Saturday, March 31, 2007

Stats & trivia

I've always found statistics and trivia fascinating. As a kid growing up in central Ohio, I often found myself immersed a bit too long in the Vital Statistics and Sports sections of the Columbus Dispatch. When I didn't make the cut in my 6th grade class in parallel bars for an upcoming gymnastics meet, they asked me if I would help out as a scorekeeper.

As a teenager, my trusty clipboard was at my bedside ready to record or jot down the latest stats. This included the Top 10 Countdown from American Top 40 and volunteering to keep score at softball games when my team didn't play. When the Cincinnati Reds weren't on TV, I used to listen to the game on radio (with Marty Brennamen and Joe Nuxhall), keep my own box score and then look up the actual box score in next day's paper and to see how accurate I was. Or wasn't.

In high school, I was a huge fan of a local quiz show, "In The Know". It was the equivalent in the U.K. as "University Challenge" and in the U.S. as "College Bowl". All of the local high schools had teams. Lisa was a member of our high school team. I wanted so much to be on the team, but lacked the nerve to try out. I developed huge crushes on some of the geeky male stars, not because they were good looking, but at how fast and accurate these guys were with their answers. Last weekend, we saw "Starter for 10", a film about a first-year student's dream to make the University Challenge team, which is the main reason why we wanted to see this movie.

It didn't end there. When I first moved to San Francisco, I was a scorekeeper at Fourth of July tournaments for the church I played basketball with on Saturdays. I kept score and helped manage an Asian men's softball team. As a player, I was often given the scorebook to help keep score when the manager couldn't.

Keeping score and tracking statistics was my way of staying involved, especially after I couldn't make it as a participant. It's like taking notes in lecture, only that I'm retaining information that interests me. This is likely the reason why I have such an excellent memory.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sneaker fetish

CAUTION: My sneaker obsession dates back to grade school, so ignore this entry if you consider sneakers just "another shoe".

Yesterday, my Nike Air 360's came in. As soon as I got them, I took them out of the box, laced them up and put them on. The fit wasn't as comfortable as my Nike Shox TL IV, but figured maybe they'd stretch a bit. After having them on for about 5 minutes, I went out to my car and put them in my gym bag. It was gym night and this would be an excellent opportunity to try out the shoes.

This was the first pair of running shoes I bought online without trying them on in a store first. Most higher end Nikes are made for wider feet and my fit was so comfortable with the Shox, I figured the Air 360's would fit the same way. Like most major online retailers, the shipment includes a return shipping label, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I was anxious to see how they'd feel once I got to the gym.

Once at the gym, I put the shoes on and took a quick look in the mirror to see how I looked. The shoes looked very cool, but as the evening progressed, that's all they were. I began the workout on the elliptical, which lasted about 20 minutes. Then proceeded to the rowing machine, another 12 minutes. Shoes felt fine. Not cushy comfy, but acceptable.

Now it was on to the real test, running on the treadmill. I ran the first mile feeling a bit of tightness in my right foot. I ran another 1/2 mile and now the tightness was irritating my instep. If I had run any more than my usual 2 miles (every once in awhile I'll run up to 3 miles), I would have gotten a nasty blister.

When I finished my workout, I knew immediately I had to return the shoes. Knowing this, I hurried my cooldown, changed, and headed to the Sports Authority store near work. The purple Shox I tried last October were still on display when I was there last week to buy waterproof spray. I figured my chances were good that my size was still available.

Because the Air 360's were a bust and I already had a pair of Shox in black, I should suck it up and buy the purple ones. They were now $50 less than any of the current colors and already knew they fit great. At worst, I'd buy the latest pair of Shox TL IV in white (dirt magnet). Most importantly, my feet would be happy. At that moment, I didn't have the patience to re-order shoes online. I knew exactly what I wanted.

Before I got to Sports Authority, I re-read my shipping label just to see if I could exchange my online order at the store. I couldn't. When I got to the store, they still had the purple in my size. I tried them on again, immediately took them off, put them back in the box and proceeded to the checkout counter. They're now in my gym bag ready for tomorrow night's workout.

I returned the Air 360's this morning. Learned my lesson about buying running shoes. Always try them on at a store first. Non-running shoes are usually not an issue because I buy them at REI or Nordstrom's, and they allow me to exchange or return them at a store if they don't fit.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Chan Sisters

I've been spending a lot of time of Wikipedia reading countless biographies. While watching KQED's "The Josh Kornbluth Show" tonight, Josh interviews Asian-American playwright Philip Kan Gotanda. So I typed Mr. Gotanda's name into Wikipedia. While he has no biography details listed in Wikipedia, his name is among a list of prominent Japanese-Americans.

This led me to look up the list of prominent Chinese-Americans. Of course there's Connie Chung, Bruce Lee, and Yo-Yo Ma. Further down the list, I was surprised to see sisters I've only known as actors. What surprised me was to find their ethnicity is half-Chinese, half-Caucasian.

Their birthnames are Jennifer and Margaret Chan. We know them as Jennifer and Meg Tilly. Their father is Chinese-American and mother is Irish-Canadian. Tilly is their mother's maiden name. Neither Tilly has been in any recent films. Jennifer has recently been seen on the poker circuit, while Meg is no longer acting.

According to Wikipedia (accuracy not reliable), Jennifer has 2 cats named Corky and Violet. How cool. Corky and Violet were the lesbian lovers/heroines in the excellent Wachowski film, "Bound".

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ohio State alumni

Tonight, the men's basketball team of my alma mater, Ohio State, just scraped by Tennessee in the "Sweet 16" round of the NCAA tournament. Just as they were this past season in football, the Buckeyes were the top ranked team at the end of the regular season. I can't remember a time Ohio State ever being top ranked in both football and basketball in the same year.

At the time I was an Ohio State student, guys like Art Schlichter and John Frank were the huge football stars. In basketball, we had Clark Kellogg and Herbie Williams. Clark is now an analyst with CBS Sports. John went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers and is now a practicing ophthamologist in SF. As for Mr. Schlichter, he didn't do as well. He spent much of his post-college life behind bars for fraud and forgery. A real shame, because he had a very promising career in the NFL.

Getting back to the hoops tournament, Ohio State will face Memphis State this Saturday for the South regional final. If Ohio State wins, then they head to the Final Four. The last time Ohio State had a team this highly ranked was in 1961. Some of the players included John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, Larry Siegfried and a reserve named Bob Knight.

image courtesy of The Ohio State University

Saturday, March 17, 2007

system lock up

Last night I was in the middle of writing a blog posting about my latest beverage kick, metromint. But as I bent over my laptop to reach for a sip of my lemon mint flavored metromint, my laptop locked up on me. It was stuck on the page and absolutely nothing moved except the cursor on my mouse. Then as I was moving it to try to get my laptop working again, it landed in the area to page up and down, and then it too, got sucked into the vortex of doom.

I tried Control+Alt+Delete, powering off and closing the lid, which for my laptop usually will cause it to hibernate. Still no luck. I unplugged the battery knowing it would have to die due to lack of juice. Which is where I am now. I woke up this morning, found power off. I plugged back the battery into the power outlet, and everything came up as if nothing happened. I have no idea what I did to lock it up in the first place. I hope it doesn't happen again.

Now on to what I tried to write about last night!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Retirement account update

About 2 weeks ago, I met with Ester, my financial planner through Ameriprise. She was a former co-worker from Gymboree and I sought her services shortly after she became a financial planner. I had always wanted a financial planner, but was turned off my the cold calls I used to get at work from places such as Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney. I wanted a planner that I could be comfortable with, and Ester fits the (pardon the pun) bill perfectly.

Ester reviewed the numbers with me as to how much my account has progressed. I was rather surprised to see the amount I gained from the time the account was first established. But what really became the eye opener for me was to compare my balance from last year to this year. As I am now officially "middle-aged", it's comforting to see that my investments are doing well. I hope I can say that when I'm ready to retire.

Last May, I jotted down my current balances in my retirement accounts. I have 2 retirement accounts (regular and Roth IRA) and my 401K from work. I established the regular IRA as the account where I rollover 401K distributions whenever I changed jobs. I could kick myself for cashing out my 401K when I was with Charles Schwab in the late 80's. But being young and poor, I didn't know any better. Many of us at that age think of this as rent money. I ended up having to pay hefty penalty fees for the early cashout. If I knew then what I know now, it would be a big chunk of change on top of what is already there.

Getting back to the last year versus this year comparison, my Ameriprise account balance today is about $1K less than what it was 10 months ago. This is excellent considering I withdrew $5K to pay closing costs for our condo purchase last July. My 401K balance has gained almost $10K, a gain of nearly $1K each month.

To me, enrolling in a 401K is a no-brainer. It's something that goes into an account every pay period. If you budget accordingly, then you won't miss the money. Plus, whatever is leftover in your pay is taxed anyway. I wouldn't have been able to do this without a financial planner. Yes, they're not cheap, but the best ones will make your money work for you.

I will never be Bill Gates or Larry Ellison, nor is this my wish. I just want enough to be comfortable.
image courtesy of

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Daylight Savings, 3 weeks early

In San Francisco, the first day of daylight savings brought us a wonderful, sunny and warm day. It's currently in the low 70's and just about everyone is or has been outside. It was too warm to go the gym, so it was off to Costco to get new tires (the left front tire was getting dangerously bald) and a stroll through Golden Gate Park.

The installation wait was almost 3 hours. Generally, I don't spend more than an hour at Costco, but I made good use of the time. I went up and down the appliance and apparel sections several times. Ate samples of their albacore tuna and ham. Amazed at the number of people who stand in the middle of aisles without any clue that people can't go around them because the shopping carts are so huge.

I also ran into Fernando, Anna and Sean. Fernando is a former co-worker. He, his wife Anna and I are all longtime retail hacks. Fernando was with Sunglass Hut and Grain D'or and is now at Mervyn's. Anna worked at Old Navy, Discovery Channel, and an import distributor. She is now with Levi Strauss.

Since I knew I was going to be around awhile, I picked up a copy of Real Simple magazine. When I got to the checkout line, I also added a Polish sausage and soda (both for $1.50 plus refill) to my bill. I usually avoid getting any food because the lines are always so long. But this afternoon I had time. I got outside, planted my shopping cart in front of the cement ledges, pulled out my magazine and munched on my Polish until the time my car was ready.

Today flew by. It's just about 7 now and I'll be preparing a salad for dinner.
image courtesy of

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pointless observations

I went to Armadillo Willy's at the Bridgepointe Mall after my workout tonight. I tried to be good and ordered the turkey burger on a multi-grain bun. Balanced (?!?) it off with potato salad and iced tea. Noticed a family of 6 sat near the front and was finishing up their dinner. I know it sounds cruel, but my first thought was that the family parked themselves there because it was the shortest distance to walk to pick up the food. At least 3 of the family members were overweight and their idea of exercise is walking to their car in the parking lot.
After leaving Willy's, I got on Highway 101 to head home. When I got near the 380-280 entrance, a car about 100 yards behind me had one front headlight out. The opposite and only working headlight was on high beam. Do you think driving on high beam really compensates for not replacing your burned out lamp?
As they almost always do every night, Che and Jawa sit on the couch next to me while I'm on the laptop. Che often snores, and quite loudly. About 10 minutes ago, Jawa moved his face and pressed it against Che's. Che stopped snoring, for about 3 minutes. It appeared to me Jawa did this intentionally. Jawa then curled up his face into his chest, away from Che's face so the top of his head is now against Che's stomach. They're entwined now in a semi yin-yang position.
This past Tuesday night, I switched from "Law & Order: SVU" to watch ABC's "To Iraq and Back", the story of former anchor Bob Woodruff's traumatic brain injury from an explosion in Iraq while on assignment and his long road to recovery.

I am always moved by these kinds of stories because of my own experience with a serious knee injury in 1991 due to a skiing accident. Even though my recovery seemed slow and painful (3 months on crutches, 2 months off work, 6 months physical therapy, no softball for a year), my injury was a walk in the park compared to Mr. Woodruff's. He is still undergoing therapy a year after the incident, and is not likely to work in the same capacity as he did previously. He was in a coma for 36 days and had part of his skull removed.

I caught tonight while at the gym Bob & Lee Woodruff's interview on CNN with Larry King. I spent an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical and 10 minutes cooldown so I could catch as much of the interview (closed captioned) as possible. Another reason to stick around was seeing Bob's brother Dave being interviewed on camera. Dave Woodruff is one handsome dude.
OK, my pointless rambling must now end. It's nearing midnight and I still have to shower and brush my teeth to get ready for work in the morning. Nighty-night.