October 29, 2004


After one day's delay, escrow closed last night. We're now officially homeowners!

We get possession tomorrow afternoon -- the actual moving-in will be happening next weekend.

Posted by Kevin at 11:02 AM | Comments (3)

October 27, 2004

Almost Ours ...

Yesterday, Shelby and I drove down to the escrow company and signed a giant stack -- the last stack -- of house-related paperwork. Assuming there aren't any last-minute hitches (like, say, the escrow office burning to the ground last night), escrow closing happens sometime this afternoon and the house is ours!

Beforehand, everyone told us scary stories about just how many papers we'd be signing, and how our hands would be cramping up by the end, but the stack wasn't that big. It felt strange to repetitively sign my middle name, though -- since that's only something I place on the most legal of legal documents, and I ordinarily don't have many of those, it's not ingrained in my muscle memory like the rest of my signature.

After the signing, there was a scramble to find our nearest "credit union service center" and procure a cashier's check for $106,000 and change; I hadn't brought a check along with me because I'd assumed we'd be coming back today. Fortunately, withdrawing a giant sum from my bank account turned out to be completely painless -- you'd think that it would involve something more stringent than just asking for my driver's license, but apparently not.

Posted by Kevin at 09:14 AM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2004

Legoland: Say It Isn't So!

Lego is trying to sell its four Legoland amusement parks after a second year of record financial losses for the company overall.

Nostalgic children of the 70s and 80s: unite to save the Legos!

(Pictures from our trip to Legoland Billund in June.)

Posted by Kevin at 11:52 PM

The Treat That's Also A Pill

The makers of Heartgard have it right -- not only is it important medicine (an anti-heartworm medication) that we have to give to Scout once a month, it's also a 'real-beef chewable' cube that Scout regards as a delicious taste treat.

Most medicine is an ordeal for both man and Beagle -- you shove the pill as far as you can down the mouth of the squirming, gagging dog, then hold the snout tightly closed until you're reasonably sure swallowing has occurred (and if it turns out you're wrong, you repeat the process with a soggy, spit-up pill that you've fished out of the carpet). But for Heartgard, Scout gladly comes out of hiding, scarfing up the 'treat' from your open hand.

Why can't all dog medications be this easy?

Posted by Kevin at 12:44 AM

October 22, 2004

A More Modern Variation On "Your call is EXTREMELY important to us, so we'll let you sit on hold while we pick the lint from our toenails"

Tonight I thought I'd be proactive and order phone service for the new house. Since it's outside normal business hours, I thought that I'd make my order over the Web. I give the phone company all kinds of sensitive personal information, and slog through screen after screen of "Are you SURE you don't want to SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE and KEEP IN TOUCH by buying the SuperConnect PureTalk 12-Way SimpleChoice UltraDistinctiveCalling CommuniCenter Unlimited Package With CallerID/Distinctive Ring/TelemarketerAvoid/WireAssurance Gold for ONLY an extra $48.95 per month? Integrate it with the Message Center Plus for an additional $12.67/month!!"

Finally I reach the Holy Grail -- the last page, where I choose a date and time for installation, press the SUBMIT MY ORDER button, and get this:

Did my order go through? I'm guessing "no". I backed up a couple of times and tried to submit my order again, with the same sad results. Hopefully we won't be getting four phone bills during our first month in the new house. SBC -- we value your business so little, we can't even be bothered to make sure that our computers are working!

Why are telecom companies such a refuge for the incompetent?

Posted by Kevin at 06:59 PM

Earthquakes ... In Hamburg?

Hamburg waited until after we left to become a little more like Southern California: there was a 4.5-magnitude earthquake there on Wednesday!

Posted by Kevin at 11:44 AM

I'm Not Dead ...

... I just disappeared from blogland for a week. But my most faithful reader (that would be Shelby) keeps complaining that her favorite blogger (that would be me) hasn't updated in a while, so here goes, all in one big chunk:

  • The House: Moving right along! Our final-inspection walkthrough is tomorrow.

    Our expected move-in date is November 1st, or thereabouts. Of course, we'll be sleeping on an air mattress and eating fast food standing up around the kitchen counter until we figure out how we want to get our household goods down from San Jose, but still -- our own house! In less than two weeks!

  • THE RAIN!: My God, it's been RAINING here!!!! If this keeps up, I might have to switch back to wearing long pants (excepting a few moderately dressy occasions, I've worn nothing but shorts since getting back from Germany, mostly just to celebrate the fact that after months of living in the rain and cold, I can!). Sunny Southern California just doesn't know what to do with itself once it starts to rain -- to Shelby and me, the first rains seemed like a couple of hours worth of a half-strength version of the weather we used to get for days in Hamburg, but the TV newscasts were full of pictures of traffic accidents, mudslides, and flooding caused by the FREAK STORM that had POUNDED THE SOUTHLAND!!
  • Poor Dog!, Part the Thousandth: Scout spent the past week acting like she might have injured her back again, skulking around the house and being reluctant to jump onto Shelby's parents' waterbed, ordinarily her favorite perch in the whole world. We took her to the local urgent-care vet-in-a-box; after a long wait and a cursory examination (boy, both Scout and I miss Dr. Bielan in Hamburg!), they diagnosed her with a possible back injury and sent us home with steroids.

    This latest back injury prodded us into doing something we'd been meaning to do once we got back to America: taking Scout to see a specialist in order to determine whether or not her pattern of recent back injuries (three in the past two years) is mere bad luck or emblematic of a deeper injury. After soliciting reccomendations on the Web, Shelby drove Scout down to Veterinary Surgical Specialists in Orange County. The surgeon there said that a few weeks of steroids was the right course for her current injury (but with the addition of a daily Pepcid for upset doggie tummies). He didn't recommend surgery until the dog was in obvious and unending pain, and that's thankfully not Scout's condition. She fell below the threshold for a spinal MRI, too (apparently doggie X-rays are totally useless; you'll always find something strange-looking, so you need the greater definition of an MRI), so that's good news. So, it's just a couple of daily pills and restricted jumping for our small dog -- and daily attempted guilt trips for us as she stands vigil at the closed door that leads into the room where the waterbed is, staring up with the pleading soulful brown eyes: I feel better now! Won't you please let me in?

  • Linky-Linky: Interesting links I've seen recently:

    • Irritated by too-loud televisions in public places? Upset when your restaurant dinner companion stares at the TV over your shoulder, instead of looking at you? You need TV-B-Gone! It's the remote with only one button: Off. (from BoingBoing)
    • Lab-Tested -- dog toys tested by a Lab, not in a lab ... (from An American Girl In Germany)
  • Gratuitous Beagle Picture:You've probably already seen it on Shelby's blog, but I'll repeat it here:

Posted by Kevin at 10:29 AM

October 13, 2004

New House Pictures

Our house had its inspection yesterday, and we're pleased to say that it passed. Of course, we took some pictures.

The home inspector was practically gushing about what great shape the house was in, particularly considering its age. Whoever rehabbed the house when it was moved from its original location was very thorough: it has a new foundation, new plumbing, new wiring, new heating and air-conditioning, and is fully insulated in the attic and crawlspace. The only items that gave him pause were the (blessedly few) do-it-yourself improvisations that the homeowners made -- the most alarming (harking back to the "cowboy electricians" entry) being an electrical outlet mounted just above the spa, wired up with lampcord spliced into the supply for the jacuzzi motor. Fortunately, that'll be easy to take out ...

Our main item of concern was the foundation; our putative homeowner's insurace company required us to show proof that the house was earthquake-bolted down to the foundation before they would issue us coverage. Fortunately, the house was indeed bolted and strapped, and shear walls had been added to the foundation.

Another reassuring thing was that the realtor's sign in front of the house had a big "SOLD" sign tacked onto it, and the current owners were visibly in the process of moving out -- unlike the last inspection, where not only was there no SOLD sign, but the owners hadn't even begun packing and still had stacks of their realtor's pamphlets and brochures laid out on the dining room table! Foreshadowing that I was oblivious to at the time ...

This deal, though, is marching solidly towards completion. There's still the chance for something to gum up the works -- there always is -- but it's looking more and more likely that we'll be calling this house home in just a couple of weeks!

Our awesome foundation.

Posted by Kevin at 02:39 PM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2004


Indisputably, the most famous thing in our soon-to-be-(unless something goes horribly wrong)-hometown of Anaheim is Disneyland.

A post on Metroblogging Orange County called my attention to this photo tour of 50s and 60s Disneyland, made up entirely of visitors' vacation snapshots. This caught my eye for its superficial resemblance to the Alexanderplatz clock in (former East) Berlin; I'm surprised that Walt Disney allowed such a commie-lookin' thing in his all-American amusement park.

The Disneyland of forty years ago reminds me of my visit to Disneyland Paris four years ago -- everything looks so new and visually incomplete, with fresh mounds of dirt here and there, brand-new scraggly short trees tied to posts, and big expanses of sky visible through gaps of empty space that today are filled in by buildings and mature landscaping.

In a similar vein is this site of Disneyland postcards from the past fifty years (with a few more shots of that clock). The oldest and best, however, of all Disney-nostalgia sites is Yesterland. Just last week, Shelby and I were talking about how old we were before we stopped believing that the Adventure Thru Inner Space ride actually shrunk you down to molecular size ...

Being true Children of Southern California, we both went to Disneyland fairly often when we were kids. When relatives came in from out of state, we got to go along as escorts. Our dads worked for companies that were big enough to have their own Disneyland night (back when Disneyland would close down in the evenings and rent itself out to sufficiently large companies and groups). We'd go during days off from summer camp staff, or at the end of the school year. In college, I befriended a rich Orange County doctor-type, and thus got to take a date to dinner at the members-only open-secret Club 33, hidden above New Orleans Square. (Before the Robert Mondavi-sponsored set of winery-themed attractions in Disney's California Adventure, Club 33 was the only place where alcohol was served on Disneyland grounds -- although we were a couple of years too young to appreciate that at the time.)

Once we move in to the new house, we're talking about getting annual passes, at least for our first year -- because wouldn't it be fun to say "hey, let's drop by Disneyland for a couple of hours this morning", or "we've got nothing planned after dinner -- why don't we just go to Disneyland"? Our inner children, at least, will be thrilled.

Posted by Kevin at 11:24 PM

More Debate

I think tonight's 'town hall' debate came across as more evenly matched -- rhetorically I'd definitely have to give the edge to Kerry again, albeit by a much smaller margin. Bush didn't help himself by acting like a berserker during the first half, acting as if YELLING HIS ANSWERS WOULD QUASH ALL DISSENT -- I was almost waiting for him to jump into the crowd and throttle some random audience member; when he steamrolled Charlie Gibson in order to start yelling about Tony Blair, I thought that maybe things would finally come to blows, but no luck.

And then there was this:

One questioner asked Mr. Bush whom he would pick if there were a Supreme Court vacancy. "I'm not telling you," the president said. "I really haven't picked anybody yet." He added lightheartedly, "Plus I want them all voting for me."

Um, George? You're really not a guy who should be letting the phrases "Supreme Court" and "all voting for me" come anywhere near each other ...

Posted by Kevin at 09:41 PM

October 07, 2004

We Got The (Different) House (Again)!

We got our second house! When it comes to good news, our experience with the Birch Street house has made us reluctant to speak too soon, but now things look pretty solid. The sellers agreed to bridge the gap between the appraisal and the asking price with us -- they'll be paying half, we'll be paying half -- and we should be signing revised offer paperwork and mortgage instructions tomorrow.

Barring the completely unexpected, we should be moving into our own house around the end of the month! Hooray!

Posted by Kevin at 07:40 PM

October 06, 2004

Mr. Happy

Shelby's dad is watching 21 Grams, the most persistently depressing movie that Shelby and I have ever seen. There is not a single thing that's even remotely uplifting about this film; after watching it, I wanted to go and wash my mind out with Broadway musicals. Well, he can't say that we didn't warn him ...

And as Shelby said, "you think that you're bummed out now? Imagine watching this movie in a theater in Hamburg, getting out at midnight, and then standing and waiting at a bus stop in the cold, rainy dark -- while thinking 'I just spent seven Euro to watch that?'"

(And that whole playing-with-the-chronological-flow-of-narrative thing? It might have been edgy in Memento, but now it's so over. Sorry.)

Posted by Kevin at 09:29 PM

October 05, 2004

It's Nice To Be An Upmtymabillionaire

Dick Cheney invited us debate watchers to go to factcheck.com tonight to get the REAL TRUTH on something-or-other. (There was lying taking place during the debate? I'm shocked -- shocked!)

Problem is, Dick meant to send people to factcheck.org. Factcheck.com was apparently an unused, parked domain name (see its last available incarnation in the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine") -- until tonight, when the fantastically wealthy and extremely pro-Democratic George Soros bought it and redirected it to his own, very anti-Bush site.

(Insert Nelson Muntz "HA-HA!" sound here ...)

And the current leading article on factcheck.org is "Bush Mischaracterizes Kerry's Health Plan". Are you sure that's what you want people to see?

[10/6 UPDATE: George Soros' people are saying that it wasn't their idea. Somebody was thinking quickly though, as people live-blogging the debate noted that factcheck.com didn't lead anywhere -- but by the end of the debate, when I looked, the redirect to Soros' site was in place. If Soros' team didn't do it, why did the people responsible chose to redirect visitors to georgesoros.com, out of any number of possible anti-Bush choices? A mystery.]

Posted by Kevin at 11:17 PM

October 04, 2004

Housing Follies

Well, we got back the apprisal, and -- surprise, surprise -- the house appraised for less than the asking price. The sellers' agent is adamant that her clients absolutely will not accept anything less than the full asking price -- and, by the way, did she mention that she's got three other full-price offers waiting for us to drop out?

[Further comments redacted to soothe a nervous spouse. Things are progressing, maybe even to our advantage ... ]

Posted by Kevin at 04:10 PM

October 02, 2004

In Other Media

The LA Times is shocked to find out that UC Berkeley is no longer the daily hotbed of campus protest that it was in the 60s and early 70s. I guess that's what happens when you fill up a university with grade-obsessed engineers and premed students who have too much homework to spend time at protests! They go to Sproul Plaza, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, and find only a few quiet tables for student groups like the Cal Snowboard Club and the campus 'personality' we called "The Yeshua Guy" (Rick Starr, another perennial campus fixture when I was a student, apparently 'retired' several years ago, to the relief of Sproul Hall office workers and female students everywhere).

(Yes, you have to register to read articles on latimes.com, but you could always get a username and password from bugmenot.)

Shelby's parents got their most recent issue of Wine Spectator a few days ago. The cover story was "A Beginner's Guide to Wine Collecting: Advice for Every Taste And Price Range". I thought "hey, that could be news we could use", and started reading, but my brain pretty much shut off by the third paragraph:

To that end, we've set some realistic parameters to help you get started. A budget of $10,000 will allow you to make a strong commitment to wine collecting. Bearing in mind that your collection cannot take shape without proper storage, $2,000 is allocated for building a small cellar or buying a stand-alone unit that can hold up to 250 bottles. That leaves $8,000 to stock the cellar.

$10,000! I guess that we've still got a ways to go before the cognoscenti can even consider us to be 'novices'. But then again, if you're a Wine Spectator subscriber, your normal day-to-day wine consumption is probably above the level of what most laypeople would consider to be "collecting" ...

Posted by Kevin at 10:26 AM

October 01, 2004

Your Siegfried & Roy News Source

Slowly, they can smile again: the magicians Siegfried and Roy.
(Siegfried is played in this picture by Owen Wilson.)
Alpine Village wasn't a total letdown, after all. After our Oktoberfest fiasco, I went back during normal operating hours, and the bookstore there had something I'd been searching for (inbetween the $8 copies of Stern!) -- fresh copies of the California Staats-Zeitung.

The CSZ is an odd little paper for German speakers in California. I subscribed before we went to Hamburg; now that we're back, I've renewed my subscription as part of my plan to keep up my German proficiency. It comes once a week; it's usually twenty pages or so, containing a selection of wire-service world news, some California items, 'lifestyle' pieces from Germany (See the latest zany food item/fashion style from back home! Look on as we test-drive this BMW!), horoscopes, a crossword puzzle (completing that every week would be good practice), a half-page fiction serial, and a sports section that mostly consists of the play-by-play soccer recaps that you just can't get in an American paper.

And then there's the Siegfried and Roy section. After last year's Roy-gets-chomped-by-a-tiger incident, the CSZ started running gigantic articles about everybody's favorite Germanic entertainment duo -- long breathy pieces about their history together, the accident itself, Roy's struggle for survival afterwards.

I'm relieved to see that after six months, nothing has changed. The top half of the front page held an article about President Bush's most recent speech before the UN -- but when I pulled the paper off of the shelf and flipped it open, the bottom half was about Siegfried and Roy, one year on. Roy is in a wheelchair, partially paralyzed -- but he still has his sense of humor! The tiger wasn't trying to kill Roy -- he was trying to rescue him! Roy is gaining back his strength -- but his true strength comes from his fans! They still visit the tigers every day -- but now from behind a Plexiglass shield!

For some reason, I imagine all of these S&R articles being greenlighted by a blue-haired little old lady who really loves Vegas and Siegfried and Roy, and thinks that it's a shame that neither of those two nice men found the right woman in time to support them through their ordeal ... with a teenaged grandchild tagging along behind to suggest "Um, Oma -- maybe Seigfried and Roy didn't exactly like girls that way, if you know what I mean?"

I wonder what the CSZ thinks about Father of the Pride?

Posted by Kevin at 06:25 PM