Saturday, March 31, 2007

Road Rage

Everyone, I'm certain, has seen multiple examples of what can only be classified as stupid drivers. Cell phone talkers, bouncing juke boxes, crazed speed demons, clueless airheads, casual diners. They're all around - and at times, we've all been them, whether we like to admit it or not.

Yesterday, Danny was driving down a two-lane road, when he went to make a lane change. The car in his blind spot was completely invisible to him. The driver of the other car, thankfully, was alert. He honked, and then swerved to avoid a collision. No damage done. Phew.

But then the driver did the unexpected: He stopped his car in the middle of the street, blocking the road. He got out of his car, walked towards Danny's Camaro, and started yelling.


Keeping his wits about him, Danny exited his car, and said,

"I didn't see you. I'm sorry. I made a mistake. What more do you want me to do ?"

Dumfounded, the man stopped in his tracks, stuttering, caught completely off-guard by the apology.

Undoubtedly, the driver was expecting a fight. After all, that's what a lot of people would have done, right ? Someone cuts you off, you yell back, you get out of your car, and the two of you go at it. It happens all the time. Road rage is at an all-time high, and people are beaten and sometimes killed over altercations that occur as a result of traffic issues.

But Danny refused to stoop to this level. Instead, he admitted his mistake and apologized.

The man in the other car simply could not find words to say. As he stuttered and faltered some more, Danny simply turned around, got back in his car, and drove away.

All of this, because of a near-miss on the street.

The world is a crazy place.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Fine Then

Ok, current house owners. You want to rent back the house for 30 days after the sale closes ? Fine. But you have to pay the mortgage and all associated costs. And no, you're not getting the extra $2,000 you asked for.

Let's hope they accept the terms. ~crossing fingers~

Oh, and Danny was just given free tickets to the Giants vs. A's exhibition game tonight. Wahoo !!!

I'll need to borrow a sweater, though, as I only brought a light jacket to work today. AT&T Park, formerly known as SBC Park, formerly known as PacBell Park, gets cold at night.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Counter Offer

The owners of the house have sent us a counter offer.

There are two other offers on the table.

They want $2,000 more than what we offered.
And a shortened contingency period.
And an option to rent back the house for 30 days after it closes, meaning we might not be able to move in until that extra 30 days is over.

Jigga wha ? Do they want us to dress in leis and do the hula as well ? This is getting ridiculous.

I don't think we want this house that badly. There are other options.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It Has Started Again

A house that we really, really like, in the perfect location, has just come up on the market.

It's almost-new, beautifully kept, and very close to everything, including Daniel's school, my work, and Danny's parents. Sure, it's a little smaller than I would prefer, and it only has a 1-car garage and carport instead of a 2-car garage, but it's beautiful. The look on Danny's face when we finished the tour was that of pure delight. As was mine.

This weekend, we mulled it over. There is another house that we like, which is bigger and with a two-car garage, but it needs more upgrades, including air conditioning. And the location isn't as desirable. Tonight, we were supposed to decide which one to offer first.

Until my agent called.

There are two offers already on the first place. It's barely been on the market a week. If we don't act now, we might lose it. And we may not even get the second place, because it's way overpriced, and we planned to offer $20k less than list.

We're signing the offer paperwork for the first place tonight - for list plus $1k, to cover the not-included-in-price appliances.

Cross your fingers for us. I really want this one.

But I have promised myself not to mentally move in just yet. If we don't get it, the second one is still available, and it's a really good house too. I am passionate about both of them. But I won't count my chickens when all I got is a carton of eggs. I have sworn myself to it.

Wish us luck.

Grass is Nasty

This weekend's adventure was a trip to the Jelly Belly factory in nearby Fairfield. The free tour took Danny, Jacqueline, myself and other tourists, with paper hats on our heads, through the factory to view the machinery and massive production floor. Strategically-placed television screens played DVDs explaining the history of the Jelly Belly jelly beans, and showed various portions of the production floor in action. We were even serenaded by a musical dance from four large robotic arms, moving in sync and waving at the crowd of delighted attendees. It was definitely worth the trip for all of us.

After the tour, we perused the gift shop, populated with various novelty items and clothing. One corner featured the gag Harry Potter bean flavors, such as earwax, vomit, grass and dirt. And in the other corner of the store, the tasting bar offered free samples of the various flavors of jelly beans, chocolates and gummy candies made by this massive factory.

Jacqueline, of course, parked herself at the sampling bar, and tasted a large variety of flavors. On one of her many trips, the young gentleman behind the counter handed her a green bean, and said,

"Give this to your mom. Tell her it is the Margarita flavor."

And when she came running up to me, big smile on her face, I had no reason to doubt her intentions. I popped the free bean in my mouth and began chewing.

It was nasty. This bean tasted nothing like a margarita. I tried to put on a brave face and thank her for her generous and kind gift, but my expression could barely hide my disgust. It was nothing short of gross.

Later, I found out the truth.

The young man behind the counter had given me grass ! That's right, the grass flavored jelly bean had been handed to me under the pretense of being a margarita.

I had been duped.

I'm sure many other adults in that store have been, as well.

A real Margarita-flavored bean cleansed my palette just perfectly. That, and a shared laugh with the young man who took pleasure in my torturing, and all was right in my world again.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cleats are Good

One of my softball team's fastest runners, Jack, has always wowed us with his speed around the bases. A simple single often turns into a double because of his heads-up running and his blindingly fast feet. Even so, he has always resisted buying cleats. He doesn't like them, he says. Even with the increased traction, he insists they slow him down.

At Wednesday's game, Jack was getting beaten up at third base. The other team was hitting hot-shots at him repeatedly, every inning. He was a real trooper, fielding all of them, and holding up the corner very well. Until the bottom of the seventh inning.

The batter hit a fast ground ball towards third. Jack shuffled over to get in front of it.. and slipped.

The ball, continuing on its path, impacted his shin with a sickening -thwack-. Even the outfielders heard it. He crumpled to the ground in pain.

When I reached him, he was not able to put weight on his left foot. His range of motion was severely compromised. His shin was swollen about 1/2" above the bone. He wanted to stay in the game, but I wasn't going to let him if he was unable to stand. Our left-fielder helped him off the field, and took his place at third.

After the game, Jack insisted on walking off the field, and driving his manual-shift car home. I pleaded with him to get an x-ray, as it was possible he could have chipped or fractured the bone. He definitely took this one for the team.

"So Jack," I said, "I guess you'll be getting cleats now, huh ?"

"Yeah. I think I should."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Public Service Announcement

When at a stoplight, with the convertible top down and the tunes blasting, it's really not a good idea to turn on your mister to clean your windshield.

Unless you like a face full of windshield washer fluid, that is.

~wiping off sunglasses~

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


We didn't get the house.

I should have known this was going to happen. From the very first conversation that my agent had with the selling agent, I knew it was going to be trouble. The selling agent was playing games, telling my agent that we should be prepared to pay more than list price, and that they wouldn't accept offers until after the Open House.

I hate game-playing. And I'm not stupid enough to be tricked into carrying on a bidding war. The selling agent's perception of my intelligence is insulting.

The writing was on the wall. Literally and figuratively, as the larger child's bedroom was artistically doodled on by the boy that is currently living there.

The selling agent was an ass. I knew this from the first conversation during the Open House. I commented to Danny and our agent later on that this guy carted a 50-pound trailload of sh*t behind him, and gee, it's no wonder he's a self-admitted "confirmed bachelor". All this was true. But I really wanted that house.

Danny told me as we were processing the offer paperwork that he was excited, but not overly so. "Nothing is certain until they hand you the keys," he said. I heard the words, but I didn't listen to the message. And now, that this deal did not happen, I am heartbroken.

Today will be a sulking day.

Tonight, we will go look at some more promising domiciles, but for now, I think I just need to wallow in my own disappointment. Next time, perhaps I won't get my hopes up so high.

Yeah, right.

I know that I do the same thing next time; get my hopes up only to have it bite me in the butt later on. What can I say ? I'm a sucker for punishment.

Bring on the next one. I'm ready for it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Oh My God

We just put an offer in on a house.

It's a 1300 sq. foot, 3-bedroom townhouse with a two-car garage. Nice size, good location, bedrooms for each of the kids, and a nice back yard. It needs some TLC and a good cleaning, but otherwise, it's perfect.

I'm scared, nervous, excited and hopeful all at the same time.

I know I'm not supposed to get my hopes up, but I can't help it. I love this house. I want it to be ours.

The Bay Area home market is still ridiculously expensive. Yes, some prices have dropped, and interest rates are still at a decent level. But one can hardly find a townhouse or condo for less than $475k. That's almost half a million dollars. Even with two working adults contributing to the mortgage, this is a daunting debt to take on.

But we can do this. We're ready.

Cross your fingers for us.

Monday, March 12, 2007

This Is The Life

As is custom in the San Francisco Bay Area, winter has changed instantaneously to summer.

There is never any spring or fall - it is simply rainy-cool or sunny-warm. There is no in-between. And this weekend, the latter arrived in all its glory.

I didn't even think to bring sunscreen or water bottles to the flea market. As the day wore on, the sun became even more powerful, necessitating multiple drink purchases. Jacqueline was feeling the effects of dehydration. My shoulders were burnt. And the place was becoming unmanageably crowded. Purchases in hand, we made the wise decision to leave around 1:00pm.

My shoulders are still red from the blazing, beautiful sun.

This morning, I lowered the fully-automatic convertible top on my car, and drove to work with my hair blowing in the breeze for the very first time. The cherry trees were showing off their stunningly beautiful blossoms. The scent of pollen was in the air. And I, hair tie in place, was taking it all in on the expressway on the way to work.

This is the life.

In previous years, I was in Toronto, notorious for its brutally cold winters that climax to their most unbearable in the month of February. This particular year has been especially tough for my family, and others who call that region home.

If I were still living there, I would now be cursing the elements, and hiding in the heated areas just waiting for spring to arrive.

But instead, I am driving to work with the convertible top down, with blooming flowers and chirping birds in my view.

This is the life.

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


The tones went off on our radios earlier today for a fire alarm at a building on the other side of campus. I know this building well; I spent 3+ years working there.

The problem ? The parking lot is huge, there are always cars driving through, and now, there were 300+ people outside on all corners of the building. Time is of the essence to establish traffic blocks to prevent cars from running people over. The last thing we need is bodies flying all over the parking lot in addition to the fire alarm and arriving big red trucks with ladders.

My fellow ERT lead knew this scenario well, and as such, jumped on his motorcyle and sped off to the scene.

On the way, the left turn light had just changed to red. And this was a looooooooong light.

He looked to his left, looked to his right, looked ahead.. then made an informed decision to run the red light.

He didn't look behind him.

At the cop, who saw the entire transgression.

Nice job.

After the event was over, he showed me the ticket. Not only did he receive a citation for the red light, he also was reprimanded for forgetting his wallet - driver's license inside - in the meeting room he rushed out of when the tones went off.

At least the cop let him go in enough time to control some traffic at the affected building. And nobody was run over by speeding cars, ERT-driven or otherwise.

Next time, Eric, look behind you !

Monday, March 05, 2007


Yep, I regret it.

I went to my belt promotion test on Saturday. As expected, I was thoroughly whipped. We started off with 1-minute sparring rounds, progressed to 2-minute rounds, and moved up to 3-minute rounds. At one point, I did back-to-back 3-minute rounds, first against my teacher, and then against the second-degree black belt.

Did I mention I'm promoting to a mere Advanced Green, and only started sparring recently ?

In spite of the thorough and complete arse-whooping at the hands and feet of my teachers, and my need for my asthma inhaler, I passed.

And the very next day, with no time to recover, we went snowboarding. The three of us for the very first time.

All I can say is, wow.

I have been told that snowboarding is a very steep learning curve. It apparently takes going 4 or 5 times before one really gets the hang of it. It is expected that one will fall incessantly the first few days, as it is not like any other sport.

No way, I thought to myself. It can't be that hard. I see kids out there doing it with no problem at all. Miguel has been at it for years. I've always been decently quick at picking up new sports, and besides, I used to ski when I lived in Canada.

Snowboarding should be a breeze. Right ?


It was a disaster. Some will say I did fine for a beginner, but I didn't feel fine. I could barely take the bunny hill in its entirety. I was only mildly competent at turning. And I fell. Over and over again, I fell.

After one particularly hard landing, I started experiencing a persistent pain in my battered hip. So much so that I noticed myself limping when attempting to walk. That was my cue to visit the first aid station and take a painkiller.

And afterwards, I went back out.

I believe the word for this type of insanity is masochism. There is no other way to describe it. I was still feeling the effects of the previous day's ass-kicking, I had battered my hip and behind from the repeated falls, and still went back on the lift for another round. I couldn't waste the trip by sitting around.

And besides, it hurt to sit.

So I went back out.

I tackled the bunny hill again, several times, until one last fall on the same aching hip. Not even the painkiller could touch it. That is when I decided I was done.

And today, I'm paying for it. In spades.

The bruises on my butt are about the size of a silver dollar, but the darkest shade of scarlet-purple I have seen in years. My hip, the one that took the hardest impact, is surprisingly unmarked. And the pain is... well, noticeable.

It hurts to sit here at my desk. It hurts to stand up. It hurts to walk. It hurts to turn my head. Everything hurts right now.

But I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Yes, we will go snowboarding again. But not until these bruises heal.

And not on a weekend that I have to go to karate. I've learned my lesson on that.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

I'm struggling with whether or not I should take the final portion of my karate belt promotion test today.

I know I'm going to get my ass kicked. That happens at every promotion. The goal is to push you to your limits and beyond, until you break down. There are many ways to do this: constant, vigorous practice past the point of exhaustion; push-ups with the Black belts leaning on your shoulders; long, drawn-out punch and kick sequences until you can barely lift your limbs. And at my belt level (Green), to promote to Advanced Green, I will be tested on sparring. Against my teacher, and the second-degree black belt.

I know I'm in for a butt-whooping to the 10th degree.

But I want to do this. I'm feeling better from my latest bout of illness, and for the first time in weeks, I actually feel like I have some energy. I have to do it at some point, so why not today ?

Danny, Daniel and I are going snowboarding with Danny's brother Miguel tomorrow. Miguel is an expert, but the three of us are beginners. I hear it's brutal to learn at first. Maybe I should stay home and rest today in preparation for another beating tomorrow.

Or maybe I shouldn't. It would be a shame to waste all the energy I have coursing through my veins right now. I want to do my belt promotion. I am ready.

I think I might regret this on Monday.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Payroll Can Bite Me Part II

Payroll insists they never received the W-4 I sent them a year and a half ago.

Or should I say, they insist that I never sent it.

Uhh, no.. I did send it. Whatever ghosts or crazy phantasms intercepted the envelope between the mail room and their office we will never know, but I am certain I sent it. Absolutely positive.

It pisses me off that they would insinuate that I never filed the form in the first place. Do they think I was just making this up to give them trouble ? Come on. I have better things to do with my time than argue with them.

They said they'd reimburse me the $131 IRS fine if I can prove I sent the form.

So.. I'll just pull some non-existent camera logs out of my a** and show them a video of me placing the W-4 in the envelope ? Riiiiiiiiiight.

This time, I took the W-4 over to their office, personally handed it to my representative.

I wanted to cough on it first. But I restrained myself.

The days of blindly trusting that my company will do the right thing are over. Now, I must follow up and chase and badger and demand until the results I need are achieved. I don't like having to do this. I hate being a demanding biatch. But I am left with no choice. I need to protect my financial assets.

And to top it all off, my apartment is raising my rent again, this time adding $120/month to the already-outrageous price.

Good thing I've already started the process of finding a townhouse to buy.

I can't get out of there fast enough.
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