Hints from El Cheapo

A fascinating discovery:
Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Water at Albertsons: $1.00 per can.
Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Water at Target: 37¢ per can.
If I might make a politically incorrect exclamation at this point..

The Week That Was

No, I didn’t forget you — well, not too much — I’ve just been embroiled in a new place (embroiled denoting the intensity of the sun here, by the way). I’m still kind of wandering around in a daze getting used to San Jose and my new home. It’s not entirely pleasant, I still feel very uneasy here and even though I’m not yet homesick, I can tell that I will be. I feel very out of place and sort of temporary.
So, this week I’ve been shopping (a lot) and doing freelance work for the old job. A recap:

Friday before last — the 20th, I think — I made a pilgrimage to one of my favorite spots, the Winchester House.


What I love about this huge mansion is not just the gorgeous Victorian architecture, but the fact that Sarah Winchester, the filthy rich heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune, was completely insane. She believed that the spirits of rifle victims were out to get her, and she would be safe as long as she kept building on to her “modest home.” So, construction continued 24/7 until the day she died.


Jann took that picture of me while waiting for the tour — it’s so rare that a good photo of me is taken, so even though I look rather dour (as usual) I figured I’d post it up as evidence.

This Friday, the Winchester Mystery House figured in another event — Mac, of Pesky Apostrophe fame came west to take the tour, and I met up afterwards with her and her friend Statia over at the posh Santana Row for a little post-mystery sushi. How odd that I never had a chance to meet her over on the east coast, but by chance she shows up here? Mystery, indeed. (It also turns out that Jeff — aka Rebel Prince is here this weekend, too. Heck, it’s like I never left home!)

I mentioned in an earlier post somewhere that I went out looking for a new TV for my much larger home here. I sold my old HDTV for a pretty sum, and began to contemplate my options — again, since I have a healthy bank account from the sale of the house, I can afford just about anything I want, but my damned fiscal schizophrenia jumps to life. Nonetheless, I decided that this would be the only time I could afford to get what I really want, so I closed my eyes and jumped in with both feet; I bought a beautiful 50″ flat panel plasma display. Being cheap but with expensive taste, I got it for the best price possible using a combination of credit card points and the Memorial Day sale price further offset by the sale of my old set. I’m not going to tell you how much, because I’m embarrassed at spending so much on a TV. But damn it, it looks thin and gorgeous, just how the rich should be.


On Saturday, the new couch and chair I ordered were delivered, and it was such a relief to have something to sit on. Poor Diego is having a bit of trouble with them, as they’re leather and very slick and new — he slides around on them when he jumps up.


Next up to purchase: coffee and kitchen tables (so I have someplace to eat!) and a dining table. Then, it’s time to stop the spending and concentrate on the earning.

Yesterday I went with Jann and Mike to a huge flea market — emphasize “flea.” Now, I’m not an expert on flea markets, but I expected something that was akin to a large yard sale or antiques show — the kind of thing you see on those HGTV shows. Instead, it was a huge shopping destination for the tacky airbrushed blankets, car stereos, and precious Sunday dresses for little girls. Among the hot purchases: underwear from the “Top Man” brand so when you strip off, he knows what’s what; as well as the “professional” Bath Thing.


The produce, however, was amazing; I wanted to buy it all even though I don’t cook and really don’t like most of it. I did buy some roasted pumpkin seeds — yum!


Looking ahead, today I’ve got more work to do for the old job, then the authoring of the official DVD release of our last 48 Hour film… but tomorrow, I’m going to take my first trip to the beach. Santa Cruz, here I come! Don’t worry, I’ll take pictures. smile

It’s All In Your Head

Finally — you can watch my latest 48 Hour Film project online. If you’ve got QuickTime 6 or 7, just click here.

Mountain Man

Just a housekeeping note: now that I’m moved in and have the cable modem juryrigged (with a cable stretching across the room — just temporary until I get the ethernet network in the house up and running), the “Backyard Weather” cam is back online… with a very different view than it had back in Virginia.
My new home is on a hill — Communications Hill, if you’re familiar with San Jose. The first two floors don’t have any really nice views, but the third floor, up in a sort of tower on the back of the house, has an unobstructed view over the Santa Clara Valley toward the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south.
I’ve been mesmerized watching the different look to the mountains every day, as weather swirls around them. So, you can be certain that I’ll be making some cool time-lapse movies!
[To watch the camera streaming live, click on the “Backyard Weather” image over there in the sidebar.]

Hot day

Hello! I’m back.
I’ve moved into my new home — for the next 6 months, anyway — and am in the midst of dealing with that issue, which is much more of an issue than you’d think.
Remember how I complain about my bizarre and horrible luck? Well, it struck again yesterday when I discovered that this house, sitting on the side of a hill in California and battered with sunshine, has no air conditioning, a fact that the landlord conveniently lied about. He was asked when I first looked at the place, and said that it had it. When I called to yell about it, he indicated that he was waiting to have it installed when it got hot and I let him know that it was 85° in the house… which I felt was hot enough. Suffice it to say, if the air conditioning isn’t installed within two weeks, I’ll be moving out yet again and possibly initiating some kind of lawsuit to boot.
So, let’s see. Other complaints.
When I arrived here yesterday morning to start cleaning, I was more than a little startled to find that there was a guy sleeping in my bedroom — this after the previous tenants had given the keys back. He was sleeping on the floor, no furnture or water in the house; I told him he had 30 minutes to get out and I went to the grocery store. When he left, he left a key on the floor by the front door… and left the front door open. He also left half-eaten fast food, soda cups, and stopped up toilets.
Yes, my day was fun-filled.
After a sleepless night with no air conditioning, I got up this morning to start spending huge wodges of dosh on household items. Pots and pans, silverware, lamps, fans… I had to make two trips to Target, and still have plenty of items on my list yet to purchase.
I’m having a lot of trouble dealing with the spending; yesterday I was fuming at spending $1 on a can of tuna that was 50¢ back home. I come from a middle class background and was never poor; I’ve always found a way to purchase nice things like a computer or TV. But now that I have a decent amount of money in the bank, I’m finding it difficult to spend. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an income. Anyway, over the last few weeks I’ve spent more than $20,000. That includes moving expenses for my stuff and car, airline ticket, rental car, 6 months of rent on this house, a couch and chair, and $600 worth of household items today. Frankly, it’s not really that bad, considering that the rent is 3/4 of that total. Still, it’s a huge amount of money for me and there’s still more to spend: dining room furniture, shelving, and various other Ikea stuff; and possibly a new TV as I’ve discovered that my old set — which fit perfectly in my old living room — is now incredibly tiny in the new living room. Strange… I bought that set 3 years ago and now I could buy a much larger flat panel TV for less than I spent on it then.
In other news, my websites will be down sporadically while everything is moved over to a Mac Mini and Tiger Server. That’s just a little aside for you Mac geeks out there.

I guess they’re desperate

Seen on the Craigslist job ads today:

Must have graphics job experience and be willing to begin part-time. This job will require excellent grammer skills, attention to detail, and a cooperative work style and attitude.

I’m assuming that “grammer” is not the strong point at this organization.

Beam it down

I hate to wait.
And this whole moving experience has been nothing but one big wait.
The worst part of it all is just before it’s all over. When you’ve been through weeks and weeks of wait and deadlines are approaching and things are late.
Today is one of those days. It’s the home stretch — pun intended — and I’m waiting for: my car, to be delivered today; the moving van, to arrive tomorrow; the keys to my new home, possibly tonight or tomorrow morning; new couch and chair as well as cable and internet, Saturday.
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop there. I still have to make a DMV appointment for later this week so I can get a new driver’s license — you only have ten days here before the long arm of the law swoops down. Then another ten days to get my car registered.
The rules here — if I may digress — are more astonishing every time I turn around. Today I learned that trash is picked up once a week (versus 3 times back home), and you are limited to what fits into the provided bin. If you have a bag of trash that doesn’t fit in the bin, you have to go down to the grocery store and buy a coupon to have that bag picked up.
What would I have done back home when I threw out the contents of my home? Now I feel like such a polluter.
Anyway. Perhaps I’ll feel more at home this afternoon after my car arrives… and I can drive her downtown to establish water service. Because here, you have to take off work to go down to their office and give them a $50 cash deposit. They don’t take credit or debit cards. This is 2005, isn’t it? Welcome to the Capital of the Silicon Valley…

Under the San Jose Sun

Well, I’ve taken one more step — I’ve rented a house. After looking at lofts in my feverish dream to be an urban hipster, I discovered that they were all way too small to “live/work.” You can do one or the other… but not both.
So, realizing that I am in a strong financial position at the moment and figuring that I should make the best of it, I rented a 3 br. Tuscan Villa across the street from where I’m living temporarily.


Now comes the fun part — getting everything scheduled in such a way that my stuff all arrives and can go directly from moving van into the house without having to sit a few days in a storage room (and thus incurring costs of a second mover to bring it to the house). The movers are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, but the hold up is the previous tenants… who have left some stuff in the house even though they’re not in residence any more. I’m hoping they’ll get it all moved out this weekend, so I can slide in without paying more to movers.
In any case, I should be in by next Saturday, when the new couch and chair I bought today will arrive…
By June 1, I’ll be luxuriating in my villa and then by June 2 I’ll be worrying about finding a job to pay for it.

Happy Anniversary!

Hey! It’s the one year anniversary of Massachusett’s experiment in equality, the first state to allow same-sex marriages. Here’s a big hug and kiss to all those happy couples… and to all those straight couples who have somehow, against all odds, managed to keep their marriages intact and meaningful in the midst of such a threat.


All hail the Lincoln Lions!


It’s the high school I went to for freshman year in 1981, here in San Jose. It looks the same… except for all that bragging written across the front of the building.
My major memories of life at Lincoln: Roberta (aka Fledge), a pal of mine; Tony Aguirre, the first Hispanic guy ever to buy The Official Preppy Handbook; the Naid Brigade; and our drama teacher C. Michael Traw, who just happened to be friends with Chita Rivera… and brought her for show and tell one day.

Where to Live, Live, Live

I don’t know why I’m in such a hurry, but I want it all — now. I want a great job and a fantastic home, and dammit, why haven’t I gotten them yet? After all, I’ve been here for SIX days already.
I’ve been looking at lofts for rent. This weekend I found one I liked but it was rented out from under me. The one I looked at today was nice but way too small; it had a spiral staircase and I envisioned scenarios wherein the movers couldn’t get my furniture upstairs and the dog slipped and fell off them.
Still, I’m hopeful that I’ll find a cool pad somewhere near downtown, where I can be simultaneously bohemian and high-tech.
Yes, Kat, I would love to buy something, but without an income I might find it difficult to qualify for a mortgage. Plus, I don’t want to buy right away — I want to find a job then find a home near my office.
I’m realizing that I am going to have to bite the bullet and spend more than I had expected to. Originally I thought that a one bedroom would run $800-1,000; now I’m seeing that the minimum I can expect to spend for a nice place is $1,500. And if I was willing to spend $2,000, I could move in to a nice Tuscan-style house across the street from where I’m staying now.
I guess I have plenty of time — the movers tell me that my shipment is leaving Maryland today. Yes, I’d expected it to arrive this week, but it turns out that it hasn’t even left yet. My god, I’ve had nothing but disappointments from Allied Van Lines. Let this be a warning to you. This also means that I don’t have my portfolio, making it tough to apply for jobs.
As for my car, I still don’t have a clue when it’s coming.
So here I sit in someone else’s home, without my stuff, feeling like a fish in a plastic bag waiting to be dumped into a new tank.

The State of California has determined that I am a freak

I can already tell that political leanings are a relative matter.
Here in California, I’m certain to be branded as a right-winger. I’m pretty astonished at the way people here seem to have only a casual relationship with “personal responsibility.”
For example, everywhere one goes, one sees signs and placards warning that “The state of California has determined” that there are dire consequences from chemicals. Outside restaurants, they warn you of undercooked food. Outside bars, there are warnings about cigarette smoke. Swimming pools warn of chlorine and dry cleaners warn of chemicals. Do they think that people are going to step into a dry cleaner and ask for a cleaning solution latte?
Grocery stores charge extra for bottles to fund recycling programs. It seems to me that if recycling can’t manage to pay for itself, it’s not being done right.
There’s another strange phenomenon here: cars stop for pedestrians. I find myself torn over this, again from a personal responsibility angle. In a civilized society, I believe that everyone should be courteous and careful around others; but it’s been taken so far here. People walk out in front of cars without looking, secure in the knowledge that the cars will stop — whether they have the right of way or not. They cross in the middle of streets and wander through parking lots, heedless of what is going on around them.
I tend to look both ways and not cross until it’s clear. And this is confusing to drivers here. I stand on the curb and refuse to walk out into the street when a car is coming, leaving drivers to wonder what my problem is.
The problem is that I take responsibility for myself rather than rely on a paternalistic government. Weird.