Tuesday, October 31, 2006

together again and again...

Over the weekend, I was reading the New York Times online. Most of my reading is spent in the Movies section to catch up on upcoming films that I might want to see. One of the upcoming movies I read about is "American Gangster", due out some time in 2007. Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington.

Scott and Crowe previously collaborated on "Gladiator", the film that earned Crowe his first Oscar. Scott directs Crowe in the soon to be released "A Good Year". You'll have to go back to 1995 to find Washington and Crowe previously appeared together in "Virtuosity". At that time, Crowe was relatively unknown except in his home country of Australia.

In "Virtuosity", Crowe played the bad guy, Washington the good guy/cop. Roles will be reversed in "American Gangster". Washington, no slouch to acting either, has 2 Oscars. Got all the makings for a blockbuster film. We'll have to wait and see.

Monday, October 30, 2006

end of daylight savings

Wow, what a change. Not only did daylight savings end this past weekend, so did the warm weather. It was warm and sunny on Saturday, then cold and overcast in San Francisco on Sunday.

No wonder the season's called fall.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Halloween Bag Creations

This week at the office, we had the opportunity to create our own Halloween bags to be hung outside our cubicles. Almost everyone in the Finance department made a bag. I took a few pictures and decided to share them in tonight's entry. We've had visits from other departments complimenting us on our decorating prowess. We're already envied for our monthly potlucks. Yes, bean counters know how to have fun.

yours truly

designed by Letty for Jerry

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Internet Explorer 7

I just updated to IE7 provided by Yahoo! I've spent the last 20 minutes on it getting acquainted. Like anything new, it takes getting used to, but the newest, coolest feature on it is that it has tabs. This enables me to move around to and from different websites without having to open a new window. Very cool because I always have at least 2 websites (blog and e-mail, e-mail and news, comparison shopping) open at the same time.

It's getting late, so I'll resume exploring tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Internal theft

As an asset protection specialist for a Bay Area based retailer, I usually don't "talk shop" outside the office because it would be inappropriate for me to comment publicly about the work I do. But I find it amazing that in the 20+ years I've been in retail, some things will never change.

Today my manager asked me to look into a potential internal theft issue regarding company issued gift cards. I found information in my audit to support the case, performed the necessary actions to prevent loss, and notified the appropriate personnel. This is the third time in a month an employee has been caught stealing gift cards. Not only did we terminate the last two we caught, we had the local police arrest them.

Many employees that steal from us do it because they have financial problems. Sometimes it's a significant other who took all of his/her money, or a family member with a huge medical bill due to a serious illness or injury. Sometimes it's because he/she needs to support a drug habit.

While these are all understandable reasons to steal, the end doesn't justify the means. For me, the incurable insomnia created from the guilt and shame are reasons enough. I value far too much the few hours of sleep I do manage to get during the week.

I'd like to think that everyone we've caught stealing learned his/her lesson and won't do it again. But in reality, not likely. Next time they'll just work harder on not getting caught.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Order verification

This past weekend, I got a message on my cell phone to call Eastbay Sports about my recent Nike Shox purchase. My initial thought was that my card was declined, or that the item was out of stock.

When I called Eastbay back, they wanted to make sure I authorized the order shipped to my work address. It's been about 13 years, but what Eastbay's Payment Processing department did this past Saturday was exactly what I did for 8 years at The Sharper Image's Order Processing department.

It brought back a lot of memories. I met with all kinds of people, and became close friends with several of my regular contacts (Josh, Roger, Pauline). I confirmed purchases with celebrities such as Joe Piscopo, Rush Limbaugh, Kenny Loggins, and Garrison Keillor. I once had a very nice chat with Jeannie Buss, daughter of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss and at the time, wife of Olympic volleyball player Steve Timmons.

I wouldn't have gotten any of my jobs after Sharper Image without the experience I had there. But, it's not exactly a job that opens career paths. Most people who worked in our department did it primarily as a stepping stone to something better (or so they thought). The company itself is under very difficult times (see Tretakoff Musings, September 30 blog entry).

For me, I came into retail because I wanted no part of my family's restaurant business. It's an industry I come back to because the work outside of retail isn't as fun or fulfilling. The best part is that my paycheck goes a lot further.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sneaker snobbery

Today I took the day off, or as the Brits refer to as "holiday". I didn't do anything spectacular. I ran out to Target in Colma to pick up a few necessities for home. Then I headed to Stonestown Galleria for lunch and browsing.

My motivation to browse was because I'm in the market for new running shoes. I usually rotate 2 pairs at a time, and the current 2 pairs are different colors of the same shoe, Nike Shox Ride 2. One pair in silver with the fuschia swoosh, the other in white with a blue swoosh. If you had no idea of what I just said, then you're not a sneaker snob (and previously professed movie snob) like I am. The silver/fuschia shoes are now over a year old and need to be replaced.

To replace running shoes for me is always a scientific expedition. Stop reading here if you don't admire running shoes as much as I do. Anything read beyond here is at your risk. Lisa's ex-husband Joe is about the only person I know who has the same obsession. As mentioned in a March 2006 blog, I don't have a problem forking out $150 to buy a new pair.

The history of my sneaker obsession began in the 5th grade, when I got my first pair of boys' sneakers, Converse All-Stars. At that time, it was daring for girls to buy boys' shoes. I did it because a childhood classmate, Chris Shadwick, wore boys' sneakers. She was Etna Elementary School's version of "Be Like Mike" (Michael Jordan).

Chris was smart, cool, and most of all, very athletic. She was as good or better than most boys in sports. I was enormously flattered when Sherman told me the real estate person involved in the sale of our Columbus restaurant about 10 years ago said his aunt knew our family. The aunt was Chris.

But I digress. Back to the sneaker history. After Converse, I then upscaled to a pair of Adidas Vienna. Then it was Puma, then Nike. My first pair of Nikes were the Cortez, which to me, is the shoe that set off the Nike popularity. I had 2 pairs of Cortez, both in white, one with the red swoosh, the other in blue. You can still buy Cortez versions of Nike, but are in the "retro" section. Retro but still cool. These are probably my favorite sneakers of all time.

In my adult life, I've worn Reebok, K-Swiss, Asics and Saucony. I've owned only one pair of New Balance and never wore Brooks or Mizuno. I haven't worn Adidas in 20 years. Asics and Saucony are recent retirees since I became a gym rat and are the best bang for your bucks. But Nike was coming out with hot but not too flashy shoes that was competitive in price with the top of the line Asics and Saucony. Which got me to buy the Nike Shox 2. They give me great support and cushioning and I love showing them off at the gym.

But as I am with cars, I don't keep running shoes until they die. I like to stay up-to-date. It is recommended that running shoes get replaced about every 6 months. I began researching online a few months ago and found that Nike Shox Ride 2 is discontinued and is now Shox Ride 3. Yuck. The shoelace eyelets are sewn on the outside flaps, rather than the traditional eyelet holes. I've pulled the stitches out of this kind of eyelet on previous shoes. Plus I didn't like the diagonal lines with contrasting colors.

I then found the Nike Shox TL IV in purple. It was on my wish list until recently, when I saw that they now come in black. Ooooh.... Sports Authority in San Mateo (formerly SportsMart) usually has the latest in gear so I go there because the shoes are on the shelves to try on. Once I try them on and know they fit, I buy them online. I intentionally limit big ticket purchases from this location because they wouldn't price match a softball bat about 8 years ago.

This time, the Nike Shox are all kept in the back and you have to ask a salesperson for assistance. I can understand that because they'd be stolen within minutes if they were out as open stock. I saw the Shox TL IV in purple and asked to try on a pair. I noticed that they were on sale for $100. Uh oh. After bringing them out, I noticed how light they were as I was lacing them up. Then I put them on. Oh baby. Comfortable and way cool.

Salesman did everything he could to get me to buy the shoes (on sale, last pair I have, sure they'll match the black you wear at the gym...) but I simply didn't want purple. I ended up buying them (in black, of course) online that evening at Eastbay Sports. I used to buy my running shoes online at Lady Foot Locker, but Eastbay Sports actually manages their site and supplies their online stock.
The trip to Stonestown this afternoon was so I could see the TL IV in black. Sure enough, there they were, at Nordstrom's. Oh man, what a shoe. I am so glad I chose black. I should get them in about a week to 10 days. This obsession isn't going to go away anytime soon. But will this pursuit look dignified when I'm 80?
image courtesy of Eastbay Sports

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

inferior American versions

While watching Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report", a film trailer for Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" came on screen. When I first read about the plot, I immediately knew this film is a remake of the highly acclaimed Hong Kong film, "Infernal Affairs". Initial reviews and box office turnout have been favorable. But it's not likely I'll see it.

Any film lover would tell me, come on, it's Martin Scorsese, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio. How can you go wrong? For me, it's a prejudice. I've seen far too many American versions of TV and films that have been picked up apart and dumbed down so much that it makes my skin crawl.

A few examples: "Touching Evil", originally done in a 3-part mini-series in the UK, starring Robson Green. USA Network had its own version (Bruce Willis was a producer) that took place in San Francisco. I watched the first episode and saw only a remote resemblance to the original version. Awful. No surprise that it lasted only one season.

"Tortilla Soup", starring Hector Elizondo and Elizabeth Peña. As was listed in a previous blog, this was a mediocre adaptation from Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman". Ang Lee's film is so much better.

There are a couple of American TV/film adaptations that are very good in their own right, but in my humble opinion, the original versions are superior. Examples are Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic" (UK's "Traffik" was a mini-series) and "The Magnificent Seven" (adapted from Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai").

No doubt I've gotten pickier about the films I want to see. It wouldn't offend me if I was labeled a movie snob. Look at this way. A bad film is 90 to 120 minutes of time you'll never get back. Free time is too valuable to waste.

Friday, October 13, 2006


We hadn't seen the Tretakoffs in a few weeks and thought it was long overdue to get together for dinner at our favorite neighborhood spot, Hotei.

This morning Amy called and asked if we would like to join them at Hotei tonight rather than tomorrow. I thought she had called because Josh told her to in response to my e-mail. Turns out Amy didn't know I e-mailed Josh. All of us had Hotei on the brain. We waited about 20 minutes for a table, and gobbled everything (shrimp tempura, chicken kara-age, miso, etc.) in sight.

Before I began writing this entry, I looked up "Hotei" on Google. Here's what the website says:

Hotei is a deity of prosperity and happiness. Tradition identifies him with the eccentric Chinese priest Pu-tai. Hotei is usually depicted laughing and with a huge belly (symbolizing his benevolent nature) and carrying -- or sitting beside -- a huge bag filled with riches.

Couldn't say it any better. I'd rather stuff my face.
image courtesy of buddhamuseum.com

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What's in a name?

Yes, I realize all too well the demographic audience that watches ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" never watched or probably even heard of CBS's "Diagnosis Murder", which originally aired over a decade ago. But what brilliant mind decided to name the new hunky surgeon on "Grey's Anatomy" Mark Sloan?

The writers didn't do their homework, because it was Dick Van Dyke's character's name on "Diagnosis". Plus they're both physicians. One could have checked this in imdb.com in about 30 seconds.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Mom's birthday

Today is Mom's birthday. Even though she's officially retired, she's still as busy as she ever was. Because of the time difference, landline phone without voice mail/answering machine and no cell phone, it's very hard to reach her.

She spends everyday except Sundays doing errands and housework for my grandmother. She starts around 8 a.m., takes an afternoon nap and finishes up around 6:30 p.m. She then has dinner with Dad, then spends many of her evenings playing mah-jongg. I've tried calling Mom at my grandmother's place during the day, but I usually end up getting one of the domestics. They don't speak English and my Cantonese really sucks, so I wait and try to catch her at the end of her nap.

I haven't met anyone so addicted to mah-jongg as much as Mom. She's played for as long as I can remember. We got to know the other Chinese kids in the central Ohio area because Mom often played with other mothers who brought their children. During the summer months, it wasn't rare to be out after 2 a.m. When we got older and didn't have to go with her anymore, she'd play until 4 a.m. and get up 4 hours later to go to work. I remember always seeing at least 4 sets of m-j tiles around the house. We had a family room added to our house exclusively for mah-jongg.

During the blizzard of '78, our family restaurant was forced to close for 2 days. So what did my parents do? They had the staff come over to our house and play m-j. Whenever relatives drove in from Cleveland to visit, they'd play as soon as they got to the house until 4 a.m., or until my relatives decided to head back. Once I moved to San Francisco and came back to visit at Christmas, she'd always drive after dinner regardless of the weather to play with friends at their restaurants. This has continued since she and Dad moved to New York. There's only a few nights she doesn't play.

My cousin Chel told Mom last year one can now play m-j on the computer. Mom's not computer literate, and I know for her it wouldn't be any fun. For Mom, m-j is the ideal way to be able to relax and have fun. It's just past 1 a.m. in NYC, and I bet she's still playing.

Happy birthday, Mom.
image courtesy of galleus.com

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nip in the air

It's Saturday afternoon and right now we can hear the Blue Angels in their yearly ritual. While it's crystal clear and sunny, there's a bit a nip in the air that tells me it's fall. In Northern California, it's much subtler than New England, but if you live here long enough, it's noticeable.

Now that things have settled down, I'm finding that I'm doing more cooking. At our old place, I rarely cooked on Fridays. Last night was the second Friday in a row I decided to cook. Granted it was the same thing (salmon and veggies), but it was something I wanted to do rather than had to do. I'm sure this is because we now have a dishwasher and a cleaning person.

I've become quite domesticated. This morning I found myself browsing with piqued interest in the pictures from Martha Stewart's Living magazine. I would rather entertain at home than go out to a fancy dinner. Recipes for meals (forget about baking) don't look so hard as they once did. I'm still a huge proponent of takeout and the easy, quick and tasty meal, but I made earlier this week seafood risotto from scratch (no box mix!) for our monthly department pot luck.

Despite all of this, Martha has no reason to worry. She'll still outdo me hands down. Literally.
image courtesy of scriptfx.com

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fall rain

Today was our first rain of the season. It's a bit early as Bay Area's rainy season usually doesn't begin until November. But with the hot and muggy days we had this past July, it all balances itself out.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nosy neighbor

This afternoon my plans after the gym was to go to the open house at our old place. I ended up going to 2 other open houses in the neighborhood. I was tempted to look at 2 others. On my way to grab a late lunch, I stopped at the open house on 1362 8th Avenue.

There were 2 women that were leaving when I got there. I was there no more than 10 minutes and no one else came in during that time. The condo is about 1200 square feet, with many renovations, 3 bedrooms and 1 bath. It was nice enough, but the rooms felt small. They updated the stove and refrigerator, but not the cabinets. It didn't look quite right. I did like the back yard and garden. Asking price is $789K. I think that's still a bit too high.

I then headed to Rain Tree Cafe for lunch. Afterwards, I trekked over to our old place. When I got to the building, I walked in and immediately went into Caroline's and Esther's old place. I thought the floors were polished. They weren't. Their kitchen, as shown in SF's Multiple Listing service, was renovated. I saw Ruby's (Caroline's and Esther's daughter) room and saw that the room had a back door which led to the utility room. If I hadn't lived in the building and saw this for the first time at an open house, I would have not been impressed.

Time to see our old place next. Walked up the steps and found all the staging and pictures were done from here. Living room looked fine. First bedroom, which was our study/guest room looked fine as well. Typical staged stuff, but again, nothing that said wow to me. Then our bedroom. No wow factor there either. Next stop, kitchen. Based upon the pictures I'd seen, I knew this was going to have the most dramatic transformation.

It was. Everything I described on Friday was pretty much how I saw it. Because I like to cook, seeing the changes impressed me. Especially where they moved the refrigerator and added a cabinet area to that side of the wall. And I was right, the stove and dishwasher weren't Bosch. All of the major appliances were Frigidare.

The paint job done on the outside of the building 9 months ago is showing its age. The window bars in front of the ground level unit show rust marks. It looks like somebody just painted over a building without fixing up the blemishes and cracks. The good part is that at least 4 parties came to see to the place while I was there. Again, whether or not anyone bites is the catch.

On the way home, I attended the open house at 225-227 Judah Street. The upper unit was the only unit being shown because the lower unit is still tenant occupied. Unit was large enough and some rooms weren't completely finished with renovation. I didn't like that the floor mat at the base of the staircase was soiled and that the bedrooms had ugly oatmeal carpeting. Two of the bedrooms had sliding doors that opened out onto a deck large enough for entertaining, but don't like that access to it is through the bedrooms.

Gloating enthusiastically now. Don't these people ever watch "Flip That House"?