A place to put random occurrences in my life...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Giving thanks on my wedding day

I still can't really believe it, but I've been married for just over two months now... the whole event was such a blur...

The wedding itself seemed to fly by but it lives on in my mind as a very vivid memory that I will always have with me. There were so many highlights - everything from the mixing of cultures at the ceremony (Jewish theme, Chinese Tea Ceremony, giving thanks to our parents in our native tongues, etc.) to the Best Man and Maid of Honor speeches and all the way through to the launching of the sky lanterns (Khoom Loy).

I was recently back in NY and watched the wedding video with my parents. At the end of the wedding, I gave a bit of a speech, and although I conveyed the overall message of thanks, I missed a lot of the points that I had been hoping to cover. If I could do it over again, I think my speech would be something like this:
Wow! What a night - I'm completely blown away. Let me begin by saying thanks to each and every one of you for making the long journey to celebrate this special occasion with us. It means the world to both Thien and myself that so many of our dear friends and family were able to travel over 8000 miles to be here today.

I'd like to talk a little bit about luck. Those of you that know me really well, know that I've always been lucky. For those of you that don't know me all that well, all you have to do is take one look at the gorgeous lady standing next to me to realize that I must be lucky. Luck was by my side when Alex, Jeremy and I came up with the stupid idea of opening a restaurant. Luck was by my side when I was introduced to Thien's brother Don and when Don decided to ask his sister to invest in the restaurant. Luck was even by my side when the restaurant endeavor failed to materialize - leaving me with Thien by my side and an opportunity for my friends and I to start a little business called Goowy.

As all of you witnessed, luck was certainly on my side with the weather today! As I stared into the torrential downpour just 30 minutes before the ceremony was slated to begin, I can tell you that I was extremely worried that our dreams of a wedding on the beach would be ruined. But luck prevailed, and the weather has been nothing short of amazing.

Although everyone here contributed to making this an extremely memorable occasion for us, I think it's appropriate to call out a few people in particular. First, we have to give thanks to Peter Wolf who did a phenomenal job as a first time Rabbi. Not only did Peter help Thien and I formulate the basis of the ceremony, but he performed it masterfully, and he added in a beautiful and heartwarming speech which we will treasure. I think Peter may have a career as a wedding Rabbi if it's something that he's interested in pursuing.

I'd like to also thank my best man, Alex, and Thien's maid of honor, Tammy. Both Alex and Tammy blew us away with their speeches tonight. I'm not quite sure how much money I owe Alex, but given all of the compliments (or rather lies in my favor) in his speech, I think I'll be paying him for quite some time. And although the speeches were incredible, the really amazing thing is how much these two have done for us throughout our lives - and how much they mean to us. Thien and I have been trully lucky - we love you guys!

I previously mentioned that this was a far journey for all involved. But there is one person here who completely outdid himself. This guy landed in Koh Samui about eight hours ago, he'll be leaving the island in just about 17 hours - and he came all the way from California. Special props have to go out to Young for being crazy enough to take two 25 hour trips, here and back, to be here for just over one day. We realize what you went through to be here for us and we truly appreciate it.

We also have to mention a special couple that is here with us tonight. This couple is celebrating their anniversary tonight - their 33rd wedding anniversary! And the good news is that they still seem to be happy with each other... It must be lucky to have a "successful" happy such as this sharing your anniversary with you, right? Let's give a hand for Yakov and Yelena Melman!

Along with the Melmans, Thien and I also have our parents for being true role models of what it means to be in love with each other and dedicated to each other for decades. My paren't celebrated their 35th anniversary last summer, and Thien's parents have been married to each other for even longer. Our parents have always been there for us. Our parents have instilled in us many of the personality traits that ultimate made Thien and I compatible. Our parents sacrificed so much in leaving their loved ones and their native countries to make better lives possible for us. We are both truly lucky to have been born into terrific families and to have been raised by loving parents. We will forever look to our parents as a guiding light of how we want to live our lives as a married couple and as a new family.

Finally, we want to once again thank all of you for being a part of this occasion with us. The theme of luck continues with all of you - Thien and I are very lucky to have you in our lives and we will always cherish you!
I'm somewhat glad that I didn't write and memorize this speech ahead of time - it likely would have seemed rehearsed since I'm not a great actor, and it would have probably been overly long. That said, I wanted to correct some of my omissions for the record...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What is this blog here for?

Last week, this blog was "outted" on Twitter by @michaelwalton. To my knowledge, this was the first time, someone other than Thien had read my blog - or at least given me feedback - and more importantly, now all 100 (don't laugh at the small number - we all have to start somewhere) of my followers knew that I was writing a blog. Judging from my Google Analytics account, traffic had spiked 5x - from two viewers all the way to 10!

Since I now realize that others may actually stumble across my public blog at some point, I think its a good time to address why this blog even exists.

First and foremost, this blog is for me. As a kid growing up, I always received good grades on my written assignments - and I believed that I had above average skill in putting words on a piece of paper. Through the years, I've discovered that its become harder and harder for myself to express myself with the written word. I think the reasoning is similar to why my handwriting has gotten worse and worse (if that's possible, given how bad my handwriting has always been) - its simply a lack of practice. So in effect, this blog serves as a challenge to myself in writing on a consistent basis with the hopes of actually improving my writing.

Second, I'm a technologist. This blog gives me an opportunity to play with some cool web technologies in a bit of a sandbox. So far I've played with widgets like the Nike avatar (although I've clearly got some expertise with widgets already), Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect, blog authoring tools (ScribeFire, Flock, and Zemanta) and Google Analytics. GA is one example of a tool that I can truly begin to understand with a smaller set of date than a larger one. On this blog, I can specifically see how traffic flows, how it's impacted by referrals and searches, etc. I can do the same thing on larger implementations, but I find it simpler to understand new pieces of the puzzle with smaller data sets.

Third, there are certain things that I'd like to keep a record of. That may be big moments in my life, interesting experiences, progress at the gym or even solutions to technical problems. Call it both a personal and professional journal.

That said, I could accomplish all of this with a "private", invitation only blog. So why do I have this public blog? I could say that the public nature gives me a voice that I wouldn't otherwise have when I want to vent about something, but I don't really expect it to resonate quite as loud as Jeff Jarvis' now famous "Dell Sucks" post. I think the answer is actually the same reason that so many of us now share our entire lives online - vanity. I suppose that since I've chosen to document some things in this public manner, essentially asking to be discovered, I can't really be "outted", can I?

So although this blog is really for me, I realize that some may stumble upon it, and I'll try to keep it mildly entertaining for you...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What do I spend my time on?

The MacBook Pro (15.4" widescreen) was Ap...Image via Wikipedia

I've known for quite a while that I spend far too much time glued to my laptop screen. I've also instinctively known that the majority of time that I spend in front of my computer is actually in front of email. To test that theory out, I installed a product called RescueTime that actually records and plots out the applications and web sites used during the course of a day/week/month.

Here's a quick look at my week for the week of March 8, 2009:

As suspected, I am currently trapped in email for almost 10 hours a day. I spend more time in email than most people spend working. How that's possible, I'm not entirely sure - but I tend to believe it! After email, my next largest chunk of time is used up by Netnewswire, coming in at just under 5 hours a day. Although I know that I subscribe to way too many blogs and spend too much time catching up on news, I also know that it can't possibly be 5 hours a day. Initially I thought that RescueTime may be recording the amount of time that an app is open - not necessarily when I'm using it. But then I took a look at my Adium and TweetDeck usage - both are open all day long but show up at under 30 minutes each, which is probably aligned with how often I actually use them. According to the RescueTime FAQ, the data should only be tracked for applications that are in focus, but perhaps there's an issue or two with the software as it stands. As a side note, it's interesting to see that my recent desire to purchasese a house is being picked up (..tempo5.sandi...) by my browsing behavior.

Below is a "live" chart that will update every week, allowing me to track my progress:

I'm definitely curious to see if visualizing how I spend my time helps me to manage it better. And ultimately, I'd love to figure out a way to decrease the amount of time I spend in front of a computer, but I don't think I'm there yet...

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is it the right time to buy a house?

ZoneTag Photo Monday 12:23 pm 3/3/08 San Diego...Image by freshelectrons via Flickr

Thien and I have recently started looking for homes in the Carlsbad area. I should have known better, but I mistakenly made this known to the world in a Twitter message. I received a few bewildered replies via Twitter, Facebook, email, IM, and phone - all within 30 minutes of my tweet. I think that my friends/family were a bit surprised that I am now considering moving back to San Diego after just a year in Los Angeles.

For myself and Thien, I think the reality is that although Santa Monica is great, San Diego feels much more like home to us. We had planned to make this move eventually, but given the dynamics in both the real estate market and the stock market, I'm not sure there will be a better time to make the move - at least from a financial perspective - in the near future.

Do I think that either the stock or real estate markets have hit their bottoms? Absolutely not. But I do think that real estate will stabilize first. And even if it doesn't, I'm ultimately buying a roof over my head, something physical to call my own, a bit of the American dream, etc. - and I get a write off to boot. And at the same time, the stock market still seems so volatile to me, that I've had to keep my money in cash. I think the time is right (or almost right) to put that cash into a physical asset that has a decent chance to appreciate from current levels - over a ten year period.

For illustration purposes, the chart below shows the house values in Carlsbad over the past five years. Prices are now below what they were in 2005 - and I actually think Zillow is a bit slow in showing the true decline, so I would venture to say that we are actually below 2004 prices.

Obviously the prices were significantly overinflated throughout 2006 and even going into 2007, but the properties we're looking at really do seem cheap to us.

Anyway, we haven't found our next house yet, but we're definitely looking and hoping for something great!
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