Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the Road - 4

For you veteran readers of this blog, you may be wondering if we visited any Costco stores along the way on our brief vacation.

Well, yes, we did make time for that. There were several along the way, so why pass up the opportunity? Santa Cruz, Salinas, Sand City (near Monterey), San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Goleta and Oxnard.

After you stop laughing, you can continue on with this post.

Santa Cruz had the most stuff that was different than the others, and also had the best wine selection. Here's a few things I bought at the Santa Cruz location that the others didn't have.

Actually, the stores down here did have these salad dressings a while ago but they disappeared, which is too bad because they're both really good. Only the Santa Cruz store had these. I hope they aren't leftovers from when they were selling them down here, though.

Again, only the Santa Cruz store had this fancy rice blend. It must cater to that UCSB crowd.

A couple of stores had this one.

While most of the stock was the same at each store, I noticed that some stores had big bottles of Tabasco while others didn't sell any, big or little bottles. Some had Panko, which I don't see at the Costco's near the house. San Luis Obispo had several varieties of baked beans for some reason.

The worst locations were Salinas and Oxnard, with Santa Maria not much better. The wine selections are better up north, with the stores carrying wines from local wineries, whereas the stores down here only have labels that are available on a larger scale. I bought 5 bottles that the stores down here don't carry, but now only have 4 since I was careless when we got home to unpack and one rolled off the kitchen table and fell on the floor and broke. It sure smelled good, though.

While Santa Cruz had the best selection of products, it was nothing compared to what we encountered a couple of years ago during our trip to San Diego during Thanksgiving. The stores we visited down there had lots of products that aren't carried up here - I was so envious!

Yes, what would a vacation be without stopping at the Costco stores along the way?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On the Road - 3

We stayed in Pacific Grove Wednesday and Thursday night, then for the final night of our short trip we stayed in Ventura. I'd prefer Santa Barbara but it's too darn expensive for what you get, and Ventura isn't that far away from there but much more reasonable price-wise.

As far as figuring out where to stay, I consulted Yelp and Tripadvisor. One thing I noticed was that when you click the button to get rates from all of the major trip web sites, the rates are all pretty much the same, give or take a dollar or two at the most. You actually do the best when going directly to the hotel's web site instead, which is what I did for both PG and Ventura, and saved a significant amount of money.

There weren't many reviews for the place we stayed in Ventura, but the overall consensus seemed to be that it didn't look like much from the outside but the rooms were nice.

When the GPS announced, "arriving at destination, on left," I had to hand it to the reviewers because they sure were right about it not looking like much. It looked just like an old-style two-story motel.

An older Indian man was manning the counter when we walked into the office. Immediately our nostrils were overwhelmed with scents of curry. Well, it was their dinnertime and the guy was Indian so that made sense.

The reviewers were pretty much spot on with their comments about the room, too. It was nice, but small. There was a 42" LCD television to brighten things up, and the bathroom had been remodeled. There was also a faint aroma of curry wafting into the bathroom as well, but luckily it was faint and it stayed there and didn't wander into the main room.

For dinner that night we went casual, to Andria's Seafood Market and Restaurant down by the harbor, which, according to most reviews, had the best seafood in the city. I have nothing to compare it to, but the fish and chips were very good and plentiful.

The next morning we packed the car then went to the office to turn in the key. Hmm.. they were having curry for breakfast, also.

Come to think of it, the manager at the place in Pacific Grove was also Indian but he was more Americanized. No accent, and we talked about the Lakers. He was actually at the Staples Center for game 6 when the Lakers walloped the Celtics, so we talked about that and whether or not Phil Jackson is going to hang around and who else will be here next year.

Sorry, no pics..

Monday, June 28, 2010

On the Road - 2

We took a drive up to Santa Cruz on Thursday. We visited the Boardwalk. The only other time I've been there was several years ago with Katie and she was very upset that I wouldn't go on the roller coaster with her. I kept telling her to ride it herself and I'd wait, but either she didn't want to ride it alone or she thought maybe I'd drive off laughing while she was on the roller coaster. Despite full court press badgering from her, I refused to go since I do not like roller coasters. This time I didn't have to worry about it since Julie feels the same way I do on the subject.

While admission to the place is free, parking is $11 (or $1.50 an hour at the meters) and you pay for whatever ride you want to go on. The food is also expensive.

Here are some pictures:

Now I said the food was expensive but then ooh yum, look what you can get:

When we got there it was overcast, like you see below, but it cleared up quickly. Having the sun out made such a big difference.

Here's a simple ride that you'd never catch me on. It just takes people up to the top then drops straight down.

A Flock of Seagulls was playing when we got there.

There's the thing I refused to ride. Yes, I know it doesn't look too daunting compared to something you'd find at Magic Mountain but it's daunting enough for me!

Mmm, more delicious treats.

More tomorrow..

Sunday, June 27, 2010

On the Road

Gee, it was just about a year ago (July 4, to be exact) that we left on our whirlwind bus tour that took us as far east as Mount Rushmore. Time sure flies by.

We just got back from a short trip up north today (Saturday) but this time we drove. The advantage to taking a bus is not having to worry about driving or locating your destination. The advantage to driving yourself is being on your own schedule (including where to eat) and the flexibility that brings. Having a GPS overcomes the issue of finding destinations. I didn't refer to a map the entire time.

One thing I noticed is that as we got out of the area, the roads seem to be in better shape. I don't know why the roads in the greater Los Angeles area, and in particular the 10 freeway in the SGV are the most tore-up in America, or so it seems.

A vacation is not a vacation without stopping at In-N-Out, and that's where we had our first lunch on the journey - in Ventura. Amazingly this one wasn't crowded. We got there around 11:15 which is on the early side but still, no matter what the time of day, rarely do you see an In-N-Out with empty tables.

Our ultimate destination for day one was Pacific Grove. When I tell people about going there, most have never heard of the place. If you are one of them, it's a small town sandwiched between Carmel on the south and Monterey on the north and if you ask me, it has more character than either of them. It's a quaint, quiet place where you can pull over to park right next to the beach, get out of your car, and there it is - with no parking or beach access fees, and no houses blocking your way.

Although its been several years since the last visit, it really hasn't changed. In fact it hasn't changed much since the kids were little and we used to go there most every year. Here's some then and now pictures for you - well actually, they are not true then and now since the "then" locations or subjects don't correspond to the "now" locations, but it's then and now of the area in general:

Here's the museum - on a sunny day.

Here's the uncrowded beach - again, on a sunny day. Catching the sun up there is a hit and miss affair.

This is actually in Carmel:

This is on the main drag in Pacific Grove. Still looks pretty much the same!

Here are the "now" pics (pardon the boring composition but I ain't no professional photographer):

The main street (Lighthouse Avenue):

Now here is a change. This used to be a book store with a coffee/chat area but now it is a coffee/chat area with a book store.

We ate dinner at a place called Max's Grill, which had very favorable Yelp reviews. The reviewers were right - excellent food and service. It's owned by a Japanese couple - the husband is the chef and the wife is the hostess. Aside from them we were the only Asians in the place which was quite different than being in the SGV. Our waiter was a young white guy with a bald head (that seems to be the trend these days) and was very good. If ever you are in Pacific Grove at dinnertime, I'd highly recommend giving them a try.

After dinner we drove over to Cannery Row. Here's some pictures:

More posts tomorrow and thereafter..

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


On Sunday night I was making one of my infrequent visits to my Facebook page to see what was going on and ran across a post from one of the pastoral interns at my church, who wished his dad a happy Father's Day. He mentioned his name and it was in blue, meaning his dad was on FB as well.

I clicked his dad's name to see his page and was thinking, how neat, the guy's dad is on FB! Then it struck me, uh, I'm probably older than his dad so what the heck am I talking about, lol. Greg and Katie's friends are probably saying the same thing about me except more like, why is that old geezer hanging around?

Monday, June 21, 2010

No esta aqui

The other day I was seeing exactly what channels I'm able to receive on our main television using an amplified antenna. One thing I noticed is that the old television in the bedroom gets more digital stations using its ancient rabbit ears than the amplified hi-tech one does.

The amplified antenna does get PBS, though - channel 28.1. The program at the time was featuring clips of old-time Los Angeles and I heard the unmistakable voice of Ralph Story, so I stopped my channel scan to watch for a while. It turned out to be a program called Things That Aren't Here Anymore, which was exactly as the title said - things in Los Angeles that are no longer around. Like Marineland (I bet most of you remember that), Corriganville (I bet most you don't remember that) and other places. Mr. Story also did a sequel, called More Things That Aren't Here Anymore, and after he passed away a more recent third chapter in the series was released.

I really enjoy looking at clips and images of the way things used to be - I guess I'm a nostalgia fan. It got me thinking about places from the 'hood that I grew up with that are no longer there.

Before those places, I wanted to mention one of the no longer there places in the program was the Pan Pacific Auditorium. Remember that? That's where I first saw the Chosen Few. Remember them? At the time I didn't know it was then, since I was in junior high, but I always remembered the band because they were so much better than all the other bands that played that day (I think there was a car show).

Now, the Chosen Few is among the things that aren't here anymore. Some places I thought of, just to bring up the past, were:

Holiday Bowl (that's what everyone always brings up);
Rudy's Restaurant;
Walt's Cafe;
Mago's (not quite in the area but a place we used to go all the time);
Bruno's restaurant (same thing - not quite in the area);
Paul's Kitchen;
Hall's Bookstore;
Donna Michelle's Boutique;
Singer Sewing Machines with its 59 cent 45's;
Hodoh's bbq;
Mr. Angelo's restaurant;
White Front;
Al's Arco Station;
Grace Pastries;
Gilbert's Meat Market;
Santa Barbara Savings and Loan;
Karl's Toys and Hobbies;
Kokusai Theater.

I'm sure there are plenty others but those are just some that came to mind, that I thought I'd list just for the sake of listing them and perhaps jogging your memory if you happened to grow up in the same area.

If you share a love of nostalgia and grew up in the Los Angeles area, I'd recommend checking out the trilogy I mentioned above - more information can be found on the KCET web site. Having grown up watching Ralph Story's Los Angeles, it was good to see him again, too!

Friday, June 18, 2010

End of the Semester

We live across the street from an intermediate school here in the SGV. They had their commencement ceremony today and as I sat at the computer with the window open, I could hear everything that was going on, including the announcing of the graduate's names as they received their diplomas. There seemed to be an amazing number of people who shared the same last names.

Chan.. Chan.. Chan..Chan..Chan..Chan.. Chan..Chan..Chan..Chan...

The ceremony didn't seem to last that long - only about an hour. I suspect that was because it ran concurrent with game 7 of the NBA finals.

By the way, GO LAKERS!!!! Whoo Hoo!!! Oh, I HATE the Celtics!!! I am sooooo happy the Lakers took it!

Yes it is true, I have hated the Celtics ever since the days of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, and of wanting to smash Red Auerbach's cigar on his forehead, haha.

It was a great game. The Celtics were tough, but the Lakers were tougher.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Group Dining

I thought I would just mention a few observations about what happens when you go eat with a big group of people and there's just one check for the group so each person has to put in their share of the bill.

You have the person who orders a bunch of appetizers or drinks but then when the bill comes suggests dividing the amount equally.

You have the person who seemingly has no math skills because they always seem to forget adding an appropriate tax and tip to whatever their food cost.

You have the person who, when going somewhere like a Chinese restaurant with shared entrees, always takes the leftovers as though that is an unwritten rule. Yet they also always seem to be the one guilty of the first two peeves I mentioned above.

You have the person who, when someone else is paying, always orders the most expensive item on the menu. Now if that is really what they want to eat, fine, but I suspect more often than not it is because the meal is on someone else's dime (or dollar).

You have the person who thinks 10% is a normal tip and then also that it should only be on the amount before tax. "You're leaving too much tip!" they complain. Often that person asks for a lot of extra things from the wait staff.

It seems like the larger the group, the more deficient are the contributions towards paying the bill. It is easier to be anonymous in a large group situation, I suppose. But even in groups of two or three this still occurs.

The thing is, it is always the same person(s) who do this but usually no one says anything.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Some graduation pics taken yesterday by proud papa. ; )

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Math Problem

Saturday morning at Costco I chose the wrong checkout line. The guy in front of me had a flatbed cart stacked with multiple boxes of one item. I figured, he has a lot of items but they are all the same thing so it shouldn't take him very long at all to check out.


He bought all of the item that Costco had - looked like lamps in a box. Five columns of eight boxes each, each box identical, except one column only had seven boxes. 39 boxes, right? 5 columns x 8 boxes per column minus one missing box. X = (5 x 8) - 1.

Well both the checker and the box boy counted each box individually. And they had to count it several times. The first time the box boy came up with 40. The customer said there should be 39. So they counted again. I was pretty mystified by the thing but I guess maybe they didn't have a mathematical mind?

The total came out to nearly $1,300. The guy paid in cash, mostly $20 bills. So I had to stand there and wait while the checker counted out the bills, and also had to straighten them out so they all faced the same way. Now that's something I hadn't considered when doing my evaluation of which line would move the quickest - the efficiency of the means of payment. Normally I just try and avoid the lines that seem to have the most Asians because invariably they will always wind up arguing about something with the cashier, haha.

I also noticed that Costco's Blu Ray and DVD prices seem to have gotten lower. I usually don't bother looking at what they have because Amazon's prices are better but today when I checked, many were lower at Costco, or at least the same. The selection still isn't that great but at least now it is worth stopping by the aisle to see what they have.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


A truly great man passed away on Friday and I wanted to take the time to pay tribute to him.

If you asked me to name the one person that I would absolutely trust and felt had more integrity that anyone else in this world, my honest answer would be John Wooden. I realize the man must have had his flaws and committed his sins since only God is perfect, but he set an example of what we could all aspire to be.

I'm proud to have attended UCLA and even more so because it was during the time Mr. Wooden was still coaching. I also had the privilege and pleasure of hearing him speak a few years ago - despite his age, he was completely lucid and the words of wisdom he spoke were, well, truly words of wisdom.

We've lost a great individual but he's gone to a better place. I have nothing but respect for him. I truly believe that he is the sort of person the Bible speaks of, to whom God has said "Well done, my good and faithful servant." I have no doubt that Coach Wooden, a man of great faith, is now enjoying his gift of eternal life in heaven.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


When the kids were little, I told them that soon their grandfather would stop talking. They asked why. I said because he is approaching his limit of 1,000,000 words and when he reaches that, he won’t be able to talk anymore.


Matter of factly I told them that this happens to everyone. You are only allowed to speak 1,000,000 words during your life and that’s it. They sat there and pondered that pending event until I started laughing and they realized I was joking.

Back in high school I noticed that my friend Rob normally was a person of few words. He could just sit there and play his guitar while the rest of us chattered away. We’d ask him, why don’t you ever say anything? His response was that he had nothing to say. Unlike many of us, myself included, it didn’t bother him the least to have long periods of silence; he never felt compelled to talk because the silence seemed uncomfortable.

The older I get, the more I appreciate an economy of words.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Have you noticed how some folks have put a spin on some rather mundane things and fashioned them into products commanding lots of money because of that spin? When we grew up (or at least when I did), tennis shoes or sneakers were tennis shoes or sneakers and there was nothing fancy about them. I think Adidas was the first real brand that tried to differentiate itself from the others. Stereo cables were just stereo cables, not Monster brand.

I figure heck, why don't I do my own spin and market a high-tech version of a mundane item? To that end, I would like to introduce:


You runners out there will definitely appreciate this breakthrough development!

The result of extensive studies in foot motion and body chemistry, the new INFINERGY ION FISSION LACES channel the molecular structure of your feet and shoes to work together to ensure synchronization of your feet and leg motion with the gravitational bands surrounding the earth, as well as the ionic timbre of your running shoes to literally enable you to navigate the time/space continuum and stride into infinity.

You will feel renewed vigor and a sense of ease as you fly past other runners who struggle against the effects of a mismatch between the earth's gravitational pull and the molecular structure of their bodies, while you have been freed from these chains because of the INFINERGY ION FISSION LACES.

Along with the LACES, which are composed of a superior strength, super light but 100% organic material (except for the focusing tips on each end which are made from a proprietary elemental blend to both focus the molecular energy plus concentrate it where it is most needed), we also provide you with the INFINERGY ION FISSION REJUVENATING DOCK.

Simply wrap your INFINERGY ION FISSION LACES on the dock as shown each night to amplify and condition them to peak form again.

Note that the LACES are directional so put them on your running shoes accordingly. The LACES, while of superior heavy 10 gauge material, are completely flexible and will not harm your skin or the environment.

While you will note a fabulous change right off the bat, we advise a break in time of at least 2,500 hours to enable the iambic pentameter of the core structure to solidify in a harmonious fashion.

We are sooooo sure that you will experience a burst of energy like you have never experienced before - we like to say it is like a 50 lb. veil has been lifted from your back - that we will allow you to try these out for 30 days. If you are not satisfied, return them for a full refund, minus the shipping charges, of course.

Now we get to what you are probably curious about - the price. What price is priceless? We really can't put a value on something so invaluable, but if you insist, we will send these to you for what you will agree is a most reasonable sum of $898.50 plus a modest shipping charge of $25 to cover the actual cost of our labor and materials and value added profits.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Food Adventures

One very important decision that has to be made immediately after entering a Souplantation is.. which line do you get in - the left or the right? A cursory scan of the absolute number of people in each direction is not necessarily the best way to make your decision; you have to take demographics into account and meld that with your previous experience in order to determine which line will get you to the register the fastest. At times it can be an exercise worthy of the beautiful mind of John Nash.

Well unfortunately this doesn't always work. What looked like a sure thing turned into us getting in line in back of a trio that seemed to want to take something from every single tray of food in the line. And take it as slowly as possible, piling two different plates into the stratosphere. I felt like leaning over to tell them YOU CAN COME BACK FOR SECONDS, YOU KNOW!!!

Yes, I am very impatient if you haven't already figured that out.

As we drove up to Souplantation we noticed the restaurant that took over the space formerly occupied by the Macaroni Grill was now open. We'd been curious about it, since the only clues were the name (Pioneer Point Grill), a building redone in an Old West motif, and a replica of a covered wagon out front. Hmm.. maybe a good ol' steak house was coming to the area? We also noticed that the name had changed to Pioneer Point Buffet and Grill. After dinner we strolled the block from Souplantation to the new place to check out the menu.

"I wonder if this is another one of those all you can eat Chinese buffets," I joked. And I do mean joked, since with an exterior decor like that, I hardly thought that would be the case.

I took one of the paper to-go menus, opened it up and took a look. Here is what they specialize in: American Round-Up; Italian Chow; Wood-Fired Pizza; Old West Barbecue; Mexican Fiesta; Orient Express; Harvest Greens; Hearty Soups; and Homemade Treats." Oh, my. The place made Hometown Buffet look like a one trick pony.

When we got home I checked out the reviews on Yelp. Oh, my. Plenty of one star ratings with explanatory comments, such as, "After we got home my boyfriend and I both felt sick and wanted to vomit." Most of the other comments weren't much better than that.

What I don't get is how the Old West motif has anything to do with the menu.

I wonder what the next restaurant will be that opens in that location.