Unpacking

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Putting together packaged furniture while the cats observe.

Unpacking boxes takes an awful lot of work.

My in-laws had come up just to help with the big furniture. After they left we were still left bunches of boxes to unpack.

Additionally, we hadn’t fully moved out of our old apartment. We have a lease that extends until the end of August. There are ways to get out of the lease, but moving somewhere else isn’t really one of them.

We have the option to sublease, but there are tons of people that want to sublease during the summer in Davis. We don’t even have the added benefit of offering a continuation of the lease past August because our apartment complex already found someone for that slot.

So why didn’t we wait until we’d finished the apartment lease before moving into a new home?

It’s mostly because the home is way bigger and a better place to live in. We thought about it prior to moving. Either way we end up paying the same amount of money. The apartment lease is for X amount of months whether we stay in it or not. The house we buy/bought will be Y amount of dollars whether we buy it in March or August.

So we’re not actually paying anymore money than if we’d stayed in the apartment until August. We have to pay MORE now, sure, but the total amount is the same.

I’ve got a decent amount saved up, so paying more now isn’t a huge inconvenience.

In exchange for paying more now we get to live in the house six months earlier. Woohoo!

Living in the new house includes many beneifts, most of which are related to choosing how our new house will be set up.

We get to decide where everything goes in our kitchen and the garage. We get to pick out plants to grow in the backyard. We get to pick out art to go on the walls or to present on shelves. We get to print out more pictures to put on our walls. We get to find places to put all the cat stuff. Stuff that never had a “place” at the old apartment (my wife’s shoes) get a whole new piece of furniture devoted to them.

All the new stuff is super great! And we get to blast music and stomp on the floor and not worry about offending our neighbors anymore. Nobody lives directly under or beside us.

Taking out the trash isn’t a huge trek across the parking lot (100 yards feels huge when you’re carrying 50+ pounds!). The laundry machines are much closer and I don’t have to hoard quarters like a lunatic anymore.

So many cool new things and this is only the beginning!

-GoCorral

Finalized the House

Just how it is.
Just how it is.

Woohoo! We got the keys to the house finally!

I got them in the afternoon and we went to check out the house which is now officially ours later that day.

We met one of our next door neighbors during that visit and her son and his children.

Her son’s house had apparently burned down so they were staying there until they got a rental lined up.

Pretty weird stuff, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

We learned a little bit more about the neighborhood too.

The other next door neighbor house is apparently a boarding house for UC Davis students.

We journeyed over to Ikea the next day to buy some furniture things.

We got a new bed frame for our new bedroom. The old frame will be going in the guest room.

We got some stuff for our second bathroom and we also got some curtains.

There was an unfortunate problem with all the curtains at Ikea. Every single one of them was at least eight feet long. This is an industry standard I guess.

We’ll have to cut and hem the curtains, but given how wide they are, we’ll need a sewing machine for that.

My wife is dreading asking her mom for the sewing machine because when she was a teenager she adamantly refused a sewing machine as a gift, stating that she “would never need it.”

Well… Now we do!

Maybe we can borrow one from my family instead. Or just buy one. Hemming those curtains by hand would be a nightmare.

And what would such a fun weekend be like without something going wrong! The hottest day of winter happened and we weren’t dressed appropriately (stupid Californians wearing sweaters in 65 degree weather!). We were unable to move as much stuff as we wanted to because of this.

Next things on the agenda, assemble what furniture we did get from Ikea and start moving as much as can from our apartment to the new house before spring break when we get my wife’s parents to come up and help with the big items.

-GoCorral

Fake Chinese New Year’s Eve

My D&D group had our hangout with our friend in San Jose this weekend. Someone suggested naming the event, “Fake Chinese New Year’s,” because its an additional party after the official Fake New Year’s, just like Chinese New Year’s is in the USA.

I picked up my spy partner from the previous post and we went to our San Jose friend’s house together. After catching up a little we started the gaming off with a few rounds of Three Dragon Ante.

Three Dragon Ante is a game made by Wizards of the Coast for D&D. It’s meant to be a card game that the people play in D&D worlds. It’s a bit like poker with a three card hand, but with tons of other rules and suits thrown in. Each suit has a special effect when you put it into your flight (the hands are called flights because they cards are all dragons). The special effect only activates if your card is weaker than the one your opponent played previously. The person with the highest hand at the end of the round wins the pot. You can see that you have to balance between activating your effects or playing high cards to win the pot.

Three Dragon Ante has a nice flow to it and we played two games of it. After that we went to pick up some pizza and talked about which roleplaying system we’ll be using for my next campaign. I and a few other group member have gotten tired of playing D&D 3.5. We feel we’ve explored everything we can with the system. The new systems I’ve looked at are D&D 4E and Hackmaster. Hackmaster has a lot more appeal within my group so we discussed a few of the benefits of that system.

Our next game was Samurai, an old card game where each player is a samurai in feudal Japan. You attempt to gain honor by faithfully serving a respectable daimyo. The daimyos fight each other and there’s a lot of espionage and backroom deals to gain more power as well. I won that one, but just barely.

Another of our buddies showed up at that point. We switched to playing a new card game I’d gotten for Christmas, Villainy. Villainy is all about completing your villainous schemes as a super-villain like Lex Luthor. You have to gather a team of loyal henchman, commit nefarious crimes, complete your master plan, and finally defeat Fantastiman, Defender of Good and Justice. I played the nefarious Frog Tamer and attempted to decaffeinate the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, Master Asaurus Pain completed his vile scheme to release Fantastiman’s browser history before me, thus winning the game.

We went out for dinner at a Filipino place that served exclusively dishes with meat and eggs. We watched the final quarter of a football game between the Ravens and some other team. After that I had to head out. I dropped my friend off back at his house. On the drive home I listened to part of a Hardcore History on World War 1 that described what the USA was doing prior to entering the war.

And that’s the word on Fake Chinese New Year’s! I have yet to talk about Christmas stuff yet, but I’ll be getting there soon.

-Mister Ed

Real New Year’s Eve

My D&D group celebrates Fake New Year’s Eve because we usually have other things we want to do on actual New Year’s Eve. Here’s what I did this year!

I went up to Chico to visit some friends and go to a club.

My wife has kept in touch with one of her best friends from college. She’s moved to Chico where her fiance is going to college.

We’ve visited them before and its a lot of fun. Even more this time because we went clubbing on New Year’s! My wife and I are far too insular to usually go clubbing even though we like it a lot.

We got to their apartment around noon and we did not immediately go to the club. We instead immediately went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

After that we went on a walk downtown to a comic and game shop, but didn’t get anything (They didn’t have what we wanted). We did look at all the Munchkin sets they had though. I learned that my wife’s friend’s fiance plays Munchkin, but just like me, can’t find people to play with him!

We got back to the house and the girls went to go gossip while the fiance showed me the popular game, Binding of Isaac. I’d heard about it before and always get excited about it because my name is Isaac too.

I knew it was a old school style game, kind of like Zelda. There are rooms in a dungeon and each room has its own set of monsters. You have bombs and ranged weapons and special items and all sorts of stuff.

I never really understood the plot of the game before. There isn’t much, but basically Isaac’s mom wants to sacrifice him to the Devil. This causes Isaac to cry (his tears are his weapons) and he fights back to escape her clutches and those of the Devil.

We watched the awesome Disney movie, Brother Bear, sometime before dinner, which was pasta and garlic bread.

Then we went out to the Beach!

The Beach is a pretty typical club. Cover fee to get in, tons of drinks to choose from if you want to wait forever in line, and a dance floor that hardly anyone was dancing in when we got there at 10:40. My wife and I were some of the first people to get on the dance floor and we pretty much stayed there until midnight.

The party heated up around 11:00 as more people got on the dance floor. The DJ didn’t seem to understand how slow songs fit into his mix, but was pretty good otherwise. Never lingered too long on a song, so if you liked it you got enough of it, but if you didn’t it was gone quickly.

My wife wore a sparkly gold sequin shirt that other girl’s occasionally got their hair caught in. There was a roudy guy that jumped all over the floor that the fiance and I both got to shove away from our group.

At midnight my wife and I got to kiss and a bunch of balloons dropped on the floor. The sound of popping balloons filled the air and we left the club because we were pretty tired.

The four block walk to the car was hard for my wife because she only had the heels (uncomfortable) and didn’t bring a jacket for the freezing weather. We made it and she got under the blanket we’d thought to bring ahead of time.

We fell asleep back at the apartment and left in the morning after a nice breakfast of tater tots and waffles. All in all a great start to the New Year!

-Mister Ed

New Year’s Resolutions

So there’s this tradition of making a resolution to improve yourself at the end of every year. It’s supposed to be a method of self-improvement.

When I was a kid most of my resolutions were to brush my teeth more often. After I started being interested in dating my resolutions mostly revolved around putting on more muscle mass.

This year they’re mostly about being a better person for my wife instead of my parents (teeth brushing) or a potential girlfriend (muscles).

1) When someone has a birthday I will try to make that day a little better for them.
I’ve become something of a Grinch when it comes to birthdays because I don’t like my own. I go to parties and am a nice guest, but I don’t try to do something for someone when there isn’t an established event for them already. I’ll try to change that from now on. Of course this will depend on how close I am to the birthday person. Doing something for them might just mean a message on their Facebook wall. It could mean I get them a cool present and send it in the mail or even offer to plan a party for them!

2) Enjoy my own birthday.
Related to the birthday Grinch thing, I don’t enjoy my own birthday. I don’t like the idea of getting older and have wanted to stay the same age since I was seven. Getting older sucks once you get all the privileges! Now its all about more responsibilities. Well, I should stop blaming my birthday for that and have a nice time. No more being grumpy for the two weeks that surround my birthday.

3) Try harder to be a vegetarian again.
My wife is a vegetarian for ethical reasons. She thinks its wrong to kill an animal just because you want something tastier to eat than the delicious combination of cheese and beans (We are fans of Mexican food). I phrased the question of vegetarianism to myself a little differently awhile ago. Who is a better person, someone who kills animals when they don’t have to or someone who doesn’t? That kind of made it clear to me. Someone who doesn’t kill animals is better.
While I don’t think I can stay off meat entirely because too many of my favorite recipes lack adequate substitutes. There are good soy substitutes for chicken, but not for bacon for example. Thus I told my wife two years ago that I would make an effort to replace or subtract meat from my meals when I felt it did not add anything to the meal. I’ve since started slipping in that promise, so I am reaffirming it as a New Year’s Resolution.

4) “Donate” money to Kiva.
Kiva is a cool organization that loans money to small business owners in developing countries. Note that Kiva doesn’t give money to them, it loans money. If you give money to someone they often don’t spend it wisely. There’s a natural tendency to see a gift as “fun money” instead of money to improve your station in life. But if the money is a loan, then the debt ensures that the money will be used to improve the person’s business instead of buying a TV or whatever.
About 10% of the people who receive money default on their loans (The site says 1.25%, but 10% was the number I remembered when I looked at it previously). For some perspective, the USA default rate on small business loans is 1.5% right now and was 6% during the recent recession. Another problem is that although you are fronting the money for the investment, you make nothing off of it. When the business owner repays the loan the interest is used to pay the salary of the collector working for Kiva. You get back your original investment, but that’s all. So what if someone defaults? Well, Kiva encourages you to spread your money out over multiple people in $20 amounts to avoid this problem. Then if someone defaults you’re only out $20.
I said I was donating the money though. My plan is that when I get my money back that I will just reinvest it in another person until its all gone due to defaults (which could take years). I got a $200 gift from my grandparents for Christmas, so I think that’ll be the starting amount of my Kiva account. I’ll add in more later as I get older.

5) Set up my wife’s Roth IRA.
Kind of strange to have this one follow up a resolution to invest money for other people, but investing money for yourself is important too! There are tons of different retirement accounts, but the do it yourself ones are called plain IRAs and Roth IRAs. Plain IRAs are taxed when you start withdrawing money from them after you retire. Roth IRAs are taxed before you put money into them, but never after that. Which one is better? It depends on your tax bracket. If your bracket is going to go up by the time you retire, then a Roth IRA is better. If its going to stay the same, a regular IRA is better.
I have a Roth IRA set up for myself. For someone in the bottom tax bracket like me, a Roth IRA will earn three times as much as a regular IRA in investments by the time I retire. My wife is in the same boat for her tax bracket. She doesn’t have an account set up yet and we’ve been talking about it for awhile. Next year I will set it up and we can start saving for retirement even though we are in our 20’s.

And those are my New Year’s Resolutions! I’d love to hear your own resolutions and the stories behind them in the comments below.

-Mister Ed

Annie Movie Review

Annie Movie Poster

I went to see the new Annie movie recently with my wife. She’s a big fan of one of the previous movies, the 1982 Columbia Pictures version.

As my wife’s a fan of the 1982 version we spent most of our time comparing the new 2014 movie to the older one.

There’s some rather obvious changes they made to adapt the movie to the modern world.

The original was set during the Great Depression with Daddy Warbucks earning his money by selling weapons. The new movie replaces Warbucks punny name with Will Stacks and his stacks of money he earned from his mobile phone company.

Annie used to be in an orphanage with dozens of other girls. Now she lives in foster care with four other kids.

Roosevelt is removed from the movie. A political element is still present as Stacks is running for mayor. He takes over Annie’s foster care as a PR move for his campaign instead of the nonspecified reason that Warbucks does in the first movie.

A few of the songs are missing, but the originals are joined by a few new ones such as “Opportunity” which you can hear on Youtube.

The song performances themselves are good with the exception of Cameron Diaz who plays the evil foster caretaker, Miss Hannigan. “Easy Street” and “Little Girls” are much worse than their 1982 versions, but how could anybody compete with Carol Burnett and Tim Curry?

The new Rooster character is a lot creepier than how I perceived the Tim Curry’s comical performance. I’m unsure if that was a decision made by the director or just that when the character is updated for a modern audience his creepiness comes out in a way that I can appreciate.

The movie has a few problems with lip syncing which is… odd. You’d think that’d be something they could’ve worked out by now with software.

There’s tons of other new additions to update the movie, Annie has a Twitter account run by her fans for example. There are still plenty of homages and jokes to please people like me who liked the original. If you enjoyed the 1982 Annie then I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this new version as well. Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx are just as cute as Aileen Quinn and Albert Finney.

-Mister Ed