|The House of Random Crap
A clearinghouse for my crazed, deviant, trivial, irreverant & occasionally reflective thoughts.
Friday, June 07, 2002 The really god-damn annoying thing about this site (or perhaps it is my computer) is that if it sits too long or I take to long to post my blog, it shoots me to an error screen and I lose everything I type. And I just typed a long one too. Crap, I am really pissed right now. Alright, I'm gonna go run some errands, and then re-type my post when I get back.
In the meantime, here's a pretty interesting Star Wars site I stumbled across on another blog site. Enjoy:
:: how jedi are you? ::
posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:37 AM |
Wednesday, June 05, 2002 The past 24 hours were great ones. Before I hit the sack last night, I got the word from my brother Pete that his new baby is at no risk of having Downs Synsdrome, which previous blood tests had indicated was a possibility. I am so incredibly happy for them. The doctor also confirmed that the baby will be a girl, making me a new aunt! Ok, ok, I've used that joke just a little too often, but I am psyched that we will have a baby girl in the family (Jessica Ark). I adore baby girls, and since Nicha in convinced that we will have 3 sons (according to the predictions of her thus far highly accurate fortune teller), little Jessie might be the only dolly I get to spoil.
I also completed my Competent Crew class, which indicates a level of competence on cruiser class sailing yachts. I had hoped to finish the course a few weeks back so I can take the next level course (Day Skipper, which will let me helm a boat) before my trip, but I guess I have to save it for my return. The sail today was physically tiring, as we have fairly strong and rapidly shifting winds. What was really cool was that we saw a submarine pull into Victoria Harbour, and we got within 300 meters, not exactly up close and personal, but still a good look nonetheless.
I also had my last classroom session for my dinghy sailing class, which can be tiring after a full day of sailing. However, I got some awesome news when I came out: U.S. won its opening World Cup match. Yeah yeah, no one in the U.S. gives a rat's ass about the Cup, and probably has no idea we have a team participating (especially in the middle of the NBA Finals), but it is a major international sporting event on the magnitude of the Olympics, and we gotta root for the home team, no? Anyways, the U.S. beat Portugal 3-2, putting us in a decent position of make it to the Round of 16. Portugal is the 5th best team in the world, so this win is being hailed as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, and one of the greatest moments in U.S. soccer history. Go USA! posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:55 PM |
Tuesday, June 04, 2002 With my trip just a few days away, I'm scrambling to take care of all those must-do errands. The first was to pay a visit to the post office to mail out my tax returns. My taxes seem to be a never-ending saga. For all the high-falutin' stuff bankers do on multi-million dollar deals, we tend to be complete nincompoops when it comes to personal finance. Or maybe it's just me? Anyways, income taxes are hard enough for me to figure out as they are, but dealing with two tax regimes is more than my feeble mind can bear. I've just filed my U.S. tax returns today (we expats get a few extra months or procrastination time, which I make use to the fullest), and I have to say that the check I cut today really hurt me deep. I used to always gripe at having the government take my hard-earned cash out of each monthly paychecks, but at least it eases the pain at the end of the year, and usually results in a nice little refund. In Hong Kong, we get the full paycheck, but then we're responsible for paying the IRS in one huge wad, which in this case amounts to a major kick in the financial nuts. I won't say how much of a hit I took, sufficed to say that were I back in the states, I could have bought a nice Porsche or BMW. It makes me wonder where the rest of my income over the past year disappeared to? It never really sinks in what a bloody expensive place Hong Kong can be. I supposedly made a 6-figure income on paper, but it seems like after the landlord, the IRS (both HK and US), and student loan officer gets through with me, I'm reduced to living on fast food. For all the gripes I had about being a banker, having the US$30 daily dinner allowance, free cab rides home, and all the long distance calls I can sneak in the conference rooms were very attractive and revenue-enhacing perks. Now if I can just get a decent paying job, get on top of my student loan situation, and stash away a decent amount in savings, I could move back to Bangkok and live like a friggin' Roman emperor.
At the post office, I also sent a package to my brother Pete, which included some maternity clothes that my wife bought for Jane, who is about 3 months preggers. I also sent along these Hello Kitty toys that I got at McDonald's as part of a World Cup promotion. While some Americans have an interest in Kitty, and almost no Yanks give a rat's ass about the Cup, both are obsessed over with almost religious fervor out here in Asia. So over a 4 week period Micky D's had these World Cup-themed Kittys and Dear Daniels (Kitty's male counterpart, which I didn't know about until I started buying them). Each week, they offered a new Kitty and Daniel, each with some soccer related outfit, or outfit of a country participating in the Cup, like Itlay, Japan, or Germany. The really neat thing about these plush dolls is that they are reversible into McDonald's food items. For example, the Japan Kitty turns into a Filet-o-Fish, and the referee Daniel turns into a soft drink. All you gotta do is rip open the velcro on the back of the head, pull out the alternate toy, and stuff the Kitty inside. I started by picking up a toy or 2 for Nicha, but Pete asked me to pick one up for a Kitty-obsessed frind of his. Nicha figured I ought to buy a few for her best friend, for Pete's wife Jane, and for my other sis-in-law Fiona. The only drawback of the promotion is that you had to buy the equivalent of a Value Meal to be able to buy a Kitty, so I was eating a bunch of McDonald's to accumulate these toys. I found it silly to have an entire shelf full of Hello Kitty's, especially next to my Tom Clancy books. What I should have done was started early, eaten a shit-load of McDonald's, and auctioned these things off on E-Bay. I bet I could have put a dent in that tax hit of mine...
I also finish up two sailing classes that I'm taking, one in beginning cruiser sailing (the big boats), and an intermediate one in dinghy sailing (the small boats). I'm hoping to find a spare moment on my Europe trip to do a bit of sailing on the Mediterranean. However, it is likely that I may not be able to get onto the water for another few months, but if I'm lucky, I can squeeze in another 1-2 courses when I get back abd before I got hit the job interviews en masse. Other than the sailing, I just need to start packing for my trip. I hope to finish it up a bit early, since I'm throwing a house party on Satuday night (the night before my flight). I've had more than a few friends heckle me for not throwing an event so that they can see the wedding albums, and since I have more than a few friends moving from Hong Kong while I'm away, this is a chance for me to say my "'Til we meet agains (it's never farewell with these people, since we always seem to bump into each other in different countries every few years)."
Enough babble; back to the house cleaning... posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 7:09 PM |
Welcome to my mind. Nothing like 6 months of unemployment to help one gather one's thoughts, and lord knows, I have a ton of them. I haven't been one to keep a journal in the past, but so much has been happening a lot lately, which has me reflecting on such heady thoughts as my future, my family (current and prospective), and my mortality. In the last week, I learned that a dear friend lost her father, and that our beloved family dog had died after a very short 15 years. In addition to putting me in such a morose mood, these deaths also have me dwelling on past, more pleasant times (and even on the not-so-pleasant but equally valued and cherished times). I suppose this has been the major impetus in starting this online journal: to record my thoughts for posterity, and draw strength from them when life is more turbulent, and reflect on them when they are less so). I spent some time debating whether I wanted to make this a completely private journal, but figured if I wanted to keep my thoughts to myself, there wouldn't be any point in this exercise. Plus, I enjoy reading my brother's and friends' blogs, so why deprive others the chance to poke around my head? Besides, I can always keep the really evil and deviant thoughts locked away the deep recesses of my twisted mind...
There's also a more practical and timely reason for opening my own bloggers page. On Sunday, I start my 2-month globe trot, and this strikes me as a particularly convenient way to share my adventures with others, as well as keep people up to date on my life long after my my trip (since I have become especially lazy at my correspondence with my friends and family). As far as my trip is concerned, this will be more of an executive summary, since I plan to carry a written journal with me to jot down my thoughts and keep ahold of all those ticket stubs and mementos. I was never really one for overly-priced, mass-produced, commercial souveniers. Rather, I take a perverse pleasure in getting the new and brightly colored passport stamp that comes with visiting a new country (it reminds me of those Friends episodes where the gang is heading off to England, and Ross and Monica are psyched to put a check next to each of the tasks completed on their pre-travel checklist). I still have my old expired passports with stamps from all over Asia, and I'm looking forward to adding a bunch of European stamps in my new one. Anyways, I'll be starting my trip with a 12-day tour through Turkey, which always fascinated me as a country treading the line between Europe and Asia. I signed up for one of those Contiki tours, which are targeted for the 18-35 crowd. Since I'm pushing 32, that puts me firmly on the "old fart" end of the spectrum. I expect while all the college age kids on the tour are drinking, carousing, and fornicating amongst themselves, I'll the seasoned older brother type that they turn too for advice in our 90210-ish/Melrose Place-like microcosm. I can picture it now: the kids beg me to join them at the all-night discotheques of Istanbul, and my inevitable reply is "Sorry guys, but I start to get sleepy around 8:30 pm. Besides, I gotta call my wife." Is that another grey hair I felt growing on my head? Anyways, the Contiki thing seems like a great way to meet some lively people, and for $955, a super cheap way to see Turkey.
After that, I'm on my own in Budapest, Hungary for 5 days. I would have liked to see more of Eastern Europe (Prague, Vienna, etc), since I really enjoyed my Eastern European history courses back at Berkeley, and was considering splitting time with Austria, but after the whirlwind Turkey trip, I wanted to take Budapest at a more leisurely pace. After Hungary, I'm off to Germany, where I will spend a long weekend hanging out with Ken, a good friend and former Salomon colleague who now works for a telecom company outside of Hamburg. I expect we will be seeing a bit of Northern Germany, and we are even contemplating a short hop to Denmark. Then I begin another 12-day Contiki tour throughout Italy. Actually, it wasn't my first choice to be spending so much time in Italy (since I did want to see more of Eastern Europe), but as it turns out, my friends Mia and Emerson (who live and work here in Hong Kong) will be marrying in Florence in July, and I managed to find an Italy tour that passes through Florence at that time. On a side note, it seems that this year, my friends seem to be marrying in more exotic locales. Last year, the theme was volume: I went to 9 weddings other than my own, mostly concentrated in Thailand or the Bay Area. This year, the theme is location: weddings in Florence, Italy; Santiago, Chile (I can't stop thinking about Norm the Pizza Guy from There's Something about Mary who screams "Who goes to Santiago, Chile twice in one year?!?"); Honolulu, Hawaii; and Baltimore, Maryland (ok, maybe this last one isn't as exotic as the others, but I sure as hell have never been there). Unfortunately, where I was able to attend 9 weddings last year, I'll be lucky if I get to attend any after this Italy one. We'll see...
After Italy, I zip over to the states for the more relaxed portion of my trip. I'll spend 5 days in New York, mainly catching up with old friends, and hopefully, finally (!) catching a performance of Les Miserables. One of the things I loved most about living in New York was the theater (and eating gyros, but that's another story). I'll also be spending a week in Southern Cal, seeing family and friends. I'd love to head up to San Francisco, since I have more friends living there now than in Southern Cal, but I didn't want to cut into my family time, or into my Bangkok time, which makes up the last leg of my world tour. I'll be hanging out with the wifey for 2 weeks. Mostly, she'll be working, so it will be mostly lazy time for me, though we plan to get out to the beach for a weekend for some major alone time. I'll be returning to home sweet home here in Hong Kong by mid-August, when hopefully, the weather has cooled off a bit, and the job market has heated up a lot. After 8 months of being out of work, it will be time for me to return to productive society (though I can't say that I contributed all that much to mankind's well-being as an investment banker). Besides, I need the money.
I'm in the mood to write a lot more, but since I'm approaching 2 AM here, I better hit the sack. Ciao! posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 12:55 AM |