Minimum Wages

I had three jobs that paid minimum wage way back then.

  • I was a bus boy in a Chinese restaurant. I re-filled water, cleared and set-up tables, folded napkins, put up chairs after closing, etc. At closing, the senior waiter counted the tip jar and divvy up among the staff (bus boys got half of waiters). I never questioned. Just got my money, went home, and collapsed into the bed. Yes, the pay was minimum wage after the tips.
  • Then I was a generic worker in a strip-mall super-market, I did whatever the manager told me to: shelving, produce processing, price marking, bagging, carton box flattening, and the worst, freezer duty. I did that for a month and got paid as expected. The second month, I got a whopping 33% raise! The cashier lady was floored. “He gave you a raise on the second month!” I just shrugged since I knew nothing better.
  • Lastly, I got a job at the computer printer room. I fetched the print-outs and put them into the pigeon holes. I also muscled new boxes of paper and changed the printer ribbon. The operator, my supervisor, spent most of her time playing cross-word puzzles and chic-chatted with other staff. She invited me to Thanksgiving dinner and I got to know her husband and son. We kept in touch, then she moved away.

Then I got a job as a part-time supervisor in a machine shop: lathes, drills, mills, grinders, hand tools, supplies, etc. The pay was twice the minimum wage but that’s not the point. I got to play with this hunky million-dollar NC machine that cut metal like air. I spent my own money buying scrap metal blocks so that I feed them to the machine. I learned later that I was the least paid in the shop, yet the only one allowed to program the big machine. It was fun.

Whether minimum wage is “livable” is not up to debate. It is not. The question is whether it is a citizen’s right to earn a livable wage as long as one is working, whatever the job. The answer is up to the assumption of whether one will be stuck in that minimum wage permanently or he will grow out of it. I agreed both situations exist, but felt the government’s money will be better spent in welfare and training, then raising the minimum wage.

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All about booze

Really. Why do some people cannot hold their liquor and others cannot get drunk? Exactly what are the effective ways to deal with hangovers? Adam Rogers attempted to find the answers of these, and many more regarding alcoholic drinks.

I breezed through the fermentation and distillation parts quickly. What I did not realize was the role koji played in fermentation. Yeast turned sugar into alcohol, but it was koji that turned grains into sugar.

Other than that, the first three chapters explained what everyone knew, but in much more details: fermentation produced alcoholic drinks, distillation concentrated them, the aging process added more flavors and aromas. For thousands of years, civilizations experimented with these steps to produce drinks in vast quanitity.

But we clearly did not like the taste of alcohol, an irritant that burns and tastes both sweet and bitter. We liked getting drunk and tolerated the taste of alcohol for it. That’s why civilizations spent so much effort improving the taste — the whole cocktail, or mixology, culture.

Now the answers:

  • Our liver metabolizes alcohol and generates a toxic by-product which has some inflammatory effects. Genetically, some people detox faster than others. Those who blush (mostly Asians) get drunk easier.
  • There is no effective way to treat hangover what-so-ever. All the urban myths — hydrating, vitamin, fatty foods, the morning “pick-me-ups”, etc. — do not work. The same toxin that got us drunk must be metabolized and removed from the system and there is no proven way to get that done quicker. Sorry.
    Oh, sugar clearly makes it worse. Avoid sweet drinks if you are getting drunk.
    Chinese used Hovenia (枳椇子) to alleviate hangover for hundreds of years. The active ingredient is Dihydromyricetin. When you are drunk, take the tablet before you go to bed and after you wake up. There is also an herbal tea for this.
  • Micro-whiskey is a controversy. Storing whiskey in small barrels and using various techniques to speed up the aging process cannot really produce the real whiskey taste. However, they produced something different than the traditional Scottish whiskey flavors and some people like them.
  • The award-winning Taiwan whiskey maker, Kavalan, aged its whiskey for much shorter time than traditional Scotland. They attributed to the warmer and humid climate. They hired Jim Swan — a legendary “barrel consultant” — who probably had few tricks up his sleeves.

Alcohol consumption is good for you if done in moderation (aren’t they all). To most people, that means two servings. Unfortunately, that’s also when you feel the best and want the joy to continue and order the 3rd serving. That’s OK. Just remember not to order the 4th one.

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Sleep Apnea

Take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale Test. It takes less than a minute and there are only 8 questions.

I always thought myself as a Power Napper. Given a flat or reclined surface, I can start snoring in less than a minute — then wake up, on my own, in about 15, refreshed and energized. This skill has been the envy, or even amazement, for people who knew or witnessed; that is a symptom, not a skill.

Doctor explained that sleep quality can account for many modern life ailments. We have all been genetically programmed to survived, as if we are still hunters and gatherers. When poorly rested, the body entered the “preserve and storage” mode that lowers your metabolism and makes you hungry. Put it simply, you gain weight.

Gaining weight leads to hypertension, high glucose level, high cholesterol level, etc. These, in turn, trigger heart problems and social difficulties. Yes, it all began with not having a good night’s sleep. Clearly, I have not had that for decades.

I developed good coping mechanisms, such as power napping, pumping up adrenaline, consuming caffeine, etc. But I am losing the war against aging (aren’t we all).

Although losing weight can alleviate the symptoms, there is no cure for sleep apnea. Doctor said the first step is to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine: an apparatus that pumps air into your airway when you sleep. It took a bit getting used to, but I managed to fall asleep wearing a “nose pillow.” I was promised higher energy, better memory, acute cognizance, weight lost, and, of course, nirvana.

After two weeks, I found myself not needing to wake up and go to the bathroom anymore. I still doze off on the couch in the afternoon, but mostly out of boredom than tiredness. I now tended to exercise in the morning, instead of after dinner, for whatever reasons. If this CPAP therapy is working, the effects are subtle, as stated by the doctor. Sleep related ailments are difficult to diagnose and threat, since the patient cannot really tell what happened during his sleep.

One clear benefit is that I cannot snore while using the CPAP machine; the airway is kept open so the soft tissue cannot vibrate. Wife now has much better sleep quality. 🙂

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Time to Hunt

I enjoyed “Point of Impact” which was the base for the movie Shooter. So I read the next one in the series: Black Light. It was OK and I grew a bit tired of Bob Lee Swagger. As I had a trip coming, I picked up this one to kill the air time.

Why was the book talk about Donny Fenn so much? I double checked to make sure that I was reading the right book. Was Stephen Hunter creating a side plot? I dug hard to remember the details from Point of Impact and Black Light. I prowled on and was well rewarded. Wow! That made the plot span several decades. This is quite epic.

This book brought depth to Bob Lee Swagger, no longer just the best sniper who solved all problems by shooting. I now want to read the next one: The 47th Samurai, at least it has an interesting title.

Wait, there are 8 books ahead of that in my queue. Oh well, that’s OK. The book is not going anywhere.

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Cholesterol: from Health.gov

From Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines
Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 DGAC will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol, consistent with the conclusions of the AHA/ACC report.2 35 Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.

Interprete: eating cholesterol-rich foods won’t increase your blood cholesterol.

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Boeing Factory Tour

Some of us are fascinated by big machines, big factories, complicated manufacturing lines, etc. We wanted to see this huge factory of air-planes. Others are aviation aficionados, they want to experience Boeing. The rest wouldn’t mind just doing a standard tourist spot. These make Boeing factory tour a destination. After 6 years, I finally found an excuse to go. It is definitely worth going once.

The tour takes about 90 minutes. It is best to book it online: cheaper and more reliable in getting a slot. Arrive at least 15 minutes early. The tour does not allow any bags, cell phones, or cameras. Leave bags in the car and use the free locker for your phones or cameras, since you may use them before or after the tour.

I found the tour at 10am or so perfect. Afterward, we drove to Mukilteo for lunch and came back to the city leisurely. It can also be a perfect stop-over for a longer trip to Whidbey Island. Obviously that plan require a stay-over somewhere.

It could be better to do this on weekdays. The company does not have a huge backorder on their 747 line these days. There was hardly any activities on the floor on that Saturday for me.

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Not Quite a Robber Baron

Empty Mansions claimed to be a mystery book for extravagant houses, meticulous maintained, yet unoccupied by their owner for decades. The enormous amount of money wasted on them is mind-boggling. Why is that? Who’s behind all these?

No. It is really a history book about W.A. Clark and his youngest daughter, Huguette.

Who? That’s what I was thinking. Never heard of any Huguette Clark, or W.A. for that matter. This is the cleverness of Bill Dedman. He knew that nobody heard of them and used the houses as the hook. It worked.

W.A. Clark accumulated wealth that rivaled American’s richest: J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, etc. He was the king of copper mining and moved on to establish an enterprise so huge that, in today’s money, he will be #3 in Forbes’ rich people list (behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). Yet hardly anyone ever heard of him. He pretty much vanished from the history book.

Think about it. Which billionaires from 100 years ago that you actually can name? There are really two kinds: those who built an enterprise that bears his name and still in operation; and those who established an institute that has become world-renowned. Of course you knew about J.P. Morgan, his banks are still standing quite tall. You knew about Rockefeller for the musical center in New York. Stanford will be remembered for the university, also Carnegie-Mellon.

But does that matter? Is leaving a legacy or being remembered by the history book really important? If one’s legacy is really the most important thing (as we human beings always want immortality), would accumulating wealth the best way to achieve that? Or this legacy thing is what one will pursue only after having accumulated wealth?

The best part of the book is the epilouge on the relationship between wealth and happiness. Yes, Mr. Dedman said, money cannot buy you happiness. But it can sure remove most of the unpleasantness from your life. Ms. Huguette Clark lived a very fulfilled and long life. Do not feel sad for her.

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Poker Night

Never done before, I hosted a poker night for about 10 people. First thing was to secure the foods and drinks. Done. Then got to find a venue. Done. Next needed a bit planning.

I decided to do Texas Hold Them, tournament style, in two tables.

The first few hands were timid. New players were learning the game and were clumsy with their betting. In about 30 minutes, we doubled the blinds and soon about half of the players were eliminated. We consolidated the winners into a new table. Gather the losers to a different table, re-issue chips to them, and have them started another round. The winner of the “loser table” received a prize that was 20% of the total purse.

The real battle was on the winner’s table. They had the chip count and the skills to fight. We double the blinds every 15 minutes or so. Soon the table winnowed to three players. People got excited. “ALL IN!” was shouted and encouraged by the crowd. Gasps and hands-throwing (“Un-believable!”) were every hand. In about an hour, the winner emerged and received 50% of the purse. The runner up got 30%. (There was no buy-in, the winner got cash prizes.)

Playing with inexperienced people make the game unpredictable. On one hand, I got the “bullets” (two aces) and went aggressively with my betting. Normal players would have folded with “nothing” hole cards. This player stuck with me and won the hand with a small three-of-a-kind. I was eliminated soon after.

I learned that chips management is a critical part to make the game fun. A bit planning and research go a long way. On the table are “cheat sheets” of hand ranking and chip values. That helped the inexperienced ones greatly and everyone enjoyed the game, the foods and drinks, and, of course, each other’s company.

I might do it more frequently.

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Dad and I

I was always kind of proud when people said I look like him, since big brother was always said to look like Mom. When we found a picture of him when he was actually my current age, I realized that he was much better looking.

We both are strong drinkers and like to read. My career progression matched Dad, in similar ages. We were both techno-bureaucrats that gradually “climb the ladder” to relatively senior positions. Dad reached his peak around his mid-fifties and I probably too. Only after I have grown up I realized how senior a position Dad held. He had a corner office with sofa and coffee table and an admin outside. He oversaw an operation of several hundred people. Overall, Dad did quite well when he retired at 64, probably would have been better than me.

Why do people, myself in particular, obsessed about their parents? Why do men spend that much time thinking of their fathers? Do we all think that we will follow their footsteps, in health, personality, career, decision making, and life style? Is this genetic that we cling on our parents, emotionally? I just cannot help thinking of Dad since he died. Most of my thinking were on how much similar or dissimilar that I am with him. Why can’t I think of anything else?

Strangely, I am less sad than I thought I would have been. I choked up a bit when someone asked and I replied, “He just passed away.” What I felt is a sense of emptiness — the cliché that something is missing in my heart. I realized that I rarely seek Dad’s advices or guidance. Instead, I have been fulfilling his expectations of me: college, marriage, family, work ethics, etc. Those expectations faded aways as I clearly have established myself. Since then, we were really more like friends than father-and-son.

And his hearty laughters will now only echo in my memory.

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Return to Monterey

Sitting at a window table of Fish Hopper, a touristy restaurant, I watched a little girl teasing the waves. She was playfully giggling, with Daddy protecting her. Of course, both of them got happily soaked to the knees, with many photos taken by Mommy, safely on dry land. Hey, wasn’t that me and Kids? Geez, when was the last time that I came to Monterey? 20 years ago?

Cannery Row was largely the same, so was the amazing Aquarium that we obviously visited again, this time without kids. This was more a trip down memory lane: “Look that’s the same kelp forest.” “But the Sun Fish was long gone.”

We strolled down the coastal trail at a leisurely pace. After being away from the bay area for 10 years, we appreciate the mild climate a lot more than when we were here for 20-some years. The ocean seemed kind and lazy and the breeze cool and comforting. The sun is always there and sky always blue. Sigh.. This is Monterey Bay.

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