A glimpse of the simple life

September 22nd, 2005

Last night, around 9:30pm (right in the middle of prime-time TV mind you) the power went out and we entered life without our normal stuff. Stuff you don’t even think about. Besides not having lights, which we still caught ourselves instinctively flicking light switches when entering rooms, I realized that we’re bound by the things that run on electric juice. The TV, Cable-modem, stereo, fridgerator, alarm clock… and the list goes on. Luckily, toilets run on sheer water pressure, so we could still flush….ahhhhh. We were talking last night, by candlelight, that Katrina caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose electricity, not to mention running water and basic essentials. Now imagine, with no water, power or sense of what to do, having to fend off looters and others in a irrational state of lawlessness and panic. The worse thing that happened for me was I missed the second half of “E-Ring”, which i’m not totally sold on yet. I realized that if we had to stick it out during a disaster, we have enough food for maybe a week, enough drinks for a little longer than that, and enough toilet paper and paper towels to last through January…..thank goodness for Costco!

Now with Rita bearing down on the Texas coast, this whole process of evacuating, waiting, returning and rebuilding looks to repeat itself. One thought has crossed my mind…. with all the gridlock traffic going north away from the gulf coast, why don’t people do most of their driving at night? The roads would likely be less crowded, the weather a little cooler (than the 97 degree Houston heat) and they would still beat the storm’s arrival (tomorrow afternoon). I get frustrated on the daily 30 minute commute… imagine traffic so bad that you can get out of your car, walk to the gas station’s restroom, wait in line to use it, and walk back to your car without traffic advancing at all. Insanity.

Goodbye Grandma

September 19th, 2005

Unfortunate news arrived last week when I found out about my Grandmother. Her passing on September 9th made me think of all the good times we spent together and how she will be missed. The whole family came together in Hawaii for her funeral two days ago. The service was very fitting. In typical Buddhist tradition, the minister chanted the “okyo” and rang the big bowl-shaped gong. Amongst the 4 grandchildren, we split up the duties of the ceremony and gave our grandma our personal send-off. For my part, I wrote a short eulogy of what my grandma meant to me and how her life was so very special. Even though she never understood the Internet, or even how to use a computer, I wanted to share her eulogy with the electronic world.

The person we gather here for tonight, my grandma, held high expectations for all of us. We all had our own special relationship with Eleanor Asako Ukishima. Whether we were her sibling, her friend, her daughter, or one of many others that were honored to share in her life, this passing brings forth recollections of joyous times and events we shared with her. Since last Friday, I’ve been going through a few of my own recollections. Years of memories that are filled with joy, sorrow, inspiration and enormous caring. From going to UH football games with her, and Uncle Danny and Matthew, to New Year’s Eve celebrations, where we would have mochi-soup and a house filled with extended family. Personally, I enjoyed the one-on-one lunches that grandma and I used to have. It gave us our own space, our own time to spend with one anther. A chance to scroll through her rolodex of memories of a lifetime spent raising a family with Grandpa George and all the other snippets and stories that painted vivid pictures of growing up with her 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Sometimes she would had trouble remembering something she did just a week before, but other times, she could recall verbatim conversations that happened 40 years ago regarding phone calls with Danny while he was studying at Gonzaga. Oh the stories she could tell and oh how she enjoyed telling them.

In growing up on the plantation, Eleanor was limited by resources and education. These humble beginnings guided her on a lifelong goal of always striving to provide her children a more advantageous start than what she had. Eleanor only reached the 9th grade, pretty good for a country-girl coming from the rural outskirts of Wailua. For her own kids, Eleanor knew education would be the golden ticket to opportunity and success. She gave up many personal luxuries to provide for her children. She and her husband George were able to send Danny to Law School in Washington State, and Arlene to study in Japan. Mind you, this was during a time when it was a struggle to send children to college, let alone to post-graduate degrees outside of Hawaii. Even for us grandkids, she constantly gave us everything she could. Every trip to Las Vegas ended with her splitting her winnings with all 4 grandchildren. Granted not all trips were “winning” trips, but I loved the fact that she kept trying. Even over the last few years, when walking became more difficult, Eleanor kept going on trips. And you know she loved it.

There is a phrase “Sic transit gloria mundi” – Latin for “Thus passes the glory of the world” – It signifies that each of us only has a finite time to live, to love, to share with one another. Eleanor used her time, everyday, with such passion and fortitude. Surely you could see it through the smile on her face, or the way her eyes beamed when you walked into the room. It’s common knowledge that the legacy of a person is measured not by the work they’ve done, but by those they’ve touched. During Eleanor’s 86 years, we’ve all been lucky enough to be a part of her life. But her work is not done; it lives on in all of us. Those little dishtowels she made that hang in our kitchen, the way her grandkids have built such a close relationship, those are all reminders of her impact and her love for all of us.

Tonight, we say goodbye to a great lady. The likes of a generation that impressed upon us all to strive to our limits and achieve our dreams. And as we go on, it’s OUR job to continue to impress upon OURSELVES the drive and inspiration that Eleanor gave to us. Goodbye Grandma, You’ll always be in our hearts.

What is a Skype?

September 12th, 2005

For those of you who haven’t heard of Skype, it’s a Voice-over-IP telephony service, or in plain terms, it’s phone service over the Internet. Skype currently has 55 million registered users around the world, but only a fraction pay for the service. Here’s the thing…. if you use your Skype service to call another Skype user, the service is FREE…. if you call a non-Skype phone, then it’s a few pennies a minute. Last year, Skype raked in a modest $7 million in revenues; hardly a powerhouse in the telecommunications industry. Next year, it’s expected to earn $60 million in revenues…. still a drop in the bucket compared to established firms such as Verizon or Qwest. But don’t tell eBay that…. earlier today, eBay paid $2.6 BILLION (yes, with a ‘B’) for Skype, with performance incentives that could make the deal balloon to $4.1 billion. That’s huge premium for a company with such small revenue expectations.

Using my newly bestowed MBA-degree, I can tell that a Skype, with a 43.3 Price to Revenue multiple ($2.6 billion / $60 million) is definitely on the high side of scale. Verizon has a multiple of 1.23 and even high-flyer Google only has a multiple of 18.65. eBay is either really ahead of the rest of us… or just made a huge mistake.

If you make a lot of long-distance calls, it may be worth it to get a Skype account. After all, there’s nothing wrong about having free phone calls. Watch out though… MSN just added voice to their Messenger product and a bunch of other VoIP companies are beginning to emerge. It’ll be a feeding frenzy to get a sharehold of the market, since once people establish a community of members they can call free, it’ll be hard to get them to switch. Happy calling!

Ahhhh, football

September 8th, 2005

There’s nothing ike the sweet smell of grass mixed with the sounds of people crushing each other over a little piece of leather pigskin… it’s finally football season!!! Unlike the 162 game baseball season, or the 82 game NBA season, football condenses it down to a mere 16 grueling, hard-hitting contests that separate the men from the Men. (the second “M” is capitalized) I can’t name any players on the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team or on the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, but I can pretty much name every starting QB, receiver, running-back and tightend (and often times i can even name the backup guy that hardly ever gets to play) on ANY team in the NFL. I absolutely love going to a sports-bar on a Sunday during the season and simultaneously watching 8 games on 8 different screens…. and being able to follow each one.

To create a little competition amongst friends, I participate in a couple football pools and fantasy leagues with some buddies of mine. I was successful last year in winning a the top prize in one league… which was a nice Christmas gift to myself. If you know me, you know that i’m also in a fantasy nascar pool with my bro-in-law Lee and some friends, where we choose which drivers will win the Nascar Nextel Cup race each week. Not to say that driving around in a circle for 4 hours isn’t exciting enough on it’s own…. but it sure helps to root for a driver and to root against whichever driver Lee picks. HAHAHA

As is done during this time of year, i shall make predictions…. For Nascar, the last 10 races in the “Chase for the Cup” starts soon and I am picking Matt Kenseth (#17 DeWalt Tools - Ford) to win it all. For football, I’m picking my Eagles to win SuperBowl XL. Even though I’d probably pick Philly to win either way, I honestly believe they are gonna blow the other teams away and coast into Detroit in January and deservedly take the Vince Lombardi Trophy from the Indianapolis Colts. On a side note… since this year is SuperBowl 40 or “XL” in roman numerals, I wonder how many stupid people will buy shirts with the “SuperBowl XL” logo on it and assume the shirt is an Extra-Large size. I’m guessing 10% of the people. Luckily it’s being held in detroit. Imagine if it was being held in a hick-place, like Texas… that percentage would climb at least to 20%.


Costco is a black hole of spending

September 6th, 2005

Tonight was a typical trip to Costco. Running low on TP (toilet paper if you were wondering), I figured we’d pick up a few odds and ends while there…. nothing much. Little did we realize…. Costco is setup to get me to spend money on things i didn’t even know existed, let alone thought I needed. I’m not talkng about big screen TV’s, or vacuum cleaners… those things I can easily avoid, since 1) I don’t want to carry anything big home, and 2) those things are friggin’ expensive. As we went through the food aisles, we found things that you don’t find at regular supermarkets…. and this I think is the key selling point for Costco, to avoid price comparisons. You can’t find a 3 lb container of “Chicken Adobo Roasted Corn Chowder” at Safeway, so how do you know if $8.49 is a good price??? I can’t tell. So knowing that Costco has a maximum markup of between 10-13%, I know they can’t be robbing me too much. Aisle after aisle, these “unique” products kept appearing, sometimes appealing (frozen chinese dumpling appetizers) and sometimes shocking (7.5 lb bottle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup… honestly who needs that much syrup?). Without going into everything that ended up in my cart by the end of the 45 min visit, my intended shopping trip to get TP all of a sudden turned into a $322 bill and a wagon load of items that seemed like good ideas when i put them in the cart. Costco’s easily-preparable foods are as tempting to guys as liquor stores are to raging alcoholics…. way too many impulse purchases. In case you were wondering, both the dumplings and the 7.5 lb bottle of syrup both ended up in my cart……. don’t ask…. just don’t.

Things to do in Seattle

September 4th, 2005

Living in a big city like Seattle figures to have tons of nightlife and things to do every weekend. A few of my friends were trying to brainstorm ideas of what to do, when we had a free evening a few nights back and we were stuck for ideas. There’s always the standard restaurants, or bars or other places to sit and chill over a drink or two. But we wanted something else. Going back to my high school days, we used to just see movies when we were bored…. but i haven’t seen many movies recently and the selection quite frankly, is less than stellar. Everything is either a remake of an older movie/comicbook/tv-show, or sequals to movies that aren’t worthy of sequal status. (i.e. Transporter 2 or The Dukes of Hazzard)

I don’t know exactly what’s missing in Seattle’s nightlife, but I know it makes hanging out at home a really tempting option. The drinks at home are one-fifth the cost of a bar, and at the end of the night, you don’t smell like a cigarette butt from the second-hand smoke…. two great attributes. If only there was something cool, like a shuffleboard table… or a way to order french fries from your kitchen… that would make it the ultimate hang-out spot. There’s a song by David Frizzell called, “I’m gonna hire a wino to decorate our home“. It’s about a wife telling her husband that she’s going to decorate the home like a bar, so the husband will spend his time and money at home. It’s an oldie-but-goodie song, so don’t be turned off by the hick-ish sounding country beat. Here’s a song sample… take a listen. It’s Labor Day weekend and so far, over two nights, I’ve done two of the more traditional nightlife options; saw a movie (40-year old virgin) one night and went out to a music spot the other night. Good stuff.