Archive for September 2012


September 26, 2012

Today I think that I will talk about Los Angeles traffic. First, i would like to recommend you read the Wikipedia entry on California freeways.

I have been asked more than once how you deal with the legendary LA traffic. The simple answer is that I don’t.

Over the past two weeks, Paula and I have had occasions to be stuck in traffic on the 405 (aka the San Diego Freeway) coming home to San Pedro. Both times we had gone to Malibu to have lunch at Gladstones. Once after we bought the piano and the other to meet up with Paula’s friend Andrea. Both times we headed home at about 3pm which is onset of prime time traffic. We have 5 or 6 lanes of traffic proceeding at about 5-10 mph.

Driving on LA freeways is not for the faint of heart. Traffic (it seems) is always heavy. Usually 4 or 5 lanes across. Freeway are usually called either by name (ie. The San Diego Freeway) or “the” followed by the rte number (ie. The 405). Never are they called I405.

Most other times we just don’t need to be on the freeways during rush hour times. Remember here that we are retired. Most times we just need to go to one of the many local grocery stores. not much traffic to deal with.

One thing that really bugs me in the many parking lots are the ever present speed bumps. They are truly annoying. And there are so many stop signs. Typically placed at the top of a hill just to annoy those folks who still have a standard shift.

One thing that I like is that street names don’t change when you go from city or town to another. And they are generally well marked. In MA, not so. Street signs change names when you go from one town to another. Usually named after the town you are heading to.

That’s it for today.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Pedro

One Month Done

September 25, 2012

Hard to believe that it’s been a month since we arrived in sunny California. Most of the unpacking has been done and we are pretty much getting into a routine of daily life.

So here’s the latest update. Typically Mike and his family come over for dinner one evening a week. Though right now they are in Taiwan visiting with Theresa’s family. Mike will return on Saturday and Theresa and Jonathan come back a couple of weeks later.

Our new piano has been bought and delivered. I try to play every day. Once I have pounded on it sufficiently I will get the folks at Steinway to come and tune it. I hate it when a piano is out of tune. I played the piano at Lodge last Wednesday for a Third Degree. They don’t have an organ, just the piano. Told the Master, it needs tuning.
We also went to our first OES meeting. Convinced Mary K to come along. She was glad that she did.

Sunday’s we usually go to church at the Ocean View Baptist Church. (see They hold two services on Sundays. First service is the modern one with the Christian Rock band and second service is more traditional. Typically, we go to the first service. Each service seems to be well attended. Also, we usually go to bible study on Wednesdays. I really miss First Congregational in Billerica. I know none of the songs that they sing. (Not that I sing much anyways.) Here’s the view.

Next subject. I finally got around to ordering TV service. Called the folks at DirecTV. Technician is scheduled to install on Thursday afternoon. Getting HD DVR and NFL Sunday Ticket as part of new customer package. We’ll be able to watch the Patriots again, though we watched part of the week 2 game on Sunday night. Not a pleasant result. That will likely mean that Mike will visit on Sunday afternoons.

More stuff gets put away. Before we unpack a box we need to go through one of Mary K’s boxes of receipts from years ago. It’s a full time job to through out all of the junk mail that she has saved over the years.

Last week we did battle with the CA DMV. After three hours, we walked out with CA driver’s licenses and plates for the Jeep. Logged in to MA RMV to cancel MA plates. That was easy. Got confirmation back from MetLife on policy change.

The weather has been nice. (It’s always nice.) I sat out on the balcony this morning. Temp was about 70 and sunny. It really doesn’t rain in Southern California. Got a fresh batch of cigars from Thompson’s and often sit out there evening with a cigar and glass of wine. Nice view of the hot tub.

I still get calls from recruiters pitching jobs for me. My resume seems to be buried in many recruiters’ databases. I tell them not interested. Please remove my resume from your db.

Well, that’s enough for today.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Pedro, CA

California DMV

September 17, 2012

Time had come to head down to the CA DMV in San Pedro to get the plates on the Jeep changed over and get driver’s licenses.

They have a person who is kind of a traffic director. He or she checks your paperwork and sends you to the appropriate counter. MA DMV does the same thing. He is a kind of triage person.

I thought that I had my paperwork in order. Oh I was so wrong. So I had the insurance paperwork, the MA title, the application for CA Title and Reg. Pretty good but not all that was needed.

I had set up an appointment over the weekend on the DMV web site. If I didn’t have the appt, it would have taken a lot longer.

So lets take the license part first. We needed to fill out an application. Did we have passports with us? Marriage certificate? Nope. Luckily I knew where they were stashed. Just having used the passports to go to Ireland. So we needed to go home and pick up the passports.

Then the registration. We found out we needed to get a “Smog Check” done. Of course there are several smog check stations in the neighborhood. $55 for the pleasure.

So back to the DMV. We had to get into the “Verification” line. This is where a DMV clerk comes out to your car and verifies that the serial numbers match the application.

Back to the triage person. He gives us a ticket number for the next available teller. We start working through the paperwork. Licenses first. Do the eye test. Thumb on the thumb print reader. Swipe your credit card. Kaching! Paula goes off to get her picture taken and do the written test.

Finish up my driver’s license. Then the registration. Swipe the card again twice. $31 for the license and $199 for the registration. Kaching, Kaching.

Off to the booth that does pictures. Takes my picture. Gives me the form to take the test and gives me my plates and sticker. We both passed. Paula spent five minutes reading the test. I spent even less.

Last thing to do was change the plates. Five years of rust. Actually they didn’t give much resistance. And we get the real license in a couple of weeks. Now I have to figure out what to do with the MA plates.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Pedro, CA

More This and That

September 16, 2012

Time for another update.

We are beginning to settle into a routine around here. Sunday we usually go to church. The church is the Ocean View Baptist Church. And yes, it does have an ocean view. There are two services at 0900 and 1030. Later one is a bit more traditional. But the traditional service is more modern than services back in Billerica. We usually go to the earlier service and then out to local restaurants for brunch. Here’s a picture of the view.

On Wednesday’s we usually go to morning Bible study at 1030. I think that Paula and I are the youngest people there.

Next week we have OES meeting on Monday Evening. Then I have 3rd degree at Lodge.

This past week we went shopping for a piano. Theresa had given me a flyer that they had received for a special Steinway sale at Walt Disney Concert hall. So I made the call to the 800 number. The phone system got confused about the 978 area code on my phone and routed the call to NYC. Buy they managed to get me routed to the right folks running the sale and we made an appointment.

So on Thursday, we headed downtown Los Angeles to Walt Disney Hall. The hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic. Filled out a form and got to talk to a nice salesman named David Ida.

Steinway had moved about 30 pianos into one of the rehearsal halls. Most of the pianos where grand pianos. The uprights (or verticals as they now call them) were off in a corner.

They had three brands, Essed, Boston, and Steinway. Essex and Boston are manufactured by Steinway. Sort of budget brand. All of them sounded great. I started off playing Heigh Ho from Snow White. My homage to the great Walt Disney. Heights ranged from about 40″ to 48″. The 48″ Steinway had the same sound board as the baby grand. We finally settled on a 42″ Essex. Price was affordable. I liked the Steinway, but price was about $17,000. A little steep for my taste. The Essex was about $6,000. Here’s a picture.

Before we left, I asked if I could play one of the concert grands selling for about $175,000. David said sure have at it. I neglected to take a picture. We talked about pianos used by big name artists like Elton John and Billy Joel. I don’t doubt the David had them on his iPhone.

We headed to one of the green rooms to finish all of the paperwork. Delivery is scheduled for next Thursday. Now we just have to make room for it.

Once we were done, we headed for Santa Monica. We decided to have lunch at Gladstone’s in Malibu. Here’s a couple of pictures from the patio.


California Dreaming

September 11, 2012

Okay, it’s been a while since last I wrote. We’ve been busy. So it’s about time for an update.

We’ve been in California now for about three weeks. That’s enough time to get a feel on what things are like here compared to New England.

First and foremost, Sept 1 is only a date. The seasons don’t change. It doesn’t get cold. Weather is the same. Temp in the 80’s and blue sky. Why they have weathermen out here is beyond me. Maybe they don’t pay them as much as back east. They certainly don’t have to think very much on what the weather will be tomorrow.

The culture seems to be much more bi-lingual. The dominant cultures that I see here is White folks and Latino folks. One hears people speaking spanish much more than back East. Though, the Lowell area has had big upswing in Cambodian/Laotian and Vietnamese. Not good or bad, just different.

There are lots of familiar brands out here. We have the usual Home Depot, Target, CVS, etc. In fact, having a CVS out here, made it real easy to get our Prescriptions refilled.

Grocery chains are different. No Stop & Shop or Demoulas. The big chains are Ralph’s, Albertson’s and Von’s. We tend to favor both Ralph’s and Albertson’s. Both being close to home. It’s taking us a while to get used to where stuff is located in the stores. We are also trying to get used to various store brands.

Many good restaurants out here. Some good, some not so good. We use Yelp to guided us (See: ) There is an iPhone/iPad app for Yelp. Click here for the mobile Yelp apps. There are the usual franchise restaurants like Denny’s, IHOP, etc. We usually go out for brunch on Sunday after services. My favorite is Pacific Diner (Here’s the Yelp review.)

One other business that I must write about is a local car wash in Lomita called the Mirage Car Wash. Service is remarkable. When you pull you get out of your car. Then they vacuum it out. Then they drive it through the mechanical car wash. Meanwhile, you go inside the building to pay for the car wash. You can get a cup of coffee. Then you go outside and sit under an awning to wait. Once the car goes through the machine. One of the employees takes your car and pulls it under and awning and touches up every thing. Wash windows inside an out. He or she waves when done. By then you should be done with your coffee. And off you go. Tipping is encouraged. My car hasn’t looked this good in a long time. Yelp review is here.

Everything out here is air conditioned. I went to LA Harbor Lodge stated meeting last week with Mike. Very comfortable and very casual. Not a tuxedo in sight. I felt over dressed wearing long pants and shoes. Our first OES meeting is next Monday.

More later. Thursday we have an appointment for Steinway private sale in Downtown LA. Don’t think we can afford a Steinway piano, but we’ll go look for fun.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Pedro, CA

Presidential Politics

September 1, 2012

Mark Twain once said, “It is easier to fool someone, than to convince someone that they have been fooled.”

In the current presidential election season, this seems quite true. I have yet to find someone that is undecided on who they are going to vote for. Perhaps, this is due to the online context in which we live. The “undecides” aren’t poking around either the political blogs, facebook or twitter.

So, it continues. Two more months until election day. ARGGGH. Why does the election season need to be so long. I am really getting tired of it all. Move the question and get on with other important stuff (like football).

On a related issue, I read that Al Gore is suggesting getting rid of the Electoral College. i think he’s right. It might be better if someone else floated the idea. The Electoral College is an anachronism. The net effect is many states get ignored by the candidates and other states have too much influence on the result. Just saying. It probably won’t happen for a long time.

One more thing that crossed my mind. And that is of the press. Disclosure: I read the NY Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, and occasionally USA Today and lastly the “Daily Breeze” (local San Pedro rag). Back in 2008, then VP candidate Sarah Palin, famously answered Katey Couric’s softball question on Today, “What newspapers do you read?” To which she answered (with a deer in the headlights look), “All of them.”

So when I quote an article in one of these publications about a Republican candidate, my Republican friends discount it with the “just a liberal paper”. They lie. So when Fox News reported on Paul Ryan’s speech the other night. Saying it wasn’t quite the truth. Same friends say it was the house liberal on Fox News. Everyone has an excuse for what they believe. I don’t watch Fox News or MSNBC. As i said in the opening paragraph, changing opinions is really hard.

So fact-checkers are ignored when the report doesn’t fit with one’s view of the truth, thus political campaigns seem to be able to lie with impunity. Very sad.

It’s been over a month, since I last watched any TV news. We haven’t got around to get TV service hooked up. Not sure I miss it. Of course, I do miss sports coverage. But the local news here doesn’t tell me how much the Red Sox suck. Football season starts soon so we need to get going on getting an HDTV and DirecTV set up. The only way I am going to watch the New England Patriots is on DirecTV.

One more thought. I read a piece on Condi Rice. It surprised me that Mitt Romney didn’t pick her for the VP slot. Ms Rice would have won over many centrist undecided voters and many women voters. She has the foreign policy chops that neither Romney or Ryan have. I suspect that her views on abortion (Pro Choice) and other women’s issues were the deciding factor. So Mitt picked Paul Ryan to satisfy the right wing base.
I have a question for my online audience. Who is going to play Paul Ryan on SNL?