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Fresh and Easy

On Saturday, I heard sad news. The Fresh and Easy grocery store in Pasadena, on the corner of Lake and California, is closing.The closing sale started today. At 7:30pm, the store was packed, and the staff wouldn’t let us in because they were closing at 8pm.

For the last two years, I’ve been going to Fresh and Easy to get bagged salad for my weekday lunches, and I’ve also been relying on their prepared meals for convenient dinners. I even bought my latest main Thanksgiving entree there. (I got roast pork, not turkey.)

These are some of the items I like:

  • Bistro salad mix: A bag of green leaf lettuce, carrot strings, and red cabbage. The bistro salad kit includes feta cheese, cranberries and almonds, and a white balsamic dressing. Usually, I just buy the mix and not the kit for my lunches, but this week I got the kit and concluded that I should have just gotten the kit.
  • Caesar salads: The kit is good, and so is the bottled dressing.
  • Stuffed portabella mushrooms: Stuffed with a mix of cheese and spinach.
  • Asparagus saute: They stopped carrying this a while ago, but the other asparagus entrees are good, too.
  • Green beans almondine.
  • Petite carrots and green beans.
  • Vegetable medley in ranch butter: Broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots with a ranch butter.
  • Potstickers: More like steamed dumplings than potstickers, but they’re pretty good.
  • Orange chicken.
  • Kung pao chicken.
  • Tamales.
  • Salmon stuffed with feta, ricotta, and spinach.
  • Kale and balsamic butter steamer.
  • Chard and bacon butter steamer.
  • BBQ ribs.
  • Chicken burrito in roja sauce: I only tried this for the first time today, and it was good!

9/11

It’s been 13 years since September 11, 2001. On 9/11, I was at home in New Jersey, between the end of my summer internship in Berkeley and the start of a new school year at Caltech. My mom woke me up to tell me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. The last time I saw the twin towers in person was only a little before 9/11, when my parents, my friend and her mom, and I rode the ferry to see a Yankees game.

Soon after 9/11, I wrote a poem based on the Twin Towers, that I published on my old Caltech website. Here it is again, before this 9/11 anniversary is over:

The Twins

Two twins once stood, so strong and proud,
So tall above their other peers,
And drove away all childish fears.
Below them gathered a peaceful crowd

Until one day two birds plunged from a cloud.
A horrid sound met all their ears
That changed their smiles to pain and tears
As scorching clouds burst forth so loud.

A rush away from burning wall,
A scramble down to flee the fire,
And now there’s none left down the hall,
And now there’s no one left to hire.

Two twins once stood, so strong and brave,
And now they’ve crumbled in one grave.

This morning, I woke before 8 am to a cacophony of squawks. The Pasadena parrots were in the area! I grabbed my camera and stepped outside to find the trees adjacent to and across the street from my apartment full of squawking parrots who were gradually flying north.

Look closely, and you’ll find at least three:

parrots in tree

How many parrots can you find?

If you want a better view, try zooming in on a larger version.

For the most part, the morning was too gray for my camera to capture vivid colors.

flock of parrots in tree

Parrots in tree. They look very black and white.

However, with a bit of cropping and level changing in Gimp, I revealed a grainy closeup of a colorful fellow.

closeup of parrot

It’s green! Probably a green-cheeked Amazon.

Weather channel video

Charter is Broken

For years I was a customer of Charter Communications, but not anymore. Years ago, when I was a Caltech student, I signed up for cable TV and Internet. Charter had a special cable modem service could get on the Caltech network. It worked but was never  very fast or reliable. Once I graduated from Caltech, I switched to Speakeasy, and soon after, Charter stopped partnering with Caltech.

Over the years I kept my digital cable service and even added the premium channels. Sometimes the Video-on-Demand channels would abruptly reset the cable box, but for the most part I enjoyed having a wide selection of movies and shows like The Tudors and Dexter available any time.

A few months ago the Video-on-Demand channels became spottier, and in August my cable stopped working altogether. I called Charter’s tech support twice, only to be told by the agent that there was an outage in my area, they did not know when the outage would be over, and that my account would be credited once the outage was over. The agents told me to wait a week or two. Weeks later, I called again only to be told by a machine that there was an outage in my area with no predicted end time.

In the last few days I tried again. This time a machine went through the process of sending data to my cable box with no success. I spoke with an agent who was vague about technicians all being busy with a Video-on-Demand outage. She said she would put me through to an outage callback hotline, but the forwarding failed because the system couldn’t get my contact information.

Today, I tried to log into my online account and may have entered the wrong password several times. As a result, I was temporarily locked out. When I chatted with an agent online, she said that she couldn’t find any record of my online account and couldn’t reset it. I would have to create a new online account, even though I’ve had an online account for years.

Finally, I took the plunge. I called again, this time to terminate my account. The agent expressed surprise that the outage had lasted so long and offered to reduce my services if I wanted (I don’t have much time for TV anyway) and to send a tech when one was available (whenever that would be), but I stood my ground and have now severed my relationship with Charter.

I look forward to saving around $1000 a year. I might sign up for Netflix and take advantage of their online streaming, which is way cheaper.

Tone deaf

I always thought I might be tone deaf because, despite years of piano lessons, I still can’t identify notes. Sometimes I can’t distinguish pitch, and I absolutely cannot control my voice to match a note when I sing. However, on the online tonedeaf test, I scored 83.3%, which is considered better than normal. I guess I’m not tone deaf.

My lunch sucked

I ordered a sandwich that was supposed to be roast beef and turkey on rye with Russian dressing. The cafeteria was out of roast beef, so they offered to make the same sandwich with extra turkey instead of roast beef. Well, what I got didn’t have Russian dressing, or if it did, it was way too little, and the bread was a stale and barely chewable French roll. The cheese also tasted nasty. The only good things were potentially the pickle spears and the orange slice, but unfortunately, I dropped them on the floor before I could eat them. Finally, I gave up and just threw away the remnants of the sandwich. I’m strangely upset about this lunch.