Going to LA LA land : Book Review

Reading a book about relationships is a tragic tightrope walk between laughter and embarrassment ending with a resolution that leaves you with as many questions as you started with. Throw this theme into the LA small band scene and you have a recipe for gut wrenching relief that your life is much more sane. This is what ‘You Don’t Love Me Yet” by Jonathan Lethem threw me into and caused me to reluctantly finish.

The story is well woven and is full of great quotes and situations as when Lucinda(our lovely and tragic narrator) is talking with her current employer and former lover Falmouth about her current position as a complaint line operator:

“Has it never been explained to you that self-pity undermines sarcasm? Pick one or the other, then stick with it.”

This line may sum up much of the book as Lucinda deals with her up-tenth breakup with her bands front-man Matthew and her shallow/destructive relationship with the Caller. As she leaves Matthew at the start of the book she is strong and sarcastic, but her self-pity is growing and the Caller manages to coerce it out completely. The irony is that as Lucinda undoes her own confidence by giving into the Caller’s seduction she also creates the bands success by appropriating the Caller’s words into lyrics.

Lethem has a good command of language and his ability to describe the unspoken aspect of relationships draws the reader further in as you apply past situations into the plot. This made the book difficult at points but in the end things get wrapped up well and without too much of a let down.

Overall “You Don’t Love Me Yet” is a fun ride through the uber hip and self defecating landscape known as Los Angeles. It makes me happy to live in Phoenix.

Applying Rules to an Illegal Situation

Watching Frontlines latest program regarding the Haditha incident from 2005 causes so many conflicting emotions its really hard to sit through the whole thing. On one hand I am against us being there altogether so that whole situation is an inevitability. The problem is that the Marines we are sending over there are real people that I have to respect for doing a job I would never want to do.

FRONTLINE cuts through the fog of war to reveal the untold story of what happened in Haditha, Iraq — where twenty-four of the town’s residents were killed by U.S. forces in what many in the media branded “Iraq’s My Lai.” With accusations swirling that the Marines massacred Iraqi civilians “in cold blood,” the Haditha incident has led to one of the largest criminal cases against U.S. troops in the Iraq war. But real questions have emerged about what really happened that day, and who is responsible. Through television interviews with Iraqi survivors and Marines accused of war crimes, FRONTLINE investigates this incident and what it can tell us about the harrowing moral and legal landscape the U.S. military faces in Iraq. : FRONTLINE – Reports | PBS

Rules of Engagement

Oil goes higher, time to take a look at alternatives

I recently wrote about using the Valley Metro system for getting to my new job. That analysis was based on gas being $2.80/gallon. As gas goes up it will only be saving me even more money to take the bus and eventually the light rail (it goes right in front of my new offices).

The price of oil ended trading at a record high of $100.01 per barrel on Tuesday. Analysts say supply fears helped push prices up. If the prices stay above $100, companies and consumers could face higher costs.

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: NPR Programs: Morning Edition

Price of Oil Ends Day at Record High

Democracy in Action: Islamists take a beating in Pakistan

In a show of strong democratic action Pakistan is unseating its military and religious fanatics. While this isn’t entirely what our current administration might be hoping for it is good to see that the religious fringes are also seeing losses.

Islamist parties in the volatile Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan have long had great influence in the region. They lost their seats on Monday to secular, anti-religious parities. Steve Inskeep talks to Tarek Fatimi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, about the implications of the vote.

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: NPR Programs: Morning Edition

Islamist Parties Suffer Heavy Losses in Pakistan

Afternoon tea in the desert

As has been noted here on Desertstandard, Tea is getting a major boost into the American Market. Whether this is a genuine growth that will establish itself or just another marketing trend is for time to decide. I have a feeling this will establish itself:

  1. Cold tea drinks have been doing well for a while: Snapple, Arizona, etc
  2. Tea is much healthier than Coffee
  3. American’s love new trends as we get to buy new things. =)

One thing that is holding up more adoption of tea drinking is the retail situation. Personal experience with ‘Tea Rooms’ is that they are tied in with a certain lifestyle, generally Vegetarian/Vegan. This is fine and has its benefits but limits the market share. Asking people to change everything is harder than just asking them to change one thing.

This is where the Urban Tea Loft in Downtown Chandler, AZ gets things right. Situated next to Kokoapelli Winery and near the San Tan brewery the Tea Loft is a unique place in a rapidly evolving and growing downtown revitalization. The space is very open and light as would be expected and after navigating the seating setup you are assured a good seat no matter what as their is somewhat limited seating to begin with. My server recommended some blend of tea and a scone.

The Chef, Christopher Jinnette, was gracious enough to bring out a sample of the days soup. Something about pork and potato and though my belly was not hungry the sample was gobbled up quite quickly. This single act has guaranteed a dinner return will occur and soon.

A quick note on the tea pot at Urban Tea Loft: If you are going to incorporate a gimmick into the central theme of your store be sure to make it intuitive. At the Urban Tea Loft you get your tea either in a 20oz or 40oz teapot. However, while there is a handle, this teapot has no spout. After attempting to retrieve my tea incorrectly my server was gracious enough to show me the proper method which involves putting the pot on top of the cup and pressing it down. A mechanism lifts in the teapot and the tea comes out the bottom and into the cup. My suggestion is to have a design on the side of the pot that makes this more intuitive.

Teapot chicanery behind us the scone arrived and was better than most. Thankfully it wasn’t dry as a bone and served as a nice afternoon snack. However next time I will probably go with toast and preserves. At the end I was treated to a sample of the BBQ pulled pork which was very tasty indeed and prompts another return for the food.

When it comes to space the UTL(their website uses it, so why can’t I be a bit lazy?) has an interesting setup. As you walk in there is a patio out front, then a row of tables with benches on the window wall to the left, then a few central tables with a cabinet of retail products on the right wall, the bar is on the right wall, and the back closes down suddenly into a hallway. The retail wall reminds me of my families’ deli in Vail where we let the merchandise get out of control, maybe it works for them.

Some of the central tables incorporate high backed bench seats and curve slightly. These are good for creating a private space at the table but also cut off some of the openness of the room.

The bar seems unfinished with bottles and various storage bins sitting near the open end. This made me hesitate from sitting there as I was unsure if they were doing prep work or something else.

The biggest curiosity is the sudden hallway which occurs about 25 feet into the place. Two doors are easily spotted on the right side and there is a glass wall facing the front door through which you can see that the first side door leads to a meeting room of sorts. After venturing down to the second door I find a large table with chairs and a flat screen TV on the wall at one end. So meeting rooms must be a decent part of their business, or that is the hope anyway, as these are hard walled rooms that cannot be opened to incorporate the rest of the restaurant.

The website is very sharp looking and professionally done. However it is little more than a brochure for the store and incorporates only one form of user interaction: a mailing list form on the Contact Us Page. The events page should incorporate an actual calendar, I suggest looking at Google’s tool which can be incorporated into the site. Tying into a social network like Myspace and Facebook would cost nothing, creates free publicity and allows you to grow a membership list. They are hosted on a shared server with about 1500 other sites which keeps the cost down, but ensures various hiccups in service. Obviously having a blog is a no brainer and could incorporate so many topics and create conversation. All of this is with the goal of getting people to come back to the site again and again because there is always something new to check out. It also ties into their life via Social Network or newsreader.

Overall I enjoyed the UTL and will return again. The service was fast and responsive, the food was excellent, and the setting was relaxing and pleasant.

My gripes are the non-intuitiveness of the teapot, the large amount of merchandise, the unfinished bar, the closed rooms, and the price. More than $8 for a small pot of tea and a scone is a premium I can only get away with once a week at the most. From looking over the rest of the menu this looks like a consistent situation which is fine but will limit how often I can attend. Oh yeah and no free WiFi. =(

Tea is making a big push right now and the Urban Tea Loft is doing a great job of catching the trend. Friday and Saturday nights there is live music starting at 7pm, so grab your gal or guy and check it out.

Phoenix New Times Review

Taking Stock of 2007

Just read a great post over at Real Estate Investing Brain » Why Almost Everyone Struggles More Than They Should in REI. He goes over a number of ideas about why we struggle with our business and financial lives and how to take stock of things so that we can focus on the future in a positive and productive way.

There are 5 quesitons that he wants us to ask ourselves:

  1. What were your greatest accomplishments in 2007?
  2. What were your biggest disappointments in 2007?
  3. How did you limit yourself last year, and how can you stop?
  4. What did you learn from the last three questions?
  5. How can I (you) use this information to make 2008 the best year yet?

Here are my answers:

  1. What were your greatest accomplishments in 2007?
    Made number one salesman at my company. My third month in, and it was the best month the company had ever seen!
    Got to go to Vegas for a convention with my old company after being there for just three months.
    Remembered how much fun a relationship can be and that I need to stay focused on having fun in one.
    Made all of my mortgage payments!
  2. What were your biggest disappointments in 2007?
    Left my current company in Feb when I had 3 deals in the pipeline. Definitly a big mistake there leaving just as I was getting started and letting other peoples attitude about the job influence me enough to leave it.
    My old company was a dissapointment overall because I went there for the wrong reason: a salary. I didn’t leave soon enough, the place was just not a good fit for me, nothing against the people there I just cant work like that.
    Stayed in a relationship that shouldn’t have gone past a few weeks because it just wasn’t a good fit. I had to work too hard at it from the start and that is not what a relationship should be about.
  3. How did you limit yourself last year, and how can you stop?
    Listening too much to other peoples opinions and not listening to myself. I knew that my current company was a great opportunity but let other peoples experience influence me to thinking that it wasn’t a great opportunity. I need to listen to myself and trust myself. I have done pretty well doing that so far why stop now?
    Focusing on other peoples problems more than my own, or letting their problems become mine and influence my outlook. While it is important to help my friends and care for them I have to always put myself first and make sure that I am okay. As long as I do that I will be able to help even more people.
  4. What did you learn from the last three questions?
    I have learned that 2007 was a year where I let myself feel sorry for myself. In 2006 I was let go from a six figure income and really let that hang over my head for too long. That debacle is over and there is nothing I can do about it but get up and move on. Unfortunately I let it carry over into 2007 and keep me from making a firm decision on my career and relationships. These last three questions gave me the insight to see what was working for me and what wasn’t.
  5. How can I (you) use this information to make 2008 the best year yet?
    For 2008 I need to stay positive. I have a great house, the best family, and cool friends. I am good at sales and enjoy it very much. I forget this fact a lot and let myself drift into wanting to do other things. This year I am doing 2 things right now to fix this. The first one is that I am going to start coaching at a youth soccer league in my city. This is going to be great for a few reasons: The first one is that I am going to be able to enjoy giving kids my enthusiasm for soccer and this will help me with my leadership skills. The second activity I am going to start is finding a business group to work on my networking and speaking skills.