Friday, April 30, 2010

A Mulholland Drive

For those of you who haven’t thought of it, a windy night like tonight is THE BEST night to drive along Mulholland Drive.  The views of the city and the valley sides are just spectacular.  I know about these conditions because from about age five to age ten, I lived on one of the crests of the Hollywood Hills, and these were always the most visually incredible nights.  The city and valley look like meticulously lit dioramas spread out in front of you fitted perfectly to the topography of the Southland.

We just finished a drive up there, and I was shocked to find that I could see such depth and clarity of the buildings lined up from downtown throughout Mid-Wilshire.  Universal Studios and surrounds were so clear that I felt I could reach out and grab the little illuminated buildings with my hand.  The turbulent sound of the wind tossing around nearby trees and shrubs only adds to the feeling of seclusion, yet being a voyeur of the nightlife just a few miles away.

Such is the magic of Mulholland Drive on a blustery night.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dog on a Lap

My cat, Marco, was very upset tonight.  In his usual spot on my lap was our black Cockapoo, Susie, and he wasn't charmed.  He even tried to take a little swat at her for this intrusion, but the dust soon settled, and Marco was able to spend some time in his favorite place by the end of the night.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I had a hunch about something just from my intuition, and not from reading about physics before, because I never encountered this issue in the past.

But as briefly as possible, just knowing the little I understand about how time and acceleration work; one of the aspects being that time and acceleration (like time and space) are really part of the same entity, and therefore if you are really active in one, you kind of borrow from the other.  So it's like if you are completely inactive in acceleration, you get 100% of "normal" time.  And if you go through some acceleration, you start borrowing (elongating, or drawing from) time.

An example of course would be if you and I were in rocket ships in space sitting side by side, and then one of us (me) took off at close to the speed of light for like an hour (my time), and then turned around and did the same thing back to end up next to you, both of our times in relation to one-another would be different.  Our watches (or calendars for that matter), which started out the same (1pm on Thursday April 22nd), upon my return now say 2pm on Thursday April 22nd for me, and 10:16am on May 14th for you.  The discrepancy between our clocks and calendars would be precisely in relation to how fast my various accelerations got me to.

So at some point you have to wonder, if there's really no reference point in space, why it is that one of us experienced a shorter time between our meetings, and not the other (like why was it an hour for me, and 24 days for you, and not vice-versa?).   Because if you think about it, if it were totally black space and no stars or anything for reference, you could fix a camera to your rocket and see me take off at near the speed of light.  But then again, I could fix a camera to my rocket, and when I took off, my camera would record your ship zooming out of frame at near the speed of light.

I had this question as far back as when i was at USC if you can believe it, even before I started reading books.  But my answer eventually came from books.  It wasn't an answer that just dawned on me.
The answer is that it's precisely because I went through acceleration that I had my time slowed (my acceleration drew on the time portion of what I called the "entity" own words).  You didn't experience any acceleration.  Just me.

So here's the thing that got confirmed the other night as I was reading.  It made me feel the way great scientists must have felt when he came up with large notions on their own that others hadn't yet thought of.  Mine of course being a tiny thing, but never the less, it showed me that I really do have some intuitive sense of physics related things without much mathematical experience.

A while back, like maybe out 5 years ago, it occurred to me that when you and I are standing on our planet, we are accelerating.  I don't mean because the world is spinning, or because the earth is in orbit around anything.  The earth could be totally still in space, and yet you and I are accelerating.  And that means that when we stand at the surface of the earth, versus floating somewhere in space, that our time is experiencing a very slight time dilation on Earth.

This is how I figured this.  Non-acceleration is just floating and not having any forces acting on you.  This would include if you were floating in space and you started to drift into the gravitational field of some planet.  What would happen would be that you would slowly start to gravitate to the planet, still floating like David Bowie gently towards a planet-blue.  Again, no acceleration because even though you are starting to drift towards the planet, you are not feeling any forces on you.  In fact, you could start to drift (without any eventual interference with atmosphere) faster and faster, like up to several hundred miles per hour, and you would still not be accelerating in the way of feeling any forces.  And in that way, gravity is a curvature of space-time.

So what would happen when you eventually hit the surface of the planet, aside from being splatted, is that you would suddenly go through an enormous amount of acceleration.  Enough to kill you in fact.  But the point is that suddenly you would have a force acting on you.  I intuitively felt that free falling (again without wind or air resistance) is a natural state just like floating around in space would be.

Now this is the point I've been getting to, and maybe now you got there too already.  I realized, again by myself (kudos to me) that when I am laying on my bed, or standing outdoors, I am actually accelerating because the force of gravity from this big planet wants me to free fall in a natural state, but the surface of the earth happens to be a force that is in the way and is acting against me (against my feet) and blocking me from the natural floating-free falling state.  Therefore, I am accelerating and experiencing a slight time dilation compared to if I were allowed to free fall, or if I were just floating around in space.

So the other night, I get to this chapter that explains exactly that, nothing less, nothing more.  It was one of the few times in my life where i really realized that all of my pondering has been insightful and even gifted in some small way.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mindless Auto-Call Back

My complaint for the day is this:   

You phone someone, especially someone you don’t know, predominantly in business.  They don’t pick up their cell so you leave a careful, detailed message about whatever it is (for me it’s usually getting showing instructions from a long list of other real estate agents and properties), and then you hang up and go onto your next call, confident that you were crystal clear about what you wanted from them.

Ten minutes later, you get a call from this befuddled person who says to you, “Someone call me?  And you say, “Who is this?”  And they say, “Victor.  Someone called me from this number.”

So what has just happened is that after your careful message that you’ve left them, again, as exacting and detailed a voice mail can be, the receiving person sees that they missed a call on their phone log and just dials the number back without taking time to simply listen to their voice mail. 

The problem with this, especially in my business, is that I’ve since gone on to leave another seven agents messages, so I have no recollection of who “Victor” is without his mentioning an address identifier or some other reference to what I called about.

In fact, and I’ve done this a lot, if, when the mindless auto-call-back phoner reaches you belligerently, you say, “Well, I probably left you a message referring to why I phoned you,,” they almost always say, “I didn’t listen to my messages yet.  I just called back the number on my redial.”

The problem with this (especially for someone like Fred who doesn’t like to waste time) is that it’s a pain in the ass to go through asking or explaining the same thing again when they could just as well be phoning you back with a “yes,” or a “no,” or “11:30am should be fine,” or “I’ll check with the owner about what you proposed.”

So there you go.  My peeve for the day.  And for me, there’s no pleasure with this pet!  

"One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy, three ringy-dingy!

The Girl in the Café

Boy was I delighted at how much I enjoyed this movie.  It started out so slow and awkwardly between the characters that I had to make a concious decision to keep watching it at some early point in the film. 

But the story is so well crafted and directed by Richard Curtis and David Yates respectively that it brings you from looking at the most miopic view of a man's personal life to dealing with one of the biggest issues facing our planet. 

Bill Nighy is superb in how he plays an extremely shy man who meets an equally shy young woman in a café, and ends up inviting her to Iceland during which Bill's character is deeply involve in the G8 Summit, where they are trying to come to some agreement as to how to deal with extreme poverty in the Africa.

I am a sucker for anything about Iceland to begin with since I've been there twice and enjoyed my stays there thoroughly, and so the setting pleased me.  The choice of the film-makers to use this location was perfect in that Iceland has neutrality not only in it's location, but also in the public achitecture, and especially in hotel interiors and I found during my times there.  It was a perfect canvass in which to let the story play out.

Do borrow or rent the DVD when you get a chance.

Courtesy of

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Verse

Hey farmer farmer
Put away the D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

-Joni Mitchell

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Morning Routine

Excerpt from, "1970 - Ground Zero," a book I am writing.

Each morning my biological father, Alfredo, would walk me to nursery school just a few blocks outside of USC.  In the afternoon he would come to the school and walk me home. Sometimes I would walk beside him, and other times he’d carry me on his shoulders.  I remember holding onto his thin Hawaiian shirt with my hands around his neck and the feel of the sharp bounce with each of his brisk footsteps.  We were only two blocks away from the school, so it wasn’t a long walk.

Most of the mornings were cold, and while walking, I tended to notice the unevenness of the sidewalk slabs, where weeds were growing out of cracks in the cement, and places where work had been done and patched up in the road or on the walkway.  I distinctly remember that at the Northwest corner of where our street hit the nearby main street, the intersection of Scarf Street and Adams Blvd, there was one of many old Victorian style houses.  This house was shades of brown and tan, made of wood and stone, and it always seemed cold to me, as if it had just rained on their plot of land every day.  

Where the sidewalks of the two streets intersected, there was a small, flimsy railing made of iron pipe, the kind of pipe that might supply a park water fountain with it’s water.  The railing was only on the corner of the property and was well aligned with the exception of one end of it, which had seemed to have sunken into the ground.  Every day that I passed this anomaly, some part of me wanted to mend the railing so that it would stand properly.

I think from the very beginning of my life, I was extremely observant and always looking for clues to things that were in some way awry or covered over.  I must have been seeking regularity and predictability in my otherwise chaotic environment.

Quantum Mechanics – Entangled Space

If you are wearing a pair of sunglasses, quantum mechanics shows that there is a 50-50 chance that a particular photon – like the one that is reflected toward you from the surface of a lake or from an asphalt roadway – will make it through your glare-reducing polarized lenses: when the photon hits the glass, it randomly “chooses” between reflecting back and passing through. The astounding thing is that such a photon can have a partner photon that has sped miles away in the opposite direction and yet, when confronted with the same 50-50 probability of passing through another polarized sunglass lens, will somehow do whatever the initial photo does.  Even though each outcome is determined randomly and even though the photos are far apart in space, if the one photon passes through, so will the other.  This is the kind of nonlocality predicted by quantum mechanics.  – From “The Fabric of the Cosmos,” by Brian Greene

They Found the Fireball???

I am sure you’ve heard about the fireball that shot over the mid-western skies on April 14th.  Here is video from of cameras catching it if you haven’t seen the video:

But I heard this morning that they actually found the remnant of the meteor or whatever it was that landed in Western Wisconsin, and that it was about the size of an unshelled peanut.

I just want to know how this is possible?  They found something that small in just a few hours when it takes months, sometimes even years to find other lost items which are much bigger such as pets, people and even cars. 

If the technology has gotten that good, I want them to find all of my missing socks!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Special “Fee” to Nations Spewing Volcanic Ash

Courtesy of

What is a European traveler to do given that most of their airports are shut down and flights grounded due to the volcanic ash in the air from the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcano?  And have you tried pronouncing that name yet?

An airplane’s jet engines, if flown through the stuff, could just …. well…stop, …and then you drop, and that’s not good!  So for those people traveling around the UK, Spain, France, and those even headed across the pond, they ain’t going nowhere today or probably tomorrow.

I’ve been hearing reports all day on KNX NewsRadio of Brits and French who are stranded at LAX airport and have to make other plans.  One Englishman on the radio said that his 40th Birthday is tomorrow in England, and that all of his friends would be at his party without him.  That sucks!  There was also a young man interviewed who had been trying to get a vacation to Italy for months, which kept getting postponed due to one obstacle or another and was finally about to fly out today.  He said dejectedly, “I guess this was just not meant to be.”  I really felt sorry for that guy.  And there are numerous musicians abroad who were headed for the Coachella Valley Music Festival in the next few days who will now be playing a sad tune.

Given that today is April 15th, also known as tax day here in the United States, I think it would be appropriate for there to be created a special assessment tax to any and all nations whose volcanoes spew out enough ash to cause travel delays, heartache, monetary damages or confusion to other nations and their business enterprises.  The underlying reason is that if a nation can’t keep their volcanoes in check, then that nation should be liable.

And, in the spirit of the City of Los Angeles, as well as so many other municipalities trying to slip in various charges in the most palatable way, this tax could be termed a “fee” to help soften the pain felt by the nations having to dig deep into their pockets.  And we all know that Iceland has not had such an easy time of it recently as they have experienced extraordinary economic hardship in the past few years.  So reaching into those Viking helmets and horns won’t be a happy thing.

But all the more reason for such a nations such as Iceland to keep their volcanoes in check.  It’s the broken window theory; if they are allowed to let their volcanoes go unbridled, then there too will go the neighborhood.  Dormant volcanoes in Scandinavia as well as all throughout Europe and the Americas could be allowed to come to life again.

And then what is going to happen when all of that ice lying over the volcanoes melts and huge torrents of water make a B-line to the sea wiping out all pastoral valleys that happen to be in their paths?  The rest of the Western world will have to come to the aid of the aftermath, which will be extremely costly!  And ultimately our global economy will be further damaged if no one could fly anywhere again and spend their dollars and Euros at tourist destinations.

Let's say “yes” to reigniting the global economy, and “no” to reigniting dormant, icy volcanoes.  The powers that be need to incorporate a special assessment “fee” to all nations which allow their volcanoes to spew hot magma and ash all over our planet!

Now let's give it another try….it’s pronounced, “Eyjafjallajokull” volcano.

Courtesy of
Fred in Iceland

Fred in the Blue Lagoon

 Magnús in Icelandic Church

A Lighthouse in Reykjavik

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"The" Breakfast Burrito


I remember enjoying the perfect breakfast burrito.  It was in a little town in a corner of California not often visited.  I had stayed overnight in heat that was unconscionable.  116 in the day and 95 at Midnight. The window air conditioning unit was on full blast all the time in my room, and  I couldn’t step a few inches out of my door without getting pelted by flying bugs of all sorts.  It was the kind of place a person traveling, such as myself, just stops to cool their breaks for the night.  The motel had an obligatory pool, but likely seldom used.

The sound of tractor-trailers’ engines starting and air brakes releasing permeated the otherwise cricket-filled night and into the morning. I remember getting up at about 9:30am, as I didn’t have to be anywhere, and peaking my head out of my door into the heat of the morning; maybe 100 degrees.  The ground just outside my door looked as if it hadn’t had rain in eons.  For that’s all there was between the buildings, hard dirt.  The architect of this motel hadn’t even planned any asphalt or concrete around the premises with the exception of the pool area.  It was as basic as basic could be.

After a quick, refreshing shower, I got dressed to one of maybe five television channels this place was able to receive.  Then I left my cooled room for the last time and stepped out hardily into the day.  Instantly, the heat and humidity of this agricultural and desert convergence zone made me sweat as if no shower had ever been consulted that morning.

On the way out of this little town, I stopped at a local eatery.  It was a simple one level box-shaped structure that had a few school-like commissary tables inside.  I took a seat and ordered a breakfast burrito and a juice.

I sat relaxed, as my food was prepared, looking out at the simple little town and surrounding farmland and I felt that time had stopped.  My furiously consuming work, Disney at the time, seemed a thousand miles away, and this under populated town felt perfectly tranquil to me on this morning.

My breakfast burrito was the best I’ve ever had, and I enjoyed it slowly and thoroughly.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Memories in and Around the Apartment Building

This is a short excerpt from a book I am writing, "1970 - Ground Zero"

The apartment building that my father and I moved into, which still stands as I write this, was a large Craftsman bungalow style, multi-unit building from the era when the area around USC was wealthy; sort of the Beverly Hills of the 1920’s, by now a tired and lower socioeconomic neighborhood. Upon visiting it recently, I discovered that the building is now on the registry of Los Angeles Cultural Landmarks (#461). That fact makes me somehow feel validated; the place that is so a part of my earliest thoughts and memories is recognized by the City of Los Angeles. The apartment had about 40 units with balconies overlooking the side walkways and neighbors’ yards. The outside of this building was brown with stone pillars in the front. The outside porch had a cement floor and a large porch swing attached to the beams under the large awning.

 I spend a lot of time on this porch swing looking over the balcony and into the activities in the street. The apartment building was very dark inside. With the exception of the front lobby entrance and a small window at the back of the long hallway, there were no other windows that lead into the middle hallways. My father, who liked to scare me, told me that the entrance lobby was haunted. I think scaring me made him feel his connection with me was stronger in that I would seek comfort from him and stay at his side. I always imagined that as I walked through the dreary lobby that had not one piece of furniture in it, I was passing through the bodies of dead spirits.

The managers’ office was off this lobby. They were an older, Caucasian couple. The astonishing thing to me at the time was that they had an authentic, working siren light inside their special manager’s apartment. The kind like you would have seen on an ambulance back in the 1960’s; round, tall, and the light circles around inside via a rotating motor of some kind. I was relentless in asking them to turn it on for me. They seemed to me to be the one glimmer of humanity in the building.

Tired Legs!

Today was a day of rest for my legs and me. I ran 8.5 miles yesterday and found that my body is pretty tired from having increased my mileage in the past few weeks. I also did quite a bit of strength training yesterday as well. So it felt good to rest a bit today.

The eight mile run went pretty well. I had done some intervals the day before, and so yesterday's was a run for simply getting some long, slow miles in. Out was easier than back. But in the end, I was heading into home with a beautiful California sunset in front of me. Not bad!

 It was only a training run yesterday, but this is what my legs felt like!

Staying Injury-Free

There are several things you can do to keep injury free if you're a runner:

Warming Up:
Take time to warm up for your fitness routine.  Stretching is important, but many people try to stretch too quickly.  When you stretch, slowly move into a stretch and hold it without bouncing.  Be gentle.  Your muscles elongate 10% from stretching and then another 10% during your work out.  So let your body go through the transitions gradtually.

Slowly Increase your Workouts:
Keep a log of your workouts. If you increase your mileage more than 10% in any given week, you are doing too much.  Remember that your muscles strengthen faster than your tendons and ligaments.  So keep your workout increasing at a slow enough rate to let all body parts catch up.

Know When to Layoff:
When you feel that you’ve been working out a lot and you get that tinge of pain or uncomfort, take a day or two off.  These signals are real signs that your body may be overworked, and it’s better to have a day or two of rest, rather than two to three weeks of nursing an injury and really missing out on your fitness workouts.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Last King of Scotland

I just borrowed, "The Last King of Scotland," about Idi Amin coming to power in Uganda on DVD from the Burbank Library and thought it was fantastic.  I was at first a little put off by what I could tell was quite a bit of license taken in story telling with the addition of a character who was Idi’s personal physician, but it helped to find out in the special features that the film was based on a book that took a lot of liberties.

Forest Whitaker plays his version of Idi Amin with such strength and passion that I was completely captivated throughout my viewing.  He vacillates from being a gentle, human person , to being horrifying.  The supporting performance of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is fantastic as well.  One can see the slightest bits of emotion on this character’s face as he interacts and becomes enmeshed with Idi Amin’s craziness.

This is one not to be missed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Talking on the Cell Phone While...

Here I go again, whining about people on their cell phones.  For some reason, these devices seem so magnetizing to some people that they can’t get themselves to stop.  This time it’s about people who are doing some activity, and yet for some reason, are not able to extricate themselves from their mobile devices.

Example 1:  Most mornings I walk our cute black Cockapoo in the park next to our house.  There is a woman who rollerblades, seemingly for miles, around the block and who also always, and I mean always, holds a cell phone to her ear and talks.  To each his or her own, but I just don’t understand why someone is out exercising under the beautiful California morning sunshine, and yet allows themselves to be totally consumed in a phone conversation….every morning.

Example 2:  Again, the morning…I was driving to the library the other morning and there were two, somewhat chubby ladies, doing their version of speed-walking together, and both of them had cell phones to their ears talking to other people.  This totally escapes me.  The need for human companionship on the telephone was stronger than their enjoyment of each other, or focusing on their cardiovascular activity.

Example 3: At our most recent meeting that our real estate office has each Wednesday, an outside vendor, who happened to be visiting our office, told the story of the morning before, getting off the freeway near the Disney Studios, and being on her cell phone.  A Burbank police officer pulled her over and gave her a citation for not using hands free.

But the thing that got me about her PSA to us was that she emphasized that the ticket amount for her was $148.00, and not the expected $50.00, and that we should be aware because it is now more costly to get caught on your cell phone while driving.  She seemed, even in her being in the midst of this legal experience, to miss that the point is we should not drive while using a cell phone because it is unsafe, and you could kill someone.

Here's an idea; when you're rollerblading, put the cell phone into your fanny pack.  When you're speed-walking, put the cell phones into your pockets.  And when you're driving, put the cell phone into the closed middle console or into the glove compartment, and just focus on what you are doing.

Signed, an old curmudgeon!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good Work Done Today

A girl and her boyfriend were looking for homes to rent together in Burbank.  I showed them several rentals over the last few weeks.  I’ll call them Sharon and Greg.  They put applications out on two properties, both of which didn’t work out.  Part, but not all of the problem is that, while Sharon’s credit score is in the 700’s, Greg’s is in the 500’s. 

Owners want to get people with really strong credit scores right now while the economy is still in a funk.  So Greg’s score was just not helping him.

Well, over the last weekend, after four years together, Sharon and Greg broke up.  Sharon called me very crying on Monday saying that she had to find something at half the price we had been looking at, and get it in a few days.  I really felt for her.  It’s hard to motivate one’s self when one is immobilized by a break up.  But she was able to do it.

We went out for the past few days looking at home after home, and yesterday, late in the day, we found the perfect one for her and her two dogs.  There’s a sweet old British lady who lives in the front house, and Sharon gets to live in a nice guest house with it’s own entrance and gated off areas for her dogs.  The property comes complete with large shared patio that has a nice covered garden and sitting area.

It’s a tiny commission for me, but I felt very proud today seeing at least some of the anxiety washed out Sharon’s face as she found a place to live that she will enjoy with her pets and a new built-in grandma.