Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tut II

I think it was 1977 when the King Tut exhibit rolled into Los Angeles. It was a popular event; people stood in long lines for long times, some up to 8 hours, waiting to purchase tickets. All in all, it is estimated that around eight million people in the United States viewed the boy king.

Contrast that to the excitement generated over advance tickets that sold for "This Is It," the Michael Jackson movie slated for release on October 27. Once again the King of Pop was in the news as cameras recorded his faithful fans standing in line, some who had been there for several days, waiting for those cherished tickets to the exclusive premiere.

It seems Los Angeles is in the grip of MichaelMania. They just can't get enough of him! Is the entire nation like that? A country filled with people who just can't let him go?

Well, I have the solution:

The Michael Jackson Farewell Tour.

Heck, if King Tut and the Eagles did it, why not Michael Jackson? Just cart him around the country and put him on display. Maybe not even call it a "farewell" tour but instead just a "tour." That way the sponsors can be like Disney and re-release him every few years for a limited time only. And an appearance on Oprah, too.






Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Caveat Emptor

The other day someone named "kmiyake" left a comment on my post of a few days ago regarding cables, and how some stores like to sell them at ridiculously high prices.

"But you're taking money away from those poor ripoffers." That's the comment.

Now actually, there is some merit to this. On the audio forum where I hang around too much, someone posted a blu ray player for sale in the classifieds section. Someone else then posted a message to the thread mentioning that the same blu ray could be purchased brand-new from Amazon.com.

That opened up a minor can of worms, with another poster chiming in to say that making a public post that the item could be purchased for less elsewhere was "thread crapping," and if anything, that should have been communicated to the original poster (OP) in a private message, not in public on the forum board.

Others chimed in for and against; some said it was the right thing to do because they would appreciate knowing if there was a lower price somewhere else. Others said it was up to the buyers to do their own research.

What do you think?

Personally, I feel that if the information is readily available to all, then caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware, and let the buyer do his or her own research. If it involves information that is not public knowledge (such as someone knowing the product being offered is defective or stolen, or the seller has had fraudulent transactions in the past) then one should be obliged to mention this. But when you can just as easily go look yourself at Amazon or wherever, then that's your responsibility to do so and if you don't and wind up paying more than you need to, that's your problem. Why should anyone feel that their hand has to be held?

So taking it to the cable example, if people want to overpay for a cable at a place whose initials are BB, perhaps up to 25 or more times what an equivalent cable would cost you at a place like, say, monoprice.com, then who am I to step in and say something?

The reason I do it is because I object to the sleazy way Monster does business, making it a practice to sue others left and right over use of the word "monster" even though such uses are not even remotely near the cable business. That's what I object to. I could care less if people are stupid enough to throw away their money on Monster products because they somehow think they are better than a generic cable. It's their bullying that makes them my enemy.

But now what about the other brands that BB carries, that are also overpriced (though not as terribly so)? Should I point out that people are overpaying for them? Or just let them fish out those credit cards and greenbacks and go home thinking they got what they paid for?

I dunno.. what do you think? Any opinions? I am sticking with what I said before, that unless there is something objectionable that the seller is doing, then let the buyer beware.

And now, here is the head snake-oil salesman himself:




Monday, September 28, 2009

Small Fry

Today I saw my niece for the first time. Well, she is really Julie's niece, not mine. The way I look at it, I don't consider in-law relationships to be "genuine" relatives. Like her uncle or aunt are not my uncle or aunt, etc., etc.

Anyway, she was born on the 18th and is just a tiny little thing. I tried to remember when Greg and Katie were that young and little but my gray cells have whitened.

Julie kept asking me, don't you think the baby looks like her brother? I just shrugged. No, I don't think she looks like anyone. All little babies like that look pretty much alike and just look like babies to me. I find women are much more interested in them than are men - well, at least me. The baby is definitely cute and all, but I am not one who can sit still watching a 20-minute video of a sleeping baby (At 14:56 of the video - "Oh see there? Did you see her eye twitch?").


What I thought was funny was in the baby's room they have a CD player set up playing soothing, tranquil music. Yet when everyone talks in Cantonese it is soooo loud! Haha.. doesn't make much sense to me. I think the baby will develop a high level of noise tolerance.




Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cables

I think I've gotten on the soapbox about this before, but there is a wide disparity in the pricing of cables and anyone who thinks paying a ton of money for Monster cable is worthwhile is sadly mistaken.

Just like beverages are the high-margin, profit-making items for the restaurant industry and the ink cartridges are where profit comes from in the printer industry, cables are where they gouge you in the audio/video industry.

A nice place to get good-quality cables at ridiculously low prices is monoprice.com. For example, right now you can get a 6' HDMI cable from them for $1.95. I guarantee you won't be able to tell the difference in performance between this and one of those Monster things that runs $90.00 at that ripoff store whose initials are BB.

What prompted me to mention this? Am I getting some sort of incentive to write about them? No, I just happened to be looking at some cables and they are such a good deal that I figured I might as well tell you about them in case you didn't know.

If you need audio, video or computer cables, switches or other small accessories, I urge you to go over to their site and take a look around. This in not junk, either. I've bought items from them and the quality is very good.

Here's a video of their new headquarters. I was amazed to see how young their CEO is, too..




Friday, September 25, 2009

Feisty Grump

Not long ago I was reading the Amazon consumer reviews for the Blu Ray version of The Last Waltz when I came across one that sounded familiar to me. But I knew I hadn't read it before so I was wondering why it seemed like I had.

Then it hit me.

I browsed over to Blu-ray.com and looked at the review done by their staff member. That's where I had seen it! I compared the names of the reviewers.. not the same.

Here is a screen print of the original, professional review at Blu-ray.com (click on any of the images for a full-size version):

Now here is the screen print of the review at Amazon. Notice any similarities?

The guy even used the same misspelling of the word "taut!" As used in the review, the correct word should be "taut," not "taught." I couldn't believe how blatant that was. In fact I wrote a nasty comment to append to the Amazon review, telling the reviewer he should be ashamed of himself.

Yesterday I thought about that same review and went back to the Amazon page to see if there was any response to my comment. There wasn't. Then I decided to look at another one of this guy's reviews to see if he had plagiarized that one, too. Take a look. Here is his review:

Now here are snippets of the review from Blu-ray.com, this time written by a different staff person than the one doing the Last Waltz review:



So whaddaya think? Again I left a flaming comment on this guy's Amazon review. That really burns me up when people take credit where no credit is due!

I have to say I've been getting more edgy in my reviews and comments. Like for example, this review that someone posted about the Beatle's White Album:

Here is the comment I left.

Today when I looked at his review again, I noticed that he had edited part of it so he must have read my comment. His original review made mention of "..proudly showing of (sic) your five loud speakers.." (italics mine) and I took him to task about that, pointing out that this was a stereo recording so how could there be five speakers? Now his review doesn't contain the word "five" anymore, haha. It still is a faulty review, though!

I've decided I'm gonna calls 'em as I sees them and if I start sounding like Joe Wilson, well so be it! I mean, when we see something that is clearly wrong, should we just pretend it isn't there? We're going to have some accountability here!




Thursday, September 24, 2009

America

Yesterday I told you how once upon a time I thought the Theme From Exodus was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard. Yes, at the time it was but those days quickly passed.

Today when I listen to it, it is far too melodramatic for me and it holds no special meaning for me.

There's another song that, upon first hearing, I thought was beautiful. And after 41 years it has held up well and I can still say the same about it today as back then.

My mind was full of images when I listened to it and I wanted to go on that same romantic journey they sang about. The song I'm referring to came off the album that took me from 45's into LP's and is one of the greatest recordings ever released. The album is Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends, and the specific song is America.

I just listened to it a few minutes ago and got the same feelings I had when it was on the turntable in 1968, which made me want to write about it even though you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. I guess you just had to be there!

There wasn't the original version available on YouTube and the closest version I could find didn't allow embedding elsewhere. So if you would like to hear it, please click here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Exodus

I learned that pianist Art Ferrante passed away today (Tuesday).

"Who's that?" You may well ask.

One half of the duo of Ferrante and Teicher. Which again might prompt the same response from you.

Back in the 1960's I was a kid that had some odd musical tastes. I mentioned somewhere else in this blog about wanting to buy David Rose's recording of "The Stripper" because I liked the music. I had no idea what a stripper was, but it elicited a funny look from the guy at the record store, especially since back in those days they played a sample for you to make sure it was the right recording.

Ferrante and Teicher got on the charts for their rendition of the theme song from Exodus. Upon my first listen, I thought it was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard.

So there I was, at Flash Records on Jefferson and Western in the heart of the 'hood asking the clerk for that tune. And getting another funny look when he pulled it out and put it on the turntable to sample. I had no idea what "Exodus" was about; I just liked the music. Hmm.. The Stripper and Exodus. What a pair of tunes to pair.

Not long after that I got more into the mainstream of music and became a top 40 nut but Exodus remained in the stack of '45's. I wonder if I still have it? Oh, well, even if I had it I couldn't play it since I no longer own a turntable.




Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joking

Well there's really not much going on around here. Work is getting busy. I already wrote about how good the remastered Beatles CD's are yesterday although I should add that after writing that, I listened to "Revolver" in mono. Excellent.. just more support for their being the genius group, and the recording quality was terrific as well.

Here's a couple of jokes that I thought were hilarious (so you can see what sort of sense of humor I possess) that are here so your visit to the blog today won't be a complete waste of time:

***

Last Tuesday, as President Obama got off the Helicopter in front of the White House, he was carrying a baby piglet under each arm.

The squared away Marine guard snaps to attention, Salutes, and says:
"Nice pigs, Sir."

The President replies: "These are not pigs. These are authentic Arkansas Razorback Hogs. I got one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I got one for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi."

The squared-away Marine again snaps to attention, salutes, and says:
"Excellent trade, sir."

***

I was walking past the mental hospital the other day, and all the patients were shouting ,'13.....13....13!'

The fence was too high to see over, but I saw a little gap in the planks and looked through to see what was going on.

Some idiot poked me in the eye with a stick.

Then they all started shouting '14...14.....14...!

***




Monday, September 21, 2009

Beatles

When it was announced that remasters of all the Beatles CD's would be released, I read up on the differences between the stereo and mono versions of the albums that had originally been released in mono. Since mono was how the Beatles had recorded their earlier albums and that was how they intended to have them played, I decided to buy the Beatles mono box set instead of the stereo version.

Then after reading some advance reviews of both versions, I also ordered stereo versions of Sgt. Pepper and the White Album, as well as the Abbey Road CD (which was originally released only in stereo).

I haven't had a chance to listen to everything but what I have heard so far has convinced me that it was well worth the expenditure.

On Saturday I listened to the White Album and Sgt. Pepper in stereo mode. The recording quality is excellent! I am not sure if it is from the fact that they are remastered or I have better audio equipment than I did back when the original vinyl LP's were released, but I heard subtle things on the songs that I don't recall hearing on the vinyl versions. The recording quality was also much improved, especially on louder songs like Yer Blues and Helter Skelter. What sounded like a congested mess before on my old stereo sounded clean and distinct on my present setup. Again I don't know how much is due to remastering versus the audio equipment itself, but it sounded great.

As I sat there listening, I concluded that the Beatles were absolute musical geniuses. That might warrant a "duh" from many of you but what I mean is that they weren't merely the fad of the moment, like today's trendy restaurants that are serving oh-so-incredible cutting edge innovative cuisine on week one and then the in crowd deserts it to stampede over to the next innovative place on week two; what I mean is that, well, I was just amazed at the sheer genius of their recordings. Not all, mind you (I still have to skip over "Within You Without You" on Sgt. Pepper because I can't stand that song), but the ratio of excellent songs to filler has to be unmatched by anyone else. The variety of musical styles on their albums is also something to marvel at.

One other thing - I say Ringo is one of the most underrated drummers of all time. He really does have a style all his own and it is this style that puts the perfect backbone into each song. In the early days he was considered the musical weak link in the group but he really came into his own from Sgt. Pepper onwards.

If any of you have been on the fence about whether or not to buy the remasters, my advice is get down off that fence and pull out your wallet (or purse)! These are worth the money. First of all the recording quality is superb but what really makes these sweet are the songs themselves. Sheer genius.





Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scary

The other day I purchased the DVD of the movie that scared me the most when I was little: Invaders From Mars. Have you ever seen it? To a little kid like me, it was terrifying.

Several years ago I had told Julie and kids about it and when the VHS became available, I bought it. This, I assured them, as we sat down to watch it, was a scary movie.

They all laughed. They thought it was stupid.

Looking at it as an adult, the props and costumes are cheesy and the acting is horrible, and it reeks of low budget. But still, this movie was and is scary! I'm not the only one; just read many of the customer reviews on Amazon; they felt the same way I did. I'm sure all of us have movies that really affected us. Invaders From Mars, cheesy as it may be, is the one that did it for me.

Watching it when I was little, I put myself in the main character's shoes, a kid about my age. Aliens capture adults who fall through sandtraps on a little rise in a neighboring field, then implant little devices that takes away their souls and makes them act like zombies. It happens to his parents and others he is close to. Now can you picture a little kid imagining that happening to him? Your parents aren't really your parents anymore?

The creepy music and many of the images from the movie (such as the sandtrap area) are still vivid in my mind. A problem with the VHS tape was its quality. Many parts of the movie were so dark you could barely see what was going on. The quality of the DVD is still subpar but much improved; being that it was a B-movie from 1953 it isn't surprising that a good print is not available.

If you've seen the movie (the original, not the remake) then I bet you know what I am talking about. If you've never seen it, take an hour and a half of your life and watch it. It was only $5.49 when I bought it but I see the price has gone up a whole dollar in the few days since then. They must know everyone will be reading my blog and a stampede to buy will be the result.

You can even click the icon below to check it out! I posted the trailer here a few days ago but here it is again.











Friday, September 18, 2009

Civility

It seems civility has taken a turn towards extinction in our great country; witness the recent "You Lie!" outburst during Obama's speech, or Kayne West's acting like a jackass, or Serena Williams exercising her right to free speech at the U.S. Open. Can't we all get along???

Rumor has it that no one is really sure where Obama is from because he has no birth certificate. Without getting into that issue, let me just say that it is obvious to me that he is not from my old 'hood, the Crenshaw area. If he was, when Joe Wilson shouted out, "You Lie!" during the president's speech on health care reform, Obama would have simply dished back some attitude in his direction with a well-timed, "Yo' Mama!" That would have shut the guy up for good. And if not, well, there's always the parking lot outside to settle any remaining differences.

That brought back some memories from my elementary and junior high school days when one of our favorite pastimes was "shooting down" on each other. Two opponents would engage in escalating insults at each other while onlookers expressed their opinions of just how good each "shot" was. This brought on incredible pressure to do one-better than your opponent's last remark or else lose face.

Back in elementary school, one frequent remark was, "forget you!" Then there was always the kid who would reply, "forget you forgot you, never thought about you." Or someone, who when you asked where they lived, would reply, "two-two forget you."

Yeah, I know it's stupid. But it was fun. We just said what was on our minds and no one really got offended. Then when we got to high school we were supposed to be more civilized so we stopped with that trash talk and started spreading rumors instead.




Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Slow

This summer started out pretty mild and then it turned unbearably hot. I took to running early in the morning instead of the afternoon because it was much cooler at that time. It's quiet, the air is nice and fresh, I'm nice and fresh and there's not many people out and about yet.

Since it cooled off this week, I decided to run in the afternoon today. I kind of missed the sunshine, too. After all, gotta get enough vitamin D!

So out I went and it didn't take long before the difference between early morning and late afternoon running became apparent to me. By the time I neared home I felt like I was in slow motion, lol. I think next time it is back to early morning for me!

Long time ago I read something in the National Lampoon about how to simulate the effect of being old. They listed various increasing ages and how to set up a room to make it feel like you were that age.

For example, at 20 it said just walk through the room like you normally do.

At 40 it said to wear some weights and do the same walk.

At 60 it said fill the room with jello and then walk through it.

And I think at 70 or 80 it said fill the room with concrete and then walk through it.

Whew, today felt like jello stage - it was still too hot for my liking!





Tuesday, September 15, 2009

HIgh Life

I don't mean to make any of you envious but in today's mail was a very exclusive invitation, addressed to me personally, to apply for the VISA Black Card.

Yes, I did say it was an application but I am sure that is a mere formality.

Don't feel bad if you didn't receive an invitation; the material that came with it said it was only being offered to 1% of United States residents. So if you aren't part of the 3,040,000 or so individuals to whom this offer was made, it isn't the end of the world. Well, maybe 4,000,000 if you include illegal people who were hiding when the population was counted.

On top of that, the card is made of carbon. It's not just a credit card, it is an investment since one day it will be a diamond.

All that for an annual fee of only $495.



I already know what my inaugural purchase on this card is going to be:


In case you don't know what that is, it's a blu ray player. But not just any blu ray player; this one goes for a cool $135,000.00. With VISA Black, I don't think there's going to be any problem with credit limits.

If you want to read more about this blu ray player, click here.

Don't worry, though. This blog will still be the same humble little site it has always been!





Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kodachrome

When I was much younger I read somewhere that we remember our dreams in black and white, even though we may dream in color. If you think about that, if we remember them in black and white how can anyone say we actually dream them in color because how would they ever know?

I did believe it, though, because I could never remember dreaming anything in color. Do you dream in color? Do you really remember them in color or do you just know that they were in color when you actually had the dream even though your recollection is in black and white?

I find it is odd that our minds are able to translate a color dream into black and white. Or, if we really do not dream in color, that we are able to imagine things in black in white that are really in color. Take a look around you right now - are you able to imagine what you see in black and white?

Is our black and white recollection of our dream a product of having watched black and white movies or television shows? If someone had never seen a black and white picture or video, would he or she still remember dreams in black and white?

Last night I dreamed I was running across the lawn at the UCLA campus. The lawn was very green. I remember looking down at the lawn and, knowing I was actually dreaming, thinking that this lawn is bright green but it isn't supposed to be in color because I'm dreaming.

Right at that moment the lawn turned grey and the dream became black and white. And I thought, hey wait a minute, I KNOW everything was in color, especially the lawn so it's too late to change to black and white! I also remember when the lawn turned grey that it also suddenly became a chore to run and I felt tired.

I don't remember what happened after that. Maybe the dream police took over because I had gone where I wasn't supposed to.

So what would Freud say about that?




Saturday, September 12, 2009

Random Stuff

This morning (Friday) started out with a breakfast meeting at Lancer's in Burbank where I think the average age of the patrons is about 105 years old. We were a little on the left of that average.

I ordered a veggie omelette with white toast. When the waitress appeared with my order and set the plates down in front of me, my boss looked at the white toast and proclaimed that was the most unhealthy thing anyone could possibly eat. Poison! All that processed flour going into my body was not good at all.

Then I pointed at the EXTRA side order of bacon he got. "Processed nitrates?" I asked.

Lunch was uneventful. I just ate my usual turkey sandwich at my desk.

Then for dinner Julie and I went to Souplantation (yes I know it seems we go there a lot) and across the way from me was a twenty-something Asian girl with raccoonitis. She had drawn very dark and thick outlines around her eyes, in almost perfect circles. I kept looking at her. I hope she didn't think I was captivated or anything; I was wondering why would anyone want to look like they belonged in a Tim Burton movie. I was also trying to imagine what she looked like without those crop circles but they were so forceful I couldn't comprehend it.

Have you noticed that our president's name lends itself to new vocabulary? Like "Obamunism." Or, "Obamanoia." Or, "Obamacare." Soon I imagine he will be embroiled in some sort of Obamagate because that is pretty much unavoidable for a president. Then there is the ongoing issue of Obamanomics.

Now try doing that with Bush, Clinton, etc., and it just doesn't have the same feel to it. I think it has to do with the fact that Obama ends with an "a." Most every other president's name ends in a consonant and when it does that, the name pretty much hits a dead end on that last syllable. But Obama keeps on going.

There have been very few presidents whose last name ended in a vowel. I can think of Kennedy ("and sometimes 'y'"), Monroe and Coolidge offhand but that's about it.

And there you have it, my random ramblings for the day.






Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lost

Today was the first day back in school for many kids in the Los Angeles area. One of my co-workers told me about her fun day.

In the morning she told her son J and her daughter S to meet at a certain place after school so they could come home together. She walked them over to the designated spot and told them, they were both to go directly there after school and under NO circumstances were they to go anywhere else. If J wasn't there, S was to wait. If S wasn't there, J was to wait. Do NOT go anywhere else, don't go looking for them, don't do anything but wait there in that exact spot.

Then she asked if they understood, which apparently they did.

But apparently they didn't. S showed up at the spot but J wasn't there.

Mommy asked J what happened to him. "Didn't I tell you to go there and then wait??"

"I had to use the bathroom real bad! Then when I came back, S wasn't there!"

So mommy asked S where she was.

"J wasn't there so I went to go look for him."

"Didn't I tell you to stay in one place and not to go anywhere???"

"But he wasn't there so I went to look," S said.

"J, didn't I tell you not to go anywhere???"

"I had to use the bathroom real bad!!"

And that's only the first day! Later she said J asked her if he could punish S when they got home for not listening. S asked mommy if she could punish J for not listening when they got home.

I remember waiting for a ride one time when I was in junior high. It was after our Chaparrals (YMCA club) meeting on a Friday night when Centenary Methodist was at its original location on Normandie near Jefferson. Sterling's dad was supposed to pick me up and take me home. Sterling was sick that day but Mr. Tom was nice enough to still volunteer to give me a ride home as for whatever reason, my dad wasn't able to do so that night.

I waited and waited and he didn't show up. Gradually the lot where the basketball courts were, where everyone waited for their rides, emptied out until I was the only one left. It seemed no one was at the church building, either.

So I figured he must have forgotten. I decided to run home by myself.

Now if you know that neighborhood, you know that it was pretty foolish to be outside by yourself at night and if you were, you indeed had better be running! Adrenaline must have been pumping like crazy through me because I didn't feel the least bit tired as I ran the mile or so from the church to the house.

When I got home my mom usually waved to Mr. Tom but since he wasn't there she asked me what happened to him. I told her I had just run home, not something she wanted to hear. "Well what was I supposed to do, just wait there? I was all by myself." And of course there were no such things as cell phones and I didn't have any money to make a phone call.

A few minutes later a poor, frantic Mr. Tom called and my mom told him I was safe and sound. I can imagine what must have been going through his head when he showed up and I wasn't there!

I guess kids are born to give their parents consternation. What parents ought to do is to let their kids know that if they don't behave and listen to what they are told, this is what will happen to them: (YouTube won't allow embedding so you will have to click here to view it - guaranteed to be effective!)



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obamanoia

Did you all watch Obama's speech to our nation's schools today? I didn't see it but I did read the full text of it.

I saw no references to Obamunism or socialism although I'm still analyzing the speech for subliminal messages as well as phrases that have hidden meaning known only to youth who use such lingo to communicate below the radar of watchdog parents who insist on being their Facebook and MySpace friends to monitor what they are up to.

Forgive me for being cynical but I cannot believe that there is a politician in this country who says anything without a hidden motive; all of these exhortations to be responsible for oneself and to aim high and not give up - there has to be some sort of ulterior, sneaky and downright despicable deed our president is trying to perpetrate on our malleable youth but I just can't put my finger on it right now. He's a crafty one, he is.

It wouldn't surprise me if it turned out that he was not of our earth. Indonesia.. yeah, right. Indonesia on what planet in what solar system??? You're not fooling ALL of us, Mr. President!





Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day

Hey, this is the blog's 400th post! If Seinfeld can do a show about nothing, I have proved that I can do the same with a blog.

Labor Day was nice and relaxing. We took a drive out to cooler pastures, namely the Del Amo mall in Torrance.

All malls are pretty much the same. When they are bigger, like Del Amo, the difference in space between the large and small ones is filled up with more stores that sell the same stuff as the ones already there. Well maybe not quite - we had our first meal at Chick Fil A and that's really the only location I am aware of.

And there was some store selling everything for only $10. Almost everything; in small letters below the giant EVERYTHING $10 writing it said, with certain exceptions. The small print wasn't that obvious so I imagine the store has seen some very excited patrons salivating at the prospect of getting a $10 dining table.

Actually there was a decent selection of items that looked like they would sell for more than $10 at most places, and even the certain exceptions seemed well priced.

Then we went into this one dollar store where it was the exact opposite. I don't know why Julie even bothers to look in these places but oh, well. Nothing, and I mean not one single thing in there was even worth a dollar! It was total junk!!

Julie found a few things and I wound up with a couple of jars of mixed spices from TJ Maxx, of all places, after having to stand in line for about 20 minutes. It's a very inefficient operation over there.

While sitting in the food court munching our Chick Fil A meals, I was eyeing the various kiosks lining the middle of the walkway and wondering how profitable these mini-businesses were. They had the advantage of a relatively low capital investment which would make it easier for a small entrepreneur to get started.

But most didn't seem to be very popular. The one nearest us provided some sort of hair curling or styling service. The guy was busy working on the hair of a customer but that seemed rather inefficient to me because you can only work on one person at a time and who wants to wait around at a kiosk in the mall if the guy is busy? It's not like being at a barber shop where you are held captive because there's nowhere else to go or nothing else to do.

Then there was one selling belt buckles, another with costume jewelry, one selling DVD's, and one, the only one that seemed busy, selling cell phone cases and accessories.

I got to thinking that there has to be some sort of product or service you could sell from a kiosk that would be very, very popular. What that is I still haven't thought of, but with the right product it could be a lot more efficient than the standard brick and mortar high-rent mall store.

That opinion was only reinforced by walking around the clothing racks at the stores we visited, seeing how much of it was on sale and also thinking to myself that no one in their right mind would buy this stuff because it was downright ugly. But then they are not me and maybe beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Naw.. if it was, this stuff wouldn't be so drastically marked down in the first place. It just seemed to me that there was soooo much inventory per person that the whole model didn't make sense.

All that unwanted merchandise.. what becomes of it?




Sunday, September 6, 2009

Our Dopey Country

Have you heard about Obama's planned speech to our nation's schools this coming Tuesday and the flurry of controversy it has whipped up?

According to the Department of Education, the speech, aimed directly at students, will center on persisting and succeeding in school.

Some, such as Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, are critical of the speech. This is what he had to say about it:

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology," the letter began. "The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."

Whoa, who gave this guy a copy of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital and told him those are Obama's main source of material for the speech??

You know, when I was growing up we looked upon the president of the United States as the most powerful person on earth and we also respected him. He was the leader of the country, elected by a democratic process (i.e., the people's choice) and we were taught that this democratic process was what made America a great country.

Now apparently what makes America great is that we have the option to show no respect to our president and allow our feelings about him to degenerate into a bipartisan mudsling. What a great lesson to teach our children!

I didn't vote for Obama and I don't agree with a lot of his philosophy but he is the president and he was duly elected to office - in a landslide, I might add. What indication has there been that he plans on forcing his political agenda, which many feel to be a socialist viewpoint, upon our children? To do so would be political suicide.

Yet the news is full of school districts announcing that they will refuse to broadcast his speech to their students.

This is sad. It just fuels the perception among other nations that America is a haven for morons.

What I propose is that in the future, we have two presidents, one for each party. A red president and a blue president and if your state voted primarily blue, then you will be governed by the blue president, and if red, then the red president. I am not so sure what to do about rebel enclaves, however, such as Orange County within California, for example. But America has faced problems of similar magnitude before and come out with flying colors, namely red, white and blue. So what if a map of America will wind up resembling the playing board in a game of Risk?

All of this bickering is pathetic. It is also divisive and one thing we don't need these days is to appear divided to the rest of the world. Perhaps what we need to do is take a lesson from the past and let all of us choose one "threatening" ethnic group we can all hate in order to rally the country into unity.

Any nominations?





Saturday, September 5, 2009

Privacy

Do you read those privacy notices that come in the mail for your credit cards or other companies with whom you have some sort of business relationship?

Today I received an envelope marked Important Privacy Choices from Chase. One of the things I was informed of was that unless I instruct them otherwise, they will share information about me with companies that they own or control, and/or will also share information about me with other companies they do business with to provide financial products and services.

In order for me to instruct them otherwise, I have to send back a form (see picture below) that requires me to use postage, or call them or fax the form to them.


Now, don't you think it makes more sense that unless I instruct them otherwise, they will NOT share information with anyone else about me?

Of course it does. But they also know that if they depended on obtaining explicit permission to share information, they wouldn't be sharing it with anyone because who in their right mind would reply in the affirmative? Or even bother to reply at all?

They know that there are plenty of lazy people like me out there who don't want to go to the trouble of filling out a form and putting on a stamp and mailing it, or even picking up the phone and having to suffer through listening to someone who tries to talk you out of canceling or tries to sell you other things when you call.

Why wouldn't they allow you to inform them of your choice online via their website? Because they know that's too easy, that's why.

Just like mail-in rebates, anything requiring proactivity is bound to make a lot of people say why bother with it. Like me.

I acknowledge that's my own fault if I don't bother to respond and as a result receive all sorts of junk mail but my point is, I shouldn't have to respond at all. I should only have to respond if I give my permission to receive that junk!




Friday, September 4, 2009

Detailed Trader

Today's post is going to be about investing again so I apologize in advance if you find that to be a boring subject. However, as the old Eric Burdon and the Animals song goes,

It's my blog and I'll do what I want
It's my hand and I'll type what I want..

Or the Leslie Gore song that goes,

It's my bloggie and I'll write if I want to
Write if I want to
Write if I want to
You would write too if it happened to you..

Anyway, I started reading the book I mentioned yesterday, Super Trader, by Van Tharp and so far it seems pretty interesting. He says that a person must know what his or her trading style is in order to be effective and for that, he has devised an online test that you can take by clicking here if you so desire (I guess that is sort of like all those tests people post on Facebook like which Beatle are you, or what fungus do you most resemble, etc. except that this one is supposed to be serious.

Go ahead and take it - it doesn't take long and at the end when it asks you for your name and e-mail address before showing you the results, just type in fake information if you want because it doesn't know the difference and after you do, it takes you to the results page.

My results told me that I am a "Detailed Trader." I included a screen print of the details below but I will just have you know that the results told me that an example of a Detailed Trader is this fellow (click to enlarge):

Woo hoo, I'm gonna be rich! Well anyway, here is the screen print of the description of a Detailed Trader (click to enlarge):


I thought the description was pretty accurate. I wish that automatically made me like my buddy Warren, though. There were a couple of questions that I wasn't sure how to answer so I went back and retook the test, answering it the other way for the two or three that were not definite, but I got the same results as before (hmm.. maybe everyone is a Detailed Trader.. the guy makes us all think we are like Warren Buffet in order to get us to buy his book, haha.. too late, I already did).

Regardless, the book is interesting so I look forward to doing more reading.





Thursday, September 3, 2009

Countdown

I think I mentioned before that what I would really like to do is to "retire" at the same time our mortgage retires which is a bit less than five years from now.

To that end, I've placed a ticking countdown on my Firefox browser:

And also put it on an Excel spreadsheet where I track all my finances:


Of course it is easy to have a goal like that but the hard part is how do I plan on getting there. Well, I'm still thinking about that one. It doesn't necessarily mean to be fully retired in the sense of not working anymore. What I mean is to be at a point in which I either don't have to work if I don't want to, or else I am doing something I am so passionate about that it doesn't feel like work at all.

The other day cruel Amazon suggested this book. I say "cruel" because they're always putting suggestions on my front page of things that look tempting and naturally I click to find out more and wind up spending more money.


I enjoy reading books about investing and finance; although I have come to the conclusion that the only reliable bit of wisdom gleaned from all my readings are that (1) when the market is going up, it is going up and when the market is going down it is going down; and (2) no one can predict the future; nonetheless I continue to be suckered into reading things that sound interesting in hopes that there is more wisdom to be gleaned. It looks like the people who invested their time into writing these books got a return for themselves!

So I persist in my quest for my Independence Day. Speaking of which, here's the trailer from what in my opinion is one of the funnest movies ever made (not "funniest" but "funnest").




Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nostalgia

Recently I posted pictures of some old album covers on my Facebook page which seemed to generate interest from other old folks like me. Actually, one of the albums was sort of cheating because it was the CD version, not the original vinyl LP:

Look familiar? (click on each picture for a larger version)




One of my Facebook friends wrote this comment:

You know what's funny, it's that so many people remember the same stuff from 'back in the day.' Did anyone other than fans of Free Flight and Easy Livin' even know the group Jo Mama? I love reading your posts Rickie, I don't feel quite so old when someone else has the same memories from so long ago. I have memories older than some of the people I work with!

I've wondered the same thing myself - how many people outside of the those who attended the dances at Blarney's Castle, Roger Young Auditorium and places like that even knew who Jo Mama was?

Well I'm sure it wasn't just us, otherwise they would never have released the CD years later but I doubt that too many people were aware of them.

This past weekend I listened to the CD. This particular one was a Japanese import, remastered back there and also recorded in HDCD format. It had been a long time since I listened to it and since then, I've gotten a new CD player that is able to play HDCD's (the old one couldn't).

What a difference in sound! You'd never be able to tell this was recorded nearly 40 years ago because the recording quality was first-rate. I was amazed at how good it sounded in HDCD format - better than I'd ever heard this recording. And of course listening to the songs themselves brought back plenty of memories.

In March of 1971 I had the pleasure of seeing James Taylor, Carole King and Jo Mama perform at the Anaheim Convention Center. What a great concert. Jo Mama was the opening act and I thought they were terrific. I can still hear the notes from Danny Kortchmar's (aka "Kootch") guitar echoing from wall to wall in that venue. Unfortunately, Carole King wasn't feeling well and played an abbreviated set, but James Taylor put on a great show. At the end of the concert, all three acts came out on stage for the finale.

Listening to the Jo Mama CD with the volume turned up was almost like being back at the concert.

For those of us whose memories are older than some of the people we work with, I wanted to find a YouTube video featuring Jo Mama but alas, it seems there are none. So instead here's something with a loose connection: Russ Kunkel was James Taylor's drummer back in those days (and you can see him on the more recent Pull Over concert DVD). Here's a clip of him from 1979 playing with Jackson Browne. Like I said, there's not much connection between the YouTube and the 1971 concert except for the drummer, but Russ Kunkel is cool so here it is: