Thursday, November 29, 2007

Online Crosswords

Having completed a second month without work, I'm spending a lot more time online. To keep myself occupied while waiting for job updates or recruiter e-mails, I do crossword puzzles online.

I currently do 3 crosswords at USA Today,, and the Los Angeles Times. I chose these 3 because they are all in the same format (edited by Timothy Parker). If I choose the "regular skill" format, the puzzle will highlight letters in red if they aren't correct.

While this isn't the bonafide way to do a crossword puzzle, my ultimate goal is to see how quickly I can complete the puzzle. On average, it takes me about 20 to 25 minutes. I love it on Sundays when the LA Times features a total of 3 puzzles: Daily, Magazine and Calendar Sunday. Magazine and Calendar Sunday are the hard ones. It usually takes me about 45 to 50 minutes to complete them.

I bet you're wondering if I've tried the New York Times crosswords. No, I haven't. First of all, they're really hard. I'm not at that skill level. Second, they're only available offline. I did try online puzzles that were published 2-5 years ago. Still too hard.

This is a good way to kill time, but like I said about not working on Black Friday, I don't want this to be permanent. I look forward to the day I won't have time to do puzzles.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Perfecting Imperfections

Today's blog from Tara Parker-Pope located in the Health section of the New York Times discusses the problems many women have finding the right fit in jeans. As a recent purchaser of a different cut and smaller size of Levi's, I can totally relate. The blog references 2 websites one can go to for help in finding the right fit based on size, weight and personal preferences in clothing type.

One of the websites,, requires you to answer a series of questions which should take about 3 minutes. I did this for finding jeans and bras. I wanted to find out if what I currently own was listed among their selections. For jeans (Levi's 550 Relaxed Bootcut Stretch) and bras (Bali double support, no wire), they were both listed in the results in the sizes I currently wear, however they were listed as "well fit" as opposed to "very well fit".

It was good to know I was on the right track and not delusional, as many women seem to be. Particularly those who have been chosen for TLC's "What Not To Wear". The only issue I had was knowing in jeans what my true body shape was. My first results yielded styles I've tried on in the past and didn't like the feel and fit. It took me 2 more tries before I felt the results were reliable.

The key to taking the survey is to be honest with yourself. If you aren't, the survey will yield inaccurate results and you're back to square one, uncomfortable, ill-fitting clothes. This is especially important for women because finding appropriate and well-fitting clothes isn't easy. It's any wonder why so many women have poor self-images of their bodies.

BTW, guys, has a section for you.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

San Francisco Auto Show

Yesterday, I tagged along with Amy, Josh, Fran (Amy's big sis) and Jeremy (Fran's son) to the San Francisco Autoshow at Moscone Center. This is the fourth show I've attended and it's always fun to imagine what life would be like in a new, cool car.

The pictures shown above are (taken with my cameraphone) views of the new BMW 1-Series. Specifically, the 135i model. It won't be available in the United States until early 2008. It will likely be available only in a 2-door model. If it becomes available in a 4-door sedan, it might very well be my next car. But I'm on my second 3-series (318ti and now 325i) and will likely stay with this series when I'm ready to buy another car.

Whatever BMW it is, it must have a stick-shift transmission. Even if I have to special order it again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday online shopping

This past week, I went out to Mervyns to buy some new Levi's. I've been a dedicated Levi's wearer since high school. They're durable, never go out of style, and most of all, it's the brand everyone knows. My current stock have gotten baggy and needed to get new ones in a smaller size (yeah, baby!).

I usually buy Levi's 550's Tapered Leg, relaxed fit. This time I bought Levi's 550, Bootcut, relaxed fit. Man, what a difference. With a bit of stretch (I no longer buy jeans without it), the slight flare at the end, and one size smaller, they looked so much better on me. I bought 2 pair and probably would have bought more had I been able to find them in other denim shades.

This morning, I decided to buy 2 more online. I could have gone back out to Mervyns in another location, but because it's officially the holiday season, I tend to steer clear of stores and malls unless it's absolutely necessary.

I first went to Sears. I had already been there the past 2 days after seeing free shipping. I couldn't pull the trigger. I'd put in, then remove the items from the shopping cart. Today I was ready. It was totally cool when they took off $10, but once I entered my billing address, the site froze. After 10 minutes, I gave up and closed the browser window. I just went there a few minutes ago and they're now completely down.

Next, I went to Kohl's. My last purchase of Levi's came from them. I didn't see free shipping, but thought maybe I'd see something discounted once I put the items in the cart. Once I saw $8 in shipping, I removed the items from the cart and abandoned the order.

Now, the third retailer I know that sells Levi's online at a decent price is JC Penney. They have free shipping, no minimum purchase required from now until 11/26. I would have saved the most at Sears, but the site is down. Even though JCP's Levi's are $2 more than Kohl's, I'd still be spending less at JCP because of free shipping.

This was my first time shopping online on Black Friday. Cyber Monday is in 2 days. It'll be interesting to see what major websites choke under the massive amounts of traffic.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Girl Crushes

As an avid film viewer, I see a lot of movies. Among friends, I love it when we've seen the same movie and we recite/discuss dialog in pivotal scenes. Like any typical movie fan, I have my favorites, particularly men. In my younger days, it was Robert Redford and Harrison Ford. These days, it's Clive Owen and George Clooney.

Up until the last decade, it was very hard for me to find female actors in the same way. Probably because much more complex, strong and intelligent roles are more prevalent for women now. Plus, the majority of films we go out to see are independent or foreign films. My personal favorites, a.k.a. "girl crushes" are all huge stars in their native homeland. Not really surprising for me, my list has no Americans. One is British, two are European and the other two, Asian.

Helen Mirren

Recent recipient of an Academy Award for her role in "The Queen", Ms. Mirren is the most well-known of my girl crushes. She got my respect as no-holds-barred/balls-busting cop Jane Tennison in the "Prime Suspect" series. According to, she's played a queen 5 other times, so that should say something about her portrayals of command and authority. She has an impressive résumé of work.

Maggie Cheung

One of the most well-known film actors in Hong Kong cinema, she's starred in movies with fellow heavyweights Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung and Jackie Chan. Her first roles started out as the typical eye candy/supporting girlfriend roles, but lead to meatier roles as she got older. She first got my attention when she did "In The Mood For Love" with Tony Leung, looking fabulous in her chong-sams. Floored me when I saw her last night as a recovering drug addict on Comcast's On Demand in "Clean". Made me jealous when she spoke fluently 3 languages (English, French and Cantonese) throughout the film.

Juliette Binoche

Nicknamed "La Binoche" in her native France, I first saw her in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Bleu". It was awesome when she crossed over into English-language films, which for me was seeing her in "The English Patient". She didn't do too badly, as she received an Academy Award in a supporting role. She is probably best known to American audiences in the film "Chocolat". Ms. Binoche's latest American film is "Dan In Real Life" co-starring Steve Carell and MLB's World Series spokesman Dane Clark.

Lena Olin

A native of Sweden, I first saw her in the same film as Ms. Binoche, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", and again in a smaller role in "Chocolat". Ms. Olin has gotten considerable exposure in TV, particularly as Jennifer Garner's kick-ass mom in "Alias". While she was not always the good girl, never, ever mistake her for being weak or complacent.

Michelle Yeoh
While I've seen her in only 2 films, "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", she got to show off her martial arts skills both times. She is Ms. Cheung's co-star in "The Soong Sisters", which I haven't seen but should put in my Netflix queue. Like Ms. Olin, she looks great when she's fighting bad guys (or girls, as the case may be). I'd like to her see venture out into more independent projects. To see more of her as a real person, like someone we know among our family and friends.
Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet should be on this list, but to me, their work already gets considerable recognition. I consider Naomi Watts, Renée Zellweger, and Natalie Portman on my list of Honorable Mentions, but I'd like to see what role choices they make when they're a bit older.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Peda Bella Toe Toppers

Yeah, yeah, Lani's on a rampage about feet again. Well, this time it was the other end of the spectrum regarding comfortable shoes.

This morning I had an interview with another recruiting firm. It was a great chance to debut one of my new suits with new shoes. I like wearing business suits when I'm downtown. I feel like a real career professional. Even more comfortable now because I don't have to wear panty hose.

Let's just say the new shoes weren't as comfortable as the Privo Spangles. While I walked more than what I would have had I driven to the Peninsula, it was no more than a mere stroll in downtown San Francisco.

When I left the house this morning, I walked with no problem 2 blocks to MUNI Metro to catch the N-Judah. By the time I finished my interview with the recruiter and walked 4 blocks to meet Josh for lunch, the sides of my feet were getting rubbed raw. When I got off the streetcar, I ended up peeling off the shoes the last half-block and walked barefoot because the blisters were killing me. While in pain, I recalled receiving a catalog that sold socks specifically for clogs and mules (as seen in above picture).

I found the website, but didn't want to get another online store added to my already endless supply of catalogs. The website sells the socks through I ended up buying them there. Hopefully, these will be a big help the next time I wear the shoes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Privo Spangle

Today after my workout, I headed to Sports Basement to replenish my supply of energy gel. It was a very short drive to get from the YMCA to Sports Basement so it made running the errand extremely painless.

But, as it always is whenever I visit REI or Sports Basement, I end up buying more than I intend to. The great part about Sports Basement is that most of their merchandise is at outlet prices, so the guilt isn't as painful.

I ended up buying the Privo (a division of Clarks) Spangle, exactly as depicted in the picture shown. Really, I didn't intend to buy the shoes. But once I tried them on, saw how great they looked and felt of what few were remaining, the Imelda in me screamed that I had to get them.

I was in for a pleasant surprise when I got to the checkout counter. The salesperson noticed my VISA was issued by AAA and members get a 10% discount. Woo-hoo! Once I got home, I purposely picked out clothes to go with the shoes so that I could wear them to dinner with Josh and Amy.

While I didn't need the shoes, how does anyone pass up a $12 reduction + plus 10% discount off a pair of comfy, cute shoes?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Presidio YMCA/Arc Trainer

This past week, I joined the Presidio YMCA gym. Prior to my layoff from work, I would workout twice a week at the Foster City Athletic Club and on weekends at USF's Koret Center (total 4 times a week).

Since my layoff, I cancelled my membership at Foster City Athletic Club and started going to USF's Koret Center exclusively. Problem with the Koret Center is that I was only eligible for "Red" membership. Which means my hours to visit Monday through Friday are from 6 a.m to 2 p.m. I would have to be a student, faculty, alumni or neighborhood resident to visit without restricted hours. Parking wasn't exactly convenient since the lot permits only free public parking on Sundays. I got a hefty $50 ticket last year to prove their point.

It also doesn't help that sleeping in now until 9 and not being conscious until 10 leaves me only a 4-hour window to workout. Which means if I want to have lunch or use that time for shopping, errands, or interviews, I would have to give up the workout. Bottom line, I don't have much schedule flexibility if I continue going to USF.

After a ton of online research, I found out through many favorable reviews on Yelp that the gym most suitable (distance, cost, and quality) for me was the Presidio YMCA at the Main Gate in the Presidio. I drove over Monday afternoon to check it out. While the locker room isn't very large, and the outside of the building is non-descript, it's a great gym. Fee is only $60/month. If you live or work in the Presidio, it's $45/month, which to me is extremely reasonable.

First and most importantly, the place is very, very clean. Another great perk is the free towel service. LOTS of free parking. All of the equipment is brand spanking new. And, something neither Foster City or USF have, an arc trainer. I tried it out for the first time today and really like it. It works in a similar fashion to an elliptical machine. The major difference is the arc versus elliptical motion. I find the arc motion less stressful on the knees and provides a great all around workout. It feels like the same sweat storm I get on the treadmill.

If my next job lands me back in San Francisco, then it's likely I'll keep the YMCA membership, as it stays open until 10 p.m during the week. If I end up anywhere else outside SF, then I'll look for something close to work. I'm being intentionally cryptic, but based on recent events with my job hunt, things are leaning on staying in SF.