Six Things

Finally, I'm back from the long business trip (no more flight delays and getting home at 1 a.m.--yay!). I still need to go one or two days here and there, but I can pretty much stay put. It's just nice to be home. Haven't had the time to hit the grocery store yet, but I feel like cooking up a storm after having to eat out all the time.

Hebden has tagged me to reveal 6 random/quirky things about myself. I have way too many quirks to count, yet when it comes to putting it down in writing, I find myself struggling to catch 6 of them. But here goes:

1) Ever since I was a kid, I like to eat all the vegetables and meat (if any) in my bowl of ramen before eating the noodles themselves. I wouldn't say that I hated veggies, but I wasn't a big fan of them. I guess I wanted to get rid of them before hitting "the good stuff." I like veggies now, but I continue the practice for some odd reason.

2) I can do the hard things well, but not the simple ones. For example, I can do multivariable calculus (used to anyway), but I have a hard time adding and subtracting.

3) Sports on TV really stimulates my thinking on complex tasks; guess my parents were wrong about TV being a distraction from school. Laker games on the radio used to get me through my calculus homework quickly, and World Cup soccer games (in Spanish, on Telemundo) in the middle of the night provided the white noise I needed to stay awake and pound out papers. Sometimes I still do my work from home in front of the TV when a game is on.

4) I probably would have become a chemical engineer if I didn't hate physics.

5) I used to enjoy reading mysteries, but now I seem to only read non-fiction works (yes, I've picked up reading again as a product of waiting out flight delays).

6) Whenever I cook, I have to make a meat dish and a vegetable dish. Or something with both. I just can't stand making one without the other.

In the spirit of randomness, I'll make the tagging process completely random--you can list your quirks/randomosities in the comments, or leave a link if you choose to blog about it. Salut!


Snakes and Stones

I originally wrote the entire post on my phone, but the mobile version of Blogger failed me--I clicked "publish" and nothing happened. Oh well, I guess I'll just rewrite it again.

Why would I attempt blogging on a phone? Well, I was stuck in the airport when my flight got delayed due to bad weather, so I decided to read the news. Aptly enough, the New York Times had an article on how some airlines have jacked up ticket prices by as much as $60 for a round-trip, citing fuel costs. And it so happens that someone had asked me earlier if my plane tickets have gotten more expensive, though I have no idea because I didn't book them.

Is the fuel cost rationalization as slippery as snake oil, or is fossilized flora and fauna really that expensive now? I'm inclined to think it's more of the latter, with perhaps a trickle of the former. The prices at the pumps is probably a good barometer. Those prices have risen at an alarming rate literally overnight. The only places I know of that has gas for under $4 are those that take cash (the savings result from avoiding the credit card terminal transaction fee). When I was in Sacramento, my tank was almost empty, so I went to an Arco that had gas at $3.91 per gallon. That price, of course, was the cash price. I had little of the greenbacks on me, so I only took in a couple of gallons to last until I can get some cash. The very next day, I came back to the same station with more cash, only to find the price is now at $4.01. In better times, it took a while for gas to go up by a dime; now it occurs faster than the blink of an eye. Did the station suddenly realize that it was underpriced, or did it take advantage of what everyone else is doing and acted accordingly, or did the wholesale price of oil really jump that quickly? Given how small of a profit margin gas sales has always been, and how uniform the gas prices are at all of the known "cheap" stations in town, I don't think price gouging is the cause...at least not by the individual gas stations.

Frankly, I am now very concerned about the big-picture impact caused by fuel prices. I didn't feel the urgency as much before. I try to cut back on driving, but there's nothing I can do about the rising grocery prices. I've definitely curtailed the fun kind of shopping.

How do you feel about what's going on in this scary world of ours, and how do you cope?


Home on the Range

I miss home already.

This is my second week on the road. After a brief weekend to pick up new clothes and some rest, I'm right back to finish up the job. It's funny how I miss home cooking so much. Eating out just doesn't feel right at all, not to mention how expensive it can get. This week I've moved to another hotel that seems to be in a better area, but it doesn't have that free hot breakfast in the morning, which really perked me up in the morning.

So after a dinner at a restaurant recommended by a friend, I went across the street to Target. Being a big fan of Target, it kinded of reminded me of home, and it also got me some breakfast. I thought about getting granola bars since it's easy to store, but they don't keep me full for very long; the reason why the complimentary hot breakfasts kept me going at work was because they kept me full, and as long as I didn't get hungry, I didn't get distracted. A pack of bagels is perfect for a breakfast on the go (and keeps going and going), and a bottle of my favorite beverage (water) keeps me hydrated and happy. Since I forgot to pack a pair of slippers yet again, I also got a pair of flipflops for a few bucks.

I guess next time I need to go on a road trip, it'd be nice to research what Targets and supermarkets are around in the area. A little bit of groceries makes a whole lot of difference.


Democracy at Work

Thanks everyone for your comments on insurance and the car rental. After reading your comments and thinking about the limitations of my regular car insurance coverage, I decided that it's best to either stick with the full coverage or go one step down. While I don't remember what my policy covers with regard to rentals, I do know it has a number of limitations, which is why I sprung for the full coverage. If my own car gets a dent, I probably wouldn't mind driving around with that. But when a shiny rental gets dinged, that's a different story.

What I will change for sure, however, is the gas option. It turns out that I got a pretty bad deal by prepaying for it because (a) I won't get credit for the gas left in the tank, and (b) I ended up not driving around as much as I thought I would (visiting people, that is) because of scheduling issues. I learned the hard way, but the lesson sticks.

In the meantime, enjoy my snapshots from a tour given by a Capitol insider. The best part about these trips is that I get to visit my favorite people whom I otherwise wouldn't have been able to see...airfare is so expensive and free time is seriously lacking.

Apparently the Govenator is the first to put his name over the office door.

...the "Coffee Hill" in the said insider's office.

And finally, my favorite: I couldn't stop laughing when I saw this. Yes, I'm weird. I was told this used to be the Coastal Commission...how did it morph to this?


Light, Cheap, and In Style

Add the word "travelling" in front of the title and all of a sudden the title makes some sense.

Greetings from Sacramento! I just flew in from LA and got myself set up in the hotel. Work has kept me quite busy and I'll be on the road for a while, so if you don't see any new posts for a couple of weeks, that would be why.

This is my first business trip ever, so I had to figure some things out on the fly. Scheduling also made things tougher--since I attended my dear friend's wedding all day Saturday, followed by Mother's Day the next day, I only had a couple of hours after returning home from the office at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning (before the wedding, that is) to get all my stuff together. Once I brought all my work papers home, it was time to pack.

Packing was actually the easy part. I packed a mix of casual and business-casual clothes (one blazer, a couple of sweaters, along with several tops), a pair of flats, brought my laptop, all sorts of electronic gadgetry, and their accompanying cables in an organza bag that used to hold something else; if I didn't have that bag, I would have used a ziploc baggie like my roommate wisely suggested. I hate having to check in bags because it takes up a lot of time, so I made sure that everything fits in carryon luggage. The clothes, shoes, toiletries, and cables went into a duffle bag, while my work papers, laptop, fashion magazine, electronics, and other things I want to access readily went into a large and sturdy faux leather work tote that I got from Target for $30 a while back. Whatever was too bulky to put into bags were worn--for colder nights, I brought my big Mike & Chris coat; for a more casual pair of shoes, I brought a pair of sneakers. This is my idea of travelling in style:

[Gap stripey tee, Mike & Chris coat, Juicy Couture jeans (sample), Adidas Prajna sneakers (probably one of my best finds at Ross since I love them)]

The harder part was the car rental. I was quite overwhelmed with all the different options. Sure, I'll ultimately get reimbursed, but it's quite expensive up front. I wanted a regular sedan with GPS (which is a necessity, given I don't know the city at all), but they ran out of cars with GPS, so they gave me an SUV. That's another extra $12 charge per day, and you can see how it can start adding up. Then there's the gas option--either you can pre-pay at $3.75/gal (which is cheap) bring the car back with an empty tank, or fill up the tank at the end or risk a $7/gal fee. I don't anticipate doing all that much driving, but given the fact that my car is an SUV, it seemed like a draw. Then there's the issue of insurance. I'm a pretty careful driver, but sometimes you never know what can happen. I ended up taking the full coverage option, and when the final estimate bill came out...holy smokes! All the "add ons" were even more expensive than the price of renting the car itself!

What's your stance when it comes to insurance on a rental? Any business travel dilemmas? I'll probably run into a few (food comes to mind) as the week goes on.


Toil and Bubble

Those Loehmann's points coupons were burning a hole in my wallet, so I made my trip to store last week as the last shopping trip for quite a while. Let's see how long that lasts.

I just wanted something Springy, fun, but suitable for work. I can always use another cardigan or two, and definitely a shift dress. The first thing I came across was a Rebecca Beeson bubble top. The color is bright--typical of things I wear when I'm not in the office--but not outrageous. The bubble hem, however, was a bit questionable. It's certainly fun, but can I pull it off for the office? Since the top fits and drapes fairly well, I didn' think the buble would be too much of a concern. I'm glad I went for it--here's my Spring office outfit.

[Old Navy cardigan, Rebecca Beeson bubble top, my own necklace, Forever 21 pants, Pink Studio green suede wedges]

One morning I just knew the zebra-print cardigan had to go with the top. I'm not a twin sets type of office gal. Initially I was even opposed to cardigans, but ever since my friends got me a few cute, interesting, non-twin-set-looking ones, I've been pretty hooked. The zebra-print one I found at Old Navy a while go is exactly what I like--because the color is subtle, the pattern is modern and exotic, without retaining the tackiness usually associated with animal print. Because the fit is so great, it contains the bubble hem while letting enough of it to show.

I've also been looking for a black shift dress--something easy to throw on but looks like I made a lot of effort. I found this dress at the Max Studio outlet a while ago; I love the contrast stitching and how the stitches run from the collar like rays of light, but I wasn't willing to pay the price then for something that didn't fit quite well. When I found a whole bunch of Max Studio dresses at Loehmann's, I was hoping that I'd find it there eventually. It so happens that on this particular occasion, it was there and in my size. I knew that I didn' t like the fit when I was at the outlet, but I decided to try it on again now to see if my opinion has changed.

Even though the garments were labeled the same size, the variations were huge. The dress I tried on at the store was not flattering on my back end. The dress I first tried on at Loehmanns did look very good in the back, but the front had a problem--the neckline was way too wide. I don't want to buy a dress that will make me think twice about doing something common, like leaning forward to read or pick something up from my desk. I went back to hunt for another one in the same size, and sure enough, the fit is great all around.

[Target cardigan (from the said friends), vintage scarf from Ebay, Max Studio dress, Target sandals]

Now I'm pretty happy to not shop for a while, except for wedding gifts for the many weddings for the next few months. I have plenty of dresses for those weddings already, but who knows? This might be the perfect excuse to get more (stop it! Stop it!).