Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blog Makeover Edition

So I changed the template on this blog to black. And I took off all the ads. Maybe later when I get more traffic I might reconsider.

Speaking of site renovations: there's a cool tool, dynamic converter, that will help you convert and display multi-currencies side by side. According to their site, it's just add one line of code. And off you go. Check it out. It's useful if you sell stuff, and if your readers are all over the world.

At the risk of sounding like an typical egocentric, ignorant, ugly American, I might use this if I was living somewhere else. Then I can convert it to US dollars. Best of all, it's free! So what's there to lose? Give it a whirl. You can find it at

This post is sponsored by blogsvertise. com.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Dude's Spaghetti and Meatball Recipe Hack

Previously in this space, I've given away my Japanese "impress your babe" dinner recipe, and the "next morning, good morning" buttery scrambled eggs recipe.

But this is the recipe I should have started with. This is the meat and pototoes, my old standby. A simple dinner for the dude in all of us. From college student (trying to impress the sorority wench) to bachelor (attempting to impress himself) to married man (trying to give his wife a break).

This is It. My old Spag and Meatball dinner hack. Why hack? Because we're cheating a little. Making it taste better. Making it seem like we cooked it from scratch. With my simple cooking hack technique.

Here's what you need:
  • Spaghetti.
  • Meatballs (Costco frozen kind work for me, but any frozen will do).
  • 1 fresh tomato.
  • Spaghetti sauce (in a bottle).
  • Pesto (in a bottle).
  • Garlic bread (store bought).
  • Optional: wine (red), CD (you can't go wrong with The Big Night soundtrack).
Here's what you do:
  • Prep: slice tomato into small pieces (about 1/2").
  • In a med/large pot, boil water and cook the spaghetti, as normal.
  • In a small pot, put tomatoes, meatballs and pour spaghetti sauce over meatballs. Add 2 teaspoons of pesto. Cook over low heat. (The fresh tomatoes add a tad of "cooked from scratch" flavor to the dish).
  • Heat garlic bread in toaster oven.
  • Spaghetti and the sauce should be done about the same time. Sprinkle parmesan cheese and serve.
That's it. But remember: presentation counts and goes a long way. Use nice plates, arrange artfully, i.e. put a cloth in a bread basket and cover the bread like they do in the restaurants.

Here's the general cooking hack that has served me well: mix fresh ingredients with store bought ones and present and serve nicely.

Bon appetit!

Photo by: mikha_el (stock.xchng).

Friday, September 22, 2006

Spending My Day As If It's My Last

Seize the day, they say. Live life to the fullest, too. Well, I tried this little experiment. I really did. I tried to live the day as if it was going to be my last. Morbid? A little. Depressing? Not as much as I thought.

Here's what I did:
  • Wrote a supplement to my will. Basically, simple instructions and a treasure map of all the financial accounts for the wife.
That's it.

Honestly, life goes on. In all it's mundaneness.

In trying to live as it was my last day didn't change the fact that I was hungry. I made a ham and cheese sandwich. Took a crap, surfed the Net. I paid a few bills. I cleaned up a spill.

It did make me more appreciative: of my family, the smells around me. But that was it. Was this enough?

What would you do if this was your last day?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In the Next Life I Want to Shoot Nudes

In the next life I want to be D. Brian Nelson.
  • He's a photographer with a cool blog called Hotel Room Nudes.
  • Hot girls take their clothes off for him. He takes their pictures. Sometimes they do more than just take their kit off.
  • His pictures are good. Good as in Art. Capital A.
  • He writes well, too. Kinda reminds me of Charles Bukowski.
  • He's got hard principles and Socrates-like integrity. I know three others with similar ethics. (Yes, I got all this just from reading his blog.)
  • He almost makes me want to pick up my old medium format camera again. Almost. Maybe even learn to print my own prints.
On the down side: he's old, kind of creepy looking. Says he's harmless. I believe him.

In the next life, who do you want to be?

*Photo by: Alexia Carneiro

Monday, September 18, 2006

How to Survive a Hospital Visit

The latest issue (Oct. 06) of Smart Money magazine has an article called "10 Things Your Hospital Won't Tell You" that reminded me of the times the wife was in the hospital. There were some touch and go moments. A few times I was unsure whether she or I would make it out alive.

Here are some strategies that helped me (and that might help you, the healthy one) when a loved one -- wife, child or cat -- enters the hospital.

You might think the goal is to leave the hospital healthy (Oh, how I envy your naivete). The real goal is for your loved one to leave better than they entered without costing you an arm and a leg. I mean that literally and figuratively.

Here are the things you are battling, that you need to keep an eye on:
  • Hospital errors.
  • Your (healthy one's) mental well-being.
1. Hospital errors. According to the article, it's not uncommon for hospitals to make treatment mistakes (treating wrong body parts, giving medication not proscribed for you, etc.). Then there are the errors of the financial kind: billing errors. They might double charge you, charge you for things not proscribed, etc. etc.

2. Your mental health. Trust me. Your imagination will run wild, run amazingly depressingly and pessimistic scenarios. All in the name of preparing you for the worst. STOP. You are the strong one. You are the healthy one. You do not have the luxury to give in to your weak impulses.

Here is a simple method to deal with both of the above. Pretend you're a reporter. Keep a journal. Ask lots of questions and write everything down.

This is what I did when my wife had complications with our first child. And also when I had to take her in to the ER. I didn't have a notebook. But I grabbed some scrap paper and jotted everything down.
  • Date, time, doctors and nurses' names, medication, diagnoses.
  • I saved all the receipts.
Ironically, this helped take my mind off my wife's condition and helped to calm me down. Also, I was able to refer to my written report rather than my memory when billing disputes came up later and for follow-up treatment.

One other thing: take care of yourself. This is much harder to do. You become so worried and so wraped up taking care of your loved one that you neglect to wash, to rest, to eat. But you must remain strong. (PS. It's okay to breakdown. Go ahead and cry. Just do it away from the patient

I sinerely hope you don't need these tips, but if you find you and your loved one in a hospital, remember two things.
  1. Keep a journal.
  2. Don't forget to take care of yourself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Got Pho? Here is the Best Vietnamese Noodles Place in the Valley

Let me define a few terms. By "best", I mean yummy, reasonably-priced and authentic. By "valley", I mean the San Fernando Valley. Although, I might as well have said "all of LA," knowing full well there isn't any reasonably-priced, authentic (unpretentious) restaurants on the Westside.

At the risk of being politically incorrect (but isn't political correctness so 2004?), and maybe even racist, I use a strict, mathematical "restaurant ethnic authenticity" test, based on a scientific 8: 1 ratio I made up.

For example, if you're at a Chinese restaurant and there are at least eight Asian customers to every White one, then the place is "authentic."

Also, authentic test #2. The more typos there are in the menu, the more ethnically authentic the restaurant. Last time I checked -- three typos at my favorite pho place.

Enough stalling. But at the even greater risk of ruining the place by making it popular, I will now reveal my pho double secret location.

The Best Pho in LA (or the best closest to my house) is ... Pho 999 on Sherman Way in North Hollywood. You can differ. It's in a small plaza, nestled in between a liquor store, a Mexican and a baklava joint. Some might call it a dive.

But you can't beat its $6 pho bowls. Or even the clear-skin spring rolls, the Vietnamese name which escapes me at the moment.

For those new to pho, here are the basics:

  • Order a bowl of pho. Choose any three combination of beef, brisket, tendon, tripe, or flank.
  • When the hot bowl arrives: break off and toss mint leaves, bean sprouts, squeeze lime all into bowl.
  • Enjoy.
Sarah over at The Delicious Life has a nice post about pho (although it's about Westside pho).

Note: Photo by Michelle (meeshay) from Flickr.

Monday, September 11, 2006

An Ethnically-Diverse Reading List for Your Toddler

This is how you build an ethnically-diverse library for a toddler. Why bother? Because if you build it, they will read it.

Because the wife and I belong to the tribe of anti-consumers who worship strong anti-princesses. The only television little E. watches are Sesame Street and The Daily Show (ok, just Sesame Street). She knows all the Sesame Street monsters and despite our best efforts, she knows quite a few Disney characters. But Sponge Bob, she calls "Yellow Box," and Ronald McDonald is just a "clown." And we aim to keep it that way.

E. loves her books. Perhaps it's not a coincidence she started with Eric Carle (Hungry Caterpillar, Brown, Bear). While she loves and has all the classics (Goodnight Moon, Curious George, Where the Wild Things Are, many by Sandra Boyton), we're constantly on the search for children's classics of the ethnically-diverse kind.

The following are what we've found so far:
  1. Amy Wilson Sanger (World Snacks publishers). First Book of Sushi, Yum Yum Dim Sum, Let's Nosh! Because we're Asian and love food.
  2. Frida, by Jonah Winter, Ana Juan.
  3. My First Chinese New Year, Karen Katz.
  4. Ezra Jack Keats, Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie, etc.
  5. Taro Gomi, Everyone Poops, Bus Stops, Spring is Here.
  6. Satoshi Kitamura, Squirrel is Hungry, Sheep in Wolves' Clothing and the Boots series
  7. Barefoot Books (publishers).
  8. The Colors of Us, Karen Katz.
If you have any favorites that I've missed, please share.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beat it! A Dude's Recipe for Buttery Scrambled Eggs

This is a recipe I got out of a old Japanese cookbook. I've modified it a little bit over the years. But this is my old standby, my bread and butter breakfast/brunch meal I whip up for Mother's Day/wife's birthday meal in bed.

What you need:
  1. 5 eggs
  2. 1/2" block of butter
  3. Dash of salt and pepper
  4. Dash of milk
  • Toast
  • Champagne and OJ for the mimosa
What to do:
  1. In a bowl, beat the eggs.
  2. Add a dash of salt and pepper, then a dollop of milk.
  3. Toast the bread.
  4. In a small saute pan, melt butter over high heat.
  5. When the butter is all melted, add eggs.
  6. Using a spatula (wooden is best), stir the eggs in a circular, than make a X figure. Caution: the eggs will cook very quickly, less than a minute.
  7. Turn off the heat after about a minute. It will be a little runny, but let the residual heat finish cooking the eggs.
  8. Serve with the toast.
That's it. If you need a few more brunch ideas, check out Brunch, by Louis Pickford and Ian Wallace (I'm a big fan of the Waffles and Ice Cream, and the Panettone French Bread recipes).

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New Blog: the Art of Fatherhood

I've started another blog, "daddy made it" (turning fatherhood into art (and crafts)). I wanted to put all the posts about my arts and crafts projects in one place.

All the one-of-a-kind things I make for my wife and child will be here to give all you Dads some motivation and inspiration.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How I Made a Wooden Haring Mini-Statue

What got into me? What made me do this? Well, my fifth wedding anniversary (traditional gift: Wood) was fast approaching and I was out of ideas. I'm a big, big fan of Keith Haring. I have a little girl. And because I wanted to give my wife something special, different and romantic (see my post on 4 Ways to More Romance) to decorate her new office.

What I did
1. I went to the Haring site and found the design for the Man Lifting Child Aloft (my title not his).

Copyright disclosure: The copyright, the licensing, the whole intellectual caboodle belongs to Keith Haring and his estates. I'm using it for non-commercial purposes only and I only made one. Note to Haring lawyers: Please don't sue me.

2. In Photoshop, I got rid of the colors, leaving only a dark line drawing. I printed it out and played with the sizing until I got to about a 5"x2" figure.

3. At the local hardware store (not named Lowe's or Home Depot), I got a little piece of scrap wood, about 5"x7" and an 1.5" in thickness, and a sponge block sandpaper, little package of brushes, 2 types of wood stains.

4. I placed the paper drawing over on the wood and using a dull pencil, traced/scored the design onto the wood. Then I penciled it in darker on the wood.

5. Using a jigsaw (in case you don't know, it looks like these), I cut the wood along the lines to get my mini-statue figure. For the gap between man and child, I drilled a small hole to get the jigsaw in there. Extra: I added a Chinese character for "5" on the man's chest.

6. I fine-tuned it with a smaller jigsaw bit, then sanded it down.

7. I stained top (baby) with a light stain (two coats), then stained the rest with a darker color (two coats).

What it cost
  • Wood $1.75
  • Brushes $3
  • Stains $10 ($5 each)
  • Sandpaper $2
  • Jigsaw $0 (borrowed)
  • Time (not counting two days for drying between applications of stains): 3 hours.
For a grand total of: $16.75

Do try this at home. Just remember: Safety, safety, safety. Make sure it's for non-commerial purposes only. Haring has alot of simple, child-like and timeless art. But it doesn't have to be Haring. I might try a Modigliani or a Matisse next.