Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bad Tippers Update

Remember my post on my trip to Junior's in Brooklyn? My post was partially about how badly black people tip and me wondering why. It seems that fellow blogger, Hungry Cabbie, also had the same experience in a soul food restaurant in the Bronx. It is almost like waitresses in establishments that serve primarily black customers don't even expect tips anymore. Plus, there is the general assumption among cabbies that black people are poor tippers.

I did some research on this phenomena and it isn't just us. Other people have noticed this too! This article from the Seattle Times lays it out pretty rationally. It may be a self-reinforcing cycle that waiters/waitresses do not give good service to black people because black people tip poorly and black people tip poorly because they get bad service and the cycle continues. The article also noted that it isn't purely a race thing as the "race of the server didn't affect the tip size". In fact, black waiters/waitresses hated waiting on black customers! I was really glad that this article explored this issue and suggested possible reasons why it happened and solutions to the problem. Apparently, black people tip their hotel maids and bartenders more than white people so perhaps this restaurant and cabbie tipping part is all a big misunderstanding or simply just not knowing the social rules of tipping.

The article suggests outreach to black churches and informative placards. I'm not sure that this would actually help as I have seen in person the way black customers treated their waiters/waitresses and it was not pretty. But perhaps it was an isolated instance. I would say that really wealthy (read ENTITLED BUTT-MUNCHERS) probably also tip the same way. This also confuses me because the really wealthy do have enough money to tip and know the social norms about tipping but it is probably their natural tendency to be entitled butt-munchers.

Peter S. Beagle

Remember the old animated movie of Lord of the Rings? Remember the movie, The Last Unicorn, that used to be aired on television every year? Both were written by a fantastic author, Peter S. Beagle. The reason why I mention him today is that I got a newsletter from his website today which broke the news that his mother had died. It sounded like she had led a long and happy life but I was most interested in her writing. The newsletter linked to vignettes that his mother, Rebecca, had written and they were pretty interesting! It was also good to hear that Peter and Rebecca are also native New Yorkers born in the Bronx!

If you are ever looking for something to read, do pick up the Fantasy Worlds of Peter S. Beagle. I'm not actually sure that they sell new editions anymore but I am sure you can pick it up used. His writing really cuts to the heart.

But as much as he is a great writer, he is a poor businessman. According to the backstory on his life, he basically wrote the screenplay for the animated Lord of the Rings for a mere $5,000 dollars. Apparently, the producer had promised him more money but reneged on his deal after the movie was made. I think the same thing happened with The Last Unicorn. Poor guy! It makes you wonder about those copyright laws. The laws were written to protect the interests of writers and artists and to help them get paid for their creativity and original work. In then end as with every other law, the copyright laws seem to benefit major companies who can hire lawyers to protect their interests - one of the worst offenders being SONY, of course. Who could forget about the rootkits and their MP3 fiasco?

I am waiting anxiously for his next book, The Line Between, and I sincerely hope he can afford to continue writing!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fear and Trembling of Bad Female Bosses

I watched "Fear and Trembling" last night. I had rented this DVD through Netflix and had kept the DVD on top of my shelf for ages because I had curiously forgotten I had rented this film. "Fear and Trembling" is a French film about a Belgian woman working in a corporate Japanese office. The movie had narration in French and the character dialogue in Japanese. It was a semi-autobiographical account of a Belgian woman's traumatic experience navigating (or blundering, in her case) through the intricacies of Japanese office etiquette. I cringed throughout the film at the punsihments her boss inflicted upon her. A Japanese company will not fire an employee but will subject an employee to ever degrading tasks as punishment for perceived errors or any indication of individualism or self-promotion. As masochistic as the film became, I was oddly intrigued.

I was interested in the human interaction between two women: the Belgian woman subordinate and the Japanese woman boss. It reminded me of some of the female work interaction that happens here between a female boss and a female subordinate. I think women are very competitive with each other. In this age, we are raised to be strong women capable of having a career, raising families and managing a workforce. I think many women mistake this striving for independence and strength as an excuse to be uncompromising, unpleasant and selfish aka BITCHES. There are some women who are genuinely great bosses and completely care about their co-workers and subordinates but I think the majority are often not very helpful and are looking to take advantage of your work to get to the next level. I find that most of the lovely and kind boss women are often sidetracked by marriage and family obligations as I assume the that no one will marry the bitch women.

So I prefer to have a male boss. I have had up to 6 bosses during the course of my career and I find that male bosses tend to manage their employees better. Male bosses also offer the most support for career development and future jobs. And no, this has nothing to do with sexual pressure as many of my male bosses were gay! I really really wish this was not the case because I hope to have my fellow sisters in positions of authority and working as mentors and sounding boards to the next generation of women. Why are we competitors rather than allies? Why do we have a natural inclintion to backstab? I hope that if I am ever in a position of authority again, I would make sure to treat my female employees well and encourage them in their careers regardless whether they surpass me or not.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Take Back America

How amazing was Barak Obama's speech at the Take Back America conference???? A man like this who becomes involved in politics comes along only once in a lifetime. Working briefly in politics, I have come to really despise the professional politician. In my two years working in a district office, I have only met one politician I truly liked and admired. The rest of the politicians were in their position to pursue a salary, an ambitious position that would eventually lead to a lucrative job, and/or bask in some sort of fame to feed their giant egos.

So who was the one politician I truly admired? Liz Kruger - check out her website. And no, I did not work for or campaign on her behalf but I may in the future. She was the only politician that I have personally met who truly cared about people and their needs. She was just as kind to her constituents who had no money as she was to her donors. I haven't ever met Barak Obama but he kind of gives me that vibe.

Certainly George W. Bush never gave me that vibe. But on a another note, what kind of idiot votes for George W. Bush when they are not part of the wealthy one percent? I mean, I can totally see why you would vote for Bush if you were really wealthy. Bush gives out tax breaks for the wealthy and he supports the abolishment of estate tax (aka Paris Hilton tax aka the death tax) so that people who have a lots of money to pass down to their heirs will no longer have to pay taxes. Please note that if you are not wealthy, you do not have to pay this tax to pass money to your heirs. What kills me is the average blue collar middle class American voting for Bush. What the heck? He will screw over the middle class American to keep his wealthy one percent tax base secure. This was very clear from his past position as governor of Texas.

I only hope that we are able to elect a competent president next time around - Barak Obama???

Uneven Eyebrows II

So I have reconciled myself to my uneven eyebrows. It seems like facial exercises seem to work. I figure that if I keep on contorting my face, I will eventually become symmetrical. =D. Just kidding. I think makeup works quite well if one has the time to use eyebrow pencil to shade the sparse areas in just right.

I also have those eyebrow cutouts that simplify the process of creating perfect eyebrows. They are plastic paper squares with the shape of the eyebrow cut into them. You hold them up to your eyebrow and dust the cutout with brown powder, and poof! - you have eyebrows. The problem is that the eyebrows are too dark for my face. I am thinking of getting maybe a lighter shade.

Sometimes it is just really frustrating to look at my face and the see the uneven eyebrows! There has to be a better solution. Tweezing definitely does not work. I figure there are really a few options you have with uneven eyebrows:

1. Tweezing - only works if the unevenness has to do with the amount of eyebrow hair

2. Eyebrow gel - this works if your eyebrow hairs grow in the wrong direction and make your eyebrows looks weird and uneven

3. Eyebrow lift - this endoscopic surgery lifts the eyebrow muscles permanently so that you can fix the permanent uneven eyebrows. The problem is that the surgery can also permanently fuck up the eyebrows if the muscles aren't pulled to the correct height.

4. Eyebrow tattoo - You can shave off your eyebrows and get permanent makeup by having someone tattoo the eyebrow on. Can we say ew?

5. Praying to the eyebrow god - If all other solutions fail.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Petite People Unite!

Check this out. Oh yes, my petite friends. We are back in business. We may be small but we are fierce! Do not discount us because we are tiny as we have the persistance and the voices to make this happen.

I have noticed that petite sections have slowly been reduced in stores. Last time I checked, there were still plenty of petite women out there. Maybe we just take care of our clothes better than our taller brethren do allowing us to cut down on the number of clothes we purchase. Or maybe my generation is a generation of giants.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Per Se

This weekend was fantastic with the exception of a few minor hiccups. I surprised D with a hot air balloon ride on Saturday and a dinner at Per Se on Sunday for his birthday. I'm not sure that he was as excited about the hot air balloon ride as he was about our dinner at Per Se. But that is why I usually line up more than one gift - to make sure that there is at least something D likes as he is really picky.

I had reserved a car through Liberty Car Rental for D to drive to the hot air balloon site. I printed out the confirmation from the online website and everything! Unfortunately, we went to the garage to pick up the car on Saturday and found that Liberty Car Rental no longer exists. !!!!!! The guy at the garage told us that Liberty Car Rental went out of business three months ago! The bastards still have their website up and operating and accepting reservations. I was so MAD! This had happened before to other people who had reserved with this car rental company so the nice guy at the garage gave us directions to another car rental place on Astor Place, Action Rental.

If you are trying to rent a car on a beatiful Saturday in June in New York City without any advance notice, you are pretty much screwed. Every New Yorker is just itching to get out of the city to get to the Hamptons, Fire Island, New Jersey, or any place where there is fresh air. I was panicking because I had already put down money on the hot air balloon ride and the money was noonrefundable. Action Rental had cars available but had only Lincoln Navigators and Escalades left over. I hate SUVs with a passion and I especially loathe gigantic hulking mini monster trucks such as the Navigators and the Escalades. I was willing to give up my trip and forgo all the money as long as I didn't have to ride in those shitty cars. How would you even get through tiny Manhattan streets in those things? It's a wonder that the car rental place even stocked those things.

Luckily after many taxi rides and calls, we managed to get a much smaller SUV at a Budget car rental. I think it was a Ford Rav4 which is infinitely better. I'm willing to compromise on a smaller SUV as long as it gets me to where I need to go without scraping through streets and being in danger of having our wheels slashed by SUV haters like me. We had a lovely time at a Bed & Breakfast in Stewartsville. The B&B was a mini farm with lots of rabbits, chickens, sheep and even a llama! But the ground was covered with poo! =( I guess that is to be expected with a farm but it just solidified the fact that I am a city girl through and through. I was ew-ing all over the place. We ate at a fairly average restaurant: Spain II and had a hot air balloon ride afterwards. We had a balloon all to ourselves with the exception of the guide handling the balloon and the views were beautiful! I was terrified. I was hundreds of feet up in the air holding onto nothing but a flimsy wicker basket. But D seemed to enjoy it and that was all that mattered.

One of the couples in another balloon got engaged that day! The balloon guys had set up a "will you marry me" sign directly under the couple's balloon. I secretly thanked my lucky stars that they took the sign off in time so that D didn't see it. How weird would it be to have D think I was proposing to him in a hot air balloon ride? It would be really confusing. Especially if he said no!

We drove back to New York on Sunday and got lost in Jersey City searching for a gas station. We finally managed to make it home and collapsed into the sofa for a good 10 hours in time for our dinner reservation at Per Se! Per Se was fabulous in every way. It was the best meal I have ever had. Of course, D and I had starved ourselves all Sunday as I had warned him that we should save our appetites for something special. We ate nothing except for a few pancakes at breakfast. We desperately snacked on 5 cheesy Pepperidge Farm goldfish a few hours before dinner but we pretty much came with empty stomachs. The meal began with mini cheeseballs which tasted amazingly like the cheesy goldfish we had just eaten. The amuse bouche was a buttery salmon tartar with creme fraiche in a sesame cracker cone which was very tasty. We scarfed these down and waited for the feast to roll onto the table and into our tummies. We started with what was my favorite part of the meal, Oyster and Pearls. I only wish I could make this at home! It was two oysters with lots of black cavier on top of a buttery broth and tapioca. There was no skimping on the cavier unlike some places (ahem! Tribeca Grill.). We sat there for ages scraping our dishes. It took every ounce of decorum not to lick the bowl.

The courses after that arrived in a whirl. I think we had Belgian Endives with Kumquats as a salad dish. We opted not to go with the Foie Gras (I know! I know! Everyone loves the foie gras dish here!) because we hate foie gras. We are not big liver fans. We ate a fish with a crispy crust and white asparagus and wild asparagus. We moved onto a succulently tender quail. I had never had a poulty dish that was so tender! The tidbits just melted in the mouth! We had lamb in au jus with lamb sauce. I was not a huge fan of this as I normally hate lamb, but it was good enough that I actually did eat it and enjoy it. For a hater of lamb, that's a big step! I went a little foggy after the lamb course because I was SO FULL!!!! I think we had a cheese course with a delightfully light and fresh buffalo cheese that almost tasted like a buffalo mozzerella ricotta. It was on paired with a poached cherry tomato and a fresh cherry tomato on top of a toasted bread and drizzled lightly with olive oil.

We had a sorbet dish after that and a chocolate kind of dessert for an end. We were stuffed! It was amazing that we stumbled out of the restaurant at all as I was sure that we would explode in our seats. This dinner was such a pleasure after the terrible food at Daniel's. *Sniff* Thomas Keller has renewed my trust in fancy restaurants. I must advise that if you do want to eat at Per Se, you must be persistent! Call 2 months in advance of the reservation date and keep on redialing until you get through. It was totally worth it!!!!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Size Zero Petite

As I mentioned before, I am a skinny little bitch. I am a petite size zero. I am 5 feet 2.5 inches tall and I weigh about 100 pounds. This makes shopping hellish. Back in the day, I used to be a size 2. But sizes slowly started to get larger. And larger. Now a size 2 appears to be comparable to size 6 of ten years ago. I have slowly been pushed back to a size 0. Size 0 did not used to exist but thanks to the efforts of clothing marketers to convince people that they are not gaining weight but are indeed still the same size, size 0 was invented to take up the slack for the poor schmucks who actually were a size 2. I don't fit into most size zeros as they have started to make size zeros larger also. For example, Anne Taylor Size 0 is not a true size 0 - it's for the "womanly" woman in their 30s who still harbors delusions that she can fit in the same clothes she used to wear in her 20s. I would go as far as to say that the Anne Taylor size 0 of today is comparable to the size 4 of yesteryear.

Suffice it to say, my clothing shopping options are limited. Which is good, I guess, because it saves me a lot of money in the shopping capital of the world. However, I cannot seem to get proper work clothes or nice designer clothes as everything in my size is made for women who are 6 feet tall aka models. Even if the stores do cut them down to petite size, the fit doesn't seem to be quite right as the clothes are really fashioned for taller people. All the stores do is hem the sleeves and the pant lengths without tailoring the lines for the smaller customer. So I am somewhat limited to teen stores. See below the list of stores I frequent to find clothes that fit:

Abercrombie & Fitch - Size Double 0 (00)

Banana Republic - Size 0, hit or miss, once in awhile I luck out and fit into something they had cut particularly small

Petite Sophisticates - Size 0 but their clothes are soooo old. It's made for women in their 40s! Get with the program!!!

American Eagle - Size 0

Bebe - Size 0 or Xsmall

Tahari Petites - Size 0

JCrew - Size 0 although their clothes are starting to get bigger again. What's up with that? They are also not consistent with their sizing.

Forever 21 - Size xsmall

Gap - Size 0 or xsmall

H&M - Size 4

But as teens start to get bigger (read obese), size zeros are also magically getting larger. I sincerely wish that designers and clothing manufacturers would abide by a standard clothing size standard so that we could at least figure out where exactly we are on the spectrum without trying five million things on in seventy different stores. There has been a movement to standardize clothing sizes, it hasn't happened yet. The manufacturers are probably thinking of our steadily increasing obese population in America who would never face shopping again once they hit the dead zones of size 14 and over.

At the very least, it would be nice to have sizes designated by inches the way guys have their clothes measured. For example, guys sizes are dependent on the number of inches around the waist and the length of their leg inseam so a size of 30 by 34 is 30 inches around the waist and 34 inches from their crotch to the ground. How amazing would that be if women could just know how big they actually were? Maybe it would force some of these lardos to control their food intake and not be complacent in their ever increasing size 10 proportions.

Luckily, New York City has a mobile population in that New Yorkers actually walk everywhere. I think this at least forces people to exercise. It also helps that the every so slender fashionistas walking around make you feel guilty enough to keep the weight down. Imagine my shock when I saw this report on the large amount of obese people in New York City. Sadly, a lot of these obese people are very poor which leads to them not knowing any better or not being able to afford better foods. Even worse, half (HALF!!!) of New York City children are obese. A friend of mine who is a teacher in a public school in Brooklyn confessed that she has no average sized or thin children in her class. The most svelte child in her class would be considered quite chubby by our standards. I'm thankful that I missed this chubby era by a few years. I had access to the same junkfoods and regularly ate McDonald's everyday when I was young so why is this not happening to my contemporaries and striking the next generation? I'm convinced that the fast food manufacturers added something new to the fast food in the last ten years that they aren't fessing up to.

Regardless, I think these obese people should seriously control their eating habits. I have seen the lardos eat and it wasn't pretty. How could one man eat 3 full size meals and still complain he's hungry and then blame it on genetics? Sorry dude, it has to do with willpower. Millions of people didn't suddenly grow fat overnight due to genetics. If it was genetics, we would have been seeing millions of families be obese for the past century. The numbers don't lie.

I know people get really upset about us "size zeros" because they mistakenly assume that we are all anorexic. We get a lot of grief from our friends and relatives because they think we want to be this small. We don't have stores dedicated to our small size like the Lane Bryants of plus size women. We don't have skinny help support groups and we are constantly teased for our small size. I would give anything to be a normal healthy size 4 or 6 (well, the size 4 or 6 of 10 years ago. Not the current size 4 or 6). In our case, it truly is genetics. I hate that I have to pay for an airplane coach seat that is much bigger than I am and comfortable only to have a huge fat person sit next to me and take up all the extra space that I paid for!!! I hate that I have to pay the same for my clothes which are just scraps of fabric compared to the same clothes in size 14 which take up a great deal more fabric. I subsidize the fat women's clothes!!! I think that the size zeros get the raw deal. We should at least get some compensation for taking up less space, consuming less resources and generally being faster.

Of course, this is never going to happen. We are nation of mostly large people who are getting ever larger. There will be a point when it will cost too much to subsidize the health problems of obese people and companies and government will just drop obese people as it will cost too much to keep up with them. This is already starting to happen. Why do you think our government is now concerned about a nation of obese people? It is costing the government and special interest groups tons of money to pay for treatment for obese diseases like adult onset diabetes. The government and insurance companies are just waiting for the time that they can wash their hands of the whole issue. They will say that they tried, they called attention to the issue and started programs to prevent it but it didn't work. Then they will leave obese people to eat themselves to death. I certainly don't want to keep on paying for obese people to eat themselves to death. I believe in a social welfare net for people who have lost their jobs, families that are in trouble, children who are abandoned or abused, etc. but I don't count obesity as something that should be within that social net. Certainly not to pay for gastric bypass surgeries for people who can't control themselves!

I keep on thinking back to that scene in Monty Python and the Meaning of Life when that tremendously fat man explodes in the restaurant after devouring a giant meal. Maybe if obese people actually exploded from giant meals, people would control what they ate in fear of dying a terrible and dramatic death from overeating.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Unpopular Blog

It's odd. I don't receive many clicks onto my blog for obvious reasons:

1. I haven't told my friends and family
2. It's my own personal journal
3. I don't think I write about anything that really targets New York City life
4. I'm a weirdo

So, it surprises me when people do come upon my homely website. Looking through the stats, I think they mainly come to my site searching through Google for some of the New York City resturants that I mentioned. I guess I can become more of a food-centric blog and get more visitors but I don't think I want to spend my time writing about food ALL THE TIME. It's fun reading about food and I do peruse a number of food blogs (look at my links on the side! Amateur Gourmet! Chocolate and Zucchini!) but I would rather write about things that are affecting me day by day and food is not usually the major topic.

But I will write about food every now and then. For example, I finally got reservations to Per Se! I will be eating there this Sunday and will write about all the details. I am a little wary about rating expensive highly rated restaurants as I find that most of their food does not live up to the hype and I do not want to disappoint people who are looking forward to eating there. But I pride myself in being honest about stuff like that. If the food does not taste better than your standard fast food fare, I'm going to point that out.

Anyway, I have to say that this blog is such a great place to vent my frustrations about living here. But in reality, I'm not a hater. I work for a nonprofit and I truly believe I should be doing something with my life that would help the city I love get better. I visit my parents every week. And I love dogs and children. You see? I'm not such a bad person. But as I am Korean, my temper is as spicy as Korean food. I think Koreans are known as the "passionate Italians" of the East due to the amount of hot peppers in our food. When I get distressed, I express my disappointment strongly but I usually come to my senses very quickly and then I am a huge pushover. But I'm still a lot to put up with so I have to be grateful for all my friends and family that do put up with me.

I am also kind of shy around new folks so it takes awhile to get accustomed to new habits and surroundings. I think I am just getting acclimated into my blog. I hope to be more direct and entertaining in the future and HOPEFULLY my writing will become better. I think that is another reason why I blog is to practice writing. I read tremendously but I rarely write and I need to work out the kinks on my writing.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Weird. I was just talking about how Tribeca was turning into Stroller City and this article just came out in the New York Sun. They went a little bit further and coined a new phrase but the intent was still the same. Where are all these little kiddies popping out from? What happened to the Tribeca I knew?

I remember back in the day when Tribeca was pretty bare. Not many people lived down here and there were a couple of copy shops, weird construction stores and a wonderful Science Fiction, Mysteries & More bookshop on the corner of Chambers and West Broadway. There wasa pretty good McDonalds on the corner of Greenwich and Chambers that went out of business recently. I'm not sure why as I think they would have had a rock solid business with the BMCC (Borough Manhattan Community College), Stuyvesant High School, PS 234 and PS 150 right next to them. There was also a deli where the Wireless Telephone store used to be next to the former McDonald's. Why are these stores going out of business on Chambers Street? I'm convinced that there is a curse or the management is charging way too much rent.

One of my favorite places that went out of business had to be the Pennsylvania Pretzel Company. They occupied the space where Sale & Pepe are right now across the street from the now defunct McDonald's. The PPF was pretty popular and served the best pretzels. They clearly got the most customers. I have always been curious as to why they went out of business. I fear that Sale & Pepe are not long in the offing. I tried their sandwiches and the sandwiches were awful. I will be glad to see them gone.

Oh, Tribeca. At least they haven't built across the river. Yet.... I fear the day that we will be connected to Jersey City.

Vacationing in Amsterdam

D and I just bought our tickets for vacation! We decided to go to Amsterdam, Brussels and Brughes this summer for our annual treat. Every year we decide on a different location in the world for vacation. So far we have been to Northern Italy, Spain, Costa Rica and the Bahamas. I chose the Netherlands and Belgium this year because I spent a short business trip in Amsterdam and I loved the city. The Van Gogh Museum is amazing and I especially like the concept of using my bike as public transportation. This is hard to do in New York as you are normally in danger of losing your life due to dooring, getting squashed between trucks, and dropping into enormous potholes. Fatal bicycle accidents are at an all time high and I can totally see why. I'm not sure why New York City isn't taking more active measures to improve the public streets for bicycle riding as it is great exercise, cuts down on pollution and allows more people to travel on the streets with less traffic. Plus, there are tons more cyclists than ever before because of increased subway fares and gas prices.

I am also excited about visiting Brughes and Brussels as they are reputed to be very beautiful. We just heard of an apartment to rent or swap in Amsterdam today from my boss at work so hopefully we can do this on the cheap (or at least reasonable as Europe can be pretty pricey). I am a little hesitant about swaps as I am not sure I feel comfortable with strangers living in my apartment especially with the weird New York City tenant laws (It could take you up to six months for you to evict the person if your swapper takes over!). I also don't want strangers sleeping in my bed. Have I mentioned I am also obsessive about cleanliness? I don't like shoes in the apartment. I bend the rules for visitors but I would feel funny having strangers tramp around the apartment in their shoes for two weeks. Who knows what they might track in? I think we will mostly likely reserve rooms at hotels. Any recommendations on hotels? Restaurants? no parmesan please =).

I will give more details once we get to our destination as I think I can swing by the internet cafe every now and then. But I may be having too much fun! If I could live anywhere in the world besides New York City, it would totally be Amsterdam. After all, New York City was once New Amsterdam. =D . We are planning our trip beginning July 1st and will be getting back in two weeks. It will be crazy next weekend also because it is D's birthday!!! I got a surprise hot air evening balloon ride in New Jersey with champagne and hors d'oevres. I'm so excited! We are also sleeping at a bed and breakfast and driving around town the next day. I am crossing my fingers and hoping D will love the present.

It is hard to keep the concentration on mundane activities when there is so much to look forward to in the upcoming weeks. As a way to procrastinate and pass the time, I have been cataloging my books on Library Thing. This site totally rocks! At least for geeks like me. I have tons of books and this website lets me enter their ISBN number or title and keep track of all my books. The best part of the whole operation is that you can look up people who have the same taste in books! Library Thing will rank other people in the order of how many books they own that are the same as yours. How cool it that? yeah, yeah, I know that I am a nerd. I feel no shame in this as long as there are other people like me out there. You know who you are!

I keep a full wish list on that never seems to get any smaller no matter how many items I buy. I have a secret obsession with looking up friends' wish lists on the sly. I guess it is creepy to get a surprise gift through a wish list you never told anyone about but I think it's a quirky kind of good surprise. Unfortunately, not many people I know keep Amazon wish lists. Suckers. They would be getting more presents if they did! I love giving gifts because it makes me feel good to buy something for a friend that I know they will love.

Rude Churchgoers

I sincerely believe that attending church does not automatically make you a better person. I think you really have to work on being a good person by caring for others and treating others the way that you would like to be treated. Giving money to your church or going to services is not going to make up for the bad things that you do. I bring this up because of a recent incident we experienced at Junior's in Brooklyn after a lovely long day in Prospect Park on Sunday. D and I rented bicycles and rode across the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate our friends' birthdays. My married friends, S and P have birthdays quite close to each other and they usually celebrate with a big picnic in the park.

I guess there was one incident before going to Junior's that made me sad and very thoughtful. Our group had collectively brought frisbees, kickballs and games from home to play in the park. As we were playing frisbee and kickball, two young black boys came and started to play in our game. As they were very young and cute (about 7 years old), we started to include them in our game. Then, one of the boys took our kickball and ran away. We were flabbergasted. D ran after him across the lawn and asked for the kickball back. The little boy claimed it was his ball and he was keeping it. Obviously, we didn't want to force a little boy to give up a ball so we kept on asking for it back until the boy dropped the ball and D picked it up quickly. What was really disturbing was that the boy's family did nothing while watching this argument take place when it was very clear that the boy had stolen the ball. Later, while we were playing backgammon, the other little boy pretended to watch the game and stole our frisbee. I evenutally managed to get the frisbee back. We took careful notice of our possessions after that. The group which the little boys belonged to looked to be an after church group and that made me furious. I'm not sure what they were teaching at that church but they certainly should not be condoning this kind of behavior. Later, I saw a woman from the same group try and cheat the poor ice cream guy out of a dollar. It was just one dollar! Geez!

We enjoyed the rest of the day in the park. Everyone in the group had brought their children so it was especially cool to play with the new babies and carry them around. As I had grown up in Park Slope and spent most of my childhood in Prospect Park, I was surprised that I didn't remember much of the park. I took a ride around on my bike and I could only just barely remember the Zoo. I think everything must have been a lot bigger back then and maybe places are unrecognizable now because they are out of proportion? At least, that was my theory and I'm sticking by it!

We eventually left the park at 5:30pm and rode our bikes to Junior's. The restaurant was full of afterchurch folk in all their Sunday finery. Hats, suits, dresses, the whole nine yards! We were probably the only people who had not gone to church. We were also probably the only non-black people in the place, which was kind of surprising as I had always thought of Junior's as being more of a multiethnic crowd. I had never seen this kind of Sunday getup - huge hats, startlingly pink dresses and shoes, it was kind of crazy. The manager was nice enough to let us park our bikes in the back room so that we could eat. We were especially grateful because the place was very crowded and we were kind of sweaty and gross. As we sat down to our hearty meal of matzoh ball soup, ice cream soda, baked meatloaf, potato pancakes with brisket sandwich and applesauce, we observed the Sunday crowd. We were astonished at how rudely they treated the waitstaff and the stingy tips that they left. Ladies who were clearly churchgoing ladies tried constantly to send food back to the kitchen and get a free meal. They were harassing the waitstaff and asking for special freebies and being a general nuisance. Our waitress was clearly not the best waitress in the world but we just felt so bad for her because she had to handle these sorts of people the whole day. We just watched this abuse go on and on. We got our bill and left a huge tip for the waitress. The waitresses had been fighting to service our table in the beginning of our meal and I can totally see why. We also left money with the manager for being super duper kind to us by letting us take in our bikes.

Who are these people and why is there no sense of decency? Is this the norm in these neighborhoods? I suppose this is why stereotypes and racism arises. I suppose it was a coincidence that these incidents revolved around black people but I tend to think it was more a correlation to class rather than race. I think the fact is that a majority of blacks are low income and this kind of behavior arises from low income families. But growing up in a low income immigrant family, we never experienced this kind of breakdown of morals and decency even when we were clearly struggling for food. I have heard that this kind of behavior happens with other churchgoers regardless of race or class so that brings up another question of what types of people involve themselves in fundamentalist religions? Obviously, these are just generalizations based on a single day's worth of experiences but this is also added to my father's 30 years of experience with this kind of behavior. How do we change our society for the better? How can we help stop this kind of behavior without being obtrusive? Is it a cultural thing? I'm so confused!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Retirement Jitters

I am 27 and I'm scared to death of retirement. I know, I know, I have ages until I retire and why worry now? I am comfortable now but I know what it is like to live on welfare and to stretch every dollar to the max. My family of 4 lived on my father's salary of about $34,000 for most of my childhood. I just don't want to have to deal with the same situation of making difficult choices about buying necessities when I am 80.

Plus, there are those seriously scary stories in the papers about Americans not saving enough for retirement. I would think it would spur anyone to get out the financial calculators and start planning. I'm not sure exactly how much I will need at retirement as there are a number of factors we just don't know right now like:

1. Future inflation rate
2. How long will I live?
3. Will I have a spouse?
4. How long will my spouse live?
5. Medical or health issues when I am older

Any of this could impact my retirement budget. I figure that about $1.5 million is pretty safe as a goal for retirement. The funny thing is that saving $1.5 million for retirement wouldn't even give me a luxury lifestyle or even an upper middle class lifestyle. I think it would probably afford me a lower middle class to middle class lifestyle. Weird, huh? $1 million dollars seems like a lot.

Currently, I've set up with the following budget. I recently made about $45,000 a year but that was pushed up to $55,000 a year (yay!) this year. What I have total in assets are:

1. $11,300 in 4013b plan
2. $1540 in a CD
3. $4000 in Emigrant Savings
4. $3030 in Citibank Savings
5. $2,000 in checking account

TOTAL $21,870

What I usually put away or spend per month:

1. $600 RENT
2. $150 Emigrant Savings Account
3. $100 Student Loan Sallie Mae
4. $100 Student Loan with School
5. $700 my average credit card bill per month
6. $700 4013b plan contribution
7. $400 Petty Cash

TOTAL $2750

I have it pretty sweet in terms of rent, health insurance and credit cards. I used to live with my parents where I paid no rent but now I live with my boyfriend where I make a monthly contribution of $600. My job pays fully for my health insurance and I don't have to pay any premiums. I paid off my awful credit card debt immediately after college so I have no credit card debt. My take home pay of which the 4013b contribution is already deducted is $2686.54 per month. As my expenses without the 4013b contribution are $2,050, I can expect to save about $636.54 a month. This is the optimal formula but I usually end up saving less than that. Whatever is leftover, I move into my Citibank esavings account.

What I would really like to so is:

1. Open a Roth IRA - stock index plan with Vanguard
2. Lower my monthly expenses
3. Pay off my student loans so I can start saving for my parents' retirement

The thing about my 4013b plan is that you only have the option of choosing annuities. I think most people agree that in the long run annuities are not going to pay out as much as a stock index mutual fund. I have the option of choosing indexes within the annuity structure but the earnings have really sucked. I see no load index funds making gains of over 10% a year and I'm stuck with measily 5-6% gains. It's a total rip-off but I have no choice. This is the reason why I would like to open a Roth IRA but it's really hard to motivate myself to pull money out of my savings to do this. I think I may wait until I have saved a little more to pull it into a Roth.

I think I spend entirely too much on food and "necessities". I'm not a huge clothes or accessories shopper so I know my money mainly goes to eating out. I think it is hard to cut back as my boyfriend makes much more money than I do and we are usually going to expensive places. I just don't want to be the nag that holds him back especially when he is paying most of the rent so it's a tough situation. I try to cook one or two meals during the week (cooking is probably too sophisticated a term for what I do) and my lunches consist of Subway or Blimpie's. But occassionally I do splurge on Starwich ($15 a sandwich!) so maybe I can cut back on that. Controlling extraneous expenses are difficult in New York City especially when you live in an expensive neighborhood!

I am whittling down my student loans but I still have a ways to go. I can probably pay them all down now but since I have locked in an interest rate (3.625%) that is lower than my current savings rate (4.75%), I see no point in paying down my student debt when I can save the money and accumulate more interest. I have about $3,800 left in my Sallie Mae account and I have about $3,000 left in my other school loan. I pay about $100 a month on each loan. If I wait one more year, the interest rate on my Sallie Mae loan lowers by one percentage point.

The main reason why I want to pay down my student loans is that I want to set up a separate account for my parents' retirement because let's face it, my parents have not saved up enough for retirement. I'm not sure why my parents are retiring at 55 (next year) when they haven't saved up enough. I'm trying to convince them to work at least until they get to 65. I come from a very long lived family so I think my parents will be around until their late 90s. My mom has about $200,000 in her retirement account. The really good thing is that they do own their home and will completely pay off their 30 year mortgage in September (yay!) so that is another $400,000 in equity. My dad owns his store and is planning on selling his lease and store so I guess that is another $100,000? I know they can live frugally but I worry especially about their medical expenses.

I think I will start to tuck $100.00 a month for them in an account. I wish I could get a tax deduction on this or get a tax deferred account in my parents' names but the main thing is to keep them from finding out about the hidden stash. My sister is also going to contribute $100 a month. So at $200 a month for about 10 years can get us a pretty good emergency stash of at least $30,000 to pay for emergency medical expenses.

I know I'm totally psychotically scary about this but keep in mind that I worked at a community district office helping seniors get benefits! I really do not want to be a senior struggling to get by and not being able to survive without government benefits because who knows how long it would be before the government totally does away with social welfare programs? My generation is the most apathetic generation of all time and I doubt enough fuss will be raised by the time my generation's benefits start being totally wiped out. ARGHHHH!!!!

Have I mentioned that I am paranoid about everything?

Friday, June 02, 2006

I Hate Parmesan Cheese

I do, I really do. I hate parmesan cheese. I wish I didn't as everyone seems to love this stuff. Can't you smell the vomit? A combination of rotting meat and smelly feet is not even comparable to a stinky shaving of parmesan cheese. And restaurants love to grate this stuff all over their patrons' food without even asking. I hate to send food back to the kitchen because they had sprinkled this heinous stuff all over my meal as I know that kitchen staff is probably spitting all over it. But I would rather have their spit than the scent of parmesan cheese anywhere near me. Everytime I smell this stuff, all I want to do is puke in my mouth.

Seriously, I'm not a complicated customer: I always tip 20% on the after tax total, I eat everything (except for parmesan cheese and other smelly cheeses such as romano, limburger - yughhhh!) even if it is burnt or undercooked, I never send things back to the kitchen (except for parmesan infested meals), I'm nice to the waiter and I try to make my order easy. But it really ticks me off when the restaurant adds something like parmesan cheese when they don't even indicate the ingredient in the menu!!!!!! I feel really bad for people who are allergic to cheese as this is probably a life threatening addition for them. I'd probably sue the freaking restaurant if I was allergic.

Other things that tick me off - yeah, it's that kind of day:

- Construction - It's happening everywhere and there's nothing I can do about it. They start their jackhammering and thumping early in the morning. I hope the housing market totally crashes and these people get their instant karma punishment.

- Domestic Tourists - Fat. Very white. Wearing the perpetual T-shirt, shorts and white sneakers - the uniform of middle America. They block the sidewalk and generally make a huge nuisance of themselves. Plus, they are the cheapest people ever and thus do not really bring in that much money for the city. They are also really loud. I sometimes wish I could start a paintball contest - whoever shoots the most tourists wins!

- NYU Undergrads - The bane of my existence. Whatever happened to the NYU as the kind of shitty school that you put down as a safety school? Do girls really want to be Felicity that much? Most of the undergrads are concerned more about fashion than getting an education. Just wait until you graduate, suckers, and have to pay back loans and credit card debt and deal with parents are no longer willing to pour their cash into your insatiable coffers. I await the day that New York City is no longer trendy enough for Paris Hilton wannabes.

- New Jersey Cars - Yeah, you know the cars that I mean - The huge SUVs with the New Jersey license plates and the Eurotrash music blaring out of their souped up stereo systems. These guys create havoc on the road because they don't know how to drive on roads that aren't like the New Jersey Turnpike. Even the cabbies hate them. They get stuck on tiny streets because their giganormous gas guzzling cars can't fit on our tiny roads. They should be banned from New York City. Not to mention, they clog up the Holland Tunnel and the West Side Highway for miles and miles on the weekends. Poor fools who can't afford to live in the City. At the very least, the New Jersey bastards should be paying a commuter tax to compensate for all the rage, pollution and general stench they bring in.