Sunday, November 30, 2008

Better Down South

Yesterday I mentioned how thrilled I was to be able to visit a couple of Costco's in the San Diego area, courtesy of Julie's brother and his wife who graciously took us there on Black Friday.

Well actually they are both hopeless Costco addicts like I am, so it wasn't like they had their arms twisted or were just trying to be nice to their guests, haha.

I'm not sure of the location of the first one we went to, but it looked new and darn it, it was a lot bigger and had a lot more things than the Azusa and Alhambra Costco's that I normally frequent! Unfortunately I couldn't buy any items requiring refrigeration but I did find some other things that I haven't seen up here, so I didn't hesitate putting them in the cart.

Like this three-bottle set of flavored olive oils:

A jar of grilled, marinated peppers:

A jar of mushroom antipasto:

A set of 6 bowls plus a huge serving bowl (this was only $14.97.. unbelievable):

Intermission followed, with a break for dim sum and then a visit to Circuit City, and then we got back to business by visiting the 2nd Costco. Again, I don't know exactly where this one was located but it started out as the very first Price Club location (Price Club later became Costco).

From the outside it looked kind of dumpy, like a gigantic barn. Inside it also looked on the older side but it was packed with merchandise! Once again I was drooling. This location also had a really big wine selection. The first one had more wines that a normal Costco, but this one was downright huge. The guy stocking the bins told me it was one of the five largest in the region. I guess I should have asked him what the other four were.

Anyway, I picked up the following two bottles and brought them home (after paying for them, of course):

After that it was time to head back. I wasn't expecting to spend the entire day down in San Diego but hey, if most of it was spent inside of a Costco then I'm not complaining.

We even went to a 3rd one, in Carlsbad, but that was just to fill up the gas tank so we didn't go inside. The per-gallon price was $1.799 and it was crowded.

Then it was back to the SGV. On Saturday morning I still made my normal trip to Costco since I had to buy the usual refrigerated grocery items. Julie's brother told me that the Los Feliz store was large and also had a big wine selection so I decided to check it out. Wrong.. it was a big store but it had nothing that the Azusa location didn't have. Plus they had no jasmine rice! Well, cross that one off the list. The only thing I bought that hasn't already had its picture in this blog was a 12-pack of Chicken of the Sea tuna.

So am I all Costco'd out? Are you kidding?

I forgot to include a YouTube video yesterday.. oh, well. Here's one to use as a soundtrack for wandering around unchartered territory - the inside of a new Costco, eager with anticipation at the prospect of finding something new and exciting.. sort of like Columbus or Magellan..

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blessed Thanksgiving

I know Thanksgiving was two days ago but I'm just now catching up. We had a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving and I must say there was much to be thankful for on that day, and there is much to be thankful for in general.

My side of the family came to our house for lunch. It was nice to have everyone together - my parents, sister, Greg and Lisa, and Katie and Eric and we even bought a small square table to add to our regular table so we could all fit without being sardines.

We had a rather plain meal, however. Turkey (actually turkey breasts from Costco, rather than a whole turkey, which to me are much more efficient), mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, yams, and dessert. The potatoes and the stuffing came out of boxes so they weren't anything to rave about, but they were serviceable. Julie's yam dish was from scratch and turned out very well. I opened a bottle of the 2007 Twisted Oak Ruben's Blend (the wine for which I had written the back label) and while it was initially rather edgy and harsh, after it got some air time it turned out to be excellent.

My folks were glad to be free of the confines of Keiro and all in all, it was an enjoyable but too brief time. Brief because we had to kick everyone out by 2:00 so we could drive down to San Diego for dinner at Julie's brother's house.

My parents were sitting in the family room and I told them we had to leave for San Diego. My mom looks at me. "Does that mean we have to leave?" she asked.

And darn it, I forgot to take pictures!!! Oh, well.

The trip down to SD was stop and go, if you can believe that. We ran into a bunch of traffic jam pockets and I have no idea why that was. There were no accidents; all of a sudden traffic would clear up and we'd go for miles and then hit another slowdown with no visible explanation.

First we checked into our room in Del Mar. Since the place was only 2/3 full, the hotel clerk was nice enough to upgrade us to an ocean view room, which turned out to be quite large and had a huge bathroom as well. Here's a couple of pictures of the view from our window.

Julie's brother's place was only 3 miles from our room so with the aid of a GPS we easily found it.

I remembered to take pictures this time, and here's some of the heavenly food we had, a mix of traditional and Chinese. I'd have to say this was the best homemade Thanksgiving food I have ever had. Her brother and his wife have a gorgeous home, as well (and he's a wine collector!). Here's pictures of a few of the food items:

The traditional turkey, sort of tore up (I didn't take a picture before it got mangled).

Honeybaked ham, the only non-scratch item on the menu. It was good, as Honeybaked hams usually are, but it couldn't compare with the other entrees.

Lobster with noodles.

A gigantic Chilean sea bass filet. This was soooo good.

Excellent stuffing.

Tarte Tartin for dessert. Did I spell that right?

Man oh man I ate way too much for lunch and dinner. Normally I weigh myself every morning but thankfully our hotel room had no scale. Our room also had a tv with about 50 channels but there wasn't anything worth watching!

And that was how Thanksgiving went. The entire day and evening were wonderful and I am truly thankful for it all. We got to see our families, the weather was great, and we had lots of fun. What more could you ask for?

The next day was great, too - we went to two Costcos in the San Diego area and I was like a kid in a candy store! But that's tomorrow's blog entry.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hi-Tone Label Maker

Happy day after Thanksgiving! I hope yours was wonderful. I can't tell you about how mine was since I am writing this on turkey day eve.

Since I will be posting a review in the near future, I figure it is safe to share with you the item that I chose from last Wednesday's offerings from the Amazon Vine program.

Here's a screen shot of the items that I picked for this month (click the image to see a larger version whose print you can actually read).

Take a look at the first product. After I selected it, I decided to look at the product page to read the customer reviews and also, to see how much this item cost so I can go around telling people I got this label maker that normally sells for $xx, for free as part of the Vine program, haha.

Here's a screen shot from the product page. Whoa, I sure picked an expensive item to review, didn't I? (click the image for a larger version)

Now you would think that for a product that costs over ten grand, that they could at least comp the shipping instead of charging you $6.50??? Of course, the advantage of being a Vine reviewer is not only that the product is free, but the shipping is free as well. So the $6.50 I saved is just icing on the cake for getting a free $10,000 label maker.

Well, obviously this is a typo or someone's idea of a joke at Amazon. Notice that particular price is from a third-party vendor. If you buy it from Amazon it is a more reasonable $79.00.

Did you also notice that there are only two of these left in stock? That means that a lot of people must have already placed their order and forked over $10,463.41 for the remaining stock to get in such a depleted state. Who says times are bad in the economy? Oh, well I'm guessing maybe the orders were placed by financial institutions who received their bailout money from the fed. They need to label which of their executive's pockets contain the loot.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all of you have a terrific, safe and blessed Thanksgiving and do so with much to be thankful for. I know I'm certainly thankful for the many blessings I've experienced.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, my dad would bring home a large green and white box from work with a turkey inside (no, it wasn't alive still). Since this was an annual custom, my mom had already cleared enough space in the fridge for the large bird.

On Turkey Day she'd spend the greater part of the day cooking the turkey and all the trimmings and I couldn't wait to sit down at the table and gorge myself silly, which I wasted no time doing. I'd eat way too fast and get full way too quickly; and then after all that anticipation and those gastric juices driving me to a frenzy, dinner was over.

Eventually mom got tired of the chore of making the turkey every year and we started eating out on T-Day, something I wasn't too crazy about. Turkey at a restaurant just isn't the same as homemade turkey at, well, at home. One year she announced we weren't even going to have turkey on Thanksgiving, but instead we were going to a Chinese restaurant!

Augh!!! A Chinese restaurant on Thanksgiving???

I boycotted that year. Amy was sympathetic enough to invite me to dinner with her family and I accepted. I don't remember the name of the restaurant but I do remember it was some place in Rowland Heights or Hacienda Heights with a motto like, "I promise good food at fair prices." Actually I did go there later on for a regular meal and the food wasn't bad at all. But not for Thanksgiving!

In recent years, my sister has done the cooking. Normally, we have T-Day lunch at her house and then.. gasp, dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Julie's side of the family! At least the past couple of years the restaurant made a turkey and I must admit it was pretty good.

This year will be a little different. Everyone is coming over for lunch and my sister will be picking up our folks from Keiro and bringing them over. Then we're heading to Julie's brother's house for dinner (I'm assuming it is going to be turkey and this isn't an ambush).

I remember one year a co-worker told me she refused to go to a relative's house with her parents on T-Day and was instead going to be all by herself. No need to feel sorry for her, she said, because she was going to devour Jack in the Box tacos for her Thanksgiving meal. She loved JIB tacos as much as I do, so she was really looking forward to that.

When I saw her again, I asked her how the tacos were. She'd driven to JIB eager with anticipation and discovered they were closed. But that was okay; she was happy she didn't have to go to the dreaded relative's house.

You know, it really doesn't matter what the meal is. The main thing is that we do indeed have much to be thankful for. With how crazy a year this has been, I am just thankful that we will be able to celebrate it with family.

May your Thanksgiving be a blessed one!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Class Act

Well my apologies in advance. Yesterday I went all financial on you and today I am going to go all political on you. Of course I don't really know what you are looking for when you come to this blog, or who exactly is coming here but if you were looking for something besides my getting up on the soapbox again, I apologize.

Monday's Wall Street Journal had a couple of articles that made me laugh when I read them, both about our big three auto makers.

First, the U.S. auto makers are, in addition to asking for their $25 billion (that's $25,000,000,000), are also requesting that the U.S. government provide federal incentives to people to induce them to buy cars. The government needs to take measures to get the market back up to a sales rate of 14-15 million cars per year, up from the current annualized estimate of 11 million. After that happens, said a key executive, "..We can figure out how to survive at that level."

Well duh, what were you doing all the rest of the time when you made such shoddy cars and did whatever you felt like doing and ignored consumers? I think they had better figure out how to survive at their present level, the one they got their own selves into, without asking for more handouts from people. When the other car companies come looking for handouts, then maybe the pleas of our own big three may have some merit, but for now they don't.

If you get in your own private jet to fly to Washington to ask for $25 billion, isn't that saying something right there? When congress asks you point blank if you'd be willing for work for $1 of salary and live off the millions you socked away while your company was going down the tubes until this mess is fixed and you refuse to do so, isn't that saying something, too?

It isn't as though the auto makers were doing dandy before the current economic crisis hit. They were already skidding downhill. Let them skid some more. Why should us taxpayers bail out a bunch of losers? If they disappear, a more efficient company will appear in their place; that's why you don't see dinosaurs and Edsels around anymore.

The second article mentioned a bunch of cost-cutting measures that have been implemented at the big three auto company offices. Things like wall clocks no longer being serviced, regular pencils replacing mechanical ones, and other nickel and dime cutbacks to save money.

The push to eliminate waste and cut costs is to be applauded, but as one employee commented, "Is this the best they can do to save money?"

I have to agree. While all this nickel and diming is taking place, how much are the executives and upper management suffering? Are their salaries being reduced and are their plush offices going without remodeling during this time? What about those private jets? Are the big guys suffering right along with the little guys? I don't think so.

I feel badly for the worker bees in those companies but if we bail out the big three, in essence what we are doing is bailing out the execs so they can turn around and go back to their old ways again and hope things don't run into the ground. They will never learn. Let them take their lumps and that way the worker bees will be activists the next time, and not let this happen again. As long as they keep feeding the fat at the top, what incentive is there to change?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roller Coaster

If you follow the stock market at all, you know that it's been a roller coaster lately, zooming up hundreds of points, zooming down hundreds of points, sometimes on the same day. I've written a bit about stocks in past entries and here's a bit more for today:

Today (yesterday, actually since I am writing this on a Monday) the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 397 points higher than it closed on Friday. For a time it was up over 500 points. Unlike many other recent days, it didn't bounce back and forth with huge swings from positive to negative and back again; instead it was uniformly positive.

What caused this? Obama's announcement that he wants to jump start our economy? The massive bailout (another one, yawn..), this time for Citibank? Our economy is still pretty miserable. Did things change so radically today that it justified the upward spur in prices? If you look at the past few weeks, we've had several other swings of this magnitude, only to be followed by sharp declines shortly thereafter.

Personally, I believe that our economy is going to improve, sooner than later, and that the market is going to head back steadily upwards. But I also believe that until this happens, it is going to experience the same wild swings as it has in the past weeks because people just can't make up their mind which way things are headed. So as much as it went up today, I'm expecting that to be erased and then some within the next few days.

What that means to me are more buying and selling opportunities coming up, until things get stabilized. I don't feel our present economic state warrants any sort of short-term optimism but in the long run we'll climb out of it.

Again, more of my layman opinion says that the real bottom of the market will appear when prices level off at some low level, the volume of trades declines, and the span between high and low prices on any given day remains relatively constricted (ooh, do I sound like an economist? I hope I'm not that boring). By that time, everyone who wants to sell will have sold, meaning there's no more downward pressure on the stocks, and everyone will be sitting around waiting to see what happens. In other words, we'll have an apathetic market.

Gradually, more and more people will get back into the market because it seems that it isn't going to go down anymore and they'll have overcome their fear of further declines. That will begin to drive the prices up, and in time rising prices will sneak up on us and lead to a a snowball effect.

It's always darkest before dawn. Just like market highs which peter out because everyone has bought and there's no one left to buy, so the low will occur because everyone has sold and there's no one left to sell.

If you step back and look at things in historical perspective and also with the idea that capitalism is going to continue to flourish and so is America, then at this point in time stocks are dirt cheap and now is the time to buy. Conversely, when everyone and his grandma were scooping up stocks, it made sense that the buying frenzy couldn't continue because sooner or later people would run out of money with which to buy more stocks.

Yet when we get to the top we want to believe it's going to continue and we can squeeze a little bit more out. And when we get to the bottom, we're afraid that there's still more bottom to go, so we wait a while longer. Everyone's looking at the next guy, and no one wants to stand out from the crowd.

Anyway.. just thought I'd throw in my two cents about the stock market. I'm eagerly looking forward to the upcoming days, weeks and even months to see what happens, and to see if my bottoming out and subsequent snowball effect is borne out.

What makes me think my opines have any merit? Well, nothing, really, but it seems the so-called "experts" are no better at calling the shots, either. Heck, put me on PBS - I can pontificate with the rest of them!

Meanwhile, here's a song to reflect the tumultuous nature of the market these days.

Monday, November 24, 2008

War and Please

Do you remember the episode of I Love Lucy in which the gang bets Lucy that she can't keep from telling a lie for a certain period of time? At first it is difficult for her but then she gets used to it, telling people what's really on her mind and not mincing words. Naturally, the script plays up the comic aspect by having Lucy tell everyone around her exactly what's on her mind in the most insulting, but funny way.

What kind of person are you? Are you the type that tells it like it is, or do you hold back?

The other day I was reading Frank's Xanga blog (called NVRSAD_DAY - I mentioned this one here a while ago) and he mentioned he had been a bad boy because instead of doing what The Disease to Please told him to do, he'd gone back to his own detrimental "people pleasing" ways.

After reading his blog entry I looked up the book on and checked it out from the library. I already know I am afflicted with the same disease as Frank so I was interested in reading about it.

For example, here's one of the self-assessment quizzes from the book. You can take a look and see how you score on it (click on the image for a larger version).

How'd you do? I have too many "yes" answers on there for my own good. I knew I would. I don't mind arguing with people and in fact I can be quite argumentative and enjoy being so (probably to my own detriment as well) but when it comes to reproofing, reprimanding or meting out punishment, I definitely do not like that sort of conflict. For me it all stems from a fear of being unpopular.

I don't mean to put myself on the couch and expose all my neuroses and all to you, but that's what is on my mind today so I figured I'd write about it. That's why I really don't like managing people. Most of the time it is very clear to me what needs to be done in any given situation but I don't want to be the "bad guy." Sometimes I wish I could be like Lucy in that episode I mentioned to you at the beginning of this entry and just say what's on my mind, without caring or worrying about it but I realize that's just not me. Instead I keep it all in, but sometimes that leads to exploding - that's not good either!

Well gee, uh, I hope I didn't bore or offend any of you by today's blog entry and that you still like me.. haha, nervous laughter.. Actually, I do indeed recognize this trait that I have had for a long time, and it's something I am working on but it's not easy.

Meanwhile, that episode of Lucy blurs the distinction between tact and diplomacy versus telling the truth, i.e., telling the truth doesn't necessarily mean you have to say everything that you are thinking. But it made for a pretty funny episode.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

South Bay Saturday

Yesterday was an abnormal Saturday in that Costco was not the first stop of the morning. Instead, we headed down to Gardena to attend a seminar held by Alan Kondo, an insurance rep / investment adviser. Somehow I got on his mailing list years ago and every month or so I receive an invitation to one of his financial planning seminars as well as a reprint of one of his Rafu Shimpo articles.

A couple of months ago one came on the subject of long term care insurance. Given the ordeal we recently went through with my parents, it seemed like a worthwhile topic to explore so I called to make a reservation.

The seminar was held in a small classroom at the Gardena civic center. Besides Julie and me, there were seven other people, along with Mr. Kondo and his assistant, Akemi.

He spoke for about an hour and provided us with a good bit of useful information. We also received a free copy of a book he had written, The Path to Antei, and a folder containing more information.

Naturally the objective was to sell us long term care policies or interest us in the other services he provides, but thankfully everything was kept very low key. No time share high pressure tactics here! He simply told us that he'd be happy to discuss things more fully at one of his offices, and that was that.

With the costs of care skyrocketing these days and our not getting any younger, we plan on contacting him to get more information. It was a worthwhile trip.

Something interesting he mentioned for those of us who may be thinking Social Security will help foot the bill: back in the 30's when it was created, the ratio of people paying into the system to people drawing money out of the system was 40:1. At that time, President Roosevelt felt that such a ratio assured a continual stream of money into social security. By the mid 90's that ratio had shrunk to 3.5:1 and by 2015, was it (or sometime in the future), the forecast is 1.8:1. If there are only 1.8 times as many people paying in as there are taking out, how can this system possibly be supported? And I thought Ponzi and pyramid schemes were illegal in this country.

Afterwards we headed over to Bruddah's for brunch. That was our first visit. I've read about the place on Chowhound and Yelp, many saying this was the most authentic Hawaiian place in town.

The two waitresses were very friendly and this is a very informal, down-home kind of place as you can see by the pictures. Quite a bit different from Bistro 39 last night!

Here's a picture of what I ordered: the Portugeuse sausage plate, with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. Julie had Spam Musubi and macaroni salad but the picture didn't come out very good so I didn't upload it.

The food was good but nothing spectacular, although I don't know how spectacular the items we ordered could be. There's a lot of things on the menu and on the specials board, however, and the service was first rate. A place like this is wayyy better than the ubiquitous Hawaiian eateries, especially the chains, that have sprung up all over the place with the same boring, limited menus of mediocre food. I'd take Bruddah's any day over places like that, for sure.

And after Bruddahs, THEN the Saturday visit to Costco! Since we were out that way we went to the Torrance location. It was packed and we lucked out finding a parking space.

People who shop at the Torrance Costco are lucky. This one has a lot more things than the Alhambra or Azusa locations I usually frequent so it was like being a kid in a candy store wandering around seeing things here that I don't usually see in a Costco.

The two "new" items today are things that they do carry in Azusa, though. First are baguettes. The La Brea Bakery bread is so yummy. They didn't have the usual rolls so I got these instead.

Next is Chicken Cordon Bleu. It looks good on the package so we'll see how it is on the tastebuds.

Before heading back home, I filled up the tank. $1.849 per gallon today - amazing! I said gas would never go below $3.00/gallon again, and after it did I said never below $2.00. Well, maybe I should say never below $1.00 as a test. It was nice to have a gasoline bill for less than $20 for a change.

Then later on I discovered that Bruddah's actually has a 2nd location in the SGV. They've made some concessions decor-wise and food-wise, however, as you can see from the picture of this 2nd location below:

Hey wait a minute.. didn't you say yesterday this was the secret room in back of Bistro 39??? haha..

Anyway.. it was worth attending that seminar this morning. Retirement planning and long term care is something we all eventually need to think about, sooner than later.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Friday night Julie and I celebrated our 11th anniversary (actually it is today but we have to have Saturday night in-law dinner - my in-law, that is) and decided to try out Bistro 39 in Alhambra.

We got there around 6:30 and the place was empty, except for a couple of people in the bar area. Normally that's a bad sign for a restaurant, but in this case it was still on the early side and I had read mainly positive reviews of the place on the Chowhound Board as well as Yelp, so we decided to take the plunge.

As you can see, we had the place to ourselves. It's a nicely decorated, comfortable and relaxed room where the tables are spread far enough apart so you don't get claustrophobic. That's a plus.

Here's a picture of the menu. I know, you don't care what the cover looks like, what about the menu itself??? They have a web site so you can go check it out.

We started with a Caesar Salad, hold the anchovies, which was quite good except I forgot to take a picture of it. The dressing was just right, although I thought I detected a faint anchovy character in it (which is fine; just don't throw enough in so that it smells like the bait bin on a barge).

Here's what Julie had, the chicken and mushroom crepes. She loved it. I sampled a bite and it was very good.

I had the shortribs, which came boneless and they were also very good.

The chicken and the beef were nice and tender, all the ingredients were fresh and, well, we were happy about it all. Prices are decent for what you get, with most entrees under $20. Right now they are running a one year anniversary special that has soup or salad, a choice of several entrees, and dessert for $19.95.

It's great having a French restaurant in the SGV! Even nicer having a good one that is owned by people who are actually from France. We talked briefly with one of the owners, and we said it was a shame that the place wasn't more crowded. There were three other tables occupied when we left, plus some folks at the bar who were eating.

The owner told us she gets calls and is asked if she speaks Chinese, and no she doesn't. Then we had a chat about how she is very picky about the ingredients and what to look for when buying various foods and how she doesn't add artificial stuff like tenderizers to the meat, etc.

All in all, we had an enjoyable time. The atmosphere was nice and the food was well worth it. We wouldn't hesitate to return.

Oh, and the owners did decide to decorate the back room for the diehard SGV residents who just can't accept a French place in the area:

Tomorrow: the Costco report, of course!

Friday, November 21, 2008

If Life Gives You Lemons..

Once upon a time a person decided to open a lemonade stand in front of his house. The lemonade was decent - nothing to rave about, but it was good, solid lemonade that made a great thirst quencher on a hot summer afternoon. He did well, as people from all over the neighborhood and surrounding areas came to buy the lemonade. As a result, this entrepreneur made a tidy sum of money from his venture.

A couple of other people on the block saw how profitable the lemonade stand was, and decided to open ones of their own. While this cut into the original stand's business, there was still enough to go around because there were plenty of people from the neighborhood and adjoining areas who were willing to make the short trip to the block that now had three competing lemonade stands.

Was any one of the lemonades better than the other? They were all pretty close in quality. It came down to a matter of personal preference, or which one happened to be priced a little bit cheaper than the others on any given day.

Despite the block having three lemonade stands, all of them continued to prosper.

Then one day, someone on another block opened her own lemonade stand. This new competition worried the three, but they figured they already had a lock on the business and why would anyone want to go elsewhere? Besides, their loyal customers told them that the lemonade made by the newcomer was horrible. Weak, insipid, way too tart for their tastes. They didn't trust it. Even though the newbie's lemonade was cheaper, it tasted cheaper as well.

As time went on, the original three lemonade stands, who now called themselves "The Big Three" altered the original formula of their lemonade; the dosage of sugar went up and up and up. Then they found it was cheaper to use high fructose corn syrup instead of real cane sugar so they began using that to cut costs, while still charging the same price for their products. People still kept on buying.

The Big Three's lemonade became more and more syrupy. Meanwhile, the owners of the stands were raking in the dough but never was it enough - so they found more ways to cut corners while making their lemonade, meaning more profit for themselves that they could take home. What the heck - they had all these loyal customers who didn't seem to care what the drink tasted like. They were the only game in town, anyway.

On the other block, the newbie kept experimenting with various recipes and people began to take notice. What once was a bitter, unappealing concoction now was tasting pretty darn good. For the same price as what the Big Three were charging, folks could get a quality, tasty glass of lemonade.

"I'm concerned about my sugar intake," one patron told her. "Can you make a low-calorie lemonade, but one that tastes good?"

The newbie went back to experimenting and came up with a low-calorie lemonade that was nearly indistinguishable from the regular calorie version.

On the other block, the same question posed of the Big Three resulted in their shoving a glass of unsweetened lemonade at the customer. After the customer's mouth managed to untangle their severe pucker, they spit it out and asked what that drink was supposed to be.

"It's low-cal lemonade. It's lemons and no sugar. Take it or leave it," they said with obvious disdain.

So the patrons left it. Meanwhile, the newbie on the other block continued to attract new customers, many of them former patrons of the Big Three. The newbie said she gave her customers what they wanted, simple as that. And she didn't skimp on her ingredients.

Incensed and outraged at losing business to this upstart newbie, the Big Three spent a lot of their time and money trying to shut down the newbie's business. Their enlisting of politicians, lawyers and policemen proved unsuccessful, though. They even tried to convince their neighbors that it was unpatriotic to buy from someone on another block, but their neighbors, who could discern the difference in quality, ignored their pleas and went to the newbie's stand.

Eventually, the newbie's lemonade business surpassed that of the Big Three. Times got bad in general for the neighborhood and most people didn't have the spare change (actually greenbacks) to buy much lemonade. The Big Three suffered more and more.

"This isn't fair," they declared. So they all went to the local government and asked for a handout to keep them going. "If you don't give us some money to tide us over and help us pay for our ingredients and our salaries, we'll go out of business and that means disaster for our neighborhoods. No one will have lemonade to drink anymore!"

The politicians thought about that. Some wanted to immediately raise the local property taxes in order to bail out the poor Big Three lemonade stand owners. "It will indeed be a disaster," they proclaimed, "if these great stands that represent lemonade history close down and there's no more lemonade available."

Other politicians with cooler heads spoke up. "Uh, excuse me, but there's the newbie stand on the other block that still makes lemonade and on top of that, it tastes better and is the same price. Why should we prop up the Big Three whose lemonade keeps getting worse and worse every year when there's better lemonade to be had elsewhere?"

"Because it's unAmerican!" shouted the Big Three. "We've been dealing in lemons for such a long time, how can you just turn away from us in our time of need???"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Someone Owed Me One?

A few months ago I had a series of blog entries in which I apologized to various people in my past for various lapses of decency on my part.

The other day I received an unusual e-mail from an old classmate who apparently felt they hadn't treated me very well. Here is what that person wrote:

I didn't have anything to do and began playing around with google. I entered my name and came across your blog. There isn't much I care to remember about XXXX [school name deleted]. Believe it or not, you are the only recurring memory from that period these past 40 or so years. I use to tease you a lot, often resulting in you shouting out my name in frustration. It has remained vivid in my memory all these years. I've made worse decisions in my life and have a few regrets. Why this is on my list of regrets is not clear to me. I suspect it is because I have always believed you are a very good person and should not have been subjected to that. I am thankful for your blog. It provided me with the ability to say what I've wanted to say for a long time. I'm sorry for treating you the way I did. I was a jerk. No reply is necessary.

You know, I've done my share of googling names of former classmates and for most, there really aren't much in the way of results. I've also googled this particular person and have never come up with anything at all - nada, zip, zero - and I wondered if they had moved out of the country or something.

I definitely remember this person, but not like the picture painted in their message. We used to cap on each other all the time in school and I'm sure whatever we did was just a part of all that - nothing serious intended. I don't remember ever shouting out anyone's name in frustration, including this person. They were definitely not a "jerk."

Hey, person who wrote the e-mail, if you are reading this, first of all I hope you don't mind that I reprinted your message; there's no way anyone would know who wrote it, but more importantly, I'm sorry you went all these years feeling like you had wronged me! Honestly, I never had any sort of bad or negative thoughts about you.

In case they don't return to this blog, I wrote back and told them that their memory didn't match mine, and they had nothing to apologize about. I've sure done my own share of things I am ashamed about! Anyway, I'm sad that this person has felt so badly for such a long time, and it's rather miraculous as to the mechanism that allowed them to contact me, wouldn't you say?

What was really odd was they wrote that I was the only recurring memory from our school days. I wonder why that was. Me, of all people.. Gee, maybe Carolyn Tse doesn't remember how I used to drive her to tears by never listening to her when she would tell me and my buddies to stop goofing off in the tutorial room back in junior high. Now she would have a reason to remember me all these years! And I really do feel bad about giving her such a hard time, too, because she was a nice person.

Kind of makes me wonder who else came across this place by either googling their name or my name or someone they know. And it makes me wonder how closely the perceptions we had of ourselves and our behavior matches that of how our classmates viewed us. Any lurkers out there - you can always drop me a line!

It seems to me the above has the makings of some sort of story.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Real Bottlomless Pit/Black Hole

The more money you give me, the more money I am going to spend. I tend to be more like the grasshopper than the ant. I may put it all away into a savings account - initially - but the temptation of having "extra" money and the temptation of that tantalizing something I've had my eye on for a while that keeps beckoning me would overcome my sense of frugality. My impulsive self would trump my frugal self.

Especially if it was someone else's money that fell into my lap.

Once I read about a bus accident. Right after it happened, a load of people piled into the bus and pretended they had been aboard when the crash occured, in hopes of picking up a big injury claim down the line.

Take a look at the hurricane that ripped through New Orleans, and its aftermath. I bet all the false and exaggerated claims submitted by people dwarfed the actual damage done by the mighty winds.

How long will $700,000,000,000 last?

That may seem like a huge number and indeed it is, but given the number of open palms waving around asking for a handout, it will go fast.

It's like if you or I got a sudden windfall of $7,000 and got besieged by friends, relatives and strangers who all had a good sob story to tell. If we decided to hand out that money based on the perceived need of the people asking us for it, how long would it last and would we even have enough to go around? Never mind that all these people asking us for money were like the grasshoppers and not the ants and had squandered whatever they had in the past, and never mind that they were also like the friends of the Little Red Hen, who, when baking her pies asked these friends who would help find the ingredients, who would help mix them together, and who would help bake the pies. None of the friends had any time to do so. But when the pie was ready, she asked who would help eat the pie and then everyone seemed to find the time to help do that part.

So you give these needy friends the money. You have zip, they have $7,000 distributed amongst themselves. How long will it take for them to plow through those pennies from heaven? One of them comes driving up to your house in their brand new Lexus whose first month's lease payment was generated by their share of your handout. When you tell them you have no more money the tires screech as they angrily head off looking for another source of funds.

Or, you could have just kept your $7,000 in the first place and refused to give it to your fair weather friends. Instead of money, you could have given them advice: get a job and go earn your money and handle it more wisely next time.

Oh, the outrage! It's not just these fair weather friends you are hurting by refusing to part with YOUR money, but their spouses and children and pets, too! You have to think of them as well and have some compassion.

You could feel guilty about the innocent spouses and children and pets and give in, parting with your money. But sooner or later down the line if your fair weather friend isn't around, their spouse, children and pets will come calling at your door because they've been trained well and have come to expect something from you: their fair share.

Or you could do them a favor and offer to buy them some food.

"I don't want food, I want money."

Or, you could do them a bigger favor and tell them to go out and get a job and earn their keep. You can be sure that next time, the spouse, children and pets are not going to let your fair weather friend forget what happened.

Personally, I don't believe in most of the evolutionary theory. I believe in creation. But I do believe in the part of evolution that addresses the "survival of the fittest" concept. Species survive because only the most fit, and the most adaptive individuals within that species survive to propogate. The weak, unfit and stupid ones gradually get weeded out. Only in cartoons does Homer Simpson manage to keep reappearing season after season.

If you interfere with the survival of the fittest mechanism, you interfere with the survival of your species. It may seem compassionate to try and rescue everyone so they can all go along for the ride, but in the long run you are ensuring disaster.

How much money does it take to fill a bottomless pit? United States = keep shoveling and see. The real answer is to close up the hole.

What was that ad campaign that appeared back in the 80's, was it? Something like, "Just say no." What's the point of robbing Peter to pay Paul? Now someone's got to pay Peter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Yesterday I told you about my goofy resolution to not crack a smile for any of my 11th grade pictures, and showed you an example as proof. Believe me, the rest of the pictures were no different. How embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as the president of our service club forever immortalized as he knelt making a finger for the camera in our group picture, but nevertheless, embarrassing.

Here's a picture of a group I always thought included the bad dudes and dudesses, the ones to avoid, the ones who supported the "radical" causes (click the image for the large version).

And on the other side, here are the goodie goods, members of one of the academic clubs. There's me again looking out of place with that scowl. I usually just joined clubs for the opportunity of getting out of class for a few minutes when the group pictures were taken (click the image for a large version).

Though there does seem to be a contrast in the overall attitude between the two, looks can be deceiving. For example, there in the top picture, second from the right, is my old girlfriend Amy. It was this picture I was thinking of that formed my pre-impression of her when we met during summer school at West L.A. College after our freshman year. Doesn't she look intimidating in the picture? Ha, I had her pegged entirely wrong! She's one of the nicest people I've ever known - wouldn't hurt a fly or even vermin like me. Even my old chihuahua liked her, and that dog was hostile to everybody.. me included at times.

You know, we had class pictures in elementary school, then yearbooks in junior high, high school and college. Maybe there ought to be yearbooks for the workplace as well. Not like the annual report companies issue for the public, but a yearbook for the employees.

It would capture the company during a particular year. Later down the road, you could get some kicks by seeing what your co-workers looked like at the time, or see who was still there and who wasn't. Maybe there could also be categories such as "best dressed" or "most likely to succeed" or "most political" as well as work honor rolls, person who can eat the most pizza after the company softball game, etc.

I wonder what the classmates of the folks in the YouTube video for today thought of them? Oh, never mind, these guys didn't go to school! Haha..

It's all about perception. If you shaved the heads of the people in the top picture above, they'd look like the people in the video. If you shaved the heads of the ones in the second picture above, everyone would think they were Buddhist monks, probably.

Now if you took a group of monks and you put leather jackets on them and sat them down on Harleys, would they look intimidating?

Monday, November 17, 2008


Before I get to the main topic for today, here's an aside: Right now our air is looking mousy brown outside from all the fires surrounding us in Southern California. I have to ask, why is it that reporters feel compelled to ask those unfortunates who have just lost their house and home, "how do you feel about that?" Can't they just leave these people alone?

Anyway.. when I was in the eleventh grade I got this stupid idea in my head that I wasn't going to smile for any of my class pictures. None. If you peruse the yearbook, you will see I stuck to my word. In the few pictures in which I appear, there I am with a scowl for the camera. Ah, silly boy.

Here's an example - the tennis team picture. I'm even holding my racket in a menacing way (click on the image for an enlarged version).

Since I published the varsity tennis picture, I figured I might as well add the junior varsity as well, in case someone you know happens to be standing there. Most everyone looks friendly in these two pictures, and there I am, looking like I am going to bash someone's head in (again, click the image for a larger version).

Which brings me to the meat of today's blog post.

For a while I've been in a Charles Bronson mood, seething with anger about things going on at work. It really affected my disposition and it was noticeable not only by those around me but you could probably sense it in this blog, too. I was feeling like the guy wielding the racket in the first picture above looked.

That wasn't healthy and so I apologize if any of that did come across on these pages. Normally people characterize me as easy going and laid back (someone once said, oh, you seem like the kind of person who listens to jazz), but I dwelt too much on things at work that really are beyond my control and every time I thought about it I got madder and madder - becoming like Peter Finch in Network.

The sermon topic on Sunday was forgiveness. A key verse: "Don't let your anger be a sin. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry." (Ephesians 4:26) Well, the sun went down and rose up quite a few times recently and I was still boiling, like Jonah and the Ninevites (you'll just have to read that one.. it's a short book).

I'd already come to terms with this on Saturday, after having thought about it a lot and deciding there was no use making myself grow an ulcer over a situation that was not for me to control. I had to make better use of my time. The two objects of the frustration - one, that's just the way that person is and most likely they will never change; and two, that second person is genuinely nuttier than a fruitcake (seriously, they are a mental case) and there is no use trying to have a rational or coherent conversation with them. So the thing to do: forgive and move on to endeavors that will prove more fruitful.

In other words, enough.

That doesn't mean I won't seethe about something on these pages, but I will try and avoid feeling like I am going postal, and instead be more constructive about it. It's a state of mind..

Some of you may be wondering why I have so many Steely Dan YouTube videos in this blog. They're my favorite group. For whatever reason, their songs just hit home with me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back to Routine Saturday

This past Saturday was back to routine: the usual morning trip to Costco headed the list. Like it has been for a while, the store wasn't very crowded and there were plenty of parking spaces still available when I left. Gas prices continue to drop - today it was $2.329 per gallon and the total came to under $20, something I haven't seen in a long, long time.

I can't resist trying new seasonings, especially when they come in a giant container and cost so little like at Costco. $4.69 for the collection of "Rustic Tuscan" spices.

And in the same section was dragon breath in a bottle, only $3.49. I don't see how spices can be so cheap at Costco and so expensive everywhere else; it tastes the same.

After Costco I headed over to the library to get a book I had requested several months ago that finally weeded its way through the other requests in the queue and got down to me.

If you haven't heard of it, I highly recommend it if for nothing else than shock value. It's pretty alarming to find out just how unhealthy many of the foods are that are served at fast food and chain eateries, even those under the guise of sounding like they are healthy and good for us.

The below Aussie Cheese Fries from the Outback Steakhouse are declared the "Worst Food In America" by the author, weighing in at an astonishing 2,900 calories! They sure look yum, though.

One of my favorite comfort foods is a Swanson's chicken pot pie. My particular method of eating these is to poke holes with a fork around the perimeter to separate the edge of the crust that is on the tin from the crust that tops the pie. Then I eat the filling and save the crust for last - the browned, crunchy edge and then the bottom part that has soaked in the chicken broth/liquid of the filling. Mmm, that is so good.

There's so much fat in these things that I don't eat them anymore but from reading the book, things could be worse in the pot pie world. The below Pepperidge Farms chicken pot pie is the worst meal you can get at the supermarket, so says the author, with 1,020 calories and 64 grams of fat. At least the Swanson pies have only 400 calories.

Just trying to find "healthy" items when eating out is a chore and most of the things that qualify are no fun to eat. Prepared foods at the market are no better, either. I always look at the box to see the calorie count, which at first glance doesn't look bad at all, but then I notice the serving size is downright miserly. Use a normal serving size and all of a sudden the caloric content blooms out of control!

You know, when it comes to figuring out what makes for a healthy diet, actions speak louder than words. The authors of diet or health or exercise books - have you ever seen them in real life? How do we know that they are living proof of what they preach? We don't!

When it comes to deciding who to follow, we should follow the proven. Who better to emulate than the strongest man in the world? We should be wise and listen to what he has to say:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kings of Friday Nights

Back in high school, I was sooo glad when Friday rolled around and school couldn't torture me until Monday. I actually preferred Fridays to Sundays because on Friday I knew the weekend was ahead of me whereas on Sunday I knew Monday followed. How neurotic.

I love Fridays now, too, but it's not the same as my Dorsey days.

An ideal Friday night meant one of us being able to borrow our parents or siblings car, chipping in for gas, and cruising with no particular destination in mind. It was therapy on wheels, the night scenes passing by the car windows providing the backdrop for conversations that wandered without boundaries. At the time I really enjoyed the camaraderie but didn't fully appreciate it; it was something I took for granted.

It was so relaxing.. so informal.

This is a short entry. Sometimes it's nice not having any destination and having plenty of time to not get there. We were the kings of Friday nights.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mundane Thursday

As I write this on Thursday evening I am sure that when this blog post appears the next day, I am so glad it is Friday. What a long week it has been!

I really have nothing much to write about. You may be thinking or muttering, what is so different today that I have to announce the fact? The most exciting event of the day was copping a cheap subscription to the Los Angeles Times: $39 for one year of the Thursday through Sunday edition, PLUS, at no extra charge, including shipping and handling, an authentic front page aluminum printing plate of the day after the recent elections!

I voted for McCain so I really don't care about that plate and I am sure E-Bay will be saturated with these things, but the newspaper subscription was too good to pass up. Right now I am taking the Sunday paper only, and paying a whole lot more for just that, so it makes sense to switch.

The offer came in an e-mail. Actually, it was meant for my parents since they had a subscription which has since been canceled, and the message does say it was for people who used to have a subscription to the Times. Well, I "used" to have one too.. and I still do, but they let me make the switch so I'm not complaining.

The only part of the deal I don't like is having to pay with a credit card. The reason I don't like that is because that's the Times' sneaky way of hiking rates later on down the line without either my noticing it or figuring hey, they already have my card on file, just charge it to the card.

I've had several special offers from the Times in the past for really cheap rates on Sunday-only editions, but they are for a limited term after which the rate increases. Plus, once they get hold of your phone number, they bombard you with calls trying to get you to upgrade to additional days. They reel you in by telling you the extra days, like Thursday through Saturday, are absolutely FREE! Again, that is for a limited term only and once that is done you get a bill with a higher rate. I think most people don't even notice the rate has changed and keep paying it.

But cheapskate me does notice it!

I call them up and they give me an extended period at the old rate, after which time they again try the same ploy and again I notice it. Meanwhile, they keep trying to entice me to switch to automatic credit card billing by offering a $5 Target gift card or something equivalent.

Maybe if it were a Costco or Trader Joe's card I might consider it! But Target? Nah.. the main things I like about Target are that dog with the bullseye and their commercials.

So now I have an entire year before I need to be wary about them increasing my bill. But in the meantime I'm sure I can expect them to eventually begin calling to try and get me to upgrade to a full week's worth of papers. It won't work. We pretty much just get the paper for the ads anyway, although now we can have an attractive Obama plate as a conversation starter. For $39 a year, subscription and history-making headline combined, I suppose I can continue to play that game with them.

Like I said before, I didn't vote for our president-elect, but I do hope that he will be able to energize this country, and I truly wish him all the best.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let It Be

Today's blog entry is in my usual disjointed fashion and on top of that I go political on you today..

First off, I can see in the near future that a proposition will appear on the ballot (most likely California, though other states will soon follow suit) in which voters are asked to decide whether or not a circle can be defined as having four sides. Let's call it "Proposition O."

Proponents of the measure will argue that it is discriminatory against circles that they cannot have sides. It also lowers their self-esteem, and what kind of civilized society is so cruel as to continue to restrict the rights of circles? Circles have rights and feelings, just like the next shape.

Opponents of the measure will argue that a circle is a circle by definition, and to call it a square is ludicrous. It has nothing to do with discrimination or rights or cruelty or self-esteem, that's just the way it is.

Proposition O will go down to defeat because the majority of people still feel that a circle is a circle and a square (or rectangle) is still a square (or rectangle). Upon examining the ballots, however, proponents will call for a recount because some voters marked their ballots with a "yes" next to "Proposition [ ]" of which there was no such proposition but the argument will be they thought they were voting the square for the circle.

Along with that measure will be one about the "Teenage Bailout." There are millions of teens in this world who overspend and use up their allowances way too quickly, leaving them without lunch money as well as money to use for Starbucks, etc.

Ignoring this situation is bad for the economy. Since we know that the teen market is one of the most lucrative in terms of propping up the retail industry, for the members of this demographic to not have money to pump into the economy is a sure recipe for disaster.

The Teenage Bailout measure, if passed, would force parents to provide enough money for their teenagers to continue their habitual spending habits unabated, thus ensuring that the fragile economy of this country doesn't crash.

Other possibilities from the measure include making adults who don't have any teenagers contribute funds when the actual parents are in a bankrupt position. States could also issue bonds for emergency situations in which Apple or Nintendo issue new devices that are deemed too expensive for immediate parental expenditure because of food, clothing and housing needs.

Those teens who actually work to earn the money they spend may be appalled at first but soon they will join the train and have their hands out like the rest of their peers if the measure succeeds. If successful, the Teen Bailout will ensure that no teen will ever have to toss and turn at night wasting time planning how to allocate their limited resources because the wallet will be there if need be (the "no teen left behind act"). Retailers will breathe a sigh of relief and lobbyists will be reassured that there is indeed a place for them in this society.

That's it for being divisive, at least for today.

I've been reflecting upon everything as of late and have concluded I am making myself unnecessarily busy and am only harassing myself. It's time to simply chill out and go with the flow - let the soundtrack be Vince Guaraldi's Cast Your Fate to the Wind instead of edgy Blues Magoos or Electric Prunes-type music.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Small World

Yesterday I spoke with an attorney regarding some matters my dad wanted to have handled. During the small talk at the beginning, I told him I grew up in the Crenshaw area. He said his wife was the same age as me and she grew up there as well.

Naturally I asked him her name, but it didn't ring a bell. She had a twin sister, he told me, and they'd moved to the "westside" from Crenshaw. Hmm.. I always thought Crenshaw was considered "westside" but I guess they moved even more westward.

When he mentioned the twin sister and that they were my age, all of a sudden the name did ring a bell. "Hey, they lived on my block," I said. "Just a few doors away, in fact."

The neighbors told us about twins who lived right by our house, but they had moved out right before we moved in. They were very good looking, they said. I was disappointed! Why'd they have to move out? A couple of good-looking JA girls as neighbors? Drat the luck!

I told this to the attorney and he got a kick out of that. He said his wife would get a kick out of it too when he told her that evening, especially the "good looking" part.

My parents had also looked at houses in Monterey Park and Gardena, as well as the Crenshaw area back then, in 1969. They decided that Crenshaw would be the better place for me. I forgot what the reason was but when I see them again I'll have to ask because most JA families were moving out of Crenshaw to Gardena and Monterey Park at that time, rather than moving in. But hey, from 36th Street to Crenshaw, that was definitely a step up!

I thought back to that summer. I took drafting and history at Dorsey during the summer session. Mr. Rothblatt was the history teacher and I think I mentioned him before in this blog - he normally taught at Grant High and later on someone I worked with in the student store at UCLA told me he had gotten busted for smoking pot on the Grant high school campus. The absolute only thing I remember from either class was mir y druzbah, which supposedly means peace and friendship in Russian. That's what Mr. Rothblatt taught us.

Summer school began before we moved, so initially I took the Jefferson Avenue bus from Farmdale, where Dorsey was located, east to Western Avenue and then walked home from there. I was totally shocked by the behavior of the students taking the bus - some of them used to climb in through the windows to avoid having to pay.

When we did do the move to the new house, I then was able to walk to school. While things were getting organized, we'd take out chicken from Golden Bird. Three nights in a row, we had dinner from Golden Bird. I was ecstatic! Then finally everything was put away so my mom cooked dinner instead. I was disappointed. Sorry, mom! GB is the best fried chicken I've ever had, bar none. My mom's chicken couldn't compare, but she made the best onigiri, though. I remember the time I tried to make some - not that long ago, in fact - and wound up with misshappen clumps of rice and very red hands, too. That was my first and last attempt.

Our neighborhood had toads. I'd find them in the yard, bring them inside and my mom would tell me to take them back outside. A couple of years later they disappeared.

The neighbors were mainly black and Asian back then, and now they're mainly black. The block doesn't seem all that different now than then; the houses might be painted different colors, but they look good and their yards are kept up. The faces have changed but the people are very nice. My sister and I met some of them and they expressed sadness that our folks had moved out. A couple of them even cried. They'd been watching out for them, keeping an eye on the house and picking up the papers so it wouldn't be obvious that no one was home.

It'll be up for sale in the near future and it's hard to believe all that has happened so suddenly this year. There's a lot of great memories associated with that house and the neighborhood.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Psych Tests

The November 14 issue of The Week listed three web sites where you can take a test or survey that supposedly tells you about yourself. I like these kinds of things so I visited each site and took their tests.

After yesterday's rant about how my workplace's mission and vision statement is no different than Albert Einstein's definition of insanity (which I still believe is accurate), I was wondering if this anger and frustration would evidence itself through the results of the tests.

Here's the first test, which measures how "sane" a person is. It can be found at Click on the image for a larger version.

I think they are right about me having technology issues, meaning I spend too much time on the computer. I don't know what they mean about mania since there's no explanation or elaboration. This was a pretty straightforward test with what I thought were obvious questions as far as what they were attempting to measure.

The next test, found at was more interesting. The novelty about this site is you can do a self-assessment, save your results, then have your friends visit the site to not only peform their own self-assessments, but answer the same questions as they pertain to you. Then you can compare how your friends view you versus how you view yourself.

Here is how my results came out (again, click the image for a larger version). I'd say overall it was pretty accurate except the part where it says it wouldn't be surprising if I indulged in other substances to heighten my experiences. That I absolutely do not do, and don't condone. Why should I? I'm crazy enough as it is, haha..

Finally, here are the results of testing done at This was a more unusual test designed to see if a person favors black over white people, or Obama over McCain (or vice versa). I was kind of surprised at the results, since I don't feel I lean toward either race, and I voted for McCain. But I guess growing up in the 'hood must have had some effect on how I handled the test! Again, click the image for a larger version.

Actually, for a good portion of my life I actually didn't like black people. My elementary school was about 98% or more black; junior high was about 90% and high school a little less, but in all cases the ethnic composition was mainly black. Early in elementary school I was teased a lot - kids would call me a "ching-chong Chinaman" or "jap" and then pull their eyes back to make them slanty, or imitate Asian speech in a derogatory manner. I hated it. I used to wish I were black like them just so I'd be a part of the group.

Later on I used to tell myself I was glad I wasn't black, and would look down on them, thinking how stupid I had been to have wished I was black. Being a substitute teacher for a while didn't make it any better because I'd focus on all the negative aspects I could find about the black kids in the classroom. Since the highest rate of absenteeism in the district was in the south central sector, that's where I registered, and where most of the kids at that time were black.

On the other hand, my three best friends at Foshay were black, and I had lots of other black friends as well. How did that make any sense in light of the way I felt? It didn't, so I glossed over it. Later on in life I had to admit to myself that it doesn't matter what race or ethnicity someone is, we're all on the bell curve of being humans. No race has cornered the market either for being "good" or "bad."

That last paragraph might sound obvious to you, but for me, I had to reconcile feelings and tendencies within myself to keep trying to categorize and rank people based on their race. Finally, there were just too many inconsistencies in the models I tried to construct and no longer could I keep trying to justify or rationalize this idea that blacks were inferior or had negative characteristics peculiar to their "own kind."

I doubt that anyone today would accuse me of being anywhere near a racist; in fact they would say I am just the opposite. But that wasn't always the case. I'm just thankful that finally I saw the light and admitted I couldn't keep justifying my biased and racist attitudes. And thus ends today's couch session.. if you have time though, try those tests and see what you think.