Category Archives: Technology

Pondering The Transponder: Sell Your Soul, Pay The Toll

Following Frazgo’s November 9 post announcing the somewhat chagrin-filled arrival of toll lanes that have now turned a stretch of the 110 Freeway (and soon part of the 10 Freeway) into a Costway, I whatthehell’d it and decided to drink the koolaid and go get myself outfitted with one of the required tracking devices so my vehicular movements and non-movements could be monitored by 24/7 by the MTA and Caltrans, AAA via a combination of roadway implant receivers and suborbital satellites. Oops! Sorry!! My inherent schizoid-based distrust of any transmitters forced upon us by the government is showing. Let me zip that up. What I really meant to call the technology was “The completely harmless and entirely loveable Metro Expresslane FasTrak Transponder.”

Anyway, it’s not like I really need one. I’m rarely on the 110 and even rarer in its HOV lanes so my initial reaction was basically “fuck that bullshit” followed by about eight exclamation points.

Then my resolve weakened when the doomsday scenario occurred to me that there might come that anxiety-ridden day when I’m stuck southbound on the gridlocked Harbor coming through Exposition Park, 149 hopeless minutes away from a flight at LAX that’s leaving in 91 minutes. At that moment somewhere in a bunker deeeeeeeep under the city an MTA operative monitoring my biometric activity being sent via the chip embedded in the TAP card in my wallet smiled and told a failsafe colleague “We’ve almost got another one!”

Continue reading Pondering The Transponder: Sell Your Soul, Pay The Toll

In case you missed it, the Culver City “Grass Station” art installation!

It happened at night when no one was looking.  A gas station was turned into a “grass station”, an urban oasis of sorts.  It was part of CODA Automotive’s campaign to bring about awareness of their all electric car that is on sale now.  So far CODA has set up an “Experience Center” in the Century City Mall, as well as an indy dealer, Martin Coda of Los Angeles on West Olympic in L.A.  I have to give these guys credit for bringing something fun to a L.A. neighborhood and getting me to notice.

Hungry? I got a Food Truck App for that!

pay dragon logo
pay dragon logo

It launched this morning.  PayDragon is a free app for your iphone or android.  It hooks you up with a participating food truck or restaurant, lets you order and prepay cutting down the hassle of lines and worry if you have cash on hand.  Actually it does quite a bit of nifty stuff for you…

  • QR reader: scan codes with participating PayDragon merchants to instantly begin a transaction
  • A discover tab: locate nearby participating merchants
  • A game layer: earn points toward incentives from merchants
  • Exclusive deals: take merchants up on sales and food deals
  • Facebook integration: tell your friends about the great meal you just enjoyed
  • Receipts for transactions: keep track of purchase activity
  • Notifications: receive alerts when an order or item is ready to pick up

Participating vendors include the sweets chain Beard Papa and a number of LA-based food trucks such as The Bun Truck, CambalaCHE’s,Auntie’s Fry Bread, Chunk n Chip, The Grill Sergeant, The Wien, and Rounds Premium Burgers.

You can get your free download for your iphone HERE and your Android HERE.  I’ve been told by the good folks that other formats…Blackberry and Windows are being worked on.

Pasadena to host Clean Vehicle Rebate Program fair Saturday March 31st.

ford focus pair
Pair of Ford Focus at the Petersen Museum.

This promises to be an interesting event this coming Saturday on the steps of City Hall in Pasadena.  The folks at Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and the city of Pasadena are sponsoring the fair and it is free and open to everyone.

The EV Fair will feature a number of vehicles for test drives and on static display. As of now I have confirmed that a Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Toyota Prius Plug-In and CODA will be available for attendees to experience at the event. (Unfortunately Ford dealerships have not quite received the all-electric Focus so the dealers will not be participating. They are, however, working with Ford to provide a Focus EV for the event).   UPDATE 3/29 Ford will have a new Focus EV at the event.   They will also have a number of electric vehicle charging equipment providers at the event displaying products and providing information on home installation). Continue reading Pasadena to host Clean Vehicle Rebate Program fair Saturday March 31st.

National Plug-In Day Event in Santa Monica this Sunday

Chevy Volts
Pair of Chevy Volts at 2011 Alt Car Expo in Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a Ground Zero for hybrid, electric, and other alternative fuel vehicles in the U.S. It’s nearly impossible to open your eyes while there and not notice at least a Prius or two. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the flagship event for this Sunday‘s National Plug-In Day will be a gathering and parade of electric and plug-in vehicles in Santa Monica.

Continue reading National Plug-In Day Event in Santa Monica this Sunday

ICME: LA’s Got Smartphone Culture

Angry Bird Picture on a 170 Fwy Overpass
Pic by me. Embiggenates with a click.


Not long after I first moved out to LA, a friend who came to visit observed that smartphones are ubiquitous in LA. “As soon as the plane touched down, 90% of the people pulled out blackberries…”

That was, of course, before the first iPhone dropped, and LA’s phone culture has become even more entrenched since, and it’s also become far less rare for folks to have smartphones in small Midwest cities such as the one I hail from. The proliferation of the iPhone and Android, smartphones for the non-business user, eventually brought with it the popularity of new types of games (for non-gamers).

Some of those games – as is evident in the picture above – have been quite popular.

Live Visual Music Sensation this Friday!

Experience a live visual music sensation on Friday, April 22nd courtesy of The USC School of Cinematic Arts and Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative for FREE! Rhythms+Visions-Expanded+Live! is an exciting outdoor event with performances spanning animation, experimental documentary, social commentary and abstract visual music. UK audiovisual collective D-Fuse and Los Angeles artist Scott Pagano will perform live. Additionally, giant 3-D stereoscopic animations will be projected onto the building facade, interacting with the audience and the architecture. 3-D glasses will be provided.

Rhythms+Visions-Expanded+Live! is this Friday, April 22nd from 7:30-11pm at the USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex. Admission is Free. A lively panel discussion will follow the performances. Facebook event page here.


How Many Rads is LA REALLY Getting?

Radiation Alert! Want to get a heads up on the radiation fall-out hitting LA right this minute? Check this out!  It’s a live streaming radiation monitor set up in West LA so you can see what’s going on at any time of the day or night.

There’s even a chat set up, so you can get answers to all your burning questions.

These guys also get bonus points cuz the device glows in the dark!

BarCampLA is back!

After a 2 year hiatus BarCamp, the premier ad-hoc technology conference returns to LA Sunday April 30th through Sunday May 1st. The event will be held this year at Mt Washington Elementary at 3981 San Rafael Avenue. Tickets are $35 right now for the whole weekend and there are student and group discounts available.

If you’ve never been to one I have to say that BarCamps are more like a weekend at tech camp than a conference. Anyone can give a presentation (but make sure you’re there early to get the prime spot) and the topics can vary wildly but they’re almost always fun and insightful. I’ll definitely be there!

Get tickets early because it’s definitely going to get sold out fast. Not to mention you can skip the Procrastinator edition tickets which are an extra $20 if you just get them now. on the web
@BarCampLA on Twitter

We’ve Got Valentine’s Day Licked: Sex Shops and The Nordstrom Effect

It happens out here (most recently, at a Culver City sex shop near the home of a woman I was dating), it happened back East, it happens everywhere.  You walk into a sex shop, begin browsing, and, within two minutes, a young Goth staffer comes over and says, “I use this at home, and I really love it.”  Then she proceeds to give you a sexual symposium on the merits of German vs. Japanese (and I don’t mean cars), furry vs. metallic, water vs. oil, etc.  The problem is, we didn’t ask.

I call this The Nordstrom Effect.  It reminds me of those Nordstrom salespeople who, though typically not young nor Goth, are just as overly helpful as the sex shop girls.  In both cases, what starts out as accommodating quickly becomes annoying.

At Nordstrom, I think the salespeople do this because (1) commission is likely a big part of their compensation; and (2) they want to uphold Nordstrom’s well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service.  However, at the sex shops, I think it’s nerves.  Specifically, the salespeople and their managers figure that many customers in their stores are uncomfortable and in need of hand-holding.

And sometimes they are right.  I’m sure there are many people — perhaps women more than men, if this series is an indication — who feel shy about striding into sex shops and picking out personal items.  (Guys often have their own problems in other stores, such as when picking out lingerie for their women).

The cure for The Nordstrom Effect, and the shyness which may cause it, can be found online.  There are tons of Internet retailers out there, such as Adam and Eve , 123 Adult Store, and Sex Toy (links NSFW, obviously), where you can shop in the privacy of your own home.  Moreover, some of the Los Angeles area shops profiled in this series provide online shopping as well.  Many of the well-known sites will send your items in discrete packaging designed not to raise the red flags (or any other parts) of nosy neighbors and pervy postmen.  Coincidentally, I met one such retailer the other night, the woman who runs the Los Angeles-based (not to be confused with Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax for your surfboard, unless you are using “surfboard” as a euphemism), who sells her products primarily online.

Of course, it is a fun experience to grab your sweetheart or friends and check out a sex shop or three in the flesh, whether as a bona fide shopper or simply a tourist.  Our writers in this series have done just that, profiling some of the sex shops they like in the Los Angeles area.  However, if avoiding The Nordstrom Effect is a priority, then shopping online might be just what the Naughty Nurse ordered, on Valentine’s Day or any other day.

[Part of’s “We’ve Got Valentine’s Day Licked” series]

Police Tape Got You Down? Find Out What’s Up!

LAPD Bomb Squad by Clinton Steeds (2009)

I came home this evening to find a lot of police activity in my neighborhood and had to do a little detour. I realized that the happenings were pretty close to my street. In fact, one end of my street, about half a block from my house, was yellow taped off. I really wanted to find out what was going on, but wasn’t too keen on wandering over to the scene. I learned some basic information from a neighbor (suspicious package, homes evacuated), but I wanted to follow the progress.

Someone suggested I go to an online police scanner, which hadn’t occurred to me. I found what looks to be a pretty good resource. Radio’s Los Angeles County page has live communication feeds from a variety of police, fire, and EMS departments. I tuned in to the Los Angeles Police and Fire-San Fernando Valley Divisions broadcast and  learned fairly quickly that the situation was resolved and that the “resources” were being released. In a relatively short period of time, I heard all kinds of things from animal bites to suspects being apprehended. I know I’m not the only one who get frustrated when up-to-the-minute info is not readily available, even on Twitter. You might want to bookmark this one.

OK Go Video Release Party TONIGHT

OK Go performing at USC Conquest 11/21/09 Photo by Jodi

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet this week, you’ve probably seen the new, innovative video from local band OK Go. The group is well-known for its viral one-take creations, most notably “The Treadmill Video,” in which the guys did a fairly complicated routine on four treadmills for their song “Here It Goes Again.”

To promote their third studio album Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky, which is a fantastic, Prince-inspired record, OK Go has pushed the DIY music video to a new level. Teaming up with L.A.-based creative powerhouse, Synn Labs, the band’s ambitious concept involving a massive Rube Goldberg machine was brought to life.

The engineers were tasked with creating the device with the requirements “that it had to be interesting, not “overbuilt” or too technology-heavy, and easy to follow.  The machine also had to be built on a shoestring budget, synchronize with beats and lyrics in the music and end on time over a 3.5 minute song, play a part of the song, and be filmed in one shot.  To make things more challenging still, the space chosen was divided into two floors and the machine would use both.” The geniuses of Synn Labs spent a few months in a warehouse in Echo Park creating a physical manifestation of the band’s vision.

Click through for details on tonight’s video release party in L.A and more

How the Internet is Spoiling My Olympics

I suppose it was inevitable.  This past year, social networking shot through the roof, with everyone and her grandmother (literally) on Facebook.  That is in addition to the explosive popularity of Twitter, as well as websites pumping out up-to-the-minute news 24/7.  At the same time, the old media NBC television network decided to tape delay its Winter Olympics broadcast on the West Coast, apparently three hours behind the East Coast, even though the events are taking place in our time zone.  And finally, as do many others I’m sure, I multitask when watching television, laptop in front of me, news headlines and social networks (and Vancouver Metblogs) never more than a click away.  All of these phenomena have come crashing together this month like a perfect storm, threatening to spoil my Olympics.

The problem is, I keep learning the results from these Internet sources hours before seeing them for myself.  I learned of Hannah Kearney’s mogul skiing gold medal, Apolo Ohno’s record-tying silver medal in speed skating, and the generous figure skating judges doling out high scores to skaters who fell during their short program, all before seeing it on tv.  I tried appealing to my Twitter peeps who aren’t located on the West Coast not to post Olympics results, but they seem to need to do so, as if their reactions won’t count unless shared electronically and immediately.

I’m sure some of you are more computer-advanced than I, and can tell us how to get a great webcast of the Games on our computer in real time, even on our big-screen hdtv.  If so, I would love to hear the solutions.  I investigated this briefly, and did not find a satisfactory solution — for example, the online ads I saw were even more annoying than those on NBC.

I’m afraid the only solution I have found to watch the Winter Games unspoiled by spoilers is the most radical solution of staying off the Internet altogether.

3 Days Left in Chase’s Community Giving Facebook Campaign — 6 L.A. Orgs in the Running for $1M

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If you’ve been on Facebook in the last couple of months, then you might have been inundated with requests to vote in Chase’s Community Giving Facebook Campaign. With financial resources drying up for many organizations, this campaign has been a rare opportunity for non-profit orgs to come by cold, hard cash by simply leveraging their social media muscles. Out of more than a half million eligible organizations, the Top 100 vote getters in Round 1 have moved on to the final round of voting, which is happening now. Top 100 orgs are already the recepients of a $25,000 grant, but the top organization gets $1 million.

Six Los Angeles area organizations are in the running for the $1M: [links go to Facebook pages]

  • Center For The Pacific Asian Family Inc (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Hope For Paws (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Imaging Foundation (Malibu, CA)
  • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Inc (El Segundo, CA)
  • Tiziano Project (Calabasas, CA)
  • Trevor Project, Inc. (West Hollywood, CA)
  • In the spirit of full disclosure, I have been supporting the Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF) in this campaign, since I feel that their “big idea” has the greatest potential for immediate impact on those who are living in Los Angeles, right now. CPAF was founded to help address domestic violence and sexual assault in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Up to 60% of Asian and Pacific American women experience domestic or sexual abuse in their lifetime, and are the least likely to report the abuse. Since the economic downturn in 2008, domestic violence has been on the rise. With cutbacks in state funding, non-profits like CPAF are forced to turn away more callers trying to flee a violent home.
    Continue reading 3 Days Left in Chase’s Community Giving Facebook Campaign — 6 L.A. Orgs in the Running for $1M