Category Archives: Life

JCC St. Louis and my exercise

JCC St. Louis (2 locations, Creve Coeur and Chesterfield) are very good. I joined JCC in early 2012 mostly for its exercise facilities. At the time I got discounted rate through my employer, and at the same time the employer paid 3/4 of the membership fee. Over the years I changed my employer couple times, and I still kept the membership (paying the full price from my own pocket). But I felt it’s worth it, not only I used it for exercise, but also my family esp. my kids have lots of funs at the recreational pools. Also my old daughter had her art summer camp there last summer.

Keep in mind JCC is more than an exercise facility, or a summer camp. It also has a lot educational, cultural, or health related facilities and activities. Recently I attended a free seminar hosted by St. Lukes Hospital which talked about joint health and replacement (mostly knees and hips). For me it’s mostly educational since I am still in 40s and there is no need for replacement, the reason I went there is I got some hip pain, and I like to get more information out of it. Also, my doctor is also working at St. Luke’s orthopedic and joint center. Let me back to the exercise topic. Over the years I started pay attention to my activities esp. daily walking steps (read my post about this one 10 years ago>pedometers I used over the years). In St. Louis weather, there are some days in summer and winter, it will be too hot or cold to walk outside, we can walk in mall, in company hallway (if they have a long one, note I try to stay away from stairs recently as it may have contribute to my hip issue). JCC always offers the opportunities for me to walk or swim, probably more swim than walk for me. Most recently as I mentioned my hip issue, I started doing walk in water instead of swimming, using the floating drum-bells. It can exercise my upper body nicely. And in the past I used the steam room, recently I started using the whirlpool. It’s funny I heard once from a gentleman says he has been to 5 JCCs across the country, the St. Louis one is the best (I think he meant the Creve Coeur one :-) So basically I used water to relax and get the stress out of my hip and back. I will try get back to swim soon, hopefully. Maybe someday I will find a swimming coach to correct my technique.

I used the Chesterfield facility too, both for exercise (again walk/swim) and kids activity (KinderMusik). My old daughter attended kindermusik for 2 years (between 2.5 years old to 4.5 years old). I recall when she was switching from toddler program to the preschool (when she became 3), for a brief period, KinderMusik class is the only class she wanted to go. The indoor swim pool at Chesterfield is not as big as Creve Coeur (it has 2, a lap pool and a recreational pool). But Chesterfield has one advantage, the water temperature there is just about right, vs “a bit cold” in Creve Coeur lap pool, and “a bit warm” for the recreational pool.

I recall once I went to see the shabach on Friday afternoon during my daughter’s summer camp, it’s fun and interesting to see how they share the special bread. And also kids perform. It’s something that will stay in my memory for a long long time. Note they have koshal food too. I esp. like their corn beef, which I can also get from Kohn’s, which is down the street.

Got new windshield wiper, tires

Last wed. morning,  temperature was below freeze point, there were some leftover snow. When I start my car, windshield wiper blade broke. So early afternoon I bought a new set and tried to replace the wiper. Those were worn out before last wed. The problem for me is, I don’t know how to take the old set off the Camry. Even after I watched YouTube video, I still did not know. So I went back autozone and asked for help. 

This is minor compared to the tire pressure problem for my wife’s sienna minivan. She texted me this picture, I know I know it’s tire pressure warning. I went through the same exercise last winter, even pumped couple times on sienna. And I left some damage on the sensor by doing that too :-(. And this time I am paying it back. The warning went away and came back last few weeks, even after I pumped air. So I thought to make sure, using a meter to measure the pressure. And I blew this one. When trying to measure the front driver side tire, the one has some sensor demage, that thing came out, and air came out. Flat tire :-(. This is not new but not often encountered, so I follow the procedures: use jack to get the van up, trying to locate the spare tire. Since it’s hard for me to get out the jack from sienna, I used the one from Camry. It’s not as strong, and I made couple mistakes the jack fell twice. But I still could not figure out where is the spare tire, even after reading manual. So I called AAA. A technician from AAA helped me on this issue. Today I went to Costco in the afternoon and got a new sets of tires on. It cost me about $770 for 4 Michelin tires. I still need to figure out how to put the spare back to its original place. 

 

My lesson learned:

1) It’s fortunate that we did not got hurt with this potential tire sensor problem. 

2) It’s ok to buy certified used (sienna), but it’s not necessary to buy extended warranty, put the money in bank for repairs and maintenance instead (the squirrel problem and the new tires).

3) Use Costco tire service, they seems have the best service plan for the $15 installation fee.

4) It’s kinda ironic I majored in ME in college and grad school. And I cannot figure out windshield wiper and spare tire. 

2015 Year In Review

It’s new year again, and obligatory new year resolution time. I think I’m already past that practice: will try to put down iPhone and Macbook more when I’m at home though (I was referring to this comment on 2014 review: Leave the iDevices/mac if I can). I’ve eaten my own words on this one. My younger daughter is at a fun age (17.5 months), being a toddler learning to talk, I’ll play with her more, and of course continue my weekend chauffeur job for my older daughter (skating, dancing/pre-ballet etc).

Job Change
I changed my job again this year. I was not expecting it at the beginning of the year or did any planning. But it worked out so far. Again I hope I can stay at my current place longer :-)

Personal finance
I stopped contributing to the Exxon mobile DRIP program; started put same money ($100 per month) into IBM DRIP program instead, still using ComputerShares. Was able to save some money in the emergency fund account. But still spent quite some on the following items.

Visited Disneyland;

Got a piano and ready to start piano lesson for Serenity in 2016;

Replaced AC and furnace, the new one (American Standard, same as the Trane brand) works like a charm, also bought two mattresses (one from Mattress Firm local store, another one from US-mattress online store). Long term it’s going to save some money on electricity as this one is more energy efficient.

Workout, exercise, swim
I have been doing swimming for a few years at JCC (both Chesterfield and Creve Coeur locations), as I live near the Creve Coeur location, and I worked near the Chesterfield location last few years. That has been changed as the new baby (July 2014), and new job requirement (June 2015). I have been using UP Band, Fitbit app on iPhone 5s, and in June this year I got Fitbit Charge the same time I changed job. Trying to get 10,000 steps per day per the recommendation. Still try to get some swimming as time permits.

I started walking in the trails at Laumeiers Sculpture park since last Winter: trying to breath some fresh air during lunch break at work. The new place does not have a nature trail like the Sculpture park, but it does have a one mile paved trail. It’s good enough for me. I usually walk at lunch break, when weather permits. Otherwise I would walk the stairs, as not good as outside, but it does the job. One thing I learned over the years is we need to take care of our own health while working, because at the end of the day, we need that to provide for our family, also to enjoy things (this hits home especially whenever I get sick). There is an excellent “Under the Radar” podcast on this ergonomics topic. I recall at my old work place, my coworker had surgery on the capal-tunnel (a common injury from using too much keyboard or mouse). Back pain is also common among office workers (sitting too long). The walk/stretch from time to time is a good way to prevent/reduce that.

Fitbit_badges_2015

Kids
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Year 2013 in review

Job
I changed too much. Three W-2 in one year. I hope to stick with my current employer for a while.

Family
Our daughter grew up quickly. She brings us joy that words can not be easily described. And frustration sometimes, too. I think patience is very important being parent. Near the year end, we have some exciting news, as my writing (couple days ago Jan 14, 2014 we knew we will welcome a new baby girl in this July :-)

iOS apps
I did update the myNestEgg app, after 2 years, from iOS 3.1.2 to iOS 7. And I released a new app “To Market ~ farmers market around St. Louis”, this is a free iOS app. I am experimenting some new features there.

Stocks
I was looking at my stock trades in last few years. I realized year 2012 is not good, while 2013 is ok (has not beat market in my Scottrade IRA brokerage account because again I tried to do too much). Looking back a bit more, in year 2010 I made some mistakes on Palm and other stocks, in 2012 it was the Coal stocks (ACI and ANR). It seems I tend to lose money on high volatile cheap stocks (the former high flyer etc, hope it goes back).

The more I think about it, as I was also reading “year 2012 in review“. Once again I am thinking if I can not beat the market, I should pick the index fund, or go with the fund manager I believe in (Steve Romick). His FPA Crescent has done very well for me in last 4 years.

(01-23-2014) I gave it more thought after seeing Logitech (LOGI) jumped more than 20% this morning on beat estimates on earning, and on the news its transition from PC mouse to iPad keyboard worked out. I bought the stock a year ago at about 7.50, hold it only a day. Similar can be said for Logmein (LOGM), which also more than doubled in a year (I owned more LOGM at one time). Anyway, have faith on bad news, though near term when looking back, at the time it’s not easy.

(02-06-14) This annual review is partially inspired by Kirby Turner (whitepeaksoftware.com), congrats to Kirby on his 10 years anniversary of his company. I met him once at an iOS conference in 2010 and was impressed by his iOS/Mac knowledge.

I also recall Kyle Richter talk about doing iOS consulting at RayWenderlich.com to be interesting.

2012 Year in Review

I took this cue from Kurby Turner, the independent Mac/iOS developer, as I think it might be helpful to reflect a year’s work, life, effort, etc. As the old Chinese saying goes “Ji Wang Kai Lai” (learn from past, and look forward to the future).

New job: Software Development
Today is my one year anniversary at my new employer. Looking back, from the initial ramp up to more comfortable work on my own pace, and then deliver the first iOS (iPad) app to the field, back end work, report work and support. I feel good about my effort and the support I got from my coworkers. Sometimes my wife will ask me “why it took so long for you to complete a project”? Because it’s not trivial to do it.

I also wrote a few blog posts on iOS app development, and the back end (.Net) web service. I plan to do the same as times goes. Generally speaking, now I have more confidence doing customized app development, full life cycle, and from front to back end (all tiers).

Family
Our daughter goes to the Hope Montessori Infant Toddler Community at Creve Coeur (off Manson road, near Olive Blvd). We are truly blessed with the teachers and staffs at the Hope family (I consider them as family, both adults and children, because sometimes they are better than family :-) . Serenity (Yoyo) learned English and all kinds of things there, which laid a good foundation for her future. For us, we learned parenting lessons there. Sometimes I wonder how much quality time I spent there, from afternoon pickup, to field trip, to social (work-day, Fettuccine, Montessori and Vino, the FMV movie). We watched the FMV movie with great fun, my wife and my friends (couple) did not attend the FMV event, and really enjoyed the movie after I showed them.

Trips
We did one family vacation, and I had 2 business trips in year 2012. We went to Orange Beach, Alabama in the Memorial Day weekend, with Chinese friends. We drove there. It’s funny Yoyo would not go to bathroom on the road, she wants to use bathroom in the hotel or condo (destination). For the business trip, I visited 2 mines in West Virginia, the 2 hours I spent in underground mine is both interesting and a bit unsettling. That’s the first time I visited mines (both surface and underground). In November I visited Las Vegas, stayed in Palazzo (Venetian), which I stayed 3 years ago when I attended AU (Autodesk University, the developer/user conference) in 2009.

Personal Finance
As I wrote this post, I found I made both good moves and bad moves on this topic. I did well in 401k accounts (because I did nothing). But not in the Scottrade brokerage and IRA accounts (because I tried to do too much). Overall I still did ok, because majority of my assets are in 401k (both existing accounts and new account).

Today (01-03-2012) as I listened to Charlie Ellis on the Consuelo WealthTrack podcast, I can not agree more on one comment from Charlie: we all strive to be above average in school or at work. In investing being average is actually not too bad. I understand what meant: 80% of mutual funds perform below average (the index), hedge fund and individual investors are not doing better. So in other words, being average is actually in the top 20% :-)

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Baby is one year old

Serenity birthday cake
Serenity birthday cake

Quite a few changes lately. The most obvious one, is she likes to talk, which is opposite to her parents (we both don’t talk much). The most common words out of her mouth is “ma ma”, “ba ba” (Chinese words for dad), and more recently something like “done”.

She started to pull up to stand a few months ago, more recently she can move around a table or sofa (where she can finds support). Still, when we put her in the middle of nowhere, she will drop to ground, almost immediately. Maybe we should teach her to work a bit harder :-)

Learned quite a bit from the past year, some important ones include:
1) Be patient: obviously baby sometimes could be unpredictable, for instance, they cry for no apparent reason sometimes. From my experience, baby cries for reason most of the time, if parents are patient enough, they can find out reason (hungry, want to sleep, baby did not get the thing he/she wants, last but not least got sick).

2) Be happy, don’t worry too much. When I am saying this, I think sometimes I worried too much too. My wife is a typical worried-too-much mom. In recent days she was worried baby’s right eye looks smaller than the left eye, after her eye lid got hit by car door slightly. The doctor did not see any problem during annual exam, and luckily today everything looks normal now, and my wife is happy. BTW, I think my wife spent 10 times effort on baby in last year compared to my effort.

3) Sleep and weight. Baby still prefers be with mommy in the night, she will cry if she cannot see mom and it’s harder for her to fall asleep. This changed a bit in last 2, 3 days as she can fall asleep on her own (not crying for mom all the time).

Weight is a bigger headache, ever since the initial birth weight of 7 lbs (50%), she went as high as 79% in first 2 months, then starts to drop, 35% at 9 month exam, and 23% at one year exam. We probably need to pay more attention on her food and eating habits.

Fazoli’s

fazoli's pic

Fazoli’s is fast Italian food restaurant chain. I used to work at a company where there is a nearby Fazoli’s. It’s became my preferred lunch place, after I went there a few times with co-worker (and order Chicken Caesar Sandwich only, because in the beginning I don’t eat pastas, being from China I eat noodles instead).

Today I went there again for lunch, and was very surprised and happy to see a familiar face: a Thai lady who used to work there and I got to know over the years.

Life becomes more interesting and rewarding, when we meet old friends unexpected :-)

BTW, Fazoli’s menu and utensil got a face lift too, they got rid of the cheap plastic utensils, use the real plate and forks instead. The only thing missing, is I no longer see the old article (1990s) introducing the Fazoli’s as “Italian Food, Fast” concept, maybe they lost it during renovation.

Felt blessed: looking back at 2010

It’s Christmas eve 2010. Baby already fell asleep. Wife is tweaking her new Toshiba R705 laptop, and I was reading some Navigation controller stuff while watching TV (PBS Christmas program, KMOV news).

This year is obviously one of the most significant years in my 13 years stay in this country. In early March, we got a baby girl. Before that I changed job after 15 months stint at a decent size software company. Things did not work out as good as I thought in Oct/Nov 2008 (the middle of financial crisis). The good thing is, after some hard work and luck, I got a new job at local software company, and got to do what like to do.

In July I signed up the Apple iOS developer program, paid the $99 annual fee and became more seriously on iOS app development. I have thought about it and bought Macbook and iPhone 3G back in Jan 2009, but between my old job, our expectation of baby, and my shear inaction, I did not get to finish the Beginning iPhone Development book in 2009. I started fresh again in 2010 (got the new iPhone 3 dev book, for one). Since the birth of baby, I felt more and more the importance of spending time with family. I think iOS app dev gave me a decent shot at this desire. In middle Oct. I went to the city of brotherly love Philadelphia (again, I went there in May with my in-laws), for the Voice that Matter iPhone dev conference. I think I learned quite a few things there, besides technology, there is design and the business of going indie, which both are important to me (being from developer background).

Looking forward, baby is growing much faster than I thought, especially since she started to crawl and stand. She likes my gadgets (iPhone, iPad, and macbook), much more than her own vtech laptop. I hope I can spend more time with her before she grows up.

World cup 2010 thoughts

The soccer World Cup 2010 is already well in the process. This is also the first time An african country hosting the cup, interesting and exciting for the continent and the host South Africa. I noticed soccer’s popularity grew in the US over the years, from the 1998 word cup to this year. ESPN/ABC broadcast most games alive, and the new media, from NPR to newspapers, showed interest too. For me personally, I also have some observations:

Maradona (Lu Gu Sun, bu xu lian xiang)
I know, I know, he is a controversial figure. But I still remember he is the best player in 1986 (when I was in middle school), basically my impression is the only way to stop him, is to put him down. Despite so many up and downs after 1986, I am glad to see him back. That being said, I found this Maradona comment from Lu Gu Sun (one of the best English professors in China) and another comment form Wang Xiao Feng to be interesting.

(source: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Other old timers
Less known than Maradona, I saw both Jurgen Klinsmann (the German guy, wiki) and Rudd Gullit (wiki, one of three Holland guys in 1980s to 1990s) on ESPN as commentator. I did not recognized Gullit initially because he has short hair nowadays :-)

China presence
Did you see the China Yingli Solar (Chinese and English interchangeably) Ads bulletin at the stadium? According to marketplace, Yingli paid pretty money ($100 m) on this one, hope they can get their money worth. One thing I noticed, they could learn from and Budweiser/Harbin beer (English with Chinese ), so that people (assume they know English) could understand the company name better.

The missing iPhone

By now all the people who are into gadgets should have heard about this iPhone Gizmodo gate: this is apple’s next iPhone .

I don’t know about the fate of this Apple engineer, as Gizmodo did not say a word about him/her (Why Apple Couldn’t Get the Lost iPhone Back). I hope he/she won’t get fired for this (assume this whole thing is not an Apple stunt). Because a while ago, if we recall, a young Chinese engineer died from iPhone leak(HuffingtonPost: Sun Danyong, Chinese Engineer, Kills Himself After Losing ‘4G’ iPhone Prototype).

After all, life is much more important than stupid iPhone, if we can put things in perspective.