Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My new local

When you settle into a new workplace, you need to find a new "local" - a nearby place to hang out, eat lunch or maybe have an afterwork drink. I think I just found mine.

Josie Next Door is a quiet and casual little place run by chef Josie Le Balch, right next door to her better known flagship restaurant, Josie. It's just a few blocks from my office, in the direction I commute, and there's easy parking.

She's got a great happy hour menu - with Deviled Eggs served with duck cracklings and pickled beets. There's also bacon caramel popcorn....!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What I'm doing

It's been almost a month - just a day shy - since I moved from the job I held for seven years to another position at the same organization. My former department was shut down, and I was offered the job of someone who retired. It's time to reflect on the change, think about how I'm adapting to it, and think about my future goals.

First - how does the new job compare with the old?
  • Compensation - The new job pays about 30% less than the old job
  • Benefits - the benefits are the same
  • Responsiblity - I have a lot less responsiblity in the new job than the old job
What's the environment like?
  • Colleagues - my new colleagues are nice, supportive and a little remote still, although welcoming. People at my old workplace shared more of their personal feelings, and we had shared experiences on the job. At that workplace, our group represented a broad range of education and culture - some blue collar, some white collar, some college educated and others barely literate. Here, almost everyone has about the same level of education - some college.
  • Space - at my old workplace, I had a cubicle. Here I have an office - with a DOOR! I work in a park-like setting with nice places to walk. The sounds of children playing are outside my window. At my old workplace, homeless people camped out in the bushes beneath my window. Even so, there, I was a two block walk to the beach. So here it's nice, but not as interesting.
  • Convenience - My commute is just a mile or so longer, but still pretty easy. There are nice places within walking distance for lunch. Pretty similar to the old workplace, although there I had access to shopping, too.
What's the day-to-day like?
  • Type of work - at my old workplace, I had a lot of different tasks. Sales - pitching to potential customers and trying to close a deal. Financial accounting and calculations. Helping walk-up customers. I worked with a lot of specialized software systems from webpage editing to financial data bases. Here, I do one thing, and do it repeatedly all day long. All my work is performed using email or word processing software.  
  • Amount of work - at my old workplace the pace of the day could vary from one day to the next. You could be swamped one day and have nothing to do the next. Here, the workload is steady, consistent, and manageable. It never ends, but I never (so far) get overloaded.
  • Difficulty/ease of work - At my old workplace, sometimes I'd be challenged by something, especially the complex financial stuff. Negotiations with customers could be tricky; I did a lot of problem-solving. Here, it's very detail oriented but not difficult. I have to master a body of very complicated rules and regulations and apply them to projects, and I have to document almost everything I do. Both jobs require a lot of paper-pushing, but this one is paper-pushing to the extreme.
How does it make me feel?
  • Stress levels - That's easy to answer - my old job was quite stressful. Whether it was monitoring conflicts between other staff, dealing with difficult customers, or responding to last minute demands from upper management, there were some very tough days. Here? so far, no problems. I expect that I'll eventually learn the subtler office politics here, but right now, there's nothing to make me sweat. And when I close the door behind me at the end of the day, I don't think about the job until I return.
  • Creativity - Very little, but that was true in the other job too. There is some creativity in looking at the way tasks are performed and thinking of ways to improve them.
  • Career development - None, really. It's a backward step.
  • Satisfaction - am I doing something good? Yes, I'm providing a service to the public. Is it very important? Not really.
And that's my wrap-up. I'm in a nice place with nice people, and my benefits are intact. I get paid a lot less, and it's kind of boring. 

So - what are my goals for the next six months? What would yours be?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Thematic photographic - Signs of the times

Carmi at the blog "Written, Inc." posts a photographic challenge each week at Thematic Photographic. This week, the theme is "Signs of the times."

Click to "embiggen"
 A sign on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice Beach. This is our time, and a reminder from two inspirational leaders (Malala and Nelson Mandela) is powerful - even when delivered in a homegrown, vernacular medium!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday roast

Our son living in England has introduced us to the tradition of a Sunday Roast. Here's a delicious and hearty Sunday roast dinner. And it's straight from the freezer! A whole chicken, purchased when the price was right, then thawed and roasted, seasoned with lemon, herbs and garlic.

Greek-style potatoes - these are leftovers from a party that were frozen. Roasted in the oven alongside the chicken, they're perfect.

Greek-style lima beans - the beans from the frozen-food aisle, simmered with olive oil, garlic and herbs. Astonishingly good.

Delicious and economical!

We're back

Thank you, Verizon! And thank you, indirectly, for causing me to read four books this weekend! Sometimes it's nice to get away from the internet.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Landline Phone and Internet out til further notice. Phone blogging a snack to enjoy until later.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Go fish

Click all photos to "embiggen"
Go San, the itamae and sole proprietor at Go's Mart, places before you a dish with an array of perfect sashimi.

"Beautiful," you say. "So, tell me what this is."

"Fish!" he exclaims, and laughs uproariously.

A moment later, he relents and tells you that this dish compares two different fish - ishi tai, or rock snapper, its pale almost translucent flesh lightly blushed with color, and hirame kobujime, or kelp halibut. Overlaid with a sliver of black truffle, a shaving of yuzu zest, a shred of green scallion and a dab of green chile, each piece was meltingly good, popping with the flavors of the seasonings. I love halibut, but here the snapper was my favorite, with a sweetness that lingered on the palate.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Roof of the world

Click any photo to "embiggen"
Out there on the broad lawn of the Griffith Observatory, under a cloudless blue sky, the mountains rise around you like a bowl, tinted on this summer evening with the pale gold of coming sunset. Step to the edge of the lawn and you'll see the vast basin of Los Angeles spread out below, the streets line out as though ruled.

The building, whose Art Deco whiteness gleams as though carved from sugar, is terraced and flanked with walkways, curved stairs and parapets that allow visitors to climb all over it, like fascinated children, to view the city from each corner and outcropping.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A busy week

We had a great week with family, sightseeing in Los Angeles. We saw a lot of things, ate a lot of great food, and had a lot of fun. Here are some images.

A trip downtown for brunch, and a tour of the historical district.

Jack and his friend Franny
A visit to friends in Malibu, with beautiful views, home-cooked treats, and a good time for Jack, who got to reconnect with his friend Franny.

A full day - that included Korean barbecue

A trip to the Griffith Observatory

Musso and Frank Grill
Dinner at an iconic Hollywood institution

and an evening at the Dresden in Silver Lake, hearing the incomparable Marty and Elayne perform.

A trip to East El Ay for some tacos, and a run for paletas in Huntington Park.

Fugetsu-Do sweet shop in Little Tokyo
 Drinks in Little Tokyo ( mmm...bacon old-fashioned!)

Wednesday night, we took our friend Kurly to the airport for her next adventure - teaching in Cambodia!

Street art, Culver City

The next day, we prepared for a gathering at our house, but went out to lunch and feasted on ceviche and fish tacos.

Bar snacks at A-Frame
Yesterday we visited a favorite Culver City watering hole and the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

What next?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bacon, anyone?

A bacon old fashioned at the Far Bar in Little Tokyo. I'll have a double.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reflected image

Playing around with reflections. This is a mannequin in a shop window on South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.

Cool toy

 My brother-in-law  shared a cool toy with me. It's a little clip-on lens for your I-phone - the Olloclip. You get a fish-eye, a wide-angle, and a macro lens. Fun to play with.

Cool, huh?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Family visit

We are sprucing up the house, stocking the refrigerator, and clearing our calendars because this week we have family visiting.

Our son is coming from London. [The Man I Love]'s brother and his wife, Kurly are coming from Tampa. The last time we were all together, we were exploring London. Now we'll explore Los Angeles together.

UPDATE: A little glitch. Our son's flight from London was delayed several hours, and then he emailed us that they boarded the passengers and then abruptly evacuated them from the plane. I guess we'll find out more eventually. 

ANOTHER UPDATE: Our son's flight was cancelled - a fuel line leak. He's staying overnight at the airport and will arrive on the same flight tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Parks and Rec

Is anyone a fan of the NBC series "Parks and Recreation"?

It's been on since spring of 2009 and stars Amy Poehler as a perky blonde mid-level bureaucrat in a small-town municipal Parks Department.

If you're a fan of the show, please note that it's not really a very accurate picture of the way a public agency operates. The wacky issues brought up in the show - marrying gay penguins; filling in gravel pits; council members' sex scandals -  aren't really very realistic, compared to the real issues citizens ask their public officials to solve.

Although I'm really enjoying it, I'm a newcomer to the show. I started watching it for the first time in the last couple of weeks, since I started my new a mid-level bureaucrat in - oh, well, you figure it out.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hippy chick

This past weekend I wandered down to our little community center and stopped in at Bouboulina, a funky little boutique that's been dressing Topanga's hippy chicks for decades.

Get on yer tie-dye, girl!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Paletography of Los Angeles - Pucker up!

Pinatas outside Paleteria Limon
 A very typical California strip mall - modern, stucco-faced, with fake tile and quasi-Spanish detail, flanked in by shiny new model Camrys, Hyundais and SUVs - nevertheless reveals the demography of the small community of Maywood, 97% of whose residents identified themselves as Latino in the 2010 census.

Here a dulceria, selling Mexican sweets and candies, and a zapateria, or shoe store, flank the Paleteria Limon, a frozen fruit bar store so popular the line was going out the door the day we visited.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A sip of sangrita

Our first night at our hotel in Mexico City, [The Man I Love] and I went to the cocktail lounge for drinks. Most of our group had beer, but one man ordered a shot of tequila. It arrived with a small glass of what looked like tomato juice, and a little dish of lime wedges.

Very unlike the famous frat-boy ritual of lime-salt-tequila in a single knocked-back gulp, he carefully sipped the tequila, sipped the juice, bit on a lime wedge, and repeated the process.

"What are you having, Steve?" someone asked.

"This is a shot of tequila and sangrita."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hot under the covers

Here in Southern California we are going through a heat wave - and what better way to celebrate a heat wave than with a sexy, sultry song written by the quintessential Hollywood composer, Henry Mancini?

When a musical composition - or song - is recorded by another musician who puts his own spin on it, it's called a "cover version"  Here are some cover versions of Mancini's song, imprinted by some serious musicians. Which one do you like best?

Johnny Hartman. This was recorded in 1964.

Sarah Vaughn, recorded in 1965.

Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66, sung by the incomparable Lani Hall, in 1966.

Or you could get a little out there, with Pat Metheny,  released in 2011.

I'm waiting to discover the punk or heavy metal version. Meanwhile, here are the lyrics:

His gaze
Swept over me now
a slow hot wind

Some days
It's too warm to fight
A slow hot wind

There in the shade
Like a cool drink waiting
She sat with slow fire in her eyes
Just waiting

Some days
It's too warm to fight
A slow hot wind

Listen to them all and tell me which one makes you the hottest....or which is the coolest. (Hartman is pretty hot - and pretty cool - don't you think?)

UPDATE:   Well, it's just like Southern California weather to make a liar out of me - I scheduled this post to run a little while after writing it, and our weather has famously turned. Nonetheless, these jazz greats are worth getting hot and bothered over.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Escape the heat and get away

Seaside resorts, with their climate tempered by ocean breezes, have been popular with the elite as early as the 18th century, when the French Riviera became fashionable.

And why not? A temperate climate, tropical gardens, the blue sea and picturesque ancient Roman ruins made it a great place to relax when the weather heats up.

Here in Southern California, our own coastline mimics the Mediterranean - in climate, of course, but also visually. Our early 20th century real estate developers created communities that mimicked the picturesque seaside resort towns and villages of Southern France and Italy. Castellammare, in Pacific Palisades, was an Italian-themed development that attracted Hollywood superstars like John Barrymore, Joseph Cotten, and Thelma Todd.