Monday, January 29, 2007

Please do not discard.

Have you ever noticed how mass mail marketers try so hard to make their mail look like real important mail, that usually it's even easier to pick out? It's funny, for years I would never get any sort of useless mail, now I must get at least half a dozen pieces of junk mail a day. However, I've gotten really good at sorting it out just by looking at the envelope. To share in my wisdom, I've compiled a handy little junk-mail identification guide.

1) If the envelope says "Please do not discard" it's probably junk mail. Every time I've received something like new credit cards, tickets from TicketMaster or anything else that I really shouldn't discard, it always comes in a completely nondescript plain white envelope with nothing but a pre-printed return address. These are ones I don't discard.

2) If the envelope looks like something incredibly important, especially if it says "Important!" on it... it's probably junk mail. Get real... you're not that important to receive mail like that.

3) If the envelope is any color other than white, and it's not Christmas, your birthday, or your wedding... it's probably junk mail. Real mail comes in white envelopes.

4) If the envelope has what appears to be a handwritten note scribbled on the front... it's probably junk mail. High-class junk mail, but still junk mail.

I'm not complaining too much though, recycling junk mail is as easy as hitting the delete key on my e-mail. But unlike e-mail, there's nothing worse than going to the mailbox and finding absolutely nothing there. At least junk mail makes my trip to the mailbox worth it.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday's over... I'm ready for a weekend...

Is it a good sign when it's Sunday night and you're thinking "when does the weekend start?"

OK, so it's not quite as bad as that, but still. I feel like it's been pretty much non-stop for the whole long weekend. Friday night I had my regular curling which wasn't so bad, but I just really wasn't much in the mood to curl. Then Saturday was another full day of curling with the mixed bonspiel. Unfortunately, that required playing 3 games on Saturday, of which my team lost all three games. It was fun, but by about 9:30 when I was done, I just came home and crashed. Sunday, well, it was a pretty normal day. Went to church in the morning, then came home and had a little time to relax before, yes, yet another night of my regular Sunday night curling league.

Last week one of my coworkers gave me a box full of old piano sheet music that she acquired when cleaning out her mother-in-law's house. Tons of sheet music with lots of classic songs from the 1920's-1960's mostly. So part of my Sunday afternoon was going through this box and finding all kinds of fun music to play on the piano. I was extra pleased to find a fair share of showtunes and movie themes, but upon further reflection, that's not too surprising. Most of the popular songs of that era were specifically from musicals and movies. What happened to that trend? Somehow I don't think 60 years from now someone will be going through a box of sheet music and stumbling onto last year's Oscar winner for best song and going "Hey, remember that classic song 'It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp'? Those were the days, they just don't make songs like they used to!" No thanks, I'll stick with "There's No Business Like Show Business" that I found in the box. :)

Ah well, time for another week of work I guess. So long weekend, it feels like I hardly knew you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

And believe me, I know toasted...

Have you seen the Visa commercial where everyone's getting lunch at the cafeteria and everything is moving like a well-oiled machine... then someone throws a wrench in it (in this case, paying with cash instead of their Visa Check Card(tm)) and everything falls apart? [Visa Commercial: 'Lunch'] I like this commercial, mainly because it is the perfect dramatization of how you get into a regular routine, and the smallest change can throw you completely off.

This is especially apparent when you live alone... rarely do things change without you actually changing them, so you can neglect common double-checks you might normally take without fear of anything unexpected happening... until you have guests (like my freeloading sister a few months back). The differences can manifest themselves in the most unusual places... like the toaster.

Have you noticed that most people, whether they realize it or not, have a very distinct preference for how they toast their bread. Some people like it blackened (or as I would call it, 'cajun style'), others just warm enough that it's a bit crusty, but not a hint of brown anywhere on it. Still others prefer it somewhere specific on a scale between those extremes. Myself, I prefer it, as Alton Brown would say, "golden brown and delicious"... no black, but enough that it's just a bit toasty. The problem is, few toasters (and certainly not my classic 1980's stainless steel model) have any sort of custom presets like a car radio to set how toasty you want it. Instead, I have to rely on my experience to get the lever set to exactly the right toastiness, and trust that once I get it right it's not going to change. It's a time-proven system... until someone touches it. On several occasions when I mindlessly dropped my bread into the toaster and pushed the plunger down expecting "golden brown & delicious" toast, I ended up with extra dark and over toasted toast. Such a disappointment. After the first such occasion, I traced it to my fine freeloading sister who had monkeyed with the toaster (and then later claimed that I need a new toaster... totally bogus). It just goes to show that sometimes your routine can get the best of you.

[Editor's note: I had this rant probably 3 months ago, but as usual forgot about it everytime I was trying to think of something to blog about until now.]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Me Talk Good English

I read an article today ["Bad English confounds Beijing teacher"] about how in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, there is a big push among the Chinese to improve their rather poorly translated English signs. I actuall recall many bizarrely worded signs when I was in China back in 2001 and doubt they can possibly fix them all in any reasonable amount of time. Some of them just have misspellings and typographical errors on them, which aren't such a big deal to me. The amusing ones are the complete mistranslations that occasionally could be read quite differently by a native English speaker. These signs are widely collected online, so I decided to post a few of the more entertaining ones I found here, with my own commentary added. Enjoy!

But speaking cellphone on a sunny day is perfectly fine... I wonder if cellphone sounds a bit like Swahili?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Who's Carefully? And why was he standing so close to the water?

... or it might chase after you.

Please confine your frolicking to the kiddie pool.

"You need a breath mint."

You is valued neighba.

I took a picture of this one (or one like it) in China too. "Please keep your graffiti neat."

Very important. I do this every time I walk out on the curling ice.

... and don't you forget it!

Yeah... and no free refills on your Diet Coke either!

Truer words have never been spoken...

Nor will it ask you for spare change...

I actually had to look this one up. A "balustrade" is a railing supported by a bunch of columns (balusters) that hold it up, like you usually have on the side of stairway or balcony. This begs the question... how is it that these people who can't make a correctly formed sentence have a better vocabulary than I do?

Yeah... do something with your life and get a real job!

As opposed to the alternative... ?

I'm just trying to figure out which of the Chinese symbols stand for "deformed man".

Sign outside a Xenophobics Anonymous meeting.

... and please, no smorking within 25 feet of any doorway.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More snow...

Seattle's crazy weather adventures continue. After rain, rain, rain, snow, wind, rain, wind, rain, we're back to snow. Here in Seattle I only had maybe half an inch or so, but I've learned that's pretty typical. It rarely snows too much in the core of Seattle. But my parents down in Federal Way weren't quite so snow-free. They sent me this picture of the backyard:

I haven't seen that much snow down there for years. The odd thing this time is that it's supposed to stick around for a while now, because it's going to stay bitterly freezing for the rest of the week. It's not the snow to worry about, but rather the ice covering the roads. I'll go ahead and work from home today.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Tonight I went to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Paramount Theatre. Despite having one of the longest titles of any musical I've ever seen, it was quite the atypical musical experience.

The whole plot of the musical was basically, well, just what it sounds like--a spelling bee. That's pretty much it, nothing more, nothing less. Sure, they added a few musical numbers where we delved into the personal lives of these middle school-aged kids; amusing little ditties but merely accessories to the rest of the dialogue. The 2-hour production had no intermission, though an intermission-like scene was built into the show that gave the audience a break from the seriousness (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word) of the spelling bee.

Reading my recap thus far you might be led to believe it was a disappointing performance, but you'd be wrong. It was absolutely hilarious! Much credit for the comedic brilliance needs to be given to both the writers and equally the actors. A great deal of improvisation was involved in various parts of the show, including bringing four members of the audience on stage as additional spellers at the beginning of the show. (Those audience members were relatively quickly eliminated through the use of obscure or ridiculously impossible-to-spell words.) Rather than applause, laughter was the prevailing sentiment from the audience.

I considered whether this show would work better as a play than a musical, based on the relative unimportance of the musical numbers' contribution to the overall plot, but concluded that it's best as is. The music really is the glue that holds it all together. While it doesn't really add a lot to the overall picture, it's adds greatly to the structural foundation of the show.

As for my much awaited ratings...

Cast - 4 stars. A small, yet outstanding cast with great comedic talent.
Script - 5 stars. Inspired genius, and we'll give the credit for the improvised customizations here.
Technical - 3 stars. All you'd expect from a Broadway-caliber production, but nothing remarkable.
Music - 2 stars, and no discredit to the singers or musicians, all of whom were outstanding. I considered giving it 3 stars, but couldn't justify it. It's just not the focus of the show.

Overall - 4 stars. Worth seeing perhaps more than once, because I'd doubt it's ever quite the same show twice. Definitely an unconventional style of musical, but nothing wrong with that.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Whatever happened to do-it-yourself car repair?

Last night on my way to the curling club, I came to the realization that it wasn't quite as bright as it should be in front of my car. After I got there, I got out of my car to take a look and sure enough, my front passenger-side headlight was out. Ignoring my past experiences ["All that work for a $10 lightbulb" 11/20/2005 ], I figured "Hey, no big deal. I'll pick up a new bulb tomorrow." And so this morning on my way to work, which just happens to go right past a car parts store, I picked up a new headlight for my 2001 Nissan Altima for the amazing low price of $8.69. After work, I got a screwdriver and wrench and headed down to the garage to replace the headlight. As I recalled from the driver's side headlight just over a year ago, everything has to be done from the inside under the hood. Unfortunately, where on the driver's side I had the battery to contend with blocking my access to the bulb, on the passenger side I had a slightly less movable object, the coolant tank.

After pondering just how much work it would take to wedge my hands in far enough to get at the bulb, then realizing that I'd never actually get the bulb out once I did, I retreated to the assistance of the owner's manual. Despite my hopes to the contrary, the instructions had not changed since the last time I tried to find the instructions to replace a headlight only to ignore the manufacturer's recommendation that you take the car to the dealer, lest you follow their instructions on how to completely remove the front bumper of your car.

For more than a brief moment, I contemplated actually following said instructions and removing the front bumper of my car in order to replace the headlight, and even went so far as to remove one of the supposedly 4 screws holding on the bumper. After regaining my senses in a bout of extreme frustration, I put everything back together, closed the hood and ranted to myself all the way back upstairs. A bit of research online led me to the exact situation I had already deduced from my own first-hand experience. BUT... the suggestion quickly came that there really is only one screw that holds the coolant reservoir in, and after you remove that easy-to-access screw, all you need to do is use, and I quote, "more than a little upward force", and the coolant tank will just pop right off and you can move it to the side. Could it be so easy?

Back downstairs I go, open the hood back up and do a little further investigation. I removed the screw that holds the coolant tank down, and then pulled up on it. No success. Wiggled it a little and pulled up again a little harder. No success. Stared it at glaringly, cleaned it off and reached down as far as I could to get a better grip, and pulled up even harder. No success. Hmmm, did I miss something? Did a little investigative work to figure out just how it was held down there and saw a bit of a clamp on the left side that appeared to hold it on there. Took the end of a screwdriver and used a little leverage to pull up on the top edge. POP! It came loose and I just lifted it right out and set it off to the side.

Now I had easy access to the bulb, just a twist of the locking ring and out came the old bulb, in went the new one, voila! Snapped the coolant reservoir back in its holder and screwed it down, and that was it. All-in-all a 15-minute procedure, 10 of which were trying to get the darn tank off, and now both my headlights work again.

This brings me to the rant of the night, if it's so easy (obviously) just to remove the coolant tank to get at the headlight, WHY does the instruction manual give you the daunting instructions to remove half the front of your car to get at it? I'LL TELL YOU WHY... to convince less-adventurous folk to take their car into the dealer who can charge them an arm an a leg to "remove the front of the car to get at it, because it's so difficult." Of course, once you take it in, they probably just pop off the coolant reservoir and replace it in all of 5 minutes and charge you for 1.5 hrs worth of labor. OK, so I'm probably exaggerating and there's some legal liability reason why they can't actually tell you to remove the coolant tank or the battery or whatever. Like that makes it any better.

Well, that should cover the headlights for a while now. What will go wrong next? I dunno, but maybe it'll be time to get a new car by then.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

I decided a new year deserved a redesign of my blog, so as you probably noticed the colors have changed and layout slightly modified here. Nothing too different, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

Now 2006 is gone, it's January 1st of 2007, a completely new year and the day of a million bowl games. OK, not quite a million, but 6 of them anyway. This morning I could switch between ABC, CBS, FOX and ESPN and watch 4 different bowl games at the same time. And people claim there are too many bowl games? I don't see how they could possibly think that. :)

How about some New Year resolutions? I seem to recall last year's new year resolution not to make any new year resolutions. Seriously, what's up with resolutions anyway? I am going to make retroactive 2006 New Year resolutions to do whatever it is I got done last year. WAHOO! Time to celebrate 2006's accomplishments by not making any 2007 resolutions until December 31st of next year.

Wow, that was alot of words and not a lot of information. I'll try to work on that in 2007...