Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Channeling Morticia Adams

Do you remember how Morticia Addams always cut off the buds and petals of her flowers, leaving only the stems?

That's how I felt today.

As many of you know, I did not inherit my Dad's love for gardening. It's never been something that I've enjoyed. We had a gardener up until last July when our gardener and I mutually fired each other.

We have these crazy plants called impatients in our front yard. And I when I say in our front yard, what I really mean is the 8 inch deep strip that separates the front of our house from the sidewalk.

These plants absolutely flourish here in SF. They take very little maintenance (if any) and just keep growing and growing. Because they grow so fast, I've learned that they need to be cut back at least 2-3 times a year.

...and when I say cut back what I really mean to say is that they need a serious whacking down to the stubs. They were last whacked down in mid-January, by my Dad. As expected, the plants grew back to their full glory within a couple of months.

Since we are still without a gardener, I borrowed my Dad's hedge trimmers and set out to whack down the plants this afternoon. I did quite the hacking job on them. Since I don't really know what I'm doing, I can only hope and assume that I haven't killed them for good!

It's kind of funny, because to the passer-by, they probably looked really pretty and healthy. To me, they were on the verge of being overgrown, and I just knew that within a couple more weeks, they'd be creeping into the sidewalk, desperately needing to be cut back. Now that I'm whacked them back, they are these short little stubs of a plant - not too pretty, but somehow, it makes me happy. (hence, the Morticia Addams reference.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Signing up for Fastrack

the time has come...

A couple of weeks ago, while we were at Disneyland, my sister borrowed my car for a few hours. As she was about to enter the Bay Bridge from Oakland, she drove through a Fastrak lane.

My sister's car has a Fastrak pass. Mine does not.

She says that she realized what she had done the second she drove through. Obviously, there's nothing she could do, so she warned me that I might be getting a notice in the mail.

Well, that notice came today: a fine for $25, plus the $4 toll.

After I read all of my payment options, I saw that I could open a Fastrak account (which is free) and avoid the $25 penalty.

I figured, why not? According to the application, if you register less than 3 cars on an account, and pay by credit card, they will waive the $20 deposit for each toll tag. They keep a balance on your account, and when that balance falls below $15, they will automatically charge your credit card for one month's average use. That's really pretty good.

I never looked into getting a Fastrak account, because frankly, I don't cross the bridges very often (thankfully). However, whenever I do, I use the regular lanes, which are slower, and I have to shell out my $4-5 in cash each time.

I figure this is as good of a time as any to sign our cars up for a Fastrak account. I probably cross the bridges once or twice a month only, but when I do, it'll be nice to use the Fastrak lanes for a change.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

They call me "Pai Gow Chow"

Yeah, baby.

Back to Vegas!
(and no, we're not addicted.)

Dick had actually planned this trip a few weeks ago - before we went to Vegas with my family.

We're going with our friends Martina (ha ha! just noticed my typo 4 days later!) and Celeste, who live up near Seattle.

Should be a GREAT time! We'll be seeing "Love", the new Cirque du Solei show that uses music by the Beatles.

Graham will be holding down the fort again (thanks, Graham!). He'll be here watching our home, keeping our kitties company, and playing the piano.

Hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My picture with Apolo Anton Ohno

Although I do not watch the show, I'm happy to read that Apolo Anton Ohno has won Dancing with the Stars.

I have a few friends who are fans of the show, and they've told me how great he was on it. When Tammy and I drove to Ohio, she mentioned to me that he was her favorite. I said, "Yeah, he's a really nice guy, too". This comment almost caused her to pull the car over to the side of the road. "You know him?" Well, I don't know him, but I have had the opportunity to meet him, and to speak with him for a few minutes. He was one of our guest celebrities at one of the Always Dream Foundation events a few years back. That was when he had just recently won his first gold medal. Anyhow, my Dad and I had a chance to meet him, and talked with him for a bit, and had our picture taken with him.

Henry, Apolo & Trina

I did catch a few minutes of Dancing with the Stars last night, when I was checking to make sure that our Media Center was set to record the season finale of Heroes. I happened to catch it from the very beginning of Apolo's free style dance that they did to "Bust a Move". He was fantastic, and really fun to watch. So, I was happy to hear that he won tonight.

Monday, May 21, 2007

..and speaking of...

Fed Ex just delivered a little box to me:

MINI Adventure Field Kit.
Contents: Essential Motoring Nonessentials

Inside this cute little box were all kinds of MINI related goodies:
A nice pen, a notebook, mouse pad, window decals, antenna ball, accessories catalog, etc.,

Also included was a note card that read:

Something to make the meantime slightly less mean.

We wanted to let you know that the San Francisco Motorby board will be removed due to some unforeseen construction. Apparently, they deemed the infrastructure of the city more important than our incredible board. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Thankfully, the board will be relocated to a much more electronic billboard-friendly community. Details will be provided via email shortly. In the meantime, we wanted to provide you will a little something to keep you distracted and amused until we are up and running again. Thanks for your patience.

Impressive, huh?

You've gotta love that I've had my car for over three years, and their still sending fun little goodies my way. That's good marketing.

I finally got my MINI key fob, but...

Well, that was anti-climatic.

I finally got my MINI key fob in the mail about a month ago. I hadn't been able to test it since then because the MINI billboard was near the entrance to the Bay Bridge, and I don't drive across it routinely.

Yesterday, my cousin, Kenneth and I drove to Oakland to pick up my sister for my Grandma's Birthday dinner in Stockton. Before we reached the location of the billboard, I told Kenneth all about it. We were both very excited to see what it would say. He even had his camera out, and his window rolled down, ready to snap a photo.

As we drove towards the location of the billboard, we noticed that there was a lot of construction, and that there were dividers up, obscuring our view of the billboard. As we drove by, Kenneth looked for the sign, but the only thing we saw was a black, blank billboard.

No MINI. No MINI Motoring message for me.

I figured that they might have taken down the billboard, since it was being obscured by the construction. I mean, who would want to pay for that?

This morning, I checked the web site for the Motorboard locations, and sure enough, here's what it said for San Francisco:

Location: Moving to a new home. Check back in a couple of weeks to get the new location.

Now we have to wait to see where the new billboard location will be. Hopefully, it'll be somewhere that's convenient and visible!


I just heard from Mykail. His entry for the art school scholarship competition has had enough votes that he's made the "popular" page for the first time!

Thanks to all of you who have voted for his entry!

Voting doesn't end until June 1st, so there's still plenty of time. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Yesterday was my Grandma Chow's 76th Birthday!

The Chow clan went to Stockton tonight to celebrate.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Help send Mykail to art school!

My very good friend, Mykail, is trying to win a $10,000.00 scholarship to the Art Institute online. He has submitted an image of a painting that he created last year. Of the roughly 1,000 entries, artists who have the top 10% of the votes online will be judged by the faculty. One person will be awarded the scholarship.

Mykail is one of the most uber-talented people that I've ever known. He paints, dances, choreographs, sings, and does graphic design.

If you are so inclined, please click on this link to place your vote. You can place one vote per email address.

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another one bites the dust...

Some of you may know the embarrassing truth that Dick and I own 3 (count 'em: THREE) Xbox 360 consoles in our house. This statement was a bit easier to say when Christopher was living here, but the truth is: we really do use all three on nearly a daily basis.

We have Xbox 360 #1 downstairs in the main TV room. This Xbox will know be referred to as "Dick's Xbox". This is the Xbox that Dick plays off of, and it's connected to the big TV, with the surround sound, etc.,

Xbox 360 #2 lives upstairs in the front room. This was originally "Trina's Xbox", until we got Xbox #3. Now we use it as the "guest Xbox", or, more importantly, I use it as a DVD player or Media Center Extender so I can watch recorded TV or a DVD while I work out on our elliptical machine. (makes the time fly by.)

And that brings us to Xbox 360 #3. We'll call this on "Trina's Xbox", where I play Xbox from our bedroom. We use it more often (every night) as a media center extender to watch recorded TV.

We bought Xbox #3 last August, when we got a new LCD TV for the bedroom. (Turns out that buying new TVs is "Dick's Thing".) Sunday night, when we just got back from vacation, Xbox #3 stopped working. The TV didn't read the input at all, and there were three flashing red lights on the "ring of lights" surrounding the power button.

I looked it up on Xbox 360 support, and saw that this must be a common problem. Enough so, that they have an entire article about it. According to this article, this is a problem that happens when the Xbox is experiencing hardware failure. Super.

I called Xbox Support yesterday, we tested a couple of things, and they acknowledged that yes, this is a reoccurring problem that they've been seeing. Xbox #3 is still under warranty (one year coverage) so they are sending a box for me to ship our console back for repair. All in all, it'll probably take about 3 weeks.

Okay. no biggie. Dick and I have several friends who have had problems with their Xboxes in the past, and we always felt fortunate that neither of our two original boxes ever had problems. We've owned 5 xbox/xbox 360s within the past 5 or 6 years without any problems.

Here's where the fun begins:

After Xbox #3 died, Dick switched it's removable hard drive to Xbox #2, and connected Xbox #2 to the power supply and cables where Xbox #3 used to live. (are you still with me?) This worked fine on Sunday. We also turned on the Xbox Monday night, wanting to play Xbox LIVE, but for some reason, we weren't able to connect me to "Live". Our internet connection was fine, and showing up. We figured Xbox Live was having some problems.

Last night, as I was getting ready to go to bed and watch TV, I turned Xbox #2 back on, and voila: 3 flashing red lights on the ring of lights.


Is it me, or does this sound like too much of a coincidence? TWO Xboxes dying, with the same symptoms in the course of 24 hours?

So, I called Customer Support again this morning, armed with my reference number from yesterday, and explaining what happened to yet another Xbox console last night. They had me check the power supply again, and claimed it, and the external hard drive were not the culprits to our rash of problems. The kicker here is that Xbox #2 is no longer under warranty, and it would cost #139.90 to send it back for repair. The good news is that after it's returned to us, it'll be under a 1 year warranty again.

So, there you have it. It the span of 24 hours, we've gone from 3 Xbox consoles, to two, to one.

This bites.

I'll keep you posted on the progress (Because I know you want to know).

Anyone else experiencing this problem?

Monday, May 14, 2007


Our trip to Disneyland was so much fun!

We arrived early Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel, ate a little lunch, then walked over to the park. The crowds on Friday weren't bad at all. We waited in line for a maximum of 25 minutes for 2 or 3 rides, but other than that, we usually made it on in 10 minutes of less. We were able to hit most of the big rides (Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Tours) within that first day.

Saturday was a bit more crowded, but still not bad. We started the day by having a "Character Breakfast" in the park. My Mom really wanted a picture with Chip (of Chip and Dale). We were walking around Critter Country, when we realized that Splash Mountain was up and running (it was supposed to be closed) so we made it on without too much of a wait. Later in the afternoon, we went over to Disney's California Adventure. We enjoyed the sites and rides there - most of which we hadn't seen before. The ride for Monsters Inc. was really cute, and I especially LOVED the California Screamin' Roller Coaster! (my Dad and I rode it twice!)

We all managed to stay at the park until 11:45pm Saturday night. A whole lotta Disney fun!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the weekend:

Group shot at the entrance to the park

I love this picture. It's the shot that the park takes as you're plummeting down Splash Mountain. I took a picture of the screen with my camera.

Dad, and Mom with Chip - my Mom's nickname for my Dad is "Chip"

My Dad and Mom on the Roger Rabbit ride in Toon Town!

Me and my Dad - about to be jettisoned off at the beginning of the California Screamin' Roller Coaster!

in front of the Castle at night

Friday, May 11, 2007


We're going to the Mouse's House for the weekend! Woo-hoo!

I haven't been in almost four years, and Dick hasn't been.... well, since Star Tours was brand new. (mid-80s)

We're going with my parents - it's where my Mom wanted to go for Mother's Day!

I'm really looking forward to it. It should be a lot of fun.
Any bets on whether or not I can get a picture of Dick wearing Mouse Ears? :)

We'll be back on Sunday. This will be a non-computer/no-internet vacation!

Uncle Graham will be staying here with the kitties all weekend. Thanks, Graham!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Why I can't stay out past 9:00 on a weeknight

because it would take frackin' forever to get home...

I just had a wonderful evening with Paula, Reeves & Christopher. (Yay! Paula and Reeves are back in town!)

We had a yummy sushi dinner at Hana Zen, then ate Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream while sitting at a table in the Square. Lovely.

We decided to call it a night around 10:00. Christopher was just a few blocks from his place, and Paula and Reeves walked me to the Powell Street BART/MUNI station on their way back to their hotel.

I paid my buck-fifty, and went down to the platform. Within about 5 minutes, a J-Church train came, and a sign said the N-Judah would arrive in another 10 minutes or so. After the N came, the sign said another J train was coming.

Now, those of you who live here know that the trains that come to the Castro Station are "K", "L", and "M". (Like the airline - easy to remember)

Well, there were no signs of any K, L or M trains.

Finally, a voice over the loudspeaker mentioned that there were no K, L or M train service after 9:00. Anyone going to the Castro needed to take either the J or N train, get off at Van Ness, then take the shuttle bus to Castro. That's all fine and dandy, assuming you have an extra 1/2 hour to kill, and you don't mind hanging out at Van Ness at Market Street at 10:30 at night. (not the best part of town, to say the least.)

So, I figured my best bet would be to take the J train to Church street, and walk the extra mile or so to Castro street. Not a bad option, which I wouldn't mind if it were the middle of the day, and if I had the right walking shoes.

I called Dick to let him tell him the situation, and to tell him I'd be home later than expected. He, of course, had the obvious solution: take a cab.

So I did.

I went back up the stairs to Market Street, caught a cab straight away, paid the guy $12, and was home within 10 minutes.

You know, I try to be a good urban dweller by taking public transportation when ever I can. Sometimes, it's just a lot harder than it needs to be.

I asked the MUNI station attendant what was going on. She said that they recently started construction between the Castro and the West Portal stations, and that the service to the Castro Station would end at 9:00 on weeknights. She also said that this was expected to last for about a year. (!)

Now I know why I'm usually in bed by 10:00 on a school night.

Shutting down the mountain...

Good Grief.

It's going to be 92 degrees here in San Francisco today.
That's just plain hot for us weather wimps who live here.

I'm closing all the windows, drawing the shades, and shearing the cats.

It's one of the few days in the year where we could really use air conditioning. Almost no one in San Francisco has air conditioning in their home.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

While were were on our tour of ILM on Friday our guide let us (me) do some shopping at the company store.

Before we got to the store, our guide mentioned that they got a really good discount on their Lucas Arts video games. I thought that would be a great thing for me to bring home for Dick and I to play together.

I was really happy when I saw that they had the Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy game for the Xbox. I remember seeing this in stores when it first came out, but wasn't sure if it was something I'd want to spend much money on. (what was I thinking? Star Wars plus Legos!)

As it turned out, they were out of stock on the Xbox 360 version, but they had plenty for the original Xbox. The price was right (on sale for $12!) so I bought one hoping it would still be compatible with my Xbox 360 console.

I popped in the game this afternoon, and well, Dick and played it for hours! It was SO MUCH FUN! The game is a riot - we finished the entire segment for Episode IV: A New Hope. We were laughing the entire time. I don't think I missed out on anything by not being able to purchase the Xbox 360 version. I can't imagine that the graphics would look any better on a 360 game because, well, they are lego characters, after all.

The game takes you through all 3 original trilogy films - it has all of the major scenes. There are moments where they have cut scenes which show full scenes from the movie, animated with the lego characters. The music is perfect, the "scenes" are great (lots of little touches that make them funny) but one of the funniest parts is that there is no actual dialog. The lego characters just make mimic-like noises, kind of like the adults from a Peanuts cartoon.

If you are a Star Wars fan, and have a video game console (Xbox, Playstation, etc.,) I highly recommend it. It's tons of fun. It supports multi-player for 2 people, which is a ton of fun, but isn't meant for group play.

We're looking forward to playing the rest of the game! Hours and hours of Star Wars/lego fun!

I LOVE this game!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Coke and a Smile

Mexican Coke at Costco

I drug Dick to Costco with me the other day, and we made a cool discovery:

Alongside all of the other Cinco de Mayo goodies were cases of "Coca Cola of Mexico made with Pure Cane Sugar".

We thought this was especially cool - who doesn't love a Coke in a bottle? I always thought it tasted better than in a can. Now I know why: they make it with real sugar, versus the corn syrup that is used here in the States.

We came home, and immediately popped the top off of a couple of bottles. Ahhhh.

'aint nothin like the real thing, baby.

It was like remembering how great a Coke was when you were a kid.
(Okay, now I sound old!)

Yesterday, Dick found this article on the web. It explains that Costco has conformed to CA and U.S. rules, such as CRV and "nutrition" labeling, so everything appears to be nice and legal.

This other article had this to say:

Some say that Coke is Coke, so whichever sweetener used doesn't matter. Others strongly disagree - they feel that the Coke hecho'ed en Mexico tastes like what Americans drank in the long long ago, back before 1985's New Coke/Coca Cola II Project Kansas debacle, back when sugar was the sweetener used by all U.S. bottlers.

Our local Taqueria sells Coke in a bottle. At least I know that when our Costco stash runs out, I can always run there for a bottle.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Chows tour ILM

geek heaven

My Dad and Mom won an auction item at my niece's (my cousin's daughters) school auction a few weeks ago.

The auction item was for a tour for of the (relatively) new Industrial Light & Magic complex in the Presidio here in San Francisco.

The tour was given by one of ILM's employee's, who also happens to be a Mom of one of the kids who attends the same school as our nieces. She's a layout artist who has been with the company for about 14 years. She's done work on a long list of movies including the Star Wars franchise, Harry Potter films and the Pirates of the Carribean.

The tour was very cool. We saw the new facilities, along with lots and lots of the original costumes and props. We ate in the cafeteria, and were also allowed to shop at the company store! (um, yep, bought some goodies...)

We were only allowed to take photos in the main lobby, but there were still some pretty cool photo ops:

My parents took my sister, her boyfriend (Graham) and me on the tour with them. Poor Dick was supposed to come, but he couldn't get out of work today.

In front of the ILM building

One of the actual original Boba Fett costumes from The Empire Strikes Back

Dad and Darth (an original costume from the Episode IV)

Dad and Graham duke it out - Jedi-style!

Thanks, Mom & Dad! What a cool treat!

funny tidbit...

When I came home, I received an email from my sister-in-law (and fellow Star Wars lover), Meg.

The subject title was: Why is today (5/4) Yoda's favorite day?

answer: May the Fourth.......

Be with you!

To celebrate the day, Meg and Grace (my 6 year old niece) watched Episode IV together! :)

I definitely married into the right family!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Go Warriors!

I've never even watched a Warriors game before this series.


Well, that was exciting!

By the way, my sister's boyfriend, Graham, just increased his winnings from our trip to Vegas.

He had the fore site to bet on the Warriors at 12 to 1 odds against Dallas.

Congrats, Graham!

No, we're not addicted...

we could stop at any time. really.

Dick explains the game of Craps to Noe.

It's like having a little bit of Vegas at home! (But we're not addicted!)

Saturday morning, Dick and I went out on a quest to find a set of poker chips. We found a really nice set of ceramic chip (half off!) at Big 5 Sporting Goods (of all places).

When we came home, we went on the internet and found this 3-in-1 Poker/Blackjack/Craps table top - complete with cup holders, and chip holders! We couldn't resist. Dick has been teaching me craps by using a little travel-version that I bought him for Christmas last year. It was getting difficult to play using these tiny little chips.

Anyhow, the new table top came via UPS yesterday, and I gotta say: it's pretty cool! (but, we're not addicted.)

The quality is actually quite good, and, along with our new set of chips, our game of Craps was really fun! Plus, I learned just how quickly one can lose $100 at a $10 table. (about 45 minutes for me last night.)

It's actually quite fun, especially since we're not actually playing with real money.

We're not addicted. I'm going to keep saying that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


After being turned away the last three times, I was finally able to donate blood again today! I tried to donate three times within a span of two weeks about 6 weeks ago, but each time my iron count was just under the minimum requirement. Today, my iron level was more than adequate, and I was able to donate my one pint for the day.

I also found out today that I've reached my One Gallon mark since I began donating about 1-1/2 years ago. That's pretty cool.

I was so happy that I was able to donate again today. It's good to know that this is a little something I can do to help make a difference somewhere.

My Mom's Dream Pet

My cousin, Cheri, just sent this to my Mom, my sister and me.
For those of you who don't know, my Mom loves penguins!

You should watch this. It's pretty amazing!