Sunday’s celebration of Doug’s life

One of my best friends from childhood is William. His dad is Doug. Doug is a well known activist in Seal Beach who has been a strong voice especially this last decade, fighting against development of sacred native American lands and especially against big oil. I was never close to Doug and not being anything of an activist myself, I never interacted with Doug outside the context of him being William’s highly opinionated, irascible dad. It wasn’t until last August when I had my cycling accident that I called him to pick me up, since the accident happened really close to his house. I hadn’t seen him for a decade, and I noticed he lost a lot of weight. A month later William told me that he was just diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma.

After buying a house I was finally able to get an EV, and I hadn’t planned on getting one. Given Doug’s situation, William quickly negotiated the sale of NoGaso (Doug’s RAV4EV) to me. This is a huge symbolic move on his part and means a lot. He has a huge connection and a lot of history with that vehicle. What a tremendous honor it is for me.

Last Sunday we held a big get-together at my house. We invited over 30 of Doug’s closest friends, some of whom appear in the documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? It was a huge success. Everything went perfectly. Actress Alexandra Paul attended, and I found out that she is similar to me : an environmentalist, an endurance athlete and a vegan. The organizers even got a sweet, conciliatory letter from ex-GM chairman Bob Lutz, whom Doug was bitterly engaged against for years. I don’t know how Doug felt about the event, but I couldn’t not imagine a better way for me to have a farewell party if I was ever dying. It will be a sad day when he’s no longer with us.

Doug’s activism is well known, and the party attracted a reporter from OC Register. Article is here. It’s very strange to see my house in the newspaper.

Gallery is here.

We’re having another girl!

We found out on Dec 21st. The news of her gender accompanied a two week nightmare and tremendous stress, which essentially ruined our whole holiday season. Along with finding out her gender, the doctor also found an abnormality in the heart that indicated aortic stenosis. This means that she would not live a normal life and would have to go through multiple open heart surgeries. It was very tough to act normal with all the family and friends that we saw through the past two weeks.

We didn’t tell many people because it was early on and we had scheduled another ultrasound appointment with a pediatric cardiologist this morning because 2 more weeks of growth could give us more detail. To our huge relief he found no problems with her aortic valve, or anywhere else with her heart. There are some irregularities which indicated the conditions, but the actual problem doesn’t exist.

The stress of having to deal with a kid with serious health problems has now been happily replaced by the stress of thinking of a name.

The DBA

This lady is the gatekeeper to all of my applications’ data. Without her, I cannot deploy any schema changes out into production. I cannot do anything without her.

This lady instills fear in me. It’s not just because she is the gatekeeper to all of my applications’ data, or that only through her, can I deploy any schema changes out into production. It’s also because she shares the same first name as the woman who gave me life and the same last name as the woman who sustains me in my marriage. As I have two important women in my personal life, she is symbolically the one important woman who holds the key to my progress at work. She is my database admin.

So for tonight’s deployment, I hadn’t heard word from her at all. She didn’t make yesterday’s pre-deployment meeting, and she didn’t respond to an email that I wrote to her this morning to confirm her attendance. So I nervously messaged her.

“Can you make it to tonight’s deployment?”

Robin Yan [1:49 PM]:
did you get my email about tonight’s deployment?
****** ** [1:52 PM]:
yes
Robin Yan [1:52 PM]:
can you or someone else support the implementation tongiht at 11pm?
****** ** [1:53 PM]:
why
Robin Yan [1:53 PM]:
schema change required
****** ** [1:53 PM]:
I already promissed to support why you ask again

…ok, ok, that doesn’t sound too bad. I’m always joking with my coworker friend about her unique attitude at work. This humor is my way of dealing with the mortal fear I have every time I deal with her.

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.

My new ride

Because Doug has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and will not be around much longer, he has had to decide what to do with his three electric vehicles. I had just bought a home and intended to buy a Nissan Leaf much later, but William pushed the transaction really fast. Within two weeks of having the house, he had installed a charger in my garage and Doug delivered his beloved RAV4EV.

This car is a big part of automotive history, one of ~330 RAV4EVs being driven today.

My round-trip commute is about 44 miles, longer than most. This car, having almost 90,000 miles on its odometer, still has close to the range it had when it was new. After some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations, I pay about 3-4 cents per mile in electricity costs to drive the RAV4EV, as compared to about 12 cents to drive my Prius at 50 miles/gallon. I never have to get an oil change. I never have to stop at a gas station and wait for the gas to pump. It is much easier to arrive home and plug the car in as a habit.

When I get my solar panels this month, I’ll be driving my miles exclusively on renewable energy.

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.

Owner of a shiny new … debt.

The search is finally over. After looking at over a hundred houses, we finally found one and successfully bought it.

Getting into escrow was crazy. On a Saturday, the house was listed and I saw it. We went to the open house on a Sunday, and for the first time ever, Illie fell in love with it. I contacted my lender on Monday morning, got the pre-approval, and contacted the selling agent about it with our bid. The agent knew we were bona fide serious about our offer, came to our place at 8pm that Monday for us to sign the offer papers, and then drove it straight to the sellers who accepted it. At 10:30pm on Monday I got a call from the agent telling us that we were in escrow.

The next morning the agent said they got calls from three other agents saying that they wanted to bid on the house, but it was too late.

I had the huge pleasure of contacting the previous agent and telling him to cancel our offers for the two other houses – especially to the seller that was playing obnoxious bidding games in a situation where the price was already above market. By the way, as of this writing, that house is still on the market at 51 days.

I am extremely grateful at all the hard work that our dual agent, Peter Ursano, put into making this process as convenient for us as possible. The lender got the paperwork done within schedule, and while there were bumps in the road everything still happened on time. The move-in date is happening on Veteran’s Day 11/11/11.

Given the market outlook, I fully expect for the value of this house to be less than what we bought it in the next several years. While I was not as picky about the actual house, one criteria that I had was that we would be never be moving again. So when we see the value of this house go down, at least I may see our property taxes go down.