Say What? Mariah Carey Says Irregardless on New Album, Caution

I can’t remember the last time I bought a full-length album on its release day. So when I saw Caution by Mariah Carey was released yesterday (November 16), I bought it. I didn’t even sample any of the songs – that’s how much faith I had that Mariah Carey’s 15th album would be fantastic.

Well, I wish I hadn’t been so impulsive. I wish I had heeded MC’s message right there on the cover. I should’ve proceeded with caution!

Out of ten songs that I really, really wanted to connect with and love, I found just three songs that I liked at first listen:

A No No

Pro: Being a fan of all things French, I love how she throws in a little français:

Con: She’s known for using lots of adverbs and big words in her lyrics, so I was shocked she used “irregardless” in this song. I don’t care what dictionaries say! It’s not a word!

The Distance

Pro: I like how it starts off with a chant of S-P-I-R-I-T. It’s like she’s her relationship’s own cheerleader.

Con: Again, she’s known for using lots of big words in her lyrics, so her f-bombs seem misplaced if not redundant here. After all, the song is already giving the finger to people who didn’t think her relationship would last.

Giving Me Life

Pro: I like the mellow groovy beat and the chorus, “Giving me life and it’s everything…”

Con: The song runs a little long. It didn’t need the last 48 seconds, in my opinion. Also, I know she’s referring to the legendary Barbra Streisand when she sings, “Living like Babs ‘cause it’s evergreen,” but I keep hearing, “living like bats…” But maybe it’s just me!

Have you heard Caution by Mariah Carey? Which song(s) did you like? Let me know in the comments below!


Inside the New Amazon Go in San Francisco

Have you heard about those cashier-less convenience stores called Amazon Go? They have no checkout and no lines. Currently, there are three such stores in Seattle and two in Chicago. So when I heard the online giant opened one in San Francisco, I knew I had to Go!

I recently visited the 2-week-old store at its first California location on 300 California Street in San Francisco. (Another San Francisco location around the block on Post Street is scheduled to open this winter.)

At this location, you can get breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and grocery essentials. They also carry exclusive Amazon Go-branded merch, like reusable bags, Theo Chocolate bars, and ceramic mugs imprinted with their Just Walk Out slogan.

So, you’re probably wondering…

  • Was it really easy?
  • Do you really just walk out after shopping?
  • Could you get all your meals from there?

Yes, yes, and yes (oh, how I wish I still worked in the area)!

grab n’ go: a large selection of fresh and healthy food

Since there’s no checkout, there’s no checkout line. However, there was a short line at the entrance made up of people downloading the app and asking the security/greeter person how this store works.

It’s simple:

  1. Download the app
  2. Scan the barcode at the turnstile
  3. Put phone away
  4. Shop
  5. Just walk out

I only wanted to test it out, so my first trip took all of 3 minutes and I “just walked out” with one item.

I see you, too: in order to update your cart, ceiling cameras watch your every move
this is the one item we selected

I must admit I felt a little uneasy as I walked out. I felt like I stole something! But within minutes, I got an email with a receipt featuring a picture of the item I purchased, which was reassuring!

I’m kind of a Luddite, so I’m usually a late adopter of new technology, but I could get used to these cashier-less stores!

Review: thank u, next 💋

When I think of Ariana Grande, I think: This woman can sing. She’s talented, hardworking, and seems to genuinely care about her fans.

But lately I’ve been annoyed by people who only talk about her personal life; her drama is overshadowing her music!

With her talent, she doesn’t need to resort to cheap tactics to get attention or sell music. So when I heard she released this new song about her exes, my initial reactions were sigh, eyeroll, cringe.

Then something magical happened.

After listening to the song, I am now convinced that Ariana Grande is also a PR genius, as my strategic communication professors would say.

To borrow her lyric, “that sh*t’s amazing!”

Effective damage control requires that you get in front of the drama. That is, if you don’t control the narrative, everyone else will by filling in the gaps to their often factually-inaccurate liking.

Though she owes no one an explanation, in thank u, next, Ariana Grande controls the narrative.

By calling out her high profile ex-loves, she does two things: she sets the record straight about the individuals she has dated by naming names while also acknowledging her critics who “say I move on too fast.”

By doing this, she disarms her harshest critics and detractors. More important, she displays her strength by sharing her moments of weakness.

More than the honest, humble, confident, hopeful, and optimistic lyrics, I love the hook in this song (“thank u, next/I’m so f*ckin’ grateful for my ex”).

The catchy arrangement and harmonies are reminiscent of songs by Mariah and girl groups, like Destiny’s Child, SWV, 702, Jade, or Brownstone, whose songs I had on repeat in the 90s, when I was around Ariana Grande’s age! (sigh.) This song didn’t have much of that breathy melismatic singing. For me, it was a refreshing change.

Yes! We’re talking again about Ariana Grande the way we should be: about her and her music. And she’s right. This song is a smash!💋

Listen to thank u, next: Lyric Video

(Video: All rights reserved)

How to Repurpose All Those Election Flyers You Got in the Mail

Let me guess: You, too, got about 2 pounds or 153 extra pieces of mail in the weeks leading up to Election Day! Well, I’ve got a few ideas on how to repurpose all those election flyers!

But first I want to say thanks to all the mail carriers who’ve had to take on this extra load: extra time to sort, extra weight to lug around, and extra material to stuff into mailboxes.

In this electronic age, it’s surprising to me that direct mail is still one of the best ways to reach a target audience. Hence, this surplus of correspondence from power-hungry candidates who want to make sure you know who they are so you can punch a hole or draw an arrow next to their names on Election Day. Yet, they don’t even take the time to get to know me. For instance, I got a Latino voter guide. Gracias, but I’m not Latino and besides, should my ethnicity make a difference? But I digress.

That said, I will happily pore over the 1 1/2-inch stack of election flyers to gain a better understanding and be objective so that I can make informed decisions, then vote accordingly.

I’m truly indebted to countless advocates of the suffrage movement who began the long and hard fight over a century ago so that women and minority groups could have a voice and the ability to participate in our democracy today. Heck, yeah, I’ll be voting. I don’t take the right to vote for granted.

So, about those election flyers. What can we do with those flyers? Of course, you could shred and recycle them, which is recommended. Who knows, maybe they’ll become new flyers for the next election. I say, let’s get creative! Here are six of my ideas:

  • Birdcage liners

I briefly had a job handling newspaper subscriptions and whenever a customer wanted to cancel their paper delivery, I had to ask for a reason. I recall one woman told me her reasons: she had no time to read the paper and she had only been using the dailies “to line her bird cages.” Cheekily, I retorted, “Well, if you cancel your subscription, what will you line your birdcages with?” While I failed to change her mind about canceling her paper, her birdcage liner idea stayed with me.

  • Crafts

Election flyers feature all sorts of interesting fonts in various point sizes, which you could cut out and use for a collage, scrapbook, or vision board. Clip pictures of a candidate in a confident pose and stick a picture of your face on it. Maybe one day, you too, will run for office, have your face on election flyers, and it wouldn’t be for naught, because you’d win the election. Yay, you! Like they say, if you can dream it, you can do it!

  • Box reinforcements

When you send a care package to your son who’s away at college or your daughter who’s in the military stationed abroad, use the election flyers to fill in the gap between the flaps of the cardboard box to reinforce the bottom.

  • Bookmark

With an oversized election flyer as a bookmark, there’s no chance you’ll lose that page you were reading. At the very least, you won’t lose the book or magazine!

  • Paint palette

Squeeze or pour some acrylic paints onto a thick, glossy election flyer and use it as a palette while you paint your next masterpiece. When you’re done, toss it away. (The palette, not the painting!)

  • Nutshell holder

Instead of a plate, which you’ll need to re-wash, use an election flyer to collect peanut, pistachio, or sunflower seed shells. Then toss the flyer into the recycling bin and the shells into the compost bin. Easy clean-up!

You could try any of these ideas or you could hang on to the election flyers and wait for the election results. Did your candidate win? Did your measure/proposition pass? Keep them all accountable. If it turns out they didn’t keep their election campaign promises, send it back to them and ask them, “What happened?” Conversely, if they kept their word, then send them a thank- you note!

Democracy. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

So remember to vote then repurpose those election flyers. Got more ideas? Tell me in the comments below.

The Collector

Is it genius

Is it a disorder

It is both

And neither one

Someone tell them

You can’t take it with you

What you collect

Takes you

The clock man

Made the news again

fall back

Begging for sympathy for his plight

Having to wind all 853 clocks

Collected over his lifetime

And counting…

As if more clocks meant more time

To spend, to waste, to collect

It is genius

It is a disorder

With no cure for either.

From The Quiet Child – Poems

(c) 2007 Darlene C Alvarez

Oktoberfest in Campbell

I went to the Campbell Chamber’s 24th Annual Oktoberfest in Campbell on Sunday. What a letdown! It was my first Oktoberfest, but I think it was reasonable for me to expect a Bavarian cultural experience, right?

But the event was more like “The Hundred-Vendor Street Festival in October that sells brats and beers so let’s call it Oktoberfest” fest. Most of the hundred or so vendors weren’t even selling German- or Bavarian-related items!

Wearing lederhosen and dirndl were encouraged, but I only saw about five people in these traditional German attire. And most of them were in the three bands performing there!

Festive, fun, authentic German and Swiss music by Zicke-Zacke Band

Family-friendly fun

Well, at least they had fun stuff for the kids! The KidsZone featured a few bounce houses, a spinning swing ride for the younger kids, and a cute teacup ride.

My favorite booth was run by a local county library. They provided a fun necklace-making activity using satin ribbon, mini-pretzels, and gummy peach rings.

Speaking of food, I enjoyed a soft pretzel with spicy mustard and a brat sandwich. I also tried some non-Bavarian favorites, like fried calamari, garlic fries, and giant steamed oysters.

Hope he doesn’t burn his brat

Overall, I’d say: Go for the pretzels, live music, and family-friendly activities!

For everything else, I’d give Oktoberfest in Campbell a nein.

Have you been to the real Oktoberfest in Munich? I’d love to hear about your experience! Tell me in the comments below.

For more information:

  • Campbell Oktoberfest (link)
  • Santa Clara County Library (link)
  • Zicke-Zacke Band (link)

Italian Family Festa in San José 2018

The famiglia and I spent a sunny Saturday at the 38th Annual Italian Family Festa!

We’d been to the Festa before, but it was our first time at its new location. This year, the Italian American Heritage Foundation held the Festa at History Park in San José, California.

To celebrate their Italian heritage, the family signed up to volunteer: selling beverage tickets, handing out drinks, and drawing names for the Grape Stomp!


At the Opening Ceremony, the master of ceremonies welcomed all of us to the Festa! In a poignant moment during her remarks, she asked for a moment of silence to remember victims of sexual assault, as well as families affected by the recent California wildfires. Next, a priest from a San José Catholic Church gave a blessing and offered prayers for the victims of the August 14 Morandi Bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy.

After the American and Italian national anthems were sung, the Festa was officially on! Benvenuti a tutti!


Admission to the Festa was free. You only had to bring your appetite and some money for food! Vendors of Italian cuisine sold their ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, calamari fritti (fried calamari), gelato, cannoli, San Pellegrino sparkling water, meatball sandwiches, string cheese, and sfingi (fried ricotta doughnuts sprinkled with sugar), to name a few.


There was a Wine Tasting booth featuring vino from six local wineries. I prefer white wine, but I enjoyed a few sips of a lively red wine called LA VITA by Bargetto Winery in Soquel (near Santa Cruz). Unfortunately, they didn’t have any bottles for sale at the Festa. I guess we’ll have to take a trip to the winery soon!


Family Fun

There were many activities to keep the whole family entertained. Throughout the park, there were booths from local businesses with giveaways and spin-the-wheel games. There were at least a dozen vendors selling their original creations. Some were Italian-themed (silk-screened shirts with Italian words; Murano-glass handmade jewelry), but many were not Italian-themed (fuzzy puppets; toe rings; garden wind spinners). Proof that everyone was welcome!

For a friendly competition, there was a cheese building contest, where the youngest Festa guests could compete to see who could build the tallest tower using Galbani string cheese.


For the more athletic types, they had bocce, the popular Italian lawn bowling game. Although I’m not Italian (nor athletic!), I felt the warm and welcoming family atmosphere at the Festa, particularly at the bocce courts! They invited me to play then paired me up with another enthusiastic Festa guest. We played well together even though we had just met! There were two bocce courts: one standard-size and a smaller (and less competitive) one for the kids. They called it bambini bocce. Isn’t that thoughtful?


Another physical activity was the Grape Stomp. It’s so popular that they had to pick stompers and swabbies by lottery. Guessing from the participants’ pained facial expressions, it must be harder than it looks to stomp enough grapes to fill a mason jar with grape juice in less than five minutes! It was fun to watch and cheer them on, though!



There was music playing throughout the Festa to keep the Italian mood going, too. On the Roma Stage, there were alternating groups performing songs in both English and Italian.

One group performed a fun song, called “Tintarella di Luna,” which I recognized from a recent TV commercial for a Las Vegas hotel.

Behind the Cooking Stage, they played the Essential Dino playlist with Dean Martin hits, like “That’s Amore” and “Volare.”

My favorite Italian expression

In the movie, Cars 2, there’s a scene where Uncle Topolino shares this little nugget of wisdom with Lightning McQueen:

Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro

It’s my favorite Italian expression, which means “whoever finds a friend, finds a treasure.”

On that note, here we are with some of our dear amici at the Italian Family Festa:


For more information on the Festa, visit their website here.

To watch the singer perform the Italian national anthem at the Festa, watch my video here.

To hear the original version of “Tintarella di Luna” by Mina, check out a video clip here.

Ciao for now!

Pistahan SF 2018

The Pistahan Parade and Festival is the largest celebration of Filipino-American culture and cuisine in the United States. According to festival organizers, Filipino American Arts Exposition, tens of thousands of people were expected to attend the two-day event over the August 11-12, 2018 weekend!

As a volunteer on the social media team for the event’s Instagram account, I snapped some pictures of the exhibitors, performers, and festival-goers at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.

25th Annual Pistahan Schedule of Events
Eskabo Daan Filipino Martial Arts School
Did you eat yet? (Sisig, palabok, lumpia shanghai, rice, and cantaloupe juice)

Traditional folk dances of the Philippines
This vendor’s shirts featured Filipino expressions (kuya, ate, inaanak, gigil, beautiful eyes, and more!)

World of Dance Bay Area champions, Str8jacket Dance Company
Maganda: local beauty queens served Heavenly Ice Cream
View of the esplanade from the 2nd level terrace

We’re on their Facebook page!
(from Expo Magazine, the visitor’s guide to the festival)

The word for festival in Tagalog (the official language of the Philippines) is pistahan! 🇵🇭

Building a Toy Airplane (& Dreams)

After my visit to Airbus in Toulouse, I went to the gift shop and bought a model airplane building-block kit of the Airbus A380! It’s a fun souvenir that family and friends can put together. To assemble 70 blocks and build the cute replica, it took the Girls and me only 45 minutes, which includes unboxing and taking pictures along the way!

Part 1
Part 1: Completed
Part 2
Part 2: Completed

The most challenging part was peeling off the stickers from the paper sheet and making sure they didn’t tear. But applying the stickers to the model airplane was a breeze!

Let’s name the pilot!

The finished replica measures about 10 inches (25cm) in length and almost 3 inches (7cm) in height. It’s sturdy enough to play make believe, but too fragile to throw in the toy box. Most likely, we’ll display it on the bookshelf. I hope the model of the world’s largest airplane will inspire travel, conceive dreams, and spark the imagination.

Speaking of which, we’re now playing a game called Name the Pilot. What can we call her? 👩🏻‍✈️

My related post:

Let’s Visit Airbus (link)