Avenue Q Was Phenomenal at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco

It takes a lot to get me up to San Francisco.  But last night was worth it.

For our anniversary, Carolyn & I went up to the city to catch the last night of Avenue Q.  It was phenomenal.

I think it goes without saying that every musical would be better with dirty puppets.  But I honestly don’t think that five seconds went by at the musical where I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself.

If you haven’t seen Avenue Q, you need to find a way to see it.  It’s that funny.

As a side note, there was one unrelated, surreal experience at the Orpheum Theatre last night.  At intermission, there was literally no wait for the women’s bathrooms (there are three).  But there was  a line at least fifty guys long for the one and only men’s bathroom in the basement.  I barely made it back to the show on-time.

More that one woman commented on how strange it was to see no line for the women’s room, and this huge, wrapping line for the men’s room.  There was visible and audible snickering, and I think some form of revenge fantasy play going on.  I have to admit, I was immensely frustrated.  I guess I’m just an “equal opportunity” rather than an “equal outcome” kind of guy.

I’m sure the Orpheum was well intentioned, and  decided to alter their design to accomodate women, but they over-shot.  For all I know, maybe they’ve decided their most important customers are women, and making them happy is the top priority.

In any case, Avenue Q was phenomenal.

Dr. Sharon Nash, Ph.D. Blogs About LinkedIn

It sounds so much more official that way… much better than, “My mom posted on the LinkedIn blog today…”

Either version is true – today’s post on the LinkedIn corporate blog is from my mother, Dr. Sharon Nash, Ph.D. After my initial post on the corporate blog, I was surprised at how many people sent in comments about the fact that my mother was on LinkedIn. Since she is a relatively new user to the site, and a professional expert on relationships and people, we thought it would be an interesting user story to tell.

Considering that it is her first blog post ever, I think she did quite well. In fact, I think the bigger dilemma for her was picking the right picture to use. 🙂

The fact that my mother has enjoyed LinkedIn so much that she has recommended it to over 85 (and counting) colleagues and friends is incredibly validating. I spent four years at eBay trying to break her of the typical e-commerce habit, and never succeeded. Not even eBay Express, I’m afraid.

I’ve become increasingly convinced that the opportunity for LinkedIn goes far beyond the site as it stands today. There is a very real human interest in connecting with your trusted colleagues and friends in a professional environment. We have only scratched the surface of the interesting and useful applications for professionals built over this platform. Right now, most software and web applications are still based around a model that assumes that data & information are the basis for getting things done. However, in the real world, most problems are solved by referral and advice from the people that you trust & respect. LinkedIn enables exactly that type of model, and that makes me incredibly optimistic about the future for the site and the platform.

Or if you don’t believe me, ask my Mom. 🙂

Father’s Day 2007

June 17, 2007.  My third Father’s Day… well, as a father at least.

For this post, I thought I’d just put up some pictures to reflect on.  I’m very lucky.  I have two wonderful boys, and my father & grandfather both live nearby.   Very lucky, indeed.

Here are some recent shots of me with Jacob & Joseph (May 2007):

 

Here are some shots of my Dad with his grandsons, Jacob & Joseph:

 

Here is a picture of my Grandfather, with his great-grandsons, Jacob & Joseph:

 

And here are some nostalgia moments, pictures from Father’s Day 2005 & 2006:

  

So Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there, and a special thank you to Carolyn & my boys for making this my day also.

Fun With a Two Year Old

Being the parent of a two year old is a lot of fun. Jacob is extremely cute, and now that he has started talking, I find all sorts of simple pleasures in what he decides to say.

For example, my son is likely one of very few two year olds to clearly articulate when he wants to play Nintendo Wii, as he will say “Wii” and then run to the drawer where the Wii-motes are kept.

Jacob also is a huge fan of “Apple TV”, and will say so and then run to the bedroom waiting for us to play one of his favorite movies. We have about half of his favorites ripped to iTunes now, and he knows it.

Besides, it turns out that “Apple TV” is the combination of two things Jacob already knew how to say. “Apple” is his favorite snack and juice, and “TV” is unfortunately also a favorite of his.

Jacob’s vocabulary isn’t huge yet, although he does suprise us with full sentences now and again. Two year olds often love to repeat the same word or phrase over and over again. As a result, I’ve made up my own little game where I make up a joke around the phrase Jacob is repeating, and then he says the punchline.

Example:

Jacob: “Apple Juice. Apple Juice. Apple Juice.”

Adam: “Jacob, what do you call Mac-users who go to synagogue?”

Jacob: “Apple Jews”

🙂

Two year olds are fun!

Mom My Ride & Minivans on eBay Motors 2.0

eBay has been testing their new eBay Motors site in the past few weeks.  However, what many people might not have noticed is that Carolyn & the boys are the picture-perfect representatives of the new Minivan page:

Now, since I’ve taken a lot of flack in some circles about actually owning a minivan, Carolyn forwarded me this great spoof video on Youtube called “Mom My Ride”.

I’m posting it here as just a little bit of love for my friends at eBay Motors.

Enjoy.

Sometimes the Best Birthday Presents are Late

My brother loves me.

How else could you explain the lovely birthday present that he gave me yesterday?

appletv.jpg

I’ve placed my order already to the Apple Store for:

  • Airport Extreme Wireless Hub (802.11N)
  • HDMI to DVI cable
  • DVI to RCA Video cable

The last two are essential because the AppleTV does not ship with any cables to connect the device to your TV.  Even if it did, the TV I’m going to hook up first is the one in the “playroom” for Jacob, which doesn’t have HDMI or Component inputs.  It’s a *gasp* regular, analog television.

There are some exciting hacks already online on how to put a larger hard drive into the AppleTV, install a terminal server, and add support for other codecs like XViD.

I’m obviously very excited to get it up and running.  So…

Thank you, Daniel.  I love you, too.

Replace Sanjaya with Jacob (American Idol, Season 6)

Shri’s comment on my last post left me in despair.  How long will I be forced to sit through Sanjaya on this season of American Idol 6?

I have come up with a solution:  replace Sanjaya with Jacob.  Jacob loves American idol, and what can I say?  He has the talent and the personality to win.  He’s unique and memorable.  He’s got the whole package.

jacob_ai.jpg

Remember to vote!

How I Spent My Birthday Weekend (2007)

This year was special, because the entire United States decided to celebrate a three day weekend in honor of my birthday. I thought I’d jot some notes for you on what I considered a really great birthday weekend:

Saturday

  • Woke up (8:00 am)
  • Had breakfast with Jacob
  • Watched Joseph
  • Helped give Newton & Darwin a bath (my specialty is drying the beagles as they go through “Beagle frenzy”)
  • Went to lunch in Los Altos at Tour Eiffel with Carolyn & Jacob & Joseph (Vietnamese Pho)
  • Took Jacob to get his haircut
  • Got coffee with my Mom
  • Listed about 8 items for sale on eBay
  • Ate dinner with my parents
  • Put Jacob to bed

Sunday

  • Woke up (8:00 am)
  • Had breakfast with Jacob
  • Read the NY Times Sunday Business & Week in Review
  • Went to lunch at On The Border in Milpitas with Carolyn (Jacob & Joseph napped the entire time!)
  • Spent a couple hours online
  • Went to my parents house for dinner with my brother & sister, parents, and grandparents.
  • Blew out birthday candles & opened presents
  • Went home late! Put the kids to bed.

Monday

  • Woke up (8:00 am)
  • Had breakfast with Jacob
  • Watched the two boys alone for an hour or two.
  • Watched the first two hours of 24
  • Went to lunch at Chili’s
  • Went to Costco
  • Set up my new GPS unit for my car
  • Went out to a movie, Children of Men, with Carolyn (alone!)
  • Came home, ate dinner.
  • Put Jacob to bed
  • Packed & Shipped the 12 successful items that closed on eBay over the weekend
  • Blogging

My time with Jacob & Joseph is so precious. They are growing so fast. This weekend was filled with so many great and simple moments with them. Even a trip to Costco is fun when you’ve got Jacob in the front of the cart, and you’re racing down the ramp. I’m not sure how it could have been better.

And that’s how I celebrated the big 100000 (binary), or the big 20 (hex).

Social Networking for Dogs

I’m not sure why Newton & Darwin are so popular, but they are.

At least, they are on Dogster. Some days, I feel like all I am doing is accepting “Pup Pal” requests from other dogs, mostly beagles, for my giant beagles. I say giant because although they are papered 13″ Beagles, they have somehow ended up on the large side. Well, if you consider 17″ and 50+ pounds large.

I had read that Dogster had become a fairly popular site, with good revenue from ads. But I had no idea how many people find it entertaining to “connect” their puppy with other dogs.

In any case, if you have dogs, and you want to connect with Newton & Darwin, here is your chance.

newtonbadge2.png

darwinbadge2.png

For Anneliese: Puppies & Babies

I received a comment on my end-of-the-year post from an old co-worker, Anneliese.  She included a link to her blog, which I really don’t understand.  🙂

However, she said for a personal blog, I’m not including enough “Baby & Puppy” pictures.   Which is fair since I’ve posted at least two posts about my tomatoes from my garden, but no puppies.

Well, here’s a teaser picture.  A great image, captured by the famous Eric Cheng, of my son Jacob (2) and my first Beagle Newton (4).

Enjoy.

Picking the best 529 College Savings Plan

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our second son eleven days ago. Believe it or not, my mind has already turned to the topic of college savings for our children, and I thought I’d share my research to date on the subject.

If you are not familar with 529 plans, you can think of them as 401k plans, but for college savings. They are an outgrowth of the original state-based, pre-paid tuition plans, which have since been adapted to become generic savings vehicles for college with significant tax advantages. There are other vehicles available, but none offer the combination of significant savings limits, tax benefits, college financial aid benefits, and control that the 529 plans offer.

Almost every personal finance journal now does annual reviews of each state-based 529 plan. Here is a great one from Money magazine that reviews them state-by-state.

When choosing a 529 plan, it is worth keeping the following things in mind:

  1. You do not need to choose the plan from your state. This is really important, because some of the state plans are terrible, with high expenses and poor fund choices. The ability to pick any state plan is a really great option for investors – imagine if you could pick among not just your company’s 401k plan, but the 401k plan from any company!
  2. Check to see if your state offers you tax advantages. Some states allow you to deduct 529 contributions from your state taxes. I live in California, which despite having a sky-high income tax rate, does not let you deduct anything. This is important, however, because in states with tax benefits, it might be worth sticking with the in-state plan.
  3. You can open one for almost any family member. Most people think about college savings only for their children, but 529 plans can actually be opened for anyone under 30. The whole point is that the person who opens the plan controls the money, but it only has tax advantages if used towards the college education of a person under 30.
  4. You are not locked in! You can actually change dependents on a plan once a year, and change state plans once a year. Don’t let the complexity stop you from opening a plan as soon as possible. It is very easy to change. Interestingly, you can use this ability to open a plan for your unborn children! Just open a plan for someone else, and once your children are born, switch the plan to them. A great way to get more than 18 years of compounded interest towards saving for college.
  5. The sooner you start the better. In the past 20 years, college tuition rates have grown at a compounded rate of 8%. The only way you are going to keep up with that type of growth is to save early, save often, and use the high expected return of investments like stocks to meet your targets. Compounding works best the earlier you start. The money you contribute in years 0-4 is likely 2-4x more valuable than the money you contribute in years 14-18.
  6. Expense ratios matter! Expense ratios are your enemy. This is money that is taken out of your investments, regardless of your return. A difference of 0.5% might seem small, but on $10,000 that is a loss of $4377 over 18 years. That’s real money. 529 plans often charge fees three different ways: on the funds, on the plan, and for the fund management firm.
  7. Save big dollars like a 401K, but withdraw tax-free like a Roth IRA! 529 plans really are the best of both worlds. You can contribute up to $12,000 per year (with a special $60,000 if you want to bundle 5 years of contributions at once). But if you use the withdrawals for qualified education expenses, you will pay zero tax on the earnings. So this isn’t tax-deferred saving… this is truly tax-free saving on all gains in the account. More details on this site.
  8. Save for retirement first. You can borrow money for college, but you cannot borrow money for retirement. College savings plans should only be put in place once your retirement savings plan is in place.

More tips from Money magazine and SmartMoney magazine are available.

When my son Jacob was born two years ago, I decided to open a Nevada 529 plan through Vanguard. Vanguard is known for its history of running low cost index funds, and for its tireless advocacy for investor rights. Vanguard actually runs plans for 13 different states, but the Nevada plan is the one that is fully integrated with Vanguard, which is an added bonus if you have retirement accounts with Vanguard (I do).

The expense ratios for the Nevada plan are good – depending on the fund, anywhere from 0.6% – 0.8% total. They also have a wide selection of investment choices.

However, last year I was disappointed to find out that Utah has an even cheaper plan run by Vanguard, with expense ratios closer to 0.4%. Of course, Utah charges a $25/year fee for out-of-state investors, but still, I started to think about moving Jacob’s plan over.

Then, yesterday, I get this letter from Vanguard. Given their commitment to low fees, they have reduced the expense ratios on the Nevada plan to 0.5% – 0.7%, still with no annual fee.

This is why I love to do business with firms like Vanguard. Their entire marketing message and differentiation is low fees. Like a company that always raises dividends on their stock, I firmly believe Vanguard is always working to lower the prices of their investment alternatives. They are like Wal-Mart for saving.

So, I’m sticking with the Nevada plan, and I’ll be opening one up for Joseph just as soon as I get his Social Security number. If you are interested in researching plans, CNN Money has a great set of recommendations (Utah, Nevada & Michigan top their list).

Update (1/21/2007): I’ve posted a new article on how to take advantage of the ability to change beneficiaries for 529 plans. Check it out.

Personal Note: Jacob & Joseph

If you read the “About this blog…,” you’ll see that I promised that this was my personal blog. What that means is that readers need to expect to put up with a certain amount of the typical “baby pictures” and “book reviews” posts.

So far, I’ve been really good about this, but I’m about to write a post about picking college savings plans, and I realized I’ve never posted anything about my children. This is particularly problematic since my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our second son less than two weeks ago, on October 30.

So, without further ado, here are my top two priorities, in order of age:

Jacob with Pumpkin
Jacob Monroe Nash, with a pumpkin for Halloween

 

Joseph Isaac Nash
Joseph Isaac Nash, resting at one week old

Subscribe to my Blog via Email: FeedBlitz

A little over a year ago, Scott Kleper wrote a post about RSS Readers.  Without reproducing it here, the basic idea was that Scott doesn’t see the need for dedicated blog readers.  Instead, he prefers to use his rich email application to read his blogs.  In fact, he basically hacked together his own solution for translating all of his favorite blogs into regular email streams.

I myself still use My Yahoo to keep track of most of my blogs, although that is definitely having scaling issues.  However, now that I have my own blog, I’ve realized that most of my friends and family don’t have any sort of regular, blog-reading system.

Sure, if I send them an email, they’ll read my most recent posts.  But they have no daily process to “check up” on a blog, or to receive notification when a new post arrives.

To them, the web is still something you use when they want something.  They have nothing set up to receive a “push” from a site to let them know something interesting is available.

Well, I think I found a solution.  Feedblitz is a great little service that makes it easy for people to subscribe to an RSS feed, like a blog, via email.  It even allows the feed owner to customize the output in some very interesting ways.

I’ve set it up for this blog, and I hope that means that more of my friends and family who are not “blog savvy” will be able to read my posts.

I’ve added the link to my right column, but if you are interested, just click the following link to subscribe to this blog via email:

Click here to subscribe to Psychohistory via email

Let me know what you think.