Archive for March, 2009

Little League Practice

 | March 13, 2009 6:25 AM

Yesterday was Dylan’s first Little League practice.  Unfortunately it was not as fun as Dylan and I hoped.

I think in general baseball is just not as fun as soccer, especially for little kids.  There’s just a lot of standing around.  If it wasn’t for the tradition of baseball in this country I might not have signed him up for it.

The first drill the boys did (there are no girls on this year’s team which surprised me a little bit) was learning how to throw.  Dylan is like me, he does not understand well instructions for how to do things physically.  For example the guys have been trying to teach me how to hit a golf ball but I am still horrible.  On the other hand I had a friend who would just watch a sport on TV and then go outside and do exactly what he saw.  The instructors were asking the boys to start in a throwing stance with the two arms out horizontally, the gloved arm out forward, the gloved hand pointing down, the throwing hand holding the ball up.  Dylan kept getting confused and at one point he was bending forward with both arms twisted, elbows on top, hands pointed up.  The whole thing amused me as I thought “That’s my boy.”

The second drill was learning to field grounders.  The coaches told the boys to act like alligators gobbling up grounders and stamped their throwing hands w/ an alligator stamp as added incentive.  Then they tossed the grounders to the boys.  At this point since there were only two coaches and nine boys the boys started getting bored as they waited for their grounders.  Three boys started making a little sand castle with the infield dirt.  Dylan started his own pile of dirt.  After practice I asked the coach if I could help w/ drills since it was obvious that another instructor could have helped in terms of keeping their interest.

The third drill was learning to run to first base.  This was the only drill Dylan actually enjoyed because running is fun.  The first time all the boys ran to first base and stopped.  The coach then told them they’re supposed to run past first base.  By the third time the boys wouldn’t stop running and ran into the outfield.  If the coaches hadn’t said anything I think they would have kept going.

For the parents, watching practice wasn’t too fun.  I amused myself by taking photos but I felt a little shy so I didn’t talk to anyone until one parent, a very nice mother, initiated conversation with me.  She actually had met Ji Seon earlier because they both had gone to the store to buy something for Little League and the other mother had taken the last one.

Two more practices, opening day, twenty games, two team parties, and closing ceremonies still to go.  Let’s hope it’s fun.

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Snuggle

 | March 11, 2009 11:43 AM

Ji Seon named Isaac her “snuggle bear” and Victoria her “snuggle bunny.”  Dylan suggested that he be called “snuggle hero.” 🙂

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Scratches Are Expensive Update

 | March 7, 2009 2:30 PM

scratchThree months ago I blogged about how I accidentally scratched a car and how the owner requested $650 to $850 for the repair.

Since that time I engaged in many conversations with him and various repair shops.  One shop, Active Auto Body, advised me that there is no way that the repair should be that much, that the cost should be around $125.  I sent the photo of the scratch to another shop, B2 Perfection Auto Body, and they said they could try to buff out that scratch for free.

It turned out the owner had thought I had damaged the front of his bumper which is why the repair was so high since there is a lot of labor involved in fixing a front bumper.  A scratch on the side rocker molding is easy to fix because you just put in a new one.

At this point I was starting to become frustrated with this owner trying to get me to pay so much for damage I had not done.  I also was becoming a little frustrated with his contradictions.  Originally he said that the reason he wanted to fix the scratch was because the car was new and there were no other scratches.  Now he was admitting there was other damage on the car.  He also first said there was a sizable dent on the front bumper but later said it was a scratch that was smaller than the scratch I had caused on the side rocker molding.

I became so frustrated that I told him I would not pay.  Previously he would take a few days to reply to any of my emails but he immediately replied to this one.  After several exchanges I relented, not because of his contradicting arguments, but because I realized that regardless of everything the scratch was still my fault.

In the end I realized that my greatest frustration was that I thought that by doing the right thing somehow I would end up not having to actually pay for what I had done, like a reward from God for just doing the right thing.  When I realized that this time, unlike previous times, I would actually have to pay, I was disappointed to say the least.

I contacted the owner a few times after that, asking him to please get the repair done quickly so that we could move on.  He finally sent me an email saying he got hurt and that it would take him a few weeks to do it.

Now it is three months later and I have not heard from him since mid-December.  At this point I would be quite content if he never contacts me again.

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Comcast recently doubled the upload and download speeds in the Bay Area.

The move will double the maximum download speeds for customers of the company’s existing Performance and Performance Plus plans. The best possible throughput for such customers will go from 6 and 8 megabits per second, respectively, to 12 and 16 megabits per second.

Upload speeds for both tiers will be 2 megabits per second. That represents a doubling of current speeds for Performance customers, but speeds will be unchanged for those on the Performance Plus plan.

I did some tests using Speedtest.net and was quite impressed with the interface of the site.  Speedtest.net keeps a log of my test results.  I am wondering if it identifies me using my IP address which means the results won’t be available for very long since my IP address changes every few weeks.  If it somehow identifies me using my MAC address then it will be there as long as I don’t change the MAC address of my router.

In last night’s tests my download speed was much higher than expected but my upload speed was about what should be expected.

This morning’s tests though showed the download and upload speeds to be about what should be expected. I guess the doubling has not reached Sunnyvale yet.

Update 02-01-2010: Things still don’t seem faster. I wonder if my modem needs to be upgraded.

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Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Business School 2005 commencement speech

I guess Steve is right.  What do I love to do?  Basketball?  No one is going to pay me to play.  Fantasy basketball?  No one is going to pay me to play that either.  Playing video games?  Eating good food?  Blogging about nothing?  Taking photos of my kids?

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Northern California Winter

 | March 5, 2009 10:34 PM

For the most part I enjoy Northern California winter.  In fact I think it might be my favorite season which is the opposite of when I was living in the northeast.  There are several reasons why I enjoy it.

  1. It does not get too cold.
  2. It is apparently too cold for most other people which is why when you go to the park or any other outdoor place, they are usually somewhat deserted.
  3. The rain is really welcome since it does not rain at all the other nine months of the year.
  4. The sun is not so hot so you do not have to wear sun screen.
  5. It does not feel as busy.
  6. The landscape is green instead of brown and the mountains sometime have snow on top.

On New Year’s Day Ji Seon and her anonymous friend along with Dylan and Isaac went to Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Of course it was raining but the boys had a good time though in Ji Seon’s opinion not good enough to justify buying a season’s pass and driving ninety minutes each way.

With the rain the oranges on the trees ripen.  In this photo Dylan holds up a siamese orange I picked from one of our trees.

Isaac and Dylan have really begun enjoying riding.  Dylan is still on training wheels while Isaac loves his new Cars tricycle.

Victoria loves being outdoors whether it is raining or not.  Here she and Isaac are hanging out in the rain in our backyard.

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Recently I changed the oil on my Prius and it cost almost $50.  I know everything is more expensive in California but I am not used to paying more than $30 for such service.

Now that we’re knee deep in a recession I thought I’d consider learning how to change my own oil.  This article, How to Change the Oil on your Prius with Pictures, seems pretty helpful.  Consumer Reports also has articles on how to check your oil and how to inspect belts and hoses.

If I want to still get a repair, Consumer Reports recommends checking out Repair Pal and Car Talk for names and user reviews for local independent garages.  I used Yelp to find the place I went to for my Prius and they seemed pretty good.  Consumer Reports also recommends using a shop that’s approved by AAA and is a member of the BBB.

I hope I can get 200,000 miles out of my Prius and Odyssey.  Well maybe not the Odyssey, I don’t really enjoy driving that car.

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Rejecting Solar Power

 | March 3, 2009 1:40 PM

Previously I wrote a post called Considering Solar Power.  Around November of 2008 I heard someone in my area was trying to pool people together to install solar electric systems to get a 10% group discount.  I contacted him and then the salesman but after speaking with my real estate broker who did not think it was worth the investment I decided not to do it.

After learning that the latest federal budget had more incentives for installing solar, I called the REC Solar salesman, Max Greenberg, again and we had a meeting where he presented his solar electric system proposal.

Max is an easy going guy and the presentation was interesting and informative.  Since my electrical needs are rather modest he proposed installing the smallest system their company typically installs.  Still the cost comes out to over $10K after state rebate and federal tax credit.  The federal tax credit will be going up with Obama’s proposals but that is offset by the state rebate becoming smaller since November.

The payoff period for my system is about 15 years.  According to the proposal the first year home value appreciation is $7500, based on $1 in energy savings equals $20 in resale value.  I am sure my real estate broker would disagree with this.

In the end I decided not to do it because I just did not feel it was worth spending over $10K to save less than $400 in the first year.  In my opinion it makes more sense trying to cut down our energy use which does not cost anything but could potentially save as much.

I think if the payoff period had been eight years or less I would have done it.  For others that is the case because they use so much more electricity and the local utility charges more per kilowatt the more you use.

Below is a satellite photo of my house with a sketch by the solar salesman of where the solar panels would be installed on my house.  Since my house does not have much south facing roof space, half of the solar panels would have to be placed on the west facing roof.  The salesman said though that the drop in efficiency from south to west is about 5%.

Satellite Photo with Proposed Solar Installation

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At the end of 2008 I was feeling pretty good about how I cut down my expenses.  Then I got hit by a staggering series of medical premium increases.

  1. 12/18/08 – 15% increase effective 02/01/2009
  2. 01/16/09 – 30% increase effective 03/01/2009
  3. 02/20/09 – 12.32% increase effective 04/01/2009

The net increase is 68% over three months.  To be fair the three inceases are somewhat coincidental.

  1. My premium had increased in 03/08 but I was not charged that until 02/09 because I had a 12 month freeze on rate hikes on my account.
  2. The 03/09 increase is the annual increase.  The amount of 30% is unprecedented but apparently it’s happening everywhere, possibly because the insurance companies are afraid of what President Obama’s administration is going to do to them.
  3. The 04/09 increase is because Ji Seon is moving up into the next age bracket.

And to top it off a brand-name drug deductible of $250 for 2009 was added.

I hope President Obama’s administration does come up with an effective, national, affordable health care plan.  Our family needs it.

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