Friday, April 18, 2014

Costa Rica Honeymoon Update

Married life is tough, what can I say. Ive been walking around telling people I am now qualified as a seasoned veteran of marriage, a sage if you will. You need marriage advice, you know where to turn. Tomorrow marks one week from the magnificent day and as you know, that is quite a few hours of married time under my belt. okay, okay....Im a novice, but I cant say Im off to a bad start! I am writing this from Costa Rica, Moneverde specifically. Ash and I have just enjoyed the most magnificent two days that it is hard to describe just how glorious they were. For starters, thanks to those who were at our wedding for making it so surreal and so warm, fun, and jovial. The chair dancing was epic. The weather was warm and breezy. The dancing was hilarious and the toasts were heartfelt and poignant. We are blessed to have your presence so thank you all who attended. The next morning was Sunday and Ash and I spent the night in the honeymoon suite (her folks treated us to it!). We woke up around 8 and turned on the jacuzzi in our room. And we fed each other chocolate strawberries and sipped champagne which was chilling on ice from the night before. Gotta say, we started marriage off on the right foot! We were in heaven. We relaxed for about an hour just rehashing the previous night and all the numerous memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives. So happy. So content. So lucky and grateful. Anyway, we eventually made our way to the airport by Monday morning at 530AM to jet off to Costa Rica. It was sad to depart our friends and faimly but we were happy to be off to our honeymoon. We spent the first two nights exploring San Jose, the capital. Not half bad, better than people had told us. We visited the national museum and some famous churches and parks. Ate some delicious churros along the way too. The following two nights we spent in Arenal. That place. Is. Spec. Tac. Ular. Wow. We had two of the most extraordinary days of our lives. We witnessed a sunset that faded for an hour shades of pink, rose, orange, white, baby blue, maroon. You name it. That night we stopped by a natural hot springs area that was lit up entirely by candlelight. Holy moly. The water was flowing strong and we lied in the heat, letting us caress our skin and contour to our bodies. They also provided some bebidos for good measure! Before that we hiked the Arenal Volcano and admired the many birds and trees and plants we saw on the way. It was a magical day. Im very short of time or i would go into great detail as it is warranted. The next day in Arenal was one of the best days of our lives. We took a taxi to Cerra Chato which is a smaller volcano which looks up at its big brother. The hike was brutal. So tough. One of the hardest Ive done. IT was slippery and steep and our shoes were sliding over the terrain like on ice. The jumps were long and flexibility was of mucho importance. After an hour and a half we were rewarded with a climb down into a lagoon that was about 68 degrees of pure bliss aqua. The beauty is breathtaking. Its a bit like the movie The Beach with Leo DicAprio to give you an idea of what it was like. I swam from one side to the other. I was gleaming with joy. It was euphoric feeling all the sweat wash away to be replaced by refreshing water. Wow, cant say enough good things about that. I would hike that everyday to experience that lagoon. We made it down the bottom and quickly went to a waterfall La Fortuna. As if we were being swooned by millionaires this waterfall offered its own array of beauty. We stepped down a few hundred steps and saw a 80 foot waterfall pummeling the water below. I swam as close as I could next to it but the current and force of the water made that quite a challenge! We took some photos so be on the lookout for that next week. Sidenote ' also be on the lookout for the WAshington Post as we are supposed to be featured this SUnday! Will be awesome if it happens! After we basked in the glory of our waterfall and private lagoon we had another rough married life endeavor to accomplish. Chocolate Tour. And if you know me...even a little you know that my love for chocolate is enormous. If I had to choose between Ash and chocolate Id have to think about it. lol jk. WE learned all about cocoa and the process and devoured the most delicious homemade chocolate you can imagine. That night we went to the hotel bar for happy hour and ate nachos and chickend wings and tasty local beer called imperial. It was such a magical day....married life aint easy folks. Im telling ya. Hope to post more in a few...til then....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

5 Day Countdown!!!

Well...Monday marks T-5 days from Saturday, April 12, 2014. 4-12-14 - a palindrome. Great for me to remember for anniversary's sakes haha!

Ash and I have been wicked busy the past few months finalizing logistics, coordinating with vendors, writing thank-you-notes for the lovely gifts we've received, and attending other weddings! Yesterday we attended the second wedding of the year for us (ours being the third coming up). We also attended an elegant wedding late 2013, so we're basically going on four weddings in less than 5 months. I joked with Ash, "The only way we could afford to attend all these weddings this year is by getting married ourselves!" It is damn expensive to plan all these trips and get gifts as I'm sure you're all aware.

We spent the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia an absolutely lovely town (one of my favorites). I would really like to move to that area, but Ash requires some persuading. I'll keep trying! Ashley's high school friend Brittany got married to Matt. Brittany is black and Matt is white. While this is not uncommon in certain areas (like NY and DC) it was something I rarely witnessed growing up in Phoenix. Marriages were homogenous by and large. White married white, latino to latina, etc. Brittany's sister also married a white man (they are both doctors..not bad, eh?) It made me happy to witness such a progressive occasion, and be reminded that my preconceived ideas of relationships deserve reflection and analysis. Love transcends many 'barriers' - fantastic to see race as a complete non-issue as the attendees were half black half white and all dancing together. The speeches by both sets of parents were touching and testament to acceptance, open-minds, and big hearts.

The idyllic setting laid in the fold of a valley peering up toward the Blue Ridge Mountains while the sun set on a vineyard. Spectacular would be an understatement. The weather was tranquil, not windy, not cold, not hot. They had a violinist entertaining and a painter capturing the scene during the ceremony. Kinda fun watching the two artists in action.

Approximately 200 people attended (twice the size of ours). We danced to the band and had butterflies thinking about how "Holy shit this is gonna be us!!!!". We took Leroy with us as well although he stayed in the hotel.

I really enjoyed walking the hilly terrain of UVA's campus before and after. We ate some delicious bagels this morning at Bodo's before strolling around campus a bit more before heading home. Lovely time. Great town. Beautiful wedding.

But now, the floor is ours so to speak. This week will be crazy and will pass in a flash.

I am sooo excited and nervous and anxious and thrilled and happy and all those feeling you'd expect. I can't wait to share this special day to those who mean the most to us.

Then we will be jetting off to Costa Rica for 10 days so my presence here will recede quite a bit. Eh, suppose not any less than usual!

When we return we both have interesting things happening in our careers which I'll discuss in a subsequent post. We have 3 definite weddings to attend and a fourth to consider. I also have my thesis to write in the fall - and I hope to compete (for fun) in a triathlon or two before the summer fades into fall. Looking into Greenville Triathlon as South Carolina is a possible 'home' destination in the next couple of years.

It's a truly wonderful time. I am stressed but I am blessed. And the blessings far exceed the challenges. Thank you for your patience and your thoughts during this time. I can't wait to report back with how it all happened. P.S. - we were featured (March 31) in the Express (a free-daily paper they hand out by all metros in the Metropolitan area) and we are also getting interviewed by a Washington Post reporter on Thursday! So stoked for that. The circulation of these publications are enormous - so we are humbled to say the least.

Thanks again for your love and support - this blog still is important to me and while it's been regretfully neglected - I have high hopes for its continuation and consistency this summer and going forward.

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Value

As an investor...trader...eh, I'm somewhere in the middle I suppose, I've been thinking more and more about value. Value is a very tricky thing, especially in the stock market. But let's take a more general assessment, shall we? The cost of a banana for instance. At your run-of-the-mill grocery store they cost what - .30-.40 cents each? Of course they're measured by weight usually, but your average size banana you know more or less what a 'fair' price is for that item. If you came on Sunday and the clerk rang you up for $1.85 for one banana, you would think you bought the last banana in stock. You would be surprised at its value would you not? You would think, fuck this I can buy a banana for $.40 down the street and you would walk your sweet ass outta that place. haha.

Or maybe not. It's still just a couple bucks.

My point is that we have a general perception of what items cost, but items are always subject to many moving forces that can shift rapidly. A drought in Florida could cause orange juice prices to spike. A cold winter can create high demand for natural gas. A new oil agreement can cause some relief at the pump. You get the idea.

What is fascinating is what we witness every day in the stock exchanges. Prices can swing rapidly. Sometimes as much as 50% in a 30 minute window. If Tesla's are allowed to be sold direct in Arizona and that story goes viral, share price can immediately appreciate.

Let's take Facebook as another example. Facebook stock is one that I have been in and out of approximately 5 times. Obviously Facebook is publicly-owned and is one of the most popular stocks on the market. I believe the average volume of shares exchanged is something like 100 million per day. That's a lot. Even more when you think that it's not a cheap stock. It was selling above $70 per share just a couple weeks ago. What's interesting is that very same stock now hovers near $60 per share. A drop of $10 per share. Yikes, right? If you had bought at $70 you would not 'like' this.

Fortunately for me at the moment, I do not own Facebook stock and am unaffected by its recent decline. **That is not to say I have not lose money as I like to say, "losing money in the stock market is a full-time job"**

Valuation in public companies is based upon share price, number of outstanding shares, earnings per share and other factors (like profit margin).

The price of items, in this case Facebook stock, changes daily. It is, in fact, a guarantee that it will change. Think of how crazy that is. Imagine if you went to the same grocery store and the banana went from $.3 on Monday to $.85 on Friday and down to $.15 on Sunday. You'd have some serious whiplash!!! Unpredictability does not breed contentment.

Of course that is partially the allure of the stock market. To find 'true' value where others don't. People have made fortunes doing just that. Unlocking the secrets of when something is either extremely over or undervalued. You can even do it with commodities (like bananas maybe??).

I come from no finance background whatsoever, so please pardon my ignorance but this is all quite fascinating isn't it? It also makes me nervous about purchasing a home (something I am still at least a couple years away from). How do you know the true value of your home. We know interest rates have been very kind the past few years, but that doesn't necessarily reflect home appraisals. If a Wal-Mart moves down the street your home may rise or fall. If public housing project are built or demolished your house may rise and fall. As we saw with the real estate bubble created by subprime mortgages, the threat of prices crashing hard and fast is practically on par with the stock market. Yikes. Only you can't pack your bags and move like you can buy or sell an item. Well, you can, but not in haste! Scary stuff, eh?

This is one reason why my dream job would be to own an NBA basketball franchise. Hands down if I could have any job in the world that would be it. Even the lowly Wizards. Shit even the Bobcats...move over Air Jordan. The primary reason is I believe I can evaluate talent better than most scouts. I am (well was would be a better word) a fan of Bill Simmons and I respect his opinions. More often than not I agree with them and more often than not he is proven right on the hardwood. This is probably why I would hire him as my general manager! Anyway, value changes quickly here too. Kobe Bryant is worth 15 million dollars in good health. Even at age 35. But saddle him with an injury and his return on investment diminishes significantly...or does it? The mere presence and name of Kobe Bryant attracts fans the world over.

Long story short, I think I can build a respectable basketball team. At least one that could beat the Bobcats. But I digress...just wanted to throw that out there for a 'passion career' choice for me!!

What do you think about value? What does value mean to you? Do you fret about the value of your home? Have you gained or lost money on your home(s)? What would you suggest to people thinking of purchasing (not me)?

It should go without saying that your input is 'valued'. ;) 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Myth of Hard Work

Perhaps this will irk a few readers. That's okay. It's okay to feel irked sometimes ;).

It always bothers me when people write, 'in my opinion' (IMO) or 'in my humble opinion' (IMHO). It just seems redundant. Of course it is your opinion. That goes without saying. Unless you are an attorney speaking on behalf of a client, or a public relations professional on behalf of a company, or Jay Carney, (suppose there are other examples) you saying something is your opinion. You don't have to declare it anymore than to say, 'end of sentence' after you finish a thought.

We get it.

That said, in my opinion...oopsy daisy. Well, for this one, I intentionally declare 'in my opinion' only to defuse the perception that this particular opinion is somehow superior to anyone else's. While I carry quite 'different' views than many folks out there, I try my best not to claim superiority (I do fail at times though, no doubt). I am not righteous. I'm sure CJY will laugh, but if you talked to Ash and others close to me, they would affirm that I try my best not to proclaim my way is the right way. My way is just my way (and I may be quite adamant about that!). Your way is yours. We don't have to agree. In fact, it's more interesting if we don't. There are a thousand and one times when Ash and I are discussing something when I say to her, "It's not that I am better than anyone else, because I am not....". Maybe it's like adding a disclaimer as a preface like, "No offense, but..."

I tease.

I genuinely do not believe that my way is supreme. So that is why in this particular instance I say in my opinion. On to the fun.

Hard work is a bizarre concept is it not? What does it connote? Do you think of manual labor like I do? Do you think of hours studying for an exam? Do you think of long hours behind a desk with laser-like focus?

No matter what you envision when you imagine hard work, I would bet that it is something you aspire toward. And for good reason, no? Isn't Federer the greatest tennis player because he works the hardest? Didn't Barack Obama become President through decades of hard work? Did the pyramids get built by sloths? Those who accomplish the most tend to work the hardest, right? And there's a reward that comes with hard work too. Money. Success. Championships. Etc.

When I first started triathlon I was light years behind my peers. I could barely break 21 minutes in a 5k. But if you peruse the archives of this blog you will see workouts that would make Ryan Hall blush. No rest days. The only way to expedite the process I believed was to outwork the competition. And I did. And I caught up.

In other words, I understand the cause and effect of hard work.

But I don't believe it is the virtue that others make it out to be. Does hard work make you a better father? A better lover? Does hard work keep your dog grinning from ear to ear. Does hard work make you a kinder colleague? A better listener? How does hard work help you listen on the phone for an hour to your ailing sister? How does hard work fix a broken marriage? How does hard work permit you to read the greatest authors of our time? Does hard work allow you time to play with your kids? Does hard work leave you the time to cook a nice dinner?

I sense some skepticism. For instance, if we don't work hard, how will we have food to buy to cook? If we don't work hard how can we afford to pay for our dog's injuries and vaccinations. Isn't viewing marriage as hard work the realistic and correct way to view it? Can't you work hard 'at' being a good lover.

And I think those would be valid points. Again, I get it.

But the panacea that many see as 'hard work' is to me actually a detriment to our lives, not a benefit. Isn't all that we really seek at the end of our life is to be surrounded by those who love and care for us? Do you ever wonder if people dying in bed ever regret not working longer hours in the office? I sense some more skepticism, this time from me!

No, what we don't need is hard work. I know who work the hardest. Every day the Latinos who build the new townhomes next door work their ass off. It's cold. It's bitter, bitterly cold. And they begin at 7AM and often don't finish until 6:30 P.M. From what I can gather, they get a 45 minute lunch. And it's punishing work too. They don't barely make $10 an hour.

Perhaps they're outliers but let's look at the opposite side of the pendulum. Every single day I witness 'pump and dump' stock pickers. I can list you tickers of stocks that jump (mostly OTC) from .02-.10. Doesn't sound like much but imagine you have $10k invested and bought at .02 and sold at .10. You would now have $50k. Not bad for a day's 'hard work', eh? These people provide no benefit to the company. No benefit to anyone but themselves and they don't work, they gamble. It's coordinated gambling and people become millionaires in a matter of days. It happens. Point is, they don't work hard.

I was once passed on the bike during my first triathlon by a guy with a triathlon bike, disc wheel, aero helmet and he had to be 20 pounds overweight. He passed me not because he worked harder, but because he could afford better gear.

Anyway, I should try to avoid the anecdotes as they may detract from my greater thesis. It's not that I think that hard work can't be an asset. It can. It is. You are much more likely to be a financial success if you work hard at something than if you do not. You are much more likely to shoot 80% free throws if you practice three hours a day instead of 20 minutes. Hard work will help you accomplish these ideas that we seek.

But why do we rely on 'hard work' as the preeminent value? Isn't kindness more important? Isn't being a loving father or a gentler husband more valuable? Isn't having compassion and taking time to listen to others more important than long hours in the office? You can say these things aren't mutually exclusive, but I can attest from experience that too much hard work in one too many things will leave you empty in other areas. There's just not enough time in the day to use another cliche'.

It's also funny that we say, 'everything in moderation'. But not work. Work must be hard. It's even 'work hard, play hard' for Millennial's as we are coined. I say fuck that.

We need balance. Work is just a way to provide for us and our families because we live in a capitalistic society. Partially why I lean anarchistic philosophically is because I don't believe in the structure of the current world. I don't believe in the 9 to 5, the 5 day workweek. The 2 paid weeks of vacation. Fuck that. That's someone else's vision. Not mine.

I say work as hard as you need to (some say that this is because I don't have a passion as my career) and spend the rest of your time doing what you wish. For me, I know when I am old and gray (or in my case bald!) I will desire no grand legacy. I want to amass a fortune of memories not necessarily of wealth. I want to be well-loved because I did well-love. I want to be admired because I do admire. I want to be the best all-around human being I can be. And I cannot be the best while mired in hard work.

I very much respect and admire those who work tenaciously day after day in their respective fields. Truly I do. Partially I think that this is ingrained in me from such a young age (in all of us I imagine) but partially because I envy their 'success'. Whether that be riches, nice homes, fancy cars, prestige, or what have you.

But I can respect someone else's lifestyle (and their opinions) and not adopt them myself. I do not believe that hard work will help me excel as a person in my life. It may make me a damn fast triathlete. It may make me 6 figures before I turn 30. But those should be means to an end. Not the end itself. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The New Obama


Funny...over five years into President Obama's tenure and he's now finally starting to resemble sorta kinda like the man we all had hoped he'd be. 

You know the one who had the most liberal track record in the Senate. The man who was not trigger-happy on foreign quagmires. The man who resented the grotesque wealth of Wall Street at the behest of the American public and union members. The man who spent time in the inner-city Chicago where drug use is rampant and knows that locking these people away is not the only option on the table. 

Simply put, we all 'hoped' and believed in the 'change' he was to bring. 

Interestingly for those who read the New York Times, Thomas Friedman wrote a column actually lauding the part John Wayne that he sees in Obama. You read that right. The left's bulldog who blasted every utterance that President Bush mustered is now applauding the toughness and resilience of his Democratic cohort, Obama. Despicable if you ask me, but so is Friedman. 

I digress, this is not about Dowd, Friedman, Kristof, or any of the other dunces that play cheerleader to blue card holders. They do serve as fodder to fill a Sunday night though, I'll tell you that. 

President O has actually turned a bit of a corner it appears. He went from mum/anti-gay to downright outspoken in support of gay marriage (absolutely not the civil rights issue of our time btw). He went from utilizing Secretary Holder to lock away petty drug offenders and throwing away the key to advising the Justice Dept. to 'take it down a notch' on marijuana. On the same token he seems to be an advocate of lesser penalties for petty drug offenses and other misdemeanors. Progress indeed. 

Additionally, it seems he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and hasn't buckled on his stiff-arm to the Keystone Pipeline. He has recently espoused raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. And it goes without saying that he stands behind his signature healthcare reform law, (while far from perfect), does do some things well like providing for coverage for those who need it most. I'm not going to defend Obamacare as calling it imperfect is like calling the DMV efficient. Both are understatements. 

But I suppose I just want to take a moment and acknowledge a few of the steps in the right direction. It's come as a bit of a surprise as a leopard rarely changes its spots. But it must be satisfying for the few remaining (what is it now...42%) of Americans left who support him. 

Ash and I have been outspoken critics of his administration. We've been nothing shy of outraged by his ineptitude and lack of leadership. The other day I mentioned that when it's all said and done and we reflect back on his time in office, we will forget the bad and remember the good. What say you? Are you surprised by this new man in office or is it nothing but incremental evolution that he claimed to be all along??

Thursday, March 6, 2014

3 Hours Per Week

Leave it to me to be the one who brings exercise to the govunment. I am part (dare I say instrumental) of a committee called the Health and Wellness Committee at the agency I work for. For the past year and some change we have been advocating weekly to implement a policy that many of our peers have enjoyed for years. That is, to take up to 3 hours of work each week to exercise. Paid time that is. You can work out all you want on your own watch.

Now when I first heard that I could get paid for working out you can imagine how stoked I was. What?!?!! Why the fuck aren't we doing this?!?! You mean to tell me that during my workday I can be biking or running or lifting weights. And you'll pay me for this!  **You can see it takes me awhile to absorb very simple concepts**

The idea is that productivity actually increases when a workforce is more active. It breaks up the monotony and the daily grind. It gets the blood circulated at a faster frequency thereby stimulating the brain neurons to make paper stamping go quicker. That's the theory. And of course there's indirect benefits such as lower health care premiums for said govunment (that's you too Ms. taxpayer) if their employees become healthier, and an incentive to recruit and attain top talent (no one is pointing any fingers over here). It's well known that public sector work does not pay what its counterpart does in the private sphere, but this is a plan that most other 9-to-5 industries would scoff at...well many would at least.

It was with extreme patience and aggravation that this process developed. Months went by, and we had very little progress. For anyone privy to the inner workings of a bureaucracy this is no surprise. Things move much more rapidly in a nursing home. In fact, a few of my peers in the sub 30 age category grew frustrated with the lack of tangible progress and abandoned the committee altogether.

I couldn't blame 'em. I persevered a bit because I knew that it would never happen if we didn't have outspoken advocates who wouldn't shut the fuck up about it. Like the brother who says, "Mommy, but Kyle got an ice cream cone...I want one too!!!!!" That was my role. Something along those lines.

Impeding our progress (if you can call it that), was the chief of some department (who co-leads our committee) stonewalling us. Kinda in a shitty situation when the person who needs to be your biggest proponent needs strong-arming to come aboard the idea. She did not make things easy. Let's keep things nice :). She is about as useful as a back spasm. Okay, I'll stop there.

Anyway, as the months passed a colleague/friend of mine took charge and led an all-out assault on leadership to get this policy implemented. He's 35, his wife just had their first baby about a year ago and he is a badass in my opinion. I look up to him actually even though him and I are a bit different. He played college football and has nice hair. And I didn't play college football and Bruce Willis has better hair, so you can see the differences are transparent.

He and I meet for coffee occasionally and he gives me life advice which I appreciate. Always smart to pick the brains of your elders (assuming they are in a good spot themselves). Not going to the jail anytime soon to take notes (but Ash does daily!!!). Bet the stories would be better in there, eh?

See, this is why nothing gets done in the govunment. You got people like me who practically reinvent the water cooler with any transient thought that sprouts in the brain!!!

Moving on for real this time, Dave (dude's name) lobbied the senior leadership and the cabinet and the brass and the blah blah blah and it sat on the director's desk for about a week before any action was taken. But. Finally it was signed! Sneakily one late afternoon our director signed the 'pilot' program and it was slated for rollout the following week (postponed a week....obviously).

And now it's here. And numerous employees are taking advantage of it.

Our committee has actually done quite a few things to help motivate our colleagues but this was far and away our primary goal. It's a good feeling. Fuck it, it's a great feeling. It's the small wins in life that give you a sense of satisfaction sometimes.

I wonder if typing is considered exercise...that reminds me.....

Monday, March 3, 2014

10 Miles

Bet you didn't know Leroy is part Greyhound, eh? He and I have been running (jogging?) on Saturday or Sunday just about every weekend. He's now able to run by my side in Arlington sans leash for 10 miles. Which is pretty damn impressive if you ask me. Me lugging my new fat ass 10 miles solo is also quite impressive really. I weighed in at 185(!!) the other day at the gym...adding about 15 lbs. from my svelt summer bod.

Granted, half of that is muscle. That's what I keep telling myself anyway. Not that you'd be able to see it under the fat!

I watched the Oscar's last night. Pretty boring and self-gratuitous as usual. I, like the rest of most bozos out there, never tire of admiring the wealthiest and sexiest people celebrate themselves! It's something every good liberal can feel good about! I tease. Sorta.

I didn't like Ellen Degenerate or whatever her name is. I thought the opening act was relatively strong but the highlights waned significantly thereafter. I got bored and started reading the Wall Street Journal. I've been reading that a lot recently, solely for the business and investing news. The op-ed's and editorials are awful. Still, much to be learned from it, and great to get the foreign economics as well. Put some money into AT&T yesterday, so lets hope for some share price bounce so it's not just a dividend play.

I thought the Supporting Actress who won gave a very touching speech. Ash and I both enjoyed that. I have not seen 12 Years a Slave, but I look forward to in the future. I did see American Hustle, which, in my opinion was outrageously snubbed throughout the night. That was an excellent movie from the casting to the costume, from the acting to the cinematography. Instead, Gravity swept up the awards. That movie I will likely continue to skip. Ash is similarily disturbed, dubbing it, "People floating in space". That may be a bit harsh but we had high hopes for American Hustle and Blue Jasmine (excellent work Cate Blanchett). See them both if you have time.

We saw Wolf of Wall Street on Saturday and I think I liked it more than Ash. I was laughing throughout, and since I enjoy a few 'pills' myself I got a kick out of some of the quaalude scenes. I did not think it was Best Picture worthy and didn't expect it to garner many awards. Entertaining, that's about it. Leo was fantastic as usual and Jonah Hill was also great. Wish it would've dug a little deeper into the finance side of it all...

Matthew McCoughaney (sp??) gave a supremely awkward acceptance speech. Ironically, I was waiting to watch True Detective which aired during the last half hour (in which he stars) on HBO but stayed up to see who won... only to be disappointed by his speech. I caught a repeat showing at midnight thankfully to watch the latest episode. Great show. What? Work was canceled the next day. C'mon we all know D.C. can't handle a couple inches of snow.

Man, sounds like I watch a lot of TV. Truth is, I've been busy with the usual suspects...dog, gym, work, dance class, even cooking!

The wedding is now less than 40 days away. Can you believe it? Crazy. Getting pumped and more and more stoked for Costa Rica!!!!

Here's hoping that Ukraine and Russia can solve this matter in a luge contest...and that the USA stays the fck out of it. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

American Idiot

In 2004, I was 19, and Green Day dropped one of the greatest albums of all time. It was called 'American Idiot', and it was aptly timed as we had one occupying the most prestigious seat in the country. That man was George W. Bush, and he was running against another buffoon, Senator John Kerry. Falling prey to the lesser-of-two-evils argument at a young age, I became an outspoken Kerry supporter. Makes me cringe now to put it mildly, but I was a young optimist. 

My girlfriend and I created custom t-shirts with catchy phrases that trashed Bush and encouraged people to 'Vote Kerry' (on the back of each shirt). I used to wear these shirts all the time, one of which said "The Less Bush the Better" on the front...ya...think about it... so it was a bit 'vulgar' for the conservative tastes of Scottsdale, AZ. I was quite the counter-culturalist back then. I listened to punk rock and decked out my car with lots of antagonizing bumper stickers. Some moderately offensive. One of which my Pops didn't like and made me peel it off. And he's a pretty liberal dude himself. 

Anyway, for those of you who don't know, this period of my life became a bit of an epiphany. I became repulsed by competitive sports and intrigued by politics, philosophy, and (anti) religion. I was enrolled at a local junior college and thoroughly enjoyed this new foray into academia after all but neglecting it in High School. 

Green Day's album repeated in my 1995 red Volvo 850 for 9 months straight. I just did not grow tired of it. My favorite track, "Holiday" still sends a chill down my spine every time I hear it. I don't think it could've better captured the zeitgeist than it did. Rarely does an entire album encapsulate an era and Billy Joe and his crew did an incredible job. 

You may remember a couple of the more popular songs such as the title track, "American Idiot" or "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". But there are other excellent tracks like "Jesus of Suburbia" and "St. Jimmy". 

Today as part of my Christmas present, Ash got me front row...LITERALLY front row tickets to this traveling broadway show at The National Theatre. The show is basically the entire album sandwiched into one act with a couple other gems put in. It's about 90% song, but it does chronicle a journey of some young kids as the plot. It was incredible. I'm sure each one of you has one album out there that really 'gets' you. One that you can play over and over and over again. This album is like that for me. It's just has special meaning for what I was going through during that spate of my life and how it totally summed up the angst directed toward the incumbent government and the vacuous public. 

I am so grateful that Ash recognized how much this show/album means to me. Afterward at Chef Geoff's down the street, we encountered some of the super youthful cast. Some were straight out of college! We stopped and thanked them for their stellar work and how much I appreciated this particular show. They seemed delighted we stopped and thanked us just as much. They even remembered where we were sitting (not particularly difficult I suppose when you're in the front row!). 

At the end of the show the prettiest girl on stage looked me in the eye and tossed me a heart shaped pick with "American Idiot" written on it. When I caught it she said, "Great catch!" And smiled. 

And Ash said, "You are a great catch, mister." No she actually said, "Watch it Mister." 

I will. I'm no American Idiot. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Wedding Update

Well, let's get this outta the way first.. there will still be a wedding! Ash and I have been working hard every weekend hashing out the nitty gritty details...all in an effort to provide our guests with a wonderful event that adequately demonstrates the time and effort and love we put into one another.

One of my best men is getting married (a couple months after me) and he and I hung out on Friday and we have opposite ideas about it all. He could care less about the event and wants to move-along with it and just make sure every one is drunk and having fun. While I wish for the same, I am hoping that the little details of up-lighting, chocolate fountain, unique place cards, napkins, candle floor lighting and other small efforts will really pay off. I suppose I just really like to put my best face forward. If you're gonna have an event...it might as well be spectacular. Why settle for anything less than your best?

Granted, this is not to say that things can't be overdone. They can and they often are. And maybe we have already crossed that threshold. But to me, I want everyone to walk away sharing our joy and returning home with a unique memory that they can cherish as much as we will. And that means working a little harder to ensure that everything goes swimmingly.

So fingers crossed, let's hope for the best. But do know that there's been tons of work done behind the scenes to make it happen!

Life has been relatively busy lately. Work has picked up. I have not had the chance to interview for jobs I am overqualified for and that is quite frustrating. But my current tasks are keeping me entertained and I am hoping the promotion track continues this year..especially b/c I want to retire young and be a full-time stay at home dad soon enough! Haha. What!?? A fella can dream, eh?

For those interested here is our wedding website. Many readers are probably already invited and/or attending but for anyone else who is bored and wants to check it out please give it a glance. It was fun to design.

We're currently in the process of creating a digital slide show. Our folks sent hundreds of pictures and we spent a few hours sifting through them and finding the best of the bunch. We hope to convert them to digital version and then somehow find a projector screen/projector and add music and edit it and all that other pizzazz so it looks like a professional job! We shall see but the first few steps are complete.

Ash is presently debating whether or not to get Lasik in the next month before the wedding. Obviously, it is wicked expensive but the girl is a saver and we can probably afford it if we finance it.

She is working very hard and has had quite a few jury trials lately. She is really thriving in her role as a public defender I am mucho proudo. Can't wait to see her in action on the next one.

We finished painting the remainder of the bedroom a soft, blue that looks excellent. Really like the design of the room now. And yes, Andy....the bikes and the biker dude are still there! Who says interior design can't be sporty lol!

We have swapped out a few other pieces of art/scrolls and hung up a few masks I got in India that are kinda fun. Our place has definitely got a cool vibe. And I feel confident now that there's nothing more to accomplish with it. Granted it's only 900 square feet and much of that is closet so how much can one really do anyhow!!

Leroy continues to be a wonderful gift. He has the biggest heart and is the most loyal, protective guy around. I was a recipient of a wonderful compliment the other day as I was checking the mail. The girl said, "You know, there are hundreds of dogs in this building it seems like...but yours..he's just the best. He's my favorite. Just so handsome and so well behaved." I think he takes after his Papa. Plus he looks good in a tux. He's been running as long as 10 miles with me on the weekends. No leash. And in a relatively busy area. Great companion, definitely my best friend :).

I've been running and biking and lifting weights. Still no swimming and haven't played basketball lately. Worried I'll break my nose again or sustain an injury too close to the big day. But I still hold out hope that I'll do a triathlon or two (or three?!?!) this year. Probably not until June at the earliest.

I am taking the semester off from school. All I have left is my thesis and I need much more time to dedicate to it in order to put my best face forward. And that's not gonna happen with all that's been going on these days. We've been traveling and have two weddings to go to BEFORE ours. And then at least one, possibly two more in the immediate months afterward. And I heard there's a couple of other peeps who may marry in the fall so our schedule keeps getting booked up. Costa Rica is gonna be a great respite!!!!!

Anyway, off to read some of the paper and Kiplinger's magazine before bed. Hoping the stock market has a decent week this week. Could use a couple nice trades for some extra cash.

Thanks for reading and here's the site if you made it this far:

http://www.theknot.com/wedding/ashley-and-conor

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Typical Conversation w/ Leroy

Leroy: Okay, gotta go out. You know the routine. Hop to it.

Me: Dog in derrrrrrrr?!?!?! How you doing doggy??? Is that you??? I thought that was you.

Leroy: Don't play this game. You know damn well it's me.

Me: How do I know if that's my dog in there?!?!?! Can't see a dog in there....don't hear a dog in there???

Leroy: Christ man, are you blind? I'm literally right in front of you. Yet you say this. Time and again. Time and again.

Me: Hmmmm, maybe that's not him in there. Maybe he stole my dog and replaced him with you.

Leroy: Yep. You caught me. Swapped your Leroy out for an identical looking dog. I'm just full of surprises aren't I? I'm the dog swapper. Just go around place to place swapping dogs.

Me: Doesn't really smell like my dog in derrrrr. Maybe this is a new dog in here?!?

Leroy: We're not making any progress here are we?

Me: Guess I have a new dog today. Wonder if this dog has eaten dinner?

Leroy: What, me? No. Hell no. Absolutely not. Haven't eaten in weeks. Look at me. I'm skin and bones. Skin and bones. Starving.

Me: Guess I could scrounge something up for him. Maybe a prime rib or a rack of ribs? Maybe a sirloin or a NY strip.

Leroy: Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit! That sounds good. Oh man. Let me at it. Let me at it. Now. Now.

Me: Then again, Ash keeps this place vegan so you kinda swapped out the wrong dog now didn't ya? Ain't that clever now are ya? Maybe I have some carrots though or...look...quinoa.

Leroy: In all honesty that sounds pretty damn good too.

Me: Yikes. Is that all we got to eat around here.

Leroy: Whoa there. What are you complaining about? Sounds delicious. I'll have it. Give it to me. C'mon you know you want to.

Me: Looks like Taco Bell is in the cards for tonight doggy.

Leroy: You, you, you. Always you. When is it about me? Dammit you distracted me. You're supposed to take me out. Remember. That's why I did the whole face on knee?

Me: Damn, Taco Bell does sound kinda good. Know it's still open too.

Leroy: Great. He's now fantasizing over Taco Bell.

Me: Really like that new grilled stuft nacho. Pretty sure that's vegan.

Leroy: My owner's lost it. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Some Pics from AZ....

MLK Jr. weekend I traveled to Phoenix (my hometown) for a family reunion and a party. Was an absolute blast. Watched my high school basketball team lose a nail-biter as Mike Bibby was the opposing coach. That was crazy b/c Bibby was a basketball idol to me growing up. We've met like 5x but seeing him coach his son against my team was special. I caught up with old friends and family/friends and hiked and ran and played basketball and ate and ate and ate. 

Below are some pics...enjoy. 

Had to bring out my east coast suits. Love wearing a 3-piece. 

Christmas in January. Here I am opening my sister's gift. Pops and Ash looking on. 

The ol' court. Lots of missed shots that day. Used to be lots of makes. 

Just another balmy day in Phoenix. Climbing Pinnacle Peak in the morning. With my sister, Pops me and Ash. 

Ash and Elyse, an old family friend who's my age. 

Chatting with my ex-girlfriend Brittany's Pops. We tease each other non-stop. He's a great guy. Her sister has her back to the camera and my Pops is on the left. 

Here we are at a great vegetarian restaurant Pita Jungle. Mom and Dylan in this one too. 

The Shapiro men before Dylan's flight out. 

No trip to Phoenix would be complete without the blonde mom's and a stop at RMCF. 

And also a stop at Coffee Plantation. 

Some of Dylan's old friends. 

Wedding sneak peak. Or did Leroy have a date???
One last parting shot...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Memories

I'm starting a new recurring series where I write about memories. I've wanted to do this for awhile so here goes...this memory was fresh in my mind from Saturday when it rained heavily in D.C. I wanted to take Leroy out for a run and the moment before I set foot out the door the rain came tumbling down. I paused for 30 seconds at the door pondering my options. I almost took him back up and worked out downstairs in my complex, when I remembered this memory.

Funny, the end of the memory sticks out much more than the beginning.

Maybe my Pops had it stuck in his head that he was hiking on Saturday. Maybe he promised my Mom. Maybe he had a rough week at the office and wanted to lose sight of it on the mountain. Maybe he just thought it'd be a lot of fun. Or maybe he just hates being confined at home so much that he wanted the adventure. I never asked him. But he took my sister and I (she would've been about 9, me 6) hiking.

But unlike previous occasions hiking, the rain was pummeling the driveway before we got in the car and I remember it splattering on the windshield as we drove toward Camelback Mountain. My parents would chide me later in life because I always thought the name of it was, "Camelback Mountain we climb." Apparently the 'we climb' part was accurate but not attached to the formal appellation. Whatever.

Off we went and the first thing I remember about the rain was just how damn muddy my shoes got. And the cold. Damn it was cold. I can't recollect how far we hiked, maybe a 1/4 of the way to the summit when we stopped in our typical resting cave which overlooks much of Paradise Valley (great name for a town, eh?).

I remember my sister was with us and I want to say that she was atypically chipper on this particular day despite the wet conditions. We holed up in this cave and I remember my Dad yodeling. He loved to yodel. He would belt at the top of his lungs, "Yo-de-loooo-deeeeeeeee". He bellowed it out as if my Mom could hear us a few miles away. Shit, she probably could. Her hearing is still as sharp as a razor.

I remember feeling confused. Why were we hiking today? No one else was there, resting in our special spot. We used to feel intruded upon when we had to share our spot...but today, no one was encroaching our territory. My teeth were chattering. I think my Dad is crazy. He's still yodeling while the rain cascades down the mountain obscuring our view of the city. He's smiling and I'm practically resentful. Why is he torturing us?!? It's so cold! I'm all muddy! And here he is yelling like he just won the lottery!

I'm sure I started complaining. I probably threw a tantrum and demanded to go home. I have little memory of descending. I mostly remember sobbing. Feeling upset to be thrust in such an adverse situation. Shit, wasn't Barney on TV??? And looney tunes Pops is primally skipping about throwing salt into the wound!

What sticks out the most is arriving home. My Mom makes hot chocolate and I took a hot shower.

 And nothing, and I mean nothing felt better. That hot chocolate was incredible. The miniature marshmallows were just floating on top and I kept picking them out and plopping more in the mug.

I was so utterly miserable climbing that mountain. It was terrible. My clothes were soggy and my core was shivering but now here I am warm and content.

And so when I was staring out the window as Leroy looked up at me before the start of our run...debating whether or not I should brave the rain....I remembered this story and wanted to give Leroy a memory like I had. Except, the way we differ was he loved pouncing in the puddles during the trip and disliked the towel drying once we got home. And ya know what?

I enjoyed being soaked too.

Later, when the rain abated, Ash and I went for a walk and I told her how I ran with a smile on my face despite running in 50 degree rain. She said something like, "Well, sometimes you just get stuck in the rain and you just gotta make do." For sure, I replied. But sometimes you set off to INTENTIONALLY run out in the rain....not that I'm a glutton for punishment (well, I can be) but it's fun to inure ourselves with a little hardship and actually find the will and the positive in the tough.

And you'll be thankful you did because you'll keep that memory in your pocket.

For a rainy day. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year out there! 2014 has been a success thus far.

I went down to Richmond to celebrate and the Harlem Globetrotters were staying in our hotel. We shared a laugh in the elevator when I asked them if they won and the guys said, "Hell yeah. We always win!" To which I responded, "Damn, you guys never let the white guys win do ya?" Leave it to me to make racial jokes and comments. It's a specialty of mine. Nice guys though, bummed I missed the game.

I'm in pretty good all-around shape at the moment. I run or bike practically every other day. I also weight train quite a bit, making a special effort to strengthen my lower body. My core is not defined as my fat percentage remains too high, but I can reduce that with some discipline in the coming months.

I'm feeling better about work. I have a couple pending applications out right now. I love to always have one foot out the door. One can never have too many options is my adage. Would be nice to get an interview, but if I don't I won't fret. Will be tough to change jobs with a thesis looming and the 4 month countdown til' wedding day.

I return to my hometown of Phoenix on January 16th. It's been over three years since I've been...and to make it all the stranger...we're staying in the house I grew up in. My Pops still owns the estate, having leased it for years and now it's been on the market for over a year. So if you want to buy an incredible house in North Scottsdale, you know where to leave a comment.

I've been studying the markets and trading stocks more and more. I would say I'm moderately obsessed with the amount of reading and research I do, but that's because I'm MORE obsessed with losing too many dollars. They go hand in glove. So let's hope 2014 can continue the bull market a bit...would hate to be on the buying end of a crash. Until I understand shorting just a little better anyway.

My resolution is about as vague and quotidian as can be but here it is nevertheless: Be a better person. I'm sure that sounds as uninspiring as meatloaf but I think there are many components I need to improve. I need to be a better friend and learn how to maintain and attain friendships. I need to be more understanding of Ashley and her work ambitions. I need to support her and not resent the times she spends away from Leroy and I working late on her caseload. I need to be a better lover all-around, more giving, more gratitude, more smiles and hugs. And yes, more sex. Especially now that triathlon exhaustion isn't competing as much with that haha.

I need to keep my composure and my cool when I'm driving. If you've ever seen the movie Don Jon..welll......suffice to say you know what it's like to ride with me. It's not pleasant. I turn into an irascible psycho. That may sound extreme, but it's not exaggerated. The rest of the time I truly believe I am kind, gentle, down to earth and easy-going. But get me in a car and it's like a lightswitch goes off.

Also need to complain less and appreciate more. I am so fucking lucky in so many respects that I forget sometimes when petty things don't go my way. I have it good. So I need to give back and remember that. I need to reach out to my brother and sister more when they need advice and listen more when my Pops calls and talk less. And I will still try to call my Mom everyday on my lunch break :).

I want to continue to improve my trivia and Jeapordy skills. I want to continue my hobby of interior design and art collecting and challenge myself to redo some parts of our apartment. I want to play the violin once in awhile like I used to. I want to keep blogging as much as practicable with thesis writing. It may serve as a welcomed respite.

I also would love to read about your resolutions or lack thereof. What's on the agenda for 2014? Anything new/exciting? Please share if you dare! I'm wishing you and yours a happy and healthy one. Hope to post some pictures soon enough - this blog is in desperate need of some visual stimuli.

P.S. wish me luck in a couple writing contests I'm entering....

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

Delayed a day, but better late than forever. Or is it never? Ever? Ah, no matter, Merry Christmas to you and yours, hope all my readers had a lovely day off spent with family and friends.

I was a recipient of a lovely, touching card from CJY who also generously gave some dinero for a wonderful future night out! Thanks CJY! Can't tell you how happy it makes me to read your kind words. Please know you are important to me and appreciated. So thanks again.

The Bosso's sent a really cute Christmas card with their dog Bear. They're a lovely couple and I am very happy to make their list of Christmas card recipients. I have no idea how many takes it took to get that perfect shot, but well done guys.

Speaking of, Ash and I were considering creating one, but with the save-the-date, the engagement announcement, and the formal invitations coming soon...it's a bit overkill from us. But we both said that we HAVE to put one out next year to update everyone on how the honeymoon went and the first year of matrimony. So that is a promise I intend to keep.

Speaking of, big wedding developments are now accomplished. The registry is mostly complete. The flowers and linens are chosen as of this week. Our lighting and DJ consultation went well. We've nailed down the rehearsal dinner and the host hotel. And we've selected invitations (which took many hours).

So we're feeling pretty good about things at the moment. Every weekend we do something wedding related. Often more than one thing, but it's fun presently...mostly because the 'tough' choices have been made.

Christmas morning I took Leroy on a run with me. No leash. I've been training him the past few months to obey and stay close for walks/runs. He's been on a few runs with me, but this was the first time where we we put in some serious miles. 8 total! And he did just fine. Was not even tired afterward...although he did bonk HARD at night.

Ash made an excellent breakfast of scrambled eggs and french toast (which followed a homemade Indian dinner the night before). Was great, very very relaxing day. Did really nothing else the whole day except watch some basketball and relax.

I completed my first group bike ride in awhile last Saturday. Loved. It. Forgot just how fun it is to ride a bike in a group. I also climbed much better than I anticipated considering the recent weight gain. Suppose everyone is fighting that problem this time of year.

My advice? Allow yourself to gain a little. I think if you allow yourself 1-2% then you give yourself some margin to enjoy all the goodies. I think it's unnecessary to keep your weight stagnant, but realize that come January...it's time to slowly burn off that 1-2%. That's just my $.02 Kinda like diet in general. I don't shoot for an A or A-, I shoot for a B+. That way I can enjoy the things I like without overindulging to the point of gluttony. It also prevent guilt trips and extreme discipline. Which is often superfluous and egotistical anyway.

We're heading to Richmond for New Years so that's a fun trip I'm looking forward to. Then MLK weekend I return to Phoenix to visit family and friends. First time being home in 4 years! I'm stoked.

I've been following Andy via twitter and saw Ryan McGrath is doing mighty fine and in great off-season shape. Also had a great chat with Trevor who I rode with during the Saturday ride...funny dude.

Hope to post again this weekend or early next week...what's going on in your Winter plans??? Anything exciting??? Anyone scripting any resolutions??

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thoughts

You've got to marvel at some of the shit we just accept on a day to day level.

This week, Congress passed a budget that mitigates some of the effects of sequestration, while keeping cuts in many governmental programs and reducing benefits for (new) federal employees and military retirees.

The obvious problem with this should of course be: some of the wealthiest Americans in the country are cutting benefits for working, middle-class people. Say what you want about the middle class (I don't think much of 'em personally) but isn't it quite astounding that the primary losers are the people that all American politicians claim to represent...the Middle Class.

Every once in awhile the Democrats throw a bone to the poor by raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment checks, welfare, etc. But that's not who the Democrats give a shit about and we both know it. In fact, Wall Street is all but salivating over the potential 2016 savior, the princess, Hillary Clinton as the next President. Any doubt you may have I encourage you to read one of the 20 financial blogs I follow on a daily basis. They're stoked. Can't wait. It could only potentially be better if Chris Christie gets elected, but for them that's like choosing between a Mercedes or a Porsche.

But this is not some rant against the upper class. The rich. The wealthy. The one percent. Whatever you want to call them. I believe some of the greed and excess is appalling, sure, but it's largely government and the politicians who enable these type of discrepancies.

Let's just put it simply again. Some of the WEALTHIEST Americans just passed a bill that cuts unemployment benefits, and reduces paychecks for federal employees. As a fed, I can attest that many workers are bums. The way I see it, is the highly skilled and educated workers are underpaid. The undereducated are overpaid. And actually, that's a good thing. I mean if you could replicate a system like that worldwide you'd have more parity, less crime, less vitriol against socio-economic classes and more respect. Respect, ah, that's a big word isn't it.

It reminds me. Can you tell me right now why you are more important or valuable than the woman who cleans the toilets? How is she not just as integral to our society than us? Here's another example, consistent scumbag George Will wrote recently how horrifying it was that a bus driver... A SCHOOL BUS DRIVER! was the highest paid public employee in California (can't remember the state but I think that's correct).

The inferred deduction is to assent to Will's disgust, that a BUS DRIVER makes so much money. My reaction was...That. Is. Fucking. Awesome. Isn't it a good thing that we value bus drivers? Isn't a safe, friendly, non-pedophilic bus driver supremely valuable? Driving children safely and timely to and from school is a big fucking deal. Think about your own kids. Or think about yourself growing up if you don't have any. It's extremely important. I'm THRILLED that bus driver is compensated handsomely. He is fucking important, and deserves our appreciation! Same with the folks who empty our trash, build our homes, and plant the trees.

Many pundits and politicians (all wealthy people) will point fingers to the sloth of the poor or the largess of the federal minion paper pushers. This is nothing short of blasphemous. The only reason the rich are able to preserve and accumulate their wealth is through the exploitation of others. There is only a finite amount of currency in the world. MOST of it is consolidated in the hands of a select few. The politicians and the 'businessmen' who lobby them. The rest of us earn pennies in comparison. Warren Buffet made something like $23Million a DAY this year. Jesus that's incredible.

Any political system in history was and is an oligarchy. It's a collection of wealthy people who band together to help themselves while seldomly throwing a bone to the masses (likely to thwart any coup attempts). And every coup attempt (as the Twilight Zone episode proves) becomes just as rapacious as its predecessor.

If you think, and I mean even for a second, that public employees are crippling our nation I have some reading assignments for you. Take 20 minutes and read a single Matt Taibbi piece. The pension funds have been RAIDED by politicians who pay for current projects at the expense of future (and often current) retirees. The funds that should be invested in municipal bonds, treasury notes or other conservative financial instruments are instead siphoned off to fund current projects that help them get reelected. And that's just for the better states. Others have their pension funds handed over to brokerage firms who squander the money with abysmal investment ETF's, stocks, or other indexes, only to have the audacity to charge MILLIONS of dollars in fees...Again, it's like a thief snatching your wallet and running off with it. And then you track him down and say, "Here, you forgot the $10 I had in my pocket." It's despicable. There's really no other word to describe it.

And...for all you so-called Democrats out there..most of the heinous crimes were committed in blue states. Like the Northeast and Michigan.

Despite that side of the pension debacle...you have people who were PROMISED a paycheck only to receive a bait-and-switch years down the road (or in some cases where the judiciary colludes like in Detroit, immediately). Yeah...sorry about that, I know you worked for 30 years under the assumption you were going to receive a portion of your salary as an annuity...yeah...about that.

Point is...it's the politicians who PROMISED and insured these benefits to begin with! The entire notion of government IS a PONZI SCHEME. I mean that in a very literal sense. Later generations suffer from current's mistakes. How about a real-world example of the follies of government.

So just a few measly hours after this lauded budget deal was passed, the Sec. of Treasury notified Congress that the debt ceiling must be raised to prevent default (remember October if confused). We're about to face another crises and they JUST PASSED the budget! They may not even pay for the increase THEY JUST AUTHORIZED. Think for a second how loony that is............

That is the current state of affairs.

Yes, the bureaucracy is bloated. Yes, there's a lot of dead weight. So make cuts the responsible way...through attrition. That's an idea everyone can get behind. But rich people cutting poor people's benefits is worse than cringe inducing. It's deplorable. Of course they didn't cut their own paychecks..or their own exceedingly more generous pensions. Which makes it all the more ugly.

If nothing else I hope you get something out of this post. Even if that means thanking the guy who's washing the windows outside your complex or smiling at the Latinos braving the cold building the mansions we live in...homes they could never afford.

These people are exploited...and nothing made me happier to know that somewhere in California is a well paid bus driver.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bit by a Dog

So Ash and I have this revolving joke we say about...eh...once every other day or so. We either say, "Coulda gone without that!" or "It's been rough!". Both are meant to lighten the mood during trying times. Saturday night was the latest debacle in 2013 that will go down as a year in the books for me. And not in the happy fantasy section. More like horror :).

Here's the story:

Saturday night was my buddy Pete's b-day bash. He was turning 29, and (in typical Pete fashion) having a rager of a time in the city. Ash and I are not big partiers...to put it mildly. We rarely go out drinking, but Pete will be a best man in my wedding and we wanted to rally with him and show him that despite our party-pooperesque ways, we can still get down with the best of 'em.

Earlier that week, we had committed to watching our neighbors' dogs. I'm unsure how in depth I've mentioned this, but I founded a Dog Watch Co-op in our complex. We have about 15 members and have occassional get togethers in our party room to get to know one another.

The family we were sitting for knows Leroy quite well. When I was in India, we actually paid their older son Owen to feed and walk him at lunch. Did a heck of a job too, we were very pleased. Good kid.

So now it was our turn to return the favor.

At about 8:30 P.M. we were getting ready to get our game faces on (meaning I had like half a beer...so I was halfway drunk). Ash was putting on make up and I was...well...I managed to take my hat off, so that's a start.

We wanted to take the dogs out before we left for the evening, so off we went to their apartment. Once we got in, it took us a minute or two to locate where the dogs were, and upon opening their crates (they're beagle-looking dogs but not beagles) they didn't budge. We could tell they were skiddish and afraid of us.

So we walked away and finally they both exited and walked over tentitively to their food bowls. I poured in the food but they wouldn't touch it b/c I was standing too close. So I backed off. They stared at me pensively and refused to eat. So I shrugged and figured we'd walk them FIRST and then they'd work up an appetite and be more comfortable around us.

I got the leash on one of the dogs, but the other dog was playing keep away. Ash was trying to coax it near her with treats, but the dog was too scared to approach. I walked outside the apartment in the hallway with the other dog hoping to persuade his brother to follow suit. Well, that happened, but not before I could close the door (and sans leash). The dog BOLTED out and ran full speed down our corridor.

Granted...our complex has more hallways than the Pentagon, so we knew this was NOT. GOOD. Thankfully we still had one dog on the leash as collateral. We had a hostage. We were hoping familial loyalty would prevail. We were wrong.

So we walked with one dog on the leash and the other somewhere in the endless maze of the 3rd floor. We tracked it down within a couple minutes and somewhat cornered it.

And here's where things got outta hand very fast.

In the heat of the moment, I realized we would spend literally HOURS chasing this dog around. As fat as it was it was evasive as Adrian Peterson. And we had plans tonight, with little time to waste. So as the dog came jogging past me, I reached down to grab its harness.

And in this split-second lunge (one that...admittedly wasn't well thought out) my grip was victorious. I snatched the collar and immediately felt an odd sensation in my hand. Couldn't tell exactly what it was though, kinda like when you touch something EXTREMELY hot or cold. There's a thousandth of a second, when despite the extreme temperature, the body can't recognize exactly what's happening.

So lucky me, I keep my hand down for another half-second which was just long enough for the dog to lock his jaws around my wrist and hand puncturing both sides with ferocity.

YOOOWWWWWWW! As soon as my reflexives kicked in (too damn slow if you ask me!) I yanked my hand back. But the damage was done. My flesh was torn and I had deep, gnarly gashes in my left wrist and upper hand.

The dog had also peed and pooped in the moment, so clearly he was scared shitless. Now I understand where that quip comes from. Nice to learn something on the battlefield.

It'd be an exaggeration to say my hand was gushing blood, but the blood was trickling down like a leaky faucet. And it hurt like a mother. Like an evil mother. Like a step mother. Like a widowed step-mother who steals your inheritance.

I crutched my left hand in agony and told Ash matter-of-factly (and dare I say oh so calmly :) ) I'd been bit. We were both in a state of trauma and shock. After 28 years of being around dogs, I had never once been bit.

And now, the FOUNDER of the damn dog co-op gets bit! Crazy!

Not to throw a pity party, but between my achilles injury, concussion and road rash, shingles, fainting spells (and India disaster), and a dog bite (I'm actually leaving some other petty stuff out) 2013 HAS been rough.

Good god. I couldn't sleep last night. Was tossing and turning clutching my hand.

I'm big on composure. I think the way a person composes him or herself in the face of adversity and difficulty is perhaps THE MOST important character trait. I always strive to compose myself with gratitude, grace, kindness, etc. I often fail, but I STRIVE to be better. I strive to not 'lose it' even when life throws you lemons. Or Greece stock...don't ask.

But to put it mildly...2013 HAS been rough. And my hand is still throbbing dammit! Have ace bandages wrapped around it like I'm a gymnast.

Thankfully my boy Leroy is treating me well and nursing me back to health. He's a good pup.

But man, can I say I'm damn well hoping for a better 2014. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Regret

A couple weekends ago I went to see If/Then featuring the incredible Idina Menzel. Menzel is perhaps Ash's favorite performer and she's one of mine also. I first saw her in Rent, (still my favorite musical) and subsequently in Wicked (a close second). For those Us Weekly readers, she's also married to Taye Diggs. Talented couple, eh?

Anyway, her newest venture taps into the questions what if...and if then. For example, what if I had chosen to stay in Phoenix for college (ASU) instead of traveling to San Diego? What if i continued to pursue my basketball career? Or, If I would have accepted that job offer after college in finance, where would I be today? If I didn't make that stupid comment in front of 600 people in 2006, I never would've been 'That Guy".

Think about all your what if's and if then's...bet there's quite a few...no?

The play mirrors two parallel journeys for Menzel's character. Each chronicles different choices in identical situations. One choice leads her to work as a teacher, the other for city government. One choice she winds up with an army veteran, the other choice...her liberal squatter friend from Brooklyn. Don't want to play spoiler so etc.. etc...

The play was excellent as expected. No regrets about seeing it :).

It got me thinking about regret.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but our society seems to really frown upon regret. Terms like carpe diem and YOLO (which I modified to YOLT...changing the last letter of t to 'today' - as a way of mocking it) are ubiquitous. I'm all for living in the moment, taking opportunities and risks, but I think this motto has an unnecessary side-effect. It tends to influence people to make rash or impulsive decisions. I should know - I have a real problem with indulging in split-second decisions. In fact, I'm one of the worst culprits of subscribing to those 'live each day like it's your last' cheap cliche's.

However, I also have a generous amount of regret.

Many of my impulsive (or otherwise) decisions were poor. I've invested in stocks I had no business trading. With little to no research or analysis I've put money into companies based on a tip or momentum only to be a step late or bait for a pump and dump.

I've screamed and honked at cars in front of me only to see an ambulance come zooming by a few seconds later. I've delayed swapping out a loose cleat leading to a crash at 30 miles per hour. In high school I slept with my best friend's girlfriend almost severing our relationship entirely. These are just a select few of the poor choices I've made.

I've made MANY poor choices. I could list thousands more. But my point is that it's okay to regret certain choices or actions we've done. We should regret them. It's how we learn from them. By losing or almost losing a best friend is how I learned how to value that friendship and make amends. The losses I've taken in stocks teach me to take my time and not react impulsively to news or phony tips.

I think it's important to regret. It's unhealthy to obsessively dwell on what/if's and if/then's because we'll drive ourselves crazy. Like most things, there's a grey area.

I always cringe when I hear people say, "I have no regrets!" Then how can you learn from your mistakes? How can you make better decisions moving forward?

Sometimes the response is, 'Well, I admit it was a bad choice...but still I don't regret it' Why? Just because you can't undo the past doesn't mean we can't admit our previous follies. It shows maturity and it shows reflection. It shows an ability to take responsibility and admit fault. And that can be hard to do.

I don't espouse living in an if/then, what/if world. It'd be too emotionally taxing and exhausting. But it is okay to regret some of our past, it's humbling and means we're wiser now in the present.

What do you guys think? Do you have regret, or do you think regret is uniformly negative???

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Yikes. Good God. It's actually Thanksgiving tomorrow....incredible. They say time flies when you get older and there's never been a truer adage. Other than my Mom's favorite, "Win...or don't come home!" Mom always said that when I was growing up...speaking of - her birthday is Friday. Black Friday! So Happy early birthday to the most wonderful mother a son could have. Sent a package to her yesterday, so let's hope the crazy storms abate so it can arrive timely.

So want to give a shout-out to some of the folks I'm thankful for as no better time than now.

I'm thankful for my fiance. Her grace, her kindness and sacrifice is limitless. Her energy levels cooking meals, cleaning, working long hours, walking the dog, waking early to exercise never ceases to amaze me. She is such a beautiful person, aside from my parents, I've never admired anyone more than her.

I'm thankful for my puppy Leroy. He is my best friend. And it's not in the 'well every dog is a man's best friend.' Leroy is literally and sincerely my best friend. We spend more time together than Ash and I do probably. The highlight of his day (afternoon ball/stick throwing or walk through Lubber Run) is also a highlight of mine.

Here is also a moment of reflection for room for improvement. I probably have not been the best friend to others and that is why I am lonely at times and relegated (I don't mean that Leroy!) to hanging out with the dog. Being a good friend is a two way street and while I often am disappointed with the few friends I do have, I have often come up short as well. I'm thankful to recognize this and hope to rectify it in the future. It's a bit of a void in my life, has been for some time. So here's hoping to improve.

I'm grateful to be so close with my family. My brother and I text daily and exchange snapchats. My sister and I talk once a week, sometimes more and usually for over an hour! My Mom and I speak every day. Seldom missing a single day! Pops remains my idol and inspiration and while we don't talk as much as I'd like, perhaps that will change when/if my folks decide to move out east.

I'm grateful for my boss, my colleagues and my job. I am not Gordon Gekko in the salary department, but my job is perfectly suited for my personality and work ethic. I am blessed to work with such a great cast of colleagues and never feel pressured or overworked. My hours are easy and I have ample time (paid time soon enough maybe...more to come on this development later) to exercise, research stocks and do other recreational reading. My supervisor is kind and always has my back. And my boss and I always tease each other lightheartedly and he is very approachable and flexible and generous. I still may leave for greener pastures in the future, but I have to remember just how many perks I currently enjoy. I have a REALLY nice setup.

I'm grateful for my readers and my friends. I've developed friendships with some in our building...and I gotta say, this apartment complex rocks. It is AMAZING how many cool people there are. Most are Virginia Tech graduates and it's funny because almost uniformly those alumni are a special breed. Blacksburg must be a cool place to reside. I'm grateful for all your readers' time and input reading my posts and looking at the pictures. I truly do appreciate all the clicks and all the comments. Makes my day to read them. So even when I slack on posting, thanks for your loyalty.

I'm thankful for my health...as tenuous as it's been this past year. I'm thankful I'm only 3 credits shy of attaining my Master's Degree! I'm thankful I have a dependable car that has never failed me once. I'm thankful I have much more than I need and much of what I desire.

This is only scratching the surface but I hope you guys have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with good food, great company and entertaining football games!

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fitness Update

In between bouts of stuffing my face and traveling via plane, train, and automobile I have managed to get in a few workouts now and again. I'm kidding. I still rarely miss a day. I think I've taken two days off in two months so more than before but still not too shabby.

However instead of high intensity cardio I have been mixing it some with weight training and basketball. It's been pure joy to get back on the court, talk shit, knock down shots, and most importantly...lead my team to victory. Always have taken satisfaction with winning pick up games. Gimme any four dopes out there and I'll scrounge out a win. Most times. The times I'm not busy shanking three-pointers like Dwight Howard shoots free throws.

I have swam precisely zero times in the last few months. Can't say I miss it all that much. Come spring I'll get back into it and I'm confident I'll be able to hold 1:30/35 per 100m without too many laps. It truly is all about technique and after three years of triathlon training I can attest that after a lengthy hiatus it is best to just focus on form, watch videos and get your cardio through bike and run. That's truly the best way to train for most.

That said, I don't know when my tri-window will be this season. I'm thinking three months and I'm not taking it as seriously as this year. This year I overtrained and burned out. I was hovering around 2:05 for Olympic Distance races and was poised to go even faster before my achilles started throbbing. I was running almost 40 miles per week. Biking 120 or so and swimming 8k. I think this year I'll run less. Bike about the same or 20 miles less. And swim maybe a tad less too.

My times will not be as good. I know this. But I'm going to ENJOY the races sans pressure and anxiety about beating all the other blokes. Plus my overall build will be healthier as I won't be overstressing my cardio system. I'll look better because I'll have more all around muscle. Lean to be certain, but muscle nonetheless.

Which brings me to my current weight. I'm fluctuating between 177-181 the past month or two. So I've gained between 10-15 pounds since July. Noticeable. I would say 60% of that is fat and 40% is muscle.

I can do pullups like there's no tomorrow still so I know my strength is good and I can't be too heavy. I'm lifting legs hard twice a week. And hitting chest, shoulders, bis and tris, back and traps and when I don't feel like a tubby bunny, abs too.

But abs will be present come April...oh yes....come April you will see some defined abs.

That's because that's when the weather warms and the pools begin to open and the wedding bells will be going off and the honeymoon will be welcoming us! It's looking like Costa Rica at the moment for anyone interested. Please chime in with any tips or ideas as I am open to exploring other similar options.

I'll post some other updates later this week/end regarding life, liberty and the pursuit of delusions of grandeur. So keep posted. Until then I'm looking forward to an 8 mile LSD run tomorrow. No rush, no intensity, just nice easy 7:30-7:45 miles....

kinda fun to relax about workouts for awhile...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Best of Luck to Freddy

Today, my buddy Freddy Silva is competing in his first Ironman in my hometown of Phoenix. In fact not sure if this link will work but I'm following him live via:

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/coverage/athlete-tracker.aspx?race=arizona&y=2014#axzz2kwLSNUTE

Freddy is the brother of Peter. Peter and I became really close friends when I first came to D.C. during my internship days in the fall of 2006. We're the same age. Coincidentally, Ash and I are meeting Pete and his fiance Rose for dinner tonight in Georgetown. Pete, like Ash, is also an attorney. Rose left her publishing job after a few years to become an inner-city schoolteacher in Anacostia. We've been pretty good friends with them for awhile now. They've been dating since 2008. Their wedding is in D.C. on Memorial Day Weekend I believe.

Anyway, Freddy and I were introduced through Pete once we all returned to San Diego. Oddly enough the people I connected with the most during my internship (Pete and Ash) both went to San Diego State like me. Freddy is also an alumnus. Pete obtained his J.D. from University of Miami jumping from one Ivy contender to the next starting in fall '07...;). I on the other hand had another semester left and developed a solid friendship with Freddy. I'm actually closer with Freddy than I am with Pete, but Freddy still lives in San Diego so I don't see him too often.

Freddy and I used to lift weights hard together at SDSU. We'd play basketball sometimes and run outside to get tan, but mostly we lifted and got burl. And partied. Funny enough, completely independently we both fell into triathlon (me about a year before him). Now Freddy is a die-hard triguy. Totally addicted. He's a bit like I was two years ago.

And today, as I type this, he is cruising through the bike about to start the marathon...good luck my brother. Here's to all your hard work paying off. It's a brutal race.