Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Incentive?

I am hard-pressed to find a more inefficient agency that does not have the acronym "DMV".  A week ago, I got a notice in the mail that the personalized license plate I ordered had arrived and that I need to pick it up.  The only problem is there is not a single indicator on the notice nor on the envelope where the plates can be picked up.  Luckily, I remembered that I indicated the Rancho Cucamonga DMV when I ordered the plates online a good 10 weeks ago.  I actually took a Friday afternoon off to brave the non-appointment wait of about an hour -- which is not bad, except when I was 10 numbers away from being called, I have to leave to pick up one of my boys from school.  Which meant returning a couple hours later to wait yet again -- with a new number.  The late afternoon wait was actually shorter by a good half hour and is somewhat tolerable.  Until I had to get to talk to a DMV employee at the window.  What is the incentive for a state DMV employee to be efficient, engaging and capable?  They know the office closes at the exact time whether they serve 200 or 2000 for the time they are open, it doesn't really matter.  I did finally get D LINKIN around 4pm and was quite happy to leave and put the new plates on Elsie -- until he told me that I need stickers.  Stickers?  Yes, month-and-year-of-expiration stickers.  I needed to wait in different line for stickers.  Again, what is the incentive to come up with an efficient process?  I stood in yet another line waiting for stickers when my original DMV agent, walks up to the sticker window and asks for my paperwork.  Why on earth did he just walked over 15 steps earlier, grabbed my stickers and saved me the frustration of another line?  If there is ever a stereotype of a state employee, it's got to be a DMV clerk.  Now I know why I pay AAA membership so I could do all my DMV transactions in the more efficient, privately-owned Auto Club of Southern California. Needless to say, I like the new plates but I wish there was a simpler way to get it.

Relics Of An Analog World

This is a section of the radio room inside the aircraft carrier museum USS Midway in San Diego.  I've never been inside this floating airport until this week when the kids and I visited during spring break.  Although all the knobs in this panel look overwhelming, it's really very obsolete and analog.  Digital technology has afforded the modern sailor simpler GUI-based control in switching communication calls between pilots, control tower, officers and other personnel.  I would not be surprised if all the radio equipment in this room at the Midway is compressed to a single rack in the more modern Nimitz-class USS Abraham Lincoln.  Not only is digital communications systems smaller in scale but also has higher capacity (handle more phone calls) and more secure. But hey, what would a museum exhibit be without knobs to turn and switches to flip?

The Stingray Project Update 3/26/11

All fiberglass defects had been repaired and sanded earlier this week and I returned to McJacks on Friday afternoon to check on the completed primer coat.  For my next visit in a couple weeks, I plan on bringing all the chrome bumpers and hardware.  The underside is also getting a steam wash and hopefully the engine compartment will look a lot better too.  I originally planned on driving the car by March -- but since this month is almost over, obviously I'm behind schedule.  I finally decided on Can-Am White after going back and forth between red and white.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sequel To "A Few Good Men"

Kids and I went to see Battle: Los Angeles earlier today with relatively low expectations given Hollywood's track record on alien invasion movies in the couple years (think Cloverfield, District 9 and the miserable Skyline).  Even if I was totally disappointed, I don't think the $6 admission at Victoria Gardens AMC before 12 noon would have been too painful -- except the wasted 2 hrs maybe.  However, Battle LA is actually closer to Black Hawk Down than it is to extra-terrestrial invasion genre flicks.  My old neighborhood (Santa Monica Airport, Lincoln Blvd, West LA, etc.) was the setting for the good old US Marines, led by a soon-to-be-retired staff sargeant played by Aaron Eckhart (above pic), find a way to rescue civilians, destroy the command and control center of the invading force, get rescued themselves and then -- go back for more, because "they already had breakfast."  (I've seen Eckhart in numerous movies before but only in this movie did I realize he and Lance Armstrong really have a remarkable resemblance.  Yes, the Lance Armstrong of 7-Tours de France fame.)  Battle LA and Black Hawk Down shared so much in common in terms of going in to an area looking for a fight and kicking ass and taking names.  And the predictability of the plot is almost in the same degree as the predictability of the casting -- I think kicking ass and I think alway hot Michelle Rodriguez, of course.   Action was non-stop from start to finish and before the audience knew it, they just finished watching a 2-hr promotional movie for the United States Marines.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


It's a silly thing to do but I'm going to do it anyway.  I'm giving my Lincoln Continental a name.  Why on earth people name their cars is probably a Southern California thing but for an old car built in 1965, I think it's totally appropriate to have a name.  A girl's name.  I got this idea watching "Gone In 60 Seconds" where Nicolas Cage named the Shelby GT-500 as "Eleanor".  In fact, all 50 cars in that movie had girls' names.  So what's in a name?  I tried looking up the most popular girl's names in 1965 and none really stood out in terms of the personality of my cream '65 convertible.  And then there's the obvious ones, Connie or Tina (derivatives of Continental) but those do not seem quite deserving.  I considered "Adele", after the trailer trash character played by Juliette Lewis in the movie "Kalifornia" -- which featured a same era Lincoln.  "Betty" seemed like a cool name for a convertible but isn't every 60's car already named that?  So I've had this mental block on what to name the car since I decided to look for a girl's name about a week ago.  Until now, that is -- when I started typing my thoughts on this whole dilemma.  I figured "Elsie" is the best name because not only is it somewhat date appropriate for the age of the car (who names their daughter born in the last 20 years Elsie?) and it is also meaningful -- Elsie is phonetically LC (initials for Lincoln Continental).  My gal, Elsie.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Mystery Of Six Portaits

The antique dealer said they are from the 50s and that she bought them from an estate of an art teacher in Beverly Hills.  Judging from the style of the brush strokes and technique, I think these are from different student painters.  In fact, two of them have a white unpainted portion of the canvas, suggested some unfinished student work.  Only one was signed on the back "Sheffield '57".  It does make me wonder whether it's the students or the teacher who's really good because these are very well done oil portraits.  The other thing I wonder is why the students did not sign their works.  Are they unfinished and the teacher just took them?  Student artwork not belonging to the originator is unheard of these days but who knows what the practice was back in the 50s.  Are these from live models or photographs?  Are these subjects still alive? All these questions just keep on adding on to the mystery of these portraits.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Border's Find

Saturday night was a typical night here in the 909.  After living here for almost 2 years, we finally found a sushi place we really like -- Omakase Sushi on Haven just south of Foothill.  We've actually been going there at least once a week for the past month.  What to do after dinner is the tough one -- so, a short drive to Victoria Gardens to Border's was typical as well -- and I found this cool book for $2.99 out of the bargain shelves.  The title alone was worth the three bucks I shelled for this hardcover.  (Not that I need any lesson on manliness) but this book is more of a celebration of the gender (cigars, whiskey, names for breasts, Vegas gambling lingo, etc.)  This one will be filed in my bookshelf right next to my book "Bond Girls" -- a collection of profiles of all leading females in all the 007 movies and "Manspace" -- a book on how to decorate your man-cave.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Catherine Opie's "Surfers" (2003)

One of my regrets is never learning how to surf.  But then again, I never like the cold California ocean.  In fact, I can only remember one summer when I went swimming in California -- 1986, in Huntington Beach.  Maybe if cycling didn't take up a lot of my free time, I would have taken up surfing.  I remember riding my bike for years from Santa Monica to Palos Verdes on the bike path through Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo and this image in Catherine Opie's "Surfers" is forever imprinted in my mind.  I bought the print at LACMA last year and almost instantly, I was standing where Opie was clicking away at her camera.  I've seen what she saw when she took the photograph.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Desert Garden

Probably near the top on my all-time list of places in Los Angeles.  The desert garden at the Huntington Library in San Marino contains just about every cactus and succulent one can ever imagine.  Something about the strength and ability to withstand the elements is what's most admirable about these plants.  Today, I went for a short visit after lunch on this first Friday in March, a picture-perfect day.