Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

JE dressed up as a member of the Power Rangers SPD (which I assume means Special Police Department, or something else equally clever, witty, and irrelevant) while Amber was a pink butterfly.

Liz picked me up from the Bus Station, then we went and grabbed a couple of pizzas, picked up her dad, and headed for the Church where we ate the pizzas while waiting for everyone to arrive for the Trunk or Treat party. Our Church decided to create a safer way for kids to Trick or Treat, so every Halloween the members of our church now park in the church parking lot, open their trunks, pull out the decorations, and decorate the back ends of their cars for "Trunk or Treat".

Having made a last minute reservation for Trunk or Treat (the church likes to know who's attending), and an unsuccessful last minute hunt for costumes for us (adult costumes, that is. The kids already had theirs) I told Liz not to bother getting decorations because most of the people who decorate their cars go to extravagant lengths, so any cheap, last minute attempt we made would look like a cheap, last minute attempt.

After Amber and JE made the rounds of the cars, JE stood behind our car giving out the candy we'd brought. We were the only ones there with Cadbury's Chocolate Frogs :)

I think Cadbury totally missed the boat by not teaming up with Warner Bros. and inserting Harry Potter picture cards into each Chocolate Frog packet. Unless they did do that, but only in the U.K. or Australia while I wasn't there.

On the way home we stopped at a neighborhood "Haunted House". Not a real Haunted House but one someone had created in their backyard for Halloween. As we slowed down to look at it JE announced that he wanted to go in. So Liz stopped the car and we joined the small group of people standing outside the Haunted House. The excited screams and squeals from inside told me that our neighbors had gone the extra mile to ensure any visitors to their Haunted House received a good scare.

When we got to the front of the line the man asked if we wanted to be scared, or not scared. Looking down at the 5-year old boy hanging off my arm I decided "not scared" was probably the wiser choice. A small group behind us had two little 'uns with them, even younger than JE, so they wanted to come through and be "not scared" as well. The man said the little 'uns could come through and be "not scared" but the older girls (teenagers) needed to be scared, so their mom took the little 'uns in, with JE and I bringing up the rear.

The man led us through the twisting, turning, narrow corridors of the Haunted House, calling out "Not scary! No scaring, please! Not scary." It's amazing what you can do with a tarpaulin, numerous sheets of black plastic, a fog machine and fake cobwebs. At various points the Haunted House's narrow corridors opened up (ever so slightly) into small rooms whereupon there'd be either someone in a monster costume who'd wave and say hello, or some scary props, such as glowing skulls with red eyes.

JE got a little bit scared, and it was probably a little scarier than he was expecting, but as we went through I reminded him about Luigi in the Nintendo Gamecube game Luigi's Mansion. Although Luigi is scared he still enters a Haunted House and fights the ghosts inside to rescue Mario. Reminding JE of Luigi helped him to be brave, and before we knew it we had made it through the Haunted House and were out the other side.

When we got home and had put Amber down for the night, it came as no surprise to me when JE pulled Luigi's Mansion from the cupboard and asked me to play :)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Presenting...HERMES!!!

Because you requested it, the Capn delivers it.

And now...heeeeeeere's Hermes ! ! !


Here he is, hanging out next to his pool.

Remember, you can click on the photo to get up close and personal with Hermes, the Hermit crab ;)

*Update*
I got some even better shots of Hermes late last night but haven't had a chance to download them to my PC yet. I was surprised at how photogenic he was. Normally if you come near his tank he withdraws into his shell, but last night the camera flash was repeatedly going off just 12" to 18" from his tank, and he didn't care. Compared to his old shell that new one is huge; if he chooses to he can completely withdraw into it. It wasn't until I put in those two shells (you can see the second behind him in the background) and he discarded his old shell that I realized just how small the old shell was. I'm sure he's a lot more comfortable in his new shell.

Here's Hermes again; this is a really clear shot.
Click on the photo to get up close & personal ;)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The lady on the bus

There's a mother on my bus,
with a three year old child.
It's just gone six ten a.m.
Lady, where are you going this morning,
with your child still wrapped in a blanket?

I know the bus that you ride,
I know from whence you have came.
I know the time you left behind
your warm, safe house this morn.
Lady, where do you go at this time?

You get off the bus at my stop,
and I look back as I enter my office.
You cross the road and head east,
into territory that I dare not enter.
Not at this time of the morn.

Mother and child in a blanket,
it's too early for you to be out.
You should be home, where it's warm and it's safe.
Yet here you are, walking the streets.
Where do you go at this time?

Hermes the Hermit crab

We visited the Pet Store on Sunday to check out Tetras (to replace Mr. Piggy) but we'll need a small heater coz Tetras are tropical fish. The fish guy also recommended we wait a few days before dropping in some Tetras, and also do a 50% water replacement, stir up the gravel on the bottom of the tank, basically give the tank a chance to settle down. Ammonia and Nitrate levels were a little high, nothing off the charts, but high enough that he recommends a 50% water change which is extreme and would kill any fish if they were in the tank when I did that. The Tetras will be much prettier fish, plus we can get a small school of 6 or so of them for our 10-gallon tank.

We also picked up a couple of extra Hermit crab shells, for Hermes, our Hermit crab. No, not Herpes, Hermes.

One of the shells was a round, snail like shell, such as he already wears, but in a more natural "shell" color (his current shell is red). The other shell is a more pointed shell. Both are of a similar size and unpainted.

I popped the shells in a pot of boiling water the other night, then went upstairs and forgot all about them until I could smell the scum burning on the inside of the pot. I ran downstairs and sure enough the pot had boiled dry, but all around the inside of the pot was this brown scum which had come out from inside the shells. I boiled some more water, poured it in on top of the shells, then poured the whole thing into a bowl to cool. The next night I removed the shells from the water and dropped them into Hermes tank. Despite giving him fresh food, several hours later he was still under his log, although he looked like he was thinking of coming out in an hour or two, but maybe only if I stopped looking in at him.

This morning when I had breakfast I looked in on him, and he'd switched shells. He didn't go for the plainer version of his current shell; he went for the more streamlined, pointier shell.

He's looking pretty sharp in his new threads. As soon as I can, I'll get you a picture ;) Only problem is he is nocturnal. I know, I know. The Hermit crabs in the pet stores and malls run around in that huge tank all day, under that bright light. That's because they're running around trying to find shelter to go to sleep, because it's obviously daylight, there are predators around, and they need a safe place to sleep. Hermit crabs in stores and malls must live a very stressful life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sudoku

I have a new vice, it's called Sudoku.

You may remember these, or something similar to them, from your school days, called Magic Squares. Sometimes they were a simple 3x3 grid requiring you to insert the numbers 1 thru 9 such that each row and column added up to a predesignated amount (basic algebra stuff).

Sudoku is more logic based (not that math is not logical) but Sudoku asks you to insert the numbers 1 thru 9 in each row, each column, and in each of the nine 3x3 grids.

When I first came across this in the LA Times it took me a good couple of hours to work the puzzle out. Each day the time to solve the puzzle became shorter. Then I realized some basic techniques to help solve the puzzle, and this morning I solved today's puzzle in under half an hour.

The easiest way to work the puzzle out is to, quite obviously, eliminate impossible numbers for each row and/or column so that, as Sherlock Holmes is reported to have said, once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

An alternative means to solving these puzzles is to work out which number must go into a certain column, again by process of elimination. If you have two 3x3 grids with the same number in them, then you know by process of elimination which row or column in the third 3x3 grid (in a straight line) houses that particular number. If there is only one spare block in that row/column, it's obvious where that particular number must go. However, if there are two or three open blocks, then you must look to see if you can eliminate one or both of those superfluous blocks, thus eliminating the impossible, and arriving at the truth.

Solving Sudoku does not require any math-based skills, rather it requires logical thinking and deductive reasoning, and it's a good way to pass the time if you have nothing better to do.

"Improv Everywhere" strike again!

On May 21, 2005, U2 performed at Madison Square Gardens in New York City.

Half an hour before their concert, thanks to Improv Everywhere, U2 gave a 4-song rooftop appearance right across the road from The Garden.

I love this one. I wished I lived in New York City, or there was an Improv Everywhere chapter here in L.A. These guys are awesome.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Amber is one; Mr. Piggy is dead

So yesterday was my daughter's first birthday. We had a few friends and relatives over. I went out and got pizza. Liz made her world-famous li'l wieners in grape jelly & cocktail sauce (don't knock it, they're yummy). JE played with the other kids, including a game of hide & seek where him and another boy hid really well under one of the beds, and no-one could find them, because there is a divider under that bed which means you can only see one half of the floor underneath the bed. JE and is cousin fed Mr. Piggy, and fed him, and fed him, and by the time the party was winding up Mr. Piggy wasn't looking too good. A couple of the guests commented that he was sitting on the gravel at the bottom of the tank. Did I mention he was all alone after Mr. Whacko went belly up? Then someone mentioned about the kids feeding him, and I noticed flakes of food sitting in the bottom of the tank, and that was a sure sign something was wrong; Mr. Piggy never leaves food behind, and I do mean never. The kids must have given him a ton of food for him to not be able to eat it all.

JE & Amber spent the night with the in-laws. I was gonna bitch about the FIL but I figure he's our problem...although I will say what is up with people who love to dish it out but can't take it? Ok, so I guess I will bitch about the FIL. He went to try one of Liz's world-famous li'l wieners (you know the rest) and asked if they're spicy. Knowing he can't handle spicy food, I of course replied "oh yes, they are." He looks at me and says, "It's not nice to lie." Never mind that this is how he jokes, by lying to you, then when you get upset he will act all indignant and say "I was only joking." Nope, there is no "practice what you preach" with the FIL.

Anyway, the kids went to the in-laws for the evening, and sometime last night I went downstairs and saw Mr. Piggy lying upside down on the bottom of the tank. This morning, he was floating belly-up, so I scooped him out, bagged him, and tossed him in the trash.

I'm planning to get half a dozen or so Tetras, but to do that I need to get a heater, because Tetras like warmer water. Tetras are also smaller (like a maximum of 1.5" long) so I can put more of them in the tank, and they don't produce as much waste/ammonia/nitrates etc as Mr. Piggy would.

Having the day to ourselves today, Liz and I went and saw the Doom movie, with WWE's The Rock. It was not an Oscar winning movie, but I didn't expect it to be, and because I didn't have high expectations for it, I enjoyed it. Liz enjoyed it too, except for the wanker behind us who started talking to his buddy, and Liz told him to shut up (yeah, she said shut up). He obviously thought he was Stone Cold Steve Austin, because he says, "What?" Liz says, "You heard me." He says, "What?" Liz says, "Shut the f**k up!" (yeah, she said that too). The guy says, "What?" but I also hear his buddy saying to him, real quiet, "Dude, shut up," and he finally does, and we were able to enjoy the rest of the movie.

We had dim sum for lunch, or yum cha, depending on which part of China you come from (both are equally yummy), then later we joined Liz's parents for dinner and pigged out again. I am stuffed!

Good night, all.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

HEY, XINH!!!

Do NOT follow this link.
Don't say I didn't warn you ;)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Omar Shamshoon

I'm not sure how much credence to give to this story about Homer Simpson, I mean Omar Shamshoon and his family moving from Springfield, USA, to...er...Somewhereville, ME...that's Middle East.

Now apparently to make The Simpsons, I mean The Shamshoons a little more palatable to the nation of Islam, the producers of The Shamshoons have removed anything forbidden by the Koran, such as bacon, beer, and any other references that might be considered offensive.

Instead of chugging down Duff Beer like it's going out of fashion (which it is, the Koran forbids alcohol) Omar Shamshoon will guzzle down good old Arab Soda. Hot dogs will become Egyptian beef sausages, and donuts will become a popular Arab cookie called "kahk."

So, if Beer is verbotten, what about the Cheers-like scenes set in Moe's Tavern? Say goodbye to Moe's, because Somewhereville, ME has no place for it. Moe's has been written out of "The Shamshoons", along with any characters who are Jewish (Krusty the Clown), Hindu (Apu Nahasapeemapetilon) and Christian (Rev. Lovejoy and Flanders).

Man, and we thought we had it tough here with censorship.

So, has anyone else seen anything about this? Does the name of the new show "The Shamshoons" imply that this just might be a joke? After all, Matt Groening, The Simpson's creator, is famous for his sense of humor. Could this be a build-up to the Simpson's Annual Halloween Special?

Maybe the Wall Street Journal is in on the gag too.

If the story is legit, and it isn't just some huge publicity stunt, it's no surprise that The Shamshoons is not a hit in its highly edited "Islamic" form. I say the producers should have attempted to do a direct translation of The Simpsons and kept the series for what it is; a satirical show which takes a jab at everything that is wrong with American society. Now that kind of show is something the Nation of Islam would have appreciated.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Thought I'd share this...

The first two parts of this story, each told from Blanchard then Hollis' point of view, are Urban Legends of sorts. The Epilogue is my own addition.

John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Marine's uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station.

He was looking for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't.

She said he'd know her because she'd be the girl with the rose.

His interest in her had begun thirteen months before while browsing a second-hand book store. One book in particular had intrigued him, not with its words, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind. In the front of the book he discovered the previous owner's name, Miss Hollis Maynell, and with time and some effort he located her address, she lived up in New York City.

Blanchard wrote her a letter, introducing himself and inviting her to correspond, but the next day he was shipped overseas to fight for his country in World War II. When her reply caught up to him in France, he was both surprised and pleased that she had taken the chance and written back.

During the next year and a half, the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart and their romance bloomed. Several times Blanchard requested a photograph, but each time Hollis refused. She said that if he really cared, it shouldn't matter what she looked like.

When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting; 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York.

"You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel."

Now it was 7:00pm, and Blanchard was in the station, looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen.

He saw a young woman approach. Her figure was long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears, and her eyes were as blue as a clear sky. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive.

Such was her beauty that he started toward her, unaware that she wasn't wearing a rose.

As he moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, sailor?" she murmured.

Almost uncontrollably Blanchard made one step closer to her...and then he saw Hollis Maynell standing almost directly behind the girl.

While the young girl was just entering her twenties, Hollis Maynell was well into her thirties. Whereas the young lady's hair was light and blonde, Ms. Maynell's hair was light and greying. The contrast between the two was evident, right down to the rose on Ms. Maynell's lapel; a rose which Blanchard was now painfully aware that the young lady did not possess.

As their eyes met, Blanchard realized that Hollis had been watching him the entire time.

From the corner of this eye, he saw the girl in the green suit walk quickly away, and he felt as though he were being split in two. He was filled with the urge to follow the girl, yet that desire was matched by his longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned and upheld his own during his time at war.

And now she stood in front of him. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, and her brown eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle.

Blanchard gripped the worn, blue leather copy of the book that was to identify him to her. This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which he had been and must ever be grateful.

He squared his shoulders, saluted, and held out the book to the woman. "I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard,” he said, “and you must by Miss Maynell.” Even as he spoke the words, John felt choked by the bitterness of his disappointment. “I'm so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"

The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she asked me to wear this rose on my coat. She said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test."

Blanchard possessed just enough presence of mind to thank the lady, before he turned and set off in pursuit of the "love of his life".

- - - - -

"I can’t believe I’m doing this," I thought to myself while in the taxi, heading toward Union Station. I was going to meet John Blanchard for the first time, although truth be told, we already knew each other so well from our correspondence.

My interest in John first started when I received a letter from him, approximately four months after my husband has been killed in the war. Perhaps that led me to hope that in John's writings, I might find a new love.

John claimed to have found a book of mine; one that I had marked notes in. I honestly don't remember doing it, but I was willing to accept it as truth, because that is the kind of thing I'd do, so I wrote back.

Almost two months passed before I received John's reply.He had been called to fight in the war, and he implored me to keep writing. So we exchanged letters and during the next eighteen months we grew to know each other through the mail. I couldn't help but hope that a new romance was budding. Even my friends teased me about him.

About six months into our correspondence, John sent me a photograph of him and requested one in return. I said that if he really cared about me, it wouldn't matter what I looked like. Several times he requested a photograph and each time I refused. I told him that I wanted to look into his eyes the first time he saw my face. Finally the war ended and John Blanchard returned home.

We arranged a meeting in Union Station at 7:00pm and since I hadn’t given him a picture, I told John that he would recognize me by the rose in my lapel. As the taxi pulled up to the curb, I placed the rose in my lapel, paid the driver, and left the cab. My first impulse was to turn around, right there and then, and forget this crazy thing. But I pressed on.

It was just a few minutes past 7:00 when I first saw John.

I recognized him instantly; if the uniform wasn't a giveaway, then the book he was carrying was enough. He was a handsome man, clean-cut and fresh from his tour of duty. He reminded me of my late husband, and a tear formed in my eye. But he had not yet seen me.

As I began to approach him, a remarkably beautiful girl dressed in an elegant emerald suit passed in front of him.

John looked at her and the desire was obvious in his face. As she walked past he took a step in her direction, and then he saw me; a 37 year-old woman, a few years past her prime. The beauty of the young lady only accented the effects of time on my own appearance.

John looked longingly at the young girl as she left the station before he finally approached me, and I was more aware of my homely appearance than ever before.

"I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard," he said, taking my hand and shaking it, "and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"

He tried. He really tried to hide the disappointment in his voice, but I could hear it only too well. All of my fears had been realized, and I recognized that it would never work.

Holding back my tears, I replied, "I don't know what this is about, son, but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she asked me to wear this rose on my coat. She said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test."

That was all the convincing he needed. He thanked me and walked away. After three steps he started to run.

It was only then that I called out to him. "John, wait!"

But it was too late.

I turned around and walked away, crying.

Looking back on it, I sometimes fantasize that I was the young lady, or that John wasn't so quick to believe that I was. Or that I handled things a little differently.

I wonder where John is; I wonder whether he found the young lady, and what he did when he found out that she wasn't me.

Sometimes, I sit and look at the stars, and I wonder what might have been.

- - - - -

I stumbled across both of those at one of my favorite Waste of Time sites, Snopes.com, better known as the Urban Legends site.

While not an Urban Legend per se, this story is one that has been passed around through many an email box (and Snopes is handy for checking those emailed stories from your friends *before* you forward them as fact), but more likely than not, if you received this story, it was without the telling of the lady's side.

Luminati, you're quite right. The story does become depressing with the addition of Hollis' side of the tale.

As someone who initially corresponded with my love via the internet (although I did receive a photo before our first physical meeting) I can somewhat relate to this story. I'm not saying I'm disappointed with my wife's appearance, far from it in fact (nudge nudge, wink wink), but what I see in this story is a woman who was (briefly, and tragically) willing to give up companionship for herself, so that the man she loved might have the chance to be happy...or at least to release him from any obligation to which he felt beholden.

What I believe is that had Blanchard been willing to give Hollis a chance, and it appears as though he may have been willing to do that until Hollis released him, that Blanchard would have come to look beyond Hollis' less than perfect countenance and he would have fallen completely in love with the woman with whom he had corresponded.

Alas, it was not to be. Hollis made a decision that she rued for the rest of her life, and so to, perhaps, did Blanchard, once he caught up to his angel in green and realized that she was not his soulmate after all, and that he'd actually failed the final test.

- - - - -

EPILGOUE

Hollis sat at the small scarred, wooden table in her cosy kitchen in her one bedroom apartment. There wasn't a lot of room in the apartment, but Hollis wasn't someone who needed much room. Her two children from her first marriage were grown with children of their own, and her second husband had passed away almost ten years ago now.

She sat quietly, sipping her cup of tea. Although she'd favored coffee in the past, even a single cup now left her with heartburn for the rest of the day, and sometimes even into the next. The Sunday paper was open in front of her, but Hollis wasn't reading it. With her hands clasped gently around the warm cup, Hollis stared out the kitchen window into the tiny backyard where a cherry tree, lit by the afternoon sun, was fighting to find its niche in the suburban jungle surrounding it.

The chimes of her doorbell broke her reverie of yesteryear, and as the notes died away there came a knock at her front door.

"Coming," Hollis called out, as she slowly climbed to her feet and made her way to the front of the apartment. Although it was just a short distance from the kitchen to the front door, the passing of the years had slowed Hollis down so she called out once more, just in case her unknown visitor hadn't heard her the first time. "Hold on, I'm coming."

Peering through the spyhole, Hollis saw an elderly gentleman with greying hair. Something about the man's appearance spoke to Hollis and she sensed that there was no danger here. A few weeks ago, Mrs. Jenkins, the widower from three doors down, had been been beaten and robbed for opening her door to the wrong person, but as Hollis looked out at the man standing on her porch she couldn't help but feel she knew him from somewhere.

As the man reached out to once more knock on the door he looked up at the spyhole, and Hollis looked into his eyes, and her heart skipped a beat and she took a step back in shock.

Her hands trembling, she fumbled with the security bolt for several seconds before she finally managed to slide it across, then she unlocked the door and pulled it wide open to stare at the aging soldier in front of her.

His uniform was old and faded and it hung a little in some places, but it was still very neatly pressed and as the old soldier snapped to attention it seemed as though he and the uniform were made for each other.

Then he smiled at Hollis and she went weak at the knees and she had to lean even more heavily on the door for support.

"I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard," he said, offering her his right hand, (a very old, blue leather-bound book was clasped in his left) "and you must be Miss Maynell. I'm so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Shooting is hard work

Today I hit the range with a good friend of mine who served with the U.S.M.C. during the Desert Storm conflict. I got to shoot (more than just) the five numbered guns in the above picture.You can click on the photo to view a slightly larger version of it.

Here's a picture of me with the .50 caliber (the BFG at the back of the above photo).



I also shot several skeet with both a Winchester and a Mossberg 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. I impressed my friends when I nailed 5 of 5 skeet with the Mossberg, which seemed the easier of the guns to shoot. The Winchester has a tighter choke which means the pellets didn't spread as much, so you needed to be dead-on accurate with it. I was the only one who could actually hit a skeet with the Winchester :)

Not pictured are several .357 Magnums and a .44 Magnum (all revolvers), all of which were actually fairly pleasant to shoot...except for the .44 Magnum which kicked like a mule. It was not the most brutal handgun to shoot, that honor belonged to a friend's Beretta Tomcat, a tiny semi-automatic that could fit in the hip pocket of a pair of jeans and almost go undetected. Because it was so small it kicked a lot, even though it only fired a .32ACP round.

I guess with the adrenaline flowing, I didn't care about bruising, but now my right shoulder is starting to feel a little tender, and for some reason my whole body aches as if I spent the day working instead of playing and having fun, and boy, did I have fun :)

Sight/s of the day was the deer which wandered across the back of the range. In the morning, while we were shooting the handguns, and in the early afternoon while we were blazing away with the rifles. Now keep in mind that my friend and two other shooters had their .50 caliber rifles out and firing, and several people were blowing skeet out of the sky, so there was a lot of noise going on, and yet these deer wandered within 400 yards of the shooters. No, we didn't shoot them, it's not deer season, and as soon as a Lane Marshall noticed the deer, a "Cease Fire! Deer on the Range" announcement was made, so we had to stop shooting or risk a $10,000 fine for shooting dear out of season :P

All in all, we had a great day. Thanks go to my buddy for providing the day's toys, and to my wife for letting me out to play :)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Aaagh, you got me!

Liz tagged me, I think, so here goes.

Band of choice: Men At Work.

Are you male or female: Man With Two Hearts
Describe yourself: Down Under.
How do some people feel about you: Be good, Johnny.
How do you feel about yourself: Helpless Automaton
Describe what you want to be: Down By The Sea.
Describe how you live: Upstairs In My House.
Describe how you love: Settle Down, My Boy.
Share a few words of wisdom: No Sign Of Yesterday.

I think I'll tag Mogs :)

A missed opportunity

I was thinking quick, but not quick enough.I was out walking with a coworker and we were waiting to cross with the lights at a busy downtown intersection. We got the green light and started out into the cross walk, but watching the cross traffic as one always does in Los Angeles, and probably in many other parts of the country (if not the world), and a good thing too.

A young lady, in her brand new car, still with dealer plates, rolled across the pedestrian's cross walk and stopped, just on the other side, halfway out into the intersection. She came within a couple of feet of hitting me, and would have done so if I hadn't been paying more attention. She then foolishly engaged Reverse, as if the pedestrians she'd almost run down were going to let her back her car up out of the intersection.

Not a chance. Not one.

Everyone walked around behind her car, and she was forced to sit out in the intersection, blocking one lane, which had a big old bus in it. Once the light finally changed to green for her, despite her having a 12 foot lead on everyone else, she was the slowest car through the intersection. I guess her little incident shook her up somewhat. I guess almost running down half a dozen pedestrians probably would shake someone up a bit.

Afterwards, I realized I'd missed my opportunity. She wasn't going that fast. She stopped just the other side of the pedestrian crossing, with the back of her car blocking part of the crossing. Had I really been on my toes, I could have ignored her and stepped in front of her car, and got hit. I would have thrown my weight upwards and backwards and landed across her hood (bonnet for you non-US readers) with probably nothing more serious than a couple of bruises. But I wasn't thinking quite that clearly, or opportunistically, or right now I'd be lying on an Ambulance stretcher giving my statement to a police officer. With me would have been my coworker, a government employee, not as above reproach (in the eyes of the law) as a Police Officer, but still a more than credible witness. I would have also ensured the bus driver did not leave the scene, and thus acquired a second government employee as my witness.

Of course knowing my luck, after she hit me, the girl would probably have floored it right into the intersection in a foolish attempt to flee the scene (coz that's just my luck) and she would have either rammed another car, or I would have gone flying and bouncing down the road and really hurt myself.

Maybe it's for the better that I didn't seize the moment and launch an unethical operation, which could have netted a small fortune.

Liz, don't be too mad. Yeah, maybe I passed up an easy opportunity to score a few hundred thousand dollars, but the potential for me to have been seriously hurt if I did jump in front of her is fairly high, not to mention, what if she was one of those thousands of drivers who don't have insurance.

Yah, there's a reason why honest people don't usually participate in dishonest activities.

Friday, October 07, 2005

From the depths of my memory

I was young, not sure how young, but maybe 6 to 8 years old at most.

We'd been to a birthday party at a younger cousin's house. My aunt had five kids, and each new kid supplanted those who came before, until she had R, when she stopped...or maybe she had her tubes tied. I don't know, I don't care, she had no more after R. He was the baby of the family, and he was spoiled rotten. He could do nothing wrong and he always got whatever he wanted.

The birthday party was R's birthday party. In keeping with the natural order of things, that when kids leave birthday parties they take a balloon with them, I had taken a balloon with me. I was in my seat in the back of the car, holding my balloon, when R decided he wanted my balloon, and my aunt had to get it for him. It didn't matter that there were probably more balloons inside the house, or that this one had been given to me, R. wanted my balloon, and my Auny had no choice but to get it for him. I remember her running down the path towards our car. My window was down because my seat was closest to the house and we were all in the car saying goodbye.

My aunt is not an attractive woman. In fact she's a downright scary looking woman. When I replay the scene of her bearing down upon the car, one word comes to mind. An appropriate word, I believe.

Harpy.

I remember screaming and complete chaos ensuing. I think I remember my older sister telling my dad to drive away. I remember my aunt leaning in the window of the car, tugging at my balloon, trying to pull it from my arms. I remember her fingers pressing at the sides of the balloon and it seems to me that she'd decided if she couldn't get it for R, then I wouldn't have it either. I can see her hands and her fingernails as I cast my mind back across the years, but I don't see hands, I see claws, I see talons.

I don't remember what happened. I guess my dad couldn't drive off with my aunt hanging half in and half out of the car. Maybe the balloon burst. Maybe my aunt gave up. Maybe she got the balloon away from me. I don't remember any of that. I just remember this screeching woman bearing down on the car, and her hands clawing at my balloon. I remember the fear and panic I felt at this moment.

We all had traumatic times in our childhood. This is one of mine.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The weekend in review

Saturday was a real rush job (except for a relaxed few hours in the afternoon, which only contributed to the rushing continuing into the late afternoon.

I dropped Liz at the hairdressers Saturday morning, then took JE to the Huntington Arboretum for a Kids Art Class. Liz had said it was at 10:45, but when we got there everyone tried to tell me the only class was for 12 noon. Now it's not like my wife to be wrong. I'm not saying she's always right (she has a horrible sense of direction and could get lost on a one-way street), but when it comes to organizational stuff she usually knows exactly what's going on and when. So when the girls at the front entrance to the Arboretum told me the only class was scheduled for 12, not 10:45, I was a little skeptical. The girls passed me off onto the Members Office, apparently a separate entity from the Front Entrance, the two areas never know what each other is doing. On this they both agreed, there was no 10:45 class. Feeling a little confused that my wife had insisted the class was at this time JE and I went outside and looked at the peacocks for a few minutes. Then I noticed a man who looked suspiciously like an Art Teacher going into the Gift Shop; a third building at the entrance to the Arboretum (the tub of pens & pencils, and the art folio kind of gave it away that he might be an Art Teacher). JE and I headed into the Gift Shop and found no sign of the "Art Teacher". We looked around for a minute and JE decided he wanted one of the Peacock feathers they sell for $1.50

I bought a feather for him and made small talk with the cashier about the art class, and sure enough, it had been the Art Teacher who'd passed through. The cashier directed me out on exit door (an exit door from the Arboretum, but the way we were going it was an entrance into the Arboretum) so we followed his directions and discovered the 10:45am Art Class, just like the wife had said. Apparently the 12 noon class had been overbooked, so the Art Teacher had set up a 10:45 class at short notice, hence no one else knew about it.

I left JE at his class and raced back to the hairdressers where the stylist was applying the finishing touches to Liz's hair, turning her into an even more ravishingly beautiful woman, and here you were thinking that was just not humanly possible :)

We then raced back to the Arboretum and arrived just as the class was winding up. Dropping the kids at the in-laws it was off to Santa Anita where Liz wanted to get her nails done (we had a wedding reception that evening, wedding was six months ago, reception was tonight). After lunch Liz went to the nail salon while I headed upstairs to Dave & Busters. Around 3pm Liz called me to say she was finished. I suspect she'd been shopping too, but I'd been shooting bad guys and collecting tickets for JE to turn in next time for a prize so I wasn't complaining.

We got home around 3:30 and Liz checked the Invite to discover the reception started at 4pm. Fortunately it was in Pasadena, not too far away, so after a very quick shower and shave (me) and dressing and make-up (both of us...except for the make-up) we were off. We made it to the reception shortly after 4pm, but no one is ever on time for these things. We hooked up with a couple of people from work (the girl who got married was a girl from work), had a little bit to drink (not too much, just enough, 4 or 5 Coronas ;) then headed into the dining room for the dinner.

What a great night. Good food, good friends, just enough alcohol, great conversation. 'Twas an awesome night.

Sunday morning I had a mild hangover, but nothing to worry about. I'd just finished my bowl of cereal when Liz got up and was dismayed to see that I'd eaten already. Apparently she'd wanted to have breakfast at some coffee shop she'd read about on someone's blog. Well the coffee shop is in Hollywood so it took a little while to get there, but not too long, about 20 minutes. Neither the food nor the service were anything to write home about. The coffee shop is located under a hotel. It's more of a Diner than a coffee shop, and not a very good Diner at that. It appears to service both the hotel's guests and neighborhood locals, not that that's a bad thing. I don't mind eating in Diners, I work in downtown, I've eaten in some places that you'd drive past with the doors locked and windows rolled up, but this was not a good Diner.

I expect top quality service in a Diner. I'm not talking 5-Star service, but Diners have legendary waiters. These are the waiters who are supposed to get customers seated, take their orders, get them their food, get them coffee refills right when they're needed most, then have the check sitting on the table as the customer mops up that last bit of egg yolk with the last bit of toast or biscuit. The service at this Diner was nothing like that. We seated ourselves and had our waiter tell us he'd be with us in a minute. He then brought us a glass of water (each) and the menus, then we never saw him for 10 minutes. Ok, that's not true. He walked right by our table many times carrying food for other customers but never stopped to take our order. I was seriously thinking of getting up and leaving when he finally stopped to take our order. We ordered our meals and two coffees; one coffee arrived. Liz & I both said we wanted two coffees. The waiter returned with a second coffee. Liz pointed out that she did not have a napkin or cutlery. He had to come back with those. These are little things that a good waiter should be looking out for. I downed my first cup of coffee in no time at all, then had to wait forever for a refill. Low points for that effort as well. Then the bill arrived. $20, for two breakfasts & coffees, at a diner in a run down neighborhood in a town that has a far greater reputation than what it deserves, but then nobody in "Hollywood" actually lives in Hollywood.

We left Hollywood for a better part of town, namely "The Grove". The difference is just a few blocks, ok, it's a little bit more than "a few blocks" but it's not too many more. Our breakfast Diner and The Grove are on the same Thomas Guide page, but they couldn't be in two more different areas if they tried. Ok, they could, stop making me contradict myself.

I think this was my third time at The Grove (maybe it's been more, trips have been few and far between) but if it is the third time, it means every time I've been to The Grove I've seen a star. The first time we saw one of the many Wayans brother (should Wayans be apostrophized? Is there even such a word as apostrophized?) and Nicholas Brendon (Buffy's Xander) on another trip. This time out we ran into Tom Lenk, (Buffy's Andrew) one of the evil trio who helps to make Buffy's last season particularly difficult for her. He was standing in the checkout behind us at The Gap. Man, is he short. No, really, he is. He's only 5'6". Danny Strong, who played Jonathan Levinson on Buffy, is only 5'2". No wonder Adam Busch, who played Warren (the third of the evil trio), who's not that tall at 5'8", seemed to tower over Jonathan.

After The Grove, Liz was in the mood for Vietnamese food; there's a Vietnamese noodle house we like to go to close to home but we hadn't been there for a while. I was still full from breakfast (and a milk shake I got at The Grove) so I talked Liz into going home where I finished relaying the floor boards that I'd had to pull up when we had the water leak all those months ago. I'd special ordered a couple of boxes of replacement boards a few months ago but when they arrived they were the wrong shade, so I had to return them and reorder new ones, after making sure we had the correct shade. It took a lot of work, cutting, shaping, fitting, etc, but I finally got the planks replaced, including laying wood down on the floor of entryway closet because I'd left it carpeted when I did the job the first time (much to Liz's chagrin).

After all that work I was ready to eat, so off we went to the Vietnamese restaurant where we ate dinner for cheaper than we'd had breakfast. In my opinion, the food and service was far superior, too. To go with our meal we each got a Vietnamese Iced Coffee, French-style, with condensed milk. OMG is that stuff gooooooood! :)

If we'd just drank water the meal would have been even cheaper still, but you can't have Vietnamese food without Vietnamese Iced Coffee. It just wouldn't be right.

The weekend was almost over by that time so home we went to chill out and relax, or relax until the in-laws dropped the kiddies back home, and then things were back to normal :)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Friday Five

It's all about computers!

1. What kind of computer do you have? (Mac, iBook, Dell, etc.)
A generic PC. It's got an Athlon XP 2600+ CPU, 1Gig of PC3200 DDR Ram, a Radeon 9600 256Mb video card, a DVD drive and a CD R/W drive. The only let down is my HDD. It's got a total of no more than 40Gig, of which I have just 6Gig free.

2. How old is it? Are you happy with it?
It's about 1 year old. After upgrading the Video Card and the Ram, I'm fairly happy with it. A bigger Hard Drive would be nice, or a dual-drive setup.

3. How many computers are in your household? (at home if you are away at school)
3 desktops and 1 laptop (plus all the bits in storage that Liz doesn't know about).

4. What are your favorite games/time wasters on your computer?
Absolutely no points for anyone who can guess (do you even need to guess) that my FTW is the life draining World of Warcraft.

5. If money were no object, what kind of computer would you like to have?

That would be this baby.