Archive for July, 2009

I caught the first episode of the new FOX reality dating show More To Love last night. It appears that thanks to Hulu, I can find ways to unproductively use my time even without a TV in my home (see Exhibit A: Momma’s Boys).
After watching the premiere (full episode here), here are my thoughts.
1. It’s unnecessary to list each woman’s height and weight below her name. I doubt that many women (whether they are a 6 or a 16) would want their personal information to be put on TV for the world to see.

2. Luke seems like a nice-enough guy, but 20 cute ladies + 1 single man basking in their attention = the balance of power is dangerously off.

3. The first girl out of the limo, Malissa, looked gorgeous in a deep cut blue sheath. And she’s studied abroad in Paris. Forget Luke, I’m a little smitten myself.

4. The rings. Oh my. The rings that signify “Luke’s promise to get to know each of the woman for who they really are”. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought there were engagement rings (i.e. you are engaged to be married), and maybe promise rings (i.e. you are making a promise to get engaged in the future). What do these rings represent then? Although… this can be a new marketing opportunity for jewelers: “A Promise To Get to Know You” ring, anyone?

5. The script about the rings. Luke: “Will you wear this ring?” Lady: “I will!” Luke said, “the future Mrs. Conley might be in this room.” I get it .There’s no need to knock us over the head with the obvious SYMBOLISM of the ring ceremony.

6. The giving back of the rings and the regiving of the rings. It’s mean for the ladies to have to give back their rings, then wait for it to be re-given. I prefer Bachelorette’s rose ceremony. At least the Bachelor ladies aren’t handed out a rose only to have to give them back.

7. The rocket scientist who kept apologizing to Luke about her rocket scientist job. I was bummed she was sent home (I hope it’s not because Luke was intimidated by her). But I hope she knows that she should never apologize for her intelligence. A man who “loves you for who you truly are” will be proud and supportive of your accomplishments.

8. It makes me sad to hear a girl say that this show is her ONE chance at love, or something along those lines. That’s a lot of stock to put in a guy you’ve met once (and has 19 other girls competing for him). 

9. Reality dating shows remind me of group interviews, except a thousand times worse.

In a group interview, an applicant wears a suit and heels and tries to both play nice with fellow candidates and stand out from the crowd to attract the attention of the hiring manager.

In a reality dating show, a participant wears a party dress and tries to both play nice with fellow contestants and stand out from the crowd to attract the attention of the hiring manager man of the moment.

In a group interview, your prize will be the job you wanted. In a reality dating show, your prize is a relationship that past experience has shown will last a month after the show wraps up filiming (to be fair, except for Trista and Ryan).

10. I’d really like to see reality dating shows discuss the issues of money in relationships. But I guess that’s too boring of a topic for TV. But putting a bunch of people in a fancy mansion with no worries about money doesn’t quite seem like a “realistic” way to begin a relationship.

Have anyone seen More To Love? What are your thoughts?


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Random musings

– Finally got my deposit from previous apartment after much stress. $730 into the Freedom Fund.

– Working on a side project (I’ll call it PGP) that I am really hopeful will work out. If it goes well you’ll all hear about it. 🙂 Just don’t want to jinx it right now.

– Had a bunch of informational interviews this month as I try to explore and refine various career (and life) paths open to me. Was very pleasantly surprised at people’s willingness to help and generosity with their time.

– Still dancing up a storm in salsa. Thinking of paying $50 for professional dance shoes.

– Still loving my landlord and landlady (who feed me homemade meals). If you follow me on twitter you know this already. Because I cannot stop talking about it. Ooops!

– Planning a big blog overhaul. A friend who is a SEO genuis will be helping me with blog migration, on-page and off-page optimization issues. My friends are so smart.

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If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, and need some foodspiration, here are my favorite treats for under $5.

1. Flore de Moscato ($4.99) – delicious blend of Orange Muscat and Muscat Canneli. Great dessert wine to drink on its own or pair with some flourless chocolate cake. I’m not a big drinker, but I have a terrible sweet tooth. So… dessert wines are totally up my alley.

2. Chocolate croissant ($3.99) – Flaky, buttery pastry rolls with a chocolate log in the middle. Every package has 4 croissants. I’ve already waxed rhapsodic about this particular treat from TJ’s. In a nutshell, if loving these is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

3. Lemongrass chicken eggrolls ($2.99) – a package of 10 mini eggrolls that will bake up crispy and golden in your oven. Juicy chicken filling, with lemongrass and pepper. These treats would be perfect for finger foods. 

4. Vermont apple chicken sausages ($3.49) – 5 pre-cooked sausages with the most delightful sweetness. I like to chop these sausages into thin slices, pan-fry them (no oil necessary) until browned, then just eat them by themselves or fold them into omelets with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions.

5. Mango sorbet ($3.99) – Honestly? Honestly?? This taste just like frozen, pureed mangos. This sorbet captures the essence of mango down to the fruit’s last pulpy drop. It’s the perfect indulgence on a Summer night.

6. Pizza Parlano ($4.69) – Best. Frozen. Pizza. Ever. Sausage, pepperonis, onions, bell peppers (i.e. my favorite ingredients on one pizza!). The meats are all nitrate-free, so I can indulge (relatively) guiltlessly. I just make one of these pizza and toss together a salad for a quick and yummy meal for two.

(Can you tell that I love adjectives related to food?)

Share your favorite under-$5 treats in the comments!

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I have never bought lottery tickets on my own. But if there’s a pool going on at the office, I’m there. I’ll run to my car and dig for change under my car seat if I have to.

Why do I do this?

Consider – there are 4 basic scenarios:

1. You participate – the pool loses.
2. You participate – the pool wins.
3. You don’t participate – the pool loses.
4. You don’t participate – the pool wins.

In Scenario 1: the most you will lose is your contribution ($1 or $2 or $5). Scenario 2 is the big one, of course – depending on how much you win, that can be financial freedom right there (or at least enough for a down payment or a year’s worth of Roth IRA contributions).

In Scenario 3:  you don’t lose anything. You get to keep your dollar for tomorrow’s lunch, or whatever. But Scenario 4… Scenario 4 is the WORST possible scenario of them all. It’s the reason why I buy in lottery pools – not because I think I’ll win, but to protect myself against the horror that is Scenario 4.

I understand that the chance of the office pool winning is small. Very, very, very small. Close to impossible, even. But I’m not talking about probability here – I’m talking about being the only person who did not participate in the lottery and now has to watch all his/her coworkers jubilantly cash their million-dollar payouts.

I most happily and willingly pay my dollar or two to insure against that scenario from coming true.

Do you always buy in at the office lotto pool?

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Over the weekend I went house-hunting with my parents (one of our favorite family outings – fun, free, and educational)!

We saw two places, and I realized here’s what $500K can buy in my little slice of Southern California:

  • A townhouse ($495,000): The 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 3-car garage townhouse was new (built in 2007) and on a nice street, but we can already tell construction wasn’t  up to par. The stone floor in the kitchen has already show several cracks, and the floor isn’t level.
  • Single-family home ($500,000): The house had an irregular layout, with a couple of room extensions/additions. It was old. (So old, in fact, that the real estate flyer didn’t say what year it was built). It would take a lot of money to make the house comfortable. It was also a neighborhood eyesore.

I felt somewhat discouraged after looking at those places. Half-a-million apparently gets you…  the above examples.

Good thing I won’t be planning to buy for several years – that will give me a chance to, ah, recalibrate my real estate expectations.

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My Last Duchess

Or, creepiest poem I’ve read.

That’s my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
“Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
“Must never hope to reproduce the faint
“Half-flush that dies along her throat”: such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart how shall I say? too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men good! but thanked
Somehow I know not how as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech which I have not to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
“Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
“Or there exceed the mark” and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse,
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

He totally killed her. Basically, for smiling too much. And now he’s negotiating for another duchess. *Shudder*

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A few years ago a book came out titled “The Surrendered Wife” by Laura Doyle. The book caught on very quickly due to its controversial premise, i.e. that the key to a happy marriage is for the woman to “surrender” to the designated head-of-household, the husband. This surrendering would also entail that the wife hand over all financial decisions to her husband.

I read so much about the book (alternately skewered and praised) in articles and op-eds that I had to read it just to see what the notoriety was about.  

Here’s a Publisher’s Weekly review on the book:  “[Doyle’s]…main point is that when she criticized, nagged and tried to control her husband, the marriage suffered; but when she “surrendered,” letting him do things his way and make decisions for the family, he rose to the occasion, becoming a responsible and loving husband and making her feel protected and cared for.”

While I agree that overly-controlling wives spouses (after all, control issues can exist in men and women) aren’t good for a healthy marriage, I couldn’t agree with the book’s practical applications. Cede all financial decision-making authority?? A shudder crept up my spine when I read that part. I have to admit that that advice very likely biased me against the rest of the book. 

However, I have applied Ms. Doyle’s principles of, er, surrendering to another part of my life…


I’ve been taking classes weekly, and it’s truly one of the highlights of my week. A good salsa is like a great conversation – energetic, provocative, interesting, fun. I wonder how many classes I have to take before I am confident enough to go dance at a salsa club…

When I first started dancing, I had a tendency to anticipate choreographed steps . I’d get thrown off if the Lead improvises or does something differently than what the teacher had demonstrated. So instead of dancing WITH a partner, I was dancing TO a choreography.

Needless to say, dancing with a (good) partner is so more fun than memorizing steps. Now, I make a real effort to be more conscious of the Lead’s positioning and more responsive to his guidance.

You know what this means… if a couple does something wrong in salsa, it’s all the guy’s fault!

I’ve been fortunate to dance with some very good Leads in my classes, and a couple of not-so-great ones. The best part about dancing as a girl is the experience of dancing with a good Lead – someone who gently but firmly guides you through the moves so that you know exactly what you’re supposed to do, and you have enough time to display your own flair in the dance. 

When I danced with more experienced Leads, sometimes I do turns and crossovers and I don’t even know how I did them! When the Lead is good, the Follow looks great, and everything flows.  With all the emphasis on “leadership” in this world (ahem, bschools?!), I’m more than happy to “surrender” to the art of followership in this aspect of my life.

Besides, I’d much rather be a surrendered salsera than a surrendered wife. 😉

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*Inspired by listening to country songs while working late
**I know, many people don’t like country music. To those, I ask, whyyy? 😛

1. Troubadour (George Strait) – “Sometimes I feel like Jesse James, still trying to make a name. Knowing nothing’s change, what I am. I was a young troubadour when I rode in on a song. I’ll be an old troubadour, when I’m gone.”

2. Startin’ With Me (Jake Owen) – “I let a woman that I loved slip through my fingers, chalked another dumb move up to my foolish pride. I wasn’t there standing by the bed, when the preacher bowed his head. With the family, the day my grandma died.”

3. Every Time I Hear Your Name (Keith Anderson) – “I know I can’t go back, but I still go back. There we are, parked down by the riverside. And I’m in your arms, about to make love for first time. And that’s all it takes. And I’m in that place. Every time I hear your name.”

4. As Good As I Once Was (Toby Keith) – “I ain’t as good as I once was. I’ve got a few years on me now. But there was a time, back in my prime, when I can really lay it down. If you need some love tonight, then I might have just enough. I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

5. Picture (Kid Rock ft. Sheryl Crow) – “I’ve been waiting on you for a long time, fueling up on heartaches and cheap wine, I ain’t heard from you in three damn nights. I put your picture away. I wonder where you’ve been. I can’t look at you while I’m lying next to him.”

6. I Wonder (Kellie Pickler) – “Oh I hear the weather’s nice in California. There are sunny skies as far as the eye can see. If you ever come back home to Carolina, I wonder what you’d say to me.”

What’re your favorite country songs? Add a snippet of the lyrics too, if you don’t mind. 🙂

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My mother is a towering figure in my world – I’ve always secretly thought that she can’t possibly be as whip-smart and determined and rational as I think she is… can she?

Fabulously Broke wrote an interesting post on stay-at-home mothers. The post got me thinking… I don’t quite know what to think when it comes to the “debate” on stay-at-home mothers vs. working mothers. Even though I see myself as a working mom, all moms just try to make the best choice they can for themselves and their family, right? Can’t we just ditch the guilt and get along?

My mother always worked, though she always made sure she can pick me up from school and cook me my favorite meals. We didn’t spend a lot of time together otherwise (although Mom DID sit me down and walked me through the calculations of prepaying a mortgage when I was in middle school).

I don’t ever remember wanting more time with her. I suppose it was because I was a fairly private child. I had my books and girlish secrets and I wasn’t a fan of heart-to-hearts. Too awkward and revealing. My thoughts were my own. MINE! (I was also really stubborn).

The only time I remembered missing Mom was when I was very young, when she went to work overseas for almost five years. I grew up with very loving grandparents who coddled me a bit (OK – a lot). Mom missed out on a big chunk of my childhood, but I have never felt bad about it.

It was always something that she had to do in order to give me a better opportunity. If Mom ever suffered any guilt over the situation, it didn’t show.  There was no hand-wringing or second-guessing, at least not in front of her child.

As I grow older, I really think that that no-nonsense manner is the best way to act when a mother (or father, or both, as it was in my case) decides to work overseas, work domestically, or for whatever reason cannot spend as much time with their children as they’d like (or think they should). This matter-of-fact approach shows children that things, while maybe not ideal right now, will eventually be OK.

I think children are resilient and can adapt to most circumstances as long as they know that they are loved and wanted. Don’t introduce guilt or confusion or self-flagellation into the picture. Most kids will do just fine.

Forget Supermom. If I become a mother, I just want to be a guiltless mom.

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Or, at least, my mother’s love.

Mom called me last night and suggested and boyfriend and I go to brunch with her and Dad this weekend. Of course I accepted. Outing with parents = free food! Mmmm… I’m already dreaming of BBQ pork buns and shrimp dumplings.

Even though I have paid for dinner on few special occasions (Dad’s birthday, family gathering with aunts and uncles visting from overseas), my parents still pay for the vast majority of our meals together.

For now, I’m still young enough that the thinking in my family goes: “parents should feed the kid.” I figure I have until 30 before the balances tips to “kid should treat the parents” when it comes to normal meals out.

Does anyone else’s parents do this?

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