Friday, March 24, 2006

House Hunting

So, we've been in the process of looking for & thinking about & possibly buying property. Daunting proposition in the Bay Area, on the surface seems almost impossible (generally, half a million $$ won't get you much). But Bonnie has a way of making real tasks out of these things, so we dove in and started to find out what it would actually take. We've been going to a a few open houses on Sundays, and talking to the agents there. Went ahead with a pre-approval process, and from what I learned about mortgages and my credit score, it's started to seem do-able. We met with an associate of Bonnie's, Amber, who is a realtor, one Saturday, and - after some cogent explanations - she's agreed to become our "buyer's agent" for now, and has been outstanding helping with the process. So much so that we found a really fantastic house that had a reasonable asking price (actually a bargain in this market) and we moved forward with putting in an offer!
What an immense undertaking, especially for the first time, even though this property seemed pretty simple in its history. (now I know heaps about escrow, and pest reports, and inspection contigencies, and loan guarantees, and cripple walls). The dollar amount was likely not the highest they'd be getting I realized (almost 9% over asking), but Amber worked with us to make the 'conditions' agreeable. Turns out we didn't get it - the offer that was accepted was higher $ and no-contingencies. A lesson in reality, and a cause to take a step back for a second, but not going to derail us. More to come... For you homeowners out there, I'd love to get some of your tips/caveats/cautionary tales you've experienced.

Commonwealth Games

OK, maybe a bit late, but the 2006 Commonwealth Games are wrapping up. These are basically summer olympics for former British colonies, which still have a cooperative agreement. 75 countries participating! A lot of Pacific and Carribbean islands, and nations in Africa and Southeast Asia. And Canada, eh. Latest news, New Zealand won the Silver medal for both Men's and Women's basketball (behind Australia and ahead of England - the 3 countries winning the same medals for both genders. Odd.) Auz is way ahead in the medal count.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A few steps

At the beginning of the year (yes, 'get serious about resolutions' time), I signed up at the gym for 'the Biggest Loser' weight watch. March 3 was the final weigh-in, lost 8 pounds, but it was enough to come out top for my group! (men 20-40). Jessica at the club said on Wednesday morning - "Hey congratulations, you won", thought she meant some participation prize, but then I got an email saying I was the winner. (it also said only about half the initial participants even came in for the final weigh-in). Nice for me, got a sweet North Shore satchel bag. And it lays the foundation for positive progress in the near future, I'm already taking a more agressive stance for the month. The goal is to be under 200 by the the end of next month, and in summer shape by, oh, the summer...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Gold Statuettes

Time once again for that congratulatory exercise - the Academy Awards! King Kong, of course, was up for 4 awards - VFX, sound mixing, sound effects editing, and art direction. But, perhaps more significantly, it was a chance to throw a party (a tradition started by the Treasure Island Mafia - thx John and Bryan) and invite some friends and rarely seen associates (thx Joe, Jody and Micki). We ended up with an invite list of over 50 folks. Had fun planning, shopping (Bonnie knows how complicated that was), even made a prize package - 1st Prize was an Annie Proulx collection; 'In Cold' Blood', and a bottle of champagne (small enuff to sneak into a theatre); 2nd Prize was the Crash songtrack and a box of Red Vines ('Twizzlers' to those back east); and trivia prizes (candy) during the commercial breaks. Caught the opening scene and Jon Stewart intro, but ended up not seeing a lot of the show (chatting with pals). I was called into the room for the hilarious Ben Stiller-announced Best Visual FX award. And the Oscar goes to ... King Kong! (Had no doubt, but I still thought Star Wars shoulda been on there). It was great seeing Joe and Christian up there, congrats to all the crew! Those of you who've been following my blog know all about Kong... So, thought Jon Stewart did a good job hosting (loved the Judi Dench attack ad segment), and overall thought the show moved along well; had good bits and presenters - Lliy Tomlin & Meryl Streep, Stiller, Jaaaaaack; kept the schmaltz and montage fillers to a minimum; and was highly palatable at 3 1/2 hours. Agreed with most of the acting awards, and was pleased to see Wallace & Gromit take it!, but it was a somewhat surprising win for 'Crash' as Best Picture. And the winner of the night - (I had the most # right, but was ineligible) - Ed got the top prize ( he and Nina won a lot of the trivia prizes, too), but he opted for the King Kong production diaries, which I had an extra of, and Aidan and Beth's brother Ben got the other prizes. Fun evening overall, glad the peeps could make it out!

Monterey Bay, Feb 26th

OK, so a mega-update. Bonnie and I had our 2-year anniversary! Getting close to being my longest continuous relationship, which I know it will become for the long run. We celebrated late, combining with the Valentine observance, and waiting til after the Valentine busy weekends. Went to Monterey overnite for 26th. Left not too early on Saturday morn, got in around noon, couldn't check into our place til 3 PM. It was close to Asilomar, so we invaded their grounds, went to the beach, and rocks, walked around the golf course and the gift shop. Checked in, chilled for a bit at the room. We got a 2-day-for-1-price Aquarium pass, so we wanted to split a visit over 2 days. We went into town, strolled through the Natural History Museum and that hood, then the Aquarium (cause a little stress between us trying to find a parking space, and wanting to get in before it closed). Then we went into old town to grab a burrito, catch a movie - "World's Fastest Indian", which I had seen in New Zealand and liked alot; and check out the Monterey Peninsula's pre-eminent Death Metal band (love Bonnie so much for being such a sport). The next day, Bonnie went out on her own for some breakfast, beach, and writing, we checked out before noontime and strolled Cannery Row - some pirate souvenir shopping; a bike ride on a stella(?); the Slow Burn store; and Bubba Gump for lunch (where we got a watered-down, even perhaps rumless 'lavaflow' cocktail but got an extra shot of rum when we flipped the sign), and a return visit to the Aquarium. OK - lemme pause for some thought here :

Then at the end of the day, we decided to drive the famous 17-mile drive. Didn't know it was gated, with a fee. Which wouldn't be so bad, if it were scenic shores, lush forest, contemplative trails. The majority of what we saw from the road was mansions. Or, rather, gates to mansions. 8 bucks to look at wealthy people's property from afar?? Up the proles!

So, nice ride back, and we were facing Sunday evening. Cozy.