Mandarin House: Good and Fast Chinese in Ontario

In my neck of Ontario, California, it’s hard to find decent Chinese food within walking distance. 

Sure, I could truck out to Pasadena for divine dim sum or down to Irvine for killer Korean – but, it’s Friday night and I’ve got Game of Thrones on DVR.

Menu from Yelp

Luckily, just down the street sits the unassuming, but thoroughly tasty, Mandarin House.  On the northwest corner of Mountain and Mission, the House sits squat in the center of a strip mall, nestled between a computer repair store (¿those still exist?) and a cigarette shop.  The strip is a bit of a dive, but not enough to be worried. 

From the moment you step into Mandarin House, you can tell it’s a higher grade of fast-food Chinese (4/5 Yelp Stars).  Don’t get me wrong, the House is in the same general category as Panda Express and Pick-up Stix—cheap, fast, American/Chinese fusion for the largely non-discriminate gourmand—but Mandarin House stands above their competitors for a few simple reasons: they deliver (5 mile radius); they do NOT use MSG; and, most importantly, they carry a large variety of foods and flavours, not just six different takes on Orange Chicken.  Of course, all the variety in the world won’t overcome bad food.  On this count, Mandarin House is well-prepared. 

Their menu is vast (as such a restaurant should be), but some of my favourites: Wor Wonton soup
  • Wor Wonton Soup: Large chunks of chicken, healthy-sized pork wonton, shrimp, snap peas, baby corn, water chestnuts, light broth.  This soup is delicious.  They serve it in a pint container (perfect for re-use later), so it’s easily two meals, and they don’t skimp on any of the ingredients.  Definitely worth buying again.
  • Beef and Broccoli: A very tasty dish with enough for two or three meals.  The beef is well-seasoned and not heavily breaded like some recipes.  The broccoli is crispy and fresh.
  • Singapore Chicken: A thin rice-noodle dish with onions, carrot shreds, scallions, yellow curry for colour, and a touch of heat (a small touch – ask them to add more).  I always get it with chicken, but they’ll make it with whatever protein you prefer.  Again, ¡huge portions!  Possibly four meals.  Plus, it comes with a side of small white rice, ¿‘cuz you need white starch to balance out the yellow starch?

On a down-note, most of their appetizers seem to be store-bought and largely forgettable.  I’m usually a fan of anything fried and doughy but the Potstickers are sickly and Egg-rolls are mushy.  Avoid them all.  The Crab Rangoon is alright, for processed, imitation crab.

All and all, Mandarin House is a good Chinese food restaurant in the realm of “filling, fast, cheap, and close”.  The staff is pleasant and efficient, if not overly chatty, and they’re very quick with both delivery and take-away orders – which is important, because Tyrion is waiting, and he’s short on patience.

Bonus pro-tipMost of their larger meal containers are sturdy, lidded, microwave and dishwasher safe plastic.  Good for left-overs AND boxed lunches during the week.  ¡Never buy tupperware again!

Mandarin House: (909) 544-5999.  1118 W Mission Blvd; Unit E F; Ontario, CA 91762


Clinton Announces Presidency to The Internet

With an upbeat background score and a short email, Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for the 2016 US Presidency.  Unlike Ted Cruz who announced with a Fiery Speech from Liberty University or Ron Paul who banged the Podium in his Home state of Kentucky, Clinton offered only a few words of support at the end of a two minute video posted to her website:

“I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president…. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion — so you can do more than just get by — you can get ahead. And stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong. So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote, because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

Getting Started



To be honest, I skipped over the video a few times thinking it was just a standard ad.  Talk about grass-roots movement; she’s not bothering to tell anyone (though, a mere six hours after posting, the video has been viewed 1.3 million times).

Yet, it might be the smartest move she can make.  By releasing solely through social media and rolling a series of small pit-stops through the heartland, she’s working hard to cast off the mantle of Ice Queen she earned in 2008.  As well, she immediately distances herself from the traditional campaign style of the antiquated Oughts.  Finally, she gives a hearty nod to her base and a gentle comehither to certain vacillating minorities who, rightly so, are miffed at feeling the cold shoulder from Democrats.

Clinton imparted volumes about her candidacy during those two minutes.  The video highlights a number of groups who will never vote Republican: mixed-race couples, blacks, single-parent families, young voters.  It even underlines two Latino business owners (sub-titled from Spanish) and a gay couple getting ready for their wedding.  She couldn’t be any more anti “classic Middle America” if she tried.

In one bold stroke, Clinton solidified her base, starkly separated herself from competition (internal and external), and embraced that ultimate engine for market penetration, social media.  Not too shabby.  I think I’m going to enjoy this campaign season.

How to Use oDesk to Search for Jobs and Clients

Now that I Have a New Profile, I’m ready to start searching for jobs.  After I log-in, oDesk funnels me to the oDesk personal landing page, aptly name My Job Feed.  I’m presented with a huge series of “Recommend Jobs” based on an arcane coupling between the skills I listed in my profile and the search-algorithm’s whim.

And Onward Ad Infinitum (or at least until they find the last Elephant)
And Onward Ad Infinitum (or at least until they find the last Elephant)

This front page seems to be largely rubbish and I didn’t give it more than a passing gander.  oDesk receives umpteen new jobs per day, a dizzying number to sort and file – and it will be a waste of my time to scan through them without some kind of filter.  There are, however, a number of ways to filter the offered jobs so I can pinpoint the exact job(s) I want. Continue reading “How to Use oDesk to Search for Jobs and Clients”

Throwing Tomatoes at Your Brain: Pomodoro Technique, the Writer’s Friend

People are Crap at Multi-Tasking

No matter how clever I think I am, I can’t out-think my brain.  The brain is an amazing engine for categorization, focus, organization – but it’s utter potz at multi-tasking.  I might think I’m totally hip ‘cuz I can walk AND chew gum, but I’m actually just rapidly task-switching.  And doing it poorly at that.  For minimal or routine tasks, it’s not a noticeable or huge loss of fidelity, but for focused and complex tasks–like say, writing–the cost of task-switching is immense.  Forbes, NPR, American Psychology Association, hell, The Onion has already done the leg-work.  It’s bad.  It doesn’t work.  POMO. Just try to text while driving to see how utterly wretched we are at multi-tasking (actually don’t, You’re 23 TIMES more likely to crash when doing so).

Doughnuts and airbags don’t dance

You are More Clever than Your Brain: How To Pomodoro

I lied before; I am more clever than my brain.  Partially because I have convinced my brain it actually likes kale salad, but mostly because I can hack my brain for fun and profit (somewhere, a Cartesian dualist just got her wings).  As a professional writer, there are moments when I need to effect intense focus and finish a job – like in the ticking-hours before a big deadline.  In these moments, I need to use all the cheat-codes and sneaky tricks at my disposal to buckle down, not revert to playing Destiny, and get the job done.

Enter, the Pomodoro Technique.  Pomodoro is a system created in the late ’80s by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian grad-student, for intense task-focusing.  He named the technique after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer he had on hand (it’ll make sense later).  While it was hardly an original idea, he coined it with a catchy slogan.

The Pomodoro Process is Simple:

  1. Write down a Pomodoro Checklist of tasks on a piece of paper (your PomoList) such as cleaning out your Inbox, writing an article, or practicing the Glass Armonica.  Choose one task.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (AHA – the pomodoro).
  3. Work on the task with your ENTIRE FOCUS invested.
  4. When the timer dings: Make a check-mark in your PomoList and take a five-minute break.
  5. If the task is unfinished, return to step 2.
  6. Rinse, lather, repeat (don’t forget to wash behind your ears).

The strength of this technique lies in its simplicity.  You’re emphasizing the innate abilities of your hunter-brain, Focus and Devoted Attention, while minimizing your shortcomings, multi-tasking and task-switching.  POMO  The five-minute break (I check adds in a reward element to reinforce the behaviour and the check-mark in your PomoList gives you a tangible record of your progress.

La Tomatina in Spain - or a very happy zombie.  Maybe both.
La Tomatina in Spain – or a very happy zombie – or both

Tinkering with the Tomato

I’ve found this technique to be exceedingly useful for lengthy writing.  At work on any given day, I must complete any number of reports, and they all demand attention to detail.  Before I started using Pomodoro, I had them rigged simultaneously and would shift between them, while answering phones, writing emails, and shooting office mates with Pen Crossbows.  At the end of the day, I’d shake off the caffeine jitters and realize I’d made little progress on anything. ¿Where’d the bloody time go?!  Stupid time!

However, by setting a formal structure for a task, orienting myself on a specific time, and zeroing in on JUST that task, I was able to make significant progress while avoiding burn-out.  I had outmaneuvered my brain (HAHA – stupid brain).  I wasn’t better at any of the tasks, per se, I was just better focused.

Of course, the Pomodoro is only one tool in my production toolbox.  It works best when you choose tasks that don’t demand multiple platforms or other people.  Writing a TPS-Report lends itself quite nicely to Pomodoro; teleconferencing with Purchasing, Accounts Payable, and Receiving about your missing order of red staplers, not so much.  The best PomoTasks are self-contained, largely individualized, and focus in a single medium (writing, coding, proofing, etc.).  As soon as you need to work across multiple platforms or interact with people (¡EEK!), it loses its luster as the need for the multi-tasking increases.

Some Quick Tips to Pomodorize:

  • Take the PomoList seriously: Marking down the task you’re engaging while noting the time and finally checking it completed gives the experience a “finished” feeling.  Plus, you can look back at day’s end and impress yourself with all the progress.  POMO
  • Take the Breaks seriously: Part of what makes my attention wander is focus-burn.  Knowing that I get a goof every 25 minutes and actually taking that break refreshes me for the next bout.
  • Take the 25 minute increments seriously: Just like any habit, you’re looking to build “muscle memory“.  The more often you practice focusing for the 25 minutes, the more your brain will get comfortable with the idea and be able develop a habitual stride.  If you have to stop for something, reset the timer.  No one is taking score but you.
  • Actively Shut-Out distractions:  When I Pomo, I ignore incoming emails, ask co-workers to call-back later with issues (“Yes, I can see your head is on fire, ¿can you make an appointment?”), and silence my phone.  Remember, the point is to rigorously focus – AVOID the dreaded multi-task.
Keep your Cool

Building a Better Tomato Trap: Pomodoro Resources

Pomodoro is hot right now, so there are umpteen phone apps, books, widgets, and whatnots to aid in your struggle.

  • You can buy the original book at and they’ll even sell you a classy tomato-timer.
  • AppStorm highlights some free Iphone apps for timing and recording your PomoList
  • AppCrawlr has the same for android (I like Clockwork Tomato ‘cuz it’s free and comes in a zillion shiny colours).

Play around to see what makes the most sense to you.  I like having a timer on my phone ‘cuz it doesn’t give me an excuse to fiddle about with my computer (and get distracted by The Shiny(tm)), but to each their own.  Most importantly, make it work for you.  Give the standard system a test-drive until you get the hang of it, and then hybridize.  Change the increment, add in longer breaks after a few Pomos, work with different PomoList set-ups.  Even if it only increases your focus by a little, that’s a whole bunch more tomatoes you get to throw at your brain.

PS.  It only took four POMOS to finish this blog – ¡that’s gotta be a record!