Friday, December 27, 2013

The Price of Credit Cards

I have been an advocate of using credit cards as a means to earn a little back. However, upon returning from holiday travel, I opened up a credit card statement online only to discover that someone charged $1020 on my credit card to purchase airfare on American Airline and an additional $7 charge using Expedia. Having just started my staycation, I am on the phone together with my husband to combat credit card fraud. It was bad enough that Target's database had been breached, and I was not sure whether we had made any visits to Target during that period of time. Now, part of my vacation is wasted on making sure that we are not responsible for this latest credit card fraud. In fact, just a few months ago, we fought three online purchases from a high-end bicycle shop with Discover Card, and this even threw off someone auto-payments using the old number. There have been times when the credit card company automatically shuts our card down as a preventative measure. So, I am starting to wonder whether this whole game is worth playing. On the other hand, nobody buys a TV online without a credit card; that seems foolish. Well, there is a great price to pay with credit card. And I pay in full every month. The question to myself is at what point will I be fed up.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

If You Are Going To Shop Online, Then Please Read About Ebates

How many of us are too lazy to shop at a store after a long day of work. Instead, you want to watch your favorite television program and see what is out there. You have a list of recipients and now the shopping begins. Well, you can do it better online. I learned from my Black Friday sales through Ebates that I saved even more than the people those people who skipped Thanksgiving hoping for a doorbuster deal.What I received was doorbuster sale prices + Ebates (that would vest at a certain day in the future, for me February 15, 2014) + coupon code discount. I also learned that even with the coupon code used, I am earning a rebate on the original price rather than the sale's price. So, an item at Origin which was $38 before the $10 off and free shipping deal became the base to calculate my 12% rebate on Cyber-Monday. So, I saved $10, and I was informed that the rebate would be $4.56. On Cyber-Monday, I purchase 2 Entertainment Books, the first for $20 and the second one for $15. This was already a great deal, but then the rebate was a whopping 45 percent. So, although I paid $35 for these two books, they would just cost me $19.25 after my rebate. This is a great deal, since eating out a couple of times with my family and I will have recouped my investment in the Entertainment Books. I have a sense that the same deals will be available after Christmas.

I also picked up a $5 referral bonus for recruiting someone to sign up and make a first purchase. 

There is a promotion right now that if you sign up 2 individuals who then make purchases through Ebates, you will be eligible for a $50 referral bonus. As a blogger, I can make additional bonuses. So, if you have never used Ebates, there is no harm signing up to start your savings. I urge you to use my referral code ( before December 31, 2013. Soon, you want to make your own referrals. Well, Happy Shopping.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Don't Be Fooled By Omaha Steaks

I am not a big steak eater like my husband. However, in any loving relationship, there is compromise, and so, I look for good Omaha Steak deals. Recently, I spent $29.99 and received two additional piece of top sirloin. I didn't expect it to break apart like extremely tender steak. However, I was appalled by the immensely sinewy pieces that I received for free. In other word, they were willing to sacrifice their good name by offering customers with poor quality lost leaders, which is a term in the sales industry to lure customers into buying their product. We were so disappointed that we will no longer buy Omaha Steak. Typically as a smart consumer, I would try to write to the corporate office and ask for replacement. However, I will not do this because I will not patronize this business any longer. I have not been disappointed with poor cuts of meat at Ralph's, yet I am thoroughly disappointed with Omaha Steak, which I thought was trying to set itself as a cut above the rest.  Now, I am looking into eating better quality of beef like grass-fed kind.

No Web Browser Searches Should Be Unpaid

So everyone likes Google searches. I took the comparison test between Google and Bing and found them to be similar. The one difference is that Bing pays for your searches. Little by little, your points accrue and you have enough for a $5 Amazon gift certificate. If you have made 150 searches per month on Bing, you elevate yourself to a Gold Status, which gives you a bit of discount on your reward.
Swagbucks also pays for your searches. From my observation, you can search on Swagbucks which incidentally is powered by Bing, and as soon as you are rewarded, then your next searches should then be on Bing. If you take a break and return to your searches, then use Swagbucks. Why? I have never seen frequent rewarding in a short period of time, but you can assure yourself that you can max out your 15 credits per day on Bing by earning 1 credit for every 2 searches. Occasionally Bing will lower its rate of search per credit. Happy searching and earning Amazon gift certificates, which isn't too difficult to do. 

Good Auto Loan Interest Rate Equals Money Earned

At any social gathering, whether a person is buying a Tesla or a used Jetta sedan, people will often gravitate their conversation to auto loans. I recall using Pen Fed's auto buying service which is comparable to a fleet service and obtaining an oral approval for 0.49 percent in September 2012. I checked the rates recently and it was up to a whopping 0.99. I recall that if the PenFed auto loan failed for any reason, Power Toyota had the car guaranteed under its own loan of 4.99 percent. I calculated that the financial charge on my used Sports Trac was only $25 per year. That's less than 2 value meals from McDonald's or Wendy's, and it was great to have a backup car to a car that broken down twice in 6 months prior to buying our second vehicle. If you are not convinced that PenFed offers the best auto loan interest rate, this is my last passing comment, a comparison to USAA Auto Loan. In September 2012, I asked a colleague about USAA Auto loans, which are supposed to be the best since they offer these loans only to military personnels and their families. At that time, the rate was 2.99 percent while mine was 0.49. Granted mine was the military, too, I did notice that Pen Fed Federal Credit Union is member-owned whereas nothing was said about member ownership of USAA Auto loan. And there you have it. If you are not convinced yet, just make sure that you compare the rate of your loan with Pen Fed as a due diligence before closing any auto loan transaction.

PenFed's auto loan also covers refinancing. So, if your existing car loan is terrible, you don't have to feel trapped. It may not be as good as the loan through the auto buying service, but it may still be better than your existing loan. A little homework may save you a bundle of money and that's money you earned for yourself.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Save Money, Improve Health By Leaving Eggplant Skin In Bhurtha



In most eggplant recipes, you are told to broil or bake the eggplant and remove the skin. Alternatively, you are told to peel the skin off. However, there is a health beneficial element called nasunin, an anthocyanin, that is found in eggplant peels as shown in the purple colorization of the peels. According to a 2000 UC Berkeley study, the peels prevent lipid peroxidation, which is a type of premature damage to cells.

Eggplants are already super food, unless you have joint issues or arthritis. They promote the circulation of blood by relaxing the blood vessels and serve as an iron chelator, which takes away iron when you have too much of it. Eggplants are also high in fiber and is a good source of manganese and potassium. Manganese helps reduce inflammation, and potassium is good to prevent hypertension.

Here is an easy and delicious eggplant recipe called Bhurtha where I have left the skin on the dish.

1 medium size eggplant
1 large tomato or 3 small tomatoes
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon tumeric or Indian curry powder
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
1/4 c fresh cilantro (optional garnish)
salt to taste

Chopped the eggplants into thin bite-size pieces. You can take out or leave in as much of the seeds. In a skillet, cook the eggplant pieces in the oil until it is soft. Remove the eggplants and place in a bowl.   Chop the tomato into pieces, and combine the rest of the ingredients (except the optional cilantro) in the same skillet that cooked the eggplants. Cook until the tomato pieces have softened, and then add the eggplants back into the skillet.  Combine well, and then salt to taste. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Popular Asian Noodles: Knowing What They Are Can Save You Some Money and Headache.

Asian Noodles Have Become Very Popular Lately.

Asians love noodles as much as rice. The most popular ones are somen, soba, udon, ramen, mung noodles, and rice noodles.

Somen noodles are thin Japanese wheat noodles that are typically eaten cold to increase one's appetite during the hot seasons. If somen noodles are colored green, they are typically colored with green tea and called cha somen. Typically it is seasoned with a soy sauce based sauce called tsuyu sauce.

Simple Cold Somen Recipe

Bring a large pot of water to a roiling boil. Prepare the noodles (each bundle is one serving), according to the package directions. Somen water is not used, so you can dump out the water into a colander and immediately run the somen under cool running water, tossing until cool.
Fill 4 large bowls with cold water, and place a few ice cubes in each. Place a quarter of the somen in each bowl and serve with tyusu sauce on the side.

Somen Noodles Are Great For Small Children! These are very thin noodles like angel hair. Because they are very soft, they are great noodles for small children. You can break them into smaller lengths. I can remember growing up eating warm somen noodles instead of spaghetti noodles because they are so easy to chew.

 Soba (Buckwheat) Noodles

Soba noodles are very healthful and are made from soba or buckwheat mixed with wheat flour because buckwheat alone does not have enough gluten to hold it together. When the noodles are green, again they are made with green tea. Soba can be eaten hot, in soup, or cold, with dipping sauce, which is called Zaru Soba.

Preparation for Somen Noodles 

Tsuyu Sauce: The Sauce Used With Somen Noodles

It's a quick way to make Japanese noodle dipping sauce. It can be served with various boiled and chilled noodles, such as somen and soba.


  • 2 cups kombu and katsuobushi dashi
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup mirin


Put mirin in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil again. Stop the heat. Cool the sauce. 

Tsukimi Soba Recipe

Cook soba with ample water. It is usually cooked to "al dente" but without any hard center.
Combine the ingredients for the soup stock and heat until barely a simmer. Warm soup bowls with hot water for a few minutes before filling each bowl with noodles. Then, pour the broth until 1 inch below the rim. Top each bowl with a raw egg.

Why Not Try Making Your Own Soba Noodles?

Soba Noodle  Ingredients:
800 grams of buckwheat flour & 200 grams of wheat flour, and 500 ml of water. 

Udon Noodles (Thick Japanese Wheat Noodles)

Udon Noodle Recipes 

Japanese Udon Miso Noodle Soup 

Only 15 minutes to prepare.

Beef Udon Soup 

Recipe from MasterCook 

Simple Shitake Udon Soup 

Completely vegetarian. 

Simple Udon Soup with Chicken and Leek 

20 minutes to prepare.

How To Make Udon Noodles



Ramen Noodles

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish using Chinese style wheat noodles served with meat in broth. Originally, the noodles are made from flour, salt, water, and kansui,which is a type of mineral water giving it the yellow hue. Nowadays, it may contain eggs for the same yellow color. Japanese sauteed ramen noodles are called yakisoba.

Ramen Noodles From Scratch



  How to Make Ramen From Scratch

3/4 Cups Flour (see below)
1 egg
~3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
~1 tbsp water (depending on flour and humidity)


Cellophane Noodles

The Noodles with Many Names

Cellophane noodles may also be called Chinese vermicelli, bean threads, bean thread noodles, crystal noodles, mung noodles, or glass noodles. They could also be made from potatoes. Different countries have names for them. For example, in Indonesia, cellophane noodles are called called soun or suun.


Jap Chae--Korean Noodle Salad 

A Chinese Dish Using Cellophane Noodles Called Ants Climbing Trees


Rice Noodles

Rice Noodles Dishes 

Rice Noodles are very popular from Thailand and Vietnam to Taiwan. The three famous Thai rice noodle dishes are Pad Se Ew, Pad Thai, and Pad Ran.

Pad Thai is the most popular Thai rice noodle dish.

Another very popular Thai rice noodle dish, this one from Thai Table. 

Another popular Thai rice noodle dish.

Highly recommended and easy. 

Singapore Noodles are fried rice noodles flavored with curry. It is also a very popular dish from Taiwan.

Pho is the name for the popular Vietnamese rice noodle soup. 

Chicken Pad Thai By Divine Chef 

Reversing Gifted Underachievement


Inside the Mind of A Gifted Underachiever

this lens' photo
If your gifted child hates school, parents and teachers may be quick to label you as "trouble" or "defiant" or diagnose you with a number of disorders. This is far from the truth. There is nothing wrong with hating school. Oftentime the overlooked gifted child is a non-producer (low test scores/grades), exhibiting behavior problems, such as "cockiness" or "bulling." They may be introverted and quiet, even absent-minded.

Who Is The Gifted/Able Underachievers?


Low self-esteem; feelings of inferiority

Consistently negative attitude toward school and learning; apathetic and unmotivated

Poor attention span/daydreaming where bored

Low tolerance for completing tasks that seem irrelevant/uninteresting

Reluctance to take risks or exhibits inappropriate risk-taking

Discomfort with competition; highly sensitive to criticism

Lack of perseverance

Lack of goal-directed behavior

Social isolation

Low/inconsistent academic performance

Lack of organizational skills; loses or forgets assignments

Disruptiveness in class and resistance to class activities

Power struggles with authorities; questions rules and customs

Common Factors Of Underachievers At School and Home


Negative relationship or lack of student-teacher connection

Lack of supportive classroom climate

Low teacher expectations

School culture perpetuating low expectations or mediocrity; anti-intellectual peer atmosphere

Cultural mismatch between teaching and learning style

Lack of teacher training in culturally relevant or gifted education

Lack of differentiated, motivating instruction with flexibility/choice

Excessive use of competition or measured comparison


Lack of optimism

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness

Less assertive about child's education

Less assertive about child's education

Unrealistic and unclear expectations

Effective Strategy: Setting "Motivation Traps"

If teachers have not learned the effective strategy of motivation traps, they ought to know that this is a way to "bait" or "trap" students with high interest content into using and developing standards-based skills. It's a win-win strategy for both students and teachers. Students are given the opportunity to interact with high-interest topics during the instructional day (rather than being deliberately cut off from these topics), and teachers are able to hook students into interacting and comprehending academic standards.

What Are the Different Motivational Traps?

Some Categories:

Hero Traps-- Children all have heroes, famous athletes, movie stars, musicians, authors, etc. Teachers can find ways to incorporate students' heroes as bait in most disciplines. Examples: Letter writing to heroes, hero biographies, mock interviews of heroes, writing a movie script starring the hero, calculating and creating a statistics report for athletes, creating a budget using a hero's salary, timeline/geneaology chart of a hero's life, direct a music video of a hero's music or write our own music in the same style.

Intense-Interest Traps-- The intense interest can be dinosaurs, cars, video games, fashion, music, basketball, etc. and can be incorporated into classroom lessons or pursued by students through independent study. Examples: Independent study/research in an interest area, draw/label diagrams of interest to create a book, classify and categorize items of interest, measure/compute statistics (weight, price, speed, etc.), historical study of interest area.

Classroom Club Traps-- Promoting high-interest classroom clubs can help students with social and academic growth, combining high-interest "bait" and new peer relationship, thus encouraging leadership opportunities and problem-solving skills. Examples: Cooking Club (create recipes, public and sell cookbooks), Garden Club (study in past, present and future of agriculture), Classroom Journalism Club (interviews, book and movie reviews, editorials, photographs)

Social and Emotional Needs Traps-- Underachievers may grave acceptance and attention, which may be satisfied by this "trap." Examples: Note Passing to peers (involving pen-pal program) and positive notes about peers to report out to the class at a scheduled time.

Top 10 Children's Activities In Los Angeles

Worthwhile Free Activities For Children in Los Angeles

NEXTGEN Program At the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA)

Add creative activities to your children's life. There has been this wonderful arts program at the LACMA that is completely free for children and teens under the age of 17. You can find the NextGen Application for here . The best part about the NextGen program is that when a child is a NextGen member, he or she can bring an adult into the museum for free.

The most popular program at LACMA is Andell Family Day on Sundays from 12:30 to 3:30 P.M. You can find the schedule here . It's a hand-on method of learning different techniques on different arts topics. My children have made color African mask drawings masked by blocking inks, Japanese potteries, collages, Greek mosaic art, and many other projects. Further, the kids have been on family tours with curators who know how to engage the children. You don't have to be a NextGen member to enjoy this program because this is usually outside. You can always complete a NextGen application on site, so don't worry if you did not send in a NextGen application.

There are a number of free events at LACMA such as gallery conversations .

Homepage of LACMA is here.

LACMA is open every day except Wednesdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Regular Hours:

Monday 12 noon-8 pm
Tuesday 12 noon-8 pm
Wednesday Closed
Thursday 12 noon-8 pm
Friday 12 noon-9 pm
Saturday 11 am-8 pm
Sunday 11 am-8 pm
Saturday, September 24 | All levels of the Ahmanson Building will close at 5 pm



Griffith Observatory--The Building and Grounds Are Always Free

Griffith Observatory is one of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles. The Observatory is located in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood, and is 1,134 feet above sea level, visible from many parts of the Los Angeles basin.

Griffith Observatory
2800 East Observatory Road
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(213) 473-0800

This address can be entered into GPS or mapping programs to get to the Observatory.

From the calendar page of the website, you will find upcoming free parties and special events.


Weekdays (Wednesday-Friday)
Open Noon - 10:00 p.m.

Weekends (Saturday-Sunday)
Open 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Mondays and Tuesdays

California Science Museum in Exposition Park

The California Science Museum is one of my favorite museums. The most exciting new is that on April 12, 2011, NASA Administrator General Charles Bolden announced that the California Science Center is one of four institutions chosen to receive a Space Shuttle Orbiter. The Museum is now the home of the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

700 Exposition Park Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Neighborhood: South Los Angeles
(323) 724-3623

Official website:

Hours of Admission

The California Science Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

There are Monthly Free Museum Days

Use This Handy Chart To Plan Your Visit To Los Angeles


 Getty Center/Getty Villa

One of the newer landmarks in Los Angeles is the Getty Center, the newer of the two Getty Museum. The Getty Villa had been recently renovated. Both Museum are free, but the Getty Villa requires online reservation of tickets, which can be found on this page,

Hours for the GETTY CENTER site and galleries:

Tuesday 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Wednesday 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Thursday 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Friday 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Closed Mondays and on January 1, July 4 (Independence Day), Thanksgiving, and December 25 (Christmas Day).

Hours for the GETTY VILLA site and galleries:

Monday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Tuesday CLOSED
Wednesday Varies; see below
Thursday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Friday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Closed Tuesdays and on January 1, July 4 (Independence Day), Thanksgiving, and December 25 (Christmas Day).

A list of current family programs can be found at

For other visiting information, please click here.

The event calendar is here

Shakespeare By The Sea

Shakespeare By The Sea's core program is its free summer festivals at various parks. SBTS now present a repertory season that runs for 9 weeks - 5 weeks in San Pedro and 4 weeks in other venues throughout LA and Orange County.

Here is a list of park locations.

For more information, click here. Keep checking back for the next season's calendar. 

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier is a great place for children to visit. In addition to the beach, they can watch the street performers and artists entertain. And while the rides and games at Pacific Park will require money, admission to this amusement park on the pier is free. Finally, there are numerous fishermen waiting for the fish to pull their lines. The sunset is absolutely beautiful.

During the summer, the Pier hosts a dance series. Here is a look at the lineup.

Los Angeles Central Library Events for Children 

The Los Angeles Central Library has a beautiful children's department. The best kept secret is that this library generally has the best collection of children's book series because it's not frequented by parents or children. Instead of putting a book on hold, why not drop by and browse their collection. Plus, it also has a variety of children's programs, including storytelling and puppet 

It also has a great collection of DVD, books on tape, and music CDs. 

Swimming At Los Angeles Park and Recreation

Swimming at any one of the swimming pools run by the Los Angeles Park and Recreation is free for children 17 and under. There are many indoor swimming facilities that are open year round, whereas the outdoor ones tend to be open only during the summer season.

Here is a list of swimming pools in the City of Los Angeles. On the left, there is a link to year round swimming facilities. 

Farmer's Market/The Grove

One might wonder why this farmer's market and mall would make the list of free children's activities in Los Angeles. Not only is this one of the oldest farmer's markets, but the new mall that is attached to it has a beautiful fountain where the water dances to music. My kids just love the watch the waterwork. The mall also has a list of activities for children.

Sizzix ScoreBoards XL Die - Box with Flap--Review and Modification

I owe the Sizzix BigKick (the periwinkle machine) and so far think it has proven to be quite useful. I bought a few box die templates because I wanted a box options for gift giving and donations. However, when I received the Sizzix ScoreBoards XL Die - Box w/Flap (2 5/8" x 3 3/4" x 7/8"), I realized that it looked too much like a crayon box. Further, I tried it with regular cardboard and it did not crease. The only explanation is that my cardboard must not be thick enough. So, I decided to make it work anyways, my way. I was so pleased that I decided to share it. 
Tools and Material You Will Need

6 inch ribbon
a bead
12" x 6" cardboard
12" x 12" gift wrap
small hole puncher
Sizzix BigKick or BigShot Machine
"Sizzix ScoreBoards XL Die, Box with Flap" die cut

1. Measure the front side and crease it at 2 3/8".
2. Since my cut-out did not score, I divided the size into thirds and creased it.
3. Trim off the sides to 2 3/8".
4. I eyeballed where the creases to the flap and fold.
5. At the 2 3/8" mark from the back side, cut across.
6. Slide the flap to fit and then staple on both sides; also staple the sides to close the box.
7. Fold the bottom flap, tuck in, and tape.
8. Trace decorative wrapping paper, cut, and glue.
9. For the bottom, just tape it closed like gift wrap.
10. Punch a hole on the flap and also on the corresponding front side.
11. Cut a ribbon and loop a bead into it.
12. Pull the two ends of the ribbon through the hole on the front side.
13. Wrap a small gift such as earrings and tuck inside the box.
14. Pull the two ends of the ribbon through the flap and then tie a bow. Voila!

Last Words
The box now reminds me of a gum box, but the new gum boxes have not been around as long as the crayon boxes. The crayon box is still useful for longer objects, but if you want a smaller box, this is how you can do it.


    Point Lobos State Park Is The Best $10 Spent!

    Point Lobos State Park is located at 62 State 1, Carmel, CA 93923-9753, USA.

    Map of Point Lobos State Reserve
    Map of Point Lobos State Reserve
    You can see the small rocks north of "the Slot."
    You can see the small rocks north of "the Slot."
    Along the Cyprus Grove Trail
    Along the Cyprus Grove Trail
    Near Cypress Cove
    Near Cypress Cove
    Harbor Seals Resting
    Harbor Seals Resting
    Source: Formosangirl's Personal Collection
    Whaler's Cove
    Whaler's Cove
    Along Granite Point Trail
    Along Granite Point Trail
    View from Coal Chute Point
    View from Coal Chute Point
    View Toward Moss Cove
    View Toward Moss Cove
    Granite Point
    Granite Point
    Granite Point Trail
    Granite Point Trail
    One of the Footbridges
    One of the Footbridges 

    As the title suggests,  I find Point Lobos State Reserve to be one of the most fascinating parks that I have ever visited. The trails are mostly along the cliffs, where you could tell that many hundred of years before, there were parts that fell into the ocean. Then, there are parts that are sandy and others where they are rocky. Then, you have tidal pools formed nears slabs of rocks.

    Even though we return frequently to Point Lobos State Reserve, a couple of times per year, we noticed numerous changes to the park in April 2012. This time around, China Cove was closed. This was fine for us because we wanted to venture to a different part of the park. In the past we explored from China Cove to the Whalers' Cabin. We decided this time around to go farther west. However, since we couldn't find parking, we parked at Piney Woods and walked along the shores near Sand Hill Cove. We noticed one thing different, the stairs to the penisula near Sea Lion Cove was completely closed off. Apparently, there was landslide so that the natural stairs to the rocky penisula were just to dangerous to navigate. I spoke to a park ranger who said that it will be repaired. Interestingly, another ranger said that to increase revenue, the park is planning on opening the park for weddings. Although the park attracts over 300,000 visitors, the State Park System is not doing too well. I think that the $10 admission is not too much to ask to maintain the park. Unlike national parks such as Yosemite, state parks do spend a lot of money on convenient restrooms with flushing toilets.

    Then, finally, during early afternoon, we saw a few parking spaces opening up. We moved our car closer to the Sea Lion Point Trail and walked leisurely on Cypress Grove Trail. This was a leisurely and shady walk with mild change in topography. Insteading of hiking to Whalers' Cove, we drove there and skipped the entire Whalers Knoll. The highlight of the trip was seeing 13 seals basking near Whaler's Cove. Why that particular area? I do not know. One volunteer said that last year, there were 28. This year, at least 2 were pregnant. In Spring, the rangers anticipate pups.

    The adventure began when we started along Granite Point Trail. The walk was peaceful, and there was a stretch where even wheelchair individuals could enjoy the trail. The only complaint was the stench from a lot of seaweed along the water and shore. At Coal Chute Point, we saw an otter in the waters. It was interesting to see how flat Carmelo Meadow is and then how rocky and steep the areas were near Coal Chute Point and Granite Point. One can see that beyond the Moss Cove Trail to a totally different terrain, sandy beach. I can vouch that Point Lobos State Reserve is a must-see park in California, if not in the United States.

    How To Improve One's Luck with the Four Principles Explained in Dr. Wiseman's Book Called Luck Factor

    A lot of people just complain about bad luck. Anyone who wishes self improvement should start with improving one's luck. Because as I always have said, "it is better to be lucky than smart." I saved a lot of money because I was lucky to buy a fixer-upper at a great location. Or was that luck?


    My Analysis of The Four Principles

    Everyone wants more luck in his or her life. Like the common saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than smart. Dr. Richard Wiseman pointed out four fundamental principals to increasing your luck factor in his book called the Luck Factor. The first principle is make your own luck by exposing yourself to a large number of people and to create more opportunities. They also don’t mind being flexible and having a relaxed attitude. Along the way, they also enjoy their new experiences. In hindsight, I had created my luck as a young person. I met a friend who told me that he liked going to live shows. And I replied that I didn’t have such an experience and want to be exposed to such an experience. So, I told him as well as others that I am willing to drop all non-essential plans to be their “plus one” at concerts. One time, a friend asked me if I could get changed and meet him at a distant subway station in 30 minutes. I said that I could try, and that’s when I was able to go see Rod Stewart last minute. The other friend had friends who would cancel so often that I went to a couple dozen of symphonies and concerts one year, and this continued until I left D.C. When it came to seeing lots of concerts and broadway shows, I was pretty lucky.

    I met a low-ranking government employee who was departing from the department but I did not know it. But I jovially engaged in a banter where he asked me which slice of pizza to buy at the government cafeteria. I replied that he should choose the largest slice with the most amount of topping for his $1.25. This conversation led to the agency in the department creating a position for me.

    Chance favors the prepared mind. Lucky people listen to their gut feelings and boost their intuition through meditation. I see this second principle to be tangent to the first principle because you cannot be too rigid. For example, I personally think it’s foolish to have certain goals in order. I know some people who will not have a family until they buy a house. What if you do not make enough money and cannot buy a house. If you follow a rigid order, you will find that you may not reach any of your goals because you are stuck behind an unattainable goal.

    I can see why Dr. Wiseman recommends meditation, which enables the clarity of the mind and the control your mind. Also your spiritual awareness increase, increasing your perception, curiosity, patience and peace of mind. One chant is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo; (Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism – The Lotus Sutra). In 1994, I converted to Nirchiren Daishonin’s Buddhism (Soka Gakkai International) because the Buddhist principles gave me confidence and determination. I chanted to buy a house. But it wasn’t long that we received a call from our realtor that one abandoned house dropped by $35,000. Despite the fact that the house sat vacant for 9 months and the last person to sign the visitor’s roster signed as “Joe Homeless” and it was sold “as is,” we jumped at an opportunity to own in a great location in October 1996. It was not obvious that we follow one of the most basic principles in real estate, “Location, Location, and Location” despite a feeling that the improvement may be overwhelming. Only in hindsight did we learn that it was an auspicious deicision. We were able to lift Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) in 18 months when the property tripled in value.

    Dr. Wiseman’s third principle is to expect the good. And I guess that we were not weighed down by the negative aspect of the home….a back wall of the property stood precariously; the carpet was dirty and stunk of pet urine; the paint was dingy; and the entire property was overgrown with vegetation such as large vines that looked like trees.

    Similarly, when dating, too many single persons find the wrong reason not to continue a relationship. Why should the other person have a great job or own a house? Jobs and homeownership come and go. Isn’t it more important to have similar core values? I know too many couple find out only after they are married that they are not financially compatible. They find out that one is a spender and the other is a saver. This relationship will not work out. I know couples who did not know what each other's position on raising a family. Someone who does not want children will not stay together with someone who wants children. If you have the clarity of mind, you can push out the garbage thoughts and have see the right opportunity.

    Dr. Wiseman’s third principle is to expect fortune. Unlucky people already presume that they will fail whereas the lucky ones will keep trying. When I was young, I happened to win as vice president of my elementary school. I watched earlier candidates the year before giving speeches to the kindergarten class, and so, I did the same. I couldn’t believe that I, as a foreigner and outcast, won the position over a popular football player. This gave me confidence for the rest of my life, where I won a national essay contest representing my state (this story is told in my hub How I Have Accepted Premontions As A Foundation In My Life). I also believed that poor grades was not the end-all and worked to gain confidence, money, and solid foundation for my resume. You fail only when you give up. Just like the only concrete loss in the stock market is when you cash out your stocks during a down cycle.

    The final principal of Dr. Wiseman’s book is to fix your luck. He believes that one should see the positive. As I grow older, now I understand how some acquaintances have stated that they wanted full days of nothing but positive thoughts. Don’t even think that an injustice may not right itself. I knew someone who was very lucky. He did very little (from my point of view) and yet he was promoted. He rewarded a bonus to at least one of his friends as far as I could see because she helped his daughter find a cheap wedding place. But then he was attacked by a homeless person and was hospitalized and then despite a 4-6 month travel to different offices, he was demoted and retired quickly. He rose so quickly but he fell so hard. I was in total disbelief that this was ever going to happen, but again, I was not seeing the positive. And I dwelled on it, pitying myself. However, I soon learned that we cannot compare ourselves to others’ lives. I knew a person who was very popular and was promoted quickly, yet she died at a young age with breast cancer.

    So what can one do to fix the luck. In my opinion, be proactive. Brainstorm. Network. When I was in a rut with my career, a woman who spent a few years at my college told me to join a professional association and attend the lectures and meet people. That did eventually lead to my current position. In terms of finding a mate, I always remember that a smile is free and inviting. And unless it is really necessary, always go out on a date if asked because it is hard being the person who has to ask you. Finally, everything you do is about learning about yourself, no matter how bored you are or how redundant the task is.

    In short, I am not the luckiest person on Earth, but I could see that I have lived with similar principles expounded by Dr. Wiseman in his book called The Luck Factor.