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?