Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I feel so intelligent. I just sent an email to my senior boss in which I used the phrase "Gorbachev's role in the dissolution of the USSR", ok so I was actually telling him that an author I thought might have written on the subject hadn't published any non fiction on it after all. But still. Not just a pretty face. Or a boring scientist either.

Yesterday I placed an ad in the San Diego Reader for our apartment, to find someone to take over our lease, since we're going into escrow on Sunday. With a 30 day escrow, that means we'll be moving the first week of April. There have already been two calls about the ad.

This is giving me a small taste of what it might be like to be a landlord, it's really odd to be the one answering the phone to "I'm calling about the apartment in North Park...". I've had two major apartment searches recently, and now I'm on the other end of that phone call, answering questions about security deposits and pet rules. Matt and I have just removed ourselves from the world of apartment hunting and stepped into house-hunting. They're both pretty stressful frankly. I'm not sure I could say one is preferable to the other, except for the fact that house-hunting tends to be repeated less frequently.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I was in the middle of writing a post about the past week when I extremely cleverly quit my web browser application on a whim. Don't ask, suddenly the [command] [Q] called to me.

On Saturday we met with a realtor and were given a list of places to drive by and check out the areas.

Sunday (after 5 hours of whale-watching) we met the realtor at a condo in La Mesa and looked at the inside.

Monday we drafted and sent an offer to the seller.

Tuesday we twiddled our thumbs with much excitement and applied for financing.

Wednesday we got a counter-offer, looked at the condo a second time to be sure, drafted a response and sent it off.

Thursday noon I found out we don't qualify for the 100% loan with closing costs rolled in we'd been hoping for. Or the 100% loan where we pay closing. We qualified for a 3% down loan, which meant help would be needed.

Thursday 2pm I left for the conference in LA, after leaving a voicemail for Matt saying we didn't get the mortgage we'd hoped for so we couldn't buy unless we got a couple of grand from my parents asap.

Thursday 3pm Matt called me back, not a happy bunny, and told me that the seller would accept our offer if we could promise (in writing of course) to show him an approval letter from the bank on Monday, and show that we had the funds for down payment and closing costs in our possession by Thursday...

We had until 3pm Friday to respond.

If we responded "yes" and then were unable to show funds by the required day, the seller could kick us out of escrow and keep our $3000 deposit as a souvenir. If we failed to respond the condo would stay on the market and might sell before we had our financing all lined up and ready to go.

Noon Friday Matt and I both told our realtor we had to back off on this one and we all started breathing again.

As soon as we figured out it was a choice between risking our deposit and risking someone else buying the place before us, it was an easy decision. You'd be surprised how much there was ricocheting about in my head before I came to that realization. For a while it felt like no matter what we did we'd be risking our money, but that's exactly what the seller wanted. They wanted to lay on the pressure to hurry up the deal.

Right now, as I type, we're waiting to hear on a different place, this one in El Cajon. We've qualified with their lender (which means a nice big credit to help with closing costs), but nothing has been signed or put in writing yet and we're not in escrow, so chickens are not to be counted as yet.

By the way, Matt and I are trying to become homeowners, it's been in the works for a while, but last week it all of a sudden became an active search, last week we stopped looking and running numbers and started chasing around East County trying to make decisions and find something that works for us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

February is trying to make up for how fast January went by dragging it's feet and refusing to get into the upper teens. I can't believe it's only the 17th, it's only the 17th and I don't get paid until March 1st. The problem with getting paid monthly is sometimes payday can seem a really looong way away. Especially when paying off large purchases from the previous month.

Right now I'm playing with layers of text in photoshop, making a banner title for posters being presented at an HIV conference in LA on Friday, which will also be my first ever conference as a working scientist. Huzzah.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I learned something new the other night. I learned that parmesan chicken pizza can survive being cooked for almost an hour, rather than the recommended 25 minutes, and still be edible. Crispy and a little flame-broiled in flavour, but entirely edible. Apart from the edge of the crust, which may as well have been made of wood.

Maybe having the kitchen timer built into the microwave isn't such a great innovation after all. With me in the study, it was far away enough that I didn't register the sound. I was also deeply absorbed in figuring out the budgeting feature on Quicken. Having tracked my spending for a year I figured that perhaps it would be a good idea to start setting spending (and not spending) goals, rather than just watching the pretty money trickle away.

I've made progress since last year, especially considering I just dealt with Christmas and the first of the wedding-related expenses without touching my savings. But I'm tired of looking back and realising how much I've spent by buying my lunch or dinner because I forgot to bring a sandwich or I'm too tired to cook, as long as we keep a stash of decent canned soup I can avoid the evening meal expense, and I just have to get more in the habit of sandwich making. It should be easy enough considering how addictive the curry flavour naan bread from Trader Joe's is. I need to locate a decent brand of tuna fish too.

I will become a grownup dammit! A grownup with a financial plan and a (bigger) savings account and all that good stuff.

Friday, February 06, 2004

There is something really disturbing to me about people who eat a great deal faster than I do, and especially if they eat a significant-sized meal and are hungry again within an hour, hungry enough to eat another meal.

I'm a wolverine, I have to take care to avoid inhaling my food, because I have learned that inhaling my food means I don't notice eating it and have no feeling of having enjoyed it...Therefore I want MORE food so I can enjoy that instead. It also takes a while for the stomach to realize it's' getting filled, so if you eat fast you're very likely to eat more than you need because you feel full well after you've eaten a filling quantity.

I spent the weekend with a friend who I remember as being pretty much perpetually "hungry", but I hadn't been up close and personal with his eating habits since I've learned a little restraint and appreciation of food for myself. The day that got me onto this rant involved getting up at 10am, breakfast was two (count 'em) chicken burgers and an order of fries a little after noon. By 4pm he said "I'm getting hungry, is there a place we can go get food soon?", so we swung by a Greek place about half an hour later and he got a gyro. I must add that this was after four hours of sitting in the computer room at my work, browsing the web and making phone calls, not four hours of walking around town or anything else involving significant exertion. Less than 45 minutes later he said "so are we going to go to that McDonald's you mentioned then?" and here I had been thinking the gyro had been in place of McDonald's...Silly me...The greasy beef sandwich had just been a SNACK!

We weren't, as it happened, near to a Ms Donald's at this point, but we were near an In'N'Out, so through the drive-through we went. As soon as we got home he chomped through the double-double, fries and strawberry milkshake in less than 5 minutes and started nursing his bucket of coca-cola. When I exclaimed at the speed with which he demolished the burger his explanation was that he didn't pay good money for food only to have it go cold before he'd finished it.

In case you are wondering, this guy is not obviously obese, he doesn't look like he eats this way. He looks like a slightly chunky man of 5'9" or so, with a bowling ball for a gut, but not so much of a bowling ball that a button down shirt is incapable of minimizing it. I cannot speak for the state of his arteries or attest to how his insulin system is holding up, I do know that his father has had adult onset diabetes for several years and has not altered his eating habits accordingly.

The day before the burgerama there was a large Chipotle burrito for lunch, which didn't fill him up, he "should have had two of them really". He supplemented the inadequate lunch with lots of chips. These burritos are dense, I have trouble finishing one, and I've got a pretty high capacity. Then 1/3 of a pizza that evening left him longing for a chocolate binge. The local 7/11 allowed him to fill his need with a dove ice cream bar and 3 bars of chocolate.

I was seriously freaked out by all this. I felt I had a binge-eater as a houseguest, that by transporting him to get his dinner I was enabling his self-damaging behavior, an accessory to his destruction of his own health. I worried about the state of his mind that he didn't see (or care) how healthy he's making himself.

His joyless gobbling bothers me because it's how I gained about 40lb over my last 6 months of university. I sought solace in comfort food and ate it all so fast that I could barely taste any of it, so I kept taking more and more. I already had some worrying health complications showing up from that by the time I graduated, I was lucky I nipped it in the bud before I did permanent damage. I've been there, I've eaten ridiculous amounts of junk, not quite so meat and grease heavy, but ice-cream and Belgian waffles in excess are still every bit as silly.

It bothers me because he's my friend and I can't see how such eating habits can ever be healthy, or indicate a healthy mental state. I don't want him to give himself diabetes, because if he can't curb his habits now, he certainly won't be able to curb them if he's diagnosed with something that requires a restricted diet. I don't want him to DIE. He's living like this guy [>] did as an experiment... And look what happened to him in just a month!

I'm not yet sure how much of my freakout is caused by concern for his health, and how much by the fear that if I'd spent much more time around those eating habits I might have gone back to them myself. I was disgusted because it reminded me of myself at my least happy and most self-destructive. I was afraid for him that he was hurting himself so much, but I was also mildly envious that he didn't spend parts of his day trying to map out intelligent food choices. He felt hungry and ate what he wanted, when he wanted. I can't do that, I choose not to. It doesn't mean that I don't sometimes I wish I could.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I am the most computer-literate person in the "girls' lab", which is to say that I have used both apples and PCs without feeling daunted by the differences, I know how to load virus scanning software, update it and run the virus scan, and if your stuff isn't printing I might be able to get it to print (usually by turning either the printer or your computer off and back on). I'm the woman who gets asked to fix random computer stuff because I evidently look like I know what I'm doing. Possibly because I have dated a computer science major, had two highly computer literate roommates and am living with a network systems instructor...So I recognize a lot of the jargon even if I can't really use it myself.

It's all an act though, because on Monday night I killed my home PC to the point of no return by downloading a Windows Update and installing it, then restarting my computer as it told me to do. This should not be a damaging process, the restart is just to complete the installation. Only it didn't restart, it shut down, tried to restart and then gave me a black screen with the message "NTLDR Missing Press any key to restart".

I pressed a key: NTLDR Missing Press any key to restart.

I pressed a different key:NTLDR Missing Press any key to restart.

I panicked. I pressed a third key repeatedly.

NTLDR Missing
Press any key to restart

NTLDR Missing
Press any key to restart

NTLDR Missing
Press any key to restart

NTLDR Missing
Press any key to restart

I tried the trusty [cntrl] [alt] [delete] , and it came back to the same black screen and the same message. At this point I decided it might be a good idea if I knew what the message meant, so I asked my friend Marc, who was visiting, he told me it's part of the boot drive, which is the part that starts up your computer and gets the operating system going, anything wrong with that part is not a good sign. We tried powering down, unplugging for a minute, and starting it back up again. No joy. We tried F8, F10, and F4, both holding them down and tapping them quickly while restarting. Still no joy.

I called HP support, unplugged all unnecessary peripherals from the box and tried the F10 tapping thing again. I was told that since that didn't work we would have to do a "destructive reload", which means wiping my hard drive and reloading windows and all the programs, but loosing whatever files I already had on the computer. Like the photographs we took on my birthday. Not acceptable. I asked some more technical questions to make it obvious I wasn't a complete tech-idiot and was told that I could physically remove the hard drive, take it to another desk top and slave it to that computer's hard drive to retrieve the files.

I called Bob, woke him up and spouted a lot of techie jargon at him, some of which I understood, essentially asking if I could open his box and plug my hard drive into it to save some files, and by the way did he want a free colour printer?

At this point Matt was already home and he decided he'd have a go at fixing the computer, which seemed pretty pointless since we'd tried everything already.

He had it running again inside about 40 seconds. All he did was remove the floppy disk from the disk drive and start the machine up again.


I had looked at the disk drive to see if there was something in it, and since the disk was black and label-less I hadn't seen it. I didn't think to push the eject button anyway. Just in case.

So...I may be the most computer literate person in my lab, but I think that's more indicative of the fact that my lab is in serious trouble if anything really does go wrong than it is of my computer-tech prowess.