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Los Angeles, CA, United States


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So What

So what is it like growing up being Chinese and Mexican?  This topic came up recently in conversation and my pat answer is "It's taking the best of both cultures and melding them together." WTF does that mean.  Hell if I know but it sure sounds good and gets people off my back with that question.

Think about the question.  Does it really make sense after all?  How would I know how it is to grow up Chinese and Mexican as opposed to WHAT?  I only have one perspective-MINE so honestly, I can't really give an answer.  Yes, it's possible to have a tortilla with butter as a snack then munching on some chow mein a minute later.  Is that what it's like growing up in a mixed ethnic and cultural home?  I don't know. 

I will tell you this that from a food perspective growing up, I think I've been blessed to have experienced both cultures.  I was exposed to frog legs, peking duck, crab, squab at an early age in addition to mole poblano, pippian, adobo, chicharonnes, and chile verde.  Breakfast  wasn't just cereal or ham & eggs but chorizo, juk (rice congee), huevos rancheros or machaca. There was oolong tea or champurrado or abuelitas hot chocolate.

Growing up bi-racial has its challenges.  There are the acceptance issues at school.  I still remember walking the halls of Hammel St. school and some kid yelling at me from the bottom of the stairwell, "Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at these!" as he points to his knees.  Another one of those WTF moments in my life.  What does he mean?  But I wasn't so naive to not understand that it was a racial slur.  I remember being "half-breed"  by classmates. Maybe that was homage to Cher's song of the same name.  I remember feeling the odd man out only because I was not really one race or the other.  But I also remember whenever I felt that way, I remembered that God put me here half breed and all for a reason so those ill feelings of not belonging dissipated quickly.

I really didn't know any Asians growing up as a kid except my family and my cousins on my dad's side.  Growing up in East Los Angeles, all my friends were Mexican-American.  Diversity was rare in the neighborhood.  My taste of other cultures was riding the RTD with mom to head to downtown for the month-end sales at May Co., Robinson's, Bullock's and Broadway.  High school was my first taste of diversity.  Learning and competition gave us all a common goal and made me realize, the differences are so slight between one guy to another.  It's amazing to be surrounded by other young men with similar values.  Yes, their cultural backgrounds are significantly different but the core and foundation are carved from the same rock.

I think it's that same very core that connects people despite their outward appearance and cultural backgrounds.  It's the fundamental values that gives friends that uncanny trait of empathy and sympathy.  I don't really know how to describe growing up bi-racial.  There are advantages no doubt of being able to relate to both cultures due to my exposure.  But I also believe that my formative years are similar to many of my friends.  Maybe that's why after so many years (some over 41 years), we can still call each other friends.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Soy Sauce Anyone?

Who doesn't love soy sauce aka shoyu?  Pair it with wasabi and sushi.  It's the main ingredient in Teriyaki sauce,  Non-Asians pour it straight on their white rice.  (If you're Asian and you do this, consider your Asian card revoked.)  Soy sauce and mayonnaise mixed together makes the best dip for steamed broccoli.  Soy sauce is almost as versatile as salt. 

But did you know that it works great on burns and mosquito bites.  Yep.  I was surprised too until I read it in the LA Times today.  Apparently a  reader was singing the praises of shoyu after she burned the tips of her fingers, she could see the blisters forming and soaked her fingers in soy sauce.  The next day, there were no blisters and just 2 red marks.  This same reader decided to try it with a mosquito bite.  Lo and behold, the bite didn't itch or swell up.

Imagine the potential for soy sauce.  I have visions of first aid kits filled with packets of Kikkoman.  If you're out camping, dad screams out,  "honey, I got stung by a bee.  Bring out the shoyu and while you're at it, can you marinade the chicken for the bbq!!"  Or you're watching TV and House is working a tough case and tells his team, "Thirteen is right, break out soy sauce 500 cc's in a saline drip, stat!!!"

Or you're at the movies and Edward just bites the young hottie in the neck.  Jacob comes to her rescue with a bottle of shoyu and pours it on her neck and the fang marks disappear. 

Then comes the backlash from the concerned public.   Too much soy sauce for medicinal purposes is really bad for your health.  There's estrogen in soy bean so soy sauce will cause man-boobs.  Instead of coming home with glitter and perfume on their clothes, husbands will have the smell of soy sauce.  How convenient to tell the wife or gf, I was out having sushi.

So what is soy sauce?  It's soy bean fermented with a mold to form a paste then water and salt are added.  Pretty simple stuff.  It's also has 10 times the antioxidants of a same serving as wine but sipping on soy sauce is kind of gross unless you really like salt.

I'm not sure where I'm headed with this discussion of soy sauce only to say that once again, the Chinese came up with another awesome invention that may one day be the stuff that replaces
DEET and burn cream.  Enjoy your soy!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Social Responsibility

 I love cooking and I love cooking shows on TV.  When time permits, I will channel surf and invariably, the remote will stop on either Travel Channel, Cook Channel, Food Network, KCET, and Living Well Network.  Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, Rick Bayless, Rachel Ray, and Alton Brown are household names here in the Huang home.

Some of you may have seen this post I shared on my FB page about Andrew Zimmern's pov regarding the furor ignited when Anthony Bourdain in a TV Guide interview criticized Paula Deen for “telling an already obese nation that it’s O.K. to eat food that is killing us.”  http://andrewzimmern.com/content/bourdain-deen-bruni-redzepi%E2%80%A6and-why-it-matters#.TlgEY9anrsA.facebook

So is Bourdain and Zimmern out to crucify every food show cook because they cook rich, fatty delicious food? In a way, the answer is yes.  Jamie Oliver's influence and campaign to bring healthy food back to schools and America have finally reached the Travel Channel and Food Network.  It's important to note that Bourdain and Zimmern are on Travel Channel and Paula Deen is on Food Network.  Both are owned by Scripps Networks Interactive.

So Bourdain and Zimmern feel that TV chefs whose shows are predicated on certain niche foods should warn against the evils of high caloric and fatty food-the very foundation upon Paula Deen and Sandra Lee among others-have built their career, popularity and wealth on.

The fact that the interview sparked controversy is indeed funny.  Andrew Zimmern is a slightly smaller version of Butterbean the boxer and Bourdain enjoys a smoke, a drink, a toke, and some very rich foods on his show.  Hypocrisy?  Possibly?  But who's to judge. Yes there shows are more travel related while Paula Deen is a cooking show.  It's so easy to be an armchair quarterback and blame Paula Deen for teaching the public how to cook delicious albeit fat food. Is Julia Child also to blame for the obesity of America?  But what is important about Bourdain's comments is that it sparked conversations and again brings the issue of of America's growth (not the economy) in waistline to the forefront.

I think that all these celebrity chefs have their place on TV and yes, it'd be nice if Paula Deen pushed a healthier menu on her show.  But blaming a cooking show chef for killing America;  that's a bit of a stretch and takes out the one major factor in the equation-the person eating the food.

Defending Paula Deen and other cooks is not my intent here.  But if Bourdain is going to target someone for the obesity of America, target the food processors of the world.  Target the soda companies or the frozen food companies.  Or target the overall business climate of the US.  That's what's killing the population.  Would convenient processed foods either canned, frozen or packaged "fresh," even be viable if you and I didn't have to work 10 hours a day then come home and cook.   Single moms and parents where both work full time have it tough.  Working all day then come home, clean, cook dinner, help with the homework then go to bed and do it all over again.  It's a full time job and hard to blame a parent for picking up a bucket or nuking a frozen dinner with disregard for the unhealthiness of the meal.  Some may argue that it doesn't take that long to cook a healthy meal and to make wise choices.  Busy parents will retort, "walk a mile in my shoes!"  Yes it takes effort and planning and time to plan out the meals.  But in today's world, marketeers have tried so hard to make it easy for busy people by providing quick and easy solutions.

And it's not happening just here but in up and coming third world countries.  In my travels, I've personally  seed the stark differences in size and girth between countries.  For example, Cambodia and Vietnam are considered much poorer than their neighbor, Thailand.  Infrastructure is much more developed in Thailand and it's a more industrial nation.  Consequently, there is more wealth there compared to Vietnam and Cambodia.  This wealth equates to hard targets for food processors.  Fast food chains and american food aren't lacking in Bangkok but head over to Saigon or Pnnom Penh and the difference in fast food presence is significant.  In Cambodia, we visited a mall and went to the food court.  Our driver was with us so we asked him what he'd like to eat.  He asked if he could try the fried chicken strips.  He never had them before.  We were startled.

Paula Deen nor any other chef on TV is to blame for the "growing" population.  But I hope that she takes this opportunity to respond to Bourdain's comments in a positive fashion and agree that families need to make healthy choices consistently and although her food is tasty, it's not something to be eaten daily.  Life is about choices. Pepsi's Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi has Pepsi buying companies that lean toward healthy alternatives.  She's smart because she knows there will be a backlash and she wants Pepsi in position.  She's also right when she says
“Let me first correct you on one thing: Doritos is not bad for you. Pepsi-Cola is not bad for you. Doritos is nothing but corn mashed up, fried a little bit with just very little oil and flavored in the most delectable way. And Pepsi-Cola was discovered in a pharmacy for a stomach ailment. So these are not bad-for-you products.
“I say to you that any product consumed in excess is bad for you — any product,  including Tropicana, including Quaker (two other brands in the Pepsico portfolio). Everything has to be eaten in moderation, and drunk in moderation.”
Unfortunately, her marketing people would shudder at the thought of putting warning labels on their unhealthy foods stating, "Eat smart and in moderation."

I'm with Jamie Oliver and I think the steps toward a healthier America is the removal of all junk food vending machines in schools.  Replace them with fruit and yogurt machines.  Secondly, school cafeterias need to provide portion control and healthier foods.  Get rid of mac 'n cheese and give healthier sides.  Third, educate the kids.  If we can have "Scared Straight" and DARE in school, why not have PHAT-Providing Healthier Alternative Treats or "Scared Thin." 
It's important that the training and education teach kids about the marketing ploys used by companies to influence buying habits.  I think these steps are a beginning toward a healthier America. 

Note to Andrew Z and Anthony B: It's about personal choice and accountability, not Paula Deen. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Angry Men do Stupid Things

Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.
Albert Einstein 

If you recall an earlier post, I made reference to my neighbor who was evicted from his home due to foreclosure.  The saga continues as sometimes I'm too inquisitive for my own good.  This afternoon I was about to leave when I noticed the neighbor's front door open.  I walked over and called out his name but a realtor popped his head out from around the corner.  We introduced ourselves and he explained he was going to meet the new owners of the home. I'm not that clear on foreclosure proceedings but I did ask him if it was the lender or was it a person who bought the home from an auction.  He said he thought it was the lender so I'm expecting an Armenian mafia man and maybe a Spetsnaz bodyguard.

Before they arrived, I stepped into the house and immediately I could tell there was something wrong.  The beautiful cherry wood plank  flooring was thrashed with grooves and scratches all over.  The realtor explained that he was told the house should be in almost move-in condition.  He was shocked and had never seen this much blatant vandalism from a disgruntled former homeowner.

I walked the floorplan and I was also shocked.  All the light fixtures, switches, outlets were removed along with every doorknob.  The bathroom sinks and toilets were removed.  In one room was my neighbor's manifesto in bright red spray paint on the walls decrying the fact that he's a man of God and the lenders will go to hell, and they can't continue to take advantage of Hispanics.  It was surreal in a way and kind of like Helter Skelter with the graffiti.  This destruction was premeditated.

I went outside  to the back and the electrical panel was removed.  How he did that is beyond me.  My neighbor must have some MacGuyver in him.  In the pool was a car seat and a sofa partially submerged.  What else was in there is still a mystery since it's green with algae and too murky to see the bottom.  The realtor told me that the pool pump was gone along with the house's water heater.  I walked back into the kitchen to discover that the cabinets were there but missing the doors.  The granite counter tops were broken to allow them to take the sink and the faucet.  Everything was gutted.

The new owner finally arrived. It wasn't Tony Sopranian.  It was 2 gentlemen, one a senior citizen and I'm assuming his son around 55 yrs. old.  No mafia and no cold blooded killer.   Apparently the younger of the two came last Thursday with the police to forcibly evict my neighbor.  My neighbor had his son in his arms and begged for a couple of days to move out.  The new owner felt some sympathy and gave him until Saturday to move out.  Last Saturday, the owner got a call from my neighbor asking for 2 more days which he granted.  Then he walks into this debacle.

I don't know the whole story of what went down regarding the loan and efforts to have it modified, but I do know that gutting the house is uncool and frankly, vengeful and vindictive and spiteful.

I'm trying to understand why anyone would thrash their former home as they vacate to this extent. I can see some drywall damage and a few things broken, but the extent of the damage here was to make it difficult to flip the home without spending some serious bucks on repairs.  My neighbor was given ample notification ahead of time about the ramifications of defaulting and the milestone dates including when to vacate the premises.  In an act of defiance, he ignored everything and stuck his head in the sand praying it would all go away.  When the sheriff served the  eviction notice, the  alleged mafioso was there as well and out of sympathy gave additional time to move out.  A single act of kindness just screwed him for tens of thousands of dollars.

Why does anger make people so crazy they can't see straight?  Why do some people react differently when difficulties arise?  I know that emotions got the best of my neighbor.  He used the anger to keep him up all night taking things apart.  No wonder he needed the additional days.  He was too busy dismantling the basic necessities of the house.  Where is the pride and dignity that I'm sure his parents tried to teach him?
Bottom line, he chose to succumb to his anger.  In his mind, the vandalism was his coup de grace only this time, it's more of a flea bite on an elephant's ass. He's the one forced to live elsewhere.  In his mind, he's not at fault for this situation.  The lender screwed him.  Now the lender deserves getting screwed.

Again, I must put out the disclaimer that I don't know the whole story about the loan but regardless, vandalizing the home is pretty ballsy.  The lender was pissed but tried hard not to show it.  I think he was calculating what the cost was in his mind.  He did make the statement that he'd call the police to take a report.  The police did arrive 20 minutes later.

This is another example of lack of personal accountability and blaming others for negative consequences.  One can make a case that the attitude of entitlement played a role here.  The lender "should" have modified my loan.  The fact that he didn't bother to pay has no bearing on the eventual outcome in my neighbor's mind.

The signature on the loan document is insignificant all the way through the process until the police car rolls up your driveway.  At that point, Johnny Law gives the proverbial wake up call and reality sets in.  I'm trying to really understand what went through my neighbor's head.  Certainly a case can be made that I purchased these floors, fixtures and counter tops and I can do what I want to do with them.  It's my personal property so trashing it so no one can use them is my right. 

Am I too conservative to believe this kind of thinking is wrong? If this was a car that was about to get repo'd, would I sugar in the gas tank or slice open the upholstery?  It's my car since it's in my possession.  So what if I'm late, I'm entitled to forgiveness, right?  Somehow, I can't justify destruction or vandalism.

So I'll finish the way I started and wholeheartedly agree with Einstein:

Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bad News...

How do you normally get the news? Me, it's a combo like most people-catch bits & pieces as I'm getting ready in the AM (I usually watch KTLA because it's a habit unlike some female friends that watch for glimpse of Henry DiCarlo.), listening to KNX1070 in the car, or quick bits when listening to a music channel on FM.  Then there's the internet, I like to pop open Yahoo or MSN and embarrassingly, TMZ.  Occasionally, WSJ or ABC News websites get opened. 

So today, I'm going to lament on the really poor news coverage provided by the most popular websites.  Why is it poor? Because network producers including websites and TV, just want to deliver the bullet pointed version of events.  I was going to say the Reader's Digest version but even that abbreviated style of reporting is gone unless you read the paper.  We just get the highlights.  We're like high level executives in a Fortune 500 company-just the summary and bullet points.  Somehow, when you move up the corporate ladder, time is so precious that one can't be bothered with the details but that's a different rant. 

We never get the full in depth, both sides point of view reporting of years gone by.  I understand the time constraints of television and how much more productive and busy we are today versus 20 years ago.  But sometimes I miss Walter Cronkite or Harry Reasoner or even Jerry Dunphy.  Guys like Anderson Cooper are good but there's just too much hype surrounding these guys like that video that went viral the other day of Cooper laughing and tearing up after a joke.  What happened to reporting the news instead of being the news.

I still love the newspaper even though I just get the weekend edition from Thursday to Sunday.  I don't read it cover to cover like some people but I do scan the articles and if one catches my eye, I'll read it.  The bad thing about the newspapers is that they're getting so small now and revenue is so down that they've cut reporters so in depth reporting is not as abundant as before.  But there are great reporters and photographers still working the papers.  Too bad Warren Buffett gave them a thumbs down as an investment and long term viable business.  I think it accelerated the progression to newspapers' current moribund state.

Now there are some other notable ways of getting quality news.  60 Minutes has always been IMHO tops for providing insight and in depth reporting on the topics they focus on.  I think that Newsweek and Time magazine still produce quality well-researched articles on news stories.  One such story recently was the Dominique Strauss-Kahn story.  http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/07/24/dsk-maid-tells-of-her-alleged-rape-by-strauss-kahn-exclusive.html 

This article breaks down the events as told by the maid and questions the veracity and timing. It makes a compelling case for the maid's rape allegations.  This is a perfect example of in depth reporting we don't get in our daily news.  Had I not read this article, I would have thought  1) the maid was super fugly because reports on TV and Internet said defense lawyers brought up the fact that she was from an African tribe and frankly not attractive enough for DSK.  She's not fugly at all.  2) The maid is a money hungry person looking to score big time just because she volunteered to take over that floor's duties when the normal employee was out that day.  If you were in the service industry, wouldn't you want to work the celebrity table or the suites? I would because it means bigger tips.  3) DSK has a history of alleged trysts that may have pushed the limits of sexual assault  had they occurred in the US.  This man is no saint and is protected by some heavy hitters.  The DA is considering dropping the case because they don't think they can win it because DSK's lawyers will create enough doubt to win his innocence.  And the sad part is that neither the DA nor DSK's attorneys deny that a sexual encounter occurred.  It's the classic "he said, she said" scenario, and the man with the power and money will use them indignantly to shun the justice system.  The DA won't prosecute if they don't think they have a decent chance of winning.  That's how the system works.

So getting back to bad news reporting, another thing that just kills me,  it really does,  (Gosh, I'm beginning to sound like Holden Caulfield) is the damn commercials every time you click on a news video.  15 seconds of my life is wasted anytime I want to see a news clip.  At least Youtube gives you the option of skipping after 5 seconds but every news website makes you watch a damn commercial.  If I want to see commercials, I'll turn on the television.  Then there's the websites that know it's a hot topic and they get you over the barrel with 30 seconds of commercials.  Rat bastards.

So if you're like me and want to get decent news coverage, buy a newspaper or a magazine (newsweek, time, us news & world report), or turn on the BBC or Al Jazeera.  You'll get a different perspective and a little more in depth coverage.  Compare coverages with CNN or Fox, you'll begin to appreciate how news reporting used to be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It's a sad day as I watch my neighbor pack up the last of his belongings to move to storage. His home is being foreclosed and he's been ordered to vacate.  It sucks because he really loved his home and made huge improvements while he lived there. And for what, for some stranger to come in and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

My neighbor admits he made a bad decision taking out a second mortgage.  According to him, he used some shady Armenian mafioso that his cousin recommended.  The rate was high and he didn't think it'd be a problem to pay it off.  This is just another example of the mortgage crisis hitting close to home.  How many so called friends and relatives have recommended someone they know to help refinance or get you a second?  And how many people sign the loan docs without really considering the consequences if they don't make the payments?  Oh, it's easy to blame the banks or the loan shark or even that cousin that "hooked" you up.  What it all boils down to is those cursive letters above all the lines where one needs to initial or sign.

Granted, it was ridiculous for lenders to give out money without so much as an income verification.  As long as there was equity in the home, money was available.  Mortgage brokers/agents got rich turning loans and making a cool percentage off the deal.  Wall Street got greedy too with their packaging of loans and selling it as a security.  All these bastards wanted a piece of the action and found a way to make even more money.  Mortgage securities were this decade's internet IPO.  And just like the internet boom of the 90's, it all exploded.  Maybe that's why they coined the term boom because just like a bomb, it just explodes and leaves a path of destruction.

There are those folks who knew they couldn't pay their mortgage and lived large off the equity borrowing every penny they could.  These are the people who consider a car to be an investment.  The same people who feel if they have money in the bank, it's meant to be spent.  These are the people who took advantage of the system only to file BK when the house of cards came crumbling down and they're forced to move out.  The are the people who usually take no personal accountability for the actions and blame the banks.

Then there's the hard working family who realized their dream of owning a house with every intent on paying it off only to get screwed because the lender didn't want to do a loan modification because the housing value went down and regardless of the US government pushing for loan modifications, lenders just gave lip service and foreclosed.

So why does my neighbor's foreclosure bother me?  It's not that he's leaving. He was cool but we weren't all that neighborly.  I think it's because the thought that one single decision can really jack things up.  I make decisions daily.  We all do as adults.  If it involves a significant purchase or an investment, the decision is made jointly between the wife and me.

But what about those decisions we make nonchalantly because we think it won't really matter.  What comes to mind are the dumb decisions I made as kid like driving under the influence.  Or what about the decisions when we missed out on a great experience because we said no to the invitation. Or the decision on what career path to take and what company to work for.  All decisions with consequences that could be life altering in some cases.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not sitting here advocating indecision or second guessing past decisions.  What I guess I'm trying to verbalize is the idea that sometimes, what may seem as an insignificant decision may have dire consequences and can really jack things up with the possibility of having to pack up the belongings and start all over.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taking a break today

Been busy with some stuff including interviewing with some very interesting and entrepreneurial companies so I'm taking a break so I can get over my writer's block.  I started 3 blogs entries today and neither were going anywhere (so what's different, right?).   So I'm going to veg out in front of the boob tube and relax.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post here.  Have a great Tuesday!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reality Check

Have you ever gone somewhere and experienced something beautiful and at the same time made you think. I had one of those experiences last night.  I saw the beauty of life and the purity of heart and unbridled joy as I was graciously invited to attend a charity event by my neighbor.  The theme was Luau and my neighbor was going to do a hula dance.

I was working outdoors all day and lost track of time.  I got done around 6:15 and her dance was at 7:00 pm.  I jumped in the shower, threw on my hawaiian shirt and flip flops and was out the door by 6:45.  Unfortunately, the event was just outside DTLA and not exactly freeway close.  As we were driving, my wife tells me that she forgot the tickets and to turn around.  I said no.  I'll talk us in and explain what happened.  For some reason, it was important for me to be there when my neighbor danced. Why? I'm not exactly sure.  Was it the excitement she exuded when she invited us and we agreed?  Was it the constant reminders this week like, "the event starts @ 6 and I'm dancing at 7" as I coming and going from my driveway.  I have no idea.

So we got there at 7:05.  Fortunately, they were having technical difficulties so we didn't miss anything.  The people at the ticket counter were totally cool as I explained that we forgot our tix and if they need verification, I told them that I can get my neighbor's family to vouch for us or send the tickets with our neighbor on Monday.  They said don't worry and let us in.  We walked in and saw our neighbor and her family and got hugs all around.  We were told then that our neighbor won't be dancing as they had too many participants.  The wife and I were disappointed but our neighbor seemed to take it well and it didn't bother her one bit.

My neighbor is a student at East Los Angeles Remarkable Citizens Association.  This organization provides services for developmentally disabled adults.  I have to admit, I'm a bit old school and political correctness is a bit foreign to me.  The other night I mentioned to some friends that I'm going to an event for the Mentally Retarded.  I was immediately corrected that term, "mentally retarded," is no longer used.  The pc term now used was "special needs."  Now that's a pretty broad based term so I googled, "proper term for mentally retarded."  Lots of websites popped up including Yahoo answers with lot's of different comments.  One site says the proper term is "special needs." Other sites listed, "developmentally disabled," "developmentally delayed," and "intellectually disabled."  Now it's getting a little confusing but the consensus was that mentally retarded or mentally handicapped were outdated terms.  Then I came upon an article in the Washington Post about President Obama signing into law a bill that mandates that federal statutes replace mental retardation with the term intellectual disability.
So if the prez says it's so, I'm with it so no more stupid comments from me quoting the movie Hangover or using mentally retarded.

So at the event last night, the DJ lost power so the staff improvised and brought our a boom box.  The instructor brought out the dancers and lined them up in formation.  You can see the excitement building up within them.  After getting them into position, the music started and the dancing began.  It was immediately apparent that some of the dancers knew what they were doing while others were just a tad bit off with their timing as they tried to copy the better dancers.  The moves were choreographed to classic hawaiian tunes like Tiny Bubbles and a song that I thought was from the C&H Sugar commercial.  They danced to about 5 different tunes and each dance was as different as the song.  The smiles, the joy, the unbridled excitement of performing was pervasive throughout the recital.  If there was ever a better example of purity of heart, I've yet to experience.  These intellectually disabled adults were into it.  It doesn't matter that one went left while the other went right. The folks were in the moment and loving it.

It was a thing of beauty.

Could the secret of life be as simple as living in the moment?  Could joy be attained by just doing it without the fear of not being perfect?  How much needless stress goes into wondering what others think and adjusting behavior or look just to impress or at least get by?  I'm not saying lose all sense of decorum and be free like they did in the 70's.  I'm just pondering how much time and thought is used up worrying about appearance and what others think that we forget to live in the moment?  Or how easy it is to be on the other side and talk smack about others instead of just accepting people for who they are and enjoying them.

It makes me wonder who really are the "intellectually disabled."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Organically Built

I love watching movies and admittedly, I'll take in a chick flick every so often.  One of my fave chick flicks is Pretty Woman.  I know-that's so old you're teenage daughter never saw it (she didn't even the Fonz or Happy Days).  Remember that scene when Julia Roberts points out to Richard Gere that he just buys companies then sells parts of the them  for a profit and later Gere changes his mind during a negotitation  and decides to go into partnership because he'd rather build something than break something apart.  I kind of related to Gere in that movie.  No, it's not my rugged good looks, those beady little eyes or my american gigolo past.

Like Gere in Pretty Woman, it was just easier to buy than to build something.  I'm talking building something from scratch using real power tools, a shovel, a level, a hammer and some elbow grease.  Yeah, construction work that Bob Vila would be proud of.  It was so easy in the past to hire a handyman or contractor or buy something pre-built instead of doing it myself.  I took the easy way out using the excuse, I'm too busy or I don't want to give up my weekends.

Not working, I learned a lot about time management and realized, time is a commodity I do have and our social calendar isn't so busy so why not build something.  Which leads me to my current project, THE SHED.  Yes, I have been building a garden shed behind my garage.

Going into this project, I resisted the thought of building it.  The excuses came up like "It's going to cost more," or "I don't have the time." or "I don't know what the heck I'm doing."  Then came the justification not to build-putting hard numbers down on paper and pricing it out.  Bottom line-I convinced my self that saving a $200 and building it would be cheaper only because my time is valued at a lot less than it was when I was working.  Little did I know, the learning experience was invaluable.

So this piece is not going to detail the steps on how to build a shed.  You're bored shitless already, and I want you to finish reading this blog.  Rather,  I want to discuss the journey.  Ah, there's that word "Journey."  We hear it  all the time at church, at seminars, in the shelf-help books (not a typo) and on TV with Dr. Phil.  The journey is about being open to possibilities and taking each step at a time and reveling in the satisfaction of doing it on your own.

So how does this relate to shed building?  I want to preface that I'm not on this journey alone.  I have a friend who also wanted to create with a lot more knowledge of construction than me so we embarked on the project together.   So this journey begins with the planning phase, the foundation, the framing, and the final touches.  Note, we only sketched this thing together.  We are not working off blueprints or an actual instruction manual.

Now you're thinking, didn't he just say he wasn't going into detail on how to build a shed?  You're right. but it's my blog and I can write if I want to.

So the journey is broken into phases and like life, there are so many parallels.  During the planning, a vision is created along with the design with discussion about the fundamental things we want included in the shed. 

Once the bill of materials is created and purchased, it's time to lay down the foundation. The foundation is the hardest part of the process as it takes time and effort to ensure things are level.  Doing this right makes everything later a lot easier.

The framing process is straight forward and actually fun as the shape of the shed gets closer to the original vision.  The roof goes up and the final touches like paint, trim, and shelving are done.

So what's the big deal about building a shed?  First, it's creating something from nothing.  Taking pieces of wood, some nails and some sweat and putting something together that is useful.  The final product is greater than the sum of its parts.   Secondly, there is a satisfaction every step of the way.  We work on this every Saturday and every Saturday evening, we stand around and admire our handiwork.  There's a certain pride and a sense of accomplishment as we get closer to completion. And finally, we make adjustments along the way.  Our vision changes as we see opportunities to improve upon our original plan. 

So how is this a journey?  The parallels to life are so obvious. As a sparkle in our parents' eyes, they made plans and had a vision for us.  They gave us a foundation-a moral code, their values, their traditions.  They watched us grow (the framing) as we became educated.  Our parents put the final touches on us by giving us advice and words of encouragement and love.
We became sheds to stand alone and make ourselves useful.  We are greater than the sum of our parts.  And the cycle continues as our parents built their sheds, we move forward to build our sheds.  Enjoy the journey.

Some days, I like to go out back and push and lean on that shed, sit back and admire the craftsmanship and for a brief moment  bask in the glory that I built that. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Great Brawl of China and other things....

I have to laugh because sometimes, I get lazy and don't proofread my work. I post it then realize later I left out key words.  Sorry for the sloppiness.  If you read this AM's post, it was full of grammatical errors that would raise the ire of Mr. Caldwell, Mr. Thomason, and Mr. Davis.  It has since been corrected.

As for the embarrassing fight between the China and US basketball teams, the LA Times published the headline the Great Brawl of China and provided further background to the story.  To summarize, this particular Chinese team is owned by the Chinese Army and has a rep for being aggressive and fighting on the court.  The fighting has gotten so bad, warnings have been issued by an international sports federation telling the Chinese to cool their jets. As I suspected, the Chinese were the antagonists. There are pics of non-players stomping on a Georgetown player. How crazy is that? And where is security? 
I wonder if college teams will continue to send teams over to China next year.  Scheduling the goodwill games in other countries is a way for NCAA teams to get additional practice in with their head coach prior to the official preseason starting.  Getting posterized by a Chinese chump may make universities think twice about sending their kids over to Asia.

Viernes-Empecemos el fin de semana con gusto

Hola Amigos.  Today is going to a light topic as we begin this weekend.  It's August 19th.  Can you believe how quickly the year has passed?  Yeah, that's another sign of getting older.

As fall approaches, it's a start of a new season in many ways.  The dog days of summer will be gone.  The days will get shorter. And hopes abound if you're a sports fan, a parent, a student, or work for a consumer goods company whose depends on the holidays for their revenue.. 

It's that part of the year when all teams are equal and the fans have not felt the disappointment of a loss.  Every team is in first place.  The sports blogs are buzzing with the discussions of who's kicking butt in preseason camp.  It doesn't matter if you're into the NFL, College or both.  All fans are hoping for a good start and a competitive team that makes it into the postseason.

As an LA native, I've always been a homer.  I remember the days of Roman Gabriel or James Harris and John Hadl.  Harris used to do that little jump pass that we'd try to copy on the playgrounds of East LA.  Then there were the running backs like McCutcheon, Wendall Tyler. I even remember Bert Jones qb'ing the Rams.  Then the Raiders came to town and I bitched about Marc Wilson but loved Marcus Allen. The Raiders were the foster children.  We only got them for a short period of time until they were reunified with Oakland.  Then there's USC and UCLA.  Believe it or not, I was a huge 'SC fan growing up.  Both my older siblings went there so I was lucky to go to several games a year.  Marcus Allen, Charles White, Paul McDonald, Ricky Bell, Ronnie Lott-all names that we used when playing touch football.  I remember when I was crushed watching Freeman McNeil catch that tipped pass against SC to win the game for the Bruins.  Good times even in a loss.  Then I went to UCLA and my loyalty changed and I now bleed UCLA blue and gold.  I was there to witness some great football led by Coach Donahue.  More good times as UCLA was finally competitive with the boys in those ketchup and mustard uniforms. Ah, but I digress down memory lane.

Anyway, fall brings new hope and a new beginning in many ways.  Kids are starting school.  and sometimes  a new school albeit grammar, middle school, junior high, or high school. Some are entering critical years like senior year when before you know it, graduation slaps you up side the head.  Then there's the kids going off to college.  It's especially hard for parents to see the first kid leave the nest and start the journey of adulthood. Facebook is full of quips of holding back tears of joy, nostalgia, and realization that "my baby" is all grown up.

In any case, life typically changes in Fall just like the leaves.  It's that anxiety and excitement that builds up in parents and  the sports fan.  It's also the time when many companies gear up for their productive quarters as they try to make their forecasted revenues this holiday season.  Pervasive optimism just flows during these times and it feels good.

So enjoy this preseason when your team is still in first place and your kids haven't gotten their first report card.  There's been no official announcement of another recession...yet. The end of summer and the beginning of autumn is  a time of hope, and and time to realize  dreams.  Who knows, with a little good fortune and a lucky bounce, those hopes and dreams may come to fruition.

Tenga un gran fin de semana.  I know I will spending time with good friends I've known for over 40 years and taking in some UCLA football and spending some time in the sun working on honey-do's. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kung Pow, Don't mess with the Chinese!!!


I just finished watching the video that went viral of a game between Georgetown and a Chinese Basketball team in what was supposed to be a goodwill game.  What a shame.....on the Chinese basketball team and not Georgetown.  If you watch the video, 2 players (1 from each team) get into it.  It looks like the Chinese team cleared the bench first then came the Georgetown players. While I'm not condoning any of the actions, a physical game sometimes leads to flared tempers and possible fisticuffs.  It happens at all levels and at park gyms all over the country.  In basketball, you're coached to stay on the bench.  Just look at the NBA and NCAA rule books.  The penalties are harsh including suspension on future games.  But in China, these basketball players were protecting their homie.  Consequently Georgetown had to back up their teammate.

What wasn't so cool was to see the Chinese players pick up chairs a la Bob Knight and possibly use it to crack open a Georgetown skull.  How wimpy is that? Or were they carrying those chairs so technically they can claim they never left their seat? Hmm...what's up with the Chinese?  Is the bravado of their government and constant saber rattling now filtering down to the masses?  Has it become a "cold war" in sports like the US and Russia back in the day.  Where is the sportsmanship?  I would expect this from US thug ballers but not the Chinese.  From a country that has no problem executing someone for shaming the country.  Just recall the dude who was responsible for putting melamine in pet food. He's dead now. 

So what are the next steps after a shameful outing and the game being cancelled?  Here's my solution:  Put these guys in a gym, have them count out numbers 1 and 2.  1's go skins and 2's go shirts.  Play ball as mixed teams and enjoy the camaraderie  No cameras.  No reporters.  Then finish playing and break dim sum together.  Now that's international relations Tito-style.

Age and Attitude....back on the soapbox again.

Personally, I don't feel like I'm 47 years old most of the time whatever a 47 yr old is supposed to feel like.   I'm on the downhill slide toward the big 5-0 but about 90% of the time, I don't feel like I'm in my 40's except when 1) I go out to a bar; 2) go to the mall shopping and 3) when some 20-something calls me "sir".

Lets talk about going out.  Once in a big while, the "boys" will go out for a dinner and drinks.  Usually, it's a highly reviewed restaurant then off to a bar to finish up our conversation.  On some nights, someone suggests going to a trendy place to drink so the other night, we end up at the W hotel at their outdoor bar in Hollywood.  The area is super cool with open fire pits and couches surrounding the cozy fires.  Kind of reminds me of the Inn at Spanish Bay except that instead of middle aged golfers lounging around, it's all these hotties in their nightclub uniform.  You know the ones-tight fitting butt-hugging black dress that barely cover their hips and with a swooping neckline that just screams "check these babies out." Also added to the decor are the ladies that go clubbing at Drais.  I thought I was in a Robert Palmer video..see link  http://youtu.be/d51FaknDwzA   It was surreal. 

For some reason, going to a place where there are a bunch of single people makes me feel uncomfortable.  Why? Maybe it's the fact that I have about a 10% chance of having anything in common if I were to venture to have a conversation with any of them.  I get the same feeling at some Yelp Elite events where everyone has their head on a swivel scoping out their targets.  Maybe it's that I've come to the realization that I have no game.  I don't want to believe that but when it comes to youngsters, it's probably true.  And frankly, it's all good.

At the malls, it's no longer hanging out and shopping.  It's about going there with a purpose and getting the hell out.  Why? For me it used to be a place to scope out the ladies.  My buddy and I used to love the holidays just because sales clerks were so cheerful and it was a good place to meet others.  Now, it's get what you need and leave.  I don't need someone to say, thank you Mr. Huang for shopping here.  Just bag it and let's go.  Oh and the sir thing, that's a tough one because you got to admire a youngster paying respect but boy ol' boy, it makes me feel old.
Despite the fact that on occasion we're reminded of our age,  it's actually good to feel young even if our bodies or doctors don't necessarily agree.  I think I've mentioned before that attitude is everything.  It controls our approach to any situation. Attitude can make a bad situation worse or better.  And attitudes can change at the drop of a hat with just a decision to make the best out of a situation. It's the decision to let go of the different stresses and be in the moment.  Being pensive and worrying about stuff I can't control or as I often tell my friends, crucifying myself between the sins of the past and the fear of the future.  I'm not advocating being selfish nor shirking responsibility but rather, enjoy the times that are meant to be fun.  Be here now.

Oh it's so easy to say but hard to practice.  Be in the moment..pfttt...you try that being a parent, a coach, a husband or wife, a cook, a housekeeper and working 60 hours a week.  Yeah, we all got our stimuli, diversions, and excuses not to enjoy the now.  It's life.  And that's why it's so important to realize it is LIFE.  Life is about living and not living to work but working to live.  I don't think our Creator put us on this earth to be miserable and worry about the minutia.  I believe we all have our crosses to bear and our challenges throughout our lifetime and that's what makes living so beautiful.  It's the realization that no matter how dark things are or were, we made it through and are better for it.  Look back on all your trials and tribulations-the pains of illness, the financial struggles, the suffering and death of loved ones-and realize that hey, made it through.  Realize by being here and now all the good things you have in life.  Those that love you and you love and realize it really is all good.  What's Kanye say, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.  http://youtu.be/PsO6ZnUZI0g

I know I sound like a preacher and trust me, I'm far from it (right, T-man).  But having gone through my own struggles and observing others as well, I can honestly say that I've never felt more liberated than I do now.  Because it's realizing life is about being here and now.  When you're feeling pissed, lonely, frustrated, lost, and ready to scream, go ahead and let it out.  Then close your eyes, take a deep breath, flip the attitude, and enjoy the rest of the day.

Ray LaMontagne-Be here Now

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I wonder why

I'd like to thank any and all of you for taking time out of your busy day to read my daily musings.  I'm flattered and humbled by the number of hits the blog is receiving.

So this morning, I'm discussing the stats and some emails I received from readers with my wife and she starts telling me how she doesn't like the avatar I'm using.  It makes me seem communist. That's when I figured It might be a good time to share some of the why's of the blog.

Why do you use an avatar of Mao Zedong?
Unbeknownst to everyone except family, my Chinese grandfather coined that nickname for me as a toddler and only he and my uncles (his sons) called me that.  My grandfather passed when I was 5 years old but I have fond memories of him including running away whenever he forgot to shave as he'd grab me and hold me down while he rubbed his stubble on my face.  I did the same to my nephew and he got so pissed at me that I haven't done it since.  I guess some things don't change.

Who is Tito Huang?
It's my pseudonym.  In case I write something viral or say something really dumb, I can blame it on my alter ego.  You know, "Tito made me do it." 
The name Tito didn't come from Tito Jackson but originated on the Mexican side of my family as my aunts said my eyes were like a little cat or gatito in Spanish.  It was shortened to Tito and it's stuck ever since.  I'm still called that from time to time at family functions and by my dad of all people.  
I had originally started using the pseudonym of Farrah in reference to another nickname that stuck in grammar school but switched because Tito Huang is more indicative of my ethnic makeup.

There really is some thought and reason that goes into what I put down here.  Thank you all again for reading.  My mind is getting a good workout coming up with ideas and that's really good for my old brain. 

If you have comments or questions, feel free to post in the comment section.  I've set it up so anyone can post anonymously.  Make it a great day!!!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bullies on the Road

I'm coming from the SFV yesterday down the 101 and I hit a patch of traffic around Hollywood.  It's stop and go and I'm intently listening to Petros & Money do their sports talk show. whenI hear this roar from behind and notice there is a motorcyclist on my driver side trying to creep between lanes.  I'm in the number 2 lane and I'm legally in my lane and not straddling the left edge.  Anyway, I immediately move the car to the right of the lane to give this guy a wider berth.  He was driving a motorcycle with a large fairing either a BMW or those big Hondas.  Anyway as he passes, this ass hat  punches my side view mirror and flips me the bird.  I was startled by the noise and had to flip my mirror back.  I was pissed.  If there wasn't traffic, I would have tried to follow and take down his license plate.  He could have broken my mirror.

In any case, I'm usually very cognizant of what's happening around me when I'm driving and if I see a motorcyclist, I will squeeze over a bit to give him more room to pass.  What I don't understand is why this particular A-hole thought he owned the road.  Does he go around slamming mirrors all day?  Was he just having a bad day?

Then, there's the aggressive driver.  You know the type-muscle car or SUV (typically a Suburban or Yukon/Tahoe) that just loves to punch the pedal when the light turns green or just comes up on your tail within inches in traffic only to brake because traffic is slowing. They weave back and forth and if all goes well, they get to their destination 5 minutes earlier than the normal driver.

I admit I'm no Speed Racer and sometimes my driving has been compared to "Driving Miss Daisy," but I'm not a horrible driver.  I obey all the rules and I rarely go over 80 mph unless it's on the way to Vegas.  I try to be safe because it's the right thing to do.  I don't text and I use my hands free device when I use my cell phone.  Why? Because it's the right thing to do.  I'm less concerned about my safety and more concerned of hitting someone and possibly injuring or killing a person.  Stuff happens and you don't need to be distracted to get into an accident.  Why swing the odds to favor an accident by practicing distracted driving.

This leads to the question, why do people do these things when they know it's either unsafe or illegal.

Let's take aggressive driving and that motorcyclist for example.  Do they believe they own the road and it's a sign of weakness not to drive hard and fast at the expense of safety? Possibly, but I also thing there's that bully mentality that extended from the playground to the freeway. The topic of bullying has been in the news recently and is being used by prosecutors and defense attorneys as an excuse for certain behaviors.

It's these A-holes bullies that will cut someone off only to watch the accident take place in their rear view mirror without an ounce of guilt that they may have caused it.  We all know these type of people.  They bitch about others. They don't understand personal accountability for their own actions and will justify everything until they actually believe their own BS.  Their time is more valuable than yours so FOAD.These are the entitled ones who believe their life on the road is a movie entitled Fast and Furious.

Then there's the texters.  Oh this kills me. (I sincerely hope this is not foreshadowing and someone mentions this blog if I died in an accident by a texter).  What is so f..n important that you need to respond to a text while driving.  Okay maybe if you're at a stop light, you might want to answer back but while driving??  Give me a break.  If it was that important, wouldn't that person have called so you can have a normal conversation.  People think that they are invincible.  Maybe for the adults that do it, it's their last bastion of civil disobedience.  Or maybe it's just plain selfishness.

I've got friends that drive aggressively and text on the phone and like the goody two shoes that I am, I'll make a comment.  I may even ask them to stop texting.  It's just the right thing to do...for my safety.

Funny thing is that if tables were turned and a road bully had an aggressive driver come up on their ass or a motorcyclist slammed their mirror or they saw a texter swerve into their lane, they'd be sitting here reading this and agreeing with every word. Go figure.

Shopping Deals

Who doesn't love a good deal?  A good deal is when you get a quality item for the best price possible.  Consequently over the years, I've learned that it pays to do research when purchasing anything gadget related or a household item.  Why? Because the info is readily out there.  When purchasing a big ticket item, it pays to research and comparison shop.  It's so easy to go out to Best Buy or Fry's and purchase that cool Sony Viaio laptop or that Samsung LCD TV but unless you're a technogeek or a videophile, can you tell really tell the difference between 1 laptop versus another or and LCD from a Plasma.  Thus, research pays off so you get the best value for the money.

So what resources are available to research?  Personally, my first reference point is Consumer Reports.  Why? Because even though it's their opinion for recommendation, they've tried to gather empirical evidence along with pricing and subjective panels to come up with their ratings.  I usually keep my subscription going and keep old issues for reference.  You can usually find back issues at the library or use their website www.consumerreports.org  The next thing I do is try to get actual first hand experience and the best place to do that is to hit up Amazon.com.  It's amazing how many people enjoy reviewing stuff.  In many cases, the reviewer takes it seriously and notes the pro's and con's of an item.  If the item is computer or electronic consumer goods, it's easy to check out www.newegg.com or www.bestbuy.com    

Now if you're a shopaholic and want to see what the hot deals are, why not let one of the many sites out there do the work combing the internet for deals and consolidating the info and links in 1 location.  Here are some of my faves:


Dealnews and dealcatcher are the very comprehensive and usually have the best listing for various categories.  Slickdeals is usually a shorter list with the very best deals for the day.
In either case, it beats having to search multiple store websites to get pricing and is a boon for impulse buying since they tend to advise what the next lowest price they found on an item they listed.

Then there are the ultimate impulse buying sites that will sell anywhere from 1 to 4 items a day.  It's like a closeout bargain basement sale of new or refurbished items.  Sometimes you see stuff that you normally wouldn't buy but its a nice to have and at an affordable price. These sites are:


Also in the mix usually for discounted services are the sites like groupon and living social.

So if you hate paying full retail like I do, then do the research, comparison shop and read the reviews. Let someone else's experience work for you.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I have had an incredible life due in large part to a loving wife, a close-knit family, and really good friends. Now if you're one of my friends and you know who you are since you guys tend to be the only ones that read this blog, don't fret. I'm not going to use names nor will I go over specific experiences.

What I will do is discuss the importance of friendship and its value.  In life, we face different challenges daily then there are those whopper challenges that come around like a really bad storm in SoCal.  You know the type of challenge where it's hard tell the difference between the forest and the trees. When one doesn't know if he's coming or going.  When life is a blur and one isn't sure if the sun will come up tomorrow or if one even wants to see the next day.  Thankfully, these bad times are rare but when things go downhill, it's always those closest to me that take the ride on this emotional roller coaster but it's my friends and my wife (my best friend) that remind me that the ride will end and give me assurances that everything will get better.  Often, it's the comfort of just knowing that I can share what's going on inside this crazy head. I may not come out and say "dude, I hit a rough patch." but it's just knowing I can call a friend and find out what's going on and just feel better to hear him (or her) bitch about their life that brings my stuff back into perspective and helps me realize, it's not that bad.  Sometimes, misery does love company.  Then there's those times when I am sharing what's going on, and a friend will say something that totally brings me out of my funk and makes me realize that attitude really is everything and attitude begins and ends with me.

Sometimes just having a good laugh or going out and having a drink or hitting the links just makes me value my friends.  Or the texts to say hi, wassup or the emails telling me that I'm in their prayers.  It's the little things that truly count.  I don't think I could have gotten through life without my friends.  It's really made my life that much richer.  And to make my life even richer, I'm so lucky to have reconnected with friends from my formative years as well with friends during those awkward teenage years.  Then there are those friends from young adulthood who put up with me as I was trying to discover who I was and used a false bravado to mask my sheepishness.  All my friends have had to put up with both the good and the bad and that's a really big part of being a friend.  I've had tough love and gentle love in efforts to correct disruptive behaviors and all love has been appreciated even though I may not have shown it.

As I sit here, I get choked up just thinking of the wonderful experiences that I've had that were memorable only because of friends being there.  I guess it's really true what Barbra Streisand sings, "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world." I'm so very lucky.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

You know those commercials by Southwest when you just got to get away-the ones when the person does something really dumb and gets busted and embarrassed.  That happens to me more than I care to admit.  You see I have this tendency to try to be funny and sometimes (and probably more often than not) I'm not.  That's where the open mouth, insert foot comes to play.

It happened to me the other day and when i think about it, I get this icky feeling of guilt and shame like a little kid that messed up.  Gosh, at my age I would've thought I learned by now but it happens.  And the hard part is that I can say sorry and apologize but sometimes the damage is done.  I put it out there and there ain't no taking it back. 

I guess I should follow the adage, "If you can't say something good, don't say it all."  So any of you that I've offended in the past with my poor sense of humor.  I am sorry.  Let's move on and I pledge to be more thoughtful from now on.

Driving down Memory Lane

I stay pretty close to my parents and we talk and see each other all the time.  As my dad gets older, he's become more of a daredevil while driving and one of those guys that I would curse if I was driving behind.  Consequently, I will invite my folks on my errand runs and drive by any places they need to go.  It keeps Dad off the streets and I enjoy the company.

So yesterday, we get invited to a bbq at my brother's place in Irvine.  My dad gets tired in the afternoon and driving is tough on him.  I was working all day on one of those Honey-Do's except this honey-do is a long term project that takes all day and several weekends.  In short, I was beat.  The wife was also tired and didn't feel like making the hour drive down there.  Unfortunately, I felt some guilt when I thought of declining the offer.  Not because of not going to see my bro and my cousins etc. but because my dad would end up having to drive in traffic on a saturday night.  So what's a good son to do? Yeah, I bit the bullet, showered up, kissed the wife good bye and picked up my parents.

In the car, my fatigue faded away as we talked about family, friends, and what's going on.  It's during these times that the fast lane becomes memory lane as either mom or dad become lucid and start talking about their childhood.  It's fascinating to hear the stories about my uncle that contracted TB but served in some puppet Army set up by the Japanese provincial government during their occupation of China during WWII.  Or how dad knew a Chinese wiseguy and was good friends with him until he was murdered.  Dad's association could have lead to our family being the Chinese version of the Sopranos.  I wonder what our TV series would be called, "The Gangster Huangster".  Thank goodness that didn't come to fruition.  My dad is too sensitive to be a gangster anyway. 

As dad gets older, I hear more stories of his childhood growing up in China, the difficulties and horrors of living in a country occupied by a foreign enemy.  The lack of education that resulted as he and his brothers struggled to survive while moving around southern China to avoid the bombings of their hometown. 

It's these times that allow me to delve deeper into their memory banks and get a better understanding of what it's was like back in the day.  Consequently, I become more appreciative of my own life and how easy a time I've had while gaining a newfound perspective on the moments that shaped both mom and dad's lives.

So if you're still lucky to have your parents around, take a drive with them.  You may just take a detour down memory lane and learn something.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Friday, Friday, Got to get down on Friday

No, I'm not going to break out and sing Rebecca Black's viral hit.  But I am going to share with you a video I "starred" in.


Yep, that's me.  Oh you missed it.  Well you were staring at that other bi-racial hottie Michelle Branch that you missed my music video debut.  Go to the 1:09 mark and the 2:24 mark.  That big silhouette of a head with slight bald spot highlighted be the those light bubbles is my big head.  Well so much for my short-lived video career but at least I got to meet Michelle and take a pic.  That's how I spent my morning on July 4th. I experienced something different this past 4th rather than prepping for an afternoon bbq.  Oh I still had that bbq, just a little later which leads me to my next point.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret that helps me get through life:  DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT once in a while.  It's that simple.
As we get older, it's so easy to slip into a routine.  You know the drill just like the Beatles song:
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late....

We work all day.  Come home, have dinner.  Discuss the day, go to Costco.  Week in and week out, the same routine in essence. Weekends are packed with errands and on occasion, go to a movie or a museum or Disneyland. And then there's that vacation that perks us up and gives us something to look forward to then it's back do the same daily drudgery.

I find that stepping out of my comfort zone and truly doing something different makes me feel alive.  Doing this video without knowing what to expect was out of my norm. Going to a free concert by some 80's band like the English Beat is out of my norm.  Catching up with old high school friend you haven't seen since 1982 is out of the norm. Going to a UCLA football practice and talking with complete strangers who are also fans is out of my norm. But I loved every moment.

What I'm saying is: Dare to do something different, to satisfy a curiousity, to boldly go where you've never gone before. Push that boundary and maybe you'll find that life has a little or a lot more to offer.

Have a great weekend!!! Live, Love, and Laugh.

Will there be a double dip?

So I decided to go online and take a peek at my portfolio.  I got that  feeling of anxiety like when I'd get that report card in the mail or that college letter. Will the grades be bad? Did I get rejected by my #1 choice in colleges?  So I bit the bullet and ran the online report.  Eeeek!!!  Almost an 11% drop since its high 2 months ago.  Not as bad as it was 3 years ago but it hurts nonetheless.  Thank goodness it's just paper money.  Regardless of whether you have a financial advisor or you do it yourself, I think anyone in the market is going to get screwed.  I could've have pulled out and then get screwed by capital gains both short term and long term or just ride the storm like last time and wait for the market to recover. 

The big question is whether it will recover or not.  With QE2 discontinued, is the market just adjusting to true market levels?  What's the US government going to do to stimulate the economy? Should they do anything at all and just let everything adjust accordingly? It seems that anything the government does is going to add to the deficit so Congress is going to be wary of that or risk losing seats on either side of the house.  One dude I saw on TV says this is uncharted waters.  If true and we can't predict what's going to happen market-wise, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  I'm going to rely on my buddy  Merrill and ride that bull until he tells me jump off or those no more left of him to ride.  In all seriousness, these really are difficult times for many and the picture of the economy is not getting any brighter.  I'm concerned because unemployment numbers are still horrendous. I receive daily emails from the major job boards and jobs in my field are scarce.  Home prices are down and sales along with it.  Are we headed for a double dip recession or are we in it?  No one seems to have the answer but as more and more of the unemployed lose their biweekly checks after 99 weeks, the economy will suffer even more. 

Best of luck to those of you in both private and public sectors.  California just announced that tax revenues are much less than they anticipated (even I could have predicted that but the numb nuts in Sacramento live in fairyland and grabbed onto those optimistic numbers so they can start getting paid again after passing a bullshit budget) which means that school districts will lose funding and more friends and valued coworkers will be gone and/or salaries cut again through the use of furloughs.  And if the economy doesn't shape up, those working in transportation and logistics will be hurt as their revenues fall creating a vicious cycle because they will in turn raise their prices causing more pressure to raise prices on consumer goods.  And what about gas, it's been quiet lately as the oil companies give us our annual summer reprieve but when demand shoots up in September after labor day, Bam...we're going to take in the shorts. Times ahead are looking grim.  But heck, damn the torpedoes. Most of us can't do much about it anyway so let's just be smart with our money and squirrel some away for that rainy day because it's going to be a monsoon soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dropping the I-word!!!

An FB friend shared this link and I know I'm guilty of using illegal immigrants/illegal aliens from time to time but this article made me think. The author is right, the I term dehumanizing, it has racist overtones, and judges and attorneys don't use it.  The immigration issue is a sensitive topic and everyone has their opinions and perspective but I don't believe it's a major shift to remove illegal from our vocabulary and start using undocumented immigrants.

Just say Thank You!!!

Gratitude, appreciation, a simple thank you.  Is that too much to ask?  Growing up, parents just reminded their kids ad nauseum to say thank you.  I hear it today when I'm visiting friends who are parents.  So why has appreciation and thanks becoming more rare these days?

Here are some examples of lack of appreciation.  From time to time, I get emailed by complete strangers asking specific questions and wanting more details from a review I wrote about a particular service.  The emails are usually specific with a list of questions bullet-pointed and really wanting detail.  I enjoy helping others and don't have an issue with answering an email and providing specifics.  It will usually take about 5 to 10 minutes to provide the info and that includes pulling out a file or opening and excel spreadsheet.  All in the quest to be a "Man for Others" as my fellow Cubs will attest to.  About 2/3 will respond back with a quick note of thanks.  The other 1/3 will take the info, digest it and move on.

We've even seen this phenomenon from friends. A friend asked for details about our wedding because their friend was getting married and wanted specifics.  My wife thought it's cool since she worked so hard to put the wedding together, why have someone reinvent the wheel.  So she put together a document and forwarded the info to her friend.  No response. And what about kids today, I was at the market and a couple of kids are at that coin changing machine. One of the kids figures he's short a penny and comes over to me and says "do you have a penny."  I said sure and hand him the penny and he darts off without some much as a nod of gratitude. I know they're kids and it's only a penny and I hope for their sake they learn to be gracious when they grow up.

At work, how often does someone want those numbers and your recommendation asap only to put it on the backburner after you spent your evening crunching numbers until your eyes get crossed.  By the way, it's your job. Appreciate that.

Now I want to make it clear that I don't do stuff so I can get credit or get thanks.  I do things for others because it's the right thing to do.  If I give to a charity, I'm not expecting a  heartfelt letter saying thank you.  I just want that donation letter so I can give it to my accountant. 
But when folks stop appreciating, I take a mental note and it makes me more cautious in the future.  I start asking things like, "do I need to put a lot of effort in this reply?" So sometimes it comes down to who is asking for info.  Work is a no brainer. If the boss wants it, he gets it.  If it's a stranger, more generalities are used and less detail.  If it's a friend, then it's another no brainer.

So going back to the question of why people can be less appreciative these days, I think it's a multitude of factors.  First, everyone is so damn busy all the time.  We are constantly bombarded by different stimuli requiring attention-family, friends, emails, text messages, co-workers, supervisors, and subordinates.  People expect you to be connected and to answer promptly.  Technology has opened the floodgates to accessibility and consequently, required more productivity.  It's this age of multi-tasking that may diminish the ability to be gracious. 

Secondly, entitlement may be influencing the diminishing of gratitude.  Many of the gen X, Y, and Z subscribe to entitlement attitude.  It's the belief that excellence be damned and that everyone should be winners.  It's the idea that one doesn't have to reach for that brass ring but rather it should be brought to them, preferably on a silver platter.  While parents busted their ass to give their kids a better life, a nice home, and all the gadgets a kid could ask for, kids just expect it.  Kids learn at a young age to accept mediocrity.  Look at youth sports leagues, many of them give the kids the same size trophy regardless of their place in the final standings.  Number 1, first place doesn't mean as much because it's not glorified.  Instead, competition has been homogenized and diluted so "everyone's a winner."  This attitude leads to complaining about hard work, assignments and overtime.  Consequently, expecting things to happen and be done for them leads to a lack of appreciation.  How can one appreciate hard work when they don't know what the heck it is.

I know I'm personally guilty of showing a lack of appreciation consistently.  I called it my management style thinking I'm raising the bar by demanding and expecting excellence from my employees.  But sometimes, I wish I can go back and do a better job at reinforcing a job well done.

In conclusion, stop and take the time and say thank you when someone does something for you.  Heck, just say thank you to those that you love including the Big Guy in the sky.

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Countdown to #3

You ever have one of those f'd up weeks where 1 thing breaks then another etc.  Well, it's happening me as soon as I started blogging. First, my monitor goes on the fritz and shuts down.  It was so fickle that I finally gave up and just bought a new one.  Then last night as I was typing my blog, my keyboard died.  How the heck does a a keyboard die?  I have no idea but the space key wouldn't work and the return key was giving me problems.  I did what every IT guy does to fix things, I rebooted to no avail.  I even reconnected the cable.  No luck.  Luckily, (and I say that tongue in cheek) I had an extra keyboard in the garage.  Unfortunately, it's one of those ugly ass white microsoft keyboards with the big buttons like those old IBM selectric typewriters.  The damn thing is so old, there are no multimedia buttons so I can't hit mute when someone calls to turn off the moans and groans of the porn I'm watching. (just kidding hun. Just in case the wife is reading this)

So now I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Don't they say, it always comes in 3's. So now I'm expecting my PC to die, maybe my cell phone but dammit, it's inevitable some gadget is about to expire.  Oh well, no sense waiting around for it.  Shit happens..and speaking of shit, I think I better go get some black spray paint and update this retro keyboard.

Additional Info added 8/10:  I figured out that the third item to break was actually before the two aforementioned incidences.  Last week, I noticed that the left side of my earbuds went dent on my ipod.  So the theory that things happens in 3's proves true again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

To Ban or not to Ban? Shark Fin Soup may be history

As some of you know, I love to eat and I love to review places where I've eaten on Yelp. At the same time, I'm not a fan of the the term "foodie" and prefer to be called a gourmand or is that a gourd (I get the two mixed up. Either way, I'm probably both).  Consequently, I follow Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer prize winning food critic in the LA Weekly.  Gold has likes and dislikes and can be somewhat polarizing with his critiques of LA's food scene.

Recently, Gold just chimed in support for a bill that bans the sale, trade, and consumption of Shark Fin in California.  I can hear the screaming now of the entire Asian community protesting the racism against such a ban.  Comments already bantered around the internet are crying foul like "It's a cultural thing and banning would be a racial bias against the Chinese American community." And I can see others stating "They're trying to rid us of our cultural identity" and so on and so on. We've all heard the same rhetoric time and time again from different ethnic backgrounds and in most cases, rightfully so.

The funny thing about this issue is Gold is right in saying "we either stop eating it because we choose to preserve the species, or we stop eating it because soon there will be none left to eat."

It's become a eat me now and who cares about our future generations eating this delicacy.  It also means the potential extinction of a big part of our natural food chain. But the bottom line is that California's law is simply symbolic and would only make a small dent in slowing down the extinction of sharks.  The only hope is that other states then countries follow suit.

As resilient as we are as humans, I'm sure there's someone out there is working on a shark fin alternative.  It's also funny to think that abalone was almost extinct and similar measures were taken to stop their sale and harvest.  The big difference is that abalone could be farmed and grown.  Unfortunately, sharks don't have that luxury and need room to roam.  The ecology of the sea depends on this species plus what would we do without "Shark Week" on Discovery channel.

The world protested the hunting of whales and today, much less whales are caught for consumption.  A large part is also due to the Sea Shepherd's efforts.  (You can tell I watch a lot of TV). 

Now the law will have its inherent cons.  Can you imagine someone driving up a dark alley and another car pull up to handle a transaction of black market shark fin? Or walking into a Chinese market and giving the password like "the carpet is plush" and the grocer takes you into the back room filled with assorted fins at outrageous prices.  These are realistic scenarios.  But even more realistic is the likelihood that sharks will be gone in a few generations and the mechanical "Jaws" shark at Universal Studios  will show up in Jurassic Park movie , the sequel #50 along side the dinosaurs. So c'mon California, let's make that small dent and lead the way towards saving Shark Week.

It's August and I'm still not working

So what's up with that!! I've been busting my ass sending out resumes and cover letters, rewriting my resume, and scanning the globe for a freaking job.  I even went so far as to sign up with a temp agency hoping to get a temp job to pay my gas.  I took all their tests including typing and graded out pretty well.

But no luck yet.  I'm a smart guy, hard worker, excellent track record of success, and I present myself well.  I'm not looking to be a CEO or a VP dammit.  I'm happy being a manager or director.  I don't have an issue with hard work, multitasking, and fixing a broken process.  I thrive on that shit.

What's it going to take to get a job in this economy?  Am I going to have to change careers and become a personal masseuse to some cougars?  Will I start showing up at your door with a funky red and blue shirt knocking and simultaneously saying "Dominos:"?  I don't have a clue but I got to do something because I'm going stir crazy.

I got asked to coach Volleyball the other day.  I'm still pondering and whether I can make that commitment only because I'm holding out hope that some job offer will come my way.  I knew it'd be hard but this hard with my qualifications..I'm floored. To make matters worse, S&P just downgraded the U.S. debt which is sending the stock market into a downward spiral.  I'm afraid to look at my portfolio because I'm thinking the paper loss is double digits.

Anyway, I've got to keep a positive outlook on things and continue to work on self improvement, my work in progress garden shed, and keeping in touch with my friends.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Culture, Etiquette, and Just Plain Good Manners

So the wife and I got into a little discussion today about etiquette.  Just so you know, both of us are Asian-American and are pretty sensitive to racial bias and ignorance against the Asian community.   We don't believe in calling Asians...Orientals.  We don't like the stereotypes even if many of them are positive, and we definitely don't like it when Asians get bullied.  With that said, our conversation centered on the topic of Chinese immigrants who have a tendency to hack up their phlegm and spit it out.  You may have witnessed it yourself. The heavy inhale that sounds like snoring, then the growl of the throat, then the violent spitting of thick saliva onto the pavement usually on the sidewalk.  Growing up in ELA, we called it hawking a loogie or tirando un gargajo.  In any case, we see it all the time.  Men, women, teenagers, it doesn't matter.  I remember taking the bus as a kid and this Chinese lady pegged the "gross out" meter when she stepped to the curb, put a finger on one nostril and blew out a loogie from her other nostril onto the street.  I know you're saying to yourself.."that's f..n gross."  You're telling me. I saw that.  I was amazed because the lady just stepped back onto the sidewalk and nonchalantly just waited for the bus.  I was so traumatized, I had to tell anyone who listened what happened that morning.

So getting back to the issue at hand, is it a cultural thing to just hack it up or is it just bad manners.  Most of the Chinese I know are Chinese-American and for the most part educated. I can't really remember them performing the ritual.  Even my aunts and uncles who were 1st generation immigrants didn't do this.  So why do some Chinese do it and others do not.  I think it has to do with assimilation.  When I discuss assimilation, I'm talking about immigrants who have bothered to learn the language and honor their culture while respecting the new culture where they now live.  In short, when in Rome, do as the Romans with the caveat that you do as the Romans do as long as it doesn't violate your moral code and you don't lose your cultural identity.

Without trying to stereotype and label, what I'm saying is that there is a higher probability that Asian immigrants who live in the US and only deal with others like them and refuse to learn the language and limit their exposure to Americans (White, Asian, Black or Latino) are more likely to hawk a loogie.  While in China on vacation, I did experience this phenomenon as well so I'm leaning toward it being a cultural thing.  If you have phlegm, expel it and don't bother with tissue.  Who cares about bacteria or getting others sick.  It's all about relieving the tickle in the throat.  These non-assimilators don't have anyone to tell them that it's not cool to spit in public.  It gets so bad sometimes that City Halls in Monterey Park, San Gabriel and bordering neighborhoods receive calls to have someone come out and pressure wash the sidewalk because how gross it is.

So now that I've ascertained it's a cultural thing, how does it get corrected?  Can we put a PSA out on Jade, CCTV and the other Chinese stations? I think most are ignorant of the fact that spitting is not proper behavior in public.  Would it be okay to walk up to a perpetrator and tell him, "Dude, spitting is not cool" and hand him a tissue pack.  Maybe we just start handing out tissue packs like they do on the streets of Tokyo for advertising but instead of advertising a business, enclose instructions including a bold directive-DO NOT SPIT IN PUBLIC.  SPIT INTO TISSUE.   This may be the best use of public funds since Unemployment Benefits.  In any case, I know that I'll continue to see spitting in public and that eliminating it will be about as possible as the US getting out of debt.  So if you happen to witness an Asian person hacking it up and spitting, just remember, it's cultural.  Embrace it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tiger-Diva or Dick?


So I'm watching the news last night and every sportscast is showing Tiger answering the question on whether he sets a lower goal other than winning a tournament when he's just coming back to play after an injury. Tiger basically retorts why play if it isn't to win.  Was this a dickish answer?  Yes and no depending on who's asking and if it's publicized.  Yes if this was a private conversation amongst friends not in the golf scene.  No if you're in public and your whole life has been about creating a brand and marketing yourself.  In today's world, there are so many expectations on the grand stage.  Expectations put forth by others as well as the person.  Balancing the need to satisfy those expectations and your own can be difficult in today's environment of branding.  If Tiger answered that question differently and possibly more honestly, it still would have gotten the same air time because it would have shown a chink in the armor, a weak spot, a vulnerability.  It would be on Youtube and kids 10 years from now would repeat it and lower their expectations coming back from an injury.  Tiger demands excellence from himself (at least on the golf course) as did Jordan, Bird, Magic and any other great athlete let alone great leaders in their respective field.  Nobody remembers 2nd place or the runner ups.  Winning is everything and that's why they compete.  The big difference is whether a winner does it through hard work and perseverance and doesn't hurt others along the way or cheats using PED's etc.  I don't blame Tiger for being a dick on TV.  If I was in his shoes with his talent, I'd do the same.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Welcome to my blogspot.  Here's a little interview that gives you some insight about moi....
Why did I create this blog?  Like most folks, this blog is a place for me to organize my thoughts, to shoot the bull about what's going on in my life and in the world.  I don't plan on being politically correct and my views may be warped but heck, this is a free country with free speech so I can say whatever the hell I want.
Tell me about yourself?  Ethnically, I'm bi-racial...Chinese and Mexican to be exact.  I honor both cultures and feel that I'm either one or the other culture.  I'm both and I'm just me.  I'm 40-something and until recently, I was gainfully employed until I walked away from a job for quality of life issues.  It was the best decision of my life.  I'm not politically hip.  I know the difference between right and wrong and I'm a straight shooter. I'm spiritual but not exactly religious.  Also, I live in Los Angeles.
What will you discuss in your Blog?  Good question, I really don't know.  It depends on my mood and what's going on in my life.
Do you have any pets?  Yes, I have 2 dogs and 2 cats.
What do you like to do for fun?  I enjoy learning, golf, friends, family, eating, music, working out and looking at porn.
What does the future look like for you?  Interesting question.  My hope is to be gainfully employed either with another company or starting my own business.  This will allow me to travel and influence others in my life and keep my expensive habits going.