Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas to Us

There was a lot of things that we had put off replacing while in school. We had some money now so we put it to good use. The first totally useless thing we bought was a new TV. We didn't have some since we moved to Oregon. I really didn't want to watch TV but I needed to replace the broken monitor we had. I admit the 47" TV we bought was overkill but it ended up being the cheapest one for the day after Thanksgiving sale that we got it from. We also got a stereo to handle the sound and it was a pain to run all the wires.
L. wanted to make our apartment look like it was not just some college apartment anymore so we replaced our couches, lamps, curtains, and bookcases with stuff that all matched.
As far as presents to each other Santa got us a Roomba to try to handle the vacuuming with how busy we were. It's funny the presents we got each other were little because of those big ones. L. got me some books and CD's and I got her a coat. All three of us got little remote control helicopters from Santa that seemed to be a hit with everyone even though no one could not fly them straight.
I felt really weird spending so much money but we had money saved in the bank. We had paid off all our debt besides the student loans and we setup the highest payment for those. I guess we saw it as a really good reward for us both finishing school.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas party

We finally had put away enough stuff that we had a clean apartment so we wanted to throw a house warming/Christmas party. L.'s brother T. had come to visit us for our Christmas present to him so between him, my friend D. and his wife and L.'s Aunt and Uncle's family we had quite a full house.
We were trying to decide on what to do and came up with a present exchange. Since we were busy unpacking boxes we had come across some really odd things so we thought everyone would get a good laugh out of it. It mostly went well with everyone getting what they wanted except the youngest kid got the DVD for "Lawnmower man". Luckily T. decided he wanted it so everyone got an age appropriate gift.
Originally we had planned to make one of my signature dishes of enchiladas for everyone but it didn't seem right for Christmas so I looked into it and came up with making the traditional ham, potatoes, and carrots for everyone. When I was looking into what to make I kept thinking of all the weird stuff that is associated for Christmas so I decided to make it to see what it tasted like.
Sugar plums: All I could find was it was a way to preserve fruit with sugar so I made up my own recipe and it was rather a hit. a dried cherry inside a dried prune inside a dried apricot. boil it in corn syrup until soft then roll in powdered sugar to dry it off.
Figgy pudding: It really does have a lot of figs in it. It takes 4 hours to cook so I understand why no one wants to make it anymore. I liked it but it was about 50% hit. I guess an acquired taste.
Wassel punch: I didn't realize it was impossible to get 100% cranberry juice as one of the ingredients, either it is juice cocktail with water mixed in or cranberry with other fruit juice. Boiling the orange slices really made this one good for me.
Roasted chestnuts: T. helped out by slicing each nut before we roasted them in the oven. They tasted like a Brazil nut to me, and just as much meat on them. Even though I bought them fresh from the store about half ended up being rotten so it seemed like a lot of work to find a good one. Most people gave up after being to try their first nut.

Monday, December 10, 2007


For some unknown reason I agreed to move to somewhere with snow. We had to deal with the snow and cold. The first thing I did was to get a hard top for my car. The torn rear window was letting in to much cold air. I went down to Philadelphia for a computer conference and while down there I bought a Miata hardtop that I had found on Craigslist.
The main reason I don't like snow is driving on ice. The best way I felt I could deal with this is to buy new tires. When I bought the car I found a strange little bolt that I couldn't figure out what it was for so I eventually threw it away. When I waned to take the tires off I realized it was the key to the lug nut locks. I ended up paying $10 a wheel to get them taken off. So much for trying to downsize un-needed things.
As far as the apartment it seemed a little drafty even though it is fairly new. We decided to put plastic over the windows. It was amazing how much of a difference in our monthly bill between that and adjusting the automatic thermostat did.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

applying for PhD

To work my way up at work I would sooner or later need to get my PhD. I still wanted to pay off more of my student loans but I figured I would try to apply to Columbia since it was the local school.
This meant that I needed to take the computer science GRE. The problem is that I didn't realize it until a month before test. I had to just show up and be on standby. The problem is when I asked they never mentioned I needed a paper. I learned when I showed up at the school they had no extras. I ran to the library, they were not open yet, I ran to the nearest Kinkos and printed one out. They had one test left but I started a 1/2 hour late. The worst part was that all this stress was a day before the Marathon.
A month later I call, no results. They lost my test. I kept calling and got mixed into the bureaucratic morass of a pseudo government/private company. Somewhere along the way their computers said I showed up for the test but no results. After another month they found the computer mistake. I should have left the results lost. It turns out not having time to study and then starting late does not lead to a good test score.
As part of my application to Columbia I checked a box that I was interested in external scholarships. I got a response that I was excepted for a full-ride scholarship. I started getting emails from other universities asking if I wanted to apply. Then I looked into the scholarship and found out somehow I had been accepted for a minority scholarship. It was frustrating that my grades were not considered anything to talk about until I suddenly became a minority student. Now universities from all over wanted to me to go there. As it turns out there was no moral dilemma of whither or not I would accept it since Columbia did not accept me. It was no surprise with the score I got on the computer science GRE. Well I viewed it as a practice run and it obviously showed a lot of flaws that I needed to fix for next time.