August 31, 2009

Blogging The Colin McEnroe Show

Pre-show
Its "Animal Week" on Fresh Air (good). But Terry is talking to a vet about pet euthenasia and I'm crying.....

Bumper
First day back to school bit. Cute. Teacher Middleton "likes to talk about food". Heh.

Opening Bit
The Irish innkeeper keeps veering into an Indian dialect....a lot more Chion Wolf on air than I imagined. Cool.

Into the Real Show
Bouncy and upbeat. Better be, after than pet euthenasia stuff.

Opening Monologue
Nice, same old Colin. But no traffic and news afterwards.

Guest: Gayle Collins
Nice and conversational, like riding a bike. Colin's back.
Trivia #1 - Colin and I were both (independently) at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philly. I was there as audio assist for a dot com that was streaming the convention live, and had 360 degree webcams located on the floor. Mostly, I turned the knobs when the real audio engineer went to the bathroom. And gritted my teeth as various Republican operatives stopped by to be interviewed.

Wait - A Commercial?
What's up with that?

More Gayle Collins
I think Mohegan Sun is gonna be the go to "joke" of the show. Obama vacation. Vick apology. Plaxico Burris. Guns at presidential rallies. Alec Baldwin for Senate. Woodstock. Texting at Woodstock and Jumbotrons at concerts. Computer updates. This thing is pleasantly rambling and entertaining. Colin and Gayle at Real Art Ways coming up soon!

Back and Forth
Betty vs. Veronica. Old news to the bloggies, but fun to hear him vamp on this. Wondering why Reggie is not mentioned in this at all - it was sort of a four way tug of war - Betty and Veronica were also deciding between Archie and Reggie. If Archie and Veronica hook up, does this leave Betty and Reggie together?

The Last Word
Are you In or Out? I'm In (in terms of the show anyway). In other ways, I'm out.

Fini
Too soon! Too soon! But more tomorrow!

Bristol Adult Ed - Power Yoga

Tuesdays, from 5:30 - 6:30. A six week series starting Sept 15th, at Mountain View School in Bristol.

More information here, register here.

See you there!

August 29, 2009

House Financials

An addendum to my house huntng update - the financial end of things. My life has been on a 20 year financial slide. Starting with a foolhardy house purchase in 1989 (near the peak of another housing bubble, this has been my second) - the combination of an adjustable mortage, a separation / divorce, and falling real estate prices that made it impossible to sell or refinance slowly dragged me under, financially. When I finally did sell the place (2001 or thereabouts) I walked out with enough money to pay off the mortgage. 12 years and all that money paid out and I ended up losing about 30K on the place. Nice.

Since then I have been living with Zippy, and winding my way through some major life changes. But the past few years I have seen a bottoming out. I've got health insurance and a relatively healthy HSA. I've been socking away the max IRA contribution each year. I've been more or less on an upward slope in terms of financial health.

So this is a great time to get back into the real estate game - prices are low, mortgage rates as well, and there is an $8K tax credit for first time buyers (I qualify it's been well over 3 years). I can tap a bit of my IRA for the downpayment. And the mortgage payment + taxes will be quite a bit less than what I pay for my office rent and my rent to Zippy.

There are some tax ramifications - I'm pushing my office rent (fully deductible on schedule C) back onto my home (home office deduction, quite a bit less) but picking up the deduction for real estate taxes and mortgage costs. All in all I think it will be a win.

And though I am looking at a condo as simply a better alternative financially to paying rent, it would be nice if real estate does rebound a bit over the next few years.....

August 28, 2009

House Hunting Update Deux

I think I'm getting close on the house hunting.

I'm strongly leaning Condo - most of the single family houses in my price range need work - either interior, exterior, or both. Major stuff too - not just paint and rugs. And most are already at the edge of my price range - so not a lot of extra to invest in renovations and repairs.

On top of that, I'm closing in on 50, and not sure that I'm up for a handyman special. Between my engineering work, my yoga teaching, my yoga practice, and sundry friends and hobbies, I'm barely around much as it is. Even working out of the house (my plan, post relocation) I'm not sure I'm up for the normal upkeep (lawn, garden, etc.) forget a lot of home improvement projects.

I looked at a small cape in my neighborhood today - it was, by far, the best single family home I've looked at. But issues included:

* Roof shingles loose / missing
* Some exterior paint needed
* No kitchen appliances
* An ancient oil furmance (hot air) that seems to have been last serviced since 1987
* About 1/2 the window panes were cracked or broken
* Shower tiles missing / need replament
* Minimal and dated kitchen cabinets

Lot of work, no matter how you add it up. So I'm looking at a condo.

Of the condos I've seen, some really modern and gorgeous (inside) properties were just in fuky neghborhoods - the community was an enclave inside a neighborhood I'd worry about walking through. Too bad - great kitchens, all updated, stainless appliances. Others I've seen were pretty good - but either high taxes or high condo fees.

So I've found a place - an end unit of a fourplex (four units, one building) in New Britain. It's an end unit, and seems pretty quiet (I've been over there 1/2 dozen times in recent weeks - different days and times, to kind of get a feel for the neighborhood and complex).

It's a mixed bag that adds up to be positive. Lots of sq ft. A finished basement big enough for a pool table (would love to use this for my office, instead of the 2nd bedroom.) Big master bedroom, smallish 2nd bedroom that will do fine for (I hope) a yoga mat. Adequate closets (not overwhelming, but two big closets upstairs, a coat closet downstairs, and more storage in the basement. Big kitchen that is simply outfitted (fridge and stove, plenty of modern cabinets) with sliders to a very useable desk (room for a grill and a table, both which seem to be staying). Low condo fees. Relatively low taxes (for New Britain anyway)

On the down side: electric heat ($$$, but individually zoned, and I'm not really a big heat user). No dishwasher (not a biggie), no washer / dryer (hookups in the basement, I'm sure I'll buy these). Never enough storage, but it's way past time I did a massive purge both of my personal stuff and office stuff.

And if I go with this - well, I'm leaving Hartford. Not too far away, but being this close to Real Art Ways, Cinestudio, Theaterworks, etc., to friendly local restaurants (Tapas, Corner Pug, East West, Pho Boston, Spot Eatery, Mo's Midtown, Yanni's, Angellino's, etc.). I'll still be around (since I continue to live at the yoga studio) but it will be less like "my turf". From a blogging perspective - I feel like I'm losing something.

A bit of a drive to yoga, a bit of a drive from my friends.

Hopefully making an offer this weekend. We'll see.....

August 26, 2009

Yay! Colin is Back on the Radio!

Courant story here, a more durable link at The Laurel here

I've sort of known about this for a while (me and Malcolm are *tight*, and I've been reading the tea leaves for months) but it's nice to see it all announced.

One good sidebar, from the Courant article:
Chion Wolf will be an announcer and presence on the show.

I've been a fan of Chion's photography for a while now (blog Oct 07 and Jan 08) and it's been nice to hear her running the board and behind the WNPR mic on weekends. So I'm excited to see what she brings to Colin's show. At the very least, we'll have great photos of Colin's guests and occasional in-studio antics.

August 23, 2009

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

This one has been popping up on Netflix Watch Instantly for a while, and I've been kind of avoiding it, thinking it's akin to one of those mindless Will Ferrell pics like Talladega Nights.

But Dan Bern contributed 14 songs to the film, and as a result I better watch it!

Random Music Posting

Picked up a bunch of CDs in the past month or two. I've got a sample of these in the CD shuffle right now - listening as I get my Sunday morning going. Overdue blogging about 'em.

Kenny White. He opened for (and accompanied) Cheryl Wheeler back in May at University of Hartford. A wonderful surprise. I was taken with a few of his songs, and so picked up two CDs - Symphony in 16 Bars, and Uninvited Guest. I'm a sucker for the guy at the piano....and In My Recurring Dream struck my fancy in a grand opus / stream of consciousness sort of way like Dan Bern's Jerusalem or Springsteen's Jungleland.

Karen Savoca. I think she played the Falcon Ridge showcase a decade ago. I picked up her (then cassette) On the River Road back then (must have been mid 90's) and promptly lost track of her (and once I migrated to CD in my car, pretty much put my cassettes away although I do maintain cassette capability at home). She was back at Falcon Ridge this year and I was so delighted that I picked up her new disk In the Dirt. Karen was a delight in person (as she checked in and out her merch) and somehow I ended up with a copy of 2002's All My Excuses as well.

Girlyman was back at Falcon Ridge this year, and like many at the fest, I picked up their new one Everything's Easy (was a big seller), supplementing Little Star and Joyful Sign in my library. Also a sucker for creative songwriting and delicious harmonies. Also, I think they have the queer.

I make a point of picking up some music from the FRFF showcase performers that tickle my fancy - and this year's haul included Have You Changed The Brilliant Inventions - the GA based duo was a little *too* unicorn obsessed on check-in but their harmonies are sharp and bright, their songwriting strong, and I expect they might be back next year based on CD sales and buzz.

John Elliott also impressed from the stage, and his sales and festival chatter matched his performance. I picked up his American in Love CD, although his showcase featured songs from the download only Too Many Ghosts.

Oklahoma based K.C. Clifford was just a hoot, when she came to check in merch she was so friendly, funny, and happy, and full of show tunes - she was the pre-showcase favorite based on her aura alone. Liked her music too. I picked up Pockets Full of Hope at the fest. Initially a little bummed (not typically a fan of live CDs for new artists) but as I listened en route home, I realized her live CD was full of her between song banter and stories (along with a generous 13 songs)- which made me smile and laugh. So - good choice!

And finally, showcase opener Colleen Kattau & Some Guys won me over with her celtic (to my ears anyway) inspired music and lilting voice, her newest Inhabited Woman has fallen into regular rotation. She hung out in the trailer afterwards and chatted. A down to earth and delightful woman, a dedicated activist and reformer - she gave me a couple of disks by the late (and talented) Jolie Christine Rickman (whose songs Colleen continues to keep alive)

Rounding out the Falcon Ridge haul - Mecca Bodega, whose 2005 percussion work Skin is firmly embedded in my yoga music portfoilo. And Ellis Paul - one of those artists that seem to have fallen through my listening crack (although my musician friend Victoria Bouffard is fan enough for two people) - his latest The Day After Everything Changed is as good an intro as any to his music.

Wish I could say I have listened and digested all this good music - but so far my life has been a bit too crazed. So I chew on it all one bite at a time....

August 17, 2009

House Hunting Update

Just as I'd pretty much gotten used to the idea of a condo (and started actually imagining myself in a particular place) a ton of single family homes have either come on the market, or places I've looked at / drive by have dropped their asking prices 10K - 15K.

Argh! Back to square one maybe.....

August 16, 2009

Guac Dropper

Coined by Julie, following a splotch of guacamole that hit the celery sticks at the 2nd annual Bloggie Picnic (thanks Amy!). We've decided this needs to be an obscenity alternative.

* What the Guac?
* Guac Dropper
* Guac You

Spread the word......

Departures

Nothing like waiting until the last minute; Departures was held over twice at Real Art Ways and I snuck in this evening for the very last performance. I was expecting to be delighted and charmed by this movie - but I guess I had no idea how moving, how beautiful, how delicately resonant this movie would be to my own life arc.

I'm not a film critic, but I'll touch on a few points that really moved me. Visit the film's website for a synopsis before going further, if you'd like.

* Daigo's quiet acceptance of his limitations as a musician was most poignant, and on some level, speaks to any of us who begin to confront our limitations, our aging, our mortality. At a certain point, the arc of one's life begins turning downward, and perhaps this is when living truly starts. The film did a nice job of communicating this.

* There is a fairly major (and heretofore not mentioned) trans character (the film hinges on this subplot) - and the portrayal is sensitive, sad and beautiful.

* So many of the characters relate to Daigo (and Mike) in parental ways. It's quite a wonderful study of elders, mentoring, and parenting.

* The individual deaths and bereavement scenes were so delicately portrayed and wonderfully diverse.

* The loving way that Daigo and his boss handle the dead bodies - resonates with my own work in the yoga studio - so precious to lay hands on the human form.

* The similarity of food (in this case, a freshly killed chicken) to the dead bodies (my surgeon friend is a vegetarian; no doubt she sees this similarity as she cuts into the human body). Later, as Daigo's boss lustily ("I hate myself for this", he says) consumes friend puffer roe, and later fried chicken - there is a certain lust for life that was funny and refreshing.

As Colin McEnroe blogged, I ended up in tears through most of the film. It was so beautiful, so sad, so true. I know it's too late to see it at RAW, but if you do get the chance in the theater, do go see it. Or once it hits DVD - definitely a worthwhile rental.

One Problem with the Hartford Courant

Go read Colin McEnroe's weekly column All The Wine That's Fit To Make Money Off. It's smart and funny and more than a little wise.

Then look at the little footer at the bottom of his piece:
On the Web
For daily commentary, read Colin McEnroe's blog at courant.com/colin.

I've reproduced the hyperlinks from the Courant site. "Colin McEnroe" goes to a consolidation / search, of all references to Colin. Mostly a list of his columns, with an occasional article thrown in.

One might think that the phrase Colin McEnroe's blog might be a good place to hyperlink to, I dunno, Colin McEnroe's blog. Adding insult to injury, instead of simply hyperlinking over, they add (no doubt, for the benefit of those reading in print, courant.com/colin, which is also, amusingly, not hyperlinked.

August 14, 2009

Owie....

A long practice with an infrequent teacher last night, subbing for Barb. I typically like her practices (energy, style) and last night was no exception - strong, not too hot (lots of sweat, but the windows were open and heat was off)

However, she did a lot of crescent lunges (back heel lifted, not Warrior foort positions) and then when we went into a longish pigeon series she had us curl toes under. A few other times as well, come to think of it. Not particularly stressful, just with all that toes curling under it was a lot more calf stretching than I am used to, exacerbated by a lower leg assault yesterday as I blocked my pal Aaron from rolling into the wall (in hindsite, should have let him take the hit, my inner yoga teacher kicked in and I positioned myself between him and the wall in question, and he plowed into me when he rolled).

Way too much stretching for my tight calves - my left calf specifically feels a bit shredded this morning. I even backed off a bit as we dove into the final stretches on that side - but too little / too late.

Count me among the walking wounded.....as I head into teaching two classes today.

House Hunting

So, I am house hunting. This is driven by a bunch of things.

On a personal level, Zippy and I have been discussing some sort of housing move for a while. I'm a bit of a clutter hound, which drives Zippy (a rather neat and organized lad) mad. So he'd love to get me (and my clutter) out of the house. I'm never around anyway - between my office and the yoga stduio, I spend no more than an hour or two at home each day. We're no longer coupled and have not been for years - yet neither of us is dating - the simple act of cohabitating I think provides a minimum level of companionship (and awkwardness) to inhibit connecting with another. And at 48 I'm not ready to completely turn off my desire for an intimate relationship.

Back in January I was looking at apartments; and Zippy (who is always frustrated by the neighborhood here, specifically noisy neighbors and parking issues, neither of which, truthfully, is all that bad IMHO) fantasizes about finding a duplex where we can each have a side (so we can remain close but not too close). But with the recent drop in housing prices, the drop in mortgage rates, and the incentives to buy ($8K tax credit for first time buyers, which I qualify for, I last owned property in 2001 or something like that) - its seems like the right time to purchase. So right now, I am looking at and for someplace on my own.

I'm not really flush, but I do have $10K I can pull out of my IRA for a down payment / closing costs. My credit is not great but I've been slowly raising my score in the past 3-4 years. And I'm presently paying Zippy rent plus rent at my office which adds up to 100's more than the expected monthly mortgage. (I would plan to close my office and work out of the house, which I did for years prior to moving in with Zippy)

I was initially looking at small ranches and capes; keeping an eye on distressed properties and foreclosures. But after looking at a bunch of these which needed much work and had a lot of serious issues (things like roofs, buried oil tanks, structural stuff, etc.), decided that, at this stage in my life (48 years old, with an overly busy work and social life and my peak "sweat equity" years in the rear view window) I needed to be more reasonable; that a condo might make more sense.

I've been looking at stuff over in New Britain - convenient enough (to the yoga studio, to my balloon chasing, to my Bristol teaching gig). And though NB taxes are high, places there remain affordable and available (not so many condos in Hartford / WH / Newington / Farmington / Plainville).

I have figured out that I prefer an older / less updated place in a more rural / quiet area - have seen some really spiffy places in less desireable areas (often the complex is kept up, but the neighborhood is funky) and I am looking closely at one place in particular in a tucked away corner of New Britain. Looking to make an offer soon....I'm not in love with the place, but I've come to look at a condo as more of a long term apartment with tax benefits - not a perfect space to fall in love with.

I am a little concerned about being further from what has become my social world - Hartford's arts and films and culture, my yoga peeps, my friends. I am a little concerned about isolating and being lonely (my house sitting was very informative about my tendency to isolate)

On the other hand, I think working out of my house will make me more productive; right now I spend a lot of time at home (mornings and evenings), not working or kind of 1/2 working - I think with an office in the house I could get a few more hours in each day without really changing my routine. And though I planned for a 2nd bedroom office, the place I am looking at has a finished basement (presently occupied by a pool table) that might make a nice office - freeing up the 2nd bedroom for a yoga / music / library sort of alcove. Which is kind of exciting.

Much as I hate the idea of leaving Hartford, just not finding affordable spaces here that (a) will not require a lot of time / money / sweat and (b) are in parts of the city that I feel OK as a single woman living in. If you know of any give a shout....

Catching Up

I have fallen out of the habit of blogging. Since the folk fest, I have been scrambling (mostly unsuccessfully) to catch up. Between then and now, life has been:

a) A trip to Terre Haute (fairly unsuccessful in terms of the work, and equally unsuccessful in my attempt to finish up a report so I can send an invoice)

b) Continued house / condo hunting. I think I could pretty much be in the "tire kicking" phase for months if not years, so I am putting some pressure on myself to find something. Right now I am looking at a condo in New Britain. Will blog more later.

c) A lot of yoga teaching. Several teachers have taken some time off (vacation and such) and I am high on the sub list these days. So (for example) I subbed hot yoga 4x in two weeks (Tues & Thurs at 4:30). I've taught every day this week (Mon - Fri) with two classes pending today. And I've put in a bunch of hours at the studio - filling in for the manager, and working on marketing stuff.

d) Five days of house/dog sitting for friends. Not particularly stressful, but just someplace else I needed to be, one additional responsibility or pulling me out of my routine.

e) A pile of engineering work I continue to struggle to cacth up with.

f) My website client started ticket sales for the North Pole Express, sold over 4000 online tickets in less than 3 hours, and (unfortunately) the website (or more specifically), the inability to reliably and expediently stop ticket sales was a big issue. My fault, really - I should have been right there with my finger on the keyboard, but I was teaching yoga :(

So.....life has been crazy. But I'm back (sort of). And will blog bout some other stuff as the days unfold.....