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Month: August 2007

Garden Variety

Garden Variety

Eight months earlier I’d taken my parents to Huntington Library and Gardens. My parents decided to forgo the Garden to get on with the other scheduled events of the day (which was lunch at Houston’s I believe and then The Gamble House).

On Sunday I revisited the Garden with Beverly after stopping for lunch at Afloat Sushi. As it turns out the Garden has many delights to uncover and we spent several hours strolling through desert cactus patches, rose gardens, Japanese koi ponds, bonsai displays, and rain forest waterfalls.

Beverly as (a much better looking) Medusa

Looking up through the foliage in the rain forest.

The Japanese Garden

Afterwards Beverly recognized the area and decided to treat me to an experience unique to the San Gabriel Valley – an Asian foot spa. I guess I’ll never tire of hearing how tense I am. I did feel better afterwards though. To cap off the day we headed back to her apartment for some authentic Chinese home cooking.

“I said Salsa, not Seltzer”

“I said Salsa, not Seltzer”

After work today I sped fast down the 101 and 405 en route to West Los Angeles. Today would be another small milestone for the book of “I’ll try anything once.”

I picked her up at her office and by 7pm Beverly and I had arrived at Ma’Kai and hoofed to our reserved table ahead of the line. I had reserved said table because Beverly’s first choice of dining I had deemed toxic due to the large amount of nutty entrees. Unfortunately, Ma’Kai as it turned out had it’s own share of peanut based dishes. The egg was on my face, not on my plate. She ordered the crab meat sushi roll – and I ordered the sliders. We were thoroughly unimpressed. Our waiter was doing his best Kato Kaelin; long dirty blonde hair and 1986 Don Johnsonesque manicured stubble. I could, however, see the beach from my seat; I guess that should count for something.

After eating we headed over to the “main event” at Monsoon Cafe. Monsoon cafe features beginner and intermediate Salsa lessons on Wednesdays (and salsa dancing without lessons on many other nights). To increase the sales of drinks the intermediate lessons commence before the beginners. We arrived fifteen minutes before the beginners lesson and took a seat. I started to sweat.

At 8:30 the lesson commenced and we were separated. The men stood with backs against the far wall, and women with backs to the bar. The suave instructor started moving his feet and giving out vague suggestions. He assumed #1 we knew the basic rhythm of the dance #2 we were familiar with the vocabulary #3 we had prior Latin dance experience. I assumed he wasn’t getting paid very well. As I tried to keep my eyes on the instructor’s feet I very quickly looked very foolish. After twenty minutes or so of this it was time to “try it out” with a partner. It was then that my real lesson was to begin. As it turned out my (new) instructor had been dancing once or twice a week for over a year and had even taken a Salsa class during her tenure at UCSB.

We moved to the smaller adjacent room to the side of the main dance floor. I would need more room for mistakes. A lot more room. I was pointing and moving my body in every direction but the right one/s. I felt like I had two left feet, but within an hour I was (awkwardly) twirling and maneuvering my feet in a minimalistically satisfactory manner. Around 10:30 I figured I’d frustrated Beverly enough with my attempts (although she was extremely supportive of my efforts) and we left after watching the “masters” (which means her regular dance partners) for ten minutes. We stopped off at a nearby “authentic” 50s diner (where we ran into her roommate out on a first date) for desert before I skedaddled my way back north to get some sleep.

I can’t say Salsa is my kind of thing – but then dancing isn’t really my kind of thing in general. I can see how it could be quite a workout for those involved that know what they are doing. I can also see that nobody there (on Wednesday nights) has to be at work at 7am the next morning – as the live band hadn’t even finished setting up before we left at 10:30.

I may be convinced to go again – but only with the same forgiving dance partner/instructor – and probably not on a “work night.”

no!

no!

I came home from a trip to Santa Barbara on Sunday to get a poof of 92 degree stagnant air in my face. So, after work today I stopped by OSH and bought the last pair of fuses they had, got another roof key, popped the old ones out (the AC man only replaced one of the old ones – not both) – put the new ones in – and hoped for the best. Appears to be working so far.

pointless?

pointless?

Is it narcissitic to write a blog? A popular radio personality asserted Wednesday that people that write blogs are the biggest self centered “a-holes” around. Beyond that opinion I have noticed several problems associated with blogging.

My number one problem of the past year or so is that so many things I do can’t be mentioned on here because they have to do with my dating activities. For instance, last summer I went to Disneyland with a young woman (she had an extra ticket). I knew that the “relationship” was a tenuous one and I didn’t want another woman to read about it after the fact and get confused (or think that I see a different girl every weekend). To avoid these and other problems I decided long ago that my dating activities would remain invisible to this public forum. Even the small note I left a few weeks ago about leaving the dating sites behind raised some unexpected eyebrows.

This all leads me to wonder if I’m creating more liability than I need by doing this. A woman I was dating earlier in the year told me she almost decided not to see me again after reading about the breakup in 2006. Needless to say she isn’t around now. Maybe that was why – maybe not, but the fact that I was almost dismissed simply because I had divulged this information made me pause.

Even more disturbing is that this blog (or perhaps website in general) has made it possible for people I absolutely don’t want any contact with to find me and “cyberstalk” me. This finally happened last month (no, it isn’t someone with my same initials). A friend of mine who happens to deal with information security on a daily basis has told me for years the dangers of making myself so public. I thought the “dangers” were worth it to have my information accessible for potential freelance clients (not to mention family and friends keeping up with my activities). However, I don’t seem to be picking up any freelance work because of this. In fact, my only long-term clients have been the results of my own personal networking and have nothing to do with my web site/s at all. And I’m fairly certain that the majority of my friends don’t read the blog.

So why am I risking all this? Who is actually reading it? Only my father ever leaves comments as everyone else (if there is anyone else) is too put-off by having to validate who they are (and before I did that I was getting hundreds of spam comments every day).

I know of five people who read this blog for certain (although with uncertain regularity) and only two are unrelated to me.

I almost consider this just a personal archive – an easily searchable database on all (public) things Andrew. Maybe that is the only purpose it will really serve in the long run. If security gets to be too much of an issue I can still continue to write – but make every entry “closed.” Then I’ll be closed off to the world. Like everyone else.

my day in court (to be continued)

my day in court (to be continued)

The Van Nuys Courthouse is smack dab in the middle of the dirty heart of the city of Van Nuys (just off of Van Nuys Boulevard). Perhaps the only dirtier more dangerous part of the San Fernando Valley is just west of Van Nuys – Panorama City.

Once inside the whole-block municipal complex things are a different story. Most of the buildings are fairly new – and fairly modern in appearance.

Once I made my way to the clerk-line things started to resemble the locale though. I observed 13 adults waiting in line and 8 children. Quite a ratio – especially considering we were all there because of traffic violations. You’d think single-mothers (sorry for assuming – but this was Van Nuys and the mothers were barely old enough to drink) would drive better to protect their children. There were so many kids running around unattended I could not even discern which kid belonged to which mother.

Out of fifteen windows (of which only three were actually open) there were two reserved specifically for “GC Services” cases. And of course only one of those was open. When I finally got my turn I was told that I could “pay now or get a court date – what you gonna do?”

I’ll be in court on January 24th 2008.

relax

relax

As if Mother Nature was trying to tell me there are bigger things to worry about than my current troubles – I finally actually felt an earthquake for the first time last night. According to the earthquake report it was a 4.5. It was a bizarre experience as I woke up in the middle of it hearing various objects fall from their perch. No apparent damage though, so all is well.

Now, I suppose I should mention all that isn’t well. Last weekend I noticed my left headlight was burnt out. That was a minor problem to fix. The larger stress inducing event happened Monday night. After going to the gym I checked my mail (as I do EVERY SINGLE DAY) to find a collections notice in the amount of $681. I called the company immediately and they said I had a traffic citation (“red-light citation”) on March 15th – and an ensuing court date on April 26th that I “failed to appear” for. Hard to show up for court when you never get the citation notice, isn’t it?

Obviously the collections agency didn’t care about my plight and informed me that if I didn’t pay before hanging up the phone I could have my license suspended or worse. Now, mind you – the letter I received contained no official documentation from the DMV or any other government office –and the agency is located in Texas. The first thing I thought was “scam!” and I hung up the phone and decided to take this matter up with the DMV instead. I called the automated DMV information line and ascertained that, yes, I did have a citation on March 15th, and it had been turned over to collections.

The next day I called the DMV every five minutes for six hours before finally getting in a que at number 78. When I finally reached the clerk she told me I had to have the collections agency set up a time for an arraignment to go before a judge again. She also said that the California DMV was not legally allowed to take away my license for a “non-signature camera citation” and that the collection agency had been breaking the law by threatening me (surprise surprise).

My first call to “GC Services” resulted in a “manager” saying he would call me back (for what reason he couldn’t answer my questions immediately I have no idea) after I spent much time on hold. He never called. So, I called again. This time I ended up being transferred to someone “nice” (I’m fairly certain they tagged my file in some way that I wasn’t a moron that was just going to get out my checkbook after their basic intimidation techniques). The woman I was transferred to said that the best course of action would be to go to the actual courthouse and get a copy of the citation first and then set up an arraignment. She also let slip that the majority of calls she takes about these camera-citations are from unsuspecting motorists who never received the original citation. She said she had worked there for four years and the majority of her California calls resemble mine.

I had intended to go to the Van Nuys Superior courthouse when they opened this morning – but a helpful former private investigator friend of mine informed me that the morning is the busiest time for that court and that I should attempt to conduct my business later in the afternoon. So – wish me luck….

By the way – March 15th is the day I picked up my mother from the airport on her last visit. Call me crazy, but I would probably drive better with my mother in the car than normal – so it will be interesting to find out what this ticket is for.

the joys of home ownership (parts 1&2 together)

the joys of home ownership (parts 1&2 together)

We’ll start with the plumbing fiasco.

On the 10th of July I received at work (but didn’t answer) a few calls from Justin. When I called him back he informed me that we had an “emergency” and a plumber was in our unit wanting to cut up the wall. I told him not to let the plumber touch anything until I saw what the problem was. When I came home I investigated. The unit directly beneath mine has had a damp carpet in one of the bedrooms for some time (it wasn’t specified whether this was weeks or months). So, while I was at work on a Tuesday afternoon this dampness was declared an “emergency” that I had to fix right away.

I inspected their unit and found that their wall was cut away almost all the way up to the ceiling. The plumber then thought that the next logical step was to go up to the next floor. After talking to the owner of the downstairs unit (who rents it out and was not anywhere near Los Angeles for then entire duration of this “emergency” yet was angry that I hadn’t settled the problem immediately) and our HOA representative I decided to let the plumber back in to “investigate” the next afternoon. He tore a hole in my wall maybe 15 inches wide and 20 inches high. The pipe was not wet up this high. It was then determined that the pipe had a leak just above the downstairs ceiling. Since the pipe was a “common line” it was determined that the HOA would pay for the removal, replacement, and subsequent drywall repairs. I had dodged a bullet this time…

The drywall repairs would end up taking two days…but that is another story for another time.

So – as soon as that was over with … I came home Tuesday to find my condo broiling like a sauna at 92 degrees. Obviously a problem with the air conditioner. It ran – but the air wasn’t cold.

The next day I called our HOA rep (who surely knows me on a first name basis by now) who told me I’d have to pay a $100 deposit to rent a key to the room from “unit 44” (no name ever given). So, after work I marched over and sat at a middle aged man’s kitchen table while a very small fluffy dog yapped at my ankles and wrote out a $100 check.

I wrote the check – not the dog.

After getting the key Yaw and I went up top to investigate. The rusted out air conditioning unit is surely the original 1987 installation. With nothing immediately obviously fixable (like a squirrel in the fan blades or a leaking pipe) I resolved to call an HVAC specialist the next morning. On the third call I found someone willing to come out today to take a look.

Upon initial inspection ($75) it was determined that the cause of malfunction was a spent fuse in the AC fusebox. He replaced the fuse for $34 and gave me an impromptu lesson on what can go wrong with AC units and how to tell without taking them apart.

Cold air seemed to be blowing when I left the condo after noon. Only time will tell if that was the end of my problems though.

Note the “$2.50” price tag on the old fuse that I photoshopped into the picture below…