Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Highlights

As the end of 2014 arrives later this week, these were my personal highlights of the year.

January 28,2014 - Back to Work
After a 3 1/2 year absence, I returned to work full-time.

Job is very challenging yet fulfilling. The work I do is similar to what I've done in the past, but I now apply my previous skills and experience to a new industry - fueling. The majority of my work career has been in retail.

October 4, 2014 - Moved from San Francisco's Outer Sunset to Lakeside.

What I lost in parking and lack of storage, I gained in a bigger living space (including my bedroom), closer commute to work, and a 44% increase in cash flow because I share the rent of the house with a roommate.

October 29, 2014 - San Francisco Giants, 3rd World Series title in 5 years.

As they did in 2010 and 2012, the Giants were the underdogs against each opponent they faced in the 2014 post-season.

Defense, small ball, and a pitcher named Madison prevailed.

Wishing everyone a warm, joyous, safe and Happy New Year for 2015.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation - favorites of all time

From the late 1980's to the late 1990's, I'd buy tickets to see the latest animated films at Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation. For many years in San Francisco, it was held at The Palace of Fine Arts.

These film festivals first got me acquainted with my favorite claymation team, Wallace and Gromit. Other than the Wallace and Gromit films, I really looked forward to the encore presentation of audience favorites from previous festivals. For me, two of them stand out.

Bambi vs. Godzilla:

and, Snookles, the Baby Dragon and Little Bird:

The last festival I attended was in the late 1990's. These days, you can go to Spike and Mike's website to see the latest entries for a nominal fee.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New PBA Season, Different Format

source: PBA
From L to R: Dick Allen, Brad Angelo, Anthony Pepe, Liz Johnson 
Today marked the 2014-15 opening season for the PBA on ESPN. The season opener started with the Cheetah Championship. Congratulations to Anthony Pepe, who won his first PBA title on TV.

For those of you that follow ESPN's PBA broadcasts, you'll notice the format is different. In previous years, it was a 2-hour stepladder format. A viewer would see the top 5 seeds bowl. 

The first match would feature the #5 seed bowl against the #4 seed. The winner of that match would then bowl the #3 seed. It goes up the "stepladder" until the final match, which is against the #1 seed. On occasion (and pretty exciting to see) a #5 seed work his way up and defeat the top seed.

At least for today's and next week's match, these are the major changes:
  • Broadcast time is cut in half, from 2 hours to 1.
  • The top 4 seeds (rather than 5) bowl the finals on TV.
  • The #2, #3 and #4 seeds bowl each other in a 1-game match. Winner of that match meets the #1 seed in the finals.
As a big fan of the PBA tour and the broadcasts, I don't like it. Especially the reduction in air time from 2 hours to 1. 

I know these matches have to compete with the much more popular and lucrative NFL, NBA and NHL games, but that's why I have a DVR. It enables me to watch the matches at a later time. Die hard bowling fans will say this is why I should subscribe to Xtra Frame. For $64.99/year, I may very well do that.

Based on the Xtra Frame preview (see below) of how the finalists made it to today's show, this big bowling fan might be so inclined.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Translink to Clipper: All-in-One Payment System?

Not long after I moved from the Outer Sunset to Lakeside, I attended my first offsite, informal work-related dinner in downtown San Francisco.

I could have driven directly to the restaurant and cough up about $10 to park in a nearby garage.

But as I now live only a block away from the 'M' Muni Metro stop at 19th Avenue and Holloway Boulevard, I opt for the greener, more economical way to go downtown. I reach into my wallet and pull out a little used Translink card I got about 5-6 years ago.

After I boarded the MUNI Metro streetcar, I tapped the card on the reader 3 times. No luck. A female passenger nicely explained to me Translink cards no longer work on the readers. I then walked up to the front of the car to pay cash for the fare. I didn't have correct change and $5 was the smallest bill I had. Without getting anyone in trouble, all I'll say was that I was able to stay on board.

Once I finished dinner and headed for home, I immediately went to a kiosk at Montgomery Street station and purchased a Clipper card. I walk up to the gate, tap card, wait in boarding area, board street car, and make it home safe and sound.

I go to the Clipper website the next day. I live in the one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. Here's what I find out when I'm at Clipper's website.
  • I can't transfer funds online from the old Translink card to the new Clipper card.
  • If I cancel the Translink card, I'll lose any remaining funds on it.
  • If I choose to transfer funds, I have to call Customer Service to have this done.
  • I call Customer Service. They confirm transfer can be done. But I'll be charged a $5 processing fee. So what was $13.75 remaining on my Translink card will be $8.75.
Are you serious? 

All this because my Translink card no longer works, despite Clipper's claims otherwise. 

Please fix this. If nothing else, waive the $5 transfer fee. This experience only reinforces the poor reputation the San Francisco Bay Area public transportation systems always seem to have.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Friday 2014 - Samsung Smart TV

Samsung TV remote
As tweeted earlier this week, I splurged again for a big ticket home item. First the buffet, then the clothing armoire, and now a new TV.

I got a new TV because I watched most of last weekend's Niners game with the right half of the screen dimmed. It would usually go away if I turned off and on the TV. But it didn't this time. My Toshiba Regza 47" is almost 8 years old, so I knew the problem was only going to get worse.

I spent the next few days conducting my own due diligence as to what would be my next TV.

My requirements:
- Samsung or Sony
- LED/LCD flatscreen (no Ultra 4K yet)
- 48" minimum screen size
- 1080p
- internet access and ability to set up apps such as Skype, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime
- price not to exceed $750
- order it before Thanksgiving

It then came down to where I'd buy the TV - Amazon or Best Buy. I loved Best Buy's offer on all TV's with at least a 51" screen would get free delivery, setup and haul old TV off for recycling. Earliest date I could get the TV would have been today.

I ended up going to Amazon. As an Amazon Prime member, I'd get free shipping and delivery by Black Friday, 2 days sooner than Best Buy's earliest date. It would arrive in time to watch Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game.

I chose a Samsung 48" LED 6350 series 1080p Smart TV with a quad processor. I used my remaining American Express Membership Rewards points which helped me keep the total price (tax included) under $600 -- 1/2 the cost of the old TV bought in 2006. I'll put the old TV out curbside for donation this week.

My housemate Wil brought in the TV while I was out at bowling practice. When I got home shortly before noon, he helped me take out the TV from the box, assemble the stand and turn on the TV. I was surprised at how much lighter the new TV was than the old one. So light in weight that I was able to place it under one arm and hold it without much effort.

Here's what the setup screens looked like:

The setup instructions were extremely easy. Once the stand was assembled, it took no more than 5 minutes to get the TV on.

Smart TV access is not yet installed due to the terrible wifi connection in the living room. A wifi repeater and ethernet connectors are on order which should strengthen the wifi connection.

Until then, access to Amazon Prime films and YouTube is on hold for now. Can't wait.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Farewell to the Flan Man

San Francisco Giants nation has suffered 2 losses in the past 2 days. Yesterday, 3rd baseman and 2012 World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval signed a 5-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Today, Giants 3rd base coach Tim Flannery announced his retirement. Most Giants fans know 'Flan' for his band, The Lunatic Fringe, and their involvement in community events, most notably, their work in assisting Bryan Stow, a Giants fan severely injured in a parking lot at Dodgers stadium in March 2011.

In his role as 3rd base coach, Flan is famous for his animated, enthusiastic directions to Giants baserunners. During the 2014 post season, he amused fans with his overestimation of Buster Posey's baserunning speed. Posey was thrown out at home 3 times.

My favorite memory of Tim Flannery was on May 25, 2013 in a home game versus the Colorado Rockies. In the bottom of the 10th inning, the Giants were down 5-4. Angel Pagan hits a deep driving shot into right field, enabling baserunner Brandon Crawford to score and tie the game. Flannery appears near the end of the video clip. He frantically waves Pagan home while in a sprint alongside Pagan on the way to a walk-off inside-the-park home run to win the game 6-5. For me, it was the most memorable moment for the 2013 season.

Man oh man, Flan. I wish you nothing but the best for you and your family. I'm going to miss you and Pablo so much.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014 World Series Film

source: SF Examiner
Last Monday (November 10) Fox Sports 1 aired 2014's World Series Film. As I did in 2012, I recorded it on my DVR when it re-aired Wednesday morning.

I immediately watched when I got home from bowling and watched it again the next evening. The DVD is on order at Amazon and will be available to ship on November 25.

Like I did with the 2012 World Series film, I'll probably watch the DVR recording at least once a week for the next year.

As mentioned in my November 25, 2012 entry, the team that wins the World Series usually chooses a well-known actor who is an avid fan of the team.

For the 2010 film, it was Rob Schneider. 2012, Benjamin Bratt. 2013 (Boston Red Sox), Ben Affleck. This year's narrator, Colin Hanks.

The 2012 film ended with a very funny segment of Giants players doing Hunter Pence impersonations. For 2014, players did impersonations of none other than NLCS and World Series MVP, Madison Bumgarner.

Below is a video clip. Performances by Bruce Bochy, Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Bumgarner's post season housemate Tim Hudson, Javier Lopez, 2012's subject Hunter Pence, and Michael Morse.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Moving in, phase III: Self-Espressions

TV stand
Shoe Cabinet
As I'm gradually settling in and unpacking the rest of my boxes, you may have noticed I'm very partial to furniture in an espresso color.

Bathroom Wall Cabinet
Coffee Table
Rack of hooks
The latest piece of "espression", a clothing armoire, will arrive in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

My Favorite Highlights of SF Giants' 2014 Post Season

L to R: Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence

Without a doubt, Madison Bumgarner dominated the 2014 post season. Without him, San Francisco does not get a third World Series title in 5 years.

But the humble Bumgarner will tell you as well as all Giants players and management, they credit their success as a team effort.

For example, 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval batted .366 with 26 hits. Right fielder and media darling Hunter Pence batted .333 with 22 hits. If Bumgarner hadn't overwhelmed with his cyborg like statistics: 52.2 innings pitched, 7 appearances, 6 of them starts (including a complete game shutout), a stingy 1.03 ERA, Pence or Sandoval would have been a shoo-in for World Series or NLCS MVP.

Pitching, defense and "small ball" were the key components for the Giants to capture World Series titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In the photo for this blog entry, 3 of the 4 players - Bumgarner, Sandoval, and Posey have played on all 3 championship teams. None are yet at the age of 30. Pence, with 2 World Series rings, is the oldest at 31.

So I'll close out with my favorite highlights of the San Francisco's 2014 post season run to the World Series.

NLCS, Game 5, bottom 9th inning.
Left fielder (natural 1st baseman) Travis Ishikawa hits a 3-run walk-off home run to win the National League pennant. See October 17 blog entry.

World Series, Game 7, top 3rd inning.
Rookie 2nd baseman Joe Panik dives for a smash off Kansas City's Eric Hosmer. Not only does Panik stop the ball, he flips the ball from his glove hand to shortstop Brandon Crawford to force out baserunner Lorenzo Cain. Crawford is then able to relay a strong throw to 1st baseman Brandon Belt. The initial call of safe at 1st base is overturned and changed to a double play. The momentum the Royals had gathered until the double play suddenly ended.

World Series, Game 4, bottom 5th inning.
Giants are down 4-3. Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson makes an awesome diving catch in shallow center field off Giants batter Juan Perez. Hunter Pence, on 3rd base knows Dyson is going to have a hard time making a strong throw to home plate after the diving catch. Pence tags up and scores to tie the game 4-4.

World Series, Game 4, top 6th inning.
Score is tied 4-4. Brandon Belt fields a ground ball hit by Kansas City's Nori Aoki. Belt touches 1st base, then throws to Crawford who relays a strong throw back to Belt to complete the 3-6-3 double play.

Wild Card Elimination Game, top 1st inning.
A do-or-die game and the first playoff game for the Giants, Brandon Crawford's grand slam home run at PNC Park to start the game sets the stage for another successful run to a third World Series title in five years.

Honorable Mention, Michael Morse. NLCS Game 5, bottom 8th inning and World Series Game 7, top 4th inning.
His home run in NLCS Game 5 ties the game at 3-3 versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
His RBI single in World Series Game 7 allows Pablo Sandoval to score and break the 2-2 tie in the top of the 4th inning, ends up being the final score and enables San Francisco to win their third World Series Championship in 5 years.

Special thanks to G4MarchMadness for the terrific YouTube videos.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quest for Three: Congratulations San Francisco Giants, 2014 World Series Champions


And now, 2014.


You guys rock.

Big, big congratulations to 2014 NLCS and World Series MVP/Stud, Madison Bumgarner, for his outstanding post season efforts.

Bumgarner, along with 7 other Giants active on the 2014 World Series roster were members of the 2010 and 2012 teams.

Jeremy Affeldt
Santiago Casilla
Tim Lincecum
Javier Lopez
Buster Posey
Sergio Romo
Pablo Sandoval

Dynasty? In the age of the 162 game schedule, free agency and wild card playoffs, it's pretty damn close.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Moving in, phase II

Den - Office - Storage

Three weeks in, I am about two-thirds unpacked. The only room I haven't completely unpacked is the den. Originally built as a dining room, my housemate set aside this room exclusively for my use, so I've decided to make the room into a den/office/reading room.

Although I'm now living in a house almost 300 square feet larger than my previous rented house, I moved into the house as a secondary occupant. Which means no garage, no master bedroom with enclosed bathroom and most importantly, less storage. I've been spending a bunch of time online researching storage ideas.

Living Room

At first, I was thinking about an armoire and storage cabinets. Since I don't know how long I'll be here (I hope for awhile), I want the storage to be inexpensive, versatile and mobile in the event I'll have to move again.

I'm really keen on finding storage ideas for unused spaces. This is common in big cities with small dwellings like Tokyo, New York, Paris and of course where I live, San Francisco. I found a few other nifty ideas on Pinterest and pinned them to my page for future reference.

I installed a shower pole caddy in the bathroom today. I have on order with The Container Store for a couple of narrow storage drawers that I hope will fit in the gap between the refrigerator and kitchen closet. If it works, then I'll add with other storage pieces from the same modular line for the den.

Updates, likely sporadically, to follow. Comforts of home are always a work-in-progress.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Memories of October 16 and 17 - We Own The Pennant

image source: Twitter, @SF Giants
October 16 is going to hold a lot of wonderful memories for me.

Five years ago yesterday, it was a dinner with Jeff and longtime friends at PPQ, one of my favorite restaurants of all time. Twenty-five years ago today, it was the Loma Prieta earthquake (see blog entry, October 17, 2013)

Last night, it was the San Francisco Giants in post-season.

After building a reputation for pitching, defense and mastering the art of "small ball", the San Francisco Giants win their third National League Pennant in five years - with 2 home runs in the 8th and 9th inning.

Michael Morse, pinch hitting for pitcher Madison Bumgarner:

Then, in the 9th inning, Travis Ishikawa, who was on the 2010 team and returned to the Giants this year, hammers a 3-run walk-off homer and enable the Giants to make it to another World Series.

I'll never tire of seeing these clips over and over again. WOW.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Moving In, phase I

Bed duster is now a temporary window shade. Coach purse strap used to tie the blind. Airbed is used as an anchor to keep the window open.
As many of you already know, I moved to a new home over the weekend. The sweet house I rented in the Outer Sunset was sold and the new owners moved in.

I've moved only 9 times in my entire life. Which is why I absolutely, positively hate moving. I put everything off until the last minute. What I saved in money using non-professional movers was lost in time. Too much time. I've begun to unpack but it'll probably take me at least another week before everything is where I want it to be.

For the first time in 31 years, I am now a resident of a zip code other than 94122 (17 years) and 94118 (14 years). I moved to the Lakeside District, which is in zip code 94132, on the south side of San Francisco. I am sharing a 2 bedroom, 2 bath house east of 19th Avenue, just across from San Francisco State University and Stonestown Shopping Mall.

I chose to share a house with another person because 1-bedroom apartments in my price range and desired neighborhoods were too old, too small, too dark and lacked amenities such as on-site laundry and a full kitchen.

As the wall color and bedroom layout is just like my other place, I woke up very briefly thinking I was still at my old place. I'm not, so I've got to get back to unpacking a few more boxes.

More updates to follow.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Priced to Move - Everything Must Go

If you've clicked this blog entry in hopes to find the latest and greatest clearance sale, you're out of luck. It's all gone.

For the first time by myself, I hosted a moving/garage sale. Compared to most garage/moving sales, I had a rather sparse selection. One could call it a 'quality over quantity' kind of sale.

I began the sale around 10 am. A portable heater and a small folding table that doubled as a desk in the second bedroom kicked off the first items sold.

By 3:30 pm, everything I had put out was gone, including a wardrobe everyone seemed to like except me. Probably because it was the biggest reminder of the Kiwi ex-boyfriend.

During the 5 1/2 hours of the sale, I got to meet to some very interesting people:

  • Katie and her grandmother. Katie was moving into a place 3 blocks away. She took my library chair/stepstool, bookcase and table runner. 
  • Wayne and his mom. Wayne grew up in the Sunset and now lives in Daly City. He spends Saturdays with his mom and garage sales is one of the activities his mom enjoys. Wayne's mom got a kick out of the very little Cantonese I knew. They ended up taking a suitcase, 2 backpacks, a lounge chair pad, a fan, a comforter, 2 bed pillows, 4 accent pillows. 
  • Ruby, a friend of a friend. My friend/ex-co worker Sherri told her about the sale. Ruby texted Sherri to ask if she wanted anything. Sherri asked if I had any knives. Ruby bought the wine glasses and got for Sherri a Wusthof knife set.
  • Jose Sr. and Jose Jr. The father-son painters were the last visit and officially closed business for the day. They took the CD boom box, dishes, side tables, corner nightstand, and most importantly, the bed and 2 wardrobes. They were so appreciative they bought me takeout from the corner Chinese restaurant when they had to clear the truck bed of the first round of items they got. 

I credit my success of clearing everything because I was intent on selling, not haggling. The most I got from a single item was $10. The money made was enough to hold off a weekend ATM visit. Mission: Everything Must Go, accomplished.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Autumnal Equinox 2014

image source: The Epoch Times
Depending on the source, 2014's Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere will take place tomorrow, September 22 or Tuesday, September 23.

For us former spring chickens who equate fall as a miserable time because it starts the school year, this means there is an equal amount of night and day.

And the realization it'll get darker a lot sooner until December 21 or 22. Then daylight slowly returns.

And here's a short and sweet video from Kurdistan Planetarium to summarize my favorite season of the year:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A&E's Longmire - cancelled

source: TV Guide
Disappointed to find out from USA Today's Jayme Deerwester that A&E's Longmire got cancelled.

It was A&E's second highest rated TV series.

One of the reported reasons for the cancellation was the average viewer age was 60 years old.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. And stupid.

Not only did the clueless executives that made this decision insult a demographic with deep pockets, they've cancelled the primary reason why many of us watch series television: the ability to tell a story (see previous blog entry of July 13, 2012).

In a world where so many of us are on information overload and short attention spans, it's a series that needs to be watched over time to be fully appreciated.

And for me, Bailey Chase (Deputy Branch Connally on the far right in the above photo) was a nice distraction. I'm not one normally one drawn to men dressed as cowboys, but whenever Branch wore his stetson and jeans, he got my attention.

Kudos to the network that decides to pickup the series. I think this would be a great addition on TNT.

****UPDATE: August 14, 2015****
Thanks to the fans, Longmire returns for a 4th season, beginning September 10 on Netflix.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

New Season of Bowling

panoramic view, National Bowling Stadium
As it was today for the NFL, it's a new season. My new bowling season begins tomorrow night. I find it's a lot like starting a new school year. We get to see those that took summer season off, who are the new kids (bowlers), and which bowlers moved to different teams.

For me, the official end of year of fall-spring-summer season the past 3 years is marked by the Chinese-Japanese (Asian-American Bowling Association) Labor Day Tournament held at the National Bowling Center in Reno, Nevada.

I LOVE bowling in the Stadium.

In this year's tournament, I was happy with my results. Nothing eye popping, yet bowled 2 of 3 squads above my season average. The past 2 years, I stayed at Circus Circus. This year, I splurged a little and stayed at the Silver Legacy, which is only a block away from the Stadium.

Over the past 2 months, I've been working on a new release (technically, an improved old release) which has resulted in a faster ball speed. Still need to work on maintaining consistency. My goal is to raise the average 5 to 10 pins this season. It's been stagnant the past 3 seasons.

To all other league bowlers out there starting your new season, best of luck to you. Bowl well. Even more importantly, have fun.

Monday, September 01, 2014

AT&T Park - The Gotham Club

image source: The Gotham Club, San Francisco
Introduction at the website's home page:  If you have ever played for the New York Gothams, New York Giants, or San Francisco Giants, you are a member. If you have never played for the Gothams or Giants, this is your opportunity to join.

Club venues: The Clubhouse, The Bullpen, and The Game Room. As a bowler and avid San Francisco Giants fan, this would be my ultimate gift of a lifetime.

However, I can only wish. Membership is invitation only with a $2,500 initiation fee with $1,250 annual dues.

Oh well.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Earthquake, 6.0, Epicenter - American Canyon in Napa County

photo by: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, SF Chronicle
As many friends and family from outside the San Francisco Bay Area have already inquired, yes, we're OK. But at the quake's epicenter in American Canyon (Napa County), there was considerable damage. I'm sharing SFGate's Storify to show you some of the local social media feedback.

Many longtime residents have said this morning's quake was the strongest they've felt since the last "big" one, the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. As I wasn't in town to feel the Loma Prieta earthquake, I have no comparison. This morning's was definitely a strong jolt. I suppose if I were still living in a 3rd floor apartment with older windows I would have been a lot more alarmed.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marvelous Mo'ne

source: New York Times
She's 13 and caught the attention of many MLB and NBA standouts such as Jimmy Rollins, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Kevin Durant.

Why? If you're 13, throw a baseball at 70 miles an hour, give up only 2 hits, and strike out 8 to throw a complete game shutout then maybe you'd get their attention too.

Meet Mo'ne Davis. She becomes the first female pitcher to win a game in Little League World Series history.

Poised, modest and articulate, her first love is basketball. The Philadelphia native's future goal is to play point guard for the University of Connecticut and then the WNBA.

Best of luck to Mo'ne and her Taney Youth teammates in Williamsport. It's a big deal when grown men travel hundreds to thousands of miles to watch her pitch and hold up "I Want To Throw Like A Girl" signs.

See the wonder girl in action.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams: What Will Your Verse Be?

image source: Hollywood Reporter
On August 11, 2014, actor/comedian Robin Williams took his own life at his home in Tiburon (Marin County) California.

In his memory, I am reposting a February 23, 2014 blog entry. Rest in peace, Mr. Keating.

As many of us know, the narrative in Apple iPad's latest ad is a scene from one of Robin Williams's finest films as English teacher John Keating in , "Dead Poets Society", directed by Peter Weir. The film was released in 1989.

For a film to be 25 years old and have "dead" in its title, Mr. Keating's powerful words are still very much alive.

The original scene from the film:

And, the same words used as powerfully, 25 years later:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Aaron Craft - former Buckeye, future Warrior

image source: ESPN
As reported this past week, the Golden State Warriors signed former Ohio State Buckeye defensive standout/point guard Aaron Craft to a partially guaranteed contract.

Undrafted, Craft played in this year's NBA Summer League. His play impressed new Warriors head coach Steve Kerr enough to sign the Findlay, Ohio native.

Whether or not Aaron's career will go far in pro basketball, his 3-time first team Academic All-American selections tell me he'll do well in whatever he decides to do. This Ohio State alum and San Francisco Bay Area resident is very excited he's here. Best of luck to you this season, Aaron.

Courtesy of David Allin, here's a video highlighting Aaron's career at Ohio State:

Friday, August 01, 2014

James Shigeta, June 17, 1927 - July 28, 2014

image source: NBC News
Earlier this week, actor James Shigeta passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 85 (some news sources listed his age at 81).

Mr. Shigeta's best known and biggest role was as Wang Ta in the film "Flower Drum Song". As I wrote when I shared his obituary from the Los Angeles Times on my Facebook page, Mr. Shigeta's role left a deep impression on me. It was the first time I ever saw Asian Americans speaking without exaggerated Asian accents.

"The Joy Luck Club" and "Flower Drum Song" were among the few Asian Ameican films that have had any mainstream success in the US. Which is why most of Mr. Shigeta's career after "Flower Drum Song" were mostly in support roles such as "Die Hard" and "Midway".

For cinephile and/or Asian American culture geeks, there are 2 documentaries that discuss this issue: Arthur Dong's "Hollywood Chinese" (September 10, 2012 blog entry), and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's "The Slanted Screen" (May 21, 2006 blog entry). I highly recommend them.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bruce vs. Bruce, the encore

image source: Bruce Lee Foundation
Last week, on July 20, martial arts legend Bruce Lee would have been 74 years old.

Almost 2 years ago (September 4, 2012), the San Francisco Giants honored the San Francisco native with Bruce Lee Tribute night at AT&T Park.

In my opinion, this was one of the best tribute ideas the Giants organization has ever had. My absolute favorite part of the tribute was the promotional video, "Bruce vs. Bruce" (the other Bruce, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy).

I've watched the video at least a dozen times. Thrilling, brilliant, ultra cool and very funny. See it again here:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend practice

Lincoln High School, San Francisco
Gym Entrance, Lincoln High School
On my way home from errands this morning, I drove past a familiar spot I haven't visited in 20+ years, San Francisco's Abraham Lincoln High School. I stopped, rolled down my car window, shot the above photos, smiled and gave pause to remember my time there.

Lincoln High was where my first organized sports activity in San Francisco began. I played basketball in Lincoln's gym every Saturday morning, from 9 to 12, for about 3 years (1984-1987). Brenda, a former Sharper Image co-worker/fellow hoopster invited me to join her.

After a few months, Brenda stopped coming. I didn't. I became close friends with several of the girls. When the program ended, my friendship with Alice, Ada, Karen and Karyee exceeded well past the years we played basketball together.

Every few months for the next 10 years or so, the five of us would go out to dinner on a Saturday night. We'd pick up dessert, and hangout at one of our places until midnight or so. I'd often come home with a hoarse voice from laughing so hard. The gatherings eventually ended when Alice, Karen and Karyee got married and Ada moved to San Jose.

When my basketball playing days ended, I got back into playing softball. Again, Brenda, now a former co-worker, made the introduction. This resulted in an activity that lasted off and on for about 15 years, much longer than basketball.

My first co-ed team held Saturday morning practices for about 3 years at various softball fields such as Rossi, Glen Park, West Sunset, Jackson, Rolph or McAteer High School. My second co-ed team, Sunday morning practice at Potrero for about 5 years. Then lunch. Always.

Tomorrow, I'll have bowling practice at Classic Bowl with friends from my Wednesday night league. I can't describe it exactly, but I find it serene and comforting to see the same groups of people every week practicing a sport they love as much, if not more, than I do.

The classic NBC-TV series Cheers describes it best:
Music and Lyrics by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

25th Anniversary of Dave Dravecky's comeback

Yesterday's San Francisco Giants game versus the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrated the 25th anniversary of former left-handed pitcher Dave Dravecky.

In October 1988, a year after Dravecky was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Giants, he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his throwing arm.

As detailed in his Wikipedia biography, doctors had advised Dravecky not to pitch until the 1990 season. However, by July 1989, Dravecky was pitching in the minors. The next month, on August 10, Dravecky started against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched 8 innings and won the game, 4-3.

It was Dravecky's next start against the Montreal Expos in the 5th inning he experienced tingling in his arm. In the 6th inning, he gave up a home run. He hit the next batter, Andres Galarraga. After Galarraga, Dravecky then pitched to Tim Raines. His humerus bone snapped.

Upon review of x-rays, it was found another malignant tumor had formed. The cancer returned. Two more surgeries would follow, and in 1991, Dravecky had his left arm and shoulder amputated. Dravecky went on to become a motivational speaker, which he still does today.

A San Francisco Giants/MLB short video on last year's anniversary can be found at Dave Dravecky's website. You can also view it here. Below is a short YouTube video summarizing his life after baseball:

Friday, July 04, 2014

75th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech

Reposting my blog entry from July 4, 2009, 70th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech.

image source: Society for American Baseball Research
As we celebrate our nation's anniversary, I am moved to find out that today is the seventy-year anniversary of Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech. Reprinted from Lou Gehrig's website:
"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

"Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.

"When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.

"So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."
While the video does not broadcast the entire speech, I cannot watch the video with dry eyes. The speech is being commemorated today at 15 Major League ballparks.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Guardians of the Golden Gate Bridge

Yesterday, as reported through numerous media sources including SFGate, the board of the Golden Gate, Highway and Transportation District approved by unanimous vote to fund $76 million dollars to build steel-cable nets, or better known as "suicide barriers".

The campaign to build a barrier has gone on for some time. Last year, in 2013, the number of suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge reached a record high of 46.

Two years ago, I saw a very moving piece about suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge on Yahoo! Screen. The video profiled California Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Briggs. While there's not an exact count, Sgt. Briggs has successfully stopped hundreds from leaping to their deaths off the bridge.

After 23 years of service, Kevin retired from the CHP in March, 2014. He now focuses on educating and speaking to others about suicide prevention. Below is the original 2012 Yahoo! Screen short film, "Guardians of the Golden Gate Bridge".

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Seeking Asian Female/They're All So Beautiful

Yesterday, on Amazon Prime, I watched a PBS documentary, 'Seeking Asian Female" that originally aired in May 2013.

Written, directed and produced by Debbie Lum, the film takes an intimate look at the story of Steven and Sandy, who met online and married. Much of the film takes place in Steven's apartment in Burlingame.

The film's subject matter wasn't anything new to me. I've seen and experienced it countless times in the 30+ years I've lived in San Francisco. I was interested in exploring more about the documentary and found a companion piece to the documentary called "They're All So Beautiful".

There are 5 episodes in the "They're All So Beautiful" series. I skipped the first 3 episodes and jumped immediately to Episodes 4 - Do Asian Women have "white fever"? and 5 - dating, relationship, interracial marriage?

In case you're wondering about my answers to the above questions, I can answer yes to the question posed in Episode 4. I was in a 9-year relationship with a Caucasian male. And it didn't end because of race or culture.

What I will tell you, especially as I've gotten older, is that forming a relationship with someone I'd already known who is of the same race, culture and shared common interests made a monumental difference. Yes, tremendous physical attraction got it all started. As it went beyond that, it became an incredibly deep bond that I have yet to find with anyone else.

Here's the video clip:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father's Day 2014

Dad's passport photo, circa 1972
My best memories of Dad can be read in the blog entry I wrote September 19, 2007 in honor of his 72nd birthday.

I may not be a parent, but I know being one is the hardest, yet most rewarding job in the world.

It can, and often will take priority over what you do to earn a living. It can also minimize and/or change relationships you have with other loved ones.

To all fathers who answer to Dad, Daddy, Ba-ba, Ah-Bah, Pop, Papa and the other hundreds of endearing terms for the man who was responsible for you coming into the world ---- Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

It Isn't Just Transportation

1980 Toyota Celica GT Liftback
image source:
NOTE: All cars pictured are the same color and style I've owned and driven.

For most American teenagers, the rite of passage into adulthood is obtaining a driver's license. We reach elite status when we get to drive not Mom's or Dad's car, but our very own.

1980 Toyota Celica GT Liftback

The very first car I drove on a regular basis was my Mom's 1976 Buick Century. While it was the car I tested in to get my license, I had no real emotional attachment to it. Most 16-year olds do not want to be seen driving a Buick.

About a year into college at Ohio State, I saved enough money to put a down payment for a 1980 Toyota Celica GT Liftback. I went from no attachment to my Mom's Buick to big time emotional attachment as it was the car that my brother Sherman and family friend Stan drove across the country (I was mostly a passenger on this trip) when I moved to San Francisco.

Street parking in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of my first place was pretty easy. But after a stolen wheel cover and a dented front panel while parked, I rented a garage at the end of the block for $50/month.

I put in lambswool seat covers after 5 years or so to cover up tears on the sides of the front seats. The drive of the car began to bore me when friends drove cars with a stick. So, with only 1 previous stickshift lesson with a former co-worker in her Honda Civic, I traded in the Celica in March 1988 for an Acura Integra.

Acura Integra RS
LS had different wheel covers

1988 Acura Integra LS 3-door

Lots of firsts and great memories with this car. First car bought in California (March 1988). First stickshift car. First car with a sunroof. First and only car without air conditioning.

As I wasn't proficient enough yet to drive home the car, the salesman drove it home for me. I drove the dealership's Acura Legend while the salesman followed me home driving my newly purchased Integra. For 3 consecutive weeks after work, I'd go out for a drive so I could get used to driving a stick.

I had this car during the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Jeff drove the car while I was away in Ohio for a family and friends visit. It was the car a friend of friend drove back to San Francisco while I sat in the front passenger seat in January 1991 after I tore my ACL at Kirkwood near Lake Tahoe.

When I traded in the car in April 1995, it only had 52,000 miles on it. I drove the car mostly after work and on weekends until 1994, when I got a job in Burlingame. No more MUNI.

1995 Acura Integra LS 4-door
image source: Digi-Go
1995 Acura Integra LS 4-door

After 7 years with my first Acura, I was ready to get a new car. I wanted a sedan for easier back seat access yet still be fun to drive.

It wasn't. For me, the car never met those expectations. I'll explain why in a bit. I traded in the car 3 years later.

In December 1995, 8 months after I purchased the car, I was on my way to work in Burlingame during a bad rainstorm. I drove past several downed power lines and no traffic lights were operational in the Inner Richmond neighborhood (where I lived at the time). I approached the intersection of Cabrillo Street and Park Presidio Boulevard as a 4-way stop with the intent to make a left turn onto Park Presidio.

Within seconds, a San Francisco firefighter broadsided me. He was on his way to work an emergency shift due to the bad weather. He ran to my car after impact and profusely apologized. I missed work that day. The firefighter's insurance company contacted me later that evening and settled damages within 2 weeks. The crash gave me a big bump on my forehead. A week later, the bruise moved downward and gave me 2 black eyes.

After the accident, the car made 3 visits at 2 body shops over the span of 3 months. The repairs never corrected the steering wheel vibrations that I'd feel whenever I drove at speeds above 45 miles per hour. Even before the accident, the car never handled as well as the first Integra. I gave up. Cut my losses and decided to trade-in for another car.

1997 BMW 318ti
image source:
1997 BMW 318ti

I wanted another car but didn't want another Integra. Mostly because the model style and features hadn't changed.

Everyone drove Honda Accords. Honda Civics were prone to vandalism and theft. Toyota Corollas and Camrys lacked pizzazz. Volkswagen GTI's had too many maintenance issues. Celicas looked too macho and muscular. The stickshift gearbox in the Nissan Altima was clunky and very ugly.

My next car needed to retain the practicality and fun that I had with my first Integra. No automatic transmission. And I wouldn't buy it until I felt it was the right car. It took almost a year, but I found the one.

It came from a softball teammate. A few games into the start of the 1998 season, Diane got a black BMW 318ti. At first, I wasn't impressed. It looked like a shortened 3-series coupe, convinced it was BMW's lame attempt to appeal to the budget-minded, status-conscious car aficinado who longed for a luxury brand but couldn't afford the price tag.

On a short trip to Soda Springs (just outside Lake Tahoe) with Diane, she drove her car for our trips into town. It felt a lot like the Audi 5000 my parents drove in the early 1980's - solid, taut and responsive. A few months later, I test drove the car at a BMW dealership. I knew then this would be my next car.

I bought the car in April 1998 at Weatherford BMW in Berkeley. It was a 1997 demo with only 8,000 miles on it. With 138 hp's, it was technically less powerful than my previous 140 hp Integra sedan, but it had much better acceleration. A former Gymboree boss, who owned a BMW M3, said the 318ti's superior acceleration was due to more torque than in the Integra.

My passion to drive returned. It was like driving my first Integra and so much more. A definite, distinct European luxury-like feel in this car.

The 4 year/50,000 mile warranty still applied so my only real worry was the monthly payments. How much I loved this car showed in the miles. It took me to games for the 5 softball teams I played on at one time. It took me to work in Burlingame, Redwood Shores and Foster City. I drove it on trips on windy roads to Mendocino and Cambria. As the car approched 100,000 mies, my itch to get a new car intensified. I sold the car with 97.000 miles on it to an ex-boyfriend's former roommate and his girlfriend.

2004 BMW 325i

I bought the car online through CarsDirect in October, 2003. My original intent was to buy a 2003 model at the end of the model year in hopes to get a reduced price.

However, when the search for a 5-speed stickshift in blue or black sedan became slim pickings, the online broker suggested I order the car as a 2004 model with my desired specifications. It would take 6 weeks to build and ship (from Germany) and only cost me $500 more.

Within the first month I got the 325i, I drove the car on a mini-vacation to Los Angeles. With a straight 6-cylinder engine under the hood, it took some time to adjust and not push the gas pedal as hard. I got personalized plates that drew the smiles and compliments of many Chinese upon seeing it. When I bought a TIC condo in 2006, I paid off the 325i early so I wouldn't have the burden of carrying a mortgage and car payment at the same time.

Paid off indeed. It got me through my 3 1/2 year unemployment phase. I learned how to replace headlight/tailight bulbs and wiper blades thanks to YouTube videos. It is the most expensive and longest time I've owned a car - 10 years, 7 months old with over 129,000 miles on it. As you can see in the picture, despite the unseen minor dings and dents, the car still looks nice.

I'm not sure when I'll replace the car. Perhaps in another year or so. What I do know is that I will get another BMW 3-series with a manual transmission. In blue. Or bronze. Or black.