Two Plants

I have two plants that are kind of special to me. Today I finally took them out of a put and planted them in the planter in our back yard. I hope they will survive.

The first plant is a spider plant. This one is either the child or the grandchild of the original spider plant that I got my freshman year at Williams. That’s about 16 years ago. I consider it still exactly the same plant. Over the years when I was gone, either the secretary of Williams Computer Science department took care of it for me, or Rosa.

The second plant is actually two paperwhites that sprouted from bulbs. I got the bulbs from a apartment resident gift at Presidential Towers in 2005, and I planted them and was too lazy to throw out the pot when it died out during the spring. I saw it sprout back the next winter, and after that I’ve been taking care of it and enjoying it come alive every winter. I wouldn’t be surprised that, during that whole giveaway, my paperwhites are the only two surviving plants.

january 2013 ruby and livi

the day I wrote my last blog entry, livi’s eating actually improved remarkably. She finally recovered from a flu and started eating a lot faster without vomiting. Feeding her is still arduous but is now taking about 30-40 minutes. This week we increased each of her feedings from 4 fluid ounces to 4.5 fluid ounces. Illie has completely given up on breastfeeding at night so now it’s just pumping and squirting.

Livi is showing clear signs of wanting to crawl. She doesn’t have it yet though. She can go backwards. I don’t think she’s going to bear crawl the way Ruby did.

Ruby’s entered the phase of asking lots of questions. She repeats questions a lot too. Before she could speak she would just love to grab our fingers and point to something in a book for us as a non-verbal way of asking “what is this?” Now, it’ just a verbal “what is this” all the time. Or, “What is dad doing? What is mom doing? What is little sister doing?” I love the curiosity she’s displaying and I hope she continues to be curious about the world for the rest of her life.

It’s already gotten to the point where our Taiwanese and Chinese is insufficient to answer Ruby’s questions.

“What is this?” pointing to a tag of a stuffed animal. Well, I really don’t know how to say “tag” in Chinese or Taiwanese, I can somewhat describe to her what it is but I feel really inadequate here. I suppose I’ll describe to her what it is in Taiwanese and give her the English word?? I feel like I can’t do her curiosity justice unless I truly speak English. Right now that would just be weird.

At about 2.75 years of age, Ruby’s Chinese has become better than mine and Illie’s. Just an hour ago she pointed at a puzzle and asked me what it was. I gave her the wrong word in Chinese and she corrected me. Now, she’s already effectively switching between Taiwanese and Chinese depending on who she’s talking with. I suppose a lot of parents love it when they can provide something to their children that they didn’t have – for me and Illie, we’re glad that she can comfortable with the most commonly spoken language in the world.

Beginning of November

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. That marks exactly one year since we moved into this house. Has it been that long already?

Came back from a wedding in the bay area and I’ve been dealing with a back-to-back flu. It doesn’t help that I’ve been putting off sick days from work and not resting. By the end of last week I was just unable to talk.

Ruby’s been hit with the the same flu twice as well, and Livi and Illie have been hit with it not as badly. Illie’s immune system is a lot better than mine and I think she only had fever for one day.

Livi turned 6 months last week. I still think of her as a 3 or 4 month old because of her size, so I’m constantly being surprised when she hits her expected milestones. Her weight is probably a bit under 5 percentile, and her height is about 10 percentile. The one upside is that we can make use of the swing until a later age.

Livi’s dropper feeding has been improving recently. She’s learned to deal with the milk in her mouth to the point where she no longer chokes. Her vomiting has reduced recently, and I’m not sure whether it’s because of the prevacid or whether her stomach has matured. It would still be a hell of a lot easier if she just took the bottle. Now that she’s 6 months, we’re slowly transitioning her to solids. She’s definitely ready but she doesn’t show that much interest, which is consistent with her overall attitude about eating.

happy 2nd birthday ruby!

Today is Ruby’s 2nd birthday. Actually, in about 40 minutes. Has it been that quick? We had a small family gathering consisting of the four grandparents and Rosa. I think Ruby felt a bit intimidated with all the attention focused on her.

At this age her verbal abilities are starting to noticeably improve. She can recite numbers 1-10 in English and Taiwanese, and 1-20 in Mandarin. With almost every object in the books we read to her, we can call out the name in any of the three languages and she can point it out. Just recently she started being able to make two word sentences in Taiwanese, which is the main language she speaks. She’s recently started saying two word sentences in Taiwanese translating to, “Ruby will do it”, “hold me mom”, “do it dad”, “Ruby get it”, “Mama get it”, “Mama’s blanket”, “bye bye ” and “I want”. She’s also improved a lot at repeating words that adults say.

She can also recite the words of at least five Chinese songs in their entirety – though she can’t carry a tune yet. Yesterday she randomly started “singing” a children’s song about glorious it is to be soldier and Taiwan taking over the mainland by force. We hate that song, but Ruby likes it. Silly KMT.

I barely have any time to blog any more. Besides work being very consuming since this beginning of this year, I come home and Ruby demands a lot of attention since she doesn’t have TV to distract her. I don’t have much time for anything else. Oftentimes I’m cooking dinner and Ruby will ask me to hold her. “Bao bao!!” Brings back vivid memories of when I was Ruby’s age and I’d go up to my mom cooking in the kitchen and say “poh-a-poh!” so she’d carry me. So, just like my mom about 32 years ago, I’m carrying Ruby with one arm while cooking with the other arm. I remember my mom putting me down because her arm got tired. Unless I’m using both, my arms gets tired too. But it’s kind of a precious feeling, I remember the comfort that I felt from my mom carrying me, so those memories come back when I’m holding Ruby. Except that I wasn’t as fidgety as Ruby is. As my mom says, one day Ruby will no longer want me to carry her, so I have to treasure this time I have now. I try my best.

Settling into the new house with Ruby

It’s been a bit over three weeks here. Not used to such a big space – there’s a lot more to clean and maintain, and our spending is pretty insane. It’s more comfortable, and I love the convenience, having more guests visit, and being able to host get-togethers. Right now I’m looking forward to after the next several months when things calm down. Meanwhile I’m still slowly unpacking and re-organizing.

It took about two weeks for Ruby to get accustomed to living here. I’m not sure she’s really used to living here. She’s become more clingy and unhappy when going to bed. Or it could be her cognitive developments. She’s starting verbalize more of her desires, and her vocabulary is expanding very fast.

She’s started to love being read to, and this week she’s probably had ten stories read to her every day. I’m not sure she understand much of what’s being said, besides seeing the pictures, because we never speak to her in English except when we read to her.

Adding to the Nikon vs Canon debate

My cousin recently asked me about getting a DSLR. When I first got into photography I was pretty much just told what to get, and I went the Canon route. I did some research on her behalf to compare the two big DSLR brands: Nikon and Canon. Once one initially buys one type, they’re essentially locked into that type because the lenses are not interchangeable between brands. While there are lots of Nikon and Canon comparison web pages out there, I reached a conclusion about the two brands that I haven’t really seen out there.

I primarily use two web sites to gather information: for the camera bodies, DXOMark scores for camera sensors, and for lenses, a comparison of the prices of equivalent lenses.

Camera Bodies

Camera Canon 5D Mark II Canon 60D Canon T3i Canon T2i Nikon D5100 Nikon D3100
Type Pro / Semi Pro Semi Pro Entry Level Entry Level Entry Level Entry Level
Price $2,300 $870 $660 $580 $750 $650*
DxOMark Sensor Overall Score 79 66 65 66 80 67
Color Depth 23.7 bits 22.2 bits 22.1 bits 22.1 bits 23.5 bits 22.5 bits
Dynamic Range 11.9 Evs 11.5 Evs 11.5 Evs 11.5 Evs 13.6 Evs 11.3 Evs
Low Light ISO 1815 ISO 813 ISO 793 ISO 784 ISO 1183 ISO 919 ISO

Lenses

Canon Nikon
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 $115 $150
18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 $580 $900
17-55mm f/2.8 $990 $1,340
70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 $510 $520
50mm f/1.8 $100 $150
50mm f/1.4 $340 $440
24-70mm f/2.8 $1,250 $1,800
70-200mm f/2.8 $2,075 $2,250
24mm f/1.4 $1,600 $2,150
200mm f/2 $5,300 $6,000

Looking through these tables, the entry level Nikons have sensors that are substantially superior to the entry level Canon sensors, and they even rival or even exceed semi-professional Canon bodies that are more expensive.

However, the Nikon lenses are generally a lot more expensive than the equivalent Canon lenses. For someone like me who places more importance on lenses than on camera bodies, I’m more attracted to the Canon brand because I’d be spending a lot more money on the glass. However, on the initial buy, I’d rather get a Nikon because of the amazing sensors they produce.

It seems to me that Nikon prices their photography gear somewhat like printers: they rope you in with great camera bodies and relatively cheap prices, but they really ding your wallet on the lenses.

As for the recommendation I would make to my cousin? Seems to me there is no right answer. If she was pretty sure she wouldn’t get serious but still wanted great photography, I’d probably tell her to get Nikon. If she eventually got serious and has to work within a budget, Canon. If money is no object, Nikon.

* I got prices from B&H Photo Video. The D3100 price I showed include a kit lens, because there was no price for body only.

Hello little one!

Already a thumbsucker at ~12 weeks gestation.

Due date at 5/5/12 or 5/10/12. Seems to have been changing on each OB visit.

Real Estate Shenanigans

We just recently walked away from two offers. We’ve been working with one of the biggest agents in Rossmoor, trying to get a competitive advantage in pricing by going with the seller’s agent.

Rossmoor real estate is all across the board. There are original houses built in the 50s that go from $600k to $750k, remodelled originals that go from $750k to $950k, and teardowns/rebuilds that tend to be over 3500 sqft and start at $1.2m and can go up to $1.7m. The ideal house for us is somewhat in a donut hole between the remodeled originals and the rebuilds, which is why it has been such a difficult search for us.

We recently put in two offers : one for a remodeled original for 10% less than asking price, and one for an original for 4% less than asking price. The first one wasn’t a serious bid to get the house; however, the second one was.

We knew that the list price is always higher than the actual selling prices in Rossmoor, and having a good idea of what a competitive bid was, our second bid was essentially a very serious, committed bid starting out at the max we were willing to pay. Once we gave the price to the agent, their reaction really revealed that our bid was high and very serious. That seller countered at about half between what we offered and what the list price was. I wasn’t happy about that and we didn’t want to take the counter. The agent tried to mediate between us and after about two or three weeks we very reluctantly increased our offer by 1/3 of the gap. They countered again at halfway between where we were.

This whole time, over the span of 3 weeks, they got at least one other offer, with none that could compete with ours. They haven’t even lived in the neighborhood for probably decades, and my interpretation was that they were blindly trying to squeeze more money out of us.

I was getting really annoyed. A couple weeks ago, three days after their last counter, we permanently walked away from both offers and any business with this listing agent. I can’t be happier. Now I’m really curious how much they can sell that house for. It’s still sitting on the market without any activity.

The first house was a strange story. We didn’t think they would accept our offer, and days after that offer the agent told us that they got another, much better offer contingent on the buyer selling their house first. We later told the agent to raise our bid for that house with still little expectation, but nothing ever came of that. Yesterday, after being on the market for 85 days, that house lowered their list price by $20k – adjusted for what they were willing to sell from their original list price, a deal probably could have been made.

Maybe in several months when both of these houses sell, I’ll really find out whether this agent made some major mistakes. I’m mostly curious about the second house, because we’ll see whether that seller’s obstinance will really pay off or not. Though the longer the house stays on the market, the less likely it seems.