Construction Fever

The Proposed Ivy Station Complex in Culver City

In the context of Los Angeles history, real estate is the unforgivable “sin against the Holy Ghost.” For decades, local politicians have regaled us with promises. When elected, they changed their tune and essentially gave in to the wild schemes of real estate developers. As I traveled along the Expo Line this afternoon, I passed dozens of large high-rise construction projects.

Theoretically, these projects are based on the principle of increasing the tax base. Unfortunately, the move-ins into the new buildings will leave in their wake an untenable number of vacancies. It’s not as if the new tenants will be new businesses and people who have just moved into the Los Angeles area. In the end, all that will happen will be a combination of untenably high rents and older buildings that are now vacant. And what about the effect on vehicular traffic?

One reason for the huge population of homeless in Southern California is the high price of rental real estate. If it weren’t for rent control, I would be hard put to remain in the Golden State.

 

 

Computer Phobias

PICtouchscreen-thumb-others

I Have a Thing About Touch Screen Interfaces

As one who has been working with computers since around 1964, I have developed a number of phobias based on problems I have had.

One of my main computer phobias sharply separates me from the millennial generation: I distrust and in fact despise touch screen interfaces. My new Lexmark MC3224 has a touch screen panel for commands that is sheer torture to navigate, unless I had fingers the size of a newborn lemur’s.

The absolute worst is a touch-screen “keyboard” on a 2” x 3” touchscreen that makes it virtually impossible to avoid fat-fingering errors.

A corollary is that I refuse, for the time being, to buy a smart phone. My 74-year-old eyes are not up to deciphering a micro-screen, so I will not even try.

There are certain brands that I avoid because of run-ins, particularly printers. Some people love Epsons and Brothers, but I avoid them like the plague. I have stuck by Hewlett-Packard for many years, and it was unusual for me to buy a Lexmark. (By the way, it’s still working!)

The same logic applies to software. After hours of rage attempting to update Norton Anti-Virus, I have consigned that particular brand to the dumpster. I may soon add AVG because of their predatory marketing of slivers of their security products.

One product that has drawn my contempt over a period of many years is the old Word Perfect word processing system. I have stuck my Microsoft Word and Excel, even when they adopted their stupid ribbon interface a few years ago.

And don’t even let me start on Apple Macintoshes!

 

A Hint of Fall

Could Summer Really Be Over?

Our seasons in Los Angeles are very different than in other parts of the country. For the last few days, we’ve had a touch of autumn; but that doesn’t mean that there will be any consistency in the weather over the next six weeks or so. We might very well be in for a spell of hot, dry, windy weather—otherwise known as the Santa Ana winds. Or we could actually get some measurable (i.e., more than 1 centimeter) precipitation, though that is unlikely. It will probably get cooler in the evenings, or not.

One thing for sure: My left knee is aching, and I struggle slightly to rise from a sitting position. I’ve just taken some aspirin, which will probably help some. And I will probably get my flu shot sometime this week, because the flu season sets in fast whenever the weather gets cooler.

Although this has not been a particularly hot summer, it has been a humid one. Our humidity usually lasts only through July, but this year it has been virtually non-stop. We even got some slight drizzle yesterday and Friday. It would be nice if we had another wet winter, though the scientists who predict this sort of thing say that California will continue to have terrible droughts. This translates into terrible wildfires. Sigh!

 

 

The Philosophy Club

St Peter Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio

When I was attending high school at St Peter Chanel in Bedford, Ohio, between 1958 and 1962, I started two extracurricular activities. One was a literary magazine called The Phoenix (our school teams were the Firebirds). I am actually a little embarrassed about the quality of our articles and illustrations. But more interestingly, I started a philosophy club which met evenings. Our moderator was a gaunt Marist missionary priest who had spent years attempting to convert the natives of New Guinea to Catholicism.

Imagine his discomfiture when a bunch of high school kids decided to argue about the existence of God. We had a couple of firebrands in the group—Ed Jaskiewicz and Rodger Harper—who set about demolishing two millennia of church dogma.

The “Angelic Doctor,” St Thomas Aquinas

As a good practicing Catholic (at the time), I introduced St. Thomas Aquinas’s five proofs for the existence of God. That didn’t sit too well with Jaskiewicz, who shot them down while Father Barrett, our moderator, turned a vivid shade of fuchsia. For my part, I started to stammer. It just wouldn’t do for Chanel’s star student to foment heresy.

Well, neither the philosophy club nor the literary magazine exist today. In fact, St. Peter Chanel High School is no more. The last I heard, the school was going to be torn down by he Bedford, Ohio, Board of Education. And I’m still a little skittish about philosophy. It’s not because I still believe in Aquinas’s five proofs, which are the bedrock of Catholic doctrine, but because I’ve always found philosophy so difficult. In no other field of endeavor do all the participants so anathemize one another.

I am currently reading Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus and actually liking his existential philosophy. It’s nice sometimes to undergo change after so many years.

 

At the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Fish Tank at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Yesterday, Martine and I visited the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro. Situated as it is within hailing distance of the Port of Los Angeles, the Aquarium is as much a scientific oceanographic institution as it is an aquarium purely for show. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is only a few miles east and is primarily an aquarium for show.

We spent several hours looking at the various tanks and asking questions of the highly educated staff. What impressed me the most was feeding largish sea snails with algae. They seemed to suck in the algae as if they were smoking a joint.

One of the highlights was watching a video produced by the institution about how they went about collecting specimens for research and display.

One of the Features of the Southern California Coastline Are the Vast Kelp Forests

We had visited the Cabrillo some twenty years earlier and were surprised to see how much the institution has grown over the years. I was impressed by the fact that admission was by voluntary donation, and that the beach parking was reasonably priced ($1.00 per hour). Expect a visit to take somewhere between two and three hours.

 

A Corvair Day

Cadmium Red Chevy Corvair

Martine is more devoted to her distant past than anyone else I know. Because during her childhood, at different times her mother owned two used Corvairs, a 1960 and a 1967, Martine wanted to visit a Corvair show at the Automobile Driving Museum in nearby El Segundo. We stayed the whole five hours of the show, from 10 am to 3 pm, and then we stayed a bit longer while Martine revisited the permanent collection of the museum.

I am not an automobile aficionado the way Martine is, so I was slightly bored. The high point for me was the Mexican street tacos that and aguas frescas that were sold by the Mexican food vendor. Other than that, I spent about an hour or two looking at the Corvairs before finding a bench and reading Jorge Amado’s 1984 Brazilian novel Jubiabá in translation.

Instead of rushing Martine through the show, I rather enjoyed her delight in revisiting the Corvairs of her youth. She was also on the lookout for Tony Dow, a Corvair enthusiast who played Wally Cleaver in the old “Leave It to Beaver” TV show. She thinks she may have seen him there, but he looks really different than he did some sixty years ago.

Martine Behind the Wheel of a 1960-Vintage Cadillac

One interesting thing about the Automobile Driving Museum is that visitors can sit behind the wheel of most cars in the museum’s collection. It was fun seeing Martine relive her childhood fantasies, even at the cost of some slight boredom on my part. So I guess it all balanced out.

 

Pursuing the Uncool #2

Smart Phones: Bonus or Onus?

This post grew out of a conversation between my brother Dan and me. He noted that I tended to distance myself from anything that smacked of the popular and acceptable. Agreeing with him, I thought I would formulate my somewhat strange philosophy of life. Distilled down to its essence, it is to at all times avoid bragging rights—across the board—and avoid the endless search for prestige, wealth, and everything in their train.  This is the second part in a series.

Smart Phones

They’re everywhere. People are actually surprised when I tell them I don’t have one. All I have is a flip phone which I never answer because most calls I receive on it are robocalls in Mandarin Chinese. So my cell phone is always turned off and used only for emergencies. Being always available to receive phone calls makes me feel more like a slave than someone in control. I would rather be aware of my surroundings than checking my e-mail several hundred times a day. (In fact, more than 90% of the e-mail on my computer is trying to sell me stuff.)

Eating Take-Out All the Time Is Not My Idea of Fun

Food Delivery Services

Not showing up in person is now considered the height of cool. That applies to restaurants, but also to other food delivery services such as those sponsored by supermarket chains and recipe of the week services like Blue Apron. My former neighbors in the apartment below used to receive a Blue Apron box every Tuesday—and for the rest of the week, we smelled the same identical food smells.

At Ralph’s Supermarkets, where I do most of my grocery shopping, there are legions of young people employed in shopping for others. Would I trust a young person who doesn’t know how to cook to select my meat and produce for me? Not on your life! My mother was raised on a Hungarian farm. As the oldest child, I learned at her side how to shop, especially for produce. I know how to tell male from female eggplants, and I’m surprisingly good at picking sweet watermelons with thin rinds.