Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ghostbusters!

Last night I took several photographs of the ghost in our house. They came out clear as anything. It was obvious she was a ghost because she was floating around the top of our ceiling. My first thought was "I've got to post these on my Blog!"

Then I woke up!

I can't believe that I took photos of a dream ghost and all I could think of was posting the pictures on my Blog! HA! :D

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bus Drivers

I love Public Transport, but I'm quickly growing to hate the Bus Drivers. When the Bus Drivers Union went on strike a couple of years ago and totally disrupted my commute, picketing & shutting down a local Hub, I actually didn't mind too much. For the couple of months that they were On Strike I got to ride for free, because the other privately owned bus line (which had a bus I could also ride into downtown) accepted October's Monthly Pass right through into January. Then, because I wanted the Hub reopened, and because it was Christmas, I had an idea to help settle the dispute, so I approached a group of picketers with my suggestion, which wouldn't have worked because of the way the MTA operated. I won't bore you with details of my plan, suffice to say that at that point in time I was keen to help the Drivers get back to work. Now, after witnessing how arrogant some of the drivers can be, I won't be as inclined in the future to help them out if presented with the opportunity.

The Driver I rode home with today is one such jerk. This guy will not wait for you if you're not at the Stop when he pulls up, unlike the prick (did I just say that?) who I talked about the other week who won't stop even if you are waiting.

A few weeks ago I ran to catch the bus driven by today's Driver, and I got to the stop, which was at the other side of a signal controlled Pedestrian crossing, just seconds after the last passenger boarded. Now I thought I was good because Pedestrians were in the Crosswalk, so the Driver faced a flashing yellow, which in Los Angeles means stop and yield to all Peds in the Crosswalk. But just as I got to the Stop and waved to the Driver, he pulled away from the curb, veered sharply across two lanes, and accelerated his bus through the Crosswalk narrowly missing a couple of Peds.

So it wasn't really a surprise to me today when a guy running to catch my Bus, being driven by the same Driver, was unsuccesful. As the Driver pulled away from the curb the guy, running next to the bus, began smacking the window. He even followed the bus out into the street smacking the window the whole time. Needless to say the Driver didn't stop, and I couldn't blame him. The MTA ran a campaign a while back (and you'll still see some posters up in some buses) about not running to catch the buses, so the Driver is only following a Company directive.

Then, at the next intersection, a guy standing in the middle of the road (divided thoroughfare with him standing on the concrete median strip) waved to our bus as we turned left in front of him (we had a left-turn signal). There's a Stop immediately after our left-turn and the Ped in the middle of the road probably figured the Driver would wait for him; some Drivers will, they have for me in the past. No prizes for guessing that today's Driver pulled up at the Stop, and when nobody got on or off, promptly drove away with the Ped watching thinking "Prick!" or something equally rude.

I'm sure the Drivers have to deal with rude, arrogant passengers as well, so that most likely affects their attitude, and then their attitude affects us and our day, and it's a vicious circle.

I've now reminded myself of the lady at JE's school who I've dubbed the Parking Nazi, kind of like Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. Like the Bus Drivers, this is a lady with a position of authority (or who at least wields some power) who's let her position go to her head. Like the Bus Drivers, in her defense, I'm sure she deals with rude, arrogant parents every single day as she tries to do her job, with the end result being that this woman is now just a bitch, or a Parking Nazi, (which I'll shorten to PN for short and to avoid offending people)

The PN's job is to ensure that at both the beginning and end of the school day the kids are dropped off and picked up as fast, efficiently, and as safe as possible, and that cars remain on school grounds for as little time as possible.

My first run in with the PN was one afternoon when my wife and I arrived a little early to pick up JE. Liz pulled into the school's Driveway and because the signs on the road state to do so, she pulled all the way forward to the end of the drive. It being a rather warm afternoon I got Amber out of the car and walked towards JE's classroom. The PN came storming up and was almost yelling when she told me that I couldn't leave the car. Misunderstanding her statement, thinking she meant I couldn't even get out of the car, I told her I wasn't going to sit in the hot car with my baby daughter for 10 minutes. So the PN started on about how the cars couldn't be left unattended, etc. When I told her my wife was still in the car she shut up and went prowling for more vulnerable prey.

Yesterday I dropped Liz and JE at school because JE had a Field Trip and Liz was going along to help out, as some parents do. I had to take A. for her 18-month checkup (which went great, thanks for asking) so I needed the car for the morning. At 11:25am, as I left the doctor's office and headed towards the school, I called Liz to tell her I was on my way. Liz told me not to hurry, they wouldn't be back until noon, so I stopped and got some lunch for A. then continued on to the school, where I pulled foward, past several other cars, and parked at the very front of the Driveway. I got A. and her lunch out, and went and sat on the seats near JE's classroom. Around noon a School Bus pulled up, but JE & Liz didn't get out; it wasn't their bus. Already late, a lot of the parents were now really freaking out that their kids didn't get off this Bus.

It was about then that the PN came around, asking who were the owners of the four cars parked in the Driveway. She didn't ask me but spoke to a group of Chinese ladies nearby (most of the kids in JE's school are Chinese, so their parents are naturally Chinese as well ;). I overheard her asking if they owned any of the cars, and her tone was not pleasant at all. I'm sure dealing with arrogant Chinese parents (I'm allowed to say that, my wife and in-laws are all Chinese) has forced the PN to adopt her "Screw You, I'm Right!" demeanor. Not to generalize but while the Chinese may not have coined the phrase "Easier to apologize afterwards than ask permission first" they sure seem to have adopted it as their personal motto. Damn, I'm really sticking it to a lot of people in this Rant, aren't I :D

So the PN comes around, all swaggering and arrogant, demanding to know who owns the cars which are sitting empty in the Driveway (and blocking the Buses), and although nobody speaks up, one by one the cars are driven away and parked elsewhere (including that of yours truly, heh heh heh ;). Except for two cars, naturally the most inconveniently parked two, which remain there for another half an hour, making it very hard for the driver of Liz & JE's bus when it finally arrives almost an hour behind schedule to pull up to the curb. A guy gets off the bus and, just like the PN, starts yelling, demanding to know who owns the car blocking bus. Although the owner must be there among the parents, naturally nobody owns up. Liz and I left before we got to see who the owners of the cars were. I'm sure they got chewed out when they finally went to get in their car, assuming the teachers stuck around to find out who they were.

Well, that was a little long, I hope it was as amusing for you to read as it was cathartic for me to write :D

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Public Service Announcement

This is a public service announcement to Parents everywhere.
Stay away from Kids Island.

The wife had thought about holding our son's birthday party there but it seemed a little expensive. I figured everywhere is going to be expensive but she sent me that link above so I checked it out, and she's right...although she's not right enough (forget I said that).

They're not only expensive, they're a rip off.

A 15-kid party costs $385. Simple math tells you that's $25/kid, although each additional kid is just $15.

So what do you get for your $25/kid?

You get access to Kids Island for 2 hours (well I would hope so, this is a party after all).
You get a bouncy castle for the kids to bounce around in for 2 hours.
You get a host to keep an eye on the kids bouncing around for 2 hours.
You get a gift bag...for the birthday child.
Gift bags for the other kids cost $3.50, each, but you better spring for the deluxe gift bag at $6/kid if you don't want to look cheap. 15 kids is another $50 or so for gift bags.
You do get face painting or temporary tattoos, but tips are appreciated (on top of your $385) coz Kids Island obviously don't pay their staff enough.
You also get party decorations (for your party, go figure) and 15 party balloons, and invitations, and paper plates, cups, napkins, etc.
You get the use of their serving utensils, pizza cutter, cake knife, servings spoons, etc.
The selection of party food is quite extensive though, just make sure you pick it up from the store of your choice before hand, because you don't get any food for your $385.

So for $385 you get a bouncy castle for 2 hours, face painting and tattoos, and a host. Make sure you tip the host, too, because that $385 does not include a gratuity.

Last year (or maybe the year before) Liz and I arranged a get together for a bunch of her relatives at our local Dave & Busters. I seem to recall it costing us around $500. That included food & drinks for everyone, D&B Funcards for the kids...and I could be wrong but I thought that also included a tip.

Am I being cheap? Am I expecting too much for my $385? They're charging $25/kid and NOT feeding them! I'm sorry but if I pay you almost $400 to host a party for my kid and his friends I expect you to feed them as well. I can understand having to provide the cake myself, but at $25/head I expect a meal as well. I'm pretty sure I can do Chuck E. Cheese for less than that, and at least they know how to do a kid's party right.

Monday, April 24, 2006

So we joined the gym yesterday, and afterwards Liz commented about the ladies showers in the ladies locker rooms not affording much privacy. Now this is a funny thing I've noticed (not personally...ok, sometimes witnessed first hand) about one big difference between men and women, specifically locker rooms/change rooms.

Pretty much everywhere I've gone (the country is irrelevant) if you're a guy taking a shower after gym (or where ever) you're going to be showering next to another guy (or you could be) because next to you on the wall will be another shower head.

Women, on the other hand (except in prison) have private shower stalls, in some cases they even have private changing rooms.

Is this related to mens' bathrooms forcing guys to stand next to each other while peeing? Are men just more comfortable with being naked in each other's presence? Or is this something more sinister? Is this actually a plot to keep women down?

Think about it for a second. There's this image of an ideal woman stuffed down our throats at every turn, so women buy all these beauty products, undergo plastic surgery, spend a small fortune on clothes, etc, all in the pursuit of endeavoring to look like the "perfect woman".

Now what if women knew that was a lie? What if they woke up to the fact that there is not only no perfect woman, but that they themselves are in fact...NORMAL!!!

Imagine a woman standing naked in a room with several other naked women...uh oh...cold shower time...ok, I'm over that...so you have these women, showering after gym, or where ever, and they're all standing next to each other showering just like guys do, and of course they notice, like guys do, that there is no perfect body. That all of these other women are really not much different from them. They all have a little cellulite, or slightly chunky thighs, or butts that are not tiny and practically non-existant. Translation, they all look like real women.

What's going to happen?

The fashion world will crash and burn. Makeup companies will go bankrupt. Clothing companies will go out of business. Ok, maybe that's over reacting a little...but isn't that how women tend to react when they look in a mirror?

I leave you with these funny pictures, which are not quite that funny when you realize how accurate they are. Now this is not to say men live in a fantasy world, because both pictures are extreme examples, but I believe they are still fairly accurate depictions of the way men and women see themselves. Sad but true.

Eights years, like it was a day

Tomorrow Liz and I will have been married eight years. I must be doing something right ;)

Yesterday we had an anniversary brunch at the Queen Mary, just the two of us. I tried to talk Liz into doing the Ghost Tour afterwards but she wouldn't have anything to do with that. She decided to join a gym instead. So we stopped at a local 24-Hour Fitness, got the tour, and were talking with the guy about what packages Liz would be interested, when the guy asked if I was interested in joining as well. One thing led to another, waiving of associating fees if I signed up, etc...and the next thing I know I've joined the gym as well.

We decided Liz could hit the local gym where we'd signed up. She'll either drop both kids with her parents after picking JE up from school then go to the gym, or alternatively the gym has a daycare center where for $1/hr you can leave your kids while you work out.

There is a 24-Hour Fitness Gym just a couple of blocks from my office, and because our membership gives us access to all 24-Hour Fitness Gyms we figured I could hit that gym before work.

Because my knees are messed up from various stupid things I did in my youth (and in my not-so-youth) I figured I'd work out on the zero impact ski-machine. I could burn calories and lose weight without constantly jarring my knees.

So this morning I exercised for the first time in a while and boy are my legs sore.

With the elevators in my building "Out Of Order" I'm glad I didn't go to the gym before work or I would never have made it up those thirteen flights of stairs to my office.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why I hate "competitive" children's sports...

because someone always takes things too damn far.

I just read an article in Sports Illustrated about a Tee-ball little league team. Tee-ball is like baseball but for younger kids, who hit a stationary baseball off a waist high tee instead of facing down a pitcher.

On one Tee-ball team in particular was an 8-year old autistic boy, who I'll call Freddy (not his real name, and if you like stories with happy endings stop reading here) and Freddy's team had made it into the Tee-ball playoffs for their league.

Tee-ball has a participatory rule which states that every player who shows up must be allowed to bat in at least three innings.

Freddy's coach was a little concerned about this rule and Freddy causing his team to lose the playoffs, so he asked everyone on the team not to tell Freddy about the upcoming game;

Freddy's mom found out and turned up anyway.

Coach couldn't ask Freddy's mom to keep him out of the game, that wouldn't be right, but it was apparently ok for Coach to pair up Freddy with Reggy (not his real name), one of the hardest pitchers on their team, for a warm-up session immediately before the game.

Coach was also ok with offering Reggie $25 to take Freddy out, and I don't mean for pizza and a movie.

Reggie's first pitch hit the 8-year old Freddy in the groin, sending him in tears to his mother. When Freddy's mom encouraged him to get back in and keep playing, Coach approached Reggie and told him to hit Freddy even harder.

Reggie's next pitch hit Freddy in the side of the head, drawing blood. Coach then approached Freddy and told him the balls must be after him that day and perhaps he should sit out the game. Freddy refused to play and his team won.

Coach never paid Reggie his $25 and claims he never made such an offer. Reggie's father says he did.

So you have a little league Coach willing to bribe one of his young players to seriously injure a slightly disabled team mate just to win a game.

Now I said this story doesn't have a happy ending, but that's only because the court case against Coach hasn't yet been decided. Charged with aggravated assault, conspiring to cause injury, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and a few other things, Coach insists he's done nothing wrong and his attorney claims he's being vilified.

And we have people like this acting as role models to our children. Then again the Major League players, Coach's role models, take steroids and other illegal performance enhancement drugs just to win games, and then they lie about it, even in court. MLB should offer Coach a contract, it seems he'd fit right in.

I found an update on ESPN's website.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cats

Yesterday we made it to church just in time to drop the kids in Sunday School and catch the last 3/4 of the service, then it was off to Hollywood to meet up with Xinh and see the musical play, Cats, at The Pantages.

Immediately following Church we grabbed lunch (or breakfast) for Liz who hadn't eaten before church, and then we put L.A.'s quasi-Public Transport system to the test, by riding the Gold Line from Pasadena into Union Station in downtown L.A., then transferring to the Red Line and out to Hollywood. The Gold Line took almost 40 minutes to get us to Union Station and it was around 12:20pm by the time we got to the Red Line's platform. A few minutes later the Red Line pulled in and it was our train (the Red Line has two Final Destinations) so we boarded and a few minutes later it pulled back out and we were off.

We made it with about 15 minutes to spare, but Liz needed a Bio Break before we took our seats, and of course there was a line. Now Theatres usually close their doors right on time and refuse to allow late comers admittance, but Liz decided to risk it anyway. She lucked out, did what she needed to, and we took our seats with a few minutes to spare. The show started, and for the next 25 minutes people were shown to their seats by the ushers, which we though was very rude and disruptive to both audience and cast. Whatever happened to 1pm meaning 1pm? It's generally understood among theatre goers that if you're late to a show, you wait in the lobby until the interval, but apparently not anymore. There was even a note in the Playbill that Management reserves the right to seat latecomers if they so choose. What a cop out.

Sight of the day would have to be the demon who boarded the Red Line a couple of stops before we got off. He had the wings, the horns, a big red scythe...a little chainmail cod piece. He had the lot. Very impressive. Sorry, we didn't have our camera so no pictures, coz he was cool.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

So far

This morning we joined my mate, his wife and daughter for an Easter Egg Hunt at a local park, sponsored by the city. We got there a few minutes late and as JE and I walked into the area where the Hunt was located we passed several kids & their parents leaving with baskets FULL of eggs. No surprise when we met up with Spyfor & Co. (who had arrived early) and found out the Hunt was over barely 30 seconds after it had started.

Spyfor said the organizers had announced that it was ok for parents to accompany their kiddies into the Egg Hunt Area, but the parents that went in decided to interpret this to mean "Parents, grab as many eggs as you can." Spyfor's little girl managed to secure 4 eggs, but she gave 1 to a little girl who hadn't got any, then she gave JE another when we met up with them.

We decided to visit the play area/jungle gym in the park, which oddly enough was full of kids, none of who wanted to share the one-kiddie only equipment, like swings, etc. Spyfor's wife is interested in enrolling their daughter in the tennis class at the park so we went and talked to the people in the office about tennis classes, watched a bit of the kids playing tennis, then decided to go back to Spyfor's place for refreshments.

Nibbles was corn chips, a delightfully wickedly spicy salsa, and beer and wine.

While we ate and drank and chatted away and enjoyed each others' company, JE and Spyfor's little girl spent their afternoon alternating between bouncing on the mini-trampoline and eating/drinking chocolate milk & cheetos. No, nobody threw up. Yeah, surprised me, too :D

Tomorrow we hopefully leave our little ones with the in-laws and head to Hollywood to see Cats with Xinh. I say hopefully because the FIL has gone to the hospital with abdominal pains and suspected appendicitis. Let's hope he's ok, and not just so we don't waste our Cats tickets.

* EDIT *

Turns out the FIL has nasty kidney stones, so it's not appendicitis, so we'll still be dropping the little ones with the MIL and catching Cats this afternoon. Yay! For both the FIL not having appendicitis and for going to see Cats, I'm a kitty cat, and I dance, dance, dance, and I dance, dance, dance.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Local Gas Prices

Head on over here, enter your Zip Code, and you'll get a map of your area showing local gas station locations. Beneath the map will be a table showing the gas prices at each location.

These are the prices as reported from the night before, and stations tend to change their prices at 3am or 4am, so they may not be exactly the same when you head out this morning but they should still be close.

Very useful for finding the cheapest gas in your area.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fucking Arrogant Bus Driver

This morning we (couple of fellow commuters and I) flag down the second bus of our commute, the very same bus we flag down almost every morning for the last leg (7 blocks) of our ride to work. We're above the actual bus stop (with covered shelter) and there are no buses so the bus drives past us (and past the bus shelter) and pulls up to a stop at the corner. We arrive at the door as several passengers are getting off, so I do the right thing and stand next to the door and let the passengers get off first.

As soon as the last passenger gets off I move towards the door. I reach for the handrail inside the bus and am about to step off the curb WHEN THE DOOR SLAMS CLOSED, ALMOST CATCHING MY HAND, AND FUCKING BUS DRIVER REVS THE HELL OUT OF THE ENGINE AS HE RUNS THE YELLOW LIGHT leaving us, metaphorically, in a cloud of dust.

I kid you not, as the door closed I had to pull my hand back, and the doors still brushed my knuckles.

I hate arrogant bus drivers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Owned!!!

This cute little fellow is also an Australian. He's called a Huntsman, and just like me, he's good at turning up in the strangest places.



















Liz and I attended a friend's wedding when we were in Australia several years ago and on our drive back home late at night I saw a shadow run across the window of my car, and I knew immediately that it was one of these little guys. So I reached down and made sure my window was wound up, then reached behind me and made sure the back window was wound up, too.

Liz asked what I was doing. I told her there was a Huntsman spider on the car and asked her to make sure her windows were wound up as well. Liz had never seen a Hunstman before, had no idea what they were (other than a spider, as I'd just said) but she humored me and made sure her side windows were wound up, too.

Then she grabbed my leg and I almost ran the car off the road.

Liz thought it was hilarious and said the spider must have come off by now, after all, we're doing 65mph.

With perfect timing the Huntsman chose that moment to run across Liz's window.

Liz didn't think that was quite so funny.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Japanese Raft Game

This is a puzzle/game where you need to get everyone across to the other side, obeying these simple rules.
Only the father, mother, and policeman can operate the raft.
The mother cannot be left with any of the sons IF the father is not present.
The father cannot be left with any of the daughters IF the mother is not present.
The criminal cannot be left with any family member IF the policeman is not present.

When the instruction page loads, click the Big Blue Circle in the bottom right corner of the page to start the game.

Now go and have fun.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ganked from Xinh

Ruprick

People Iced:Twenty-five
Car Bombs Planted:Twenty-five
Favorite WeaponShank
Arms Broken:One
Eyes Gouged:Fifteen
Tongues Cut Off:Eight
Biggest Enemy:Prickly Pear

Get Your HITMAN Name



That I've planted twenty-five car bombs, and iced twenty-five people, would seem to imply that my favorite weapon is not the shank but the car bomb...hmmm?

Monday, April 03, 2006

A trip to Ikea

Liz has been complaining all week (& longer) about her computer desk. The problem is she has a computer desk (one of those little study desk things you get for $50 in Ikea or Target) but she uses her computer to do practically everything, so surrounding her computer are a ton of papers for various things she's working on. Or at least they should be on her desk but now that A. is walking she can reach Liz's desk and pull everything down, which she does, and Liz pulls her hair out.

So middle of the afternoon yesterday Liz decides she wants to go to Ikea to look at desks, and we find this monstrosity:



for just $130, which is a pretty good price for that much desk. The thing is 48"x48" and stands almost 5'6" tall. The top of the desk, the work area, is all one piece of wood, well one fabricated piece, it's not solid lumber. That meant the box it came in was 50"x50". That meant it wouldn't fit in our little car. We could have had it delivered for $50 but Liz didn't want to pay for delivery, plus it meant she'd need to coordinate times with the delivery people, then tip them when they drop the desk off, etc., so no delivery.

Fortunately Ikea have cord, copious amounts of cord, in their parking lots, so I tied this large 50"x50" box up until it looked like a huge cheaply wrapped Christmas present. All of that cord around the box meant I had something to tie more cord to when I tied the box to the top of our car. With the windows down cord went through the back seat, then Liz got in the car and closed her door and I finished tying the box down, with cord through the front door windows. Then I slid into the car a la Bo & Luke Duke and we were on our way home.

We got home around 5pm, cleared out the living room, moved Liz's old desk into the corner where JE's computer goes, hooked his computer back up, then commenced putting Liz's desk together. Around 10 o'clock that night I'd finally finished putting it together, had Liz's computer hooked up, the cable modem, router, and printer hooked up, everything working, and that was it for my Sunday. I crawled into bed exhausted and ready for sleep, and rolled over, and tossed, and turned, and I think I finally got to sleep around midnight.

This morning (the second morning of Daylight Saving Time) I hit the button for my alarm and turned it off. At 4:50 when snooze hadn't gone off I realized what I'd done and thought, "Screw it, I'm sleeping in for a while. I'll be late for work but I'll just work back tonight."

At 5:40 JE came into our room, waking me up. I had a quick shower & shave, caught the 6:10 bus and made it to work just 30 minutes late. So I got almost an extra hour in bed and only have to work back 30 minutes. That's a trade I'll gladly accept :D

To top it off, this is Spring Break Week, and I'm taking Wednesday & Thursday off (Friday is my RDO, so I'm already almost halfway through this week :D

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Paying it forward

Yesterday I had an audit up in Lancaster, a 150-mile round trip from downtown Los Angeles. I checked out a car and had stopped at a light just a few blocks from work when a lady in a van waved at me. Not in a "Hi, how are you?" wave, but an "I need to talk to you" wave.

Whenever I'm in a City car, with City seal on the door, I always feel compelled to help people if they wave me down, so I wound down my window and the lady informs me that my trunk is open. I wonder how she can have seen that from where she is but I look down, and sure enough, the ol' barn door is wide open.

I'm kidding :D

I thank the lady, the light turns green and I pull over to the side of the road, and sure enough, the ol' trunk is open a little bit. Now it may not have been a problem on my drive, but who knows. At some point during the next 150 miles the trunk could have popped all the way open and then where would I have been? Halfway between LA & BFE, in the rain, with an open trunk, that's where.

So today at the Post Office a chinese lady approaches me in the parking lot and says "massage-ee?"

Wait, that wasn't this morning, that was in our hotel in Shanghai a few years ago.

Nah, this morning the lady is looking for a certain street, and I happen to have a Thomas Guide (map book to L.A. County) in the car, so I find her street (a few blocks away) and help her on her merry way.

Life is made better by random acts of kindness.