2004 in Review

2004 was a great year for me. The biggest event was getting married and going on a honeymoon to Bali. In chronological order:

After almost a 10-year hiatus, I started homebrewing again and got the coolest thing a beer-drinker could ask for: a beer tap in the house! I haven’t brewed since the wedding since I’ve been busy with other things, but I hope to be brewing regularly in 2005.

Mini-vacation in Vancouver for Gay’s birthday. Vancouver’s a great city and we combined it with a little work, mostly going over interview candidates for the Recipezaar customer service job after narrowing the field down to a handful of people. Semi-seriously considered living in Vancouver.

Jazz/Wine Festival fiasco. After we did our work and bowed out to prepare for the wedding, Melinda took it over and did a great job. We went to it in August and it was spectacular.

In May, we started working on the wedding planning. I have a new respect for wedding planners and for all the people who organized a wedding I have attended. Tough work.

On July 31, we had our wedding. Gay did almost all the work and friends & family helped out when it was needed the most. I was originally opposed to the idea of having it at our house, but I enjoyed having it here. Definitely a memorable event for me.

I redesigned this site with the salt & pepper shakers we featured on our wedding site and colors to match our front door and Gay’s favorite color right now. It also turned out to be close to the wall color of our new office.

Gay was interviewed in Red Herring, starting a series of two more interviews, one in The Seattle Times and another yet to be printed.

Added to our art collection and donated to charity at the same time at the Vashon Allied Arts Auction. After almost three years of living in a mostly unfurnished and undecorated house, we started making progress on making our house our house.

Took trip to Bali for our Honeymoon. A long long flight to and back and it was humid in Bali. But a great experience. Probably the last third-world vacation I’ll have for a long time, but Gay’s still into the third-world thing.

Turned 35. This was easier than I thought. Although I’m now halfway through my 30s, I feel both young and old at the same time. I feel young because I am more relaxed about my age insecurities that started when I hit 30. But I feel old because I feel more like an adult than ever. I still think of myself as a 22 year-old, but I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not anymore.

The Office remodel. Egads. The first remodel we’ve ever done and, although it’s fairly small job, we got an education on the construction industry. The next one will be handled much better.

The Election. Definitely the low-point of the year for me and even one of the lowest points of my life. I still fear for my country, but have resigned myself to accepting that if Americans want their country forever-damaged at the hands of a reckless President and want to ignore the principles the country was founded upon, that’s democracy in action. My choice is to dwell on it or enjoy my life. I choose the latter. 🙂 At least John Ashcroft is gone, so I’m less worried that Orwell’s 1984 will be a reality in the near future. And I take some comfort in knowing that the history books will not be kind to Bush.

The holidays were far more modest than last year when my family was here and we did up all the decorations and eating. Our Thanksgiving consisted of two small dinners: Dinner #1 and Dinner #2.

Christmas was even more subtle. Few presents and not even a tree, although we had friends over for Christmas Dinner. Our new projector has been wonderful; we’ve watched a movie a night every night since getting it.


2004 was a stabilizing year for us, personally and professionally. We formalized our relationship by getting married and can move on to that chapter of our lives. I wouldn’t have thought it would be a significant turning point, but it has been. I’m still getting used to being married and seeing the ring on my finger occasionally surprises me.

2004 has been the great year for Recipezaar. Gay & I, for the first time ever, have no doubts about its success. For years, we had to deal with the thought that we made a big mistake, that we pumped way too much money into it, that our future is uncertain and we endured more stress than I could have imagined I could take. We will look back at 2004 as the year that everything changed for Recipezaar with respect to us. It took five years, lots of education, lots of hard work and a huge chunk of our lives to build it, but the site’s infrastructure is solid and ready to go. 2005 will be the year our “baby” graduates from college and starts its own life. 🙂

News from Sri Lanka

We got mail from a friend who moved home to Sri Lanka a couple years ago:

Thanks for all your messages of concern and support, my immediate family is safe and sound.

Went to Payagala (about 50 km south of Colombo along the coast of Sri Lanka) yesterday to check on some people Chrishani knows. They have escaped with their lives. Currently spending most of their time at a local temple as the houses are nothing more than shells with all their and other’s posessions washed out in the gardens and beyond…..We took some basic supplies (drinking water, medicines, clothes, dry rashions, torches etc) and hope to send more essentials over the weekend. They need chlorine tablets/powder to clean garden well, which is normally their source of safe drinking water.

Traffic beyond Kalutara is heavy going with some concern of a bridge collapsed. I anticipate it getting worse as more people make the trek to help. Not particularly safe after dark but there are armed police and army patrolling.

The near term aim should to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, which will abound in the camps, such as temples and churches, and can lead to a secondary massive loss of life…..

What I have seen is not bad compared to what others along the coast have suffered and described. I am working on setting up a fund for donations as my sense is that distribution of aid is not as good as it could be through existing channels. Perhaps, something along the lines of helping children and orphans, I hear 1/3 of those affected fall into this category

I don’t understand why our government can only send $35 million to help what is likely the worst natural disaster in our lifetimes. $1 billion was given to Florida during the hurricanes where 145 people died. Was that just because it was an election year and Florida was important and Indonesians, Sri Lankans and Indians don’t vote?

$35 million, that’s all we can do. It’s a shame that American citizens send our own money to help when our own government can barely lift a finger.

Google Christmas Gift

IMG_2353.jpgWe just got a Christmas present from Google (Recipezaar runs Google ads). It’s an AM/FM radio/mood light. And it changes function depending on how you place it. On one side, it’s a radio only, turn it and it’s a mood light only, turn again and it’s both a radio and a mood light and the fourth side turns it off. The mood light slowly fades between red, blue, green and purple. Cute.

The card says “Happy Holidays” in several languages. Last year, I think we just got a card. They must like us better this year. 🙂

Our Christmas present to ourselves

We’re having a spartan Christmas this year. We’re not even going to get a tree since it’s too much to decorate and we’re only having guests over for Christmas Day dinner. So getting a tree and decorating it just for the two of us would be pointless. We’ll have more lightweight decorations around the house instead.

But….. we’re getting one big gift for ourselves: a new projector! The projector that came in our house is an old Sony CRT projector that is showing its age. It’s a $30,000 (!) projector new and it has a great picture (it’s CRT) but the blue bulb burned out earlier this year and it’s $800 to replace it. And the other two are sure to go soon too. So rather than sinking more money into that projector, we decided to get a new projector. The previous owner spent $30k on a TV… that’s just nuts, he could have had a nice car for that. But it was fun to watch movies on it and after spending the last 10 months watching movies on the little screen we were anxious to get back to the big screen!

After weeks of research, we decided to get the Sony VPL-HS51, an LCD projector but supposedly has “black blacks”, so it competes with much more expensive DLP projectors. The HS51 is the improved model of the HS21, a well-regarded projector itself.

Weak justification: given that we just saved $4000 on our office remodel, it’s almost like getting it for free. 🙂

What sucks about buying projectors is how hard it is to see one in real life before you buy it. The high-end Seattle shop, Magnolia Hi-Fi, had only two models you could watch: an InFocus and the excellent Dwin Transvision 3. The InFocus was not impressive and the Dwin costs $10,000.

Trying to find someone who can demo this projector, we called Fry’s Electronics. They claimed they would have the model the following week. Trying to avoid a trip to Renton if we could, we kept calling to find out if they had it in stock yet but they wouldn’t return our calls. We ended up going there anyway. Can you find a projector in the store? No. They have a $20,000 plasma screen front-and-center, but the projector room is behind a locked door. We found a salesman (who was in the middle of eating his lunch over a trash can) to show us the demo projectors. We were led into the projector room while he and I disagreed about whether the HS51 even existed. A Pearl Jam concert video (how long can that band milk their one hit?) was blasting in the room and the Sony projector had no plug. While we listened to ten unbearable minutes of Pearl Jam the salesman rummaged around in the store for the electrical cord. After returning, he took the projector off the shelf, put it lens-down on the ground and tried to fit a square plug into a round hole with his fist. Not surprising, he couldn’t get the projector to work even after finding the correct power cord that was there all along. So we watched two other projectors and listened to the salesman critcize the cheap model and praise the expensive model. Then we left. Fry’s has a long way to go if they want to sell a projector.

Unless you can find someone in your area that has the projector you are interested in, buying a projector is a gamble. So sites like ProjectorCentral are indispensable. I just hope they’re right! We bought it online, but we have a week to install it and see if we like it and return it if not.

The Office remodel (Days 20, 21 & 22)

IMG_2349.jpgThis weekend was a productive one for the office. We’ve all but finished painting. Gay did most of the painting while I did the electrical work. There’s still a bit of touch-up painting left to do, but the photo shows the progress.

On Friday, we went to Fry’s in Renton and we got a patch panel and an electrical tone and probe kit. On Saturday, I wired all 16 of the CAT5 outlets into the patch panel — easy but very tedious. Our local hardware store didn’t have the style of outlets we have in our house so we still need to get those and then I can finish the outlet wiring. That should just be an hour or so of work to complete. I haven’t been electrocuted yet, but I did blow the fuse once wiring a wall switch.

When it’s all said and done, I estimate we will have saved close to $700 on the electrician bill; it would have taken one electrician one full day to finish the work (~$500 in labor) and at least a couple hundred dollars in materials because they charge outrageous prices for 50¢ items like outlets and even more for CAT5 receptacles. If you go to Home Depot and buy one CAT5 jack it’s $6. I bet the electrician would have charged $15 or more for each of the 16 jacks — imagine paying $240 just for jacks! Home Depot sells them in packs of 10 for $30, so we paid $60 and we have have some left over to use elsewhere. Our cost in tools and materials: $200. And we have the tools to use in the future.

Savings on doing the painting ourselves? Given that we have three colors, Ron’s painting estimate of $1800 would easily have hit $3000, not unlike his other estimates. 😉 Our cost in paint and supplies: $150. Ron’s $1800 estimate to paint a 400-square-foot room was insane to start, however.

Assuming we would have paid $3,700 for both painting and electrical work, we saved ~$3,400 by doing it ourselves. Ron’s 16% “overhead & profit” tax on the work would have been an additional $600. Total savings: $4,000!

Next week, the carpet should get installed and we’ll be done!

Pratt & Lambert Accolade paint can

paintcan.jpgEver see a paint can like this? It’s Pratt & Lambert‘s new design. The top doesn’t require a screwdriver or a lever to open. It has two “knobs” that stick out to give you leverage to turn it. It has two built-in handles, one on the side that you can’t see that is molded into the corner and one that bends up to mimick a traditional paint can. Both ways to carry it are far more comfortable than a traditional paint can. And the inside has a built-in drip spout — the paint that would normally drip down the side and onto your floor drips back into the container instead. And best of all, you can close it without getting paint on your hands or splattering paint like you do when you use a mallet to close a traditional paint can.

P&L paint isn’t cheap normally, and it’s not cheap in this can either. $50 for a container 12 fluid ounces shy of a gallon. But it’s quality stuff and their colors are very nice.

That color in the can is the color that’s going on the walls of our office bathroom. (There’s a really bad joke but I’m too sophisticated to point it out).

The Office remodel (Day 18 & 19)

IMG_2343.jpgSteve came over on Friday to help us out with colors for the office (and the rest of the house!). We still like the green (after a whole week!) so we’re sticking with that. We, or Gay & Steve actually, chose a purplish/brown color called “Wild Raisin” for the window wall. The trim will be white and Steve liked our choice of carpet. We’re still figuring out the ceiling color, which can’t be white because the trim will be white.

We finished the second coat of green on the three walls and Gay put a coat of the Wild Raisin on the window wall. The green, by the way, is named “Olive Range”. Why are paint color names so food-oriented?

The Office remodel (Day 17)

IMG_2334.jpgWe painted one wall in a green that we like. We’re still not sure about what to do with the red wall. I want to paint it a darker red and Gay wants to paint the whole room the green color. Hopefully red and green won’t look like Christmas colors if we go darker red. And we’re not sure what to do about the trim; I’m leaning towards keeping it all one color.

Here’s the carpet we’re thinking…