Sunday, December 31, 2006

I want to see your new place!

"Awkward" is a great way to describe me in a social setting. I get tongue tied really easily because I SUCK at making the small talk. I have like three topics: Work ("Workin hard?"), Significant Other ("How is Becky/Mike/your dog?"), Movies or TV ("You really should check out the new Battlestar Galactica, it's not lame I swear"). I try to steer clear of the weather and politics because I have weird opinions on both and it takes too long for me to get into them (rain loving libertarian). My nature is to always wonder WHY someone would ask a question other than "how's it going?" No idea where that suspicion comes from. It's a confidence thing... I'm working on it. So it's weird now to have this new topic of conversation to deal with...

"I want to see your new place!" Friends and even mere acquaintances say this to me all the time now... I don't really know how to react to it. My place is just over 700 square feet, so there really isn't A LOT to see. Sure, I'm proud of it and am looking forward to having people over for dinner or events (something I pledge to do MORE of in 2007), but someone coming over JUST to come over seems weird.

It's actually happened a couple of times. For example a guy from work who I don't know REALLY well was in the neighborhood having lunch only a few days after I moved in. I'd taken some time off around the move so my new place came up in the typical "post vacation" coworker conversations. He called out of the blue, explained that he was nearby and asked if he could come see the place. Which he did, and it was fine... but like I said, it's not like I can give you a tour of the East Wing or the Conservatory... there are basically 3 rooms to "tour." When he was here there wasn't even any furniture except for my bed which was in the living room because I had not yet bought a couch. He liked it and all, but when he left I felt a little weird, exposed.

Plus, you really can't ask the big question, "how much?" I mean you can, but you have to preface it with something like, "I don't want to be nosy (LIAR) but..." Nowadays I guess if you really wanted to know you could look up comps online, or even go to the developers website but it still comes up. I never know what to say! My contemporaries and I probably make comparable wages, give or take 5 or 10 g's... so it's not about discovering who makes more. When it comes up I always say that it was less than I expected (and it was), and then offer up what I "heard" similar units are selling or sold for. But when does that stop being informational and become braggadocio?

Thanks to an abundance of holiday parties I have been hearing the "place seeing" statement more lately. It's not a question, "Can I come over and see..." it's a statement "I want to see..." I always say, "Come on by anytime!" But is that what they want to hear? Does, "I want to see your new place," REALLY mean, "I am acknowledging that you have purchased a home or moved recently and having said this fulfills my obligation to you on this matter?" or do people really want to see where I live?

This building is brand new, it's a prominent addition to the neighborhood and there are ads for units in Phase II (construction starts Tuesday) in all the local papers all the time... so I guess that contributes to SOME of the curiosity.

Admittedly, I like to go to see my friends places (new or not). I've said, "I need to come see the new place," myself many, many times. I like to see their style and taste, get ideas for my own place, and I LIKE giving people compliments on their home. I'm not a judger (unless it's a stranger's home), people's tastes are people's tastes and unlike our impending tax returns there's no accounting for them. Discussion about the decoration or style of someone's home I have been in is inevitable, but I am typically the one who tries to convince those who did NOT like aspects to look at the bright side. Find SOMETHING worthy of a compliment, even if it's just convenient parking, or a cute refrigerator magnet. Oh, I've mocked too... yours truly is definitely guilty of starting my share of "what were they thinking?" conversations, but more often than not, I'm the defender of unusual taste.

Thinking about it, my awkwardness and suspicious nature are probably the causes for my inability to deal well with people's interest in This New Condo. I am proud of it, but I wonder if at this point in my life I should have more to show, I worry if when my friends do come to see my new place that they'll leave having expected more. I have friends with less, and I have friends with much more and they're all friends. I'll just shoot for being the awkward friend with just enough.

Side note... the weather today is SO AWESOME!!! Overcast, steady drizzle and as a perfect compliment to this grey day BRAVO is having a "Six Feet Under" marathon! Perfect way to start to end 2006.

My little brother (no longer little he’s 3 inches taller than me) who lives on the other side of the world is in town for the holidays staying with my Dad. His visit to this new condo last night is in part responsible for this post. P and I will ring in the new year with he and my Dad and my steps out in the ‘burbs tonight.

Have a happy and safe night. Best wishes for the new year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Coke Rewards

It's a DOUBLE POINTS day at My Coke Rewards. I'm up to 2110!

Blogrolling

Still getting all of the blog etiquette down... so not sure if this is kosher but...

I've discovered a lot of great blogs by finding them in other great blog's blogrolls. Aside from a couple of very welcoming gents who added me to their blogrolls early on (thank-you!) I've kept my list of daily reads to myself in a bookmark folder.

Today while I was updating my Lets Say You're Right... link at blogrolling.com I decided it was time to add some of my other faves to the list. I don't expect any reciprocal links, and if for some reason anyone in my list would rather not be there just let me know. I won't be offended. I've even changed the name of that field from "Neighbors" to "Library" ("Library" is now "Filing Cabinet") so that those listed don't think that I'm trying to allude to any kind of association. Though I'm not opposed to new associations.

My blogrolling list is FAR from a complete list of all the spots I hit regularly, frankly many of them contain subject matter that I don't think would compliment "this new condo." This list is merely a short rundown of the sites I think are interesting/smart/funny/written by attractive people/educational/well written and try to read regularly.

So if I have broken any blogging rules (should I have ASKED first?) PLEASE let me know.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Something's Fishy

Had a great holiday Weekend.

P and I exchanged our homemade presents and he surprised me once again with his creativity. My favorite thing he made is a set of drink coasters that we saw Martha Stewart making on TV. Well... we didn't actually SEE her make them, the TV was on in the background while we were otherwise occupied. I'm not sure what it says about the quality of the activity we were engaged in that he was able to pay enough attention to Martha that he could recreate her project later... but at least now I have a saucy story to tell friends when they ask about the origin of my cool drink coasters.

He broke the "homemade only" rules just a little too and got me the Frank Oz version of Little Shop of Horrors on DVD... (I know, how stereotypical). When we were done with presents we watched it... well he watched it, I acted it out word for word, "Yes, Dohkta!"

My homemade present was a set of gold leafed candle holders... I should have taken a pic of them to show y'all what a nice guy P is. Nice because my project was not a total success in my opinion, but he loved it! P bought some electric candles a while back. At first blush they seem pretty cheesy, but when you disguise them correctly they look EXACTLY like real candles. So I made him some holders that would disguise the electronic parts, and just show off the flicker. They did not come out perfect by any means, but as they say down here in the south, bless his heart, he seemed to genuinely like them!

Santa also got us tickets to see Cirque du Soleil next month. Pretty stoked about that. Never seen one of their shows.

There were some other stocking stuffers, but those are the highlights.

So what's the "fishy" part? Meet MAC:



P's Mom gave her to me for a Christmas/Housewarming gift! The gift was actually the fishbowl that MAC lives in. I think it's really pretty cool:



P's Mom explained her present by saying that thought I should have a pet. I have to be totally honest though... I am petrified about having a pet. Even if it is just a 3 dollar betta fish, it's a LIFE in my house! Relying on me for food and stuff! I also worry that MAC might be lonely, but getting another fish (female Bettas can live together in the same bowl, unlike their prettier male counterparts) would be even MORE responsibility! I know it's just a fish... but it's really been a big event for me. Where should the bowl go? Kitchen? Bathroom? Bedroom? Right now MAC is in the living room looking very fashionable atop my West Elm step side table, but I worry about the conditions there. Too much light? Not enough heat? I initially asked P if we could take her back to the pet store because I was too worked up about the responsibilities of fish ownership, but he talked me down of the ledge and so far I think MAC makes a nice addition to this new condo.

RIP: President Gerald Ford

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Merry

OK, today I can wish everybody a Merry Christmas!

Here's my Christmas gift to y'all. It's a vid of my Dad's dog actually opening his Christmas present all by himself last night. Check out the way he sets the wrapping aside once he gets it off the gift! Smart Dog!



I just think that is the cutest thing EVER!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Feeling a little shelfish

I've had a $25 Visa gift card burning a hole in my pocket for about 2 weeks. I won it at work for participating in a program that rewards employees for taking mass transit as much as possible. When I woke up this morning something in me said that today is the day to SPEND IT!!!

1 hour, 1 grande mocha (also paid for with a gift card), and one stop at West Elm later and here is the result:

BEFORE:




AFTER:




Just a little entry shelf on which to put my keys and stuff when I come home. UNBELIEVABLY I managed to mount it flush to the wall AND level to the floor! Another successful home improvement project!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

All the small things

The end is near! 2006 has only a few days left and I think the builder of this new condo is facing some kind of deadline because every day I walk out my door to find something new or different. This rush seems to have started about two weeks ago and it's cool but weird at the same time.

Cool because I like these additions:


Rough hewn, chunky shelf in the elevator lobby.



Etching (not appliqué) on the lobby doors. I'm actually on the fence on this one, but it's more like than dislike.



Giant craftsman style light fixtures in the hallways


I don't like this one:


A small detail in the baseboard trim in the hallways. Those little black metallic squares replaced two small wood "tabs" painted the same color as the wood around them. Those tabs popped out of the trim about an 8th of an inch. The new squares are flush. It was a very craftsmanish detail, now I'm not sure what they are going for.


it's weird because no one told me to expect any of these changes, and no one has asked if I like them. The only change I was expecting was the removal of the carpet that was in the hallway when I moved in. I was less than wowed by the carpet they replaced it with (seen above), but it's OK I guess. P says it looks a little "Vegas hotel."

I always give the "community director" my opinion on the changes, good and bad. I don't know if that has any affect on which small things they will change next, hopefully my neighbors are also speaking up though. Until we begin to have Homeowner Association meetings that's pretty much our only way of speaking up.

Other notes:

Glad I don't live in Denver! I hate living in the snow! VISITING the snow is nice, but LIVING in it SUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!

The sign still has not been turned on, but Ted's is starting to look pretty close to being done. The interior is finished and furnished. Take a look at this though:


I don't know the square footage of that restaurant, but every week for a couple months now, they have FILLED at least one of these giant bins. Just one restaurant in one town filling several of those during construction. I just imagine all the other things being built or torn down that require those giant bins. SO MUCH WASTE! Tragic.

My ex is in town for Christmas. We broke up years ago, but still have a cool bond. His real estate savvy always impressed me and he's definitely one of the reasons I had the guts to buy this place. He moved up north about a year and a half ago. Always weird to see him again, things were left really unfinished. It was a really hard breakup for me. We keep in touch though (mostly by text message) which is how I know he's in town. For Christmas he and his (I guess it's officially) partner exchanged rings ("ack!"). He's here solo this trip though. Hopefully we can get together and have a few beers.

P and I will "do" Christmas probably on Saturday. Sunday I will spend the day with my folks, he with his Mom. Monday (Christmas) I'll probably join his family for lunch and then it's a normal work day for me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

4 days without power

My Mom called with updates every few hours... "Still no power!" She lives in the Northwest and was affected by the wind storms that blew though there last week.

Her first call came on Wednesday morning to let me know that her power was out, and had been for several hours. She was in her car driving into town (where the power was already back on) so she could use an internet cafe. Mom lives in a fairly rural area, a place where you can still "drive into town." When the power goes out at her house, it GOES OUT. None of these 20 minute city slicker power outages up where she's at, so I figured it would be a while till her electricity was flowing again. I figured 24 hours.

She's pretty well fortified. Always has logs for the fireplace and canned goods in the pantry, plenty of candles and oil lamps. Not for emergencies necessarily, just because. So I wasn't too worried. She could always stay in a hotel for a few days if things got really dicey.

Thursday she called, again from her cell because all her phones are cordless and so not working during the blackout, to let me know that the temperature had dropped dramatically and the power was still out. This is tough news to hear from all the way across the country. She's a tough lady but she's pushin 70 and in order to keep the house heated she's gotta lug wood from outside. Not to mention all her appliances... electric. So she is heating things to eat with sterno cans. I tell her I wish there was something I could do and suggest she go to the movies in town. It would be warm and she could get a real dinner at a restaurant. She said she'd think about it, and assured me she was fine, "Just wanted to keep you posted!"

Friday. She is out with friends at a bar. She calls to say she is watching the news on TV and since that is the business that I am in she wants to know why her power outage has not made the news yet! I've looked at her local paper online and it appears that most of her area is back on... but there are pockets that they are having problems with. She lives in one of those pockets. It's only a few hundred homes that are still dark.

An ice storm hit Atlanta the first year I lived here and the juice was off for just over 3 days. It was so BORING! No net, no TV, no lights... and reading by candlelight SOUNDS romantic, but it's really just a pain in the ass. At least though I could go down the street to a friends or to work where the generator kept the lights and the heat on. My Mom has been up in hicksville for 72 hours now, each day the temperature dropping a little more.

Saturday night. Still no love from the power company and she's starting to sound nervous. She has plenty of wood but her house is not staying warm... she's worried about pipes freezing... and keeps mentioning how cold it is! I'm HELPLESS and worried. I suggest a hotel, but she doesn't want to leave her cat and she's worried about burglars. I ask how she is keeping busy and she assures me that she's been going through her home office in the daytime, cleaning out files and other things she's been meaning to do, but I can tell she's starting to crack a little.

Sunday Morning. I see it's her calling again. "Well, it's FINALLY back on!" she announces before I even say hello. I can tell she is genuinely relieved, and so am I! We talk for a long time about how she is going to celebrate which is of course going to be by turning on every electric appliance in her home!

Does make you think though... what if? 4 days is a long time, but what if I had to go for a week or a month!? It's not likely but it could happen! When the Y2K scare was building in '99 I have to admit that I (secretly, so no one would think I was one of THOSE people) took that opportunity to stock up on some supplies. Bottled water, canned goods, candles, gas, cash... JUST IN CASE! When all the computers in the world did not stop running at midnight, the cash went back in the bank, I started drinking the bottled water and eating the canned goods, the gas went to a buddy's mower, and the candles provided some lovely ambiance for the first few months of 2000. I'm pretty vulnerable now. Hopefully my 4 days aren't coming any time soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Weekend

Funny how an otherwise really nice weekend can be totally ruined by 20 minutes of stupidity.

I've mentioned before that I've been dating a guy for several years now... I've called him "my boyfriend" in all the posts that he appears in... but that's getting a little tired. He has a name, which I'm definitely not going to use here but he should at least have an alias. So from here on out, and for reasons known only to he and I, he'll be known as P.

Now that the introductions are out of the way...

On Friday I started listening to an episode of "This American Life". For those of you not familiar with the show, it's fantastic. An hour of radio documentary and storytelling that will knock your socks off if you are into that kind of stuff. I'm an NPR addict (which is where I originally found This American Life) so this stuff is right up my alley. I have a "subscription" to the show on iTunes so when I last connected my iPod to the service a new episode downloaded. I have a few saved on my iPod, so I don't know if this is the most recent one that I was listening to, but the topic of the show was "Heretics." In this case the entire hour was devoted to telling one man's story. He was a very successful preacher, an African American man who was so close to Oral Roberts that Oral called him, "my black son." One day he decided, for reasons that are logical but require more explanation than I can devote time to here, that he could not believe in hell. Turns out this is unpopular amongst christians and he was ultimately OFFICIALLY called a heretic. Now I know that no GOOD news about the church is ever reported, and there is a LOT of good news that comes out of sanctuaries all over the world, but when the bad news comes out... it's usually, really bad. This was one of those stories and it made me angry.

Friday night I got a call from P who wanted to know if I would like to see Borat on Saturday. I was really surprised because he had shown NO interest in that movie when it first started hitting big. I think the fact that it was nominated for a golden globe had something to do with his turnaround. We went and it was interesting... not what I expected and not as funny as I had hoped... but I'm not a reviewer... too subjective... if you are interested see it, if not don't. Anyway, I was already kind of subconsciously mad at Christians thanks to This American Life, and then Borat visited a church in Texas that I can only describe as "devout." People were speaking in tongues, running around, bouncing up and down... it looked a little like a Chuck E Cheese birthday party. The preacher's sermon was one of ignorance and intolerance and the whole thing was capped off with a good ol fashioned, hand's on "healing."

I need to make it clear at this point that P is very involved in his Church. He's no bible thumper, but he takes great pride in his faith and his stewardship. I respect that. I myself am not a believer. For me, life and earth are just a big happy accidents and while I'm certain there are unseen forces at work in our daily lives I think they have a natural, non-sentient explanation. Energy and matter are "god" to me. P knows this about me and we have had several heated discussions on the matter, but his faith is unshakable and my lack of faith is not changing either... so we agree to disagree on this very large issue.

Back to Borat who is being basically accosted on stage at this Texas church by people trying to save him. I'm appalled, by the sermon, by the people, by the antics... it's all so ridiculous to me and it dawned on me that P is a christian too! Not a fundamentalist, but he definitely shares the same bible, the same god... so during the scene I look over at him and I say (half jokingly), "I want you to quit." He chuckles because he knows exactly what I mean by that.

Saturday afternoon P and I were invited to a Hanukah party, which was really fun. Some friends of ours have just moved into a new house and this was their first gathering which they INSISTED on throwing even though they have begun to demolish their kitchen. They like to share the lighting of the menorah with friends and P and I were honored to be asked. Funny thing though... we got there at like 4:30. Ate, drank, lit the candles, said the prayers, listened to the two Hanukah songs over and over, it was a full evening. I don't know if it's just because we are old men or something but after a while we agreed it was time to go so we said our goodbyes and headed out. Remember we got there at 4:30... the clock in the car read 6:20. We thought it was 9pm!

We came back to This New Condo and had a couple more beers and watched TV, but in the back of my mind I could not let go of all the Christian hypocrisy I had been exposed to over the past couple days... it may have been trigged by a Christmas Shopping ad on TV or something... but I broke the cardinal rule and started in on P about christianity. This is a guy who could not harm a flea, gentle to a fault, kind, giving, forgiving... and here I was browbeating him over the merits of his religion. My voice was raised, I'm sure the neighbors could hear, how could he give so much time and effort so such a flawed system!? He'd try to respond and I would just verbally knock him back with examples of hypocrisy and double talk, thievery and lies... I had him on the mat and the ref was counting down and I still kept at him. Peppering him with questions no one can answer... finally he turned to me and I could see that he was choked up. I'd gone too far. I'd really said some awful, awful things and I could see in his eyes he was really hurt. "I'm going to go," he said.

It took some time, but eventually I convinced him to stay. It was a quiet night after that. I slept poorly and the next day things were still awkward. I apologized repeatedly and he (characteristically) told me it was OK. He blames both our reactions on the drinks we had... and to some extent he's right. I certainly don't expect to be invited back to Church anytime soon though.

I think we're OK now. Sunday we took a long walk through Midtown into Downtown Atlanta and didn't talk about religion. We did see some cool new buildings going up. The new Twelve Centennial Park hotel and condos building is going up fast, and we saw a sign for a new tower we'd never noticed before that will house a Palomar Hotel and condos that will START at $1 million. Met friends for drinks and football that afternoon and then home to a quiet evening of Survivor.

it would have been a great weekend. If only I wasn't such an asshole.

Tomorrow: 4 days without power

Friday, December 15, 2006

Flashback Friday - It never hurts to ask

"Brevity is the key," a TV anchorperson once advised me... but after re-reading some of my posts one might think that I was too busy writing a run on sentence to hear that sage counsel. So lets see if I can get this all out in just a couple paragraphs.

I didn’t want to buy a condo. I was happy renting. I liked renting. I LOVED having only to make a phone call when my AC broke down, or the dishwasher started leaking. “Hey, my shit is busted, send somebody to fix it and pick up the tab too!” That lack of responsibility was and is right up my alley! The renting I loved, the rent… not so much. I still have no understanding about how rents work. Why reward a long time tenant with ever increasing rent? Why charge someone exorbitant amounts in fees if their rent is late? If I had the money I would have paid you, where do you think I am going to come up with MORE!? The complex I was living in at the time also left a lot to be desired. One of the few “non-gated” communities still around I think. That led to strange cars with strange people in them listening to loud music at all hours. I think there was even a guy who LIVED in his car in my parking lot some nights. My apartment itself wasn’t too bad. It had a nice view of some woods, lots of storage (more storage than I have now), a deck and even a fireplace. I didn’t hate it, but I was embarrassed enough to avoid having friends over too often. In fact I think a total of like 10 people MAY have come over the entire time I lived there, nearly 5 years.

I had done a LITTLE research on the possibility of buying a unit in the building where I now live. This included buying my mortgage broker friend coffee a couple of times over which we talked about how feasible a purchase like this might be for a person like me. I was glad that I had a friend in the biz, and was happy that IF I did buy she would be my mortgage broker. She had run my “numbers” a couple of times and other than some minor discrepancies, she assured me that I would qualify for a loan that would allow me to buy a unit. Great news! She also told me how much the payments would be. Shitty news. One or two more coffee meetings and she had me committed to at least going to the office and meeting with someone. “If it turns out that there are no pre-construction deals or other specials going on,” she counseled, “then we can consider other properties.”

I didn’t want to look at other properties. I was only interested in buying something IF it was a unit on my tragic lot (now with a picture!).

Building was already well under way by the time I made my first visit to the sales office. When I entered a very fit, very saavy, very Lucille Ball redheaded, 50ish woman with a big smile came into the waiting room and introduced herself. I don’t want to reveal her identity so I am just going to call her Evil Liar (for reasons that will become clear in future posts), or EL for short. It turns out her smile was less sincere than it appeared. I got the feeling that she sized me up immediately as someone who was shopping out of his league and then proceeded to treat me as such. EL brought me into a conference room, sat me down across from her and asked how she could help. This is when I made mistake #1. I admitted that I was a first time home buyer, that I had never been through this process, that I was clueless about the process and WORST of all that I was petrified. She started to write me off almost immediately. She went from smiles to an expression that I can only describe as the kind of look a cat gets when it realizes that the mouse it’s caught is no more fun to play with because it’s dead. Clearly she did not want to hold my hand through this process.

During that first meeting we just talked about the building, how many units, how would the parking work, what the HOA dues would be (very low), what kind of amenities the building would offer… stuff like that. I didn't ask about upgrades because I thought stuff like that would be spread out banquet style for me to choose from, but it wasn't. And I was too nervous to ask EL about things like that. But you have to ask!

Finally it was time to talk specifics. She showed me on a blueprint of the entire building which units were still available. There were still three one bedrooms, "but they're going fast," she assured me. We talked about one in particular that was priced about 5 grand more than my top limit even WITH the pre-construction discount she would generously offer despite the fact they'd already broken ground. "Would you like to put down some earnest money today," she asked, KNOWING that I could not. I told her no but that I really appreciated her time and that I would get back to her. As I took my first step to leave she Colombo'd me, "Oh, one more thing... we are going to be setting aside some units for city employees which will sell at a reduced cost... It's possible that we may open that program up to non-city employees as well. The city wants to make sure all walks of life can live here so we may have units reserved for people who's income is below $70,000 a year." First time I was ever happy to be considered "low income." It turns out these types of programs are fairly common. Developers make these deals with municipalities in order to get variances and other concessions that reduce their building costs. So IF you think you can't afford it, ASK about stuff like that. There are WAY more deals out there than you suspect.

Ultimately it was the program she offered at the last minute that allowed me to buy here... but that didn't happen until our next meeting when I would write a very bad check, and by bad I mean solid rubber.

Next Friday: The big checks and the long wait.

ps: I just learned that for my entire life I have been saying "exorbinant" when the word is actually "exorbitant."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Condoblogger: Cultural Learnings of Atlanta for Make Benefit This New Condo

Atlanta is home to a couple really world class Museums. The High Museum of Art, The MIchael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Fernbank Museum of Natural History... lots of great venues to see cool stuff.

This week I've had the opportunity to visit a couple exhibitions that are in town: Imperial Rome at Fernbank and Titanic The Artifact Exhibition at the Civic Center. Of the two, I'd recommend the Titanic.

The developer of This New Condo was kind enough to buy all the new homeowners a years membership to Fernbank and today I finally got to make use of it! "Imperial Rome" was pretty sucky though, actually. Don't even get me started on the busloads of kids and their loud voiced chaperones. Typical museum stuff, with lots of big posters featuring lots of big words, surrounded by a bunch of plexiglass cases featuring artifacts from back when going to "the baths" was a completely different experience (from what I've HEARD). I am lucky enough to have been to Italy and it struck me as I walked through the exhibit today that all the statues and busts with giant DO NOT TOUCH signs in front of them are things that I've seen on the STREET in Rome being blasted with Vespa exhaust and Gellato drippings. They are so much more casual about stuff like that there. I understand that many people will never go to Rome to see these pieces in their natural settings and so this exhibit is cool in that respect. I also understand that these artifacts are grouped to highlight a specific period in Roman history which gives it a context that a walk down Via Condotti lacks. But for anyone who has dipped a toe in the Trevi Fountain or climbed the Spanish Steps "Imperial Rome" at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History will be a sterile, tedious, 12 dollar disappointment. Actually... I think it will be a disappointment even if you haven't been. Rent Caligula or Gladiator instead.

"Titanic" on the other hand was pretty neat. The exhibit is being staged in a part of the Civic Center that is bordering on "run-down." It used to house a neat-ish science museum called Sci-Trek. That's been closed for a couple years now, and in its place several traveling exhibits have come through. "Bodies" was there a couple months ago for example. Other than the venue, the actual exhibition was pretty cool. When you arrive you are handed a boarding pass which lists your name, the class you are traveling in and some other tidbits. Mine identified me as Col. Archibald who was (of course) traveling in first class. They make great use of sound as you move through the different "rooms." Music, sound effects, voices... that was a nice touch. Mockups of the rooms in First Class and "steerage" were interesting to see, especially when you consider the amenities available on today's cruise ships. I was struck by the personal nature of a lot of the things they've recovered from the crash site. Eyeglasses, toothbrushes, shoes, even some cigarettes. Lots of the stuff was wrapped in leather cases which along with the cold way down there helped to preserve things. Unlike the "Imperial Rome" signage, the signs and posters in "Titanic" were compelling quotes and facts that I actually WANTED to take the time to read. When you reach the end of the exhibit you get to find out if you (the you on your boarding pass) survived the sinking. I'm pleased to report that unlike poor Mr. DiCaprio I did in fact make it through that cold dark night. Now that I have survived Titanic, maybe I'll look into that Atlantis cruise I've had my eye on. Which reminds me...

The gym/fitness center/workout room here at This New Condo is up and running officially. No more excuses! Nothing else new on the Condo front to report though. They still have not turned on the sign... can't wait to see if I'll need to upgrade to blackout shades!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wierdest iPod Accessory EVER


I thought the iDog was wierd... but THIS takes the cake. Maybe that iPod wearing person next to you on the bus is doing more than just "seat dancing!" Ewwwwwwww.

Thanks gadgetlab.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Performance Anxiety

Thanks to my embarrassing hobby I get tons of spam. I last cleaned out my "bulk" folder at 1:30 this morning. It's just before 9 am as I write this and I already have 82 emails that have been identified as spam in there now. Those 82 do not include any emails that were blocked or automatically trashed thanx to filters. Crazy!

Last night I got an unsolicited email from a shopping site... can't remember which one, wouldn't give them the pleasure of linking to them anyway... that said exactly how many shopping days are left till the 25th. It was 13... today I think we are down to 12. I used to really like this holiday, but now man, it is just another deadline. A deadline with BIG expectations. People have bought you things and are expecting things in return!

So far I have bought 1 thing. I have at least 6 more things that I definitely have to buy. 5 of those things are going to be gift certificates. How boring is that!? I mean, I know the recipients will use the gift certificates... and I know they will like them... but I did that last year, AND the year before. Just feels really uninspired.

One gift I have to make. Actually create with my own two hands. This stems from an agreement my boyfriend and I made one year when money was really tight for me and we were planning a big trip that I was trying to save for. We agreed that at Christmas we would MAKE our gifts for each other. To this day I still keep and use all the things he's made me over the years. They mean so much more to me than a sweater or a gift certificate. Our great plan has kind of been eroded over the past couple Christmas' though and in addition to our homemade things, some bought presents have been exchanged. He's already told me he's bought some things again this year, and so in addition to the pressure to come up with some really cool homemade thing I also have do find something cool to buy!

I'm still adjusting to the change in my financial life that This New Condo has caused... and I don't know if I'm going to be able to be as fancy with my gifts as he will be this year... and I STILL have no idea what to make (I usually have the made thing done by the end of November). I just really don't like this pressure to perform. It makes me angry... and you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.....



CONDOBLOGGER SMASH CHRISTMAS!

Maybe all this is just a manifestation of the fact that I went to and really liked a performance of A Christmas Carol on Sunday at the Alliance Theater. The stage was amazing. I'm usually more interested in the stagecraft than the play, no matter what play it is (my favorite is the amazing, morphing set in Les Miserables, not a big fan of the play, but the stage is incredible). Somehow the spirit of Ebanezer Scrooge has invaded my being, like a bit of undigested beef. A solid performance though, great stage, great effects, cool multicultural cast. Ebanezer's housekeeper STOLE the show, she was very good. Young Ebanezer of Christmas past was kind of hot too, even with the elizabethan muttonchop sideburns.

OK... I'm off to clean out my spam folder... maybe I will find inspiration there... more likely that I will just find more ads to enlarge parts of me, mortgage quotes, a letter from a Nigerian banker and more reminders that I am WAY behind in my shopping.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Misadventures in Wireless Publishing or...

...how I learned the limits of my Treo's browser.

I'm a drafter. Do y'all do that? Write a post, save it as a draft, let it sit and gel and marinate and then come back to it for some tweaking before you publish it? I do.

Yesterday I tried to use the internet browser on my Treo to publish the Show Me A Sign entry that I had drafted the day before. I was only partly successful. Half of the post made it. The other half completely disappeared.

I didn't have access to a real computer until this morning, so half a post sat out there all Saturday looking stupid. Today though, I've managed to use a real keyboard, a real mouse, and a much more reliable internet browser and reconstruct, complete with new pictures, what SHOULD have been up yesterday. So, without further ado:

Show me a SIGN

This New Condo is often invaded by strange noises... tapping sounds, whoooshing sounds, a sound almost like an empty mayonnaise jar being opened in a canyon that comes from my utility closet, the occasional dog bark from the hall or an emergency vehicle siren from the street. I've learned to ignore most of them. I've said it a million times, but the place is still partly under construction and some noise is part of the deal until they get it all put together.

Thursday morning I was woken up by a new sound... a little like one of those pneumatic guns they use to put the lug nuts back on your car when you get your tire changed by a mechanic. It's a high pitched whirrrrrrrrrrrr... Usually short little blasts of it. Well on Thursday I heard a similar sound coming from outside my window. Softer though, and for long stretches of time. It's not often the sounds come from outside my window... usually they are interior based noises, from below or from the hallway. Thanks to the unusual, exterior, quality of this sound I was intrigued enough to step out on my balcony and have a look. Couldn't see a thing... figured it was some kind of construction ventriloquism. They were screwing something in somewhere else but the sound was manifesting itself in a beam or a joist or whatever they build buildings with that was near my living room windows.

That was about 8am. 'Round 2pm I head out for work. Notice on my way out that they have put some new wall fabric up in my elevator vestibule... looks nice. In the lobby I notice the construction carpet is gone and there are stacks of wood floors waiting to be put down, cool. Check my mail... Rolling Stone with Snoop Dogg on the cover, good reading on the train. Head out onto the street, it's finally cool in Atlanta and the brisk air invigorates me. As I turn to walk up the street towards the train station I notice a couple scissor lifts just ahead of me. So I tilt my head back to follow the kris crossing arms of the lift and up at the top, I see two guys installing this:



Directly beneath my balcony there is a GIANT NEON BUFFALO alerting passers by that my building is home to a Ted's Montana Grill. For those of you not familiar, Ted's is an upscale chain that specializes in hearty meals that feature bison meat from Ted Turner's Montana ranch. More importantly for me, it also specializes in a full bar.

The sign is HUGE... let me give you some perspective:



See the silver ladder? There is a full grown man at the top of that ladder! Compare him to the sign. It has to be 5 feet tall and 6 feet long. It's covered in yellow neon, and it's outside my window.

Well, I'm being dramatic, it's not DIRECTLY outside my window. It's underneath my balcony, which is why I couldn't see it when I stepped out to look for the source of the noise. You have to lean over the railing, but when you do, here is the perspective from above:



It hasn't even been ON yet (Ted's is supposed to open in two days... I don't see that happening), so I don't know the effect it will have on my nightly life. I also kind of like it to be honest. It's kind of kitschy, like something you'd see off to the side of Route 66. It could have been just a generic, fluorescent box sign like you see over the storefronts in so many mini-malls. I also have a great way to tell people how to find me! Look for the giant neon buffalo! Final judgment will be withheld till after they throw the power switch.

Just a quick note in closing. I have been very cautious about how much I should say about my actual location. My thinking is that I'll be able to be more honest if I am a little vague about the latitude and longitude on which This New Condo sits. My thoughts keep going back to a post on Soliloqueer that I originally discovered on BGB where Dave laments about having told too many people about his blog and how that prevents him sometimes from being as honest as he'd like. I've been reading lots of blogs from all over the world, and it seems to me that even though some of you all post very clear photos of places and faces it would be hard for me to identify an exact location and I'd probably not recognize most of you if I passed you on the street. Ultimately I decided that my need to write about my new neon animal friends was more important than my need to stay completely anonymous. Hopefully my next post won't be about my new stalker.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Flashback Friday - The Tragic Lot

This New Condo sits on a piece of land that was a dump when I first saw it. The only structure standing there was a long abandoned bank drive thru. Not a whole bank, just the drive thu... not attached to a branch or anything. A little bulletproof hut. Like an old photomat or something. Surrounding that was a mostly unused asphalt parking lot, cracked and dusty.



I don't remember the day I first became aware of the space my future home would someday sit on. It was probably early in 2001 when my first Atlanta relationship was new. He lived in the area and had introduced me to the "square" and it's cool bars, little restaurants and seasonal street festivals. Not the least of which was and still is the Great Beer Festival.

I was living in an apartment closer in to downtown at that time and when I would come out this way to see my guy I’d have to drive past this vacant corner lot with the pitiful, broken down bank kiosk, rusty chain link fence and determined weeds. The sight of it always hit a little chord deep in my brain. I don’t know why... all I knew was that I liked that scrappy patch on the corner for some reason. It was probably around then that I started coming up with plans. What I would do with all that space if I hit the Powerball. Maybe a movie theater, a cool one with just a couple screens and a full bar... Maybe an upscale grocery, like Whole Foods without the attitude... An awesome urban park would be neat there too. It was so wasted as it was.

All the while I was dreaming about what could be, the area surrounding my vacant lot was going through a renaissance. The chamber of commerce and the city counsil and local residents had all teamed up to make "Downtown" more pedestrian oriented. Taking away road lanes in favor of bigger sidewalks, planting trees, turning parking decks into storefronts, and building new residential spaces. They were fixing mistakes made when the powers that were allowed several austere skyscrapers to be built with the intent of luring business away from the high rents and high crime of Downtown Atlanta. Their vision was one of commerce. They were not building a neighborhood, they were building an economy. Their good intentions never paid off though and now 25 years later those tall, boring towers sit mostly empty and blocking my view.

The transformation is nearly complete now... The banks whose neon names top those tall bland towers now reside mostly in smaller more pedestrian friendly branches. The buildings that are going up now are more mid-rise than high rise, and are grounded to the street by restaurants and shops. This is a metamorphosis I think a lot of smaller communities are going through. Baseball fans have been seeing transformations like this in their metropolitan stadiums for some time. Turner Field is a good example. The old Fulton County Stadium was a multipurpose stadium, the Falcons and the Braves both played there. Just a concrete oval with seats tacked to the inside wall as it sloped to the field. Your movement restricted to the certain area of the stadium printed on your ticket and no other. Beneath all that, concourses filled with scary looking hot dog and beer counters. Functional? Yes. Pretty? No. When that stadium was blown up, it was replaced with Turner Field. A modern throwback to the good old days. Less Baseball Stadium and more Ball Park. Lots of brick and warm colors. Kids areas, specialty food vendors, arcades, fine dining... I like to call it “6 Flags over Turner Field” because there is so much more than just the ballgame going on. That is the kind of revitalization going on in my ‘hood.

One day in early 2005 a sign went up on the corner of my vacant lot. On it there was a picture of a very masculine, mid-rise structure, lots of brick and balconies and windows and shops on the bottom floor. In the pencil and chalk image I could see that the building’s facade, cuuuuuurrrrrved around the corner, giving whoever would live in those corner units a 90 degree bank of windows. It was hot. I was in love. Probably more so because this sexy building was going to be built on MY vacant lot. Beneath the artists rendering were the words “New homes starting at...” “I should have known it would be condos,” I thought. Lately it always seems to be condos when a building starts to rise in the ATL. Then I saw the “starting” price and I knew I’d just been priced out of my vacant lot. Way out of my league. Still I went to the website to check it out... big mistake. Every floorplan was cool, and I could tell that I was right about those corner units, sexy! But there it was again, the “starting price.”

By this time, I had been living in this part of town for a few years. The guy who introduced me to this area and I had parted ways, but I did like where that relationship led me geographically, so I stayed. I was living in the same kind of crappy, yet livable apartment complex I have always lived in, slowly but surely building up a savings account for something, a trip or a new car or something. I was (still am too) also dating a guy who shares my love for floor plans. We love looking at floorplans... not sure why. I sent him a link to the floorplan for the corner unit, a big 3 bedroom affair, just to show him what they were planning for my vacant lot. He joked that I should go to the sales office and inquire, just for kicks, See what they were really offering... maybe there were some pre-construction deals.

Turns out there were AND more.

Next Flashback Friday: It never hurts to ask.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

What's keeping me up at night?

Happy Holidays!

Yup... I am going to use the generic, much maligned, Happy Holidays because it is not yet Chanukah (12/15), Kwanzaa (12/26), Christmas (12/25), Winter Solstice (12/22) or any other holiday yet. I don't wish anyone "Happy Independence Day" the week prior to the 4th of July. I don't call friends and family to wish them Happy Birthday during the weeks leading up to their date of birth. I don't hide eggs starting in February so they will be ready to hunt by Easter. I do those things on dates that correspond to the events being acknowledged. So why would I say "Merry Christmas" to anyone when it ISN'T YET! I will wish you a Merry Christmas when the calendar says it is, MAYBE the day before.

That's one of the nuggets that have been running through my brain this week... I think that its the pressure to keep things organized this time of year. There are lots of dates to remember: parties, end of the year deadlines, a surprising number of meetings at work for some reason, the holidays themselves, three family birthdays. I can't think of any other reason that I have been keeping a list of the random worries and non sequiturs in my noggin. Mostly I am freaking out about gifts... I suck at picking out gifts and I hate to give gift cards. Luckily my list of recipients is fairly low and there is still lots of time, but it's definitely starting to press on me a little that I have only bought ONE gift, and it's a secondary thing, a stocking stuffer. I still have to come up with the "under the tree" gift.

So while that nagging issue is playing the loudest electric guitar version of Deck the Halls on the mainstage in my brian, there are several other acts that are also trying to draw a crowd to hear their acoustic carols on the smaller stages. The variety of stuff is pretty interesting:

- I want to go back to school and study architecture, or creative writing, or marketing.
- My laundry and closet doors are ugly.
- What will I make my guy for his present?
- "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" by Rufus Wainwright - on headphones: slightly slurred, melancholy, off key, layered, lush, awesome, awesome... why don't I like more of his stuff?
- Why can't I have two key cards to my building?
- Do subway designers have to take into account the wind pushed out of the tunnel ahead of a train coming into an underground station?
- Getting Christmas cards from friends and family makes me feel guilty that I don't send them.

It also dawned on me today that I have not turned on my TV in over 48 hours. Since Monday night I think. Not like me at all. I have been discovering and reading a lot of blogs though... a couple of them are blogs written by guys who are moving, or have recently moved or are just dealing with condo living and got me to thinking that the reason for this blog is to chronicle the experience of my first home ownership. Write about all the little stuff no one warned me about. Thing is I missed a lot of that good stuff by waiting till AFTER I moved in to start blogging... so starting tomorrow I'm going to take a look back at the process (trust me, it's WELL documented, you've never seen so much paperwork) before it gets too foggy.

Tomorrow: Flashback Friday - A tragic lot

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Community Pride

-or- My Condo is Better Than Your Condo!

This past weekend was the Holiday Candlelight Tour of Homes in my neighborhood. I'm certain these events are as popular in your community as they seem to be in the Greater Atlanta area. Every little part of town has some kind of "tour of homes" once or twice a year. Ten or fifteen very proud, brave souls open their homes for the public to traipse through and comment on, usually as part of some larger event, like a community festival or something. Inman Park, Candler Park, Virginia Highlands, The Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association, etc... all these little niches of Atlanta take great pride in the amenities they have to offer and one way of luring potential residents to their communities is to let them see how people actually live there.

I always justify my attendance at a tour of homes by saying, "I'm getting ideas for my own place," when in reality I am just looking forward to making fun of other peoples stuff. Luckily my boyfriend is similarly inclined. Don't get me wrong, when someone has done it right, I am the first to offer up the praise, In fact we saw three really amazing homes this time around. But who cares about the good ones? When Trading Spaces comes on don't you just HOPE it's HILDI about to do some horrible thing to someone's room? Of course you are! No one says, "Yay! Doug did another tasteful master bedroom makeover." But people DO say, "Did you SEE what Hildi did to that living room? How will they ever get the peanut shells and shredded wet suits of the walls?" I freaking love it when a homeowner cries on that show. Anyway, THAT is why I shelled out the 40 bucks for two tickets to the Holiday Candlelight Tour of Homes. We were not disappointed.

Before you go on... if at any point in the next three paragraphs I offer a critical view of something you have done in your dwelling, please know that these are just the rantings of some dude who has almost no furniture or design elements in his own home. I'm sure that if any of the quirks listed below are elements of the decor in YOUR house they are done tastefully and look fantastic.

Here are a couple of our favorites from the tour:

The fan: Now, I am all for having a favorite team. I think that's great. Sports isn't MY thing, but to each his own I say. I DO however think there is a limit to which one should limit his or her appreciation of any one particular sports team. A token here or there, or even a room with a theme (within limits) is appropriate. I don't think that one should have a photo, figurine, statue, lithograph, portrait or any other visage of his or her Alma mater's team mascot in EVERY ROOM, in ADDITION to the themed room. Sports fans are not the only perpetrators of this particular crime. Fans of a soft drink, or a tropical island or even a color should not festoon his or her entire home in all things relating to said drink, locale or hue. Mix it up folks!

The build it yourselfer: Again, I am all for this. Make the changes you CAN make by yourself, BY yourself! Absolutely. Paint, swap out electrical sockets, maybe even replace some tile, but unless you are an architect, do NOT add a room on to your house on your own! Yes, you can do it, and Lowes can help but it is going to look like crap. The problem with most of these additions is that people buy older houses, and then tack on a modern addition... which CAN be cool, it really can, but you have to do the WHOLE house, you can't leave your living room looking like grandma's parlor, with it's yellowed, plaster walls, crown molding and lace curtains when you are going to lead your visitors through a 1920's arched doorway into your drywalled, laminate floored, stainless applianced, skylighted kitchen of tomorrow! The addition looks obvious and separate, because you were thinking about a great kitchen, not a great house.

The designer: I'd like to hire one... I really would. I think having a set of different eyes, a set of educated, trained, HONEST eyes offer an opinion or advice would be awesome! I mean, what do I know about decorating? Yes, there is the gay thing, but I didn't get the dancing, dressing or decorating part of the gene... just the attraction to men, and typically men who also didn't get the dancing, decorating or dressing gene... so the gayness is useless to me in this regard. Touring a designers home may have turned me off to the whole "hiring a decorator" idea all together though. Nothing looked comfortable, or livable. Who has a WHITE FLOOR? Who says, "I think, the best place to put the color that is the most easily made dirty is on the surface that comes into the most contact with my black soled shoes and sweaty feet." As for art, I will never question someone's taste in art... far too subjective a thing to question. I DO think that one should own art because of the meaning a piece has to it's owner or a feeling it evokes, not because it matches the pillows.

After all was said and done though, I have to say that the representative homes from my building were by far and away the nicest on the tour. But what do I know?

This New Condo was not on display this year, and probably not next year but who knows... might be fun to be a fly on the wall as hundreds of people mill about in my modest space and pick apart all of my design choices and furnishings. I've had my fun mocking the taste and choices of my neighbors. It MIGHT be time for a little pay back.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Baby "Tooth"

I'm a bit of a technology geek. If I could afford it I would always be the "early adopter" the electronics companies rely on to pay WAY too much for the new gadget simply so I could have it first. Luckily my tight budget does not allow me to indulge those urges and I end up being the guy who has last years technology at half the price. My two favorite magazines are WIRED and Popular Science. I devour those magazines. They are literally wet with drool when I put them down... well not literally, figuratively... but who says figuratively? Anyway, years ago I read about a new technology that would someday in the future, allow all our electronics to communicate wirelessly via a new short range communications technology that will revolutionize..." yadda, yadda, yadda. Now, of course, we know it as Bluetooth. The technology is most visible and popular thanks to those cellphone earpieces that people seem to think are jewelry. YOU ARE NOT BORG, I WILL NOT BE ASSIMILATED! My Treo has always been bluetooth capable, so I HAVE owned the technology for some time, but the thing about bluetooth is that you need more than one bluetooth enabled device in order for it to be useful. A bluetooth headset and a bluetooth phone, or a bluetooth phone and a bluetooth laptop, or just a friend with a bluetooth phone... until this weekend though my Treo was partnerless... it had no bluetooth friends. Well meet our new buddy:



It's a little D-Link USB antenna that pops into the back of my mac-mini and allows my Treo to hotsync wirelessly! It takes forever but for a cord nazi like me to be able to rid This New Condo of one more unsightly wire the wait is worth it! Now I am on the hunt for a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, two more cords GONE! Presently, this is the mess behind my computer:



Ultimately I'll have some kind of desk/mini office in my bedroom so all that will be out of my kitchen and those freakin cords will be hidden. For now though... one less cord! I'm thrilled. The downside, the USB antenna came with one of those bluetooth cellphone earpieces, maybe I have been assimilated!

In other news, This New Condo has been blogrolled! How cool is that? The very funny (and cute) owner of a crack-addict min-pin at Sorted Lives has added me to his list. I'm honored to be amongst a pretty impressive crowd! Thanks! Now I need to figure out how to make my own blogroll!

Tomorrow: Community Pride or My Condo is Better than Your Condo

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Bathroom Style

What's missing from this picture:



That's my commode. Its a TALL one by the way. I honestly believe that if a short person had to use it his or her feet might not touch the ground. To the left is my vanity. To the right is my tub. Seems like all the components are in place, down to the requisite trash can from Bed Bath and Beyond. Certainly the builder took into consideration all the things one would require in a modern American bathroom. Look closely though, a vital component is missing. One that we don't always look for BEFORE we need it.

Yes my friends there is no TP holder in my bathroom. When did the toilet paper roll in the wall thing stop happening? Growing up, in all my bathrooms, there was a recessed spot in the wall near every toilet that had a little spring loaded bar in it onto which one put a roll of TP... something like this:



Do people not like those anymore? Are they out of style? They are so functional... they don't take up any floorspace like this kind:



And they are DEFINITELY less tacky than something like this thing:



So when did the recessed TP holder stop being standard equipment, and why? I'm very concerned that I'm not seeing the big picture or something... If the builders aren't installing them anymore there MUST be a reason. If I install the TP holder that I like (the one at the top) will I be ostracized or otherwise shunned for my poor taste in bathroom fixtures?

I honestly thought that it would be the big stuff that caused me to freak out... the mortgage payments or major repairs to appliances... a leak or something! That stuff I have been able to deal with no problem. It's the LITTLE stuff like the TP holder that is making me nuts!!!

Friday, December 1, 2006

My first hot contractor

The plan was to blog about the fitness center in my building today (lets just say it's no Golds Gym... more like a Curves, but with no pilates) but something else came up.

There are a fair number of construction dudes walking around This New Condo because the building is still a work in progress. I always know a contractor is in the hall or around the corner because their Nextel walkie talkie phones are always chirping. The Nextel walkie talkie is the bell on the cat's collar for builders.

Anyway, maybe I've been conditioned by Hollywood or Madison Avenue or Van Nuys to expect Mike Delfino or that guy from the Diet Coke Commercial or even one of these guys to be on the jobsite. The hot construction/maintenance/workman guy has always been a part of our cultural landscape. Stanley Kowalski, the dude on "Kitchen Accomplished," Russell Crowe in "The Sum of Us," we (or the "we" who make movies) seem to have an ideal, a mold that all blue collar, construction dudes are pressed from. THIS jobsite though is staffed with very talented, professional craftsmen who came from real life, not central casting.

Remember my tile problem? It's fixed. Done on time, under budget, by a tall, broad shouldered, italian accented, craftsman with helluva handshake. He came complete with the requisite tight t-shirt and toolbelt too! I never learned his name, but I've decided that it's Paulo. When his Nextel chirped Paulo actually answered, "Caio!" Now I'm not a single guy, not looking for fodder with which to write a letter to [name you favorite skin mag here] that starts with, "I never thought these stories were true, until one day..." but it was a cool surprise to open the door and find the Hot Italian Tile Guy instead of Larry the Cable Guy for a change. He did good work too!

Looks like the whole thing might even be covered under warranty!

Why do I feel the need to blog about this? Weird. Just part of this new homeowner experience, and that's really why I write these posts, right? Yeah, right.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Notify your doctor is you experience any of the following...

Those warnings at the end of pharmaceutical commercials always crack me up... I love the ones for Propecia where they say, "Pregnant women or women who could become pregnant should not TOUCH Propecia." Should not even TOUCH it! Or the new ones for the drugs that make it easier for men with growing prostates to pee more or less often, "Some men using Flowmax have reported side effects such as swelling of the breasts" Really? Would you rather have to explain to your buddies why you have to piss for the 4th time in an hour or explain why you have tits? Those disclaimers always make me think of the SNL Happy Fun Ball sketch:



"Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball" is my favorite!

There have been a few side effects from becoming a home owner that I didn't expect. I now actually dog ear pages in and sometimes hang on to catalogs from the likes of Frontgate & West Elm & Pottery Barn, whereas a year ago they'd be in the trash the day they arrived. I now pay attention to the "housing numbers" when they are reported on the news. Still don't really know what the heck the "housing numbers" are, but when Ali Velshi starts talking about the "real estate market" or "mortgage rates" my ears prick up. I also find my self starting a lot of sentences with "That would look good in my (insert room here)" while out shopping. Oh and I am completely obsessed with flat screen TV's now. I used to just want one, now I crave, no, NEED a wall mounted flat screen TV. It's a feeling similar to the one you get after someone you love calls it off. That kind of lonely ache that settles in right below the chest but above the stomach for weeks... that is the feeling I get when I see any flat screen larger than 42 inches. I want to call it and find out what went wrong and tell it how much I love it, how good we could be together. I know that right now though, it's just not meant to be, and it kills me. That is how bad I want a flat screen TV.

The biggest side effect though has got to be my level of neatness. I am a slob. Like a REAL slob. Dirty clothes on the floor (in any room of the house) for days. Coffee spills mopped up with my socked foot. Bags of salad in the fridge from 3 months ago. Dishes, dusting, mopping, and anything that involved comet or any other abrasive scrubbing agent... those things do not get done in my house. My bathroom... a horror show. When I lived with roommates or my ex I was a little better, but not much (and it's been years since I shared living quarters with anyone). But now... something has changed. A switch has been flipped. I find myself in the kitchen using clorox disinfecting wipes on counters that already appear clean. I keep a bottle of glass cleaner AND paper towels in the bathroom JUST to keep the surfaces in there clean and I have ANOTHER bottle of glass cleaner under the sink in the kitchen! I own a broom and dustpan that both get used several times a week. I've discovered special wipes just for keeping stainless steel appliances fingerprint free. Last night I found myself googleing "Cleaning Glass Shower Doors" because I've noticed that water stains are starting to cloud the lower 3 inches of my shower door and my bathroom glass cleaner is not doing the job. I have even made my bed nearly every day since I moved in! The only thing on my Xmas wish list is a ROOMBA. I actually ASKED to go into (instead of having to be dragged) The Container Store over the weekend. It's a little creepy to be honest. It's still a struggle, I mean, I didn't suddenly start generating grey matter infused with the cleaning gene... I have to make time and make the effort to clean, but I'm much more willing to do it now. Coming home to a clean space is great, not worrying about an unexpected guest is great too but despite my newfound willingness to do so cleaning is still not something I enjoy.

I guess it's better than swelling of the breasts.

Next time: Big Condo Owner vs. Little Condo Gym

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why is my AC still on?

Dude, it is nearly DECEMBER and I have THIS NEW CONDO's air conditioning on in order to keep it at 70 up in here! I know winter doesn't "officially" start till December 22nd (thank you wikipedia) but it feels weird to be outside in short sleeves anytime after Thanksgiving. Guess I'm still not used to Georgia livin'.

I want to turn on my HEAT, make instant hot cocoa with those nasty micro-marshmellows, put on some big ol socks, throw a blanket over me and mine and watch a movie together while the rain falls and the wind blows outside.

I know that sounded very Ally McBeal, but what you don't know is that there's a quarter cup of burbon in the cocoa, the movie is Aliens, and under the blanket: just the socks.

Bring on WINTER!!!

Next time: This New Condo may cause some side effects...

My embarrasing hobby

There are three things that it's not easy for me to admit to people. It's not that any of these things are secrets, it's just that they are not things that people suspect about me. People are usually surprised to learn that I am gay for example... so offering up that info is sometimes awkward, depending on the situation. People also do not expect me to be an atheist. This one is more esoteric I think, but when the topic comes up (and in this political environment it does quite a bit) and I come out of the godless closet no one ever says, "Cool!" I usually get, "Really? No. Do you mean agnostic? Atheist? Really?" Frankly, it's been easier telling people I'm gay than it has been to tell people I am an atheist. No one ever gives me grief about being gay, but they definitely will make it a point to let me know they are praying for me if I tell em I have no doubt that there is no God. So those two seem like they'd be pretty big announcements to make, at least initially. But the one that I have the hardest time with, the one that people tend to not know how to react to, the one that I am actually a little embarrassed to admit, is that I am a sweeper.

I enter sweepstakes. Lots and lots of them. At any given time I have a list of well over 100 that I try to enter daily, and those are just the internet ones. I have a second list that usually hovers around 40 that require a postal entry, but I do not get to them as often as I should. At my peak, I was spending about 30 hours a week, organizing, finding and entering sweepstakes and it has paid off. I win stuff all the time. Good stuff. I won $1000 in Amex Gift cards from the local newspaper one year, a trip to LA to attend the MTV Movie Awards, my iPod, my iPod Shuffle, my Senseo coffee maker, a Sony PSP, $1000 in credit on eBay with which I bought my TiVo, my Mac Mini and a cool cellphone, a $500 Kroger supermarket gift card, my Treo 650, two digital cameras, several DVD's, many smaller gift cards ($10 gas cards, $25 master cards, $5 iTunes cards), almost ALL of my iTunes downloads have been free, tons of snapfish prints, a professional copier/scanner/fax thing and bottles and bottles and bottles of 2 liter Coke products. My most recent win worth mentioning is a years membership in NetFlix. Yes, I also win a bunch of crap, posters and coasters and flip flops and baseball caps and t-shirts and beer coozies... not to mention the SPAM all this entering has generated but that's what trash cans and free email accounts are for.

I got started in this hobby about 6 years ago when on a whim I entered a mail in sweepstakes to win round trip airline tickets anywhere in the continental US that US AIRWAYS flies. I leared of this sweeps from a button ad on planetout.com. I sent in maybe 3 or 4 entries and forgot about them... about 3 months later I got a registered letter saying I was a winner! I flew me and my boyfriend at the time to NYC for the day on his birthday with that win.

With all my success you'd think that my hobby would get better reviews, but most people thend to get this look of pity or bemusement on their face when my secret comes out. Before they hear about my winnings they look at me like they know that sweepstakes are a rip off and a con and that no one wins, but I just haven't figured it out yet, and they don't want to ruin my fun by telling me. They seem to steer the conversation towards the dark side by asking "what's the catch?" or "but you have to pay all those TAXES!" To which I explain that the taxes aren't all that bad, and if there are catches then it probably IS a scam (I have turned down sweepstakes prizes due to both of those issues). Even when I share my winnings with them, they seem to accept the gifts with skepticism and doubt.

By the way, if you would like to try your hand at sweeping I'd be happy to offer some specific tips, but in the meantime here are three basic things to remember to get you started:

1) READ THE OFFICIAL RULES - any legitimate sweepstakes will have them
2) NEVER PAY TO ENTER OR WIN - if it's legitimate no one will ask you to pay anything
3) BE PERSISTENT - enter as often as the rules allow and for as long as they allow

I've tried to pass on this hobby to friends, but they all loose interest quickly. One friend lasted 4 months and she did pretty well. Won a digital camera and a watch, but she grew weary of the daily grind and now only enters the big ones like the HGTV Dream Home. I have online friends who share my enthusiasm, and we swap tips and links and success stories that keep us motivated when the inevitable slumps hit. For the most part though it's a solitary hobby that I keep to myself until someone asks where I got my cool phone or how I afforded to get my brother a PSP for his birthday or where all those coupons for 2 liter Cokes came from. Then I sheepishly admit to being a sweeper and prepare to assure them that I'm not foolish or ignorant.

There will come a time when UPS will deliver a life changing sweepstakes prize to my door, money or a car or a 50 inch flat screen (THIS NEW CONDO could use all three) and on that day all the embarrassment will have been worth it. On that day I'll stop being a godless, homosexual, sweeper and become a godless, homosexual, WINNER!!!

Next time: why is my AC still on?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hi Ho!

It's back to work for me today. I had the good fortune to have the last two weeks off and have really gotten used to not working. Almost feels a little weird to be gong back to work. We (THEY really) are in the process of shaking things up as far as shifts and schedules are concerned and so when I go back today, I'll be going back to a very different schedule. Still the same hours and still pushing the same buttons, but doing so at different times than I used to. Your new schedule at any job can be a little weird to adjust to because you get to know your routine, you get to know the people who work with you, their peccadilloes and whatnot, the subtle differences in the machinery and all that... and then, your duties change a little, and everything is just a smidge off.

I used to be a fan of that show, SLIDERS. Ever see that show? Kinda hot dude who is now on Crossing Jordan was the star, his brother was "The Bachelor" one year. Anyway, on SLIDERS the premise was that they were moving between alternate realities all the time. So it always took place in pretty much the same location and always in the present day, but one week they were in a reality where the Nazi's had won the war, in another only Women were allowed to hold public office. Sometimes things would look exactly the same, EXCEPT that bugs were revered and could not be squished... maybe I made that last one up... the point I am trying to make is that when I get back to work today it will be like sliding into a slightly alternate reality. Everything will look the same, but at the same time everything will be just SLIGHTLY askew. A little like crossing the border from Washington State into British Columbia.

Plans for THIS NEW CONDO this week are to get the tile replaced in my bathroom, getting a poster finally framed & hung and returning the ladder that I borrowed from my neighbors.

I'm also going to look into some mirror related ideas I've seen lately. On Small Space, Big Style I saw a woman use mirrors for her kitchen backsplash... what do you think? I think it could be a less expensive alternate to stainless steel. I also saw a BIG use of mirrors in Polo by Ralph Loren at Lenox Square. They used really tall panels of beveled mirror to line the back wall of a really masculine bedroom vignette. My bedroom is not huge, so I thought I'd look into stealing that idea for my space. Speaking of mirrors, anyone know a good glass cleaner? The stuff I have been using leaves a noticeable residue on the mirror I have hung in my living room. When the sunlight hits it it looks really crappy.

Next time: my embarrasing hobby

Saturday, November 25, 2006

...and Schnitzel with noodles...

With great deference to the Von Trapps (and Oprah), here are a few of THIS NEW CONDO's favorite things!


#1
This stuff is so cool! It’s a hard ball of detergent that smells faintly of mothballs that you wrap in a cloth sleeve and then again in a soft rubber shell. Put it in the washing machine and you leave it there... don't take it out for rinsing or spinning or anything... lasts like 40 washes. I have a front loading machine however and while the clothes and the oxy ball are tumbling around it can get a little noisy, like when you put tennis shoes in the dryer. But it's great, no powdered detergent crumbs all over and no liquid detergent goo leaking down the side of the bottle.



#2
I installed this myself (pat, pat, pat). The kit is like 30 bucks at Lowes. If you have not discovered the ease and functionality of a "pull out" drawer or trash can under or in your cabinets, you are missing out. Only problem with this one is that the only cabinet this works for me in, is not in the ideal location in the kitchen. But what it lacks in location it makes up for in awesomeness! May I also recommend getting a trash can that isn't huge. Yes, it means more trips to the garbage chute or dumpster or trash cans or wherever, but it also makes for easier transport and less stinkiness since things won't linger there for long before the can is full and has to be taken out.



#3
I've mentioned that I'm not into ticky-tacky-notchkey-stuff. I don't have a lot of things that serve as display only items. This is one exception to the rule. Nipper is (was?) the mascot/logo for RCA Records and electronics. My father worked there for a time and one of his souvenirs from that gig was this guy. Molded plastic, and clearly worse for wear, I've had him for years. Reminds me of the time I spent working in Radio.



#4
Cool coffee maker. I'm certain that the Senseo is in some way a scam. Like a fancy way to sell instant coffee or something, but it keeps in line with my no-muss lifestyle. Makes just a cup at a time (a very SMALL cup unless you use two "pods" at once). The pods can be hard to find as well... but for ease and simplicity, I love it.



#5
Speaking of "pods..." The senseo can also make darn good tea! These tea pods are awesome! I found these online. They come in all kinds of blends (I like the green). I'm not a big tea guy, but they are great and EASY to have on hand for guests, and according to my brother who lives in Japan (which makes him an authority) Green Tea will cure you of anything. I try for one cup a day.



#6 TiVo!
The greatest invention ever.


THIS NEW CONDO Also rans: Skyy vodka (just cheap enough), Mac Mini, instant flavored oatmeal, the Treo 650, Wired & Dwell & Entertainment Weekly

It Came from Below (the good stuff is near the end of this post)

Hope you are having or had a good long weekend!

I had a great Thanxgiving weekend. Two good meals, one at my Boyfriend's Mom's house in the burbs with most of his family there, and then later that evening a less traditional meal with some good friends on the 22nd floor of a tower in town with cocktails there. All bases covered.

We also saw two good movies... well... two movies that were better than most of the shit I have paid to sit through lately:

Casino Royale was great. The new Bond is unbelievably hot, don't care what your type is, he is hot. Even a straight guy would have to admit, that, "Yeah, he's pretty hot." He didn't have to do much acting... a lot of pursed lips and long stares, but with those eyes... woof. The story was pretty good too. Lots of nice nods to the old movies, little tongue in cheek touches that really made the movie for me. I missed Miss Moneypenny though, and Q. Maybe next movie.

Next up was Bobby, which I thought was really cool. Nothing amazing, but certainly very cool. Outstanding cast. Total love letter to RFK. I had no idea until the credits rolled that Emilio Estevez wrote and directed it. What it was missing for me was the epilogue. You know, "Two years later [character name] went on to become Secretary of Transportation under..." Didn't get any of that.

So both of those get my recommendation. Just a side note, we saw Bobby on Friday at a theater in a mall... and I gotta tell ya, the mall was not crowded. I wonder if that "day after Thanxgiving" shopping thing, Black Friday, is starting to end.

The dog sitting was uneventful. He ate, we walked, he pooped... I forgot to take his picture though... I'm sure you could find one that looks like him on flikr (Awwwwwwwww). Dad paid me for my hard work watching his dog with a half rack of Coors Light! No slowing down with the SILVER BULLET baby!

The big surprise of the weekend (so far) came when I got home from the dog sitting and the dinners. I spent Wednesday and Thursday night at my folks house. While I was gone, construction on the restaurant they are building directly below my unit continued. Yes, Directly beneath me they are building a restaurant. Which I really am very excited about. It's a chain, but kind of an upscale kind of place. Will be nice to have in the 'hood. This place is RIGHT underneath me. So during construction they are constantly drilling into their celling (my floor) in order to attach anchors that they will hang the false celling and AC ducts and all that from. It's a very scary and VERY LOUD sound when they fire up the drill or percussion hammer or whatever they are using to make the holes... sounds like they are coming up through the floor. In fact:



Can you see that? Look right in front of the toilet. Imagine you are sitting on the toilet and look right where your left foot might be. See that? It looks like...



A DRILL CAME UP THROUGH MY FLOOR FROM THE CONSTRUCTION BELOW! They came up so hard through the floor with that thing that a chip of the tile ended up in my TUB! Needless to say, not happy me. When I went down to talk to them about it, they assured me that it could not have been them. "No one's been drilling," the foreman assured me. When he finally came up to look it was clear that, yes his workmen had done it... so I'll be getting a new tile. Freaking weird though... like a tiny little invasion of privacy. I'm also wondering what this says about the construction of my building. I know the floors are several inches thick of solid concrete, I watched them build the place. Just weird.

The restaurant is slated to open in a couple weeks. Here's hoping that the hole in my floor is the last time I'll have to deal with anything coming up from below!

Just a housekeeping note: my second all electronically handled mortgage and HOA payments were transmitted yesterday. No fuss, no muss. My system is holding up!

Next time: Just in time for the holidays, some of THIS NEW CONDO's favorite things.