30 March 2007

The Drive-Thru Circle of Hell

Christmas is upon us in the form of Filet-O-Fish Fridays. Did you know that Filet-O-Fish Fridays coincided with Lent? I had no idea. I used to drive around thinking that only certain McDonald's locations had this deal. Stupid me. Pattern recognition isn't one of my strong suits. Anyway, here's the backstory on how the Filet-O-Fish got its start as a regular menu item at McDonald's. Important stuff.

The beauty of Filet-O-Fish Fridays is not just the $1 price but also the chance of having an excellently prepared Filet-O-Fish. Because McDonald's knows that all the cheapies out there will be flocking to their stores on Fridays during Lent, they keep cranking out the fish sandwiches; resulting in a perfectly warm and fresh filet each time you order. It's heaven.

Tragically, when I went to my local Fremont McDonald's, they had no idea what I was talking about. "Filet-O-Fish Fridays? Never heard of it." So it's confirmed, Fremont is going to hell. The McDonald's god has forsaken Fremont. And I was forced to pay full price for a Filet-O-Fish on Filet-O-Fish Friday. Ridiculous.

29 March 2007

Role Bounce

A few months ago, I was touting the potential of two new MTV reality shows that were about to air. "Dancelife" turned out to be a bust. You would think that a show about dancing would be somewhat exciting -- especially to a semi ex-dancer. But without drama, story, or any particularly captivating characters, the show was a waste of time, even on DVR.

The other show, "I'm From Rolling Stone," I just watched the finale for today. Guess what? It sucked too. Maybe it had something to do with the half hour format but both shows just weren't able to translate the hard work of writing and dancing to the small screen. Oooh, another tryout. More money trouble, exciting. Making some more calls to schedule phone interviews? Struggling through writer's block? Not so must see TV.

The other thing that killed me about the Rolling Stone show was how nonchalantly the six contestants took their once in a lifetime opportunity. The founder and executive editor of Rolling Stone were available as resources for ten weeks and they didn't appreciate it? It wasn't even an elimination show. Everyone got two and a half months to prove their mettle.

One guy was talented but kept on showing up to work late. He also neglected to turn in any assignments for the last month. Another girl was more interested in crashing the red carpet, than working it. Most of the other contestants either weren't into it, didn't work hard, or were simply not that capable. The girl who won it, Krishtine, certainly deserved it (here's her final article), but she bitched about the gig the entire time.

Who are these people? I would die to have a chance to become a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. Do you know how prestigious that is? These people were being paid to sit around and compose one thirty word blog entry a day. I've been busting my ass trying to crank out 3,000 words each day this week. Gimme a break.

As one of the advisors said, "Don't get in the way of your own success."

25 March 2007

All Aboard!

This is one of the cooler services I've seen in awhile. Grandcentral.com allows you to have "one number...for life." Grandcentral gives you a designated number that other people will call to ring all your numbers -- home, mobile, business, etc. That's the most basic part, call forwarding.

But here's where it gets fun. Grandcentral will store your voicemails indefinitely in an online voicemail box. Looks like email, works like email. You can forward the voicemail, save the voicemail, etc. You can also set up different voice mail greetings for friends, acquantainces, or businesses. Want to sound silly to your friends but professional to your co-workers? Grandcentral can do it. It also lets you upload MP3s to replace the *ring*ring* sound.

You can spam block numbers to your phone. You can also listen in to a voicemail as it's being recorded. You can switch from one phone to the other, seamlessly. So if you're walking in the door, you can switch from your cell to your home phone with no "Lemme switch phones, I'll call you right back."

Here's the kicker: you can record any phone conversation you're having by simply hitting a button. Yeah. Think about that. No more "he said, she said," it's all about "you said." Sure it's scary but it's also downright cool.

This service is also free. Yeah, free (up to two lines). If you want to say, set up a phone number that all your friends can call to ring your entire social network, you can. Call 212-123-4567 and hit up all your friends at once? Hello best drunk dialing ever.

Try it out. Get some Grandcentral numbers now and tell me how you like it.

19 March 2007

Zodiac (2007)

David Fincher continues to churn out his unique style of movie. This one isn't quite as good as his other efforts (Se7en, Fight Club, The Game) but the reality of the situation is gripping. The movie seems like its over two-thirds of the way through but then there's another hour or so of Jake Gyllenhaal running around being scared by would-be serial killers. It's strange that "The Zodiac" actually ends up messing up most of his kills, as many of the victims are left alive. After the movie, I had to head over to the Crime Library to check out the real story.

Thank goodness the movie was good as we spent $40 on tickets and parking -- we forgot to stamp our parking ticket and we got out of the movie at 2:30am, well past the closing time. Damn me.
-Ripe Tomatoes-

16 March 2007

Pleat Me (or) Flat Frontal

I normally just wear my suit pants for interviews and it's been awhile since I've had a job where I had to dress up -- summer 1999 I believe. What that means is that all of my dress pants aren't exactly in style anymore. It's actually pretty questionable if my dress pants were ever in style (I'd say half of them I stole from my dad and had re-tailored), but let's ignore that. I have a whole rack of balloony dress pants hanging in my closet at home from ten years ago. It's very New Jack Swing; in style and color selection. Anyway, if forced to wear nice pants now, I don't know what I'd do.

Two weeks ago when I went to LA to work in an office environment, a few of my co-workers/friends made fun of my pants. See, my pants had pleats. Sure, it was my suit pants, but pleats are bad, even I know that. I may look sartorially challenged but I'm really not. I have a very keen eye for fashion, just not an overly robust wallet. You can be rich and have no style, but it's (generally) hard to be stylish without some money.

So after a week of pleated shame, I vowed that I would purchase new dress pants worthy of admiration and befitting my role as office professional. Today I took my cheap ass to Mervyn's and dropped $75 on three pairs of pants -- it may not sound like much but that amount represents a serious clothing commitment for me. Here's what I found out during my personal fashion show: I look better in pleats.

It's disgusting, I know. I mean, here I am ready to erase pleats from my wardrobe and it turns out that I'm just a pleats guy. I can't even figure out why. According to some online research I did, "Pleats are generally more conservative/formal and flat fronts are more trendy/casual." I'm the epitome of (wannabe) trendy/casual and here I am encased in pleats. It's terribly unfair.

Usually, flat fronts look best on guys who are tall and slender. I'm tall and slender. The catch is: "The flat front pant emphasizes a good build and a well proportioned body." Oh, right. I'm missing the good build and the well proportioned body. Maybe that's why I need pleats.

For those of you wondering why pleats are even around in the first place, it's an engineering thing; they allow for greater comfort and range of movement. Good for kung-fu I suppose, not good for coolness. For those of you wondering what a pleat versus flat front is, well, you can look at this picture but really, why bother? You're already lost the war my friend, time to throw in the towel and join me in pleat-land.

If you're trying to make me feel better by saying that "real men wear pleats" or something like that, check out this picture. Even a suave hunk like this looks super dorky in pleated pants (the cuffs and short length don't help either). Us normal men have no chance.
Five Things to Look For
1. Pleats vs Flat Fronts
2. Cuffs or No Cuffs
3. Length of the pant leg; no highwaters please
4. Don't make the waist too tight, but don't sag either
5. Make sure your butt doesn't look funny

13 March 2007

Navel Gazing

As an author with a book on Amazon -- indulge me while I say that a few times -- you suddenly start to check your book's page as often as a child checks MySpace. The number you're addicted to? The "Amazon.com Sales Rank." As an avid Amazon shopper, this number used to never concern me; I just looked at a book's price to see of it would help me qualify for free shipping. But now the only number I look at is the Sales Ranking. I study it like I would a stock I invested all my savings into.

What does the Amazon Sales Rank mean anyway? Amazingly, nobody really knows. Sure, if you've got a book in the top ten (the lower the number the better), that means you're making bank, but what if your book is say, ranked #47,743? Well, first things first.

The ranks are correlated to how many books you've sold through Amazon, but not directly. It's a relative rank that is recalculated periodically -- typically every day. So, if you're selling five copies a day for a week straight, your rank could still fluctuate up and down based upon how other books are selling that day. Here's the short explanation of how Amazon Sales Rank works; and here's a long explanation.

Suffice to say, when you're wondering how your book is doing, Amazon can provide only a partial answer.

I've been using this cool online tracking tool called Title-Z to track my book's Amazon Ranking. I'm usually in the #50,000 range and once in awhile I'll get really close to breaking the #10,000 barrier (I've been as high as #3,000 on Amazon UK). A ranking of #10,000 or better roughly translates to 2 copies of the book sold every five days. I can do better than that right? I live for the day the book breaks the five digits barrier. To 9,999 and beyond!

Heck, if everyone I knew took turns buying the book each day, I'd be in the top #5,000 for sure! Reverse calculate that and I'd have to have, um, well, fifty friends? Do I even have fifty friends?

Additonally, if you are an avid reader, feel free to join goodreads, which was discovered by Lilly and is a sort of Friendster for book lovers. Hit me up, we can be book buddies!

11 March 2007

300 (2007)

I was psyched for this movie. Ridiculously psyched. If you like Spartans and violence, this highly stylized movie will set your neck hairs on tilt with its numerous "cool scenes." Not much plot or exposition to speak of (in comparison to say, Gladiator) and I would have wanted some trimming of the unnecssary "girl in wheatfields, I love you" scenes but hey, what can you do? Some great moments, a few laugh out loud moments (not in a good way), but mostly, a cool movie I'd watch a few times over. Go watch it in the theatre; what's the point otherwise?

I wish there was more insight and backstory into how the Spartans lived. I'd recommend reading Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield -- which, sadly, probably has no chance of being made into a movie now.
-Ripe Tomatoes-

09 March 2007

The Popcorn Economy

"On the way to Las Vegas, Stephenson, an energetic, peppery-haired man in his early forties, gave me a quick course in the economics of his business. Of the fifty million dollars customers paid for tickets last year, he said, Hollywood Theater kept only twenty-three million; most of the rest went to the distributors.

But, he continued, since it cost $31.2 million to pay the operating costs of the theater, his company would have lost $8.2 million if it were limited to the movie-exhibition business.

Like all theater owners, though, he has a second business: snack foods, in which the profit margin is well over eighty per cent. Last year, Hollywood Theater made a profit of $22.4 million on the sale of $26.7 million from its concession stands. 'Every element in the lobby,' Stephenson told me, 'is designed to focus the attention of the customer on its menu boards.'


Soft drinks are an important part of the movie business. All the seats in Stephenson's new theater, and most other multiplexes, are now equipped with their own cup holders, a feature that theater executives consider one of the most ground-breaking innovations in movie-theater history. With cup holders, customers can not only handle drinks more easily in combination with other snacks but can store their drinks while returning to the concession stand for more food.

As we walked around, a theater executive, who was assessing different popcorn-topping oil, said that salt was the secret to financial success since it drives customers back to the concession stand for drinks--where they buy more popcorn."
-The Hollywood Economist-

07 March 2007

Do You Yelp?

Do you remember the first time you used Google? Me neither. I used to be a Netscape devotee but somewhere along the way, I just started using Google constantly. Soon, everyone was using Google. A bit after soon, Google became an empire.

The same sort of thing happens with Amazon, Craigslist, Friendster, YouTube, Digg, whatever. I'm sure M.Gladwell would say something here about the tipping point but really, I'm sure there's a very well orchestrated way websites like this enter our lives. Somehow, they solve the chicken and the egg problem of "we'll be great when everyone uses us, but how do we get big?" and are now market dominators.

Well now, the new up and comer website is Yelp. I think I'm even slow on the Yelp bandwagon. Until we moved to Fremont, I didn't really need to search online for restaurant reviews. Not being familiar with a new area, we were constantly Googling different types of food. A strange little site would always pop up: Yelp. I paid little attention to it. User generated food reviews? Yawn.

But then Ameer started selling me on Yelp. And he committed to Yelping. See, he's been collecting business cards and creating his own handy food database for awhile now. But he needed some way to take it online. Yelp was the perfect thing.

I decided that my views on local food were important information for people to know. So I started yelping (my page here). Sure, I've only yelped two places but that's because I haven't come up with my gimmick yet. If you're going to review something as a consumer, you need to stand out. Jon G has his "drawbacks?" at the end as his signature. I'm still trying to figure out what my thing will be -- not to mention waiting for a good way to install a personal rating system. I want my one, three, or five stars to mean something.

In the meantime, if you're already a Yelper, let's be friends! If you're not Yelping, get on it!

03 March 2007

Book Swap: March

Something New
Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
Catch Me If You Can - Frank Abagnale
My Antonia - Willa Cather
Dumbing Down Our Kids - Charles Sykes
The Last Templar - Raymond Khoury
That's what I acquired from this month's book swap. It's hard to gauge people's interests in particular genres so I try to bring a selection. I'm happiest when a book of mine ends up in every swapper's take-home pile. I was delighted with my swaps this time around as I've been wanting to read Flowers for Algernon for quite awhile and now I will.

Between the five books I figured I pulled a pretty good selection of fun books, thought provoking books, and one that I might have never read except it was described as one swapper's "favorite book of all time." To put that label on something must make it pretty exceptional -- in some way -- right?

I once recommended my favorite book to someone at a party and she ended up reading it and ranking it among her favorite books of all time. I think that's pretty cool.