Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Travel Gods Hate Me

I don't know what is wrong with me. I was up all night on Monday night, carefully packing my bags with everything I could possibly think of that I might need on my trip to Europe. My flight wasn't till 9PM on Tuesday, but I wanted to have everything all ready and enjoy my trip. Well Tuesday turned out to be one of the craziest days I've had at work, coupled with the weather and the interruption I had to take for a doctor's appointment. Then I finally got to the airport. After checking in, I headed to the SwissAir lounge intending to do some last minute work before my departure. I love Business Class lounges, and I thought I could finally relax. I opened my beloved new laptop backpack only to discover that I left my laptop at home! I think right then I would have taken a kick in the nuts if I could get my laptop. Worse yet, I'm in Europe and I can't even buy a laptop because all the specs are wrong. Argh. I need my laptop for computing needs, obviously, but also to charge my ipod and my phone and download my pics off my camera, because all I brought were cables, and not adapters.

This has really put a damper on my trip. I thought I was safe because I thought I could change my flight itinerary, but there was nothing available on the return date, and so that plan also went down the drain.

I have a long history of travel issues, and it aggravates me to no end where I literally just want to bang my head against the wall. One time I was on my way to Vancouver and stupidly forgot my passport. I devised this elaborate plan of getting my doorman to retrieve my passport. Then I called a car service to pick up my passport and bring it to me to the airport. The plan worked and I made it just in time. Then one time I accidently booked my flight back from San Francisco to New York on the wrong day. I went online to check in and I couldn't find my itinerary. I dug around some more on the Continental site and found an "old" itinerary for me. Holy crap! I booked my flight on the day before! I called Continental and begged and pleaded to get on that night's flight. After telling me that I was a "complete idiot," she finally changed my ticket. Whew!

Well this time, I couldn't save myself and I'm seriously bummed that I don't have my computer. I was gonna sit around in cafes and blog a little, and get other stuff done too. Also, I'm stressed about work since I left some things unfinished. This was all I could think about on the flight. By the way, SwissAir business class is not that great. The entertainment system sucks. Anyway, I guess I will make the best of it, but I'm just not a happy camper right now.

Adding to my overall arghness, typing on this Swiss keyboard here in my hotel in Zurich was a royal pain.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Five Things About San Francisco: #5 The Weather

Since I come out here so often, it's only fitting that I write some of my perceptions as an outsider looking in. So I am starting my first series in my blog: "Five Things About San Francisco." Now, I probably won't write all five this week during my sojurn here because I haven't even thought of my five yet. But I'll go ahead and start with this post and write the rest whenver I feel like it. Oh and don't try to deduce any sort of order in my "five things." It's just literally my random crusade of the day.

The last time I was here in San Francisco, it was freaking hot here the whole time. It was during the heat wave that swept the country and even foggy San Francisco got hit. But normal San Francisco summer weather is a weather forecaster's nightmare. Or depending on how you look at it, San Francisco could be a forecaster's dream city. At some point in the day and some point in the city your forecast will be correct. Basically if you don't like the weather in San Francisco, just go across the street. I've drawn a handy diagram to show the typical weather at any random street corner here in this city:

You can best describe this weather as "huh?". When you're in the shade or under a cloudy sky, it's really cold. But then in some neighborhoods, there isn't a cloud in the sky. Sun and clouds are vying for supremacy over this city.

Clearly, the only solution is for me to hire a sherpa to follow me around and carry my entire wardrobe so that I can change into appropriate attire as I move through various climate zones by crossing the street.

If you would like to apply to be my sherpa, please send me your resumé and a photo of you climbing a mountain with many bags on your back. I need people with stamina. Goats in the background are optional but recommended.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My New Backpack

I'm off to San Francisco again. Because of some changes at my company, my managers want me to fly out there to meet my new team members on my cases. Even though I just returned from there, I don't mind going back so soon.

Plus, my trip means that I get to use my new laptop backpack to carry around all my crap. My company gave me a new IBM Thinkpad T43p. While I like my new, super fast, mean computing machine, I am just loving my new backpack carrying case. Here it is:

I loooooooove it. Can't get enough ooooooof it. The one main thing about the backpack is that it's the bag that keeps on giving. Everytime I wear it, I'm discovering a new feature and new hidden pockets. Here are some of the features:

  • Padded adjustable straps with this very cool quick pick up hand hold. Perfect for when I need to swing it around to club some guy who's mugging me.
  • Rear zipper pocket to keep my valuable stash close to me and away from any prying hands.
  • A removable accessories pouch for my important accessories like my crocodile leather Tanino Crisci belt and my Bottega Veneta ipod case with the signature Bottega weave.
  • A very cute detachable cell phone case so I'll always have my phone within quick & easy reach when I have the urge to show off my super cool SLVR phone.
  • A little compartment with a headphone porthole so I can tune out the whole world and make it clear that I don't want anyone to hear anyone from the outside world or pretend that I'm in deep contemplation while I'm checking out some guy on the subway.
  • These cool mesh water bottle holders on the side. Well, I think that's what they're for. I'll probably just put everything that I carry around everyday because I hate putting stuff in my pockets. And if I do put stuff in my pockets like my wallet, I always have this big bulge on top of one of my thighs, making me look like a complete tool in super nice clothes with big balloon pants.
  • All sorts of capacious pockets in the inside. And in case I'm ever scrounging around in my bag for something buried deep in the bottom, there's a little flashlight to aid me! Wow. Who ever heard of a backpack with a flashlight? Also, writing about this feature was an excuse for me to use the word "capacious" because I like the sound of that word.
  • My bag also has these little feet, so it can stand proudly like a storage bag totem looking down upon all the other inferior backpacks out there.

So as you can tell, I am absolutely enraptured by my new accessorry. It's so sleek and I wear it proudly even though wearing backpacks at my ripe old age of 29 can look kind of gay. But I am just so proud of it. I give two thumbs up to the maker of this thing. I should be a sales rep for them. Then again, in my high estimation, these babies should sell themselves.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Two Homes

I wish I had two homes. Well, actually, I wish I had even one home so I could stop paying the insane rent that I do here in Manhattan. If I could ever afford a second home, I think I'd probably want it out in Napa Valley or Carmel or Half Moon Bay. It would be so great. I could just sit by the ocean, eat good food, drink great wine. Of course, I'd have to have a private jet to take me out there whenever I wanted to get away.

The Hamptons is nice too. I haven't been in a while, and the couple times I went, I went with really hard-core Hamptonites. We're talking drugs & booze from 7 in the morning to well after midnight. I witnessed all the typical Hampton scenes you hear about--traffic, A-list parties, obnoxious New Yorkers. But, really, when you get away from all that, the Hamptons is really beautiful and anyone can see why it's become the desirable place that it is today. The beaches, the nature, the little towns--it's the countryside, jacked up on gobs of money, gallons of alcohol and sacks of coke.

In any case, today at the gym I overheard a conversation between two guys. The conversation went like this:

Guy A: "So how's your new house?"
Guy B: "Oh it's ok. I'm thinking of going back...."
Guy A: "Oh? Going back where? You mean to Montauk?"
Guy B: "Yeah. I'm just not sure if I like East Hampton. Montauk is much more my scene and it's prettier out there."
Guy A: "Oh, so you're just gonna sell your new house already? You've only been there for six months."
Guy B: "Nah, I'll just live in East Hampton in the winter. Montauk isn't as nice in the winter. But it's good in East Hampton."
Um. Does this guy not realize that Montauk and East Hampton are literally right next to each other? Live in East Hampton in the winter and Montauk in the summer?

Maybe someday I'll have that problem.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Promotion At The Office

Today a company wide e-mail announced that someone got a promotion from "Data Administrator" to "Data Operations Administrator." Huh? What's the difference?

Reminds me of that episode of The Office when Steve Carell calls his assistant into his office to give her a promotion. He's telling her what a great job she's doing, and how she deserves recognition. All proud of himself because he thinks everyone in the office loves him, he announces her reward for all her dedication and service. He tells her, "From now on instead of 'Assistant to the Executive, you will be the 'Executive Assistant.' How's that?"

I suppose change is always good.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cooking With Who?

Over the past three or four years, the Food Network has gone really downhill. Those "Making Of" and "Food Challenges" specials are a total bore. And they even managed to make a reality show that took itself so seriously, it made you want you want to hurl at the goody two-shoe contestants and the producers "Bob" & "Susie" who seriously do not know what people want to watch on the Food Network.

However, one of the chefs I do like is the Barefoot Contessa. Although, she has so many annoying habits like her constant self-congratulatory rhetorical questions and her weird cackling laughter that makes her seem like she's braying like a horse. So many, that I kind of have a love-hate relationship with her. I do love her house, especially her kitchen. And she does make really good, albeit sometimes kind of plain, food that's accessible to us normal folks without a kitchen the size of a studio apartment and a carefully manicured garden that grows enough veggies and herbs to feed an army with upscale food tastes.

But what I don't love are her annoying little moments of hard-core Hamptons behavior. In each episode of the Barefoot Contessa we have to endure more countless forays to quaint little shops, where Ina lumbers about, air kissing everyone including the hired help, and promising to invite them over. We also get to meet Ina's bizarre universe of friends who seem to fall into two camps: 1) mummified, ungrateful, spoiled adults or 2) flaming, and I mean FLAMING, gay.

The other day I caught an episode called "Cooking with Tess." I had seen bits and pieces of this episode, but I kept missing the intro and thus had no clue who the hell Tess was. As I watched, with great anticipation, I kept wondering who this magical Tess was. I had never heard of any "Tess" in the "foodie" world, and yet Ina couldn't stop talking about Tess's love of baking. I'm thinking she's some Julia Child protege or something. "Tess" even rated a field trip moment to Williams-Sonoma to purchase piping tips. Then, finally, the secret is revealed. Who slunks in but some gawky teenager. WTF? Who the hell is she? She sure didn't come across as any baking wizard. Ina and this supposed big name superstar baker were playing with some piping for a tart they were frosting. Well, Tess showed no skill whatsoever with the piping, or really ANYthing in the kitchen. Then Ina gives Tess the pastry bag and some tips ("the large ones, Tess.") that she bought earlier so Tess can frost her own cakes. I had to laugh. Tess is probably still pissed at that gift and looking for the iPod.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

You Call That A Raise?

I finally got my raise today. I have been promised this raise since May. However, since that time, my manager kept making excuses and delays to telling me the magic dollar amount. I kind of have a finite period of time that I plan to stay at this job, and so obviously the more time that passed, the more money I was losing. Well, today, I got on the phone with my manager in San Francisco and officially received my raise. He informed me that my salary would increase by......a whopping 3.6%. THAT is what I have been waiting for!?!? That's not a raise. That's a cost of living adjustment. I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. I know some of my counterparts in San Francisco make more than me. Now I know San Francisco is an expensive city, but New York still has a higher cost of living. I'm just so supremely annoyed. I've been working hard, and my manager told me this pay increase was supposed to reward me for merit. And to add injury to insult, this so-called raised isn't even retroactive to my one year anniversary, which occurred in May 2006. I thought a great burden would be lifted off my shoulders after my call with my manager, and the waiting period would be over. But now I have the bigger burden of going back on the job hunt.

I'll probably try to negotiate a bit too at my current job and see what I can get. Wow. My first salary negotiation. Go me. I'm growing up.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Speeding Tickets

Today, I learned that if you're falling asleep at the wheel, you're supposed to take one shoe off and drive barefoot to keep you on your toes. Hmmm. I had never thought of this but it certainly made sense.

The last time I had access to a car regularly was in college. My parents are kind of car crazy and we had five cars, and so they let me have a car starting with the semester that I spent in DC while working at the State Department. My parents live two hours south of DC, and so having a car was much easier for me to make trips home. I kept the car when I started school the following year back in Philadelphia. It was just easier on my parents and they didn't have to keep buying me plane or train tickets back home. One time my parents made me take Greyhound. But after the one and only time I have ever taken Greyhound, I vowed to never take it again. Everyone on the bus was a freak, including the driver. We're talking guys just out of prison, young teenage mothers with screaming kids who are running around the entire bus, hippie folks, old senior, but very vocal, citizens, ghetto gangsta name it. The most surreal experience is being stuck in a bus with these people for a six-hour bus ride. So that means you hear every conversation on board and pretty soon it becomes almost free will for other people to just interject and provide their colorful commentary on other people. Some people will even take it upon themselves to scream at the entire bus. Can you imagine if I got up in the middle of an airplane cabin and started yelling at everyone? The bus that I was on was packed. Greyhound had oversold and so some people had to sit in the aisles, which last time I checked is a safety violation. And the poor bus driver has to control all of this and keep his eyes on the road. But by nature, bus-goers seem to hate all authority figures and blame the sucky, smelly ride on the driver. In fact, one more crazy person, and we probably would have had a bus mutiny.

So I was pretty happy that my parents let me keep the car for my senior year. Philadelphia is a pretty driveable city and while street parking is a little difficult, Philadelphia is a freaking parking lot compared to New York or San Francisco. And my trips home were a lot easier which was the whole point of my having a car.

You know how some people say speeding tickets come in pairs? Well usually people mean a few days or a week or so in between tickets, and then you won't get another one for months or years. For me, it came within an hour. I was driving home one night. I had already passed DC and was driving down Route 29 on my way to Charlottesville. I had been on the road for four hours and I was getting really sleepy and could feel my eyes getting heavy. I had already tried every trick I could think of--the radio, a cup of coffee, sitting up really straight, but nothing was working. I was soooooo tired. I saw a parking lot for a store on the side of the road and decided to pull over for a quick 20 minute power nap. This was around 11:00PM. An hour and a half later, I woke up with a start. CRAP!!! I slept for more than an hour! I started the car and quickly got back on the road. I really didn't mean to be driving at 1AM in the morning and I just wanted to get home.

The road was empty, and at that time I didn't know that Route 29 has about a gazillion speed traps with another gazillion bored cops who have nothing better to do than give speeding tickets at 1AM. I saw the blue and grey sedan behind me with flashing lights. Fuckety, fuck, fuck. I was just trying to rush home because I didn't want to be on the road that late. I was going about 70 in a 55 mph zone. Come on. 70 is not that fast on an EMPTY road. I didn't bother really arguing it because I just wanted to get home. The officer gave me my ticket and I was on my way.

I'm back on the road. And literally 15 minutes later, I saw ANOTHER cop car behind me flashing my lights. Oh shit. I was speeding again. This time I was going about 75 mph. I pulled over and rolled my window down. Before the officer could say anything, I proclaimed "I was not speeding!" Now I said this having not looked at my speedometer. I really didn't realize I was speeding and guess I had a lead foot. Anyway the officer (who was a woman, which made matters worse) retorted "Oh yes you were." Now I know a little bit about speedometers, and I start going off "I think your thing is wrong. Are you sure it's calibrated? Where's your tuning fork???" Obviously the officer was not too please to be arguing with me, although I like to think that I gave her some entertainment on a boring Friday night on the highway. Anyway, she just took my license and registration and went back to her car. That's when I realized that when she radioed my license number in, she'll probably learn about my ticket from 15 minutes ago. Great. That'll sure help my cause.

I could see the officer walking back to my car. I braced myself for some yelling. Maybe I'd even have to *step* outside of the vehicle. Maybe I was going to get searched. Luckily, either she didn't know that I had just gotten a ticket 15 minutes ago or was being nice or was just simply too embarrassed for me. She just gave me my ticket and I was off.

I wasn't having any problems of staying awake now. Next time, I feel sleepy on the road, at least now I know to take one shoe off. That's surely better than getting two tickets in 15 minutes.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Equinox Soho

My beloved wallet-eating gym, Equinox recently opened a new branch in Soho. Looks like Equinox is focusing back on Manhattan after a string of new openings in Chicago, Florida and California. This is the first new Equinox in Manhattan in a while. And actually from the scoop I heard from one of the cycling instructors, there will eventually be another branch in the mid 20s on the West Side, which will be nice.

Even though the Soho branch isn't particularly convenient to where I live or where I work, I decided to check it out last Friday. I really liked it. It's very loft-style in keeping with the Soho architecture, and it's got a nice little mezzainine with free Wifi where you can lounge with a lemonade and yummy sandwich from the 'wichcraft cafe downstairs. The cycling studio is very spacious and the layout of the workout areas is very spacious and sensical. Equinox did a good job with this branch.

Some disgruntled guy on Curbed gave a pretty funny review of the new Equinox, focusing on the lack of personal tvs and soda machines. He also mentioned that there were no attachments for the cable machines, but they must have arrived late or something because they had them when I was there. At any rate, this guy clearly takes his tvs and drink machines seriously. He called these "no-brainer" items that every gym should have. No offense, but shouldn't he have noticed these points when he took a tour of the gym?

One other thing about the new Soho Equinox. Beautiful people everywhere. It was like stepping onto the set of the latest Banana Republic campaign. Soho already was a neighborhood filled with blond giraffes and tanned, buff boys strutting their stuff on the cobblestone catwalks with absents looks of cool. Even the not-so-beautiful people act like they're posing. Equinox fits right in. It's surprising that it took so long for Equinox to open a branch here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Unimportant Email

For many people, email is one of the most distracting things at the workplace. You could be reading a long and complicated document, and while in deep in thought, a pesky new email notifier will pop up. Sometimes I turn off my monitor so I won't be distracted so much.

At my new job though, I have been getting more emails than ever tagged with a red exclamation point. Folks, an email with a red "!" is NOT going to make me read it faster. If anything, I'll treat it with less importance because it annoys me so much. No matter how important you think your email is, emphasized with the fun, little red exclamation point, trust me, it's not. Let me leave your email unopened while I go deal with a REAL emergency.

There's another button on Outlook for "low priority." That's a downward pointing blue arrow. When was the last time you got an email with the "low priority" blue arrow? I guess low priority for some people equates to "don't read." But I just never see that blue arrow. So if you must add some colored symbol fun to you email, try the blue arrow. Hell, maybe I'll even reply to it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Coffee Festival Adventures

A couple of weekends ago, a friend and I went to the Everything 4 Coffee & Tea Festival. It was a pretty small conference, but still just the right size to keep us interested. I felt a little bad because we were just there as a result of some free tickets that I got from Citarella. Everyone kept asking us, "So, are you in the industry? Are you a buyer?" And we're like "Um, no. We just like coffee." Plus we wanted the free stuff.

There were some pretty interesting presenters, including Janet from Jalima coffee. My friend and I got to talking to her and she told us her whole story. She was traveling with two friends down in Mexico for a birthday trip and they met some coffee growers. Janet and her friends were all at points in their lives where they were in between careers. While they were down there, they kept having the most perfect cups of coffee in brightly colored ceramic mugs. Soon, they got into partnership with some coffee growers down in Mexico and their very socially responsible business was born out of a combination of all their names: Janet, Libe and Marcella. Their coffee is sold in a bunch of places and they travel down to Mexico all the time to check out their beans.

Wow. I was impressed listening to Janet tell her story. These women get to have their own business and they get to travel to Mexico of all places. Coffee plantations are always in the most exotic and romantic sounding places -- Sumatra, Costa Rica, Kona... And who could forget Meryl Streep on that coffee plantation in Kenya in Out of Africa? Granted, Meryl Streep seemed kind of lonely from what I barely remember about that movie. But I was already picturing myself living the coffee plantation lifestyle. I'm down in Mexico, wearing my hand-knitted brightly patterned poncho, sitting in a gazebo on top of a hill with the Aztec pyramids in the background, and my coffee fields below me with the ocean in the distance. Then I'd pick up my genuine Mexican handmade ceramic mug and sip my piping hot cup of fine Mexican coffee. Of course, I could never drink too much because I'm VERY sensitive to caffeine. One cup will put me over the edge. I seriously get crazy. I remember one time I drank three espressos for some reason and then called a friend and left this crazy voicemail. Later on, my friend played back my message, and I was horrified. I sounded like some strung out E junkie who needed his next fix.

We also met this weird Amish guy who was selling his mint tea from mint grown on his farm. This guy sure was busy back home. He was 28 years old and already had four kids and some grey hair at his temples. He kept us there forever, just talking our ears off. He seemed to be fascinated with meeting actual natives of New York. He literally was like that Amish guy on that TV show that moves into the city and gets corrupted by the bright lights and city life.

This guy just kept talking and talking, and we were trying to walk away. But he had us cornered. He started to ask us where we were from. I said "We're from New York." We talk for a few more minutes, and then this guy goes "Where are you really from?" And we were like, "Oh originally?" My friend said, "Canada", and I said "Virginia." Then he goes, "Well, I mean, you don't look alike. Where are you REALLY from?" My friend and I looked at each other and were like, "Oh geez. What a freak." My friend who's Indian indulged him and said "My parents are from India." And I said, "My parents are from Korea." Luckily, this guy had encountered some folks who weren't really offended and were willing to indulge him. But I hope someone eventually made him learn that you don't really ask those types of questions. Plus I was willing to forgive him since he gave me two boxes of free tea.

I finally left the festival loaded with free coffee and tea and wired for the rest of the day. I got a glimpse of a lifestyle that I might want to adopt and one that I definitely do not.