Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

2008 has definitely had its challenges, so here's to a safe end of the year to everyone and wishes for a better, brighter and happier 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Slipping Through My Fingers"

Since I've spent most of the night watching the extras on the "Mamma Mia" DVD as well as most of the movie itself, I'm showing a segment of the movie here that someone has uploaded to YouTube.

I can't even begin to say how much I love the song "Slipping Through My Fingers". I cry every time I hear the song in the show. I cried when I heard the song in the movie. I usually cry when I listen to the CD soundtrack of the movie.

I have no kids, much less a daughter, and yet, this song just touches me in ways I can't begin to describe. And with the way that Meryl Streep sings it, not to mention the visuals and how perfect Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried are together playing mother and daughter, and especially the nail-painting segment. Yeah, I know, I'm gushing again.

See for yourself.

Are you in tears? I probably am.

Monday, December 29, 2008

cats do the funniest things

Here are a couple of cat-themed videos I found that are really funny.

Cats are the sneakiest things!

I'm amazed this cat put up with this much from the baby.

Orkid's a sink kitty too - just not in this way.

We kind of do this with Orkid except she falls first.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Clydesdale snowball fight and chocolate-covered bacon

The Miami Dolphins are in the playoffs; Chad Pennington took them to the playoffs by beating the New York Jets, the team that unceremoniously dumped him for Brett Favre; the Jets are done with football for the season; Brett threw 3 interceptions in the game; and the Detroit Lions made the history books by going 0-16 for the season.

So it's time for odds and ends.

I saw the following commercial today, which I thought was really funny and cute. I have no idea how old the commercial is, but I don't recall seeing it before. Budweiser's Clydesdale commercials are usually pretty stellar.

Someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to a particular confectionery item that I find a bit questionable.

I like bacon. I really like bacon. And I like chocolate. And I even get the sweet/salty combination that can taste really good. I'm just not sure I can wrap my head around bacon and chocolate together. I think of bacon as usually being a little oily, and mixing that with chocolate doesn't seem like a great idea. But I guess if it's dry bacon that's settled some, without very much fat, it might be ok. Or it could make me really sick.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen - restaurant review

I was taking one of my coworker friends to lunch to celebrate an occasion, and she had mentioned Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen in the Century City Mall. We looked at the website, and the menu looked really interesting, so we decided to give it a try.

The restaurant is on the side of the mall closest to Santa Monica Blvd. The restaurant is quite large and takes up the space of two or three of the restaurants that used to be in that area before the mall food court remodel and relocation. The foyer/waiting area is really beautiful, and you walk through that before you get to the actual entrance where the hosting station is located.

We had called ahead of time that day to make a reservation, which turned out to be a good idea because the restaurant was quite crowded, and we were immediately taken to our table.

The menu is fairly extensive, so it took us a while to look through everything. We decided to order a few items and just share everything - family style is my preferred way of dining.

We had an order of the potstickers (chicken, shiitake mushrooms, green onions and citrus-soy sauce), which I thought were ok, but the potsticker filling was more dense than I usually like, so I probably wouldn't choose to order it again. I did really enjoy the flavoring of the sauce though.

We also had the crispy sweet-hot shrimp (tempura eggplant, tamarind chili-palm sugar sauce), and I really loved that dish. The shrimp was fresh and hot and very crispy, and the eggplant was delicious, and the sauce was a great complement. This is a dish I'd definitely recommend.

We also had an order of the dungeness crab with cellophane noodles (green onions, crispy shallots and chilies), and I absolutely loved that dish. There were a couple nice chunks of crab, but the overall flavor was just terrific. I also really like cellophane noodles, either dry or in soup. One thing that surprised me was that the dish was spicy, which I loved, but it wasn't until I looked at the menu again right now that I noticed "chilies" as being included on the ingredient list. When we'd ordered it, we'd only really paid attention to the crab and noodles part of the listing, so if spicyness is a concern, it would be good to actually read the entire entry before you order a dish. This is another dish I'd recommend, and if you're not into spicy, you could try asking for it without the chilies to see if they can prepare it that way.

For dessert, we shared the warm ginger cake (caramelized asian pear, vanilla bean ice cream and pear chip). We are both lovers of ginger, so this dessert was just perfect for us. The rich flavor of the ginger in the moist cake was very tasty, which was cut very well with the vanilla bean ice cream, and the caramelized pear was another flavorful addition to the mix.

There were quite a few dishes on the menu that looked interesting to try, so we had to narrow our choices down to just a few. I can see returning to the restaurant for other special occasions as well.

The service was very good. Our server was friendly and helpful, and it turned out that we'd ordered a couple of her favorite dishes. Our water glasses were continually being refilled, and our server was available if we had questions or needed something. I also really liked the decor of the restaurant, though I suppose some could see it as being over the top. I hadn't been aware that the restaurant is owned by the same people who own The Cheesecake Factory, but I happen to love them too. Plentiful parking is available at the mall, and you can also valet your car - the restaurant is right above the valet station.

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen
(inside the Westfield Century City Mall)
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 654
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Friday, December 26, 2008

our friends love her more than we do

Today is Boxing Day, and Orkid loves to hang out in boxes and even tries to get into boxes that she can't fit into. OK, yeah, I know that's not what Boxing Day is really about, but hey, I needed the stretch to be able to do a post on Orkid. :)

We are not pet parents. Yes, we love Orkid, but when it comes down to it, she's still our pet and not our child. That doesn't mean we don't indulge her on some stuff or take care of her or things like that. But we don't do birthday parties for her, we don't include her in our Christmas letter, and if for some reason we did some kind of picture for Christmas, she would not be included.

We also don't buy her presents, either for her birthday or Christmas. Sure, we might pick up toys here and there at various times of the year if we see something we think she might like, but she's actually got so many toys at home that she doesn't really need any more. And besides, we know she'll be getting new toys every year.

One of my friends gets Orkid a pet stocking every year that's filled with various cat toys. Because I'm terrified of the ones that look anything at all like a real mouse, the husband usually has to weed through the stocking and throw out the ones that could potentially scare me if she were to bring it up to bed or leave it lying around for me to step on. Generally, anything that's a darker color is a problem, whereas she is able to keep her bright pink and bright blue ones.

Well, this year, she got toys from two other people, not to mention the "accidental" presents she got.

One of our friends got her a sailor necktie which is really cute. It looks like the one pictured below, except that it's white.

We put it on Orkid, though not without some effort. She is not the kind of cat who likes to wear apparel, so I had to constrict her mouth and paws so she couldn't bite or scratch while the husband put it on her. Once it was on, she didn't seem to mind, and she did look very cute in it.

This same friend had gotten Orkid a Santa hat last year which we'd never gotten around to putting on her. We tried this year - and again, she is not the kind of cat who likes to wear apparel. It took constricting her again to get the hat on her without any harm to either the husband or me, but as soon as it was on her, she freaked out at the little white ball on the tip which was now dangling in front of her head, and she ran into the other room. It didn't take much for her to wrestle the thing off her head, and then she stared at it from a distance like it was going to leap up at her. We've put it in her toy box so she can play with it if she wants to.

Orkid also likes to play with the ribbons and strings and curlies that might come attached to a gift, so we usually let her play with those after we've taken them off the gifts.

Here's a picture of her on Christmas day as she's lying on the couch, after we've opened our gifts. You can see the Christmas stocking she got this year from my friend, and the husband is holding the cat teaser with the red furry chaser that has her attention. She absolutely loves that thing, and you can see the bits she'd already yanked off. And you can't see it very well in the picture, but she has her sailor necktie on, as well as various curlies that we tucked into it.

A recent discussion with some friends led to talk about the weird places cats sometimes like to sit. The computer chair that I have has a rather wide backrest, and Orkid loves to climb up there and sit. It's not very wide but she fits ok. She does, however, like to wrap her front paws around it with her claws out, and she looks like she's hanging on for dear life.

Here's a picture of her sitting on the backrest of my chair.

Can you identify the plush on the mantle in the background?

Here's a close-up of her. She doesn't have her claws quite dug in as much as she sometimes does.

Because there are so many things in the stocking, she doesn't get them all at once. She'll usually get a couple when it's new, and then the rest get put away, to be doled out to her over the course of the year or longer, depending on when we think about it. When she does have toys out, we do have a "toy box" for her. It's just a cardboard box that's big enough for her to root around in. Everyone once in a while, I'll go through the house and pick up her toys and toss them in the box. She can jump in there, and sometimes, she just plays in the box itself, but otherwise, she can grab whatever toy she wants to play with and bring it out of the box. It's funny sometimes to see the things she wants to play with. She'll have her favorites for a while, and then sometimes, we'll see something that was brought out that she hasn't played with for a while, and neither the husband nor I took it out of the box for her.

See, I've gone full circle to Boxing Day! :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Whateveryouarecelebrating Day!

My niece sent us a Christmas card this year that I thought was really funny, so I'm sharing it with all of you. I tried to pick a favorite, but that was too hard. I particular like #2, #4, #5 and #7.

Merry Christmas, Happy Fourth Day of Chanukah (or however you prefer to spell it), Happy Kwanzaa one day early, Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Narnia" will have to find a new home

I saw this report today that Walt Disney Studios has decided not to continue their partnership with Walden Media on the "Chronicle of Narnia" films based on the series of books. The films don't seem to have done as well as they'd hoped, so now, Walden Media will have to look for a new producing/distributing partner. With a hefty price tag to make the film and a return on investment being unclear, it will be interesting to see if any of the other studios want to pick it up. To me, the franchise would seem to "fit" better with Warner Bros. at the moment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I think you misunderstood

This joke came through on an email list I'm on, and I have to admit, it had me laughing a lot. It is ever so slightly on the adult side, though, so be warned.

There is a factory in Northern Minnesota which makes the Tickle Me Elmo toys. The toy laughs when you tickle it under the arms.

Well, Lena is hired at the Tickle Me Elmo factory, and she reports for her first day promptly at 8:00am.

The next day at 8:45am, there is a knock at the personnel manager's door. The foreman throws open the door and begins to rant about the new employee. He complains that she is incredibly slow and the whole line is backing up, putting the entire production line behind schedule.

The personnel manager decides he should see this for himself, so the two men march down to the factory floor. When they get there, the line is so backed up that there are Tickle Me Elmos all over the factory floor, and they're really beginning to pile up.

At the end of the line stands Lena surrounded by mountains of Tickle Me Elmos. She has a roll of plush red fabric and a huge bag of small marbles.

The two men watch in amazement as she cuts a little piece of fabric, wraps it around two marbles and begins to carefully sew the little package between Elmo's legs.

The personnel manager bursts into laughter. After several minutes of hysterics, he pulls himself together and approaches Lena.

"I'm sorry," he says to her, barely able to keep a straight face, "but I think you misunderstood the instructions I gave you yesterday."

"Your job is to give Elmo two test tickles."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rockapella - third scheduled show was the charm

So I went to see Rockapella at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip tonight. This was supposed to have been my third Rockapella show in little more than 24 hours, and I was so going to be a poseur in pretending to be a hard-core fan because of the three shows in such a short time span. And then stuff happened. And on Sunday, I really was anti-climatic because snow and other cold stuff caused Rockapella to not be able to get to Southern California for the 4pm and 7pm shows that had been scheduled at the Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga.

But they got to L.A. last night and so the House of Blues show was still on. I had a great time, and the guys sounded great. I've discovered that I have the same problem with the Christmas show as I have during the regular show. When the question of "who's your favorite" comes up, the answer kinda depends on whether Kevin or John has just sung, because I really like them both but I can't decide, and when I hear one sing, I think it's that one, but then I hear the other one, and then I think it's him. Well, the same thing happened tonight with two different songs that each sang lead on, though I can't remember which songs they were. (And ok, if you read John's bio, you'll see a connection there that accounted for my initial interest in him, a sort of second-hand stalking, but my liking him really has to do mostly with his voice now, even though I'm dying to hear stories about his PC touring days, but I don't know him well enough to ask, and I think it would be rude to ask him questions because of someone he used to work with, and I've looked and looked, but I went through all my tour programs and cannot for the life of me find his name in any of them or I'd bring one for him to sign, but maybe he toured with PC before I started going.)

In the regular show, my favorite is a toss-up between Kevin singing "Under the Boardwalk" and John singing "My Girl".

Jeff, Kevin, John, Scott and George

So even though tonight's show was a Christmas show, I don't have footage of that, so instead, here's video I took from the September 2008 show in Las Vegas with part of "Under the Boardwalk" with Kevin as lead singer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Majel Barrett Roddenberry - wife, mother, Number One, Christine, computer, Lwaxana

I heard the news on Thursday that Majel Barrett Roddenberry, wife of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, had died of leukemia early that morning. I'm not usually one to be overly saddened necessarily by celebrity deaths because they're not people I know. I think the last celebrity death that really hit me was Douglas Adams, and that was partly because he had a very young daughter at the time.

I was saddened by Majel's death more than I expected to be. There were reasons not associated with her personally, but she's also the last main connection in my mind to "Star Trek". I know that most of the original cast is still around, and other creators and writers and such are as well, but I guess for me, "Star Trek" was Gene and Majel.

I didn't get into "Star Trek" heavily until the third season of "Next Generation", so I didn't know that much about Majel until that point. I know she voiced the computer, and I know she played Christine Chapel, and I even know she was the original Number One. But I really knew her as Lwaxana Troi, the very outspoken mother of Deanna Troi. Majel was just really good as Lwaxana, and whereas Majel had to be mechanical as the computer and shy as Christine Chapel and austere as Number One, she could show her comedic flare as Lwaxana. But she also could show her vulnerable side. There are two episodes that stand out in my mind when I think of her.

One is the episode "Cost of Living" from "Next Generation" when Lwaxana was supposed to get married and had decided to tone herself down for her very proper, very stuffy, soon-to-be-husband, which included abandoning Betazed marriage customs that required the bride to be married naked. The very end of the show has her deciding that changing herself to suit her would-be husband was not the way to go, and she showed up to her wedding in full glory - and nothing else.

The other episode is "The Forsaken" from "Deep Space Nine" when Lwaxana is trapped in a turbolift with Odo, and Odo has to regress to his liquid state after so many hours. He is struggling to hold himself together after being trapped for so long, and if he melts, he's also likely to leak through the pores of the elevator, not to mention that he's not comfortable melting in front of people. Lwaxana removes her makeup and her wig and shows herself to him without all that, which convinces him to melt into the basin she has made out of her dress. It's an amazing side of Lwaxana that we'd not seen before.

When I was attending "Star Trek" conventions, I saw her a few times, and she was always smiling and grateful to the fans.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Gene and Majel's son Rod and the rest of the family and all who knew and loved her. But at least Gene and Majel have now been reunited - I'm sure they've both missed each other a great deal.

I will look forward to seeing the new "Star Trek" movie next May and applauding (and probably crying) when her credit and/or acknowledgement card appears.

Here's the official Roddenberry site.

Here's a news article about Majel from the San Jose Mercury News.

Here's a really good article about Majel from

Here's a blog entry from Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on "Next Generation", about Majel. I found his post to be very touching. I would also suggest reading the comments because some of the stories told in them are pretty incredible as well. In particular, the fifth comment on the blog post, from Tall Rob, tells an amazing story about Majel.

Here's an article from a Trek site with comments from various people who knew and worked with Majel. Marina Sirtis' comment was especially touching for me. Because she played Deanna, who was Lwaxana's daughter, Marina has said on many occasions that she really formed a bond with Majel, even though it was intimidating at first to be working with the boss's wife, but she said Majel really put her at ease.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" - December 8, 2008 and December 15, 2008 episodes

December 8, 2008 episode

Derek enters some kind of room with a broken-down bus and other machinery while he's on the phone with Sarah. He then encounters a young woman and an older woman who is very pregnant and obviously hurt. Derek and the younger woman train guns on each other until Derek tells her that he's a friend of Sarah Connor's, and the younger woman puts her gun down.

The scene jumps back to six months prior, where Sarah and Cameron, with guns, force themselves into a cabin occupied by dad David, mom Ann and teenage daughter Lauren. Ann and Lauren are the two women that Derek is with in the first scene. The family thinks that Sarah and Cameron are there to rob them, but Sarah explains that they're actually trying to protect the family, and that the family needs to leave with them now. Lauren knocks out Sarah from behind as Cameron is in another room, so David takes her gun and wants to know "the truth". [At this point, the husband's comment was "You can't handle the truth." I didn't know what Sarah was going to say, but I thought she was going to make up some kind of lie. I was wrong.] Sarah tells them about terminators and that one is on its way to kill them. Cameron then shows up and easily disarms David. Sarah and Cameron then herd the family into the car and take off, but Sarah ends up running into another car - a car driven by the terminator sent to kill the family. Sarah gets the family back to the cabin while Cameron and the terminator fight it out.

Sarah wants to know about the family to find out who the terminator is after and why. David says there's nothing going on and he's just into banking, but he's later outed by Lauren, who produces emails that tie David to a cybernetics company. He says he's been doing some illegal stuff for the company, and he asks what Lauren was doing on his computer, to which she replies, "Looking at lesbian porn." I loved that the reaction from David is that Lauren is lesbian. Yeah, because she really meant that, and how she got his email is the issue at hand with a maniacal machine outside that wants to kill them. Ann is upset that David didn't tell her about any of this, to which his response is, "What is it about 'illegal activities' don't you understand?" He then says that she never asked him where the money came from that he brought him. She says she assumed he'd earned it. I thought David was being an ass throughout this whole scene. I mean, ok, yeah, he hasn't fully accepted the terminator thing and it's a bit hard to wrap your head around, but he tries to deflect blame onto Lauren and Ann. David had a job, and he brought home money. How on earth was Ann supposed to know he was getting more money because of illegal activities? "Welcome home, honey, did any of the money you earned and brought home come from you doing illegal things?" Yeah, that makes sense to ask.

Sarah has the front door rigged to shock whoever comes in as a protection against the terminator, but when a man appears outside, Ann dismantles the wires because it's neighbor Roger, who is revealed to be having an affair with Ann and who came because Ann called him. [There were a few moments when Roger first appeared outside in silhouette/shadow that he almost looked like a hulking Michael Myers to me.]

As they're arguing, Cameron is then thrown through the front window, and she's motionless. The terminator is seen approaching, and David decides to sacrifice himself by going outside so the terminator can kill him there and spare his family, but he's not the target, and the terminator just tosses him aside and continues toward the house. Ann reveals to Sarah that she's pregnant and that David is not the father, and Sarah realizes the terminator is after her baby, so she tells Lauren to hide in a closet and she takes off with Ann. Lauren is later saved by Cameron, who knocks out Roger by mistake. Sarah and Ann are then seen running when a car comes screeching up, taking out the terminator in the process. David and Cameron and Lauren are in the car and help Sarah and Ann in, driving off as the terminator is unable to keep up his pursuit.

Lauren is tending to an unconscious Ann, and Derek asks how the terminator found them. Lauren says she screwed up and called Roger because she just wanted to feel normal. Later, when Lauren is outside and Derek is tending to Ann, Derek tells her he knows that Lauren didn't call Roger. Ann admits that she did and that it's her fault that the terminator found them.

Meanwhile, there have been flash forwards to 2027, where a virus is decimating the human population. Derek is sent to investigate a bunker, where he discovers that everyone is dead. Derek sees a very pregnant mother with two children lying next to her, all looking like they're peacefully sleeping but are instead dead. (This is an image that Derek had flashed back on when he first saw Lauren and very pregnant Ann.)

Jesse finds the image too disturbing to handle, and he goes back outside. He is looking at his gun when a female voice is heard behind him - Jesse. This would have been the moment they previously talked about, when Derek thought about killing himself because even he couldn't take it, and Jesse ended up saving his life. He says that everyone inside is dead, but she says she was sent to investigate a signal that they received, so someone must be alive, probably in the radio room. They go back inside and make their way and when Derek pounds on the radio room door, there is indeed a response, and they find a girl inside, who we later find out is Sydney, the child that Ann was pregnant with. Soon after, Jesse starts to show symptoms of being infected by the virus, and Sydney says despite their masks, both Derek and Jesse have probably been infected and will soon die. They make their way back to the main compound, and Jesse has gotten worse and Derek is starting to show symptoms as well. Sydney is led away to see if they can formulate an antibody based on her natural immunity to the virus. Both Jesse and Derek are very sick, but an antibody is developed and administered, which has an immediate effect in curing them. The person administering the shot to Derek is Lauren, who thanks him for saving her sister.

Back in the present, Lauren helps Ann to give birth to Sydney, and immediately after, Ann dies. She had hung in long enough just to make sure Sydney could be born. Derek invites Lauren to come live with them, but after Derek returns from talking on the phone to Sarah, Lauren and Sydney are gone. Lauren knows that she has to take care of Sydney, and she's accepted the responsibility. She leaves behind a necklace that she had previously been warned could be used to identify her. She's going into hiding with Sydney, yet another child who has to grow up too fast to accept a responsibility far beyond her years.

December 15, 2008 episode

Sarah is seen driving, but on a non-plot-point note, I loved the opening shot that circled around the car and then rested on a shot of Sarah. Sarah arrives at a UFO conference in search of more information about the three dots symbol. She is dismissed by one of the seminar instructions as someone who just wants to attend and see the freaks and make fun of them, but another attendee takes her interest seriously. The woman tells Sarah about someone named Abraham who had been blogging about working with a metal alloy that was indestructible and had properties that were beyond anything developed by man. She says that Abraham is actually Alan Park, who had been working on a project involving lidar. There's an attack on them, which Sarah thwarts, and after that, the woman admits that she (really he) is actually Alan Park aka Abraham.

Alan never knew where he did his work, so Sarah convinces him to see a hypnotherapist to try to remember details. As Alan is talking in the session, Sarah had slipped a microphone in his bag and is listening to and recording everything he says. While Sarah is listening, someone comes into the room where Alan and the therapist are, and then Sarah hears gunshots. When she gets to the room, both Alan and the therapist are dead. Sarah then takes the tape she has and in listening to Alan's account (being picked up in a van at a local park, the direction the van was going, how long they drove, what kinds of sounds he heard), Sarah is able to recreate the journey that Alan took in being taken to work every day. (I loved the bit that Alan said he always heard rain but it didn't make any sense, and Sarah figured out that the car was being hit by strong sprinklers.) She finds the building where Alan worked, and while she initially buys the story of the guy inside that he doesn't know anything, she turns to leave, and he pulls out a gun and shoots her. She shoots and kills him, but she's badly hurt and bleeding. She had been hallucinating images of herself anyway, and as she crawls outside half delirious, she sees a spaceship descending. But she had seen a picture of the spaceship earlier. Did she really see the ship or was she just hallucinating?

I liked this whole story segment, even though Sarah spent all of it away from people she knows, but the story was compelling enough to keep my interest. I did figure out that the "woman" was Abraham, though I didn't figure out the "man now living as a woman to hide" aspect. I'm not entirely sure I understand all the hallucinations Sarah had. I think they were all hallucinations of when she was originally running from terminators. I really do hope the spaceship aspect is just a hallucination because while I can accept terminators and time travel and all that, I don't want alien people to be incorporated into this story. Maybe in her delirium, she thought she saw the spaceship when it was in fact just a vehicle that pulled up, and the vehicle happened to have the three dots symbol on the side as part of a company name.

Riley comes to see John and tells her about having flipped out on her foster mother. In flashbacks, Riley's story is told. She's from the future, and she was a starving child scrounging around. Jesse took her under her wing, and when Jesse arrived in the present, she brought Riley with her, who was amazed at all the nice new things in the apartment they were staying in. Jesse brought Riley for one reason - to come between John and Cameron. John notices that Riley has a bruise on one cheek, but she says it's nothing. It's revealed that she got kicked out of the foster house, and she'd gone to see Jesse and wanted to live there, but Jesse said that Riley had a job to do and slapped her, which accounted for the bruise.

Cameron is still suspicious of Riley and tells John that Riley is lying about getting the bruise from running into a door. John won't listen to Cameron though. They find Riley in the bathroom, and Riley has slit her wrists in an attempt to kill herself.

Catherine wants Ellison to teach morals and the difference between right and wrong to John Henry, but Ellison refuses. Ellison later visits the reverend at his church, and the reason for Ellison's breakup from his wife is revealed. They were married and happy and trying to conceive a baby. Then came September 11, 2001. His wife had indeed gotten pregnant, but she didn't want to raise a child in that kind of world, so she chose to terminate the pregnancy without telling Ellison, but he later found out. He then decides to go back and accept Catherine's offer. Ellison is playing chess with John Henry, and he talks to John Henry about Dr. Sherman, and Ellison tries to teach John Henry about the value of all human life.

I really liked the reveal of how Ellison's marriage broke up because it was heartbreaking. I'm not sure I understand why Catherine wants Ellison to teach John Henry. She's a terminator, and she presumably wants Skynet to develop, and ultimately Skynet is going to destroy humanity. So why does she want Skynet to learn about the value of human life and have morals? Does she want Skynet to be modified so that machines and humans will be able to live together?

There are a lot of questions that are being brought up in the stories, and all the time jumping was getting a little irritating to me, though in the case of this show, where time jumping is an integral part of the backstory, I can kind of understand it, and at least in the previous episode, everything got tied together nicely. I'm still enjoying the show, so I'm looking forward to seeing more when the show returns in February 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

wild kingdom - for real

Someone on a mailing list I'm on linked to a YouTube video of tourists in Africa who caught on tape a confrontation between a group (herd?) of buffalo and a pride of lions. The lions manage to catch a buffalo calf, but I'm going to give a spoiler now for those who might be concerned - the calf survives, and it seems to be fine at the end of it all. There's another animal that gets involved in the struggle for the calf as a prize, but I won't give that part away. I'm just going to say again, the calf survives. There are parts of the video that are a bit difficult to watch, knowing it's real life. Yeah, circle of life and all that, but it's still hard when you know it's real. But it's also fascinating. The entire video is fairly long (about 8 1/2 minutes), but it's worth watching the whole thing.

Here's the link if you'd prefer to watch it in a bigger format.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mac vs. PC animated holiday commercials

Even though I'm a die-hard PC person, I do like all the different Mac vs. PC commercials. They're usually very clever and quite funny. Well, I've seen two new animated holiday commercials this year that I really like. I think that the Rankin/Bass look of the commercials adds to their appeal.

Here's the first one, called "Tree Trimming".

But I absolutely love this one, called "I Can Do Anything". I especially love the ending, which just makes me laugh.

And just for good measure, here's the 1984-themed commercial that made Mac's mark on the world. It's still a great commercial - even if I do hate their computers.

Merry Christmas, seven days early. Yeah, even to people who own Macs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Amerige Heights Town Center - mall review

OK, yeah, I know, it's a little weird to review a mall. But it was really cool.

So I was doing some shopping recently and looking for a convenient location for Harry and David. I saw from their website that they have a location in Fullerton, and I needed to be in Fullerton that day to go to the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet Store anyway. I looked up the location, and it wasn't too far from the Character Warehouse, so that would be pretty convenient.

The Harry and David I found is located in the Amerige Heights Town Center. No, I've never heard of Amerige Heights, and I don't know if that's actually the name of a district or something, since the city is still Fullerton. It's on Malvern Avenue, just north of Chapman, a few blocks west of Euclid. And it's a humongous outdoor mall - relatively new from how nice and clean it looked. There is a stretch of stores in one particular row, anchored by a gigantic Target. There's a really big Barnes & Noble in the middle of the parking area, where there are also other adjacent businesses. Then on the other side, there's a little side street with several more businesses and another parking area and then an Islands restaurant.

I went to that mall for Barnes & Noble (to get a gift card) and to Harry and David, which I don't go into very often, but it's a seriously dangerous store. This one wasn't even that big! I'd gone looking for a gift box of assorted nuts, which I found, so I picked up several of those as gifts. I then discovered Moose Munch, which is a kind of upscale Cracker Jack / Fiddle Faddle / Poppycock. And they had different flavors. I got a bag each of original milk, caramel with cashews and almonds, and s'mores. So far, I've tried the s'mores, and they are *really* good.

And of course, I had to at least go into the Target to look around.

They have a lot of other stores that I normally like to shop at as well - you can see a listing of the stores on the website. There are also a number of places to eat, so you can take a break for lunch or a snack in the middle of your shopping.

The only downside I can see is that because it is a big mall, and some of the shops are fairly spread out, it's not really convenient to just park in one place and shop if the stores you want aren't all in one place. So, you would either have to schlep your purchases around and do quite a bit of walking or you'd have to move your car and re-park each time you wanted to go to a different store that wasn't exactly nearby.

That being said though, I'm glad I found this place - I'm definitely keeping it in mind if I'm in the area and need something they have there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not a damn thing I can do.

I am so incredibly frustrated and angry and sad. And I had a good day today too. I'd taken the day off for one of my regular Christmas shopping days, and I'd had a good time shopping, and then I met the husband at the Disneyland Resort, and we had fun looking at the Blue Sky Cellar at DCA to see what changes are being planned over the next several years, and then we had a great dinner at a fabulous restaurant.

And then I got home, and I read a letter that a friend had sent me because the email was being screwy.

I've previously mentioned that I have a female friend who's fighting a potentially life-threatening disease. And that I was concerned about her family support system. And while I'm happy that her treatments are going well, her letter indicates what I'd hoped wouldn't happen - she's still taking on entirely too much with being the pillar of her family. They've been relying on her for so long for so much that they can't stop, and I don't think she can either. That's not to say I think she should just sit around and do nothing while she gets her treatments. There are side effects that she has to deal with, and she's still working a modified schedule at her job, and now there are other physical ailments that she's also having to contend with, so she's definitely got a lot on her plate. But her letter indicates that she's pushing herself doing things she otherwise wouldn't be doing except that her family seems to expect it from her, or she expects it from herself. She's not complaining - it's all very matter-of-fact - she's been doing this for years, so it's all very normal for her. But I guess I don't understand why her family is continuing to make her be responsible for so much when she's already got so much to deal with of her own. And there's nothing I can say to her to change it, because I know she won't refuse them, and yes, I understand that she's an adult, and it's her choice, but I just wish there was something I could do to help her and ease her load.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Do you Vera?

There are people I know that talk about Vera Bradley on a regular basis, and I also visit a particular store (owned by one of those people) that happens to carry Vera, so I've seen the purses and such. And they're not really my style as they're very flowery and colorful, and I've never really had purses like that. Not to mention the fact that I'm not really a purse person. Oh, yeah, I've always had purses, but I usually have very basic ones, not ones to match every outfit, and I've never really been one to spend any significant amount of money on purses - I usually buy ones that cost about $20 from Mervyns.

But a couple of months ago, I saw a new line of Veras called microfibre that I kind of liked because they were more basic. The manager of the store I mentioned refers to them as training purses or the "my first Vera" line. And they weren't terribly expensive. Hmmm.

I thought about stopping by the store this week on one of the days I'd taken off to finish my Christmas shopping, but the husband and I ended up being in the area on Sunday for another matter that turned out to be a bust, and which I will be blogging about on a later date. As we were leaving the other place, we happened to drive past the store, and I noticed they were open. Ummm, they're not open on Sundays. OK, so I didn't think about it being right before Christmas and so that might account for them being open on a Sunday. Since we were there anyway, I decided to stop in so I wouldn't have to make a second trip a few days later.

So, I'm browsing the Veras, and the store owner came out to say hi and mentioned that the purses were actually on sale. Oh.

I had looked online at the microfiber line (I liked the black better than the brown) and seen two styles that I kind of liked, but the store didn't have either of them in stock, though I'll admit that while I do remember one style being the Lil' Hipster, I can't remember what the other style was. And then I saw Lil' Hipster ones in other styles, and it didn't turn out to be quite what I expected. It was too flat for my uses - I always have stuff in my purse that's not flat. And in looking at the microfiber in person again, they looked a bit dull. So I browsed the other styles that were available. And found some I liked.

I really liked the Kensington print, and I ended up getting the bucket tote. (And because I'm weird like that, it helped that I have a particular affection for the name since it reminds me of Kensington Palace.) I liked the tote as well, especially the clasp, but it didn't have an outside pocket, which I wanted, so I went with the bucket tote.

I also really liked the Yellow Bird print, and I ended up getting the Sherry. Nice name, huh? ;) It's really cute, and it's smaller, so while it's not an everyday purse for me, I think it will work really well for evenings out to the theatre. I have other dress purses that I've been using, but while they're cute, they're really not very practical because they're so small that I don't have enough room to carry my essentials *and* my celphone.

I also saw some celphone holders and tried to find one in either the Kensington or the Yellow Bird, but there weren't any of those in stock. I found one in the Pink Elephants line, and for some reason, I just thought it was really cute, so I bought that. I don't think it clashes with either the Kensington or Yellow Bird, but it's also convenient because you can clip it so it's easy to find.

In looking around at the various items in the store, I did wonder why Vera made a case to hold a Twinkie in. ;)

OK, so I now own three Vera items. And for my birthday this year, a very good friend very generously gave me a Coach purse, which is the purse I'm using everyday currently. I realized earlier this year that I also have a Liz Claiborne purse from some time ago, before I knew that was any kind of name brand. I don't recall buying it, so it must have been a gift. I didn't pay attention to the name - I just liked the purse. I don't use it very often because it's a "hang on the arm" purse whereas I generally prefer "over the shoulder" purses, especially when I'm shopping and want to have my hands free.

Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I might actually have some semblance of a girlie gene after all! ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Would you *really* want to be his apprentice?

I happened upon a story that a live-action version of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is being worked on by Walt Disney Studios. Cool, ok, I like that. Jay Baruchel is in talks to play the apprentice. OK, I remember him from "Tropic Thunder", and I liked him, so that's fine. But then the additional notes in the story said that the sorcerer is being played by Nicolas Cage. WHISKEY.TANGO.FOXTROT. The story is set in contemporary New York where a wizard is looking for an apprentice.

I can't for the life of me figure out why Nicolas Cage keeps getting work. It can't just be that he's Francis (Is he Ford at this particular moment? I can't keep track.) Coppola's nephew. While I was watching "Leaving Las Vegas", I was rooting for him to die, quickly, because then it meant the movie would be over. And then he got a frickin' Oscar for that movie.

Who in the hell would want to be his apprentice? This might be one of those cases where I could be interested in the movie, but his presence in the film is going to make me stay away.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Little Tokyo Shabu Shabu - restaurant review

My first trip to Diamond Plaza in Rowland Heights resulted in my first time dining at The Boat. I noticed Little Tokyo Shabu Shabu there as well, and the husband said he'd been there once with a friend, and he said it was really good, so I wanted to go back and try it, which we recently did.

It was on a Sunday night, a little later in the evening than peak dinner time, but the Plaza was still crowded enough that we decided to park downstairs. The downstairs parking is a little hard to find. If you drive alongside the buildings, and you get about half-way down, to the stop sign, the right turn should be the turn into the parking garage. I think there's a small sign that indicates that, which might be a little hard to see though.

We got to the restaurant, and we were told there was about a 30 minute wait, so we were given a buzzer and sat inside to wait. It only took about 15 or 20 minutes before we were seated at the bar. The restaurant isn't very big, consisting mostly of a long, double-sided bar. There are a couple of four-person tables, one two-person table and a larger table that seats about 10 or 14. Each seat at the bar has its own setup with a burner that has a pot with water in it. There are also various condiments available. At the tables, they have plug-in burners with pots on top, and because there isn't as much room, the table has to share the pot. I like the individual pots better because there's no confusion about what item belongs to whom, and you can also season your pot to your own taste.

The menu consists of some cooked items available as appetizers and then a choice of beef, lamb, pork or vegetarian plate, either in regular or large. Each choice also comes with rice and assorted vegetables. At least that's how it works with the shabu shabu, which is what I was there for. I've not had sukiyaki before, so I'm not entirely sure if that's similar, but I intend to find out sometime.

I decided on the appetizer of jelly fish (since I love the stuff), and it was really tasty, nice consistency, and spicy to boot. I also ordered the regular beef plate. The husband had an appetizer of gyoza (which he liked), and he ordered the large beef plate. He said that on a previous visit, he'd had a combo of beef and lamb and didn't think the lamb was that good.

There's boiling water in the plate, and all the items are brought to you raw, so you cook them yourself in the boiling water. The meat is cut very, very thin, so putting it in the water for a little while and swishing it around a bit is sufficient to cook it. For the vegetables, I like to leave them in the water for a while since some of it (like the stalk sections of the napa cabbage) are thicker and take longer to cook.

There is soy sauce and green onions and sesame oil that you can put in the pot or in your bowl for dipping. This kind of meal is especially good in colder weather because you get everything piping hot since you're cooking it yourself. You can also eat at your own pace and decide what you want to eat next.

The quality of the beef and the vegetables was very good, and I liked the mixture of vegetables. The only downside of the restaurant would be that it's often very crowded, so if you're going to go, don't wait until you're already hungry, because you'll probably have to wait.

Little Tokyo Shabu Shabu
1330 S. Fullerton Road, #108
City of Industry, CA 91748
(626) 810-6037

Friday, December 12, 2008

music while I'm at work

When I'm at work, I like to have some sound on as sort of background noise. It can't be anything too loud since I am at work, even though I do have my own office, but sound travels, I have to talk to people on the phone and people do come into my office. I also don't generally want it too riveting because I am (usually) trying to work, so I can't spend too many brain cells concentrating on what I'm listening to. Sometimes, when I've got something particularly difficult that I'm working on, I actually have to turn off whatever I'm listening to because I need no distractions at all.

In the afternoon, I'd been listening to a lot, which I really liked, but something changed either in the way they stream or the way something is handled in the computers at work, but I can no longer stream them, so I'm annoyed at that. I can listen to their taped podcasts but not the live stream, so that bugs me. So lately, I've been relying on a lot more, something I've posted about previously.

I've created a few more stations, and I've also deleted a few that didn't work out quite the way I wanted to. I've gotta think of some other stations to create so I can get a bigger variety of stuff to listen to. Sometimes, I think about using my ipod, but I haven't plugged that into the computer at work yet. I'll see if I can get more out of pandora first.

In case you're interested in the stations I've created, here's my pandora link. If you have pandora stations as well, I'd love to see your link so maybe I can listen to your stations.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Survivor: Gabon" - December 11, 2008 episode

After the last tribal council, Matty is mad that there was a third vote for him, and he figures out that it was Ken and is mad at him. After, Sugar and Ken and Crystal are talking, and they target Matty. Ken then talks to Bob and makes Bob feel bad about having tricked him, so Bob promises that if he wins the immunity idol, he'll give it to Ken if Ken is in trouble. I don't really get why Bob is feeling so bad, though. I mean, he felt bad after tricking Randy, so then he turned around and tricked Ken, and really, it's all part of the game.

For the reward challenge, the winner will go to a national park and be able to visit a gorilla sanctuary as well as having food, a shower and a bed to sleep in.

The challenge itself is an obstacle course where they have to go through a course to get a ball and then bring it back and shoot it into a hoop before doing it again. First one to get all three balls into the hoop wins. Matty is close, but Bob ends up being more accurate in making his last shot and wins. Jeff tells Bob that he can bring someone with him, and he picks Crystal. Jeff says he can bring one more person, and Bob picks Ken. Bob then has to send someone to exile, and he picks Susie.

Bob and Ken and Crystal enjoy a good meal with lots of food and then are able to take a shower and get something new to wear. They are then taken to the gorilla sanctuary where they get to spend some time looking at them - and being looked at.

In exile, Susie takes the comfort because she knows Sugar has the hidden immunity idol, so she enjoys the fruit and hammock.

Back at camp, Matty tries to turn Sugar, but Sugar is sticking to her alliance with Ken and Crystal, so Matty knows he's on his own. When Bob and Ken and Crystal come back, though, both Ken and Crystal are sort of laying into Matty, which gets Sugar's attention as she doesn't think they should be doing that, and she starts to question her alliance with them Ken and Crystal.

The immunity challenge involves having a mask at one end, having to make your way through some obstacles to the other end where there's a blank mask where they will have to bring three bags of mask pieces to recreate the mask - and they have to do it all blindfolded. Crystal spends some time wandering around into other people's lanes and even going outside the course, and then when Susie is going back for more pieces, she ends up overshooting and wandering around outside the course completely. Matty decides to get all the bags first before starting to assemble pieces while everyone else tackles one bag at a time. Ken's mask sort of looks like a Picasso painting after a while. Bob thinks he has it, but Jeff says no. After a little re-arranging, Bob ends up winning after all, making that his fourth consecutive challenge win. Now, he has to decide if he will give it to Ken.

Back at camp, Ken works on Bob to give him the necklace, and Ken tells the others to tell Bob that they're voting for Ken. But Ken says that when Bob gives him the necklace, they will vote Bob out. Sugar doesn't like what's going on, so she goes to tell Bob what Ken has planned and how she's had a change of heart about Ken and Crystal. They're targeting Crystal now, to break up the Ken/Crystal alliance.

Sugar wears her hidden immunity idol around her neck to tribal council. After some discussion, Bob says that he's going to keep the necklace because he doesn't think Ken is in jeopardy, which is how he had promised to give it to Ken, but Bob knows they're targeting Crystal, not Ken. After the votes, Jeff asks about the hidden immunity idol. Sugar looks at it for a while, and then she gives it to Matty, who plays it, so any votes for him don't count. (I thought you had to be in possession of the idol when you arrived at tribal council to be able to play it, but I guess not.) The two votes for Matty don't count, and the third vote for Crystal means she's the one voted out. There is a fourth vote for Crystal which goes unread, so I don't think the remaining players know that Crystal would have been voted out anyway, even if Sugar hadn't given her idol to Matty.

Five are left - Sugar, Matty, Bob, Ken and Susie. Who will be the final three?

I'm rooting for Bob to win, and then if not, then Sugar, Matty and Ken, in that order. I so don't want Susie to win.

The two-hour finale followed by the one-hour reunion show starts at 8pm on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Darth, Darth, Darth"!

I was searching for some information having to do with the "Force Unleashed" game about a month ago and happened upon a particular discovery.

Sibling rivalry is something that most kids have to deal with. OK, unless you're an only child, because it would be weird in that case. Maybe you have a brother or sister who is smarter or more athletic or prettier or stronger than you. What if your brother or sister is more popular? What if your brother or sister gets awards?

If your brother was president of the United States, that could be pretty intimidating unless you were also a potential candidate at a later time, but then, we can't all be Robert Kennedy. What if you're Billy Carter instead, where your brother is president but you're really known just for beer?

Or maybe your sibling is just way more talented than you. What if you're Michael Phelps' brother, and you need to wear a floatie just to be in a kiddie wading pool? Or what if your brother isn't just a Sith but *THE* Dark Lord of the Sith, second in command only to the Emperor himself? Everyone knows him and fears him, but you just get no respect? Well, if that were true, then you'd be Chad Vader, Darth's less-talented, less-charismatic younger brother. And you don't have anything as glorious as a Death Star to command - you're just the day shift manager of a grocery store.

Darth can just mind-control any female he wants, but Chad has to arrange for a "meeting" with a co-worker. And Darth might have spies aboard the Death Star, but Chad doesn't know he's also about to be ambushed.

Fighting a bunch of scrappy rebels is nothing compared to having to manage the night shift.

There are many more episodes in this series. Just go to YouTube and search for Chad Vader.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

news roundup - "Wall-E", "The Dark Knight", a church as a gift and what's not on the menu at Cracker Barrel

news item #1

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has voted "Wall-E" as the best film of the year, with "The Dark Knight" coming in second. Since I love both movies, I'm thrilled! I do plan to see "Milk", but since I expect it to be in limited release for the rest of the month, I don't think I'll have a chance to see it until the new year unless I decide to trek to the Arclight in Hollywood.

There's talk that both "Wall-E" and "The Dark Knight" even have a shot at Best Picture come Academy Award nomination time. Either nomination would come as a surprise, since with the inception of Best Animated Film, it's been conventional wisdom that an animated film would never again be nominated for Best Picture (like "Beauty and the Beast" was). And in the case of "The Dark Knight", a nomination for the late Heath Ledger is probably expected, and the film could even be in contention in the screenplay and directing categories in addition to the expected tech categories, but a blockbuster movie like that, based on a comic book property no less, is not the usual kind of film that the Academy nominates for Best Picture. It will be interesting to see what transpires on the morning of January 22, 2009. This will probably be one of those years where I'm interested enough to be up early in the morning to hear the announcements live.

news item #2

I saw this blurb about a church in Texas that received a $1.5 million donation. I know nothing about this church, but I think it's great that someone saw the need and was generous enough to fulfill it. And remained anonymous through it all. Maybe the anonymous benefactor wanted to remain such so other people wouldn't come asking for money as well, but in staying anonymous, he/she also doesn't get any public credit. But I'm sure all the members of the church are immensely grateful.

news item #3

I have some friends who sing the praises of Crackel Barrel (I'm still trying to come up with an excuse to go somewhere that would have a Cracker Barrel nearby so I can try it), so this story that peripherally involved a Cracker Barrel restaurant caught my attention. Good for the woman and her husband for returning the money. It was foolish of the elderly woman to be carrying around that kind of money in cash, since it was probably her life savings, and I can't imagine how devastating it would have been to have lost that money, so I hope she takes better care of it. (There's a part of me that's kind of suspicious, but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that her having that kind of cash lying around is all above board.) It was also nice of the woman and her husband to decline the reward money - I hope their good deed comes back to them tenfold.

"Survivor: Gabon" - December 4, 2008 episode

Right after last week's tribal council, Bob is mad that the others didn't just laugh at Randy but that they were making fun of him so much and revelling in his deception. Corinne ends up arguing with Sugar, again. Corinne makes some comment that she is usually nice to people she likes. I thought that was an odd comment. It made it sound like even with people she likes, she's not always nice to them. I mean, I get that sometimes, you just have a bad day or something, or someone you like might make you angry about a particular thing, but the way she said it, it was like she wasn't always nice to people she likes just because that's how she feels.

Bob and Ken catch a couple of really big fish, but because the meat is more delicate, they can't really cook it on a stick over the fire, so Bob fashions a grill for the fish, much to everyone's delight.

Right before the reward challenge, Jeff has a phone that has video from family for each tribe member. Each person gets to see and hear the short message, but the winner of the challenge gets to see and hear their entire video as well as to have pizza, beer and brownies.

They choose rocks to break down the group of 7 into teams of 3. Two team captains are chosen, and they have to pick people for their team. The interesting thing for me was that they had to choose people that they thought could help their team win, but it also had to be someone they could personally beat. Hard to weigh that. The two teams ended up being Sugar/Crystal/Bob and Matty/Ken/Susie. With Corinne left out, she was out immediately and had no chance to win. The two teams had to wade through a muddy swamp/bog to retrieve sprocket pieces and then put the sprockets together so that the wheels would spin and raise a flag. Thanks to Bob's physics background, the team with Sugar, Crystal and Bob win. They then each have a slide puzzle that they have to figure out, and Bob wins the round.

The others go back to camp as Bob sits down to his reward. He watches the video of his wife, who then gets up, says she has to get something and goes off camera. Bob is surprised and doesn't know what's going on, but he doesn't realize that she's actually coming up behind him. When he finally sees her, he is overjoyed, and presumably, they're able to share the reward together.

Back at camp, the other members see Bob and his wife approaching. As they get closer, Bob turns around and whistles, and the loved ones of the other tribe members show up. Everyone is able to spend a little time with their loved ones. Sugar's sister has brought some of their father's ashes, which they scatter in the river, and Sugar feels that she finally has closure about her father's death. Matty has had a lot of time to think while he's been there, and he takes the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend, and she accepts.

Much too soon, though, the loved ones have to leave, and it's back to the game. Bob and Corinne go to get tree mail, and they discuss targetting Matty. Meanwhile, back at camp, the other five target Bob since he's the strongest between him and Corinne.

Bob comes up with a plan. He tells Corinne that he will say that Marcus never actually threw the idol into the ocean, but rather, that he kept it and hid it and told Bob where it was, so Bob now has it. Randy was the one out in the water with Marcus, so he's the only one who might really know about the idol, and he's gone. Bob sets out to make another fake idol.

At the immunity challenge, each tribe member has to answer questions, and the more they get right, the more balls they get in which to toss at a target of sorts - the closest one to the middle wins. Sugar ends up getting the most questions right, but it's Bob who gets a ball in the second ring from the middle, so Bob wins individual immunity.

Back at camp, Bob and Corinne set their plan in motion. Corinne is talking to Ken, and she tells him about the hidden idol that Bob has. Ken starts to panic, and they decide to try to pull Crystal in to blindside Matty, who they see as a strong competitor. As they were showing the new fake idol, I couldn't remember what the real idol looked like that they threw in the ocean. They all got a pretty good look at it because it sat on the table for a while. Did Bob's second fake idol really look like a good replica?

Ken and Crystal decide to switch, but they play both sides. Ken will vote for Matty and Crystal will vote for Corinne. That way, they flush out the hidden idol from Corinne and they also take out Matty.

During tribal council, the first thing I noticed was the jury's clothes - what was up with them all wearing different shades of Easter pastel colors?

In any case, there is talk at tribal, and Crystal actually considers voting for Matty. When Jeff gets the votes and asks about a hidden immunity idol, Corinne doesn't play it since she knows it's fake, and Ken and Crystal are surprised. But, since Crystal did in fact vote for Corinne, Corinne gets four votes and is voted out. To the end, she was clueless about a lot of things. When it looked like their plan with the fake idol would work, she got cocky again about how stupid everyone was. Well, once again, she underestimated them, and this time, it was her head on the chopping block.

Everyone knows there were 3 votes for Matty. They expected Bob and Corinne, but that means one of them flipped, and they're going to want to know who did it.

One more regular episode this Thursday before the finale on Sunday.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chang Thai Bistro - restaurant review

Recently, a friend and I happened to have simpatico cravings for Thai food, so we arranged to meet at her house, and she drove us all to Basil - which we discovered was closed. They'd been closed for a couple weeks because the owners were on vacation and were not due to return until the following evening. OK, I've pumped myself up for Thai food, and now, EPIC FAIL. Luckily, our friend knew the location of another Thai place, so off to there we went.

Chang Thai Bistro is located on busy Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia. On the night we went, there was a street fair right in that area, so we had to park a bit aways (and parking was a little difficult to find because of the blocked street) and then walk, but it didn't turn out to be too far.

The restaurant is fairly small but nicely decorated with bamboo touches and themed with elephants, even on the serving plates, which were really nice. (The website indicates that "chang" means "elephant" in the Thai language.) The menu was extensive and had so many incredible things listed that it was really difficult to decide. We decided to dine "family style", so we all chose a dish to share.

First, we started off with an appetizer of the soft shell crab basket (soft shell crab lightly battered, deep fried and served with sweet and sour sauce) to share. The crab was cut into smaller pieces, so sharing was very easy, and the crab was very yummy. We thought about trying the Threesome ("Don't ask, just try it!"), but we decided to save that for another time.

I had to try my standard of Tom Yum Gai (chicken in classic spicy and sour lemongrass broth with mushrooms, carrots, galangal roots and kaffir lime leaves), which is sort of my benchmark for Thai restaurants. Their version was really yummy. They only had regular mushrooms, but that was ok because the broth was the perfect combination of spicy and lemony for me. One warning, though, is that even the small bowl is a fairly generous serving. It's good for sharing but fairly filling individually.

My entree selection was duck with basil and chili (roast duck sauteed in chili and basil sauce, Chinese broccolis, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, onions and bell peppers), which I really liked. The duck was nicely shredded but not too finely, and the dish had a definite kick to it - having water on hand was a good idea - but it wasn't spicy enough to overpower the actual flavor of the dish and ingredients.

The husband selected deliciously ginger flavored (thin slices of fresh ginger stir fry with onions and mushrooms) which comes with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, tofu, shrimp, scallop, fish fillet, squid or vegan shrimp - he chose the beef. This was a delicious dish and was, as you'd expect full of ginger! Our friend is not the ginger fanatic that the husband and I are, so it was a bit too gingery for her, but she seemed to enjoy the dish otherwise.

Our friend selected the crispy basil shrimp (golden crispy shrimp and basil leaves, sauteed in a fresh chili sauce), which was delicious as well. I really liked the crispy basil that was on top.

We also had one order of white rice and one order of brown rice to share amongst us, and we were amused that each serving of rice came out in a heart shape. All the dishes together made a really nice mix for dinner.

And then it came time for dessert. As I'd been browsing the menu earlier, I happened upon the dessert items, and one thing definitely popped out at me, so when it came time for dessert, I did order the lychee sorbet. Oh my goodness. It was so incredibly yummy. Well, it wouldn't be so yummy if you don't like lychee, but I love the stuff, and the delicate flavor in the sorbet was just so good. Our friend ordered the fried banana, and she seemed to enjoy them.

As I mentioned, there were many more dishes on the menu that sounded really good. I just saw this picture on their website.

It's shrimp and scallops sauteed in yellow curry sauce with onions, scallions, mushrooms and snow peas. That looks and sounds so yummy! Definitely on my list to try next time.

The service was very good, with our water glasses being promptly filled and empty plates taken away, all done with a smile and graciousness. I just loved everything about the meal, and it's a restaurant I definitely plan to return to many times.

Chang Thai Bistro
614 S. Myrtle Avenue
Monrovia, CA 91016
(626) 357-9658

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" - November 24, 2008 and December 1, 2008 episodes

November 24, 2008 episode

Ellison is awakened in the middle of the night to find Cameron in his front yard, poking a long stick into the yard, looking to see if he has buried Cromartie there. She tells him to go back to bed.

Sarah is still obsessed with the symbol of three dots in a triangle, and she finds a company called Dakara Systems that uses that logo. Sarah and Derek break into their offices and steal their hard drives to see what information they might have. They're working on some kind of software that requires further development, so they're looking for investors, and John sets Sarah up with a fake identity as a potential investor.

Jesse arrives back at her apartment to find Derek, who has found her stash of pictures of the family, and he wants an explanation pronto. She says she was looking for John and Cameron and had no idea that Derek was living with them.

Ellison arrives at work at Zeira Corp. to find the police, who say that they found a man - Dr. Sherman - who was trapped in the building during a power outage, and he went hours without air conditioning or ventilation and died. When Ellison confronts Catherine, she says that Dr. Sherman was working with the artificial intelligence program - Project Babylon - and that when the power outage hit, the AI shut down everything but its own power to ensure its own survival. So the AI did what it had to in order to preserve itself, no matter the consequences, including to human life. Ellison talks to the techs, who say that the AI wasn't programmed to do what it did, but rather, that it made new rules to save itself. Ellison wonders whether the AI knowingly killed Dr. Sherman, to which the tech says that it's not capable of doing that. Ummm, hello, did NONE OF YOU ever see "WarGames"? There was this whole discussion about the 80s. Isn't "WarGames" quintessential 80s? "Computers don't call people." "Well, yours did."

Sarah meets with the head of Dakara Systems, who says that his son has built a program, which the son has named Emma. The man says that the Air Force had a chess game competition (the same one the Turk was in), and that one of the competitors has a chip that would be able to handle the program his son wrote, but they need to be able to license the chip. Sarah tells Cameron to sell the jewels and everything they have so that she can be the investor so Dakara can get the chip. Sarah looked so much like Rachel from "Blade Runner" with her hair done up that way. More 80s stuff! After the meeting where they get the chip, they go back to the office, but they're disappointed to find out the chip doesn't work - it's a fake. It was supposed to be able to handle a certain amount of memory and server space to run the son's program, but it can't, resulting in epic fail. (OK, I'll admit that I didn't really understand everything that was going on during that scene, other than that the chip didn't do what they thought it was going to do. The husband kind of translated what was happening.)

John goes to see Riley at her house, and we see that Riley lives with a couple who takes in foster children. John wants to tell her the truth about everything, but he can't bring himself to do it.

Riley is then shown with Jesse, and Riley is saying that she can't do it anymore, that John came close to telling her, but he didn't. Jesse obviously recruited Riley, but I was wondering if she recruited her from her own time or from the present time, but from a later scene, it's clear that Riley is from the future because she knows about the coming apocalypse. The scene where Riley ends up shoving her foster mother was pretty intense.

Ellison asks to communicate with the Babylon AI - which is named John Henry (not Joshua?) - to find out what happened when Dr. Sherman died. Ellison asks John Henry if Sherman was actually dead at the end of the power outage. John Henry confirms that he was, but then Ellison asks why John Henry then called the paramedics if Dr. Sherman was already dead. Through additional questioning, Ellison figures out that John Henry has no feelings and no regard for life, which accounts for its actions concerning Dr. Sherman. He later tells Catherine that they taught the AI so much, but they didn't give it any morals, so the people are actually responsible for the death of Dr. Sherman.

Sarah, John and Cameron track down the guy who sold Dakara Systems the chip, and it turns out that he's an actor hired by the head of Dakara (not in the Yakuza as the head of Dakara had claimed to Sarah). Sarah then goes after him again, and he says that he just wanted the money for his son. His son is crushed that his father didn't really believe in his project. Sarah and Cameron are able to retrieve their money.

When Sarah is later examining her face in the mirror, she finds an indentation or marks of blood in the shape of three triangular dots. Freaky. (BTW, the husband noticed this in the scene right before, before she went into the bathroom and saw it herself.)

Catherine takes Ellison to a room - where Cromartie has been hooked up and is now the physical manifestation of John Henry. Cromartie was right - Ellison ended up helping him even though he didn't want to, and that by Cromartie not killing Ellison, Ellison has helped to bring Cromartie back to life.

Jesse tells Derek that in the future, John is really tight with Cameron, and he seems to be making erratic decisions because of her. She came back to try to change things, to try to stop that connection, which I guess is what Riley is for. Derek tells Jesse that John is actually his nephew because he doesn't want there to be any more secrets between them, but Jesse doesn't tell Derek about her connection to Riley. Meanwhile, Riley has gathered herself together, and she goes to John's house to reconnect with him.

December 1, 2008 episode

At Sarah's request, John has been looking for companies that use three dots in a triangle as part of their company logo or literature, and John has found hundreds of them in many different kinds of fields. As Cameron comes into the room, Sarah hands the laundry basket to Cameron and says that she should make herself useful. John makes a comment about her being the best killing machine ever invented, and they're using her for laundry (This line for some reason reminded me of Marvin the Paranoid Android's line of "Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you to the bridge."), to which Sarah then takes the basket from Cameron and gives it to John and walks out. John stands for a minute and then gives the basket back to Cameron, saying that after all, she doesn't sleep.

And then we find out what Cameron does with her nights.

She knocks on a door, and a man (Eric) in a wheelchair answers it, and she's brought him a bag with three donuts - the same stuff she always brings him. It's eventually revealed that he works the night shift at some kind of library, and he lets her in to look at things after hours. Eric's in a wheelchair because he had bone cancer. She looks at some pictures in frames and at one in particular and says that she recognizes a particular man (Stark), but she doesn't tell him that she recognizes him as a terminator. The picture was taken at the scene of a speakeasy fire on December 31, 1920, scenes of which were shown at the beginning of the episode. They track down further information about him, and he's also seen at the premiere of Rudolph Valentino's "The Sheik", which is also attended by businessman and real estate tycoon Chandler.

They further discover that Stark probably robbed a lot of banks to get the money to do what he needed to do, and he bought a lot of land in the San Fernando Valley, making him a rival of Chandler. It turns out that Chandler's son was killed in the speakeasy fire, and Chandler's right-hand man is also killed shortly thereafter, and from there, Chandler's empire crumbles. At first, Cameron thinks Stark killed Chandler's son on purpose, but it turns out that it was an accident. The cause of the fire had been thought to be a fire bomb, but an eyewitness who admits to being drunk and thinks she imagined it in her stupor said she saw a flash of lightning and then a naked man appeared in the middle of the room. Cameron figures out that the terminator's appearance accidentally caused the fire and also accidentally killed Chandler's son. The picture that Cameron has originally seen had Stark looking up, and she figures out that he was looking at the stars and figuring out the date, realizing that he arrived at the wrong time.

Chandler's son was an architect, and he was going to be the designer of a particular building, so since he was killed, Stark had to make sure the building was completed. The building, however, was going to be on the exact spot of the speakeasy, and since his son was killed there, Chandler wanted it to remain a memorial garden. Stark took down Chandler's empire for the sole purpose of being able to purchase a particular location - Pico Tower. And then he disappeared. Eric tells her it's been closed for some time but that it's being renovated to be re-opened.

OK, so this Pico Tower is supposed to be located at the intersection of Pico and Third. And I was thinking, ok, that's not going to work because Pico and Third run parallel to each other. But I guess I was thinking of Pico and Third STREET, because Pico and Third AVENUE apparently [sic] do intersect.

Cameron goes to Pico Tower and sees a sign that says the building is scheduled to be re-opened on December 31, 2010 - the terminator arrived 90 years too soon. The keynote speaker for the re-opening is scheduled to be the governor. She goes to the ballroom and looks around and figures out that the governor would be assassinated during that evening, and she looks for the best spot to take the shot from. She goes to the back of the room, finds where the wall sounds hollow and punches through - to discover Stark there with a gun, since he had himself built into the building in the perfect spot. He reactivates, and the two have a really cool battle, which she eventually wins.

Earlier in the evening, John gets a phone call from Riley urgently asking him to come pick her up from somewhere, and she sounds upset, so John agrees. When he arrives, though, it turns out she's at a party, and she said some guy was just bothering her but things are ok now, and she convinces him to stay. She's flirting with another guy, and she's playing some kind of war video game, which she then gets John to play, but he gets frustrated and upset and loses. He says he's leaving, and Riley is about to leave with him, but she's taken the boy's lighter, and he wants it back. When she refuses, he starts to physically restrain her, but John steps in and beats the crap out of him until Riley stops him. They go to a hill and park, and they talk a bit about themselves. It seems that Riley is trying to get him to tell her the truth about everything and is using jealousy and whatever she can to achieve it. She tells him that her parents died in a fire when she was very little - I wonder if that means they died on Judgement Day? She leans over to kiss him, and they make out.

Cameron returns to the library and talks to Eric, and she ends up telling him that contrary to what he'd said earlier believing that he was free of the cancer, his cancer had actually returned, that she knows he hasn't been eating much, and he's been losing weight, and she tells him where he has a small tumour growing. Eric is crushed to hear the news and asks her to leave.

When John returns home in the morning, he sees Cameron carrying the laundry basket, and she asks where he's been all night. He says he was out. She sees lipstick on him and deduces that he was with Riley.

That night, Cameron returns to the library, but when he knocks at the employee entrance, a woman opens the door. Cameron asks about Eric, but the woman says she doesn't know anything, just that she was called to fill in. Cameron says he used to let her in after hours and asks if she likes donuts. The woman takes the donuts and allows Cameron in.

One of the things I loved about this episode was that with all the technology of the terminators and computers and the Turk and all the other advanced technology, the way to solve the puzzle of Stark was Cameron having to look at old-time media - newsreels, phonorecords, microfiche of news articles and 35mm film. I also liked that the events happened in the course of just one night. I also really liked the full flashbacks where we were shown what happened as they figured it out.

So it seems that Derek had the day off this time, and Sarah was only in it briefly, so she got a nice rest. I liked watching all the detective work between Cameron and Eric as well as their interaction.

So, why did the terminators want to kill the governor? Hmmm, hopefully, we'll find out more in a later episode.