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December 20th, 2014

Book Review: “Everybody’s Got Something” by Robin Roberts


I didn’t know Robin Robert before the book since I don’t watch TV, especially the morning TV like Good Morning America. Who has time to watch TV in the morning while rushing to go to work? But it may be just me.

The book describes Robin’s going through her bone marrow transplant after acquiring the MDS (Myelodysplastic syndromes), possibly caused by the heavy chemo therapy from her breast cancer a few years before. The book went through great details of the process: finding the donor (her sister), pre-treatment to kill of all the damaged blood cells, the gradually inject the new stem cells from the donated bone marrow to propagate the healthy cells. After the heavy duty treatment (> 100 days), she finally came through in one piece.

My takeaways:
1. Learned a few things about the job the anchor person in the early morning show. Waking up 3:45am in the morning and did lots of things before any one is awake, especially the crews working overnight to prepare for the show.
2. “There should be no limit to gratitude,” her mama sets an example for treating people with utmost kindness.
3. Strong family tie between Robbin and her family, especially her mother and her sisters. This sets a person up like Robbin for success.
4. Robin seems to have fun at Good Morning America. She’s surrounded by nice and genuine co-workers.
5. Bone marrow transplant story: the pre-treatment to kill off all the old cells and transplant the stem cells to rebuild it like an infant.
6. The book’s capturing the voice of the caretakers – her partner, Amber is quite a treat for the reader to learn from their perspective.
7. Coming back from edge of death, twice, and in public eyes can really change a person’s perspective in life. Being thankful is the least one can do.
8. Great voice in the audiobook. Not like reading a book but telling a story, an emotional story.

This is an inspirational book for anyone who’s going through a serious illness or taking care of one. I recommend the book.

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PST

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December 16th, 2014

Door Deadbolt Lock Lubrication – How I Fixed It

Wife and daughter have been complaining about the front door deadbolt latch difficult to unlock. I sprayed some WD 40 but didn’t make much of a difference. Decided to open it up and spray directly into the lock mechanism. The lock mechanism is called “Motise” lock made by Baldwin.

Here I recorded how I fixed it:

Notes:
Installation Instruction

Posted by dstsai as Tips at 12:00 AM PST

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December 12th, 2014

Stuck Shower Doors – How I Fixed Them

A visit to my rental property showed that the shower doors were stuck. I checked it out and found one of the two rollers that hung on the track was gone. I replaced the roller and got them moving again. This is a simple repair that cost around $6 for all 4 rollers and about 30 minutes. It’s amazing how people can live with wide open shower doors and not complaining about it. It’s no wonder that they saw the water bubble on the ceiling downstairs. Is it possible that water has splashed outside causing the damage? I wondered. Here is a quick video how I fixed the stuck shower doors.

Posted by dstsai as Landlording, Tips at 12:00 AM PST

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December 8th, 2014

Putting Up Outdoor Christmas Lights

I video recorded my effort to put up the outdoor Xmas lights. The even distribution of electrical load must be considered and planned or suffer the same fuse blow up and extra work I had to endure last year.
Happy Holidays!

Posted by dstsai as Personal, Tips at 8:55 AM PST

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December 6th, 2014

Book Review: “A Fighting Chance” by Elizabeth Warren

What a journey for Elizabeth Warren, from being a blue-collar worker’s daughter in Oklahoma, to a school teacher, to becoming a Harvard Law Professor and then to becoming a US Senate from Massachusetts.

I listened to the audiobook and utterly enjoy the story-telling of her own story. It’s fascinating to see a woman achieved such a success having been encouraged by her own mother to be just a housewife. Born to a financially-strapped family with a healthy-failing breadwinner father, she saw first hand what it’s like to go from the middle-class to the poor. Elizabeth was driven to succeed despite getting married at 19 years old and managed to get her law degrees while raising two young children. I’m not surprised that her first marriage failed as she turned out be a woman Jim Warren expected her to be. But she did marry her true love, another professor named Bruce Mann because of his “great legs.”

Professors don’t always have the cushy job starting off. There were lots of moving between her and Bruce. There were lots of accommodating and testing of their love for each other, especially with her 2 young children and her parents plus Aunt Bee sticking around to take care of the kids.

Teaching a law class without text takes lots of guts, especially something like bankruptcy law that were just revised after the Great Depression at that time. But that planted the seed for her continued effort to fight for the middle class and the lower echelon of the society. She started out wanting to know who those people went broke but later found how ordinary those people are.

Elizabeth dug deeper into why the number of people filing bankruptcy are climbing so fast. Besides divorces, serious illnesses, unemployment, She found that most people fell into the traps set up by the banking industry: balloon payments, high mortgage rate, ratcheted up interest rate, and etc.

Making a difference could mean taking on more thankless jobs like what she started with the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, then COP (Congress Oversight Panel to oversee the bailout of 2008), and finally running for the senate race. It’s a long-odd fight and Elizabeth has what it takes – a simple focus to help turning the odd more in favor of the little guys, the underprivileged, and the future generation.

The American politics have been known to be heavily influenced by lobbyists, especially the Wall Street firms and banks. Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money to run for a political seat and who’s going to pay for that? None other than the big companies – not the little guys. “The System Is Rigged!” (See her speech here in Democrats National Convention.)

As a Republican, I cannot be helped to move to the center by Elizabeth Warren’s drive, passion and her arguments to turn the tide. Her data just confirmed my belief that the odd is stacked against the poor, who are trapped by the rich ( or laws enacted by lawmakers funded by the rich) to “slave” for the rich. It’s probably not healthy in the long run. It’s what triggered the revolution in the past. People revolt if they can’t take it any more.

Politics are inherently dirty but the partisanship was incredibly silly, like dividing the COP budget along the party line. To be an insiders, she was discouraged from criticizing other insiders or the insiders don’t listen to them. That’s a good advise in any kind of politics. Elizabeth gave birth to the CFPB and yet she’s not allowed to take official leadership role because her nomination won’t pass Congress due to her intimate involvement. Well, she turned around, ran for the senator and won! Irony in politics.

Her fight for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to be included in the reform bill after the financial crisis got the banking industry to spend over $1M/day to fight it, according to her. I like her story in convincing Barney Frank to include the protection bureau in the bill – her Grandma knew two good things about FDR during the Great Depression: he made it safe to put money in the bank and “other good things.” Create something that people can understand and they’ll stand behind it. Good advise.

There are lots of tedious description of her running for the senate toward the last quarter of the book.

Overall, it’s an inspirational book. I highly recommend it.

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PST

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December 2nd, 2014

Copper Pipe Water Leak – How I Got It Fixed

Nothing like coming home from a long vacation and finding that water pipe leaking all these time. Well, that’s what happened to us yesterday. Fortunately, the water was leaking from the copper pipe joint due to bad/cold soldering and the leak occurred in the garage only.

I attempted to reflow the solder joint without much success. So I hire the pro to do the job. Learned a few things from this $150 lesson:

1. Can not solder with water in the pipe. Must drain the water first.
2. Reflowing the solder while connected to the pipe and others would not work due to the large heat mass. Must remove the union before reworking the solder joint.
3. Use a MAPP gas torch will work better due to its higher temperature.
4. Do a reasonable amount of prep work like sanding and applying flux before soldering.
5. Shut off the main valve before going on a long vacation.
6. Hire a pro to do that job before doing something drastic or you may end up spending more money. Besides, the pros have better equipment and more experience dealing with the corner case.

I will now be returning some of the stuffs to Home Depot now. Below is an edited video I recorded through out this experience.

A few quick tips I learned from this video:

Posted by dstsai as Tips at 12:00 AM PST

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November 27th, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving From Newport Beach, CA


Sunset Views from the main swimming pool:
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Posted by dstsai as Travels at 12:00 AM PST

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November 26th, 2014

City Club of Los Angeles – Stunning View of the City

My family had a nice lunch at the City Club of Los Angeles yesterday with a family friend. The view from from the top of 51-story building (555 S. Flower St) was simply breathtaking.

Here I share some of the pictures I took:
Panorama View to the northwest:
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You can almost see the “Hollywood” sign from here:
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Close up:
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More close up:
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Overlooking the 110 Freeway exit:
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Posted by dstsai as Travels at 12:00 AM PST

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November 24th, 2014

Book Review of “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder” by Arianna Huffington


The third metric in addition to power and money touted by the author involved well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Well-being: Meditation, Being a gazelle (be peacefully enjoying the moment), don’t overconnect (the snake in the digital garden of Eden), secure your own mask first (take care of ourselves first), don’t deprive yourself of sleep (a performance-enhancement drug), do lots of walking/hiking. adopt pets.

Wisdom: Daily gratitude exercise (writing down a list of things to be thankful for) makes sense to relieve stress and pave a better outlook in life. Use your inner voice, hunches, and intuitions. They can be helped with good sleep and meditations. Our smartphone is not adding smartness to our lives – iParadox. Our “hurry sickness” or “time famine” could dampen our creativity. Protect our children time affluence. Join the “slow movement.” Letting ideas simmer on the back burner could yield insights, and sometimes breakthroughs. “The future will belong to the people who can innovate – and innovation comes from knowing when to slow down. A good tip of accomplishing you really want to do – drop the rest from the list. The author recommended evicting the “obnoxious roommate (negative thoughts).” Our habits are our auto-pilots; forming good habits would reduce our need for willpower that gets depleted under stress. Use of stoicism and find meaning in life suffering and facing difficulties could benefit us. Take a minute when you wake up to breath deeply, be grateful and set your intention for the day.

Wonder:
Take time to wonder at the world around us. Slow down and let wonder do its job, at its own pace. Be open to the serendipity of coincidence. Momento Mori – remember death or our mortality. Allowing the reality of death into our everyday reality can keep us from veering off course. The author talked about her mother’s death and how she lived her life in wonder until the last day.

Giving:
No self-development book is complete withing talking about giving back. No exception here. Make plan to volunteer in a weekend. There are more stories about her mother’s giving and helping others. Go-getter are good; go-givers are better. Giving promotes positive health boost and grow brain. Start small with giving and make it a habit.

The appendix is full of apps and tips. Also the Audiobook narrated by an foreign accented woman (may be from Greece). Lots of good quotes throughout the book.

It’s a decent book if you’re really lost and mired in pursuit of power and money. Otherwise, it makes a good gift for someone like that.

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PST

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November 20th, 2014

Movie Review: “Interstellar”

What a perfect timing of watching this movie right after reading “The Future of the Mind” book by Michio Kaku. If you haven’t seen the movie (Trailers here), I suggest you watch it first or skip the next paragraph.

The future is bleak for humans as we have polluted the earth and the food is in great shortage. The way out is to migrate to another planet. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is tricked into captaining a space ship, leaving his daughter Murphy and son on earth. The first planet has a giant wave and not habitable. The second planet has an earlier explorer in deep sleep, who upon woken up conspires to hijack their space ship out of plant. (This story line is weak). Then by this time, they’re almost out of the fuel. So Cooper hops on the black hole and time travels back to warn himself not to leave earth through the “ghost” of his daughter’s bedroom. At the end he meets his daughter, much older than he is, because he has time warped. And the humans have migrated to the third planet and he meets his daughter on her dying bed. Very interesting twist.

My takeaways from this movie:
1. Boy, there is a lot of science and myth here. Yes, it takes a wormhole to travel fast and parallel universe, thanks to the Strings Theory by Dr. Kaku. It’s still unreal to me. But flying and surviving it through the black hole like Cooper did is nearly impossible due to astronomically huge gravity force.

2. Humans will end up killing ourselves if we don’t take care of this earth. The next habitable planet is so far away (more than 1200 light years away).

3. When people are desperate, they’ll believe anything like Professor Brand’s (Michael Caine) half-baked theories that got NASA to launch the mission and trick people into Kamikaze pilots.

4. Movies with half science and half myths (extrapolated truths) make good entertaining movies and get my wife and daughter asking whether any of them could be true.

Overall, it makes a pretty entertaining movie. I highly recommend it.

Posted by dstsai as Movies at 12:00 AM PST

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