Friday, November 30, 2007

Storm's a Bruin

Had my annual lunch with my favorite Bruin -- Debbie Calvo -- today. Since the Bruins beat the Trojans in last year's football game it was my turn to pay. Having bought me several consecutive lunches (because the Trojans kept beating the Bruins) Debbie was pretty happy to have me pick up the check this time. I told her I was happy to because after tomorrow's game I expect her to go back to buying my lunch next year.

We met up at the Black Angus in Santa Clarita. It was raining pretty hard but I didn't have any trouble driving to the restaurant.

Unfortunately, the same wasn't true on the way back to my office. I was driving south on the I-5 in Sylmar and it was raining pretty hard but the traffic was moving along just fine. All of a sudden a car about two car lengths in front of me in the number 3 or 4 lane lost control and started spinning out of control (making at least 3 or 4 complete circles) while heading perpendicular through traffic towards the center median.

I saw what was happening and slowed down quickly. I was confident I had slowed down enough to miss the carnage happening in front of me as the out-of-control car clipped cars in its way while spinning towards the median. Unfortunately, the car behind me either didn't see what was happening or didn't respond quickly enough because they rear-ended me after I had come to a near complete stop.

Fortunately, they weren't going very fast when they hit me so no one was hurt and my bumper was just dinged up a little bit. (I went by a body shop this afternoon and the "little dings" are going to cost the other driver more than $1,000 to fix.)

After we pulled over to the median (along with all the cars involved in the main accident) I had a chance to see that no one in the other cars were seriously injured. The poor lady who lost control of her car was an emotional wreck -- she was crying and going from car to car to apologize and to get a hug.

I just got the information from the guy who hit me and was on my way. We didn't hug, but I did shake his hand. He was shaking from adrenaline while I copied down his information.

Isn't it awful that while the car in front of me was spinning all I could think was "that would make a great picture for my blog"?
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dodger Blue

Drove to Dodger Stadium yesterday morning. I suspect it's going to be my last trip there for a long, long time.

Ever since the Dodgers were eliminated from Post Season play in September I've been trying to get a refund of the money my Dodger Season Ticket Group paid for post season tickets -- well over $4,000.

Twice I was told by the Dodger Season Ticket Office "the check was in the mail" only to have no check show up. In frustration I called owner Frank McCourt's secretary and she made arrangements for me to pick up the check the next day. (I'll give Frank McCourt credit for having a secretary who gets things done.)

But little by little, ever since becoming the owner, Frank McCourt has chipped away at the quality of the fan experience at Dodger Stadium:

Rows of new seats were added in front of ours -- between us and the action on the field.

Ticket prices have sky-rocketed.

The interior of the stadium has been junked up with out-of-control advertising.

Announcer Ross Porter was fired.

The time in-between innings is now junked up with promotions and advertising.

Nancy Bea (and her Dodger Stadium organ) have been pushed aside for incessant rock music.

The Dodgers are abandoning their historic Vero Beach, Florida spring training camp.

Stadium food prices have jumped.

Stadium crowds have grown unruly and the Dodgers refuse to enforce their own Code of Conduct.

Parking prices have sky-rocketed and the new parking system implemented last year is awful.

And the Dodgers have won just ONE post season game since 1988. (At least I was at that game.)

What used to be a lot of fun has turned into an annoyance. Who needs it? Adios.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Short Weekend

Work has been intense since the end of August. I kept telling myself, "if I can just get to Thanksgiving Weekend then I can spend four days relaxing."

Well, it didn't work out that way. I worked Thursday and Friday and today I got back on an airplane to be in place for a meeting in the Sacramento area Monday morning.

I wasn't excited about flying today -- the single busiest travel day of the year. I allowed plenty of time to catch my flight at LAX. Fortunately, all went very smoothly.

Now I'm at a Sacramento-area Hilton Garden Inn and ready to start the workweek. I DID get to take naps both yesterday and today so I feel like my batteries were recharged a little bit.
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Just Say No to Frank McCourt

Went to see the Reprise! production of "Damn Yankees" tonight. Reprise! has been successful at presenting classic Broadway musicals. Sadly, on this show they took a donation from the Dodgers and in exchange "updated" the show so that it centers on a Dodgers fan rather than the way it was written -- about a Washington Senators fan.

Of course, the change makes no sense because the Yankees are in the American League and the Dodgers are in the National League -- so they'd never compete for a pennant.

The book was updated to include references to the 80s and the choreography includes hip hop and other modern dance.

Reprise! ought to stick to its knitting and present classics as they were originally written otherwise they risk losing their exclamation point!
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The Dodgers theme was over the top. This guy was selling bottled water and Cracker Jacks.
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After dropping off the required paperwork in Sacramento on Friday I had time for dinner and a movie before flying home.

Dinner was at On the Border Mexican Grill which, for a chain restaurant, was excellent. I'd eaten at this location once before, but I'd forgotten how good it is. I'll be going back.

In keeping with the theme, I saw "No Country for Old Men," the Coen Brothers modern western. It's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Tommie Lee Jones is perfect as a west Texas Sheriff and Javier Bardem is as creepy as can be as a psychotic murderer.

And some of the side characters -- motel manager, gas station owner, etc -- are so pitch perfect it's amazing.
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A view of San Francisco from my hotel room Friday morning with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. About an hour after taking this picture I crossed the bridge.
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Bounty in Coalinga

My friends like to kid me about my employer's generous vacation policy. (And it is generous.)

But now and then there are times when I feel like I really EARN that time off.

Today -- Thanksgiving Day -- was an excellent example.

I spent today driving from Southern California to Northern California gathering ballot argument rebuttal signatures along the way. Our arguments against Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 -- which go in the Voter Pamphlet mailed to every voter in the state -- were due yesterday afternoon. And our rebuttal to the proponent's argument is due tomorrow -- 48 hours later, with Thanksgiving stuck right in the middle.

That meant the only way to get the three signatures we wanted was for me to hit the road and go get them. Fortunately, our signors were all very gracious when I called and said I wanted to drop by their houses on Thanksgiving Day.

It didn't help, however, when I realized after driving an hour and a half north after getting my first signature that I hadn't done the paperwork right. Time to double back before continuing on north.

As luck would have it I passed by the Harris Ranch in Coalinga right about time for Thanksgiving Dinner. The photo above is from their buffet, but I didn't eat there. I ate in the coffee shop. I didn't notice the Thanksgiving Buffet until I was on my way out. The traditional Thanksgiving Dinner in the Harris Ranch Coffee Shop was excellent. But the buffet looked really lavish.

But most importantly -- when I take that major block of time off at the end of next year or the beginning of 2009, let's all remember my very-non-traditional Thanksgiving 2007.
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Of course I brought flowers with me today. I wasn't about to knock on someone's door empty handed on Thanksgiving Day to ask them to fill out some paperwork.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Calgone, Take Me Away

After spending all weekend duking it out at the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting I wanted to do something completely different once it was over on Sunday.

And since no visit to Anaheim is complete without some Disney activity, off I went.
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I spent the afternoon and part of the evening at Downtown Disney, a souped-up shopping mall outside the main gate to Disneyland.
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All I could think of when this bomb-sniffing dog went by was, "so that's why they call it 'Downtown' Disney."
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This guy was playing his piano so fast it started to smoke. That's fast.
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Caught a screening of "American Gangster" at the movieplex in Downtown Disney. An excellent, gripping movie. But it seemed a little subversive to be watching such a violent movie in the middle of The Happiest Place on Earth.
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I had dinner Sunday night at Paul Brennan's Jazz Kitchen -- a New Orleans themed restaurant at Downtown Disney. Like all Disney restaurants it was over-priced and a bit mass-produced. But all in all, I thought the food was very good.
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A fanciful sculpture in the central courtyard of Paul Brennan's Jazz Kitchen.
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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Which Meeting is Next?

Spent a long day at the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting attending various caucus meetings.

These young men from South Los Angeles brought the African-American Caucus to their feet by reciting what it means to be a man in both English and Spanish.
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The Resolutions Committee meeting room was completely packed.
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I never did find out what was going on with these folks I spotted in the hotel lobby.
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

North to South

Had a good lunch on Thursday at a Mimi's Cafe in Sacramento. Normally I don't eat at chain restaurants. But the only other Mimi's Cafe I've been to is in Fresno. I like their eclectic interior and French bistro menu.
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Now I'm in Anaheim for the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting this weekend. I'm staying in a Sheraton surrounded by other hotels -- all adjacent to Disneyland.

The Sheraton is across the street from Fujishige Farms -- the future home of the third Disney theme park in Anaheim. I always think of by old friend, Beth Fujishige, when I see those strawberry fields.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Farmer in the Dell

Having driven by a zillion times, I finally stopped off for dinner Monday night at The Farm House Restaurant in Beaumont off the I-10.

Turns out the food is pretty good American fare (no surprise there).
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I liked the restaurant's homey interior.
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A giant chicken in the parking lot -- always a good sign.
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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Insert Elephant Pun Here

Had a pretty good lunch today at the Elephant Bar and Grill in Sacramento before heading home.

I like the chain's jungle theme and huge menu. Anytime you have a six page menu there's something there for everyone.
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