Tuesday, December 14, 2010

lunchtime

On the news today they announced Obama had signed some bill or measure that mandated healthier school lunches.

They showed kids standing in line at a high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, waiting to make their choices from today's menu items that included pizza, tacos and french fries. In other words, there was nothing particularly healthy on the menu.

A spokesperson for the district said that it will be exceedingly difficult for them to meet the mandated reductions in the number of calories and sodium content, and to provide the quantity of fresh food that the measure calls for. Currently, the average lunch contains 1,200 calories and the target is to reduce this to no more than 700. 1,200 calories??? That's a lot! Much has been made about the unhealthy entrees served at the major chain restaurants, but this is just as bad, plus I bet the food tastes a lot worse in the schools so you don't even get something that tastes good as a weak consolation for pummeling your health.

I remember several years ago, this is the same school district that was criticized for considering individual packets of ketchup and relish to each be a serving of a vegetable in order to meet the nutritional requirements back then.

According to the reporter, while the kids might not like the change in the menu, they do understand it is healthier and for their own good. One girl remarked that in the long run everyone will live longer because of this.

Now I know there are probably some folks in Congress, many of them I bet, who see this measure as taking things in the wrong direction. Practically speaking, this does nothing to help the crisis with social security. The last thing you want is people living longer because that just adds to the number of people collecting social security which just means it is going to run out all that much quicker.

Once they figure that out, I can see a reversal of the current bill, and instead mandating that all schools outsource their lunch program to Carl's Jr.

Monday, November 29, 2010

just wondering..

I was browsing through the latest Consumer Reports buying guide issue and focused on the automobile reliability ratings. I noticed that BMW and Mercedes seem on the whole to have come out below average.

If they are below average, meaning worse than average reliability as scored in various categories, then what makes them so highly regarded? You see all these commercials touting them as the worlds finest luxury cars but their ratings were lower than Acura, Infinti and Lexus (as well as a lot of other less luxurious brands).

So what gives? Is it just the quest for the status? Most people I've known who owned BMW's didn't even like them. But yet they keep buying them. It has to be something about wearing your label on the inside out.

If you own a BMW or Mercedes, no offense meant by this post.. I was just wondering, is all..

Sunday, November 28, 2010

one every minute..

There was an article in the L.A. Times Saturday about Eddie Zhao, a private investigator who works in the San Gabriel Valley and has acquired quite a reputation for helping individuals, mainly Chinese immigrants, who have been scam victims.

A victim of a scam himself, which is what brought him to America from his native China, Zhao has done a lot to help folks in the community to get justice, or to prevent being scammed.

When I read the article, the first thing I thought was how sad that people do such things to each other in the first place, with absolutely no compunction. Then I thought how sad it is that people are stupid enough to fall for these scams, because without suckers, the scammers would quickly be out of business.

Yet there is one born every minute, as the saying goes.

We've all been victims in our lives. Like the time my sister told me if I held on to her stinky big toe I would fall asleep. And I held on and didn't feel the least bit sleepy and kept waiting to fall asleep until she started laughing. I was as stupid as the woman Zhao tried to help who put out $100,000 for delivery of a chest of gold nuggets she had been told was unearthed at a construction site.

I mean, how stupid can people be?? If something sounds too good to be true, then 99.9% of the time it is too good to be true. You don't get something for nothing. Well, maybe if you are a politician you do but then you have to sacrifice your soul and integrity to get it so you really don't get something for nothing.

Whether it be that miracle diet or easy way to a fortune in the stock market or even chasing after bargain lobster and crab specials at a Chinese restaurant, it remains the same that if something looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is too good to be true.

The definition of insanity keeps showing itself every minute of every day, though.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

black friday again

So how'd you all do with Thanksgiving? I hope everything went well for you! I can't complain - it turned out very nicely. I was three pounds heavier this morning than 24 hours previously.. argh.

And how'd you all do with the Black Friday sales? Did you get sucked into them? Not me.. I did go to Costco, however, and arrived at 9:00 when they were just opening. Unlike just a few years ago when they didn't have any Black Friday offerings and no one knew they opened an hour earlier on that Friday and I was like the first car in the parking lot and walked into an empty store, this time there was a fairly large crowd but still plenty of space in the lot.

It turned out that most of them congregated in the electronic section looking for bargains. The rest of the store wasn't crowded at all. I didn't bother looking at any of the electronics but I did see a bunch of carts stuffed with Vizio LCD flat panel televisions of varying sizes.

That was my only venture into a store today. The only Black Friday deal I bought was online, spending a whopping $10 on the Karate Kid remake in blu ray, from Amazon.

And there goes another Thanksgiving, and another Black Friday. Even though we're only halfway through the 4-day weekend, already I am dreading going back to work. It's started me to once again try and figure out how the heck to retire soon!

Friday, November 26, 2010

weird stuff

I was looking at a Bed, Bath and Beyond ad the other day and saw some things I just had to comment on, even though this is off the wall.

They were selling a product called the Mangroomer, which is sort of like a backscratcher except its purpose is to cut the hair on your back. I found this pretty funny. Are there really people out there who have that much hair on their back? And is it limited to just men? Well I guess that could be. There are people out there who are really hairy - like the older men who have eyebrows like palm fronds.

Another product they have is something called a Vinturi. It's a wine aerator. It is a glass contraption through which you pour a young red wine and it mixes the wine with air in order to soften it up a bit. I have one of those things. A few years ago I wrote a review of it for my dormant wine blog and commented that I compared wine poured through the device versus wine not poured through the device and couldn't detect a difference. A couple of days later someone with a weird name posted a very rude and insulting comment about my tasting abilities. I had no idea who this was and wondered if they were joking and using a fake name when someone else pointed out to me that this guy was the inventor of the Vinturi. Oh.. Well I guess there is something to be said for folks who ferociously defend their products.

Then there was another product for teaching your baby - yes, baby - how to both simultaneously learn how to talk and read. The description said was for babies from 5 months to 3 years. Now why the heck should babies be reading when they are only 3 years old??? The only real reason is so that their idiot parents can go bragging to everyone about how their three-year-old knows how to read. Poor kid.

I wonder if anyone lined up early this morning to buy any of these things..

Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy Thanksgiving

Gee, another year that has gone by so rapidly. This is my theory: time is actually speeding up. So it isn't that time seems be going by faster as we get older, but it really is going by faster.

So relative to what we remember when we were young, time passes quicker; the youngsters of today don't notice this because they don't have a large enough base against which to measure. When they get old like old folks like me, then they will be saying the same thing all us old folks are saying - the older you get, the faster time seems to fly by!

With that, may you all have a truly blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

black friday

No, this is not a continuation of yesterday's post about Steely Dan and their Katy Lied album.. this is about retails big day of days, Black Friday.

So are you going to participate in the bedlam? Wake up at an insane hour and drag yourself to the mall, charging yourself into a frenzied state as the adrenalin beings to flow and you practice your elbowing technique?

Not me.

That whole thing is ridiculous. I don't care how cheap the merchandise may be, it isn't worth it. The cheaper the price the bigger the crowd and the greater the frustration. If I can't buy it online, it doesn't exist.

I remember several years ago when the kids were younger and before black friday had become as huge an event as it is now, heading to KayBee toys at the mall (and actually finding a parking place) to load up on some toys, and standing in line for 45 minutes to check out. When I got home I looked at what I had bought and felt like an idiot. Was it really worth standing in line all that time just to save three dollars on a Monopoly game???

Every Thanksgiving morning the ritual was to buy a newspaper to get the ads for the next day. Now you can get them online at bfads.net if you want. Or if you dare.

Things are far worse now as far as wait times and crowds and you won't catch me stepping out of the house to participate in this inane activity.

For those of you who are going to venture out in a quest for bargains Friday morning, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the dan

The other day someone sent me an e-mail telling me she had just gotten back into "vinyl" (i.e., LP recordings as opposed to CD's) because they bought a new receiver to replace one that wasn't working. And the first record she played was Steely Dan's "Katy Lied."

I don't even own a turntable anymore; I've gone all CD's. Back in the day, though, I would buy vinyl like crazy, poring over the used and demo bin at the now defunct Aron's Records that used to be on Melrose, smack in the middle of what is now the trendy part although when they were there it wasn't trendy at all. It was pretty run down, actually.

Then she asked what I thought the song "Doctor Wu" meant. I have to confess all these years I really had no idea. I read somewhere, according to the two guys who are really Steely Dan, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, that this has to do with drug dealing in Southeast Asia.

This has been one of my favorite songs ever since its release back in 1975. My idea of what it meant was a distance away from the "official" explanation and I'd just prefer to keep it that way.

Whenever I need a pick-me-up, Steely Dan is my go-to group. That may sound weird because they definitely are not your sunshine, cheer-up things are gonna get better-type group (and indeed are often pretty much the extreme opposite) but that doesn't phase me. I like the songs because of the ironic characters that are featured and as they crawl through whatever scenario they've been dealt in life, they make the best of it whether they realize that or not. Their songs to me represent what I've been espousing lately, "it is what it is." Becker and Fagen merely paint the portrait and leave it to the listener to decipher and draw their own conclusions.

Even though the meanings behind many of their songs may be murky, a good dose of the Dan always puts things back in perspective for me - that life can be murky, so deal with it, haha.

By the way, I was going to post a YouTube of Doctor Wu here but couldn't find anything suitable. There were only bootleg concert copies with horrible fidelity, mixed with the sound of people talking and singing in the background. Like one of the comments said, why can't people just shut up? That is why I don't think I would like to see them in concert because I would be so annoyed at the noise I'd be incapable of enjoying the show.

Monday, November 22, 2010

sound of music

Gee the last time I posted anything was November 8.. not that anyone noticed, but that's probably a record as far as the length of inactivity since I began this blog.

I still have not much to say, but I'll catch up on a few things. The other day I watched The Sound of Music for the very first time in my life. Can you believe that? I've seen parts of it now and then but this was the first time I actually sat and watched the entire movie (although I did skip the intermission). It is absolutely gorgeous in Blu Ray, especially, as you might expect, the Austrian countryside.

I guess I never much cared for musicals which is why I didn't pay much attention to this movie, even though it shows up on so many people's favorites list and is considered a classic.

Well I can see why it has the reputation it does. It definitely was an entertaining movie. So different from what we are subjected to these, days, too.

I thought some parts of the movie seemed a bit simplistic, or would have been handled differently had it been made today instead of 45 years ago. For example, the Baroness accepts the Captain's rejection of her much too easily; if the movie were made today there would be much more of a catfight between her and Julie Andrews and most certainly it would have contained a fair dose of profanity as well. Somehow attorneys would have gotten involved.

The escape of the Von Trapp family at the end of the movie seemed pretty simple, too. I was thinking, if the roads were all blocked, how could they have driven that car and gotten out of Austria safely? Yet one moment they are speeding off from the convent and the next, climbing every mountain. Made today, that same scene would have been extended to include some spectacular effects, leaving nothing to the imagination.

It took me 45 years but I am glad I finally watched this movie. It was a joy to see.

Monday, November 8, 2010

not much..

I guess you can expect posts here to become even fewer and far between. These days I've been thinking about starting a blog about my thoughts on the audio equipment world; there's lots I have to say but I've just been too lazy to really write anything (and the same for this blog).

Let's see.. well the exciting thing about going to Costco on Saturday was discovering that they are selling frozen crab cakes again! Yes I know, how exciting. It actually is for me since for whatever reason they stopped selling them several months ago and that's something we liked and kept stocked. So I really was pleased to find them back in the freezer case.

And.. we went to a friend's big 50 birthday party on Saturday. The main course was the most tender cut of beef (or meat) I've ever had. It was a filet mignon roast (purchased from Costco, I was told) that was seasoned then wrapped with some rosemary, pan-seared and then baked in the oven. It was absolutely perfect in taste and texture (and looked perfect, too). Yes I know, how exciting. But it was. It tasted sooo good!

And that's my exciting life. Oh, and I watched the original Back to the Future on Blu Ray. What a good movie and so much fun to watch. If you have a Blu Ray player, I highly recommend getting the trilogy because the picture quality is brilliant. The sound is also very good, considering the age of the movie.

See, you haven't missed much, haha..

Thursday, November 4, 2010

to the point

While I'm on a political roll this week I might as well continue.. even though the elections are over.

I was reading through the California voter information guide and ran across the campaign statement from Nancy Lawrence, the Peace and Freedom party candidate for the Board of Equalization 3rd District. Here is what she said:

Tax the Rich!

Now at first I was thinking, what an idiot this is. Gee no wonder, it is from someone running on the Peace and Freedom ticket. But then I thought about it and actually, while I totally disagree with her, I have to say I admire what she did. The only real fault I can find is that she did not observe proper rules of grammar since she capitalized the word "rich."

But for substance, kudos go to her. In three words she expressed succinctly her entire ideology. It was brief, simple, easy enough for any moron to understand, and, compared to the tons of meaningless jibberish filling up the rest of the document, it was a breath of fresh air. If you agreed with her, fine. If not, fine, too. The point is, there was no mistaking where she stood. This was so unlike every other vacillating candidate who talks and talks and afterwards you still have no real idea about their true beliefs.

In just three simple, one-syllable words, Ms. Lawrence summed up the entire Obama philosophy, something that has taken him millions of words and hand gestures to say, and said it much clearer than he could ever have done.

If he's looking for a speech writer, I have a recommendation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

character

We made the mistake of leaving our porch light on this past Halloween so unlike past years, we actually got some trick or treaters coming to our door.

It occurred to me that you can tell a lot about a person's character by the way he or she rings the doorbell and/or knocks on the door.

You have the very insistent type who keep ringing the doorbell repeatedly, racking up your electricity bill from all that current they generate as they keep pushing the button. On top of that they think you may not have heard the bell so they have to pound on the door as well.

Then you have the more normal types who ring the bell and then wait a reasonable amount of time before ringing it again. Or doing the same with knocking on the door.

I think these habits stay with people as they grow up. You can pretty much tell which ones used to be the incessant doorbell ringers/knockers when they were kids, haha.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

glad it is over?

No matter how you voted, aren't you glad we are done with the sleazy election process? After dealing with the misleading television attack ads, candidates lying left and right and all these propositions that you can't tell heads from tails, and on top of that all the annoying phone calls from these idiot politicians who actually think we want to hear from them, won't it be nice to get rid of all that mess??

There are a couple of television ads I find particularly irritating that I wanted to mention here since it is election day..

First is the one trick pony ad from Barbara Boxer who has nothing of any substance to say and continues to simply repeat over and over how Carly Fiorina fired 30,000 HP employees, sent 9,300 jobs oversees and took $45 million for her own self during her tenure as CEO.

First of all, as long as that dumb, obnoxious Boxer has festered in office, doesn't she have any accomplishments she can point to as a reason for us to keep her leeching off our tax dollars? I guess not. California continues to slide downhill even without any earthquakes.

Secondly, let's do some math. Let's assume, not unreasonably so, that the average pay of these 30,000 HP employees who were let go was $75,000 a year. Letting them go resulted in a savings of $2,250,000,000. That's $2.25 BILLION dollars, not millions. On top of that they saved all the payroll taxes, employee benefits, etc. associated with those jobs.

Okay, let's say maybe they didn't earn that much on average but instead were closer to $50,000. That is still a savings of $1.5 BILLION. Per year. Not including the payroll taxes, benefits, etc.

So Carly Fiorina took $45 million for herself. That is 2% of $2.25 BILLION that she saved the company. Or 3% if you use the lower $1.5 BILLION figure.

In other words, that is a pretty large net savings for HP. She did move 9,300 jobs overseas. Let's say that these 9,300 are paid an average of $10,000 per year, not an unreasonable estimate. Their payroll taxes and benefits would be far less than in this country. So that is an expense of $93 million.

Subtract $93 million in substituted overseas payroll from the lower, more conservative figure of $1.5 BILLION of the jobs over here and that still leaves you with a savings of $1.407 BILLION.

You may say that's not the point; the point is that jobs in this country were lost. What I say is get real, this is a global economy and unfortunately the way our government operates, companies simply cannot afford to keep their businesses 100% American anymore. If politicians like Boxer would get a clue about how to strengthen our economy instead of running it into the ground, well maybe companies wouldn't have to send jobs overseas.

Meanwhile, what sort of productivity or cost savings does Barbara Boxer have to show for her miserable tenure in office? Nothing. Deficits, not profits are her legacy.

Okay, the second irritating television ad is the one that shows Bill Lockyear standing up in front of his cronies as he chides both democrats and republicans, trying to make himself look like he is an independent who will be tough and not show favoritism.

Give me a break. This was filmed back in October 2009. I suspect he was already planning on running for office back then so he scripted this wonderful little speech of his and made sure the camera had just the right angle as he delivered a message that no one was paying any attention to in the first place. He might as well have confessed he was a transsexual and no one would have noticed because the rest of his political cronies were probably sleeping or sending text messages. It doesn't matter, he got his valuable piece of film making him look like the hero.

All I can say is don't fall for all this political sleaze. It's all sleaze. It makes you want to be like Howard Beale and stand at the window screaming how you are mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore. Then throw a television through the window while you're at it.

You're probably saying, good grief, calm down! Well, I do admit all this dirt gets me worked up and I do try and limit my political comments on this blog but seeing as how it is election day I thought I'd just fire off some shots.

And no, I am not running for office so this is not some sort of message with a hidden agenda.

Monday, November 1, 2010

chilling

Every once in a while I return to this YouTube video and just sit there and listen. It is both very sobering and very chilling. The translated lyrics are below.





I come and stand at every door
But no one hears my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead.

I'm only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I'm seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow.

My hair was scorched by swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind.

I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweet, nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead.

All that I ask is that for peace
You fight today, you fight today
So that the children of this world
May live and grow and laugh and play.

-- Nazim Hikmet




Sunday, October 31, 2010

changes

Well I realize my posts here are getting to be fewer and farther inbetween, which is a combination of not having much to write about plus being too busy anyway and those two factors kind of build on one another.

So maybe you used to drop by fairly frequently to see what's new, and in light of how lately there's usually not much new you've stopped coming around so often.

Have you noticed how places change after you haven't visited for a while? Like you will go to a certain store a lot but then comes a long period of staying away. Then when you come back, everything is different.

Well, it might be the same with this site.. you will stay away for a long time then when you come back, it will have turned into a Spanish-speaking radio station.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'tis the season

I heard on the news today that merchants are quite excited about this Halloween season because business seems to be booming - a lot higher than last year, which itself was higher than the year before.

The estimate was that people will spend a total of $5.8 billion just on Halloween merchandise this year, which, said the newscaster, works out to about $66 per person.

That really surprised me. I am not spending a dime on Halloween. Not even on candy. We are Halloween grinches - go to dinner then sneak back and keep the porch and front room lights off. But even if we were to give out candy and even buy a costume, $66????

Maybe that takes into account the cost of booze and parties, too. That would explain it. I've found that many, maybe even most people just look for some excuse to party and drink, so one "holiday" is just as good as another to them, I suppose.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

time marches on

I hear this from many people and I feel the same way myself - as we get older, it seems that the year seems to just fly by; the days go by faster and faster. Whereas when we were kids it seemed like Christmas took forever to arrive and summer vacations lasted a pleasingly long time (for some even to the point where they looked forward to going back to school, although that was never the case for me), the older we get the more we find ourselves remarking on how it is [insert month or holiday] already!

I was thinking the other day, maybe that's because time really is moving faster now than it was when we were young.

Yes, a day is still a rotation of the earth and a year is a revolution around the sun, but what if that rotation happens faster now than it did in our youth, and that revolution moves faster as well? So what was 24 hours back now only takes 23 hours. That's just one hour per day, much too small for us to really notice the difference, but that adds up to 365 hours per year. That's about 15 days.

So maybe that's why the year seems to go by quicker - because it really does.

Then you may say hold on, stupid, then my watch would seem to run slow, wouldn't it? Because my watch keeps absolute time and it tells me when 24 hours have gone by.

Well all I can say is maybe the calibration standard is different these days or there is a conspiracy among watch makers.

Or.. didn't Einstein say time is relative? How do we really measure how much time has gone by, anyway? By reference to something else, is how. So whose to say that the reference hasn't sped up over the years and thus time really is moving at a faster clip than previously?

Perhaps the theory of relativity acts upon all time-keeping devices and there is no such thing as "absolute" time.

Maybe it is or maybe it isn't but I suppose if the Obama administration were to read this post, the president would probably put it on his agenda to put forth a bill to legislate and control time. Perhaps even find a way to bail us out for all the time we've lost over the years..

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

election time

Well here we are all close to election time.. I try and avoid politics here but of course I just can't help myself today so I have to get in my digs.

Reading through all the propositions on the ballot (especially if you are in California) can become quite the confusing and time-consuming process. Looking at the ads on television is no help because they put such a spin on everything that you can't believe anything they say.

So what is a person to do?

I have developed the fast way to evaluate any proposition and any candidate.

Simply see which candidate or which proposition is supported by the teachers unions and nurses unions, and then vote the opposite. Chances are 99% of the time you will be doing the right thing by tossing greed and self-interest to the wayside.

Do I feel education and health are not important? No, not at all. These two things are very important, but when it comes to unions and politics, education and health are merely things to exploit in order to get votes.

I approve of this message. : )

Monday, October 18, 2010

swizzied

I checked out another link that Donna sent me and this one turned out to be a pretty interesting auction site. Well, quasi-auction, which I think you will understand why I use that term after explaining it. Go take a look around at that site and see what you think.

Here's how it works: There are various products up for auction at ridiculously low prices, such as iPads for $15 or $100 Target gift cards for $10. Each bid on a product takes the price up by a penny. Meanwhile, a countdown clock ticks down second by second. Whoever is the last person to bid when the clock runs out of time is the winner of the auction.

There's a catch, though.

Each time a bid is placed and the price goes up by a penny, it also adds back a second to the clock. If there are less than 15 seconds left in the auction, the bid causes the clock to reset to 15 seconds, and it continues to count down.

For example, let's say the current bid on an iPad is $11.67 with 17 seconds remaining. You place your bid and now you are the successful bidder at $11.68, and the clock adds a second to go to 18 seconds left and continues ticking down. Then with 12 seconds left someone else places a bid taking the price up to $11.69 and the clock back up to 15 seconds (remember, if there are less than 15 seconds remaining, a bid will set the clock back to 15 seconds instead of just adding one second back to the remaining time).

It costs 60 cents to place a bid.

So let's think about this. If you have to pay 60 cents for each bid you make, then that means for every $1.00 increase in the price of an auction, the people running the site collect $60 (100 bids of a penny increase x 60 cents each).

If the bid reaches $10, that means they have collected a total of $600 in bid fees! That's enough to pay for a $500 iPad plus have $100 profit left over. Zowie!!! What a racket!!

This is really more like gambling, rather than a true auction because it depends more on your having the luck to be the last bidder in the auction. It has nothing to do with how much you bid. It's like those sad-looking but hopeful people sitting in front of a Las Vegas slot machine feeding dollars into it and winning nothing. Then they get up to take a break and the next person sits down, puts in a dollar and hits the jackpot.

I can just see some unthinking person racking up astronomical charges for placing a bunch of 60 cent bids, much in the same way people run up huge text messaging bills because they don't realize just how much they are doing.

I can also imagine a bunch of bleary-eyed folks who keep clicking on the bid submission button adding more time to the countdown clock and hoping they will be the final bidder - just a slot machine of a different shape.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

red wagon

Hey I'm still here but just been busy.. and haven't had much to write about. My buddy Donna sent this to me so I thought I'd share it with you because this is so cool - you will get a kick out of this!






Saturday, October 9, 2010

celebration

The 2009 Annual Report for Keiro arrived the other day and lo and behold, a familiar face was on the cover (click the pic for larger version):


Yup, that's my dad there in the picture on the left side. I think that's a great picture. Well, all of them on the cover are great but of course I am biased towards the one on the left.

If you've read earlier posts on this blog and seen the YouTube videos, you know he's enjoying himself and really hamming it up. My mom is more subdued. I think I take after her.

Anyway, I wanted to post the picture to share it with you all!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

samples

Okay, so how many of you freeload your lunch by going to Costco and loading up on the food samples they give out? Don't try and act like this is a foreign idea to you!

I ran across an interesting page on flickr. This person has taken a picture of every single Costco food sample they've tried - over 1,100! Here is the link to the page:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/evanbrom/sets/72157617974842924/

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

send for the secret

Today a co-worker told me his great idea for getting rich.

"I'm going to run an ad telling people I have the secret to how you can make a lot of money while you sleep all you want and don't have to work and can just do whatever you want. All they have to do is send me five bucks for the secret."

Of course I asked him how so..

"When they send me the money I'll send them back something telling them to place an ad telling people they have the secret to making a lot of money that allows them to sleep as long as they want and do whatever they want - just do the same thing I did."

We laughed about that and I asked him, "You ever hear of Joe Karbo?"

He shook his head.

"He had exactly the same idea you did. A long time ago he used to put full page ads in the newspaper telling people he was a millionaire and that they could buy his book in which he shared his secret of getting rich. And the book told them to do the exact same thing he was doing - run an ad telling them how to get rich."

I told my co-worker if he was going to try and do that, he'd have to charge a lot more than five dollars. "You have to charge them a lot of money to make them think it's valuable."

***

Do you remember Joe Karbo? I remember reading his ad and being extremely curious about how he became a millionaire. I never sent for his book, but it was tempting. It wasn't until later that I found out the "secret."

He did it the right way - he took out a full page ad, and whether he or someone else wrote the ad copy, they sure did a great job.

I've seen variations on his method but none have even approached the classy way of the original. Mr. Karbo knew you couldn't skimp on anything, that you had to create the full effect in order to really sell something.

I was thinking these days it would be a lot harder to replicate the successful sale of a similar product, although I'm sure there are still plenty of copycats out there trying to do just that.

The reason? The internet. Can you imagine what things were like pre-internet? It wasn't that long ago, but man, it is so ingrained in me now I find it hard to recall the primitive days.

The WWW has made the world much smaller. Information is now so much more readily available, and if you wanted to find out Joe Karbo's secret, all you'd have to do would be to enter the relevant search terms in Google and voila, you'd have a bunch of results, among them links that would be sure to provide you with your answer.

Things like buying or selling stocks are so much easier now, too. Not only is there a wealth (actually overwhelming) of information about companies, but when you do decide to make a transaction, it's easily accomplished online and takes but a second to complete. Gone are the old days of having to call a broker for a quote and then waiting while he placed an order, or of having to send for information on a company by mail or make a phone call.

That's it.. I just thought today I'd write about how the internet is such an amazing thing. Why, just think.. for you to get this blog you'd have to actually subscribe and wait for the mail to come. And who'd be crazy enough to do that??


Thursday, September 30, 2010

that's MISTER to you.. haha.. or SENATOR

The other day we were watching the tube when a campaign ad for Carly Fiorina came on that showed someone in the military being interviewed by Barbara Boxer, with her telling him to stop calling her "ma'am" and address her as "Senator."

Julie said, what's the point of this ad and I said the point is that people who insist on titles are either pompous jerks or are insecure or both. Personally, I don't think Ms., er, Senator Boxer is insecure.

I remember ages ago when I worked in the UCLA student store, a customer came in who paid with a check. Because he had "PhD" after his name, he angrily insisted on being called "Dr." - it was a PhD in psychology. After he left we were all standing around venting about what a jerk this guy was.

Now I'm not denigrating anyone or the title or whatever, because earning a PhD in any subject requires a lot of work and is an achievement, but come on - what is the big deal? Is a title that important to you?

Well, I think making a big fuss about titles is silly but that's my opinion. When it comes to Senator Boxer, I am just hoping that after November the issue about to properly address her will be moot.


Monday, September 27, 2010

sounds

Where would we be without sound effects and background music?

I've been watching episodes from the original Outer Limits and find the ideas and themes very interesting. The special effects are cheesy and the endings are sometimes sellouts but the plots/ideas themselves are great.

One thing I notice is that every special effect or use of an electronic device has to have a very weird sound. You know the type - what you typically hear in the old sci-fi movies. The guy flips the switch and right away you hear all kinds of buzzing or an eerie vibrating pitch that fills the room. But is that really the case? I don't think most things make that much sound. Is it that in the absence of sound that us humans feel we have to fill in the vacuum somehow?

Today's hard drives are generally quieter than the ones from earlier days when you could hear a lot of tapping or ticking from the discs being read. Since today's drives are quieter, how many of you sit there and fill in the ticks yourself? Or start making your own sound effects when you push the button to boot up your computer?

I think we all tend to feel uncomfortable with silence and thus like to fill in the gap with some noise. That's why people like to leave their televisions on even if no one is watching them. If I'm not mistaken, many of the episodes of MASH did not have a laugh track, which made it seem strange. I bet it also made some people wonder if something was supposed to be funny or not since there was no cue provided for them. If today's cars are too noise-proof, do we make sounds of revving engines?

That's your assignment for today - add your own sound effects to everything you do (or add a music soundtrack). You don't have to actually make this audible if you don't want those around you thinking you're crazy, but just do it in your mind.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

fun

Julie's office is having a potluck-type event and the theme is everything has to be junk food. No healthy stuff. The people planning it were all laughing about it and also rejected what she was originally going to bring because it had vegetables and was too "healthy." So now she's bringing hot dogs.

I told her in keeping with the theme that she ought to buy the cheapest, worst hot dogs imaginable (which to me are the ones made by Bar S) and then deep fry them in a thick flour crust, letting the buns be the means by which to soak up any excess oil. Then bring some chips and a can of Crisco to use as the dip.

Naturally she isn't heeding my advice since she has more decency than I do, but the thing is that a lot of people do eat a lot of junk and also delight in the fact that they are junk food junkies and think it is something to be amused about.

It's kind of the same attitude people have towards hell. To them, hell is something to joke about - like it is one big party where everyone is standing around drinking their Buds, and this little red devilish fellow with a tail and a couple of horns mingles with the crowd and tempts them to eat things they know they shouldn't. But they do. After they initially refuse and then laugh and say oh, what the hell, just one, and pick one off the table while the little devil character winks at them, then they just keep doing the same thing over and over while laughing about it. And saying, the devil made me do it.

I don't want to sound like some self-righteous person preaching to everyone but if we really considered the implications of these attitudes, we'd know we ought to take them a lot more seriously.

Friday, September 24, 2010

reference

Yes I am an audio nut, as some of you are already aware from things like how I am obsessed with speakers.

If any of you out there are similarly inclined and appreciate CD's that are truly well recorded, I'd like to heartily recommend that you peruse the catalog of works that can be found at Reference Recordings.

The selections are mainly classical and jazz but there's a decent variety from which to choose and the recording quality is truly impeccable. Unlike many of the recordings you get today, these have a wide dynamic range (many of today's CD's have compressed sound - that is, they are made to sound loud all the time to get the attention of people who are listening via iPods and stuff like that), distortion-free, lacking in harshness and they are in general very detailed and natural sounding.

If you really want to test out your stereo system, buy one or two or a few and give a listen. They'll give your equipment a great workout (subwoofers included).

I was very pleased with the CD's I purchased and wanted to share this company and their efforts with you because of their attention to quality.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

speedy

I've blogged about this before but I thought I would post an update here about the internet download and upload speeds I am getting from Charter cable.

There's a web site where you can check how fast your internet connection is: www.speedtest.net. If you want to try it, make sure to click on the blue/green box towards the top of the page that says "Begin Test." Don't click on any of the other buttons because those are all ads for something else. When you click on the Begin Test box, it will then conduct a test and tell you what your download and upload speeds are.

Here's the results I got. I was pretty amazed - these are pretty darn fast!




Wednesday, September 22, 2010

finalee

A couple of weeks or so ago I posted a brief announcement that the Star Wars movies were finally going to make their Blu Ray premiere. The title of the post was "finaleee."

Well I noticed when I went running the other day that there's a house up for sale in nearby Arcadia and the listing agent's name is Fina Lee. I wonder if her parents did that to her on purpose?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

epitome

The other night I was watching some show on television and the interviewer asked for someone's brief opinion about someone. The guy stated that whoever (I can't remember who any of these people were) was the "epitome" of something (I can't remember what they were the epitome of, either).

The thing is, he pronounced it as "epi-toam" as in "toam" rhyming with "home."

Wow, talk about having someone else prepare your answer for you in advance..at least learn how to pronounce your canned answer before going on camera!

Monday, September 20, 2010

birds

The other morning I was awakened by some very noisy birds. I heard a whole bunch of them chirping but since it wasn't time to wake up yet I tried to go back to sleep. I did manage to doze off briefly but since the chirping continued it woke me right up again. They sounded like they were right outside the window.

After regaining a little more consciousness I started thinking that these birds were really noisy. And why were they right outside the window??? Were they building a nest?

I glanced at the alarm clock to see what time it was and then it hit me that the bird sounds were coming from the clock. Somehow the alarm sound had gotten changed from the chimes that I had set to the annoying sounds of birds chirping.

On one hand that was a relief that there really was no gang of birds that had taken up residence in our yard but on the other hand it meant it was time to wake up and drag myself off to work.

Instead of the normal buzzer or music that signals when it is time to wake up, maybe there should be sounds of barking dogs or crying babies. Or honking horns.. stuff like that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Costco revisited

Hey I bet you all missed my regular weekly posts about my visit to my favorite store, right? Well, right or wrong, I thought I'd clue you in on some of the stuff I picked up yesterday morning. It was particularly damaging to my wallet because of the coupon book that just came out.

Costco is now selling a pretty good fresh naan, located in the section with the other breads. It's not cheap (I guess it may be cheap relatively speaking) at it costs $4.89 for a pack of 8. But it sure is good.


There was a $4.00 off coupon for Splenda in the latest mailer and I was going to pick up a box when I noticed that there's a Kirkland alternative. The name brand Splenda came in a box of 1,000 packets for $20, whereas Kirkland was offering 1,500 for $13. So even after taking the coupon into account it was easy to see which was the better deal, especially since the Kirkland brand is most likely made by Splenda anyway.


Here's some Rocky chicken meatballs. Last week they were giving out samples and the one I tried was pretty good but I passed on it because we already have some other meatballs still in the freezer. But what the heck, today I bought a package since they were so good. $12.99 for a hefty three pound package.


This is one instance in which I opt for the name brand instead of the Kirkland brand. Maybe you can find these yogurts cheaper when on sale somewhere but overall Costco's price of $7.45 for 18 cups sounds good to me. The Kirkland brand has bigger sizes, I think, but this is big enough for me.


I bought this sherpa throw because of the $5.00 coupon (regular price $20.00) and when I brought it home Julie asked why did I get this when we have about three of these things in the closet. I said how should I know, I never look in the closet, but apparently they were given to us as gifts at one time or another. So I guess this one is going back next week although I bet it is nicer than the ones in our closet, wherever they may be.


Speaking of gifts, someone gave this to us:


No, it isn't someone's dream image of a truly green earth when Gaia has come into full play. Here's a picture of it next to a normal-sized specimen. That is one giant avocado! It is so heavy the bottom of it kind of flattens out under its own weight so I have to keep turning it.


Here's a big box of chips. I got these for the folks in my department at work. I've been buying big boxes of stuff from Costco for them to snack on so they don't get too stressed out with all the changes going on lately. They're like termites, devouring everything in sight.. things like Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, Auntie Annie's snacks, crackers, cookies, etc. They'll eat anything, haha.


There's other stuff I got today (the cart was really loaded up) but it's either more boring than the above or it has been put away already. One nice bargain are the Kirkland brand of wines. I just had their Napa Chardonnay the other day and for $7.99 it is just as good as ones that cost up to $20 and even more. That's the first Kirkland bottling I've tried and it won't be the last. I've got their Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Meritage here waiting to be tried as well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

top 1000

Ooh, I made the list of top 1,000 reviewers over at Amazon! Here's a screen shot (click to enlarge):


1,000 is a lot of people and I'm just one of the crowd but I spied that tonight and figured what the heck, this will be good for a cheap blog entry and I don't really have to think of anything to write.

Monday, September 13, 2010

fit and finish

I don't know why some people have to wear such tight-fitting clothes. It is so unbecoming. Don't they realize how unattractive they look? I guess not because if they did, they would wear something looser.

It isn't just limited to overweight people, since that's probably what most people think of when you mention clothes being too tight, but it is anyone. Thin people can be just as guilty, wearing pants that make them look like elves.

But for people that simply insist on wearing clothes that are unreasonably small, I thought of a good brand name for a company to use on such apparel, with a prominent label on the outside: "TMI."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

agonizing choices

I was looking over the Chowhound board just now and ran across a thread in which the poster was asking for opinions on getting a sheet cake from either Pavilions or Costco for an upcoming event.

Naturally since the word "Costco" was mentioned I had to investigate the thread, so I began reading the responses. As I kept reading, more and more I kept shaking my head thinking what a pathetic person the original poster was, haha..

Ask a question like hers and of course you are not going to get a definitive answer. Me, I would say get a Costco cake no question about it - it tastes better, is bigger and is cheaper, but then others have different opinions.

What got me is how the OP kept agonizing over the choice. And this ended up being a cake for an event where over half the attendees were aged 2-5???? Do you think any of them are going to care? The cake could be made out of sponge and they wouldn't be any wiser.

The poster was really something, though. She mentioned how she is more of a "Susina/Huckleberry Tartine in SF type of person" but for various considerations she has to go the cheap route. Then she mentioned how she would normally drive to Portos or Phoenix or get some Noah's bagels but for this obstacle or that obstacle that was not feasible and thus she was stuck with the choice that was the subject of the thread. In other words, no matter what people suggested she seemed to have some reason why she couldn't accommodate their suggestion.

It got to the point where I felt like posting, "WHY DON'T YOU JUST BUY ANYTHING AND THEN FORGET ABOUT IT??? NO ONE CARES, ESPECIALLY A BUNCH OF TODDLERS!!!!! WASSAMADAYOU, ANYWAY????!!?" Especially after reading how she was making some gluten-free vegan cupcakes for her husband and some of their more discerning friends and their children, which sort of set me over the edge. But I figured if I did that the Nazi Chowpolice would immediately delete my message and issue a warning to me, the victim of thread abuse.

I mean, it both amused and irritated the heck out of me that a bunch of people could get so involved pontificating about the merits of a sheet cake and that anyone could be so fussy about which one they bought for a bunch of people most of whom would have no idea where the cake came from, nor would they care.

That was my excitement for the evening. ; )


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"good" teachers

Recently there's been a controversy about releasing information on performance rankings of teachers in the L.A. Unified School District. Also the same old subject of why is there no reward differentiation between the good and lousy teachers, and why is there nothing done about the lousy teachers has been dragged up again.

I have to say that I do find it amazing that it is practically, if not totally impossible to fire a teacher unless they do something like murder a student in plain view of at least 100 people and even then they would most likely be placed on paid leave while the matter was investigated.

What I wanted to discuss in this post is exactly what constitutes a "good" teacher? When I was in school, we all knew who the "good" teachers were, and also who the "bad" ones were. But if you asked us to quantify it in terms of something objective and measurable, and could be documented in a file, that would have been a difficult task.

Now the first thing that probably comes to mind of a student when asked if a teacher is good or bad is if they are nice or mean. Nice = good and mean = bad. But I think most kids get past that stage and understand that a good teacher is one that actually teaches you something; they may be strict and demanding but if a teacher cares about the students and is able to effectively communicate the subject matter, he or she will be respected by the students and seen as a "good" teacher. Similarly, the nicest teacher, or one that facilitates a party atmosphere in class, might initially be seen as a "good" teacher but soon that person will not be respected by anyone.

But how do you measure that? By test scores?

The problem I see with test scores are that often teachers will teach to the test to the detriment of actually teaching something valuable. If making students memorize a bunch of facts so they can do well on a test is the basis for grading teachers, then I don't like that idea.

It's just like if you have a piano teacher who focuses their student on only one song, the one that will be used for a recital (i.e., that will be played in public and will also serve as a reflection on the teacher), and makes them memorize it letter (or note) perfect. They may know that song inside and out but have they really learned something that is going to benefit them later on? I think that depends on the student - some students are naturally more inclined to persist with a task and have the inner motivation to do well, in which case they will take it upon themselves to do a good job. Others will lose focus. In either case, what does that have to do with the teacher? The result depends more on the character of the student. How does what the teacher taught, a narrowly focused lesson on how to play one song as good as possible but without learning how that translates to anything else, benefit the future?

Then you have another piano student who cultivates a love of music in his or her students which motivates them to practice and learn. But because they are not drilled incessantly on one test piece, they may not do as well in a recital or in front of a grader as the other student whose teacher only teaches to the test piece.

So which one is the "better" teacher?

I think the student can tell you that. But how do you quantify it?

Monday, September 6, 2010

summer

Way back when, in my 11th grade annual, this is what Grace Baba wrote:

Rickie-

Hope to see you in the summer. Best of luck to a real nice, crazy, good looking guy. Hope you stay that way. Make the most of the summer cuz it'll never come again.

Well I did stay crazy, I guess.

Now what she wrote was a pretty "stock" thing, most likely repeated throughout the annuals of the other guys in our class. I didn't know her that well but I've always had good thoughts about her over the years.

The only real thing I remember was once when Rick and I were walking down the street she drove past. She saw us so she stopped the car by shifting it into park instead of using the brake pedal. The car made a strange noise and did indeed stop.

Anyway, that's not why I wrote what she wrote in my annual. I just happened to come across that the other day when I was thumbing through it and the part about make the most of the summer cuz it will never come again hit me.

That was written before the summer between junior and senior year, one that I've always looked back on as one of my favorites. It seemed to last a long time, too - not the usual seeming to last long because it was torturous and how long is this going to last, but because it seemed like my buddies and I did so much during those three months. Indeed, it was a great summer and many of the things that happened I looked back upon fondly over the years. And they never came again.

Summer isn't officially over even though Labor Day sort of informally marks the end of summer. These days so many schools go back in session right before or right after that day, too, whereas back then I seem to remember we always had a couple of weeks into September before going back to the schoolyard jail.

The thing is, you really do have to enjoy things while they are here. To steal and paraphrase from a Joni Mitchell song, your paradise is eventually going to get paved.. so enjoy and appreciate it while you can.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

still disgruntled

We've been officially using our new enterprise software for two weeks which I guess for some in our office, or perhaps many, has been two long, agonizing weeks. I think I am still the only person who likes it. Do I just not see what the others see? No, I think it is more that they do not see what I see.

We've had three phone systems since I've been there. Some people bitterly complained when we replaced the first one, about how they hated the new one and why did we have to change, etc., etc., even though the first one was a bunch of junk. It really was. It was awful and the new one was an improvement but the key thing is, it was "new." It was something that had to be learned in terms of its different functions. Yes, people had to learn something so right away that put it in the doghouse, haha..

Then when the second one was removed in favor of a digital phone system the same howls arose. The person in the office next to mine loudly proclaimed what a piece of junk this new one was, and also repeatedly slammed the phone down onto its cradle. Yet with all that slamming, the phone still worked!

And eventually the howls died down. This 3rd system, the one we have now, is better than the previous one, no doubt about it.

I am not one to have change for change's sake whether or not it yields a better result. In other words, I am no Obama. But if I can see the benefits of making a change then heck, why not?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

the future

The other night I watched an episode from the original Outer Limits. This one was made in 1964 but it was supposed to take place in the distant year 2011. Well at the time I guess 2011 was indeed pretty distant because that was 47 years in the future - pretty scary to think that I was watching the show back then when it originally aired, and now here I am today looking back on it!

Their concept of what things would be like a year from now was pretty interesting. For example:

Telephones had picture screens so you could see who you were calling. But they were these big, unwieldy things and.. they used dials, not touch-tone buttons.

Space travel had already taken place back in the 1980's and 1990's and there was a museum that featured some of the creatures that had been brought back to earth from other planets.

People were able to make duplicates of themselves to perform tasks that I suppose the original person did not want to do himself or herself. To resolve the problem of duplicates gathering up too much memory and becoming like the original, thus creating a problem of who exactly was the duplicate and who was the original, they were programmed to be destroyed after 5 hours.

Automobiles were supposed to have a really modern look, but they were mired by being inside of the box of that era. One of the cars was a modified Buick Riviera (remember those things?) and another looked like a modified Oldsmobile. At that time, apparently the main way of thought did not consider smaller cars, nor foreign cars.

I thought the phone was pretty funny. No one thought beyond the dial. Or that phones would get more compact so that in the real future, people would be talking into a handheld device that was portable.

But I guess that's how it is -we are mired in our culture, which influences the way we perceive the world and imagine things that are yet to be. Most of our thinking rests on what we already know. When you imagine the world 50 years from now, what do you see?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

nothing much

Looks like the last post here was on August 16, well over a week ago. Why nothing since then? A combination of being busy and not really having anything to write about.

We just had our official software conversion at work on Monday - that is, switching from one main system to another. This is something that was supposed to happen back in February but we weren't ready so we postponed it to May but we weren't ready so we postponed it to August. And we probably still weren't ready but then if we waited for that day it would never arrive. You just have to go forth and do it, and those who step up to the plate will step up to the plate and those who don't will fall by the wayside, haha..

The reaction so far: overall people hate it. They hate change. I think I am the only one in the entire company who loves it. I think it is great. It is designed so much better than our old system and has so much more capability for making tasks more efficient with better reporting and information.

The rest of the people, well, they just don't like change. They like things the old familiar way and can't think outside of that framework. Instead of thinking of the possibilities of the new system and how to get things done, they focus on looking for where the button on the old system is on the new system, instead of thinking in terms of why do we even need that old button, or what replaces it that is better.

It's that way all the time - no matter what. It comes as no surprise, though - I could pretty much predict how people were going to react. The thing is, it is what it is!

Monday, August 16, 2010

the worst

I went over to the Chowhound.com board the other day and came across a thread entitled, "Gardens of Taxico (sic) - Worst Mexican in LA." (Note the correct spelling is Taxco)

Back in the mid-to-late 70's that used to be one of my favorite restaurants so naturally I had to find out why the original poster made that statement. I noticed that most of the responses, while not exactly agreeing it was the worst, said the food was awful and so was the decor. Someone also said it was an astounding $30 per person for dinner now.

In case you've never been there, this is a place where there is no menu. Or maybe there is but you have to get into a big fight with them to see one. Instead, the waiter introduces himself and tells you how they want to make your dining experience like eating at nice meal at a home in Mexico City, then makes a recommendation based on (1) if it is your first time there, and if not, then (2) what do you like to eat. The only bad meal I ever had was the first one, because that was just like a regular Mexican restaurant taco and enchilada combo. Their other dishes, I thought, were much more imaginative and not like any other Mexican place I'd tried up to that time.

Well I don't know if my tastebuds were simply out of whack or the place went downhill, but people sure did slam the place left and right, while offering up their own nominations for places even worse.

One of the other places mentioned was El Coyote.

I hadn't thought of that place in a long time but when I saw that, immediately I remembered that it was the absolute worst restaurant I've ever been to. Not just worst Mexican food, but worst, period.

So I posted that opinion as a reply to the thread, and received some responses telling me to trust the people who replied, there was worse than that out there!

I guess I should count myself lucky, then. Now, in my mind El Coyote sticks as the worst sit-down place. Yoshinoya is horrible too, but that's fast food. Then I remembered there have been some really bad Chinese places I've eaten at, especially those Hong Kong style cafes, the worst being the one on Baldwin just south of the bowling alley. I can't remember the exact name but that place just might have taken away the honors from El Coyote.

Haha.. what a subject for today's blog. Don't ask me why I chose it, I just happened to be thinking about how everyone seems to hate Gardens of Taxco now so I thought I'd speak up. Or write up.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Finaleee

I just found out today that the complete Star Wars series is finally going to be released on Blu Ray. It's about time!!! Unfortunately it won't be out until sometime in 2011 but better late than never.

To me the original that came out in 1977 was the best, and they went downhill after that (although the worst of the series is still better than most other movies). I can imagine the whole set is going to be expensive and I'll sit there wishing they had only the first one, or the first three available by themselves but then who am I fooling - I have to have all of them.

That's it - now you can go back to your regular programming..

Saturday, August 14, 2010

weird thoughts

So continuing on with yesterday's mindless thinking put into this blog, here's something else I was thinking about.

Humans are pretty adaptable to things. A lot of stuff you just get used to. Like for example, now I pretty much just drink water instead of anything else, and at room temperature. Before, I didn't care much for water at all and if I did drink it, it had to be cold. Room temperature water? Yuk. But once I started drinking it that way I got used to it.

Now let's say that you were to get a movie or video that had a lot of directional cues in it. For example, there is lots of action on the screen where things happen off to the left or right (or behind you) or the action and the associated noise goes from left to right - like a car roaring down the street. Or people who are on one side of the screen, so that their voices come from that side of your speakers.

What if you reversed all of the cues so that what showed on the screen on the left side had sound coming from the right side, and vice versa. So the sound wouldn't be coming from where the objects making that sound were positioned on the screen.

If you sat there watching this video for a long time, would you get used to that? And then how would that affect you in the real world?

Like I said, just writing down the crazy stuff that comes to mind, haha..

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lazy

Just a couple of stupid things to say today.. it's Friday so what the heck.

I was thinking about how to be really lazy and came up with these two ways:

You live in a condo complex that has the mail delivered to boxes at the front of the complex. Every day you get in your car, drive out to the gate by the box to check your mail, then drive back to your condo parking spot.

You are at home expecting a package being delivered by UPS that doesn't require a signature so they just leave it at your doorstep. Rather than getting up to check if it has come, you check the tracking info on your computer to see if it has been delivered to your house yet.

Speaking of waiting for a delivery - I hate it when Amazon sends my orders by USPS because the tracking information is pretty much worthless. For example, I received an order on Wednesday but when you check the tracking info, this is the message that still comes up:

The U.S. Postal Service was electronically notified by the shipper on August 09, 2010 to expect your package for mailing. This does not indicate receipt by the USPS or the actual mailing date. Delivery status information will be provided if / when available. Information, if available, is updated periodically throughout the day. Please check again later.

I wonder what would happen if I tried to make a claim saying I never received my order?

Well that's all.. told you today I had some stupid things to say!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

new blog

Things have been quite hectic for me at work. We've got a software conversion coming up later this month and I thought I'd finally have a nice block of time to work on that but then today several things came up out of the blue that took away that block of time.. typical, I guess. So I haven't been writing much here, partly from being busy and partly from a lack of motivation.

I did find out about a blog that I found interesting. It's called "Los Angeles Revisited" and, as the title would suggest, it's focus is on various topics dealing with the the City of Angels. Personally I like reading about the city's history and like even more to see pictures and that's what you can find on this recently started blog.

If you want to check it out, click here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

shakeout

One of my passions is audio gear. I don't have real expensive, esoteric equipment but I think it's pretty decent. I've been known to have an obsession with speakers..

I notice when I read various audio forum posts that many folks have a passion, even an obsession or fetish for huge quantities of bass. They aren't satisfied unless they have a powerful subwoofer that can make everything in the room rattle, the walls and floors shake, and cause the neighbors to complain.

When they watch a movie, it's got to be lifelike. The more shaking, the better.

They'll comment about various scenes in movies that had extreme amounts of bass and the effect on their rooms and house in general.

Now, in their quest for life-like effects, don't these people realize that in real life, explosions and crashes and earthquakes and everything else that generates thunderous bass also generates huge amounts of damage to things?

So if you are thirsting for life-like bass effects from your movies, when that explosion in the movie causes the walls of the buildings to fall down, is that what you want to happen to your own house???

Some people sound like they do.

I think they long to be able to post something like, "man, I'm missing the whole living room wall but it was awesome!!!"

Monday, August 2, 2010

contest

I had lunch at El Pollo Loco today. I ordered a medium-sized drink and noticed that the cup was different from the usual one; it was a Dr. Pepper cup that was promoting a contest in conjunction with EA games and the side of the cup proclaimed, "EVERY CUP WINS!"

I peeled off the game sticker to see what I won and found out that you have to go to the Dr. Pepper web site and enter the code on the sticker for the results.

When I got home, that's what I did. I entered the code, and was then presented with three questions with drop-down answer boxes. The first question was what size drink I bought. The drop-down box presented several choices and I guessed it must have been the 32 oz size although I wasn't sure since the menu doesn't tell you how many ounces are in which size.

The second question asked where you bought the drink, and there were quite a number of possibilities. After scrolling through the list, naturally I found El Pollo Loco at the very bottom.

The third question asked what flavor I purchased. Well, I filled mine up with Diet Coke but that wasn't one of the choices. The choices were limited to flavors of Dr. Pepper. For the sake of hurrying up to find out what I had won since it had already taken so long already, I just clicked on Diet Dr. Pepper.

Okay, so show me what I won since every cup is a winner!

But no, now I was presented with a screen to register myself, asking my name, address, e-mail, birthdate, etc. Forget it. This is just too much trouble!!

The people who plan these contests ought to get a clue that people want instant gratification and don't want to jump through hoops, especially when the prospect of what you can win doesn't sound all that great to begin with. McDonald's has the right idea - you peel the sticker and right away you find out what, if anything, you've won.

Next time I order a medium drink at EPL, I'm gonna see if they have the old version of the cups.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

urban legends

Akin to urban legends are those things your parents tell you when you are growing up that make no sense but since they're your parents, you believe what they say. Even when you grow up and others point out how ridiculous these beliefs may be, you still have trouble being rational about it.. either that, or you feel like a fool and wonder why you fell for it.

I just remembered when I was little and kept asking for more raisins to eat my mom told me I shouldn't eat too many because it would make me have to pee a lot. Since we were in the car, eating more raisins didn't seem like a good idea.

I actually believed this for a long time; I may have even psychologically forced myself to demonstrate this "fact." Then when I told someone about it they looked at me like I was crazy.

"How does that make any sense???"

I just shrugged. "I dunno, that's what my mom told me."

"Well that's really stupid. Why would raisins make you have to pee?"

Of course it made no sense but still, I wondered why she would tell me something like that if it wasn't true. I can only conclude it was to make me shut up and stop asking for raisins. It worked.

Just like the time I couldn't find my Silly Putty, something I had begged for that my folks really did not want me to have but finally relented and bought one. After a few days, it disappeared. My mom told me that I must not have put it back in its little egg shell carrying case and it rolled, or ran away. Very authoritatively she informed me that if you leave it lying around, it will roll away from you.

All these years I've had an image of a ball of Silly Putty rolling away from our house.

I wonder if I ever told Greg or Katie something like that? The only thing I can remember is telling them that people are limited to speaking 1 million words during their lifetime after which they go mute. They believed it but then after I started laughing they knew I was joking. I hope they remember the joking part; of course, what adult would be dumb enough to believe something like that? We might wish for it, but would know it couldn't happen.

Yet, when you find out some of the things that other people believe, it makes you wonder..

And with that, welcome to August. The year has flown by, hasn't it?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

philosophizing

Over the weekend we saw a most excellent movie: Inception. Intelligently made, thought-provoking, and NOT an excuse to have a bunch of special effects parade across the screen (although this had them in abundance).

In case you don't know what the movie is about (usually I am the last to know or I don't ever know), it's about dreams. The subject of dreams and time travel are two of my favorite things to mull over in my mind and get confused about.

Last night I watched an episode of the original Outer Limits, this particular one a precursor to the Terminator series. An earthling from the future goes back into the past to stop an act that ruined mankind. He was successful, but as he went back to the future he disappeared because he was traveling to a world into which he'd never been born.

What if people were able to travel through time, from the future to the past, and change events and thus alter history?

The thing is, where would it stop? Because for every event that was changed, someone else would travel back to unchange it. You'd have people zipping back and forth through time constantly altering events and creating a topsy turvy existence.

Let's say this is going on right now. That means that your perception of reality, everything you know about the world and its history, is ever-changing because someone from the future has come back to change it. Except you are unaware of this. You are unaware because each conscious moment you experience is based on a history that keeps changing.

And suppose some action done by a visitor from the future directly affects an event that prevents you from being born, or causes you to be rubbed out earlier in your life? Then poof, you are not even here any more. But how would you even know that? You'd be gone like the snap of a finger.

Luckily that hasn't happened yet and here you are, but just think, every single thing you know is the result of people from the future changing your past and since they are going back and forth all the time, your past keeps changing.

Of course, with all these changes going on, that affects everything in the future so perhaps some of these time travelers fiddle themselves right out of existence.

Or, perhaps they need to come back here and fiddle with time in order to create their existence. Had they not traveled back in time, they wouldn't have existed.

Just something to tangle up your brain for the day..

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'm still standing

Well it's been a few days since I made my last post and given its depressing nature I thought maybe I ought to just let you know I haven't committed suicide or anything like that, haha.. I'm still here.

The way I look at it, it is what it is. No country or person is invulnerable and no country is going to last forever. There is only one Kingdom that will prevail and will last for eternity and that's enough to give me peace of mind.

So.. last Tuesday we saw the final stop of the Carole King / James Taylor tour, at the Honda Center in Anaheim. This sort of completes a circle - the very first rock/pop concert I saw was 39 years ago in March of 1971 at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was headlined by James Taylor, with Carole King and Jo Mama as the supporting acts.

Carole King was ill that evening and only played a few songs. Now 39 years later I had the privilege of hearing her and James Taylor again. Jo Mama is defunct but their guitarist, Danny Kortchmar, is still around and he was on stage Tuesday along with Russ Kunkel and Leland Sklar. What a group of amazingly talented musicians!

While both JT and Carole King were great, I have to say Ms. King really shone. She exudes such joy in everything she does - such a totally uplifting person! You can't help but catch it from her - her enthusiasm is so contagious. The two of them are like old friends and I'm so glad for the opportunity to have heard them once again the other night.

You know, way back in the 70's, Amy and I were at J-Town and we saw Ms. King eating by herself at the counter of a sushi bar. My big regret is not bothering her for her autograph. I don't like bothering people but she is so special that this would have been the time to make an exception!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

History repeats itself

If you don't want to be depressed, then don't read today's blog because it's a downer.

Yesterday I wrote about how, because of feelings of mass euphoria or mass depression, people start talking about how "this time it's different," but it really isn't. History repeats itself. Not exactly the same way each time, of course, but it does to a degree where you can say you've seen it before. And you'll see it again.

The downer part of my post is just something that I think about now and then, and that is, the same thing is going to happen to the good old U.S. of A. One of these days, our country will no longer exist.

Every great civilization thought it would continue forever, and every great civilization has gone down the tubes. Sure, some have reincarnated themselves, but it is not the same civilization as it was before; they went through some very dark days and were conquered by other nations.

The same is going to happen to us.

This isn't some dire warning or my standing on the street corner shouting at people, this is simply my observation that no country can last forever. I am not sure what will bring us down - could be our own stupidity. Could be our economy just falls apart and the increasing amount of foreign ownership becomes too heavy and we collapse. Could be a number of things, but with the way everything is becoming increasingly global these days, we can't set ourselves apart as the most powerful nation on earth who doesn't need help from anyone else.

Alliances change, circumstances change, and sooner or later what happened to other great civilizations will happen here. I hope it is later rather than sooner, of course, since I surely don't want my kids or their kids or others down the line to suffer because of it, but I feel it is inevitable. History just repeats itself. There's too many people and countries out there gunning for us and too many stupid things we do in this country to weaken ourselves. Complacency sets in, or maybe arrogance does, or a combination of both, or whatever.. things happen.

Okay, that was the depressing thought for the day. Now you can go back to work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This time it's different

I started reading a book called When Pigs Go To Market, about the virtues of long term investing in the stock market as told through characters in a story.

It was written in 1999, presumably right before the dot com bust brought down the market.

I found it pretty interesting when the main characters have a conversation, with the expert explaining how this time, the market is different. That is, while there will still be ups and downs, it will not be like before but rather, the downs will not be so bad and the market will keep going up and up.

Another character plays devils advocate and reminds the expert how history repeats itself and each time the market has hit new highs, including back before the great depression, people were saying "this time it is different," i.e., the market is going to keep going higher and higher. She reminds him of the verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes that says whatever is has come before, and there is nothing new under the sun.

The expert acknowledges this, but then goes on to list a bunch of factors as to why this time it will indeed be different.

Of course, reading this in hindsight, we all know that it was NOT different, and history DID repeat itself.

Now, I am not saying the market will not eventually hit new highs. In fact, I believe it will, and sooner, rather than later (that is, within 3-10 years, not 20-30 or never, as some feel). If you look at a long-term graph, it will continue to trend upwards. But it is still going to look like a roller coaster, because history repeats itself.

People felt that real estate was going to keep going up and up in value. For a while it seemed like they were right, but.. it ran out of gas and so that time was no different before. History again repeated itself.

The way I look at it, this is good and bad. Good, because the market is going to hit new highs, just like it has done in the past. Bad, because there are also going to be bad times when it swings downward. You just have to immunize yourself from thinking that when the market hits the new high, that this time it is different and it is going to keep going up and up. And, when it bottoms out you have to remember that history repeats itself and it's going to swing back up. It will be no different than before.

That's all.. just felt I had to put in my two cents after reading that part of the book today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

60

I don't know what took me so long to buy it.. well, actually I do. I was waiting for the price to come down (which it didn't) and also, I was thinking the songs would be subject to new arrangements or theatrics or things to be cute. But finally after reading the reviews and looking at the set list, I purchased Elton John's 60th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, on Blu Ray.

Better late than never! What a great concert! The video and audio quality are superb, too. It's like sitting just a few rows back from the stage right in the middle; they got the acoustics just right.

Most of the songs are from his earlier albums, which matches my interest, which tailed off after Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and after he and Bernie Taupin split up. The old songs are the best, and his arrangements don't stray very far from the originals, either. John's voice is lower; what I missed was the high notes in his vocals to punctuate certain parts of his songs, but that's okay, the melodies were there and untampered with. Cute stuff like letting the audience sing was at a bare minimum, thankfully. That's one thing I hate about concerts: when the audience is invited to participate and sing the lyrics in place of the performer. I don't want to hear some drunken fool or tone-deaf admirer in place of the person I paid money to see.

I know this came out nearly three years ago and I'm behind the times but I was so happy I wanted to write about it. I sat there smiling and of course even though he was in bytes and pieces on the disc, I wanted to give him a big thank you for being around so long and being so talented. Everything about the concert was superb.

Like the Carol King / James Taylor reunion concert at the Troubadour, this was another part of the soundtrack from my life. I was wowed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life

This morning when I stepped in the shower I noticed a Daddy Long Legs had taken up residence on one end. I pondered what to do about it. Normally I just leave spiders alone (black widows excluded) since they dispose of insect pests, but then I didn't want to be taking a shower and then feel something crawling up my leg.

I decided I would just leave it alone and if it got washed away so be it and if not, so be that, too.

Then I got to thinking about how you can categorize people based on the way they perceive "bugs."

There are those who automatically just stomp on any bug without giving any sort of consideration or thought; it's just something to be stepped on.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have those who refuse to kill a bug because it is a living creature. Either they leave it alone or they catch it and take it outside.

In the middle are those who are either afraid of bugs or view them as miniature weapons of mass destruction so they eliminate them. They realize the bugs are alive, but they are also evil and it is a matter of either us or them.

There are those who realize the bugs are alive but kill them anyway and show a bit of guilty remorse by saying, "sorry bug" right before doing the deed to them as if they could understand, much in the same way people who drive monster SUV's buy carbon offsets.

When we are very young, much of what we do is patterned on our parents. We imitate them. At that age, most of the time we don't understand why we do it; our parents do it so that's reason enough.

But let's say we don't know how our parents deal with bugs. We've observed bugs and understand that they are alive, just like any other animal. So in those very early stages of life, what is our reaction to the thought of squishing a bug?

I just wonder if that carries forward into our adult lives.

By the way, that Daddy Long Legs got wet and they are so pathetic when that happens because they just crumple up into a ball. I left it that way but I expect it will dry out pretty soon. I figure, if it survived, fine, if it got washed away, well, then it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.