March 02, 2003
The ROI of Golf

Al and I went to some open houses in San Carlos today, an activity I really enjoyed. It was fun to be driving around in the warm, early spring sunshine with my husband and thinking about what kinds of houses would fit our lifestyle.

Al had also wanted to play golf today, however, and I *did* put on my golfing clothes just in case, so at around 4pm he suggested that we quit the house hunting and head for the municipal course in Palo Alto. I said OK; it seemed warm enough, and I was above midpoint on the happiness scale, so I figured I could stand a round of golf.

As rounds of golf go, it didn't go too badly, but after the third hole I said to Al, "I know you find the idea of a golfing wife really charming, but I have to tell you, you really don't have a golfing wife. I'm going to be honest and say that I don't really enjoy this." An interesting discussion on return on investment ensued, in which I compared golf, snowboarding, and hockey, the three sporting hobbies I claim. I think the breakdown looks like this:

Golf in the San Francisco Bay Area
Preparation (throw clubs in car) 2
Hassle Factor (wind, cold, late afternoon sun) 8
Enjoyment 4
Return 40%

Golf in Hawaii/on vacation
Preparation (throw clubs in car) 2
Hassle Factor (guaranteed sunburn) 4
Enjoyment 6
Return 100%

Preparation (put on gear, drive in snow, find parking) 6
Hassle Factor (lift lines, crowds on slopes) 6
Enjoyment 6
Return 50%

Preparation (throw bag in car, put on gear) 4
Hassle Factor 0
Enjoyment 8
Return 200%

In other words, the ROI is much higher for hockey—and even for golf in Hawaii—than it is for the twilight rate golf we play in the Bay Area. This doesn't take into account the cost of these activities at all; in fact, hockey and golf in Hawaii are by far more expensive than snowboarding and twilight golf. This is what Al would call a "premium on quality", but I would say just proves that getting a bargain is not on its own enough to raise the enjoyment factor of an activity. Al was pretty sad to lose his weekend golfing buddy, but we were both glad to see that after the admission, I played better. No pressure, you see.

Posted by Lori at 08:15 PM | Permalink
March 05, 2003
Elmo's Last Day

Since cat photos are front and center on this site (though that was partly a tongue-in-cheek poke at what the web used to be about), you may have guessed that our cats Annie and Elmo are pretty important to us. They are, even though I am allergic to cats and would not have identified myself as a "cat person" before I moved in with Al. Over the past two years I've really bonded with Annie and Elmo, and they're completely part of the family.

This is why it was so heartbreaking to find out recently that Elmo had irreversible kidney disease, and that he had days or maybe weeks to live. It turned out to be weeks, but when he stopped eating last Saturday, we knew we were down to days. Al finally took him, in an incredibly weak and wobbly state, to the vet today to be euthanized. He was only 6.

I don't think it will fully sink in until I am at home this evening and Elmo is not. I wonder if Annie will notice. She didn't seem to mind being the only cat in the house when Elmo was in the hospital for two days a couple weeks ago, and she seemed oblivious to his weakened state over the past few days. All Annie really cares about is being fed. Which is not to say that I don't love her; in fact, I bonded with Annie first. Elmo, though he's never been mean or standoffish to me, has always been unquestionably Al's cat.

Now that I think about it, I really got attached to Elmo in the past 6 months or so, when he started losing his eyesight. He seemed to want to have more contact with us, so he'd know we were there. When Al was in Hawaii in February, for example, Elmo slept every night in the crook of my legs or on my feet. There's nothing like close contact to make you feel loved, especially by a cat.

I said goodbye to him this morning before I left for work. I thanked him for being a good cat, and for giving me the opportunity to live with cats again. (I'm not sure I would ever have found out that allergy treatment techniques had advanced if Al hadn't had cats.) I told him I loved him and that I'd miss him. And I told him to look for Muffler when he gets where he's going.

Goodbye Elmo, you've been great. Thanks again.

Elmo on February 15, 2003

Posted by Lori at 04:04 PM | Permalink
March 07, 2003
Two Become One

Al brought to my attention the other day that in October we became a one car family, in December we became a one job family (saving us from being referred to as DINKs), in February we became a one house family, and if Elmo died, we'd become a one cat family. Elmo did indeed die on March 5, so we're down to one car, one house, one job, one cat... and six TVs.

Posted by Lori at 02:25 PM | Permalink
March 17, 2003
House Hunters

This weekend we did two things to help me stave off the depression that weekends have seemed to bring lately: we rearranged the living room furniture, and we went to a bunch of open houses in San Francisco. The former was designed to make me feel more comfortable in our current home, and the latter was designed to give me hope that someday we'll live somewhere else. Long-range planning and short-range coping, if you will.

We were encouraged to find that there was much to be seen in our price range (in fact, there was too much to see in the limited 2pm to 4pm open house window). Most places were a bit too small, but not by much, so that's something. We didn't find our dream house yet, but we're beginning to compile mental pictures of features we really liked, and stuff we never would have thought would bother us, but did.

The neighborhood, it turns out, is probably the most important factor for both of us. A really cool loft in a scary or barren neighborhood probably wouldn't make us very happy. "City, but not too gritty" is my motto. On the other hand, neither of us is particularly keen on living in a popular (and populous) neighborhood like Noe Valley, with its 100 year-old Victorians and plethora of baby carriages. (I guess that would make the Haight our ultimate nightmare neighborhood, since it's both too Victorian residential and too gritty.)

We liked the area down near the Embarcadero and Pac Bell Park, as well as the area between Townsend and Bryant from Caltrain to Macromedia, both of which have some—but not too many—people, a few restaurants and shops, easy access to bus, train, light rail, and freeways, and a nice city feel. We didn't look over there yesterday, but both of us also like Mint Hill, which is where I lived for a couple years before buying the house in Truckee/moving in with Al. It's very convenient to the Castro, a 24-hour Safeway, restaurants, shops, downtown, etc., but it's on the edge of several neighborhoods and not really a part of any of them (which is a good thing).

We mostly looked at lofts, but we also saw a couple condos yesterday. The condos tended to be very stylish, but way too small. The lofts were larger, nicer, and less expensive, but none had the perfect layout for us. We saw a really neat loft master bedroom/bathroom in a building in the Mission, a dream kitchen that was much smaller than I ever expected a dream kitchen could be, a space that was so large I'm not sure we could have filled it, a place where the finishes were really impressive, and another that was incredibly peaceful, with a nice decaffeinating breeze swirling around its outside. Now, if we could only put all those lovely things together in one place—preferably in SOMA or South Beach—I'd be ready to move right away.

Al looks down from the bedroom in unit #106 at the 2412 Harrison Street Lofts

Posted by Lori at 01:35 PM | Permalink
March 18, 2003
Taking It Out on Al

Last night when I got home from work I found that the closing documents on my Truckee house had arrived from the title company. In the course of checking boxes and signing on solid lines (they're never dotted anymore), I discovered that the IRS does not think of my house as I did: that is, as a primary residence.

For the past two years I lived under the illusion that 10172 Thomas Drive was my primary residence because it's where I got my mail, paid my bills, kept all my stuff, and spent as much time as I could... and because it was the only house I owned. The IRS, however, has a different idea. Basically, I needed to spend more than half my time there, which wasn't possible for various reasons. One of those reasons was Al, and the fact that he had his own house in the Bay Area, two cats he had to take care of, and a girlfriend he wanted to spend time with (me). So of course, I immediately felt hostile and resentful toward Al. "If it hadn't been for him, I would have been at my house all the time!", I reasoned.

Of course, if it hadn't been for Al, I wouldn't be the happy, loved-and-cared-for person I am now.

I did say I was reasoning, but I didn't say I was rational. If I was rational, I would have thought, "oh well, no tax break. Bummer." Instead, Section 121 of the Internal Revenue Code challenged my delusion that I had a home of my own, and we all know from television movies of the week that delusions are dangerous things to challenge. I came out screaming.

Now, for Al, having all this hostility and resentment directed at him was extremely uncomfortable, but the fact that it was directed at top volume rather than stony silence was probably for the better. When you hear yourself shouting irrationally, it tends to burst the bubble of illusion and bring you back to reality. The scene wasn't pleasant, but it was like ripping off a band-aid instead of prying it up The pain was over quickly. By the time we made it to the Nob Hill Foods to stand in front of their store manager/notary public, I'd come to accept things the way they are. The IRS can't tell me what that house meant to me. It can only tell me what it means to them.

Posted by Lori at 12:36 PM | Permalink
March 29, 2003
Al Works Hard

Last weekend, Al and I expended a lot of energy (and several Home Depot gift cards that we'd gotten as wedding and Christmas presents) on gardening. We bought a bunch of flowers (azaleas, bougainvilleas, violas, alyssum, dianthus), some herbs (chocolate mint, lavender, thyme), and a small bush with red and green leaves that I don't remember the name of, but we spent most of our time weeding and pruning rather than planting.

Al pruned his four rose bushes/trees to within an inch of their lives, and I applied the same Linda Hylan method® to the scrawny lemon tree, the big bush/tree next to the gate, and the half-rotted, half-out-of-control tropical fronds between the lemon tree and the gate tree. Al then dug out the mulch-filled hole that used to be the ash tree in our front yard (a casualty of winter storms) and planted the bush whose name I've forgotten, the thyme, the lavender, some violas, and a bunch of alyssum around it. I used the mulch from the hole to cover up the ugly stalks that remained from my tropical frond-pruning, and to cover whatever else of the courtyard garden I could.

I tore up the existing bed of mint (I'd planned to leave a few plants, but the underground stems led to a Bugs Bunny-in-the-carrot-patch kind of "pull here, watch a plant disappear over there" scenario), turned up the mortar-like soil, mixed in some fresh potting soil, and planted the new chocolate mint and a few alyssum. I then mulched around that, removed the ugly pavers from around the lemon tree, and raked all the dead leaves out of the beds. I used the pavers to mark out a new walkway to the lemon tree and to prevent the mulch from spilling out of the beds, and then I mulched around the pavers. We got a lot done, but by Sunday afternoon we were practically incoherent with fatigue and hunger. We went out for Indian food and then called it a night.

Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up with a sore chest, and by Tuesday I had a low-grade fever. I can't say for sure that the source of my germs wasn't my officemates, but I suspect all that digging in the garden had something to do with it. The fever cleared up by Wednesday, but the headache, chest and back ache, nagging cough, and oh-so-green goo remained. That's why I've been largely silent all week—I've been saving my energy for coding rather than blogging.

It's also why I am now sitting in a lounge chair in the shade, pointing out where I want the flowers to go, while Al does all the work. We made another trip to Home Depot this morning to buy a few more pavers, some mulch, and some hanging baskets, and that wore me out. There will be no digging for me today. If I get another burst of energy, I'll put the bougainvilleas in the hanging pots, but for now, I'm staying on the lounge chair.

So far this system is actually working out pretty well. Al seems to be having fun doing the planting, and I'm having fun designing the garden from my perch on the chair. Al's in charge of all things dirt, flower, and mulch-related, and I'm in charge of answering the phone, getting us water, and recording the goings-on.

Posted by Lori at 01:42 PM | Permalink