The World Through My Eyes

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Picture: I Need to Want Less

Posted by mikenopolis on January 26, 2012



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LifeProof iPhone Case Review

Posted by mikenopolis on November 29, 2011

I’ve been using a LifeProof case (2nd generation) for my iPhone 4S for over two weeks now and thought I would share my thoughts on this rather expensive ($79.99) accessory.

I’ve always been extremely protective of my electronics, especially the mobile ones. I would cut screen protectors out for every phone I’ve ever had (which is a LOT of phones) and carefully put them on the screen before I even turn it on. So protecting a glass phone that has the potential to shatter into billions of pieces is very important to me. I’ve been asked many times in the past on why I would want to hide the beauty of my phone with a case and the answers is “It only takes one mistake for that beauty to turn into a burn victim” I got the phone primarily for it’s abilities and ease of use (and the hundreds I’ve probably spent on apps over the years) and the “sexiness” is pointless since so many people has the same phone. I would like to keep it as new as possible so it will pay for my next iPhone (which my iPhone and iPhone 3GS has in the past).

There are plenty of iPhone cases out there that will protect your investment well, some do it with minimal bulk, others add so much shock absorption material you can’t even tell it’s an iPhone anymore. Like many others I was (still am) a fan of the OtterBox cases, I had the defender series for my iPhone 3GS, my iPad and on my iPhone 4S and always felt that I can drop these devices HARD and not cringe. But as much as I enjoyed the protection, the bulk was cumbersome in certain situations. Getting it out of my pocket while I was driving was next to impossible. And dust would get trap under the screen protector/film after some use since there are holes everywhere for accessibility purposes. As some of you may know, build up of dust can cause hairline scratches, my iPhone 3GS’s chrome trim looked like a crime scene no matter how much I tried to protect it. This ensures NOTHING rubs up against your phone.

When I read up on LifeProof, I was attracted mostly because it is 100% shielded from the environment which means I would no longer have to worry about dust scratches. So when they fixed a few minor issues and released the 2nd generation case I ordered it and it was shipped and received within the week. Upon receiving it I could not believe how thin was! Note that this case is tested to Military Specifications MIL-STD-810F-516.5. (dropped onto concrete from a height of 6.6ft.) AND IP-68 (dust proof and water submersion). Some of you may feel cheated because how cheap the case feels. It is light and flimsy without a phone in it. But once the phone is in it feels solid and I started to wonder how I was able to carry an OtterBox for so long. The LifeProof’-ed iPhone slips in and out of my pockets easily and no one has complain about the call quality (1st generation had “tunneling” issues).


The back is so thin that light just shines through, but don’t let this deter you.

What you have to remember is that under normal situations, when you drop your phone, it will land on a flat surface, the most likely impact points are all protected so your phone will not be damaged (this is why the Apple’s bumper works well even though it only wraps around the phone’s border. If your argument is that cases such as the OtterBox defender has 1/10″ of plastic and silicon protecting the back. That is a valid point because if you were to drop the phone and the back lands on a rock or drop a hammer on the back, the OtterBox would be a better barrier. BUT there is a 50% chance the phone would land screen side down, in that case the rock/hammer would shatter the screen since there really isn’t much protection there. My point is that LifeProof offers enough REALISTIC protection without adding much bulk AND it is waterproof without distorting sound quality which is one thing OtterBox does not even offer!

One thing I do like about this company is that founder/CEO, Gary Rayner, puts himself out there, he doesn’t hide behind his employees when he demonstrates the functionality of this product on the company’s YouTube channel He’s clearly showing you how it works in a day to day situation, such as recording your child playing at the beach, or playing in the snow or if you were just plain clumsy like Gary’s sidekick/LifeProof’s Social Media Manager Dusty is. Gary does spend time looking at customer’s concerns and complaints and deals with them. Whoever is in charge of their Twitter account is paying attention to what people are saying and helping with customers who are experiencing problems.

The inside of the case is lined with rubber bumpers which helps with absorbing shock, when you put the phone down, neither the front nor back ever touches the surface because of the ridge around that phone creating a “lay on the table design” This is one of the reason they did not use excessive bulk to create protection, if the phone drops, there’s no impact on the phone itself.

The instructions tells you to submerge the empty case to ensure it is waterproof from the factory, once that is confirmed you can put in your phone. The biggest problem I had with this was actually cleaning it enough so that there’s no dust trap under the screen, it took me a few tries because would you really want to be looking at THIS all the time? My advice is to put the phone in and check it carefully BEFORE you snap on the back.


Four specks of dust trapped under the film

The only way dust will get into the phone is when you open up the charging door which is made to fit the 30pin connector that came with your phone, unless your 3rd party connector is smaller or the same size you will have to get a pricey ($20) RadTech extender. Once your connector is on, there’s very little room for dust to get in. One thing I have noticed was dust settling on the black foam over night, I’ve used a new/clean soft makeup brush to lightly brush them off just to ensure a flawless seal. Another way dust can get in is through the earphone port which is seal up with a screw in piece.


The case is said to be snow proof which I have no idea how since there’s absolutely no thermal protection layer. I guess the added layer helps insulate the phone a bit, but you really shouldn’t have the phone in snow type cold for too long since it is not made to operate well for long period of time in fidget conditions. However because it is water proof you would not have to worry about snow melting into the phone! Personally I can’t wait for my next snowboarding trip so I can use my phone to take pictures/videos. I’ve never brought my DSLR or even my point and shoot cameras out because I’m afraid of the water damage.

To summarize this post. I’m fully satisfied that my phone is secured in it’s own shell away from all elements that can harm it. I’m glad that if I ever dropped it in a normal setting I would not have to worry. I’m glad that if I ever get thrown into a pool, I would not go to prison for killing the person who threw me in. $79.99 is definitely a steep price to pay, But depending on how much of a klutz you are, it might be worth it since a replacement is in the $600 range since you can no longer get it at the subsidized price of $199. As I’ve always said about everything, as long as you understand the limitation of a product before your purchase, you can not be dissatisfied. LifeProof never claimed their product to be able to survive a 12 story drop or being run over by a car. It is more for someone who was talking on their phone, trips and drops their phone which then bounces into a puddle. THAT is life…thus LifePROOF.

Don’t forget to go to their warranty validation site to receive a full year of warranty. They are not trying to cheat you out of a one year warranty, I think it is to make sure you know the limitation of the case and not try to get reimbursed for your excessive abuse down the line.

Here are some other pictures of the caseImage

The edge of the case is surrounded by rubber that absorbs shock, the home button has a tiny square sticker that allows a more tactile feel when button is press through the cover.Image

The entire front of the screen is covered by a scratch resistant film, touch screen responsiveness does not seem to be affected. There is a slight outward curve (pillow effect) in the film which requires slightly more pressure to register my touch, but over the two weeks it has improved dramatically and it now feels like nothing is on it. However there is still a slight bump at the earpiece end due to the piece of Gore-Tex and other plastic film over the proximity sensor.Image

The camera and LED flash is covered by good quality anti reflective glass which doesn’t seem to affect picture and video quality. Using glass as opposed to plastic for waterproofing is one way you can tell LifeProof did not skimp on quality.

Posted in Apple, iPhone, Technology | 2 Comments »

Scanning Pictures From Old Albums

Posted by mikenopolis on October 24, 2011

I have been thinking about digital-izing (is that a word?) all of my family’s media for a while. I did a small box of videos and made them into DVDs and put them up on a private family YouTube account. This past weekend I spent some time scanning photo albums for my Fiancé and myself. It was fun seeing ourselves as a child. I miss those days when life seemed to be all fun and games. I have no idea how my father made it all work being the only working person in the family.

My view on life & religion changed dramatically after my father died. I was raised by a Catholic mother and Buddhist father. They respected each other’s beliefs and I did whatever they asked, I went to church and I also went to temples, but I never believed in the deity itself, just the lessons they teach. When my father died I wished there was a God so I can hate and blame someone or something for it.

As I look at the thousands of photographs of my father when he was around my age I start to think maybe I shouldn’t be camera shy. Not too many people have pictures of me since I’m usually the picture taker and I turn away the second I see a lens pointed at me. I teared up a lot when I was scanning these. I miss my father, my mentor, my friend and I hate the fact they he never lived long enough to play with all the technology we have today. When he died he was still using dial up with a 56K Modem, Pentium III, Zip disks, and a CRT. Now I have 15 or so computers (only three or four are performance machines, the rest were bought from my work as they started to replace their old machines…mostly P4s and Xeons or Core2Duos which I clean, replace/upgrade parts)

My father, William. Back row, 3rd one from the right. Yes he has a crutch, he's had one leg since he was a child (construction accident)

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Wedding, Planning & Who Pays For What

Posted by mikenopolis on October 10, 2011

So…I think we decided on the MONTH/YEAR of our wedding. It MIGHT be October 2012. Reception location has already been decided, not really much of a choice since her parents (mother specifically) were the ones who made the decision. Apparently the place we liked was too whitewashed which was what we were going for since the more authentic/traditional Chinese restaurants would not sit well with some of the non-Asian guests we plan to invite.

We are looking at a little over or under 200 guests, majority of them will be her family and friends. My family members are all over the place and it would cost most o them way too much to come (Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, England) and since I really don’t ever talk to any of them it doesn’t really matter. Friends? Well, the people I call friends are really more like past acquaintances, we talk online, email and stuff. But when it comes down to it we really have lost touch since the last time we physically saw each other in high school, college and previous employment. These are people I call my friends, but asking them to come to my wedding or to be my groomsman would seem a bit out of the ordinary in my case. I really have no idea what we are going to do in terms of the traditional groomsmen thing. I know for a fact that I will NOT have a bachelor’s party. I don’t drink, I don’t party, I’ve been to strip joints with friends a few times in my younger days and that atmosphere was not fun for a germaphobe, last thing I want is a possible whore prancing around me.

A traditional Chinese reception/banquet is held at a Chinese restaurant, all the tables seats 10 people and food (a 10 course meal) is served family style. Restaurant that hold reception have various pre set menus that cost anywhere from $400 to over $1000 PER TABLE. We are looking to have the $600 per table option at this moment which equates to $60 a head, so with 200 guests, 20 tables, it would cost $12,000 plus tax and gratuity, there are other charges that comes with closing down the restaurant (or part of) for a night.

A friend of mine got married a little while ago and I asked her who paid for the wedding since she’s on a teacher’s salary and is still going to grad school, she said her father paid for most of it. We’re not planning to have kids, but if we do end up changing our minds (which may happen because my fiancé wants her mother to have grandchildren (weird) and her sister having children is looking a bit doubtful) I do NOT want a girl any more. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t hate children. I’m just very opinionated on what a person needs to be capable of prior to being a parent, and for me to be a good father, I would have to give up a lot of things I love, such as my obsession with cleanness and neatness. Anyone who gets in my car comments on how clean it is…I don’t want to give that up, but I would for my child (many parents don’t understand that…talking to you parents that drops your kids off at grandmas so you can go clubbing on a Thursday night!)

I digress. I saw this on on who traditionally pays for what for a wedding. Last time I checked her family is not rich!

Wedding Gown, Headpiece & Accessories The Bride’s Family
Wedding Ring for Bride The Groom
Wedding Ring for Groom The Bride
Wedding Gift for Groom The Bride
Wedding Gift for Bride The Groom
Bridesmaid Gifts The Bride
Groomsmen/Usher Gifts The Groom
Bride’s Bouquet The Groom
Bridesmaid Bouquets The Bride’s Family
Mother’s Corsages The Groom
Grandmother Corsages The Bride’s Family
Groom’s Boutonniere The Groom
Groomsmen Boutonnieres The Groom
Usher’s Boutonnieres The Groom
Ceremony/Reception Flowers The Bride’s Family
Altar Baskets/Arches The Bride’s Family
Canopy/Carpet The Bride’s Family
Kneeling Bench/Candleabrahs The Bride’s Family
Rented Items for Wedding The Bride’s Family
Rented Items for Reception The Bride’s Family
Invitations/Announcements The Bride’s Family
Wedding Programs The Bride’s Family
Napkins/Matches/Printed Items The Bride’s Family
Marriage License The Groom
Medical Visit for Bride The Bride
Medical Visit for Groom The Groom
Church Fee The Bride’s Family
Clergyman/Officiant Fee The Groom
Musician/Soloist The Bride’s Family
Church Janitor The Bride’s Family
Reception Hall Fee The Bride’s Family
Catered Reception/Professional Services The Bride’s Family
Wedding Photography The Bride’s Family
Video Photography The Bride’s Family
Orchestra/Band/DJ The Bride’s Family
Wedding Cake The Bride’s Family
Wedding Favors The Bride’s Family
Groom’s Cake The Groom’s Family
Rice Bags The Bride’s Family
Rehearsal Dinner The Grooms Family
Bridesmaid Luncheon The Bride
Bachelor Party Best Man/Groom’s Attendants
Wedding Breakfast The Bride’s Family
Bridal Brunch The Bride’s Family
Bridesmaid’s Gowns Bridesmaid’s
Maid of Honor Gown Maid of Honor
Matron of Honor Gown Matron of Honor
Best Man Formal Wear Best Man
Usher’s Formal Wear Ushers
Groomsmen’s Formal Wear Groomsmen
Gloves/Ties/Ascots for Attendants The Groom
Father of Bride Formal Wear Bride’s Family
Father of Groom Formal Wear Groom’s Family
Children’s Formal Wear The Children’s Parents
Limousine Service The Groom
Honeymoon Arrangements The Groom
Travel Expenses to the Wedding The Out-of-town Attendant or Family Member
Accommodations for out-of town Guests The Bride
Gifts for the Couple Guest, Attendants and Family

Posted in Wedding | 1 Comment »

Powermat and Duracell Have Joined Forces

Posted by mikenopolis on October 7, 2011

I have been a fan of inductive charging even before my first Oral-B electric toothbrush in college. My father was a mechanical & electrical engineer and I have always tinkered with his tools and inventions. I was learning how to draw schematics of circuit boards by the time I was 6…really sad that he’s not around to “play” with me. Yes I had a pretty nerdy childhood which explains why I’m the way I am.

One of the things he showed me is that you can power a fluorescent light bulb without wires. I didn’t know the terminology of it since my father taught me in Chinese, but now I know the power source is a tesla coil, check out this YouTube video of the awesomeness!

As usual I went off on a tangent. Any way I think it was at the 2008 CES that a company called Powermat introduced their wireless charging “system” that was aimed to reduce cable clutter caused by chargers. Although I never had much clutter since I am anal about my cable management, being able to plop my phone down and it would start charging was intriguing. So when the system came out a year or so later I picked one up and have charged a lot of my gadgets with it. Yes it is a niche product and not for everyone. Recently I’ve seen their products being sold off as clearance items and picked up the iPhone 4 case which will fit the iPhone 4S that I will be purchasing. I had the iPhone 3GS case but never liked it much because of the soft touch finish (I hate that stuff since it rubs off over time). When I looked into the company I found an article about how they are joining up with Procter & Gamble (Duracell company). I hope this technology lives on and gets integrated into our products. I’m using a HP Veer at the moment and it does not need a separate case to be charged wirelessly with their “TouchStone” inductive charger.

Before the iPhone 4S was announced, I had hoped that this technology would have been built into the iPhone. I hope Steve Jobs vision was to have this in the future. Jonathan (Jony) Ive, have you been paying attention to this? Add this to iPhone 5 (6th version) if you can, it would be awesome and it would be “magical”!

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Steve Jobs, My Father & Cancer

Posted by mikenopolis on October 6, 2011

Title seems like I’m saying Steve Jobs IS my father. but no. My father will ALWAYS be more important to me.

I knew the day was coming, never thought it would be this soon. The death of Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011 made me tear up not only because I’m a fan of Apple Products (I’m not a fan boy! I have around 16 computers in two residence, only six are Macs two if which are too old to use, I would not be able to do my job without a PC) but because my father passed way years ago at the age of 55 of cancer also. Every time I saw Steve in the media I would tear up a little because he looked like he was deteriorating exactly as my father did. As shown in this picture below he looked like he was wasting away in front of the world. My father had lung cancer but had never smoked a day in his life. The doctor told him it might have been caused by the lead that is in solder (which he can’t get away from being an electrical & mechanical engineer). They removed the tumor, treated him with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, I was driving back and forth daily because my mother is too weak and physically handicapped to care for him those were really hard times and I was contemplating of quitting college, but instead I just took on a really light class load for about two years. The doctors gave him a clean bill of health and we were all happy. He got really thin as the years went by, but no cancer was detected until 4 years later. At this point tumors were showing up on film in his brain, liver, pancreas and lungs, he lost the battle about a year later.

Cancer is a horrible disease, I really hope there will one day be a cure for these death sentences. I’ll probably die from cancer and so will many of you. It is a slow, painful and annoying death. All the treatments they can offer with either help or prolong the agony. If I had a choice I rather be doing whatever and just be shot in the back of the head, it’s messy but it would be quick. I do not fear death, I fear pain.

For those who thinks Steve Jobs was a great innovator I have to agree with you, but he did not invent from the ground up, he took other’s failures, and improved upon them. A popular saying is that “Microsoft will get it right the third time, Apple gets it right the first time” the fact is, Apple sat and waited for Microsoft to screw up and learned from them before coming out with their own. I had plenty of Windows Mobile phones and HandSpring/Palm Treos before the iPhone. Those phones worked great, but the VISION of Steve Jobs put doubt in my mind as to how much better and easier it would’ve/should’ve been. The iPad is not the original tablet, years prior to their debut there were plenty of Windows based tablets, there were slates and convertibles and even some sliders. I’m STILL using my HP TC1100, in my opinion and limited budget, it is still the best device for 3D CAD use. The iPad has it’s limitations but it also can have a place in our everyday lives, this is what Steve Jobs was able to see.

I say “vision” because Steve Jobs didn’t actually make the products, he’s only the conductor. It is sad that we don’t know the team of people who actually had to work long hours to make all these products possible, those who took Steve’s ideas and vision into a physical form. To you Bill Gates and Microsoft lovers, do you remember DOS? If it wasn’t for Steve Job’s vision of a easy friendly user interface (GUI) there is a possibility that we would still be using a variation of DOS. Fonts? I can’t believe that was Jobs’ idea, we take it for granted because it’s been there this whole time. I’ve seen old news papers and ads and knew fonts existed prior to personal computers, I just didn’t think consumers were unable to change it on their computers at one point.

To all the people behind ALL the great products we use today, Thank You for making our lives easier and fancier. I hope we will one day have a leader like Steve Jobs. He will be missed.

Created by 19y/o design student Jonathan Mak of Hong Kong

I redid this awesome icon in the CLASSIC Color Apple rainbow icon with Steve Jobs’ silhouette a few different ways. Can’t believe Jonathank Mak made this prior (August 2011) to Jobs’ death! He made it after Jobs announced his resignation from his position as CEO. It would be cool if Apple used this icon as a memorial.

Same Icon - I made it into the classic icon color Black Border on Face

No Black Border

Black with White Glasses, Classic Color Logo

Posted in Apple, Computer, Family, iPhone, iPod, Mac, Technology | Leave a Comment »

UC Riverside Policy 450-90 Proposal to Ban Skateboards, Skates & Scooter

Posted by mikenopolis on September 17, 2011

It’s been a long while since I’ve had anything to rant about. I guess life has been good, or at least unadventurous.

Like many others, my college experience consisted of me not having a car as my parents thought I would party hard if I had a car which shows how little my parents understand their introverted child (A Little About Myself )! So without a car I was obsessed with alternative transportation. I rode my bike often but having to find a place to lock it before entering a classroom can be a hassle. In order to get to my destination quick and easy, I also rode skateboards, something called a Stowboard, push scooters and electric scooters throughout my years in college.

I just read that the University of California Riverside (specifically the Associate Vice Chancellor Charles Rowley)  is proposing a ban on these vehicles. Although I see their concern in regards to pedestrian safety, I don’t think a ban is the best way to handle it. There are those who use these vehicles recklessly, these people usually don’t have a sense of politeness, then there are those who are like me. I’ve always watched where I was going, slowed down and walked my board when it’s crowded. I don’t remember the exact time we had between classes if they were back to back, but I believe it’s 10 minutes. Have these administrators ever walked from, let’s say Physics 1000 building to the University Village. 10 minutes is seriously pushing it… especially in that Inland Empire heat!

UCR Policy 450-90 (Proposed)

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A Little About Myself (as of September 2011)

Posted by mikenopolis on September 17, 2011

As I was writing a post, I started to go on a tangent about the kind of person I am. I decided to cut and paste it here so I don’t digress too much from the title of that post.

I’m such a non party-er a lot of people assume that I hate all events. I generally do not enjoy the company of others whom I cannot hold a somewhat intelligent or hobby related conversation with. I also seem to insult some people way too easily because of my views on life, relationship, children, religion and everything in between. People are way too optimistic and I’m way too pessimistic.  As the saying goes “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything as all” That is why I’m labelled as the quiet guy, and also the reason I have a blog and twitter account…also the reason why I don’t post anything on Facebook.

My views on politics is a bit odd too (according to some I HAVE to choose a side). I’m neither a republican, democrat nor any other party. I’m on the side that is less likely to screw up. Political candidate’s goals are hardly what they can accomplish in the years they are appointed to serve. As of today I believe US President Barack Obama has an approval rating of 43%. Who is to say that if John McCain was elected that his rating at this point would be better. We would never know for sure. All I’m saying is that we will never elect anyone who can magically fix everything they promised. But I believe all candidate’s intention is to better the livelihood of Americans.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Being an Optimist, Where to Draw The Line?

Posted by mikenopolis on July 12, 2011

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

“In a down Economy there is SO much money to be made.. If you don’t know how then you need to get educated–FINANCIALLY EDUCATED. Working SMART ALWAYS pays more than working HARD. .”

“Financial Term of the Day: RESIDUAL INCOME–Doing work once and getting paid over and over and over again off that same work. Also referred to as passive income. This is how the wealthy get their riches. Punching a clock is not the way to build wealth. It’s a way to be a slave to the system. Trading time for a little bit of money is a way to die slowly on someone else’s terms. Our J.O.B. dictates when we wake up, when we can eat lunch, when we can go to the bathroom, when we can take a smoke break, when we can go home, etc. Find a way to make residual income and you will be able to invest your strong work ethic to create lasting wealth for you and your family.”

I’m pessimistic, the glass is always half full….and probably of poison! I was taught that working hard is what gets you places, but before you get to that you have to be smart, and before you get to be smart you have to be educated. So like majority of the people I know, I went to college, got a degree, got a full time job, proved myself, got promotions and raises along the way, worked a few years, saved up, bought a car and house with no help from others….I paid my way through life by myself. I went to college with loans that I had to repay. I’m not patting myself on the back, this is what we should do!

At no point in my life did I say I want to get paid, but not have to work for it and think it was actually going to happen! I’m sure we all like to get paid for doing nothing. But my mentality is that it can’t happen to me. It is not something I actively seek for. I believe in working hard…at least harder and better than the ones around me. I am doing what I enjoy because at the end of most days I feel accomplish, I’ve EARNED my pay.

I’m not saying being this optimistic is bad, you just need to know not everyone can “make it”. At some point you may want to give that DREAM up and get a job….the friend who posted this has not held down a job for a few years now. Hasn’t been actively looking, just sleeping in and partying whenever and wherever. Must be great to have that kind of financial support from your family. Some of us are fully functioning individuals….also known as adults, I too dream of striking it rich, but I know it’s a dream, until that plan A works out, I’m sticking to plan B (AKA “Punching a Clock”). People who are this optimistic only has plan A and say “what plan B?”

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Awesomelyest True Acticle On Authentic Chinese Food

Posted by mikenopolis on April 1, 2011

Joe Soong wrote an article on AlhambraSource.Org regarding Los Angeles County’s Chinese restaurant’s public health ratings. As much of a borderline germaphobe as I am. When it comes to good food, if the food ain’t spoiled, spit on, dropped on the floor or wrapped with a dirty cloth, I don’t care much, bring it to me. From what I’ve read, the Health Department picks on many aspects of the restaurant, not just the food. So in some ways, a restaurant can cook the best food, but still have a “C” rating if their dish washing detergent is too close to the food areas, or the temperature of the gravy is a degree off, etc. Main point is, thje rating does not indicate the quality of the food, but the quality of the kitchen, which CAN be an issue, just not necessarily on your visit.

Please go HERE: for the original article.

Here’s the Article (I copy and paste these because some sites change the URL over time and I don’t want this to be lost, I’ve had many broken links in the past)

A=Americanized, B=Better, C=Chinese: the ABCs of San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurants

Photo by Albert Lu
by Joe Soong, Community Contributor,
March 31, 2011

As a Chinese-American who happens to have many non-Chinese friends, I have been asked many times for recommendations to Chinese restaurants. To help, I have created a tutorial in how to determine if an establishment is a legitimate purveyor of genuine Chinese cuisine.

In Los Angeles County’s restaurant rating system, each establishment is graded on numerous factors, with an “A” being the highest possible grade. However, a different, informal rating system applies to Chinese restaurants. Here’s a summary of the Chinese system that, like the Los Angeles County rating system, also appears as a letter grade in the restaurant’s window:

“A” = Americanized. This is the least desirable rating, where the food establishment focuses too much on superficial attributes such as cleanliness and proper food temperatures. Instead of real Chinese food, it features mundane Americanized entrees such as sweet and sour pork and egg rolls. A real Chinese restaurant does not proudly display an “A” rating.

“B” = Better. This means the restaurant is better than an “A”, but not as good as a “C.”

“C” =Chinese. Real, homegrown Chinese food is served at this establishment. You won’t find reviews for these restaurants on the local TV news.

There are many factors that distinguish a superior “C” restaurant from other inferior Chinese restaurants. They are as follows:

1. The restaurant clientele must be minimally 95 percent Chinese and they will be speaking any one of the numerous Chinese dialects. Don’t worry about feeling out of place. Most patrons will be focused on their food and not on who walks in through the front door.

2. A real Chinese restaurant uses circular tables that can crowd up to 12 people at each table. If you’ve been to a Chinese wedding, you know what I mean. To guarantee equal access for all, the entrees are placed on the round, rotating Lazy Susan in the center of the table.

In contrast, many Americanized Chinese restaurants have long rectangular tables for larger groups. This works well if everyone orders their own entrée (non-Chinese style) or if you don’t mind being bothered by repeated, constant requests to pass entrées around to everyone else.

In inauthentic Chinese restaurants, the wait staff will make pleasant small talk and will periodically check up on you to see how you are doing. This may not be the case in a real Chinese restaurant. So, if you don’t see your waitress again until it’s time for the check, don’t worry, it’s not personal.

3. The wait staff will not be native English speakers and may have difficulty communicating with you. This is a positive sign because it indicates the waiters and waitress were hired to serve a primarily Chinese clientele and the restaurant most likely prepares the food accordingly.

In other words, you will be served real Chinese food. On the down side, because of the language barrier, there is a high likelihood that at least one of your entrees will be a dish you did not order. Enjoy the braised pork spleen.

4. In a restaurant serving true Chinese food, the menu almost seems to be an afterthought, which is a good thing. This means that the food establishment did not spend too much time on it, primarily focusing its efforts on the food. The menu will be a minimal affair, most likely composed of simple, laminated, and possibly food-stained Xerox copies. If the menu resembles a wedding album with a fancy cover, pictures, and possibly designed by a graphic artist, then the restaurant is probably not authentic.

In a real Chinese restaurant, the menu was probably created by the same person who hired the wait staff, ordered the vegetables from the wholesaler, and who looked at you like you were an idiot when you asked him if he could take the chicken out of the Kung Pao Chicken because you are a vegetarian. Remember, in a real Chinese restaurant, the customer is right only some of the time.

5. Item descriptions in a Chinese menu are also telling. In a fake Chinese restaurant, entrées are described in flowery, verbose prose to persuade you to select the item. In an authentic Chinese restaurant the food sells itself. Let’s use barbeque pork buns as an example:

Fake Chinese restaurant: Shanghai steamed buns – Sweet, succulent, Shanghai style barbequed pork in a steamed bun, hot to the touch, but oh-so-tasty in your mouth. A true pearl of the Oriental, from the Great Wall of China to your dinner table – $3.75 each

Real Chinese restaurant: Pork bun – 3 for $2.25

6. The most important factor of all: Don’t worry if the restaurant doesn’t look like your idea of what a restaurant should be. That’s part of the fun and adventure of living in an area with the diversity of Southern California. Try a restaurant you’ve never tried before, order an entrée you’ve never tasted and maybe discover your inner Jonathan Gold. You just might be pleasantly surprised…

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