Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hash Bash 2014

I have been attending the Hash Bash since I was a student at the University of Michigan in the early/mid 90s. The first year I attended was 1995. Only during the five years I live on the East Coast from 1997 to 2001, did I not attend. I think I may have missed one year in the early 2000s when the weather was just awful, snowy, cold and overcast. But weather like yesterday, upper 40s and pure sunshine, bring out the happiest of the Hippies and supporters for decriminalization of marijuana. According to the Ann Arbor News, approximately 8,000 people attended. I think it was closer to 10k - I have never seen it so crowded and with so many calm, cool, pleasant activist and festival goers. I did not see one cop, or police car at the event. Not to say that they weren't there, but this relaxed affair was nothing for them to be concerned about.

Enjoy some select images from my views of the 45th Annual Hash Bash:

Hash Bash organizer Adam Brook

Hash Bash grandfather John Sinclair

Yup, weed is safer than peanuts

The Cannibus providing education about medicinal marijana

Lots of cool Hash Bash merchandise

People congregate at the Monroe Street Festival on the Law Quad
John Sinclair at his favorite table spot at Dominick's


Very impressive crowds


People were smoking, buying, sharing marijuana freely

Duh! Jimmy John's sandwich shop was hoppin' yesterday.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

To BRCA or not To BRCA

Many of you may have learned about the Breast cancer gene (BRCA) breast-BR/cancer-CA, through the public announcement by my favorite actress, Angelina Jolie. She got an expensive gene test and it was determined that she had the gene mutation of BRCA3 which significantly increased her chances of developing breast cancer, or ovarian cancer one day. Since her mother died of ovarian cancer, Angelina educated herself, got tested, and took what some may think was an extreme measure, but I'm sure with her lifestyle and financial position, she made the right decision.

Because breast cancer took my sister's life in 2008, and the year before that, my mother had a mastectomy to treat her battle with breast cancer, something genetically odd is going on in my immediate family and I'm in a preventative health program to determine my chances of developing breast cancer. I have a clean bill of health at the moment, but further tests need to be made and I have already asked my mom to talk to her doctor about having a DNA test to see if she has BRCA3 gene. If she does, my preventative health program will go into a different direction to decrease my chances of being afflicted. I hope this is not the case, but I'm not going to wring my hands over it. I've taken a huge step by getting involved in this health program already. However, if my mother tests negative for BRCA3 gene, I'm in the clear of further preventative testing and monitoring and my chances of getting breast cancer will be in the 'normal' range like the general population.

A few things are indeed on my side: I'm of normal/healthy weight, I don't drink or smoke, don't do illegal drugs, and I exercise religiously -  I have a non-red meat diet and drink green tea daily. All of these lifestyle choices help me keep my chances of developing cancer at lower levels, so I'm on the right track. I personally think that my mother will test positive for the breast cancer gene, and I'm prepared to take the health measures to prevent developing cancer.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring Thoughts

Inspired by the article at Mlive 'Washtenaw Co Renters have Highest Housing Wage in the State', the comments posted about the article demonstrate the current dilemma I have been wringing my hands over the past few weeks: Should I stay in Ann Arbor or to move? Well, I have decided in my previous post that I will be moving, but the remaining question was where. I had hoped that I would get an interesting career opportunity in Detroit, but since so much time has passed and no call back, it's clear I'm no longer in the running. So the next thing I had to decide is where will I move. Since it makes no sense to move 'close to Detroit' due to a job located in that city, I have decided to move out of Ann Arbor, but stay close.

This past weekend I signed a pre-lease for a nice 2 bedroom apartment, with a balcony, and a lake view in Ypsilanti. I'm very excited about this move and the timing couldn't be better. I'll be paying LESS for a posh two bedroom than a plain 1 bedroom in AA. About three years ago, before the apartment community that I will be moving to obtained its current management, I would not have even looked at this place. But they have cleaned it up and are appealing to middle-class professionals such as myself. Meanwhile, I do resent that I have to move due to my being extorted to pay higher rents on an apartment that is not worth it. I have a choice to stay or move and I'm moving on. Things happen for a reason (like not getting a call back on a posh job) and you just have to keep applying for other jobs - some I may say are equally or more career pleasing.

Venice Beach, California - Vacation spot in June

I will have a busy summer that's for sure and I'm working very hard to make sure I can squeeze in a long weekend visit to Venice Beach. I haven't been there in three years and I'm really, really aching to go, if just to lay on the beach all day to people watch and enjoy the surf.  Surely I can do this from Thursday to Sunday in mid-June, yes? When there's a will, there's a way. To get me in the mood and encourage me to work hard to pull this trip off, I read a great review of Venice Beach from Eric M. on 3/17/14 an Angelino - it should inspire you to visit too! He eloquently described my exact wanderings on my first vacation day there.

VENICE!!! OH, DO I LOVE VENICE!!!

Love it here on the Venice Boardwalk! Depending on your mood, you can get wild to mild here! Always charming here! From entertainers, to live filmings, shops, and different foods, sporting equipment rentals, and bars etc. etc. etc. Like I said, you can truly reinvent yourself here and let loose! Highly coveted place for vacationers as well!

I had some Friends from Germany that came down to visit me! Hmm, where should I take em? Ahh, Venice always does the trick! We started out near Marina Del Rey and walked up Washington till we hit the Boardwalk and went to the pier for the first stop! I was totally laughing cause they were saying "That's it!". Told them to hold on to your boots, get ready for the walk, and enjoy enjoy enjoy!

We started on the wild side! Hitting up the cool stores, entertainers, and cool food shops! They were amazed! Once we hit the Windward Circle, it was a treat! Crews were setting up shop for the "American Ninja Warrior" sporting events going on through April 8th I think! My buddies were amazed! They loved the skate park and the great wall of artistic graffiti! We were taking picture galore! Stayed at the circle for around 30 and walked our way towards Santa Monica Pier.

This is where everything gets mild! More mellow crowd! Things tend to look fancier! Haha! Good ole Muscle Beach, the famous rings, awesome rope balancers, and plenty of equipment for the kids! Santa Monica is totally kid friendly! Made it to the pier finally! Enjoyed some rides! Got some ice cream and headed back to Venice to hit up a bar for some food and libations! Haha!

Overall, a super fun day! Nice and warm! The waters a bit a chilly! The boardwalk was full of bikers and skater, and us walkers! If you wanna experience LA through the coast lines! Then, this is the place to be! Get the gear ready, pile in the cars, and get ready for an amazing day with adventure! Always a win win for me!

CHEERS VENICE!!!


And lastly, I'm in the final five days of a fundraiser and it is quite taxing working on it. This year's fundraiser has been much more challenging in meeting our goal, and I have come to the realization that we won't make it. But I'm very comforted by the 20 people who have made donations. It's sad that a lot of people who contributed last year aren't interested in helping this year, but that happens with all fundraisers. What I do know is that those who helped out this year are just extra special people, and I'm all the more impressed with them in what they have done to support the fundraiser.

Update! We Made our Goal by 130%! The donors rallied in the ninth inning with a total of £1305 raised! Yes!

End the end, I'm just glad that Spring is finally here... even though I'm still wearing a winter coat!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Moving Plans

My long term goal after graduate school was to find a job in the field of my study - the perfect blend of Communications and Marketing. So since February, I have been applying for a variety of jobs that incorporate one or both of these skills and I find that most of the jobs I'm applying for are throughout the metro Detroit area. The benefit of living in Ann Arbor since 2002 is that I have been employed in this very city all this time. And with me being green friendly, I believe that it makes common sense to live and work within one's community. The upside is convenience and saving gas; the downside is high rent. Living in Ann Arbor is expensive, but living on the East Coast in Maryland/DC, New Jersey, and Manhattan has prepared me for high rents in my home state. However, the time has come for me to move as I mentioned in a previous post complaining about the 8% increase in my rent if I renew - with no added benefits.

Looking at opportunities in Detroit and Dearborn, the commute to Ann Arbor, while only 45 minutes (good weather - no accidents), it's still 45 minutes of highway driving. And based on this horribly cold and snowy winter, I'll be setting myself up for daily driving frustrations. On Monday, I'm going to look at an apartment in Westland. This city is smack dab right between Detroit and Ann Arbor. I still have easy access to A2, and I can drive to Detroit by shaving 25 valuable minutes off the commute. I personally would LOVE to live in the City of Detroit again, especially in this apartment community, but the increase in my automobile and renters insurance all but guarantees that I cannot live in the city without greatly affecting my standard of living and quality of life. Right now, my auto and renter's insurance six month premium is $598. I got a quote from my State Farm agent who used a zip code in Detroit as a guide, and she told me that just over $1000 would be ADDED onto my current six month rate, and that's NOT including the renters insurance which she guaranteed would be equally as high. Please note that I have an 11 year old paid off vehicle, and I have never filed a claim with my insurer (other than the car accident I had in 2012 which was not my fault). Regardless of one's good standing, if you move into the city of Detroit, you are going to get screwed over with high insurance costs. It's just not fair and the city is losing out on having people like me move back in to help the city bounce back and earn more tax revenues. Needless to say, my insurance agent suggested that "you look for an apartment outside the city". Ya think?

I'm also considering Royal Oak, but I used to live there and I'm really not too interested in moving back into that area, even thought the apartment building I have checked out online offers a much desired fireplace. I have been on the 'West Side' for so long that I like the way things are here. The population density is lighter, there are more parks and nature, there are lots more ponds and rivers, etc. I just like it better on the west side instead of the east side. So on Monday afternoon, I will go check out the apartment in Westland and if I like it, pay a holding fee and assess how to proceed by month's end.  The downside of moving this summer is that I will have to cancel or postpone one or both of my spring/summer trips. I'm planning a long weekend NYC trip in early May, and in mid-June, another long weekend trip to Venice Beach. I'll need the money for moving expenses and a much needed overhaul in getting newer furniture. I plan early spring trips so that I can have no problems in taking a week off from work in September for TIFF (this year in particular is special to attend, my 10th anniversary, 2004-2014). But I digress...

I have a lot to mull over in the next few weeks but I will know for sure by the end of the month what I will need to do, move, or stay in A2 for another year.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The ToZ 2014 Oscar 'Hopes'

The final ballots for the 86th Oscars were submitted yesterday at 5pm PST. I did all I could do to promote my favorite performances and films in a desperate, but completely failed attempt to sway voters. So now that this awards season is almost over, I can now post my Oscar Hopes.

I am poor at this prediction business because I truly follow my heart and gut. I ignore stats, and frontrunner talk, and in all honesty, I think it's more fun (for me at least) and good karma, to post my ballot as I would like (aka, hope) to see transpire on Oscar night. After participating in discussions exclusively at Awards Daily in the past two months about this upcoming event, I sense what's going to happen, but I prefer my ideas, of course. While quite a few of my selections are in line with common predictions, there are a handful of Oscar winner picks that may be based on grand delusions or crazy wishful thinking. But you know what... all nominees are valid nominees in the running and anything can happen. Anything!

So without further adieu, here are my 2014 Oscar Hopes -


Best Picture:
12 Years a Slave

Directing:
Steve McQueen - 12YAS
(alt. Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity)

Production Design:
The Great Gatsby

Actor in a Leading Role:
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave

Actress in a Leading Role:
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave

Animated Feature Film:
Frozen

Cinematography:
Gravity



Costume Design:
The Great Gatsby

Documentary Feature:
The Act of Killing

Film Editing:
Gravity

Foreign Language Film:
The Hunt - Denmark

Makeup and Hairstyling:
Dallas Buyers Club

Original Score:
Gravity

Original Song:
Let it Go - Frozen
(alt. The Moon Song - Her)

Sound Editing:
Gravity

Sound Mixing:
Gravity


Visual Effects:
Gravity

Adapted Screenplay:
John Ridley - 12 Years a Slave

Original Screenplay:
Her


Monday, February 24, 2014

My Rent Quandry

The current apartment that I have called home in Ann Arbor since April 2004, has been the one address I have lived at the longest for my entire life. In just two months, I will have lived there for ten straight years and I have become quite comfortable living there. I hate moving because I have moved a lot in the years prior to my current home. But these days, as I'm actively looking for new career opportunities in Detroit and Dearborn, I am open to moving closer to those areas so that I don't have to drive too far. Especially due to horrible winter we have experienced this year, it makes no sense to live so far away from a job. This is Michigan, not Southern California. I'm also very spoiled in being an Ann Arborite because I live and work in this city and my commute is barely 10 minutes on secondary roads.

Just last week, I was contacted by the landlord company and they informed me that my rent went up 7.5%! I looked at the new rental rate and I couldn't believe it. They have been tidying things up, new paint jobs that make the apartment building look more fresh and bright. I realize that during the housing bust that rents dropped and those years were good to me because my employment was shaky with the layoffs and part-time work. And it doesn't help matters living in a city with a world class public university because it brings in a lot of people with the money to spend on high rents. I foolishly thought that all the fancy high-rise apartments that were being built around Univ of Michigan's campus would accommodate all the students. But what about those students who can't or don't want to pay $1200/mth to share a flat with 4-5 other people? They spread out further to properties within the three mile zone of the university to apartments like mine. Some even move to apartments in Ypsilanti because rents drop significantly there, but unfortunately, crime goes up in some of those neighborhoods. But I digress.

The dilemma I'm faced with right now is making the decision to either renew for another year, look for another apartment in town, or upon getting a new job, prepare to move to the city of that new job. If I remain in Ann Arbor, it's smarter for me to just stay in the apartment I'm currently in. I live in the best area of town, and that can be determined based on the amount of traffic that is in the area. In a word, traffic is always congested here because of the access to M-23 and I-94, and loads of shopping that are literally just walking distance for me. There have been many times when I prefer to just walk up to Arborland as it's only a 10 minute walk. As I approach the shopping area, it's always congested with traffic entering and exiting. I walk past the people in their cars, just looking at some of them just sit there and wait for the traffic to move along. Life is too short to sit in this kind of crazy traffic all the time. If I were to consider moving to another apartment in town, I would be paying more, much more. I want some amenities that my current place doesn't have like a patio or balcony, but I don't want to pay another $100+ more in rent at this time. As an example, here is a link to Average Rent which shows the current rental rates in Ann Arbor -


If I get a new job within the next 6-8 weeks and if it's close to Detroit, I will certainly have to move due to the before mentioned weather related reasons. But I'll be torn inside a bit to have to move because Ann Arbor has everything for me, and after living in this area after moving back to Michigan from New York City, it's hard to find another city that can live up to A2. So for the time being, I'm prepared to renew my lease but I'm actively applying for new jobs that may position me to eventually move away from Ann Arbor. Whatever my decision, this will be my last year renting at this apartment, it'll be time to move on.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

No More Sanctuary in Covent Garden

I will desperately miss my favorite London spa, The Sanctuary
As I was preparing to head out this Sunday afternoon for lunch and see a movie (The Monuments Men) with my friend Laurie, I spritz on a bit of my perfume from The Sanctuary Spa and it made me think about the spa. This is a lovely spa in London, specifically, the Covent Garden location that I have had the absolute pleasure of visiting four times since my first visit to the spa in 2008. During my most recent visit to London in June, I had difficulties trying to make a booking to the spa because as I am based in the US, the new online booking website no longer worked for ISPs based on the United States. I even tried to email The Sanctuary directly to make a booking, but they couldn't seem to be bothered with helping me. This was a red flag and very disheartening. It takes time, planning, and MONEY for an American to holiday in London, and considering that I go there approximately every 12-14 months to visit my dear friend Lucinda, one would think that the spa would have been more accommodating for an American trying to make a booking.

Since I could not make my spa booking, Lucinda and I took advantage of a coupon to go to Amida Spa at Chelsea Harbour instead. And we had a great time. I did miss some exclusives that were specialized by The Sanctuary, but I received my spa experience as I desired. It was my intention that on my next visit to London, possibly in November, I would try to visit the spa again. However, just this morning, I learned that the spa will be closing all of its locations as of May 31st! I was so shocked to learn this and the website did not go in to details - I had to read more about it at Get the Gloss. Apparently The Sanctuary has been losing day spa business, so instead of closing down one or two of the four spas to increase demand at the remaining spas, they are closing all four down. Moving on, they will launch their cool spa items via online retail. Well, I personally think this is a poor decision plan. They could have at least just left the Covent Garden spa open - it's absolutely beautiful (I hope another fancy Spa goes in that space). Well, I reckon during future visits to London, I'll find other spas to frequent, and I'll have to go to Boots to buy the Sanctuary toiletries I've come to enjoy.

Goodbye Sanctuary, I'll miss your lovely Covent Garden Spa!





Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Closer Look

On a cold Saturday, I went to the DIA for a lecture about the Holy paintings on display at the DIA, and it was very interesting. It allowed me to gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Catholic view of religious art. The guest speaker was a Catholic Priest and he was very interesting and funny, and I quite liked him. So much so that I just visited his blog to see what it was about and I started to read about his prayers for the people of the Ukraine as they are in the middle of a horrible conflict in Kiev. Then in the next blog post, he posted something homophobic and I suddenly lost interest. Why oh why do so-called compassionate and loving people openly hate and disrespect homosexuals? I'll never understand it.

Anyway, some pictures I took at the museum were up close shots to concentrate on a certain view in the painting, providing a fresh perspective of paintings I love. Here are a few of my favorites.