Friday, February 29, 2008

Flight of the Conchords

Watch it! I can't recommend this series enough. It's about 2 New Zealanders who move to NY trying to make it big with their band. They have 1 fan/stalker and a lousy band manager. And the songs rock! It is hilarious! I am LOL just thinking about it.

We've also just finished the sixth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Loved it! I hope there's a season 7.

We love our HBO series.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Random Thoughts for Today

You know how everyone has advice and ideas on how to reduce CO2 emissions and our impact on the planet? One I’ve seen is to use public transportation or walk or ride your bike to work instead of driving, and telecommute whenever possible and use webconferencing services (they work great!). Well, this only applies if you are not the military. My boss had to fly across the country for a 1 hour meeting with the military. Two days of travel, 1 hour meeting. I guess since the information is sensitive, they don’t want to say anything over the phone of web. Whatever.

Braille maps for the blind exist. Finally! When I first heard this story I was surprised to find out that Braille maps did not already exist. If they have books, why not have maps or some sort of guide to help them navigate streets in their city? I love looking at maps and figuring out the most efficient or alternate routes. I think this is a neat invention.

I don’t think people who got caught up in the subprime fallout should get bailed out. We were looking at buying a house at the peak of the real estate boom and were considering the adjustable rate mortgages and the 80/20 loans. But we decided not to. It just sounded insane to have 80% of our netted income go towards a house that we were in a sense paying rent for (you don’t totally own it until the loan is paid off). Even 50% of our netted income feels high. What about emergencies like when our cat got blocked and we ended up with a large vet bill? What about saving for rainy days or retirement? And what if one of us got laid off (it was a possibility at the beginning of this year)? Sure some people got duped and confused by loan sharks or real estate agents who just wanted to get a commission. Some people didn’t have time to read or didn’t understand the lengthy and confusing loan agreements. Well, that’s your responsibility. I’ll admit that I don’t always read the forms I sign when I go to the doctor’s office so I’ve probably committed my first born to them. But if I’m getting into a $750K, 30 year agreement, you better believe I’m reading every word of those papers I’m signing. And we would probably even get a lawyer to look over the documents for us, even if we had to pay them out of our own pocket. I understand if the banks want to work with their customers so that they don’t loose their houses and the bank doesn’t loose its money. But it should not be a federal bail out. Are they going to start bailing out the people who bought the luxury cars or the yacht or the expensive jewelry only to find out that they couldn’t afford them? It’s wrong.

I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the fact that we don’t yet own a house. We have a healthy savings account, a good start on our retirement fund, and our health. And as time goes on, we continue to save. Maybe if we ever get jobs elsewhere (we’re actively working on Albuquerque and Austin), then we’ll be able to afford a house there, cash. While I dream of having my own house, I will enjoy renting and not having to worry about repairs (our landlords are great). Plus, renting gives you the freedom to get up and move at a month’s notice.

So the months of February-May are super busy for us and I love it. My planner is full of activities like trips, guests visiting, dinners with people, and of course playing and coaching soccer. I’ve never had to refer to my palm pilot so much when making plans. Monday night I had a soccer game. Tuesday night we had dinner with someone form the internet (more later) and a get together for my outdoor coed team. The husband came along and thankfully he didn’t make a scene when I handed a check to commit to the next season. Friday night we are getting together for dinner with our Scottish ex-houseguest (the one who wasn’t drinking) and hopefully a “proper booze-up” (he has resumed drinking). Saturday we got to San Diego and Baja California for a few days. We’ll travel with my parents-in-law and brother-in-law (hopefully). We’ll meet up with my parents and brother (hopefully) in San Diego for dinner at my uncle’s Italian restaurant. Then we’ll head across the border to Baja California for wine tasting. I am not trying to make you jealous by describing all my activities but I’m just super excited to be a social butterfly for once.

We’ve actually met up with about 4 people we met on the internet through my husband’s website. Fortunately none of them turned out to be crazies. The first couple we met were loads of fun but then they moved to NY. Another couple we met because the husband ended up getting my husband a job at his company. We just met up with a guy yesterday (at a neutral place but the husband did start to give him directions to our house over the phone at which point I started signaling “No!”) for dinner and he was totally cool. He’s living in Pittsburgh right now and he brought us a souvenir – a terrible towel. Grrr! I think our meeting people on the internet karma is way up so the next person will probably be a stalker.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Weekend Review

We had a very busy weekend. Last week sucked work-wise. It was quite busy towards the end. On Thursday I worked about 11 hours (3 of those were free) and on Friday I wasn’t able to leave as early as I wanted to leave to get ready for family visiting this weekend, but I managed. I even had time to go to my scrapbooking get together as planned. About once a month my coworker’s Creative Memories consultant hosts a scrapbooking party at her house. It’s always fun to go because I usually make some progress and get new ideas plus it’s fun to hang out with other people. While I usually work on my drunken college memories scrapbook, they are putting together their kids’ baby albums and feeling supper guilty because their kids are 2 or 3 years old by now. This time I worked on my Germany and Norway trips scrapbook. The lady sitting across the table from me disappeared for a while and when she came back she was furious. I guess her husband was doing a bad job holding the fort down at home and it’s a good thing he wasn’t around because she probably would have killed him. She said they were having an f-problem with their 13 year old boy. And I’m thinking, OMG, kids are having sex so young these days. But it turns out the kid got an F in Spanish class. There was A LOT of pregnancy talk at my table which freaked me out. The conversation certainly squished any desire I had to have a baby. The things that happen to you (or could happen) are horrible.

On Saturday morning my parents, Tia Mirella, Tio Daniel, and Tio Edmundo arrived at our place. The were in town for a family Quinceñera and they all stayed with us. For those of you who haven’t been at our place, we have a 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bathroom place with about 950 sq. ft. So we slept between the stairs and the dinning room table on an air mattress that deflated in about 10 minutes. One of my uncles slept on the couch and I love him dearly but he’s a big snorer. All I got to say is THANK GOODNESS for ear plugs (and being exhausted). After they got over their initial fear of there being so many people in the house, I think the cats enjoyed all the attention and the opportunity to have so many warm bodies to snuggle with at night.

The next morning I made a lovely brunch of orange and blueberry mint fruit salad, bread with red onion and caper cream cheese and smoked salmon, peppers and chorizo egg frittata, and a walnut-cinnamon coffee cake. It all turned out great and I think everyone agreed. We used our wedding china which is always fun. My family left later that morning so they ended up being in the Bay Area for about 25 hours. They came up from Southern California which is about a 6 hour drive each way. I think they were crazy but I’m definitely glad they came.

One highlight was when my Tio Daniel, who I last saw a couple of months ago, asked me how much my wig cost and pulled on my hair. When he realized it was my real hair, he was quite embarrassed. He defended himself by saying that he had never seen me with curly hair which is even worse because my hair has always been curly and he even lived with my family for a few years when I was little.

After my family left, I hurried off to coach my spring select team. They had a practice scrimmage against a local team. Fortunately it wasn’t rainy but it was cold. And I wasn’t prepared so I had to wear a stinky goalie shirt to help keep me warm.

For dinner we hung out with the husband’s cousins John and Jae-Hyun and Neil and Natalie. We went to Café Sparrow in Aptos to celebrate Natalie’s birthday. We had a very yummy dinner with some Cinnabar red wine. And of course the company was wonderful. Natalie is a horse vet (every little girl’s dream) and her stories are always fun to hear. I usually wish I had stuck with my early desire to become a vet. It probably would have been better, or at least more satisfying, than being an engineer. But every profession has its down sides and for me being a vet might be too emotionally draining. I love animals.

Speaking of jobs, my brother-in-law has the best job in the world. Currently he’s in the movie business as a camera guy and is starting to get into stunt work (he was an awesome gymnast in college). He just shot a commercial for a movie ticket company that will be shown before a main feature at the theater. My concuño posted some pictures on his blog about my brother-in-law's commercial shoot. Oh, and he also used to be part of the half-time show for the Clippers – he was one of the guys who use trampolines to do all the crazy dunks. Does it get any better?? He’s in the Dominican Republic doing a Slam Dunk show. I’m jealous.

I had an indoor game last tonight. My husband has been trying to get me to stop playing soccer because it’s too rough (that’s what I get for showing off my bruises to him). This weekend, my family teamed up with him and EVERYONE ganged up on me. Not only do they make me feel old, but not playing soccer would be a bad thing. I love the sport and it’s a great workout. It beats the monotony of the gym and I’ve been having a great time hanging out with my teammates. When I first moved to the Bay Area, I wasn’t crazy about the teams I was playing with, so it was easy to take a break from soccer. But now I love the people I play with and I met them all through coaching AYSO. I think I just need to stop showing off my bruises and injuries when I come home from a game. When I got home after the game last night, the husband asked to see my injuries. But I didn't have any. Honestly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Some Things I've Been Thinking

Last week I took the car in to get fixed by a local mechanic. He’s a 3 minute walk from where I work and my coworkers all trust him. I had taken our 1996 Toyota Corolla (the husband and I share a car) to him before for an oil change and I was not happy. I walked in with a negative attitude and felt as if I had been cheated. The check engine light had been on in the car for about 3 months now and we had noticed a significant decline in gas mileage. Due to convenience I decided to try the mechanic again. Plus I had looked up his reviews on Car Talk and they were all good. So this time around I went in with a positive attitude and came out happy. The mechanic changed the O2 sensor (we barely passed the smog test back in August so this made sense), replaced the battery (it was leaking acid and had been for at least a year now), and changed the oil (it was time). We had debated how much we wanted to spend on fixing the car. While it’s a good car, it does have ~140K miles on it and it is over 10 years old. We spent about $450 which is close to our upper limit. The mechanic is sure it will run for another 100K miles since it is a Toyota. So I’m torn. I’m glad we don’t have to buy a new car now and spend money on that but it would be nice to have a new car (we’re thinking a Prius). The car sharing thing works just fine for us and since we are trying to save money for a house one day (we need about $150K just for a down payment), I guess that’s a good thing. We (and our guests that visit) will be riding around in our junker for another few years (in contrast to all the BMW’s, Mercedes, SUV’s, Hummers, and shiny Hybrids you see in the area). Oh, but we also got new tires. Tires are expensive! We spent about $70/tire. Unfortunately we had just missed the Costco “$60 off a set of four tires” coupon.

I’m wondering why I didn’t hear about this until after the fact (late last week): The Mia and Nomar Celebrity Soccer Challenge. It was a fundraiser for the LA Children’s Hospital and the Mia Hamm Foundation, which focuses on bone marrow disease. Some of the soccer celebrities included Landon Donovan, Alexi Lalas, and Julie Foudy, and the non-soccer celebrity list included Tony Hawk, Seth Meyers, and Andy Samberg. I think this is a great thing they did and if I were famous, I would want to do events like this all the time. My causes would be animals and children. Probably mostly animals and prevention of cruelty towards them. And I mean all animals, including farm animals that are raised for slaughter, not just cute, cuddly puppies and kittens.

We had a very nice weekend. On Saturday night we had dinner with my mother-in-law. She’s in San Francisco for a work conference and so we met up with her and her boss for tacos and ice cream. We went to some really good places: La Taqueria (Zagat rated) in the Mission District and Mitchell’s ice cream (featured on the Food Network). If you are in the area, I definitely recommend a stop at both of these places.

On Sunday we had lunch with my coworker and her husband and two daughters, 4 and 2 years old. We went to Sneakerz Sports Bar in San Mateo. The place was pretty cool. Every table had it’s own small tv and since we sat in a corner booth, we got our own medium-sized flat screen tv. The girls kept us very occupied so we barely glanced up at the tv. At one point in time, I was explaining to the 4 year old that my hair is not actually black because once I had “colored, I mean dyed my hair black and people had noticed.” She thought for a few seconds and then said “when you painted your hair and it died….” The husband and I couldn’t stop laughing. Kids say the cutest things. The husband had a habanero burger which he was unable to finish because it was so spicy. I think a spice diet would be a good one. Ever notice how when you eat really spicy things (and I mean really spicy with your ears feeling like they are going to explode and your face getting moist from the heat), you usually can’t finish? You would probably eat half your food and end up losing a lot of weight.

I also coached indoor for my girls under-14 spring select team. We played against an under-12 club team that had moved up because they wanted more competition. We got killed. The score was probably 12-0 (they stop keeping score after 5 goals). It was quite embarrassing. The girls on the other team were smaller but super aggressive. They did not flinch when the ball was coming at them. I told my girls to take a shot from kickoff and the other team figured it out. Instead of ducking out of the way, they got in the path of the ball and got nailed with the shot. They didn’t complain at all.

My concuño had posted this article on his blog previously but I wanted to post it here so that I would be able to find it again. It’s about a sports writer father who takes his 2.5 year old daughter to watch a pro basketball game. It’s a cute article. The indoor place where my girls played last weekend had soccer for little tots (18 mo. – 4 years old) and they were soooo adorable. Too bad you can’t take you cats to soccer camp. Although we did take our white kitty Sluggo on a hike one day in a Whole Foods reusable grocery bag. Right before we left the house he had climbed in the bag so we just picked it up and left. We were gone for about 1 hour and he was totally fine. He would poke his head out to see and towards the end he did get fidgety and jumped out of the bag a couple of times.

Here’s another good read, especially if you are thinking about graduate school (or have gone through the process): A Graduate School Survival Guide. I haven’t finished reading the piece but so far it’s quite funny and very accurate. I do wish I had read this before I quit the PhD program and headed out with my Masters. I may have decided differently.

Yesterday’s word of the day (from www.dictionary.com) is sine qua non. It means “An essential condition or element; an indispensable thing.” It’s obviously Latin and literally translates to “without which not”. I had not seen the phrase before. This is the new thing I’m learning today so I may as well go to sleep for the rest of the day.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

We Are in Good Hands

Thanks to the President making this decision, I have no doubt we are totally safe. Remember that satellite that was falling out of the sky that I had mentioned earlier? Well, they are going to try to shoot it down.

"The option of striking the satellite with a missile launched from an Aegis cruiser was decided upon by President Bush after consultation with several government and military officials and aerospace experts, said Deputy National Security Adviser James Jeffrey."

Hail our Commander-in-Chief.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Awwww, Monkey

Here are a bunch of cute Monkey pictures.

Here she is being a super model with a ribbon around her neck.



Here she is next to a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve.



Here she is as a tiny kitten. Look at those ears!



Here she is when she got a stick in her eye. Notice her swollen right eye. All her stuffed friends gathered round to offer sympathy.



Funny story. When the husband and Monkey and Major first moved in with me when I lived in Austin, Monkey stayed in for about a week. This was rather unusual because even though she was about 1 year old, she was already quite adventurous and loved being outside. But then again this was a new neighborhood and it was East Austin. When she finally went out, she stayed out all night. When she came back the next morning, we noticed her right eye was swollen. We figured she had gotten stung by a bee. The next morning it was still swollen so we took her to the vet. On first inspection, the vet too thought she had been stung by a bee and took her into the back area to get a bee sting treatment of some sort. A minute later they came back out and it turns out she had gotten a stick stuck between her eyeball and eyelid. The stick was about 1/2 inch long by 1/8 inch in diameter. Who knows what she did to get that stick in her eye. Fortunately her eyeball wasn't scratched and she fully recovered from the trauma.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You Gotta be Rich to Vote Republican

A couple of weeks ago I heard an NPR piece that shocked me. NPR called the economic advisors of the top 2 contenders in each party--Democrats Clinton and Obama and Republicans McCain and Romney--and asked them what their candidate's first economic priority would be. Here's what they said:

Obama: fixing the economic slowdown and then health care reform
Clinton: passing a universal health care plan along with health care reform and then fixing the real estate market/economic slowdown

Romney: completing the free trade agreement and then making permanent the Bush tax cuts
McCain: bringing federal spending under control (no earmarks on bills) and then reforming entitlements (health care, social security)

Wow! I don't think it can be clearer than that. I don't understand how anyone, apart from the small percentage of millionaires out there, could vote Republican. It must be the scare/regligious tactics they use - gay marriage, abortion, etc.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Need to Get the Previous Post Off This Page ASAP

On that note, here goes...so my brother and I are planning a trip to NY. We've been working on this trip for a few years and we finally booked our tickets for mid-April. He even got us tickets to the Yankees vs. Red Sox game (he likes the Cowboys and Lakers too, but he's my bro so I gotta love him). We'll also check out the major sites and hopefully indulge in good food and drink. As I was trying to sort out our hotel, I found out that NY is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. You can't get a decent room with a private bathroom for under $250. And since this is NY, the rooms will probably be tiny. Fortunately our friends S and L will host us for a couple of nights and I was able to have my company travel agent use her connections to book us a room at half price for the rest of the nights.

I am in the process of getting my annual review at work. My boss is pretty happy with me so now I'm hoping for a good raise. So wish me luck! And if I don't get a good raise, I hope I have the courage to argue for a better one.

A while ago I made fun of my husband when I sent him to the store for cilantro and he came back with parsley. Well, it turns out that many people have trouble with the herb. Over the weekend I went to the store and bought some parsley. The guy at the register, Carlos, rang it up as cilantro. I didn't point out his mistake because the cilantro was on sale. Maybe since I grew up using only cilantro, I don't get the two confused since I know when I see cilantro and the other stuff is just parsley.

While I was at the store, I also bought some shrimp to make shrimp scampi. The guy behind the counter was extra flirty with me. Here's a highlight:

Fish Guy: How's you day going?
Me: Great, thanks, how about yours?
Fish Guy: It's better now that I'm helping you.

He then gave me a handful of cooked shrimp as a sample. It was sweet.

Our kittens are really into treats, especially Noodles, the orange three-legged munchkin. Getting treats from their daddy is part of their morning routine. We have some all-natural, pressed raw salmon pellets that are quite stinky but Noodles and Sluggo both love (we got them at Costco). Well, Noodles has figured out that if he picks up his treat and carries it over to where Sluggo is (sniffing his own treat) and growls a bit, Sluggo will get scared and leave his treat and Noodles will end up with both. The first time this happened we thought it was funny. Now we're a little worried. What other plans could he possibly be crafting in his little head?

As I write this post, I'm sitting next to my husband on the couch, while he plays xBox. Something scary happened in his video game because he just screamed and jumped. This happens often. He once spilt wine all over the computer keyboard because something scared him in the video game he was playing.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous this weekend (no snow). As a result, we had to spider-proof our house, or as best as we could.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bummer

I think the Super Bowl was one of those games that could have gone either way. And unfortunately it didn’t go the way I had hoped. The Patriots have been on the other side of the score in previous games. Even this perfect regular season, there were a few games that they won by 3 points. Those are the games that can go either way and lend to the saying, “on any given Sunday…” This time the Patriots were unlucky and the Giants got lucky. I won’t take away Eli’s and other Giants players’ outstanding games. But anyone watching the game can’t deny that the football gods smiled on Eli as he kept the Giants alive when he escaped getting sacked and got off a 32 yard throw to Tyree, who held on to it using his hands and helmet as he got tackled. Amazing.

What I am most sad about is that the Patriots didn’t get the 19-0. They had the perfect season but not the Super Bowl ring to go along with it. My husband is most disappointed that they didn’t win the Super Bowl. But for me to have witnessed history at a time in my life when I really am excited about football and the Patriots would have been truly amazing. We watched every single Patriots game. We would often have to go to the local sports bar and sit as the lone Patriots fans in a room full of Steelers, Cowboys, and non-Patriots fans. I loved talking about football and would do so with anyone that would listen. My parents started following the Patriots because we were so excited about them.

Let’s not forget that the Patriots did go 18-0. No other team has done that. It’s probably hard to imagine what that really means unless you are there. As a soccer player, it’s often hard to keep my consistency and excitement for the game going from week to week, let alone that of my teammates. But football is so much more physically and mentally demanding. So whether you are a Patriots fan or not, you can’t deny this accomplishment and its magnitude. It will be a long 8 months before football starts up again. I can’t believe I just said that.

Update: Someone else said it much better than I did:

"Sports is one of the few areas of endeavor in which perfection can be measured. But achieving perfection is rare because it requires good fortune as well as skill and execution."

Update 2: Thank goodness for elections. Nothing like another competition to help ease the pain from the previous one.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

More Random Thoughts

The statistics of Boston sports:

"No city, let alone Boston, has ever fielded a threesome in the most popular national team sports as dominant as the current Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics. The closest — fittingly — was New York from 1969 through 1970, when the Jets won Super Bowl III, the Mets won the 1969 World Series and the Knicks won the 1970 basketball title. But New York had multiple baseball and football teams, which Boston does not. That inspired Carl Morris, a statistics professor across the Charles River at Harvard, to calculate the chances of a monofranchised city having the three best teams in one year: about 1 in 29,000."

But they forgot about the Revolution, also owned by Bob Kraft (Patriot's owner) who got 2nd place last season. Second place is pretty good.

Last weekend we went to our local Irish bar in downtown to hang out with our Scottish ex-houseguest and some soccer friends. This is a typical Irish pub, dark, lots of wood, so-so pub food, good beer. But around 10 pm, they dimmed the lights, cranked the Justin Timberlake music and music videos, and started charging a cover. The crowd changed and it basically became a meat market. But the weirdest thing, was the pole dancers in the middle of the bar. There was a table (like the kind that you stand around at a bar) with a pole connecting it to the ceiling (hadn't noticed the pole before). The two ladies were wearing weird outfits (as pole dancers should), were terrible dancers, and had total muffin-top. They shouldn't have been up there. At one point during the night I noticed that the tv's were still showing Timberlake videos, and that the ladies pole dancing at the bar were wearing the same thing as the ladies in the Timberlake videos. Odd. I guess that's what you get in the suburbs.

So far this weekend has been a lot more mild. Had soccer practice (coaching) this morning and it was COLD! I am still working a lot with the goalies and they have been improving significantly. I feel accomplished.

I went shopping earlier to get supplies for our mini Super Bowl get together. A couple of the husband's cousins are coming over to cheer on the Patriots with us. Go Patriots!

I love Trader Joe's. I don't go there enough becuase it's in the WalMart shopping center. I usually make the rounds between Safeway, Whole Foods, and the Milk Pail (like a farmer's market, but stationary). I don't really want to add another store to my shopping list, but the good thing is that everything is within 1/2 mile of each other.