February 27, 2004

Toilet Paper and Pay Raises

We got an announcement the other day that our company was going to thaw the year-long freeze on pay raises. That same day, I noticed that the toilet paper in all the stalls had been changed from decently soft stuff to the standard, rough, thin, standard institutional stuff. Toilet paper that thinks it's sandpaper. I guess between the two, I'd rather have the opportunity to get a raise, but couldn't they have a stockpile of soft toilet paper for us new hires that won't be getting a raise?

Posted by kstroke at 10:52 AM | Comments (14)

February 26, 2004

Auto Parts

After the recent car repairs, I started thinking about fixing a couple of other things that I know should be fixed, but didn't feel like paying (and being carless) for them to be professionally fixed. As I was looking around to see what it took to replace an axle and install a camber kit, I noticed that the recommended procedure for replacing an axle includes buying a refurbished axle. You're supposed to give them your old axle, but it's still cheaper. Then I started thinking about the parts that were replaced on my car.

I don't know if a catalytic converter can be refurbished, but I don't see why the radiator couldn't be repaired and resold. What happened with my old radiator and tires? Did they get scrapped? Do the mechanics make a little extra money by selling these things to people who are in the business of refurbishing/recycling them? Obviously some of the money should go to the mechanic since they would be acting as brokers, but if they do this, shouldn't part of that money come back to me?

Posted by kstroke at 10:11 AM | Comments (17)

February 25, 2004

Packages

Getting packages is so fun. You can give yourself a mini-Christmas with just a few clicks online. Even though you know what you ordered, it's still fun to get the package and open it up.

I got a USB cable for my LG VX6000 from here. It's also supposed to charge the phone. Can't wait to try it out. Heard about it here.

Also got some poker books from Overstock.com. They have some really good prices. What they carry seems to change quite a bit, though. And the site could use a few extra features, but so far, I like them. w00t.

Posted by kstroke at 01:27 PM | Comments (19)

Citibank is on the ball

I got an automated call from Citibank this morning. It was a fraud detection thing. They confirmed my transactions yesterday to make sure my card wasn't stolen. I like that. I like that they have a system to detect possible fraudulent transactions, and I especially like that it's an automated system even through the phone call. That's the way I'd do it.

Posted by kstroke at 10:33 AM | Comments (14)

February 23, 2004

Animals on the Road

I saw a dead kitty on the side of the highway today. Black cat. Not turned into hamburger, just laying on its side by the road. I saw it at each end of the day so there's no way it was just taking a nap. Sad.

In other news, there are wild boars getting hit on the road in Carmel, CA. Oink, oink, BAM!

These stories remind me of a really crazy turkey scene that unfolded right before my eyes. That's a story for another day.

Posted by kstroke at 09:48 PM | Comments (21)

February 20, 2004

Car Repairs

Bermico Auto Repair in San Carlos, CA has really nice people working there. Who knows if they're pulling the wool over my eyes, but they seem really reasonable so far.

Man, my radiator sprung a leak during the smog test. It was going to fail anyway. So I need a new radiator, catalytic convertor, and new tires. $1600. Man. On the up side, the guy said my car would prolly go for another 100k miles without anything else major after this set of repairs.

Posted by kstroke at 02:33 PM | Comments (21)

February 19, 2004

Oil Change

Changed at: 208,599 mi

Got new filter wrench. Didn't have a chance to use it. The oil filter was way loose. Must have come undone at some point and been the cause of the leak. Oil was disappearing and I couldn't figure out where it was going because there were no oil spots where I park. It was probably shooting out of the filter while I was driving... Made sure the new filter was on good and tight. Hopefully, I'll be able to get it off with the new wrench next time.

Posted by kstroke at 12:59 PM | Comments (17)

Little things lost

So many little thoughts. Lost. Gone. Not via technical error, but through the hole in my brain. Probably all the Coke. I keep drinking. Oh, they're coming back. Self-promotion, that's what it was.

If you like money, sign up for an ING Direct Savings Account. They'll help you make more money. They consistently have the highest interest rates on savings accounts (2% at this moment), and it's a breeze to zip money back and forth between it and your regular checking account. Email me and I'll refer you. You have to sign up via the referral email for this to work so email me first and go from there. If not me, but golly have someone refer you! You'll get $25 and the referrer gets $10. Free money all around.

If you like money and you like poker, sign up for PartyPoker.com. I'll refer you there, too. Same thing about signing up after you get the referral email from me. You get $25 and I get $50 (after you've played 125 raked hands - about and afternoon of play). Yeah, the referrer gets more of a benefit here (I would have structured it the other way), but it's still good for you.

Posted by kstroke at 12:03 PM | Comments (17)

February 17, 2004

Paranoia

Something struck me today as I was installing Microsoft SQL Server at work. I made sure I had the latest patch after I thought of that worm that works through SQL Server and slowed down the internet big time a while back. What if that worm wasn't created by mischievous hackers? What if it was a corporate-sponsored assault?

Pulse-check:
I work at a big company so there's a structured system for installing software with the proper licenses and all that jazz. I'm sure there are tons of people and little companies out there with illegal copies of SQL Server. What if Microsoft was running a test to see how many unlicensed copies of SQL Server were out there? Microsoft knows how many licensed copies of the software are out there, and it probably had a good idea about how many had installed the patch before the worm was released (and made sure key customers had installed it). With these pieces of information, they could make an estimate about how many illegal copies were out there by using both the extent of the spread of the worm as well as the number of times the patch was downloaded. The downside would be that it would further legitimize Microsoft's reputation for putting out shoddy software, but that never kept people from buying before. The upside would be that Microsoft would have more information about the illegal copies out there (amount and geographical at least) and would have a better idea about how to steer its anti-piracy efforts.

Pure evil:
What if Microsoft was nudging customers towards installing the update notification software and that software acts as a backdoor for other things to get in?

Posted by kstroke at 12:10 PM | Comments (17)

February 13, 2004

Nasal Sprays

I seem to be getting sick again (which is very strange since I usually only get sick once or twice a year and I just got over a nasty flu a couple of weeks ago). This morning, I was rummaging through the medicine cabinet and encountered bottles of jocy's Flonase and Nasonex. The names sounded promising. I had a stuffed up nose, and they sounded like they fixed nose issues. I now know that these things are supposed to be for allergies and not colds, but we won't dicuss that oversight.

I question the delivery method and the documentation. If you have a stuffed up nose because of allergies, how is something sprayed up the offending nostrils supposed to get where ever it's supposed to go? I could sorta breath out of one nostril, but the other one was totally blocked up. After spraying the Nasonex up that nostril, the stuff (medicine) immediately dripped out.

What's up with the documentation on the box? There's nothing on the outside that says when you're supposed to use it or how. Is this stuff for allergy relief or for blocked up noses from anything? Are you supposed to try to breathe in and get the medicine into the lungs, or just spray it up the nose? Are you supposed to stick the thing up your nose then spray, or spray it while it's just outside of your nose?

Posted by kstroke at 10:02 AM | Comments (15)

February 12, 2004

LA Restaurants

I remember seeing an NYTimes.com article before, but this is the best I could find w/o having to pay to see the archive. Will have to look into it more later. Next LA trip, hafta go check out some of those "cheap but good" restaurants.

Found a copy of the article. Thank goodness for little papers that subscribe to other papers' services. Copied the contents onto this site just in case they make their archive available only via subscription.

In Los Angeles, strip mall food is way cool

By JANELLE BROWN

c.2003 New York Times News Service

In the back of a dingy strip mall in Hollywood, between a discount cigarette store, a coin-op laundry and a 7-11, sits one of Los Angeles’ most revered restaurants: Zankou Chicken. Its walls are plywood, its tables are orange Formica, the floors are sticky, and the fluorescent lights are unflattering. The menu consists of a plastic-laminated poster with faded photographs of some suspiciously pink-hued meat on a rotating spit.

Essentially, Zankou, an Armenian restaurant, could not be farther culturally or aesthetically from the trendy eating places just down Sunset Boulevard. Yet it is a legend in Hollywood, packed at any hour by Armenian families and industry up-and-comers willing to drive a half-hour to eat its $4.29 signature dish, chicken made with roasted garlic.

"Zankou is the greatest chicken ever," declared Andrew Miano, 29, a film company executive. "I’d probably eat it out of the garbage can."

Zankou, memorialized in the Beck song "Debra," is Exhibit A in a curious dining phenomenon found mainly in Los Angeles: strip-mall cuisine. Little-known hole in the walls, lurking on just about every major intersection in town, are the antidote to everything flashy and velvet-roped, which is why they remain so popular with Hollywood’s next wave, even as trendy boites come and go.

"It’s fun to eat without pretensions in a city that has so many," Jeffrey Lieber, 34, a screenwriter said. "It’s a relief: no valet parking, no dress code," adding, ... "and a Slurpee 15 steps away."

Strip malls are a dominant architectural feature of the greater Los Angeles landscape, drab buildings in an L-shape where dentists and dry cleaners sit cheek by jowl with generic-looking establishments serving food from far-flung locales.

Although high-concept restaurants do, on occasion, plant themselves in strip malls (like Michael Ovitz’s high-priced Japanese endeavor, HamaSaku), most of these restaurants operate on the cheap: immigrant-owned, low-budget and minimally decorated (plastic signs, faded travel posters, fake flowers in jelly jars).

Not that this makes a difference: on a typical night, Mario’s Peruvian on Melrose draws a dozen patient customers loitering between the cars in the parking lot, gazing plaintively through greasy windows at diners lucky enough to have secured a table and a plate of fried seafood. Aficionados of restaurants in strip malls tap into a pipeline of inside information about which of them is worth a special trip and which is just a dive.

Since half the appeal of this variety of dining is being in the know, newcomers can catch on quickly as almost everyone — starving artist and million-dollar director alike — is eager to share information about favorites.

Although bulletin boards on Web sites like Chowhound and Citysearch offer mind-boggling numbers of recommendations, the best inside sources generally come by word of mouth. (Miano was introduced to the joys of Zankou chicken by his employer, Paul Weitz, director of the 2002 film "About a Boy." )

"You move out here, and people are immediately like, have you tried that place in the mall? That little place between the doughnut shop and the 7-11? said Lieber, whose favorite strip-mall spot is an Italian place in Marina del Rey called Alejo’s, which is famous for its shrimp pasta. "You feel like you have a neighborhood secret. Then you give it to the people you like, and keep it from those you don’t."

The result of this cult of underground cool is that the dingiest, most unassuming restaurants often have long lines to get in, and the person at the next plastic-topped table is just as likely to be Christina Applegate as a struggling student or actor drawn by the rock-bottom prices.

True food fans will seek out those little-known places frequented by locals, whose presence both attests to the authenticity of the cuisine and provides a fashionably anti-hip atmosphere. Such is the scene at Palms Thai in Hollywood, for example, where an Asian Elvis impersonator, with jeweled belts and mutton-chop sideburns, sings karaoke while Thai families shovel down tom kha gai at long banquet tables. The smattering of 20-somethings are willing to wait an hour for a table so that they can revel in the ironic obscurity of it all.

"There’s the complete cool quotient of going to those places," said Alex Tse, 26, a screenwriter. (Favored place: Mario’s Peruvian.) "When you go to a place that’s kind of ghetto, it’s like you’re part of a secret club — you’re really down, you know where the joints are."

Strip mall pilgrimages, however, are, as much about the food as the atmosphere, or lack thereof. Occasionally, meals can even be of high quality. The wildly popular Mexican restaurant Alegria in Silverlake, for example, is not popular because of its colorfully funky decor. Instead, it is the menu of inventive and delicate dishes like Budin Moctezuma, a savory tortilla-based lasagna, and perfectly grilled tiger shrimp sopes that lures diners like the actress Patricia Clarkson, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of Aunt Sarah on an episode of "Six Feet Under."

Most strip mall meccas have perfected one hearty ethnic dish, which inspires fanatically devoted followers. There’s Zankou’s chicken; at Mario’s Peruvian it is saltado de mariscos, a curiously addictive concoction of shrimp and squid sauteed with tomatoes and French fries. At Versailles, a Cuban chain, it is crispy garlic chicken with onions and plantains.

"That’s what a makes a hole in the wall worth going to — it has something you can’t get anywhere else," Miano said. "Chicken at Falcon" — a current It spot — "can taste just like chicken at Spago, dress it up any way you want. But what you get at a strip mall is something unique."

Unheralded sushi restaurants inspire particular fanaticism. Many locals argue that the best sushi in Los Angeles is not at the renowned restaurants with celebrity chefs and designer lighting but at bare-bones strip-mall places like Sushi Ike or Hirozen. Cast members of the television show "24," for example, regularly stand patiently in line for a table. Devotion to these restaurants may be a matter of thrifty economics: with strip-mall sushi your money is going mainly for fresh fish.

Occasionally, a popular strip-mall restaurant misinterprets its success and upgrades to a more stylish address. That was the case with Ita-Cho, a restaurant that served Japanese appetizers like sweet eggplant and lotus root for years before it outgrew its dingy and diminutive space.

Now, Ita-Cho offers both interior decor and valet parking: which, in turn, deters former regulars like Nicole Barnette, 30, a director, who frequented the restaurant because of everything it was not.

"I loved Ita-Cho for years," Barnette said.

"When it moved, it lost the charm of being ‘that great place in the minimall on Highland.’ It was way too hip."

Posted by kstroke at 01:58 PM | Comments (17)

February 11, 2004

Crystal Chronicles

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles has arrived. Go get it (and some friends with GBA's and game link cables). Played it for a couple of hours last night. It's a really fun action game (even though it's FF, it's not the standard RPG you might expect) that requires some real teamwork in multiplayer mode. Besides having to stay together because of the crystal chalice, maps are split so that one guy has the topological map while another person has the radar showing the location of bad guys. Since spells are spread out to players via items and can't be carried from town to town, you have to coordinate both item collection (if one person has all the spell-casting items, no one else can cast spells) and melee actions (spells take a little while to charge up). There are other things that promote team play. The personal objective and item rewarding system offers some balance by injecting some incentives for individual play/greediness.

The graphics and character designs are sweet. Although, I'm kinda ticked that my Racoon Tail guy looks like a girl AND doesn't have a racoon tail. Maybe I'll evolve one later? So far, I've played this in 2P. I can't wait to get the 4P action going.

Kuoj, go get a game link cable!

I'm also playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and it is fun as well.

Posted by kstroke at 10:21 AM | Comments (18)

February 10, 2004

One Good Thing

The whole Jackson/Timberlake thing is stupid on a number of levels and has moved our society backwards a half-step or so, and that's all I'll say about that. One good thing has come out of it, though.

NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., last week edited out a brief glimpse of an elderly woman's breast in an emergency room scene on the hit hospital drama "ER."

Who really wanted to see that, anyway? =P

Posted by kstroke at 11:14 AM | Comments (17)

Traffic Report

When I listen to the radio, the traffic report is always, "there's an accident on the first leg of your commute, and since you're lucky today, there's an accident on the second leg, too. Good luck trying to make that meeting."

Why is it so hard for other people to keep from crashing on either of the two highways I take to work? That first highway has a really slow spot/accident EVERYDAY in the section I take. Man.

Posted by kstroke at 09:03 AM | Comments (23)

February 09, 2004

Attic Cat

From noki to jocy to me to you: Attic Cat. A hilarious Korean drama that jocy and I started watching yesterday. It's seriously one of the best shows I've ever seen. Of course, it helps that I'm somewhat Korean and the cultural references really resonate for me.

The dude with the earring looks like a Korean version of the evil Terminator in T2: Judgement Day. Run!

Posted by kstroke at 10:16 AM | Comments (18)

February 07, 2004

Every Dog Has His Date

Hahaha. If you have a chance, you should watch the movie Every Dog Has His Date. I just saw it on the International Channel. I think it's a Hong Kong flick. It's pretty funny. Would I buy it? Nah. Would I rent it? Not based on the description. Was it worth watching on I Channel? Sure. Turn your brain off and enjoy some silly stuff.

Posted by kstroke at 08:49 PM | Comments (19)

De Anza Flea Market

Went to the De Anza Flea Market today. Eh. It was so-so. You have to pay $2 for parking. That's not cool. It also doesn't especially seem like the place where you can find a hidden treasure or anything. Hardly any of the vendors were selling old things. It was mostly new cruft. If you want Beanie Babies, though, it's the place to go.

Posted by kstroke at 08:39 PM | Comments (18)

February 06, 2004

In-n-Out

In-N-Out makes a tasty burger. Apparently, they also pay well, too. I saw a sign today that said they pay $9.25, have paid vacation, and free meals. This is a way better deal than when I worked at Burger King. There I got paid minimum wage (~$5.25), no vacation (paid vacation? hahaha), and free meals were only given if you were closing that day. Otherwise, it was half-price.

Posted by kstroke at 01:58 PM | Comments (19)

February 05, 2004

Snickers with Almonds

Thumbs down. I like Snickers a lot and I like almonds a lot, but along with the rest of the Snickers' stuff (nougat mainly), the almonds just get lost. The peanuts in the regular version work just right.

Posted by kstroke at 12:54 PM | Comments (23)

Verizon

I now have a Verizon cellular plan. The phone I have is the LG VX6000. It doesn't have Bluetooth, but other than that, it seems pretty cool so far. Verizon customer service has been great. T-Mobile customer service was nice, but not as great in helping me actually solve issues. My reception is way better in the places where I most wanted improvement. Verizon is evil in the way they have little charges all over the place for the "get It Now" applications, messaging, and mobile browsing, but as long as you're careful not to dig your own grave by messing around too much with the extras, Verizon is an awesome choice as a cellular provider.

Reception in my apartment (CA, Bay Area, Peninsula) -
With T-Mobile: might be able to make a call and get fuzzy reception if you're by the window in the back.
With Verizon: pretty doggone good. full reception in most, if not all, of the apartment.

Reception at work (CA, Bay Area, East Bay) -
With T-Mobile: none in my office. spotty reception (1-2 bars out of 5) possible in certain conference rooms.
With Verizon: half to full strength (3 bars out of 6 at training center, 6 out of 6 bars in office). in office, get full strength even when it's in my pocket or at lease right when i pull it out. with t-mobile, it seemed that my body was some sort of void for em waves (thus, a strong preference for using the bluetooth headset and keeping the phone far away).

Posted by kstroke at 12:46 PM | Comments (14)

In the Rearview Mirror

There was a dude picking his nose big time - leaving the responsibility of directing his 80 MPH vortex of death to his otherwise unoccupied hand. I don't have anything against clearing out nasal cavaties. Breathing is important. However, I think that, while driving, a quick pick is more appropriate than an extended dig. The same idea goes for cellphones.

Posted by kstroke at 12:31 PM | Comments (24)

January is Gone

Uh... Suddenly the server blasted away anything added in January and restored itself to the way it was as of Christmas time. The posts are gone, and a couple of useful comments are gone (most notably the ones on the Sony DVD C:13:00 problem). To anyone who cares, sorry. This host (volumehosting.com) is in the negative on reliability... I'm going to try to setup an automatic backup mechanism when I get the time.

Posted by kstroke at 10:27 AM | Comments (22)