Monday, May 31, 2010

Frightened

I decided to take a day off last Friday and make it a four-day holiday weekend. Now as I sit writing this on Sunday I am envious of the people who didn't take Friday off because they still have 2/3 of their holiday weekend ahead of them whereas I have only 1/2.

Today we were in the car stopped at a signal while this middle-aged woman crossed the street in front of us. Julie remarked that she looked like she was being secretive about something. I hadn't noticed her and when I looked up at her, she was halfway across, right in front of our car. She stopped, briefly looked at us then ran the rest of the way across the street.

That's the first time in my life I ever saw anything like that. That was funny.

So far I am definitely enjoying the iPad that arrived the other day. I love the touch screen. Julie says she can't understand why I like it so much since I am so finicky about getting fingerprints on anything. That's true - when you look at the screen from an angle you can see fingerprints all over it. Not very pretty. But you can't see them when the unit is turned on, luckily. Yes, my liking the touch screen is incongruent from the remarks written about me by my early grade school teacher who said "gets very upset if he gets dirty." Or maybe she used the word "messy." I don't remember exactly, but you get the idea.

Maybe I'll wear gloves. I guess they can't be rubber gloves, though, huh?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Books

One of the places we went today was a bookstore in Burbank where all of the books are at the most $1.00. Every single book in the store.

As I was browsing the aisles, I was thinking how would the authors feel knowing that the fruits of their labor were now being peddled off for a dollar and even then they are just sitting there on the shelves?

But then I thought, at least these people got something published so dollar or not, they accomplished something.

There were signs on all of the shelves asking people to please put the books back in the same place in the shelf as where they found them so as to maintain the order and keep costs down. I noticed that aside from the books being grouped in categories, there was no discernable order to them - no alpha ordering by title or author or anything else; they were just all thrown on the shelves.

There was a Dummies book for using Windows ME. That made me wonder if there is actually anyone left on earth who is using that? Perhaps in some third world country a child is using a donated computer that has ME as an operating system and is starting off with a bad taste in his or her mouth for computers.

I actually did wind up with something, a book entitled, "When Pigs Go To Market." It's about investing. It looked interesting so I figured for a dollar I couldn't go wrong. When I got home I looked it up on Amazon and it is no longer in print, with 17 copies available starting at a penny.

Just how much money can you make if you sell books for a dollar? Or a penny? Makes you wonder how some stores can stay in business.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Calorie and Sodium Funnies

I know, I seem to be taking the cheap way out by posting other people's stuff here instead of writing my own but then the idea is to read something interesting, right? Or like yesterday's video, to watch something interesting. If you didn't watch the video I posted for Wednesday, please do. It is well worth your less than three minutes.

For today: here's a link to the Xtreme Eating 2010 Awards, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), showing some of the unhealthiest dining out meals available on our planet. Click here to see it. If you know you are going to be stranded in the forest or desert for a few days, I would suggest eating any of these meals in advance, to tide you through until the rescuers locate you.

I subscribe to their newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter and I have to say it is $20 a year well spent. Excellent and useful articles, and no advertisements.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oh brother..

As you may or may not know, recently the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott the state of Arizona over their recently enacted hard-nosed legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants.

Without immersing myself in the issue itself, what I thought was funny was the response that came from Gary Pierce of the Arizona Corporation Commission. Here's an excerpt from the letter sent to Mayor Villaraigosa:

"If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation," he wrote in the letter. "I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy."

As might be expected, the hypocrites in the city backpedaled, stating that the Department of Water and Power is a part owner of both Arizona plants that supply electricity to Los Angeles. Nothing in the city's resolution is inconsistent with their continuing to receive power from the plants in Arizona, according to an official.

Yeah, right. If they (the L.A. City Council) were really steadfast in their resolution, they would act to divest yourself of these assets in the reprehensible state of Arizona, and in the meantime refuse to take power from them as a matter of principle.

But then when have the weasels in the government of the city ever shown they have any principles? Like how they were caught by the news media wasting water (especially the mayor himself) during a time when there was supposed to be a severe curtailment in the usage of water by everyone? Well, I guess that just applied to ordinary citizens, not the ones who were above the law.

And now they do a selective boycott of Arizona - refusing to purchase or use anything that isn't really necessary or doesn't cause too much disruption to the city or themselves. Brave and honorable people, these are. But you already knew that, right?

Well, they are good about resolutions they make to themselves about redecorating their offices or going on vacations at taxpayer expense. Don't get in their way.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

68

Today the woman in the office next to mine turned 68. Yup, she is still working. She actually doesn't look that old but I keep telling her she should retire and enjoy life - move up to Washington where her sister is, the pace is slower, and the cost of living lower.

But she keeps telling me she can't afford to retire.

What I have told Greg and Katie from when they were probably too young to understand is to start saving and investing as soon as they hit the working world and by the time they are in their 40's, being able to retire would be a distinct possibility. That was said also with the regret that I was too dumb to do that back then, and actually, when I was just starting out and then for many years afterwards I never really gave it serious thought.

I probably have a lot of company - we always think we're young and there's still plenty of time but then time keeps moving on. The power of compounding is diminished!

So today I pondered what it would be like if I am still working when I hit the age of 68. That sure isn't what I'd like to be doing. Now I guess some people are married to their work and for them that's the passion that keeps them going. Not me!

Let's see... when I am 68 I thought it would be nice to look back and see at least 10 years of being retired and being able to pursue other things in life besides having to wake up each weekday morning to go to work. Now what if, instead of 10 years, it was just one year? If it's all history, what difference does it make if it is 10 years of history or one year of history? It's all in the past. The focus should be on what's in store going forward.

So at 68, that means in probability terms, God willing, of course, that there is less in store (in terms of years) going forward than there would be at 58, even less than at 48, another reason for planning for an earlier rather than later retirement. Where we are right now - it is what it is. But going forward, we have some influence over that and we have to make the most of it.

I don't know if this mindless philosophizing made a whole lot of sense since it rambled all over the place but that's what rambled through my mind today.

"Mindless philosophizing" also brings to mind a certain favorite movie from the 70's, and another phrase that came from it - "Jedi mind trick."






Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another Chance

I was really sad about missing the James Taylor / Carole King concert on Friday, and felt a real sense of loss about it. I guess I really shouldn't have watched the DVD of their Troubadour reunion concert because it just made me feel even sadder to have missed out on history. I mean, these are two artists that I absolutely love; there is no one I would rather see in concert and had I missed anyone else, it wouldn't have bothered me that much.

Today Mike, one of our sales managers who was fortunate enough to see them Thursday night pointed out that they were playing at the Honda Center in July, as well as in Santa Barbara.

I hadn't thought about that. Santa Barbara's concert is sold out, but there were still seats in the nosebleed section for the Anaheim gig in July. So... I ordered them. Factoring in the money lost on the missed Bowl concert, these are some expensive seats but for these two, it's worth it. Plus compared to the prices being charged for other concerts of MUCH LESSER acts, the price is downright reasonable.

So now we've been given another chance. I will just make sure to steer clear of the horribly mismanaged, totally inept Foothill Transit bus line and we should be okay.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Disappointed

My first concert got me off to a good start - it was back in 1971 at the Anaheim Convention Center, with James Taylor, Carole King and JoMama on the bill.

Last November when tickets went on sale for their reunion tour concert at the Hollywood Bowl, I purchased a couple, plus paid the ridiculous Ticketmaster ransom because this was definitely an event worth attending.

Friday night was the big night. No way did we want to deal with traffic around the Bowl so Julie and I drove to the Arcadia Park and Ride lot to take the easy way out and board the bus. There weren't very many people with the same idea, just a few of us. And we waited and waited. No bus. Finally one woman called Foothill Transit and found out that for "leased" events at the Bowl, which this was one of them, there is no park and ride from Arcadia. The nearest stop was in Pasadena.

So off we went to Pasadena. When we got to the parking lot there was a long, long, long line of people waiting to get on few, few, few buses. The line moved agonizingly slow. It seemed like the buses took off infrequently; you would think with that many people they would load up the bus and then send it off. But nope, the buses just sat there while we just stood there.

Finally we got near the front and finally they began letting passengers stand on board (all the buses before the two that were still there did not let anyone stand up). With so many people in line, wouldn't you think they'd have a clue that they should let passengers stand as well as sit? Or that they would collect the money in advance?

Anyway, we were told that they had to order more buses and there were only going to be two, in about half and hour. It was 6:30 when they announced it, an hour before the concert was to start. At 7:00, one of the assistants checked with the transit supervisor and was told 10 more minutes. Okay, we figured we would just eat on the bus and then run to get to our seats when the bus arrived.

At 7:10 we were then told that there were NO more buses coming and we'd all have to drive to the Bowl and find our own parking. We got in the car, sped over to the Bowl and.. encountered a horrendous traffic jam. It took a long time to get basically nowhere, and by the time we did get to the Bowl entrance, there was no parking available anywhere. It seemed the nearest parking was closer to Hollywood Boulevard.

Faced with having to walk such a long way plus the nightmare of what it would be like walking such a long way back to the parking lot, we decided to call it a night and just came home. $99 for the tickets ($126.05 after the ridiculous service charge) down the drain.

Driving down Highland and then La Brea to get to the 10 Freeway was very interesting because it had been ages since I was last in the area. Many things had changed and many things hadn't. Back in high school and college we'd drive around that area all the time - I fondly remember going up to Hollywood Boulevard just to walk around. Or going to Wallach's Music City on Sunset, and later Tower Records. The drive down to the freeway brought back the feeling of those high school cruising days and reminded me why I was so fascinated by the nighttime.

Now that's some small consolation for missing such an important concert but at least the evening wasn't a total waste. Still, this was a major disappointment. There is no one else I would rather see in concert than those two - their songs make up such a significant share of my life's soundtrack and having missed seeing them makes me feel incomplete.

Another consolation: The recent release of their combo CD/DVD of their Troubadour Reunion Concert recorded in 2007. Saturday morning I watched the DVD. Not nearly the same as being there or at the Bowl, but nevertheless I'm really happy to have those two captured on video. An added plus was to have three of the musicians from the original tour playing with them this time, too: Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar and Danny Kortchmar. It couldn't be any better than that.




Friday, May 14, 2010

Grueling

The May 12, 2010 edition of the Huffington Post lists the 9 most grueling colleges in America.

If you want to see which nine were chosen, click here.

Meanwhile, speaking of colleges..




Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Say what?

I think I've mentioned before in this blog about how GPS devices ought to have more character to them - like be interactive, or have funny voices. Like when you don't follow the directions the voice gets some attitude:

"Say what??? Why you wants to dis' me, huh?? Were you not listening to what I said or am I jes' talkin' to myself? You think I like being cooped up in this little box all day??"

Today I ran across today's YouTube video and apparently TomTom does have celebrity voices for its GPS units. The first one out is Darth Vader (see below) but on the way are voices for Yoda, C3P0 and Hans Solo. I think Yoda and C3P0 ought to be a riot. Hans Solo.. well, too serious. Maybe they should have R2D2 for driving in the San Gabriel Valley.

I have a couple of other suggestions - how about Don Knotts or Issac Hayes? Porky Pig would be good.. or Elmer Fudd. Hahahahaha..






Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Neuroses

There's something else that bugs me as much as not arranging things properly in the shopping cart and on the conveyor belt and in the car trunk, which I realized today while watching Jeopardy.

It bugs me when contestants don't select the "answers" in ascending dollar value order. In other words, they should start with the $100 answer in the category, then move to the $200 and so on and so forth. Contestants that start picking in the middle of the category or skipping around drive me nuts!

Okay, there's an exception: if time is running out and someone is trying to catch up, I can understand choosing the higher dollar values over the lower ones. But otherwise, everyone should pick in order!!

Okay, FAQ time:

Does that mean that at a buffet one should put salad on their plate first (and get soup if desired) and then go back for the main entrees after that?

Not necessarily, since many buffets put the salads at the front to act as decoys to make you too full to eat the good stuff. But all things being equal, if you plan on eating a mix of everything, then yes, you should start with the salads and then go back for the other stuff. Don't have a 12" high pile of food on your plate!!

Does that mean that when you play Monopoly, all of the properties have to be bought in order? If so, how do the railroads and utilities fit in?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Checkstand Wars

Today I did my usual morning Costco run and have not much new to report except that strawberries that were $4.99 for 4 pounds two weeks ago that went up to $5.99 last week were now $6.99 today. At least the ones today looked better than last week's, except the cheapest ones from two weeks ago were the best of them.

When I check out, my strategy is to always place the heaviest items on the belt first. That way, if they all jam up right before the register, the heavy items are in front, rather than being in the back crushing the lighter items.

That strategy doesn't take into account employees trying to be helpful by putting your items on the belt, however. To them, one item is no different than another so here I was rushing to put the heavy items on the belt before this woman could put the lighter items there. I guess I really ought to say "thank you but I can do this myself."

If the heavier items are being checked first then theoretically they should be the first ones loaded into the cart, as well (I always tell them I don't need a box). Theoretically. Some checkers or boxers do a better job than others. It drives me crazy when they put something in the cart sideways that ought to go in right side up. As I am walking towards the exit I always make sure to right that wrong as soon as possible.

The other thing that bugs me is when someone comes by and pre-checks your goods while they are in the basket so all the cashier has to do is swipe your card and everything is already rung up. That's a balancing act between the time saved waiting in line versus how they scan the item then just randomly put it back in the cart so that everything is all jumbled up.

I guess I need to realize that not everyone is as fanatical and neurotic as I am when it comes to arranging items in the cart. I wonder if most people even have any sort of method? They probably don't, which is why the checkers and other employees don't see any sort of order in there; it's just a bunch of stuff to deal with.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It is what it is..

Well you may be seeing a lot more blog posts and then again you might not. In the past I've tended to try and write something even when there wasn't much to write about just to keep this thing from becoming too stale (even though some of these entries seemed pretty stale to you, I am sure).

But being that it is what it is, maybe you will see long stretches of time when there's nothing new, but then maybe you will see periods of frantic bursts of inspired energy that keeps my fingers to the keys. And maybe you won't be able to tell the difference.

I just wanted to put up an excuse here in case you don't see much new stuff getting posted. It is what it is. ; 0

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Words of Wisdom

Even wiser than "let it be" are these words: "It is what it is." Simple, eloquent, undeniably true.

Now, "let it be" is even simpler and similarly eloquent but it is not always true. We can't and shouldn't always let something be, but there is no denying that whatever has happened, it is what it is. You can have a hand in changing what will be, but what has happened is inescapable.

Someone at work suggested that this should be our new motto or tag line. Someone calls, the receptionist answers with the company name followed by, "it is what it is." That would catch many off guard but soon they would come to appreciate the stark simplicity and reality of our tag line. I doubt that David Addison could have done better for the Blue Moon Detective Agency.





Monday, May 3, 2010

Farm Fresh

Today (Sunday) we went to the Farmer's Market that got off the ground just a week ago to see what it was like. Each Friday night there is an arts and crafts fair combined with farmer's market along the main street but Sunday recently started up as an offshoot of that.

I was expecting rows of healthy-looking produce as well as other interesting food items but I guess due to the newness of it all there weren't that many booths.

And the products looked no better than what you could buy at a regular market, plus they were a lot more expensive. Some had signs saying they were "organic" but I am always wary because how do you really know, plus often "organic" often seems to be a euphemism for "battered and scratched up."

Someone was selling flavored oils which looked good, but were also too expensive. They came in tall but skinny bottles which to me made them look like they held more than they really did. It's like those experiments you used to do when you were little in which you poured water from a short, squat container into a tall, narrow one and lo and behold, they held equal amounts!

So we came back empty-handed.

Some people had an awful lot of produce on hand. It made me wonder what happens to all the stuff that they don't sell? Maybe that's why the price is so high. You're paying for what you buy plus what you don't buy. I bet they're all willing to wheel and deal with you but I'm not the type who likes to do that.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fun While it Lasted

Some of you may be familiar with my Roosevelt Clucksworth foibles that I detailed a little while ago in this blog. If you aren't familiar with it, just do a search on the name and it will take you to the posts.

In short, the result of my claim (or dispute) to fame as submitting a portion of the winning entry in Koo Koo Roo's "Name the Cluck" contest was receiving a gift card in the amount of $200. That was fine with me, and more than generous, I felt.

Well, now it seems the chicken chain has declared bankruptcy and 10 of its 13 locations in California were immediately shut down after employees were informed on Wednesday. That included the Pasadena location, the only one nearby. That left me with about $150 remaining on the card.

The only three locations still open are in Santa Monica, West Hollywood and the Larchmont area, all of which are really too far to drive just for chicken.

It's a shame they have declared bankruptcy and closed so many locations but it seems like they really didn't do much to make people aware of them, and/or to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Oh, well, easy come, easy go. Now if I had paranoid tendencies, I might suspect that KKR did this to spite me, just so they wouldn't have to pay up on my card.