Saturday, January 31, 2009

Controversy

Yes, nothing really brings out strong opinions and thoughts of challenging those with differing opinions to a duel than... Tito's Tacos.. good or bad?

There's a thread on the Chowhound Board originally started by someone who wrote, "Tito's are the best tacos in Los Angeles.."

Immediately numbers of other posters corrected him on his lack of taste. Honestly, I thought more people would jump in to support him (as I did; they are still my favorite taco bar none, even above Jack in the Box) but alas, the overwhelming majority of responses talked about what a bland, flavorless, salty, greasy, non authentic piece of garbage this taco was.

Well yeah, they're right but it's the synergy of all those characteristics that make it such a great food item.

A lot of folks said Tito's is just nostalgia. True.. One poster mentioned how when he moved out here from New Yawk many years ago, his friend brought him to Tito's and the now defunct Magos, the latter at which he discovered more real Mexican food in the form of fried chicken burritos. I pointed out that those were the days, when Tito's, Johnny's Pastrami, Magos and Bruno's Restaurant all resided within a stone's throw of one another.

Not much else to write about today, but I am thinking if you are reading my blog you must not have very much to do and are trying desperately to escape boredom. Therefore, let me suggest something else you can work on: The Eggxpert Trivia Challenge. It was started by a Newegg customer and I've been playing this since May or June of 2007 and my buddy Donna has been playing it also since I told her about it.

Our numbers have dwindled and now it's the same old 20 or so people each month who try and answer a bunch of trivia questions in as short a time as possible. If you would like to try it, click here. You will have to register to play but it seems safe to do so - I haven't received any spam as a result and each day I look forward to competing against the same cronies who are there every month, plus I wonder just who are these people, anyway?

Sorry, no YouTube today but instead I will post a screen print of my score from yesterday (that's me bringing up the rear..click for a larger image).



Friday, January 30, 2009

Lunchin' With JT

JT found out about this blog because his brother was doing family research in Google, typed in JT's name and came up with this blog. He asked JT, "Hey, do you know someone named Rickie Miyake?"

I interrupted JT as he was telling me this at lunch today (Thursday). "What did your brother say - this guy's talkin' trash about you?" I laughed.

And that's how he came to find the blog, leading to his e-mailing me and suggesting we get together for lunch. We were buddies in junior high and even though we're both Dorsey Dons, we didn't really hang around each other in high school. He even asked me if I had graduated from there because he didn't remember me on campus.

"I kept myself anonymous," I said.

Maybe you can guess who I'm talking about but I'll just refer to him as "JT" here. I seem to have a lot of J's that I refer to by initials.. like "JT" and "J" and "JET," haha.. what can I say? I'm not responsible for their names.

We met at The Hat. You don't go there and order something other than pastrami, but that's what we did, both getting hamburgers (which to me were average at best). "I try and stay away from that stuff," he said. "I can only eat half of a pastrami now." Ah, we're both getting old. Same here.

I told someone at work I was meeting JT for lunch, the circumstances of how we got in touch, and that I hadn't seen him since high school so I had no idea what to expect. "What if he's gay?" she asked.

Hmm. I hadn't thought about that. Well, what if he is. But he isn't.

He was waiting at one of the outside tables when I arrived, and I knew it was him. I wouldn't have picked him out in a crowd, but I figured this had to be him because there was a resemblance to the JT I used to know. He said he'd never recognize me. Maybe he was trying to do that by looking at my hair, which he said used to be long and I was that 'messy haired boy' that was always pushing back his bangs. Man, I hadn't thought of that in a long time. I'm still messy haired, but shorter.

So over our burgers we brought each other up to date on what we've been doing since our Dorsey days. He told me he ran into Kurtis at the Costco in Torrance not too long ago. "He's almost bald - he's like a ji-chan, just has some hair on the side," JT explained as he moved his hands around his head to show me where the hairs still existed. "I saw him and said, 'man, Kurtis, you look old! What happened to you?'" That cracked me up.

As might be expected, the conversation turned to girls back from our Foshay days. Like the 9th graders when we were squeaky callow 7th graders. "Some of them were really fine," he mused as the memories floated back.

I pointed out that he used to be crazy about Masayo.

"Oh yeah, Masayo. She was fiiiine!" Then he told me how a lot of them were in orchestra, and he tried remembering their names.

"Gerry.." I said.

"Gerry - I remember her. She was fine, too!"

If you had been listening to us you'd be in awe of how many times the word 'fine' was spoken.

We both agreed there weren't that many of those fine types in our own grade. But then there weren't that many Asian girls in our class to begin with. He was trying to remember the name of one particularly fine Chinese girl but his mind was blank. He said she was tall, thin and had really nice long hair. I was trying to think of who he was talking about. "Angelina?" I asked.

"Angelina - I saw her a while ago," he said. He had seen her and told her she looked familiar, and she said the same thing to him. Small world. But it wasn't Angelina. I kept thinking who it could be.

"Lena?" I asked. She was a half-step lower than us (back when we had the "A" and "B" parts of grade levels) but she's the only other person I could think of that fit the bill.

"Yeah, that's it! Lena! She was fine!" I told him I had to agree because I had a crush on her back then. But she wasn't in our grade.

"She wasn't?"

Then I told him how I ran into her about ten years ago at a funeral. She recognized me but I didn't recognize her. We sat together at the post-funeral lunch afterwards at General Lee's and caught up on old times. I told JT, "Her sister Doris was there, too. I didn't recognize her either but she was really fine in junior high."

"Doris.. Doris. She had bangs, right?" I nodded. "Oh yeah, she was fine."

We also agreed that to our little 7th grade eyes, the 9th graders had looked like grown ups back then.

I'll stop here with part one and leave you with an appropriate song:




Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuna and Shameful Excess

Today was rather uneventful and pretty much all I have to relate to you about my day is the canned tuna I had for lunch.

Normally I buy Kirkland albacore tuna from Costco but the last time I bought Chicken of the Sea instead because it was.. cheaper.

I thought back to my elementary school days when I used to bring tuna sandwiches for lunch that my mom had made - tuna mixed with mayo and relish on white. I used to put potato chips in it for crunch and they were my favorite kind of sandwich. Amazing that none of us who brought tuna sandwiches wound up with x's in our eyes considering they sat there unrefrigerated in our lunch pails or brown bags for a few hours.

Back then it was either Chicken of the Sea or Starkist. I grew up thinking these were the trustworthy brands. So faced with Chicken of the Sea and Kirkland staring at me at Costco, I chose economy and put the 12-pack of Chicken of the Sea in the cart.

That was a mistake.

How different can white meat albacore packed in water be between brands? Quite a bit different. The Kirkland tuna is far superior. The Chicken of the Sea has a lot more water in it, the meat isn't as firm, nor is it as white as the Kirkland brand. It just doesn't look as good. Taste-wise I really don't know since I didn't compare them side by side and I mix it with with other stuff anyway, but that's the last time I stray from the Kirkland brand for my tuna!

And that's your consumer report for the day.

On another note, I would just like to vent my outrage at more of the waste that goes on that led to the even bigger waste of providing bailout funds for the clowns that ran their companies into the ground.

I was reading in the Wall Street Journal how John Thain, the ex-CEO of Merrill Lynch who got the boot the other day, paid plenty of bonuses to the employees, the average pay of whom was in the mid-$200K/year range. Can you believe that? The lousy firm loses $27 billion last year and they pay bonuses to the employees that helped them lose that much???

On top of that, the louse spent $1.2 million renovating his office! What can you possibly spend that much money on for an office?? Well, $87K of it was for a rug. Yes, a throw-rug.

I just found it unbelievable that anyone would be so lacking in conscience, although I am sure he is not alone. It takes more than one to eat up $700 billion and now the $852 billion more proposed by our new pres. Think Pac Man and you get the idea..

Thus the title of today's blog - tuna and excess, totally unrelated - well, except for the fishiness of it all. I tell you, if you put all of these worthless execs in cans, they would certainly not measure up quality-wise to even the worst catfish of the sea brand fish parts. The smell would drive anyone away.




Monday, January 26, 2009

One Ton of Metal

I got my new glasses on Friday. I like them. Julie didn't like them although she's getting used to them now (she has no choice, haha).

Today at Costco I saw almost exactly the same frames as what I just got, only they cost about $100 less. So even without insurance it would have been cheaper to get them there. Oh, well. I should have known!

Here's the old frames:


Here's the new ones:


I spared you having to look them with me wearing them. Anyway, I wanted something that looked more studious and serious and got my wish, I guess.

Today at WalMart they were playing the old Sandpipers song, "Guantanamera" over the sound system. That reminded me of something I read long time ago about misheard lyrics. A woman wrote that she had always thought that instead of "guantanamera," they were singing: "one ton of metal / oh, he lifts one ton of metal / one ton of me-tal.... oh he lifts one ton of metal."

When I was little I used to listed to the Beatles a lot. One of the lines from "I Saw Her Standing There" was, "Now I'll never dance with another, woooo, when I saw her standing there." I asked my sister, "what is a wooo?" She tried to explain it to me but I didn't get it.

Back in our Easy Livin' days, "Badge" by Cream was on our playlist. I had trouble with those lyrics, too. When he sings, "I told you 'bout a kid, now he's married to Mabel," I always thought he was singing, "I told you 'bout a kid, now he's not a tomato."

Everyone else in the band looked at me. "What kind of sense does that make?" I just shrugged and turned red. I told them I dunno, that's what I thought he was saying all this time.




Sunday, January 25, 2009

Food Filled Saturday

Like most Saturdays I started out the day making my usual trek to Costco. Nothing much exciting happened over there and I don't even have any pictures to show you.

Lunch was more interesting. Our choir core group decided to meet over lunch at Mahan Indian Restaurant in Alhambra. I'd been wanting to try that place for a while but it's difficult getting people to go to an Indian restaurant.

We all had the lunch buffet. A few of the people weren't too familiar with Indian food and I noticed they were pretty hesitant about putting too much food on their plates, leaving a lot of white space. The food actually looked pretty good - very colorful. Vegetable samosas, basmati rice, eggplant, spinach, vegetable korma, some stewed chicken dish, tandoori chicken, green salad and a couple of chutneys beckoned from the serving trays.

The general reaction after tasting the food was, "hey, this is good!" And indeed it was. I'm no expert on Indian food, having had it only a few times myself, but it tasted good to me. Everyone ended up going back for at least seconds. The staff was very attentive as well. I wouldn't mind going back there again.

Dinner was with Julie's family for an early Chinese New Year celebration at King Hua, also in Alhambra. Previously this place has gotten raves on the Chowhound food board but the several times I've been there, the food has been less than stellar. It's mediocre at best and way overpriced. This time was no exception.

They ordered one of the special banquet dinners which came with all kinds of fancy stuff but the portions were small and just as well, because it didn't taste all that good, either. Scrawny chicken, emaciated duck, fish that left you wondering where the meat was, and an anorexic lobster were part of the meal. The best part was the fried rice at the end.

The sharks fin soup was okay although there was hardly any shark in it. Just as well because I don't understand the affection people have for sharks fins - it's like eating the teeth from a plastic comb if you ask me.

I searched for a YouTube relevant to both Indian and Chinese cuisine, but I couldn't really find anything. Instead, this will have to do..










Friday, January 23, 2009

You Can't Hide From Google

I wasn't going to write anything for today but then I received an e-mail from a thunderous voice from my Foshay past, an old classmate who ran across this blog when he was googling his name.

I suppose that's what I should expect if I use real names in this blog, eh?

This person read my post about how he used to terrorize us back in the day, and also about the nickname we had for him. Then he proceeded to conjure up long forgotten memories from my past by calling me "messed up hair boy."

I hadn't heard that in ages!

Anyway, he said to give him a call sometime and we can do lunch. That sounds like a good idea. I'll tell you about it after we catch up on a lot of water under the bridge.

Meanwhile, this YouTube will give you some idea of what things were like back in the 7th grade when he was our ringleader - the Moe to us Larry and Curly's.




Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yanked

I had all four wisdom teeth Wednesday morning and only three in the afternoon. My dentist recommended that one of them be extracted and since I trust him, I heeded that recommendation.

I had two molars pulled about 10 or so years ago and I don't recall having much pain or being bothered too much by it. I figured this time would be no different. Then on Tuesday I happened to stop by a blog that I read now and then, and wouldn't you know it, the subject of this person's latest post was about having all of her wisdom teeth extracted!

She wrote about her pre-visit anxiety and her research into all of the things that could go wrong. Nothing went wrong, though; the extraction went smoothly and the worst of it was the post-extraction recovery with the bleeding, and what she termed "the ick factor."

After reading that then I started getting anxious myself. What timing, eh?

But there was nothing to worry about. The whole process was quick and painless and the worst thing was trying not to gag at times when they cleaned up in my big mouth. Now I am sitting here typing with a gauze pad in the space formerly occupied by my tooth and I can feel that the anesthetic is beginning to wear off.

So far, so good, though. It feels a little weird missing a tooth and it hurts a little tiny bit now (three hours later). I'm wondering if dinner is going to be friendly to me or not. Well, pain or no pain, I'm glad to be done with it.

In case you want to read about that other person's experience, you can click here. She also listed some post-yank recovery tips, which I found very helpful.

Today's YouTube.. not for the squeamish!




Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1st Step on a 10000 Mile Journey

I was working at home Tuesday but didn't watch any of the inaugural ceremony. One of my right-hand co-workers who also works from home is a huge Obama supporter and she watched the festivities.

"They're driving down Pennsylvania Avenue!" she e-mailed. Shortly after that she e-mailed again to say that now they had gotten out of the car and were walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.

I wrote back and told her that they shouldn't have chosen to ride in an American car if they expected to go the entire way without it breaking down and causing them to have to walk the rest of the way, haha.. Yes, I just had to get in my little digs.

Like so many Obama supporters, she is hopeful that our new president will be able to turn things around. I hope so as well. Today he told everyone it's going to take a lot of work to do so and we all have to chip in and share responsibility for making it happen.

Well, it is up on the soapbox day today..

In a "me first" country like this, I wondered how long it would take before the grumbling started when people realized that this meant THEY are part of the group that needs to take responsibility. We're all going to have to pitch in, and to some extent, more or less, we're all going to be feeling the pain. Will everyone be as enthusiastic when that happens?

Flip Wilson used to do a routine with him as a preacher, getting his congregation all worked up about building up their church. He started out by telling them that the church had to move, but first it had to crawl. After it crawled, it would start to walk, and after it started to walk, it would start to run, etc., etc. and with each step the congregation got more and more enthusiastic (naturally I have nowhere near the flair with this as did Mr. Wilson).

Then when he got to the end, he told everyone that in order to make all this happen, they needed to raise a lot of money.

After a moment of silence, everyone started shouting, "let it crawl, let it crawl!"

We all wanna go around Costco getting our lunch for free from the food sample tables. Or be like the Little Red Hen. Or Flip Wilson's congregation. Our new president is asking us not to be like that, but to share in the work that needs to be done.

I wish I could find a video of that church skit but it isn't on YouTube. Well, maybe this one is more appropriate anyway. I hope so..




Tuesday, January 20, 2009

MLK Day

I know Martin Luther King Jr's birthday was celebrated yesterday (Monday), not today but I am writing this post on Monday. Besides, his birthday is actually on January 15.

This morning (by that I mean Monday the 19th) we drove down to J-Town to check out the beginning of Mitsuwa Market's 50% off sale that lasts this week after which the market at that location will close forever.

More than three blocks from the market, traffic was all backed up. Could it be due to the sale? Naw.. being that we were in the downtown area I figured the jam was caused by construction or just general traffic problems even though today was a holiday.

But as we pulled closer to the store, we could see that indeed the cause of the tie-up were cars waiting to enter the parking lot. Then we saw a long - and I mean long - line of people lined up outside of the market. This was nearly an hour after they opened so it wasn't like they were waiting for the doors to open; the market must have been so crowded that they had to limit access. Good thing these weren't Wal Mart shoppers!

After we saw that, we said forget it. 50%, 90% off, even 100% off it wasn't worth it. We went to go visit my folks at Keiro for a little while then drove over to Phillipe's for a french dip sandwich. I was surprised - coffee was only 9 cents. It's $5.35 for a sandwich, which relatively speaking isn't too bad a tariff.

Unlike the day JFK was assassinated, I don't remember what I was doing when I heard the news that Dr. King had been shot. I do remember the day after, however. Worried about possible race retaliation, the vice principal at our junior high school took the ONLY white kid in the school home in his car.

I remember being a little bit scared even though no one gave me any cause for alarm. Even so, I walked home with one of my Jones brother buddies, Michael, that day.

That unfortunate event happened nearly 41 years ago. Hard to believe it has been that long. 41 years later, this country will inaugurate its first African American president and I believe a good part of this was enabled by Dr. King's efforts. Now I look forward to the day when a person's race or ethnicity makes no difference and we don't look upon their being honored as a big "achievement" for a group of people, but instead look at the individual and what he or she stands for.

When I first started watching Mr. Obama, I had no doubt that one day he would be our president. He just looks and acts.. presidential. In many ways he reminds me of my other Jones buddy in junior high, Alan. There's just something about people that tells you they are going to be successful.

Anyway, even though I didn't vote for Obama, I wish him well and am glad that this "barrier" on race has been broken. Going forward I hope we can evaluate people as individuals and not apply group stereotypes to anyone.




Monday, January 19, 2009

Guilty..

The movie Network was one of the items on my Christmas wish list. As it turns out, I received two copies, one from Katie and one from my sister. Procrastinator that I am, the two have just sat there all this time waiting for me to return one of them. Since Katie said she bought her copy at Borders, whereas my sister ordered it from Amazon, I figured it would be easier to return the one to Borders and see if I could exchange it for something.

I didn't know which copy came from which store; I looked at them both and they seemed identical so I chose one and took a short trip to Borders at the Santa Anita Mall. I had called the day before and asked if I could return it without a receipt and was told normally they didn't allow it but I could ask a manager when I brought it in.

First thing that happened when we walked in the store was the security alarm started beeping. I must have brought back the Amazon copy with me because I doubt they would desensitize the enclosed security device inside the case if it was being mailed out. Right away I felt like a criminal.

Just so they would see I hadn't been wandering around the store, I quickly got in line and then asked the clerk about an exchange. He said the store policy didn't allow them to accept anything without a receipt. I mentioned the phone conversation I had and so he called the manager over. She punched in the numbers from the case, came back and said they would make an exception this time but next time I would need a receipt. I was given a Border's gift card. I was pretty amazed; what cost $10 from Amazon was $26.99 at Borders!

I thanked them and went to go peruse the store for something to get in exchange. Finally I settled on a blu-ray copy of Dark Knight, marked $35.99. So it was another $10 more - that was still a good deal compared to what I'd have to pay for it without the credit. I took it up to the desk, the clerk rang it up and apparently it was on sale for $29.99. I ended up shelling out an extra $3.00, not a bad deal at all.

Even though everything I did was legit, I still felt guilty about the whole thing, as though I was trying to pull a fast one on them. But then I thought, if they really sold the Network DVD for $26.99, that's kind of like pulling a fast one on people who bought that because how many regular DVD's do you see these days that cost that much?

Anyway, the clerk was nice about it - he kind of looked like Chevy Chase. He bade me a good morning instead of saying "goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow," and I took my new loot out of the store. Still, I felt dirty.

After that, while Julie went to J.C. Penney, a store in which I find absolutely nothing of interest, I went to Suncoast Video to browse and discovered a near empty store. They were going out of business and were selling what little junk was left for 50% off and the fixtures as well.

There were lots of vacant spaces in the mall and lots of sales going on. You can see the hard times in the economy just from walking around. Given the price difference between buying DVD's at full-price places like Suncoast or Borders versus the low prices at internet retailers like Amazon, not to mention the savings in sales tax, it's going to be tough for any of these brick and mortar places to survive.

Later on in the day I went to Target and finally used a $50 gift card I had won at our company's 2007 dinner dance (actually Christmas party but we can't call it that) on TaxCut software to do my tax return. I hated paying full price ($49.95) but otherwise since Julie nor me hardly ever shop there, it would probably never get used. And these days, holding onto gift cards is a risky propositon.

Not a bad day bargain-wise.. Dark Knight on blu ray for $3.00 and Tax Cut federal and state tax software for $4.00.

Here's something to think about. According to Yahoo Answers, about 135 million people filed tax returns in 2005, of which nearly 100 million actually ended up paying income taxes (i.e., 35 million got all their taxes refunded). Wikipedia says in 2007 there were about 138 million who filed returns but it doesn't say how many actually ended up with a net tax liability for the year.

Now think about that $700 billion in bailout money. If that was given back to the 100 million or so people who actually paid taxes, that amounts to $7,000 per person. If we gave $7,000 each to 100 million people in this country, don't you think that would stimulate the economy far more than wasting it on the stupid bozos who ran their companies into the ground and have no shame holding out their hands asking for more??? $7,000 would make a nice down payment on a reliable car instead of giving billions away to a manufacturer who makes junk.








Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog

Here's something to chew on for those of you who were thinking about heading over to Circuit City in search of deals, now that they will be closing their doors for good in the near future..




Goodbye Bad Bank

My first stop today (Saturday) was not the usual Costco, but Bank of America where I gladly closed my final account with them, my checking account. I've described the hassles I have had with their horrible customer service that makes you feel like a mouse in a maze with no exit so today when the teller said she was sorry to hear I wanted to close my account and is there anything she could do to make me change my mind, I said, "No."

She asked me why.

I told her that B of A makes it too difficult to do business with them. They are a prime example of the Peter Principle in action (I didn't tell her that last sentence, I just gave her a brief rehash of the nightmare experiences I had earlier).

So out I walked with the remaining balance in my account, $18.25. That'll show them!

When I told the teller I was closing my account, her response to me sounded like she had said it way too many times already. Not surprising.

Then off I went to Costco. Lucky for you I have no pictures to show today. I bought nothing new or exciting, just the same old stuff.

I thought about going to Circuit City since they announced they're closing their doors soon but after reading several message board posts on the audio/video forums, the consensus was it was definitely not worth a trip. The prices are no better than they were before the announcement, although they said people were buzzing in like flies snapping up stuff, apparently hypnotized by the word "sale" and ignorant of how little discount they were really getting. So I saved some gasoline and stayed home until lunch.

Near noon I drove to Shaka's in Alhambra to meet Katie for lunch; it was nice to catch up on things. She told me that when she was little, she thought I was Mexican.

"You thought your dad was a Mexican, eh?"

She said it was because of the mustache I used to have and she remembered eating Mexican food often. One night she and Greg were talking and he was asking her what race she thought the various people they knew were. Then he asked her, "what do you think dad is?"

That was my revelation for the day.

After dinner we went to WalMart to pick up a few things. When we were in line, all of the debit/credit card terminals went down so they were calling corporate trying to figure out what to do and it sounded like they'd have to get phone authorizations on every charge. I could see the lines getting longer and longer and it's a good thing we got out of there early because you sure don't want to be around a WalMart when people get into a frenzy.

Stepping into WalMart is like going back in time. For the world's largest retailer, they sure seem to be technologically challenged. I suspect those commercials about their "rollbacks" are talking not only about prices, but about their technical savvy.

And that's what happened today (Saturday).

Here's my ode to B of A..




Saturday, January 17, 2009

Outdoors

Yesterday Julie and I met with an insurance agent to discuss long-term care insurance. After what happened with my folks last year and their now being at Keiro, we figured it would be a good idea to stop talking about how it might be a good idea to look into it and actually do something about it - like actually look into it.

So that's what we did. Now we are waiting to get some quotes.

Later in the afternoon I took my dad to a cardiologist appointment. He said they didn't do much; the doctor asked some questions then disappeared and the nurse did the rest - checked blood pressure, temperature and did an EKG. When he came out, I was told they wanted to schedule him for three tests, one of which would take about 3-4 hours.

After I got home (driving back from Keiro at 5:00 pm on a Friday afternoon was no picnic) my dad called and said he didn't want to take those tests, and in fact he said he won't take them. He said they're a waste of time - he's so old already (he'll be 91 soon), he asked what's the point?

My parents have really slowed down over the past couple of years, understandably so given their age. Changing environments from their house to a care facility has been a big undertaking for them. Today I wondered how I would feel should I get to be as old as they are. What kind of life would I be leading?

I'd be on the computer as happy as can be, I laughed to myself. But seriously, with the health problems that will set in and an eventual inability to be independent, how would I feel about that? Not only that, but being concerned about Julie's health as well.

Of course we never know what is going to happen tomorrow, so all of these questions I asked myself are big "if's." When The Who sang, "hope I die before I get old," do they feel the same way now as they did then? Would I cling to life in every way I could, being afraid to die?

Well, I really don't know. I think I'd have to get there and then see how I felt. We think and say a lot of things about the future but who knows how we will really think and feel when it becomes the present. I've always had difficulty conforming to regimentation.

Then I thought about the long-term care insurance. If we went ahead and purchased it, how would I feel if we ever had to use it?

Anyway, that's what was running through my mind on Friday.






Friday, January 16, 2009

Four Eyes

I had my annual eye exam the other day. I told my optometrist that all those "tests" get harder every year! Like the one where you look into a machine and you're click the remote whenever anything in the circle of vision appears to shimmer. I had enough trouble just trying to focus clearly, much less figure out if anything was shimmering.

Anyway, I ended up ordering a new pair of glasses. Now that same question popped into my head - shouldn't that be referred to in the singular since we are talking about one item? True there are two pieces of glass (actually no, it's not glass it is a polycarbonate structure that cost me $20 extra) but it's still one object. So does a person getting a monocle get "a glass?"

Unlike my current pair (I'll just give in and conform to standard usage) of glasses that have a thin wire frame because I wanted them to be unobtrusive, these have a thicker, dark-brown and black tortoise shell frame. It's hard to tell they are tortoise shell, though, because they are so dark that they look nearly solid.

I told the frames person that I wanted a more "studious and serious" look, which I think comes from being too influenced by people in the Korean dramas we watch. She brought out several samples and one of them really caught my eye so that was that - I told her I'd take it.

"How much extra is it over what the insurance covers?" I asked.

"$28."

Well 28 bucks isn't too bad. But then by the time she got through adding this and that, like progressive lenses for old folks, polycarbonate lenses, scratch resistant coating, etc., and the deductible, the figure had shot up substantially.

Oh what the heck - it's been nearly six years since I got my last pair so on a per-year basis it isn't too expensive.

When I went to the counter to pay, the frames person had me try what I bought on for the girl who took my credit card. "Those look really good," she said.

"Thanks," I smiled.

Then the other assistant who works behind the counter came back and wanted to see what they looked like, so I put them on again.

"Ooh, nice," she told me.

I imagine that's part of the training for working in an optometrist's office: No matter how stupid the glasses look, always say they are marvelous. Haha, well, I did think they looked pretty good myself. They are more prominent than my old pair so maybe they will draw attention away from me and more to themselves. I'm still faced with the problem of having uneven eyebrows, though. I'm waiting for the day when someone invents frames that can compensate for that.

In the evening we went to Pizza Place California for dinner with our Bible study group. I took my 7th grade Foshay yearbook with me since my old nemesis from the tutorial room, Caroline, was going to be there. We got a kick out of the old pictures. Everyone looked at my picture, then at me and said that there didn't seem to be much of a resemblence. "You looked kind of chubby back then," is what they said. And they couldn't believe I had been that mean to poor Caroline.

Although everyone now calls her Carol, I find that since my discovery that we both went to Foshay I've begun to call her Caroline.

There goes another day in the life.. the glasses should be here in a couple of weeks and in the meantime I'm free from having to take any more of those increasingly difficult vision tests.

I tried thinking of songs that talked about glasses, and here's one from my Foshay days. I never could figure out these strange lyrics..




Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lead Mouth

Like golden ears, there are people who have golden palates. Robert Parker Jr., for example, the most influential wine critic (and possibly critic, period) in the world. His reviews can make or break a wine, and send the prices spiraling wildly upwards or downwards.

I wrote a wine blog for a while, called One Wine Per Week although most of it involved satiric articles and spoofs, with serious tasting notes thrown into the mix.

One day I reviewed a product that supposedly improved the taste of wine right on the spot. In case you didn't know, many wines, especially red, seem to taste better after they've been sitting in the glass for a while. This is because they develop when exposed to air. That's why when you watch the "pros" tasting wine, they will swirl the wine violently in the glass before tasting it - that's to mix it up with air and bring out the flavors.

One fellow had an idea for a device that would thoroughly aerate wine as you poured it from the bottle into the glass. Because I don't want this entry to show up in a search engine, I won't give you the full name of the product all at once. Let me just say it begins with a "V" and has the letters i,n,t and then uri in the rest of the name.

I bought one of them. It is made of glass and has a tube running through the middle. It looks elegant. You hold it over a wine glass, then pour the wine from the bottle through this "V" device. The wine mixes with air coming through the tube, makes a gurgling sound, and it empties out into the glass with little air bubbles still dancing on the top. Supposedly this maximum exposure to air permits and facilitates rapid development of wine.

If you read reviews for this product, a lot of people swear it works. My brother in law is one of them.

Now as you may have already guessed, when I tried it I couldn't tell the difference. Not one bit. To my way of thinking, what is the difference between pouring it through this V device versus swirling the wine around in the glass? They both make the wine contact the air, and in fact since there is more surface area of the wine in the glass than there is going into the device, it's getting more air contact being in the glass. Or so I think with my pinhead logic.

No matter, I kept going back and forth and really wanted to be able to taste or smell the difference but try as I might, I couldn't find any. So that's what I wrote in my blog.

Then lo and behold, not long after I posted that entry I received this comment:

Sir,

With all due respect, if you can not smell or taste a profound difference than you are not qualified to assert your opinion. In addition, please do not drink fine wine as it will be wasted on your palate. By the way, I searched the for "doltified" and it is not a word. I suppose you're self-appointed to warp the english language just as you're self-appointed to promote a non-opinion.

If you can't hear the difference between speaker wire then your hearing is just as bad as your other senses. Your ears will be completely satisfied with a Timex clock radio. I auditioned over two dozen highly rated brands before selecting Silver Smith. But, I guess that's because I'm on idiot.

I'm wondering if your sight is as bad as your taste and hearing. Do all girls look the same to you, too? Perhaps your lack of senses is excusable, but your lack of sense isn't.

God give you the wisdom to know what you're talking about and the sense to shut up when you don't.
November 16, 2007 11:46 AM

Well now that was pretty rude, eh? I looked at the name of the poster and thought someone was trying to be funny and used a fake name, sort of like Kaiser Soze or Rolo Tomassi, because it was a name along those lines. Turns out the guy who wrote that comment was the inventor of the device I had just said made no difference when I tasted wines with and without using it! Ooh, was he mad! I thought that was pretty tacky of him, though - when someone pans your product, accept it with grace instead of sounding like a thug.

I stand by my opinion, though. While I can discern the differences between wines when tasted next to each other (I'm not one of those who can tell you what wine and vintage something is or often even what kind of grape it is made from), I've noticed that wine does develop in the glass but it takes time to do so. Even swirling it doesn't make an immediate difference; it just accelerates the process but if you expect instant change, forget it. And that's what this device was promising.

But there are so many other people who insist they can discern an immediate improvement in the wine after using the device. Is this real or psychological? I don't know. All I know is I have a lead mouth/palate and such refined devices are lost on me, like pearls before swine. Again, maybe that's a blessing and not a curse?

Oh, and in reply to this nasty comment, no, all girls do not look the same to me, lol..




Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lead Ears

Yesterday I talked about my experiences with the sample Monster Turbine in-air speaker (i.e., earbuds) I received. I could most certainly discern a noticeable difference between it and the two sets of headphones I have.

Did you know that there are amplifiers made specifically for headphones? Normally you would plug your headphones into the headphone jack either on your computer or on your audio receiver, and then give a listen. The volume knob on your computer or receiver adjusts the sound level playing through the headphones.

But if you really want to go hi-fi, the thing to do is purchase a headphone amp. It connects to the left and right "line out" jacks either on your computer sound card or your CD player, and has its own amplifier and volume control. Why would you want to do it that way instead of using the headphone jack?

Supposedly for cleaner, clearer and more accurate sound. Actually I've found that some headphone jacks on amplifiers introduce noticeable hiss or noise to the sound and I feel it is better to use a separate amp connected directly to the source.

That said, there's a wide range of prices for one of these headphone amps, all the way up to thousands of dollars. Like audio cables, my question is, can you really hear a difference?

I used to frequent the forums on a website called head-fi.org. There you will find all sorts of discussions about all things headphone related, including ones about which headphone amp sounds best. The result of my foray into the world of headphones was that I purchased three different amplifiers. The thing is, I must not be one of those people blessed with "golden ears" because when I adjust the volume knobs to play at the same sound level, I can't hear a bit of difference between the three (actually I only have two, having resold the vastly more expensive third one).

I read plenty of the forum comments about how x had such a more refined, pure, quality sound than did y, but to me everything sounded exactly the same. Or if there were any differences, by the time I got around to switching between the amps I could no longer discern them. Not so with headphones; those definitely had differences. The two headphones I have are like night and day sound-wise. But the amps? I couldn't tell the difference.

Maybe it is because my hearing was dented from playing in Easy Livin' those several years. Or maybe it's a natural hearing loss as a result of growing old. A few years ago we went to the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco. One of the exhibits was a hearing test. My hearing cut off at a much lower frequency than did Greg's and Katie's - they were amazed. "You can't hear that tone, dad?" I just shook my head. Nope.

But still, with the debates raging on the forum about the differences in headphone amps and how much better one was than another, you'd think I would be able to hear a difference even with my more limited frequency range. But I don't. Maybe that'a a blessing in disguise since that won't lead me to have to spend a lot of money.

Yet, if the differences between speakers or headphones are so great to me, why wouldn't I be able to hear the difference between amps?

The same thing happened to me in my much younger days when presumably my hearing was better - when I was 22 years old. I was all set on purchasing this gigantic amplifier, aptly called the "Ampzilla" and had visited the stereo store several times to listen. The salesperson there took a liking to me and let me take it home to listen to, without even asking for a deposit (pretty crazy, huh?).

What I did was I took it to another stereo store to compare it to what they had. At the time, the Ampzilla was considered one of the premier amps available. The sales rep at the other store showed me a Technics amplifier that he said was way, way better than the Ampzilla. Technics was/is a Panasonic company and was considered a lot more mainstream than the esoteric, audiophile-quality Ampzilla and I was skeptical.

I had brought my own records with me so I asked the rep to play them and we switched the two amps back and forth. One of the test records was a recording of Santana's "Europa" that had a great guitar solo.

As he switched the amps back and forth, the rep remarked how obviously better the Technics amp was. Me, they sounded exactly alike. I couldn't hear any difference at all - they both sounded good.

"Listen to that guitar right here," he said. "It breaks up on the Ampzilla but see how pure it is from the Technics? No contest," he declared.

The Emperor's New Clothes.. I really could not hear any difference but didn't want to appear stupid so I said nothing and pretended I was concentrating on the music. All of the "obvious" differences the rep pointed out, I heard none of them.

In the end, I wound up buying the Technics. Even though I had a preference for the Ampzilla mainly because it had "snob appeal" and also had a lot more power, the Technics was a lot cheaper and since they sounded the same, what did it matter? I used that amp for a long time - over 10 years, and it worked great. I've always wondered about that comparison, though. Was there really a difference that I was unable to hear, or was it all the rep seeing how far he could push me?

Now when it comes to audio connecting cables, speaker wire, electric cords, etc., there are plenty of esoteric products out there and some of these seemingly simple things cost thousands of dollars. I kid you not - thousands. And people pay for them because they insist they can hear a difference between those and the cheaper stuff. My belief is that they are fooling themselves but again, maybe they are blessed (cursed?) with golden ears and can hear a difference.

Anyway, those are just my rambling thoughts on the subject. Tomorrow I'll relate another example, this one about my lead mouth.



One last thing.. there's no mistaking Memorex quality - there is none. They make some of the worst junk imaginable, especially their recording tape. Yecch.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shame and Censorship

On Sunday we ate lunch at the little food court in the J-Town location of the Mitsuwa market. Sadly, the market will be closing on the 25th of this month because the complex was bought out by some Korean group. Given that there doesn't seem to be much business in this mall, it is understandable.

But what I wanted to say was that while Julie and I were eating, a Japanese (as in from Japan, it seemed) sat down next to us with her two young kids while the dad stood in line to get the food. The two kids started to misbehave a bit, fighting with each other (nothing really violent, just normal kid stuff). I briefly glanced over there not out of disapproval but just to look.

The woman saw me look and right away she got up and started reprimanding her kids. Yup, that old Japanese shame about the behavior of one's kids came right to the surface with her! Of course I know all about that - like when I pressed the button on the escalator at the downtown department store and made it stop, bringing great shame upon my mom while everyone above us looked down to see what happened. Or my own kids, when they were little and acted rambunctious at the store, which was frequently. I laughed to myself - poor mom. But you know, it is too bad that so many parents these days could care less how their kids behave. I appreciate this mom doing something about it.

Anyway.. I said a couple of entries ago I would tell you about my experiences in evaluating some products in addition to those Monster Turbine "in-ear speakers" that I received for free. In case you don't know what I am talking about, I was one of the first 50 to respond to an Amazon offer of free Monster Turbine earbuds in exchange for an "honest and substantive" review (see my post a couple of days or so ago). Well, first I'll tell you about my evaluation of the Turbines.

I listened to them very carefully, using a variety of CD's. My main impression: they have walloping bass. Too walloping. It overpowers everything else. I compared them to the two sets of traditional-style headphones I have, one from Grado and one from Sennheiser. There was no comparison. Both headphones whupped the Monster. The headphones had more balanced sound, better detail, and a better sense of airiness or openness, plus they were more comfortable (I don't like things in my ear but I did follow the instructions and put them in as directed).

To be fair, I wouldn't expect little earbuds ("in-ear speakers" as Monster refers to them) to compare to good quality headphones. But on the other hand, when someone charges you $149.95 for something, you expect it would be pretty darn good. I really can't see spending that much money or anything near to that much for these Monsters.

I wrote my review to that effect - not those same words, but the same meaning, and clicked the "submit" button on Amazon. As usual, I got the screen thanking me for my input and letting me know my review should be posted soon.

Normally "soon" means immediately. I am always able to go right to the product page and see my review posted. Not so this time. As of right now my review is nowhere to be found.

I suspect that Monster requested all reviews be held for their censo.. er, review, to make sure they were appropriate. Since so many people panned them they probably got sick of reading all the negative comments. I notice that the reviews posted after the offer was made seem to be a lot better. I don't know if any of them were based on the free samples since no one bothered to mention that fact, but I disclosed it in my review.

So I am going to wait and see how long it takes for my review to get posted (if it gets posted). If it doesn't get posted, well, I'm gonna be awfully mad about that! I really did go into this objectively and I actually wanted them to be a great product since who wants to be stuck with something that isn't so great? Free or not, I only want good stuff.

You don't think that Amazon or Monster would actually censor my substantive review, do you? But then who really knows what lurks behind that giant maze of a website? Is anyone really allowed access to find out how that place reallly works? - I'll let you know what happens.




Oh, and I was also gonna tell you about my other experiences comparing products but I already wrote enough so I'll tell you tomorrow. That way I won't have to think of what to write for tomorrow, either.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Memorial

I did my usual Saturday morning trip to Costco but it was rushed. I had to be back in time for us to attend a memorial service for a friend from church who passed away from cancer the day after Christmas.

Thankfully traffic was light on the freeway and inside Costco, including the checkout line (no one was in front of me). You get a break today as I have no pictures to post since everything I purchased was a repeat item.

The memorial began at 11. We arrived at church a little after 10:30 and already the parking lot was filling up rapidly. I'd say altogether somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 people showed up - sorry for such a wide range but I am not good at estimating numbers like that, but it seems that is the most crowded our sanctuary has ever been.

I wasn't real close with Dennis C. I've talked to him a lot over the years, and we attended the same Bible study as well as sang in choir together but we didn't socialize outside of church. Still, I was deeply affected and saddened by the loss because, as Julie said today and it is exactly what I was thinking, he was one of the most Godly persons we've ever known.

Even in his weakened state, he was always encouraging to everyone, always had a smile and a kind word for people. I had the utmost respect and admiration for him because he was one of those individuals who seemingly had a talent for everything and was so generous and giving of his self whenever there was a need. He was that way when I met him nearly 15 years ago. He was the kind of person who would never let you down - no matter how well or how little he knew you, you could always trust him to keep his word.

His wife, Virginia, was a former Dorsey Don (Donna?), something I had forgotten until the service today. So just like I would always do, I came home and looked her up in the yearbook; she graduated two years after I did. Thing is, I remember her although I don't recall talking to her back then, but I do picture her always wearing plaid skirts or dresses.

Anyway, I'm in a somber mood after today's service, although I do smile because I know he's in heaven right now. I can just imagine when he met the Lord in person, he heard the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Like I said, I knew Dennis within the structure of church activities, but he was the type of person who always made people feel like they were his good buddy. It's no wonder that so many people showed up today - it was a gathering of his good buddies.




Friday, January 9, 2009

Jury Duty

Normally by the time the New Year officially rolls around we're already snoozing. But this year was different. I was actually sitting at the computer like a nerd, working on an Excel spreadsheet, when about 40 minutes into the new year I got an e-mail from Amazon. The subject line read:

Amazon: Free pair of Monster Turbine Headphones in exchange for your honest opinion.

Well that piqued my curiosity so I opened the message and found that the offer was good for the first 50 people to reply back. Even though I really don't need anything like this, heck it was free so I rushed back a reply. There was no acknowledgment but I figured I had a decent chance since how many people are going to be at their computer at 12:40 am on New Year's morning??

Then I forgot about it. Last night the doorbell rang at about the time the UPS guy shows up (poor guy normally comes after 6 - he must really be overwhelmed). I wasn't expecting anything but after two rings and a knock, I went to see who it was. He said a signature was required.

It turns out that the box contained a pair of Monster Turbine headphones! (Now why do they refer to headphones as a pair, as they do pants, when there's really only one of them?). Here's a picture of the box.


I had previously looked at the Amazon product page and noted that these are very pricey ($149.95) and also had gotten some really lame reviews from people. Perhaps Monster was sending out samples to try and raise the average ratings?

Now if you ask me, Monster products are all flash and no substance. They are good quality but way way way way overpriced. A good example is the HDMI cable I mentioned a few blog entries ago - brick and mortar stores wanted upwards of $50-$100 for one and I wound up getting one at Fry's (still brick and mortar but on sale) for less than $10. It works just fine. Even if it fizzed out, you could still buy 10 of these for the price of one Monster cable. Cable is cable.

If Monster had undergone the same selection process for reviewers to whom to send their samples, I would not have been chosen. I'd be like the guy questioned by the attorneys who was all for capital punishment, even for stealing a pizza. Zap, take him off the jury, he's already got preconceived notions! That's me when it comes to stuff like Monster products and other similarly overpriced items.

BUT.. A deal is a deal. By replying back with my e-mail I agreed to post an "honest and substantive" review on Amazon in exchange for a free sample. That I will do. I really hope that I am wrong and these are fantastic (they are still inside the box as I type this). Oh, and I also will not sell these to anyone, as agreed.

This entry is already long enough so I'll stop here but tomorrow I'll relate some other experiences I have had doing comparisons between supposed "high-end" stuff versus the more "common" stuff, and I'll also give you my impressions on these headphones (actually earphones) after I give them a whirl.

Meanwhile, here's some consumer education for you:




Thursday, January 8, 2009

DOTM

My first exposure to the phrase came from the mouth of Rollice Dale, one of my junior high music teachers: diarreah of the mouth. All of us in the class laughed uproariously. Crude, yes. Picturesque, yes. No need for further explanation!

I suffered through someone with this syndrome today during a meeting at work. A vendor's rep was conducting a training session on a software package we had just purchased (an excellent one at that.. I was amazed) with six of us in the conference room.

As I had feared and expected, soon the Loquacious One began his usual routine of belaboring the obvious and asking unnecessary questions. On top of that, he had a terrible cold that made his voice very deep, and he coughed up a storm during the time he was in our training session. Why didn't he stay home if he was that sick??

The program we had purchased involved downloading data from the vendor's server over the internet into our own computers, at which time it could be converted into Excel and be instantaneously analyzed/displayed in all sorts of very useful ways, something that would take us a very long time to do if we had to do it ourselves.

The Loquacious One kept asking the instructor, "So you could sort the information on the first column, then?" Yes, you can. "But you could also sort it on the third column but then after that by the fifth column?" Yes, you can.

And he kept asking and asking about this column and that column and finally I said, "It's an Excel spreadsheet. Whatever Excel can do, that's what can be done," in hopes of making him pipe down.

Which he did. For a moment. But then he started back up again.

To give you some idea of what it is like listening to him talk too much (like the kid who always has to ask a question 10 seconds before the bell rings), it's in the same general vicinity as this:

Instructor: 2 + 2 = 4.

LO: So you are telling us that 2 plus 2 equals 4, then.

Instructor: Yes, it does.

LO: That would be the same whether the first two is first and the second two is second, or the second two is first and the first two is second, I might add.

Instructor: Yes, that is true.

LO: And this would be true no matter what. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I think this is a universal truth?

Instructor: I would say so, yes.

LO: Well at least on earth, that is.

Instructor: Yes, I guess we have to qualify that.

LO: So really it is an earthly truth, not a universal truth, ha ha ha.

Instructor: That it would be.

LO: I think we've all experienced situations in which we have had to put this formula to use, such as when we go to the store and they have a buy 3 get one free sale and so we would have to know that we had to pick four things in order to qualify.

Instructor: That's an astute observation.

LO: Actually I should correct myself. Because it really should be buy 2 get 2 free to really be similar to that equation. And if I followed the rules I would wind up with 4 things. Am I right?

Instructor: Yes, you're batting 1000.

And so on and so forth.. I forgot to add [loud coughing] interspersed within the LO's dialog, so just add it yourself. Thankfully his portion of the session was limited to only the first part after which he left the room. I noticed he touched the doorknobs so I made a mental note to myself to let someone else open the door when we were done, lol..








Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Like a Korean Drama

I was thinking about the chance encounter I described a couple of days ago in this blog when I found out the poor girl my buddies and I used to torture in the tutorial room at Foshay Junior High is my friend Carol from church.

It was like one of those Korean dramas, with the impossible coincidences that brings people together after dozens of years through unlikely circumstances. Julie and I as well as others who watch them all laugh at how unrealistic these chance meetings are.

Like one we watched earlier in the year, the English name of which was Women in the Sun. There were two sisters, the older one adopted. The mother favored the younger one because she was her natural daughter, so the older daughter got jealous and abandoned her at a train station when they were little. Years later they were reunited, although they didn't know each other's true identities. The older daughter soon discovered that they were sisters, however, but kept it quiet because her mother had never gotten over the grief of losing her real daughter and vowed revenge on whoever had caused this to happen. The real daughter likewise confessed to her unrevealed sister that she held a grudge in her heart all this time against her older sibling for abandoning her. As you might expect, the two reunited but unknowing sisters became good friends, setting up some interesting conflicts.

After all these years I have never forgotten how mean we were to poor Caroline. She was in charge of overseeing the tutorial room and we'd frequently go there not for any tutoring but to shoot the breeze and pass the time. She'd shoo us out, we'd sneak right back. I never realized how bad we were until one day she cried out of frustration with us (mainly me).

And then I find out she's the same Carol I have known for several years. I wondered if she remembered any of what happened but it must not have been as big a deal for her as it was for me. But what if she had remembered and kept a grudge all this time?

Haha, the makings of another Korean - well, Asian - drama..




Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mystery Odor

Julie sent me an e-mail at work today saying that there was some very strong Pine Sol-like odor in the house and she couldn't figure out where it was coming from. At first she thought it was the Vick's Vapo-Rub she had used but then she said this was much too strong for that.

After giving her all my suggestions she still couldn't find it, then later in the day she left to take her mom to a doctor's appointment.

As soon as I entered the house, wham - Pine Sol! Or something very similar. I couldn't localize it, either, although it was by far strongest in the kitchen. I opened the cabinets and sniffed, the dishwasher, checked out the garbage disposal, the fridge.. nothing. The trash had been emptied out so it wasn't coming from there, either.

Our laundry area is in a recessed area in our kitchen, with the washing machine and dryer squeezed in there. The smell seemed to be stronger around this section of the house. Then I spied a sponge mop leaning against the corner of the recessed area. I picked it up and smelled it - whew, no mistaking the odor! The cleaners must have left it there but that was a week ago. I was wondering why didn't it smell before today? And it was wet, too.

I took it outside and expected the indoor smell to disappear but it didn't. There was a mop in the corner as well but it had never been used, with the head still wrapped in plastic. I smelled the mop and yup, it smelled like Pine Sol, too. So outside it went.

But the odor was still present. Then I saw streaks on the back wall in the recessed area that were still wet. Now how could that happen? Did Julie push the sponge mop against the wall and make all the liquid spill out? Why would she do that?

Since she still wasn't home to ask why or if she would do that, I got some paper towels, climbed on the dryer and started wiping the liquid off the walls. Then something dripped on my hand. I stopped and stared at it - just like those horror or mystery movies where someone is doing something and then all of a sudden blood drips on their hands. Eeeeee!

But this liquid was clear so either it was alien blood or something else. I looked up on the shelf and discovered a long-forgotten plastic bottle of drain opener that the plumber had left years ago after cleaning out our main line. The contents must have finally dissolved the container and now it was leaking. So that's the source! Finally everything made sense. Messy sense, but sense nonetheless.

I picked up the bottle, noting all of the hazard warnings listed on the label, wiped it off, wrapped it up and put it in the trash. Then I cleaned off the shelf and finished drying the wall but it seems some of it must have dripped on the floor behind the dryer and I couldn't reach back there.

At least the mystery is solved.. for a while I was thinking maybe somehow a bottle of Pine Sol had rolled under our house and exploded, haha.. I guess there are worse types of odors it could have been.

So for a while I guess our house is going to have that fresh, clean Pine Sol scent! For today's YouTube: just substitute these lyrics into the song -

I can breathe clearly now, the smell is gone..





Monday, January 5, 2009

Small World

Our Choir Appreciation dinner took place at church on Sunday evening. At our table of 9 sat three Dorsey alumni, not including myself. I knew two of them had attended my alma mater from prior conversations but the third one was a surprise. I asked Eileen what her maiden name was so that of course I could immediately look her up in the yearbook when I got home. Her last name used to be Quon, and she graduated two years before me. Turns out I was in the same homeroom with her brother, Danny.

Eileen had also graduated from Foshay. Then she told me that Carol, our fellow choir member, was in her class.

She was? I asked what Carol's maiden name was.

"Tsi."

"Did she used to call herself Caroline?" I asked.

"Yes, that's her name - Caroline." (We all call her Carol)

"Really? Did she use to work in the tutorial room at Foshay?"

Eileen pointed at Carol who was sitting at the table next to us. "Why don't you ask her?"

So I asked her. Yes, she used to help out in the tutorial room at noon. "You remember the mighty Mr. Power?" she asked me, raising her fist up in the air and laughing.

"Oh boy, I owe you an apology!" I told her. "I used to torture you when you were in charge of the tutorial room. We'd keep going in there and goofing off and you would always chase us out but we kept coming back. You used to get so upset!"

"You did? I don't remember any of that."

"You probably blanked it out of your mind because it was such a traumatic experience," I laughed. "A couple of times you were even in tears. I've always felt bad about that, and after all that time, here you are!"

I've mentioned Caroline (wasn't sure if it was Carolyn, or if her last name was Tse or Tsi but I sure do remember her) a couple of times in this blog, about how I've felt bad all these years for causing such havoc when she was in charge of the tutoring room at Foshay. The one image I have of her is standing at the doorway with tears of frustration in her eyes, courtesy of yours truly and my buddies.

And now it turns out that, after all these years, we've been friends. Not only in choir, but in the same Bible study group. This Carol was the Caroline I've remembered and felt bad about all these years for getting her so upset back at Foshay!

She and Eileen thought it was funny how I'd remember something like that after such a long time. I told them it's because I've always felt bad about it. So that evening I had a chance to apologize! We had a good laugh over that one.

I came home and looked up Eileen's and Carol's picture in my Dorsey and Foshay yearbooks. I didn't know Eileen back then and I would never have recognized her based on her yearbook pictures. But as I looked at Carol, I could see the resemblence to the pictures. Yup, that was the same one me and my buddies used to torture by refusing to stay away from the tutorial room!

Haha, small world, isn't it? Here's Caroline's pictures from the 9th and 12th grades (click for a larger image):










Sunday, January 4, 2009

Under the Weather

My sinuses have been bothering me terribly lately; maybe I have a cold or something. It makes me feel all discombobulated so I can't think straight and can't write straight either. But here I go.

Before leaving for my regular Saturday morning Costco trip (sinus or no sinus), I snapped a couple of pictures of a chubby squirrel in our yard (it was from inside behind a window screen).



Costco was pretty empty. I examined the various sinus relief remedies on the shelf. Some were capsules and some were kits where you stick something in your nose to clear it out. I didn't particular like that second option although it was cheaper, so I asked the pharmacist what she recommended for clearing my sinus and she brought out some behind-the-counter Sudafed.


These were previously prescription-only. She had to write down my name, address and driver's license number and I had to sign for it as well! Well heck, my sinuses were making me feel horrible so I would do anything in hopes of obtaining some help.

I remember when Greg was a baby, we had this big green syringe bulb-type thing called an "aspirator" that we had squeeze to push out the air, then stick in his nose and let the bulb expand and clean out all the stuff in there. He would have fits when we used that on him. Looking at those sinus remedies reminded me of those days.

Below is the only other "new" item I purchased. I was examining the package and finally I noticed someone was calling me. It was a couple of people giving out free samples so I got to try it before buying. Healthy me went back and put the package of beef bourgognioneone (I don't remember how you spell it and have no idea how you pronounce it) back in the case and took these meatballs instead with the rationale that they were healthier. At least I didn't do what so many disgusting people do and just leave the package lying around somewhere, like on top of a stack of books. By the way, that word that is obscured by the flash is "chicken" and not "Chinese" - so these are Amy Lu chicken meatballs, not Amy Lu Chinese meatballs, lol.


Thankfully the Sudafed helped. It made such a difference - the side of my head and my teeth were hurting and I even felt nauseous so I'm glad I bought it because all that stuff went away.

This afternoon I spent some time calibrating the television using the "Video Essentials" disc I had bought several years ago and used on our old CRT television (which, by the way, was sadly donated to Goodwill yesterday.. remember a while ago I told you when I was little, I felt sad when I got a new pillow because the old one was discarded? Same feeling about the old tv. I hope it finds a good home because I had it for 14 years and it still had an excellent picture).

Anyway back to the television calibration - it goes through procedures for adjusting the brightness, contrast, color, tint and sharpness. What you wind up with are settings that are quite different than how the factory sets them. This Sony comes with a "vivid" setting that I suppose they must use for showroom displays because it is like a woman with too much makeup - it's overly bright and overdone - it gets your attention but soon becomes wearing on the eyes, haha. Then there is a more acceptable "standard" setting which is more natural looking, and a "cinema" setting which is supposed to be friendlier with movies. The results I came up with are closer to the "cinema" setting in appearance.

I watched part of Kill Bill in blu ray.. not for the squeamish. The level of detail was amazing and the scenes looked nothing like how I remembered them on the old television. If you've seen the movie, let me tell you the "spray" scenes are also a lot more vivid in blu-ray wide screen. That's about it for my foray into blu ray, though, since I haven't found anything else worth buying. I'm waiting for Star Wars to be released in that format although I suspect the detail might expose all of the special effects that were so amazing nearly 32 years ago.

On the freeway message board was a warning to people that it was illegal to text message while driving. I can just imagine some people getting into accidents because they're reading that message board instead of watching the road. You know, I still see a bunch of people driving while holding a cell phone to their ear. A lot of good that law did.

Friday was odd. I went to the bank and when left, I got into the left turn lane on Huntington Drive. In front of me was an SUV that was the same vehicle I was behind several days ago in that very same left turn lane. Now what are the odds of something like that happening? I know it was the same person because of the bumper stickers plastered all over the back of the vehicle, the type that try and make it seem like they are one of these "environmentally conscious George W Bush hating people." But here she was, talking on a cell phone! And driving an SUV. So don't go putting up those oh-so-concerned bumper stickers on your car if you're gonna be driving around in a gas hog talking on a cell phone!

Ok, that was my rant for the day.

As for the YouTube video, I chose this one to set a tone for the new year. This has been one of my favorites ever since I first heard it being played at the old Fedco store on La Cienega back in 1969. It's simple, elegant and beautiful and let's hope 2009 turns out to be the same.





Friday, January 2, 2009

Still on Vacation

I'm still taking a little break so in the meantime if you want something to read, this is an entertaining blog (or so I think so): click here.

I'll start reporting back soon.. like maybe tomorrow. My brain is too foggy now!


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ring In 2009

Well here we are at the beginning of a new year. 2008 was a pretty topsy turvey one, full of all sorts of things unexpected. And it went by all too fast.

I have no reason to complain. I have a good job, shelter, food, clothing and am not in want of anything so I am extremely thankful. I've got no "if only's" to voice, either!

What's in store for 2009? Only God knows so I'll trust Him to take care of it. I hope 2009 treats all of you wonderfully and leaves you totally satisfied - may it be a good season in your life!