Monday, November 30, 2009

Year

Hey just one more day and we're into the last month of 2009! Just one more month to keep those New Year's resolutions!

I'm glad I didn't make any. Or did I? If so, they are long forgotten unless I was dumb enough to post them up in this blog. I'm not even going to check.

Sigh, here it is Sunday as I write this, Monday (or later) as you read this, and the end of a too-short four day weekend. Like it does every year, things are going to accelerate into the holiday season, Christmas coming way too soon, and then it will be all over and we'll be into yet another new year.

Well I have decided.. over the years, many have told me that I should write a story or write a book. I've been telling myself the same, but as of right now have nothing to show for it but a bunch of what I think are interesting ideas and premises but remain at best half-baked. I've decided those folks are right and it is time to cease procrastinating and get going on the keyboard!!! Time to let those fingers run wild.

You're all witnesses - you can hold me accountable.

Overall I like my regular job. At times I am passionate about what goes on in the office. But is it my calling? I'm always talking about how I admire those who follow their passions and greet the new day with enthusiasm; I honestly can't say I am following my own because as much as I may like my job, on Monday I'm looking down the road to Friday.

Yeah, yeah, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've read it before. No use saying, but this time I'm serious, because I was before, too. So what's going to be the difference? I don't really know, but just stay tuned and see what happens.






Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

So how did all of you (perhaps I am being presumptuous since maybe there is no one reading this but to answer the philosophical question that begs to be asked, yes, this blog still exists even if no one reads it) spend your Black Friday?

For me it was off to Costco to take advantage of their opening earlier, at 9:00 this morning. As usual, I arrived a little before opening time and stopped to get gas first. When I glanced over at the store to see how many people were lined up to get in, I noticed that there wasn't anyone. They were already inside the store, filling up the aisles! What?? How could I be out of the Costco loop like that??

There were already quite a few cars in the parking lot, although it was nowhere near being filled. That was such a difference from two years ago when I suppose no one knew the store opened earlier and I had the pleasure of parking in a nearly empty lot and walking through nearly empty aisles. Not so this time - the secret was out, and apparently the secret had been kept secret from me because they had opened earlier than 9:00!

Today I did more of a leisurely browse to see what was new but didn't really find anything out of the ordinary worth buying. Despite the number of cars in the lot, the checkout lines weren't very long.

I was surprised to see Julie's car in the garage when I got home. I expected her to still be out fighting the crowds at the sales but she was disappointed. Whatever she had gone to buy was already gone when she got there. But then she didn't leave the house until after 8:00 so what could she expect?

We ate lunch at this burger joint called T-Burgers in Monrovia and I mention this only to tell you that today the french fries were just about as perfect as could be. To me that's a significant event!

This afternoon I got a chance to turn up the stereo really LOUD and listen to some of the good old stuff: Steely Dan's "Aja," the Beatles "Abbey Road," side one of "Chiacago Transit Authority" and "Who's Next." Ah, soooo good..

One of the items that came from Amazon Vine this month is an Omron Full Body Composition Monitor With Scale.

Looks pretty fancy, huh? Along with measuring weight, this also tells you things like your percentage of body fat, visceral fat, skeletal muscle and your body mass index. I only tried the scale part today. I weighed myself on the old digital scale and the new one and weigh exactly one pound more on the new one. I think I like the old one better. Julie weighed the same on both so I don't know how that could be. Tomorrow I'm going to try out those other features and see what they say.

Here's the last bit for today's hodgepodge. Below are two links for high-end audio products. If you have a moment, take a look at both and see if you can tell which one is supposed to be serious.

Product #1

Product #2





Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Ham

Well another Thanksgiving has come and gone. This is the first one in a long time in which we have no leftovers, but that's fine with me. Being that I have a turkey sandwich at least three times a week, I really don't need any more.

Lunch was with my folks at Keiro, along with my sister, Julie and Katie. It turned out well, and was pretty easy because we kept the food simple. Our part was to bring the turkey (boneless breast courtesy of Costco that was so easy to cook, carve and was nice and juicy; the worst part was trying to get the strings off since they got baked into the skin), scalloped potatoes (no mashed this time.. again, courtesy of Costco, ready made and cooked nice and golden brown and bubbly), gravy courtesy of Trader Joes, and a chocolate pie for dessert. My sister brought the rest of the stuff. Stuff like stuffing, green beans with the fried onion pieces on top that we have had every Thanksgiving for the past dozens of years, etc.

I was expecting to go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, but we had a surprise when we got to Julie's mom's place - they had dinner ready over there, including a real turkey. Well, the turkey did come from a Chinese restaurant but it was roasted the traditional American way and Julie's older brother is a master carver so it came out very nice. All the other stuff was Chinese food, though!

There was some liquid stuff in a bowl that was the color of cream of mushroom soup. I asked Julie what that was and she said it was gravy. "And what's that stuff floating around in the gravy???"

"Onions."

Then her brother whispered to me, "If you want real gravy, Aaron has some on the table over there." Then we both laughed.

Both lunch and dinner turned out to be very nice. So on top of the many things I have to be thankful for, today is just something else to add to the list.

But where is the Thanksgiving ham I mentioned in the title? Oh, here it is, haha..










Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

I would like to wish you all a very, very happy and blessed Thanksgiving today! May it be the most memorable ever, in a good way.

There is so much that I am grateful for - family, friends, everything.. life does have its ups and downs but overall I have no complaints. I feel that God has me right where He wants me, so what could possibly be a better place than that?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(oh by the way.. Costco opens at 9:00 on Friday. You know where I will be, even if they have no real Black Friday stuff going on)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Busy Day

The contractor finished the work on the two bathrooms today (Tuesday). In retrospect, I am glad that we didn't have the mold people do any of the work they were originally going to do. After seeing what the inside of the wall looked like, and the work the contractor did, I don't think any mold work was necessary and as I had mentioned before, they didn't seem all that energetic anyway.

The contractor and his assistant, however, did a great job. Very conscientious. They were here on time, worked like crazy, and were very neat, too. Whatever mess they made, they cleaned it up. I really don't know how their charges compare to anyone else because I went by a broker's recommendation plus by experience on the work they did on my parents house. I figure I would rather pay a little more and have peace of mind.

After another busy work day (but at least it was from home today) and after they left, I vacuumed and dusted and cleaned. I also did some rewiring on my audio equipment and dealt with a 90-pound amplifier so needless to say I was kind of tired afterwards! When Julie came home from work I suggested we go out for a bite instead of dealing with making dinner.

We went to El Pollo Loco and used a couple of coupons that came in the paper. When we got our food, Julie said my chicken breast looked smaller than usual. I said that's probably because we used a coupon. She said naw, the people in back making and packing the food don't know if the person used a coupon or not. I said yes they do, the cashier uses the secret coupon wink to alert them to use a smaller portion.

That got me to thinking, do restaurants really dole out different portions or differentiate when a coupon is used versus a regular-priced order? I've always wondered why it is that a coupon will state, "please present this coupon before ordering." Wouldn't that make you think they need to know so that they can mark your order or do the secret coupon wink?

On the other hand, maybe it is because they can't go back and ring in the discount once the order is entered. But still I wonder; some places when you give them the coupon ahead of time they tell you to hang on to it and give it to them later.

That would make for a good Candid Camera episode. When someone uses a coupon, have the cashier yell out, "Coupon Portion!" then deliberately make the order a lot smaller (like give the customer a White Castle-sized burger instead of a normal size, or a pepperoni pizza with only a couple of pepperoni slices on it, or a hot dog with a smoky link). Then see what their reaction is.

Hey, officially it is Wednesday but it is more like Friday today! I love this video:




Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Week

Hey here we are, Thanksgiving week already! I have to say that I have plenty to be thankful for: family, friends (especially this year, reuniting with old ones and making some new ones via Facebook and this blog), having a job, and, well, God is good is all I can say.

Now what is the biggest thing about Thanksgiving week? Having turkey? No, it's Black Friday! For some, anyway.

If you are one of those people who gets all excited about the Black Friday sales, here is the website you need: www.bfads.net Every year, starting even as early as September, maybe even earlier, they start publishing whatever news they have about the official Black Friday sales that will be taking place, as well as any earlier unofficial ones.

Now as for me, I've had it with hanging with the mobs on the day after Thanksgiving. It's just too looney for me and nothing - nothing is worth waking up that early and competing with a bunch of fanatics to try and nab a limited number of items up for grabs. I recall several years ago, standing in line at KB Toys for 45 minutes to buy a bunch of little things for the kids and after getting home taking a look at them and wondering what was the matter with me. They weren't even particularly good buys.

Now with Black Friday being so prevalent on the internet, who needs to go driving around when it is still dark? Amazon, for example, begins Black Friday week TODAY, Monday the 23rd so you know where my web browser is going to be tuned.

What about you? Are you going to fight the crowds? Me, I am going to do what has become my tradition - go to Costco the day after Turkey Day. It is so uncrowded I go just to marvel at the empty aisles (hint: they usually open early too; last year I went and there was hardly a car in the parking lot. Just walked right in to a nearly empty store). Now granted, they really don't have much in the way of Black Friday deals but I can just browse and shop around at a leisurely pace so I don't mind.

But if you are planning to fight in the trenches, be sure to check out that Bfads web site so you can plan your attack.






Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday Random Thoughts

It seems I haven't talked much about my Saturday morning Costco trips too much like I used to do. I guess because they are fairly routine. Today it was definitely more crowded than normal, what with people doing their Turkey Day stockpiling. The couple in front of me spent $587! Not all on food, though, but they did have quite a bit.

Since we're having work done in both bathrooms I decided it was time to get new showerheads. I bought a couple of Waterpiks, which, after the instant rebate, were $29.99 each. The current Costco coupon book has a Hansgrohe unit for $20 off but even so, the final cost is $59.99. I was looking at both of them and couldn't see any real difference between the two so I bought two of the Water Pik models for the same price as one of the Hansgrohe. I think if something is made in Germany that automatically adds about 200%-300% or more to the price.

Lots of people were busy examining the whole turkeys in the refrigerator case. For the longest time we've just had a boneless turkey breast for T-Day - so much easier to deal with. No bones, no having to make room in the fridge, no having to wait hours to cook it, etc. I guess a lot of other people feel the same way because there were only two breasts left in the case.

So this morning I was wondering why we don't have scales or GPS units that are more personable. There are talking scales that announce your weight (or at least I think there are.. though they probably wouldn't be very popular at a doctor's office where everyone else could hear them) and of course GPS units talk to you to tell you where to turn. But that's about all they do. They don't interject any editorials and I was thinking that might liven things up if they did so.

For example, a scale could blurt out "Hey get off, you're hurting me!!" Or, "Just one at a time, please" or some other insult like that. Or you could program in your desired target diet weight and then the scale could offer encouraging news each day, such as, "You're almost there," or, "You've come a long way, baby!"

And GPS units, instead of politely announcing that it is "recalculating" if you happen to deviate from its instructions, could be a little more forceful. Like, "Say, didn't I just tell you to turn back there? What's your problem??" Or, "Oh, you did NOT do what I think you just did. Get your car turned around right now, fool!"

Or maybe for GPS' that aren't entirely accurate, they could offer an apology. "Oops, my bad. I think you were supposed to turn left 15 miles ago."

And as the cost of GPS technology increases, they may have to outsource various aspects so in the near future don't be surprised if the voice has an Indian accent when it gives you directions.

I am still waiting for the HAL 9000 GPS. It tells you to turn the wrong way on a one-way street or go through red lights.

Finally, I think there can be room for mystery with these devices. You ask it a question, such as, "Am I ever going to lose those 20 pounds?" for the scale, or for the GPS, "Are we going to arrive at our destination on time?" And it can reply with answers such as, "Signs point to yes," or, "Reply hazy, try again," or, "Outlook not so good."





Friday, November 20, 2009

Mold People

What does that title mean?? Is it people made out of mold? Or something about molding someone into a person of courage and integrity? It's ambiguous, just like that alien book from the Twilight Zone episode of the same name, "To Serve Man."

Earlier this year the edge of the roof of my parents house leaked and water got into the walls and the carpet/flooring (thankfully they were living elsewhere by then). It got very moldy and we had to use a mold remediation service to eliminate the mold and certify it was gone. Then we hired a contractor recommended by the broker to do the repairs.

We've noticed there are a couple of spots in our bathrooms that have mold. Nothing rampant, mind you, at least from what we can see on the outside of the wall and tile. We decided to play it safe and contact that same mold remediation company and have them come out to take a look at it.

The guy came out and looked, then gave us an estimate. We also had the contractor who worked on my parents home come out to give us an idea of what the repairs would be like since part of the wall would have to be cut away, tiles removed, etc. The contractor also gave me an estimate. Well actually, the contractor's son did, because the contractor only spoke Korean so Paul, his son, had to interpret.

I made an appointment with the mold company to come out last Tuesday (not this week but last week) and do the remediation work. About an hour after they were supposed to have been here, I called to find out what happened to them. The person I spoke with said, "Oh, we have you down for Wednesday morning."

Oh, okay, fine. I don't know how they got that mixed up but I said just come on Wednesday, then, as early as possible. Later in the afternoon she called back and told me she wasn't sure if the technician could make it because he had a bad case of gout on his foot and couldn't even put on his shoe.

Oh. Well, I guess I would have to wait until the morning to see what happens.

On Wednesday morning they called again and said no dice, the guy still couldn't put on his shoe. So we rescheduled for this past Tuesday, between 8 and 9. This seemed like a very disorganized company; I had also requested the guy call me last week because I had a few questions, and I never heard from him.

On Tuesday we had the bathrooms all cleared out and were ready for the work to be done.. again. And 9:00 passed and no one came. Meanwhile, I decided to call Paul and ask for his opinion about everything that had to be done. I told him I didn't feel comfortable about this mold company because they seemed so flaky and so I wondered if he thought it would be safe if they just did the repairs and if there was any danger in doing so. He told me he'd have to call his dad and ask him, and he'd call me back, but in his opinion this wasn't a big deal; he'd seen plenty of situations like ours.

Meanwhile the mold folks still hadn't shown up so I called and canceled the job. They had no idea why their technicians were late or where they were.

About 15 minutes later, nearly 10:00, the technicians showed up in their big mold truck. One big guy who didn't look too bright was getting stuff out of the truck so I went outside and told him I had canceled. "Didn't anyone call you?" I asked. He didn't look very happy and he said no, no one had called. Then he said maybe they called his partner, and he motioned for me to go talk to him. He was still sitting in the cab of the truck.

I walked up to the window and the guy was slumped in the driver's seat, sleeping. His buddy woke him up and told him what was going on. I asked him if anyone had called and he said no, and then he picked up his cell phone and started calling the office. I apologized and told them that the office said they were going to notify them that I didn't want the work done that day. Then I went back inside and they left.

After that, Paul called me back. He explained that when they were out at the house, his dad had taken a good look around and said this was not a serious mold problem at all, but since I had already scheduled that company to come out, he didn't feel it was appropriate to say anything. Now that he knew I had canceled the job, he told me what would be involved for the entire repair job, including cleaning up the mold.

I asked him if he was sure that wouldn't present any health threats. He said mold is everywhere; it's flying in the air and you can't avoid it and only certain kinds are really bad, especially if you have allergies. He also said most of this scare about mold is overblown unless you have a severe contamination, which we didn't. Bottom line is, he said they could do it so I asked them to do the work.

Now comparing the two was like night and day. The contractor and his son were supposed to come at 7 in the morning. They showed up at 6:45. They took off their shoes without even asking. The mold folks were supposed to show up on Tuesday and never came, then Wednesday and never came, then the following Tuesday and were late. I would assume 8-9 would be the first appointment of the day, so why would you be late? Then when they did show up, one of them was slumped in the car seat sleeping and the other guy didn't seem very bright and had no personality. I did see him walking with a limp so I assumed he was the gout-stricken one but at least he managed to put on his shoe for the day. I am relieved I canceled the job; as the line from Star Wars goes, "I have a bad feeling about this."

The contractor was very thorough. He examined everything and politely explained to his son what had to be done, which he then interpreted for us. The mold guy took a quick look then wrote up an estimate. When I asked his receptionist to have him call me, I never heard anything. Every time I tried calling Paul, he answered the phone.

So which business model would you prefer to deal with? Yet so many businesses out there just don't get it. In fact, after the mold people left that day, I never heard a further word from anyone at that company. No call, no anything. You have to do business with people you are comfortable with.

Okay, you gotta watch today's YouTube about the Mold People:




Oops, I thought that was supposed to be about the MOLD People, not MOLE People, lol.. Sorry for such a long entry today but then you can spend the weekend reading it. And since we're on the subject of mole people, here's some interesting theories:







Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday Here and Theres

Yes I know it is Thursday but I wrote this on Wednesday.. I'm just behind the times! Today I thought I would write about a few things that came up in my e-mail correspondence with a couple of buddies that I figured I would share with whoever reads this blog. You can read what earth-shattering things I think of to write about.

Where do UPS drivers eat lunch? That question came to mind because I can't remember ever seeing one of those big brown UPS trucks parked at a restaurant or fast food stand, or in line at In-N-Out (would they even fit?). Are they just too busy delivering packages to stop and eat and thus they are munching on a sandwich as they drive?

I've seen mail carriers eating lunch. Sometimes two of them will park their cute little trucks parallel to each other so they can sit and chat from their respective trucks.

But UPS trucks? It seems the only time I see them parked is when the driver is making a delivery. I'm wondering if they brown bag it? If they do, they'd better mark their lunch carefully so it doesn't get lost with all the other parcels.

Moving on (all this stuff is unrelated by the way.. it's just a hodgepodge of what came to mind), do you remember way back in elementary school when it came time to get our shots? We had to stand in a long line outside of the nurses office with ever-increasing anxiety, wondering how much it was going to hurt. I used to hope this was one of those times when we'd get the flavored sugar cube instead of the needle, or whatever the vaccine was that they administered with a toothpick. But then we'd hear the screams of the kids in front of us and know that they weren't screaming because the sugar tasted so good.

Maybe the pain is more intense when you are little because shots don't seem to make much difference to me know, with my old skin. Even back then I don't recall the needle being particularly painful but it was always the buildup from the other kids, especially the drama queens and kings, that had a psychological effect on the rest of us. You know there was always, always at least one crybaby in the bunch, right?

Now the last thing is about parking lots. Are you the type that is always looking for a spot close to the store? Like you will patrol up and down the aisles, hunting for that superior space? Or you actually stop your car and wait to follow someone back to their own car so you can nab their temporary prime real estate?

Or are you the type that parks far away so no one dings your door? (I sure hope you aren't one of those jerks who thinks their car is so special that you take up two spaces for that reason!! And yes, jerk. If you do that, stop reading this blog right now and never come back - same if you park in a handicapped space and are not handicapped!)

Have you noticed that the occupied spaces in a parking lot resemble a bell curve? Towards the middle of the lot, all the spaces are filled and as you go outward away from the store or entrance, the spaces towards the back of the aisle are less occupied (this doesn't apply to a Costco where you can't even find a parking space in the afternoon because they are all filled).

The thing is, in most cases the distance from the edges of the lot to the entrance are really not much longer, if at all, then the distance from the rear of the center aisles to the entrance. But everyone seems to want to park in the middle aisles. If you ask me, for these people who wait around like vultures in the middle aisles looking for those primo spots, why don't you park your car further away and get some exercise???

Haha.. okay, I'm done with my grousing and now return you to wherever you were before.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

J-Food

A few months ago when my folks moved out of their house and put it up for sale, I had all their mail forwarded to my house. So now I receive the Mitsuwa Market ad every week or two or however often they publish it.

Much of it is written in Japanese so I have no idea what they are saying, but I do look at the pictures to see if anything on sale looks interesting. And what today's blog entry is about is how most of the time the pictures don't look very enticing to me.

Here's a picture of a portion of their latest ad (click to enlarge):

When I was growing up, my mom made Japanese food but not all the time. We would have rice nearly every day, though. There I'd be, putting ketchup on it some days, shoyu (soy sauce) on other days, and on the days when I didn't put either of those condiments on my rice, I used to sprinkle it with salt. Mmm, salty rice..

We'd have western food (including westernized spaghetti and other "ethnic" dishes like that) about 60% of the time and Japanese food the other 40%.

I had no problem when it came to things like tempura (I loved the shrimp; I would hide the tails under my plate so my mom wouldn't know how many I had eaten since she had imposed a quota) and teriyaki, the more common or mainstream dishes you see in the restaurants.

But when she made something that looked like what was in the above picture, I didn't want to eat it. I never did care for those things that came in pots! And, brat that I was, my mom would fix me a frozen dinner instead and I'd have an overdose of sodium and preservatives. She should have just made me eat whatever everyone else was eating, but she didn't. Now Greg and Katie are probably reading this and wondering why they had to eat whatever was on table and all I can say is, life ain't fair, haha.

So those of you out there who are of Japanese ancestry, let me ask you - do you think the dishes in that picture look yummy or do you prefer to abstain from them when you have a choice?

I just don't care for any "weird" food, based mainly on how it looks, and those dishes just look weird to me and don't smell all that great, either. I recall going to my grandmother's house each New Year's and being confronted with an entire table full of strange-looking dishes, none of which I would even attempt to eat.

A lot of it is how we are raised, I think. I didn't even want to try these things because of the way they looked and when my mom got me to taste it, I had already made up my mind that I wouldn't like it. Had I eaten those things from an early age, maybe I'd find them yummy now, but I'll never know.

It's like how Julie loves jellyfish and shark fin soup and pig knuckles/feet. Yuck. Jellyfish is like eating rubber bands; you might as well cut the teeth off of a comb and throw it in some broth because that's what shark fin is like, and I can't even think of anything to liken to pigs knuckles except I won't dare touch the stuff or even look at it. Some of those things that they show you when they lift the covers off the dim sum plates on the carts are simply indescribable and look like they come from alien life.

It's all relative, I guess.




Monday, November 16, 2009

Sinister Plot

Those of you who have read a fair number of my blog posts know that the subject matter varies quite a bit, from raging political commentary to a bunch of nonsensical sentences strung together and sometimes it ain't easy to tell which one it is.

Today I am going to provide you with some helpful kitchen advice, making this the eclectic, all-purpose blog.

I'm sure you are all aware of the Food Saver device, the vacuum food packaging system that removes the air from your leftover food package to enable fresher, longer storage.

It is very expensive (at least to me it is).

A while ago I heard about a similar system made by Reynolds, the company that is best known for aluminum foil. Their method employed plastic bags, similar to the familiar Ziploc bags you see everywhere, except these bags had a tiny opening that allowed air to be sucked out of the bag and prevented it from going back in. The Reynolds system used a hand-held battery-operated device that you placed over the bag opening, pulled a trigger, and then the device sucked out all the air. The price was about $10.00 for the machine plus a few bags. A lot cheaper than a Food Saver and it accomplished the same purpose.

This worked well except that it was a little difficult to properly position the device on the bag. You had to place it just right in order for it to work. On top of that, it used up batteries fairly quickly.

Extra quart and gallon-sized bags were available at the store; we got ours at WalMart.

Then one day I couldn't find the bags. But there was a new kid in town: Ziploc was marketing a similar product. They had the same type of bag, but a manual vacuum pump mechanism. I bought some of the Ziploc extra bags to see if it worked with the Reynolds machine and yes, it did.

I'm wondering why the Reynolds items disappeared and Ziploc appeared, though. Some sort of legal action?

Then I remembered the VacuVin device I had stashed in a drawer that my cousin had given me a while back. In case you don't know what this is, it is a vacuum pump device that you use to preserve the remaining contents of a wine bottle (air oxidizes and ruins wine so you want to keep whatever you don't drink free of air) by placing a special rubber stopper in the bottle, then placing the VacuVin over the stopper and pumping out the air.

Why not use the VacuVin to pump the air out of the food bag? No batteries would be wasted. I tried it and it worked perfectly. In fact, as you can see from the picture below, the mouth of the VacuVin seems to be exactly the same size as the circle on the Ziploc bag that shows you where to place the pump.

The process works great. After using the pump it is obvious all the air has been sucked out of the bag because it form-fits around the contents. That's a good way to preserve lunchmeats - just use what you need, seal up the bag again and then suck out the air.




So that's your helpful kitchen hint! That vacuum pump (doesn't have to be a VacuVin but I just happened to have one) plus those extra bags make for a system of food preservation that works just as well as a Food Saver at much lower cost, and uses no electricity or batteries!

Now the problem: it seems to be very hard to find the extra bags anywhere. They seem to have disappeared off the shelves! And that's what the title of the blog is about because I am wondering if Food Saver had some sort of hand in getting this much lower-cost alternative removed from stores? First Reynolds disappears, now so does Ziploc. It's like the game of Clue. Colonel Food Saver killed the vacuum pumps in the WalMart room with a gaggle of attorneys.

But I could be totally wrong and am jumping to wild conclusions. It just seems strange to me that I can't find them anymore.

Whew, how could anyone write so much about so mundane a subject?




Sunday, November 15, 2009

Getaway

As I mentioned the other day, we took a brief jaunt up north. Just a couple of days but it was nice to get away - Thursday we went to San Luis Obispo, and Friday to Santa Barbara.

Along with the tradition of stopping at In-N-Out at least once during our time away, we also have a tradition of stopping at whatever Costco and WalMart stores we encounter on our journey. Costco for me and WalMart for Julie. I won, having 4 Costcos (SLO, Santa Maria, Goleta and Oxnard), while there were 3 WalMarts (Arroyo Grande, Santa Maria and Oxnard).

WalMart pretty much bores me unless there is something specific I need, so I'll leave it at that, but I am always eager to check out different Costco stores because there is always something just a bit different as you go from one to another. They are sort of like the Gumpian box of chocolates.

Now, we did other stuff besides go to those two stores! We had some good food, too. Based on Katie's recommendation as well as reading a bunch of glowing reviews on the 'net, we had our Friday evening dinner in Santa Barbara at The Palace Grill. Cajun food. Here's some pictures for you:


They start you out with a basket of delicious muffins, all different.

We split a Cajun Caesar salad, which turned out to be very tasty. Excuse the quality of the photo - the flash was too bright. I took one without a flash too, but that one makes it look like the salad was orange.

I always forget to snap a picture of the dish before it is in the process of being consumed. Julie had Chicken Choupitoulas (the helpful menu lets you know that it is pronounced, "Choupitoulas," in case you aren't sure). Delish.

Since Julie insisted I try some of her chicken, I ate that first before digging into the Jambalaya so that's why my dish is still intact for the picture. This was delish, too.

Here we are, all filled up after dinner, me looking stupid with that camera bag around my neck. This is one place well worth visiting if you're ever up Santa Barbara way.

And that was our little getaway..

Today's YouTube has nothing to do with the rest of the blog post but I thought it was funny so here it is.







Friday, November 13, 2009

Tradition

Not much time to write today.. we're on the road for a brief respite from the work week.

As has become a tradition, a vacation, even a mini-one, is not a vacation without stopping at one of the locations of this chain at least once!




As usual, everything was outstanding.

Oh, one other thing. I posted earlier this week about the James Taylor and Carole King reunion concert. Today I found out how much it costs for seats at the Hollywood Bowl on May 14th - $169.00 each. That's a bit steep but those were for box seats (which are all sold out now anyway). I'm hoping the non-box sections higher up the hill are a bit more affordable..

That's all for now. Happy TGIF!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

E-Mail World

This has been one interesting year. I've gotten back in touch with quite a few people that I haven't seen for a long, long time. Actually for most of them I still haven't literally seen them, but have traded e-mails. Without the power of the internet, I doubt that I would have communicated with any of them.

I've also made some new friends via e-mails under some odd circumstances - some via this blog, some via Facebook but it brings to mind the quote spoken by Forrest Gump (in the movie only since he never says it in the book): Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

E-mail suits me well; I'm an e-mail person. It's my preferred means of communication. In most cases I'd rather do that than talk on the phone or talk in person. It is so much more convenient and, it allows me to express myself better. I generally type away and don't bother to go back and edit anything but still, my thoughts seem to come out better through the keyboard than the mouth. And you can always take back or erase something before hitting the send key - once that voice comes out.. too late!

I didn't know some of the people that well back in school with whom I now trade e-mails and we communicate now more than we did back then.

Here we are, so much older now. Something I thought about today: what would run through our minds if we had the opportunity to see ourselves as we are today, when we were back in school - elementary, junior or high school? How shocked would we be? Sort of a reverse yearbook. We hear from an old buddy or acquaintance and pull out the yearbook to see their picture for old time's sake. What if we had a yearbook of the future when we were in school, that we could pull out and point to and say, this is what we're going to look like in x years?

Would we recognize ourselves? Physically? Personality-wise, if we happened to run into our future self?

I thought it would be fun to run my high school picture through one of those morphing software programs that extrapolates your features into an older you, but I couldn't find anything available online for free. I don't want to spend the money to buy a program, so oh, well, it was just a thought.

Thinking about all the new and reacquaintances has made me feel a bit nostalgic lately so that's the reason for today's blog. Overall, life has been a good box of chocolates.




Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Favorites on Tour

I think I've mentioned before that James Taylor is my favorite solo artist and Carole King is another big favorite of mine.

For those of you who are fans, here's some great news: the two of them will be going on tour next year, billed as a reunion of the tour they did back in 1971.


I had the good fortune of seeing them, along with Jo Mama, at the Anaheim Convention Center back in March of that year and what a great concert it was.

It's wonderful that they will be touring again but what makes it even better is that they will be backed up by some of the musicians from that 1971 tour, too: like Danny Kortchmar ("Kootch"), Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel, three incredibly talented people.

The tour begins overseas and then comes back here, beginning with the Hollywood Bowl on May 14. You can see the tour dates as scheduled so far by clicking here. Tickets go on sale November 23.

Now I am really excited about this. James Taylor's and Carole King's music is like the soundtrack for my life! When I listen to their songs, it's not just the memories from the time when I'd play them over and over, it's the feeling inside from back in those days, too. Like sitting in my room in the 10th and 11th grades, listening to the Sweet Baby James album, lighting courtesy of the Lava Lamp sitting on a table between the speakers.

With so many years gone by since those days, maybe physically the situation is reversed then than now, when he sang,

With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go..

But my mind still feels exactly like the way the lyric was written.

That's the scoop for the day - see, there's something worth reading about on this blog!






Monday, November 9, 2009

Dimensions

This is gonna be one of those rambling philosophical esoteric blog posts so be forewarned.

I was thinking about dimensions the other day and beyond the four that we know now (I am not including the fifth dimension of the Twilight Zone.. sorry), if we were to conceive of a fifth dimension, just what would that be like?

The way I see it, dimensions are "enablers."

What do I mean by that?

Well for example, the first dimension is a line, or length. You have points on a line but the problem is, they are all on a line and are stuck there. If you are a point on the right of another point, you have no choice but to remain on the right forever because you can't get around your neighbor to the left. There's only one dimension.

When you add a second dimension, width, then that enables you to get around to the other side. You are still flat, though, in a plane.

Adding a third dimension, height, now enables you to go above or below another point, whereas in two dimensions you could only go around it on the same plane.

But still, the problem is that no two points can occupy the same point. Pretty soon you run into that traffic jam again. That's where time enters the picture. As time marches on, points can move around and while no two points can occupy the same point at the same time, they can do so at different times. But that means there has to be such a thing as time to enable this to happen.

Now someone who is really scientific can step in here and tell me I don't know what the heck I am talking about and this is all mindless babble, which well it might be but being the layman I am, this is what I sat around pondering the other day.

So now, we have the four dimensions, which act to enable one another. What I thought of is that a fifth dimension would then have to enable more than one thing to occupy the same point at the same time. Or, to enable one thing to occupy more tnan one point at the same time, or at different times simultaneously (which is a conundrum because how can things at two different points in time be simultaneous?.. but that is something a fifth dimension would simply be as "given").

We take the four dimensions for granted. That's just the way it is and that's how we naturally view and experience the world. To add a fifth dimension like I just mentioned above, would require a whole new perspective on our part. But to another group of beings whose world was constructed in five dimensions, all five would seem commonplace and taken for granted; it would be the natural way they view the world. We can't fathom or comprehend it (or at least I can't).

On the other hand, consider a group of beings whose world only consists of three dimensions. They can't fathom the concept of time. How can that be? Time just naturally goes by - just keeps marching on. For us, that is. But that's a construct we can understand because we live in it. If you didn't live in it, could you really imagine it?






Sunday, November 8, 2009

Caloric Excess

One thing I lament about living in the SGV is the lack of really good BBQ. I don't eat it that much because it isn't the healthiest thing to consume, but the problem is, when the craving strikes, it is hard to satisfy when you live in this part of town.

We had found good BBQ (along with the world's best fried chicken, Golden Bird) at Porky's in Inglewood, but alas some months ago they packed up and moved. To Long Beach, I think. Going all the way to Inglewood was bad enough but Long Beach? Forget it. Phillips, that occupies the old Leo's hut on Crenshaw and Adams is good but they are encased in armor and there's really no place to sit down over there except on the floor.

Out this way there's places like Tony Roma's or Robins or Gus', but none of them has what I call the REAL stuff. Then you have other places that aren't even worth mentioning because their ribs seem like they are boiled and then sauce is thrown on top after putting them on your plate.

But today, the highlight of the day wasn't going to Costco.. it was usurped by finding a GREAT place for BBQ not too far from home!

It's called Perdue's BBQ, located in Pasadena near the corner of Los Robles and Orange Grove. They serve the real thing.

We got there around 6:00. It's a hodge-podge of a room; the front area has about 6 wood tables covered with vinyl tablecloths, all different sizes and not the least symmetrical. There's an antique sewing machine (and I mean antique) along with an old stove and other relics scattered around, a television that was showing the USC game, music is playing via some pro monitors, and the walls are covered with all kinds of pictures and artifacts. Then in the middle of the space is the counter at which to order and a large area of just plain floor. The kitchen is behind the counter. Then the rear of the space is for the bathrooms. You order at the counter and they bring you the food.

Julie ordered the brisket of beef sandwich. I ordered the baby back ribs dinner.

The sandwich came with lots of tender beef piled on a kaiser roll, bbq sauce on the side, and she also ordered a side of greens (collard and cabbage).

The baby back ribs came with two sides; I chose mac and cheese, and the greens. It also came with two big pieces of Texas toast (I guess Texas toast has to be big) and mild sauce on the side. I'd read the hot sauce was very hot so we went with mild. You want to be able to taste the rest of the food!

Normally Julie eats half of the dinner and takes the other half home but this time nothing remained. I had a sample of the beef and it was lean and tender.

The baby backs were great. There were I think 7 really meaty ribs. They were also fall-off-the-bone tender and you could tell these had been smoked for a long time. The sauce had a nice smoky flavor to it and just the right amount of sweetness. The mac cheese was done just right - plenty of cheese with just the right amount of crusting. Actually it was so cheesy I couldn't finish all of it because it was so rich. The greens were good - they had a slight kick to them. The toast must have been cholesterol city but it was delish.

The young lady that helped us was very friendly and service was great. The place was only half full but it has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Portions were quite generous and at $12.95 for the baby backs and $6.25 for the sandwich, well worth the money, too.

Finally, a place in the area that has wonderful BBQ!!! It isn't the kind of place you can go that often, though, out of consideration for your body; but when you want to splurge, it is so good to know they are there.

Highly recommended.. for those of you for whom Perdue's is too far away.. well, sorry! It was so good I just had to write about it.

Where's the pictures, you ask? Well I forgot to take the camera..I could have taken one with the cell phone but they always seem to come out fuzzy when I use it, plus they made a mistake and packed our order as if to go so it wasn't the most picturesque dinner anyway. But instead of a YouTube, you can see a video of the place (accompanied by good gospel music) by clicking here. Unfortunately for some reason they didn't film the food, though, just the interior!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Eastside Westside

Thanks to Donna for sending the link to me for today's video. Brings back some good memories! Do any of you know any of the people in that video? We've all put on some years, haha..

Happy TGIF to you! Hey, back around 35-40 years ago we'd be headed over to one of those dances either tonight or Saturday night.





Thursday, November 5, 2009

Drag

The other thing I was pondering that I was going to write about yesterday but decided to wait, is about an article in the Wall Street Journal concerning modern day materials used for racing swimsuits.

The latest rage in these racing suits are full-body (shoulder to ankle) neoprene or polyurethane suits that are more buoyant and less porous than traditional spandex suits.

In other words, these suits, which also are extremely tight, make it much easier to swim faster.

The controversy is over whether or not these should be legal. That's what I was pondering - just how much "aid" should be allowed when it comes to sports performance?

Track shoes today are better (I assume) than they were in the past, enabling runners to run faster. Is that fair? I know there are restrictions on what materials can be used for baseball bats, but how fair is that? What about when metal tennis rackets were introduced? I remember the novelty of them back in high school when they were introduced, when we all had wood rackets (and used white tennis balls).

I also remember when Speedos were first introduced to the student store at UCLA. We received a shipment of these little boxes, and inside of the little boxes were very little swimsuits. One of my curious coworkers tried one on and refused to come out of the dressing room.

"Come on out here so I can see what it looks like," I said.

"No!"

"Why not?"

"It's obscene!!!"

"Oh." And then we all had the unpleasant task of trying to fit them back into the boxes after people took them out. They never went back in the same way and the boxes were all out of shape.

Since the material and the fit of these swimsuits is so critical, I am wondering just how fair it is to use them? And how then does a record set today using a neoprene suit fairly compare to records set yesterday with less techno-savvy suits? It's like trying to compare Babe Ruth's home run record in a season with less games than the seasons played by Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds. The bats were different, too (and so were the steroids). Is it the person who really set the record, or the improved equipment?

To be truly fair, don't you think everyone should be naked when they swim? That would even the playing field. But then they'd have to test for people inhaling helium before going in the water.

Then that carries over into the academic field - like SAT tests. Don't you think there is an inherent unfairness when some people are able to take prep classes for the SAT (even though supposedly you can't prepare for them) but some kids don't have that luxury? SAT scores should carry an asterisk to denote "prep aided" scores versus scores obtained without the use of a review course.

The SAT is supposed to level out the playing field to minimize differences in schools, classes taken, difficulty levels, etc., by administering a standardized test across the entire population. But if some kids have access to more preparation than others, then doesn't that corrupt the results?

It's like some kids have to wear spandex but some get to wear neoprene or polyurethane or polythene.








Wednesday, November 4, 2009

DST

Today's blog is about a couple of unrelated things that I was pondering.

First, why do we need daylight savings time? I know some people are for it and like it, some people are against it and don't like it and some people don't give a hoot, but why do we even bother with it?

According to Wikipedia, it is the practice of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more sunlight and mornings have less. This idea was proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist. I bet he did this just so he would have more daylight by which to catch insects!

On a message board thread someone had an interesting post about DST: it is like the government cutting three inches off the top of a towel and then sewing it back on the bottom.

Now I think maybe our California legislators might be mulling over ideas like changing the number of hours in a day. In the United States people generally agree that a normal working day for a full-time employee is eight hours. Therefore, the growing number of unemployed people, an especially large number in California, are unemployed for eight hours per workday, or 1/3 of a 24 hour day.

If the Governator were to declare that days now have 32 hours, automatically the unemployment situation in this sorry state improves because now the unemployed are not working for only 1/4 of a day, whereas before it was 1/3 of a day.

That raises the problem of how do you fit 32 hours into one day, however.

That can easily be solved by making "worktime saving hours" in which the hours from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon remain at 60 minutes per hour. The remainder of the day, 15 hours, can now be changed to 23 hours and the minutes adjusted accordingly. There you have it, 9 worktime savings hours plus 23 non-worktime savings hours that together add up to 32 hours!

The unemployed are now in their unemployed status for only 25% of the day instead of 33.33% of the day. A marked improvement and a feather in the Governator's cap.

Another problem is, with California on a 32-hour day and the rest of the nation on a 24 hour day, how would the two reconcile?

The answer is, they don't. Since when does California reconcile with anything??

Now, I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there were a couple of things I was pondering, but I think that's enough for today, don't you? Haha.. where's the net, people are asking..





Monday, November 2, 2009

Insidious

Those of you who keep up with this blog know that I have an extremely low regard for the sleazy business practices of Monster Cable. But now, an organization has sunk far, far lower than them and I just had to get back up on the soapbox to rant about this.

The award goes to: Our California government. Now that they have squandered all of our tax dollars, they have decided to leech even more out of us by declaring a 10% increase in the amount that is withheld from paychecks to pay for state income taxes.

Mind you, this is not an increase in taxes, it is only an increase in the amount that is withheld as an estimate for what you will owe for the 2009 tax year. For example, let's say you have $100 per month taken from your check for California income tax.

That amount is now going to be 10% higher, i.e., $110.

Let's say that at the end of the year when it comes time to file your tax return, you owe $1,200 in taxes. Since you had $100 per month withheld for your taxes, that would total $1,200 for the year and you would be even. What was withheld would be equal to what you owe.

Under this new sleazy plan, you would have $110 wittheld per month from your check, for an annual total of $1,320. Since there is no tax increase, you would owe $1,200, and thus you'd be entitled to a refund of $120 after filing your tax return.

So what is the point? Why should you pay more money than what you really owe, only to get it back later on?

As the state acknowledges, it is in effect an interest-free loan to them of YOUR money from the time it is withheld from your paycheck until the time you get it back as a refund.

That is, assuming that the state has any money to pay you that refund when the time comes.

Now, if this isn't a blatant ripoff and egregious outrage, I don't know what it.

At least with Monster, no one forces you to buy their overpriced products. If you are dumb enough to part with your money when you could get something just as good for much, much less, that is your business. And I have no quibble about the quality of their products; they make decent stuff, just overpriced.

But when it comes to income taxes, the bandits of the State of California leave us no choice. This is involuntary. And, unlike Monster, the quality of what you get for your money from our sorry state is to say the least, lacking.

When a bank takes your money, they supposedly earn a return on that investment. So let's say you give them $1,320. They will earn a profit on it so that the $1,320 is there plus a profit margin (which that plus a federal subsidy will then be used to pay employee bonuses). But the idea is that they do use the money to earn money. Otherwise, they could not remain in business (theoretically, that is; let's just assume they don't get bailed out).

But when the State of California takes your money, there is no such thing as a return on investment. It gets squandered on more of their useless pet projects.

Supposedly this increase will result in an additional $1.7 billion of revenue for the state. But it isn't really revenue because it will have to be repaid. It is only a loan.

So how does that help things? Even though it is an interest-free loan, do you really have confidence that our wonderful state is going to have the money to pay you back at the end of the year?

I sure don't.

What a scam. Here are the possibilities:

(1) They increase our income taxes by 10% so voila, this extra amount that has to be withheld will pay for the increase in taxes;

(2) They issue worthless warrants or IOU's because they will have spent all that extra money and don't have it any more;

(3) They secede from the United States and become their own country, at which point they begin printing their own money to pay you back.

This is just another stupid accounting trick that beats anything that could ever appear on a David Letterman list. It is in the same category of silliness as their moving some expenses from one fiscal year to another to make it appear that the budget was being improved when really, it only meant I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today.

In substance, nothing has changed except the people of the state become poorer.

Actually, I have no one to blame but myself for being stupid enough to live here.

As for the YouTube, I know I've posted this same one before but if the shoe fits..




Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hi Fi

Not long ago I read an obituary in the Wall Street Journal for Wilma Cozart Fine. I'd never heard of her. She was the person principally responsible for the fine sound quality of the Mercury Living Presence series of recordings issued in the 1950's and 1960's.

Now, I'd never heard of that Living Presence series, either. But the article intrigued me because it dealt with the recording techniques that were used and how, despite being produced so long ago on less sophisticated equipment than what is available now, the audio quality was first-rate even by today's standards.

It also mentioned that Ms. Cozart had personally remixed the master tapes for conversion to CD's. Naturally I had to look into this more, so I went to my favorite place for CD's, Amazon, and purchased a few.

Today I listened to their special sampler album called "You Are There!" Why that title? Because as Ms. Cozart put it, the recordings sound like you are in the living presence of the performers. And it is true. I used to think the fidelity of music recorded that long ago was lacking because the equipment was lacking, but such is not the case when you listen to these recordings. They are superb, and, when you close your eyes it is very easy to indeed imagine that you are there in the concert hall.

This particular CD consists of 22 pieces from various composers and artists. I know very little about classical music so looking at the titles or composers is of little use to me. But listening to them then made some of them familiar.

Like this one, from a Gounod, a composer I've never heard of (note: I found these on YouTube and they are not the Mercury recordings).




That piece is titled, Funeral March of a Marionette. Fitting.. I had no idea that's where the theme from that television series came from.

Then this one, which although I've never heard this exact number, reminded me of music from a popular movie. Play it.. can you guess which movie?




Didn't it remind you of the Wizard of Oz? That's not the exact music, of course, but methinks it offered some inspiration to the person who composed the soundtrack.

There's some great music on the CD and the audio quality is astounding. It is no longer in print but you can purchase a new or used copy at Amazon for as little as $1.94. It comes with a 156 page illustrated (in color no less) mini-book about the Mercury label and the recording techniques as well as the music. Mind you, I'm not trying to sell anything; I just wanted to make people aware of this.