Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dental Bullshit

I finally got around to going to the dentist, for the first time in almost two years. I got a recommendation for a guy whose office is in Burbank, within walking distance from my work. I crossed my fingers that I wouldn't have to have a root canal or anything gross and painful.

It turns out that this dentist is a one-man shop. And by one man, I mean he's the dentist, hygienist and x-ray dude rolled into one. Other than the receptionist (who happens to be his wife), it's all him. This seemed sorta charming, Mayberry-esque at first, but I've learned that this basically means that what typically gets done in one visit gets spread over several visits.

I've been to him twice now. The first time he took some x-rays and asked me to come back so that he could show me the results and do a cleaning. Okay, fine. Today was my second visit and lo and behold we hardly got anything done. He went over my x-rays and said I needed to have an oral surgeon tell me if I needed my wisdom teeth out. He also told me that a couple old fillings needed to be replaced. Okay, fine. But did he start cleaning my teeth, uh, NO.

Then he went about going between my teeth and assigning numbers to them (anywhere between 2 and 6), which, as he later explained, indicated how far down he had to push before he hit the bone. WTF? Has anyone had this done? Apparently, my gums might be receding (6 is not good) and he might have to do a deep cleaning, which would require novacaine. He asked me if anyone had ever done this numbers thing with me before (I said no) and he said, well, it's very important because you really got to clean that out otherwise you start losing your teeth. Huh? This is news to me. Have all my other dentists been crap or is this new guy crap? I'm thinking the latter.

So I'm pissed. First and foremost I'm pissed because I have better things to do than visit this guy every week for the next four weeks. Apparently, the two filings he wants to replace are on both sides of my face and he said he would need two visits since he can't novacaine up both sides in one visit (huh?). Then another visit for the regular cleaning. And God knows, perhaps even another if a deep cleaning with novacaine is necessary.

Tell me this is bullshit. I mean, is he trying to make money through repeated visits? I really don't like this guy. I don't even know if he's good or bad because he hasn't actually done anything, but I still don't like him. I'm taking a stand and now in the market (again) for a dentist.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I'll Admit It, I Like Dancing with the Stars

I'm totally into it. I started watching midway through last season, and have been going strong ever since. Last night Mr. Octopus and I (yes, he likes it too) spent a good half hour putting together our dream Dancing with the Stars cast. We knew we had to hit the right demographics-- old and young; black, white, brown and yellow; sports, TV, movie and music celebs-- and choose people whose careers are stalled or on the downhill. This is what we came up with:

Charles Barkley
Pedro Martinez
Anna Kournikova
Michelle Kwan
Macauley Culkin
Bon Jovi
Ice Cube Jean-Claude Van Damme
Sherilyn Fenn
Maggie Grace (Shannon from Lost)
Michelle Rodriguez
Gayle King
Tom Selleck

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Corn is Everywhere

I'm about 1/3 of the way through Michael Pollan's The Ominivore's Dilemma. Pollan is a journalism professor at Cal and writes on food and the food industry.

You may have seen his cover article Unhappy Meals in the NYT magazine a couple months ago in which he argued that America's obsession with nutrition and convenience foods has made us fatter and more unhealthy, and that we should return to eating traditional food-- fruits, veggies, meats. No more vitamin water, power bars or other highly processed foods that are fortified with vitamins and nutrients. In short, he advocates for eating stuff our great, great grandparents would recognize.

I liked the article, so Mr. Octopus picked up The Ominivore's Dilemma for me. I've been reading it most nights before I go to bed. The first part of the book focuses on corn. Apparently corn is in everything. This I did not know. Here's what I learned (and can remember offhand).

Prior to WWII, farmers used to grow corn the way they grew everything else-- they would rotate it with other crops so as not to deplete the soil. So we had corn, but not tons of it. After WWII, we had a surplus of ammonium nitrate from munitions and had to find something to do with it. Scientists found a way to use ammonium nitrate/nitrogen to make chemical fertilizer and the industrialization of corn was born. As a result, farmers were able to grow corn year after year without ruining the soil. Suddenly we had more corn than we knew what to do with.

Today corn is in coke, ketchup, mustard, cereal and a gazillion other things-- thanks to high fructose corn syrup. It's in those strange ingredients on food labels-- fructose, dextrose, sucrose, xanthan gum. It's even used in the beef we eat. Cows have evolved to eat grass, but because corn is more plentiful we've started forcing it on cows, which in turn means we have to give cows antibiotics to process the corn. It just ain't natural.

According to Pollan, this surplus of corn has led to an overall increase in the amount of food available. And because corn is so cheap, consumers are able to get much more food for not much more money (this is why the supersize at McD's isn't much more expensive than regular). So we're taking in more calories without getting much more nutritional value. The result: a lot of overweight and obese people.

So that's corn, according to Michael Pollan. The second part of the book is about organic food, which (as far as I've read) is also a huge industry not without its faults. Supposedly he rips on Whole Foods. I'm curious about that.

Sidenote: Recently the CEO of Whole Foods came to Cal to speak with Pollan and defend his company's practices. I'm sure it was a lively discussion. It must be on the web somewhere. For a short article by Pollan, click here.

Eagle Rock in the NYT

I wasn't expecting to come across an article about Eagle Rock in the Real Estate section of the Sunday NYT, but there it was. The article profiled three communities in Northeast LA-- Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Mt. Washington-- and how, with their relatively affordable homes, proximity to downtown, large lots and (for some lucky ducks) sweeping views to the ocean, they have become popular with home buyers. No surprise to us here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Your Friday Afternoon Video #2: Knut the Baby Polar Bear

Nevermind that it's not Friday, I couldn't wait. Here's Knut, the polar bear at the Berlin Zoo. Knut's mother rejected him (sniff) and he has been hand raised by zoo staff ever since. Click here for more on baby Knut and the controversy surrounding him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sunday, March 18, 2007

March Movie Madness

Well, maybe not madness. The only movie I've seen in the theater this month is Zodiac. It was good-- not great-- but good. The best thing about it was Mark Ruffalo, of course-- he's the bestest! Is there any girl who doesn't love Mark Ruffalo? So sweet and cute and sensitive and vulnerable. Let me count the ways.

Then I saw Stranger Than Fiction on DVD. Thumbs up. Will Ferrell wasn't as dopey as he usually is, but in a good way. I saw him in Hollywood a couple months ago. Sporting a big ass fro and a lime green track suit. Very Kermit the Frog.

Last, but definitely not least, is The Bourne Identity. Never a big fan of Matt Damon, I passed when it was in the theater. Good friends of ours heartily recommended it, so we thought to give it a try. Perhaps in part because of low expectations, I thought it was really good. Totally engrossing. Matt Damon was even, kinda, attractive. In that guy next door, regular joe schmo way (supposedly he and Ben Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting while living in Eagle Rock, so maybe the guy-next-door thing isn't so far off). Netflix sent me The Bourne Supremacy, so I might watch that tonight.

Tomorrow's Monday, unfortunately. Maybe the movie can help me forget that.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Azalea Heaven

Went to Nuccio's Nursery in Altadena today. Six beautiful acres of camellias and azaleas, set at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains. The nursery is tucked away in a residential area and most of their business is mail order. Prices are reasonable and staff is knowledgable and helpful. We picked up pink, white and pink/white azaleas.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Your Friday Afternoon Video #1: Milli Vanilli

Girl you know it's true
(grr grr, grr girrrrl)
Ooh ooh ooh, I love you-oo.

The dancing, the shoulder pads. Bet you can't keep a straight face.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Trying My Hand at Gardening

Man, was it hot today. We hit 90+ degrees here in Eagle Rock. I didn't mind it so much since it's dry heat (this is the desert, after all), but sheesh, was it hot.

This weekend was a hugemongo milestone for me. Yesterday I went to the Armstrong nursery in Glendale and bought two camellias (one red, one pink) and one vertical growing Japanese shrub. I also bought some special camellia soil. Why camellias? We have one in the back yard that's thriving without any help from us, so I thought the safest thing would be to plant a couple more out front. My gardening confidence is fairly low, so I need to start with something easy, with a decent probability of success.

Shopping for plants is fun. So today I dragged Mr. Octopus to Burkard's, which is a family-owned nursery in Pasadena. Burkard's has a lot of stuff that Armstrong doesn't (fruit trees, in particular), but it's also more expensive. We stocked up on shrubs: a rosemary bush, two blue salvias and two lavender bushes. All drought-resistant and easy to grow.

We got home at 4pm and it was still friggin hot. I waited an hour or two before I started doing anything. First order of business: weeding. Awww man, weeding is no joke. It's so much more than just pulling and yanking. It's squatting, digging, pulling, yanking, shaking, more yanking and more shaking. And, of course, you gotta be careful not to get dirt in your eyes. Weeding is work. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar.

After a full hour of weeding-- and mind you, I was only weeding a 10' by 2' area-- I drafted Mr. Octopus to help me dig some holes. He was a willing party, so I was happy about that. So we laid out where we would put the stuff and he dug the holes. Then we filled the holes up with soil and mulch (secret: you can buy mulch-- it's like nutritious dirt or something, no biggie), dropped in our little plants and drenched it in water. Voila! We gardened!

A few thoughts about the experience:

1. I kinda like it. It's gratifying -- in the way that only manual labor can be.

2. It's a good way to see the neighbors, without having conversations with them. A quick 'Hi, How ya doing?' and you feel like part of the community.

3. I can see how this can get all-consuming. The mere act of weeding can ignite the O.C.D. in you. I can totally see myself looking at my 10' by 2' gardening experiment every day, zooming in on whether those damn weeds are coming back and plucking them before they take over.

4. There's all sorts of stuff you need to buy in order to garden. There's the plants, of course. But there's stuff besides that. I have a shovel (well, shovels actually) and gloves, but I quickly realized that I also need shoes/clogs/crocs, a mat for all that kneeling and gardening clothes (crappy old stuff that you would throw out if you weren't planning on gardening).

5. Lastly, but most importantly, I really hope these things grow. I picked no-brainer plants, so I will be really discouraged if they die.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Landscaping, the Great Unknown

Sitting on the couch, listening to Hall & Oates, looking out onto my front yard. It's beautiful and sunny outside. Must be 85 degrees or something.

We've done a lot of work on the house in the 10 months we've lived here. The floors, the paint, the A/C. The next big thing to tackle is the yard. I'm almost too afraid to think about it.

The backyard needs a complete overhaul. It's huge and flat, which is good, but it needs some real landscaping, maybe even professional landscaping. Planting a few trees here and there won't do; we need to redesign the whole thing.

The front yard is more managable and I'm thinking of taking a crack at it myself. Maybe some camellias and peach blossoms. Nothing requiring much water or maintenance. There's an Armstrong nursery in Glendale. I should just go there. I need to stop thinking about mulching and pruning and other things I don't understand, and just buy a plant, stick it in the ground and hope for the best. It's springtime. Time for new things.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Overlooked Organ

Don't forget about your kidneys. It's World Kidney Day.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Hey, That's My Face You're Talking About

I went for a facial today. My first since moving to LA. It was long overdue. I'd been asking friends for recommendations and every place they mentioned was on the west side. So I finally hauled my butt to West Hollywood for an hour and a half of non-relaxation.

I was prepared for stinging masks and painful extractions, but I wasn't expecting my facialist to say that I had ... acne. Say what? Now, I don't know what the clinical, official definition of acne is, but I think it means really seriously bad skin. Hormones are raging and I just got braces, bad skin. You can imagine the outrage I felt while she was studying my pores under that blindingly bright magnifying glass.

Then I thought that English must be her second or third language and she really didn't mean it. She really meant blemished. I could live with that, so I forgave her. Then she said she thought I was 25. So then I almost started to like her. This really isn't so bad. I'll probably be back.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Who Are These People?

Just read that Hollywood is doing an English-language remake of The Lives of Others. Why? Why? Anyone who has seen this movie must be aghast (except for the Weinsteins, apparently). They really know how to ruin a good thing.

Also as infuriating is that ABC has signed on for three more years of Lost. I can't hold out until 2010. Kill me now.