Friday, June 30, 2006

Moving is Such Sweet Pain

It is really hot here. It's like being in a sauna. Were LA summers always like this? Is this global warming?

Our move to Eagle Rock went smoothly. We used Delancey Street Movers for packing and moving. They were very good. Since then we've been unpacking, exploring the neighborhood, calling plumbers, locksmiths, phone company, retrofitters, and so on. There is so much to do. Welcome to homeowning, I guess. Thank goodness Mr. Octopus and I both took the week off from work. We couldn't have gotten anything done otherwise.

Minor complaints and exhaustion aside, we really like the house and are excited to be here. The house is shaping up nicely and it's beginning to feel like home. The neighborhood is quiet. We can see the stars and hear the crickets. We've met our neighbors. Everyone seems quite nice. Our block has a small town feel, so we wondered whether someone would come by and give us a home-baked pie. It hasn't happened yet.

Hope y'all have a great holiday weekend.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Spotty Bloggy

Hope you're having a good week. Mr. Octopus and I moved into our new house yesterday. We are now officially residents of Eagle Rock or, as I may start calling it, The Rock. We are in the midst of unpacking and setting up, getting used to the sights and sounds of the new place. We are also waiting for our wi-fi to be set up, so my posting will be a spotty for the next few days. Stay tuned. More to come.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Diaper Division

Kids in the Fraldinha (diaper division)

From today's NYT article on Brazilian football:
Familiarity with soccer begins early, producing a bottomless pool of talent. By age 3, a boy has probably learned how to dribble the ball, and by 7 he is playing the informal sandlot version of the game with his pals in any open space they can find — a clearing in the jungle, an empty lot in a large city, a pasture or on the beach — and maybe sleeping with the ball, if he is fortunate enough to afford one.

Despite the considerable economic advances it has made over the last generation, Brazil is still a country with millions of poor among its 185 million people. And it is the poor who have traditionally seen success in soccer as their fastest ticket to prosperity and prestige.

Of the 23 players on the national squad competing in Germany this month, only three come from a background that would be considered middle class here. Most of the players, whether they were born in cities or in the countryside, come from families that are humble, the preferred term for poverty here.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Brazil's starting XI

Right now, this minute, I'm feeling like life is good. It's Friday, late afternoon. I'm at home. I skipped out of the office a little early because I had a headache. On my way home I stopped by the house that Mr. Octopus and I recently bought in Eagle Rock. The painters are almost done painting the inside and it's looking really nice. It's very sunny outside. Hot, but not too hot. Best of all, this is the beginning of my vacation. Granted, I still have a little bit of work to do tonight, but for all intents and purposes, I'm on vacation. I'm taking next week off and I don't return to work until July 5th. What a treat.

I'm really into World Cup. This is surprising to me because I don't follow soccer at all. But there's something about World Cup that's irresistible. I feel like the whole world is excited about it, and I want to be a part of that excitement. I can't think of another event that brings every country together like this. World unity. I'm also beginning to appreciate the game. And being over 30, I can certainly appreciate the fitness. I marvel at the fact that some of these guys are nearing 40.

Like a lot of the people out there, I really like Brazil. I can name each of the guys in the starting line up above. Something that I couldn't do a week ago. I sort of like The Netherlands, but that's mostly because I like orange, which is their color. I like the Aussies and Ghana, in part because I like underdogs. I think Spain is boring. I don't care for England. And I really don't like Argentina and now have no interest in traveling there. Am I becoming a meathead?

The folks at my work have set aside a "World Cup Room" for the duration of the tournament. It's on one of our vacant floors and has a flat screen tv, pretzels, water, chairs and a couple computers for you to check email. I stopped in to watch the Brazil - Japan game yesterday and it was awesome. And not just because both teams scored some nice goals. It was standing room only and the mix of people watching was wonderfully refreshing. In an office that is mostly white, the World Cup room had a Brazilian, Persian, Algerian, Korean, Mexican, Australian, Chinese and Vietnamese (me). I can only imagine that our room was a microcosm of the fans gathering around the country, around the world and in the stadiums in Germany.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Voidlike Black

I just finished reading the first part of Franny and Zooey (the Franny part) and there was one sentence that really struck me.
Then she placed her hands, vertically, over her eyes and pressed the heels hard, as though to paralyze the optic nerve and drown all images into a voidlike black.
I used to do this when I was little. If I couldn't fall asleep at night, I would lay on my stomach, lean on my elbows and press the the heels of my palms flat on my eyes. Everything would go black and against that voidlike black backdrop I would begin to see little shapes move to and fro, expand and contract, almost like a kaleidoscope. Sometimes I would try to control what I saw. If I wanted to see a pink blob, I'd see a pink blob. If I wanted it to move left, it would move left. I always wondered if other people did this. Now I know.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Doggie Days of Summer

One day I'm going to get a dog. I'm a sucker for puppies (who isn't?). So many breeds to choose from. Aw shucks.


Joshua, the Newfoundland who won Best in Show
at the Westminster dog show a few years ago.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Traffic School, Check

I recently finished taking traffic school for the moving violation I got earlier this year. I did it online. It was easy, somewhat painless and, best of all, I didn't have to spend a Saturday in a depressing classroom. All I had to do was pick one of the court-approved schools, read through the material and take the quizzes and final exam. I could stop and start as I pleased, as long as I spent a total of 400 minutes in school (there is a clock that keeps time).

I have to admit that I liked traffic school. I'll even say that I learned stuff. And most of all, I got a kick out of the multiple choice quizzes and final exam. Aaah, multiple choice. Those were the days. I used the same techniques that I employed in high school. Read the questions carefully, choose my answer, double check my answers and change them only if I'm absolutely sure that my first choice was wrong.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

I'm Prepared to Be Wrong

At the risk of looking like a total idiot and offending some friends of the chanchow, here are my predictions for the World Cup. The asterisk denotes the match winner. As you can see, there are no Cinderella teams listed here. However, I do have Trinidad and Tobago being the runner-up in Group B (eventually falling to Germany in the Round of 16). Who do you think will be in the finals and who will be the surprise team (if any)?


Germany - Netherlands *
Czech Republic * - France
England - Argentina *
Brazil * - Spain


Netherlands * - Czech Republic
Argentina - Brazil *

Third place game:

Czech Republic - Argentina *


Netherlands - Brazil *

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Young Ronaldinho

In case you haven't seen this enough on ESPN2.

That Brazilian Team Airport Commercial

From 1998.

Stoned Reporter

Painstaking. Burning. Marijuana. Wales. Soldiers. Video.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Around Town

In Silverlake

At the LA Times Festival of Books

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

What is it with Asian People and Racquet Sports?

Tennis, ping pong, badminton. Why do Asians love them so much? Is their hand-eye coordination especially good? Is their body type better suited for racquet sports? Is there something about Asian culture that encourages individual sports over team sports?

I played badminton in high school. I grew up playing ping pong in the basement and tennis on the weekends, so badminton felt vaguely familiar when I picked it up in P.E. class. Most people laugh when I tell them that I was on the badminton team. Hardee har. They laugh because it's badminton and then they laugh because they can't believe my high school actually had a badminton team (as in JV and Varsity). Boo on them.

I went to high school in Orange County. Land of the gazillion Asian people. In fact, back when I was in high school (and perhaps now still), the joke was that UCI stood for University of Chinese Immigrants. So it's no wonder that we had a badminton team.

Look, non-Asian people playing badminton!

There is a misconception that badminton is a recreational backyard sport. Competitive badminton, however, is always played indoors. I wonder why most people don't take badminton seriously.

Some interesting facts that I found on BBC:
Badminton claims to be the second most-popular participation sport in the world. Only football beats it.

It's officially the fastest racquet sport in the world. The shuttle is smashed around the court at speeds of up to 200 mph - the same speed as Eurostar!

Its Olympic debut was in 1992 in Barcelona. Since 1992 Asian players have won 42 of the 46 Olympic medals.

The Chinese originally played a version of badminton called Ti Zian Ji. They didn't use racquets though, they used their feet.

Monday, June 5, 2006

World Cup Fever

I don't follow soccer at all, but for some reason I am getting excited about the World Cup. The idea of so many people around the world getting impassioned and silly about it makes me happy. Any bets on who will win?

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Viva Artesia

Ever since moving to LA last Fall, Mr. Octopus and I have been on a mission to find some decent Indian food. We had been spoiled by the good and plentiful Indian options in NYC and were growing impatient with the offerings in LA. Well, I'm happy to say that we have finally found a good place. It's called Udupi Palace and it's in the city of Artesia.

Artesia is home to "Little India," which is basically a few blocks of Pioneer Boulevard with Indian restaurants, sari palaces, music stores, Bollywood movie theaters and cricket fields. For those coming from NYC, Little India will look very little indeed, but here in LA, where there aren't nearly as many Indian people, this will do.

Mr. Octopus and I made our first visit to Little India last weekend. Hungry as ever, we made a beeline for the most crowded restaurant on the strip, Udupi Palace, which we figured had to be good. Udupi is a South Indian vegetarian restaurant specializing in dosa. Yummm. We sat down, ordered on the spot and waited with bated breath for our dosas to arrive. We were not disappointed. Not one bit. In fact, the dosa was even better than any we had had at Pongal (our favorite dosa place in NYC). It even prompted Mr. Octopus to say, "Okay, I can now say that LA has the best food in the world." Here is a picture of his dosa. Mine actually tasted better, but I'd eaten half of it by the time I remembered I had my camera.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Prairie Home Comes to Hollywood

Last night we went to the Hollywood Bowl to see the performance of Prairie Home Companion, the NPR radio show. The show was recorded last night and will be broadcast today.

The Hollywood Bowl is a great place to be on a summer night. The stage is like a snow globe and you can see the Hollywood sign in the background. The night was cool and we could actually see some stars in the sky. Speaking of stars, the show's guests last night were Meryl Streep, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly and Shelby Lynne. It was also neat to see LA's NPR set-- people of all ages who, refreshingly, didn't look like they cared about their clothes, their shoes or their hair. Not to say they didn't look good; they just looked normal.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Newport Beach Pier

Pier prohibitions

NB surfers

Mother-son fishing lesson

Beachfront property

Thursday, June 1, 2006

California's Electoral Votes

There is a bill going through the California state legislature that, if passed, would give California's electoral votes to the presidential nominee who wins the national popular vote. This was a little puzzling to me at first, but it's starting to sink in.

From the LA Times:
As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means that Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states -- mostly in the upper Midwest --that are truly up for grabs.

Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact, under which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdiction but nationwide. Proponents argue that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.

The bill is part of a three-month-old movement driven by a Bay Area lawyer and Stanford University computer science professor. The same 888-word bill is now pending in four other states and expected to be introduced in every state by January 2007, its sponsors say. The legislation would not go into effect until enough states pass such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes -- a minimum of 13 states, depending upon population.

“This is a bill that would allow California to be able to play a role in presidential elections,” said Barry Fadem, the Lafayette lawyer spearheading the drive. Now, because the state is largely ignored, he said, “A vote in California is not equal to a vote in Ohio and everyone would concede that.”

The bill, by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Umberg, cleared the Assembly 49-31 with a single Republican vote from Republican Assemblyman Rick Keene. To become law it must be passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Fadem said he was surprised by the partisan divide in the Assembly vote. In the New York legislature Republicans introduced the bill, he said, and they support it in Illinois, Missouri and Colorado. ...

“Small states suffer here,” said Republican Assemblyman Michael Villines. “Yes, California is a big state. But I don’t want a candidate to go to 10, 12 big urban centers, win a majority and walk away with the presidency.”