Monday, April 21, 2014

OK, I feel old now.

I was thinking about writing about Liset Marquez's adventures at Coachella, so I was doing some background reading on Alexa's Wish. No, Alexa's Wish didn't play Coachella - they broke up years ago.

So I was surprised to find a 2010 YouTube video with an Alexa's Wish song. Then I read what uploader Ryan Smith said:

An old band my Dad used to be in.

I feel old now.

Incidentally, one former member of Alexa's Wish (Eggers???) subsequently joined Rebel Death Squad. And Ralph played in Gorilla Cookies and the Griffins, but I'm not sure what he's doing musically now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When the waitress complements the restaurant's technology (another Chili's Montclair Ziosk post)

Last week, I posted something in my Empoprise-NTN NTN Buzztime blog that had a local connection, so I figured that I'd go into more detail about it here.

The original post described a Thursday night visit to Chili's Montclair, on the southwest corner of Montclair Plaza. This particular restaurant is one of over 1,000 restaurants that has installed a Ziosk tablet on every table.

In case you haven't figured it out, the purpose of the Ziosk device is to provide more revenue to the Montclair Chili's. The device makes it really easy to order appetizers (high profit margin), and it makes it really easy to order desserts (really high profit margin). In fact, it even lets you play games on the device - if you pay 99 cents for the privilege.

However, we didn't really exercise the features of the Ziosk, for two reasons. One, some of the options weren't of much interest to us that evening - we skipped the dessert, we didn't want to play games, and since we paid for our meal in cash there was no reason to use the credit card reading feature (note that I didn't say the secure credit card reading feature).

The other reason that we didn't use the Ziosk all that much is because our waitress, Maggie, took care of our needs before we could program the Ziosk to do so. Order appetizers from the Ziosk? Maggie took our order quickly. Order free drink refills from the Ziosk? Maggie got my drink order just before I was ready to request a refill.

As an aside, it doesn't appear that this particular technology is geared toward labor displacement. Rather than doing away with the waiter/waitress, the Ziosk served as an electronic assistant to our waitress. When it was time for our bill, she just displayed it on the device - and as I noted, we could have used a card to pay our bill, and saved her the trouble of running back and forth to another machine.

Of course, a lot of restaurants are installing various electronic devices - I know that Coco's has gone back and forth with the tablets that it gives to its wait staff. Perhaps in a few years there will be a lot of buzz about a retro restaurant in which waitresses take orders with pen and paper.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Inland Empress on the secrets to a happy marriage

Remember Inland Empress? (Here's a previous mention in this very blog.) Well, she left her empire several years ago and is now...um, across the border in Arizona. Disguising her imperial character under the name Anne Boles Levy, she was recently quoted in a piece in Raising Arizona Kids entitled Voices from the Village: Domestic responsibilities. Alexandra Muller Arboleda introduces the article with the following:

Should you let your spouse do the laundry even if your favorite yoga pants might be ruined?

Sometimes the key to balancing domestic and childcare responsibilities is as much about giving up control over how you want things done as it is about equality. Perhaps balance falls somewhere in between holding on and letting go. Six local couples share what works for them.

Levy's portion begins as follows:

Ever since Henry Ford powered up the first assembly line, Americans have embraced the idea of dividing labor into bite-sized pieces. Sadly, anyone who lives in a house of any size—particularly one with children—quickly realizes the unlikelihood of keeping it functioning in any systematic way.

My husband and I have worked out a plan for keeping the house somewhat habitable. He does the dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, dusting, mopping and general repair. My job in all this is to apologize profusely.

Read the rest here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The EPA welcomes American Lifan to California

According to a press release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American Lifan Industry is a former Texas company that has relocated to California.

Now since most of the talk is of companies (and people) moving the other way - from California to Texas - one would expect that this company would come in for a bit of culture shock. I mean, going from a place where the government kills people for sport to a place where you can get life imprisonment for looking at a snail darter the wrong way can be a shock for a company. But in this case, the California state government didn't make life miserable for American Lifan - it was a Federal agency, the EPA, that did so.

WASHINGTON -- American Lifan Industry, Inc., an Ontario, California-based vehicle and engine importer, has agreed to ensure that future imports meet federal emission standards after illegally importing and selling nearly 28,000 highway motorcycles, recreational vehicles, and engines manufactured in China that did not comply with Clean Air Act standards to limit harmful pollution.

The company will pay $630,000 in civil penalties and will also post a $300,000-$500,000 bond to satisfy any future potential penalties related to importation of model year 2014, 2015, and 2016 vehicles manufactured by China Lifan Industry (Group) Co., Ltd or affiliated companies. This is the first time that the EPA has secured such a bond in a Clean Air Act settlement.

More here. H/T the Highland Community News.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Another view of the agricultural district

As time passes, the agricultural district between Ontario and Corona is slowly disappearing. But I recently read a different perspective on it. The story was written by Imranulhaq Khan, a devout Muslim, and concerns events that occurred before and after the death of his father.

One week before his father's death, they went on a drive.

Only a week ago I had taken my father on a drive to purchase birds from the Sunday market near the junction of Highway 15 and highway 60. I could see his eyes sinking. This particular sign was never taught to me as a doctor. Somehow I knew this was his last drive. So instead of the freeway I drove thought the farms and fields. My fathers eyes were fixed on farms and cows in pastures such a magnetic way that is hard to describe. I started to drive the car even slower unusual for me to drive slowly.

I encourage you to read the entire post, including the account of what happend when Imran and his uncle drove to a Riverside mortuary.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Yelp review of Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX

And yes, this review is relevant to the Inland Empire, as you will see. I only awarded two stars. The original review is at http://www.yelp.com/biz/tom-bradley-international-terminal-los-angeles?hrid=sonfvoo4TOhYN8zauq4w4A.

DISCLOSURE: I live near Ontario, California, and its airport that is also managed by LAWA, so read into that what you will. Ontario's Terminals 2 and 4 were designed before 9/11, and all of the restaurants and services were placed on the second floor...which meant that after 9/11 took place, they were all behind the security line. Therefore if you're dropping off or picking up someone at Ontario Airport, there is literally nothing to do.

Why is this relevant? Because I wouldn't think that someone would do this intentionally - but that's just what they've done at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The last time that I visited the terminal a few years ago, they were starting the renovation process. When I was there yesterday evening, the departure level renovations were nearly completed. Unfortunately, these renovations wiped out all of the restaurants that were on the departure level, so when we wanted to spend some time with our friend before her flight left, we ended up at a dinky place at the arrival leve, eating pre-packaged muffins and bagels.

Perhaps this is a security measure, designed to keep as many people away from LAX as possible and to only have actual passengers at the airport. But it's supremely disappointing. (And for what it's worth, it reinforces my resolve that my local airport should be removed from LAWA control.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Positive Train Control

Orange County and the Inland Empire share a regional train system, Metrolink. So although I initially learned about this from the Orange County Transportation Authority, it is equally applicable here in the Inland Empire.

Positive Train Control is an innovation that is being implemented on Metrolink trains, as detailed here.

Positive Train Control (PTC) is GPS-based safety technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursion into work zones and train movement through switches left in the wrong position*. PTC monitors and, if necessary, controls train movement in the event of human error. PTC may also bring trains to a safe stop in the event of a natural disaster.

The actual implementation is just beginning.

[I]n February 2014, Metrolink received authorization from the Federal Railroad Administration that it could begin operating PTC in Revenue Demonstration Service (RSD) under the authority of the BNSF Railway. On February 17, Metrolink ran the first successful RSD on the 91 Line, and on February 20, the PTC RSD was publically unveiled, with multiple VIPs and news media in attendance.

It is currently anticipated that Metrolink will conduct RSD on the San Bernardino Line in the fall of 2014, and that the entire system will be PTC operational by early to mid-2015, well before the current federal deadline of December 31, 2015.

Sadly, there is a reason why Metrolink has an incentive to implement this before the national deadline.

On Sept. 12, 2008, a Connex engineer operating a Metrolink train failed to stop at a red signal, causing a collision with a Union Pacific freight train. In this tragic incident, 25 lives were lost and another 135 people were injured. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein led Congress in adopting the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which mandated the installation of PTC by the end of 2015. The Metrolink Board of Directors committed to implementing PTC in advance of the federal deadline to ensure Southern Californians are among the first in the nation to benefit from this life-saving technology.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stay classy, Joe

When Gloria Negrete McLeod announced that she would not run for a second term in the U.S. Congress, Joe Baca - a fellow Democrat who was defeated by McLeod in a 2012 "top two" runoff - had some choice words.

Look at what we wound up with: Some bimbo who decided not to run again.

Baca subsequently apologized, but I wouldn't count on a speaking invitation to the 2016 Democratic National Convention if I were him.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekday gambling at San Manuel, with an assist from Metrolink

With the exception of every 7-Eleven in my area, there are no gambling destinations within walking distance of my home. If I want to lose money, I have to get in the car and drive for a while.

Well, actually I don't, as Metrolink notes.

Before I watched the video, I was a little leery of the whole thing. I've been to the San Bernardino Metrolink Station. And perhaps I'm in danger of sounding like Joe Biden here, but this is not a place that you want to hang around at for an extended period. Plus, I knew that only one Omnitrans bus serviced the station, and that only got you as far as downtown San Bernardino - meaning that you'd have to wait and transfer.

But when I watched the video, I discovered that during weekdays, San Manuel Casino provides shuttles five minutes after the scheduled arrivals of selected trains. Train 302 Arrives 9:30am

Shuttle Pick up 9:35am

Train 304 Arrives 10:35am

Shuttle Pick up 10:50am

The shuttles leave the casino at 1:30 and 3:30, allowing you to board the 2:00 and 4:00 trains from San Bernardino and head back to Union Station, or Upland, or whatever your destination is.

And it sure beats driving.


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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cybersecurity? Not here.

I got excited when I read a Homeland Security News Wire item that began as follows:

Cal Poly, with a grant from the Northrop Grumman Foundation, has established a Cybersecurity Center, opened a new cyber lab, and is developing a cybersecurity curriculum with an ambitious set of goals in mind: educating thousands of students in cybersecurity awareness and readiness; producing experts in cyber technologies and systems, including many professionals who will serve the military and defense industry; and graduating cyber innovators who are prepared for advanced study and applied research in emerging cyber issues.

Finally, I thought to myself, the Inland Empire (well, the surrounding area) is going to become known as an important tech location, and people will think of Pomona as a cybersecurity center.

So then I clicked through to the source press release...

...and discovered that it was issued by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

This is kinda like arranging for Clinton to speak at your event and then finding out that you didn't get Bill, or Hillary, but Roger.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Goes Around Comes Around, the January 2014 edition

Before I launch into my unintentional follow-up to my J.C. Penney store closure post, I want to make one thing clear.

The supermarket business was having trouble long before Walmart set foot in southern California.

Remember Lucky, Alpha Beta, Hughes, the original Safeways, and other long-departed supermarkets in southern California? Most of those chains no longer exist, having merged with other supermarket chains or having closed entirely.

But the attrition, partially caused by increased competition from stores as varied as Walmart and Trader Joe's (we'll get to Trader Joe's later), has resulted in a slow attrition of the remaining supermarkets in southern California.

Not too long ago, I had to get something at Ralph's. Since the Ralph's in Upland at Foothill and San Antonio closed long ago, I figured I'd go to the Ralph's at 4th and Vineyard - only to discover that there was no longer a Ralph's there. I ended up at Haven and Baseline.

When the Albertsons at Foothill and Mountain in Upland closed, it wasn't that big a concern to me. I rarely shop at Albertsons anyway, and when I do, I usually shop at the one in northwest Ontario.

Ah, Albertsons.

Back in 2008, Albertsons was part of SuperValu. In a March 2008 post, I quoted from a second-generation owner of a SuperValu. While he wasn't necessarily happy about the small markets that had closed when the SuperValu opened, he chalked it all up to business.

"I'm a small-town person at heart, and I hate to see that, but it's a matter of economics. The fact is you need volume to survive."

Little did he know.

By November 2013, when the Walmart opened, I noted that SuperValu had sold the Albertsons chain, and that some stores had been closed. Well, those store closures continued with the Foothill and Mountain closure.

And now, Gregory J. Wilcox of the Los Angeles Daily News has announced that the Albertsons in northwest Ontario - just down the street from Walmart - is closing next month, as part of a closure of 11 stores ranging from Santa Clarita to San Diego.

Of course, there's the Walmart down the street, Stater Brothers all over the place, and various specialty stores such as Trader Joe's...whoops, strike that. The Trader Joe's in Upland is closing also.

Change is constant.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Only one J C Penney store in California is being closed. Guess where it is?

As part of J.C. Penney's latest cost-cutting initiatives, the company has announced the closure of 33 stores. The Huffington Post has printed the list of stores, and one is in California:

Rancho Cucamonga - Arrow Plaza

This is the outlet store at Arrow and Haven, not the store at Victoria Gardens.

The location of that store has a checkered history. Before J.C. Penney moved in, this was a K Mart that was closed.

I'm not sure that I'd want to be the next retailer to move into that building...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes - steeped in tradition?

I still think of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes as a relatively new team, but as Paul Caputo notes, the team has not undergone the changes that happen at other minor league teams:

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes have had the same team name and, conceptually, the same logo since their inception in 1993. In minor league baseball terms, this puts the team’s identity roughly on par with prehistoric cave paintings and Betty White—attractive, but really old. In a logo landscape littered with increasingly bizarre (and, I have to admit, awesome) new nicknames, it’s refreshing to see a team that has stood by its identity and been embraced by the community.

For more of Caputo's thoughts on the Quakes, including quotations from Mike Lindskog and a disucussion of Tremor (but what about Aftershock?), read the rest of his post.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The distrustful woman at a crowded pharmacy

Because a prescription wasn't available at my regular pharmacy, I found myself at the pharmacy for the CVS at Euclid and Foothill in Upland. I've been to this CVS many times, but have never used its pharmacy. It turns out that a lot of people use that pharmacy - and that you therefore have to wait.

So I waited - not as long as various Yelp reviewers, but I did have to wait for a half hour.

While waiting, I was sitting near a man who was trying to pick up a prescription for his wife, who had recently been released from the hospital.

A few minutes later, the wife appeared. She was tired of waiting in the car, and wanted to leave.

Her husband told her that she had to get a prescription.

She asked how long it would take to get the prescription - as I previously noted, this appears to be a common question at this CVS pharmacy.

The husband told the wife to ask the (male) pharmacist - but the pharmacist was running around filling all of our prescriptions.

The wife turned to someone else who was waiting for a prescription. "Don't trust men," the wife told the person.

Personally, it's risky enough to say bad things to a waiter or a waitress, since a bad restaurant worker may choose to spit in your food. Imagine what a bad pharmacist could do. (Luckily, this pharmacist appears to be a good one, if an overworked one.)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

(empo-jooryst) Happy new year?

It occurred to me that I had not recently provided an update on the results of my jury alternate service, although I've briefly discussed it elsewhere.

When I last discussed the matter in August, the defendant was scheduled to be in court for sentencing on October 18.

Well, on October 18, sentencing was rescheduled to November 8.

On November 8, sentencing was rescheduled for next year, to January 24.

As I said elsewhere: "If all goes well, the defendant will be sentenced before he dies of old age."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Positive examples of fiduciary duty - Jeannette Ewing and Garner Powell

I recently posted something in my business blog about two real estate agents who are alleged to have violated their fiduciary duties. Note to aspiring real estate agents: if you are selling a home, you should not have sex with someone in the home that you are selling if the owners are not present. (Or, frankly, even if the owners ARE present.)

I began the post by talking about the real estate agents that I have known, all of whom have been thoroughly professional. I mentioned that I had personally worked with two real estate agents - and their example shows the fiduciary duty to which real estate agents should aspire.

Many years ago, I was buying a home, and Jeannette Ewing was my real estate agent. The seller's agent was Garner Powell. During the final weeks before the home closed, Ewing had to be out of town for a brief period. She told me that during that time, if there were any issues, I should feel free to go directly to Garner Powell with them.

Think about that for a moment. Technically, Ewing and Powell were on competing "sides" of a transaction. Yet, their duties dictated that they not only be able to represent their clients, but also the clients on the other "side."

In the best of...um, cases, this type of behavior should be seen in many industries. For example, if you are in court, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney have a mutual duty to uphold the law; for example, if a prosecutor finds out something that exonerates the defendant, it is the prosecutor's duty to reveal that.

In the end, no crises occurred during Ewing's absence, so I didn't need to call upon Powell.

I last saw Garner Powell in 2007, when he was one of the speakers at an Ontario City Council hearing on the proposed Walmart. Powell opposed the Walmart.

Sadly, in the course of writing this post, I learned that Powell did not live to see the final result of the Walmart battle. Powell passed away in 2010. Incidentally, that's when I learned that real estate was his second career - his 20 years in real estate were preceded by a 30 year career with the Continental Baking Company.

Jeannette Ewing, however, is still available to meet your residential real estate needs.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jeff Pope a/k/a .@JeffPopeRadio will be broadcasting from San Jose as part of #PopeAndMarla - but there is the Internet

You will recall that a few days ago, I noted that Jeff Pope was about to start a new radio job, location unknown.

Now, he has announced where that job will be.

Dear FRIENDS!! After being heard on IE radios for (counting my fingers) 24 years - including 99.1 KGGI, X103.9 and even Cal State San Bernardino - I have accepted a major opportunity to do mornings in SAN JOSE, the 10th biggest city in America! Thanks SO much for all the love and support, and I truly appreciated being part of your morning routine! But, mostly, thanks to Jesse Duran for taking a chance on me 13 years ago; and to Evelyn Erives Laudenslager for being an awesome radio wife for 11 of those years. And to my REAL wife Sarah Turnbull for being my biggest fan! (And don't worry REIGN/FURY fans - I will be flying in for most games. Gotta love 65-minute flights!) #Mix1065 #PopeAndMarla #KingsFanInSharksCountry www.mymix1065.com

The "Marla" in the hashtag is Marla Davies, current morning DJ at Mix 106.5. Pope will be stepping into a very emotional...um, mix. Marla Davies' former co-host, Bill Kelly, passed away last summer. But Pope certainly has the capability to navigate this situation.

And if you have doubts about Pope's ability to navigate tricky situations, bear in mind that in the more formal press announcement of Pope's hire, he managed to praise the sport of hockey without mentioning the names of any teams whatsoever (cough - Kings - cough).

And yes, http://www.mymix1065.com/ has a "Listen Live" button if you want to hear Dumbass of the Day in its Northern California glory. And the station is also available on TuneIn.

Friday, December 6, 2013

If this is "futuristic," then we in the Inland Empire live in the future

I previously read this:

Two small Northeast airports, Syracuse and Atlantic City, have installed futuristic unmanned portals to replace security officers at the airports’ exit points. The move, which will add a few seconds to the end of passengers’ trips as they exit the airports, is estimated to save airports millions of dollars in wages over time....

Travelers are directed to step into the cylinder pods and wait as the door slides shut. After a few seconds, a second door slides open with a voice instructing passengers to “Please exit.”

By the way, I've flown into the Atlantic City airport, but I don't recall going through such a portal; perhaps they hadn't been installed yet.

But I have been through such a portal...when visiting a bank here in the Inland Empire. I don't think the portal employed voice commands, but I do recall entering the portal, having the door close behind me, and then being able to go through the second door.

Such technology makes sense for banks, who always have to deal with the possibility of someone entering the bank, making an unauthorized withdrawal, and then departing. I would presume that any bank robber with smart would avoid a bank with such portals.

But I wouldn't call the portals "futuristic."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Good news - maybe - for Jeff Pope fans

I've been listening to Jeff Pope on and off since BEFORE he was on KGGI. (Those with long memories will recall that he used to do traffic for X103.9.)

Well, Pope lost his job at KGGI several months ago, and his fans have not been happy since (unless they attend a lot of minor league hockey games).

Fans, have heart. Pope just posted this comment on his Facebook page (as a comment to a post about his niece finding Pope in Google auto-complete):

Back on the radio in the New Year.

But will his new station be one that you can pick up in the IE?

Friday, November 15, 2013

No new news regarding the 2008 murder of Santiago Contreras

As I caught up on all of the McStay news this morning, I began wondering about another unsolved murder - one that I blogged about way back in 2008, when I wrote an "mrontario" blog devoted solely to the city of Ontario.

In that blog, I wrote a post on Monday, February 18 about one Santiago Contreras.

Santiago Contreras was kidnapped in front of his family Monday afternoon at 2:20 pm. The family itself had been held hostage for several hours, awaiting Contreras' arrival.

A few days later, his body was found, amid reports of drug trafficking involvement by a brother-in-law.

However, I have found no mention of Contreras since February 2008, and even the 2008 mentions at the San Bernardino Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin web pages no longer exist.

It turns out that over 30 percent of all murders go unsolved. Will the McStay murders also fall into that category?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

After dark door-to-door fundraising?

It happened again.

Well after dark, two people showed up at our door, selling something or another (in this case coupons) to promote something wonderful (in this case tuition for a four-year college).

I had never heard of the organization that they said that they represented.

I told them that I wasn't interested.

Now I have given to door-to-door people in the past. When Howard Snider (former mayor of Ontario) sold Kiwanis tickets, I bought them. When the kid that I knew from down the street stopped by, I bought from him. If I actually recognize the institution, and if the person is appropriately dressed to represent that institution (Snider always wore official Kiwanis insignia), I may give.

But otherwise, I don't. And with good reason, since the door-to-door fundraisers - especially the ones that show up after dark - are probably fake:

We've all experienced those door-to-door fundraisers. Elementary school kids sell candy, wrapping paper, or magazine subscriptions. Shadier, pushier teens and adults sell candy bars for $5 apiece to supposedly raise money for leadership training, summer camp, and what have you. Not surprisingly, these aren't always legitimate. While you shouldn't necessarily call the cops on your neighbor's 4th grader, exercise caution. If you're suspicious, it's probably for good reason.

As of May 2011 "students" going door-to-door are asking for money for music programs. An article in The Enterprise reports that UC Davis and Sacramento State are warning people that no university-affiliated music program is doing anything of the sort. Chances are the con artists will be happy to switch their story up, so just because they're not claiming to be collecting for a music program doesn't mean you should let your guard down.

And it's not just in Davis.