Friday, February 27, 2009

Would You Rather...

GK and I were discussing what would be better: 1) to be raised by wolves, or 2) to be raised by gorillas.
  1. Raised by wolves (like Mowgli from the Jungle Book): greater possibility of being hastily eaten.
  2. Raised by gorillas (like Tarzan): greater possibility of having your arms torn out and face bitten off.
I’d like to raise the option of 3) being raised by a pack of adorable little Yorkies. They’re just so darn cute and cuddly. And they’re loyal too. I’d imagine I would be raised with manners. And to know my place, of course.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Volcano Monitoring

My tribute to the hard working people at the USGS (US Geological Survey). Don’t let Bobby Jindal tell you we don’t need you. If it can happen to Dante’s Peak and downtown LA, it can happen anywhere. Also available as “flair” on Facebook.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Things to do in Houston (and Austin)

After a colleague of mine in Seattle told us he was leaving for a job in Houston, my first reaction wasn't "oh I'm so sad to see you go," but "oh, how cool!" Then I discovered some of my family may be moving to Austin. My instinct wasn't, "oh how sad, your moving 1000 miles farther away," but "awesome! I can't wait to visit ya'll!" Here are a few of our favorite places in Houston (and Austin). I'm going to edit this in a couple of days to incorporate a list that Katherine B gave me. If you have anything to add, let me know and I'll add it as well:
(Note - Rachel and I lived "in the loop." There should rarely be a reason to leave the inner loop)

Jog or walk, or just enjoy: Memorial Park, Hermann Park, Rice University

Our favorite pizza places: Collina's (the best), Star Pizza (what other people think is the best … very deep dish)

Tips about University Village: Enjoy discovering the restaurants, they're eclectic and very interesting. Black Walnut Café (Veggi, NW-style food), Mi Luna (Great tapas), Hungry's Bistro (Great brunch, Mediterranean, humus), Benjy's Restaurant (I forgot… maybe I liked the happy hour and fancy cocktails), Yum Yum Cha (Cantonese, dumplings, hole-in-the-wall place), Some other café on the corner of Rice and Chaucer (across the streat from Hungry's Bistro) is great, veggi, NW-style food, great deserts, Goode Company BBQ

Best supermarket in the world: Central Market in Highland Village. Like Whole Foods but much, much better

Tips about the big exciting mass of restaurants between Highland Village and Montrose (on a map, between Wesleyan, Montrose, above I-59): Amy's Ice Cream (classic, a must go place. Try Guinness Ice Cream or sometimes Avocado ice cream), Freebird Burrito (another TX classic place, a yuppie version of Chipotle, yes they have veggi), Hobbit Café (Seriously, this is an earthy place taken right out of a Tolkien novel), O Porto (Portugese, Tapas, hole-in-the-wall place), PF Changs in Highland Village (Sadly, the best Chinese place we found), Lupe Tortilla (Oh, how we miss Lupe… the best tortillas, plus excellent margaritas, very popular), Luling's BBQ (A great authentic experience), Ragin Cajun (A wonderful and bizarre cajun restaurant, one of those places with LSU paraphernalia and license plates adorning the walls), Empire Café (Great coffee, veggi, brunch, conversational place), Katz's Deli (Really good, one of the best kosher deli's you'll find anywhere in the country), Starbucks in River Oaks (See the Starbucks across the street from the Starbucks on the corner of Shephard and Gray), Teala's Mexican & Tila's Bistro (Both sound the same, both in same area of River Oaks, both really good), Chuy's Mexican (An insanely popular place, especially for the UT alumns), Taco Milagro (A very, very popular place on Thursday afternoon happy hour time, big patio, a great place to meet people. It's actually nicer than it sounds… it isn't a "taco cart" or anything), Pappas, Seafood, Pappas BBQ, etc… Anything from the Pappas people (See the giant armadillo)

Galleria area: The mall itself is friggin huge, with lots of great shopping, but alas it has become a hangout for the punk yuts (youths), America's restaurant (Very nice, expensive), McCormick and Schmicks (Yey! $2 happy hour food menu!), Just drive around and be amazed at the commercial activity going on. You'll find something interesting.

Kemah: A tourist trap, nonetheless, a great selection of seafood places. Go to the original Landry's. Get a water view and watch the power boats go through the canal.

Miscellaneous: Houston's Restaurant (on Kirby), Carisma $4 Car wash (on Kirby. Seriously I miss Houston just because of this place, near the corner of Kirby and Bissonnet), Make a friend who has a beach house in Galveston, Downtown - Market Square historic area, good bars… Flying Saucer bar. Tunnels in downtown Houston (A strange sight to see all of downtown scurrying around underground), Drive around River Oaks at Christmas (look at Christmas lights), Go to San Jacinto Monument (Even though it is sort of silly, it is higher than the Washington Monument. A Texas Thing)

Day Trips: Drive to College Station (Aggie Land), go wine tasting, visit the 1st G Bush presidential library (surprisingly interesting and interactive), go to the Dixie Chicken (a nasty dive of a place), Drive to Fredericksburg and surrounding areas (really fun, gem of a place pleasant wine country)

Austin favorites: Trudy's (mexican, great margaritas, UT hangout), Kerby Lane Café (Best breakfast in Texas (we think), great pancakes), Mozart’s Café (Not good coffee, but a really great hangout, good deserts, huge porch on the water), Bats under Congress St Bridge (Go in August or September. Better yet, go to the nasty TGIF, ask for a patio seat, and watch the bats while enjoying an ice tea and mozzarela sticks! (we've done that, it's surprisingly fun), Jog around Town Lake (between Lamar Blvd and Congres St … it's a great walking / jogging loop. Walk down the trail a little farther to see all the turtles!), Look at the turtles! They’re so cute!, Barton Creek Pool (natural pool, it's awesome), Barton Creek Greenbelt (I can't stress enough how cool this place is. It’s free. The creek is crystal clear, big swimming holes, fun little rapids, popular with the college crowd, you feel like you're in the wilderness, but you're still inside the city limits), Malaga tapas bar, Walk around UT (It's an impressive place, find something to do), and last but not least, Whole Foods World Headquarters (get lost in their giant flagship store)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Where is the Stimulus Suggestion Box?

Here are my two suggestions for immediate relief for normal Americans:

1) Loss on sale of home tax benefit
Let home-owners who must sell their home in a down market realize some sort of tax benefit for their loss. Businesses can already do this, but pity the poor individual who currently gets the shaft. Home-owner decides “what the heck, I lost my job and can’t make my mortgage payments, and darned if I’m going to live in a $300,000 home that I bought for $350,000. I’m going to foreclose.” Let the tax benefit have some kind of carry-forward provision. “Homeowners can amortize the difference between house sale price and house purchase price over a 10 year period on their 1040”

2) Lock in student loan interest rates TWICE
Poor uneducated college graduates who think they’re doing the right thing by locking in their multiple variable interest rate student loans into one simple loan. It made sense to us all at the time. Instead of writing checks to Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Department of Education, and Perkins – all at different and high interest rates – I can just write one check to Department of Education and lock in a rate at 5.5%. Wow, 5.5% is an all time low, this is great! But fastforward 7 years. You still owe tens of thousands of dollars. In fact it feels like you’re not making a dent in your loans. By now that all time low 5.5% is now down to 2%. That could have saved you $50,000 or $100,000 on the life of your loan. “If only I could have seen the future,” you cry. “I would have waited seven years, writing 5 checks every month, and then locked in my student loans…” Again, if I were a business, I could swap rates and lock in rates an infinite number of times. But Uncle Sam has poor uneducated college graduates in a vice grip. Squeezing interest out of us 5.5% annually and mocking our myopic decisions to lock in our rates soon after we graduated.

I’m not sure if I actually made the suggestion in there, but I think you get the point. Do you have any other great ideas that Obama should bring forward that aren’t being talked about in the press? Ideas must make an immediate impact on normal people.