30 November 2007

YouTube Trends

Trend 1: Stop Motion Videos

Tony vs. Paul

Trend 2: Speed Painting

Speed Painting with Ketchup and French Fries

LOST - John Locke - Speed Painting by Nico Di Mattia

Trend 3: Hyper-Editing

Amateur - Lasse Gjertsen

Trend 4: UCSD Videos

Yellow Fever

22 November 2007

Taipei [22 Nov 2007 2230]

In Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport right now after a jaunty 4h 25m trip from Singapore.

The 777-300 was amazing with huge screens (probably 11") and higher resolutions for the personal entertainment system, comfortable pillows, large blankets and a light, seasonal, Christmas accent.

The report from the flight:


You know how they say that all special-effects laden epic fantasy adventures are aimed at teenage boys these days? Well this is probably the only film of its kind aimed at tweenage girls.

Cute, funny (in an anachronistic modern, hip kinda way) and a pleasant enough film with all the major genre cliches hit with a join-the-dots precision not seen since my childhood coloring book days.

Of course, the bumbling, sweet-natured, geeky, sneakily-handsome protagonist who becomes a swash-buckling hero is most definitely aimed squarely at the wish-fulfillment fantasies of thirty-something Indian men everywhere...

Wait, I mean teenage boys...aimed at teenage boys....

Evan Almighty

Okay, so not quite as terrible as advertised though I can't believe that most expensive comedy of all time would produce special effects so mediocre.

Steve Carell's interaction with his gang (Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill) is by far the best thing about the film, with the sequence of him coming into the office "looking like a Bee Gee" (Wanda Sykes...classic) being right up there with the Talladega Nights hospital and the Harold & Kumar weed-bag fantasy sequences.

Of course, I could have spent my time watching such movies as Tootsie...M*A*S*H...Some Like It Hot...The Godfather...The Godfather 2...

21 November 2007

Singapore [22 Nov 2007 1430]

Still in Changi Airport as I decided to skip the free city tour and instead grab a nap at the High Definition Sports Lounge (watching football/soccer tends to do that to you).

Took a shower...which required the assistance of an attendant to figure out how to use the hot water (and yes, I did go to graduate school).

Had a strong-armed lady give me a foot massage...which I managed to giggle through since I am terribly ticklish.

I think I might wander the duty-shopping corridors to avail myself of the all free alcohol samples in abundant supply (Absolut, Bailey's, Johnnie Walker Black Label, etc. etc.)
Singapore [22 Nov 2007 0715]

- At Changi International Airport

- Flying time from DEL to SIN: 4 h55m

- Sleeping time from DEL to SIN: 4h50m

- Decisions have to be made: sight-seeing tour; eat; sleep; figure out what to do about the new policy regarding liquids; what to do about the annoying kid making life miserable for us this early in the morning...

20 November 2007

Dehra Dun [20 Nov 2007 1630]

Some quick updates:

- Chhoto's wedding reception in New Delhi was quite spectacular. I don't think I have ever seen so many French people in one place outside of Paris.

- Club Saffire Terrace was great fun. The actual Club Saffire, um, perhaps...

- Toad had a kid: Ishaan. Apparently this was the price he had to pay Ishaan Seth for making him House Captain.

- Tony and Monique have also had a kid: Ursula. Hopefully they won't let Jason Kachel let him anywhere near her!

- Ran into a motley group of Doscos: Nisheeth Ranjan, Kunal Sharma, Jayant Saran, Raghav Nayar (with wife Pallavi in tow), and Vinayak Shourie (with wife Anatara Sinha, the younger sister of the legendary Manavi Sinha).

- I managed to speak to a couple of other Doscos: Harsh Rohatgi (whose sister was getting married) and Roopak Saluka (who was about to get married himself).

- Dosco Alert: 26 Nov 2007 is the Sallu Delhi reception. There will be so many Doscos that you could probably spit and hit a couple of them. Not that you would want to spit on any Doscos...

- Spent a lovely afternoon at Michael Dalvi's farm. Beautiful place! I should've been friendlier with Madhav Dalvi in school!

- Mashi, Mesho, Rohini and Siddhartha are off to Ananda today.

- The price of bun-omlette (a.k.a bull) is now a whopping Rs. 24.

- Hotel President, Pratap Music Store, Barkat Singh are all still there, right next to a brand new Narula's and McDonald's.

- The McDonald's McAloo Tiki is delicious!
Gurgaon [15 Nov 2007 2150]

Dinner with basu! has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond ourcontrol (i.e. low turnout; as the newly pithy Kunal Sharma soeloquently put it: "That's what I thought, you're not so popular.").

Though, if truth be told, at my age I'd much rather watch cricket withmy parents followed by a VCD screening of Chak De India...

12 November 2007

Shah Rakh Khan is Bigger Than George Clooney

I'm not sure if too many people noticed this but Om Shanti Om made $1.7M over the weekend US domestic box office.

This may not seem that big, but consider that it was only playing on 114 screens for an incredible per-screen average of $15,474 (highest, by far, among the films in wide release).

Clooney's Michael Clayton grossed $1.6M over the same timeframe, but was still in 1,150 theatres (the average was an anemic $1,476 per screen).

Looks like Sharh Rukh Khan's newly-minted six-pack was worth it after all.

Somewhere in Calcutta Ma is dancing to the good news, along with Didu...and Mashi...and Anannya Mashi...and Prema Mashi...and...
The Nandigram Debacle

The bandh was called because of a little thing that was as close to a civil war as you can get in an isolated pocket of a state controlled by a democratically-elected communist government.

Not sure what more I can add (I really don't know an often lot about the situation), except to say that is extremely unfortunate that this is the reason that Bengal makes the national news these days.



India Wins!

Lost in the excitement of Chhoto's wedding was Yuvraj Singh's dismantling of Pakistan at Kanpur.
This was especially crucial given how miserably India failed to defend its fighting total in the last ODI.
And to think I was somewhat insulting to Yuvi when I ran into him at Bombay International Airport.
Calcutta [12 Nov 2007 1215]

Quick hits from the city of my birth:

- Chhoto was married to Mathieu the day before yesterday

- The wedding festivities had to be compressed because of a city-wide bandh (after all, what is Calcutta without a little civil unrest?)

- The sangeet on 10 Nov 2007 was supposedly at lot of fun but I missed it because...I was sleeping (terrible, just terrible)

- On the wedding day itself the groom arrived on horseback in a large, festive, barati procession

- I had to carry the groom into the house and then I was one of four people carry the bride around the groom right before the mala bodol - my exercise for the year is done

- Both the bride and groom looked lovely

- At some point the groom played a love ballad on a baby grand piano to his newly-married wife...fellas, if you are not lucky enough to be a handsome, French, ex-male model, ex- tennis professional with an estate in the south of France capable of composing French ballads and then singing it for her on her wedding day in front of adoring crowds in the house where they happened to have filmed Parineeta...well, then, you may as well as give up but there is no way on this planet you will be able to compete

- And, oh yeah, my mother insisted on peforming the phool shojja ceremony, 25 minutes before the bandh took effect!

09 November 2007

Calcutta [10 Nov 2007 1240]

Internet cafe waiting for Chhoto's aye buro bhaat to start. As usual we are a little late.

The story so far:

- The immigration officer didn't want to let me into the country because the photograph in my passport looked nothing like me

- It took me an hour to get my bags

- The driver asked me which route to take to get to Regent Park from the airport...he asked me!

- Fireworks have gotten much bigger in the years since I left Doon...I successfully burned both Ma and Chhoto

- I love Bengali Chinese food

- Ma + Chhoto + Wedding Planning + Same Apartment = Trouble with a Capital T!
Singapore [1800 09 Nov 2007]

Okay, so I made it back in one piece from the city tour. Singapore was pretty much the way I remebered it last time, though I did sleep through much of the tour. The last time I was legitimate to actually hang out in the city, and spend most of that time drinking Singapore Slings at the Raffles Hotel with my wife's friend Tihunaz.

Of course, on this go around, the one guy who sits next to me just happens to be working for the same company I work for! He tells me that [censored].

The river boat portion of the tour is a lot of fun. In many ways, the vistas reminded me of The Last Great American City: Chicago. The tour guide told us that it was a perfect day in Singapore. Oh yeah? Then why was it hot and humid (Southern California living has certainly taken its toll on me)?

I encountered a horrid-looking albino python wrapped around a surprisingly affable man. I would have freaked out had it not been for the many Tiger beers I had pounded earlier to quench the fire of the Singapore Chili Crab, as well as the thimbe-full Johnny Walker Black Label shots they were giving away for free at Changi International Airport (I have now discovered that a thimble-full of Scotch is just the right amount for me).

I had made a mental note about the loudest and most obnoxious of the group being the Americans (which reminds me: the rudest French people I have ever met, I met in America, they tried to cut the line at security for LAX, and asked them how to say "cut the line" in French, and they replied that it was "La Line"). And then I find out that they are a group of missionaries on their way to Nepal to do the Lord's Work.

Great, I came this close to insulting priests and nuns.

08 November 2007

I Can Take My Coffee Anywhere!

Starbucks at Taipei Airport

Coffee Bean at Singapore Airport

Singapore [1400; 09 Nov 2007]

Okay, so I couldn't explore the city after all. Apparently if you have an Indian passport you need to have a stamped visa from the USA, New Zealand, or Australia or they won't let you roam free in Singapore for 8 hours (and no, an European Schengen Visa doesn't help matters).

Since my visa status was too complicated to be boiled down to a single stamp on a passport (the look that crosses an immigration officer's face when you start pulling out paperwork is classic - and it's one I have become quite unaccustomed to) the immigration officer politely asked me to take the city tour instead, where they don't allow you to step foot in Singapore, just ogle it from within the confines of a hermetically sealed bus.

So, now that I had time to kill and no opportunity to sample the local fare of Singapore, I did the only thing I could do.

I devoured Singapore Chili Crab at Chen Fu Ji, an eatery inside the airport.
The poor crab never stood a chance.
The only issue is that I can feel that all too familiar rumbling in the tummy. I told my wife I should have brought more than 10 Alka Seltzer tablets. This is only the beginning of the trip!

Singapore [1130; 09 November 2007]

The flight from Taipei to Singapore was not quite as long (only about 4 hours) and I would write about the guy next time who blew his nose into the warm towel meant to refresh his face and then proceeded to use the toothpick to clean his ears, but there was the guy getting mad at his little boy for coughing too much...

Anyway, I may have discovered the next great cult classic:

Hot Rod

It's very clear that this tried to be Napolean Dynamite, but will probably (hopefully) end up becoming a Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle type cult phenomenon. Mostly because it is not as good as the first, but much better than the second.

You heard it here first! Save this on your Netflix queue now...Hilarity is guaranteed...

I could stay here all day and blog about my inane life, but for some reason I feel compelled to go explore the island city-state since I have about 9 hours before my flight to Kolkata.
Taipei [Local Time 0600; 09 Nov 2007]

In Taipei after a 13-hour flight. Back of the plane, middle-section, middle seat.
But all in all, not terrible. The food, as always, is good, though options for vegetarians are limited.
Watched some TV, and two movies I was sure my wife would probably not want to grab on Netflix.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
I came really close to shutting this off - Adam Sandler needs to do something...anything.
I did, however, like Kevin James. Liked him in Hitch, and (don't tell anyone) I used to like The King of Queens.
The music the played through the movie - Pet Shop Boys, ABBA, Queen, George Michael - is stuff that I liked growing up. Wait, does that mean...not that there is anything wrong with that...
I think they should have ended with a Sandler - James kiss, c'mon, it would have made the insidious homophobia a little more tolerable.
Wait, I wanted the movie to end on a kiss between two straight men, does that mean....
Naah, gay men usually have better taste than James and Sandler.
Whew, that was a close one.

Not, that there is anything wrong with that.

No Reservations

Okay, so this leans more heavily on the drama side of the dramedy equation, but all in all, not bad.
Aaron Eckhart is always good, Abigail Breslin is pretty good, it's that beautiful wish-fulfillment kind of Manhattan that we all wish we could be a part of. Philip Glass has a very un-Philip Glass score, and Scott Hicks is definitely a craftsman when it comes to putting a movie together.
Catherine Zeta-Jones (and no, I don't have a thing for her) is actually pretty good as the uptight chef. I was surprsied by that, but I am sure she can play this kind of role in her sleep since she has to deal with a free-spirit at home (Michael Douglas).
Still, why do I like this pretty sentimental movie? Could it be because I am missing my wife and her crazy cat...

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

06 November 2007

AAdvantage Me: Update

Great, just bloody great.

The one time, the one time American Airlines decides to be on time, is the one time my meeting ran late and I just missed my flight (I can still see the plane from the terminal, mocking me...).

Now I get home late. I have to pack. I have to go to DMV tomorrow. I have to mail out my sister's wedding invitations. I have to do my last-minute shopping for the family. I have to re-confirm my flight with Singapore Airlines. And, in less than 24 hours, I will have to be on my way to Calcutta for my sister's wedding.

And trust me, SJC (San Jose International Airport) is not the place to be when you have an hour to while away before your flight.

This only ever happens to me.


I Hate American Airlines . com
Steelers Are No. 1


And not just in my wife's heart.

I know for years people have said that the Pittsburgh Steelers "travel well." That is, no matter where they play, it always seems like a home game.

And last night during their demolition of the Baltimore Ravens during Monday Night Football, both Tony Kornheiser and Ron "Jaws" Jaworski remarked how well-liked the Steelers were especially when compared to other, more divisive dominant teams (the Dallas Cowboys, the New England Patriots).

Now, there is proof of this.

Apparently, the team was ranked No. 1 across 122 teams when measuring for local market brand strength.

See, Pittsburgh, no matter what people say about the economy and the weather, is No. 1!


MSNBC Article
A Leopard Can Change Its Spots

Sigh, more love for Apple (though, to be fair, I am still very much of a neophyte when it comes to Apple...and, to be fairer, the wife was a fan way back when).

Leopard (a.k.a. Mac OS X 10.5) just came out and David Pogue from The New York Times (love that guy!) does a great job of reviewing all the features Apple added that we didn't realize we needed up until now.

Personally, I am totally looking forward to Spaces and Time Machine.

See for yourself just how well the Danish spell checker works.


Pogue Review 1
Pogue Review 2
Dravid Does What Dravid Does

And that is help his team win the match.

Only this time it was for his state Karnataka, and not for his country India.

Enough is enough Indian Selectors, bring him back already! Don't make him captain, fine, but he is the bedrock upon which the team will find future success.

Repeat after me: Bring...Him..Back...Bring...Him...Back...


Cricinfo Story
Tendulkar Declines Captaincy

Finally, Sachin Tendulkar makes a smart decision. He would be a bad Test captain and his batting would suffer as a result.

Dudes, don't do that infamous Australia Steve Waugh - Ricky Ponting split captaincy and just make MS Dhoni full-time captain already!


Cricinfo Story
Papaya Lassi

The image “http://www.spicelines.com/IMG_1659-Lassi-300x400.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

I'm at our main office in Northern California.

They have Papaya Lassi. I never thought such a thing was possible.

I love working for this company.
Greatest Film Ever!

So what if I haven't seen it, read reviews about it (for fear of spoilers), or even talked to anyone about it.

But it looks like There Will Be Blood is already shaping up to be my favorite movie of the year.

Here is what my favorite movie blogger Jeff Wells has to say:

[It] is one of those legendary, go-for-broke, fiercely psychological big-canvas art movies that you need to see twice -- the first time to go "whoa!" and recoil and get all shaken up and bothered about, and the second time so you can reconsider and see what a masterwork it is, despite your feelings about the malignant emotional content. If you're a film maven of any kind you can't let your piddly emotions get in the way of recognizing diseased greatness.

Daniel Day Lewis's portrayal of the remarkable Daniel Plainview -- a driven, increasingly manic and misanthropic oilman who builds an empire in the early 20th Century -- is historic. It's one of the most riveting and demonically possessed performances ever put to film -- more feverish than any monster played by Lon Chaney or Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi -- and yet human and vulnerable-seem- ing enough to stir a certain recognition.

No one in the world will argue that the musical score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood isn't a major mind-bender. It's boldly intrusive, brassy and manic, pushy, crazy-man symphonic. It expresses Plainview's psychological state, of course, but it's also a character unto itself. It keeps saying "listen to me...no, no, listen to me!" And you do, and you can't help but think and think about it afterward. It's a guaranteed Oscar nominee.


Jeff Wells Review [There May Be Spoilers!]

Dude, every time I tell myself I am going to give American Airlines one more chance, the blow it.

Let's see, there was that time we were delayed because the steward/stewardess did not show up.

Then there was the time when they canceled the flight without informing the passengers.

There was the time when they delayed the flight because they wanted the Orange County-bound flight to take off first and they only had the one gate available.

There was the time when they charged $5 for a pillow and stale chips.

Then there was the every time that the puddle jumper made me fear for my life with every turbulent bump in the air (as it is I'm scared of flying).

And now...once again delayed because, get this...the jetway is malfunctioning.

It's a puddle-jumper, we don't need a jetway!

I swear to God, one of these days I am going to switch to Southwest.
Marmageddon, Benefactor

So, I was looking around Google Images to see if I could find a photo of David "Marmageddon" Marmor to go along with it (I have photos in my laptop, but I moved them and for some reason iPhoto can't just point to pictures, it actually has to physically add to the library in order for me to even flip through the photos...the one major bugaboo with the Mac).

And guess what I found:


I'm never, never, never feeling sorry for him again..ever!

The Marmor Foundation at Stanford

[Removed at the Request of the All-Powerful Marmors]

05 November 2007

WW III: Round One Goes to India

George W. Bush recently mentioned World War III.

He got the nomenclature right, just the context wrong.

You see World War III is happening as we speak on the Cricket fields of India as the India vs. Pakistan extravaganza kicks off.

And round one goes to India who eases to a nice five-wicket win, with Sachin Tendulkar coming through with a solid 4 runs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Cricinfo Bulletin
Cricinfo Report
Cricinfo Story
Cricinfo Plays of the Day
Cricinfo Stats
The Greatest Game in the History of Mankind!

Update 7:

Perhaps, most importantly, the television numbers were great.

From Variety:

The first Sunday in November produced some impressive ratings at the major nets...Top program of the day, though, actually began late in the afternoon.

In Nielsen's metered markets, the NFL contest between the undefeated New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts averaged a monster 22.5 household rating/39 share from 4:15 to 7:27 p.m. ET -- the highest score for an afternoon regular-season NFL game in at least 20 years.

The previous highest overnight rating since 1987 came in 1996 when a Dallas-San Francisco contest on Fox averaged a 22.2/41.

Reliable total-viewer figures won't be released by Nielsen until today, but affiliate-based prelim numbers suggest that the game's final 27 minutes (kicking off primetime) should come in with perhaps a 14 rating in 18-49 and more than 35 million viewers overall.

From MediaPost:

CBS showed off exactly why it could easily get $700,000 and more for a 30-second commercial for its top-drawer Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots game.

The TV event got a massive Nielsen preliminary live-plus-same-day 13.5 rating/33 share among 18-49 viewers. If the numbers keep up, it'll easily become the highest-rated TV show of the season, so far.

The game pulled in "American Idol"-like numbers, with 35 million viewers--some 6 million more than the Dallas Cowboys-New England Patriots game of a few weeks ago. It was the highest score for an afternoon regular-season NFL game in at least 20 years.

Joe Torre is Worth $16 Million!

Andy Pettitte declined his $16 million option with the Yankees.

Think about it, he would rather give up $16 million than play for a Torre-less Yankee team!

I know loyalty is at a premium these days, but at a $16 million premium?


NYT Story
ESPN Story
Joe Joins the Dodgers

Maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's a bad thing, all I know is that for one day LA was talking about the Dodgers and Joe Torre and not Kobe and the Lakers.

That, my friends is a good thing!

NYT Story
ESPN Story
And This is a Good Thing?

That Do-Not-Track initiative is looking better by the day...
Marmageddon, Screenwriter

From the desk of David "Marmageddon" Marmor



Dave reads Basu's latest e-mail. His face slowly becomes the
color of Pinot Noir. He begins to shake.


Dave looks up, filled with Shakespearean (not to say Kirkian)


The word echoes across the cosmos.

Glen & Gary & Glen & Ross

One of the best mash-up trailers I've seen in a long time...

Amish Grace

Sometimes in this mixed-up world of ours we tend to lose persepctive beyond ourn own lives (case in point: my "friend" and his recent performance evaluation, but more on that later).

I heard about the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal (a great discovery by Rosanne) a few weeks ago and was stunned by the passage that Bill spoke about.

The book deals with the Amish school shooting that happened a few years ago. But more specifically it deals with the Amish community's decision to forgive the shooter.

This is incredible, especially given the conservative-fueled vitriol that permeates our lives these days. Bill points out that when the shooter was buried "more than half the mourners at the cemetery were Amish. It was, one of them said, simply the right thing to do."

But why forgive?

Again, as Bill points out: "[O]ne of the grieving fathers said, as they had released the killer, they had released themselves from anger and from bitterness. But not from pain."

Perhaps there is something in this that we can take into our own lives. The bitterness we harbor towards those that have slighted us (whether real or perceived) only ends up destroying our own selves from the inside out.

Here are Bill's final words from that episode of his show:

On the anniversary of their loss, the community once again spoke to the larger world, in a statement saying that 'forgiveness is a journey...you need help from your community of faith and from God, and sometimes even from counselors, to make and hold on to a decision to not become a hostage to hostility.'

Hostility, they said, 'destroys community.'


Bill Moyers Journal
Amish Grace Publisher Info

Marmageddon It!

Here is the latest updates from my old USC classmate David "Marmageddon" Marmor (in his own words).

Really, there's nothing to say about me these days. Here's the best I
came up with after exhaustively researching myself using your
company's wonderful "search" tool:

For some reason Amazon has listed my movie as a DVD release, though
apparently "the studio is currently not producing this title."

Spin on Amazon

Also, there's a wonderfully tepid review of Spin ("stiffly
intellectual") on some crazy guy's list of mystical movies:

Spin Amazon Review

Or perhaps you'd be fascinated by my ten-year-old bug reports for open
source software:

Bug Report 1
Bug Report 2

Or better yet, just wait until the frustration of modern life gets to
me and I blow up in some spectacular way. Shouldn't be a long wait...


Dave's Brilliant Short Film
Spin on Amazon
Spin Amazon Review
Bug Report 1
Bug Report 2

Update from David Marmor:

That's just great. Once again you use my own embarrassing words
against me in public. I don't mind humiliating myself for the
amusement of you and a select few friends, but really, must you
broadcast it to the world?

Also, the review isn't on Amazon, it's on something called "The
Mystical Movie Guide" on astralresearch.org.
The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?

There's a super-duper high resolution image of The Last Supper out on the net.

Now you can zoom right in to the tiniest of details to see if the book/movie was full of it, or if they were telling the truth.


The Last Supper

04 November 2007

Conservative Kitty Still Doesn't Like Jon Stewart

Halloween Day 3: Bruce Springsteen Live!

The Halloween weekend came to a superb, rousing end with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performing live at the LA Sports Arena (which was a different place than that it had been just two days earlier).

Thanks to my old colleague Cheryl Freuberg, I was able to get great General Admission tickets for the Floor and surprise my wife with it (which, when you add in the AIDS Walk, should give me brownie points with her to last me a long time).

The tail-gating was more of the cheese-and-wine variety which was not what I expected. Standing in line at the merchandising stand (Bruce knows how to merchandise, even if he doesn't believe in corporate tie-ins) I couldn't help but notice that most of the people were buying stuff for their kids who were attending the concert with them.

The show started about an hour late, with the ex-hippies around us leading the "Bruuuuuuuuuce" chants.

Then the band took the stage and from there on out it was just pure joy (as Jon Stewart said, "It was the greatest night of my life...Are you a fan of joy? You should go see his concert.")

And after it was all over, I still couldn't believe just how incredible it had been, and when Rosanne and I, two young kids steppin' out over the line, there was that serene feeling of contentment when we left, and life seemed worth living after all...

‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run...

Bruce Springsteen Live

Halloween Day 2: Knott's Scary Farm

After those many, many years of hype, Rosanne, Eliza Magid, Jason Kachel and I decided to finally check out Knott's Scary Farm.

So, did it meet all that hype?

Well, let's just say that if you should find yourself separated from the herd and then chased all the way across the park to the very entrance by a ghoul with a snake hanging out of its mouth...well, then, find a large security guard, hide behind him, and then have him walk you back to the group.

That's what I did, and I'm still standing here today.

Knott's Scary Farm
Halloween Day 1: Monster Massive

The Wife and I decided to attend something called Monster Massive, which is apparently a rave.

Things got off to an interesting start when we saw the line literally stretch around the block (and it's a huge block around the LA Sports Arena) filled with kids who looked like they should be in middle school, let alone high school, let alone the ostensible minimum age of 18.

After it took us a half-hour just to find parking and make to the entrance, we were confronted with another 25-minute wait before we were able to enter.

Mein Gott in Himmel!

The place was packed, packed! The women were almost all dressed in underwear and not much else. The men were sweaty (too bad this wasn't West Hollywood, at least the wife would have had something to look at).

Now I finally understood all those glowsticks and light-knuckles. You see, if you have someone "dance" the lights in front of your face in many undulating patterns, it tends to enhance whatever chemically-induced experience you may be having.

Of course, any time I got tired and decided to take a seat, some kid would come up and start doing the "light dance" in front of me. That's all right kid, I'm good.

You see, these things are never that much fun when you're sober and the only options are the very legal Miller Lite stalls or the very illegal "want a pill?" guys who kept coming up to me. [For the record No - I didn't get any pills - and No - I didn't get any enhancements from the 5 Miller Lites I pounded.]

Apparently chemically-enhanced kids like being touched...which explains all the rubbing-up that ensued, from both genders. The pick-up line of choice for the guys hitting on my wife: "It's my birthday, and I'm single." For the girls hitting on me: "Can I have a sip of your beer?" [My response: "Umm, no, I don't know where those lips have been."]

I think at some point I saw Batman and Robin making out, and my wife saw one girl massage another girl's, umm, you knows...and that was just the tip of the iceberg (this is a family blog after all).

The DJs [
Felix da Housecat, Digitalism, and Armin van Buuren] were all good and we managed to last until about 2:30 am.

The final point that drove home just how old and un-hip we were?

We left the only empty spot in the parking lot.

Monster Massive

The California Wildfires

Luckily, where I live is pretty much the one place where the wildfires weren't a factor (though it was hot, ashen, and very strange when I landed from Northern California).

It was much worse in Irvine. The sky was completely covered, my eyes burned and you could smell the fires (smelled like barbecue). I remember how it was in Doha after the first Gulf War when the sky was completely covered because of the oil fires in Kuwait, but this was much worse.

Here are some incredible photos taken by my colleague Mark Contreras and his cute little dog, Peanut.

Being Nice to Others Pays Off...Literally
So, my friend works for this company that pays based on how well you perform.

Of course, the major portion of the scoring is based on perception; i.e. not how well he's doing, but how well he's perceived to be doing.

70% of the score is based on what the people he works with/for say about him; and 30% is based on his core job responsibilities. The higher the total score, the more money he makes.

Something strange happened to him at the last performance evaluation. He was told that he was exceptional at his core job responsibilities - one of the best at what he does - but he was not meeting expectations.

My friend was shocked.

How could he be performing at a very high level at his core job responsibilities, but still be seeing as not meeting expectations? I mean, wasn't he expected to be good at what he does?

Well, the answer was simple.

You see, he wasn't being a good teammate. And he seemed to be affecting the positive energy of the team in a negative way.

So, my friend said, did that mean that if he had been nicer to people but worse at his job, that would have improved his overall score?

Apparently if you did the math, that was the case. And that was driven home where it hurt the most - his paycheck.

And this is how my friend learned that it was better to be nice than good.

How Much is That Kitty in the Window?

The one with the big fuzzy tail...

Indians and Dogs...

I have a friend who works in an office down in Orange County.

He likes where he works, and he likes his co-workers. The feeling, as this incident points out, may not be quite as mutual.

His co-worker brought in his/her dog one day.

Naturally, my friend was excited since he likes dogs and walked over there to play with said dog.

Not so fast.

My friend was blocked from petting the dog because the co-worker was afraid that people would find out that the dog was there.

"Where are [Co-Worker 1] and [Co-Worker 2]" my friend was asked.

"Not sure." my friend replied.

"Well I want them to pet [Dog's Name]."

"What about me?" my friend asked.

"Well...I would much rather have them pet [Dog's Name]" came the quick reply.

And my poor friend walked away...

You Can't Stop Whut's Comin'!


Conservative Kitty Doesn't Like Jon Stewart