Sunday, September 28, 2008

Countrywide Clowns

Yesterday I just lost my shit when Countrywide called up here an was all "Kah-l-eye Sue-key-a?" I'm all, dude, is it really that hard? Then when he asked me how I was doing, I told him "not so well since I learned your company allowed a disgruntled employee to sell my personal information and now it's out in the world for anyone to steal." He said and I quote," Anyone could get ahold of your personal information if they pay $30 and run a background check on you." Oh is that the official stance of Countrywide? Wow, I feel so secure that our mortgages are held by them and we have no say in the matter. What a bunch of clowns. No wonder they got in trouble and Bank of America had to buy them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

There is no denying it, summer up and left us here in Seattle. Of the two of us, Ken finds the weather change gloomy and I think he secretly wishes we lived in a sunnier climate. But having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, it doesn't really effect me. While it's not pleasant to have several overcast, rainy days strung together, when you finally get that break--it's just glorious. Sunny days here are like finding a 20 dollar bill in the pocket of your newly washed jeans.

If I can't have the sun, a good substition for sunshine is spending time with friends. And in that way the weekend was full of sun. Sean and Shannon introduced us to dim sum lunch at New Kowloon on Saturday. It's a huge place and when we first arrived it was mostly empty. But by time we left, both large dining rooms were almost full. I guess this town loves it's Dim Sum. Being that dim sum is a buffet on wheels, it's really easy to take too many things from the roving carts full of goodies. Because of the sheer volume and variety of foods, we all left completely stuffed. Afterwards I got to take a tour of the Testa's newly purchased home on Queen Anne. I believe if all goes well they are moving in this weekend--fingers crossed. And the house is roomy and has such neat period-correct touches. So exciting!

In the evening, Brett & Denise hosted an accurately named 'end of summer' BBQ at their Maple Leaf home. This was the first time we got to see their house and the finished basement they did all by themselves--and passed city inspection! This included tiling, plumbing, fixture installation, painting and wiring a bathroom, office and family room. I guess the dry wall was done by someone else but otherwise they learned how to do all that other stuff. I neglected to take any pictures but was very impressed.
We also got to meet many of their friends and there were children everywhere. One mom showed us a "revolutionary" way to carry around a baby with a "piece of cloth." Looks freaking awesome. You should have seen this gal put it on--it was like wrapping a sari. A bit complicated but once it was in place, the kid calmed down and couldn't get enough of it. I guess this is also better for your back than a Baby Bjorn. Fun times. The Coug game was on during the event and though the Cougs probably got their only win of the season, they suffered many injuries to their quarterback rotation. Hopefully they can recover. But most of us have written this off to a "building year."

Sunday I incorrectly assumed that because it was sort of drizzly that the Farmer's Market would be less crowded. WRONG. I think everyone else assumed that too. Well one lovely surprise was running into Wilson and Briahna and their cute dog Havana. I was picking out potatoes and Wilson pointed me to a better potato stand up the row. It's good to have friends who know things. After picking up a few more produce items, I trekked out to Lake Forest Park and spent the afternoon with Amy. I brought some Thai food because Amy loves to put soy sauce on Phad Thai and I love to marvel at how bizarre that is. Like us, Tim and Amy have the video game Rock Band so I asked Amy if she was any good at it and she's all "yeah, I'm pretty good." And I was like, "yeah, so am I." Luckily she's good on guitar and (I think) I'm good at drums. We played awhile and Amy IS good by the way but we were only having access to the first 14 songs. So I wondered if the unlock code on the Wii version would work on the Xbox 360 version and you know what---it did! So Amy suddenly got access to 30 songs she didn't know existed in the game. And it was like Christmas all over again! After playing through some of the new songs, it was time to go home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Phantom of the Opera was never so Operatic

Okay I'm just going to say it. The performance of the Phantom of the Opera tonight just didn't live up to expectations. Sure they had the big chandelier, a jaw-dropping scene in the sewers of Paris and come flashy pyrotechnics. But when did insane operatic singing invade this musical? From the cast recording and the performance I attended back in 1995 in London, I do not remember people shooting for the vocal rafters. I also don't recall being unable to discern a single word during the Ensemble singing pieces. The sound was so muddy and resonating so much that you couldn't make sense of anything. We've seen Wicked and Spamalot at the Paramount over the last few years and I don't remember the sound being that bad. So this causes me to believe the audio levels were off and the performers were needlessly kicking it into overdrive. I also found the soprano particularly shrill. Who knows? Maybe this is the difference between a resident show in places like NY, LA, London, Las Vegas & a touring one.

This was Ken's first time seeing the Phantom and I thought of all the musicals, this would be one that consistently delivers--even the touring version. I suppose it didn't help that we had an understudy playing the role of the Phantom tonight. Tonight's Phantom was played as more of a character to pity rather than fear. But it's hard to see something not live up to it's legacy. I heard people talking about how they'd seen Phantom multiple times in multiple cities. I can't imagine. I'm hoping to see Lion King for the first time when it comes next year but I think I may steer clear of the "classic" musicals going forward and let them live on flawlessly in my memory.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Greed is not good

I've always been fascinated with economics, even though I never formally studied it. The closest thing was when I was in high school and I took a class that followed the stock market and introduced the tenants of investing. We all competed with each other over who's stock picks would gain the most. But ever since then I've been keen to know about investing, 401k's, mortgages, interest rates, credit scores and so on. You can't know too much or be too careful when it comes to finances.

Like the other day, when we received a letter from Countrywide (the company that holds our mortgages) saying they endured a security breach. One of their ex-employees may have sold our information (along with 2 million other people's) for profit and nefarious purposes. This employee allegedly exploited a security loophole in their computer system and got a hold of "client files, which includes names, addresses, mortgage loan numbers and social security numbers." Well that's just excellent.

Not only are mortgage lenders in a world of hurt because of decreasing access to credit and lots of bad debt due to defaulted loans, but they can't turn their backs on their own people for fear that a disgruntled employee will bring them down from the inside. I have made such a fuss about trying to keep our info secure by shredding financial docs and not giving out my social security number needlessly. But when the people who are supposed to have it can't be trusted either--that's a quandary. I was telling Ken the other day that we're getting to the point where mandatory biometric identification will be the only way to properly identify ourselves: retina scans, fingerprints, saliva DNA...

And then there is today's scandal and intrigue: Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch sold for half its value to Bank of America and the stock market plunged 500 points. I think everyone has cause to be worried. Naturally for the impact on the price of goods, accessibility to credit and our stance in the world economy. But more than that, the average person should also be concerned with how we got to this point.

The intrigue of a mystery gets your attention but the details reveal people's innermost desires, what motivates them. And the mystery of how the economy got this way qualifies as a bonafide whodunit. But you might be thinking, 'this is all so complicated and over my head,' right? Well, not really. Do yourself a favor and listen to this streaming episode on This American Life called "Giant Pool of Money." It's quite possibly the best primer for a layperson to grasp the in's and out's of the financial turmoil we now find ourselves in. You will feel so smart after hearing it. And then, as in my case, you might feel a mix of indignation and disgust.

Why? Because it seems that no matter how evolved, sophisticated, enlightened and indulged we humans become, greed shows up and tempts our lesser selves. Greed causes people to make bad, short-term, destructive decisions. Greed urges people to buy houses they know they can't afford, lenders to qualify those people for outlandish mortgage amounts and employees at that mortgage lender to raid customer information for profit. And when you look at other issues we have, like why did we start an unprovoked war with a Middle Eastern nation flush with oil, why didn't car companies start the electric car revolution a whole decade earlier when they had the technology or why do products today feel largely disposable and not made very well, it again comes back to greed.

And specifically greed of money. Isn't it stupid that something as simple as that is at the heart of what is causing all this suffering? Professionals who crunch numbers, assess risk and balance budgets for a living, ignored common sense and succumbed to a tide of quick profits. It honestly makes me lose faith in human beings a little bit. But then I think perhaps it's lessons like these that teach us what is truly valuable. Quick profits are especially not valuable when it comes at the expense of our country's sovereignty. Guess who now owns a lot of our collective debt? Hint: They just hosted the Olympics and they have lots of drummers.

The troubled economy is not someone else's problem--it's all of ours.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WA Republicans, shame on you

Hey Washington State Republicans & Luke Esser,

Shame on you for propagating this crap!

You very well know that that this "lipstick on a pig" comment was not uttered by Obama in regards to Sarah Palin. You are making asses of yourselves by trying to use these cheap, inflammatory, out of context quotes to get people riled up. You must not think much of your base if you have to resort to this tactic.

Don't you have anything substantial to tell your people about your candidate?
Or do you have to stoop to blatant manipulation of sound bites to get donations?

This is a spam that went out to registered Republicans today. (Thanks to S for sending this to me.)

The Obama-Gregoire Smear Machine
Despite promises to run a “different kind of campaign,” Barack Obama yesterday uttered one of the most sleazy and shameful smears ever spoken by a presidential candidate.
In a clear reference to Sarah Palin’s convention speech where she said of herself that the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull is lipstick, Barack Obama said, "you can put lipstick on a pig … it's still a pig."
(Click here to play the video)

This personal attack on Gov. Palin by Obama is the most offensive so far, but it is hardly the first. For weeks now the Obama-Gregoire Smear Machine has been telling lie after lie about Gov. Palin and Dino Rossi because they are desperate to hide the truth of their radical, left-wing agendas.

What these attacks make clear is that Barack Obama and Christine Gregoire will say or do anything to get elected—and during the next two months until Election Day they’ll only get more desperate in their efforts.

We know that all too well right here in Washington, where Christine Gregoire and her political operatives have used smear tactics similar to Obama’s. You’ll recall the State Democrats’ racist video attacking Rossi's Italian heritage. And when Michelle Obama visited Seattle to raise money for our Democrat Governor, Christine Gregoire went so low as to even attack Dino's dog (who his kids named “Dubya”).

We need your help to focus this campaign on the issues, and to take on the desperate and offensive attacks by the Obama-Gregoire Smear Machine.

Will you help us fight these attacks and tell the truth about the far-left agenda of Obama and Gregoire by making a secure online contribution of $10, $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to the Washington State Republican Party?

Together, we can defeat the Obama-Gregoire Smear Machine, and bring the right kind of change to our nation’s capital and Olympia this November!


Chairman Luke Esser
Washington State Republican Party

P.S. Help us set the record straight and refute the attacks on Sarah Palin, Dino Rossi and all our Republican candidates by making a secure online contribution of $10, $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford today. Thank you!

As a matter of fact, I am.

"I know I'm wearing a t-shirt with a cylon unicorn on it, but you need to take me seriously."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Letter to Republican America

On Thursday I published a scathing rant in response to my growing frustration with this nation's politics, particularly those in the conservative Republican camp. It was promptly taken down after some heart-felt discussion about exactly what I was trying to accomplish and what unintended consequences could come from it. So let's try this another way...

Dear Republican America,
All this recent RNC hoopla with Sarah Palin and the realization that the Republican ticket is unabashedly buoying the ultra conservative right scares the crap out of me.

I realize the United States was initially settled by religious extremists (the Puritans) and that the founding fathers moved to create laws that protect religious worship. But I'm just amazed that in 2008, despite all we've been through, despite our stature in the world, by our actions and deeds and leadership we are regressing into conservative Christian territory. Us. America. Land of the Free. Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? We seem to be allowing our diverse, melting-pot-of-a-country to be steered into a less tolerant direction that plays on people's fears and distrust of others not like us.

What I learned about Republicanism in school does not necessarily match what it is today. As I recall, it was the party that supported less governmental interference, individual success, fiscal responsibility, state's rights and lower taxes. And yes, it leaned to conservative social values but I don't remember it being so fused with religious evangelicals.

The RNC galvanized behind Sarah Palin mostly because of her social conservatism, her Obama bashing skills and lesser qualifications (let's face it--she's pretty and younger). I know there are smart people in the Republican party and that just because you are a Republican doesn't mean you subscribe to all of what's said. But how can smart Republicans still be party to a group that is so obviously being commandeered by the conservative Christian movement? Weren't Republicans the ones who didn't want government so involved in your life?

We have an energy problem, foreign policy issues, massive debt, growing inequity of class/education/health care access. Now why wouldn't you want the smartest, most educated & eloquent person running this nation as opposed to the most dogmatic? I find it really confusing when instead of tackling the big problems, Republicans get really excited about making an amendment to ban gay marriage. Comparatively, that just seems like the least of this country's "problems".

But with the polls running Obama & McCain almost 50/50 now, I can only conclude that we are truly at a crossroads. And one more thing, with two or three Supreme Court justices due to retire in the next few years, this next President will set the tone for how law is interpreted for the next generation. With these being lifetime appointments, you really want a balance on the court and lest we forget, we just got two new conservative justices. A President is for 4 years but a Justice is for their lifetime. Keep that in mind as you vote this November too.


Twice the Fun on Rock Band

Two of our favorite little 3-year old friends, Owen and Stella, came over for visiting and dinner last night. (And they even brought their parents Tracy & Joe along too.)

We have so much fun with this family and have had the pleasure of seeing the children grow up through their various stages. This was the first time the family had been over to our house not in the context of a larger party or BBQ. Ken and I wondered how fun our house would be to 3-year-olds but I remembered I had a big container of Legos and Star Wars action figures so I pulled those out. Believe it or not though, the carpeted stairs to the basement were an unexpected big hit too. It was good times.

But the best part was when we turned on the Wii and played a little Rock Band. The kids really wanted to sing, so I turned to Tracy and said, "Can the kids read?" Uproarious laughter proceeded by, "Kali they're only 3..." (What do I know?) So Tracy would sing and Owen would repeat. Everyone seemed to have a great time and to think only a few years ago this kind of game/entertainment didn't exist. How we've suffered until now.

Owen Sings!

Stella blew us out of the water with her wicked drum solo and Owen tried to eat the microphone...

Adding to the excitement of the night, we survived an attack of a Giant Moth.

Ken gave Owen some Guitar Lessons while Stella did what she does best.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What I think of her nomination

These two clips pretty much hit it on the head...

Women on Palin

Palin's reception

Something to get you ready for what's coming up...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Coug Game @ Qwest Field

The Cougs had problems and Euge was not pleased.

But Jenny & Ted were there...

As were Sybil & Joel...

Don't forget soon-to-be homeowners Sean & Shannon...

So it wasn't all bad.

But what a sad start. Poor Cougs.

Murrow College

While I mentioned earlier that the Murrow School of Communication would become the Murrow College of Communication, it did not take effect until July 1st. So we finally celebrated it last Thursday when members of the staff and alumni got together at KING TV. It was also the night of Obama's acceptance speech and like the historic democratic party candidate, we cheered the beginning of our new status and took responsibility for our increased influence over the constituency of Comm grads and grads-to-be. (Pushing it for the metaphor, aren't I?) No event like this is complete without food (& drinking). While buffet appetizers were served at KING, we moved on to Tutta Bella for Italian gourmet pizza. Glenn Johnson was impressed by the various toppings. There was no pepperoni or Canadian bacon in sight. We thought it would be nice for the Eastsiders to get out and live a little.

And while I was responsible for planning this little gathering, I wished I would have used Evite. It can be a little challenging to get everyone coordinated but even though we exceeded our head count, everyone brought cash just like I asked them. See, Communication majors, they can follow (some) direction. I would also like to say that it is always a pleasure to spend time with my fellow alumni. Not since this crazy weekend in '06 have I had the pleasure to sit and chit-chat with Karen, Marcus, Scott, Jamie & Pat all together. I also found out that several of those folks are readers of this very blog, which warms my heart in a special way. I also met some other Murrow alumni who graduated after me who I look forward to hanging out with again at the next Murrow event.

Afterwards more partying at the Two Bells with special guest star, Sean Mantooth. He was in town coincidentally to work at the Penny Arcade Convention for his company.

More pics from that night...

CSI Ballard -- Cat Pee Investigations, Part Deux

Nothing to see really more than last time, but that little s**t has been busy upstairs as well. Many a guest who has been at our house in the last two weeks has witnessed me stop in mid-sentence like a crazy person and ask if they smell cat pee. Well the black light doesn't lie and Oliver has been in our bedroom (the one room off limits to him) and has marked up the closet doors. Boggles the mind. All this after we went to Petco tonight and bought him special treats. The irony--it kills me.