Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Getting really close to moving now.
Pictures are off the walls, boxes are started to be filled.
Superfluous furniture has been sold off on Craig's List.
The U-Haul is booked for Sunday. I hope it's big enough. Unfortunatley the weather for that day is set to be sunny and hot which is wonderful for any other day, but not for the constant lifting of heavy weights, up and down flights of stairs.
Ah well- at least its not raining i guess.

Monday, May 29, 2006

X:Men: (hopefully) The Last Stand

I've been looking forward to X-men III for quite some time now. Though I was never into comic books, the cartoon series of X-men was probably my favorite show as a kid. The first two installments of the live-action film versions were also very good in my opinion--particularly the second. There were inevitable problems here and there about them of course (not a Halle Berry fan, some far-too-cheesy lines, and of course the inevitable problem of feeling they shouldn't have left some of the storylines out), but overall they were quality flicks.

The same cannot be said however for this latest version. For a reason beyond my comprehension, they decided to condense two monumental storylines (Apocalypse attempting to take over the world and Phoenix saving the universe) into a single, relatively short (about 100 minutes) film. In order to do so, they had to completely change the two stories (Apocalypse being completely eliminated and the Phoenix being completely transformed from a cosmic alien lifeforce into merely a subconscious personality of Jean Grey).

Now I'm not one of the people who just moans about films not following the exact storyline of their origin--I didn't have much of a problem with the first two--but the editing and scriptwriting decisions they made for X-men III (not surprisingly, a different director) were simply ill-conceived, with the potential to be something so much better.

All this could have been looked over, however, if the film had quality writing, directing and/or acting. Unfortunately, with the exception of Stewart and McKellan's acting, these three aspects of the film were not simply average, they were atrocious! Characters would die and there was no emotion or gravitas in the scene. Everything was rushed, the dialogue was bad.....ugh!

This film took 3 years to make and it appears that 2 years, 11 months and 29 days of that was spent entirely on the special effects portion (which weren't even that great either). What a waste of time, money and most tragically, an incredible story.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Very disapointed in X-Men 3...

More to come tommorrow

Friday, May 26, 2006

Now here's a marketing challenge for you:

Make donuts look healthy.

LOL sounds like something that should be on The Apprentice

This Seattle company seems to be having a crack at it: Mighty O Donuts . These dounuts are transfat free, and organic. Pretty funny really. I mean I am sure for donut addicts the removed prescence of the trans fats is somewhat reassuring, but at the end of the day these are still pieces of sugary, fried white flour, which have all the bad carbs you could want in addition to a huge dose of fat. As for being organic to my mind that does not have any designation on the healthiness of a product.

I don't mean to give the donuts bad press- I'm sure they are just great. But seriously- healthy donuts????

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'll continue on the coulds and shoulds of a non-profit organization soon, but today I want to share with you our amazing purchase for our new apartment. A six foot love sac!

I've included a photo to give you an idea of quite how massive this thing really is. (I got the kitty to pose to give some perspective although I am still not sure you can quite appreciate the hugeness).

Our love sac story began last September when we first moved to San Diego and I saw their display at the Fashion Valley Mall. I was immediately in love, but my wife, less impressed put her foot down and said this was not something we could do right now. (The prices are rather astronomical).

On moving apartment we have discussed at length what to do with our second bedroom. Having less need for a sofa bed right now in addition to being slightly more affluent than we were last September, we decided to make a cozy TV room with a love sac included.

The first question was whether we needed to actually get a love sac itself or whether one of the imitations would do. I was pretty sure that in buying a love sac we would simply be paying for the name. Their marketing which all involves young attractive people having fun certainly pointed to this conclusion. On reading some reviews however we were surprised to find that the love sac was rated far higher than any imitation, and that it really did have some comfty X factor unavailable elsewhere. Still not yet totally convinced we headed over to the 'Healthy Back' store to try their imitation store and our doubts faded away. The imitation sack being not at all comfortable and an imitation only so far as it looked something like the Love Sac.

So now we had to get the sac- we had tried out the different sizes and settled on the 6 foot (the 5 foot being not quite big enough to fit 2 people not wanting to constantly cuddle). Well to be honest it was me who wanted the 6 foot- I figured if we were gonna be decadent why not go all the way. I also wanted to get the most plush cover- the fake fur (phur). Here my wife put in a veto, especially after discovering how hard phur is to clean, and we decided on Microsuede. She also chose the color- a Shiraz purple that would fit in nicely with our orchid themed room.

This would all come to about $600 if we bought form the Love Sac store, and we certainly had no intention of doing that. We therefore set up a stake out on Craig's List - searching every day for the terms "love sac", "lovesac" and "love sack". Several came and went- many 5 footers, and pillow sacs. Then two days ago was posted a 6 foot sac in the perfect color! The asking price was $395 - so we thought we would wait a little while to see if it would go down. Next morning the price was $365, then $350 and finally down to $300. We made an offer of $225- it was accepted and we picked it up yesterday evening.

As you can see its in perfect condition having hardly ever been used. Probably one of our best bargains so far!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

After chatting briefly about my last post - Non-profits, missions statements, and viewing the comments made, I embarked on the line of thought about what constitutes a non-profit organization, what should it constitute and how can it be run best- both morally and effectively.
To my mind a non-profit organization is one that in addition to no making a "profit” fulfils an altruistic purpose. It also seems to follow that a non-profit to be justifiable is doing something that a for-profit or a governmental organization cannot do. It is an interesting parallel however that the Board of both a for-profit and a non-profit organization is what should define the action of an organization, and indeed a strong board seems to be a crucial component for success. In a for profit organization the board ensures that money is being made, and in a non-profit the board ensures that the mission of the organization is being met with, the right goals sought for, and the correct paths taken.
The Board is highly important in a non-profit organization as they stand to gain only the prestige of being on the board, and pride that they have been a part of creating something great. This unfortunately is not true of the staff members of a non-profit, who might (correctly) feel that by elevating the status of their organization they will be given increased wages, better hours, benefits, and certain other bonuses. It is not wrong for these staff members to think this way - it is natural to want to be rewarded for hard work; however it does call into question the motivation behind decisions, which are therefore better left to the board members.
It is a sad fact that many non-profits have lost site of the fact that their goal needs to come first- some organizations support several staff members many of whom are simply involved in fund raising and event planning so that the large number of staff may get paid. A "successful" non-profit then, is not one which has met its goals and is carrying them out effectively- but is rather one that will always strive for more, to be better, greater, to more good. A successful non-profit in my mind will always be pushing the boundaries of what it can achieve. Whilst this might be uncomfortable for the staff, I believe it is necessary to maximize the god which can be done, and is therefore ultimately more morally fulfilling.
More on this tomorrow.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In my wife's line of work- i.e. the non-profit world, there is really nothing more important than your Mission Statement. It is something you should know by heart, as it has been carefully put together to best inform people about the essence of your organization. Mission Statements are incredibly carefully constructed, and it is then the goal of the non-profit to be guided by this mission and to attain any goals that it offers up. The definition of a mission is "a purpose, a reason for being". It must be clear, unambiguous, optimistic and realistic.
The non-profit world by its very nature is honestly and transparently guided by this vision statement, and not, of course, by any goal of financial gain. Of course most non-profits do seek to become well established and well known but this will be accomplished automatically if the mission statement is followed successfully.

I was pondering these thoughts today when looking on the internet at our soon to be ex- apartment management company 'Sunrise Management'. Sunrise have as their mission to "provide our residents with a positive living experience they can be proud to call home. We are committed to enhancing the lives of our residents and our employees by continually striving for excellence in all that we do. Through exceptional service, accountability and innovation ......... and blah blah blah.

Take this alongside our actual experience of their management efforts:

No one ever answers the phone, and seldom calls you back if you have a problem.

Any repair needed in the house is seldom followed up upon, and when it is done exceptionally slowly.

Daily dog poop outside my house is not what I would class as a positive living experience. Neither is having to go downstairs, past the homeless people who sleep in our parking lot, with my electric drill and unscrew the fuse box every time I (or indeed anyone else) blows the circuit as the management company lost the key to its lock.

I can't say that an apartment behind a noisy carwash that has had daily construction noise for the past 7 months has resulted in an apartment that I am proud to call home. Nor has it enhanced my life.

So what does their Mission Statement actually mean? Nothing at all? Then why have one, what is its value to anyone. If all mission statements are so meaningless than how can this have value? If all mission statements are not so meaningless then I think it is time to report this company to the BBB of whom they have been a member since 2005.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Some fairly disappointed season finales, and even show finales the past few days.

I was sad to see the end of the West Wing, (which I suppose might have added to my lack of enjoyment of Sunday's episode), but frankly if the writing is going to continue on that poor standard I think the ending is probably for the best. It was almost getting soap operaish in its final weeks. I suppose it didn't help that they had to wrap things up satisfactorily to satiate the fans, and of course they had to re-write a great deal due to the death of John Spencer. The trouble with the last episode was I kept waiting for the appearance of characters that barely came, if at all. Rob Lowe was in the episode, but for about 30 seconds of screen time, with a very few lines. We had kind of hoped for a cameo by Lisa Edelstein as Rob Lowe's undisclosed fiancée. Edelstein now has a big role in House MD, and other actors that have gone on to have their own shows did make appearances as the show wound to an end- Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds) and Emily Procter (CSI Miami) both returned. We also waited for Richard Schiff to come on screen- that was perhaps one of the biggest disappointments. The finale was not a success it neither satisfactorily ended story lines, nor did it produce a strong ending. It should have aimed for one of these options and stuck with it rather than attempting them both.

The season finale of Prison Break was also very disappointing- largely due to the fact that it was a season finale and not the end of the show. One of the things that attracted me to Prison Break initially was the idea that it was one story told in 22 episodes. This could have been something strong, interesting and finite. Greed however got the better of the producers, and seeing their ratings soar they decided to extend the show. The writing has gotten much poorer since they made this decision; everything became very drawn out and at times almost dull. The last episode was not exciting for me because I don't know if I shall even bother to watch next year and find out the fate of the convicts on the run.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lease signed - ready to move in on June 3rd. It's such a huge weight off my mind. Signing the lease was an amusing experience. Working as a temp in the Real Estate office of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority I spend a lot of time around leases, and these are important leases dealing with huge planes landing on runways, being housed in hangers, and every other thing that planes do in airports. These are leases that are looked over by a multitude of lawyers from both sites. However- these are leases that are on the whole a maximum of 25 pages in length. Imagine my surprise then when we were handed a lease for the renting of a small (well small compared to an aircraft hanger), apartment which is well over 30 pages long! It took us almost an hour to read and sign. The lease detailed everything to a minute extent- right to the fact that you may keep planters on your doorsteps, on the condition that the plants within are attractive and well cared for. Whether it could be argued in a court of law exactly what constitutes a well cared for attractive tomato plant I don't know, and hopefully we won't have to find out.
Anyway- a big sigh of relief, that's us settled with no rent hikes until July 2007!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Tomorrow we sign our lease. When all is said and done we are very happy with our choice. After months of constant construction we are looking very much forward to the peace and quite of our new apartment near Morley Fields. My wife is happy that we don't need to sell the 6 person dinner table, and I am excited about the prospect of a love sac in the spare bedroom (Second hand of course!). With our newly gained appreciation of storage space we are also very glad that this new place has closets and cupboards at every turn- which should help to keep the house nice and tidy. The prospect of a dishwasher and an in-site washer/drier is also very wonderful right now as dishes and laundry pile up during the working week.
So no regrets- we look on Craig's List still every day, and are somewhat comforted to see that nothing better has come up. i really think we got a great deal, everything we really wanted at a price we can afford.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The moving saga is finally coming to its end, although last night was one of the more stressful of our marriage so far.

We found three places they were as follows

Place #1

2 Bedroom Apartment, close to current residence, has washer/ drier, dishwasher, big livign space, plenty of storage, peaceful nieghborhood, close to the wonderfu Morley Fields
Smallish kitchen, no yard.

Price $1175

Place #2

2 bedroom apartment, Fenced yard that we could develop how we liked, garage for storage, very private, and near to the great nieghborhood of Kensington.
Small kitchen, no dishwasher, washer drier hookups but we would have to buy washer drier, slightly dodgy landlord.

Price $1295

Place #3
1 bedroom house, shared hot tub, shared vegetable garden, fantastic kitchen, washer/drier, dishwasher,
No storage at all, on noisy flight path, kind of wierd nieghborhood, too many shared amenities with landlords who we may or may not like.

Price $1175

We had a lot of trouble deciding and sat up all night thinking. My wife was pretty dead set on getting a yard, and for a while there we had decided on Place #3. We decided to sleep on it, and it was a good job we did. More and more we realized that 'great storage space', is not just something landlords add in to make a place sound good. It really is worth a good deal- place #3 might have been great, but having all of our things on top of each other would have been awful and would have caused mre rows I am sure than we could have stood.

So we have settled on place #1. The 2 bedroom apartment. It is just down the street from where we currently live, so the move shoudl be easy enough. We are ahppy and have to think of the positives, and not regret the things which we will not have.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Among many people, although by no means all, there seems to always remain the inner struggle of whether to do something really worthwhile in life, or whether to make some money. Not that the two are necessarily mutually exclusive, but they do seem to come into conflict more than we would like. I often worry about this issue, and was somewhat blown away by an article I saw on the BBC today. A British guy is being criticized for his business practices. What does he do....... he sells gallows to Zimbabwe! Well to be fair he sells the gallows the a variety of countrys, but Robert Mugabe's government count among the number.
"Business is business" says the farmer, and it shocks me to the ground that this is something that one could actually say- and a phrase that has become all to common. Business is not just business. There is such a thing as responsible, ethical business. business need not be solely about dollar profit maximization. We need to remember this and not just sit back on "Business is business".
It is interesting, selling gallows to Africa is certainly no worse than the business behind any military technology. However it still seems, and I think is, more shocking. Although it does not excuse those involved in the manufacture and sale of arms they can to some extent disassociate themselves with the end result. This, as I said, does not excuse them, but it does help them to seem more human, more feeling.
I worry a great deal about the moral implications of my career, but I am safe and happy in the knowledge that I will not have to lay awake at night thinking of all the possibly innocent men swinging dead from the fruits of my labor.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Going into the real renting business has always seemed pretty hard to me. You have to find the right tenants, take care of the property, and are ultimately liable for anything a bunch of strangers might do to your house.
Some people it seems do not want to be inconvienced by such worries, and would rather just turn a profit. Well yes so would we all.
check out how this guy choses to run his rental business:

There is no way for me to timely respond to the numerous e-mails I have received after placing the Ocean Beach house rental on the market.

Therefore, I will attempt to describe the house a little better in order to weed out anyone who might not be interested in what the house has to offer.

Please excuse my long e-mail, it is just that there is no way I can possibly drive over to show the home every time someone e-mails a request for me to do so. The home is located on the corner of Seaside Street and Nimitz - which is a cul-de-sac next to a busy corner. You will hear ambulances go by

-- even through the new double pane vinyl windows. The home does have an attached yard and has a small dog door installed. I would prefer to rent to someone who does not have any pets, but I will consider a small dog (under 30 lbs). I will not rent to people with cats yet -- I just had the carpet changed and cats seem to stink up carpets. I will not take anyone with more than 1 animal. The kitchen is small, but has a new oven. The bathroom does not have a tub -- only a shower. There is no garage - just one off street parking space. I will give priority to the person who can drive by the house and know that they are "OK" with the location. I am not interested in anyone letting me know that they will be moving to the area some time in the future

-- I need to have a signed rental agreement and new tenants by June 1. I DO NOT have time to wait for someone to visit/move to the area, look at the home, and then tell me that it is not what they want. I want a tenant who can mow the grass in the yard with the provided push mower. I want a tenant who can call a plumber on their own if there is a plumbing problem. I want a tenant who can figure out how to turn on & program the automatic sprinkler system if the power should ever go out. I want a tenant who is self sufficient and does not call me with problems - for I am not a plumber, electrician nor a handyman. The last tenant let one of the fruit trees die

(i.e.: never watered it or noticed that it was not receiving water from the sprinkler system) - I don't want another tenant like that. I will not consider someone who does not have good references. I will not rent to anymore than 2 people -- it is a 1 bedroom home! I will rent the house to the first person who can drive by the cul-de-sac on Seaside street, figure out which house is the one pictured in the for rent ad, and provides me with a filled out rental application (which I can e-mail to them) and deposit of $1150. The tenant who lives there now does have a large dog - DO NOT TRY TO LOOK THROUGH THE WINDOWS WITH THE DOG THERE. I WILL NOT RENT TO ANYONE WHO SMOKES.

Wow! I'm sure he is going to end up wiht the tenant of his dreams!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Well the apartment was very nice- great dishwasher, washer drier- tons of storage space lots of living space. A few minuses- electric stove rather than gas (although that will make for fewer accidents), bedrooms are slightly smaller. On the whole it looks great, we sent in our notice to our current apartment today, along with a lengthy letter explaining the numerous shortcomings of the management team. It was only after we sent this in that we realised we will be asked to give a reference for the new apartment. Ah well, we have been model tenants, they can't bad mouth us too much for simply telling the truth.
Now we have started to look else where to get the full range of options. Tommorrow we will head out to Point Loma to a very promising looking place.

Moving is going to be horrible, but fresh new starts bring fresh new oppertunities and we are really quite excited at the prospect.

Friday, May 05, 2006

We're moving! Well hopefully. We have been meaning to for a while now, and today everything suddenly came together. It all began as our neighbor had a bit of an altercation with one of our other crazier neighbors- I won't elaborate too much but dog pee figured and a quick change of clothing before running to work. The consequence of the meeting was the discovery that, if we give notice to our landlord today we can move out 30 days from now- we needn't give notice on the 1st day of the month. This news got us looking on Craig’s List for an apartment, really in a half hearted sort of way, but after a quick browse we came across an apartment with a dishwasher, a washer and a drier and well nearly everything we could want. The location of this new place is only a few blocks from our house, although in a slightly nicer, calmer neighborhood- (Read: not behind a car wash!). It is located very close to Morley Fields which will be wonderful in the summer. So we are heading round there tomorrow to check it out- if we like it we'll be giving notice ASAP.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

So I just finally got to watch the Stephen Colbert performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I know I am a little late into the game here and the blogosphere has been crawling with this stuff. But really I can't be blamed too much- I get my news mainly from mainstream new sources- BBC and New York Times, who seemingly haven't reported a word of it. All I saw was a little article about how Bush was gracious enough to make fun of himself with an impersonator. I have never been more disappointed with the US media, and feel the non showing of this story is a far bigger story than the performance itself.
Anyhow, for what it's worth here's my two cents: I thought the performance was brave, important, not the Colbert at his funniest, but still very amusing nonetheless

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Back in the days of college when I didn't have too much time to devote to a full time job I always thought it would be cool to start a small business on ebay. Thinking of something that was creative and hadn't been done before was not so easy- it seems to be everyone’s way of attempting the American dream. After our wedding my wife almost gave it a shot- selling home made wedding invitations like the ones she had made for our wedding. This is a category well canvassed, although there seem to be few which are genuinely homemade. The reason for this is the same reason that my wife gave up on the idea- the time it would take her to manufacture the cards would result in ridiculously highly (and uncompetitively) priced invitations if she were to value her time as it should be valued. Unfortunately there are many people out there who value their time at a far lower rate than we do and thus it is hard to be competitive.
I think I have mentioned in an earlier post how much I currently dislike It used to be such a great place to find bargains, but now, with people having similar dreams to myself everyone is out to rip you off- everyone is running a business and no one seems to be just selling the junk in their garage (for this I assume they use Craig’s List or the more old fashioned garage sale.
I was interested today to find an article on about ebay millionaires. These Extreme power sellers are arrayed among a variety of wares- jewelry, computers hardware, clothing and stereo equipment are among the main items being sold. All big ticket items. My favorite story however was a guy selling model trains and train accessories.
The verdict seems to be that running a business on ebay cans work- but is a great deal of work, and in no means guaranteed success. The main draw for me would be being able to live somewhere away from the city, or at least not have to worry about job prospects when choosing the perfect location to live at.

Monday, May 01, 2006

May 1st protests today. This impacted us in the main as there was no noisy construction outside of our house- the mexican laborers sending us a sharp reminder that we couldn't live wihtout them taking 7 months to build a car wash. The situation is made even more amusing by the fact that due to the May first walk out they came to work on sunday instead- I think maybe they missed the point. My wife (who doesn't work mondays anyway) jokingly called into her boss saying she couldn't come into the office due to her immigrant status- that would really show the non-profit organization she works for!
On a serious note though, I think the boycott is a peaceful and effective way of reminding this country how much we do rely on the immigrant workforce, and would be probably even more effective if most immigrants could afford to take a day without pay to join in. Scott McClellan (the legend) reported that the Preseident is "not a fan of boycotts) which I thought rather amusing language. I assume he is more partial to them than bombings- but who knows.