I am glad I don’t have to go through this every day on the way to work. It’s a good thing pickpocketing is not very common in Japan. To me, there is something entirely wrong with our society when this is necessary.

Here is another view of the same problem from another side of the world.

I get a kick out of the clusters of people hanging onto the doors.

An then, of course, there is this “Train Market” where I would love to by my vegetables every day:


Pigs are highly intelligent animals, rumored to be smarter than dogs or cats. The novel Animal Farm by Orwell takes advantage of that fact for its plot. Pigs in “factory farms” spend their entire lives in small cages. Mother sows can’t even turn around. Their waste is flushed into open cesspools and when they fill up, the farmers spray the waste into the air so the globules drift away with the wind – onto the neighbors.

This is what it takes to provide cheap pork at Costco. Real farms would be way more expensive. Our hunger for inexpensive meat overrules our sense of responsibility for the lives and welfare of animals and the pollution of our environment.

Check out the video above and then go enjoy your BBQ.


Eltern (Parents) – by Michaela Challal, 2015, Acrylics, 40cm x 60cm

The artist Michaela Challal is my sister. The painting is fashioned after a photograph of our parents out for a walk many years ago. Here is some more of her recent work. And here is a blog post from seven years ago showing a picture of the two of us as children.

I was at the market shopping for a steamed vegetable meal. I bought potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, yellow squash, a couple of red onions and some red cabbage. Boring. The same old fare. I wished we could invent another vegetable, something exotic and new. Then I brushed away the thought. Nature only gave us these. It does not make any more.

When I got home, I researched vegetables, and there was a massive surprise in store for me.

In Southern California, wild mustard (Brassica) is a highly successful weed. In grows in all types of soils in  the spring, it does not need much water. The leaves on the bottom are meaty and dark green, a little hard. The stems get very tall, chest-high in some cases, and are sprinkled with yellow flowers.

Wild Mustard 1

Wild Mustard – Image Credit: Michigan State University

The mustard plant was well-established during Roman and Hellenistic times and it was cultivated in Europe and Asia, particularly on the slopes of the Himalayas. Lore has it that it was introduced to the Americas by the conquistadors and missionaries. Supposedly they planted the fast sprouting seeds to mark their trails. It created a yellow (brick) road along the routes they traveled. Now, a century or more later, in the spring and early summer, the California hills are covered with a yellow sheen of wild mustard. The yellow brick road has become a wall-to-wall carpet.

In America, it is considered an invasive weed in many areas. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds, so in areas where it encroaches on agricultural crops, it is considered a pest. It sure was when I had a large yard. There were mountains of the weed when I was done pulling them.

To my utter surprise, I just found out that wild mustard is the base plant from which many of our vegetables are derived by artificial selective breeding.

Wild Mustard

Many of the vegetables I bought at the market come from wild mustard, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower. Others derived from wild mustard are kohlrabi, turnips and kale. Finally, mustard seed (duh) and rapeseed come from the wild mustard plant.

Let’s develop a new vegetable, shall we? I know what plant to start with.


More than I year ago I wrote this post complaining about American Airlines needing to fix its website. Well, they have made some changes to it, but I still is mired with fundamental problems, so this post might be almost déjà vu.


The picture above shows the front page and its login section (red arrow). When I put in my account, name and password, it accepts it, but then it can’t resolve it for some reason, and it jumps to the error screen below.


There is no good way to get back, so the only way to move forward is to enter the account number again, and my password (red arrows above).



However, since they changed the requirement recently to add a name, the second screen fails, and it goes to the screen above, where I have to log in a 3rd time. This time I’ll be successful.

Summary: to get into aa.com,  I have to log in three times every time. I can’t figure out what the shortcut might be, and I am a software executive. How does my grandma buy a ticket at American Airlines?

Finally, when I was in, I had to purchase tickets for three separate reservations I had on file. After I had paid for the first one successfully, I didn’t know where to go. The screen below shows what’s there after the payment transaction is done. The only solution I could find was click on “My Trips” (red arrow below).


Unfortunately, that made it forget who I was and it came back with the login screen once more (below).


So, in order to purchase tickets for three reservations, I had to log into the site six times. Three times to get in before I got to the link “My Trips” and then three times to get to the payment screens to purchase.

This has been like this for more than a year.

American Airlines’ website really sucks.

This video is a guided tour of the International Space Stations (ISS). It’s almost an hour long and goes into all the main modules of the station. I was particularly fascinated by the rotations by 90 degrees or 180 degrees and the resulting shifts of point of view.


Source Imgur

Hmmm, this is not good for Trump. A suit in his collection made by rapists and criminals, and a few good people, probably.

I also have a problem with a man who has to put is name on every damn thing he touches. If he were president, he’d have Air Force One repainted with his logo.


King Rat tells the story of a group of American, English and Australian POW in Changi, the Japanese prison camp outside of Singapore, in the approximate location of the Singapore airport of today.

The King is an American corporal who has mastered the workings of the black market. Everyone in the camp reveres and secretly hates him for his “success.” Where everyone is close to starvation or suffering from disease, where men are dressed in rags and loincloths, the King has all the food, cigarettes and clothes he needs. His entourage, those feeding off him, includes men and officers alike. Over the years, he has built a reputation of being the person that can “get things” and trade. Outside the camp, the traders and guards trust him and his integrity. Inside, prisoners come to him with their little treasures and ask him to trade them for money, food or favors. He obliges, for a fee.

In a world of prison camps, in North Korea, in China, in Guantanamo, in Africa and in the Middle East, in prison camps where men are hurt and broken, reading King Rat brings life in prison alive in front of our eyes. We feel what it’s like in stark, shocking reality.

I am grateful to those that came before me and paid so dearly so I can sit here and have the right and freedom to write what I want.

I am grateful for having had a chance to read James Clavell’s King Rat.

Rating - Four Stars


A Tweet from God

Tweet God

Norbert Haupt:

Ah, stumbled upon this old post about Henry Miller. London, Paris, Chula Vista! What a crack-up!

Originally posted on Norbert Haupt:

This was another experience with a book unfinished, delightful in some ways, educational in others. But unfortunately, I have too little time to re-read a book unless I am extremely excited by it. So far, most of my endeavors of reading books I read once in my youth have been disappointing. The memories seem to be far more flattering than the actual works. Why destroy those?

I read Henry Miller’s Maroussi in a German translation a long time ago, perhaps thirty years or longer, during the phase in my life when I really devoured Henry Miller books. I remembered little about it, except that it was the most amazing, delightful, inspiring travel description I had ever read about any country. I remember telling people about it over the years. But since my paperback of the time was in German, and I kept very few German books around me and with…

View original 1,118 more words

Last Sunday’s Garfield comic had me time-travel back to 1985, the year that Marty McFly left with his DeLorean to the distant future of June 9, 2015. You may recall that in 2015, the old DeLorean was converted to a flying car!


Source San Diego Union [click to enlarge]

Now in 2015, we don’t have flying DeLoreans and hovering skateboards. But we do have iPhones – something we didn’t anticipate.

If you had shown me this comic in 1985, when Marty McFly departed on the journey into the future, I would not have had any idea what it was about. “Tap, tap, tap” would not have meant anything. “See translation” would not have meant anything. And the little box that made the “ping” sound would have baffled me.

Time travel is fun.

Movie Review: Spy

SpySusan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a clumsy CIA analyst who works in a bat-infested basement in Langley, directing her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) in his missions. Apparently through amazing technology only the CIA in the movies has, she reigns over a complete God-like power to see all his adversaries in the building he is in, she sees through his eyes and she talks to him through an earpiece.

It’s like she is the little gnome inside his head, peeking out through his eyes.

Eventually, Fine gets killed, and through a unlikely set of circumstances, she volunteers to go overseas undercover to infiltrate the world of illegal arms dealers in a quest to save the United States from a terrorist with a suitcase nuke.

This movie seems like it was written for McCarthy to fit her body type and by now type-cast character: a plus-sized woman with great spunk, outsized self-esteem and just the right amount of vulnerability to be cute and likable.

This is basically another Bridesmaids with a hugely contrived plot, an entire case of spy-movie stereotypes, and a continuous barrage of slapstick humor.

I laughed out loud, I enjoyed the movie, and by the time I had reached the front door of the theater I had pretty much forgotten it.

Rating - Two Stars

Today is a sad day for future space exploration. A supply mission of SpaceX to the International Space Station ended in catastrophic failure a little over two minutes after launch. The unmanned vehicle exploded. Here is a tweet from Musk, the CEO of SpaceX:

SpaceX 1

SpaceX was planning on starting manned missions by 2017. Whatever the failure was today, I suspect that the 2017 date will now be pushed out. I was rooting for the success of SpaceX. This is a major setback for them.

Here is the video of the event. The silence at the end is deafening:

41% of Americans believe that definitely or probably humans and dinosaurs coexisted. Source.

A sitting congressman, Paul Broun, a medical doctor no less, told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang were “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Source.

The chairman of the Senate environmental panel brought a snowball to the floor as evidence that climate change is a hoax. Source.

Congressman Todd Akin said it was his understanding from doctors that it’s rare for someone to become pregnant from rape.  He said, “The female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.” Source.

By our public promotion of anti-intellectualism, this country is losing out to economic and cultural forces overseas. Our manufacturing jobs are moving overseas.

However, the world’s top brains are still coming to the United States to “make it here.”

Last week I attended an introductory meeting by a company that specializes in being a sales broker for software companies – Corum.  In the room were about 40 or so founders or CEOs of local San Diego software companies. In the beginning, each of us stood up to introduce ourselves, our companies and our products in a 30-second elevator speech. I didn’t keep an exact tally, but about 75% of the executives were foreign-born. Of all the people introducing themselves, there were no more than ten who were obviously born and raised in the United States – the rest had some kind of accent – ironically – including myself.

This is admittedly a very small sample, and it’s anecdotal, but it was a striking realization to me: Foreigners come to the United States, start software companies, and then grow them and make them successful.

Where are the American born software business superstars?

They are apparently a minority.

Four score and seven years ago….

– Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln


Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

– Inauguration of John F. Kennedy


I have dream…

– Martin Luther King


Amazing grace…

– Barack Obama, June 26, 2015

In my opinion, President Obama made history yesterday with this eulogy for pastor Clementa Pinckney and his fellow clergy in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 26, 2015. It will be called the “Amazing Grace Speech,” and school children fifty years and a hundred years hence will listen to it as one of the great speeches that shaped our country. It’s one of the events that Obama will be remembered for.

Amazing Grace.

Note that the video starts at 29 minutes, but you can choose to start at the beginning by rewinding.


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