I’d sized up the situation. Today’s trip restored a lot of my faith in people and in our community.

Stay safe, all. Follow preventative advice and be kind to your neighbors.

Brush With Tragedy

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

I was horrified to see that a motorist had hit and killed a cyclist along my daily commuting route on Thursday morning. I was further surprised when I realized that I had passed the scene soon enough after the collision that the police were still on the scene and had the street shut down.

I didn’t see the accident, so all I can do is give my sympathies and a few impressions of that area. I’m just going to post those here to contribute what I can to understanding and sympathy.

The Scene

The intersection in question is somewhat challenging, but far from the worst I see on a regular basis. The intersection is treacherous because of the fork and joining of Olive and Manchester. There’s no good way for northbound bike traffic to continue up Manchester without northbound Olive traffic posing a risk. I wasn’t there, so I have no idea if that contributed.

Most of the people I see on bikes in that area are riding simple cruiser kinds of bikes. They look like folks who are making short trips from a bus stop to work or between some of the dispersed work locations – lots of car lots/parking lots there. That also means there are come car carriers and other commercial vehicles in the area regularly that can make it hard to see what’s happening.

Again, my sympathies to the families and friends. Thanks to the indispensable Biking In LA blog for keeping us all aware.

Most Perfect Album

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Many of the cool kids know that RadioLab is one of my regular podcast listens and the US Constitution is my favorite government spec.  RadioLab has taken the Constitution and mixed it liberally with Schoolhouse Rock – another favorite – to produce The Most Perfect Album.  These are original songs based on the 27 Amendments to the Constitution.

If that description didn’t start you downloading it, I’ll point out a few highlights:

It’s free! Check it out!

I Only Listen To the Tides

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

This post is an update to my 2017 post talking about the podcasts I like.  I have a couple more to recommend.

  • I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats: This has been a delight in so many ways.  Joe and John talk informally about how they create cool stuff.  One could say that these are recordings of Joseph Fink and John Darnielle in conversation about their creative process as artists. One of the reasons I’m digging this so much is that both viewpoints are true.  These are two guys and two erudite artists.  They bop between those two modes of discourse with remarkable ease and have lots of deep things to say in mundane ways and mundane things to say in deep ways.  And it’s all two guys talking in the basement.
    As a bonus,it turns out that I really like the album they’re using to frame their talks: All Hail West Texas. I expect I’ll like more Mountain Goats music as well.  I know I’ll be buying some.  They also get people to cover the songs and I’ve bought a couple of those, too.  So be warned that this podcast may make you spend money.
  • Tides Of History: As Ben Edlund said: from the other side of the Corpus Callosum, I’ve been enjoying this incredible deep dive into late antiquity and early modern history. I’ve tried to listen to Patrick Wyman’s earlier podcasts and found his presentation well intentioned, but too dull for me.  He’s a history professor, after all.  What kept me keeping tabs on him is that he had (IMHO) the right idea: make this stuff accessible to people by describing it better.  He’s made his presentation into something that’s beyond accessible and into enticing.  He hooks me by grounding his – extensive – scholarship in compelling framings of the time and important concepts of the present.  He’s also become much more savvy about using the medium, too – his sound design has markedly improved, for example and he lets his enthusiasm warm his episodes without overheating them.  There’s no need for you to care about that process.  If you like history at all, try couple episodes and join me as a fan.

Fake Radio: a plug

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Fake Radio is putting on It’s A Wonderful Life this Friday night (7 Dec 2017) at the Acme . If you’ve never seen a performance, they’re a loose troup of comedians rooted in improv and voice acting who perform Golden Age radio dramas live. In my experience they bring the right amount of respect for the source material and gleeful snark to their renditions to make the evenings fun while keeping true to the material. They’re good fun. Come out and see them if you get a chance.

Portland folks also get a treat. Or two.


Saturday, January 28th, 2017

For a while at the new gig, I had an office far from people I knew and from windows – the glass artifacts, not the operating system.  To keep my sanity, I started listening to a lot of podcasts.  Partially that was just to hear some voices, but I have come to enjoy many of then on their own merits.  Here are a few of my favorites that you might like, too.

This American Life is a groundbreaking radio journalism show that also podcasts its content.  That’s not an unusual state of affairs, and several of the podcasts I listen to either have radio show roots or are ongoing shows. This American Life is many things, but the attraction for me is its powerful commitment to both tireless research and immersion in stories and in their innovative and powerful storytelling techniques.  The commitment to getting to the core of the story is enough of a reason love them.  Any of their work during the election, on refugees, or on education (especially in Chicago) is insightful.  Most telling is the one time the staff felt that they had to retract a story. Listening to how embarrassed and angry they are at themselves and at the intensity of the mea culpa they issue – they essentially turn the full focus of their considerable investigative prowess themselves – made me understand the standards they hold themselves to.  Since that show, their fact checking has been well beyond what normal humans would consider sufficient.

The other key thing about This American Life is the caliber of their communications skills: they tell a great story.  Those skills not only make this show powerful, but has spawned a progeny that addresses a stunning array of topics aiming for the same compelling and illuminating power.

Planet Money explains economics and the economy using the powerful storytelling techniques of This American Life. The lineage here is direct.  Some of Planet Money‘s founders were key players in This American Life.  The podcast itself grew out of a This American Life episode. They do their progenitors proud.  Almost every episode has something worth listening to, but these two recent episodes will tell you if Planet Money is for you, though they’ve also done some projects worth looking at.

Welcome to Night Vale is a horse of a different color.  From everything.  It’s one of those pieces of art that sounds ridiculous when you describe it, but it is its own macabre, poetic, comical, romantic thing.  Try a few and you’ll know if it’s for you.

Night Vale has also produced several very different children.  All of these are original and solid, though only Within The Wires speaks to me. It’s one of those pieces of art that blindsided me completely.  One episode was light and comical and the next showed me how much these characters had come to breathe, even though I’d had only the smallest hole through which to see them.  Try it.

Off-Ramp is John Rabe’s rambling, insightful, penetrating, light-hearted romance with southern California.  He has a boundless curiosity and takes significant delight in bringing local stories from the sprawling metroplex of LA to that community. He’s led me to art shows, restaurants and injustices in my adopted home with a smile and a wink (where appropriate).  It’s something of a shaggy dog, but it has such personality that I think of the show as a weekly must.

Reply All is a show about the Internet.  Like soylent green, the Internet is people. From that vague jumping off point they find stories of humor, terror, and passion that cannot be missed.  They also try some innovative things. Another must.

The Memory Palace is a site full of poetic history.  Nate DiMeo constructs these short, evocative gems about people great and small.  Pick one up and try it out.

Here Be Monsters is an emerging favorite. Ostensibly about fear and the unknown, it covers a broad range of subjects.  I’ve just started listening to it, so I don’t know if I’m just hitting a strong streak or not.  If you try these, try a few and get the feeling of the range.

There are more, but I’m going to stop here for now.


Saturday, November 5th, 2016

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but life intervenes.

I’ve made an odd impact (ha, ha) on the LA biking and aviation worlds.  As readers may recall, I had a pretty exciting wake turbulence encounter in a construction zone near LAX this year.  I mentioned it to Ted Rogers who runs the spectacular Biking in LA blog, and he posted it. A few weeks later, the I saw this update.

Here’s a link to the sign.

My cousin writes about baseball

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I always enjoy when my cousin writes about his youth and about sports.  This is an evocative and delightful example.

Small Victories

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Evidently Sarah Sharp is regularly updating Small Victories again.  Worth a look, IMHO.

Fighting Trousers

Friday, November 12th, 2010

I’ve already mentioned this on Facebook, but Warren Ellis has brought another Elemental video to my attention.  You may want to give it some of yours.  Elemental is well liked here.