Remodeling the Master Closet

Kolina and I started off the year with a fun project to redo the master closet. This was mostly inspired by a 30% off sale for elfa closet systems at the Container Store. We measured out our closet, gave our dimensions to someone on their website and went into the store with the design. After checking out how it all worked we went ahead and purchased the system.

Our closet, before:


We first had to take all of the clothes out:


The next step was the remove the existing shelf and rods. This was slightly difficult – I had to unscrew some screws into the dryall and shelf and then use a prybar to remove the shelf. There were numerous small nails also securing the shelf which left numerous holes in the wall.


Once that was done, Kolina filled the numerous holes in the wall. The next morning, I had some extra vacation days so I stayed home and decided to finish the closet. I first repainted the wall – I didn’t do a very good job. Enough to cover it in white but I didn’t match the drywall texture we had on the wall.


Next was the closet installation. It was surprisingly easy – elfa systems rely on a very strong anchoring track that goes on the top of the wall, where beams hang down and all of the shelves are hung from. Drilling holes in the wall and installing the track was probably the hardest part, but once that was done, everything came together! And look at how much space there is!


And here’s a shot of the closet with all of our clothes inside. We actually have even more clothes in here than before with plenty of space to spare!


Although it took me about half a day to install everything, I got the satisfaction of doing this myself and saving around $300 on a professional installation.

We don’t have plans to do this to any of our other closets but it’s really tempting. We have a ton of additional space which kind of encourages hoarding, so we need to be vigilant about how much stuff we keep.


2014 Resolutions

2014 Resolutions:

1. Run > 300 miles: Should be doable, especially since I need to train for a half marathon in June.

2. Complete a half marathon! – Will be done via the SF Half Marathon on June 27. Hope I do it in under 2.5 hours.

3. Hike Machu Picchu – I already booked the 4 day Inca Trail hike in July so this is kind of a throwaway, but I do want to note it

4. More work on the house – things to still do include putting up shelving for menus/photos, redoing the master closet, putting up better lighting in the computer room.

5. Organize my photos and print a few – I’d like to print a few high-res photos I’ve taken on various adventures to put up around the house.

2013 Complete!

I haven’t blogged since August, which is telling of how disconnected I’ve been from everything. It’s December 31st and after surviving a brief Bluehost outage, I’m trying to squeeze one last post in before the New Year. So, what have I been up to since August?

Well, I spent a lot of time in school, completing 9 units of the Berkeley Haas EWMBA program. 9 units meant five courses crammed into a two part semester, with Leading People and Microeconomics as the warm-up to Accounting, Marketing, and Leadership Communications in the second part of the semester. And to make it more fun, Leadership Communications was a 10-6 course for two Sundays, effectively negating any rest over those weekends.

I’m generally pleased so far with my experience in the program. If I wasn’t, I’d have dropped out by now, especially given the cost. To even sit in class on a weekend is over $1000 if you purely look at classroom time as your tuition cost and I’m sacrificing weekends to do this program, so I have to be invested otherwise it’s not worth it. I did find that I enjoyed learning for the attainment of new knowledge, even if I couldn’t apply it directly to my role. Microeconomics was a good exercise in learning conceptual economic theory and Leading People did run through content that I did link to my current role as a manager at Google. Even better, since all of my reports know I’m in the program, some got a kick out of asking me what I was learning in Economics, since a few got a Masters or Majored or Minored in Economics. Thankfully they still respect me as their manager.

I did find that professors make a huge difference. Marketing was a huge let down – the frameworks given to create a marketing plan felt like fitting a square peg in a round hole. The low median for the group project paper that was 50% of our grade is quite telling of how little we learned in the class. On the other hand, Accounting turned out to be very interesting, despite me walking away still unsure of a lot of core concepts. I’ll never be an accountant, but I think I do have more respect for their work.

School forced me to get better at prioritization. I now cram all of my meetings with India, Japan, Singapore on Monday nights so I just have one night of work meetings instead of 30 minute or 1 hour slots dispersed throughout. I’ve also been better about closing down work email and transitioning to school work in the evenings, although I had to prioritize constantly as work got extremely hectic throughout the last few months of the year. I luckily only was up until around 2AM once due to schoolwork.

Prioritization also meant not pursuing perfection in class. I went into the program deciding that going for all A’s is not the point of business school and I’m glad I didn’t make perfection stress me out. It’s virtually impossible to do well in my job and school, and my job comes first, so after the first few weeks, I stopped reading some content and only focused on activities that were relevant to lecture of a final class deliverable. Taking advice from a classmate, I thankfully had the foresight to hammer out a 5 page paper the first week of class so I wouldn’t be backed up at the end when it was due, along with several other assignments.

After a few weeks, I felt like I was in a groove to do last minute class prep on Friday evenings, wake up early for class on Saturday, and then use Sunday to unwind and relax. Near the end of the semester, I had a good feeling for how long I would need to get ready in the morning and be out the door to make it to class just in time (Fremont to Berkeley is around 35-40 minutes).

In terms of people, I’m really happy to have met a few classmates so far how are pretty cool, share similar interests as me, and have the same feelings about what they want out of the program. It has also been good to bond through complaining about our shared pain of getting this MBA. So, the whole networking aspect of the MBA is paying off.

This whole experience has also been bearable thanks to Kolina’s support. She’s stepped up to help cook and clean, which allows me to get in another 30 minutes of work email while waiting for dinner during the weeknights or some much needed relaxing during that time. She’s also swapped with me to drive to work, allowing me to tether and do work while driving to work. The only exception now is that I sprung and got a Dyson handheld vacuum. If you don’t have a Dyson, I strongly recommend the Dyson DC 44 Animal. That thing picks up everything! I enjoy vacuuming to see how much dust and hair we have on our carpet each week. It’s changed my life!

So, in between class there’s been work, which definitely picked up. I skipped a trip to India to meet with my global management team, but met through on video conferences for that entire week from around 7-11, basically putting in 70 hours of work that week. Several new people joined my team, which required more attention to get them ramped up. But, I can’t complain – I am getting challenged in my role and continue to feel like I am growing.

Luckily, I’ve been able to have a bit of fun in the past few months:

– Went to Maui for four days for a friend’s wedding. I had to do schoolwork on the plane, but otherwise I was able to disconnect from everything for just a few days, although it caused a world of pain when I got back to hundreds of emails when I was back.

– Went to St. Louis for Thanksgiving. Always a treat to visit family, eat fried turkey, and drink lots of wine.

– Ran the Berkeley 10K in under 60 minutes and then went to Napa with friends.

– Went to Sonoma with friends and rode a tandem bike with Kolina. We didn’t crash!

– Went to Waterloo, Canada, of all places, for a work trip.

– Attended several weddings, birthday parties, and checked out a few restaurants in Berkeley, including Ippuku, which is a new favorite for Japanese food. Also attended three holidays parties and saw Book of Mormon.

And to end the year, Kolina and I spent a week in Puerto Rico. The island is surprisingly fun! We spent a full day exploring a section of the Rio Camuy cave. We rappelled down a waterfall and then a 90 foot drop into the cave, saw huge spiders and bats as we went deep into the cave, and jumped into a river in the dark and swam to a spot where we had lunch. We then did some via ferrata-like climbing out. And that was just day one. We also walked around Old San Juan, went rum tasting, did more waterfall rappelling and ziplining, and hiked in El Yunque rainforest. We drove motor boats to an island where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed and kayaked at dusk into a bioluminescent bay. And ate some fantastic food.

And after I post this, I’m off to close the at Bourbon themed party at a friends place in San Francisco.

Looking back on the year, it has been extremely exhausting but a ton of fun. Just this year alone I traveled to Argentina, Chile, India, Japan, Ireland, and Canada and domestically to St. Louis, Puerto Rico, Maui, and Los Angeles. Many of my friends got married, I started school, and had a lot of memorable experiences. I kept my sanity and my health. And after two weeks in Argentina, where no other caffeinated beverage was available, I started drinking coffee! It’s now a morning routine – I think I enjoy the ritual of grinding beans as much as the drink itself.

In terms of my 2013 resolutions:

1. Visit two new countries: I guess Argentina and Chile count for this one.

2. Workout: I ran more and did a 5K, 10K, and 15K.

3. Watch a new TV series: I barely watched TV. At the end of the year on my Puerto Rico flights I finished Dexter and also read book 1 of Game of Thrones. I watch less and less TV though.

4. Post more photos: I really need to sit down and do this. I have a lot of nice pictures from my phone that are backed up but should be put somewhere.

5. Install things in my house: I installed a few ceiling fans, window blinds, and a new chandelier in our dining room. It’s time consuming to do it on the weekend, but pretty fulfilling when it works!

6. Have a housewarming party: Nope. We’be been bad about having people and since I have class on Saturday’s, entertaining is hard.

7. Run > 300 miles: I ran 182.6 miles on 49 different runs. Not bad especially since running came to a huge standstill when school started and it started to get dark earlier. I do hope to do better, since I signed up for the SF half marathon next year.

All in all, a very good year. Off to 2014!!


Final free weekend

My last free weekend before school starts has come to a close. I initially wanted to do something crazy, like spend the weekend in Mexico, fly up to Portland, go to Vegas, or something in between, but logistics didn’t work out and I realized I had more than enough reasons to stay local.

Friday: Ate food from the Madd Mex food truck in Fremont, followed by Moscato tasting at Eric and Linda’s

Saturday: Ran/hiked an 8 mile loop around Mission Peak. I didn’t go on the final summit since I started late, but it was a great workout. Got Tea Island and made pad thai and thai basil shrimp curry with Kolina to eat with Wilmot and Lucy.

Sunday: Ran/hiked 5.5 miles around another part of Mission Peak Regional preserve. I saw absolutely no one after the first mile which allowed me to gather my thoughts about a lot of different things. Stuffed myself silly at Jon and Julie’s and watched 3 episodes of Dexter.

The fun should begin on Saturday, but it will start earlier with some pre-class reading. My ambitious classmates are already posting about the readings. I can’t help but wonder if they’re trying to impress everyone else. At least it helps me know who NOT to pick for study groups, as their study habits will definitely not mesh with mine.

Orientation Reflections

I spent the past weekend attending the Haas EWMBA Class of 2016 orientation. It was a jam packed weekend of networking, team building, and socializing. I’m an ESTJ on Myers-Briggs, but whew, I was still exhausted when I got home on Sunday that I napped for three hours.

I thought a bit about my experience when I went hiking by myself on Sunday afternoon around Mission Peak. A few takeaways from the weekend:

– It’s refreshing to meet very bright people in other industries besides Internet/tech. Folks I met came from a gamut of industries with professional achievements far beyond my own. I spoke to a former football player, a former Army vet, a chef, a research scientist, a few owners of their own companies, and your typical bankers/engineers. I get the feeling that everyone is scary smart, but luckily my job title at Google sounds impressive enough for starting up conversations (until I am found out to be a history major).

– An evening/weekend MBA seems like the right choice. It appears to be the right amount of networking/socializing along with fellow married/mature professionals with solid work experience. It’s nice to be on the younger side of the median class age, whereas I might be too old for a full time program or not interested in shelling out all of this money without working full time.

– Berkeley also seems like the right choice. Despite having to put up with three years of Stanford shaming (and luckily there are several classmates also from Stanford), the business school has some good faculty, the students are smart, and the academic rigor looks like a nice challenge.

– I may need to get back into Facebook…a bunch of classmates are active in the Facebook group so I might as well join in on the fun. Speaking of which, what’s up with those horrible suggested posts?

– I’m still not sure what I bring to the table. It’s certainly not going to be apparent in Account or Microeconomics, but perhaps it will come out in Leading People and Leadership Communications. Or in being a nice car-pool buddy or diligent notetaker?

12 more days until the first day of class!