Category Archives: Ranting

Derek’s Water Saving Tips for Urban Dwellers

There are no two ways about it. California’s water situation does not look good. Governor Brown recently and smartly imposed mandatory water restrictions. Government agencies are now responsible for coming up with strategies to cut water use by 25 percent. Rural dwellers carry much of the restriction burden because of the lawns they want to water and the cars they want to wash. I believe that there are small things we urban dwellers can do to easily cut back as well.

Barack_Obama_speaks_with_farmers_about_California_drought,_2014

Derek’s everyday water conservation TIPs:

  1. Get a timer for your shower and restrict yourself to 5 minutes. I randomly received a shower timer as swag at a tradeshow and my roommate and I randomly started using it. We’ve both become much more aware of our time in the shower and the water we use. We’ve realized how efficient we can be in 5 minutes. It’s easy to consider showers as relaxation time and it can also be rewarding to know you’re saving water. Get a shower timer on Amazon.
  2. Stuff your dishwasher full and experiment with settings that use less water. Dishwashers are wonderful machines of convenience. While they generally use less water than hand washing dishes, there are still opportunities to conserve. Don’t run your dishwasher unless you couldn’t possibly fit anything else in. Run out of clean spoons? Buy some more spoons. Also, test out your settings to see how low in water use you can go before you aren’t satisfied with the wash quality. Try a half load wash setting with a full load.
  3. Don’t overlook the small things. Don’t let the water run unnecessarily during hand washing and tooth brushing.

While these small habit changes will not get us out of the drought, they should at least get you thinking about water more as a precious resource and make you more mindful of your water use.

Water conservation is no joke! Do your part and encourage others.

More Easy Ways to Conserve Water from NBC LA.

Blackfish and the captive wildlife crisis

BlackfishThis weekend I saw Blackfish, a new documentary that examines how killer whales are held in captivity by entertainment-based companies like Sea World.

Many parts of this movie are heart breaking to watch. Like when the former whale catchers and whale trainers describe what it was like when they witnessed killer whale families being torn apart and the obvious grief they could see the whales experiencing. In the wild, killer whales stick together as families their entire lives.

The movie examines  a number of other characteristics of these naturally friendly creatures, like how they are are among the most emotionally developed in the animal kingdom, how they have language, and how they live to 60-90 years in the wild. In their tiny tanks being held captive, however, forced to perform for food, killer whales on average only live about 25 years. (This discrepancy in life expectancy in wild vs. captive killer whales is one of many examples of Sea World denying blatant facts, in its ongoing defense.)

The sad truth is that there are dozens of killer whales and other intelligent, emotional mammals forced to live captive by humans for the sole propose of entertainment. In Blackfish, one of the former Sea World trainers states that he is sure in 50 years we will look back and be ashamed of and shocked by our actions — the way we treated some of the most intelligent animals on the planet, for so many generations.

Elephants too, still trained and forced to work for our entertainment in circuses, suffer the same ill treatment. Equally as beautiful as killer whales, elephants were the subject of another eye-opening documentary I recently saw, HBO’s An Apology to Elephants.

For any friends out there thinking of taking your kids to a circus or a theme park with performing sea mammals, I urge you to first take the time to watch one or both of these movies.

Blackfish will air nationwide on CNN on October 24.

At Last: The Book of Mormon

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Late last month I finally had the opportunity to see The Book of Mormon, winner of nine 2011 Tony Awards, including best musical. Usually I don’t feel like the last to see great musicals because of frequent trips to New York City and daily monitoring of Broadway blogs to stay on top of what’s good. (I’m proud to have seen half of the shows nominated for best musical in the last three years.)

Seeing it one year and eight months after opening in New York didn’t come easy. I dragged my feet buying tickets during the pre-sale and missed the window of opportunity. As a result I had to make sure I woke up early on the day tickets went on sale to the public, which just so happened to be the day that the Space Shuttle was being flown over San Francisco on a 747 on its way to LA. Of course, I wanted to see that too. No joke, the exact moment I could hear the 747 jet engines flying outside my apartment, tickets went on sale. Unfortunately, I missed the flyover and was forced to instead enjoy all the photos that flooded my Facebook feed from friends. The ticket site crashed multiple times when I was trying to buy 4 seats and then it crashed a couple more times when I tried to buy 2. Eventually I had to accept the fact that this show was going to sell out quickly and that I was only going to be able to get a single ticket, which I quickly did.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone to see a Broadway show alone. I’ve gone in New York lots of time when traveling solo on business and I even did in San Francisco once to see Wicked a second time. Sometimes you can get really great seats if you are going alone. For that Wicked show I had a great orchestra ticket and was surrounded by (fellow) Broadway nerds… one guy that boasted that he’d seen the show dozens of time and was in the audience for the San Francisco premiere back when it was in previews.

Anyway, flash forward a few months and I saw The Book of Mormon!

And I enjoyed it.

It’s extremely funny. There’s lots of great choreography and a handful of memorable songs (Turn It Off ! ). There’s some fun Orlando humor which totally cracked me up given the amount of time I spent there this year. Oh and there are lots of fit, cute, dancing boys in the show.

There is a part of me that wishes I had tried harder to see it sooner. There’s something about this type of satire and humor that isn’t timeless. Given the fact we had a Mormon in serious contention for the Presidency this year makes some of the religious inappropriateness slightly less scandalous and over-the-top.

With that being said, I 100 percent recommend anyone and everyone try to see this musical (as soon as possible). It’s one of those shows you can enjoy without having hardcore appreciation for musical theater and one that will most definitely make you laugh out loud.

A Dummies Guide to Super PACs

Are you paying attention to Super PACs?

If you watch Jon Stewart and/or The Colbert Report, you sure know what I’m talking about.

If you remember Kerry losing the 2004 Presidential election because of the drama stirred up from the Swiftboat attack ads, questioning Kerry’s integrity, then you are familiar with the nasty power of traditional PACs. Just wait until you hear about Super PACs.

In this election cycle, the Super PACs are in full force. There are Super PACs (political organizations that can raise as much money as they want with unrestricted single donation amounts, in support of a candidate, as long as they don’t actually interact with the candidate) that will raise up to $300 million in this Presidential election. Their goal is to get their candidate elected by taking out the other candidates. Mostly with negative attack ads, robo calls, etc. You’re familiar with their tactics.

Did you know it’s harder to create a TV commercial selling white bread because of FCC regulations you have to go through to prove your claims. With political ads you apparently aren’t under the same scrutiny, so you don’t have to prove the claims you’re making. So it’s pretty easy to get a negative campaign ad about a candidate on TV.

Sometimes the Super PACs get fined when the Federal Election Commission finds out that they are cohorting with a candidate (you’re not allowed to communicate remember). Fined how much you ask? Anywhere from $50,000 to $300,000. Hmm, sounds significant. I guess unless you consider that some of these Super PACs are raising tens of millions of dollars. So maybe a $200,000 fine here and there is the cost of doing business?

Back to Stephen Colbert. Maybe you’ve heard, he’s founded his own Super PAC. Why? Not to attack any particular candidate. But to draw more attention to how Super PACs are destroying the political system in the United States.

Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC is running the following outrageous TV ad right now in South Carolina, if you can believe it:


How much as Stephen Colbert raised? The funny thing is that he doesn’t have to tell us! Well, Super PACs are supposed to release the names of their donors, with donation amounts, every 3 months. But you know what? Stephen Colbert formed his Super PAC in July and he hasn’t reported any of his donations. And no one seems to care. He says the FEC could fine him but they’d have to rule he did something wrong. And they’re split 3-3 (republican-democrat) so they can never actually ever agree on anything to rule on. So he’s fine to just keep wreaking havoc… showing how out of control Super PACs are.

I don’t know what the solution is to Super PAC fiascos. They are supported by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2010 (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), with the majority coming from liberal judges. And it sounds like the Supreme Court will never reverse its own decision, so the only thing that could change the system now is an amendment to the United States Constitution (no easy task).

Oh and don’t think this is a nasty Republican thing. Democrats are currently raising oodles in their own Super PACs, in support of President Obama. They will be fired up and ready to rip to shreds whoever the Republican candidate ends up being.

It’s going to be interesting. Can’t wait to watch the 2012 election unfold.

Just call me Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

I don’t really do movie reviews but I saw three movies in the last 7 days, so I thought I’d make a few comments that might influence your movie-going-decision-making this weekend.

Moneyball – great screenplay with (as-expected by Aaron Sorkin) a lot of great dialogue and funny one liners. This movie is not a comedy but I laughed out loud at least a dozen times. Brad Pitt was yummy to look at for 2 hours (a little long for some people but I wasn’t bothered) and Jonah Hill was an excellent supporting actor. I’ve never taken him serious, but he wins big points for this quirky and nerdy but effective performance as Billy Beane’s sidekick. I don’t follow baseball much and knew nothing about Billy Beane’s story going into this movie, but I loved everything about it. In fact, it’s probably my favorite movie of the year so far. I give it a solid A.

Ides of March – can you really go wrong with Ryan Gosling and George Clooney? Eh… I don’t know. While I thought this movie was entertaining, especially as we find ourselves swirling around in the next Republican presidential primary, I also thought it was a little predictable. I did not like Evan Rachel Wood’s character and I didn’t find her influence on the story to be believable at all. I generously give it a B because it was a well-made movie, carried by two very nice-to-look-at actors.

50/50 – I was hoping for a tear jerker. And by that I mean I was hoping for a movie that was actually powerful enough to evoke tears, à la City of Angels, My Girl, Million Dollar Baby. I should have known any movie with Seth Rogen isn’t going to be that serious. I thought the relationship between Seth’s character and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s was endearing and believable but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy them because I was distracted by all the annoying characters. At the top of my hit list is Anna Kendrick’s character as a therapist. She just was not believable. And it wasn’t because of her youth or inexperience. It was because she just didn’t accurately play the role of a therapist. Wrong questions, wrong attitude, wrong approach. (Look at me, acting like I know all about therapy.) I also though Anjelica Huston was trying too hard to be Meryl Streep. Wow, I guess I disliked this movie more than I thought. I give it a C.

There you have it, go see Moneyball!

practical, realistic, and matter-of-fact

I recently took the popular (and maybe slightly overdone) Myers Briggs personality test during an all-day learning and development course at work. We examined our personality types, and then did a series of exercises to learn about how personalities can affect and influence the workplace, like how personalty differences affect the way people communicate.

It was an interesting and slightly fluffy day… work of a different kind.. on myself rather than for someone else. It was a much needed break from the desk-meeting-conference-call grind I’d been on. I learned a lot about myself and have spent the last few days reflecting on my personality discoveries.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (BMTI) classified me as an ESTJ, defined by the Keirsey Temperament Sorter as a Supervisor. Supervisors are civic-minded individuals who dedicate themselves to maintaining the institutions behind a smooth-running society.

I’m not going to go into each of my different personality preferences (E, S, T, J) or debate whether I think the Supervisor definition is accurate. But I will share a little about the realization I made while analyzing my results.

Colin Powell, a fellow ESTJer.

As part of our personality test result, we were shown a sliding scale between the pairs of personality preferences. E vs. I, T vs. F, you know? To what degree do you prefer extroversion to introversion or thinking over feeling? slight preference? moderate preference? very clear preference? the course instructor told us that most people have slight to moderate preferences. I looked down at my results and realized that all four of my personality types were very clear preferences. I brought it up to the instructor and she said while it’s not necessarily common to be that extreme in personality preferences, it’s not all together uncommon either. (That kind of makes sense.)

I found this kind of alarming…

…that my personality appeared on paper, as inflexible… to the extreme.

This realization comes appropriately timed, as I’m exploring every bit about me, and as I’m challenging myself to different ways of life, like embracing solitude as opposed to constant companionship. Seeing how far I am from having any sort of introversion preferences reminds me that my desire to be around someone, all the time, is engrained pretty deep somewhere in my psyche. It doesn’t mean I can’t change. It doesn’t necessarily mean I should change either but it encourages me to continue exploring the other ends of the personality spectrums.

This realization also provides great validation that I’m on the right track… and that I should continue exploring. Throw facts out the window once and a while, and go with my gut. Go on a weekend getaway and don’t plan a thing in advance.

Push my own personality buttons a little and figure out who I really am.

An ode to Yelp

Little YelperI used to be quite the Yelper.

I was a relatively early adopter, an active member since October 2006. I grew a network of friends of fellow Yelpers. I was Elite for three years (2007, 2008 and 2009). I Yelped back when it was still possible to get Firsts.

Writing Yelp reviews was just about as satisfying as blogging back then. (I was on a blogging hiatus.)

Eventually the site became overwhelmed with members, it became hard to get into Elite parties and the quality of the reviews went down. Yelp was no longer just this fun social community that my friends and I played around in. (And then there were all those questionable business practicies that Yelp was doing with advertisers.)

I kind of lost faith and excitement and stopped using the site.

But since moving earlier this year and being out on my own, I’ve found myself returning to Yelp more frequently. I have to admit it’s kind of nice. Reading old reviews and compliments from friends takes me back to a fun time in life.

So anyway, I’m glad to see Yelp is still doing well. Despite some annoyances, it’s still the best way to narrow down restaurant choices and keep up on new hot spots.

special bonus: here is the last review I wrote. at what must have been an irritable time in life.

Damn sandwich artist

pij