Tuesday, January 31, 2006


This is Debbie Kumagai. She works with her boyfriend, Bob, and Patrick at Angelo's Jewelry and Loan Company in Santa Monica. It's a pawnshop. I immediately got a comfortable and friendly vibe when I walked into Angelo's with my relatives and son yesterday, an unusual feeling since so many pawnshops pay attention to you only when a transaction is imminent. Angelo's is a Ray Bradbury-esque curio shop where the wealthy, impoverished, eccentric, and the completely insane come and go with a breezy casualness. You will not find a lot of flashy gold jewelry or expensive watches here but things like keys, medallions, costume jewelry and class rings are displayed like worn treasures from long ago. For a collector like me Angelo's is captivating because it's all within reach. And here's the weirdest part. I found out that Debbie's aunt is the woman I've been working across the aisle from at my job in Huntington Beach.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Headed Home

We had a pleasant dinner in the South Bay and wished them well on their return trip. Fun, but serving as host is tiring. And comments are enabled after being accidentally disabled.

Yuji and Kaori

I've been spending the last three days hosting my relatives from Japan, Yuji and his daughter Kaori. Even though Yuji has only been in the U.S. once before twenty three years ago and for only five days to get married it's mainly a shopping trip for Kaori. Yuji is one of the most giving people I know. I did take him to the Peterson Automotive Museum and a pawn shop in Santa Monica to see guitars, two of his passions. They return tomorrow, something of a whirlwind trip but I've had another couple of my relatives do exactly the same thing ten years ago. They weren't here to shop, though. They just wanted to be taken around. Go figure.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Day I Blew Up My Face

One of my favorite sites to visit for old time household stuff like kerosene lamps and mechanical kitchen gadgets is Lehman's. About twenty years ago I ordered a butane powered iron from them. I still have it. It is sturdy and, best of all, cordless. You click a button, turn a knob to adjust the temperature like a Bic lighter, and watch the mechanical temperature dial until it's where you want it and then its ironing time. A little stove-like flame makes a neat little roar. A chore made fun, bottom line. What they didn't tell you about, or, in my excitement, I didn't read about, was the butane filling procedure. The flame started petering out during one of my ironing sessions so I whipped out the old Ronson can and stuck it into the tiny filling hole. It was hissing for only a fraction of a second when the thought came to mind, "you know, maybe I should turn off the...," and before the word "flame" came into my mind I heard a huge boom and felt momentarily as though I was staring out from the inside of the sun. I was in the back bedroom, away from the rest of the family. I smelled burnt hair, my own obviously. When I felt my face, little curly remnants of my eybrows dropped off. I ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror finding that not only did I not have eyebrows anymore, my hairline had receded by about an inch. Anne was doing her makeup. I asked her, "Didn't you hear that?" She thought I had dropped the ironing board. But go to the site and shop around. It has cool stuff you don't see in this electronic world. And the iron is still there. And, man, it ain't cheap!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Home Sweet Home

This is where we have called home for the last twenty seven years. It's in an area of LA known as the Westside (not to be confused with West LA) which generally straddles Crenshaw Bl as far north as Washington Bl and as far south as Martin Luther King. The Western boundary is La Cienega and the Eastern boundary is about Western. I may be a little off on that but in any event it used to be a Japanese American community before the Watts riots. Now it is mainly black and Hispanic. But there are a few holdouts like us. And it is not a warzone as many believe.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Smug Alert!

Doug's a pretty mellow guy now compared to what he was like when we took these pictures. Doesn't it look like he was about to do something bad ? He probably was, circa 1989-90

When We had a Pool

Yeah, I know I need a scanner. We've been slowly cleaning out the house and came to a big box of old pictures. Everything came to a halt as we took a stroll down memory lane. Recognize Elizabeth, circa 1982 give or take a year or so?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Retro Chinese

Remember when chinese food meant only one thing? Cantonese. And only one style, with only minor variations. Almond duck, those cubes of pressed meat on a bed of wilted shredded lettuce covered with smooth brown gravy and a healthy sprinkling of crushed or sliced toasted almonds. Chow mein with fat noodles, slightly burnt here and there in a thin gravy with celery, onion, char siu, shrimp, chicken, or beef. Remember Pea chai yu? Snow peas with sliced water chestnuts in a chicken gravy? Hom yu? Steamed ground pork fat? Egg foo yung? egg pancakes with bean sprout? Those restaurants, like Far East and Paul's Kitchen, have given way to the new wave of chinese flavors admittedly more refined, varied, and true to the chinese culture. But I miss the old interpretation like I miss some of the character of old LA. Hidden from the street in Crenshaw Square is a throwback - Kim's. Only blocks from my house with a loyal clientele, it retains all the tradition of the fifties chinese restaurants. And so far, still under the foodie radar.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Is it just me or does this scare the hell out of you when you look up from the dashboard?

Microbial Topiary

The Westside has what must be the only topiary tribute to bacteria and other little microscopic critters. Who needs another bushy standing elephant or giraffe, anyway?

Find This Huell Howser!

The granddaddy of this tree is the Bodhi tree under which Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment. It was grown from a sapling that came from a tree in the UCLA Bottanical Gardens and that tree was grown from a sapling taken from the famous tree still growing in India today. I took this picture yesterday before our bimonthly book club meeting at Senshin Buddhist Temple. The classroom is in the building to the left. Instead of being situated prominently in the middle of the Temple grounds the tree is in a remote corner of the property which makes a much stronger statement, don't you think?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Field Trip

Originally, I expected to visit the Art Center, next week. But one thing led to another and I ended up having an interesting conversation with Jean Swift, Director of Corporate Relations at the Pasadena campus. I took a picture of her on the bridge/main building that straddles a road that goes under the structure in a cool art centery way. I hope to have the students and faculty work with us to come up with similarly fresh new ideas about how we look at information. The universe does not revolve around the earth and neither should corporate america revolve around PowerPoint or any of those tired old office products. Hopefully Jean and the corporate powers that be and I will be able to make this a reality. Just like those Washington Mutual commercials where people shake the hands of the bank officials and walk out upright, full of inspiration, so did I walk out of the Art Center fully energized, ready to transform the world. Then I had lunch with Elizabeth at a Thai restaurant and calmed down a bit. Duck noodle soup can be so soothing. Elizabeth had chicken with mint leaf, there is a spicy chicken in the middle and my duck soup is in the foreground.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The New J-Town

As Little Tokyo fades from being the JA center of social activity into an icy i-don't-know-what-it's-good-for place (except for maybe Daikokuya Ramen) the long overlooked orphan cousin to it, Sawtelle, is rising to the occasion by becoming, if not a social hub, a cool J-Town with fresh new shops and restaurants. Yes, there's the JA National Museum, East West Players, and the JACCC anchored in the old J-Town but I'm referring to the spontaneous funky stuff. I know, it's old news, right? But OC take notice! This is what I'm talkin' about! Trust the outcome of the urban dynamic! Then you too can walk by a shop and have real cartoon characters jump out to greet you like they did to Doug. They will protect you from danger while you feed your face!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wake Up O.C.!

This was taken near my workplace in Huntington Beach. Orange County needs to take another look at it's urban design philosophy. If I ever got lost and needed to tell someone where I was I'd be a dead man here. "I'm next to a beige wall." Good luck finding me. But there is always another side to the story.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


On my way back from my visit to the orthopedist (a story for another day) I decided to stop by the Marina Gelsons for bread, not just any bread but panini baguettes, my favorite. They were out. Fiddlesticks! I decided to take a chance on pretzel bread. How was it, you ask? It was only the chewiest, yeastiest, moistest football of bready goodness I ever had, that's all. Even better than the paninis. The needle on my happy meter jumped to the right for awhile. I posted a blt I made for Doug a little while ago. Do yourself a favor. Go get some!

I Miss Japan


This is my mom's childhood home in the town of Saijo, near Hiroshima. At one time it was beyond the outskirts of town but now is surrounded by apartments and office buildings. I think of this place and other places we visited and get the urge to go back. Why did it feel like home? I wonder.

Monday, January 16, 2006

How did I (a) post this & (b) pose?

Don't ask me how I posted this. I have no idea. But it's a picture of me that was taken from the cat door of my friend in Topanga. Hmm, bad sentence. To clarify, my friend is the owner, not the cat. I am not smiling, by the way. I am grimacing. The door is along a hallway so the most natural position would have my head sideways. To get my head vertical required a lot of contorting. Posted by Picasa

A Pleasantly Blah Day

It's going to be great when I learn how to post pictures. Then, on uneventful days like this, I can just post a pic and not struggle to find the words to say "nothing much happened" and bore you. It feels quite nice, though, like a day where the puzzle pieces just fall into place.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Another Engineering Day

It's the kickoff meeting for Product Lifecycle Management Phase Two!!!! Wheee!!! Yippie!!! I'm doing cartwheels and backflips down the aisles!!! What is it, anyway? Don't even ask unless you want to save money on Lunesta or Ambien. But I have to contribute to a little talk on ways specialists can comprehend the myriad processes that go on when you build a complicated space vehicle (or something that goes KAAABOOOM - just joking, wink wink elbow elbow) without being an expert in everything. But the big question is - where is lunch today when my blood report yesterday said my cholesterol is 225? Answer: Two big fat beef tacos and a healthy green salad to soak up the grease. Yum.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kick-Off Day

Hello. Hopefully, my posts will eventually include pictures but until I stumble onto the way it's done I'll just have to describe things with words. I am "working" in the "virtual hotel" today, the aerospace equivalent of limbo where you are neither at home nor at the office but in a surprisingly cozy building of small offices and cubicles that are reserved from week to week. These hotels are scattered all over the country clustered usually within the company boundaries. Today I can see red-tailed hawks riding thermals over an open field. I've seen possum, foxes, and all sorts of birds, finches, phoebes, pelicans, egrets, geese, and ducks to name a few. Where am I? Now I'll try to post this and move on to make my template look more lived in. On to the FAQ!