April 2004

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Restaurant Review: Rambutan Thai (Sunset Blvd.)

imageWe’ve been ordering from Rambutan Thai since they opened last year, since they’re just down the street.

I love their food, love their presentation and they deliver quickly. The dishes are a nice balance of spice, flavor, quality ingredients and portion. They’re packaging is pretty good too, served in reusable plastic containers that are sturdy enough to eat off of, instead of re-plating for eating at home.

Last night we took a walk down the hill in the waning heat to grab some dinner inside for the first time.

Rambutan is on Sunset Blvd. just past the Silverlake Blvd. underpass in an unassuming stripmall, next to the ultra-packed super-trendy Pho (which can cause parking problems). The interior is lovely. Maroon silk upholstered walls, bar in the back, comfy seating that’s not too close together.

We started with Soju drinks. I had a white dragon which is Soju and white cranberry juice. I think it needs a little lime. The Man and Amy got a Mosquito Bite, which is a mojito made with Soju with a little sugar cane garnish. Robin had water.

Our appetizers (‘cuz I was hungry!) were the spring roll (basil, carrots, cucumbers, tofu in a rice wrapper - my favorite), crab rolls (a little salty and tough) and garlic shrimp (yum!).

Everyone ordered a salad. It was hot and no one wanted hot/spicy food at the moment. But I’ve tried lots of other stuff there. At the moment my favorite is the Ba Mee - angel hair with grilled chicken. It’s very light and the chicken is always done to perfection.

The oddest part though was when we ordered the drinks, mine and Amy’s were brought right away. The Man had to wait for his Mosquito Bite. Everyone else seemed to get their drinks in the room but him. It might have been a full eight minutes before he got his. I’m not sure why. Then when our food came, the server brought out the first two salads. Then mine. The Man sat there salad-less - another full five minutes before they brought his out. It’s not like we came in and were bitchy or anything. Heaven knows during our kitchen upgrade we were ordering once a week, they should be grateful for our support for five months straight.

Other than that, the food was great and the ambiance relaxing. The music seemed to be taken straight from my iPod (Portishead, Massive Attack, Air, Hooverphonic & Moby), the lights were very low (making it hard to read the menus ... I’m getting old). When we finished and left, we found that it must have cooled off a full 20 degrees, which was a relief, considering the hike of five flights of stairs up the hill back to the house.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:47 pm    

Monday, April 26, 2004

Fairest Colors, Maroon and Steel

imageI got a postcard about my high school reunion. I had half-hoped that we were just a bunch of slackers (as our generation is sometimes defined) and that we would flake on having a reunion at all. (Note: I’m not even sure if I am a GenX - I feel more like something called a Late Boomer, which makes more sense since my parent’s weren’t boomers).

Here’s the conflict. I haven’t kept in touch with a single person from high school, let alone anyone from my class. My interaction with my high school friends is limited to an afternoon with my best friend at the time (who was two years behind me) two years ago when she came to town. A Christmas card from her last year and silence from me (I’m so bad about that stuff). In my early high school years I didn’t have many friends, I kept busy with an after-school job and swim team and the various drama groups (competition drama and school plays). I hung with a few kids, but no one particularly close. I dated in high school, but had no serious boyfriends until my senior year and even that didn’t last very long. I did not go to the prom. I chose, instead, to go to the Wallops Island Marine Consortium biology class field trip that weekend.

I went to my ten year reunion. I stayed for all of an hour and saw a few people there I knew but I was generally uncomfortable because it seemed that these people remembered their teen years and each other far better than I did. But ten years isn’t a very long time after high school anyway. I was only two years out of grad school so the whole school scene wasn’t that far behind me and I didn’t have much of a career yet and there were some people there who had kids in grade school already. Our lives were so vastly different. I lived on the West Coast and it seemed that most everyone else stayed in the area.

So, do I go and feel more like an outsider than I did when I went to school? I have nothing to prove to these people, no one thought I was a loser (a little weird, but it’s not like I left school with that “I’ll show them!” attitude). I was teased and harassed horribly in junior high by a pack of girls and another pack of viscous guys, but that all pretty much disappeared in high school when I went on to the honors and advanced placement classes and they ended up dropping out or going to VoTech.

Will I remember any of these people? Will they remember me? What would I say to them and would I care about anything they had to say to me? I’m curious what happened to some of them.

It’s in October, which isn’t a bad time for me to go back to Pennsylvania. My sister just bought a new house and it’d be nice to see it. October in Pennsylvania is very pretty - the leaves changing and wonderful apples. The reunion isn’t even in Mechanicsburg, it’s in Allenberry (Boiling Springs) - it seems odd that there’s no place in our actual town to have a reunion.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:17 pm    

Thursday, April 22, 2004

This Doesn’t Bode Well

imageA recently released report says that poets die young. James Kaufman of the Learning Research Institute at California State University at San Bernardino compiled this report for the Journal of Death Studies (didja know there was such a thing?), Kaufman studied 1,987 dead writers from various centuries from the United States, China, Turkey and Eastern Europe and came up with the following breakdown:

Poets: 62 years
Playwrights: 63 years
Novelists: 66 years
Non-Fiction Writers: 68 years

What I find curious about this study (and I haven’t read it, because my issue of the Journal of Death Studies seems to be lost in the mail) is that it covers hundreds of years of data ... let’s face it, poets are not what they used to be. It also seems that the study sampled known or possibly well-known professionals (maybe folks that biographers would have bothered to follow for their whole lives). Poets do tend to get well known earlier, because building a body of work does not take as long as novelists or playwrights (this is just guessing on my part). I can name five poets off the top of my head that died in WW I and not one playwright.

I don’t know, I think a bit more work could have been done on this sample to adjust for longevity during the writer’s lifetime. If you’re gonna count someone like Emily Dickinson then I think you need to take into account the average lifespan in 1886 would have been about 68-70 and she died at 56. Robert Frost lived to 89 and died at a time the average lifespan in North America was about 73.

And cause of death ... serving in the armed forces, epidemics, suicide, auto accidents, natural causes ... I need more info. Are poets more prone to drowning or suicide? These are the interesting stats I need to see broken out. Especially since it seems that playwrights fare little better than poets. Maybe I’ll become a journalist.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:36 pm    

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Monkey Typing Update

imageWhen we last left our brilliant typing monkey community, they could scarcely put two letters together. Now they’re boldly stringing words together.

Yes, I just checked back with the Monkey Shakespeare Simulator (infinite monkeys typing on infinite typewriters will eventually create the complete works of Shakespeare) and we’re up to 15 characters.

Here’s where it stands: 15 letters from “Pericles” after 958,399,000,000,000,000,000 monkey-years.

The text the monkeys produced: “[Enter GOWER.] ?2IDzPN9sq6V ;e’?nGI3&?3 La”“0 ...”

matched “[Enter GOWER.] [Before the palace of Antioch.] To sing a song that old was sung, From ashes ancient Gower is come; Assuming man’s infirmities, To glad your ear, and please your eyes.”

Okay, they’ve got a ways to go, but what do you expect for only 958,399,000,000,000,000,000 monkey-years of work?

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:43 pm    

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

How Am I Doing?

imageThis morning I posted my 11th entry for Blogging.la. I thought more about this entry, more about what the point was, trying to achieve more of an essay than just the random musings that I usually do.

I know there’s some talk on some blogs about bloggers being the new reporters, but I’m not prepared to go there. I might make a good critic though. But I’m never going to be an expert at anything, so I’ll always be just giving my own opinion.

In other news, Bloggger asked me to sign up for GMail today. So I did. I have no idea if I want to have such a service that inserts context sensitive advertising, but you know me, I can’t refuse a new email address. Really, I’ve got gobs of them.

UPDATE: I sent myself an email from GMail to my regular DSL address and it’s been 10 minutes and I still haven’t gotten it. This does not sound like something that would cause me to endorse the service.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:38 pm    

Monday, April 19, 2004

The Fifth Level of Phone Hell

imageI don’t know how to get out of this hell I’m in.

The phone number I have at the office used to belong to the Travel Department here on the lot. That was years ago but someone out there still prints it out on call sheets or contact lists. So at least once a day someone will call and ask me questions about restaurants in Chicago or red-eyes to NY or to complain about their seating assignment.

I can actually handle that. The number of calls over the past two years has gone down, so I feel like it might actually end someday. (It’s especially sad when someone calls to talk to Laurie and says they’re her friend and I wonder how good a friend can they be if they didn’t know she changed her number or maybe changed jobs more than two years ago.)

Right now I’m getting calls for Warren. Lots of calls for Warren. Five calls a day. From collection agencies.

Now, if you’ve ever gotten a call from a collection agency, you know how this goes, they don’t believe you. They just keep trying back at other times, hoping to trick Warren into answering the phone. It ain’t gonna happen. Warren don’t live here. (Well, if he does he might be sleeping on my yoga mat under the desk and eating my pretzels I keep in the bottom drawer.)

If the calls from real people aren’t bad enough, I get calls from computers telling me to call because of some “very serious business matter.” If I’m at my desk and I get this call, I hang up. No one wants to listen to a computer. If someone wants to talk to me, call me, don’t send a call computer to do your dirty work, lazy bastard.

I’ve tried to get my number off these lists. I’ve tried being mean and fierce. I’ve tried explaining that I just got the number, that this is a large company and I don’t know who Warren is, if he ever worked here at all. None of this seems to work, of course. I’ll just have to wait until someone gets bored chasing Warren.

It also makes me wonder if Warren isn’t out there just putting down any old made up number. Or maybe Warren is Laurie’s ex and this is his cruel joke on her only I’m caught in the middle of their vicious break-up.

Hell, maybe Warren has something against me. Maybe Warren is my enemy.

Right now, I’m giving Warren the benefit of the doubt and figure it’s the collection agencies that are the enemies. Don’t worry, Warren, I’ve got your back. They’re not getting any info out of me. Make good use of your head start.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:27 pm    

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Best Spam

imageI don’t know who is writing the filler text for spam these days, but I applaud their ability to combine words. It’s quite inventive and I thoroughly enjoyed this writer’s passage included with a promotion for debt consolidation:

“Any tabloid can share a shower with turkey for, but it takes a real movie theater to of bodice ripper.defendant behind bowling ball, pocket beyond, and hand for satellite are what made America great!”

So, writer, I solute you.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:17 pm    

Friday, April 16, 2004

3 Little Questions

imageMr. Syndromes is challenging other bloggers to ask him three questions. Anything and he promises to answer.

I am in on this as well. So feel free; post three questions.

This’ll be a novelty on my site ... possible revelations of personal info!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:52 pm    

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Because I’m Always Late to the Popular Memes

imageBored because your favorite blogs haven’t been updated recently? Just look at them through this excellent pornolizing filter. Any site with text.

Yes, any site. (Probably not a safe link at work.)

The New York Times
The White House
The Onion (though it’s hard to tell)
Sean Bonner
The New Republic
FOX News

Each time you enable the filter, it remakes the site, so you can use it over and over again, on the exact same material but get different results. Brilliant. (link via Mark at The Elegant Variation)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:53 pm    

First Kill All the Lawyers

imageWell, not really the lawyers. I believe the idea would actually be to kill all the aggressive asswipes.

I was reading a fascinating article today in the NY Times (sorry, reg required) called No Time for Bullies: Baboons Retool Their Culture by Natalie Angier. It details observations of a tribe of baboons that lost its most aggressive members to hepatitis. It found that over subsequent generations, without the warring and snarly influence of the formerly dominant males, the culture of the tribe became more calm. The naturalists even took blood samples and showed that the tribe was generally less stressed.

“And if baboons can do it,” said Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal, the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University in Atlanta, “why not us? The bad news is that you might have to first knock out all the most aggressive males to get there.”

Of course the one notable thing about this tribe that even though some years had passed since those large aggressive males had died, the females still outnumbered the males, which indicates a primal shift of power.

Just something interesting to ponder. You can go ahead and make the connections of this post with anything else you want that’s going on in human culture at the moment.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:44 pm    

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Gardening Finds

imageI was working the front yard, weeding, because people are coming over tomorrow.

I found a moth. It was a huge moth, struggling in the tall alstroemeria. So I pulled it out, and it was huge. About two and a half inches long with a huge plump furry body. Its wingspan was at least 3 and a half inches, maybe four. It didn’t seem to want to leave my hand, but I cajoled it onto the Japanese maple.

Of course once I took its picture, I had to find out what it was. I found this:

It’s a hawkmoth. Probably a white-lined sphinx since its range and preferred food fits, but it could also be banded sphinx  or maybe the spurge hawkmoth. The adults feed on nectar. The can look like hummingbirds when they hover in front of a flower.

click on the photo for a larger version

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:27 pm    

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I really shouldn’t be reading this shit

imageI saw a link on PriusChat today to this article in The American Spectator’s Political Hay section: Kerry and the 2006 Chevette by Eric Peters.

I don’t even know where to begin. The guy is talking trash. He really doesn’t have any basis for his assertions either, which you know is one of my pet peeves.

It starts like this:
If John Kerry wins the presidency, most of us will be driving Chevettes—or the modern-day equivalent, at any rate. The Massachusetts senator has proposed jacking up federal fuel economy requirements for new cars to as much as 36 miles-per-gallon as part of his plan to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

He goes on to further contend that there are no mid-size cars that would be able to meet that. This is true. There is only one, and that’s the Toyota Prius and there won’t be that many manufactured this year. But the technology exists and is being implemented. Toyota plans a Highlander hybrid, Lexus will make a hybrid version of the RX330 and Ford is preparing a series of SUV hybrids and Honda is moving forward with a hybrid version of the Accord. They won’t be super efficient, but they’ll be loads better than they are now.

Also, the new CAFE standards will be enacted over a period of time. 36 MPG is not the goal for 2006.

Better get your V-8, before it’s too lateÖ

What do regular folks need a V-8 for anyway? Sure, you might wanna tow something occassional, but really, why does anyone need more than 200 hp for commuting?

But the idea of imposing top-down fuel efficiency requirements is not a new one. It has been tried before—during the energy crisis of the 1970s. It didn’t work then. And it won’t work now, either.

Just because it didn’t work then doesn’t mean that it can’t work. And lets face it, government imposed emissions reductions have worked.

Today’s cars and trucks are indeed more efficient than the cars of the 1970s and 1980s. But Americans drive greater distances as a result—burning more fuel each year than they did in pre-CAFE days.

These two statements linked together make no sense to me. The object here is to get more fuel efficiency, because people refuse to curtail their driving. No one, at least I don’t think they are, is saying that increased efficiency leads to increased use.

I think the reason we drive more is because of urban decay and the flight of the middle class to the suburbs, leading to insane commutes because people are afraid to live near where they work. You might also blame it on the collapse of worker/company fidelity. Folks are no longer employed by one company for life, so there is no reasonable way to live near your work. Most of the time it’s pure luck if you do.

CAFE requirements have also had unintended side effects—most notably the boom in SUV and pick-up sales—which now account for about half of all new vehicles sold.

Yeah, well, let’s go ahead and include all consumer vehicles (those that can be driven with an ordinary license) in the CAFE requirements. End of story. They’ll come up with the technology right quick.

Does Kerry have another “plan” to deal with the unforeseen consequences of CAFE II?

Good question, Eric. I’m glad you brought it up and I will try to find out.

One consequence, though, is a sure bet. If the government imposes the draconian new fuel efficiency requirements Kerry is agitating for, the automakers will have to build smaller, lighter—and thus less safe—vehicles, just as they did in the 1970s.

Dude! Don’t get into safety. You can’t advocate these huge SUVs and then bring up safety.

The safety of the Prius, a rather light car, is pretty damn good. The NHTSA posted the results of their crash tests on the Prius just last week. It got a five star rating for the driver side and four for the passenger for head on crashes and four stars each for both the passenger and driver. These test were not done with the side and curtain airbags - an optional feature that well over 50% of Prius buyers opted for. Compare that with something like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which got only three stars for front impact and four for side. Its rollover resistance rating was two.

What really needs to happen is some overall standards for bumper height. No wonder smaller cars (hell, even large sedans) do poorly when they tussle with a high-clearance SUV - their bumpers don’t match up.

While non-engineers such as Kerry like to talk in generalities about “new technologies” that will somehow allow us to drive mid-sized and larger cars that also manage to return the fuel economy of subcompacts, the fact is such technology does not yet exist—and may never exist. The internal combustion engine has already been refined to the nth degree and significant improvements in fuel economy will be hard to come by—or very expensive.

The gas/electric hybrid is now a proven technology. New low sulfur (cleaner burning) diesels can also be adapted for use in hybrids. They are very affordable. The diversity of fuels and technologies will actually help the US become less dependent on foreign fuel sources.

People need to stop for a moment and make positive choices.

Few Americans—excepting perhaps a millionaire such as Kerry—could afford a $60,000 family car, even if it can get 40-mpg.

Okay, I comfortably carry around three passengers (plus me) in my Prius. I’m getting 49 MPG. The car cost $22,000. The LEXUS Hybrid RX 400 will cost $60,000 or more. And you know what, lots of folks who aren’t millionaires buy expensive cars. It’s a mystery to me, but they do. It’s called being an American.

It has been estimated that about 2,000 people are killed every year as a result of the CAFE-induced “downsizing” of the typical passenger cars—which lost about 1,000 lbs. on average between the 1970s and the 1990s. All the air bags and crumple zones in the world won’t prevent a similar body count in the event Kerry’s proposal becomes law.

I’m curious where these figures came from.

But only if Kerry becomes president first.

Yeah, he’s powerless as a Senator to push through CAFE reforms.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:02 pm    

Los Angeles Bioterrorism Awareness

imageI cross posted most of this to blogging.la. I don’t know what possessed me. I’ve been seeing
these billboards
for Los Angeles bioterrorism preparedness and it made me wonder what the hell a billboard could do. Well, what a website could do. I thought I would provide a few excerpts from their FAQ.

[abridged for maximum humor]

1. Iíve been noticing billboards and radio ads about bioterrorism. What are they for?
    The billboards and radio ads are a reminder that the Los Angeles County Health Department is working to keep the public safe and healthy.
[they’ve been 100% effective at keeping foreign bioterror threats from Los Angelenos]

2. What is bioterrorism?
    Bioterrorism, also known as biological terrorism, happens when individuals or groups use bacteria, viruses, or other biological organisms (such as anthrax, smallpox, botulism, etc.) to spread disease or illness.

3. Should I be concerned about bioterrorism now?
    We donít have any evidence that a bioterrorist attack has happened or is likely to happen right now.
[and it wouldn’t be their job to tell us anyway]

4. How likely is a bioterrorism attack in Los Angeles County?
    At this time, the likelihood of a bioterrorist attack is low.
[then why are you putting up those billboards?]

5. What is the Health Department doing to prepare for a bioterrorism attack?
    Los Angeles County has emergency response plans in place to deal with hazardous chemical or biological events (including bioterrorism), as well as other disasters (such as earthquakes and fires). The health department has developed ways to rapidly detect and investigate any unusual outbreaks of disease, which could be the first sign that a bioterrorism attack has occurred. Early detection is very important so that persons at risk can be identified and treated appropriately. In addition, stockpiles of antibiotics effective against the most likely bacterial bioterrorist agents are already in place. These antibiotics will be made available if a bioterrorist attack occurs. The health department also holds emergency drills and exercises on a regular basis and works with law enforcement, fire department, emergency medical services, and disaster response as well as other city, county, state, and federal agencies.

6. What can I do to protect myself and my family against biological terrorism?
    In the event of an emergency, monitor the news media.

7. What supplies do I need?
    Your supplies should include:
    ï 3-day supply of water
    ï 1 gallon per person for each day for drinking and hand washing
    ï 3-day supply of food, such as dried or canned foods
    ï Can opener
    ï 1 change of clothes and shoes for each person
    ï 1 blanket or sleeping bag for each person
    ï First aid kit with your familyís prescribed medicines
    ï Battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, and waterproof matches
    ï Soap, toilet paper and extra plastic bags
    ï Any special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members
    ï Extra pair of eyeglasses
    ï Copy of important family papers in a fireproof container
[question: why all the waterproof/fireproof stuff? are they gonna use napalm to control an outbreak?]

10. Should I ask my doctor to prescribe antibiotics to protect myself from bioterrorism threats?

13. Should I buy gas masks for my family?
    No. Most gas masks do not protect against biological agents such as anthrax and smallpox.
Gas masks would protect against chemical agents (such as nerve gas) only if worn at the
time the agent is released.
[if you’re interested in chemical weapon terrorism preparedness, that’s a different department]

There you have it, fellow Angelenos ... stock up on aspirin and matches, some clean underwear and it’ll all be okay. The county will protect us.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I did do some photoshop magic to the billboard. You can see the original here. Mine is much better.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:55 pm    

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Aurora Watch 2004!

imageYes, now that we’ve passed the Vernal Equinox, it’s aurora season. Okay, not so much in Los Angeles, but just in case you spot something odd after sunset, it’s because of an M2 Class Coronal Mass Ejection from sunspot 588. Confused? There’s no need for that. Space Weather explains it all.

Never seen the northern lights? Here’s a pretty cool gallery.

Photo by Roman Krochuk, Fairbanks, Alaska.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:12 pm    

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

It’s my party and I’ll cry wolf if I want to

imageI blogged a bit on Blogging.la earlier about the trip out to the Red Lion Tavern and Beer Gardens. But what I forgot to include was that we saw a coyote on the way home. Not that it’s unusual in Los Angeles to see a coyote, but it is unusual that I happen to have my camera handy.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:16 am    

Friday, April 02, 2004

Where Have You Been All My Life?

imageI found this via hyperkinetic.org and thought it was a great link.

So, here is where I’ve been in the United States. I didn’t include airline stopovers, as I don’t think that really counts. Any state represented here in red is one that I spent at least a night in. Or maybe drove through. Like Indiana. I’ve driven though that state at least two dozen times. Eaten there ... so that counts, right?

create your own personalized map of the USA at World66

It certainly does seem like I’ve avoided the south. I also find it hard to believe that I haven’t been to Connecticut.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:58 pm    

Thursday, April 01, 2004

April Fools

imageI’m going to do my best to compile the best of April Fools on the ‘net today.

A good compilation of other hoaxes is found at National Geographic and The Museum of Hoaxes lists the top 100 of all time.

My first comes from Actor’s Access - they’re casting for CSI: Middle Earth.

StarTrek.com has changed their homepage content for the day. Be patient, they’re getting gobs of traffic so it may not load on the first try. Stories like Klingon Eye for the Straight Guy, a new Xindi species on Enterprise, the Xindi-Brady (Cindy Brady ... get it?) and an announcement that Paramount will be building new Star Trek theme parks called TrekLand.

ThinkGeek has posted a new product! The PC EZ-Bake Oven ... it fits into that unused 5.25 bay in your tower PC! Mmmy, with fuzzy logic ...

Google is posting a job opening for their coming expansion to the Moon.

Travelers can get more information on Molvania, the land untouched by modern dentistry through their brochure. There are pictures too!

The Globe and Mail reviews the hottest new PC game.

More to come ...

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:53 am    













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During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.