Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I've Moved!

Hi everybody!  Sorry for the dreadfully long hiatus.  I just lost steam.  Call it writer's block, boredom, whatever.  Over time I just felt like nobody was reading (which is partially true, anyway) and the theme of the blog was so random that it was hard for me to stay on track.  Not enough structure, I guess.

Anyhoo, the reason I'm posting here one last time is to let you all know that I've started a new blog, with a theme this time, so if you miss my voice or you're interested in the topic, head on over!  The new blog is YETInvesting (I pronounce it Yeti Investing, but you can say it however you like):

The new website focuses on personal finance, so it's issues related to generating more income, developing side hustles, investing in rental property, as well as a little about stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and the like.  I talk about my experience with Prosper lending, how to talk to your kids about money, how to become a landlord (post coming January 4, 2016)...basically anything you can think of about personal finance.

If you're wondering why you should be interested in hearing about personal finance from a crazy person who was mistaken for a hooker and who mouths off to Border Patrol officers, I completely understand.  (I'd be wondering that, too.)  The truth is, although I've had some crazy adventures and I enjoy silly escapades, I'm also a pretty darn responsible person when it comes to finances.  Sure, I've bought horse head masks and dinosaur salt and pepper shakers and even a panda suit that one time (who hasn't, amirite?), but I'm also an attorney and a landlord and I've been nerding out over spreadsheets and tax returns for more than 20 years now. 

So if you're the least bit curious, head on over and say hi.  You can comment on any post or reach me using the contact me page.  I'd love to hear from you, especially if you came over from this website.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I'm Not Dead. And Fortunately, Neither is the Count.

I'm not dead.  Although it has been an unbelievably long time since I've posted here.  I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I know that life got really, really busy, and then it's almost as though I completely forgot I had a blog. 

Anyway, the good news is that my boyfriend, the Count, is also not-dead.  He's not even mortally wounded, or in need of an ambulance, despite the alarmed cries of my niece.  We were at an Oscars party at my mom's house, and Maggy ran up to me, out of breath, saying "we might need to call an ambulance for the Count." 

Let me back up a little. 

Maggy and her brother were bored before the Oscars even started, and wanted to take a ride around my mom's rural neighborhood in the golf cart.  More specifically, Maggy wanted to drive, but had had an "incident" lately and was required to have a chauffeur.  The "incident" involved driving entirely too fast down a hill and over a speed bump, which caused the batteries to launch out of their mounting spots and to tip over, temporarily disabling the golf cart.  Hence the requirement that a responsible adult accompany her.  (Not quite sure that the Count qualifies, but at least he's technically an adult.)

Maggy and her brother Harry absolutely love the Count.  During tax season, my sisters and I spend each Saturday up at mom's house working.  If my sister Carly brought her kids up to mom's house on one of those days, Maggy and Harry would be super mad if I didn't also bring the Count up for them to play with.  And the Count would be mad at me, too.  I actually made this mistake once, and three pairs of eyes glowered at me for it. 

So it was no surprise that Maggy and Harry tried to recruit the Count to be their chaperone on the golf cart adventure.  He didn't have a jacket, and it was cold out, so Maggy helpfully got him one of my mom's coats for him to wear.  (I think she did this to be funny.  My stepdad has coats that he could have won, too.)  So the Count walks out the door wearing a women's purple, knee-length, fitted down coat with a fur-lined collar.

The kids (including the Count) had been out for about 30 minutes when Maggy came rushing up to me suggesting that I call an ambulance.  I said "What did you do to him?  Did you crash the cart?"  Maggy said "No, but Harry and I climbed up this rock wall, and the Count said 'I can do that.  I'm hip' and we don't think he's gonna make it."  (Imagine the words "I'm hip" coming out of a 10-year-old's mouth.  Honestly.)  Fortunately, just as Maggy and I were jogging toward the rock wall, the Count came trotting up to us in his ladies' coat, mildly out of breath.  The kids laughed their butts off. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

How NOT to Apply for a Job

I went to dinner with my mom and my cousin Alice the other night at PF Chang's.  Alice decided that we should order one of those fishbowl-sized rum punch drinks that are intended for couples.  Since I embrace awkward situations, I gladly agreed to share it with her.  

It looked something like this, only picture a
pink-ish rum drink, and two cousins sipping
from the straws a la Lady and the Tramp.
Alice was discussing the job interview she had just completed that day, which went swimmingly.  The topic turned to job interview/resume submission failures, and I was reminded of my own job search fresh out of college. 

I had submitted my resume for practically every listing that was on, and drafted a specific cover letter for each with equal enthusiasm.  I was definitely putting my English degree to work, proclaiming about how excited I was for the opportunity to work at [insert company here], and how my skills at [sewing pockets in shorts backwards] could be used to benefit the company by [opening up the clothing market to people with irregular anatomy].

I was chiefly looking for work as a writer, to springboard my dream career of test-driving cars and writing articles for Road & Track magazine.  I applied for menial writing jobs at several magazines, including, somewhat embarrassingly, Dog Fancy.*

Don't get me wrong.  I love dogs.  I have two Siberian Huskies, and I would dress them in embarrassing costumes every day if I could find any that fit.  Apparently, you're only supposed to dress up cocker spaniels and such.   Or the dog clothing manufacturers assume you can't get dogs who are bigger than cocker spaniels to submit to wearing embarrassing things.  Au contraire!

My dog, Saint.  He's obviously very pleased to be in
fashionable footwear, for once.  He wears a size 10,
in case you're wondering.

Anyway, despite my love for dogs, I would feel a little weird working at a magazine that was dedicated solely to dogs and the people who obsess over love them.  That didn't curb my enthusiasm in the cover letter, though.  I wrote some elaborate story about taking my dogs to Petco and standing in line trying to control the hyperactive-but-lovable beasts while perusing the latest issue of Dog Fancy.  I signed the letter and mailed it off with my resume.

About a week later, I received a response.  I hastily opened the letter, thinking that this was my big break.  This must mean that they are going to schedule me for an interview, or perhaps--gasp!--they're offering me the job based on my carefully crafted cover letter and resume alone! 

Inside was a letter and also, oddly, a stack of receipts.  Puzzled, I read the letter.  "Thank you for applying..." blah, blah, "It appears that you accidentally enclosed these receipts with your resume and cover letter..."  Shit.  I was looking for those receipts, too.  Needless to say, I did not get the job.  But honestly, that was sort of a relief. 

* I love that, at the time of this writing, the Wikipedia page for Dog Fancy lists the breeds of dogs appearing on the covers for each month's issue starting in June 2008, but that the person who updated the page apparently ran out of steam after August 2010.  Even the truly fanatical dog lovers eventually find something better to do with their time. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Critiquing the Muppets

The Count was watching a YouTube video of a barbershop group, and saw a link for Beaker, from the Muppets, singing "Ode to Joy." 

The Count: "Can you believe this thing's gotten 21 million hits?  This barbershop group I was watching had 10 thousand hits.  But Beaker singing gets 21 million.  Really?" 

Me: "That's pretty crazy.  Although, everyone loves the Muppets.  Especially Beaker.  He's hilarious."

Him: "That's it.  I have to watch this thing."

*Plays Youtube video.  (Fake) metronome clicks off time on the video as Beaker sings.*

Him: "He's rushing."

Me: (Laughing) "Are you really giving a formal critique of Beaker singing Ode to Joy?"

Him: "He IS rushing."

Me: "No he's not.  They slowed the metronome down.  Didn't you hear that?"

Him: "You can't slow a metronome down."

Me: "Obviously that's not a real metronome.  Wait--now we're actually arguing about the musicality of the Muppets singing Beethoven?" 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'm A Pony!

Side note: the Count and I just got back from our fun international vacation (destination: Singapore), and I plan to post about that very soon.  But for now, here's this little distraction about what an awkward idiot I was as a kid. (Past tense, ok?  Let's pretend I grew out of being awkward and idiotic.)

Anyhoo, I can't remember what triggered my memory of this today, but here goes.

A long time ago, in a galaxy not too far away, my dad took my sister, my little brother, and me to the park by his house.  I think I was around 12 years old.  The park was pretty cool.  It had one of those roller slides which get you going REALLY fast, and which threaten to pinch and/or remove your fingers if they get anywhere near the rollers.

Photos of Dennis the Menace Park, Monterey
This kid is mere seconds away from losing all of her fingers. 
(This photo of Dennis the Menace Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor)

It also had one of those chain tightrope thingies, where you hang on to the top chain and walk along the bottom chain, kinda like this:

Playground tightrope chain
This one made by Healthy Heart.  Original here

Most kids have a great time playing on these semi-deathtraps like they were meant to be played on.  But I was not a normal kid.  I was going through a horse-loving phase, and I think I had recently started taking horseback riding lessons, and for some reason, it occurred to me that I should really be galloping around the playground like I was a horse.

Keep in mind, I was TWELVE years old.  That's way too old to be galloping around like a horse on the playground.  I'm sure some of the onlookers were wondering why I wasn't wearing a helmet.  My only defense to my superdorky behavior is I was wearing a banana clip, which made me feel like I was already part horse because of the hair-mane.  Or maybe the cause and effect were reversed, and I was wearing the banana clip because I already felt like I was a horse.   Who knows.

Banana clip
Yes. Now everyone can have a horse mane! 

Anyway, so there I was, galloping around like an idiot, and I decide that as part of my horsey exhibition I'm going to jump through the middle of the chain tightrope thing.  I get a good start, galloping around the sandbox area in a smooth arc leading up to the chain.  

I leap through the chains as gracefully as I can, which is to say that I tripped over the lower chain and fell directly on my face.  It was at that precise moment that it dawned on me how ridiculous it was for a twelve-year-old to be pretending to be a horse at the park, much less a clumsy horse who can't even jump over a chain that's maybe a foot off the ground, tops. 

I was so embarrassed.  And because of the embarrassment I started crying immediately, which is not a good automatic reaction to have because it just drew MORE attention to me and my failed horse-imitation skills.  

Thankfully, I grew out of my awkward phase, and am now a normally functioning adult.  

*Whinny!*  *Stomp, stomp*

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I swear, you put your lug nuts on backward ONE TIME...

I actually know my way around cars a little bit.  Maybe more than a little, depending on your perspective.  I bought an '81 Corvette when I was 19 years old (the car was 17 years old at the time), and with my meager college-student budget, I was forced by necessity to embark on a mostly self-taught crash course in auto mechanics. 

My old baby, Checkpoint.  (That was her name.)
She's pretty, eh?  Now, gearheads will complain that this is not a "real" Corvette because back then they had weak motors (190 hp for mine), an array of smog equipment, and mine even had the dreaded Carter Quadra-Jet computer controlled carburetor.  Nonetheless, she was "real" to me, and I loved her, and she was an absolute pain in my ass to keep running.  I learned a lot from her, too.

Fast forward a decade or so, and I now have a Toyota Venza.  It's a newer car, so there isn't much to do, but I did swap out the air filter for a K&N and change the front brake pads.  

A couple years ago I got new wheels for it.  I had damaged one of my stock rims, and it was actually cheaper to buy a whole new set of rims (from Costco, of course) and sell the remaining three good ones than it was to just buy a replacement stock rim.  Plus, the aftermarket rims look WAY better.

Many moons later, Kung Fu Panda, who is a better mechanic than I am, and also more willing to make a mess of an oil change for $20 of labor, came over to change the oil.  It was also time to rotate the tires, so I removed all the rims and we shared the task of swapping them and reattaching them to the car.  He did two wheels, and I did two.

Everything went fine, we cleaned up, and that night, I headed up to my mom's house.  It's about a 35 minute drive through hills and canyons.  By the time I got almost all the way to her house, I was feeling something funny in the steering wheel.  I slowed down to a crawl and felt the wheel jerk left and right in my hands.  Uh oh.

I pulled over, got out of the car, and put the palms of my hands on the front left wheel.  I pushed hard, and the wheel moved.  A LOT.  My uncle drove down the road to meet me, and we discovered that the lug nuts on both wheels that I put on were loose.  Shit.  I was so embarrassed.  I figured I must have hand-tightened them but not really cranked them down when the car was off the lift.

So, with freshly tightened lug nuts, I made it the rest of the way to Mom's house.  On the way home that night, I got most of the way down the windy road, and felt the same feeling.  Not good.  I called Panda.  When I explained what happened, he went silent for a minute, and then took a deep sigh.  I could feel him pinching the bridge of his nose over the phone.  He said "when you put the lug nuts on, WHICH WAY were they facing?"

"Um, flat sides against the wheel?"  Apparently that was the wrong answer.  He had to drive an hour to come get me, and he fixed most of the lug nuts, except for the few that had permanently welded themselves to the lug bolts.  In my defense, I should say that this is the first set of wheels I've ever had on any car that had open-end lug nuts.  Every other one had the normal closed-end kind, where there's only one possible way to attach them.

Open end lug nuts
"Normal" closed end lug nuts

So last weekend, I posted on Facebook that I was planning to do another brake job on the Venza.  Panda immediately commented on my status "I can do it."  Sixty seconds later, he texted me, "Really, I can do it."  I appreciated the concern, but insisted that I could handle it, especially now that I've learned from the last incident.  He was still really nervous: "Flat side of the nut faces outward."  I laughed.  "I know."  It went fine.  Brake pads successfully replaced, no fiery wrecks.  Tiny bit of dignity restored.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sewing Clothes for Yetisaurs

I really should not be allowed around sewing machines.  I do a reasonably good job at patching things up that have been professionally manufactured, but it's sewing things from scratch that get me into big trouble.

I've always envied my mom's sewing abilities.  When we were kids, she was a single mom who worked full time, but she still somehow made time for sewing awesome things.  We had this Kenmore sewing machine in the 80s that had the super-advanced ability to embroider tiny letters and numbers.  VERY fancypants considering the time.  And Mom was a whiz with that thing.  

I remember making the world's smallest quilt on it, which consisted of nine squares of fabric sewed together.  The finished product probably measured 1 foot square.  It didn't have a backing or stuffing or anything, and wasn't even really "square" due to my sub-par fabric cutting skills, but it was my first project and I was super excited about it.  I think I also embroidered the entire alphabet and the numbers 0-9 on the edge just to make it feel more like a successful project. 

When I needed an emergency costume for Halloween, my mom drove me to the fabric store where we bought yards of blue furry fabric.  Mom had me lie down on it, eyeballed the thing, and told me to get up.  She got busy with the scissors (eeew, not like that), and whirred away at the sewing machine, and within a couple of hours, she had turned it into a Cookie Monster costume.  I glued two white ping pong balls onto the head and drew eyeballs on them, and was an instant success.

Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother's eye for patterns.  My impression, based on her successful spontaneous costume making, was that it was easy to create all sorts of wearable clothes just by eyeballing things and having a general idea of how clothes are to be worn, e.g., where someone's arms are located on their body.  

I attempted to demonstrate this new-found knowledge by taking a T-shirt that I had mistakenly purchased eighteen sizes too large (don't ask--I don't remember why I did that), and re-sewing it as a smaller T-shirt.  In my mind, I was thinking "This is brilliant!  The larger T-shirts are the same price as the smaller ones, and I can just re-sew them into my size, and get all of this free fabric afterward!"  

Here's what I was planning: take the shirt on the left, sew along the dotted lines, and voila!  Smaller shirt!
OK, as people with normal brains will immediately point out, I'm a fucking moron.  (I was all proud of myself for figuring out that I had to remove material from BOTH sides of the shirt in order for the neck-hole to remain centered.)  For those of you who are bad at visualizing the end product, like I am, let me tell you what happened when I was done.
I did not get a magically scaled-down version of the gigantic shirt.  I did get a skinny-bodied, elbow-length-sleeved version of the shirt.  The bonus is that the shoulder seams that were in the original gargantuan shirt had migrated down my arms and were now located around my biceps.  Rad.

Undaunted by my failure at re-sizing T-shirts, I decided I would attempt to make shorts for myself.  This time, to ensure success, I used a pattern.  Cheating, I know.  But work with me here.  I bought a bunch of fabric, diligently cut out the pieces, and followed all of the instructions.  When I was done, they actually looked like a pair of shorts that a person could wear.  I was so proud.  

I immediately put them on and pranced in front of my sister Carly, who had mercilessly made fun of me for the failed T-shirt project.  "Look," I said, dancing around, "they're SHORTS!"  As if she was incapable of either seeing what I was wearing or identifying them as shorts.  

"Wow," she said, clearly unenthused.  

I was too excited to care about her lack of enthusiasm.  In fact, I think I took it as a sign that she was secretly envious, so I continued.  "I even put pockets in them!"  I jammed my hands in the pockets and discovered a major problem.  The right-hand pocket was fine.  The left-hand pocket, however, faced backward, and my hand was folded back toward my butt.  Unfortunately, having made this fashion show in front of my sister, she immediately noticed.  We both started laughing.

I tried to convince her that I had sewed the shorts like that on purpose, so if someone had accidentally put the shorts on backwards, they would always have a functioning right-hand pocket.  I don't think she bought it.  After that, I successfully sewed many pairs of shorts.  I just made them without pockets.