Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hot Again!

Not much to report on today.. it was sooo hot! Again.

Today we had a get together at Keiro - a family lunch. That turned out nice, and thankfully the air conditioning was working properly over there. Here's some pics:

Yes, we made my mom have to study while we were there, lol. Actually she's looking at Greg's Naval Academy Yearbook for 2007. For some reason they sent a copy to our house last week; Greg said he already got his a while ago so he doesn't know why this second copy came. This yearbook is gigantic - it weighs NINE pounds.

My sister moved when the automatic shutter went off (above) so we took another one (below).

And that's it.. it's too hot to even look for a YouTube to tack on at the end!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


When I started up my car to leave work this afternoon, its thermometer read 110 degrees.

Now normally that reading isn't accurate because the car has been sitting in the sun collecting heat, so a better reading is obtained once I start driving. That seemed to be the case today because after starting to move while heading towards the freeway, it came down to 108.

Since we have something else to do tomorrow morning, I shifted this week's regular Costco visit to tonight - we went to the Azusa location after dinner and let me tell you, it was smothering, stifling hot over there!

Costco in the evening is very different from Costco in the morning. The shelves have been ransacked and the high stacks of merchandise I am used to seeing right after the store opens were low stacks tonight. It looked like a tornado had gone through the salad greens that come in a plastic container - they were strewn all over the place. People are such slobs.

There are stacks of fresh, crusty and warm bread in the morning. In the evening hardly anything is left on the table and it sure isn't warm!

At least they had everything I was looking for but I'm sure I will feel better next week going back to the normal morning visit to Costco.

Moving on to another subject, I was browsing Amazon's site and noticed that this is the #1 bestselling book over there, even outselling Dan Brown's latest work of inaccuracy (click on image to enlarge):

That's #1 on the list?? Have we all gone crazy or what??? It must be the heat.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Aarp Aarp

I hate to admit this but I am an AARP member. Now that isn't of my own choosing! When the time came and they sent me an application in the mail, I just let it sit there and decided to pass on joining.

But Julie.. she couldn't wait to join! When her time finally came round, she eagerly sent in her membership application. With me as a co-applicant.

I told her that there weren't any appreciable benefits to joining but nevertheless she sent a check and not too long after that we became official members! So how have we taken advantage of our memberships so far?

We haven't. Like I said, there isn't anything there worth using. Your mileage may vary, of course, as I am referring only to us. If you are an AAA member you get the same discounts as do AARP members. The only thing we get is their monthly magazine, same as we get Westways from the Auto Club.

I refuse to look at the AARP magazine, though, as every time I do it makes me feel old.

I guess I am getting pretty crusty, heh heh..

Unrelated note: I ran across this review of the soon-to-be-released Beatles box sets of their remastered albums, both the stereo and mono versions. They sound like winners! I guess that helps justify the preorder..

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Back on August the 12th I wrote about having tried a sample of Old Bay seasoning, liking it, and then finding that Costco no longer carried it.

Well later that day, I received an e-mail from someone who works for Old Bay's PR firm. I suppose they must use search bots to locate and then read all the pages on the world wide web that make mention of their clients products, and my little blog page came up. In light of it being Old Bay's 70th anniversary this year, as well as the fact that the seasoning was gone from my Costco when I went to buy it, this person offered to send me an Old Bay gift bag!

Heck, who am I to refuse an offer like that?

A couple days later, a box arrived in the mail. Inside of it was: an Old Bay drawstring shoulder bag; Old Bay beach towel; a 6 oz box of their seasoning; a package of their steamer bag and seasoning mix; a keychain; a decal/tatoo; and a folder with some recipes in it. Nice! What a generous gesture.

I showed it to Julie and she's like, "How come you get all this free stuff??" By that she was referring not only to the Old Bay package but the things I get to review from being a part of Amazon Vine.

I told her, it's because she doesn't write, that's why..

Anyway, I've already used the seasoning a couple of times. Once on some pan-fried tilipia, which turned out yummy, and then tonight, on some shrimp and veggies.

Here's a pic:

If you want the recipe, it is very simple because I don't make anything that requires any sort of effort.. Here is how I made it:

Heated up a pan (Kirkland brand, of course)
Defrosted some Costco shrimp. 31-40 count
Washed and sliced an Italian squash and a yellow squash (Trader Joe's)
Cut up some sun dried tomatoes from a jar purchased from Costco
Got out the Old Bay, compliments of the PR firm.

After the pan was heated so it would sizzle drops of water, I put the chopped sun dried tomatoes in it and moved them around so that the seasoned olive oil would cover the pan.

I added the squash and sauteed it for a while.

Last, I added the shrimp to saute.

Then I added a lot of Old Bay to everything (well, I tried not to add TOO much since it does have salt in it).

And that's it. I just mixed it all up and then unloaded it into the dish so I could take the picture that you see above.

We had it with some spinach and basil fettucine from Trader Joe's and a nice crusty La Brea Bakery demi-baguette from Costco. Mmmm... delicious.

Now the reason I keep mentioning Costco and TJ's is not with the expectation that they'll run across my post and send me some freebies (if I thought that, I would write about Porsches or something like that), but because that will show you I pretty much subsist on things bought from those two stores. And I really appreciate the Old Bay, too!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I wasn't going to post anything today but when we were watching Jeopardy, this commercial came on that has been playing a lot lately and every time I hear it, it annoys me to no end. Maybe not as bad as having woo woo the accordion dog next door, but nevertheless still annoying.

And on top of that, it's one of those things where that chant keeps bouncing around in your brain!

My choice for the most annoying commercial of the year so far (thankfully this is the short version; the one on tv grates on forever):

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I think I mentioned yesterday that I bought a package of Trader Joe's seafood sausage after reading about it in their lastest Fearless Flyer. It sounded good.

Tonight we ate it. I pan-fried them. They looked okay (I would have preferred them to have a more browned appearance but oh, well) and then came the taste test.

Hmm.. it definitely was not your normal sausage. Julie said they tasted like Chinese seafood cakes. And then I knew exactly what they reminded me of: kamaboko! Taste and texture.

I used to love kamaboko when I was little; the fishman would come by in his big green truck and I'd be happy to see my mom buy a package of it. That and chewy squid sticks.

As I grew up, however, I lost my yearning for it and never got it back. These days I would just as soon avoid it!

Both of us agreed, this was not something to buy again. The problem is that it comes in a 4-pack and we only ate half of a pack tonight. Now I know Trader Joe's has a no-questions asked satisfaction policy; you don't even need the product or the receipt, you just tell them you didn't like something or that something was spoiled and they give you a refund on the spot (or at least they did, according to what I've heard; I've never actually returned anything to a TJ).

So the question is, do I return the remaining half of a package? Because I sure don't feel like eating it!

I was thinking maybe if it were grilled more, or chopped up and mixed with something but no matter what, I'd always be thinking kamaboko. And then I would have severe difficulty eating it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Counting Ducks

This morning in church we saw a brief nature scene from what I believe is the Planet Earth DVD. It showed a tree with a hole it in rather high above the ground. A mother duck emerged from the hole, which housed her nest, and flew to the ground.

Shortly thereafter, nine little ducklings also emerged for their first flight. Their wings were too small for their bodies but big enough to lend some air resistance to slow them down as they plopped into a pile of leaves on the ground.

The mother duck waited until all nine were on safely on the ground and then led them towards the lake for their first swim.

The question I had was, can ducks count? Because how did the mother duck know when all the ducklings were on the ground before heading off with her troop? If you have an answer you can leave it in the comment section!

After church we headed east to the Costco in Puente Hills, one we normally don't go to. Why? Because of their new bulgogi bakes, of course. The Azusa location, our regular stop, doesn't have them yet (or at least I don't think they do.. I should have checked yesterday). The Alhambra one has them also but when I think of how crowded that one always is plus not being freeway close, Puente Hills sounds like a better option.

Julie had her usual hot dog but I ordered the bake. The guy sliced it in half, put the halves into a paper plate, covered it with foil and there it was. We found a seat (there is not enough shade at that location's food court!!) and I got a chance to see what the fuss was about.

The bake comes in the same crusty wrapping as their veteran chicken bake, sort of like a thin, crunchy pizza dough. Inside is a generous serving of thin-sliced beef (choice grade, they say) along with bulgogi bbq sauce, cheese and onions. Definitely not your most healthy combination. But like an In-N-Out burger, sometimes health just doesn't matter, you have to make sacrifices.

My impression: it was good. Not great, but for $3.49 I'd say it was worth the money. You sure couldn't get that and a drink anywhere else for under four bucks. The beef was of good quality - no gristle and not much fat. The ingredients blended together nicely, with the crispy texture of the wrapping being a nice contrast to the tender beef and gooey cheese.

While we were standing in line I was eyeing the pizza and thinking the combo and the pepperoni sure did look good. But I resisted temptation and instead dutifully ordered what I came for in the first place just so I could say I tried it.

Like I said, it is good, not great, and on par with the hog dogs and pizza. All of them are excellent values.

We went to refill our drinks and found some Asian woman holding a large plastic bag underneath the ice dispenser chute and milking it for all it was worth. That explained why there didn't seem to be much ice in the other two machines. Shameless.. we left before seeing if she did the same with the ketchup, mustard (two kinds - regular and spicy), relish and onions, though. I hope she left some straws and napkins!

The YouTube video wasn't feeling well so there is a substitute for today. Click here for some nostalgia.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Interesting Saturday

I started out Saturday as usual, at Costco, but that visit was pretty uneventful. No more strawberries for sale and the peaches didn't look all that great, either. I ended up buying some Pink Lady applies (well, they are Pink, I don't know about the Lady part; maybe I am thinking about that Japanese group from years ago?). And avocados were an astounding $7.99 for a bag of five! Nevertheless I put them in the cart with a shrug, just like Mary Tyler Moore does in the opening shots of her old television show.

We had lunch at El Pollo Loco again. And like the last time we were there, again there was confusion at the register. This time we had a coupon for 50% off any combo when you buy another combo of the same or higher price. So that's what we ordered - two 2-piece combos. Then the cashier said we can't do that because the coupon is only good for one, not both. I said I know, but it says on there you have to order one at full price to get the other at half price.

Then the cashier went to talk to someone else about the coupon and after a protracted conversation in Spanish she came back and said the same thing, it was only good on one - which I agreed all along. So then I said okay, just ring up the one at 50% and the other at full price. She said okay, and that's what she did.
Six of one, half dozen of the other, I know..

After that we went to a local restaurant we frequent to pick up a paper menu because we're planning on ordering several lunches from them to take to Keiro next weekend and I wanted to send the menus to everyone so they can tell me what they want and I can order in advance.

I told the owner I was going to e-mail them and then she told us that a lot of people complain because their menu isn't on the web anymore. She used to have it posted on a site that had menus of restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley but it isn't there any more. So she was lamenting how she needed a web site for the restaurant and Julie tells her, "Oh, Rickie does websites."

"You do?"

"Well, not for a long time. I'm all rusty."

But then Julie kept talking and the lady got interested and finally I told her I could do something simple for her if all she really wanted was a downloadable online menu, and I could help her get the domain name and the site published, etc. Then I also told her that I knew what site she was talking about and it was pretty ugly and I could do a better job than that (yes I had to open my big mouth), so she gave me a couple of menus and I left there with my new job, haha.

After that we headed over to Trader Joe's. I was looking at the wines when a woman approached and asked if I worked there. She must have been eyeing my Wonder How To t-shirt and thought I could tell her how to find the three Italian wines mentioned in the Fearless Flyer.

I told her sorry, I didn't work there but that didn't seem to stop her because she showed me the Flyer and asked if I could help her find these wines because they sounded so delicious. I led her over to the Italian section and found the three bottles and explained a few things. Then Julie came over and the woman asked if I was her husband. "Oh, he is so helpful!" she exclaimed.

So I got to play salesperson today. I think it was the t-shirt that helped lend an air of authority to me, haha.

Later on in the day I watched a portion of Fantasia 2000. What a good production - the sound and the video. Like this one:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Couch Potato

Today while walking from one of our office buildings to the other a couple of doors down, I spied a potato lying on the sidewalk. A russet potato.

It isn't unusual to see trash lining our sidewalks and streets in Southern California and I kind of get desensitized to that but seeing a potato wakes me up. What would a potato be doing sitting on the sidewalk?

This poor pathetic thing was just lying there abandoned. A potato's lot in life definitely seems destined not for glamour; even alternate names for it like spud and tuber are undistinguished. The best one can hope for is to become a french fry, when it will have its chance to shine like the sun in golden glory.

The unflattering characterization carries forward to the animal kingdom, where a potato personified is a "couch potato." Or, a "sack of potatoes."

I don't know where this is going but I felt compelled to write something after seeing that lonely potato on the sidewalk. But then it really looks no better stacked up in the produce section at the grocery store, either - it's got no color, it's got no shape, it's got no pizazz.

Fortune Telling

Do you think that there is anyone who can truly predict the future? Are there really fortune tellers?

Me, I say no. Only God knows the future.

Yet even for those people who say that there are no such things as genuine fortune tellers, they still believe people can predict the future. For example, they believe what economists and investment analysts say regarding the direction the stock market is going to take in the next year.

Well, that's different, you might argue. After all, they aren't just pulling predictions out of thin air or gazing into a crystal ball; they are basing their forecasts on data and facts that are available to them and then extrapolating a likely result.

That's why, in the Wall Street Journal from the other day, I read three different versions of what is going to happen with the market: one said we're in for a big rise over the coming months; another said it is going to rise up but then come down and level off; and the third said we're in for another crash soon.

So who do you believe? That can't all be right! And of course they will qualify what they say with a disclaimer that no one can really know for sure. Well then what good are they? What gives them any more credence than you making your own prediction?

Intuitively you will then say that it's because these people are learned; they are experts in their field, whereas you or I are not and therefore not as qualified to make a guess.

But if that's the case, then why do we have three totally divergent opinions as to what the stock market/economy is going to do over the next year? Are sportscasters or television weathermen or weatherwomen any more accurate? I doubt it. Short-term the weather folks can tell you what is going to happen but then so could I if I had satellite pictures.

Let's say you drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. How long is it going to take you? Well, you pull out the map or GPS and compute the number of miles divided by what you feel is going to be your average speed and there's your estimate. That assumes you travel at that average speed, however, and how likely is that? It could be likely, it could not be. You don't know. And the more you get sidetracked on one thing, the farther off your estimate moves. Of course you might run into a really fast stretch to catch up.

The point is, you just don't know. So when it comes to the stock market, I would say that your guess or mine is just as good as the next guy's, even if that next guy gets paid six or seven figures to pontificate where the market is headed.

I remember watching an episode of 77 Sunset Strip (do you remember that? Kookie?) in which the characters somehow got into a fix because they had the reputation of being able to pick winning horses. They had to pick all the winners for the next day and spent all night going through handicap lists, facts about the horses, jockeys, etc. and then made their selections. And, since back in those days endings had to be happy, they wound up picking all the winners! That episode ended with them slapping themselves because they forgot to place their own bets on the horses; they had only told the other people what to bet on.

Then there was an episode of Room 222 (now we are getting a little caught up, like when things were filmed in color) in which Mr. Haines had his classroom study the stock market. Over the course of a week or two, the students efforts paid off in their selecting stocks that made gains.

These two examples make it appear that if you study hard enough, you can predict the future.

But you can't! You can make an educated guess but again, I say one guess is as good as another.

Oh, and as for the "real" fortune tellers - they aren't just pulling predictions out of thin air. They're closely studying you for clues about what to tell you regarding your own future because they've learned to read people. They don't know what your real future is going to be, but they've trained themselves to get clues about telling you what you want to hear. And when someone tells us what we want to hear, we generally think highly of that person, don't we?

Below is an accurate representation of the thought processes involved when making predictions:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Double Billing

Today I received an e-mail notice that my LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) bill was ready for online viewing and payment.

That was kind of weird since this pertained to my parents house and that closed escrow back in June. At that time I called to cancel the service and was told that the new owners had already opened an account in their name and transferred everything.

But when I went online to view the bill, it said I owed $190 for the last two months!

I picked up the phone and called their customer service number and, as expected, got an annoying automated voice greeting system. This one was even worse because it was the type that has you speak into the phone and say what you want, rather than push the keypad buttons.

To their credit, after having to listen to the electronic automaton, at least I was connected pretty quickly to a customer service rep. I explained the situation and she looked up the account.

She told me that the account had been switched on June 24 and it was under the new owner's name and that I would be receiving a revised bill for the period June 17 to the 24th.

Now if they already knew that, why did I receive a bill for two months after I closed the account and the new one was opened??? I didn't bother asking this of the woman since either she wouldn't know or else their policy is to try and double bill whatever they can get away with and if someone gets hip to their con artist scheme, just lie and feign ignorance.

I know the economy is bad and all but must they resort to tactics like this? At least try and do something original.. attorneys have already been double billing their time for ages!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Moving $$

Before getting to today's topic, for all you Costco fans out there, here is a contest you can enter to win one of three Costco cash cards: $100, $50 or $25. All you have to do is list your five favorite products that you buy at Costco, along with the brand and briefly say what what makes each one great. The three winners will be chosen at random from all of the responses. As of now, there's less than 60 entrants so your chances of winning something are not too shabby! The contest closes at midnight CST on August 26, so head on over and list your fave five!

I thought it was rather funny that normally there are hardly any comments on the site but for this post announcing the contest, suddenly everyone came out of the woodwork!

To see the contest details and enter, click here.

As for today's topic, this may be of interest to those of you who have 401k plans.

In my little opinion, I think 401k plans are great. You get to invest pretax dollars (i.e., you don't get taxed on what you contribute) into a plan whose earnings also accumulate without being taxed. You are taxed only when you start taking your money out of the plan which is usually not until retirement. That gives your account a long time to earn and do so tax-free.

On top of that, many 401k plans have employer matching contributions as well, making your return on your investment even greater.

I think it is to everyone's advantage to put as much as possible into it. The limit for 2009 is $16,500. If you are over 50 (like me, sigh..) you can contribute an additional $5,500 "catchup" amount, too.

Now if you are like me, it is difficult to withhold the maximum amount from the paycheck because after all, you need something to pay the bills! From what I've seen, most people contribute far less than the maximum amount.

What if you have money in savings accounts, though? Would you like to move those into a 401k? Savings accounts are earning about .000001% these days. If you have some excess savings that you feel you can put away for retirement, why not move it to the 401k?

Maybe this is obvious or stupid or whatever, but to transfer your regular savings that is earning practically nothing these days into your 401k, just increase your 401k deduction from your paycheck. Then whatever the shortfall happens to be because you are putting more money into your 401k and getting less net from your check, take that amount out of your savings account.

What does that accomplish? In substance it moves money from a taxed, low earning account into a 401k account that is not taxed and presumably offers a higher return on your invested funds. Plus if your employer does 401k matching, that is more money in your 401k that will be matched. On top of that, you get the tax savings from putting your pretax earnings into your 401k account.

If you understood all that, then you might have this issue to raise: the money in your low interest savings account is FDIC insured and you are guaranteed not to lose anything. Money in your 401k is not insured. What if the 401k account goes down?

That is a risk, of course. But think of it this way: you saved maybe 30% or more of your money from taxes by putting it into your 401k. Plus your employer might match some of this. So in effect, your 401k account would have to go down by 30% or more before you got to the same point you would be had you not increased your deduction. In other words, you wouldn't be worse off by transferring your money into a 401k until those funds lost 30% or more of their value. How likely is that to happen? Meanwhile, your money would have gone to Uncle Sam for taxes and then you'd have no chance at all to earn anything on it!

The whole exercise above was designed to get your money into something that earns more plus reduces how much you pay in taxes. Think about it - combined federal and state income taxes that you pay are a BIG chunk of your money. Why do it if you can legally avoid it?

Maybe you don't notice because taxes are taken out before you get your check. But if they weren't and you actually had to write a check each pay period for the taxes you owe, you'd be feeling the pain, I bet! Instead, why not have 401k money taken out before you get your check? You won't notice that, either but it will be money you can keep instead of money going to bail out the banks and car companies that squandered all their money and now want yours to boot.

If the above makes sense, that's good. If it doesn't, well, I apologize for not being clearer or making it confusing (or else you're a dunce, haha).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hack Update

I found another pertinent YouTube to accompany today's post about passwords:


Last week I mentioned that my boss called a meeting for today (Tuesday) which meant I had to go in to the office on the day I normally work from home.

So what are your meetings like? Do they wander off in tangents, lack order, and end with a general feeling that no one is quite sure what the expectations are or what was accomplished? If they're like that then you can step right into my shoes, haha..

Later in the day I learned how to hack the password for a Word document. We had a form from a vendor that needed to be modified but it was password-protected. So I simply did an internet search asking how to remove password protection from a Word document.

There were numerous results, all under the guise of "I forgot my password, how do I recover it?" Yeah, right. At least I was honest in my search. How do I figure out someone else's password!

And as you might expect, I found the answer quite quickly. It's not too hard to do as long as you possess a bit of computer savvy. I tried it and it worked like a charm! Disclaimer: don't attempt to do this in your own environment.

I told our sales manager - he was the one who needed the document modified - and he just remarked about how you can find out how to do anything on the world wide web. Probably even breach the national security system, he said.

I told him yes, you could probably find that out by reading the blog of one of the employees over there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Today a friend of mine returned to work after being in Hawaii last week, and, as it usually goes, she returned to a pile of stuff on her desk. Happy Monday!!

I told her to just shred everything. If it is anything of importance, the source of the paper that got shredded will follow up and inquire about its status. Then you can deal with it. If no one bothers to follow up then she would have wasted her time looking at it since it must not have been that important.

My old boss once told me that the secret to success was to "outfumble the other guy."

What do you do with all your monthly bills? Do you save them or discard them? If you save them, for how long?

These bills come on thin pieces of paper but all those thin pieces manage to fill up a cabinet very quickly. And for what? Do we really need to save all that stuff?

Maybe all of you out there are already way ahead of me and have either gone paperless or don't even bother to keep anything. Think about it - when is the last time you went back to look at an old utility bill or even a credit card statement?

So finally I decided to go paperless with everything, and just save the bills on my hard drive. Most vendors these days have online payments enabled and you can download your statement in .pdf format. I've just been too lazy to do so. Until yesterday, that is. Yesterday I downloaded everything I could and have everything neatly filed in its own folder on the hard drive. Bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills, etc. Those that can't be paid online or have statements downloaded, I'm just going to scan to a file.

Having everything on the hard drive makes it nice and simple because it will fill up much slower than a filing cabinet would. But I am still wondering, just how long should these statements be kept? People say 7 years - but why? Do I really care what my gas bill was three years ago?

My boss told me years ago that he shreds everything as soon as it is paid; he doesn't keep copies of any of his bills. At that time I thought that was kind of foolish but then he and I have probably gone back to look at a past bill the same number of times since then.

Even though I can't completely get past saving statements, at least they will be kept in bytes rather than in bins.

I mentioned the secret to success that a former boss confided in me above, and here's another tidbit for you:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Slow Saturday

This Saturday began not with Costco, but with a visit to the Kaiser lab to have some samples taken in preparation for my upcoming annual checkup. They're quick. Before noon I got an e-mail informing me that my lab results were available to be viewed online. Thankfully they all appear to be within normal ranges.

There was hardly anyone waiting at the lab so I got done a lot earlier than expected; I didn't even have a chance to read any of the book I brought with me. When I remarked to the girl who stuck the needle in my arm that it was not very crowded, she told me that it was very crowded earlier that morning when the lab first opened.

Never go for your lab tests first thing in the morning because that's when everyone else does, thinking that they are going to beat the rush but they wind up being part of it.

The other reason, she said, was that enrollment had declined in line with the decline in the employment rate. I hope that doesn't affect Kaiser too much, since I feel they've taken pretty good care of me.

I got to Costco before 9:00. They open at 9:30 on Saturdays so I sat in the car and read my book, Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad's Guide to Investing: What the Rich Invest In That the Poor and the Middle Class Do Not! I wanted to see what I am not investing in. That exclamation point at the end of the book's title really bothers me. Is he trying to rub it in or what??

By the way, I recommend reading his first best-seller, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It makes perfect sense to me and is something I think everyone ought to read before they finish their teenage years. The one I'm reading now is good, too. Type in his name on Amazon and I would say he's gone a bit overboard with writing books, though.

I found nothing really new today at Costco; just stocked up on the usual stuff. I was looking for wax paper but they didn't have any. I figured it must not be a high enough demand item for them to stock.

Later we went to Wal Mart and I thought for sure they would have wax paper over there. Nope, no wax paper. Do they not make it anymore? I haven't bought wax paper in a long time because I was using the rolls my mom gave me that she had when my folks moved to Keiro. She must have stockpiled them a long time ago! I guess I'm just out of touch with the times..

Saturday, August 15, 2009


A friend of mine, after observing the long line of people and the crowded parking lot at a Yogurtland, said she wished she had the seed money to buy one of their franchises because it looked like a gold mine.

Yogurt does indeed seem hot these days (figuratively, that is) as new locations seem to be popping up everywhere. What's next is probably a yogurt shop that conducts seminars on decluttering. Has Oprah been talking about that? It seems like everywhere I turn now, I hear mention of "decluttering."

The more popular something becomes however, the more competition arises. First you've got to worry about having the right location (a yogurt place near a school seems like a pretty good place, doesn't it?) because you can't just put one anywhere. Then as the popularity increases, more people jump into the business and eventually a price war erupts. Or if not a price war, you still lose some business because everyone and their uncle are doing the same thing.

My question to her was whether yogurt is here to stay or if it is another fad.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day about the microloan industry. There are institutions that make small loans to small business enterprises in third-world and disadvantaged countries - loans of something like one or two hundred dollars to people who, for example, operate a pushcart food stand.

The microloan industry has become saturated, however, with too much money and not enough worthy enterprises to loan it to. So just like what happened in our country with the housing bubble and banks making loans to anyone without regards to their creditworthiness, now it is happening among the poverty stricken in other countries.

While these loans are on a much smaller scale than a mortgage loan, the difficulties of collecting on them must be an administrative nightmare. For example, the collateral can't be worth that much. And a house can't disappear but a pushcart can. How can you find someone if they just take off in the night?

Now when Greg was back in elementary school, maybe he could have used one of those microloans to finance his Slim Jim business. He would get one of those big boxes of preservative-filled meat sticks from Costco and then sell the individual Slim Jims (the ones marked "not for individual resale") to kids at school and make a nice profit on them.

But then other kids saw what he was doing and wanted some of the action for themselves so with competition came a lowering of prices until it was no longer profitable to keep selling them and he quit.

I bet that's the only economics or finance-based lesson he learned during his grade school years because they sure don't teach anything practical like that in the formal curriculum!

(note: the relevant part of today's video is a few minutes in..about 2:45)

Friday, August 14, 2009

How Many People Does It Take..

Today the boss sent an e-mail to eight of us calling a meeting to discuss a strategy issue within the company. He said the person most concerned with this was very busy and that only next Tuesday at 1:30 was available for her.

I was wondering how could anyone be that busy to have such a small window? Even though I normally work from home on Tuesday and would prefer a different day, I said nothing since if that's the time everyone could make it, who am I to say otherwise?

But of course someone couldn't make it at that time.

So then the main person with the small time window said that she could accommodate Friday instead.

Then someone else wrote and said they were off that day.

Then no one wrote anything.

I wrote to three of the people on the distribution list that are my joking buddies at work and said this was hilarious.

One of my joking buddies wrote back to the other three of us and said it was amazing that she was sooooo busy and maybe we'd have to go into the next month.

My response was, "Can't we all just meet on Facebook?"

That prompted someone else to write, ":-D That was freakin hilarious. How about Myspace or Twitter."

I said not MySpace because there's too many spinning objects and flashing signs all over the place. But now Twitter.. that's a thought.

Conduct a meeting via Twitter! We could all sit at our desks and just send Twits to each other. Personally, I think that would make for a much more efficient meeting than the usual hot-air bonanza. Just think about it:

Twitter has a 140 character message limit so that would necessarily keep things brief.

We could all sit at the comfort of our own desks, be it at the office or home, and simply Twit to each other.

No problem with expressions, we could just use the common acronyms like LOL, TTYL, IMO, etc.

Why go through all the inefficiencies of the average corporate meeting?

So after all this, someone wrote to the entire group and suggested 7:30 am on Tuesday morning.

Now how off the wall is that?? After first saying the main person is only available on Tuesday at 1:30, then Friday opened up, and then along comes a suggestion for a completely different time?? I said this all makes no sense whatsoever.

And that's where it got left.. I imagine the meeting will go along the same lines as the attempts at setting the time for it. Was today a Dilbert day or what..

Now let me show you the way meetings OUGHT to be conducted:

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Nothing much going on today so I thought I would just pass along this great video that one of my Facebook friends posted today:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Old Bay

Old Bay - wasn't that a song by Chicago?

A while ago a sample of Old Bay seasoning (not Old Spice, but Old Bay) arrived with our newspaper. I'd never tried that before so I put it on some fish and it was pretty good.

It was just a small packet but there was enough for several servings. Before trying it I noticed that Costco sold it. After trying and liking it, wouldn't you know it had disappeared from their shelves.

I thought I'd look it up on the Chowhound site to see what people were saying about it, and in the process ran across this thread: What's Your Secret Ingredient? Viewers were asked to post the secret ingredient they used in their dishes to make them more flavorful. It's a pretty long thread and I found it very interesting while at the same time it made me hungry. There were lots of good ideas in that thread so if you like to cook you might find it worthwhile to have a look see.

Meanwhile I'm putting Old Bay on the grocery list. Too bad they don't have it at Costco anymore. While I'm at it I might as well go through that thread and see what else looks good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Woo Woo Part Two

Several days ago I wrote about the annoying "guest dog" next door who sounded like it had swallowed an accordion when it barked. I say "guest" because it is only there every once in a while and I can easily distinguish it from our neighbor's "regular" dog because of its distinctive wheeze-o-bark.

This creature barked incessantly and, for most of the time, no good reason. If there was a good reason to bark, the other dog would have followed suit but it most of the time it didn't. The regular dog barks enough as it is but the accordion dog was ridiculous.

This loud, constant barking was particularly acute at night when the windows were open. One evening around 10:30 with woo woo barking at what seemed like seconds between intervals I got fed up and walked over to the window.


There was a brief pause of stunned silence and then woo woo started to bark again.


Two quick, short and stern words in my best straight-from-the-diaphragm voice. Woo woo muttered a weak little push of air from the accordion and was quiet.

The rest of the evening woo woo managed a few half hearted barks but they quickly tailed off into nothingness. It was pretty funny. Like it was covering its mouth with its paw. Ah... the peace and quiet!

That was over a week ago. Since then, woo woo has apparently gone back to woo woo land because I haven't heard a peep. As for the regular dog, it still barks once in a while but nothing like before. I'm finding I have to adjust to having such tranquility now, sort of how when you go on vacation you have to get used to the feeling of relaxation from being away from work.

I don't expect dogs to be quiet. If there is something to bark at, then they should bark. But for a reason, not randomly and constantly like stupid woo woo. Actually I feel kind of guilty but when I think about it, why should I? Our neighbors ought to be the ones feeling guilty because they let that dog keep wheeze-barking so much.

That's the problem with having dogs - they can make so much noise. Now cats, on the other hand, are the pets of preference because they don't make any trouble.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Sunday was a relaxing day. After church we headed to Costco for an economical (cheap) lunch. Actually, I had read someone's Facebook post about the Alhambra location selling bulgogi bakes (like the chicken bakes only containing marinated beef, Korean-style) so I wanted to try it.

The cashier said there would be a four-minute wait because they weren't ready. Impatient me decided to get the same thing as Julie instead - the polish sausage dog. Hmm.. is "polish" supposed to be capitalized? It really isn't referring to people from Poland. Then if you capitalize "polish" does that mean sausage should be capitalized as well?

Back to lunch, we both had our polish dogs and they were as good as usual. I asked one of the food court workers if they were still using Hebrew National since the menu sign read "Kosher" but didn't specify the brand. She told me yes, they were. There's a complaint thread over at about the switch to Kirkland dogs and how many people absolutely hate the new ones. Still $1.50 including a drink, this is about the best lunch value around.

Several minutes into eating the hot dog, I noticed the guy who had been in front of us in line sat down with a fresh bulgogi bake (the menu calls it a "beef bake" which I'm sure is easier to pronounce). It seemed longer than 4 minutes. Like the chicken bake, it was quite substantial in size. He finished it, though.

I was curious as to the nutritional content of the bakes so I did some web research. No one lists the bulgogi bake yet, since this is only being tested at certain locations. As for the chicken bake, however, I obtained mixed results:

One website pegged it at a horrifying 1,007 calories! That exact same site had two listings, though, both for the same thing. The other one attributed 810 calories, still a whopper of an amount. The serving size for the higher calorie count said "1 sandwich" and the lower count said "one serving." It looked like a whole sandwich to me that Costco serves so is it really 1,007 calories?

Another site told me it was 590 calories. That's a lot more reassuring. But then still another said 770 calories. So who do you believe?? After seeing all that I was kind of glad I was impatient and opted for the polish dog instead, which is supposedly 540 calories. Kind of makes you wonder how reliable the information is on the world wide web, doesn't it?

But then whenever you eat at Costco you need to factor in hundreds more calories because of all the food samples they give away. Don't forget those waist line premiums!

There's no YouTube today. Instead, I have a poll for you - you don't even need to click to go to monkuPoll (which by the way has been put on suspension), you can just click right here.

I do try and put some effort in making the video somehow relevant to the blog subject matter but some days work better than others. How do you feel about the YouTube videos embedded on this site?

Sunday, August 9, 2009


My Saturday morning usual trip to Costco was so ordinary I'm not even going to talk about it! Well except to tell you that if you wanted those Martha Stewart chicken slab pies, you're out of luck; they have disappeared from the shelves.

We had lunch at El Pollo Loco today, taking advantage of the 2-piece chicken combo temporarily reduced in price to $3.99. That's for a leg and thigh; we asked how much extra for white meat and the cashier appeared confused. She told us an extra breast is $2.39. We said not for another piece, how much to substitute white for dark meat? Someone else came over and said it was $5.99. So forget it, we went with the dark meat.

That combo doesn't come with a drink so Julie ordered a small one. The cashier then pointed to the combo that is on "special" that came with a drink and said it was $5.99. Then we pointed out that a small drink is $1.59 so it was cheaper to order the combo without a drink and just add a drink to it separately. I guess the cashier was really confused by now so she just gave an "okay, suit yourself" shrug and rang it up. Then I had the same thing except for a medium drink instead of small.

Now you may wonder, if drink refills are free and I seem to be so obsessed with getting the most for my money, why not get the smallest size and simply get more refills? Because I am not rational, haha.. actually, because we fill it up before we go so if you have a larger cup you can take more with you.

Okay, now that you know how cheap we are, what I really wanted to point out about El Pollo Loco are the confusing number of specials that they have going right now. Like, you can get 7 pieces of dark meat chicken for $5.99 but then that doesn't come with any sides or drinks, so how does that compare to the other specials that come with sides or drinks, etc. And also, how it makes no sense that a 2-piece combo with a small drink costs more than buying a 2-piece combo without a drink and then you add your own.

After lunch we took a drive out to the west side of town where it was cooler. Much cooler. Since we were out that way, naturally I thought it would be nice to check out the Costco in Culver City. I mean, why go all that way and then not see what it was like?

You know what's crazy, they have an In-N-Out in the same lot as the Costco. Talk about congestion! Have you ever seen an In-N-Out that had an adequate sized parking lot? I've yet to encounter one of those.

Luckily it didn't take long to find parking. I was curious about this Costco, since being on the west side (i.e., "trendy") of town I wanted to see if they had different merchandise or a larger selection of goods.

Nope, they don't. Well, not entirely true. They did have a few more things but not enough to justify a special trip. Wine-wise they have a lot more selection than the sorry ones at Alhambra or Azusa but aside from that, the inventory is nearly the same. By the way.. head over to the monkuPoll and cast your vote on the Costco food court..

Saturdays being "eat out" day, we had dinner at Souplantation in Arcadia. Afterwards we took a short walk around the area and it's pretty scary how it is littered with "for lease" signs all over the place. A Fusion restaurant that used to be Tony Romas that opened just a few months ago has already gone out of business. So did the more long-timer Macaroni Grill. Claim Jumper had no one waiting outside for a table. I saw lots of empty parking spaces at the Red Lobster. I also saw an ambulance in their parking lot so I assume someone who actually thought their food was as good as their commercials makes it look must have found out the truth. Now Souplantation, on the other hand, was pretty crowded.. are people eating healthier, or cheaper, or both?

Overall, that restaurant row section of Arcadia seemed pretty depressing. Lots of empty spaces all over the place..

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Same Old..

I've been reading an interesting book, "Snap Judgment" by David Adler. The subtitle is, When to trust your instincts, when to ignore them, and how to avoid making big mistakes with your money.

He runs through a lot of interesting examples and topics (the chapters are short and sweet - my kind of book) but one I wanted to talk about today are his findings on CEO's. Here is an excerpt from chapter 28:

CEOs, even if they bill themselves as "change agents," are themselves almost always unable to change. CEOs are inflexible in their strategic vision. whatever it may be. They manage with certain styles, largely regardless of market conditions and needs... unable to adopt new points of view.

Interesting.. in other words, Adler is saying that research shows CEOs act the same way no matter what environment they are in and their success has more to do with falling into the right match rather than being skilled at adapting to situations.

I thought about this. Look at how many companies seem to be high flyers for a long time, then all of a sudden turn cold. Or even the gurus on network televsion who assemble the prime-time schedules. They have a hot hand for a while, choosing shows that are winners in the Neilsen ratings but eventually they end up putting together a roster of losers and are unceremoniously dumped and forgotten. Does it have more to do with skill or being in the right place at the right time and having chance on your side?

I'm no CEO but when you think about it, all of us are "CEOs" in some aspect in our lives. Do we really go through live unchanging?

The other day via Facebook I got in touch with an old friend/co-worker whom I hadn't seen since the mid-80's. We traded a few messages; after the 2nd or 3rd one, her reply started out with, You are so the same old Rickie. Now what did she mean by that? My writing voice sounds the same? I am up to the same stuff? I come across as the same person she knew 20+ years ago?

I guess we do need to have consistency in our lives. I mean, we can't change so drastically from year to year that people wonder if they are talking to an imposter and demand some sort of proof that you are who you say you are after not having seen you for a while. "Uh, if that's really you, tell me what we talked about at the water cooler on January 15, 1998."

But on the other hand, I think we all like to feel that we've changed in a positive way over the years and that we aren't "same old self." I guess it depends on the inflection - "You're just like you used to be" and be interpreted in various ways depending on the inflection.

So your task for today, should you decide to accept it, is to think back to a long time ago and compare the you of then to the you of now..

Friday, August 7, 2009


So I saw that today (Thursday), the Senate confirmed the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for our next justice in the Supreme Court. I like this picture they posted of her in Yahoo with a Freddie Blassie-type pose:

I think someone had just asked her the question, "If George W. Bush were standing in front of you right this very moment, what would you do?"

I see lots of unflattering pictures of people plastered across newspapers and news pages on the web - they have got to be deliberately chosen. I mean, don't you think there would be kinder pictures available to use?

Now look at these picture taken from the Wall Street Journal of Kenneth Lewis (Bank of America). You might as well draw horns on his head, lol..

Speaking of "lol," I was reading an article today about how confusing it is trying to keep track of all the acronyms being bandied about on text messaging and e-mails, etc., and trying to figure out what some of them mean.

The article closed with an anecdote from someone who knew of a woman whose friend's mother had died. The woman texted her friend a sympathy message:

“I’m so sorry to hear about your mother passing away. LOL. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

The friend thought that "LOL" meant "lots of love."

Going back to the court nominations and confirmations, I found a video that I feel gives a pretty good idea of what really goes on behind closed doors in our government (it's a bit long but please watch it):

Thursday, August 6, 2009



Like this? As in, a soft answer turns away wrath?

Or like this:


We have a sales rep in our office who constantly sends e-mails to people all in capital letters. And in bold, no less. Sometimes even italicized. Finally, after the nth person must have commented on it to him, he changed his style. But in what I suppose was an effort to defend himself, he also said that he searched the 'net for an official explanation or definition of what it meant to use all caps and found that using all capital letters is used for emphasis of what you are writing.


Just think if people spoke in all capital letters. I suspect there would be more violence in the world. The only time I have spoken in all capital letters is when talking to someone while wearing headphones.

And as for people who WrITe LIkE tHiS, dON't EvEn geT mE STarTeD oN THat.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Defying Gravity

Did you get your two free Jack in the Box tacos yesterday? That was nice of Jack. I headed over around 11:30 and picked up mine from a nearly empty location. They put two tacos into one wrapper; that's the first time I've ever seen them do that. Are they getting cheap or were they running low or what? At least they didn't put two tacos into one tortilla.

Back in February of 2008 I thought I made a decent stock pick when I bought shares of Dollar Thrifty Auto (DTG) for around $16.50 for my IRA account. Soon thereafter, as happens frequently to me, the stock began its descent. I kept waiting for it to turn around, but it didn't.

Finally it got so low that it wasn't even worth selling - better to just hang on and see if it would reverse direction. Well when November came around, forget it. DTG and almost everything else took a nosedive.

In March of this year it was going for as low as 60 cents!! Now at that point I figured for sure why sell it, the worst it can do is lose another 60 cents. So I held on. The thought did cross my mind to buy some more since it was so cheap but I thought no, this company seems like it's not going to improve any.

And as usual, I was wrong. Here's a chart of the stock's price since those down days back in March (click to enlarge):

Yesterday I finally sold it for $17.26 a share, making a small profit. Today (Tuesday) naturally after I sold it, it kept going up and in after-hours trading it went over $18. Now just think.. if you had purchased $1,000 of this stock back in March when it was 60 cents, you would have $30,000 today.

Oh, if only I had bought more at that point. But I tell myself if I had done that, I wouldn't have held on to the stock, I would have sold it a long time ago.

Today's YouTube features a song whose title matches the stock. Now that I've sold it maybe you should buy it because it will probably soar over $50 in a few months if past experience holds true, haha..

By the way - the guy in the left on the video used to be a janitor at my elementary school. Then the group hit it big and wouldn't you know, he quit his job. I'm really happy when things like that happen to people - what a great story!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wanna Know How

Again I will just refer you to other websites today.. nothing interesting happened so there's nothing to write about.

My friend Sandy told me about this site: It's like the title says - if you are wondering how to do something, even something seemingly esoteric or bizarre or obscure or even mundane, there is a good chance you will find either a video or an article to point you in the right direction.

So click on the link and go on over and browse. There's bound to be something to capture your attention or be of use.

I hope you will like it more than you seem to like answering poll questions, lol..

Here's a how-to video from Seinfeld:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Around the Web

Since I am feeling lazy I decided to let other people's websites do the work today.

First, I've mentioned Frank's site before and I thought I would pass along something from him. Here is a portion of what he posted the other day:

Shopping: She wanted to got to the grocery store with me. I actually do not like that, but she was really being very attentive to me. She was publicly affectionate. We went grocery shopping. I let her walk in front of me, so I could look around at the people without getting caught.

I thought the part about letting his wife walk in front of him so he could check out the people in the store without getting caught was pretty funny (he's 76 years old) so I told him so in the comments. This is the response he sent back to me:

Thanks for the visit and sharing. Yes, lol, I am kind of sneaky. My wife keeps and eye on my eyes and notices what I am looking at. lol Life is actually fun if you don't take it so seriously. lol

Well guys, I guess it never ends, haha..

Yesterday when I had lunch with Katie she mentioned how she misses visiting the Monterey area. I told her next time she is up that way she should have lunch with Frank and we both started laughing (that's where he lives; she's the one who told me about his blog). And have it at Tarpy's, his favorite restaurant. Actually I would like to eat there because it sounds delicious.. and I think it would be neat to meet Frank, too!

Second "let other website do the work" item for today:

Do you associate specific colors with numbers or letters?

If so, you may have a trait known as "Synesthesia." It is not limited to just that type of association; here is the definition as taken from this website:

Synesthesia is a perceptual condition of mixed sensations: a stimulus in one sensory modality (e.g., hearing) involuntarily elicits a sensation/experience in another modality (e.g. vision). Likewise, perception of a form (e.g., a letter) may induce an unusual perception in the same modality (e.g. a color).

If you think you may have synesthesia, click here to go to the website where you can take some tests to determine if you really do or not.

This is something Katie mentioned to me because apparently she has this. I think she must have inherited it from her mom. She sure didn't inherit it from me because here is the result I got when I took the "preview test" to get a preliminary measure of the trait as it pertains to me:

I suppose that's to be expected when you answer "no" to all of the questions.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Woo Woo

Can you believe another whole week has gone by since my last Costco report?

Three things to report on today: one, if you like the Martha Stewart chicken slab pies, go stock up on them because I think they are being closed out. Anything with a price ending in a "7" means they have been discontinued; the slab pies have been priced at $4.97 with plenty in the freezers for months now, but today there were only a few, stacked on top of another frozen food item so I think they aren't finally going bye-bye. We now have four boxes of these caloric things in our freezer.

Second, in the interests of health to combat the evil slab pies, I bought a bag of walnuts. That seems to be the latest miracle food that cures everything so because of that plus they are cheaper than the pine nuts, I bought a 3-pound bag.

Third and finally, I hope I didn't make a mistake buying the chile-lime chicken strips. These kind of things are hit and miss and the problem is if they are a miss, you still have a rather large quantity remaining. Oh well, I'll let you know how they are.

Yesterday I mentioned the quest for gumbo. Where did we wind up going for lunch? The Oinkster, in Eagle Rock. Yeah, real gumbo, lol.. I've been wanting to try the place for a while and Katie had no preference so that's where we ate.

Most every time I take my camera, I forget to take a picture of the food. By the time I remembered, most of it was gone. I'll just have to tell you what we had. Katie had the rotisserie chicken and I had the rotisserie chicken salad sandwich. Both came with excellent belgian fries and dragon breath garlic mayo. I actually had my eye on the pastrami or pulled pork sandwich but decided to try and be a little bit healthier so I opted for the chicken instead.

The girl at the counter served us with a smile and later brought the food to our table in the same way so that made it pleasant (that's her on the far right in the 1st picture below). The only thing was there were no tables available indoors so we had to eat on the much warmer patio. All in all it was a nice lunch and we had a good time. Here's some pics:

Now from the good to the bad. The woo-woo dog is back next door. Normally there is one dog but once in a while this guest dog comes to stay for a while and it has the most annoying and pathetic bark, with which it likes to annoy and pathet everyone in the neighborhood.

I call it the woo-woo dog because it sounds like it swallowed an accordion when it barks (no offense to any of you who play the accordion.. you know who you are, haha.. you can do so but dogs simply should not be allowed anywhere near one). An accordian with asthma, no less. Woo woo woo.. woo woo woo.. it just kept wheezing and wheezing those woos.

Julie thinks it is predicting an earthquake. I say it's just plain stupid. Woo woo woo..

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gumbo Quest

I'm supposed to have lunch with Katie today (meaning Saturday, though I am writing this on Friday). I asked her what she felt like eating and without hesitating, the reply was "gumbo."

There really aren't many places to get gumbo. The gumbo most familiar to me comes in a Campbell's soup can that says "chicken gumbo" but I don't think that's quite the same thing.

There used to be Angelena's, a soul food place in Alhambra, but as you might expect they closed their doors a while ago. I'm just surprised they lasted as long as they did.

Then I thought we could go somewhere in the old 'hood - there must be a lot of places in the Crenshaw area that served gumbo. But I thought wrong; the places I found via the internet all seemed to have gone out of business. I turned to the Chowhound folks and asked for their recommendations. Among the slim results, Harold and Belles got high marks but when I looked at the menu on their web site, no way was I going to pay $18 for a bowl of gumbo. I noticed they had fried chicken on there for $26. $26 for fried chicken???

My response to the recommendations I received on Chowhound was thanks, but H&B was too expensive and I couldn't believe fried chicken would run $26. Someone replied and told me it is even more, $30, at Boneyard Bistro. I can't believe anyone would have the nerve to charge that much for a plate of fried chicken. Even Foster Farms chicken!

I received some other suggestions but they were too far away.

On the same thread I started over there, people got into a discussion of how there weren't any places in the area that served decent gumbo and you'd have to go back to Houston or New Awlins for the real thing. And for a lot less money, too.

So I doubt that we'll be venturing to any soul food places. I'll let you know where we wind up.