Sunday, August 30, 2009

And the Aquarist Returns, Too

Two Christmases ago Karen got me a 55-gallon fish tank.  This was the Christmas before we adopted Zoe.  I’m sure what she had in mind was fulfilling my need for a pet.  She was aware that I had kept fish for most of my life but hadn’t in a couple of years.

When I was really into it my favorite fish to keep were sailfin mollies.  The males all have these long, tall dorsal fins that kind of look like sails.  They come in gold, green, silver, and black strains, and I kept them all.  They are Mexican in sailfin molly   In the wild they are found in limestone caves where the ocean meets the rivers.  As such their ideal environment is slightly warmer than most tropical fish, hard, alkaline water that’s slightly salty.  I catered to their needs.  I added extra sea salt to their tank, kept the temperature up, and even threw in bags of crushed coral to maintain the alkalinity.  Thankfully, most tap water here in the Bay Area is hard and alkaline anyway.

But this time around I just couldn’t get into it.  Got myself a few guppies and platies.  I didn’t pay any attention to them and naturally they died.  I just didn’t care.  I don’t know why.  I just wasn’t into them.

The tank sat idle for months.  I didn’t want to put that much work into fish keeping anymore.  Then it hit me.  Goldfish!  I’ll just throw a few goldfish in there.  No special requirements.  No salt.  Not even a heater is needed.  They’re cold water fish. I refilled the tank.  Let it cycle for weeks.  Finally I went down to my local Petco and bought 4 fancy goldfish.  Fantails to be exact.  Two died within days.

Fantail Goldfish

A few days ago I went to PetSmart to pick up a few more.  I didn’t want to put too many in.  One rule I intended to follow about goldfish is not to keep too many together.  They’re messy and produce too much ammonia.  Also, colder water holds less oxygen.  I also wanted to keep the tank fantails only.  As you can see they’re not streamlined at all.  The shape of their bodies and fins prevent them from being fast swimmers.  Keeping a faster swimming fish with them would mean losing out on food.

I was helped by a very knowledgeable person named Tina.  She told me a few things I was completely unaware of.  As mid-water eaters it’s very important that they be fed that way.  Eating flakes from the surface of the water is a particular danger for them.  If they end up gulping any air it could lead to air bubbles in their swim bladders which is almost always fatal.  If you look at their mouths you’ll see that it’s not upturned like a guppy or downturned like a catfish.  Guppies mouths are made for eating from the surface of the water while a catfish’s mouth is made for bottom feeding.  No, all goldfishes have mouths that are straight forward.  Tina recommended soaking the flakes before introducing them to the fish.

Tina also stressed the importance of having animal and vegetable supplements.  She recommended giving them peas once a week with the skin removed.  Maybe a little sliver of cooked zucchini.  She also recommended brine shrimp be rotated into their diet occasionally.

They must also not be overcrowded.  As a rule of them they should be given about 10 gallons EACH.  Therefore, I will not be adding any more to the five I now have.  I might add a snail or two to consume the uneaten food on the floor of the tank.

If kept happy and healthy all goldfish can be very long lived.  Fantails can live 15-20 years under the right conditions.  There’s no way they’ll ever replace the love and affection my dogs give me, but there’s no denying the peace, calm, and serenity they bring just watching them swim happily in their decorated tank.

A Note on the Passing of Ted Kennedy

Senator Edward M. “Teddy” Kennedy died last week.  For me, it was a sad occasion.  Although many will choose to remember him for the Chappaquiddick incident I have chosen to remember the man for all the good work he has done in his service to this country as a US senator.  He chose to represent the underrepresented.  Over his career ted kennedyhe had help to pass legislation that raised minimum wages, protected the rights of the mentally ill and the handicapped, migrant laborers and union labor, civil rights, was a key figure in ending the war in Northern Ireland,  the list goes on.

He was the patriarch of the Kennedy clan and had that responsibility thrust upon him at the tender age of 36 when his brother Bobby was assassinated.  I imagine that if a heaven exists and that his brothers Jack and Bobby are there they must have been very pleased with how he carried forth the Kennedy legacy.

Amongst his most famous quotes was, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”  Powerful words, indeed, but my favorite was the final lines of the eulogy he gave at his brother Bobby’s funeral, “Some men see things as they are and say why.  I dream of things that never were and say why not.”

Farewell, Senator Kennedy.  The world will miss you, America will miss you, and I will miss you.

Maria Shriver and Governor Schwarzenegger

This has been a particularly difficult time for California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver.  Just two weeks prior to losing her Uncle Teddy her mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver died.  My thoughts and sympathies go out to her, Governor Schwarzenegger, and their family.

And by the way, I must mention despite being a “lame duck” governor Governor Schwarzenegger hasn’t stopped trying to do the right thing for the state.  Last week The Governator ordered state surpluses be sold off at auction.  He had the foresight to autograph a few items.  I have no doubt that those items were worth a great deal more.  The auction raised more than a million dollars that will benefit state coffers.arnoldand_maria

On general principle I shouldn’t like Arnold because he’s a Republican, but I do.  For the most part he has avoided partisan politics.  He has put his film career aside, no small sacrifice.  And he has always tried to do right by California.  He may be “just an in-law” and he belongs to the wrong political party but his sacrifice and sense of duty to public service has made him a worthy member of the Kennedy legacy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Return of the Sports Geek

Anyone who’s known me for a while know that I have been a sports geek since I was a little kid, long, long before anyone had ever coined that term.  When I first discovered baseball stats and understood what they were I was completely fascinated with those numbers.

Then my cousin Gary introduced me to the next element on the road to sports geekdomhood, sports gaming.  This was ages before EA Sports, video games, or personal computers.  No, these were board games.  Basketball, baseball, football, golf, Gary had them all.  And these weren’t the kind of games that had flippers, spinners, or balls that tested your reflexes.  These were simulations that had player cards with dice, action cards, and result charts.  These were the kind of games that were intended for people who took their sports gaming seriously.

My mom got me started with a few titles of my own.  The first was Avalon Hill’s Statis-Pro Basketball.  The game included player cards for every player of all 26 teams (yes, there were only 26 teams in the NBA at the time).  I was in heaven.  I played game after game.  I wore those cards down to paper rags.  Part of playing the game properly was having to record each players stats.  You had to keep track to reasonably emulate each players’ playing time.  A light went on.  Stats!  I had stats of my own now!

Of course, I couldn’t just throw my stat sheets in the trash.  I had to keep them and tabulate them and record them.  Ultimately, this is why I believe I’m good in math.  I kept and calculated those numbers by hand.  Before too long I could tell you things like 2/7=.286 off the top of my head without even thinking about it.  It was tedious and time consuming but it was a labor of love, and boy, did I love it.

It turns out I wasn’t alone in my love of sports gaming.  Avalon Hill (sadly, no longer in existence) had their own quarterly magazine devoted to their own line of sports games.  I read an article written by someone who was reporting on his results from a league he had put together using one of their baseball titles.  His league had six teams, all fictional, playing a 50 game season.  The teams consisted of players he had drafted from a pool of all major leaguers.  They were all-star teams playing against each other in an all-star league.  I HAD to do something like this myself!  And an obsession was born.

My own efforts included my NAFL football league, NABL baseball league, and the NABA, my basketball league.  The “NA” always stood for “North American”.  For some reason my leagues always have to include at least one Canadian team.  However, as a young and foolish teenager I couldn’t fathom the work involved in keeping all those stats.  I never completed any one season.  All of my leagues ended up being abandoned no more than halfway completed.

At 19 I decided to give an all-star basketball league another try.  The NABA consisted of exactly six teams playing a 30 game schedule playing each game on my old, tattered Statis-Pro Basketball board game, keeping all stats by hand.  It was a lot of work and although it took over a year to finish, I actually completed my entire season, playoffs, finals, and all.

I was proud of my work but felt it would be more meaningful if I could establish continuity.  I was able to complete a second season under the same parameters.  I was satisfied with myself but was questioning the value of doing so much work.

By then I had my first IBM PC clone and discovered APBA computer basketball.  The program was also a simulation, not an arcade game.  I could still run my all-star league and best of all it kept stats.  No more pencils with worn erasers for me.  No more hours being bent over my coffee table with score sheets and cheap calculators.  Running my league was now a breeze.

The NABA enjoyed a six-season run that ended about 15 years ago when I eventually grew bored and lost interest.  In those six season the league enjoyed regular rookie drafts and expanded three times, eventually ending with 12 teams, double the number of its humble start.

I haven’t mentioned hockey yet.  Yes, there was an NAHL, but about a third of the way through my inaugural season I came to the conclusion that the program I was using just wasn’t producing satisfactory results and called it to a halt.

Since then I haven’t bothered much with games like this but they’ve always held a special place in my heart.  They’re a dying breed, too.  With EA Sports offering video games with photorealistic graphics people just aren’t interested in text-based sports gaming any more.  Games like the ones I enjoyed so much are few and far between.

Fortunately, there are a few old-school, hardcore lovers of text-based sports games like me out there.  This one in particular has inspired me to revive my efforts and carry on once more.

Quest Hockey Simulation is the singular effort of Mr. Joe Gucciardo of Howard Beach, NY.  As a rooter of underdogs I had to give this one-man endeavor a try.  I downloaded the demo and found it very impressive.  I’ve discovered that the program isn’t set up to do draft leagues but can be done with a little work.

What the hell?  Why not give it a go?  Joe’s only charging $17 for the full version of the game.  Why not show an independent programmer and fellow sports geek a little support?

Preparations are now being made for the NAHL’s revival.  This will be an eight team league with two four-team divisions playing a 40-game season.  I’ll be creating a website where I’ll be posting the results of my nerdy efforts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Post Script to my July 4 ramble

There is one more name to add my list of people that I feel embody the spirit of the American Dream.  His recent death was overshadowed by the passing of Michael Jackson.  It’s TV commercial spokesperson Billy Mays.  You know who I’m talking about, “HI, THIS IS BILLY MAYS FOR OXY-CLEAN…”, the bearded guy with the blue shirt that always talked REALLY LOUD.

He had a TV show on the Discovery Channel called “Pitch Men”.  On this program different inventors would bring their ideas to Billy and his partner.  If they decided it was a product they’d believe in they’d produce the commercial themselves, usually with Billy as the spokesperson.  In one episode I watched as they helped a man sell a bi-directional, hand-held circular saw.  At the end of the episode they’d sold over one million units.

What embodies the American Spirit better than an inventor, a person that envisions a product or an idea that makes everyone’s life easier and makes themselves rich in the process?  Billy Mays helped those people realize those dreams.  That’s what made Billy Mays a great facilitator of the American Spirit, the American Dream. 

There aren’t enough Americans like him.  Billy Mays, you will be missed.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, America!


This weekend the United States of America turns 233 years old.  On this occasion my thoughts turn to the ideal of the American Dream.  To me, the definition of the American Dream is the idyllic image of a house with a white picket fence with a dog and raising 2.5 kids, and having the opportunity to be a success at anything you aspire to.  There are many people that embody the spirit of the American Dream.  These people come to mind.

Cesar Millan, otherwise known as The Nation Geographic Channel’s The Dog Whisperer, a Mexican immigrant who entered the United States as an illegal like many others with nothing.  He found a passion, stuck with it, and grew his success to a point where he’s been a guest on Oprah, got his own TV show, has written many books, and now has his own signature line of dog supplies sold at what is probably the country’s biggest chain of pet stores, Petco. 

The man that does yard work at my mom’s house, Martin.  He is and will probably always be an illegal alien Mexican immigrant.  Like many tens of thousands like him, he’ll stand on a corner at the crack of dawn waiting for someone to choose him as a day laborer.  He hustles his butt off, doing any odd job that pays.  He has to stash away a large reserve of cash because at any given moment he could be caught by immigration and be deported to Mexico.  He has to pay thousands of dollars to the “coyotes” that smuggle him back to the States.  Despite these obstacles he’s a co-owner of the house he lives in, is raising a family, and is undoubtedly making a better life for his children.

My late cousin, Tony.  Tony was originally from Bolivia and was married to my cousin Yolanda.  Tony returned to Bolivia to bring back his daughter Isabel.  When she first got here as a little girl Isabel didn’t speak a word of English.  Now, she’s grown woman, serves in the Navy, there’s not a trace of a Spanish accent when she speaks.  Even years after his passing, Tony’s memory still represents the fulfillment of the American Dream.

Our governor, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, is himself an immigrant.  Where else but in America can someone migrate here speaking barely comprehensible English, become a movie star, marry into a family that is almost American royalty, and be elected to the highest office in the most populous state in the union?

Our nation’s president, Barack Obama, is only one generation removed from a man that grew up in a small village in the African nation of Kenya.  Imagine a man with that background having a son that would one day become the most powerful man in the free world.  Where else on the entire planet could a dream like this be achieved?  In the words of everyone’s favorite boxing promoter, Don King, “Only in America”.

I also think of the blue-coated militia that constituted America’s first army.  They fought and died to protect America’s independence against the British Empire, the centuries long most powerful empire on Earth at the time.

Most Americans can recite the opening words to Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Those words speak of a promise, and it is thanks to people like the ones I have mentioned above that prove that America’s promise can and will be fulfilled.

God bless America.  And happy birthday, too!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father’s Day Thoughts

Before I begin I’d like to regress to a story that actually relates to Mother’s Day.  This is an excerpt from the article that was run on the June 18, 2009 edition of the Contra Costa Times:

Earlier this year, Alfred Rava and the Oakland Athletics came to a preliminary settlement concerning a three-year-old class-action suit over a Mother's Day weekend giveaway of free plaid reversible bucket hats. Rava accused the A's of sex discrimination after he did not receive a hat during a promotion at a game May 8, 2004.

Bob Rose, a spokesman for the A's, said the organization will no longer offer male- or female-only giveaways, in part due to the suit. As an example, Rose cited this year's Mother's Day giveaway. On May 10, the A's gave away tote bags to the first 10,000 fans.

With all due respect to my gay friends what kind of so-called man pulls a faggy move like suing someone over not receiving a free trinket on Mother’s Day?  Mother’s Day, for Christ’s sake!  I think even my gay friends would agree that was a faggy thing to do. 

Mr. Alfred Rava, on behalf of all fans of all sports, you are no longer allowed in any venue, indoor or outdoor, that hosts any sporting event of any kind.  I hope your kids (I assume you have kids since you claim to be a mother) are ashamed.  I hope you were heckled, harassed, and teased.

In the words of Don Corleone to his godson Johnny, “You can act like a man!”

I had just one quick, funny story to share.  Bryan and I took Dad and Betty to Skates in Berkeley for Father’s Day brunch.  As we were leaving a man at an adjacent table asked Bryan, “Is that Senator Mike Honda?”, referring to Dad.  (And he’s a congressman, not a senator, by the way)  When we all got outside Bryan told Dad about it to which Dad replied, “It’s an easy mistake to make.  After all, we all look alike don’t we?”

I wish I’d quit forgetting that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pedal to the Metal

A few days ago an acquaintance of mine in North Carolina dodged a bullet, figuratively speaking.  His 20-year old son was the passenger in a Mitsubishi Eclipse that was attempting to round a curve at 120 mph and wound up smashing into a tree.  He broke one of his vertebrae, his collarbone, and an arm, but escaped any permanent damage.

It’s hardly surprising that in North Carolina, the heart of NASCAR country, you’ve got large proportion of the population that have been bitten by the speed bug.  Racing is simply part of the culture.  Unfortunately, a by-product of the need for speed is speeding under unsafe conditions.  That’s what makes me so grateful that the Laguna Seca raceway in Monterey holds events like the ones they had yesterday.

Auto racing isn’t all about NASCAR and the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Daytona.  Those are the high profile things that everyone knows.  There’s racing at a grass roots level that exists as well, and in some ways they’re even more fun to attend because the drivers are ordinary everyday people that don’t race for that fame or the glamour or the money.  They’re there for the love of the sport. 

This club event featured mostly Mazda Miatas but there was a sprinkling of Honda S2000s, some BMWs, and a few others makes, including an Acura NSX, a Panoz, a Lotus, and assorted others.  Bryan was there with his Miata to get in a few laps of his own.

If you’re unfamiliar with the track at the Laguna Seca raceway you should know that it’s world famous, one of the best race tracks in the US with one of the most famous turns in the world, a downhill left-right-left chicane simply known as “The Corkscrew”.  When I had a Playstation 2, I had a game called “Gran Turismo”, a racing simulation that features Laguna Seca one of the tracks.  It’s a pretty accurate recreation, and I must have run hundred of laps in the game.  But I tell you, I was a passenger during one of Bryan’s sessions, and no matter how accurately a video game simulates the track there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can simulate the true experience of actually being in a car, hitting 120 mph at the end of the start/finish straightaway, feeling the negative G-forces under heavy braking as you slow to enter the double-apex Andretti hairpin, feeling those same G’s pulling you sideways as you round the hairpin, and being pushed back in your set as you start heading toward turn 3 at full throttle.  And taking my first on-track trip through The Corkscrew was a rollercoaster thrill. 

The day almost ended disasterously after Bryan’s first session.  He said he felt his brakes start to go after only a lap or two forcing him to go slower than he wanted to until the end of the session.  Luckily, Bryan was able to find someone with an extra set of performance brake pads and the day was salvaged with Bryan only having to miss one session.Bryan turn 3

Bryan rounding turn 3

The one session I got to ride with Bryan was a lot of fun.  It was my first time in a car being driven under racing conditions.  I now have a greater appreciation of the physical pounding professional drivers take being pulled around by all those G-forces along with the heat under the helmet and the mental wear of having to have your wits about you at every moment.

I attended the drivers’ meeting beforehand and also now have a greater appreciation of the amount of work involved in keeping everyone safe.  In fact, at the end of my first lap with Bryan spun exiting the final turn.  He was signaled to go to pit road.  Bryan later said he was fully expecting to get yelled at but the pit worker just wanted to check if everything was okay.

An element of the racing environment provided were the presence of the flag men and corner workers.  I have to express how much I admire these guys.  Nearly all volunteers, these guys are like guardian angels watching every car as they enter the corners making sure is driving safely, watching for signs of erratic driver behavior or car malfunction all day long in the hot sun with no shade.  Many thanks to all these guys.

I was very impressed with the sense of community there.  Everyone we encountered were friendly.  We exchanged advice and ideas, looked over each others’ cars and gave setup opinions.  Overall, it was a positive experience worth doing again.

Friday, June 5, 2009

June 4 Rants-Real Men and Compelling TV

I’m watching President Obama’s address to the Muslim world from Cairo on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN.  His words are compelling.  While I will never blindly follow anyone, President Obama included, I must say I am in total agreement with his position of conciliation between the US and the middle east.  Apparently, he didn’t use the word “terrorism” at any point.  This is reminiscent of his inaugural speech where he said that America would extend a hand if they would “unclench [their] fist”.  I still have tremendous confidence that the president will ultimately remembered by history not as “the first Black president”, but as “the great uniter”. 

Before AC360, I was watching the crew of the Steve Irwin being interviewed by Larry King.  The Steve Irwin is featured in the popular Animal Planet series Whale Wars.  They fight Japanese whaling vessels.  God bless these people.  We still don’t comprehend what intelligence these majestic creatures may possess.  We do know that they have larger brains than our which suggests that may be as smart as humans, maybe smarter.  I have no reservations in saying it is absolutely wrong to kill sentient beings for profit.  When that sentience is in question the right thing to do is err on the side of caution and give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve found three shows on the History Channel I cannot stop watching.  The first is Ice Road Truckers.  These guys carry extremely heavy loads in their big rigs across the iced over arctic seas of winter.  Talk about insanity, I watched one episode where this 25 year old kid carried this 95 ton oversized load to its destination.  He had to fight keeping the load from tipping over, not going too fast yet going fast enough to have the momentum to make it up the hills, not to mention the weather and the delicacy of the ice road.  This was an amazing feat of precision driving.  You’ve gotta have balls of steel to do a job like this.  There is no doubt in my mine guys like these are real men.

Ax Men is another great History Channel program.  We follow the stories of loggers in the Pacific Northwest.   I never had an appreciation of the difficult jobs these guys have.  Aside from the obvious physical rigors I never realized how mentally sharp you’ve got to be.  If those guys dislodge the wrong log they could start an avalanche or have a long branch snap up and hit them in the face.  It is not a job for the timid.

Finally, I’m completely hooked on Warriors.  This program profiles the elite soldiers of different civilizations throughout time.  I’ve learned how truly tough King Leonidas’ Spartans were, the US Army’s Alamo Soldiers that rescued American POWs from Japanese prisoner camps in the Philippines that were the pre-cursors to today’s Special Forces, and the forces commanded by Hawaii’s Kamehameha, the man that would eventually conquer all of the Hawaiian islands and become Hawaii’s first king.  The thing that impressed me most were the warriors of Shaka of the Zulus.  Not only were the brutally fast and smart but when they came home from a battle the first thing their warriors would do is visit a shaman that would cure their souls.  You see, when they first enter the village they came home as killers.  The shaman would make them right again.  I think that’s a brilliant idea that could help any soldier.  Too bad this is seemingly a unique concept.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Today’s rants – Socialist America & Motorcyclists

What is it with us Americans and fear of the word “socialist”?  Any concept where we contribute to a pool and draw benefits from that pool Republicans just love pointing at it and love to scream, “Socialist! That’s socialism!”.  They just love that word because they know it’s so inflammatory.  I guess it’s supposed to evoke visions of Karl Marx and the Soviet Army stomping through Red Square or of a full-bearded Fidel Castro leading Communist, poverty-stricken Cuba. 

Reality check time, folks.  That ain’t us and never will be.  So there are some concepts that you could put the alarmist tag of “socialistic” on.  So what?  Will it result in us being redefined as “Communists”? I don’t think so.  Canadians have socialized medicine.  So do Brits and the French.  They also have higher taxes.  Do they suffer a lower standard of living because of it?  I don’t hear them complaining.

And guess what?  We already have plenty of things that are “socialist” already.  The public school system, for one.  Oh, sure, you can decry public schooling all you want.  Getting a good education in the public school system vs. private education still comes down to the basic concepts of a student willing to apply themselves and parents to enforce it.

Sure, it’s easy to complain about taxes being too high, but are you willing to pay the price for lowering them?  Recently, the Contra Costa County District Attorney stated that because of  reduced manpower the DA’s office they would not be prosecuting anything below violent felonies (or something to that effect).  Just this morning BART announced they’d be raising parking fees and fares by as much as $2.50.  There have been plenty of schools that are seriously considering shutting down their sports programs.  There’ll be fewer public swimming pools open this summer.  How do you like your lower taxes now?

And for Christ’s sake, all you anti-Obama people, the man’s been in office for five fucking months.  He’s got eight years of George Bush’s mess to clean up.  Give the man a chance.  Shit.

That being said, President Obama’s decisions are not above being questioned on all matters.  I’d like to know why he’s making it so hard for the auto manufacturers to get their bailout money while AIG and Bank of America practically had their bailout money thrown at them.  Why are you giving such a hard time to companies that employ union labor?   Union labor helped you get elected, sir.  Please don’t forget about us.  We’re not a special interest.  We’re hard-working, tax-paying Americans that are a vital part of the backbone of this country, and we deserve consideration.  Please don’t treat us with the same disdain that the last administration had.

On to my next subject, motorcyclists.  You know how you can tell a veteran cyclist?  They give you a thank you when you move aside to give them room.  I can’t tell you how many times in traffic I’ll swerve to the shoulder to give cyclists room to pass and they don’t give you that courtesy thanks.  Let me tell you something, you fucking guys that don’t do it, I’m gonna stop swerving over for ANY of you.  This is common courtesy I’m giving you, and I’ll guarantee you I’m the one car out of fifty or more that does it.  It’s called “being considerate”.  And if you fuckers can’t give acknowledgement then I can be like every other asshole on the road and not give you any space to pass.  And you veteran cyclist that do do it, you’d better teach these newcomers some manners.

Speaking of other assholes on the road these assholes that talk on their cell phones while driving are making me think I should keep a digital camera with me at all times so I can take your pictures.  Hey!  It’s against the fucking law for a reason.  Yesterday, I saw this flower delivery guy with a phone up to his ear makes all kinds of last minute turns and generally drive poorly.  I could have kicked this guy’s ass for all the lives he put in danger.  He was driving a 1-800-Flowers truck that said “Bay Area Flower Exchange, Alameda, CA” on the side.  Get off the goddamn phone and get a GPS before you kill someone, asshole.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Our Little Guest

Sorry you haven't heard from me in so long. I've been wrapped up in a few things.

First, was LBD, Little Black Dog. The girls named him Kenny. In any case about two weeks ago Jeremy was out with Cricket walking the dogs when they noticed a little black Chihuahua had joined the pack.
All this is taking place while I'm at work, by the way. They see the little dog has no tags, no collar, and he looks a little thin. So Cricket decides that the little guy needs some rescuing and decides to leave him with us (thanks, Cricket).

When we got home there he was along with Zoe and Charlie. He was small, smaller than Zoe, and he barked a lot. It was fairly obvious he was scared. Of course, Zoe & Charlie greeted me with their usual exuberance and after a couple of hours if was obvious from his wagging tail and wanting look in his eyes that he wanted to be included with the fun and treats that were going around. By bedtime LBD was over his fear was soon competing for our attention.

My best guess was that he's around six months old. Veterinarians can tell a dog's age by looking at it's teeth. Comparing his teeth size to 11-month old Charlie's it was clear that LBD's was quite a bit smaller. He was unaltered, meaning he hadn't been fixed. I sure wish he was though, because he was marking like crazy! Charlie never did that.

He was completely jet black except for two tiny spots of white on the front of his throat and at the top of his sternum. He was collarless but there was an impression around his neck that looked like there had been one there. Karen and I had concluded that he must have been someone's pet that had gotten out of his collar and got loose. We put an ad up on Craig's List. We checked in with the shelter (more about that later). And we had him checked for a microchip (none found).

It was almost a mistake to check with the animal shelter. It was our first destination to have him checked for a chip. They informed us that if we ask the county, on the record, to check for the chip then we would have to surrender him after 24 hours if no owner was found. Only after a two week waiting period would we be allowed to adopt him out. The thought of having the little boy kept in a cage for that long was totally unacceptable. Why make him miserable and add to the shelter's burden at the same time? No. County ordinances sure didn't make it easy for well-meaning dog rescuers.

So we waited.
In the meanwhile we got to know him. He was a complete little lovebug. He thrived on affection and just ate up ear scratches and belly rubs. Although Karen and I had grown fond of him it was clear that we couldn't take on a third dog. Also, clear was that the little guy was the omega of the three. Zoe took great efforts to put him in his place. He needed to be the only dog in whatever household he ended up in.

Luckily, we were able to find a co-worker that we knew would be able to take him in and spoil him. We took him to his new San Francisco home on Saturday. I'm fairly confident he'll be happy in his new permanent home.

What else is going on? We're moving. Not very far. Closer to the high school actually. It's a nicer place, too, with bigger rooms for the kids, and most importantly, a fenced in yard for the dogs. Sure this place is bigger and the yard's bigger, too, but what's the use if it's not fenced in and we can't let the dogs out? I actually look forward to living there. I just HATE moving.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Beverly Hills Chihuahua was released on DVD today. Of the things that drew me to this silly film was the resembleance between the hero "Papi" and my own Zoe. Look at them side-by-side. Pretty good likeness isn't it?
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Check This Out

I just couldn't resist. I HAD to share this with everyone:

Mother sets fire to her daughter's gloating rapist

A Spanish mother has taken revenge on the man who raped her 13-year-old daughter at knifepoint by dousing him in petrol and setting him alight. He died of his injuries in hospital on Friday.

Antonio Cosme Velasco Soriano, 69, had been sent to jail for nine years in 1998, but was let out on a three-day pass and returned to his home town of Benejúzar, 30 miles south of Alicante, on the Costa Blanca.

While there, he passed his victim's mother in the street and allegedly taunted her about the attack. He is said to have called out "How's your daughter?", before heading into a crowded bar.

Shortly after, the woman walked into the bar, poured a bottle of petrol over Soriano and lit a match. She watched as the flames engulfed him, before walking out.

The woman fled to Alicante, where she was arrested the same evening. When she appeared in court the next day in the town of Orihuela, she was cheered and clapped by a crowd, who shouted "Bravo!" and "Well done!"

A judge ordered her to be held in prison and undergo psychiatric tests, provoking anger from friends and neighbours, who have set up a petition calling for her release.

Soriano suffered 60 per cent burns in the attack on June 13 and was airlifted to a specialist unit. He survived for 11 days before succumbing to his injuries.

It is understood that the woman, who cannot be named because of laws safeguarding the identity of rape victims, claims to have no recollection of the attack which took place in the Bar Mary, just 300 yards from the family home.

As decorators painted over the blackened walls of his bar last week, Antonio Ferrendez Lopez told how Soriano had walked in at lunchtime.

"The place was packed with people eating. I was sitting at a table and Soriano was standing at the bar very close to me when the woman walked in," he said. "She didn't acknowledge anyone but walked up to Soriano, who was drinking a coffee, put her hand on his shoulder and turned him round to face her.

"Then she pulled the bottle she was carrying from under her arm and began to tip it over him. At first I didn't realise what was happening, but then I smelt the petrol. I jumped up and tried to grab her, but when she struck a match I got clear.

"The petrol was in a pool around Soriano, and she threw the match into it. It ignited with a whoosh, and he screamed and staggered about covered in flames. As people rushed outside to escape the flames, she just looked at him, then turned and walked away."

Customers helped Mr Lopez put out the fire with extinguishers and doused Soriano with water until paramedics arrived.

Soriano's attack on the woman's teenage daughter took place in 1998. The girl was going to buy a loaf of bread when Soriano snatched her from the street, threatened her with a knife and raped her. Her mother is said to have suffered mental illness ever since.

Soriano was convicted of the rape and ordered to serve 13 years in jail. The sentence was later reduced to nine years on appeal.

The woman's lawyer, Joaquín Galant, told The Sunday Telegraph last night: "The family has suffered a double tragedy. First the attack on their daughter and now this. Both the father and his daughter would like to express their sadness at the death of Soriano."

Earlier, Mr Galant said that the woman did not deserve to be kept in prison. "For seven years she has been deeply affected by what was done to her daughter," he said. "This man, fresh from prison and asking how her daughter was, might be considered to have provoked her."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Hawaiian Odessey (Day 4)

Monday, February 9

Today would be our last full day in Hawaii. Whatever we didn't get done today wasn't going to get done. Thankfully, my foot was feeling much better and I felt I could handle a little walking.

First stop was Da K
ine Bail Bonds. I wanted to make one last shot at meeting Dog Chapman. We went into the gift shop and spent way too much money on Dog the Bounty Hunter stuff. Alas, the Dog and family were still sleeping, the cashier told us. But at least I had plenty of mementos.

Next stop was Pearl City, where Pearl Harbor and the Arizo
na memorial are.

I really hate how 9/11 made us so paranoid. Because the museum and memorial are federally owned and run facilities they wouldn't allow ANY kind of bag to be brought in, not a purse, backpack, camera bag or even a bag from the gift shop from the military museum next door! What a pain in the ass.

Our short boat ride to the memorial itself was preceded by a film we watched in the museum theatre that gives some background on the attack on Pearl Harbor and the aftermath. It was very somber and emotional. One of the sad facts the film gave us was the 23 sets of brothers and a father and son had been killed that Sunday morning. It set the stage for the visiting the memorial which would follow shortly.

The museum and memorial are run by the National Parks Service but the little boat that runs you out to the memorial is actually a Navy operation. There were maybe 3 or 4 Navy servicemen in uniform that go out there with out. I must be getting old because those Navy guys looked like kids. Now THAT is the job I wish my cousin Isabel would have while she's on active duty. She'd still be serving her country. Tourists are important. They represent economic stimulus, don't they?

Standing aboard the memorial is a haunting experience. Over the little headset I rented Ernest Borgnine narrates that about two quarts of oil seep out of the hull of the Arizona every day. They form easily visible pools at the surface. He said they represent the tears of the servicemen that died that day and little oil slicks are left undisturbed out of respect for their memories. Finishing up the tour you get a better sense of the enormity of the event, and I got a comfort in knowing that the site is treated with the respect it deserves.

One of my goals for the trip was to discover some new Hawaiian music. I had a few minutes in the gift shop so I wandered over to where they had one of those racks that held some CDs and had one of those boxes where you touch on an artist's picture and they play a sample of their music. I pressed a few buttons and I figured out that my favorite kind of Hawaiian music is the kind where they kind of yodel and they're accompanied by a steel guitar in the background.

The one that fit the bill perfectly was someone named Raiatea. On the wrapper it said she had been nominated for a Grammy. I also liked an artist named Ke'alii Reichel. No yodeling. More Hawaiian traditional sounding with a very soothing voice. I was satisfied with those two and declared that goal accomplished.

We headed up the Pali Highway to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. We stopped at a gas station where I picked up a pack of Pall Malls and a pack of violets, two things my grandpa was never without. The only thing missing that the gas station didn't have was a copy of the National Inquirer. I tried to think of something for my grandma but couldn't come up with anything.

It took a few minutes to find the plot but we did find it. I opened up the pack of Pall Malls, lit up one of the cigarettes and laid it on the headstone next to my grandpa's name along with the pack of violets. I saddened me a little that I couldn't find anything to leave on my grandma
's side. I felt like I was somehow neglecting her.

Although my grandpa liked to joke that my grandma didn't work a day in her life nothing was further from the truth. She took her duties as a housewife very seriously. She'd get up before dawn every day, just like Grandpa did before he retired, and would cook, clean, mop, sweep, and do the laundry. My grandparents house stood near the top of a steep hill and the size and shape of the lawn was such that a lawnmower would never work. So Grandma would go outside on her hands and knees and trim the lawn WITH A PAIR OF SCISSORS. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that, outside of my parents, my Grandma Chang is the person most responsible for giving me the work ethic I have today.

The thing most people would tell you about my grandmother is that she was very clean. Such a statement tends to give the impression that a "very clean" person was also a "very uptight" person. And that's the general impression I had of her before I Bryan and I started spending our summers with them in Hawaii. But after spending time with her and getting to know her I found myself liking her as a person. I don't miss her any less than I miss my other grandmother, my dad's mother, Grandma Low. And that's saying a lot, believe me.

During those summers in Hawaii Bryan mostly spent them with Aunty Brenda while I would stay with Grandma and Grandpa, so Bryan doesn't have the memories of Grandma that I do. Finding this out kinda made me sad.

I only wish I could think up something better than a broom to leave on her grave.

With my foot feeling better Karen and I finally got to walk the Waikiki strip together. There were too many high end stores but she found a few bargains and I finally found something that I had been looking for, some Barack Obama t-shirts that tied him to his Hawaiian roots. Finally, I had shirts to bring back to the girls that I knew they'd really like.

Our final activity for the evening was a family dinner at Uncle Wally's house. Uncle Wally is one of my grandpa's brothers. It wasn't something we were really looking forward to because, just like the wedding, we would be surrounded by people who were at the same time, loved ones and strangers.

We got a couple of pleasant surprises though. Our Uncle Tim and our new Uncle Tommy sat down with us (not in tandem, but separately) and we got to know them a little. Tim is my Aunty Sherry's husband. He's not Christy, Tracey, and Jerry's father. That was Uncle Jerry. I really didn't know anything about my Uncle Tim. Until he sat down with us and started talking.

He told us about how much he enjoys cigars. We talked about different kinds, the difficulty of trying to get your hands on a Cuban, so forth and so on. The details aren't terribly important. It was just nice to conversate and socialize with him.

A few minutes later Tommy came over and chatted with us. It's funny, it almost seems as if our Aunties gave them an assignment. But having just met him the day before I didn't know an awful lot about him, but from the short amount if time that I have spent
with him my new uncle seems to be a genuinely nice person. In some ways I'm concerned more for him than I am with her. Aunty Bren treats shopping like Lance Armstrong treats cycling titles.

It had been a pretty long day and I think we were all pretty much exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel rooms, but I was happy to have done some reconnecting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hawaiian Odessey, day four

Sunday, February 8 Sunday wasn't my best day. A couple of days earlier I had stubbed my toe and it was really giving me problems. It had become quite swollen and I could barely walk. But we had been in Hawaii for our fourth day already and hadn't gotten around to checking out the Waikiki strip, visited my grandparents' graves, or gone to Pearl Harbor yet. Plus, it was Pro Bowl Sunday and the night before Richard and Jerry told us that the Pro Bowl NEVER sells out and we could probably get tickets if we wanted to go. The thought of doing ANY of that with my foot hurting like it did just made me want to stay in my room.

We headed over to Ala Moana for a bite to eat. Bryan and Jenny went off to get their own breakfast, Karen went over to Zippy's to get herself a plate lunch, and as for me, it was a third straight day of Arby's. Mmmm. Those Arby Melts are sooo good. I could eat Arby's every day of my life and I'd never complain.

I met up with Karen at Zippy's. While I was in there a saw a guy wearing a t-shirt protesting a proposed BSL bill. BSL is short for Breed Specific Legislation. It basically refers to any law that targets specific dog breeds, Pit Bulls to be exact. As most of you know I have become a passionate defender of the much maligned Pit Bull. I had to have one of those shirts for myself. I walked up to the guy and asked him where he got it and he informed me that there was a protest across the street in Ala Moana par
k. I had to check this out.

As we entered the park we saw large groups of people wearing the same t-shirt. What a great opportunity to not just network with some Pit Bull defenders, but to actually meet some face-to-face. I noticed two groups of tents. I walked to the closer group. I talked to some people
about the proposed BSL bill, signed a petition, looked at some homemade signs showing pictures of little kids smiling and playing with their Pit Bulls. No one had any t-shirts left, but I felt good having met with them.

That good feeling went away as I approached the second group. One of the tents had a banner that showed two large angry-looking Pit Bulls with a giant set of brass knuckles, another boasted "Power Pit Kennels". There was an event poster that looked more like a fight card than anything else. My heart began to sink. Reality was starting to dawn on me. They were, at the very least, breeders, if not worse.

Believe it or not, breeders do more harm than any other group of people, even dog fighters. While thousands of homeless dogs wait to be adopted in shelters these peopl
e choose to breed their dogs, adding to the already overinflated number of dogs in this country that have no permanent home of their own. Consider this, if you were looking to add a dog to your home and had a choice between some unwanted stray at the pound and an adorable little baby puppy from a breeder, who could resist the puppy? That poor shelter dog doesn't stand a chance. It's just not right.

I walked back to the first group of tents feeling a sense of outrage. I asked one of the nice ladies, "Are those BREEDERS over there?" Her answer floored me, "We're pretty much all breeders." I was stunned.

"But why breed when there are so many great dogs in shelters already?" I asked her.

"Well, people that buy from breeders are looking for certain qualities." Certain qualities. I couldn't go on any further but I would have loved to have heard what her answer would have been. What qualities? Like the ability to fight another dog?
I walked away bewildered. Could I be fighting on the same side as dog fighters and breeders? It seemed like that could actually be the case. It was a very disappointing experience.

We pa
rked at the other end of Waikiki and were finally going to explore the Waikiki strip. But now my foot was absolutely killing me. Bryan drove me back to the hotel while Karen and Jenny hit the strip. Karen's friend Dana who just came back from Hawaii herself had recommended a burger joint on Waikiki so she and Jenny had themselves a drink there. Karen said they'd had a good time there and they had gotten a little bonding session in, too.

We had planned to take Mom out to dinner that night, but it turned into a family get together at a Ko
rean barbeque. It was one of those places I'd like to frequent more often if I knew where to find them. They put a hot plate in the center of the table. You go up to the buffet bar and get various kinds of raw meat and cook it yourself at the table. It was very good. It was filling. But probably the best part of the evening was that we got to spend some time with our cousins that we see far too little of.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Day 3 of my Hawaiian Trip (continued)

Auntie Brenda's wedding reception was one of the more memorable ones I've attended. It was at...want to take a guess? Yes! A Chinese restaurant! How did you know? Want to take another guess where it was? Right again! Chinatown!

I don't have much prior recollection of Honolulu Chinatown. When I would spend summers in Hawaii as a kid Chinatown wasn't a place we visited very often. I was taken back a bit when we got there. What a dump Chinatown is! It's like the place becomes a ghost town at sunset. And all the homeless there. It was actually kind of gross. When we reached the restaurant I was more than a little disappointed. "Hey, this is a nice place" was NOT something that came to mind.

The banquet room was on the second floor. When we got off my cousin Jerry was sitting there with his wife Amy checking people in and giving guests their seating assignments. It was really good to see him. We talked a little about the possibility of taking a trip to spring training in Arizona next year. It would great if he can make it.

The first thing that hit me as we made our way to our table was how hot it was. There was no AC running. No air circulation whatsoever. It must have been 90 degrees. I couldn't stop myself from thinking, "Oh, shit, this is going to be a long night". On a good note there was a very good quartet playing Hawaiian music. They called themselves "Canoes for Rent". If you're ever in Hawaii and need to hire a live band look those guys up.

Bryan, Jenny, Karen and I were assigned a table with our cousins Christy and Garrison. Garrison is Auntie Brenda's son. Also at our table were a couple of unfamiliar faces. A big guy and his fiance. The big guy's name was Junior, a co-worker of Christy's at the Wal-Mart near Waikiki. He told us he would be the MC for the evening. MC? Now THAT was a good idea I hadn't considered. Maybe there was a glimmer of hope for this banquet after all.

Junior went to the podium and introduced himself. The same two young ladies basically gave a repeat performance of the songs followed by the Lord's Prayer hula. They were both so good at the wedding ceremony I didn't mind sitting through them again. Junior then introduced the lion dance. The two lions approached the bride and groom's table where Aunty Bren and Uncle Tommy offered them money. This is basically an offering to bring good luck. The lions then made a tour of the room stopping for others who had money to offer. Kinda like the way it is at a strip club.

Junior announced a slight twist to the tradition of clinking your glasses to signal to the bride and groom that they want them to kiss. He had a glass jar filled with slips of paper that had the names of the couples in attendance. Whenever the glasses would start clinking Junior would pull out a slip of paper. The couple on the slip would then demonstrate a kiss that Aunty Bren and Uncle Tommy had to emulate. Most of the kisses were pretty tame, but some were really funny. It was a fun twist I had never seen before.

Finally, some fans were brought out and the room temperature became tolerable. They began serving dinner. The food was okay. Nothing special.

A video collage was then played that had some terrific old family pictures of Aunty Bren, the family, and of Uncle Tommy's family. Richard put it together on his Mac. It was quite professional looking. He did a really good job.

Our cousin Lucille went up to the podium and had a large card for Tommy welcoming him to the Chang family. I thought it was a pretty sweet gesture. She then gave them symbolic joke gifts to both of them. Most were pretty funny but then she got rather raunchy. At one point she was giving Aunty Bren thong panties and KY jelly. You should have seen Garrison sitting next to us. He wanted to crawl under the table.

A few more games were played, there was a money dance, and, of course, toasts. I was exhausted at the end of the night but I must admit that it was a lot of fun. Junior did a great job hosting. It was an honest pleasure to have met him and his fiance. Oh, one other thing. Aunty Bren didn't throw out her bouquet. She gave it to Christy, saying to everyone that she really hopes Christy will meet someone she can settle down with sometime soon, or something like that. How embarrassing for Christy! Sometimes Aunty gets a little carried away!

Oh, by the way, something funny outside caught my eye. There was some sort of bank or savings and loan around the corner. In the window was a sign boasting some APR rate or something like that. In the adjacent window was another sign that read "Free Rice". Only in Chinatown, huh?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Day 3 of my Hawaiian Trip (part 1)

Day Three, Saturday, Feb. 7:

This was the big day, the whole reason for this trip, Aunty Brenda's wedding.
Karen couldn't find the pants she had packed for the wedding. Bryan also needed to get himself a pair of slacks so off we went back to Ala Moana.

Bryan and I wandered a bit in the mall marvelling at how much had changed.
As a bi-level mall in my childhood Ala Moana was still a huge shopping plaza. In fact, at one point in time it was the largest in the world. It was a very local-friendly mall back then. There was a Woolworths, JC Penney, an arcade with a little pizza joint a few stores down. My, how things have changed. Ala Moana is now a tri-level, in some places a quad. And every single store is high end. And there are also short thrid and fourth wings as well. No more Woolworth. No more JC Penney. But hey, there's an Arby's on the bottom level next to Macy's! Woo hoo!

Bryan and I both had some apprehension going to this wedding. We were going to be seeing our cousins that we had been pretty tight with in our childhood but have had little contact since, not to mention numerous uncles and aunties. It's so awkward. They're our family but they're strangers at the same time. We got there a little early. It was a very nice little chapel just a couple short blocks from the Honolulu Zoo at the end of the Waikiki strip. Mom was Aunty Bren's matron of honor. She really looked great. I've got to give my mom credit. She looks far, far younger than her actual age. We said hi to our cousins Christy and Tracey and their kids. We probably had not seen them in literally 15 or 16 years. I walked up and hugged my Aunty Ann. I don't think she knew who I was.

It was actually a very enjoyable ceremony. It began with a few songs sung by one of the me
mbers of Aunty Bren's church. She surprised me. She had a beautiful voice and the girl could really sing. Next she sang the Lord's Prayer accompanied another young lady that did a quite lovely and tasteful hula. The rest was short and sweet. Instead of rice or bird seed Aunty had us blow bubbles as she and my new Uncle Tommy entered their limo.

We had a couple of hours to kill before the reception dinner in Chinatown so we decided to pay a visit to Da Kine Bail Bonds, the base of operations for Dog the Bounty Hunter. When we got there we found the door locked. Apparently, the Dog's house was vacant. There was a sign for the Dog the Bounty Hunter gift shop, but that was closed as well. But we did get a few good shots of the storefront.

This is getting a bit long. I'll continue with part two of day three tomorrow.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hawaiian Odessey (Day Two)

Day Two: Got some croissants and muffins from our hotel's continental breakfast. We went out on our sixth floor balcony and discovered the birds would gladly fly up and take the crumbs off our rails. We were visited mostly visited by finches, some garden variety sparrows, and a cardinal or two. This would become a daily ritual.

We set out to visit the graves of my grandparents and to drive the perimeter of the island. We didn't make it. We got to Kahala Mall and had lunch. Our next stop was Koko Marina, one of the places Bryan and I could recall where you could get genuine shave ice. At the shave ice place there was a picture of the owner and her daughter with President Obama holding a one of her icy creations.

Next stop was Hanauma Bay, a marine preserve and a great place to snorkel. Nothing much to report about it other than seeing a wild mongoose (!) in the parking lot.

My grandfather used to weld together th
e signposts of King Kamehameha that can be found at state historical landmarks. We passed one, the first on our trip. We pulled aside to take a picture when I realized we were at the Dole plantation. After taking the picture we had a fun time touring the gift shop, checking out the various types of pineapples in the garden, eating some pinapple flavored soft serve, and feeding the koi in their pond. It was a lot cooler than it sounds. Did you know that pineapples are not pulled out of the ground like potatoes? They're actually the fruit of the flower. They grow on top of the plant. It's perhaps a little more analogous to melons. Anyway, it was nice to have paid a visit to Dole as I also feel a slight connection to the place. Mom used to work at the Dole cannery as a teen.

We ended our day at the Pearlridge Shopping Center. I saw that at the Sanrio store there were special t-shirts, some with Hello Kitty, others with Chocobo that had the Hawaiian Humane Society logo on it. Proceeds of shirt sales benefit the Hawaiian Humane Society. I was torn as I couldn't find a shirt that would fit me until Bryan pointed out that we were in a Hello Kitty store. They don't carry shirts made to fit adult men. Oh. So I bought their calendar instead.

Another great treat was Arby's! There's probably not an Arby's within 30 miles of my house, so Arby's is a real treat. I rushed in and bought five Arby Melts.

It was getting pretty late and we decided Grandma and Grandpa would have to wait for later in the trip.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Hawaiian Odessey (part 1)

I have much to tell about my recent trip to Hawaii. To make it more palatable I'm going to break this down one day per post. Okay, everyone ready? Here we go.

Day One, Thursday, Feb. 5: We were running late as usual. We had to make it to my mom's house by 7am. We just barely made it there. We got to Oakland Intern
ational Airport with just enough time to get a bottle of water when it was time to board our flight on Hawaiian Airlines. It was a long five hour flight. Even at relatively small 14 inches my laptop was still to big to open and operate comfortably. The changing pressure of the plane's cabin wreaked havoc on Karen's ears and was in much pain for most of the flight and even a couple of days following.

When we arrived in Honolulu we were surrounded by throngs of obvious Pro Bowl fans at the airport. It was a long, hot wait for our rental car but we survived it.

Our first night in Honolulu was spent with drinks out at (of all places) a Buca de Beppo at the Ward Center on Ala Moana. The bartender was terrific.

Already missing the dogs. There's no way to explain that we're on vacation and will be back. All they know is that we're gone.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Thursday will be my dad’s 70th birthday. We’re going to Tommy Chow’s in the City on Saturday to celebrate. I’ve never been there before. Bryan says it’s a pretty high-end place. It’s going to be a big party there. Betty asked me to make a toast. I’ve never done anything like that before, but I guess I’m not like most people in that I have no particular fear public speaking. I looked up “toasting” on the internet, I watched a few instructional videos. I wrote up a rough draft. I read it to Karen and Bryan and they both said they liked it. I may end up going with it as is. I really can’t think of anything else to add or revise.

I’m kinda holding my breath right now. The BART administration office is in the Kaiser building about 2 minutes away. There have been so many protests over that shooting I’m hoping today’s meeting won’t draw a huge crowd and affect anything here at work. Those people have a right to be outraged, though. How in the hell can a cop pull out his pistol supposedly mistake it for his tazer and shoot someone in the back? I’ve tried to think of a reasonable argument for how that could happen but in the end it always comes out that that cop must have been a fucking idiot.

It’s almost over for Karen’s ex. Last week he pled guilty to two counts of forced rape. He’ll be sentenced to five years, with about a year and a half already having been served. This may seem a little light for all the horrible things he did but he’ll still have to serve the balance of his sentence doing hard time in a state pen, starting with San Quentin. But I don’t believe rapists have it easy in ANY state pen. Also, apparently the beginning of the year a new law went into effect where violent offenders like him will have to wear an ankle bracelet for the rest of his life even after he’s released. I also was told that his sister and mother attempted to start a brawl in the courtroom after the plea was entered. How pathetic. And if that’s not all I understand that his mother ended up amassing about $250,000 in legal fees. What a fucking cancer this guy is.

Fox ran bac
k-to-back episodes of 24 on back-to-back nights. So after only two nights we’re already 4 episodes into it. God, I missed this show. I’m already hooked in. This show is 31 flavors of Hollywood bullshit but what great entertainment.

Rickey Henderson was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today and I couldn’t be happier. This was his first year of eligibility and while it’s an honor to be voted into The Hall it is a particular honor to make it in on your first attempt. Rickey Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. He could single-handedly change the face of a game. He holds career records for stolen bases and leadoff home runs. He’s a former MVP, an All-Star, was the cornerstone of the 1989 A’s World Championship team, and is a member of the 3,000 hit club.

I was lucky enough to be there when Rickey broke Lou Brock’s stolen base record to become the all-time stolen base leader. I was with my dad. We were in a sky box that day on the third base side of the field. It was a steal of third that was the record breaker. It was against the Yankees. He held the base over his head and declared to me, my dad, and everyone there, “I am the greatest of all time.”

Sure, Rickey was arrogant and surly. He was never a poster boy for the game like a Derek Jeter or a Ken Griffey, Jr, but he never got into trouble off the field, was never mixed up in any scandals, and his name has never been mentioned as a potential steroid user. This is the end he deserves.

I watched the first few minutes of Bush’s final press conference as president, and God bless him, he left us with one final Bushism. He used the word “misunderestimated”.

It’s ironic that the weather’s turned warm. I haven’t been walking the dogs because it’s been so cold. On “Dogs 101” on Animal Planet they said Chihuahuas don’t do well in cold weather and Charlie definitely hates the cold. He loves to plop himself down in front of the heater. So we decided to get some fruity doggy sweaters for them. And the next day the weather turns warm enough to walk them again without sweaters.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mid-week Rant

Since moving in we’ve been Comcast subscribers for our TV service. We just get basic expanded cable. The channel selection isn’t as good as the Dish Network’s though. We gave up SciFi, Bravo, Speed. I’m sure there were more but those were the important ones for me. Losing SciFi meant giving up Battlestar Galactica. Giving up Speed meant giving up F1. And giving up Bravo meant giving up Top Chef.

About a year ago we got our big screen LCD and we upgraded our cable to HD. Little did I know that although I still couldn’t get Speed, Bravo and SciFi in standard def I could at least get Bravo in Hi def. And I only discovered this recently, thus reuniting me with Top Chef.

Top Chef is one of my favorite shows. I love the concept and presentation. The host is model Padma Lakshmi, who is absolutely gorgeous. It’s co-hosted by chef Tom Colicchio, who has at least two restaurants in the Las Vegas MGM Grand. I love his no-bullshit critiques of the chefs and their creations.

Funny story, on our last visit to Vegas together Karen and I were enjoying a meal at the MGM Grand’s buffet. BTW, the quality of the food at the buffet was second to none. I left to go to the restroom and apparently while I was gone Tom Colicchio showed up. A few people recognized him and got to take pictures with him, but, of course, by the time I got back he was gone.

On the home front, Imani has decided to leave as well. There’s a whole bunch I have to say about what Caprisha did to voice her displeasure with my parenting but I’ll keep those shitty things to myself. Fuck ‘em all, I say. This is the perfect excuse to cut ALL OF THEM off as far as I’m concerned, so I’m happy all this drama has happened.

On a happier note Karen and I will be headed to Hawaii next month to attend my Auntie Brenda’s wedding. This I’m really looking forward to. I’ll get to see cousins, uncles, and aunties I haven’t seen in over 20 years. One thing I definitely have to do there is visit the office of Dog the Bounty Hunter.