Almost there...

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Happy Halloween!!!

Halloween is my very favorite holiday. It's the one day a year where I can dress up however I want and people will actually appreciate it rather than merely scowling. Today I'm dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, red sparkly shoes and all. Instead of the standing tradition of Christmas Caroling on Halloween, this year I took it easy and didn't organize anything. So we're just going to Fred's latest production - Dracula - at the Hillbarn theater.

Meanwhile, things on the Workflow project have been heating up and I've been busy as can be for the last week or so. But this past weekend was absoutely fabulous. On Saturday, we had tickets to Baz Luhrman's La Boheme, and it was amazing. Baz has such a great sense of color and composition. One scene on the streets of Paris had everything in black and white and gray, except for the main characters who wore shades of gold and purple and red and pink and cream. The eye was immediately drawn to them. It was all so gorgeous. We followed La Boheme up with dinner at Crepevine in Oakland. I just wish there was a Crepevine in the South Bay. I'm pretty sure I could eat there every day for a year and still be very happy. We followed Crepevine with Gaskells. Gaskells was insanely crowded - more so than I've seen it since the price went from ten to fifteen dollars. My only real disappointment with the evening was not having enough waltzes available to dance with everyone I wanted to dance with. By the end of the evening, I was wicked tired, but Au Coquelait beckoned. French Onion soup and Chocolate Mousse are the best end to the best day I've had in ages. Lush, beautiful. Saturday exemplified all the reasons why I love living in the Bay Area.

And this weekend? Well, Dickens workshops don't start until next weekend, so this weekend we're off to Disneyland! Weeeeee!

Friday, October 25, 2002

Ugh. Bad news day. Senator Paul Wellstone, who I was really rooting for in the elections coming up, died in a plane crash today. His was one of the key seats in the senate, and it looks real bad now for the Democrats to hold on to their majority, which looks real bad for the country. I can survive four years of Bush if he doesn't have control of Congress. If he does, the damage he could do in the remaining two years is unspeakable. So, this leaves me terribly worried about the future of our country. And slightly suspicious about this crash.

As if that wasn't enough of a bummer, Richard Harris, lately known for playing Dumbledore, died today as well. Some days I just wish I didn't read the news.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Woohoo! I just got an underdesk keyboard tray installed, and I'm typing like a pro again. (or maybe like a pro-wrestler. Hmm. Yeah, well anyways) I guess I have to go back to doing real work now instead of just what I can manage with either my keyboard or my mouse balanced on my knee.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

So I just got a call from Mike at Chevys. I won their weekly drawing for 8 margaritas and 2 appetizer sampler platters. Again.

I went to Kathy Essig's going away party and Ric said, "We've all got to throw our cards in the bucket for a chance to win." I dutifully complied and got a call a few days later from Mike at Chevy's saying I'd won. So I told the campus readiness folks and we all arranged to go on a Monday. While there, we all tossed our cards in the bucket and sure enough, Ric got a call a few days later saying he'd won. So we went off to margaritas and appetizers again last night. Carrying on the tradition, I tossed my card in the bucket again. And the rest is history.

So now I'm going to attempt a dangerous mingling of the two groups - the Delphi folks and my new Workflow project team. More margaritas coming soon. And we'll see who gets drawn next time!

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Oh little blog! How I've neglected thee!

And the neglect is scheduled to continue for a little longer. At work, I moved to my new office yesterday. Unfortunately, my new desk has no underdesk keyboard tray, so as the munchkin I am, I have two choices - one, cripple myself by typing with the keyboard on top of the desk, or two, sit with my keyboard on my legs. Yes, this is making my work go much slower.

So I'm trying to do work for my new job, and finish work for my old job, and generally, I'm kind of overwhelmed. The good news is that my new office tricked out very nicely yesterday. I managed to scavenge some halfway decent furniture from around the building, and I currently have an office all to myself. With real live walls and a door. It's cool. And hopefully, I'll get a new roommate in a couple of weeks, and hopefully it will be Jo-Ann. She had a second interview for the CR Lead for PeopleSoft v.8 today, so I'm seriously hoping she's who Javier picks. We'd be hell on wheels together. And it'd be fun to share an office with her.

Meanwhile, we decided today not to move into the groovy cool townhouse on Homestead. They wanted a year lease, were willing to be talked into 9 months, but I'm really only willing to sign a 6 month lease myself. And it doesn't have a washer and dryer in the unit, and that's one of our criteria for the next place we live. So, we passed it up. The deciding factor ended up being that our current place has a 3 bedroom coming up shortly, and it would be both cheaper and simpler to rent that rather than move further, and then it's a known equation and we can stay on our month to month agreement. So if Eric and Amy's place works out, then it will be a very simple move. If not, we're going to stay put until after Dickens Fair. Unless a Pomeroy West place goes up for sale.

Beyond that, we went to Ren Faire on Sunday and actually had a really good time. We saw the Moonie and Broon shows and Rick threw axes and I petted the farm animals and we watched the trolls (which is a cool new gig at faire). It was crowded, which is good, and the site was actually lovely. So Casa de Ren Faire is probably going to work in it's new location. The one big downside is that it is located just beyond the 152/156 junction, and that junction backs up for miles. So we just left a bit early to beat the worst of it. Then we stopped in Gilroy and Morgan Hill on the way home for a bit of shopping. I'm sure all the businesses lining the freeway are loving the extra traffic.

That's the basic update. New office. New life. Things are changing. I'm just trying to keep up. My new keyboard tray should be here next Wednesday. Don't expect much of an update before then.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Just glancing at an old Time magazine on my desk and realized I never wrote about our flight to Seattle 3 weeks ago. I got so totally distracted by my job offer that i completely forgot about it.

We arrived at the airport with boarding passes in hand and no luggage to check. Getting through security there was still all the drama you could want. I've developed a habit of wearing absolutely no metal objects when traveling, save for my ankh (and if you think I'm going on a plane without that, you have no idea how superstitious I really am). So, I'm wearing a clothes with no metal at all. No belt buckle. No metal buttons. No metal on the shoes. And yet, as I passed through the detector, it went off. I said, "What!" At that point I had already been hassled about putting both my and Rick's bag through the conveyor ("Only one carry-on per person." So I say, "It belongs to my S.O., and since you have no restroom on this side of the security gate, he'll be here after he pees." They say, "So it isn't yours?" I say, "It belongs to my husband. I'm just trying to get through the scanner while he goes pee." blah blah blah. Finally they let it through.) So the sensor goes off, and I yell "What!" with my blood pressure already rising. Then they call me back through to the other side because Rick's laptop was shoved in his carry-on (unbeknownst to me). I pull the laptop out and stick it in the tray. I think this is where I started rolling my eyes. So I go back towards the detector, and the attendant is on the other side already waiting to wand me. Only this time it _doesn't_ go off. "Ha!" I say and grab my suitcase off the conveyer and wait for Rick's laptop. Meanwhile, Rick is being asked to remove his shoes, take off his belt, and other various random assaults. He finally gets dressed again, repacks his bag, and we're ready to board the plane. Getting through security is like a battle all its own, and it's especially annoying at the San Jose airport because you need to save a lot of time to deal with security, and yet there's nothing on the other side but chairs and the gate. So if you decide you want a soda or need to pee, it costs you another trip through security.

Anyway, we made it, and we were waiting. They started pre-boarding the oldest and youngest passengers. One was a two year old toddler who was selected for random searching. Yes, a two year old (maybe younger). 'Cause, you know, the two year old terrorist population is really dangerous. They've got these drool bombs now that are just viscious. So they're trying to get the kid to raise her arms up so they can wand around them, and the kid is so confused, and looking at mom, and mom is amused. Me, not so much. I'm with the kid. The kid was not happy. Weird strangers were touching her, and she was not interested. And me, boy, I tell you, I felt so much safer after they checked that two year old.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to report that with all of that screening and so forth, my swiss army knife made it safely onto the plane. Oh, and the razor in my toiletry kit. And nail clippers. Yep. Feeling like all of this annoyance is really making us safer. Yep yep yep. Oh well. At least it's a good show. I begged Rick to get the camera out, but he just couldn't face repacking his bag _again_ after he just got the laptop back in it and his shoes back on. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

So after all of my housing whining, Dirk (who just bought this gorgeous house in Seattle and who would love nothing more than to see us join him up there), sent us a few listings that were actually wildly tempting. So, basically for $319,000 here, we could get this in Santa Clara, or we could get this or that in a very nice neighborhood in Seattle. I must admit it's tempting. Having just committed to a project through next August, we won't be going there right away, but I like Seattle. It's the one place I've ever been to that I'd seriously consider moving to. Heck, maybe I'd be better able to justify my coat collection.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Oh I am so glad I took the other job. Oh so glad. Oh gracious.

Just went to the Delphi All Hands meeting. The team is being reorganized. Again. For like, the fifth time in six months. Because obviously that helps productivity. Oh, and then there's the question of layoffs. After they figure out the budget for the rest of the project, they're going to have to lay folks off.

And I love my new job. Yep.

Monday, October 07, 2002

So, yes, the housing issue is forever on my mind lately. Sunday morning, Cyrus and Athena came over for breakfast. I wandered down to Cosentino's before they arrived and grabbed a couple of peaches, a couple of nectarines, a banana, and a basket of gorgeous looking strawberries. Every last item was ripe and ready to eat. I added some orange slices from my grandpa's tree, and had an absolutely fabulous fruit salad to go with the oatmeal and english muffins for breakfast. It was so great.

We were thinking long and hard about renting that one place in Union City for $1295, but when we mentioned it to Cy and Athena, a great whining commenced. They don't want us to move away, and I must admit, that moving far from them (and, well Cosentino's) is the one thing really holding us back from heading up that way. That, and a couple of other tiny quirks with that particular property (especially that the front door faces Alvarado Boulevard).

So we started browsing the Sunday paper for options in Santa Clara. Every time I look at the paper, there are more and more 3 bedroom places available for less than $1500 a month. It's gone from a few to several. There was one property over on Bing, just around the corner from our current place. The owner offered to show it to us, so we walked over. It was alright, and certainly a good deal for $1375, but it had a very apartmenty feel, and was all upstairs, and was quite warm as a result. Then we drove over to another property and then toured the South Park and Pomeroy West complexes, since their are our second and first place choices for places to buy. Meanwhile, we talked more about the long term plan for intentional community, and then talked about a new shorter term plan. Perhaps, if the four of us bought a duplex together, we could all live on the same property, and start making a go of the IC thing sooner rather than later. There are even a couple of properties that look interesting for such a thing on the market right now.

Meanwhile, while we were out, one other property called us back, and we went to look at it today at lunch. For $1495 a month, it's probably close to 2000 square feet. It's a large 3 bedroom townhouse that was clearly designed to be the owner's quarters for this little apartment complex. It's more than we'd been planning to pay for what we looked at in Union City, but it's a great space. So now we're tempted with that as well.

Once again, we're stuffed to the brim with options. Unfortunately, the one thing that hasn't happened is for a 4 bedroom place in Pomeroy West to become available, and that's what we really really want. I've grumbled for a good long time about not wanting to move unless I'm buying something, but this townhouse in Santa Clara might be a nice interim solution. We'll see.

Friday, October 04, 2002

So Rick and I have been contemplating housing again. There's a complex in Union City where we could get a 3 bedroom townhouse for less than $300,000. It's about the only place in the bay area where we could get that. Conveniently enough, there's a unit for rent in the same complex that's $55 less a month that what we're renting now, so we're probably going to move into it so that we can try (the area, the commute, the size, the quirks) before we buy.

And that's all well and good, except when driving back from a meeting yesterday with Marie, who's lived in the Bay Area her whole life, tells me that the house she grew up in in Piedmont (part of Oakland) just went on the market. Her family bought it when her mom had quit working to raise the kids, her dad was working in an entry level white collar job, and it was what they could get for $11,000. They sold it five years later for $17000 because it was just too small for their family. Forty-five years later, this same house (with the same crack in the frosted glass bathroom door) just sold for $700,000.

Now, homes in the Bay Area are expensive. It's a desirable place to live. But no entry level young family could possibly afford to buy a home here. First, you're supposed to save 20% of the purchase price for a down payment. On a nice entry level home like this one, that's $140,000. Sure. No problem. That's should only take half a lifetime to save. And then there's the payments. Assuming you get the full 20% down (an utterly ridiculous assumption for a first-time buyer) and don't have to pay PMI, the mortgage alone (before insurance and property taxes) runs about $3500 per month. Since lenders get grumpy if your mortgage debt ratio is higher than 40% of your total income, then your monthly take home pay to support buying that house would have to be at least $8750. So your annual take home pay would need to be $105,000, at least. So, assuming a 40% tax rate (just a guess. It's probably higher), then your income would need to be $262,500. All that, just to buy a small, older home once suitable for an entry level white collar worker and his housewife and their two kids.

Something is deeply out of joint in the bay area housing market.

And sure, there are homes out there in less desirable neighborhoods (like East Palo Alto, East San Jose, Morgan Hill, Hollister), that sell for less than $700,000. But it really does grate on me to think that as a mid-career professional, I can only afford to purchase the least that the bay has to offer. And never mind that empty dime bag in the kiddie play area. Sigh.