Sunday, May 28, 2006

Eritrean Food and Jazz

I was browsing earlier today to see who was playing in LA tonight. I came across a jazz club I hadn't heard of before called Industry Cafe & Jazz which is on Washington Blvd in Culver City a little bit east of the Jazz Bakery. The description said they had jazz music, Ethiopian food, and no cover. I decided to check it out.

The band this evening was called M.v.A. Quartet. I'm not sure what it stands for. They were a pretty good jazz quartet consisting of drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. They pretty much stuck to standards you'd find in the Real Book. My only complaint was that the keyboardist was playing a keyboard and not a real piano. I think the music would have sounded much better with a real piano. Also, the keyboardist and guitarist were playing pretty loud, especially for a small room. This, of course, led to the drummer and bass player playing loud as well. When two guest singers sat in, they were each drowned out by the band. I wish bands like this would just go completely acoustic and listen to each other more.

The food was pretty good too. We first ordered a vegetarian plate and a non-vegetarian plate, but then our server relayed a message from the chef saying that we ordered way too much food. He said he would cut both plates in half and serve it to us on smaller plates. He was right. We had plenty of food even with the smaller portions. After dinner, we shared a yummy Tiramisu.

I asked our server how long the place has been there. She said 6 months. She went on to tell me that they are fortunate that another Eritrean restaurant located down the street had recently closed which was good for their business. I had never heard of Eritrea before, so I asked her to repeat what she had said. I thought I was at an Ethiopian restaurant. "We're all from Eritrea" she said referring to the staff and most of the clientele. I apologized for my ignorance and asked her what Eritrea was. She explained that in the early 90's the people of Eritrea, a province in Ethiopia, won a civil war and gained independence and sovereignty. I felt lame for not knowing about the country of Eritrea, but then again, how many American's do? Eritrea and the rest of Ethiopia have similar cuisine it turns out, so what we ate is still considered Ethiopian food.

I really like this place, so I'll definitely be going back soon. On Wednesday nights, they have a jazz jam session, which is probably what I'll check out next. If the musicians are near my level, I may break out the sax after several years and bring it down there. I kind of miss playing. We'll see.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Angelyne Sighting

On our way back from seeing The Invasion of The Body Snatchers at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (part of Cinespia), we were driving west on Santa Monica Blvd and while we were passing the Troubadour, we saw a pink corvette driving to the right of us with a license plate that read ANGLYNE. Jill said, "hey, that's the Angelyne, the one from the billboards. To get a glimpse of her, I slowed down a little so I'd be right next to her, and we looked through her window. She had the sun shade folded back to the left so that people couldn't see her whole face, but it was definitely a blonde woman. Curious to see where she was going, I got behind her and we followed her as far as Wilshire where she made a right turn and we kept straight.

When I got home, I went to the web and searched for "Angelyne pink corvette" to see if that was really her. Sure enough, a few web sites turned up, one which is specifically about the act of spotting Angelyne driving in LA called The Angelyne Sightings Report.

As we passed under the 405 overpass, things got even more interesting. A young woman that was waiting in the left lane to get on the freeway opened her sunroof, stood up in her car facing the car behind her with her body sticking through the sunroof, and then, wham, she lifted her top off, flashing the cars behind her! This was the first car flashing I've ever seen. Very entertaining.

Al Gore and Global Warming

I saw Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Truth, at the Laemmle's Monica Fourplex in Santa Monica last Wednesday night. It was opening night. I really enjoyed it. The movie is mostly clips from a presentation that Al Gore apparently travels around the world giving frequently. Some people might find this boring, but clips of the presentation are mixed with humorous cartoons, stories about Al Gore's life, and pictures of areas of the world affected by the recently changing climate. I thought the combination of all of those things made the movie more entertaining.

I have never doubted that we humans are affecting our environment in not-so-good ways, but seeing this movie really makes you think about the fact that conditions have worsened exponentially in recent years and that we probably need to start doing something about it or else we're going to be facing big problems.

One of the most dramatic examples was that if ice on top of land melts, then the water level around the world could rise as much as 20 feet. This would put millions of people in cities all around the world under water. My house is only about 4 or 5 feet above see level, so I would definitely be affected here in Los Angeles.

At the end of the movie, the credits were interspersed with textual advice about what people could do to help stop or at least slow down global warming. Conserving energy and demanding action from politicians was the common thread among most of the suggestions. It made me think about how people are always saying that to conserve energy and decrease our dependence on foreign oil, people should buy hybrid cars. I agree that it would help, but I wish more people would suggest driving less altogether. I want to hear more people promote walking, bicycling, and using public transportation.

Anyway, go see this movie and tell me what you thought of it. Think about how different our world would be right now if Al Gore was president rather than you know who. I really respect Al Gore. I feel like he really cares about public service and he doesn't have ulterior motives.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Verizon DSL Hell

The worst customer service I've ever had has been with Verizon Online DSL. I have been without an Internet connection at home for the past week. Each day, I have called Verizon's tech support to try to resolve my broken connection.

When I first signed up with Verizon about 6 months ago, I had many problems with installation as I wrote about last February. They had sent me the wrong modem for my area and it took many phone calls to finally figure this out. The result was that I was asked to use, not the Westell 6100 modem that they sent me, but an old Fujitsu modem that I had from my previous DSL provider. That worked fine until last week when the modem stopped syncing up with the central office.

The fist tech support person told me that I'd need to call their billing department the next day to ask for a modem replacement. When I called the next day, the billing person told me that they could send a replacement for the Westell modem since it was still under warranty, but for them to send me a Fujitsu modem, I'd have to pay them $99. I told them that it is unacceptable for me to pay for a modem when it is supposed to come with the service. They told me that the Westell should work anyway and that I should open a trouble ticket to find out why it isn't working. That began the string of phone calls to Verizon.

Every time I called, it was as if the person had no idea what was communicated in the previous calls. Each person made me go through the same troubleshooting steps of checking multiple lines and ensuring all phone in the house had the proper filters. Even though I told them each time that I've been through that, they still made me go through it because it was their procedure. Several times, they concluded I had a real problem and that it wasn't just that I was too lame to figure out how to connect my modem properly. The next step was that the next day, I was supposed to expect someone to call me to setup an appointment to have a technician come to my house to troubleshoot. The next day I would either not get a call, or I would get a message on my voice mail that said I should call them back. When I called back, they said that my ticket was closed because they couldn't get a hold of me, and I had to start all over! Can you believe that?!

Finally today, I was able to answer the phone when they called. It was around 3 PM and the guy said they need to send someone to my house to troubleshoot the problem. I asked if they could wait until the evening and they said that normally they can't schedule anything for after 5 PM. I said, could you make an exception today and come at 6 PM? The guy said okay, so I made arrangements at work to leave early and got home at 6:15 PM. Worried that I missed the technician, I called Verizon to make sure they were still coming. The lady told me that I should just be patient and wait because sometimes they are late. I didn't find that hard to believe. I insisted that she find out of they were still coming and she transferred me to another department.

The guy I got transferred to told me that he had no record of anyone scheduled to come out to my house! I couldn't believe it. I had to miss some meetings at work just to rush home for them, and they didn't even plan to meet me at all! I was furious. I layed into the guy a little and told him that I needed to explain to someone else how upset I was. He transferred me again to someone new.

This person sounded more senior and empathetic and identified himself as Ray from the London T-Set Group also known as the supervisory escalation team. Ray apologized to me and said he would try to find out what my problem was. He then put me on hold for like 30 minutes while he phoned the Verizon central office in my area to ask questions. When he transferred back to me, he told me that the central office was swamped today and that he would need some more time to track down the right person. He said he would call me back in a few minutes. I figured it was unlikely that he would call back, but he kept his promise and called about 20 minutes later. Guess what? He said that he learned that I was sent the wrong modem and that I really needed a Fujitsu rather than a Westell 6100. Surprise surprise. I was back to where I started. He told me to call their billing department tomorrow and request a new Fujitsu modem be mailed to me. I told him I already asked for one a week ago and he said that he was writing extensive notes in my file and that I shouldn't have any problems. Not feeling like I had any other options, I agreed to call tomorrow to request the new modem.

On a whim, I decided to walk to my computer, unplug the Westell 6100 and try the old Fujitsu modem again. Lo an behold, it actually synced up. 3 green lights! It was working again! I have no idea why. I have a feeling the modem never broke, but actually the connection was severed and when this guy Ray called the central office, they must have noticed and reconnected it. Of course I know little about DSL technology so I don't know if this is really plausible.

Anyway, I am back online now, but I am still going to call tomorrow to ask for the Fujitsu replacement. If I don't, I'm afraid this will happen again in the future and they will tell me to use the Westell modem they originally sent me.

All I can say is, Verizon Online DSL support SUCKS - but I'm thrilled to be back online... for the moment at least.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Zen Grill Neighborhood

Last night we took a friend who was visiting from Ann Arbor, Michigan to one of our favorite restaurants, Zen Grill - the one on 3rd St near La Cienega. He asked what part of LA it was in, and I wasn't sure. I knew it was near West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, but that it was definitely in the city of Los Angeles (you can tell by the dark blue street signs).

I was curious to see if the people who worked at Zen Grill knew what neighborhood they were working in, so I asked the hostess and our waitress. The hostess had no idea what I was talking about and just said "We're in Los Angeles". The waitress said the same thing that I told my friend: "We're near West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, but there is no name for the neighborhood. It is just Los Angeles." I knew there had to be a name for the neighborhood because there usually is and it is typical for people not to know what it is. There aren't really any clear neighborhood borders in LA in most places.

This morning I looked at my Thomas Guide wall map, and the area appeared to be in Park La Brea. Park La Brea, though, is usually associated with a specific apartment housing complex, so I thought I'd better check the internet for more information. I started with the web page for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE). From there I looked at some of their maps and found out that the Neighborhood Council for the area Zen Grill is located in is called Mid-City West Community Council. So is that what the neighborhood is called? Mid-City West? I have never heard anyone mention that name before, so I doubt that term refers to a Los Angeles neighborhood. Unfortunately, their web site didn't have any more information on the areas within the Mid-City West boundaries. I guess it will be an ongoing search for the name of the neighborhood that contains Zen Grill...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Walk for the Underdog

Last Sunday we took our dog Nikki and my inlaws' dog Molly on a walk to raise money for animal rescue organizations. It was called Walk for the Underdog. It was the 2nd annual event and this year it was held at the La Brea Tar Pits (last year it was at Venice Beach). The walk started and ended at the tar pits and meandered through the nearby neighborhoods.

There were hundreds of dogs and Nikki seemed excited to be there. Nikki and Molly made it the whole way, but were pretty exhausted by the end. When we got home, she dropped to the floor and took a long nap.

There were plenty of dog-related vendors at the event. One of them called Tazlab, sold me an innovative dog leash that had a snap-together loop at the end which makes it possible to attach the leash to my waist or a pole. I thought this would be really useful for when we walk Nikki to a shopping area and need to go into a store for a few minutes. It would be really easy to attach her leash to a poll or post. It would also be nice for when we want to hang out on our front porch with Nikki. We could attach her to one of the porch posts.

I never realized how nice the neighborhoods were in the Miracle Mile/Carthay Circle area. Almost every house was architecturally interesting and had good landscaping.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sony Reader Rocks

Recently, I downloaded an early access copy of a technical book which was only available in eBook form. Bascially it is just a PDF file. I love the fact you can easily search an eBook for specific words or phrases, but I have a really hard time reading one on a desktop or laptop screen. When reading a book, I prefer to be relaxed on the couch or sitting on a bus. I starting thinking that I should look and see if there are any portable eBook readers available that are small, light, bigger than a Palm Pilot and smaller than a computer monitor.

Last weekend at the Los Angeles Times Book Fair at UCLA, I came across a Sony booth where they were demonstrating the yet-to-be-released Sony Reader. It was exactly what I have been looking for! The screen looked amazingly like real paper. It was small and light and totally legible in bright sunlight. It is supposed to cost $300-400 when it comes out. I was ready to buy one right then and there. Unfortunately I'll have to wait until they release it.