Digital conversion the David Allen way

At last, ABC-7′s piece on the digital TV conversion aired May 14, with contributions from your technoklutzy blogger (“a writer for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin”).

Did you catch the piece? A few of you have told me you did. I was on vacation and missed my moment of digital glory, alas, but the video is viewable on the KABC website at this link.

Ironically, given the story’s focus on my ability to watch “Lost,” vacation also meant missing the “Lost” season finale. A friend promised to TiVo it for me.

Anyhow, reporter Ric Romero did a nice job, and I was relieved to see that I don’t come off as a complete dope. I think the camera added 10 pounds, though. Or maybe my Restaurant of the Week feature is to blame.

(You can read more about the interview in my April 1 column.)

Even if the piece is of no practical use to you, you may enjoy listening to me murmur and glimpsing a portion of my living room. For you home decor critics, I do have a coffee table, but to simplify the shot we moved it out of the way.

A second piece on how to hook up your TV is viewable by clicking here and features me in an uncredited cameo as I fiddle with my antenna.

All of this begs the question: If I’m the sort of trash they’re putting on TV, why convert?

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Restaurant of the Week: Burger Bar

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CLOSED

This week’s restaurant: Burger Bar, 425 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Indian Hill), Claremont

Burger Bar opened recently in the same Old School House building that houses Trader Joe’s and Robeks Juice and the reviews have been mixed. Yelpers give it two stars and the Claremont Insider was even less kind (so what else is new?). The Claremont Courier was more upbeat, as was my colleague Elaine Lehman.

I gave Burger Bar a shot myself recently despite misgivings. Well, I was going to Trader Joe’s anyway.

A single-location place (which explains the slightly cheesy sign), Burger Bar is clean and cheerfully yellow. Your initial reaction may depend on your tolerance for the concept: You pick up an order form and choose the size of your burger, the bun, the spread, the cheese and two condiments, among them grilled peppers, sauteed forest mushroom blend and tossed house spring mix. This may be more “have it your way” than you really want.

A champion waffler who was suddenly confronted with multiple decisions, I eventually got the quarter-pound patty on wheat with pesto mayo, bleu cheese, sauteed onions and the mushroom blend, with sweet potato fries rather than french and a soda ($7.90 as a combo). The tray was delivered to my table.

The toppings proved a good choice, and I can’t say the sandwich was bad. But midway through, sensing the weak link in it all, I lifted the bun to take a squint at the burger. It was a wan, puck-like thing.

It seems as though management focused on the gourmet-ish toppings and forgot the basics. Imagine a grand mansion constructed on a foundation of straw.

The sweet potato fries were a delicious novelty, by the way. But when I’m at home in Claremont, I’m afraid I’m going to continue heading west to La Verne’s The Habit when I want a decent burger. Unless I’m going to Trader Joe’s.

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Reading log: April 2009

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Books bought this month: “The Jagged Orbit,” John Brunner; “Bob Dylan, the Essential Interviews,” Jonathan Cott; “Orange County,” Gustavo Arellano; “Between You and I; A Little Book of Bad English,” James Cochrane; “Vanishing America,” Michael Eastman.

Books read this month: “Green Shadows, White Whale,” Ray Bradbury; “Greener Than You Think,” Ward Moore; “Three to the Highest Power,” ed. William F. Nolan; “The Time Machine,” H.G. Wells; “Lost on Venus,” Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Someday I’ll actually read a book the same month I buy it, but this wasn’t the month. (One of these April purchases I’ve already read in May, at least.)

Two of the above are part of my Bradbury diet for 2009. “Green Shadows” is a fictionalized memoir of the months circa 1952 that Bradbury spent in Ireland with John Huston writing the screenplay for “Moby Dick.” He incorporates his many Ireland short stories of the past into the narrative. It’s a sentimental view of beggars and the pub crowd, enjoyable but a bit lightweight.

“Three” collects three SF novellas, by Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon and Chad Oliver, who was previously unknown to me. Each piece was entertaining.

“Greener Than You Think” is a comic SF novel about Bermuda grass that overruns first L.A. and then the world, and yet it scores points along the way on race relations and gender equality (it was published in 1947 and thus ahead of its time). The newspaper editor character is a comic gem with his rapier putdowns of the clueless narrator. More about this book in Friday’s column.

As with a lot of older SF, little care was taken in the presentation; the typesetting is atrocious, with several missing apostrophes on virtually every page, making for an odd read. But the book can be found frequently in used bookstores and is worth tracking down for devotees of L.A. disaster fiction.

“Lost on Venus” is the second in Burroughs’ Venus series. The book moves at a rapid clip and was a fun read.

As for “The Time Machine,” that was the clear winner this month. Wells, I was surprised to learn, invented the concept of a time machine. I guess someone had to. This was his first book and, despite its slim length (my copy is 126 pages), it has a lot to say about class divisions and the possible fate of humanity as our hero journeys 800,000 years, and more, into the future.

An especially sobering passage: “… all the activity, all the traditions, the complex organizations, the nations, languages, literatures, aspirations, even the mere memory of Man as I knew him, had been swept out of existence.”

I read the entire book on a day-trip to L.A., blogged about previously.

I learned from Wikipedia that there’s a “lost” chapter of “The Time Machine” cut before publication, presumably because it was too shocking. You can read it here.

After three months of reading four books per month, my reading pace picked up slightly in April to five. With 17 completed in one-third of the year, I remain on track for 50.

Comments on any of these books or authors, or your own reading, are always welcome.

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Eader’s Bakery, Ontario

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In today’s column, Ontario Councilman Jim Bowman mentions having worked as a dishwasher at Eader’s Bakery while at Chaffey High in the 1960s. Kelly Zackmann of the Ontario Library’s history room turned up this image from the 1967 Ontario phone directory. Eader’s was near Wag’s, later Molly’s, a soda fountain and diner.

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NYC bound

After two days in St. Louis with the folks, we’re headed out today for a joint vacation in New York City — where, believe it or not, your columnist/blogger has never been.

I’m a small-town boy (my hometown had 9,000 residents) and have to admit that NYC has always intimidated me. But I’m very excited about the trip.

As usual, I don’t know if I’ll have Internet access, so if you leave comments, be patient as I may not be able to post them for hours/days.

Keep checking back — I have three posts written in advance that will pop up this week. For you book lovers, there’s my April Reading Log; for you food lovers, there’s my Restaurant of the Week. And for nostalgia buffs, there’s a minor treat on Wednesday that ties into my column that day.

Yes, rather miraculously, fresh columns will appear Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Somehow I found the extra hours the past couple of weeks to cobble ‘em together. Now I really do need that vacation.

Until my return: Stay classy, Inland Valley.

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‘Star Trek’ street names

Release of the “Star Trek” movie reminds me that several of our cities have names taken from Trek spacecraft, either from the original TV series or the spinoffs.

Rancho Cucamonga has an Enterprise Street, Upland has Enterprise and Excelsior drives — are those faster than warp drive? — and Pomona has an Enterprise Place and a Voyager Street. Yes, it’s possible the Rancho street is simply named for the idea of enterprise, but the Upland and Pomona names are clearly from the series.

I guess any source for street names is acceptable in a (Vulcan nerve) pinch.

(Belated thanks to reader Derek Deason for informing me of the Pomona names quite some time ago.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Aladdin Jr. 2

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CLOSED

This week’s restaurant: Aladdin Jr. 2, 296 W. 2nd St. (at Main), Pomona.

Aladdin Jr., a popular Middle Eastern restaurant on Pomona’s Garey Avenue just south of Foothill, recently opened a second location in downtown Pomona, taking over a vacant space last occupied by Lela’s, of “Kitchen Nightmares” infamy. (The Aladdin owner also has Casablanca in Claremont, a slightly more upscale restaurant.)

Aladdin Jr. 2, as it’s dubbed, is still ramping up, but it’s been drawing a decent lunch and dinner trade since opening in March. The corner location is striking, with a patio, rollup doors that expose the 2nd Street side, brick walls inside and paintings by local artists. Contrast with the slightly kitsch Garey location, in which servers wear vests and fezzes and an imitation-Disney Aladdin mural decorates the walls.

I had dinner at Aladdin 2 with friends before the Smogdance Film Festival at the Fox a couple of blocks away. We all had chicken shawarma and all were impressed.

As a sandwich, you get a generously-sized portion that comes in pita bread wrapped in paper to hold in the juices. I had it a la carte ($5.99), one friend got it with some tasty round fries (price unknown), and the other had the shawarma as an entree with salad and hummos ($9.99).

On Monday i returned to try the lunch buffet ($9.99). The two steam tables were piping hot. I tried at least a smidge of the following: shrimp stew, chicken and kafta kabobs, lamb shanks with rice, kebbey, Mediterranean salad, tabbouleh and hummos. Items change daily. A complimentary baklava was dessert.

Not gourmet, but all in all, pretty good food for a pretty good price.

The location is perfect for Second Saturday art walk nights, Fox shows and jury duty. The menu is evolving; unsure of their market, management put four pastas plus pastrami and turkey sandwiches on the menu, but to Pomona’s credit, few people are so timid as to order them. Unlike big brother Aladdin Jr., the sequel has beer and wine.

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Hanawalt House back in La Verne

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Hanawalt House, pre-renovation

La Verne’s Hanawalt House has been restored and was unveiled to the public on Wednesday. I couldn’t make it out to the wilds of La Verne for the 3 p.m. ceremony, but here’s some history courtesy of the University of La Verne, which owns the building.

The house, at 2058 2nd St., was built in 1908 for W.C. Hanawalt, the fifth president of what was then Lordsburg College. The house features Queen Anne and Eastlake architectural attributes and its foundation was made of concrete blocks — a rarity for private residences in those days, apparently — by Hanawalt’s half-brothers.

(They later assisted in building La Verne’s iconic Church of the Brethren.)

In 1973, Hanawalt’s second wife, Pearl, sold the house, which is on the campus grounds, to the university, which used it as offices. A 2004 fire caused major damage — oh no! — but an extensive renovation put it back into service, retaining its historic character while allowing modern uses.

The downstairs now features two meeting facilities — the Palmera and Lordsburg rooms — and a smaller receiving salon, Pearl’s Parlor. The upstairs is home to the university’s Alumni Relations and Special Events offices. The surrounding grounds have also been replanted and upgraded.

Participants in Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting were to include University of La Verne President Steve Morgan, Mayor Don Kendrick, Historical Society President Galen Beery and Hanawalt family representative J. Clair Hanawalt.

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Casa Flores

I’m sorry to note the passing of Casa Flores, a florist and nursery on Yale Avenue in the Claremont Village, across from Rhino Records.

Casa Flores closed sometime in April after many years in business. It was there when I moved to Claremont in 1999 and seemed like a fixture.

I suppose I dropped the ball on this one, but you know how it is — there’s more material out there than I have time to pursue. Actually, you’d think this is what the Claremont Courier is for, but they never wrote about its closing either.

Update: All I can find about Casa Flores online is that it was “family owned and operated since 1932.” Wow! Now it’s yet another of the useful Village shops of the past that’s gone, probably to be replaced by a salon or an organic dog biscuit store.

Anyone have any experiences with Casa Flores or information about the owners?

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