Thursday, April 22, 2010

Big Sister is watching us

If you think our city's financial problems are of little interest outside city borders, consider the recent question posed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She happened to be in town last week, meeting with civic leaders to talk about... civic leader stuff. (If you come to this blog for journalism, sorry to disappoint you.)

To me, the most noteworthy thing came during a roundtable discussion with our city's First Deputy Mayor, Austin Beutner. Beutner had just been appointed interim head of our beleaguered Department of Water and Power, because the last interim leader couldn't stop the beleaguering. At one point in the discussion, without any apparent prompting, Merkel asked Beutner what the deal was with the DWP's financial problems, and their effect on the city's deficit.

The Chancellor of Germany is asking about our DWP?? Then I remembered: Berlin is L.A.'s sister city.

So is this a matter of family just looking out for us? Or are our problems so enormous that they're drawing international attention?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And guess where the dude was going?

This afternoon, I pulled into the parking lot of the nearby post office. I drove there instead of walking because I was on my way somewhere else. Otherwise, I would have walked.

I wish I had walked. The lot was jammed. On a TUESDAY afternoon! All I could find were two economy spots next to each other. Now, the douchebag in me would have just straddled the line and taken up two spots, ensuring a nice, wide parking spot. But we see people do that in L.A. all the time and we judge them as douchebags. Some other variations of douchebags have been known to walk up to such cars and deliberately key the paint.

I decided I wanted no part of such douchebaggery. So, being the complete idiot that I am, instead of leaving the lot and parking down the block, I squeezed my nice, undamaged car into one economy space, thoughtfully leaving enough room for some other complete idiot to squeeze his nice, undamaged car into the economy space next to me. Sure enough, a complete idiot came by as I was getting out. He was having a bit of trouble getting his car in. I even volunteered to re-park my car over a few inches just so he could fit better. Keep in mind this is all so I can run into the post office for something that should only take seconds.

The guy noticed another spot open up and he parked there instead. I ran in, did my seconds-long errand, then came out just in time to see complete idiot #3 show up, squeezing his not-so-nice, dinged-up old piece of crap into the empty spot next to mine. He pulled all the way in, then decided he needed to straighten out, so he put 'er in reverse and pulled out -- smashing his side-view mirror into mine.

My mirror, as it turned out, ended up only scratched. His, on the other hand, was shattered. I got in my car, but had a spot of trouble getting out, as half of The San Fernando Valley had just entered the parking lot at once, trapping idiot #3 among a murder of cars. He decided to get out of everyone's way by re-parking his car next to mine, allowing everyone else to pass. I reversed out of the spot at about one inch per hour and pulled over to a "no parking" area, then walked up to him.

"Look, my mirror only has a scratch, so I'm gonna let it go."

"Okay." He was slow getting out of his car. He bore the shamed demeanor of a guy who'd just gotten into a car accident by way of his own poor judgment and knew it.

"You okay?" I asked.

"Yeah. Are you?"

He'd been going about one mile per hour and I was fifty feet away when it happened. Yes, I think I could forgo the ER visit on this one.

(Later, I discovered the power mirror that was hit now makes a funny noise when I move it. Lesson learned: park down the street and walk.)

As I left, I watched the guy walk from his car just to see where he was going. In fact, why don't you see if you can guess. Based on the above story, idiot #3 walked into:

(a) the post office
(b) the dry cleaners
(c) the pizza joint
(d) the banquet hall
(e) the marijuana dispensary

I hate to be judgmental -- and I TOTALLY think it should be legalized -- but if you guessed (e)....

Formula for predicting rain in L.A.

Today, there is a 60% chance of rain in Los Angeles, which is wrong. I haven't backtested a full statistical analysis of this, but the correct way to predict rain in L.A. is as follows:

% predicted by weather reporters - 30 = true % chance of rainfall.

The elegant thing about this formula is that it transcends all human media factors. No matter which local TV personality you watch or which radio station you listen to, they all predict the same thing. So you don't have to amend the formula if you watch, say, Fritz Coleman over Jackie Johnson. (I feel it is important to note here that Jackie Johnson is hotter than Fritz Coleman.)

Therefore, to take today as an example, there is actually only a 30% chance of rain (60% predicted - 30 = 30% chance). So if you want to make money off some local news junkie friend of yours by placing an even-up bet on the rain, today is your chance. No guarantees, but the odds are in your favor.

Applying the formula elsewhere, we know that most summer days in L.A. feature a 0% chance of rain. This, of course, means that there is actually a negative-30% chance of rain.

Looking at things the other way, when forecasters tell you that there is a 100% chance of rain, they are risking their reputations. Even on such days, there is actually only a 70% chance of rain. The ONLY time there is ever a 100% chance of rain in Los Angeles is when weatherpeeps predict a 130% chance of rain.

I have yet to work out a complementary formula for snowfall predictions in L.A., but I imagine it involves a lot of zeroes.

L.A.-themed movies & books?

Lately on L.A. Times Jacket Copy, they've been interviewing authors for the upcoming festival of books at UCLA.

I am not one of those authors.

However, a recurring question posed to the authors is this: Do you have a favorite book or movie about Los Angeles?

Book: "The Day of the Locust" is the first thing that comes to mind. Also D.J. Waldie's "Holy Land."

Movie: "Short Cuts." And the L.A. sequence in "Annie Hall" rivals any L.A. movie.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's as if I Never Left

I stopped writing this blog nearly five years ago shortly after I began. The keen editors at proposed that it would make a good column. They were right. The column begat a book, which has inspired me to go back to writing a blog. Now I know how Mel Brooks must have felt with The Producers (which, incidentally, is going to be a manga comic book later this year).

I somehow dug up my old username and password to find this blog and much to my surprise, got it working again, just like future generations will be able to restart old Priuses just by finding their granddad's start-button-adjacent keys to them.

I have high hopes for this blog, too. I've already activated transliteration into Hindi.