Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Vegetable Oil Car

Huell Howser recently profiled Veg Powered Systems on his PBS show, California Green. Begun by husband and wife team Joel and Rebecca Woolf in Ojai, CA (north of LA), Veg Powered outfits diesels vehicles to run on vegetable oil. Their mission statement: "educating and assisting the diesel community in the use of vegetable oil as the true alternative fuel to diesel fuel. We feel it is time to change the landscape of our planet for the better."

Monday, January 30, 2006

No Picture Please

I was approached by two people from the Downtown News last week, one holding a tape recorder, the other a camera, who wanted to ask me a question. I thought they wanted directions, but they didn't.
News: What is your favorite winter Olympic sport?

Chanchow: Speed skating.

News: Why?

Chanchow: Because it's fast and unusual.

News: Who's your favorite speed skater.

Chanchow: I only know one, Apolo Ohno, but I wouldn't say he's my favorite. I like them all.

News: When do the winter Olympics begin?

Chanchow: Hmmm, in a couple weeks.

News: [Nodding] Yes, February 10th. Are you going to watch?

Chanchow: Maybe some of it.

News: What's your name?

Chanchow: Ummm, Chanchow.

News: Your last name?

Chanchow: I'd rather not say.

News: Can we get an initial?

Chanchow: N.

News: What do you do?

Chanchow: I'm an attorney.

News: Where?

Chanchow: I'd rather not say.

News: [Looking at eachother] We could say an "Attorney from Downtown." [Pointing the camera at me]

Chanchow: Oh, I'd rather not have my picture taken.

News: Well, then we can't include you. We ask questions, then print your picture with your responses.

Chanchow: Well, that's OK. I don't need to be in it.

News: [Looking at each other puzzled, then at me, then shrugging.] OK.
Was I being overly suspicious? Have I become a victim to our fear ridden culture? Would most people mind having their picture, name, occupation and place of work printed? I take a lot of comfort in being anonymous (aside from this blog)-- I don't pay my bills online, I don't like to valet my car, I screen my calls. None of these is quite like having my likeness in the paper, but I see some connection.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới

Tết is just around the corner. Vietnamese families will be gathering together this weekend to celebrate the New Year, pay their respects to ancestors, eat a lot of food and have a good time. It is hands down the biggest and most important celebration in Vietnam.

Mr. Octopus and I will be heading down to O.C. on Saturday to see my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins' kids. We'll be arriving a little early to pay respects to my grandparents and other relatives on the family altar.

Vietnamese try to pay all their debts before the New Year. They try to make amends with people. They clean the house and decorate with flowers. They wear new clothes. Children get lucky money in red and gold bags (above). It's a new start, and supposedly the first couple weeks of the New Year are indicative of the rest of the year.

Food is a huge part of Tết, and there are certain dishes that are symbolic of Tết, most notably bánh chưng (right), which is a square cake of sticky rice filled with meat (usually pork) and beans, all wrapped in banana leaves.

Here's hoping that the Year of the Dog is a lucky one for you.

Chúc mừng năm mới
Happy New Year!!!

p.s. If you're going to say "Happy Chinese New Year" to someone, it's best to be sure they're Chinese.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ticket Magnet

In the four months that I've lived in LA, I've managed to get three tickets. This is unbelievable to me. Two were parking tickets (one for parking during street cleaning and the other for parking in a neighborhood that required permits) and, as of this morning, a ticket for an illegal right on red.

Now I have to go to traffic school, with all the bad drivers out there (like Michelle Rodriguez). This is tragic. To add embarrassment to injury, the cop pulled me over in front of my office building. Good thing I'm new here and hardly anyone recognized me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Save Gocco Movement

Gocco enthusiasts are coming together to stop Riso, the manufacturer, from discontinuing the Gocco kits. To learn about Save Gocco or to start a Save Gocco campaign yourself, go here.

For background, check out the Gocco U.S. site and a previous post.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Chinese Zodiac: Die Schlange

This will be the last installment of the Chinese Zodiac series. I know, I know, I've only covered four of the twelve animals, but ... too bad!

1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989

About the snake:
This Sign is an interesting mix of gregariousness paired with introversion, intuitive reasoning paired with savvy business skills. Snakes are considered to be lucky with money and will generally have more than enough to live life to the fullest, regardless of how important it considers money to be; this may be due to the fact that Snakes tend to be rather tight with cash. They're not stingy, they're simply more mentally than physically active. Snakes tend to hang back a bit in order to analyze a situation before jumping into it. Their charming, seductive quality actually belies a rather retiring nature; this Sign is perfectly happy to spend the whole day curled up with a good book and, thus, can be mislabeled as being lazy.

Slightly dangerous and disarmingly smart, the Snake's philosophical and intuitive mind generally supersedes logic in favor of feelings and instinct. Snakes will rely on their own gut reactions and intuitions before turning to others for suggestions. This makes this Sign a great hand in any business venture, possessing the caution and smarts needed to get ahead.

Snakes are hard workers (when they see good reason to be!) and are possessed of a keen intelligence. Snakes have incredible follow-through, once they get going, and they expect the same from others. Thus, their coworkers and employees had best stay on their toes, lest they anger the Snake and suffer its poisonous bite!
From here. Click here for more on the snake.

The best match for the snake is the rooster or the ox. Famous snakes include Muhammad Ali, Bjork, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney, Bob Dylan, Gandhi, Stephen Hawking, James Joyce, Mao Tse-tung, Picasso, Oprah Winfrey and P. G. Wodehouse.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lost Wins

Yay for Lost, which won the Golden Globe for Best TV Show (Drama) earlier this week. I must admit that I was a little puzzled as the cast walked on stage to collect the award. My thinking: "Oh, wait. There's Michael. He's in nice clothes. But he doesn't have nice clothes. There's Sayid. He looks clean. How's that possible? Oh yea, it's just a tv show." I guess I forgot that the show was just pretend.

Conspicuously absent was Michelle Rodriguez, who probably couldn't find someone to drive her to the awards ceremony.

Any thoughts on this week's episode? I've lost interest in our Boy Scout Jack (yawn), so I wasn't as engrossed as I usually am. On the upside, this answers most of the open questions on Jack, so perhaps we won't have another backstory on him in a long time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Trader Joe's Takes Manhattan

Friends of the chanchow have told me that Trader Joe's is coming to NYC. The new TJ's will open in three months near Union Square (142 East 14th Street), with a TJ's wine shop next door.

You may remember that I blogged about TJ's a while back. I will check out the new store next time I'm in NYC. In the meantime, those of you in in the area should go visit and tell me what it's like!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Neighborhood Gunfire

I found this notice on our doorstep:

Notification of Intended Filming

Filming of: General Hospital
Location: Prospect Studios
Dates: 1/19/06
Hours: 3:00 pm - 10:00 pm


All on studio property.

We are applying for all necessary permits and maintain all legally required liability insurance. Additionally, all personnel required to enforce public safety will be on location. We will abide by all county and city filming regulations. We will make every effort not to disturb you and will treat your neighborhood with the respect it deserves. Thank you in advance for your hospitality and cooperation while we are filming on your streets.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Bachelorette Party (Post Game Highlight)

The Bachelorette Party was great fun. One bachelorette plus seven of her good friends roaming around the Bellagio. What could be better? I wasn't quite sure what to expect (other than fun), it being my first bachelorette party and all. I figured good food, happy drunkeness and perhaps a strip club thrown in for good measure.

Other than spending the night at the Mandalay Bay, our party efforts were centered around the Bellagio, where we had arranged for dinner at FIX (most delicious, above), drinks at Caramel and dancing at Light. Suffice to say, we were stuffed and feeling tingly in the face after dinner, so we decided skip drinks and move to dancing. It'd been a very long time since I'd been to a club and even then, I'd never been to a club quite like this. Five (ten?) girls to every guy and no space to move.

Going to Vegas for a bachelorette party is worlds different from going any other way. Everyone is much friendlier to you, groups of men offer rounds of drinks, even the hotel gives you free shots.

That's a brief overview of the party. There may be more, but as they say, What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Bachelorette Party

I'm heading off to Vegas tomorrow for my first ever bachelorette party. One of my oldest friends is getting married in a few weeks and this is the final party. Last time I was in Vegas (it was with Mr. Octopus), I saw a bachelorette party where all the girls wore matching jerseys. As in, Jenny #8 and Tamara #14. There are no jerseys for my friend, the bachelorette, but it will be a pretty rockin 36 hours, I'm sure. I must get a good night's rest tonight. I must also load up on the carbs. Be assured that I will be playing a lot of Elvis in the car.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Drink Recommendations

I've been drinking Ketel One screwdrivers for years now. Can anybody suggest a new drink?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Chinese Zodiac: Dragón

Growing up, my relatives and family friends were always asking me in which year I was born. I would tell them and inevitably they would say, "Ahhh, tiger...hmm." It was a very ambiguous reaction. On the other hand, from the little I knew, I sensed that that being born in the year of the dragon was definitely a positive thing. In poking around for this entry, I found out that, yes, being a dragon is desirable.

1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000

In many parts of Asia people actually try to have children in the year of the dragon. In China, the dragon is considered a powerful but benevolent creature. It is not the fire-breathing menace to society as in Western society. In the East, the dragon is almost like a God, hence the incorporation of the dragon in the Lunar New Year's celebrations. In fact, I caught a part of "Quest for Dragons" on the History Channel and learned that the Chinese and Native Americans have surprisingly similar views on dragons-- both cultures respect the dragon and see it as a god of rain and the bringer of prosperity. The dragon occupies a very important postion in Chinese (and Asian) mythology. It shows up in history, architecture, art, literature, religion and music. In fact, according to Vietnamese mythology, the Vietnamese are descendants of the dragon.
The earliest traditions of the Vietnamese people...are associated with the Hung kings who ruled the kingdom of Van-lang. The Hung kings claimed descent from Lac Long Quan, "Lac Dragon Lord," a hero who came to the Hong River plain in what is now northern Vietnam from his home in the sea; he subdued all evil demons in the land and civilized the people, teaching them to cultivate rice and to wear clothes. Lac Long Quan returned to the sea after instructing the people to call on him if they were ever in distress. Eventually, a monarch from the north, China, entered the land and, finding it without a king, claimed it for himself. When the people cried out to Lac Long Quan for deliverance from this alien ruler, he heard them and came back from the sea; he kidnapped Au Co, the wife of the intruder, and took her to the top of Mount Tan-vien, which overlooks the Hong River as it enters the plains. Failing to retrieve his wife, the northern king departed in despair. Au Co eventually gave birth to the first of the Hung kings, and Lac Long Quan returned to his home in the sea after again promising to return if needed. Lac Long Quan, a prince of the sea, and Au Co, a princess of the mountains, are regarded by the Vietnamese as the progenitors of their race."
From Keith Weller Taylor's The Birth of Vietnam.
If that ain't enough, how's this personal characteristics:
The Dragon is one of the most powerful and lucky Signs of the Chinese Zodiac. Its warm heart makes the Dragon's brash, fiery energy far more palatable. This is a giving, intelligent and tenacious Sign that knows exactly what it wants and is determined to get it. Dragons possess a certain natural, charming charisma that ensures they can always influence their peers and often find themselves the center of attention in social situations. This Sign is truly blessed, too; Dragons are considered to be very lucky in love! The Dragon's friends are always keen to hear what this firebrand has to say and when it comes to dispensing advice, the Dragon has the floor.

Its ego can get in the Dragon's way, but even so, this larger-than-life creature has a knack for initiating projects and keeping the troops motivated. According to Dragons, it's their natural born right to lead the way -- because who else could do it so surely and so well? As lucky as they are, Dragons have a good chance of achieving considerable material wealth during their lifetimes, although it isn't mere money that's this Sign's main motivation. Power is what the Dragon wants and truly believes it deserves. Dragons are quite the opportunists, forever searching for ways in which to consolidate their considerable power. Contrary to all this strength and fire, a weakened Dragon is a sad sack, a creature that refuses to take defeat with even a modicum of grace.

The role of leader is the only one the Dragon wants, the better from which to give orders and be king of the hill. They make solid leaders, too, knowing instinctively what needs to be done to stay on top. Crossing the Dragon is never a good idea -- this beast can singe! A valuable life lesson for this clever creature would be to absorb the principles of flexibility, compassion and tolerance. Being high and mighty can serve to inspire others, but it also keeps Dragons from living their lives to the fullest. If Dragons can learn to balance their quest for success with an appreciation for the little things, their life will be more than worthwhile.
From here.

Supposedly, dragons are compatible with rats and monkeys, but should avoid oxen, rabbits, dogs and other dragons. You dragons out there are in very good company (surprise surprise). Famous dragons include Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar, Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Charles Darwin, Pelé, Ronaldo, Bruce Lee, Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Reese Witherspoon and a gaggle of Lord of the Rings folks (Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom and Andy Serkis).

Monday, January 9, 2006

The Chinese Zodiac: The Goat (or Sheep)

1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991

People born in the Year of the Sheep supposedly are elegant and highly accomplished in the arts. They seem to be, at first glance, better off than those born in the zodiac's other years. But Sheep year people are often shy, pessimistic, and puzzled about life. They are usually deeply religious, yet timid by nature. Sometimes clumsy in speech, they are always passionate about what they do and what they believe in. Sheep people never have to worry about having the best in life for their abilities make money for them, and they are able to enjoy the creature comforts that they like.

Sheep people are wise, gentle, and compassionate. They are considered compatible with Rabbits, Pigs, and Horses. A Sheep will prefer to forget grievances rather than brood over them and will keep any resentment tightly under control in order maintain peace and prosperity among the group. Sheep live in the present, which they attempt to enjoy to the best of their abilities. Thanks to their sensitive natures, Sheep are the most creative and expressive of all the Signs in the Chinese Zodiac.
From Wiki.

Famous sheep include Michelangelo, Mel Gibson, Zhang Ziyi, Chow Yun Fat, Kurt Cobain, John Kerry, Joni Mitchell, Marcel Proust, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

More Lost Off-Screen

It's not just Michelle Rodriguez whose off-screen life is making news. Apparently, Naveen Andrews (the guy who plays Sayid on Lost) fathered a child while on a brief breakup from longtime girlfriend Barbara Hershey. He and Hershey have since reconciled and have managed to get through this.

I'm not going to make this a gossip column about Lost (other than the occasional anti-Michelle Rodriguez posts), so I will not mention this again. Suffice to say that if Naveen were dating Michelle, Michelle would've shot his ass.

The hump day treat this week is that ABC will be showing two new episodes of Lost back-to-back. Yow!

Sunday, January 8, 2006

The Chinese Zodiac: Le Tigre

The internet has all sorts of sites devoted to the animals in the Chinese zodiac, some sillier than others. I've looked at a few of them and there is a commonality in their descriptions of the tiger. Generally, tigers are intelligent, passionate, impetuous. They are often magnetic, daring and stubborn-- characterics that make them likely to be leaders. At the same time, they like their solitude and are short-tempered and suspicious.

1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998

Here is a more detailed description:
Tigers may not be the king of the jungle, but these striped cats are no softies! Magnetic and self-possessed, Tigers are born leaders. They have an air of authority that prompts others to fall in line, which is exactly how they like it. Although they are magnetically charming and fun to be around, Tigers like to go it alone sometimes too. A Tiger's main interest is in following its ambitions -- and maintaining control.

Tigers are courageous beyond compare and generally come out ahead in battle, be it in the boardroom or the bedroom. Seduction is one area where the Tiger is definitely king! Noble and warm-hearted, Tigers have a natural, raw appeal that's extremely attractive to other Signs. They're not just about attraction, though; ever on the side of right, Tigers will fight the good fight to the bitter end if the cause is worthy. Opponents are wise to fear this feline.

A bit of caution is a good thing around Tigers, since they can pounce without warning. They experience mood swings and often feel things more intensely than others, the latter quality being both good and bad. They can react poorly under stress and are prone to emotional outbursts. This Sign's bristling sensitivity can send friend and foe running for cover.

A lesson that Tigers would be well-served to learn is "moderation in all things." Once these cats can find their center and direct their considerable energies toward worthwhile endeavors (as opposed to racing through life), they will accomplish much.
From this astrology site.

Tigers are most compatible with dogs and horses and least compatible with oxen and sheep. A tiger/tiger pairing is difficult and generally not recommended.

Famous tigers include Stevie Wonder, Leonardo DiCaprio, Steve Irwin (the crocodile guy), Stephen Chow (the Kung Fu Hustle guy), Marilyn Monroe, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Mel Brooks and crazy Tom Cruise.

Friday, January 6, 2006

The Chinese Zodiac

Although it's only January 6th, it's almost time for the new year-- Chinese New Year, that is. Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year) begins on January 29th this year. It is the most important holiday in China, indeed in much of Asia. Vietnamese, Koreans, Mongolians and other cultures influenced by the Chinese celebrate this day. The Lunar New Year, or Tết as it is called in Vietnam, is hands down the biggest holiday in Vietnam. Vietnamese typically take an entire month off to spend time with family and prepare for the celebrations. I'll devote another entry to Tết later in the month, but I want to look into a most interesting aspect of the New Year's phenomenon: the Chinese Zodiac.

There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac, each animal representing a year in a 12-year cycle. The 12 animal signs are, in order: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit (cat in Vietnam), dragon, snake, horse, sheep (or goat), monkey, rooster, dog and pig (wild boar in Japan). But the animal stuff doesn't end there. Each month has an animal attributed to it (e.g., January being the rat, December being the pig), as well as each hour of the day (e.g., 11pm-1am being the rat, 9pm to 11pm being the pig (Beijing local time)). If that weren't complicated enough, Chinese astrology draws on the position/interaction of natural phemonena. Natural phenomena are grouped into five elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Metal (Gold) and Earth. Taken together, these factors make for 8,640 combinations (5 elements, 12 animals, 12 months, 12 times of day). According to Chinese astrology, it is the position of these five elements and the zodiac sign at the time of your birth that determines your destiny.

All this explains why when you go to a Chinese fortune teller, all you need to him is your date and time of birth. I, for one, can tell you that Chinese fortune tellers can be uncanny. My dad gave my date and time of birth to a very good fortune teller a few years back and, so far, his reading has been spot on. My dad, a real skeptic, had a reading back in the early 70s, which has proved to be too true to be believed.

We are now nearing the end of the year of the rooster. January 29th will mark the beginning of the year of the dog. I'd like to profile each of the 12 animals before the Lunar New Year, but that's pretty ambitious and I may lose interest after a couple animals. Instead, I'll start with the tiger, which happens to be my birth year. To find out your year, click here.

Thursday, January 5, 2006


Not a week goes by that I don't smell a skunk around our house. Who woulda thunk there'd be so many skunks in LA? Mr. Octopus even saw one running along our driveway. The horror! What is a skunk anyway? Some sort of rodent? Let's consult Wiki.

Skunks are mammals. There are 11 species of skunks, two of which live in Indonesia and the Philippines and remaining nine in the Americas. Although most commonly black and white, skunks also come in brown, gray or cream. They all have stipes though.

Skunks are omnivorous, although they mostly eat meat. They eat everything from plants and insects to rodents, lizards, snakes and eggs. In urban areas, they eat a lot of garbage. Skunks are nocturnal and have very good senses of smell and hearing. However, they have very bad eyesight, which is part of the reason why they often end up as roadkill.

And oh the smell. Skunkies have two glands, on either side of the anus, and can spray with high accuracy up to 10 feet away. Most predators in the U.S. (wolves, badgers, foxes) are afraid of getting sprayed, except for the Great Horned Owl (how scary would it be to see an owl carry away a skunk). Skunks can run out of their stink, so they spray very sparingly. From Wiki:

Because skunks have only enough scent for 5 or 6 "reloads" —about 1 tablespoon (15 grams)—and take a couple of days to refill their scent glands, they are reluctant to expend their "ammunition". This is presumably why skunks have such bold black and white colouring: to ensure they are as visible and as memorable as possible. Where practical, it is to a skunk's advantage to simply warn a threatening creature off without expending scent: the black and white warning colour aside, threatened skunks will go through an elaborate routine of hisses and foot stamping and tail-high threat postures before expelling a shower of scent.
What a fascinating creature!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Where Did You Go, Madge? Part 3

Because I can't stop myself. Here's my Top 5 Madonna videos. In going over them in my head, I realized just how derivative her videos are, but I guess that's part of the fun. I promise this is the last of her for the foreseeable future.

5. Like a Prayer (1989)

4. Ray of Light (1998)

3. Material Girl (1984)

2. Papa Don't Preach (1986)

1. Vogue (1990)

Where Did You Go, Madge? Part 2

Because my previous Top 10 list doesn't do Madge justice, here is my top 20. I think this covers almost all the gems, although I'm sure it's not without controversy.

20. Ray of Light
19. Rain
18. Rescue Me
17. Take a Bow
16. Music
15. Material Girl
14. Into the Groove
13. Vogue
12. Express Yourself
11. Crazy for You

10. Like a Prayer
9. Dear Jessie
8. Dress You Up
7. Burning Up
6. Like a Virgin
5. La Isla Bonita
4. Causing a Commotion
3. Borderline
2. Everybody
1. Holiday

Where Did You Go, Madge?

It used to be that I would buy the new Madonna album the week it came out. I have all of her albums (except for compilations), even the recent one with the awful James Bond song. But her new album hasn't even hit the radar screen. I don't know what it's called and I'm not planning on getting it. I'm sure most of you outgrew Lady Madge in the 90s, or even the 80s, or perhaps never liked her. But she was huge for me. I finally got to see her at Madison Square Garden in 2003 on her Reinvention Tour and what a thrill it was (floor seats and champagne!!!). It was the most awesome show I'd ever seen in my life. (That is, until I saw Prince the following month, but I'll save him for another day.)

Despite her recent subpar albums, I was reminded of how great she was when I heard "Everybody" on the radio the other day. So here are my top 10 Madonna songs. It's hard to do a Top 10 for her, but here it is, just for kicks. These all happen to be pre-Immaculate Collection.

10. Like a Prayer
9. Dear Jessie
8. Dress You Up
7. Burning Up
6. Like a Virgin
5. La Isla Bonita
4. Causing a Commotion
3. Borderline
2. Everybody
1. Holiday

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Lost for 2006

It seems appropriate that my first entry of the new year be about Lost. Those bastards over at ABC have been feeding us reruns for the last four weeks. But just as the frustrated viewers, like myself, were beginning to mobilize, good old ABC tells us that a new episode will be airing in a couple weeks. Entitled "Revelations," the episode is supposed to answer all our questions. We'll see about that. Here are some questions I have.

~ What happened to Desmond?
~ What happened to Jack's dad's coffin?
~ What happened to Jack's marriage?
~ Who's the creepy Asian guy on the film?
~ What's the "island security?"
~ Where did the polar bear come from?
~ What's the "sickness" that plagued Rousseau's team?
~ Why do the Others take children?
~ Are the Others supernatural?