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