Friday, November 30, 2007

Yen Sushi & Sake Bar - Japanese Restaurant

Yep, it's sushi time again. This is one of my favorite sushi places on the Westside, and I didn't know before today that there were four locations of this restaurant. I thought the one that I normally go to was the only one.

I went there for lunch today with two friends from work. It has actually been a while since I've been there, but one of the sushi chefs that we know was there today, so we sat with him at the bar. We've only sat at a table once. We usually like to sit at the bar because there's more interaction, and you get to see what else they're making for other people so you can get ideas about what else to try.

Here's their website. (BTW, there appear to be some problems with the website. For instance, the "sushi" and "maki" links don't work properly.) And here's the direct link to the menu. One of our favorite things at this restaurant is the BBQ sparerib roll. OK, I know, we're supposed to be having sushi. What is up with ordering a cooked roll, and not even fish at that? Well, one of the times I was there, the other people wanted to order it, so we did, and I decided just to try it. Oh my goodness. It is such incredibly good bbq, almost like Korean bbq sparerib, but not quite as sweet. The flavoring on the sparerib is just really good. They use the meat to wrap up in the roll, and then you get the bones, most of which also still have meat on them, on the side. Even the bones still have a lot of flavor. Go to this link, and look in the first column, third picture down. See the one that purports to be "New York Steak roll"? Well, that's labeled wrong. That's the BBQ sparerib roll. It's very filling so I would suggest ordering it with others to share so you can have other stuff too.

One of our other perennial favorites is unfortunately not included on the website. It's a toro and scallion roll, so we ordered one of those. OK, actually, the sushi chef is so used to us ordering that whenever we're there that he just asked if we wanted that again without us having to actually order it.

I was the one who introduced these two friends to the wonders of spanish mackerel, so we got two orders of sashimi to share. Mmmm, yummy! They also deep-fried the bones of the fish and gave that to us. I don't remember having gotten that before, but maybe we got it because we had gotten two sashimi orders of the fish.

The two friends had tried the spicy tuna salad on a previous visit, so we got an order of that as well. For being an appetizer salad, it's a huge serving. It's enough to be an entree salad and definitely good to share amongst a few people if you want to have room for other stuff. It had big chunks of tuna, and it also had, among other things, gobo (the little marinated carrots), which I love, so I was happy about that. A very tasty salad with lots of different ingredients. I don't know exactly what the dressing was - I think it's referred to as chef's special dressing - but it is very light, and I definitely tasted sesame in it.

One of the things that Yen has that most other places don't is yellowtail belly. It's really smooth and incredibly good, so we had two orders of sashimi to share. The chef put some flying fish roe (which are black) on the pieces.

I particularly like ankimo, which is monk fish liver. Some places serve it softer, in a sushi cup (like you get with uni [sea urchin] or ikura [salmon roe] or masago [smelt fish roe]), and some places compress it into a round tube and then cut slices off. Yen serves them as slices. I got one order of sashimi, and we shared that. The chef had put little drops of spicy sauce on it, so it gave it a nice kick.

On a previous visit, I've had the RocknRoll original, which you can find on this page, right column, second picture down. That was very yummy. Not all places do rolls using cucumber rather than rice and seaweed, and I like the extra freshness and crispness that the cucumber wrapping adds to a roll.

The item pictured at the top of the main page for the menu is not actually included on the website but is rather on the special menu, like the toro and scallion roll. It appears to be various pieces of cut roll with different kinds of fish eggs on them. On the actual menu, it's just called "caviar". I love ikura and masago, so that's something I'd like to try in the future.

The fish is very fresh and very good, and the service is prompt and friendly. Definitely a place I'd recommend.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

No good deed goes unpunished

I've been well-acquainted with this sentiment for quite some time now. Heck, this is such a seemingly prevalent aspect of society that many states have enacted Good Samaritan laws to protect those who lend assistance just to be helpful. Here's a page with a good summary of what Good Samaritan laws do and are for.

I've had my own experiences - nothing that falls under the jurisdiction of Good Samaritan laws - but irritating just the same.

Years ago, I worked with someone who commented at one point that I did work faster and better than most everyone else in the department. And she noticed that my "reward" for that was having more work, and more difficult work, given to me because the higher ups knew that 1) I'd be able to finish it all and 2) they knew it would be done correctly. So effectively, that meant I got more work (including projects that had been previously handled by other people) and the projects that were more complicated while many others had less to do and only got the easy stuff. The higher-ups didn't trust them to do the projects correctly and on time. So basically, they were rewarded for their laziness by having even less to do and even less responsibility, and in most cases, I was earning less than they were.

At that same company (and no, it wasn't specifically a function of that company or the people in the department - I think this happens everywhere), there were two other instances where a good deed did not go unpunished.

There was a time when I discovered that I liked baking, so periodically and for no reason, I'd decide to bake, either on a weekend or a weeknight, and I'd end up bringing in an array of baked goods, usually chocolate chip cookies, muffins and mini-muffins, and brownies. One of the times, it was a friend's birthday, so I asked if he had any special requests, and he expressed a preference for pound cake, so I brought that in, and it became one of the things I would periodically make as well. Whenever I would bake, I would keep the goodies in plastic containers on a bookshelf on the other side of my desk. I would specifically let a few people know to come down and partake, but otherwise, it was pretty much available to anyone who happened to come into my office that day. They'd either be used to me periodically bringing stuff in, or I'd offer to a newbie, a messenger, the mail guy, whoever.

One day, someone on my floor stopped by because she noticed the containers. She wasn't someone who I was particularly close to nor someone I particularly liked, but I was pleasant to her. She came in, looked at the variety of 3 or so things I had and then said, "Is that all you have?" I responded with "yes", and she just left. I was really irritated because it wasn't like I was running a store or anything, and there were a few varieties of things. Even if I had only brought in cookies, if she wasn't interested, that was fine, but I was just pissed off at the way she asked that question. I'm spending the time and money to make this stuff and bring it in for no reason, but apparently, that wasn't enough. That comment was one of the reasons I eventually stopped bringing in baked goods.

On a similar note, I used to have various chocolates on my desk, like M&Ms, little miniature candy bars, kisses, whatever. They were just in some tins, and again, people knew I had it and would stop by to have some and chit chat with me. That's about all I asked for in return - take candy but stop and talk to me, if I could talk at that particular point in time. Again, a few different varieties, again, someone asked if that was all I had. Now, this from someone who came in and took candy regularly, didn't talk to me all that much (which was actually ok with me), and *never* brought any contributions to fill the tins. (Other people would periodically bring me bags of candy if they'd been regularly taking some from my tins.) Again, my money to buy it, for no reason, and again, that wasn't enough.

Some years ago, I was volunteering for an organization. I would work the two or three big events that the organization put on each year, and I'd also do work in the office. I went maybe one or two nights per week, after work, for maybe 2 or 3 hours at a time. I didn't always go in that much because in between events, there wasn't that much to do, but when things would start to ramp up, they knew to call me, and I'd go in when I could. After I'd been doing it for a couple of years, as we got closer to the events, they would try to get me to come in more often. Well, I was already going in two nights per week, on top of working all day and other stuff that I had to do in my life. They were trying to get me to commit to coming on a particular night, and I said I couldn't because I had already made plans with a friend, and they actually tried to make me feel guilty for not coming. Hmmm, I guess the hours of work I've already done didn't mean anything, given that I was on the list of volunteers who were there most often. There were a few other volunteers I was friendly with, and I happened to have conversations with them about this, including some who weren't putting in as much time, and it turned out the powers that be were putting this kind of pressure on all of us regulars, and the effect it had was that we felt unappreciated and it made us actually less interested in being there. They eventually ended up driving the majority of us away. The only people who had been in the office and at events more than us was generally paid staff people. We gave up evenings and weekends to help out, for no money, but apparently, that wasn't enough.

A friend recently told me a story of a wedding that she was attending. It was a very small affair, with just a ceremony, no reception, and the bride had mentioned that after the wedding, the wedding party could all just get together for dinner at a particular restaurant. As her gift to the bride and groom, she generously offered to pay for that dinner, which the bride and groom thankfully accepted. And then the bride wanted to include another couple who wasn't in the wedding party. And the friend said ok. And then the bride wanted to change to a much more expensive restaurant. And the friend reluctantly said ok. And when they were at dinner, the bride ordered the most expensive thing on the menu and also ordered a side dish that she didn't end up wanting and offered to others at the table, and then she ended up taking most of her dinner as leftovers anyway. I thought my friend was being very generous in offering to pay for dinner in the first place, especially given other circumstances going on, but apparently, that wasn't enough.

And we come to the most recent example. Someone in my department at work bought a Christmas tree last year to put up in our reception area, just to brighten things up. Everyone was invited to bring an ornament, if they wanted, to decorate the tree with. After Christmas, people could take their ornaments back or leave them for the following year. Recently, the tree was taken back out, and a time was arranged to decorate it and the same invitation about ornaments was sent out, and she even provided milk and cookies while we did the decorating. We all helped to put the old and new ornaments on the tree, had some treats and some time to socialize, and at the end, there was a lovely tree up in the reception area. It was pretty simple - just a pre-lit green tree with a fairly eclectic mixture of ornaments since so many people contributed. Very festive.

And then we were talking the next day, and she mentioned that she'd gotten complaints. I couldn't imagine what about. She said some people didn't like that it was a pre-lit tree. Some people didn't think certain ornaments should be on there - there were none that were inappropriate. Some wondered why there wasn't also a menorah up and something for Kwanzaa and whatever else.

Grow up, people. SHE BOUGHT THE TREE WITH HER OWN MONEY. She organized this herself, with help from someone who actually put the tree together both years. She ordered the milk and cookies. She arranged everything. If you wanted something different or more, why don't you do it yourself? You can bitch and moan and complain about the effort that someone else puts in when you can't be bothered to do anything yourself. I thought she did a great job in putting everything together, but apparently, it wasn't enough.

Sometimes, it doesn't seem to pay to do something nice for someone. It makes me wonder why anyone does anything good for anyone else, when you can sometimes get so much grief for doing something nice. But I try not to let that affect how I behave towards people. If I run into something like that, it generally affects how I behave in the future with that particular person, but it doesn't generally carry over to other people. I've had other instances when people have been very thankful for assistance, so those are what I hang onto.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cubicaller!




OK, someone on a discussion board that I'm on posted a link to this item. I love it! I so want one!

I do have an office at work, not a cubicle, but this would still be cool to have. Maybe it's just something I'm particular about. When I go to someone's office or desk, I try to make my presence known unobtrusively, like "hi" or something like that. That way, I've announced my presence, but it gives them a second to finish what they're doing before they can show that they're ready for me.

I'm apparently the only one who does this. It irritates me when people just walk into my office or knock on the door without first seeing if I'm 1) on the phone or 2) working on something where it might take me a few seconds to disengage. It's not like people need to make an appointment to see me or anything. They can come and talk to me pretty much at any time, except for the rare occasions when I'm in the middle of a project where I cannot be interrupted unless you're one of maybe 3 people in the company. But I'm often working on something that I'm concentrating on, and I can be interrupted, but maybe I'm in the middle of writing a sentence or doing a calculation, and I would just like two seconds to finish that up before I stop to see what someone else needs. But they either just walk right in and start talking (or worse yet, start talking about 2 seconds before they get to my office, so they're already mid-sentence by the time they're already in my office, which means they've already started talking before they can see me, so they wouldn't know if I'm on the phone or even if someone's already in my office), or they knock on my door loudly, which actually disturbs me quite a bit and I'm jolted from whatever I'm in the middle of.

A doorbell would be nice. Most people ring a doorbell and then wait. That would be perfect.

Except with my luck, because it's discreet, most people wouldn't see it. For a time, I had a sign on my door that said "Please do not knock. Thank you." Some people would knock DIRECTLY ON THE SIGN ITSELF and when I'd mention it, they didn't even notice the sign. Other people, knowing the sign is there all the time, came by at one point when I didn't have the sign up since I figured I'd made my point, and knocked because after all, there was no sign up at that particular time. GET OUT OF MY OFFICE.

In any case, here's a link to the item for anyone who might find it useful.

BTW, I love that site. I was first directed to it because they have the Periodic Table Shower Curtain that's in the bathroom of Leonard and Sheldon's apartment in "The Big Bang Theory" that the husband liked so much. I was going to get it for him, but it was out of stock, but I see that it's listed as in stock now, so maybe I'll go on a shopping spree.

They have a lot of cool stuff on that site to look at. Haven't found a t-shirt yet, though, that really jumps out at me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Maybe someone can get in touch with King Solomon

I heard about the story of Jennifer DeJongh (aka Jennifer Lopez) and her three children, an 8 year old boy and twin 6 year old boys, early last week. She and the father of her three children never married, but they've had a contentious custody battle over the kids. The boys' father, Brian Miller, had previously pled guilty to charges of spousal abuse. There are some reports that he also pled guilty to charges of child abuse, but there are conflicting reports on whether or not that's true. There were allegations at least. Jennifer is currently married to another man, and she and her husband and the three boys had been living with Jennifer's father.

And then something happened. I can't seem to get a handle on the story, but somehow, Brian's parents got involved. Brian's father is Gary Miller, a Congressman who represents the areas of Diamond Bar, Brea, Chino and Chino Hills in Southern California. Through various court decisions, the three boys were given to Gary and his wife to have temporary custody.

Jennifer objected to the custody arrangement, including the Millers' contention that they should have some sort of custodial/parental rights when it came to decisions having to do with the children. On the day that she was supposed to hand her children over to the Millers, she instead disappeared. Her husband has disappeared as well. Though Jennifer's father says he has not spoken to her and doesn't know where she is, speculation is that they have all fled to Las Vegas or elsewhere in Nevada where she has friends.

I have no idea what to make of this case. There are a couple of red flags that come up for me though. Whatever the arrangement between Jennifer and Brian is what it is - but why are Brian's parents involved? If there are two parents alive and available, they should be the ones who have a say in what happens with the children. If for some reason one parent is unavailable or incapable, then it's up to the other parent - the unavailable/incapable parent doesn't get to nominate a proxy for his/her parental rights. The only time grandparents should be involved in a custody issue is if both parents are either dead or deemed unfit as parents, in which case I don't think the grandparents should be automatically awarded custody, but they should be reviewed along with any other relatives or anyone else who is in a position to provide a good home for the child/children. But absent that, I don't think grandparents should have legal rights to a child, unless the grandparents have in fact been acting as de facto parents of the child.

Maybe I've just been conditioned to think this way, but not knowing the whole story, I find myself siding with Jennifer. Brian has already admitted to spousal abuse. While not an automatic leap, it wouldn't be a stretch to think he might therefore be capable of child abuse. I think I'm focussing on the fact that she thought she was in a situation dire enough that she had to take her children and run. It takes a lot to decide that. They're not exactly running off to a tropical island with no extradition treaty. It's just another state, a state where it's apparently known they're going, and you've got to figure that sooner or later, they're going to be found. But she's risking that to keep her boys from a situation that she must believe she's protecting them from. And the boys are old enough where they couldn't just be told a story - they'd have to know that something is up.

On the other hand, I suppose it's possible that she's so delusional that she thought there was an issue when there was none, and she is instead putting her kids in danger by being on the run. Some have expressed that if the kids were alleging abuse, it must have happened, since no mother would implant that in their children. Sadly, that's not the case. It has happened before in custody cases where the mother coaches the children to claim abuse to help in a custody case, so it's not impossible.

There are allegations coming from Jennifer's father that somehow, Gary Miller used his position to influence the judge in the case against Jennifer. On the one hand, that's something that could be entirely possible. On the other hand, it's also really easy to make that accusation. In either case, there is no proof.

Jennifer's father has said that Jennifer didn't think she had a choice, and he doesn't expect to see any of them for quite some time.

Gary Miller has said that he's worried about his grandkids and just wants them back.

You have to wonder about Jennifer's husband. He is most likely with them. Would he have run with them if he didn't also believe that handing the kids over would be detrimental to them? Would he have run if he didn't agree with Jennifer's feelings? Would he be on the run with them just so he could be with Jennifer?

But the most damaging thing for me in all this is that we've heard nothing from the kids' father, Brian. Both grandfathers have pled their case, and you've heard opinions from other family members, friends and strangers. And yet, I've not heard a word from the father. Gary Miller's statements say that he and his wife and Brian want the kids back - why can't Brian say something for himself? It really is bothering me that the grandparents are in this picture so much.

All I think about, though, is that this past Thanksgiving, the three boys were not at home, not in a place they knew and were familiar with and were comfortable in. They were away from most of the people they knew, and they probably don't understand a thing of what's going on. They've been the prize in this tug-of-war between their parents, between their grandparents. I don't know who's right and who's wrong. I just know that whatever is happening, it's definitely not in the best interest of the children, and that's what really needs to happen.


Here are a number of different stories about this situation.

The Whittier Daily News

another article from the Whittier Daily News

an Associated Press article

a Los Angeles Times article

another Whittier Daily News article

an Orange County Register article

a Whittier Daily News article about parent abductions

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Desperate Housewives" and "Heroes"

"Desperate Housewives" - I like the "water under the bridge" theme of this episode. We think we've gotten rid of things in the past, but the past always comes back to haunt you. And boy does this episode epitomize that.

There were a lot of funny lines in the episode. When Bree is trying to talk Orson into letting baby Benjamin sleep in their bed, he says the reason people did that was so the baby could be near their milk, and since Bree wasn't lactating, that would mean Benjamin would really need to sleep in the refrigerator. I laughed really hard at that line.

Bree is still so misguided. She is trying so hard to not repeat her past mistakes that she doesn't even see that she's just forging on ahead making brand new ones. OK, so she wants Benjamin to turn out differently, and Danielle is pretty much out of the picture. But Andrew is right there. And virtually invisible. She says that the three of them (her, Orson and Benjamin) are a happy little family - but she completely excludes Andrew, and he's witness to that time and again. And finally, it results in him moving out. But it didn't turn out quite the way I thought. There's a part of him that's still the same person he was as far as personality, but he's not nearly as destructive. And he has already pledged support to his mother, in his own mind. And he's right - she hasn't seen or really acknowledged any of the progress that he's made in the last year or two. But I did like that in the end, he's going to go out on his own, but there's a very different relationship there now between Bree and him - he's his own person now.

And the past coming back to haunt someone is played out beautifully in the cycle of blackmail that follows. Katherine's husband is visited by someone who was obviously involved in the "Chicago incident". You get the feeling there was some kind of affair or something. Mike is witness to this, so Mike takes advantage to ask him for a prescription for his painkillers. The husband in turn asks Orson to write the scrip instead, blackmailing him by reminding Orson that he knows about Danielle being the real mother of Benjamin. Orson is still hesitant, but after talking to Mike, who says the pain originated when he was hit by a truck, Orson readily agrees to hand over the scrip, since Orson knows it was him that hit Mike. Oh, what a tangled web we weave and all that.

And then when Barrett, Mike's dealer, tries to blackmail Mike into letting him keep his date with Julie, Mike rats him out instead, but the dealer rats him out right back about how much business they've done together.

And poor Susan. She's so delusional. First, she tries to set Julie up with Barrett based on superficial information. And then, she wants so hard to believe Mike that he's given up the drugs. But he lies to her again and again. And Susan has to find out the hard way that Mike has not in fact given up on the drugs as he'd promised.

Gabrielle and Carlos - OK, really still don't care that much. But when Gabrielle slipped the sleeping pills in Carlos' drink, I thought it was odd that the pills took effect that quickly. Was that because they were dissolved? Odd. And Victor was found. Ho hum. But the twist there was perfect. Amnesia, he doesn't remember anything that happened on the boat. Oh, yeah, how convenient. That happens on soaps a lot. But then we get that he definitely remembers. And Gabrielle knows it. Usually, they really do have amnesia or they don't, but they're keeping it a secret from everyone. In this case, only Gabrielle knows, for now, anyway, until she's able to tell Carlos. So now, Victor's got that to hold over her and Carlos. What is he going to ask for in return?

And then there's the story of Lynette and her mother and stepfather. I was kind of curious about casting Richard Chamberlain in that role, but he was actually perfect for it. I didn't guess the reveal at all. I figured it was something like he'd had the affair instead of the mother, but his being gay didn't figure into it. Nice twist there, and then with the mother being his new roomie.


"Heroes" - So I guess I hadn't paid enough attention to connect the verbal dots, but getting hit by a clue by four finally did it - the virus is named after Mohinder's sister. So is that why his blood doesn't work to counteract that, because he's a relative?

OK, Noah's healed. What I really want to know, though, is does that mean he doesn't have to wear glasses anymore? Does it heal *everything* or just up to where he was before?

Sylar has managed to wrap Maya around his little finger. He's still evil, but in a purely human way now, without the special powers - yet. He knows just what to say to get Maya to trust him and be attracted to him and think that he's her saviour. He even tries to sacrifice himself to save her, to show her that she can control her own powers. OK, well, if she can control her power now, then why does she still need Mohinder? Didn't she need him because she couldn't control herself and she needed someone to help her do that, other than her brother? And poor Alejandro. He didn't know exactly who he was getting involved with. The shot of Sylar and Maya kissing outside his room as he shuts the door on Alejandro's stabbed dead body in the room was chilling. Body count 1.

I loved the scenes with Claire trying to pack her things. She goes through a litany of the physical harm that's come to her, that she's always healed from, but the one thing her powers can't do is heal her broken heart.

So Mohinder thinks he's found a cure for the virus to save Nikki, but he may not be able to test it since Sylar and Maya are now "babysitting" Molly. Uh oh.

Micah and his copycat cousin get themselves into a mess of trouble. But we knew that was coming when the camera focussed in on the cousin when Nikki was consoling Micah.

And, I win the lottery. That was in fact Joanna Cassidy playing Victoria. When her name came up in the credits, I actually yelled at the television. Her character is there to explain a few things, I guess, and to really show that Peter is completely being mislead. She only lasted one show. Body count 2. But if Victoria left the company when Hiro's dad refused to destroy the virus and decided to hide it instead, when was the picture taken that we've been seeing? That was obviously taken at a later time.

And the ending - it comes down to Hiro versus Peter. Yeah, I knew it was going to be a cliffhanger.




So next Sunday and Monday are going to be action packed. Huge tornado/hurricane on "Desperate Housewives" and the last episode of this arc of "Heroes", to see how much they wrap up. What a way to start December! And if the writers' strike doesn't end soon, we may just be left with what we see next week.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

No wonder Spock is ashamed to acknowledge his human side

So WonderBoy JJ Abrams is working on the next Star Trek movie for Paramount, and they are actually doing the Starfleet Academy days storyline that's been bandied around for a while and which has been previously rejected repeatedly. Do Star Trek fans want to see an Academy movie? Will they accept other actors playing their favorites? How the heck are they going to work in Spock and Kirk together at the Academy without destroying the time/space continuum of canon?

I will admit that I don't know most of the people playing the characters we know. The exception is Zachary Quinto, who does a fabulous job playing Sylar on "Heroes", but I can totally see him as a great Spock. But apparently, I missed the recent announcement of who has been cast as Spock's human mother - Winona Ryder. Ummm, really? OK, I liked her back in the day (I can't even begin to remember the last film she was in), but I can't picture her playing as iconic a role as Spock's mother. She's going to step into Jane Wyatt's role as Spock's beloved mother? Maybe it's just that I'm used to seeing Winona as a young adult still, so her being a mother, and Spock's mother at that, is just something I can't fathom.

I'm invested enough in Star Trek that I know I'll go to see the movie regardless. I'll see what the trailers look like to get an idea of what to expect, but I'm not seeing Abrams as the saviour that so many other people seem to view him as.

Better have that transporter handy...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

television round-up - "Heroes", "Hell's Kitchen", "Survivor" and "Law and Order"

"Heroes" - I liked this episode, with a few more bits of information revealed to us. I'm finding myself interested again in how the issues will be resolved, at least temporarily.

It was pretty much telegraphed that Matt Parkman was going to go where he ended up going with using more of his power, but I like that they did it in bits, first with him getting Molly to do what he wanted and then getting his boss to let him continue investigating. I think we were left to hope that he wasn't really going to go all the way when Angela Petrelli told him that he was becoming just like his father, but since he did get the name of the mystery woman in the end (and I keep thinking she looks an awful lot like Joanna Cassidy), he must have had to take that from Angela against her will.

I think the story of Elle is kind of interesting, but I'm not sure if they're going to be able to give her the depth that she needs. So far, she's a fairly one-dimensional character. She's pretty much been sheltered all her life, and she's been taught that people are toys or pets, which explains her behaviour towards Peter previously and in reference to Mohinder, her comment of "he's adorable - can I keep him?" They tried to give her a little more background by telling you about her life growing up, so that you do start to feel a little sympathy for her, but it's not until the end that you see something might actually be happening to change her. Guess we'll see in the next episode. However, I did think it was great when she woke up and realized she was tied up and then just tried to zap her way out of it - only to elocute herself because her feet were in a bucket of water and she'd been spritzed with water. Priceless.

When Bob was posing as a Board of Education member or whatever and talking to Claire and then calls her "Ms. Bennett" - was that really an accident? From the way he was wording it, it almost seemed like he meant to do it. He was saying things as if to let her know that he was onto her, so what better way than to call her by her real name?

Hiro's travels with his father was a bit of a diversion, but I liked the end result, that his father was taking his death calmly, that Hiro came to accept that he couldn't just save his father because he personally wanted to do it, and the closure that was arrived between father and son before the father's death. But the reveal I've been waiting for happened - Hiro looked into the face of the man who killed his father and saw that it was Adam/Kensei.

Oh, and I liked the explanation of why Adam hasn't aged, that he's regenerated so many times so he stays at that age. I wonder what the threshold is. I mean, how many times has Claire healed herself? And does it have to be completely or just parts? We know she did a lot of experiments in her original high school at least.

And the painting comes true - Mohinder kills Noah. Ummm, well, he shoots Noah at least. But then you get that funky, gross resurrection scene at the end. Hmmm, so Bob got enough blood from Claire to heal Noah *and* Nikki? Is there any left over? If Claire just becomes the sole donor to the Red Cross, everyone's good. Well, at least until that nasty virus hits next week anyway.

And now, Peter has gotten sucked into Adam's plan. Peter, who was given information by his later-ally Hiro has now thrown in with Hiro's arch-nemesis (?) to save the world. Question is, does Peter really know what he's gotten himself into? And did Adam change his ways from wanting to hurt Hiro any way he could, or is that really still the driving force behind his actions?


"Hell's Kitchen" - The episode was pretty much what the previews had promised from the week before. As the owner was talking about how she took all her money and opened this restaurant, and she couldn't figure out what was wrong, I was screaming at the TV that what was wrong was that she was opening a fine dining restaurant in POMONA. Are you kidding me? Did she just pick some random city to open the restaurant in without thinking about what city she'd picked? She can't have been from anywhere around there to think, hey, I know what Pomona needs - a fine dining restaurant!

And she was completely abdicating any responsibility for the place. I've found that interesting in a few of these cases. OK, so you're the owner - shouldn't you know what's going on in your restaurant? Shouldn't you be the one in charge? And if you don't have the guts to be in charge, why did you decide to be the boss?

I thought the test of the chef and sous chef was interesting of whether they could identify cuts of meat while they were blindfolded. I honestly can't imagine how you could mix up beef and chicken - they have completely different texture and taste, even if you cook the beef all the way through. If you've got beef that is the texture of chicken, you've got a problem, and vice versa. I probably don't have pork often enough to know whether or not you should be able to tell the difference.

And I know there are differences in fine dining but powdered mashed potatoes? And frozen everything? And what's the point of having things on the menu that you never actually have available? How can you not see that would be a problem? And again, why didn't the owner know that, and if she did, why did she allow it to continue?

When Gordon was working on the new menu with them and told them to come up with something, I cracked up when he mentioned the Pomona Salad, and how it should evoke and represent Pomona. Ummm, ewwwww. Seeing Pomona Salad on the menu isn't going to make me want to order that, no matter where I am.

I didn't think Gordon would be able to get the executive chef to come around, but it was nice that he did. Demoting him seemed to have done some good, but you get the impression that a lot more happened to make the turnaround in both the executive chef and Gordon. It was nice that Gordon was able to make a change, but apparently, it happened too late in the game since the restaurant didn't survive.


"Survivor" - I wasn't really expecting an episode of the show since it was Thanksgiving, so the fact that they showed a recap show wasn't a big thing, and we didn't really learn anything significant that we didn't already know. Looking forward to seeing what the big twist is on this week's show.


"Law and Order: SVU"

two weeks ago - This was the episode about the crazy woman who was killing to impress her serial killer "boyfriend" who was in prison for life for multiple murders. It's always been a point of discussion to figure out why some people (mostly women) are so fascinated and fixated with men in prison, particularly those who have committed heinous crimes, and who even go to the point of falling in love with them. It was great seeing the disgust on Casey's face when she realized that she would have to work with the serial killer to convict the woman doing the copycat killing. At least they came up with a fairly understandable reason why this woman fell for him as she did - the ones where there is no explanation are the freakier ones.

OK, are the detectives just not paying attention or have I been watching too many of these episodes. As soon as they said there was a pizza delivery for Olivia and she said she didn't order it, I knew there was a problem. But they just all accepted it until it went kablooey. Ummm, ok, asleep at the wheel much?

But then Olivia got great payback. How unlucky do you have to be to choose to attack a police officer in her own home, while she's on the phone with her office so she can immediately call for backup, and then beats you to a bloody pulp with a really thick, heavy book before finally realizing to pull back before she beats you to death with it?

But Casey won it all. I loved that when the serial killer changed his testimony on the witness stand, she managed to play to his ego and have him critique the copycat killing. But her best play was even yet to come. Mr. Serial Killer dude was all smirky because she had made a deal to transfer him to a different prison. But he didn't know that she could keep her deal with him *and* arrange for him to be transferred to a prison with tighter security and more restrictions so that he would be even more isolated and cut off from the world for the remainder of his life sentences.


last week's episode - This was a stellar episode, turning an issue on its head, as they're so famous for. They find out that a man has committed rapes on several young girls, only to discover when they finally catch him that he's been off his psych drugs and committed the crimes while off the drugs, and there are at least extenuating circumstances for what caused him to commit the crimes. However, usually, the argument is that he shouldn't be sent to prison because he wasn't responsible for those crimes since he wasn't on the drugs. In this case, though, when the rapist is on his drugs and lucid, he is absolutely horrified by what he's done, and he's not only ready to face his punishment, but he'd rather be extradicted to a different state that has the death penalty as a consequence of the crimes he has committed. You don't feel sorry for him or feel empathy for him really, but it's the first time you actually feel *their* sorrow and actual remorse. He can't live with himself, so you at least respect that in his medicated form, he is not a monster, but you realize along with him that he can't be trusted to stay that way and that he still needs to pay for what he did.

One of the issues this episode does bring up is that of the death penalty. It's a very short scene, but several of them do go through the pros and cons of having a state that employs the death penalty. And you discover that a cop and a prosecutor are perhaps not surprisingly on opposite sides of that discussion. I didn't much care for the ending though. Casey tries to convince the guy that he needs to forgive himself. But I think he's right. In the light of day and under his meds, he knows how horrible his actions were, how those girls that he hurt are going to be scarred for life, and even if there were extenuating circumstances and he wasn't on meds, he still knows he did it. How can you *ever* forgive yourself for that? How *do* you live with that?

But the best part of the episode was the appearance of Sam Waterston. I had seen his name in the credits earlier, so I knew he'd be in it, but I'd forgotten about Jack McCoy's promotion. Or maybe I just didn't think it had gone through yet. Casey has to defend her very unorthodox and unapproved actions to her new boss, the new District Attorney, Jack McCoy. When the old DA stepped down, Jack was promoted. I've been wondering how that's going to play out on "Law and Order" since he's really my favorite part of that show, and with him being DA, he might not be in it as much, unless they change the format a bit. But it was great seeing him here, dressing down Casey. Welcome back, Jack. Looking forward to seeing more of him on new episodes of "Law and Order" in January.


this week's episode - I didn't think this episode was as good as the last two. You kind of got a little of everything - a little bit about a father's taking justice and revenge in his own hands, little bits about race issues, and quite a bit about the foster kids, but I think they've done better stories about the foster kids. The story of the two brothers was a little too easy, a little too formulaic, and then of course, you had to throw in that the newbie in the squad room was also a foster kid. And the resolution to the murder case itself was fairly convoluted so that the whole story just seemed manufactured to tell the foster children story. Like I said, they've done that story much better before.


"The Big Bang Theory" and "Back to You" - Both of these shows are in reruns early. The writers' strike has hit the comedies early, since they don't tape as far ahead, and they require more on-set rewrites than do dramas. There won't be any new episodes of these shows, if at all, until probably a few weeks after the strike is finally over. Since this is the first season for both shows, that could put them in jeopardy. I hope the strike doesn't tank either one of those shows.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Creating your own M&M world

The M&M's folks have a website where you can create your own M&M characters and put them in different backgrounds with different things around them. Here's the website.

Here's what I came up with earlier this year:




There are some various reasons why specific images are included in the picture, but the backdrop is because I like Stonehenge. I was actually able to visit back in the 90s. We weren't able to get right up next to it, but we were able to get closer to it than you apparently can now - because of vandalism and other issues that was causing destruction to the historic site, they've had to move people further and further back. There was a tiny little store near the site that had various memorabilia. They had a mini resin reproduction of Stonehenge, and it's one of the things I regret not having gotten. It was a little expensive for my budget at the time, and it was a little heavier, and then there was the whole issue of having to bring it home to the States. But I wish I'd gotten it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Andy Riley is a genius

Some years ago, I was wandering around a bookstore, and I just happened to run across some books by Andy Riley - "The Book of Bunny Suicides" and "Return of the Bunny Suicides". There was a running joke with a friend that's too long and complicated and weird to go into, so the titles themselves caught my attention. But after flipping through the books, the warped sense of humour that goes into making the books just called to me. I bought the books for the friend, but recently, I was reminded of them, and I needed to get some for myself.



This is the one that started it all. It's basically a book of fairly simple black-and-white drawings of different ways that bunnies can commit suicide - sometimes, it's even almost the Darwin Award for Bunnies.

Most of them are fairly simple, but descriptions don't do the pictures justice. Here's an example from near the end of the book. A dog is sleeping on a rug, and the tip of his tail is between the "teeth" of a stapler. A bunny is in mid-leap onto the stapler.



The second book has more twisted suicides. My favorite, and one that made me literally laugh out loud, is from about the middle of the book. It shows a bunny with a hand-held grater - and it has already grated off most of its head.

Both books also have various pictures that use elements from famous movies/TV shows, like the transporter from "Star Trek", Darth Vader from "Star Wars", a familiar eye from "Lord of the Rings" and the creature from "Alien".





The next series also has two books and involves outrageous lies to tell kids. These also have various drawings to accompany the sentiments.

Some of the ones I like:

If you put a slice of ham in the DVD player, it will play a short film about pigs. A slice of cheese will play a short film about cows.

Keep a chicken nugget in a shoe box, leave it some water and corn, and soon it will grow into a live chicken.

Goldfish can send text messages. Drop your mother's phone in the bowl and you'll see.


And this one is my favorite:

Penguins spend a lot of time wondering why pixar have never made a movie about them.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nick and Stef's Steakhouse - Downtown Los Angeles

The husband and I are fans of restaurants owned and operated by The Patina Group. There are a few of their restaurants that we visit regularly, and the goal is to eventually visit all of them, on the left coast anyway.

To celebrate our 8th anniversary, we decided to try Nick and Stef's Steakhouse, which is named after the two sons of owner and executive chef of The Patina Group Joachim Splichal and his wife Christine. We'd heard about the restaurant some time ago and hadn't thought too much of it, because, hey, it's a steakhouse. Great, I like steakhouses, but they're just steakhouses, you know? But as we got to know Patina Group restaurants better, we figured that even as "just" a steakhouse, it would probably be a great place to go given the flair they usually add to different cuisines, and we heard from someone that it was in fact a fabulous place, so we figured an anniversary was a good reason to go.

We had reservations for 7:30 on this Tuesday evening, but with traffic and other things, I was running late getting there from work, so I didn't arrive until about 7:50pm. The husband was waiting in the bar area, and we were promptly seated.

After perusing the menu, we decided to share a starter of Spanish Bluefin Tuna Sashimi with pickled Japanese mushrooms, shaved radish and sweet onion ponzu. For an entree, I decided on the venison elk chops, and the husband chose the Sonoma lamb chops. As side dishes, we decided to split orders of crispy potato gnocchi, Reggiano and brussel sprouts with bacon and garlic. We shared bottled water, and since I'm not a big wine drinker, the husband ordered individual glasses of wine himself, white to go with the tuna and some kind of bordeaux to go with the lamb.

A bread basket was brought to the table, and I particularly liked one of the kinds of bread, which had whole grains in it. We enjoyed the atmosphere and conversation as we waited for the appetizer.

The tuna sashimi came with five very nice slices of very red fish and accompaniments around. The tuna was very good quality, very tasty and very smooth. I also liked the ponzu sauce as well as the pickled mushrooms.

The husband really enjoyed his lamb chops. He cut a piece off for me to taste, and it was delicious, very tender and flavorful. He had ordered it medium, and it was cooked quite nicely. Different restaurants seem to have a different idea of what constitutes "medium", and many tend to overcook, but we had discussed this with the server when we were ordering, and he explained what their "medium" meant.

One of the things I learned when talking to the server about the menu items is that venison doesn't mean what I thought it meant. I'd always considered venison to be just deer, but the server told me that venison is used to indicate the meat of any animal with antlers. I happen to really like venison, and I think every time I've had it, it's been deer. I have tried elk once, at White Orchid in Reno. I liked it ok, but it was actually cooked more than I normally like my red meat cooked, and it was a little "gamier" (I think I'm using that word right - I've heard people talk about this meat or that meat being gamey, but I've never quite understood what taste they've meant by it) than I was used to. Tonight, I decided to order it medium rare, as I am generally liking my meat not cooked through nowadays. I did like it better than the elk I'd had previously, but there was definitely a different taste that I couldn't quite identify but which I hadn't ever noticed before with the deer venison that I'd had. The meat was also a bit tougher and chewier than deer venison, and even though the husband's lamb chop was cooked more, the lamp was more tender than the elk. The side of the chop was encrusted with some black pepper, which gave it a nice added flavor. When I'd ordered, the server had asked if I'd wanted any sauce on it. I wasn't sure, so he said he'd bring out a red wine sauce on the side for me to try. I did dip one piece into it, but the sauce was too sweet and strong and completely overpowered the taste of the meat itself, so I didn't have any more. Since I've given elk two tries now, and found it to be ok but not captivating, I don't expect I'll order it again.

I've not necessarily been a fan of gnocchi as I generally find it to be too pasty and gooey as a pasta base. However, since the gnocchi we ordered was crispy, I really liked it a lot. It wasn't pasty or gooey at all, and the Reggiano gave it an amazing flavor, but then, I'm partial to Reggiano.

I also very much enjoyed the brussel sprouts. I know a lot of people are amazed that the husband and I both enjoy them (cooked right, not boiled past an inch of its life) since so many people seem to hate them. I never had them growing up, so I'm not sure if people just had them cooked wrong when they were kids and so learned to hate them and won't try them cooked correctly. The husband says that there is a bitterness to them (which I can kind of see, but I guess it doesn't taste that way to me), which may partly be the reason that kids don't like them and learn to say they hate them as adults. The brussel sprouts were cooked perfectly, at just the right level of crispness and retaining all of their flavor. I tend to like my brussel sprouts fairly simple - maybe cooked in just a little bit of butter. I don't like sauce on them - it just hides/detracts from the flavor. These brussel sprouts were cooked with a bit of bacon and garlic, and they added flavor to the brussel sprouts while still letting their natural flavor come through.

Both the gnocchi and brussel sprouts were served on small plates that looked like skillets, and I thought that was really cute.

For dessert, I opted for choices from their house-made ice creams and sorbets. There are three flavors of each, and you can choose any combination of three. I chose the pineapple sorbet, the coconut almond ice cream and the strawberry ice cream. The sorbet was very light but filled with pineapple flavor, and the coconut almond reminds me of Almond Joy, pretty much my favorite candy bar, so I enjoyed them both. I had been curious about the strawberry ice cream because I'm not normally a fan of strawberry ice cream as I generally find it to be very bland, but there's another restaurant we go to periodically that makes their own ice cream, and their strawberry is absolutely incredible, heavy on flavor and even with little bits of the berry in it. This strawberry ice cream wasn't quite as good (it was a little lighter in color), but it was very delicious and something I'd definitely have again. The husband chose the milk chocolate and Guinness bread pudding with Jamieson caramel and Bailey's ice cream, and he very much enjoyed that. With his dessert, he also had a glass of a port that he absolutely loves. Trader Joe's used to carry it but unfortunately has not carried it for some time, and he hasn't been able to find it at Beverages and More either, so he was happy to be able to have it there.

All in all, it was a wonderful dinner. The food was terrific, and the service was very good, attentive without being overbearing. The server (who coincidentally has the same name as a favorite server at another Patina restaurant) was very friendly and helpful when I would ask questions about various items. Towards the back of the restaurant, there's a room where the meat is aged, so it's a rather interesting sight. They also have a nice looking party room on the side of the restaurant. Complimentary three-hour validated parking is available after 4pm in the adjacent Wells Fargo parking structure, so that's very convenient.

With a number of items on the menu that look interesting to try, it's somewhere I'd definitely go back to and that I'd certainly recommend.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who are you breaking bread with?

It's Thanksgiving week, and with Christmas and other year-end holidays fast approaching, I'm hearing a lot of people talking about how they're dreading spending this holiday or that holiday with this person or that person. So maybe it's just me who doesn't understand subjecting yourself to something like that. I don't mean something like a company party where there's another employee there who you don't like - there's not much you can do about that since it's work if you have to attend.

But I'm hearing stories where one side or the other is upset that they're not spending every holiday with them - completing disregarding that their new (or even not-so-new) son-in-law or daughter-in-law also has parents that they'd like to see on holidays, so it's unreasonable to insist that they spend every single minute of every holiday with you, and if they don't, you throw a fit. Or I'm hearing people say that they really don't want to go to the big multi-family gathering because this person is a pill, and that person is vicious, and this other person is intolerable, and yet another person causes trouble every year and makes the day unbearable. So why don't they just not go? Because it's a family gathering, and if they don't go, then this other person will get upset, and they'll never hear the end of it, so rather than have to hear this person bitch about them *not* going, they'd rather go and subject themselves to a hellish day. Ummm, ok.

Maybe I just have a hard time understanding that sort of thing because in general, I've very lucky. My parents and siblings and their families are generally ok, and I enjoy holidays with them. There can be some issues at times, but nothing out of the ordinary. But both of our sides are very understanding about extended family, and neither demands attention at the exclusion of the other. The only holidays that we split are Thanksgiving and Christmas. We switch off every Thanksgiving between spending it with the husband's family and my family. Christmas Eve, we spend with the husband's family and Christmas Day, we spend with my family. Everyone shares nicely. Done.

For me, maybe it's just that I've spent my time trying to appease people, and all it's ever resulted in is me being miserable and then coming to resent being put in that position. As much as possible and as much as I can help it, I don't spend time with people I don't like. And no, it doesn't matter if we're related by blood. A lot of the problems seem to arise in a lot of cases because it involves family members. Somehow, many people seem to think that you need to accept treatment and behaviours from family members that you would not begin to accept from friends or strangers. Umm, nope, sorry, the "family card" doesn't work on me. I'm figuring that being family means you should be nicer to me than other people, not that you should expect me to take more crap from you than I would other people.

I'm thankful for my family, and I'm thankful for my friends.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Cheesecake Factory (the real restaurant - not the alternate reality one that apparently exists on "The Big Bang Theory")

The Cheesecake Factory is a chain of restaurants that has good food in addition to really good desserts, as one might expect given the name. It's not a place I went to often, but with a new location that opened up in the last year much closer to where I live, I've had an opportunity to visit more than the once-in-five-years or so that I had been visiting previously.

Most of my memory stems from a visit I made multiple years ago with a friend. We ended up at the Marina Del Rey location. We had arrived at about 3pm, and because it was between their lunch and dinner crowds, we had no problems with parking or getting a great table with a fantastic view of the marina. (By the time we left, the dinner rush was in full swing, with plenty of cars waiting for the valets.) We started with their nachos, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The appetizer nachos were a *huge* portion, piled high to boot. It would have been plenty to serve 4 or even 6 people. By the time we were done, we ended up eating not very much of our entrees because we wanted to save room for dessert. I've not ever ordered the nachos again, so I don't know if the appetizer is still huge. Even though I didn't have very much of my entree, the jambalaya, I remember how much I liked it. I haven't had that in some time either, so I'm hoping to return for dinner sometime to try that again.

The husband and I had lunch there today, and the jambalaya seemed too heavy for lunch. I remembered that on my last visit, a friend had ordered the Luau Salad, and it had looked really good, and she had seemed to really like it. The salad is described as "Fresh Slices of Grilled Chicken Breast Layered with Mixed Greens, Cucumbers, Green Onions, Red and Yellow Peppers, Green Beans, Mango and Crisp Wontons with Macadamia Nuts and Sesame Seeds, Tossed in Our Vinaigrette", which did sound good, so I ordered the lunch-sized portion of that. The husband really likes the Miso Salmon, described as "Fresh Salmon Marinated in Miso and Baked, Served with a Delicious Miso Sauce, Snow Peas and White Rice", so he ordered the lunch-sized portion of that. We also ordered the Chicken Pot Stickers ("Oriental Dumplings Pan-Fried in the Classic Tradition, Served with Our Soy Dipping Sauce") to start.

The pot stickers were very tasty, and I really enjoyed the dipping sauce that came with it. The husband liked the sauce as well, though he could have done without the cilantro that was scattered in it. The husband enjoyed his entree, and I had a taste of the salmon, which was very good and had a nice crispiness to it. I really enjoyed my salad. The mixture of ingredients was all things that I liked, and the layers with the crisp wontons made it almost like a huge nacho-like salad. The crisp wontons weren't the slivers that you normally get in other dishes. They were very large fried triangles, so I would eat one filled layer at a time. Definitely something I'd recommend if you want something a little lighter.

The Cheesecake Factory offers a fairly extensive menu, including pizza, burgers, Shepherd's Pie (which I'd like to try), Hungarian Beef Ghoulash (which I'd also like to try), pastas, fish and seafood, steaks and chops, salads, sandwiches, hispanic and asian-themed dishes as well as breakfast and Sunday brunch selections. And of course, they also offer a variety of desserts, including a large selection of different cheesecakes.

We weren't interested in having dessert after lunch, but we did decide to get some to go to have later. I opted for Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple ("Creamy Cheesecake Swirled with Caramel, Peanut Butter, Butterfingers® and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups®") and the husband chose the Lemoncello Cream Torte ("Layers of Vanilla Cake and Lemon Mascarpone Cream Topped with Streusel and Served with Strawberries and Whipped Cream"). They're both sitting in our refrigerator at the moment.

I like the atmosphere of the restaurant - the servers are very good and very attentive, but it's not stuffy or austere in the restaurant. It's very open and family-friendly. Because we were there for Sunday lunch, we opted to sit at one of the tall tables in the bar area, where we had a good view of the television sets with the Sunday NFL games. Definitely a restaurant that I recommend.

Here's the official website of The Cheesecake Factory.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

People say the stupidest things

1. The husband and I were at Disney's California Adventure on Friday for an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the release of the feature film length animated movie "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". After doing a few things earlier in the day, we were going back into DCA, so we got in line at the turnstiles around 5pm. There were only 3 lines open, and with two components of the event starting at 5pm, coupled with the regular guests just visiting the park, the lines were very long. As we moved our way up the line, the couple behind us asked if we knew why the lines were so long, so we explained about the event as well as the small number of lines that were open. The family in front of us had heard us so were asking about the event. We mentioned that it included a screening of the film that evening. The mother said, "You mean that really old movie?" I think I just kind of stared at her. "Well," she continued, "we're going on rides." I couldn't help myself from responding, "We can do that anytime. We're here pretty much every other week." The dad said that was nice, that it was an advantage of being local. The mom's comment really pissed me off. It would never occur to me to refer to something as groundbreaking and important as "Snow White and the Seven Dwards" simply as "a really old movie". I guess, in that case, "Birth of a Nation", "The Jazz Singer" (not the Neil Diamond version), "Citizen Kane" and "Psycho" are all just "really old movies". It really irritated me that she couldn't appreciate what we were doing, or even at the very least, allow that we were doing something we liked. OK, if you're an out-of-town visitor, then no, going to see a movie that you might have on DVD isn't going to be appealing, but to not even recognize that someone might be coming from a totally different place than you? BITCH!

2. We went to the Star Wars convention earlier this year, Celebration IV, and I was wearing a t-shirt from that convention. I got a few comments from people who were either there for part of the time, the whole time or who had wanted to go. At one point, a woman saw my shirt and said, "Are you a fan or do you know someone who's a fan?" I replied that I was, but I couldn't figure out why she'd ask that. If I wasn't a fan, why would I be wearing the shirt? If I wasn't a fan, and I had a friend who was and went, why would they think to buy me a shirt? Or why would I ask them to buy me one? And why would I want to wear it if I didn't at least like it? If I had responded to her question with, "No, I hate Star Wars, but I had nothing else to wear" or "No, I don't know anything about Star Wars, but I decided to wear the shirt anyway", wouldn't I have been the total idiot?

3. I own a letterman-style jacket that says "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (the TV show) on the front and has "slayer" and a dagger logo on the back. I had it on at some point a few years ago, and someone came up to me and said in an accusatory fashion, "Why are you wearing that?" I didn't know what to say. "Because I'm cold" and "because I like the show" came to mind, but I don't even remember what I said or why the person asked what she did in the manner that she asked it.

4. A number of years ago, the weekend prior to the release of "Terminator 2 - Judgement Day", I went to a convention to celebrate the film. At the convention, I bought a black t-shirt that just says "T-2" on a blueish background. Very understated and yet also very dramatic. At the time of the release of the film, they were having midnight showings the day of the release, so I went up to the Universal Citywalk theatres because I'd been excited to see the film, and those crowds are usually a lot of fun to watch films with because everyone is so into it. I was by myself, wearing the T-2 t-shirt that I'd bought at the convention, and I was standing in line waiting to be let into the theatre. I could hear the two teenage boys behind me talking, and all I could really make out was an exchange of "you ask her" / "no, you ask her". Finally, one of them got my attention and asked where I'd gotten the shirt, so I told them. After a pause, one of the boys asked if I'd be interested in selling it to them. OK, so this is middle of summer, and I'm wearing the t-shirt and shorts. I've got no jacket, no sweatshirt, nothing and no one else with me. Even if I'd wanted to sell the t-shirt, I would have then had nothing to wear instead of the shirt. So I said no. They seemed disappointed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Golden Bear has jaundice

So, yeah, I haven't talked about Cal football in quite some time. After a glorious stint at the number 2 spot, Cal has now sunk into the oblivion that is the normal existence for Cal football. A great 5-0 start and then 3 disastrous losses. We lost to USC, but at least we didn't get pounded. At this point, the only thing that's important is beating Stanford in the Big Game.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"The Big Bang Theory", "Back to You", "Kitchen Nightmares" and "Survivor" (and "Big Brother" note)

"The Big Bang Theory" - Another funny episode. I loved Penny's line to Sheldon that someday, she'll get the hang of talking to him, and Leonard's response that his mother's been saying that for years. I think it's interesting that they've made it so Penny likes half of the foursome (Leonard and Raj) and more or less dislikes the other half (Sheldon and Spock). It still bugs me that they pretend The Cheesecake Factory is something else entirely. Sheldon made a reference to a business in Reseda, so they're definitely in Southern California. I'm not sure why Penny needed people to actually order drinks though. I mean, can't they just give her names of drinks to test her? And Sheldon with his Diet Coke was a riot. In response to his request for a wedge of lime, I loved Penny's response of "then swim to Cuba". And the magic grasshopper allows Raj to actually talk to Penny. That was cool. However, he was such the bore with Lolita on their date.

I loved the twist they gave Sheldon. He's been the uber-geek one, but yet, they showed a completely different side of him with the Indian [Lolita: "Us Indian or come to our casino Indian?" :) ] fairy tale that he'd learned as a kid when he'd apparently fallen in love with the Indian princess. You totally believed that Lolita was much more into him than Raj, but as far as Sheldon was concerned, it was ultimately nothing. When he returns from the date, and Leonard asks if he's going to see her again, he's honestly incredulous at the question, because why on earth would he see her again since he already has a dentist. He also had no idea that it was bad form to leave with her when she was Raj's date.

I did disagree with one thing, though. While I thought it was funny to have Sheldon playing the keyboards and belting out songs, I thought it was wrong to have Penny spike his Diet Coke. It just really struck me as wrong for her character.


"Back to You" - I thought it was a decent episode, though it really didn't do much in the way of story. It was mostly interesting bits. (I'm a little disappointed that the bit about Montana's Hispanic heritage was apparently only being used in the first show.) I loved the scene of the birthday cake sliding down and being whacked by the windshield wipers, though even if that hadn't happened, who would have wanted rain-soaked cake? And I laughed at the exchange between Kelly and Montana when Montana comes in out of the rain and had no idea it was coming, and when Kelly points out that she's the weather girl, she is completely oblivious to the irony. The whole bit about the raccoon was actually pretty hysterical.


"Kitchen Nightmares" - This was an ok episode. It always kind of amazes me that chefs keep telling Gordon that he has no idea about anything about cooking. Ummm, hello? It also surprises me how many of these places lack any kind of major signage to tell people they're there. Next week's episode should be interesting. A restaurant in Pomona? OK...


"Survivor" - This was a good episode. I felt sorry for P.G., but she really needs to learn to shut her mouth. Yeah, ok, so you're frustrated, but making the target on your back bigger and brighter is *not* the way to go. It's kind of funny that she's the only Chinese person there and yet she hasn't been part of any winning team that gets to experience some local culture. I was glad she won immunity, though - it threw a nice wrench into things. I used to like Frosti, but I think I totally lost respect for him because of his connection with Courtney. What the heck was up with that? She's almost literally a stick - she might as well be a boy because she's got zero curves. I don't get that we see her eat, and she chose to eat during the immunity challenge even though she'd also eaten on the boat as part of the reward challenge, but she still weighs 4 pounds. I can't even imagine why Frosti finds her attractive. I think I noticed that Eric has bigger boobs than she does. I still want her to go. Eric was pretty funny with his goat noises. And if they kicked off Frosti because he's a big threat, then they might want to start *really* looking at the big pink elephant in the room - James. Strong and two idols? Yeah, I'm thinking it's time to go through with that blindsiding thing they'd planned on previously. And what was up with the end of tribal council? Guess we'll have to wait until next week.

On a slight tangent, I did notice that one of the ads during the show was a casting call for "Big Brother". That show only runs in the summer, but with the current writers' strike, they're looking for more reality programming, and there had been talk about them doing the next "Big Brother" early. Now would be a good time to start casting to get the show up and running in January or February if the strike is still going on.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Expectations

Many emotional reactions stem directly from expectations - met or not met, adhered to or disregarded. If one has no expectations, then one cannot be pleasantly surprised nor can one be horribly blindsided. If there are no expectations, then anything can happen at any time, so anything happening at any time never comes as a surprise. However, if we expect something good, and it doesn't happen, then we're disappointed. If we're not expecting a particularly good thing and it happens, then we're pleasantly surprised. If we're expecting a bad thing, and it doesn't happen, then we might be relieved. If it does, then it might not be as much of a shock as if we'd never seen it coming.

Expectations don't just exist in situations but also in relationships. We generally have a feel for how we fit in with the rest of the world, at least the parts of the world where we interact most, and so we expect particular interactions with particular people. Even with total strangers, there is still some baseline expectation that is dictated by social norms. Our expected interactions with people depend on each specific relationship.

When I'm at the grocery store, I don't expect the cashier to make conversation with me. I expect to participate in a business transaction, perhaps exchanging mild pleasantries. If the person is particularly chatty and asks about my day and what I've been doing and what I have planned for the weekend, then that crosses the boundaries of the exchange of information that I expect with a cashier. On the other hand, if I'm with an acquaintance or a friend, and they have no interest in engaging in regular conversation with me, that again breaks the expectations. One friend making a derogatory comment to you might be ok because it's part of your banter, but coming from another friend, that same comment becomes a real insult. If an acquaintance continues to schedule get-togethers only to bail at the last minute, my reaction would be just to not schedule any more and write the person off as a flake. If a good friend continued to do that, I'd be more hurt because I'd expect to be treated better than that.

Two circumstances have arisen lately where expectations were seriously not met, and for whatever reason, they have continued to stay with me. But I'll start with something a little further removed.


total stranger breaks expectations

It has always amazed me how much people don't pay attention not only to elevator etiquette, but sometimes, just to the common sense courtesy and physical impossibility of not being able to enter an elevator until those already in it get off first. The building in which I work has banks of elevators. I was riding down to the first floor, and sometimes, you'll encounter people who for whatever reason, completely disregard that they're on the ground floor of a busy building, so more often than not, there is going to be someone getting off any random elevator. But sometimes, they're just not paying attention, and when they realize people are getting out of the elevator, they'll back off before getting in the elevator themselves.

Recently, the elevator I was in got to the ground floor, and I was at the front right by the doors, with others behind me. As soon as the doors opened, before I could exit the elevator, someone from outside walked right in, so that I had to actually move out of the way so she wouldn't walk into me. She wasn't oblivious or forgetful - she just didn't care. She needed to get into the elevator and nothing was going to stop her. As she walked by me, I said, "Thanks for waiting for us" as I made my way out of the elevator. It annoyed me, but I chalk it up to just random stranger rudeness, and my calling her on her rudeness was enough for me.


acquaintance breaks expectations

I had gone to the food court of a nearby shopping center for lunch, and I had placed my order and was waiting for my food to come up. I was standing not really paying attention to anything. I was then aware of someone coming and standing right by me, just about touching me, and it irritated me that some people were just not aware of personal space, so I moved away some and continued to stand and wait. I eventually started to look around, and I noticed that an acquaintance was standing a little bit away from me. It then hit me that she might have been the person who came to stand by me. I got her attention and asked if it was her, and she replied that it was. I asked why she didn't make her presence known, that I had thought it was a complete stranger. She didn't really answer. We chitchatted for a while, and then my food came up, so I bid her goodbye.

Some days later, I found out that she had mentioned the incident to a mutual friend. She apparently initially thought I was just ignoring her. Now, I would say that even though we're just acquaintances, she should know me well enough to know that I wouldn't be that abrupt with her, to just step a few feet away without even acknowledging her presence. On some occasions, I've run into people, whether friends or acquaintances, who haven't been particularly receptive to my friendly greeting at that time. I'm apparently an anomaly in that I don't immediately take offense that they're being rude to me, since that seems to be what a lot of people do. Instead, I generally figure something is going on with them that makes them not particularly social at that moment, and I either just let it go, or I might mention it in an email or later in person that they seemed preoccupied/upset/whatever and that I hoped things were ok.

Well, this acquaintance told the mutual friend that she knows oftentimes, I don't feel well, and when that's the case, I'm not particularly social or chatty. She figured that's what had happened, but she was still hurt by my actions.

I was floored. So she knew that I wasn't ignoring her on purpose, and I wasn't feeling badly enough that day to be less social than normal, but even if I had been, she was still going to be hurt, even if I felt so crappy that I wasn't in a position to be friendly with anyone? What the hell? So it's all about her? Even if I feel like crap, I'm still supposed to act and treat her as if I felt fine, just so she doesn't feel hurt? I would think it wouldn't take being a good friend to know that if someone isn't feeling well and not up to social interaction, then it's not anything personal against you. So I guess my physical, and mental, emotional, whatever, well-being is irrelevant as long as she gets the interaction she wants? I can't even fully describe how angry that makes me.


friend breaks expectations

I have a particular friend that I've known for quite some time, and we see each other maybe every couple of months. We get together for dinner and share what has been going on in each of our lives. Prior to a recent visit, she had mentioned that she had just come back from an overseas vacation. I had known she had been thinking about it, but I hadn't known she was actually going. That surprised me some, that she hadn't told me about it beforehand since she normally does, but I figured there was a lot to do to prepare and it wasn't like she was obligated to tell me, so it was no big deal. During the course of our time together, she told me many details about her trip. Most of it I found interesting, and parts were things that didn't particularly interest me, but I knew they were important to her, so I listened and asked questions. I looked at some pictures and a few of the videos, but I wasn't really interested in going through all of the multiple digital camera media that she'd filled on her trip. For most of the day, we talked about the various aspects of her trip.

I had mentioned to her prior to our visit that I'd had some travels as well, which while not nearly as exotic as hers, were very important to me. I knew she was excited about her trip, but there never really came a time for me to talk about my trips. I started to mention it a few times, and any time I said anything, I just really got the feeling that she had no interest whatsoever in what I was saying, since she wasn't giving any feedback, either in the way of comments or questions. After a few attempts and just a few details, I stopped talking about it.

Later in the conversation, I made a comment about how busy I'd been that month with the travels and other things going on, and her reaction was sort of that my activities didn't matter that much, but since she'd gone out of the country, her trip was a much bigger deal and time-consumer. I hadn't made the comment as any kind of point of comparison, merely as a detail of my life of late. I was really taken aback by that particular comment as well as her general apathy about anything I said about my trips. It was so completely different from what I'm used to from her, and I haven't been able to really process it. It comes up in my mind periodically, and it really bothers me, but there's no point in bringing it up again.

I'm not angry at her behaviour - mostly, I'm puzzled and confused, and yeah, partly hurt, that she knew how big a deal my trips were to me, but she couldn't listen to any of what I had to say about it, and we just spent most of the time with her talking about her trip. This is behaviour that is really so completely unlike her, and I guess that's why I haven't been able to let it go.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Desperate Housewives" and "Heroes"

"Desperate Housewives" - This was a fun episode. I was laughing entirely too much when Lynette's mother and her one-night-stand came down the stairs, both of them in robes, and Lynette and Tom just stared at them. It was a nice through-line to learn about the mom and to see Lynette's sisters. On the one hand, I felt sorry for the mom that she had to listen to all that, that she knew she wasn't wanted. On the other hand, I was kind of with the sisters in that I didn't see why the mom had to live with one of them, especially since we saw how she treated her one daughter at the diner. Who would want to be around that kind of toxic behaviour day and night? If the mom wasn't the way she was, maybe her daughters wouldn't be trying to pawn her off on each other. Wonder where she's taking the cab to at the end.

The circumcision talk between Orson and Bree (Bree biting down on the top of the eggroll - oh my goodness, I laughed so hard) was funny and interesting, but it eventually turned into a telling example of how Bree was viewing the baby and Orson's role. When Bree couldn't find a doctor to perform the circumcision, it had occurred to me that she could find a Jewish rabbi to do it, but I had forgotten about the bris that they'd been invited to.

The dinner table discussion among Bree and Orson and Susan and Mike about pre-schools and their costs and applications was just too dead on. $10,000 for a pre-school? But I've heard people who do that. They know that their children need to get into X college to eventually get a good job, and Y prep school is a known feeder into X college, and Z private school is a feeder to Y prep school, and Q school is a feeder to Z private school, and M elementary school is a feeder to Q school, and R pre-school is a feeder to M elementary school, and you have to know someone or be someone to get into R pre-school, and you have to apply as soon as you have proof that you're pregnant, and it's going to cost the equivalent of a brand new car for yearly tuition and baby better have lots of extracurricular activities or baby won't be accepted. It's absolutely ridiculous - but absolutely real.

So I had thought Mike was taking blood pressure medication, but apparently, he's taking some kind of painkiller thing. When he poured the bottle of pills down the drain, my first thought was that he didn't run any water after it nor did he turn on a garbage disposal. I knew the pills were still there, so when he later went to retrieve them, I wasn't surprised. (BTW, I loved Bree's demonstration to Susan about how sneaky and devious addicts can be in hiding their addiction.)

Gabrielle...Victor...boat...overboard...Carlos...rescue...knife...overboard...Carlos...Gabrielle...boat...bye-bye. Yeah, not so much care.

Loved the scene between Dillon and Katherine when Dillon finally pushes back against Katherine. And then when Katherine tearfully explains to Dillon what happened with her father - I knew there was nothing on the piece of paper. She was counting on Dillon buying her story. There is no finding dad for Dillon. Dad is dead. It may be true that he was abusive - that might explain some things. But that particular branch of the family tree has been pruned.


"Heroes" - OK, I forgive them, for now. They didn't explain anything about how Sylar survived or how and why he was where he was at the beginning of this season, but they answered enough other questions that I'll let that go for now.

Nathan - Now we know why he's continued to have these visions of the burned man. I wonder, though, that he didn't die since it looked like he had third-degree burns over so much of his body. And does he or his mother know how he was healed? And does having Adam's blood in him have any other effects on him other than having healed his burns, like can he now regenerate as well? And what the heck is mom's power?

Peter - His mother told Nathan that Peter was still missing and that they were still searching for him. But lots of people saw Peter bring Nathan into the hospital. Wouldn't someone, especially the cop, remember him and have been able to describe him enough so that his mother knew it was him who had brought Nathan in? Nathan was probably too out of it to remember any time that Peter was there.

Adam - So apparently, he's hundreds of years old but doesn't age because of his regenerative powers. Since Claire also has regenerative powers, does that mean she won't age either? Is she going to be high-school age for the rest of her life? And is Adam ultimately going to be revealed to somehow be related to Claire? Do we know for a *fact* that Nathan is Claire's bio-dad? Adam obviously knew Nathan's mom - who's to say Adam didn't have a thing with Claire's bio-mom?

Niki - So Jessica's gone, but party girl Gina came out to play, and Niki is now racked with guilt because she knows that she was responsible for D.L.'s death.

Maya - It was weird that she ended up killing everyone in the vicinity. The other times we've seen it happen, it's been concentrated to where she is. Wonder how far her killing ability reaches.

Elle - She was really irritating me with her "can't keep her hands off Peter" thing. She did become a little more sympathetic when she told her backstory. She's been isolated from society - no wonder she's going to pounce on Peter. In a previous episode, she was on the phone with her "boss", who she also referred to as "dad". Is that Bob? And at the end, when Elle is going after escaped Adam and Peter, she uses her lightning power as the Haitian is standing right by her. I thought the Haitian neutralizes powers. Why was she able to use hers around him?

I'm looking forward to the further developments in Hiro's story, and at some point, you know he's going to see Kensei/Adam.

Monday, November 12, 2007

You don't have a fever because you're sick - it must be global warming!

Believe it or not, I manage to sometimes not say everything that pops into my brain. On more than one occasion, I will be around someone who says the absolute most ridiculous thing, and I manage to contain myself. For instance, it has happened several times where I'll have been around someone who, once we talk about how hot it is that particular day, makes a snide remark about how on earth can some people believe that global warming isn't real - I mean, look how hot it is. Ummm, ok, yeah, today's temperature isolated on its own is definitive proof of global warming. For various reasons, I have generally let those comments go without response just because it wasn't worth it to get into it.

On the other side of the coin, I do find it interesting that oftentimes, those who do preach the gospel of global warming are completely intolerant of those who aren't believers, looking at them as if they've just sprouted two heads, or viewing them with the pity that one might have looked at a retarded child back in the day, who just can't grasp the simplest of ideas.

It's not just a theory - global warming is real, they say. Everyone who's anyone knows that. Every intelligent being knows that. It's only the nitwits and those in denial and those on the wrong side of the political spectrum who refuse to accept that global warming is a clear and present danger. I mean, heck, "An Inconvenient Truth" (directly and relatedly) has won an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy, a Pulitzer, a Nobel, a Tony, a Golden Globe, Miss Universe and the Publisher's Clearing House prize. How on earth can it not be real?

I will say for the record that I've not seen the film. Frankly, I don't think I could stomach it. But, I have read/heard a lot about the film, from both sides. Proponents will quote data at you, but when detractors question the data, I've not been satisfied with the background on the data. Oftentimes, it appears as if proponents feel that they just need to quote the data at you - that's all that matters. Of course it's from a credible and reputable source with no manipulation or exaggeration involved. What do you mean you want proof so you can check it out yourself. I'm telling you that's the way it is. You're just trying to cloud the issue by deflecting the focus onto where the data comes from, which isn't important, but I'm trying to save this planet and your life and the lives of your children.

Now, of course, you can find people all over the spectrum who will fall on one side or the other, and generally, people will label as "crackpot" anyone who isn't on their side, regardless of the merits or demerits of the person/organization involved. So, hey, why not one more crackpot?

WorldNetDaily recently published an article about John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel and currently a meteorologist for a San Diego television station. Coleman has recently published an article on the website of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project labeling the so-called global warming crisis as the greatest scam in history. Here's a link to the website column. His voice is just one of many that I've read about who bring up very interesting points. His analysis isn't as in-depth as others I've seen, but there have been fundamental problems with a lot of the global warming hysteria that many seem never to question. If you preach doom and gloom, some people are just going to buy into it.

Now, that's not to say that just because global warming isn't happening, we should just forget about the earth and do whatever we want. Conservation, recycling, all that is good. But I'm just tired of the whole "sky is falling" mentality that seems to be so prevalent nowadays.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" singalong

Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is usually re-released in some theatres every year around Halloween for a short run since it makes sense considering the subject matter of the film. Last year, they issued a 3-D version of the film, which incorporates the 3-D effect in a realistic manner as opposed to the gimmicky effects that were prevalent in the 3-D movies of the 70s or so. It doesn't make a huge difference in the film but rather just adds to the overall effect of the film. We had seen the film last year and liked it, and while I like "Nightmare" ok, it's not a particular favorite of mine, so we hadn't planned on seeing the re-release of the 3-D version this year.

The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood is a gorgeous refurbished movie house that belongs to Disney and where Disney shows most of their major new films as well as other periodic special engagement runs of older films. The 3-D version of "Nightmare" was again coming back to the El Capitan, and a friend noticed that the 11:30pm screening every night would be a singalong version of the film and suggested that might be fun. So, a few of us arranged to go to the 11:30pm showing this past Friday night.

Knowing that it would be a long day since it was a work day, and with the late screening time and my propensity for falling asleep in movie theatres, I decided to head off that particular problem at the pass. After getting home and having a quick dinner, I also had a short nap so I was refreshed enough so that I managed to sit through the entire film without really being tired at all. That was nice.

As one might expect, it wasn't very crowded for that screening. We go to the El Capitan often enough that we have our favorite seats, in the balcony. The El Capitan has some reserved seats, deemed VIP, which for a higher-priced ticket includes a bucket of popcorn (usually in a themed plastic bucket) and a drink. The popcorn and drink are nice, but we get the VIP seats mainly for the reserved seats, which eliminates any wait time, especially for the times when we're attending an evening show on opening day of a new film.

While I've seen "Nightmare" a few times before, it's not one where I know the words very well. Most of the songs (except for maybe "This is Halloween" and "Kidnap the Sandy Claws") aren't particularly sing-songy, and I've not been one to listen to the soundtrack on my own. They basically turned on the open-captioning during the singing parts, so it was nice to be able to read everything they were saying/singing since I haven't always been able to follow previously. When Jack sings about being the Pumpkin King, I don't recall having focussed on him saying that because he's dead, he can take off his head, and recite Shakespearean quotations.

And it had only been maybe a year ago or so that I'd really listened to the words of "Kidnap the Sandy Claws" and heard for the first time the lyrics "chop him up in bits". Wow, that's much more extreme than throwing him in a box or whatever else they suggest doing to him. Nasty little kids are Lock, Shock and Barrel.

The combination of having the song lyrics and the refresher nap made me much more aware of every aspect of the story, and it is very well crafted, and I had a great time at the showing.

The El Capitan Theatre - why doesn't everyone go there?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

cold dead fish

There was a time in my life when I didn't like sushi. Hard to believe, huh? Well, my parents didn't eat it, my siblings didn't eat it, and I don't even remember having friends who talked about eating it. The idea of eating raw fish just didn't appeal to me.

And then at some point, I was talked into trying it. And I discovered I didn't hate it. As time went by, I ventured out on my own. At first, I started with the more general stuff - salmon, tuna. And then I started to like the more exotic stuff. And I also started to care more about quality. Now, I'm sort of a sushi snob, but not even as much as the husband, who only started eating sushi about 8 or so years ago. He's a serious snob and won't go to a lot of places. I'm still willing to try some places. But I have discovered that if I have less than first-rate quality sushi, it's so incredibly unsatisfying. The downside is that really good sushi isn't exactly cheap, and the more I have sushi, the more I'm interested in the less ordinary stuff. But it's all so worth it.

And just to get this out of the way, sushi and sashimi aren't the same thing. Sashimi is just the (generally) raw fish/seafood/whatever - no rice. The pieces that include rice are sushi. I love sashimi, but it's even more expensive, especially since without the rice, you don't get as full as fast, so you end up ordering more. We splurge on sashimi on occasion.

I still like salmon and tuna, though I'm not generally a fan of smoked salmon, as far as sushi is concerned. But I also love yellowtail and albacore. I love toro (fatty tuna), and I've also had yellowtail toro, and oh my goodness, is that amazing. A friend turned me onto giant clam multiple years ago, so that's a favorite as well.

I also love masago (smelt eggs - the little tiny orange ones) and ikura (salmon roe), and a friend and I discovered a combination some years ago at a restaurant in Japantown in Los Angeles called tres huevos - three eggs. In one of the sushi cups, it's filled on one half with masago and the other half with ikura, with a quail egg yolk (it's too slimy for me if you include the egg white as well) in the middle. It's a little hard to describe, but I've managed to get a few sushi chefs to duplicate it for me. Yum.





Back in my early years of sushidom, I would generally order the combination, and it usually came with uni - sea urchin. I tried it once and discovered I didn't care for it, so it was something I never ate. I would always give it to the one friend who also liked sushi - my sushi buddy. As I got more into sushi, I got tired of ordering combos that came with things that I didn't like (uni or eel - I don't object to the taste of eel really, it's just my thing about snakes that makes it hard for me to eat eel) or didn't think was worth the space in my stomach (ebi - cooked shrimp). I started either ordering a la carte at a table or just sitting at the bar and ordering individual things. A few years ago, the husband and I were at a sushi place, and we had been chatting with the sushi chef (one of the reasons I like sitting at the bar - it's a much nicer experience when you get a great sushi chef who's also personable). He was suggesting different things to us and then suggested uni to me. I told him I'd had it and didn't care for the taste. He said I just hadn't had good uni. He cut off a piece and offered it to me. What the heck, I figured, and tried it. It was actually quite good. He said that the freshness of the uni really made a difference. I suppose it could also be possible that my tastes have changed and matured over the years as well, but freshness does make a major difference when it comes to sushi and sashimi. I decided to order uni at the couple of regular places I visited, all places where I trusted their fish. And I've now come to really like the flavor of uni. My sushi buddy friend was amazed the first time I told her about it, and she looked at me pretty incredulously as I ordered it and ate it!

I'm also a fan of sweet shrimp - raw shrimp. I like shrimp in general, but ebi is just boring. Sweet shrimp (again, freshness and quality are really important) is delicious. At some places, they also fry the shrimp head, which I love as well.

I've also discovered that I love raw scallops, much more so than cooked scallops. It just has a different flavor and texture when it's raw.

I was also introduced to monk fish liver some time ago and discovered I like that as well. I've seen the preparation and presentation of it differ in different restaurants, and I don't necessarily prefer it one way or the other.

One of the major things we were introduced to is Spanish mackerel. We were at our favorite restaurant with one of our favorite chefs, and he suggested the Spanish mackerel. I told him that I didn't care for mackerel. He said no one likes mackerel and that this was different. We trusted his recommendation - and boy were we glad. I find mackerel to be the epitome of "fishy-tasting" but Spanish mackerel is more of a white-fish texture (like red snapper or halibut). We only ever order it as sashimi to savor the flavor. Mmmmm.

One of the other discoveries that I had made on my own is herring roe, which the husband refers to as little yellow surfboards. It's not something I've been able to find in many places, but I did discover that Kabuki Restaurant in Pasadena added it to their menu a little while ago. It actually comes with a little bit of the fish and some of the roe, so I'm pretty happy about that.

I'm also a fan of spicy tuna hand roll (I like it with gobo - the little marinated carrots - and masago) and salmon skin hand roll.

I will also on occasion order miso soup and/or seaweed salad - I love seaweed.

On the matter of California rolls, let me tell this story:

The husband and I had taken two of my nephews to sushi. The older one, we'd taken before. The younger one, he'd never had sushi before and I didn't think he'd like it but I figured he could have other stuff there, and he ended up liking pretty much everything I ordered and had him try. I had also ordered him some regular food, to make sure he had enough to eat, and he'd chosen vegetable tempura and teriyaki chicken. We sat at the bar, and because it was busy, we would occasionally have to wait for the sushi chef, which was ok because we like watching them make other orders. As we waited, my younger nephew would have bits of the cooked food. I asked my older nephew if he wanted some as well, and he said no and just sat and waited. I finally figured out that he had learned to handle the sushi dilemma - you have to manage the room you have in your stomach. You can only eat so much, so you have to make sure that you don't waste stomach space for things you don't really, really want. He said he could get tempura and teriyaki chicken elsewhere, but not so with sushi. He was perfectly fine with just waiting patiently until we had a chance to order more sushi.

That's how I feel about California rolls. They're made up of krab (fake crab made of flour and water mostly), avocado and cucumber, wrapped in rice and seaweed. Yep, no fish or seafood at all. My question is - what's the point? It's mostly a waste of space. I have on occasion had a bite or two if someone else wanted to order it, but I never order it myself. I've only got so much room in my stomach. Why would I want to occupy any of that precious space with that? I've heard people proclaim how much they love sushi, and they talk about how they love California rolls, and that's pretty much all they eat. Ummm, yeah, well, as far as I'm concerned, that's not sushi. And yes, I've gotten yelled at for having and expressing that point of view, but hey, too bad. I figure California roll is ordered by people who 1) want to pretend that they like sushi because it's cool or hip or whatever but don't actually like raw fish (which is mostly what sushi is made of) and/or 2) want to go for the inexpensive stuff.

There are a couple different places that I go to on a regular basis, and one of these is called Tokyo Wako. It's a combination teppan steak place and sushi bar. We've never been to the teppan tables, just to the sushi bar and the side bar where you can get cooked food. They have great tempura (shrimp and vegetable) and they have awesome udon as well. There are four locations - Arcadia, Pasadena, Ontario and Long Beach. We've been to 3 of the 4 locations. They have very fresh fish, and the service is great. They don't have too many of the exotic items, but it's generally a good selection. They can be very busy, which limits your time with the sushi chef, but if they're not quite as swamped, there's more time to chat and for them to make off-menu items.

Here's their main website.

We've gone through a number of different sushi chefs that we've liked, but unfortunately, many of them have left, and we don't know where they went. There's still one chef we know from our early days, so we go to visit him occasionally since he works at a location that's not very near our house.

If anyone knows where Jimmy and Jun went, I've love to know.

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