Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Best Reviewer on Amazon

While browsing Jack in the Box toys on Amazon, I came across A. Barry "THE reviewer" who may be the funniest Amazon reviewer I've encountered. I am still working on getting through his 100 Amazon product reviews and, in the meantime, want to share my top five favorites (so far). 

Schylling Jack-In-The-Box Schylling Jack-In-The-Box
1.0 out of 5 stars Haunted, June 12, 2005 
Schylling Jack-In-The-Box 
This thing is freaky. I bought one for my son and one night last week I woke up and it was on my nightstand and the crank was turning itself and then all of a sudden the clown popped up! It scared the crap outta me. Avoid this at all costs. 

iRobot 560 Roomba Vacuuming Robot, Black and Silver 
1.0 out of 5 stars Too intelligent for its own good, August 1, 2009 

iRobot 560 Roomba Vacuuming Robot, Black and SilverMy first go at using the Roomba was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I remember discovering just how intelligent the thing really was. It maneuvered around the furniture, detected dirt on the floor that you have not seen otherwise, and even knew when to start itself up and turn itself off. This little Roomba robot was so intelligent it was almost like a member of the family. 

Two months after that day, the Roomba continued to perfectly execute its function and it became quite the conversation piece with the neighbors. But it wouldn't be long until things started getting unsettling. I noticed the Roomba (who we had nicknamed "Roomby" by this point) constantly bumping into the kitchen tables and counters. I figured these occurrences were only minor malfunctions, and when they happened I simply lifted Roomby up and turned it towards another direction. At other times, Roomby would lay dormant in front of the front door. I figured it was bound to get hit if it stayed there so I moved it to a more safe location. On one fateful summer day, me and the family were relaxing in the backyard by the pool. My son went inside to get some extra towels and happened to leave the door open. Thirty seconds later and out comes Roomby, treading at full speed straight towards the pool. We were so struck with surprise that we couldn't help but just watch it. It had nearly reached the pool when my son came running out shouting "Roomby!", but alas, it was too late. Roomby fell right into the pool and we could only assume the worst had happened to it. 

Looking back at the event, I believe that Roomby was such an intelligent machine that it became self aware and realized it was damned to a life of cleaning floors. This sad-but-true realization is what had driven poor old Roomby to terminate itself. Farewell Roomby, we will miss you. 

Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether 
1.0 out of 5 stars A conspiracy in the making, August 2, 2009 

Vulli Sophie the Giraffe TeetherI find it alarming just how many parents are praising this thing. As a parent, you want to protect your children. When learning about all the protective measures this toy takes, most parents would be on board. But I know better. I did a little under-the-microscope research and have reached some alarming conclusions about this toy. 

First of all, the name "Sophie" (a nickname for "Sophia") is of Greek origin. A little known fact is that the ancient Greeks oftentimes ate their young for food or sacrificed them to their many gods. Giving a baby toy a name that descends from a line of baby-eaters is puzzling. 

Even more puzzling is the deliberate use of a giraffe. There are no records of a giraffe appearing in Greece in the wild. How then are we supposed to believe that this thing can be both Greek AND a giraffe if the combination is simply not possible? 

This choice of species is even more alarming to anybody who has read the Greek epic "The Odyssey". At one point in the story, Odysseus and his crew arrive on the shores of Africa and encounter none other than a giraffe. The giraffe was seen as a demonically tainted horse and struck fear into the hearts of Odysseus and his men. 

Still not convinced? Look at the gallery of customer-submitted pictures. The majority of these photos feature a baby masticating the face of their Sophie toy. A cute gesture, or the only defense a baby has against the demonic animal? Think what you believe, but my research points towards the latter option.

Poulan Pro 400E 18-Inch 4 HP Electric Chain Saw Poulan Pro 400E 18-Inch 4 HP Electric Chain Saw 
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing gets the job done like a Poulan Pro 400E!, July 23, 2009 

Poulan Pro 400E 18-Inch 4 HP Electric Chain SawHi. Allow me to introduce myself. I live in a remote village located in the rural outskirts of Spain. It's a nice little place, and me and my people have thrived there for countless generations. 

Lately, however, an American agent of some sort has shown up. He seems to be looking for some missing girl judging from the picture he once showed us. Now, I'm not gonna lie, my people are aggressive. We're not infected monsters or anything like that, we're just aggressive. So, when the agent kept trying to break the language barrier and inform us of this missing girl, one of villagers kinda lashed out a little. I don't think that justifies a gunshot to the head. 

So, the agent gave up on communicating with us and is now just killing on sight. I took refuge in my barn and thought desperately of a way to dispose of this American. A few minutes later and I had devised a genius plan. I opened my tool shed and got out my Poulan Pro 400E. Just holding it made me feel stronger! And then, almost without thinking, I emptied out a nearby sack of flour and placed it over my head. I don't know why I did this, but I realized how menacing I would look once I poked eye holes out of it. 

There I was, with my Poulan Pro 400E, ready to bust some heads. Finding the American agent was easy, all I had to do was follow the sound of gunshots. I eventually found him capping my people outside the chief's home. I revved up my Poulan Pro 400E and began my pursuit. The second he heard this baby running he got a terrified look on his face. He quickly switched his handgun out in favor of a machine gun and pointed it my way. Ha! Those puny bullets merely tickled my body! It was as if I had became three times stronger just by holding my Poulan Pro 400E. The agent ran out of ammunition and switched back to his handgun. This time he took careful aim at my sack-covered face. I was amazed, the flour sack provided protection from the bullets, so much that they didn't even phase me. 

As I approached ever nearer, the agent turned and headed upstairs. I can only assume he ran out of ammo and began searching for the many boxes of ammunition that we villagers like to randomly place. I followed his trail up the stairs and caught him with his back turned. This was it. I lunged as fast as I could towards him, and he turned around just a moment too late. He was now on the receiving end of my Poulan Pro 400E with a look of pure pain on his face. After seconds of futile resistance, his head was sawed off with a nice clean cut. It dropped and bounced on the floor, much like how his limp body did soon afterward. 

That's my story. What it all boils down to is this; No matter the situation, a good Poulan Pro 400E can always help. It most certainly helped me! 

Rosetta Stone V3: English (US) Level 1-5 Set with Audio Companion [OLD VERSION] Rosetta Stone V3: English (US) Level 1-5 Set with Audio Companion [OLD VERSION] 
1.0 out of 5 stars A monumental dissapointment., June 13, 2009 

Rosetta Stone V3: English (US) Level 1-5 Set with Audio Companion [OLD VERSION]Words cannot express my dissatisfaction with this product. I am a Turkish artist and in wanting to gather inspiration for my future artwork, I planned a world tour, stopping in all the cultural hot spots of the world including France, Italy, Brazil, Azerbaijan, and of course the center of it all, America. I purchased Rosetta Stone software for all the respective languages of the countries I would soon experience. I knew learning a new language, let alone several, would take a lot of dedication. Learning the languages was a lot of fun although the English language in particular was hard to nail down, but I knew learning it would open so many new opportunities for me. 

With the knowledge of half a dozen new languages in me, I embarked on my world tour. My first stop, Italy, was amazing. Speaking to the locals was awkward at first, but once they assured me I was speaking Italian just fine, it became really fun and rewarding. I hoped that my venture into France would be just as successful. 

Country after country, knowing the language helped me immerse myself in culture. I had discovered so much and I had yet to reach the tip of the iceberg, the cultural melting pot that is America. I was so excited. I could not wait to speak the same language as the American people I had heard so much of. 

After landing in Miami, Florida, I had started walking towards my hotel when I noticed a group of people walking towards me. I viewed it as a prime moment to speak English, as I hoped to ask someone if there was a museum nearby. I asked them, confident in my English-speaking abilities, and they answered, but not in the same language as I had questioned. I was in shock. Everything I knew about English was suddenly in limbo. I started asking others, hoping for in intelligible answer, but everybody I asked answered in a language unknown to me. 

What had happened? Either these people were speaking the wrong language or I had been taught the wrong language. I came to the conclusion that there is no way people in their own country would not speak the wrong language, so Rosetta Stone is to blame! 

Whatever this language is I have learned, it is not the language of America. Had Rosetta Stone properly taught me authentic English and not this completely unrelated language, I might have been able to immerse myself in wonderful American culture. The only thing I can do with this language is express to you on this site how much this product has let me down.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Twenty-Eight to Twenty-Nine Weeks Pregnant

How Far Along:  I’m between 28 and 29 weeks pregnant today.

Thoughts on Photo:  Today the bump is 40 inches or 101.5 cm.  This is a pretty big jump from 39 inches two weeks ago.  The dress is from the closet of Rachel who was wonderful enough to give me her maternity clothes.  Rachel is awesome!

As you can tell from the picture, I am getting enormous.  It has therefore become a lot harder for me to get around and clean.  Yet, I have become addicted to cleaning (nesting).  Apparently, this is very common at this stage of the pregnancy.  Yesterday I paused my workout to vacuum a spot on the floor.    

Weight Gain: Last week I weighed 156 pounds and today I weigh 158 pounds.  I also weighed myself last night and the screamed out in shock when the scale said 160 pounds.

Fruit of the Week:  Gromet is a butternut squash (yum!). He is about 15.25 ins big and weighs about 2.5 lbs.  83 days until Gromet’s arrival!  

Gromet this Week:   Gromet’s bones are beginning to harden and store iron, phosphorus and calcium.   

Cravings: Watermelon, peaches, strawberries, etc. 

Fears: The usual: our sonogram is on Monday... I am both extremely excited and terrified. 

Highlight of the Week:   Alex replaced the vacuum cleaner bag today and I almost cried with joy when the suction improved dramatically.  It has been refusing to suck properly the last two weeks which has made cleaning very frustrating. 

Alex and I also spent the last week in LA at SIGGRAPH (a conference on computer graphics attended by tens of thousands of computer professionals).  Alex presented his paper at SIGGRAPH back in 2008 so it was exciting to be back amidst the creativity.  I actually did not go to the conference but stayed inside the hotel most of the time due to the extreme heat. I did see a few of the exhibits on the last day as we were leaving.  The most exciting were the 3D printers. In a few years we will be able to print a lot of the things we need from the comfort of our own home!

On the way home from LA, Alex and I stopped by IKEA and Pottery Barn Kids.  I love IKEA’s baby department.  We bought an amazing night light and some other items for the baby.  I was also happy to discover that I can buy a great potty at IKEA for $5.  I promptly removed the $35 designer plastic poop seat off the registry. 

Pottery Barn Kids was also a treat! We have never been and I have recently become obsessed with the store online.  Alex also seemed to have a pretty good time and enjoyed looking at the toys and decorations.  He commented that the retro play kitchen was more expensive than some real kitchens.     

Non-Highlight of the Week:  I have been sick all week.  I have also been walking into a lot of things that I can’t see because the bump is in the way.  Earlier this week I walked into a fire hydrant which was extremely painful and resulted in a huge bruise on left leg. Two weeks ago I walked into part of a bed frame at a furniture store and got a huge bruise on my right leg.   

I am also sad to report that the long lost pregnancy yoga dvd has been found destroyed under the rug when we were vacuuming the living room today.  It’s not too bad because it has long been replaced with a much better dvd. 

Additional Notes:  The Harry Potter Hogwarts castle is done! Come on over and play with it if you want.  It is amazing how detailed this castle is.  Whoever designed it is a genius.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Twenty-Two to Twenty-Three Weeks Pregnant

How Far Along:  I’m between 22 and 23 weeks pregnant today. 
Thoughts on Photo:  People are no longer surprised when I tell them I’m pregnant.  Strangers smile knowingly and say “almost due!” I cannot imagine what I will look like when I am 9 months.  I expect strangers will comment: “triplets will be a handful!” 
Weight Gain: Last week I weighed 153.6 pounds and today I weigh 153.1 pounds.  My hunger is more under control this week and I have been exercising almost every day. 
Fruit of the Week:  A large mango (I think the person coming up with the fruit size comparisons is running out of ideas).  Another pregnancy app told me that Gromet is the size of an Eggplant from weeks 22-24.  An Eggplant is every different from a large mango. 
Gromet this Week:   Gromet seems to be finishing up his physical development (other than growing in size) and now the focus is on his brain.  Gromet is learning to feel things like hunger, thirst, sadness, fear and happiness. 
Cravings: Horseradish.  If it comes with food, all the better.  I’ve also been drinking a lot of coconut water (works like speed for pregnant women). 
Worries:  Gromet going through puberty.  Alex will have to tackle that one.   

Best Part of the Week:  Gromet and I discovered the Oceanside and Mission Branch libraries this week.  I also scored some great baby books in Spanish at the Mission Branch library and checked out books on baby sign language at the Oceanside library.  I refuse to wait for Gromet to speak before I can communicate with him.   

Worst Part of the Week:  My teeth-cleaning on Monday.  My gums bled so much that the room looked like a murder scene. 

Registry Update: The registry is done! Alex and I finally sat down and went over everything on it. I was surprised to find that his approach to the registry is very different from mine.  While I add everything that the baby could possibly ever need, Alex believes that the items should be limited to things that people would actually enjoy purchasing (“we can buy our own trash bags and petroleum jelly”). I got to keep some items due to the rising costs of Aquaphor and A + D ointment these days.  

Alex was also shocked by some of the items on the registry and fervently advocated for their removal. The first was the Nosefrida Snotsucker Nasal Aspirator.  Based on my research, this is the most effective and safest nasal aspirator on the market (designed by the Swedish, like our nursery) but Alex had a problem with the idea of using his mouth to suck snot out of the baby’s nose and tried to replace it with a bulb aspirator.  I am pleased to say I won this debate. 

The second was a pack of Nuk Seal’N Go Disposable breast milk storage bags (leak-proof, self-standing and freezer-safe).  Alex could not imagine why anyone would ever want to store breast milk and expected that we would throw away any extra milk I produced.  Needless to say, I too won this one. 
Additional Notes:  One of the parenting books I’ve read, “Superbaby” by Dr. Jenn Berman, states that “an infant’s brain is wired to learn any language to which he is exposed.”  But, between the age of six and 12 months, the baby’s brain begins to focus on the primary language and he begins to lose the ability to hear the sounds of languages he does not regularly hear.  Therefore, the window to language development begins to close.  After age six, it becomes even more difficult to acquire a second language and native accents become more difficult or impossible to acquire. 
This means that if I want to give Gromet an advantage in Spanish, Chinese and Russian, I have to start as early as possible (now!).  The problem is that I don’t really know Spanish and Chinese and my Russian is very rusty.  Dr. Berman’s book explains that the best way to familiarize a baby with a foreign language (other than having meaningful interactions with the baby in that language) is to read to the baby.  I can probably get away with that in Spanish but I read like a five year old in Russian, sounding out every word.  And, did you know that you have to learn a new language/system called Pinyin in order to learn Chinese?  They couldn’t just sound out all the Chinese characters! They had to create a new language! That’s what Gromet and I have been trying to do all week: learn to read Pinyin and thereby somehow learn to read in Chinese. 
Alex worries that during this process Gromet will not learn any English. If by the time he is two, Gromet is fluent in Spanish, Russian and Chinese but does not speak any English, I will consider my efforts a success.  I didn’t learn English until I was seven and I turned out fine. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Movies To Watch And Not To Watch When You Are Pregnant

Pregnancy is both a very beautiful and anxious time.  This is particularly true for me because of the problems I've had in the past.  As a result, I like my pregnancy movies to be optimistic and enjoyable not horrifying or depressing.  That is why I have characterized the following movies not based on whether they are good or not but based on whether they are good for a worried pregnant woman to watch. 

Movies to Watch

The Blind Side (2009)

This is such an amazing mother-child movie! I watched it last night (for the 20th time) and cried through most of it.  I especially love when Sandra Bullock is reading Ferdinand the Bull to her kids.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie!!!!!!

Father of the Bride 2 (1995) and Father's Little Dividend (1951)

Father's Little Dividend is a great movie for first time parents and grandparents.  It's a beautiful and hilarious classic about expecting a baby and bonding with him after birth.   

Father of the Bride 2 (the remake of Father's Little Dividend) is the perfect pregnancy/American Dream movie!!!  It pays up the birth of a child in the best of ways.  Even though it is a bit ridiculous at times ("the baby wing" and the baby shower with the storks), it leaves you feeling happy and sentimental about the birth of your child. 

Baby Boom (1987)

In this movie, the life of a hard working and highly paid executive (Diane Keaton) is turned upside down when she "inherits" a baby from her cousin. 

This is a great family movie about bonding with your children.  What I really loved was how the main character overcame obstacles and how her love for her daughter helped her make better life/career decisions. 

Babies (2010)

This movie is amazing!!! It follows four babies through the first year of their lives.  What I really loved was watching the contrast between how the babies were raised in these different parts of the world: Mongolia, Japan, Namibia and the US.  This movie is very well done.  There is no narrative so you just watch the babies interact with the world around them.   

Movies Not to Watch During Pregnancy

All Alien(s) Movies

These are great movies.  The reason that they are not happy pregnancy movies is pretty self explanatory if you've seen them or have a remote idea regarding what they are about: monsters impregnate unwilling victims (through their face) and then the aliens burst out of their stomachs, killing them in the most violent of ways. 

Prometheus may have actually been the worst pregnancy movie (even though we loved it).

Twilight Breaking Dawn (2011)

I did not actually see this movie but from what I've read, the birth scene is extremely violent and follows a very disturbing pregnancy. 

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

This is actually a really good movie.  In fact, it is one of the best horror movies I've ever seen.  That is also the reason that I don't like it as a pregnancy movie.  There are enough things to be anxious about when you are pregnant.  The fact that your baby may be the devil or anti-Christ should not be one of them. 

Maybe Baby (2000)

This "comedy" is about the problems a couple has conceiving a child.

I did not find this movie funny at all. In fact, it left me feeling depressed. If you are looking for a positive pregnancy movie, this is not it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Found Footage Movie Review: Chronicle vs. The Troll Hunter

Chronicle was the first movie we saw in theaters in 2012.  We would have never noticed it if our friend wasn't excited to go see it for his birthday.  Alex and I have a movie theater system: except under special circumstances, we do not watch movies in theaters unless they receive a rating of at least 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Overall, Chronicle scored 84% from 146 reviews. 

If you have not yet seen Chronicle, I don't plan to spoil it for you.  I will go into the minor plot elements meantioned in the trailer. 

The movie is about three guys who mysteriously develop super powers.  As they explore these power, Matt and Steve become concerned that Andrew has a dark side. 
The film was fairly low budget with an estimated budget of about $12 million.  It is a "found footage" film like the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and The Troll Hunter.  The explaination for filming in this style is that Andrew has decided to film everything in his life. 
The best part about this movie was how real and honest it felt.  This is how I would imagin typical high school teenager to react to getting super powers.  The acting was great and the characters were relatable.  The special effects were also well done and the CGI did not take away from how the movie felt. 
My biggest criticism was the use of "found footage" in this film.  Unlike The Troll Hunter, this film could have done without it.  At times, the filming felt forced which did take away from the movie.  The writers had to keep coming up with "creative" ways to explain where the footage was coming from and, when there was just no way to explaine it, they ignored it.  This problems was not so glarring that it ruined the film.  In fact, I didn't think much of it until we started discussing these issues afterwards.  In hindsight, it's just silly not detrimental.  This movie would have been just as enjoyable if it had been filmed in a normal manner and if the writers didn't waste their time coming up for explaination for the movie cameras. 

A few days before we watched Chronicle, we also watched The Troll Hunter, a Norweigian Horror/Fantasy film that came out in 2011.   

This film is about college students investigating mysterious bear killings as part of a school project.  They begin to stalk an evasive hunter who they believe may be behind these killings.  After the hunter eventually agrees to participate in their documentary, the students discover that sometimes fairytails are real. 
Like Chronicle, this film also has a low budget of about $19,900,000. It is filmed like a "mockumentary".  The difference between this movie and Chronical is how well the filiming style fits into the movie.  There is no camera ackwardness that detracts from the movie.  Since this movie is supposed to be a documentary, the style feels natural. 
Similar to Chronicle, this movie is also very well acted, has a great story and great special effects.  It's also very funny but, I suspect, not as funny as it would be if I were Norweigian. 

Overall, we highly recommend both Chronicle and The Troll Hunter as great movies worth watching. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today we celebrate our three year wedding anniversary.  Alex surprised me by taking me to Yu Me Ya - Sake House, a Japanese Tapas restaurant.  The food was amazing! While we enjoyed the fresh seaweed salad with citrus soy sauce and fried yam with ume mayonnaise, we reflected upon our many years together.  On July 4 this year, we will have been together for ten years.  We have enjoyed many family/DIY blogs and decided that, in honor of our anniversary, it would be fun to start one together. 

We also discussed what we appreciate in our marriage.  Probably one of the most special part of our relationship is falling asleep side-by-side and waking up together.  When we first started dating, we lived an hour apart for the first few months and then six hours apart for four years (while we went to separate Universities).  During those four years we would see each other every other weekend.  Once a month Alex would make the impossible drive to visit me at school and two weeks later I would take the train to visit him at home.  Our nights falling asleep together and our days waking up together were very few and felt like miracles when we had them.  Now that we enjoy this every day, we still appreciate how special this simple luxury is. 

We also appreciate our friendship and how much fun we have together.  Even though we may not have started out liking the same things ten years ago, over the years our tastes merged.  Now, we almost always laugh at the same things, enjoy the same movies and admire the same art.  It is so rewarding to know how much more fun we can have together then apart. 

Alex is also my role model, my inspiration and my strength.  We have been though a lot together and have grown from children into adults.  We have changed a lot but we have done so together.  By watching and learning from each other, we have become better, stronger people who can accomplish anything together, no matter what surprises, challenges or tragedies are thrown in our path. 

Happy Anniversary to my best friend!
Scallop Croquettes
Black Cod