Friday, May 18, 2007

So Few Places to Land My Private 747

This story almost reads like a parody.

A visit to Thailand by Bill Gates has inspired the construction of a man-made island off the resort of Phuket, so the world's richest man and other billionaires can moor their huge yachts. Hoping to build an Asian playground for the rich and famous to rival the French Riviera and the Caribbean, cordless telephone tycoon Gulu Lalvani plans to build a doughnut-shaped island of 30 to 40 luxury villas and a hotel around a marina.

"Bill Gates was there last month with his wife on a 54 metre (177 foot) yacht and he loved it so much," Lalvani, founder of phone maker Binatone told Reuters in an interview.

"We sat on the beach together and he said it was one of the best holidays he'd had, and he would come back every year if only he had somewhere for his mega yacht."

My Latest Column Is Up at

The moment you've been waiting for is finally here!

The latest edition of Kenversations(TM) was posted today at
In this column, I advocate closing and tearing down the Disneyland Resort! Well, kinda sorta. I also offer an alternative plan for making the Disneyland Resort, and thus the Anaheim Resort and Anaheim in general an even better worldwide draw, while appeasing some Anaheim residents and politicians.

Check it out NOW!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

I was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News. While I'm not appearing the media as often as I used to, I'm appearing in a wider coverage area overall. This one, by Julie Sevrens Lyons, is weather related again. She did a lot of legwork on this one, coming down to Los Angeles County and meeting up with a lot of the different people on location.

While the Bay Area is experiencing an abnormally dry year, with many agencies calling for water conservation and restrictions, Los Angeles and many parts of Southern California are suffering through their driest year since record-keeping began in 1872. And beyond the dramatic proof of the danger of fire, more subtle signs of drought are everywhere.

It was nice to see Adam Walden from DPW quoted (and in a picture). I worked with Adam and I've met his mother when she came over for dinner at my father & his wife's place through some relation to Kathleen. Turns out it is a small world after all.

The rainy season isn't over yet, but "unless we get some kind of storms on the caliber of biblical in nature, this will be the driest year on record," said Adam Walden, a senior civil engineer in the water resources division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. For the first time, Los Angeles has received what is normal rainfall for Death Valley.
And here comes my little contribution.

Drive beyond the city center, and you'll see sheep grazing on barren pastures. Deer looking for water in nearly empty reservoirs. And, in some places, bees. Lots of bees.

Two years ago, when there were record high rains, bees established colonies in outlying areas that had been less hospitable before. Now that they're dry again, the bees are looking for water in Los Angeles' suburbs.

Bees are a problem

The bees, including the aggressive Africanized honeybee, are going "where people have swimming pools, where they're watering their lawns," said Ken Pellman, a
spokesman for the Los Angeles County agricultural commissioner.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Was Quoted About Bees

I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times in a piece by staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II about the dry weather's effects on plants and animals.

The relentlessly dry weather has made this a spring like no other across the region, wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.

Downtown Los Angeles has recorded less than 4 inches of rain since July 1 — less than a quarter of normal. The region was hit Monday with another round of high heat, low humidity and dry winds, prompting officials to issue a red flag warning for brush fires.
And, of course, we have had the fires underway already. We had a lot of rainfall just two years ago, when the storms destroyed roads in the canyons and hills.

In urban areas, bees are becoming more of a nuisance as they try to find additional sources of water. Los Angeles County agricultural officials have detected a spike in complaints about beehives in buildings. There was even a report of a swarm forming inside a sidewalk water main in Highland Park.

"Once natural sources of water in the hills or mountains are dried up, there's so many backyard swimming pools and people watering their lawns, forming puddles — it's attractive," said Ken Pellman, spokesman for the agricultural commissioner.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

In Defense of

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have gripes about the highly successful matchmaking service, and that a lot of other matchmaking, dating, personals, and hook-up services like to compare or contrast themselves to, which is inevitable given’s success. Likewise, some people hate the success of others in general, and so bash the service.

I want to respond. Full disclosure: I’m happily married to a woman I met via isn’t for everyone. First of all, the guy who started it has made no secret that he’s trying to lower the divorce rate. Just read the book he wrote around the time he launched the service. How do lower the divorce rate with your customers? 1. Only take on individuals who stand a good chance of staying married. 2) Only match people to someone to whom they’d have a chance of staying married (do not match incompatible people, even if they are sexually attracted to each other). 3) Offer tools to help them stay married. 4) Encourage people who are not currently marriage material but want to be to get some help.

It is not really meant as a place for find a casual lay or a hook-up. It’s there for matchmaking for marriage.

The Huffington Post, promoting a sister business, offers criticism of below.
Did you know that behind those eHarmony commercials that are hosted by their avuncular, relentlessly upbeat founder -- and that promise a lifetime of soul mate bliss -- is a company run by someone with an unabashed religious and social

Oh no! Someone who takes their religion seriously? Dr. Neil Clark Warren has made no secret of wanting to reduce the rate of divorce and increase marital happiness. What a horrible man, right?
A company that by its own admission has rejected over a million people for reasons that range from not being "happy enough" (on a happy-meter they handily provide) to being divorced too many times, to being gay.
Who wants to marry a depressed person? Being divorced multiple times before makes you a bad candidate for continuing to be married. I don’t know if actually bans someone for being gay, but if you are looking to be matched with someone of the same sex, then no, is not for you. Warren has offered advice to people seeking to set up same-sex matchmaking services, but his own professional practice involved marital counseling involving husbands and wives. In case you haven’t noticed, men and women are different. (If they weren’t, I guess there would be no such thing as “straight” and “gay”, now would there?) The dynamics between a husband and wife are different than the dynamics of any other relationship.

Dr. Neil Clark Warren, the evangelical-Christian-turned-entrepreneur who started eHarmony by leveraging the distribution power of Reverent Dobson's media network and his "Focus on the Family" organization, has been very clear about what he wants to accomplish, despite the recent and expedient secularization of his brand.
Whatever you think of Dobson or Focus on the Family, one of their main goals has been strengthening marriages and making them more enjoyable, so I guess that’s a natural fit for Warren, no? Evangelical Christians officially promote marriage over unmarried cohabitation and sexually-active bachelorhood/bachelorettehood, while much of society today encourages cohabitation and sex before marriage. So again, it was natural for Warren to start with that subset of society and expand to the larger society from there. It is a smart business model.

Actually, eHarmony isn't just a brand; it's an ideological vessel, a brandologue. As the first line of its Wikipedia entry states, "eHarmony is a Christian-founded, marriage-oriented matchmaking website." There's nothing wrong with that, it's absolutely legitimate for eHarmony to seek to accomplish its goals of encouraging faith and marriage via marketing. And I would defend their right to say it in a Voltaire-lite fashion, meaning I'm not so sure about the "to the death" part.

That’s very kind and tolerant of you.

But it's also equally legitimate for a competitor to call eHarmony out on its agenda, to shine a light onto who they are and what they believe so consumers can make informed choices, and to trigger a healthy debate over what
constitutes a productive and healthy relationship, straight or gay.

Sure, why not?

And that's just what's happening. This week, our agency launched an advertising campaign for our client that takes on eHarmony boldly and
I’m sure this has nothing to do with how successful has been.

There are TV commercials and print ads that challenge eHarmony's agenda and restrictiveness, and that invite women and men who are seeking a relationship on their own terms to join
Sometimes, restrictiveness is good. Sometimes, restrictions are part of what makes something work. For instance, what if a Jewish Community Center was run primarily by gentile Christians? How effective would it be as a JCC?

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have joined eHarmony, and paid them dutifully each month, without knowing where eHarmony stands and what it believes. That's simply wrong.

It’s up to people to inform themselves and then make decisions based on that. How many people get jobs that require them to be members of unions that spend their dues money on causes they don’t support? Most people buy services and products from companies that support things they don’t, or whose shareholders do, or whose executives do. If works for you, do you really care what Warren thinks? I have no idea or the politics or social views or even the lifestyle of my doctor. I know he has kids. That’s about it. He’s a good doctor. Now, he if he told me the best way for me to lose weight would be for me to eat Double-Doubles every meal, I’d look for another doctor. But I wouldn’t if I found out he supports a political candidate I oppose.

Not surprisingly, eHarmony has been clever enough to recognize that increasingly, consumers are putting their choices under a microscope. So as the company grew into a mass consumer brand, they began keep their agenda quiet and cut any ties that could restrict their growth. In fact, Warren ditched his close association with Reverend Dobson and "Focus on Family." In his own words, Warren admitted that the link would be a "killer." I'd actually have more respect for them if they didn't go through this convoluted distancing process, and had the courage to stand behind Dobson. But it seems to me that Warren, seduced by Mammon in the archetypal faith vs. greed struggle, decided to grow his business at the expense of his values. (I'm sure the venture capitalists that plowed more than $100 million into his business -- the fourth largest investment of 2004 according to Wikipedia -- had something to say about it, too.)
Huh? There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a strong, honest, legitimate business model. Making money isn’t a bad thing, and the Bible certainly doesn’t teach that making money is bad. Staying with Focus on the Family would mean reaching a segment of Christendom. Expanding beyond that means reaching out to Jews, Buddhists, atheists, and anyone else looking to get married. It’s a legitimate thing for a Christian to provide a helpful service – for profit or otherwise – to everyone, not just someone of the same exact religion. Isn't that a sign of inclusiveness? Warren need not repudiate Dobson, either, even though it sounds like something you'd like to see.
It's also clear that eHarmony's agenda pervades every aspect of its product.

You mean their agenda to match people for the long term? How evil.

Their emphasis on "compatibility" and their "compatibility" profile that leads to people getting matched on what's called homogamy (or sameness) are all part of their philosophical approach: people who share the same values --
preferably conservative -- belong together.

Preferably conservative? Only if you mean that getting married and staying married are “conservative”, but it would be absurd to say that conservatives have a monopoly, or even a handle, on that. It’s a good thing to match up compatible people. For example, if you’re going to be married, then unless you have a very extensive prenuptial agreement, you’re going to be sharing finances. If one spouse wants to donate to the NRA and the other wants to donate the same money to PETA, how exactly is that going to work?
I believe that what has pioneered is the beginning of the next wave of marketing, as companies and brands define themselves in the competitive marketplace by not just how they perform, but their values and belief systems.
Wait, didn’t you just poke or doing that? Your marketing is nothing new. This has been going on ever since Burger King bashed market leader McDonald’s by name in a commercial back in the 1980s with little Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Okay, well, here are some of the other general complaints I’ve come across:

I was sent too many matches! While this doesn’t sound like a bad thing, some people do feel overwhelmed. I tended to have a lot of matches. Some of them “closed” on me immediately or early on, or were just checking out the service temporarily and so never responded to me. But the trick when you have a lot of matches is to be ruthless in closing them. The site has told you a lot about yourself and what you should look for. I came to the site with a narrow profile of what I was looking for already. The moment I realized I would be less than thrilled with someone, I closed that match. You only need to find ONE person you can spend the rest of your life with. Unless you’re a polygamist. There’s probably a different service for that. I ended up dating three matches, one of them twice. One declined further dates with me, another I declined to date again, and the third match I dated was the charm.

I was sent too few matches! The service can’t match you up with people who don’t use it. This is why the service has expanded its outreach. The more people using it, the better for the customers. If had only stuck with the Focus on the Family crowd, then only people in that crowd would be finding matches.

The sign-up process is too long. It’s a long process, but it is worth it if it pays off. Think of how many hours you spend doing taxes, or filling out loan applications, or employment applications. Shouldn’t you be willing to put some time into finding a person you plan to spend the rest of your life with?

I want to look for people on my own, not be restricted to the people I’m matched up with. You're not compatible with the people you're not matched up with. You are probably not compatible with all of your matches, but at least there's not an immediate glaring incompatibility. Anyway, if you were so good at finding "matches" on your own, wouldn’t you have already found someone to spend the rest of your life with? I used because I was working a full-time job, a part-time job, and freelancing, so for me it was a matter of time. Actually, I was trying to prove that the right woman for me to marry didn’t exist, and it backfired. But I digress. My point is that you don’t have to be totally bad at picking people… online services are also good for finding people who don’t live in your neighborhood or who keep odd hours. The problem is, some people are horrible at picking people out of a crowd who are compatible with them and good for them. How many women do you know who keep picking abusive jerks? Or guys that keep picking women who drive them to insanity? matches people based on things that make them compatible for a lifetime together – and those sorts of things are very hard to tell from a picture and what someone says about themselves. So, matches you based on who you are and the limits you have set, and doesn’t allow you to search on your own. There are plenty of other services for doing that. The bottom line is, this complaint is like going to McDonald’s and complaining about how they prepare their burgers. There are dozens of other places to get a burger.

Some of my matches were liars. That’s one reason the application process is so long. They are trying to catch and exclude liars. However, a service of this size can’t investigate each user in person and make sure they are being honest. There are very expensive services that attempt to do just that. This complaint is really about the match – the individual, a complaint that has existed since the beginning of time, long before the Internet. It’s not’s fault. In fact, you can report dishonest matches to the service.

Some of my matches were losers. You’re not obligated to keep dating these people. If every single person you’re matched up with a “loser”, then perhaps it is time for some therapy to figure out why you are compatible with losers. As a guy, though, I can tell you this... If you are a middle-aged overweight woman with three kids living with you and a mountain of debt, you’re probably not going to land a wealthy, gorgeous, romantic lawyer (unless he's a pedophile).

I was rejected for still being married. doesn’t match married people. There are other services for that.

The site reveals height, but not weight. Okay, this is one complaint (mostly by men) that I can see as legit. Warren has said before that women have been angry being matched up to shorter men. Most women marry a man taller than themselves. So, lists your height. Men are often chided as being “shallow” for wanting to know a woman’s weight, but the truth is, men are visual creatures, and if a man isn’t stimulated by what he sees, it is going to be awfully unlikely that he is going to pursue a woman and marry her - at least for the right reasons. What I suggest to a guy who is concerned about this is to make sure his matches send him some current full-body shots. Such shots should be easy for a woman to get, so there should be no excuse. Simply do not bother to spend time on a match if she hesitates. If she refuses, close the match. She's not confident about herself.’s matchmaking business isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t do everything for you. I liken it to being a better place to meet someone than in a bar or on a street corner, where you know very little about them and by the time you find out you couldn’t possibly end up with them, you’ve already spent time, money, and energy on them. Using the service well help you to find a needle in a haystack by not matching you up with someone you are fundamentally incompatible with, no matter how cute.

It is up to you, once you get to open communication with that match, to figure out if the person is truly right for you. Keep talking, keep doing things together, and if there are any red flags or any other signs that this person wouldn’t be the right person for you, move on. It’s really not that complicated.

The service worked well for me, and has worked well for many others. It helps to already have a good idea of what you want out of a relationship, and what you need, and what you could not live with. The service does help with some of that, too.

Thankfully, if isn’t right for you, there are many other options.

I Was Quoted on Brush Clearance

In October, I moved via promotion from the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works (DPW) to the Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures (ACWM). ACWM is a lower-profile Department, and so typically, I will not be showing up on the news media as often as I used to.

Once of the things ACWM does is "Weed Abatement" - brush clearance. Owners of developed properties are contacted by the Fire Department and told what they have to do as far as brush clearance, and we contact the owners of "unimproved" parcels (vacant lots). This is done every year to help prevent fires from spreading and destroying structures and killing people.

Jason Wells of the Glendale News-Press (an affiliate of the Los Angeles Times) wrote about the efforts currently underway in the Glendale area.

Fire officials are calling on property owners to clear out brush from around buildings that could later become fuel for what is shaping up to be one
of the area's driest fire seasons on record. Glendale firefighters will be
patrolling neighborhoods through July that are at a high risk for brush fires to
make sure residents are complying with guidelines for creating 100-foot barriers
of cleared brush around buildings and other landscape maintenance, said Doug
Nickels, fire prevention coordinator for the fire department.

County officials will also be combing through the areas this month
to make sure owners of vacant lots have complied with notices ordering them to
clear out dry vegetation, said Ken Pellman, spokesman for the Los Angeles County
Weed Hazard and Pest Management Bureau. There is unusual urgency behind the
weed abatement programs this year because of record rain shortfalls for Glendale
and La Crescenta that resulted in a landscape of dry vegetation that would offer
little resistance to flames, officials said.

A report by the National Interagency Fire Center also warned that the potential for fires this season would be above normal in Southern California due to a dry winter and spring. "This year we are being more stringent because of the dry
conditions," Pellman said.

The lack of rain this year may have cut down on that growth, but it has also made the vegetation highly flammable and able to quickly transfer flames from one lot to the next, Pellman said.

"That's where the problem comes in," he said. "If there's enough to be flammable, it's too much."

Owners of vacant property who have failed to heed county notices to clear vegetation will have to pay the tab for county workers who do it for them
starting on May 16, he said.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I Heard From EW Again

Like a clingy ex-girlfriend who can't move on, Entertainment Weekly has mailed me yet again, because I'm a former subscriber.

I remember the numerous, increasingly desperate reminders to renew my subscription, and now there have have been several attempts, via phone, e-mail, and mail to get me to resubscribe.

While it is nice to be missed, it is getting ridiculous. Now they are offering 40 issues for a total $10. That's if I have them bill me later. If I pay now, I can get 57 issues for $10, a whopping 94% off the cover price.

I'm holding out for them to offer to pay me to resubscribe. That can't be far off. Guess those ciruclations numbers are really, really important for ad revenue.

I do like keeping up on entertainment news. There are, however, several reasons I let my subsciption lapse.

1. I got married, which meant less time to actually read the magazine and a tighter budget. I found that I wasn't getting very far through one week's issue when the next issue would arrive.
2. I am notorious for not being able to discard "information" such as magazines, and we need less clutter in our home, not more. I still have a bunch of old EWs that I need to throw out. There are some I will save, depending on the issue.
3. When I got married, I moved in to my wife's condo. She was a cable subscriber. There is cable programming that provides me with content akin to what I used to read in EW.
4. Likewise, there are many websites and online tools that provide me with the content I want, for free.
5. I thought that EW could have covered more kinds of entertainment - especially radio and theme parks.
6. EW often had a political tone that I found unnecessary. I didn't read it to get a writer's thoughts on a politician, political issue, or social - whether I agreed or not. I was reading to get information about what is going on in entertainment - period. (See, I put the period at the end of the sentance.)

Now that Keelie is on the way, I'm going to have even less time and money.

So, like I said... if they were willing to pay me to subscribe... I just might. Otherwise, it ain't going to happen. Sorry, EW.