Sunday, April 29, 2007

Murphy's Law

After a full 8-hour festival at the volunteer first aid booth, and only one cut finger and one hangnail as our business for the day, it never fails that the serious medical emergency happens when the last piece of equipment is loaded onto the back of the van.

It's a good thing the bystander approached us when she did. Five minutes later, and we would have been gone already.

The young teenaged patient will be fine, but she did go to the hospital for evaluation of her acute inability to breathe.

Log this one in the "phew" files.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Unexpected Side Effect

The top of my head, where my hair parts, is sunburnt.

I guess I need to bring a hat in my car for when I want to put the convertible top down.

Time to find some good sunscreen, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Things I Learned in Vegas

People are absolutely shocked when I say that I had never been to Las Vegas before this trip. It is a rite of passage, it seems, for 20- and 30-somethings in the Bay Area. I can proudly say that I have now been initiated.

Each hotel/casino is an incredible masterpiece in itself; many having been built or remodeled to outdo the others. The opulence and excess is simply inconceivable unless you see it for yourself. Each hotel has its own attraction, whether it be a mall, a lion exhibit, a dolphin rescue, a horticulture display, an aquarium or an exotic car museum. The sheer amount of things to do and see is mind-boggling.

There is always construction in Vegas. Old hotels are levelled, new ones are built, all to bring in - and keep - the crowds. That tactic is working beautifully. Every time that Danny has gone, there has been a plethora of new things to see and do. And the amount just keeps on increasing.

Here are some things I learned from our trip.

  • If you are an unmarried couple, expect multiple people to ask if you are going to Vegas to get married. By the number of brides we saw throughout the weekend, it is a popular destination for nuptials.
  • At every entrance, and every middle area of every casino, people will ask you "Where are you guys from ? Will you be here tomorrow ?" ..and then try to sell you show tickets or some other garbage. Avoid them, or put up your hand and say no thank you before they can open their mouths. I actually started shooting them dirty looks and turning my back because they pissed me off so much.
  • There is not enough time in four days to see even half of what is there. Even if you spend the entirety of every day walking around, and half every night clubbing, there is still much more to be seen and experienced.
  • All that walking and dancing wreaks havoc on even the toughest feet. Next time, I need to bring my hiking shoes.
  • Walking and dancing for 2 days on a blistered foot really freakin' hurts.
  • Never, ever set foot in Harrah's if you have asthma. The smoke, combined with the crappy ventilation system, is enough to render one gasping for air, barely able to escape to the escalator.
  • Those frozen margaritas are gooooooood.. and a godsend for the hot Vegas days. Just don't drink them too quickly. They pack quite a punch.
  • There are exotic cars everywhere, including in the casinos, in exhibits, and on the street. Wonderful to those who like the eye candy.
  • The only human eye candy are drunk people visiting from out of town. Some of the locals are downright scary looking, including the lady at the restaurant with the one-foot-high spiky bleached blonde mullet and telltale wrinkly smoker's face.
  • When walking behind two drunk people holding up a third drunk person, leave at least 10 feet of space to avoid being fallen on.
  • Show up at the Rumjungle before 10:30, and you save the $25/person cover charge.
  • Sometimes, you put a few dollars in the slot machine, and nothing comes out. And sometimes, as Danny found out, you put in a few dollars and get $100 out. Makes that $60/person steak dinner a lot more palatable.
  • You can't bring snow globe souvenirs in your carry-on. They contain liquid, and damnit, they could blow up the plane ! (Note: It wasn't me that tried to do this, it was a fellow traveler. Sucks to be him.)
  • When there is a 2.5 hour flight delay getting home, having a laptop, free airport Wi-Fi, and live Major League Baseball games streaming over the Internet are an absolute lifesaver.
  • Whenever you return from Vegas, take the next day off to recover. Your aching, tired body will thank you profusely.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What A Waste

For a number of years, one of my favorite performances has always been Cirque du Soleil. I've seen a number of their shows, both live and on TV, and have consistently been awed and amazed at the sheer athleticism, power, grace and precision of this incredible circus-style act. So when I saw that a number of Cirque shows were available in Vegas, I jumped at the chance to buy tickets.

Danny and I both love action movies, and with my additional love of martial arts, the show KA seemed the most desirable. The review promised the great acrobatics that Cirque is famous for, as well as martial arts and epic battles. We were stoked. This had to be good. I thought nothing of paying close to $300 for tickets to this event.

Seated in the theater, I was giddy with anticipation. Puffs of fire released periodically from behind the huge moving stage. Jesters milled about and hung from the rafters. All of these things I remembered from previous shows. The lights dimmed, and the acrobats appeared. I knew it was going to be good. It had to be. It was Cirque du Soleil.

We watched as the storyline progressed. Some dancing, some light fighting, but nothing spectacular. No acrobatics yet. "They'll do it soon," I promised Danny. This was Cirque du Soleil, right ? They always have awesome physical feats in thier shows.

We waited. And waited. And waited.

More dancing. More silliness. But still, no acrobatics. My patience was starting to wane.

Then, they did the epitome of all ridiculousness.

Two of the acrobats huddled in front of a makeshift fire, and made finger shadows.

Not just a few, to generate chuckles, but a full five minutes of finger shadows and cheesy bouncy music.

You have got to be kidding me.

This is a Cirque du Soleil show, famous for its incredible athletic feats and acrobatic wonders, and they're sitting there doing freakin' finger shadows ?! What kind of bullcrap is this ? I felt duped. Ripped off. Played for a fool.

In the entire 90-minute show, there was a grand total of five minutes where they did some really cool acrobatics on a turning wheel with a jump rope. But that was it. The rest of the show was pure, utter and complete idiocy. Even the "martial arts" sequences were lame. We were completely disappointed.

And I wasted $300 on that crap.

At the end, people were giving a standing ovation. For what ? The only standing I was doing was to get the hell out of there. I suppose if you the ballet is your thing, you'd enjoy this show. But if you were like us, and expecting the superb acrobatics that Cirque is famous for, you'd be very, very disappointed.

At least the popcorn was good. That's the only positive to this entire experience.

$300. On good popcorn, and 90 wasted minutes of our lives.

I'm pissed.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Yet Another Interesting Conversation

This is the third such conversation in the last week, and it has left me wondering what the hell is wrong with people lately.

This time, it was my sports therapy clinic. I have been visiting them regularly for various sports-related injuries over the past three years. My patronage has been quite lucrative for them, as I have paid roughly $700 a year above and beyond what my insurance would cover. I once joked that I had financed my chiropractor's vacation home in Hawaii. Even so, I was happy with the service I was given, and my poor, beaten body was thankful for the care.

The last time I visited, in January, the receptionist asked me to sign up for another $700 treatment plan. As my injuries had all pretty much healed, and none other were planned, I asked if I could simply pay for this visit in cash. To my surprise, she balked, insisting that I sign up for a treatment plan, or I would have to talk to the clinic owner. It was late, I had a throbbing headache, and resented the pressure. So I left my copay on the desk and walked out.

The next day, I cancelled my upcoming appointment, and let them know I would not be returning for some time.

In the past two weeks, I have experienced back pain that has consistently gotten worse. I don't remember any particular injury or hit, but an extraordinary amount of stress at work, coupled with 20+ hours of meetings in one week, took its toll on my body. I called the clinic to make an appointment for one visit, to realign my spine. I ended up talking to the owner.

He then spent the next 20 minutes trying to convince me to sign up for a treatment plan. I have always known this guy was an asshole, but I tolerated him because I liked my doctor. I had no intention of signing up for a treatment plan. Today was the final straw with him.

I reiterated to him over and over that I just wanted to come in for one freakin visit, and why couldn't I just come in for one adjustment and not have to sign up for a treatment plan. He said that my $20 copay would then be $40 because he "passes the savings onto me" by making me pay up front for several visits.

I told him I would check my company's benefits and get back to him. And then hung up the phone.

Do I come off as stupid ? This is now the third time in the past week that a service provider has insulted my intelligence with their self-serving garbage. My copay, according to my company, has gone up to $25 as of January, but certainly is not $40. That entire line the asshole clinic owner gave me was bull. He had pulled out all the stops to try to force me to sign up for a plan. But I didn't take the bait.

It scares me how many people are falling for his line of crap. He is certainly not getting my $700 treatment plan, or my padded $40 copay for that matter.

To hell with him. I'm taking my business elsewhere.

I guess my inner bitch will have to stick around for a while.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

We're in Contract

At the second house, the larger one. And there is no litigation pending against it.

Hopefully the inspection reports won't reveal any surprises.

Not getting excited yet. Probably won't until they hand us the keys. It's the prudent thing to do.

We could be homeowners soon. The prospect is exhilarating.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Another Interesting Conversation

This time, from the lender servicing our home loan.

Initially, I had gone with a different lender, Big Bank #1. Big Bank #1 had quoted me 6.125% on a 30-year-fixed, a very reasonable rate considering the current market conditions. Since my company has a deal with Big Bank #1, this very competitive rate was possible. An encouraging sign.

An agent from Big Bank #2, that also has a deal with my company, was much more proactive and communicative. Unlike BB #1, that didn't even bother to respond to an email from me, the agent from BB #2 was emailing me consistently, calling me on a regular basis, and generally providing better-than-expected service. However, her intial rate quote was that of 6.275%.

I asked her if she would be able to match BB #1's quote of 6.125%. No problem ! Of course, she would have to ask her manager, but she gave me all but complete assurrance that she would be able to match the rate.

She called me yesterday, happily reporting she had locked in our rate.

At 6.375%.

You have got to be kidding me.

I purposely did not lock into BB #1 because she had stated very convincingly that she would be able to match their rate. Granted, the rates have gone up slightly since BB #1 gave me their quote. But in that case, BB #2 should never have made promises that they could not keep. And I'm sorry, but when it comes to money out of our pockets, I'm not going to accept an increased rate without a fight.

She tried to tell me that she had negotiated so we would not have to pay the $700 bank fees. Really ? So, because I don't pay a $700 bank fee, it's ok for me to pay $64 a month more in interest than the original promise ? Does she think I'm stupid ?

I told her, very tersely, that if she did not meet the 6.125% rate quoted by BB #1, I would go back to them and give them my business. I'm sorry, but I do not accept being bait-and-switched, and I will not take this kind of treatment lying down.

She came back to me, at 9:30 that night, with the news that we had been approved at 6.125%. Of course, we'll have to pay the $700 bank fees, but that's much more desirable than a higher monthly payment.

I hate having to be curt with people like that. I fully believe that being nice and respectful is the most effective way to achieve the best possible results of any conversation or vendor relationship. But in this case, I had to bare my teeth, and set limits to how I was going to be treated. If I hadn't, it would have affected our bottom line, and that just was not acceptable.

My inner bitch is being put away now. Hopefully for a long time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Interesting Conversation

~phone rings~

Me: "Hello ?"

Him: "Hi Andrea. This is Steve, your hairstylist."

Oh, right. The hairstylist that moved out of state, and came back for a long weekend every five weeks to serve his clients. The same hairstylist who, when I called to change my appointment several months ago, promised he'd called me back, and didn't. One disastrous dye job from a clueless woman later, and I finally found someone who could fix my hair and get it back to the way it was supposed to look.

And now, several months after our last conversation, the original one who blew me off without so much as a voicemail or apology, was calling me back.

Him: "I will be in town this weekend, and I have some openings. Was wondering if you'd like to make an appointment."

Oh really ? Some of his more important clients have faded away, so now he wants to fill the time with me ? I guess my hair wasn't all that important until now. It took all the restraint in the world not to tell him off right then and there.

Me: "Actually, I found someone else. Thanks anyway."


I have no time for service providers who have no time to show me even the basic courtesy of returning my calls.

Sorry Steve, we're done.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


T-minus 8 days until we fly to Vegas.

It'll be my first trip to Sin City. I'm so stoked.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A True Emergency

It is very unusual for one of our patients here at work to be hauled onto a gurney, and rushed off to the hospital with lights and sirens in full force.

It happened yesterday. I hope that I made a difference, even small, in his chance for recovery.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Definitely a Good Decision

Danny's mom's coworker lives in the complex that we just cancelled the house offer on.

Apparently, the coworker went away for vacation, and when she came back, the roof had leaked so much that one of her inside walls had crumbled and fallen. On all her furniture and personal effects.

I am so relieved that we didn't go through with that deal.

The house we just put an offer in on yesterday has no litigation pending against it. It's older, but it seems to be constructed better. Hope the sellers like the price.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why Is It

..that every time I take my car in for service, it ends up costing over $1,000 ?

I know I signed up for it when I bought a used BMW. But, still.

At least the windows aren't being scratched by the regulators anymore.

Friday, April 06, 2007

It Wasn't Meant To Be

My agent faxed me the litigation details late yesterday. It's really bad.

The builder of the complex has been successfully sued for 3.15 million dollars for poor quality workmanship. Around the complex, there are roof leaks, window leaks, siding leaks leading to dryrot and mold, deficiencies in the deck construction, and deficiencies in the fireproofing that retards the spread of fire from one unit to another.

And this is just what they found now. Who knows what other issues are lurking in this relatively new, fancy, upscale, but poorly-constructed housing complex.

Thanks, but no thanks.

We're sending a cancellation on the offer today. This one isn't worth it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bring On The Problems

For some unknown reason, the Homeowner's Association for the house we're in contract for has some litigation pending against it. What this means is that someone has sued them. And our lender will not give us a mortgage for a house that has a lawsuit pending against the HOA.

My agent says the lawsuit is resolved. The lender says it's resolved but still pending. And nobody has told me yet what the lawsuit was about.

My head hurts.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


We're in contract.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that we got the house. All it means is that the current owners accepted the counter-offer and agreed to sell it to us. We still have to do the inspections, the loans, and everything else that goes along with it. According to Danny, who has had direct experience in real estate and has seen firsthand how things can go bad, it's never truly final until they hand us the keys. But we are in contract. It's a good first step.

The first time we looked at another unit in this complex, we knew we wanted to live there. It is in an absolute perfect location. Close to our work, close to Daniel's school, close to the family. It has a pool, is less than 12 years old, and is next to a very nice subdivision. And the townhouses themselves are beautiful; well-designed, nice backyards, lots of kitchen cupboard space, and attached garages. Sure, the houses a little smaller than I would have liked, but the benefits far outweigh this one minor issue.

I can't help but be excited about this. I'm not going to get too attached yet, but right now, the pulse rate is rising. Pretty soon, if all goes well, this will be our home.

60 days seems so far away.

PS: We'll replace that fixture with something more stylish. :)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fool's Day

.. is not much fun when it falls on a weekend.

Weekday antics are much more entertaining.
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