Monday, June 30, 2008

To Baby or not to Baby...That is the Question

As many of you know, I'm an only child and to an extent have spent a significant amount of time deciding whether I would have preferred siblings or if its better to have all the attention. I think as you get older there is a definite shift in preference. When I was little I didn't seem to mind not having a brother or sister very much. My friends with siblings seemed to always want them out of their room and away from their stuff. I didn't have to share my toys, room, clothes, etc. and my parents let me spend the night at my friends' house fairly liberally. Even in high school it seemed like a good deal I got a car when I turned 16, mainly so my parents would be relieved of having to shuttle me around, something that probably wouldn't have happened if I had older siblings.

But post-high school I think being the only child has started to have more costs than benefits. First of all you're the only one to help out with family events, crises, situations, etc. No one else to share the load and as I think about my parents getting older and becoming seniors citizens the thought of taking care of everyone by myself really begins to stress me out. Another thing is since I'm so used to having them there all the time I find it very difficult to be away from my family. I've attempted to live other places, but found it lonely and depressing at times (although very freeing at other times).

Now that I'm getting older and thinking about having kids of my own, I've come to believe that it wouldn't be fair for me to only have one kid. I mean it already doesn't have aunts/uncles or cousins and without a sibling it would really be all by itself. Its hard to imagine that there are parts of the world with what is being termed "extreme low birth rates", to the point where if things don't turn around countries will be at less than 1/2 of their current population in the next 3 decades. The NY Times Magazine has a great (but very long article), about this phenomenon. At the same time I don't know if I can blame the Euros for having fewer kids, children are extremely expensive these days and when gas is $4.60 a gallon its hard enough to make ends meet. But also as a woman its a big decision to make, having to process changes to career goals, travel plans or whatever else I imagined my life to be like, that now won't be possible (or will be at least that much harder). Luckily for me at least, it will be a while before I cross that bridge.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Its a Double Dutch Bus Going Down the Street...

Growing up in L.A., I rarely had the opportunity to take the bus. I lived more than 15 miles from my high school and started driving at 16. There was a brief period when I did take the bus from school to Downtown L.A., but even that required a dry run with my Mom following me in the car just to ensure I didn't get lost. That's the problem with L.A.'s public transit system there are a myriad of different operators, and Metro, the largest of them all, operates over 200 lines.

I had the opportunity to intern at Metro during graduate school, and although I didn't get to contribute too much to improve the situation there, I did get one cool assignment. I renamed all of the more than 200 bus lines. Why did they need to be renamed, you might ask? Well many of them had the same name as the original line operated by the Regional Transit District (RTD) more than 3 decades ago, regardless of whether the line name continued to make any sense. My favorite was a bus that went to the West L.A. Transit Center. If you were standing on the street waiting for this bus, you might wonder where is this mysterious transit center? Well if you can believe it is not in West L.A. more like West Adams and the transit center was a bus bench under a freeway overpass. Another one of my favorites was the bus line which number changed in the middle of the line. This was a result of combining 2 lines to deal with budgetary issues and rather than rename the line entirely, the bus operator would arbitrarily change the bus number downtown. Yes you could actually get on Line #42 and get off on Line #76...go figure!

Now why has this been allowed to continue for so long? I think the bus rider in this recent L.A. times article says it best
"what would help more is more money spent on the bus system". That makes sense, we already take 2% of all sales tax and put it towards public transit, not to mention the gas taxes we pay at the pump, why don't we just pay more to make it better? The answer is buses are not sexy and Congress long ago past a prohibition on paying for the operating costs of metropolitan bus systems. They still subsidize the bus carrying one person in Juno, AK, but the tens of thousands who depend on the system here in L.A. to get around can't get a dime. All federal funding going towards L.A. is for capital expenses only. Which means we need to buy more and build more. Almost the entire Metro fleet now runs on CNG or even less pollutant energy methods, its one of the cleanest in the nation. So what to do with all that federal money, I know build light rail! Even though that makes little sense for a city as sprawled out and suburbanized as L.A. Local money tends to go where the federal money is offered since it is typically only given as part of matching funds.

My one suggestion besides spending more is shortening the lines. How can we expect any bus line to be more than 63% on time if we have lines traveling across Counties, literally cris-crossing the entire region. One example is the Express Line #460 going from Downtown L.A. to Disneyland!!! How many people are making that entire trip? The average bus ride lasts less than 10 miles and makes less than 2 transfers to be practical, making it unnecessary for any line to travel over 30 miles.

I really hope at one point in my career I get a chance to run the buses. According to this article they're hiring supervisors...maybe I should apply. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Before I forget them all...a primer on grad school

So as most of you know I just finished graduating with my Master's from a very prestigious Southern California University (well that's the line they feed the donors at least), hence the picture of me in cap and gown. During my brief period of time there (a little less than 2 years) I was able to meet some fabulous people who I will continue to keep in touch with and who I'm sure will be able to give me a great job in the future. Unfortunately, I also found some aspects of grad school troubling, I will detail them below and for those of you who have gone through the same situation please feel free to add to the list.

Pet Peeve #1: People who over exaggerate their work experience and academic achievements, particularly if it has been less than 2 years since you graduated from undergrad. One example, are people who double majored who feel the need to either say this at every opportunity given and/or claim to have two bachelor degrees. A) Why would anyone want two bachelor degrees? B) The majority of people who didn't play NCAA sports Division 1 double-majored, get over it. Also, are people who talk about unpaid internships as life changing work experience; coming from someone who has been an intern TOO many times to count, I know first hand that being an intern is low-man on the totem pole, even below the Temps.

Pet Peeve #2: Some students transferred from the Master's program to the PhD program. Which is great, congratulations! But, please don't spend the next year and a half correcting everyone about how you're a PhD student now. For the most part we take the same classes, you just spend the next few years trying to figure out what to write a really long paper about.

Pet Peeve #3: People not from L.A., who like to compare everything in L.A. to places they are from. I admit I love L.A. more than most people, but I don't go to New York, Italy, Denver, etc. and walk around talking about how much better and well ran L.A. is than these places. We have our own problems here and if you'd like to attempt to fix them please by all means, but whining about the traffic, smog, stuck-up people, lack of public trans, etc. is just being A) plain lazy B) very small-minded.

Pet Peeve #4: Students who once they learn the jargon in the field, only use jargon for the remaining 3 semesters. I have had actual conversations with people and have not one clue what they were saying. It becomes all about the methodology, the meta-analysis, slack variables and primary source documents instead of our work plan, compare/contrast, the stuff left over and talking to the person in charge.

Pet Peeve #5: Anyone that is too busy to do anything other than school ALL of the time. I'm sure that your coursework is challenging, but give me a break on Friday night at 11pm are you going to be reading or writing that paper due in 2 months? No, you're going to be watching TV or drinking two-buck-chuck, and everyone understands this. Don't pretend that you spent the entire weekend doing work, it won't win you many points with either professors or students.

Okay enough of my lists and rants, I will work hard tomorrow on putting something a bit more informative and a little less personal.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Excuse me while I remove my foot from my mouth

Has anyone else noticed how easy it is to stick your foot in your mouth these days? Its only been made easier by the level of political correctness that modern day America requires. Lately, I feel the news has been bombarded with examples of famous people having to apologize for saying relatively innocuous things. And even if it is offensive to you why not just ignore it and move on?

Now I'm not in Dick's fan club or anything, but I did feel bad for the guy when he joked that he had Cheneys on both sides of his family and he wasn't even from West Virginia. All of a sudden West Virginians were outraged about this slight to people from their state. If it it isn't true why care, I think one could say they object too much (because its true?).

Today I noticed there were at least two main stories both about people not being as politically correct as some would prefer. First, there was Don Imus who apparently insulted a black NFL player on his show. I read the entire excerpt from the show as opposed to the section conveniently clipped by most news orgs and it didn't seem to be in bad form, except for maybe using the word "color" to describe a person. Then again other people are offended by race, some by ethnicity and even others by nationality, so go figure what is the appropriate term for talking about anything of this nature. Check out what the Lede blog from NYT said here.

The other was about Michelle Obama and her image problem. Ever since her infamous "Today is the first day I feel proud about my country" bit everyone has been hammering into her. I for the record loved the fist pump she gave the night of the announcement of his official candidacy, I only wish she had blown it up like my friend Betsey taught me to do. Now lately she's been accused of being an angry black woman and now needs a full-time staff just to fend off all the flack from her non-political correctness. Luckily she went on the View and chatted it up about kids' clothes and Target so we can all sleep safely at night knowing that one of our Presidential candidates' wives is not a terrorist.

Given the recent passing of George Carlin who said the truth and loved political incorrectness it made me realize how much I enjoy getting away from watching my Ps and Qs and saying whatever I feel like. Its partially why I love the Office: no censorship. "If it's Stanley's car, call my lawyer and find out if he does hate crimes." Classic and funny and no one was hurt during the making of that episode, except a few watermelons.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What to do when no one is at work

The entire office has left me here by lonesome. Well I take that back, I have a few fellow comrades here to make sure I don't mysteriously die in my office/get stuck in the elevator. Apparently, at the Long Beach Court House a judge was stuck over the weekend in the lift (I love British versions of words!). The phone didn't work and her cell phone didn't have service. It was after everyone had left so nobody heard her yelling and they didn't find her until Monday morning! She survived, but I think I would take the stairs after that kind of experience. But I digress, what is everyone's favorite pastimes at work?

A group of my friends who spend their days glued to their computer screens have a habit of sending each other links to articles they find interesting. What ensues is 20 emails back and forth that always digress into topics very far from where they started.

The other day I looked at my sent box and realized I rarely send very much email, I usually just read a lot of it. So besides the typical news sites, I also like to visit Daily Candy to keep up to date on what's hip and happening and so I know where is the newest place to go out. Funny enough I rarely go anywhere these 2 sites recommend, but I hate not knowing about a place and then having to hear from others about it.

Fake online shopping is also something I enjoy very much. What this involves is going on my favorite online stores like Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Gap, Old Navy, Sephora etc. and putting a bunch of things in my cart, which I almost NEVER buy. But it satisfies my urge to spend some cash (well temporarily).

But most recently, my favorite thing to do has been to go on to Wikipedia and read random articles about people's lives that have been made into movies or are infamous. Recently, I've been on a spate of serial killers (dark I know), but I also enjoy reading about famous people from Whittier (Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris, was born in Whittier) and in history such as Darwin (his writings on evolution recently had an anniversary, plus he wasn't the only one who came up with this theory, there were 2 others!).

I hope everyone who's at work on this Monday morning is enjoying themselves. And for those of you who live in LA make sure to read the latest of mistakes by our friends over on Beaudry street. Pure genius!

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm baking like a toasted cheeser!

Today is the first official day of summer, and for those of us living in Sunny Southern California, mother nature didn't want us to forget so she made it over 100 in the shade! Of course this is a perfect day for the genius building manager at my work to shut down the A/C and repair it. It is out of control hot in the office and with no way to open the windows its unlikely to get any better.

But summer is my second favorite season after the holidays so I must think of all the good things that accompany it. The Hollywood Bowl, beach days, the 4th of July, drinking cold beer/margaritas/white wine, and watching everyone's favorite summertime movies.

Here's a short list of my favorite summertime flicks:

1. The Sandlot- hence the name of this post. "Anybody who wants to be a can't hack it, panty-waist, who wears their Mama's bra, raise their hand." Any movie about baseball, the pool hunnies and gives you a blow by blow breakdown on how to make a s'more is bonafide summer fun.

2. Dazed & Confused- School is out for summer! School is out forever! One of the all-time great stoner/70s/soundtrack with a movie attached flicks. D&C has McConaughey in tight pants, Affleck as Douche #1, and if you don't like it...then maybe you're not cool man. Ooookaaay.

3. Dirty Dancing- I just recently saw this in Mexico and I fell in love with Baby all over again. The character of her sister really should have won Best Supporting Actress for all of that horrible singing and dancing she did at the end.

4. Grease- Summer Lovin' had me a blast, summer lovin' happened so fast. Who knew that this gem of a movie was filmed at Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights? Bite the winnie, Riz! With relish...

I can't think of a number 5, the temperature level in brain is preventing any new information from coming in or leaving.

But if you're worried/annoyed about gas prices read what one of my favorite economists wrote about McCain's new call for offshore drilling...Paul Krugman is a genius.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Random Obsessions

For whatever reason I've become a person with seriously random obsessions. Not anything crazy, but aspects of life/the world that I desire to become an expert about or feel the need to tell EVERYONE I meet about how amazing they are.

Here's a short list and I hope others can leave there faves:

1. Kevin & Bean on KROQ- there is no other radio station to listen to in the morning. Ralph's Movie Beat keeps me up to date on what's going on in Hollywood. Their "Ask a..." answers all the questions I have about Mexicans, Midgets, etc. And, of course Friday's don't really start until I hear them singing "Don't Bogart that Joint" at 9:55 am. I've even been on the show once during the segment "What it do Nephew", my new goal is to get myself played from the Afro line. Also Bean's Blog is what inspired me to start my own and is a daily source of amazing useless information.

2. In-N-Out- Okay I know I worked there so it makes sense that I'm obsessed, but I could literally eat this place everyday (I did for about 9 months). I am really never tired of it and the smell alone when I drive by makes me want to bottle it up and replace my new car smell with grilled onions.

3. My DVR- I do not understand how we watched TV prior to this invention. Never having to watch commercials (except for the Mac/PC ones a certain person I know loves) and always having something good to watch has truly revolutionized my life (a slight exaggeration).

4. The credit union- I love being a member of the Credit Union. I used to be an avid WAMU member, but they did me wrong a long time ago. The best part is that all 7-11 ATMs are credit union ATMs so you can get a slurpee and cash at the same time (plus think of how many 7-11s there are!).

5. Craigslist- What can you not buy or sell on this site? There is no need to ever buy new furniture again. Not to mention a great place to find housing. I don't recommend it for dating...kind of sketchy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Starting a new job

So I've started my fair share of new jobs. Since I became legal to work at 15 1/2 my jobs have included (in chronological order): paperwork filler-outer for a Doctor, children's library page (putting books away), cashier at a mini-market, In-N-Out fast food worker, cashier at my College's snack cafe, IT help desk phone answerer/filling printer with paper, Nordstrom women's shoe cashier, Government small business adviser, Economic research assistant, College athlete tutor, Elementary Special Education substitute teacher & now as another Research associate. This is actually only a partial list not including four internships in human resources, financial planning, public transit & federal budgeting.

To be honest, I've always enjoyed starting a new job. I've found it to be exciting and hold the promise of new opportunities. Usually, your new boss takes you out to lunch or the fellow employees might send you through some light hazing. There's always a nice email sent out about how great it is to have you and the first day is spent setting up the computer, email, phone, getting on payroll etc.

On the other hand, starting a new job can be hell. There's new office cliques to break into, finding your favorite bathroom stall (everyone has one at work, admit it!), figuring out how to ask your boss for asking for more work without risking becoming overburdened, convincing the security downstairs you really do work in the building. Sometimes I wonder whether it was a bad decision taking the job or if I'll regret it in a month or two and if I can make it to the magic one year mark that allows for a job to be on a resume, but not look like you ran for the hills.

If anyone else has any advice for new employees, please comment below. Almost 6 weeks in I feel like I have enough stuff in my office to make it look personal, but I'm still working on remembering everyone's names.