Sunday, March 31, 2013


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Another view of Santa Barbara County wine country. Such beautiful country.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A great visit

Our son is back on a plane to London, after a nice week visit.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Landscape photography

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The stunningly beautiful landscape of California's Santa Rita Valley. This transverse valley is home to some of the most amazing wineries in California. Here, we're looking at the limestone bones of the Purisima Hills, which run along the northern side of the valley.

Because this valley runs west to east, the ocean fogs and breezes blow in and temper the high valley heat, creating a microclimate that's perfect for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah grapes.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pop Stars

The phenomenon of pop-up restaurants has been around for a few years now, and, although like food trucks, they appear to be something of a fad, they've also become a way talented young chefs can break into the restaurant business. By pooling resources, or by staying small and flying under the radar as a "supper club", chefs can focus on the food rather than the often frustrating and time-consuming nuts and bolts of opening a brick-and-mortar store.

Starry Kitchen began in 2009 in the North Hollywood apartment of Nguyen and Thi Tran, inspired cooks serving up an Asian/global cuisine to Facebook friends, food bloggers, and lucky Twitter followers. Staying a few steps ahead of the health inspectors, they opened a lunch cafe in an unlikely setting - downtown LA's soaring glass skyscraper complex at 305 Grand Avenue.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My guys

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 Downtown L.A., after dinner at Starry Kitchen Nights.

More about our meal later.

Icy-snow delight

Black sesame ice with cookies & cream
 Ohmigod! So delicious!

This is a treat called Snow Cream, served at Blockheads Shavery on Sawtelle Blvd. in West Los Angeles.

Green tea ice with red beans and rice balls
It's like shaved ice cream - creamy, milky frozen goodness put through a shaver so that it's icy and full of air and textured to melt in the mouth.

Black sesame ice
The shaving process creates a unique texture. The Black sesame ice was like little spiky splinters.

The green tea ice was more like thin flakes, similar to pastry. Both were amazing.

Is it a Hawaiian tradition? A Japanese tradition? A blend of the two? Five flavors - "original," green tea, strawberry, black sesame and sweet red bean - are on offer. You choose toppings from a list that includes fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, crumbled cookies or candies (butterfingers!), and Asian sweet treats like boba, rice cakes, mochi, sweet red bean, and something intriguingly called "grass jelly". Then you drizzle a flavored syrup on top.

Even the "regular" size appears too huge to eat when it arrives, but this icy sweet treat melts away in the mouth and doesn't leave you feeling stuffed.

Try some!

Looking outward

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I'm having so much fun this week with my family that it's hard to find time to write about it. We took a walk up Tuna Canyon this morning, where we found this chair, conveniently poised to look from the mountaintop to the sea, into the horizon.

Monday, March 25, 2013


It's busting out all over!  The apricot tree is blooming. The sun was beautiful all weekend long.

Our son came to LA from London, where the snow was blowing sideways on the train platform when he left for Heathrow.

Now he is enjoying his visit. We've had some lovely outings, and are up for more the rest of the week.

Cruising on Olympic through Koreatown!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Floral food

Big Island albacore crudo with roasted pineapple, mango, orange ponzu and microgreens - at Blue Plate Oysterette.

Modern socializing

I just heard a story from a friend about an after-work drinks get-together that went awry.

Two colleagues both agreed to meet at a certain bar in Los Angeles, in a neighborhood where there are several glossy restaurants-and-bars that cater to the executive crowd having power lunches or cocktails.

My friend arrived at the ABC restaurant, sat at the bar and ordered his drink, a martini. His colleague texted him that he was running late, and asked him to order him a Manhattan. My friend ordered a top-shelf Manhattan for his tardy colleague, and waited.

As they texted back and forth, time passed. The top-shelf Manhattan sat, dewy and dripping onto its cocktail napkin, on the bar, untouched.

"What R U having?" texted the colleague. "Martini" my friend answered.

Finally - "Where R U?" and the answer revealed that the colleague was sitting at the XYZ bar, directly across the street, an untouched martini dripping its cool sweat onto a napkin in front of the empty stool beside him.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Beautiful day

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I'm sitting out on our deck, reading a glossy magazine and looking across the canyon. A faint haze from the ocean is in the air.

Our son's flight comes in at LAX in just about an hour.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cool stuff

I'm working on some cool stuff these days.

 My department, though we're closing soon, and morale has been it, is right now working on a big project that's fun and show-bizzy and highly visible, that tests our capabilities in our profession. And you know what? we're all rising to the occasion like the professionals we are. I am so proud of my co-workers, beaten down and unappreciated as we've felt over the last several months.

In the middle of all this, there are a lot of transitions at the workplace. Good news for people who are moving to new jobs. New assignments and responsibilities for me - interesting yet time consuming and a little pressure-y. New challenges and opportunities.

Also - our son is coming home to visit. He arrives on Saturday, and next week we are going to enjoy spending time with him. I hope to share some of our adventures with you.

Spam, wonderful spam

Like most bloggers, I  have to deal with spam comments. When you start blogging, you check the site frequently, excited, hoping for comments. Sometimes you see an increase in the numbers of comments, and then you open it up with anticipation and - Urgh. A whole bunch of messages from someone named "Anonymous," with either an incomprehensible block of Chinese characters or a bunch of gobbledygook non-sequitors that often include pornographic phrases.

Hit the delete button, now!

I've considered methods to reduce spam, including comment moderation, passwords, and word verification, and, frankly, I don't like them. I'd prefer to make it easy for readers to comment. But I hate the spam, and it's awful to go back into the archives and find tons of spam filling the comments. I've settled on a method that works for me....but that's not what this post is about.

This post is about the content of the spam.

See, my spam-fighting method means that you don't have to see the spam (mostly) until I delete it. And I don't have to see it much - I can delete it globally. But sometimes, I read it, and when I do, I think to myself, WTF? Why do the creators of this stuff think it will work? Why would anyone click on this mess?

Some spam messages are brief and to the point: "Buy cialis" and a link. Others are quite obvious in the attempt to entice. You get a comment that says, "I just found your site and I'm interested in what you have to say. Come visit my website!" There are lots of variations on this, and often they reveal the writer's clumsiness with the English language. Others are, literally, a block of gibberish. Why do they think anyone would click on it?

I got one message that I admire, somewhat, because it had a more creative, almost personal approach:
Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone! Also visit my weblog
It was a stand-out among spam, I have to admit. I still deleted it, of course.

But sometimes, you encounter the spam that descends into almost human dysfunctional madness:

I гarely leave a respοnse, however i did a few searching аnd wound up here ______ Аnd I ԁo haѵe a couρlе of questіons foг you іf you don't mind. Could it be simply me or does it look like some of the comments appear like they are left by brain dead individuals? :-P And, if you are posting at other sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Would you make a list of the complete urls of all your communal sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed? my homepage ... same day loans
Okay, let's unpack this! A spammer, saying "I rarely leave a response." And yet you know there are gajillions of these messages out there. Then, a gratuitous insult to the other commenters. Is this supposed to attract clicks? The emoticon - oh, hah, cute. Then commanding me, the blog-author, to make a list? Whoa! This spam robot is a real passive-aggressive jerk!!

 It's interesting that the creators of spam have populated the world with robots that are as varied in personality as we humans can be.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


That's what I calls it.

I made an acquaintance at an event over the weekend, and we talked of a program I am interested in participating in. We exchanged cards. I emailed a hello to this person's professional email address, and received a response back promising a later message from the personal account.

I've just received a new message with more info, and it looks quite promising. However, I noticed at the end of the message this legend:

"Envoyé de mon iPhone"

Sent from my iPhone. In French. Here's my question - how do you get your iPhone to send that default message in French? Does it come that way if you are sending from France? Or if you have a French carrier? Or do you just set it up that way, so that even if you are a burger-flipper working out of a Dairy Queen in Davenport, Iowa, your iPhone message can still be delivered in French?

Do you think my new acquaintance is sophisticated? Or just putting on airs?

What say you?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Streets paved with gold

The photo hardly does it justice. The pavement is thick with rich golden filaments - flocked almost, like the fringes of chenille.

My neighbor's acacia tree is in bloom and flowers fall on my driveway as they decay.

It's like a rich carpet.

The streets are paved with gold.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Everything old is new again

Vintage Vivienne Westwood blazer
 They say that popular culture is cyclical - things that are in fashion will soon go out, and become as stale as yesterday's toast. Then some discerning soul will discover, hidden in dusty archive, attic, or passed-on hoarder's estate sale, some forgotten object, garment or artifact that bursts anew onto the scene, fresh again!

Are you old enough to remember the Beatles' re-discovery of Edwardian style in the '60s? "Winchester Cathedral" bo-doh-dee-oh-ing? Remember when we all dressed like Bonnie and Clyde, maxiskirts and berets? The shoulder-padded suits of the '80s, "Blade Runner's" Rachael echoing the Andrews Sisters? How about neo-hippie chic?Neo Marilyn? Retro punk?

BoHo Beyonce
In this digital age, it's even easier to resurrect the ancient archives of lame past fashions. It's why high school kids still listen to music their parents got high to - as if it were still as new and subversive as in 1968, instead of inhabiting some corporate Classic Rock radio playlist. It's why vinyl is cool, why cats-eye eyeliner and beehive hairdos rocked Camden Market, and why TVland is so popular. Why "Mad Men" brought back chartreuse and portrait necklines. The rise of Steam Punk.

Sometimes the trendsetters elevate some past trend to new prominence out of pure unabashed admiration. The raw, proto-sound of Delta Blues or early rockabilly are art forms in their own rights. But sometimes I think today's hipsters elevate certain aged styles or trends with a sense of irony - these hoary artifacts were lame during their heyday, and isn't it all a joke that they've retained their lameness over time?

At least I hope that's the case with one such blast from the past I experienced yesterday evening.

I was at an event, a party celebrating the anniversary of a leading edge arts institute. Everyone was there - leaders, young artists, powerful money, and rebels. There were women in amazing shoes, young men with strange geometric hair. We sipped champagne and nibbled fashionable "comfort food" hors d'ouevres like wee grilled cheese sandwiches.

The place was hopping, lit up with LED blue lights, and in the back by the bar a DJ rocked the joint with smoking tunes that blared from speakers hung all around the event space.

And then I heard it. One of the lamest songs ever to come out of the early 70's. Yes, that entirely too-cute, droll Paul and Linda McCartney jingle "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" where Paul shows the world that without John Lennon, he's as hokey and inane as any teenybopper flash-in-the-pan. If this has been elevated to the newly-hip, I cringed, waiting for the next tune.  "Jeremiah was a bullfrog," maybe?

Everything old is new again. Even crappy music.

Presented without comment

Sarah Palin speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference - “Hey Mr. President, it's time to step away from the teleprompter and do your job.”

From Wonkette.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring sky

The sky is amazing tonight.

The other day, I was looking at the wisteria vine growing on our pergola, and thought, it will be blooming soon.

The very next day I came home from work and it had burst into bloom.

March 15 marks the beginning of the Persian New Year, Nowruz. People decorate their tables with symbolic objects, including hyacinths in bloom.

Welcome, spring!

Test results

In order to qualify for one job I'm applying for, I had to take a typing test and show that I could type at least 45 words per minute. It's a little humiliating having to do this, and it's also been hard to find a place where I could take the test. The information I got referring me was confusing.

This morning I successfully found the location of a non-profit agency that administers the test and took it.

71 - bitchez!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Denial - not just a river in Egypt

Well, here it is March - almost April! - already, and my job search continues. I am about to submit two applications for openings in my own organization that pay about 64% of my current salary, only I may run into a snag because I do not have a document certifying that I can type 45 words per minute.

My typing speed is faster than 45, but I don't have a certified test score proving it. And it is not easy to get tested - I've been experiencing a run-around.

This is frustrating, but I'm going to do everything I can to submit these applications. Why? Why would I try for a job that pays less than I make now? Why would I put myself through the indignity of taking a typing test, at this point in my career?

Well, frankly, I'm doing it because it's one more option. I can look outside my organization, or I can look inside it. But I have to look, and I can only apply for what's there. Do I want a position equal to my own? Yes, of course. But there isn't one. There's only the two at lower pay.

While working on this yesterday, one of my co-workers stopped by my office. One of the peculiar things about my workplace these days is that everyone is looking for a job. 

Most people are looking for internal transfer opportunities, because they will keep their benefits. Also, many of my co-workers have been here a long time - some for decades. They can't imagine going off to another organization. There are three ways an employee can get an internal transfer -
  • Applying for a position and competing for it against everyone else
  • Applying for a "promotional list" and competing against other internal candidates
  • Submitting a transfer request to a vacant position of equal classification. Hiring managers can choose to consider only those on the transfer list
In all these cases, you have to fill out the paperwork correctly and go through an interview to convince the hiring manager you're the one they should hire. There are indeed clever ways a manager can manipulate the system to quietly move a favored person to another department without going through the process, but those methods are very very limited.

So far since August, when we were given the news, out of twenty-seven people, twelve of us have successfully applied for jobs within our organization.

T., from the operations team, hopes for a transfer to a permanent position. He's applied, and he got one interview, but the hiring manager chose a different person. Recently, HR has opened up applications for some "on-call" positions. These positions pay the same as the permanent positions, but they do not come with benefits.

"So, T., " I asked. "Did you apply for the on-call job?"

"No," he said. "I'm holding out for a permanent position."

"But, T., there aren't any vacancies. If you get an on-call job, at least you'll still be working. And you'd still be in the organization."

"I don't want an on-call position, I'd lose my benefits."

T. doesn't want an outside position, so he's not applying outside. He doesn't want an on-call internal position, so he's not applying for those. He knows what he wants, and even if it doesn't exist, he's not going to apply for anything else.

He's not alone. There's an implacable cult of fairytale mythology among some of my co-workers that believes when June 30 comes around, our benevolent organization will take whoever's still here, and just move them into another job.

We've done a lot to help people find other jobs. We've had HR counsel us; we've allowed our office staff to help people enter their job applications online, or edit their written applications. But even with this, belief in this fable is so strong it makes people behave foolishly. HR has warned us that an incomplete application will be rejected, but there are still some people who submit forms without filling in required information  - "I don't need to fill that out, they already know what I can do."

T. is waiting for a magical unicorn ride. "I know they're going to put us somewhere," he says wistfully. "I just wish they'd do it soon."

I have my own set of fairytales I tell myself. "You'll land on your feet, you always do." "Something will happen." But it's not magic. You have to do the work. You have to try.

So far my own track record has been dismal. I've applied for six jobs outside my organization, and interviewed for one.  I've applied for three jobs within my organization; interviewed twice, and still failed. Now I'm applying for anything internal or external that I qualify for.

I can't describe how depressing it feels to fail at an application for what constitutes a demotion. Perhaps my co-workers are trying to avoid facing that disappointment. But what else can I do? What else can any of us do?

 Note to concerned readers: T. is a composite, not a real person. And he doesn't read this blog, anyway.

Monday, March 11, 2013


If ever I doubted the wisdom of spending a little of my Nordstrom credit on some expensive make-up, this morning, after starting my new regimen,  I was rewarded.

I walked into work and so far three people have told me I look really nice today. (They say it in a kind of surprised voice - "Oh, don't you look nice today!" - I'll think about that later!)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dining Alone - Beauty and soup at the mall

I'm not sure whether this is unusual, but I go through season cycles in my personal style.

Winter has brought a lack of enthusiasm. I wear pants with a simple long-sleeved tee-shirt. I wear scarves, but really it's to keep my neck warm more than for style. I stopped wearing make-up; I haven't even been wearing earrings lately.

I can tell I'm coming out of this phase - is it seasonal affect disorder? - because I suddenly had the urge to buy some fresh make-up. I've mis-laid my go-to lipstick, and the little pots of creme I dab here and there are all dried up. My few frowsty-looking eye pencils are blunt and broken. The other day, I saw a video at Une Femme d'un Certain Age about maquillage for mature women, and I thought - give that a try.

Slow learner

Oh, well. It's our gain.

Update: Omelette with scallions, mushrooms, and Tomme de Savoie cheese.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just Kids

Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1969. Photo from HERE.
I've recently been reading the memoir "Just Kids" written by Patti Smith, '70s punk singer/songwriter. In 1967 she went to New York City, moved in with her friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, and they lived the life of poor artists. They moved from squats to house-sits and finally to the Chelsea Hotel, where they mingled with artists and musicians, and began to find success, she as a poet, playwright and singer, and he as a photographer.

She writes of sleeping in the streets, scavenging garbage for furniture or clothes, and going days with no food to eat but vending machine peanutbutter crackers. Her memoir brings back my own time in that city, walking those same streets, working in Lower East Side theatres. I was never as hungry as Smith, but I do remember walking blocks to save a 50 cent subway token, and there were times I couldn't make the rent on time.

Mama came back

We harvested the 5 eggs that Mama Red Hen laid in our planter box, but this morning when I was leaving for work, I heard a rustling among the ivy.

Mama's back. She's looking for her eggs.

I told [The Man I Love] who immediately said, "You have to put them back!"

I don't think so. Eggs? What eggs?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Free-range rogue

Chickens don't stand still for photos
Our neighbor's red hen is quite a rogue chicken - she's always flying over the fence and we've seen her strolling down our driveway or foraging among the oak-duff in our front yard.

The other day, I was walking Jack and our neighbor passed me while driving his kids to school. "There's something I want to show you," he said, "something funny about the chickens."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Weekly Jack

Jack is experiencing his annual spring shed. This is the "before" picture. See how matted and frowzy his fur is?

After a visit to the groomer, he looks fantastic and smells sweet!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Shifting winds at the port

The small community of San Pedro is the Port of Los Angeles. It's the busiest port in the United States, and together with its next-door neighbor, the Port of Long Beach, it's the sixth busiest port in the world.

Sea-going travel boats, fishing, shipping - these industries have driven human civilization since its beginning, and bring with them dependent industries. Port cities become vibrant places where amusement and vice are mingled with overindulgence, and where the world's cultures intersect, both authentically and with contrived fakery.

Sunday, March 3, 2013



If you're into handmade, home-made, and house-made crafts, there's a new place to visit. Crafted occupies a long, low, wooden warehouse in San Pedro, at the Port of Los Angeles.

Inside the space is divided into market stalls, which are rented to artists and craftspersons. Crafted has been open since last summer.

The idea is great, though there are still quite a few empty stalls. The space is beautiful, with wood beams overhead. Red-painted picnic tables and Adirondack chairs dot the space, welcoming shoppers to sit, relax, and enjoy snacks purchased from food trucks parked outside.

Here's an introduction to some of the vendors at Crafted:

2 Market Street - this retired couple works together. She makes aprons. He makes handmade cookie cutters. You can get almost any shape imaginable.

At World Flavorz Spice & Tea Company, the teas and spices are displayed in bowls that invite shoppers to breathe in the wonderful aromas.(Buyers are given packaged spices).

Tish and Peggy share a stall, where they sell jewelry and hand-knitted accessories. Their stall is so attractively arranged, with such clever displays that I commented on it. Peggy laughed and told a story about how her husband once described her decorating style as "epileptic" - his listener corrected him. "Don't you mean ecletic?" "No," he said, "it looks like it was done in spasms."  I bought a pretty pair of earrings.

At the Krazy Korner stall, Keith Schafer's colorful and punk-inspired glassworks stood out from the more subdued and tasteful surroundings. From a booth lined with old LP album covers, the brilliant colors popped. His mom was manning the stall when I visited.

The Red Car Market is a space that carries artisanal foods made by several craftspersons. Jarred salsas, bottled hot sauces, and relishes are offered. I bought a jar of San Angel mole, and some strawberry/hot chile jam.  Did you know you can buy cake in a jar? Cakebar sells spirit-infused goodies.

Paradise Preserves offers jams, jellies, preserves and other delicious jarred goodies. 

The warehouse is so vast that one half is walled off and rented as an event space. When I was there, preparations for a wedding were taking place.

On weekends, live music adds a festive feeling to the space. Different food trucks are invited to the parking lot outside the big warehouse doors.  It's the kind of place where vendors and customers greet one another like old friends.

If you wanted to take your hand-crafted business to the next level, it's worth looking into Or, if you're looking for unique handcrafts in Southern California, it's worth a visit.