Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not going to be a good weekend

Liz's uncle passed away this morning. When I saw the text message from Liz my first reaction was to snap my phone closed. I don't know why. I'm not extremely close to her uncle, and the signs were very clear that he was fading and fast, but it was still shocking somehow. I snapped my phone closed as if that would delete the text message, but having already seen it deletion is irrelevant. Liz's uncle was in his 90s and until the last week or so was still living with his wife and their son in his son's condo. He was admitted to hospital, briefly moved into an assisted living center for a few days, and then was transferred back to the hospital where he spent his last few days.

By comparison my father spent a few days in hospital then was sent home where he died about five days later, in his own bed, with my mother and my sister by his side. I'd rather go out like that. I'd hate to be lying in a hospital bed, knowing I was dying, seeing my family for a few hours each day and when I said goodbye to them each night have no idea if that would be the last time we'd see each other.

Here, it was probably better for Uncle to pass away in the hospital. Likewise in Australia, except in Dad's case a palliative care nurse had just visited less than 30 minutes prior to him passing away, and because of that the police didn't need to be involved, there was no need for an autopsy, etc.

I suspect that sometime this weekend we'll be attending Uncle's funeral. It's sad because another aunty and a cousin are flying in from Chicago and New Jersey tonight. Like me with Dad, they also never got to say goodbye to Uncle.

The blessings we can count are that Uncle lasted this long, so even though his presence was missed at Thanksgiving dinner we were still able to celebrate. On a personal, somewhat selfish level, I'm glad that this year's family Christmas get-together (traditionally held on Christmas Eve) was changed from dinner to breakfast. With Christmas Eve being a Monday I have to work, so I won't be attending this year's get-together, meaning while the rest of the family has to contend with the hole left behind by Uncle, I can sit at my desk, bury myself in my work, and pretend that all is still right with the world. It's not that Uncle's death affects me so much, it's that I'd rather not have to witness the effect it's having on everyone else, especially Aunty. Ignorance is bliss, and this is one weekend I'll be glad to get behind me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

PSA: Facebook, Beacon, & Invasion of Privacy

If you and your loved one are on Facebook, and you shopped online for Christmas this year, chances are your loved one (& all of your Facebook Friends) may know what you bought for them, thanks to Facebook's Newsfeed & a tracking utility called Beacon.

But the good news is if you use Firefox, there's a workaround, as found at this site and reproduced here...

1. Download and Install the BlockSite plugin for Firefox (if you don't already have it).
3. Restart Firefox then select ‘Add-ons’ from the Tools menu.
4. Click the ‘Options’ button on the BlockSite extension
5. Click the ‘Add’ button
6. Enter http://** into the input box
7. Click ‘OK’, then ‘OK’ again, and you're good to go.

If you already use Adblock or Adblock Plus you don't need to install the BlockSite plugin, just add the filter ** to your block list.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tap's Fish House & Brewery

Today Liz and I made our way to Brea for brunch at Tap's Fish House & Brewery. I was surprised when I got there to discover they offer not just the traditional Champagne Brunch, but a Beer Brunch as well. You all know what a Champagne Brunch is, well, a Beer Brunch is pretty much the same, just you get to sample two 16oz glasses of one (or two) of Tap's fine microbrews. Per our server's suggestion I ordered the Cream Ale, a light-bodied beer which was very easy on the palate, and disappeared very quickly when I made myself a cheese plate from the various cheeses available. The surprising taste was the bleu cheese which had a very strong, distinct flavor; it practically exploded in my mouth, and exploded out of Liz's when I gave her a small taste. No sir, she didn't like it. She also didn't like the Pumpkin Ale, my second beer of choice. I don't know how to describe the flavor of the Pumpkin Beer, which Tap's describes as "a medium-bodied ale made with 100 pounds of fresh pumpkins and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice." They don't get the 100 pounds of pumpkin into each glass, but each glass sure does pack a lot of flavor. I ended up stuffing myself so much (the beer didn't help) that I told Liz we weren't going to the Brea Mall straight away, so we took a stroll around the shopping center across from Tap's instead, and that helped settle everything :)

Then we went to the Brea Mall, and that's pretty much the last time I set foot in a mall until at least the second week in January. Having worked in two malls for two Christmases, they're the last place I want to be between Thanksgiving and New Years. Not enough parking spots, too many people, not enough tables in the food I'm doing my part to reduce the crush by staying out of them. The problem is Liz saw a Toys-R-Us catalog with a "Buy 2, get 1 Free" special on Wii games, so I think we're heading to our local Toys-R-Us tomorrow night. Monday night at a very small open-air mall, it shouldn't be too bad.

The problem will be buying three Wii games and not letting JE play them until the weekend, or Thanksgiving at least. Actually the problem will be buying three Wii games, period. We already have Mario Galaxy, Zelda:Twilight Princess, and Guitar Hero3. There's not too much else out there (that I know of) that's worth spending $50 to $60 on.

*edit* except I just found out that Link's Crossbow Training AND Ghost Squad both come out tomorrow, and both games can be picked up for around $50+tax. Bargain! One more game and Link's Crossbow Training (cheapest game at $20) is free!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Would you watch this?

It seems to me that if shows like "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila" can make it on the air, a show like I'm about to describe should also be hugely popular.

It's a variant of American Idol, but the contestants have to play Guitar Hero 3.

Wait! Wait! Don't change the channel just yet!

When you play GH3 the object of the game is to beat each song, but you don't have to play perfectly to beat a song. In the game when you beat a song you get a score based on how many notes you hit in a row, and when you used (if you used) your Star Power. You're also shown a percentage score, based on how many notes you hit. On "GH3: The Showdown" we'll multiply your score by your percentage to give you a Song Score. So the people who hit the most notes and use Star Power at the right time will get the highest Song Score.

Just like in American Idol there will also be Judges, who will be judging your stage presence. See it's not enough for you to hit every note and rack up a huge Song Score while standing there looking like a zombie; part of being a Guitar Hero is looking like a Guitar Hero. So the Judges will score you based on how well you can rock while playing, then your Song Score will be multiplied by your Judges' score to give you a total score.

The show will be filmed before a live audience who can dance and rock along to the music because there won't be any seats; yep, it's standing room only, folks. Because our Guitar Hero has to face the audience but also needs to see the notes he has to play, there will be a large screen TV at the front of the stage, facing him; but there will also be a projection screen on the back of the stage showing the audience what the Hero is seeing, thus they can see just how well the Hero is playing and egg him on when he's playing really well.

At the end of each night the two Heroes with the lowest score have to battle each other using Guitar Hero's very own in-game battle mode, with the loser being eliminated.

The final episode will have the last three Heroes battling it out for the title of Ultimate Guitar Hero. They'll each play a couple of songs with the lowest scoring Hero being automatically eliminated, then the remaining two Heroes will face off in a Best of Three Battle. The Ultimate Guitar Hero would get two customized GH3 guitars, their choice of a PS3, XBox360, or Wii console, plus a copy of GH3 for the same, along with a 60" Sony HD-TV and a home theater/surround sound system. The runner-up could get one customized GH3 guitar, choice of console w/ GH3, and a 46" Sony HD-TV. As far as final prizes go, it may not be a million dollars like you'd get for winning Survivor, but the people most likely to compete for the title of Ultimate Guitar Hero wouldn't be complaining, and the prizes could also be donated by your potential sponsors, being Sony, Microsoft and/or Nintendo, thus keeping your production costs down waaay low.

So if you're in The Industry or know somebody in The Industry and you like my idea, please feel free to steal it and plug it to somebody who can make it happen. I'd love to see a show like this, and if it knocked out A Shot at Love, that would just be gravy :)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How much is your time really worth?

I make approx. $32/hr at work. So for every two minutes that pass by while I'm sitting here, I earn $1. In a 40-hour week I earn approx. $1,280, but there are actually 168 hours in a week, so over the entire week of seven 24-hour days I earn $7.63 per hour or 13c every minute. Awake or asleep, working, working out, or just vegging out in front of the computer, I am accruing 13c for every minute that goes by.

Say it takes me one hour to perform a chore, like mowing my lawn; that's $7.63 of my time. If I pay someone to mow my lawn for me I will naturally compensate them more for their expertise, but if I can do the same job myself...for a lot cheaper, aren't I better off doing it myself? Hmmm, am I?

Let's say the Lawnmower Man charges me $15 to cut my lawn, which is a task I can do myself in one hour. In real terms I make $7.63 during that hour, so the $15 I pay the Lawnmower Man is offset by the $7.63 I make during that hour, meaning it really only costs me $7.37 to have the Lawnmower Man do the job, $7.37 is almost exactly one hour of my time anyway. So I can either spend a real hour cutting my lawn myself, or I can pay the Lawnmower Man to do it, and either way the real cost is the same (or close to). Interesting, no?

How much is your time worth?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Weather Watch Alert

This just in! And yes, it's a screengrab from an actual weather report which can be seen here until it gets taken down.

I guess 4 to 6-feet swells, with the occasional 8-footer, could be described as sweet in some circles. The minor coastal, low area flooding? Not so sweet.

Halloween 2007

As promised, here are a couple of pics from my office's Halloween party. Enjoy :)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Mediterranean

After bumming around most of Saturday we decided to do dinner at the Mediterranean Garden Grill in Monrovia. I'd got take-out lunch from there before, and the food was pretty good, and somehow Liz and I were thinking of the same place so that was where we went. We really should have known better, at 7:30 on a Saturday night, but this is Monrovia we're talking about; the place is practically dead after 5pm on a Friday, except as we drove up Myrtle the old town still showed signs of life. The movie theater had people milling around outside, cafes and restaurants were jumping, and even some of Monrovia's small-town speciality stores had their doors open.When we turned on to Foothill and approached the Mediterranean we didn't realize it was the happening place to be in Monrovia on a Saturday night. We pulled into the parking lot, drove around the back of the building, and exited the other side. The lot was full (then again, it's a small lot) so we ended up parking on a side-street. Back to the restaurant we were told it would be about a 15 minute wait. Not too bad for a Saturday night, even in Monrovia.

The thing that got to us, and what really got to the couple ahead of us, was the apparently flagrant display of nepotism going on. A customer would walk up and the owner would greet him in a typical European fashion with kisses on the cheeks, followed by a very friendly conversation in Armenian or Greek or some language other than English. And shortly afterwards this guest and his party would be seated, while we waited outside. The couple in front of us eventually gave up and stormed off and I hardly blamed them, although it meant our wait was shortened so I was also happy to see them go ;)

It was close to a 45-minute wait before we were seated. Really, we should have known better. It's a Saturday night and we were there at 7:30 looking for table. Almost every restaurant worth eating at is going to have a long wait on a Saturday night. Next time we're either going at 6pm, or waiting until 8:30 or later. There also wasn't really any nepotism, just a lot of camaraderie among countrymen, and an owner wanting to try to get everyone seated. So he was seating parties of four ahead of couples, because he knew a slightly larger party that was occupying several tables pushed together would be done eating soon, so he could seat the party of four now, and in 10 minutes when the larger party leaves he can seat the three couples. It all makes perfect sense, except when you're waiting for a table :P

So our food finally arrived and we'd ordered the Dinner Combo for Two, which was the same dish the couple next to us had ordered, being two younger guys (in their 20s) with their toddler son (ok, he was one of their sons and probably the other's nephew...maybe, and even if it's something else there's nothing wrong with that ;). They ate their fill then called for boxes and ended up taking a lot of food home. Liz and I devoured pretty much everything between us, then finished up the evening with a serving of Ashta and a Baklava chased down with an Armenian Coffee, which comes served in a thimble not unlike an Espresso (which, contrary to popular belief, does not need to be drunk in one hit like a shot of liquor, although it must still be drunk within a couple of minutes of brewing or its individual components break down and it loses its flavor).

Just as we were leaving a couple of Hookahs were delivered to the party a couple of tables over from us. The interesting thing about the Mediterranean Garden Grill is its quasi-outdoor setting. Although you're surrounded by four walls and a ceiling, the windows are kept wide open and I think the owner has somehow got it classified as an outdoor restaurant. I'm assuming it's legal for diners to smoke cigarettes, cigars, or Hookahs, which can be rented from the restaurant for an after-dinner smoke, or it wouldn't be happening, right ;)

That night we finally got to enjoy an extra hour in bed as Daylight Saving Time officially ended, but we were still up somewhat early because we needed to go to LAX to pick up Liz's aunty, who was flying in from Chicago. We dropped her luggage at the in-laws' house then met up with the in-laws themselves (& our kids) at a local Shanghainese-style restaurant for lunch. I've been to this restaurant a couple of times now, and it drives me nuts, because their A/C fan is not balanced properly. It doesn't seem to affect anyone else but me, but the imbalance makes it oscillate at a particularly annoying rate which ends up giving me a headache. Last time we sat at the table in the center of the restaurant, and it was free when we walked in, and the waitress tried to show us to that table as well, instead I said I wanted to sit at the other empty table against the window. The vibrating fan was still audible, but not as intrusive as at the other table, so I was able to concentrate more on enjoying the delicious food, of which there was plenty. My dish of choice was Orange Beef, which came with several chili peppers that I managed to pick out. I thought I got them all but Liz's Aunty still found one. Lucky she had a glass of water, although milk or beer is better for putting out a chili fire. The in-laws had brought milk for the kids, but the kids had drunk it all :D

JE went home with Aunty and the in-laws, while we took Amber home for her nap. Liz decided she wanted a nap, too, and after a bit of fuss & bother and threatening to put her in her own bed, Amber finally fell asleep beside her Mommy. The house is so much more peaceful when they're all asleep :)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Waiting for Kimmel

The more correct title would be "Waiting for Rimes" as it was LeAnn Rimes holding up the show, but Waiting for Rimes doesn't have the same ring to it as Waiting for Kimmel.

Around 3:50 we headed over to the El Monte Bus Station where we caught a 484 bus to Union Station, followed by a ride on a Red Line Train out to Hollywood & Highland and the El Capitan Theatre. The eTicket told us the doors would open at 5:30, so we were in line and waiting around 5pm. Sometime between then and 5:30pm a staff member told us the egotistical diva known as LeAnn Rimes had arrived late (don't ask me how when she drives a Dodge Viper) and she wanted to practice her songs so we were forced to wait some more. It was almost 6:30pm when the doors finally opened and the line started to move, and it was 7pm by the time we'd been seated and Jimmy made his first appearance. I must admit, for a 1-hour show, I was seriously impressed that Jimmy managed to get the job done, interviews completed, etc, in about one hour. Nice work, Jimmy.

With the show over shortly after 8pm, and with the El Capitan being right across the road from the Hollywood & Highland station we managed to catch the 8:22 back into downtown, where we waited for our 484, and waited, and waited, in the cold, at the entrance to the Freeway, wearing not much more than jeans and light, short-sleeved shirts. For me, an ex-pat Aussie and former Victorian, it was nice, cool but nice. For Liz, a long time southern California resident, it was particularly chilly. We saved a few dollars on parking and wear & tear on our car by taking public transport, which cost us $6.25 total (for Liz, I already have my Metro pass for getting to work & back). Tickets for Jimmy's show were free, just in high demand, so we were lucky that Liz was able to get them.

We finished off the night with a late supper at the Red Ant, a local Chinese restaurant (somewhere on Valley Blvd. in Temple City) where you get a large portion of quite good food for a fairly decent price. For $20+change we were both fed to bursting, with food left over. All in all, it was a rather good evening.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween 2007

Just like in years gone by our section once again led the way in dressing up (or down) for Halloween.

This time around we settled on a theme of Angels and Devils. I decided to dress in a manner similar to a devil/demon you might see on reruns of Angel, which meant wearing dark jeans with Doc Marten boots, my Punisher t-shirt, and my very macho leather jacket. When we bought a set of horns at the local Party/Costume store I realized my hair was currently too short (not to mention too sparse) to conceal the cord used to hold the horns on, so I didn't have a haircut for close to a month prior to Halloween. I also grew a goatee (again).

And here's a picture of me (in costume) with my kids.

One of the girls at work dressed up as a classic angel in white, another as a classic devil in red. My supervisor bought the same devil-in-disguise kit as I, so he had the exact same horns, but he wore a black outfit with a cape (I've never trusted capes since The Incredibles). One girl wore a half & half devil-angel outfit with a halo held up by horns, and red & white wings (one of each color), while another was a "fallen angel" dressed all in black, complete with a bandage on her knee where she fell :D Another supervisor was also dressed in a black angel outfit, but we decided she was a Dark Angel, rather than a fallen angel. Finally the last two supervisors coordinated with one wearing a New Jersey Devils' sweater, and the other wearing an Anaheim Angels' sweater. Brilliant!

I don't have a picture of all of us, yet, but when I do I'll put it up, too :)