Friday, January 30, 2009

Banana Barcode

I preface this post by stating that it's Friday.

I noticed yesterday that my banana had an individual barcode on it.

That brings up the question of why Dole is barcoding individual fruit? Or was this banana just the lucky one in the bunch, or even the entire crate, to bear the identifying mark?

Apparently, this particular banana came from Costa Rica, as stated on the label (sorry about the fuzzy image). So did Dole tag this banana in Costa Rica, and tracked it's entire movement through their supply chain and found that someone in Cleveland purchased it? Do they know that I ate it? Will they now track the peel through the garbage into the landfill?

Like I said, it's Friday.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cursing on the Job, Part 2

Another scenario that may cause a person to curse on the job - now rectified.

Today, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which amends 1964 Civil Rights Act and extends the statute of limitations to file a claim against pay discrimination another 180 days for every alleged discriminatory pay. Previously, the time to file a claim was limited to only the first 180 days after the initial discriminatory pay.

To me, this is a no-brainer. In the case of Lilly Ledbetter, a previous Supreme Court decision said that she missed the 180-day window to file her claim because she found out that she was being paid less than her male counterparts after working 19 years for Goodyear. So basically, as long as an employer can hide from an employee for 180 days the fact that her pay for doing the same work is lower than her male colleagues, then they're scot-free.

Critics of the law argue that this will only bring more lawsuits against employers and enrich lawyers. This is likely to be true, but this particular argument is a falacy because it can be said of any employment law and many other laws. The point is, if an employer doesn't want to get sued, then don't violate the law. An honest employer should give equal pay for equal work, and I think this applies to more than just gender, but also race, age, as well as citizenship status. And if the employer discriminates, it should be justly punished, with no loophole in the form of a statute of limitations.

Cursing on the Job

A shocking blog title, but here's the explanation.

We had a rather heavy snow day yesterday, and when Starla was driving, very slowly and carefully, to work, she saw a garbage truck picking up trash along a neighboring street for trash day. One of the workers, wearing a coat that was probably not thick enough for the weather, was climbing up a snow bank and digging out a bag of trash that had been buried by several inches of snow. She wondered what he must have been thinking while doing that.

I think if there was ever a reason to curse while on the job, this might be one of them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

It is, of course, the Year of the Ox, which is my year, so everyone please congratulate me (and anyone else who was born in the Year of the Ox)! You can't see it, but I'm wearing red today.

We enjoyed bountiful meals at my parents' house this past weekend in celebration of the New Year, and was able to see my brother and his wife for the first time since their wedding. As always at my parents' house, my Mom (with assistance from my Dad) cooked up a storm, and all of us who were at the table now feel a little more like cow than ox.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

President Barack ObamaToday, this hour, I feel more proud to be American than I have felt in a long time.

Today, this hour, I see a brighter future for my children.

The song I'm listening to:

"The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world"

- Lyrics by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss.
- Recorded by Louis Armstrong

Monday, January 19, 2009


We're currently trying out a service called ooma. It's a VoIP service provider whose distinction is that you pay upfront for the VoIP device, then pay no monthly fees for using their service.

Vonage and other similar VoIP providers sell a relatively inexpensive (sometimes free) box that connects your telephone to your high speed internet connection, and then charge a monthly service fee of around $25 for unlimited domestic calls. This is similar to the mobile phone plans that most of us have, where the cost of the mobile phone is subsidized by the mobile phone providers via the service contracts.

ooma's premise is that instead of charging for monthly service, they earn money by:
  • selling the ooma device up-front, which costs quite a bit more than devices from other providers, though the device looks like it's well-designed and well-built;
  • encouraging their subscribers to sign up for their Premier service, which includes some extra features for $12.95 per month. I think we'll be fine using their basic service, which includes all the telephone features we use today; and
  • charging for international calls, for which their rates are similar to those of other providers.
We've used it for a few days now, and the voice quality is pretty good. I don't think anyone on the other end of our calls can tell that we've made the switch. The user reviews on are pretty positive regarding both the device and the service - giving it 4.2 out of 5 stars, and they are a must-read if you're considering trying out ooma for yourself.
There's a 30-day money-back return guarantee, so we'll see how this trial period goes. If it continues to be good, we'll be cancelling our local phone service in a few weeks. I'll post an update when that decision is made.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Best Job in the World

This was in the news today.

The tourism board of Queensland, Australia has posted what's being called "the best job in the world". The job pays US$105,000 for a six-month contract to be the "Caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef". Basically, you get to swim and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, walk the white sand beaches, and the only "work" is to write a blog with photos and videos about your experiences.

In addition to the salary, you get to live rent-free in a beachhouse with a golf buggy, and you get free airfare from your home to your "workplace".

You can read the details and apply for the job here Applications are due on February 22nd. Don't worry about competition from me, because as much as I'd love to spend six months playing in the azure waters and blogging from there, I'd miss shoveling my driveway.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Something frightful this way comes

Over the past couple of weeks, Phoebe has suddenly developed a fear for the middle of our kitchen. We cannot recall any incident which would have been so traumatic, or even atypical, for her to have suddenly developed this fear. After all, the kitchen is her domain - it's where her crate is, where her food and water bowls are, and where she naps when we're away.

Now, whenever she approaches the kitchen, she stops short at the doorway and whimpers. If we're in the kitchen cooking or something, she'll just sit at the doorway. Sometimes she circles in an anxious state while whimpering, as if trying to work up the courage to enter the kitchen.

We've tried to encourage her to play in the kitchen, but it's obvious that she's trying to avoid the middle of the kitchen. If she finally decides to enter, she scurries around the edge of the room by the counters and races to the other side of the room to her crate, her paws slipping on the hardwood floor.

One day last week, I had the dishwasher open, thus blocking her path by the counters. I called her into the kitchen, and she kept to the edge of the room, slithering underneath the dishwasher door rather than go around the door, which would have meant that she'd traverse the middle of the room. Like a good trainer, I tried to associate good things with this area by calling her to the middle of the kitchen floor and feeding her a handful of treats. She ate them eagerly, though nervously. This effort, apparently, was for naught, because she remains frightened by the unseen force that occupies the middle of our kitchen.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Last week, I heard a story on the radio about a Dutch design firm which has come out with a "eco-font".

The font by SPRANQ, called "Spranq Eco Sans", is designed to save printer toner or ink by including holes in the type face. Apparently they've determined that this saves up to 20% ink when printed, while maintaining the readability of the printed type face.

You can download the font for free from Sprang and install it on your computer. It will then be available for any of your programs to use.

Here's the link to the story from NPR News.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The not-so-secret life of Cleveland

I hope this will be the first of many blog posts about life in Cleveland.

Today we visited a couple of the little gems in our city. I'm not saying that other cities don't have gems of their own, but I do tend to see surprised looks on people's faces when I say that I love Cleveland.

First, we stopped by the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, which is located at the end of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, to see some of the Christmas poinsettia as well as their normal displays. I know, it's after Christmas, but it was nice because there were not too many people, which allowed us to stop and take some photos.



It's not a huge greenhouse, but there are some lovely orchids, palm trees that reach the ceiling, and quite a few aptly-named species of cacti.

Afterwards, we stopped by the Cleveland Playhouse to see their annual Christmas tree display, where people from around the city put up and decorate Christmas trees that line the corridors and atrium of the Playhouse.

This was their last day, and workers had begun taking down some of the trees, though most were still up. The top three trees received ribbon awards. I'm not sure who or how they were judged. The first prize went to this non-tree tree created by a local architectural firm, which, with its twisting steel spires, reminds me a lot of the Peter B. Lewis Building nearby.

Starla noted that many of the trees this year featured peacock feathers, and still more used copper-colored decorations. One of my favorites is this one decked out in purple.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009

Happy New Year to y'all, and to all, a blessed 2009.

Update 1/22/2009: This morning, "Benjamin Button" topped the Oscar nominations with 13, including one for "Best Picture."

And now, for somethin' else, a movie review.

This past weekend, we saw the recently released The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is based loosely on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald adapted for the 20th century. You can read the full text of the story online. I haven't.

The story, and the film, is about a man who lives his life backwards -- growing younger from an old man to a baby. The film stars Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button and the amazing Cate Blanchett as his love interest Daisy. The filmmakers did a great job of creating the make-up, scenery, production design, etc. to immerse the audience in the historical times depicted in the film. And more importantly, for most of the film, the story is told from Benjamin's point of view. The fact that Benjamin is growing younger seems to only amaze his father at the beginning of the film. The rest of the people in his life take it as just the way things are. As his adopted mother, Queenie, says when she first brings Benjamin home -- "He's still a child of God."

The film follows Benjamin's life as he discovers the world. His learning of the cycle of life at the house where he lives -- a sort of nursing home -- was quite an enjoyable montage. Aside from Benjamin and Daily, all the secondary characters who intersect Benjamin's life, like Captain Mike and Elizabeth Abbott, were also well developed.

This film is well worth the approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes. After all, it's a lifetime for Benjamin Button.