House Hunt..the beginning

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Nesting?  My favorite sites and mobile apps for house hunting have been Redfin and Trulia.  Other popular sites are Zillow or Realtor.  I find Redfin generally is faster and more user friendly, providing headline stats like price, bed/bath count, days on redfin, $/sqft, yr built followed by detailed information.

Any agent can also set you up with a portal from theMLS, which is the multiple listing service brokers use to list houses.  In hot markets like Los Angeles, I keep in touch with brokers with the hopes they can alert me to off market properties, but word spreads fast.  If you are browsing, and don’t want to commit to an agent yet, Redfin is  enough.  The alerts setup is more visually  appealing than theMLS portals.  House hunting should be a little bit fun!  Any questions?

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All about love..John Legend’s UPenn Commencement Speech

Charted Waters is traveling, so apologies for the stark no picture post..today’s inspiration brought to you by..John Legend!

The following speech was delivered on May 19, 2014 during University of Pennsylvania’s commencement ceremonies.

Thank you. Thank you so much. Good morning. And congratulations!

Now I’ll try to be brief this morning. As a musician, this is about 10 hours before I normally go to work, so I’m gonna need a nap soon. And you’ve got degrees to receive.

And I also have a feeling some of you are already tired of me. The thing about pop radio in America, somehow they’ve scientifically determined that the public is only capable of liking the same 10 songs at any given time, so they simply play those songs over and over and over until you’re finally completely exasperated. Then they move on…

I’ve had a 10-year career as a solo artist and none of my songs has ever been one of those 10 songs. Until this moment. And now “all of you, are so over me, you’re tired of hearing that I went to Penn. Why’d they bring him back again?” (sung to the tune of “All of Me” chorus)

That was my humblebrag way of saying I have the biggest song in the country. Very artful, wouldn’t you say?

But, honestly, I am truly humbled and honored and grateful to be here at the commencement of one of the finest universities on the planet. I first visited this campus as a high school senior named John Stephens in 1995 — 19 years ago — and I would have never thought at that moment that I would be standing here as John Legend, speaking to you today.

The reason I’m here, the reason I’ve had such a wonderful journey so far, is that I’ve found love. Yes, love. We were all made to love. And I’ve found that we live our best lives, we are at our most successful, not simply because we’re smarter than everyone else, or because we hustle harder. Not because we become millionaires more quickly. The key to success, the key to happiness, is opening your mind and your heart to love. Spending your time doing things you love and with people you love.

My life could have gone differently though. At first, I had a pretty good childhood. I grew up in a small blue-collar city called Springfield, Ohio. I was surrounded by family, including 2 loving parents who cared so much about our education that they home-schooled us for several years during grade school. And they took the time to teach us more than academics. They taught us about character, about what it meant to live a good life.

My father often talked to us about his definition of success. He told us that it wasn’t measured in money and material things, but it was measured in love and joy and the lives you’re able to touch — the lives you’re able to help. And my parents walked the walk. They gave of themselves to our church. They took in foster kids and helped the homeless, even though we didn’t have much money ourselves.

Growing up in the Stephens house also meant you were immersed in art and music and encouraged to be creative. We had a piano and a drum kit in the house. I begged to take piano lessons when I was 4. I started singing in the church choir and in school plays by the time I was 7. So I fell in love with music at a very young age.

My family was like a model family in our church and local community. My parents were leaders, raising intelligent, talented kids in a loving environment. We even had a little singing group called the “Stephens 5.”

But things started to fall apart when I was 10. My maternal grandmother passed away that year when she was only 58 years old, and her death devastated my family. She was our church organist, and on Sundays after church, I would go to her house just to hang out with her. She would make chicken and collard greens and corn bread. And she would teach me how to play gospel piano. She was one of my favorite people on the planet.

She and my mother were also very close, and her death sent my mother into a deep depression that eventually tore our family apart. My world was shattered. My parents got divorced. My mother disappeared into over a decade of drugs and despair. And I was confused and disoriented.

After the initial shock of my family breaking apart, my outward response wasn’t very emotional. I coped by being stoic and seemingly unaffected. I thought if I didn’t expose myself to any more pain and vulnerability, I could never get hurt. If I didn’t fall in love, no one could ever betray me like that again.

I busied myself with school work and lots of activities, and tried not to think too much about my family situation, tried to avoid pain whenever possible. A big reason I only applied to colleges on the east coast was to make sure I had no reminders of home in my daily life.

The only thing I allowed myself to really love without reservation was music. I put all of my passion into it. I spent so much of my spare time working on it, that I barely got any sleep. At night, I was doing community choir, show choir and musicals in high school; a cappella and a church choir in college. I wrote my own songs. Played in talent shows. I put a lot of energy into becoming a better artist, a better writer and a better performer. And in some ways, it made me a better student and a better leader. Because when you actually care about something, you want to lead. Apathy’s not so cool any more.

When I graduated from Penn, I had many of the traditional opportunities in front of you now, and I took a job at the Boston Consulting Group. But I couldn’t shake my passion for music. I had followed the path that the Penn graduate was supposed to take, but I didn’t fall in love. I immediately started thinking about how I could leave BCG and become a full-time musician. I spent hours during the day preparing powerpoint presentations and financial models. And I spent almost as many hours at night writing songs and performing at small gigs around New York and Philadelphia.

I always believed that my big break would come sooner rather than later. In fact, from 1998, while I was still at Penn, to early 2004, I spent each of those years always thinking that I would get that big record deal within the next few months. I always thought my moment was just around the corner. But I was rejected by all the major labels; some of them rejected me multiple times. I played for all the giants of the business — Clive Davis, L.A. Reid, Jimmy Iovine, you name it. And all of them turned me down.

But I did find a young producer from Chicago named Kanye West who believed in me. Kanye happened to be the cousin of my good friend DeVon Harris, a classmate and roommate of mine here at Penn. DeVon introduced me to Kanye in 2001, and we’ve been working together ever since. Our collaboration has been a huge part of my career, and it had a lot to do with me finally getting a major recording contract in 2004.

Now, Kanye and I have very different personalities, as you might have guessed. But what unites us is our true love for music and art. We love to create, and at no point in our creative process do we stress about what will sell or what’s already popular. We think about making something beautiful, something special, something we can be proud of. We truly do this because we love it. We put all of ourselves into it.

And it turns out that love requires that level of commitment from you. Half-doing it is not doing it right. You have to go all in. And yes, your personal relationships require that too.

I know what it’s like to be all ego in your 20s. I know what it’s like to be selfish and just focus on your immediate wants and desires. I know what it’s like to protect your heart from pain and disappointment. I know what it means to be all about the rat race and winning.

But years from now, when you look back on your time here on earth, your life and your happiness will be way more defined by the quality of your relationships, not the quantity. You’ll get much more joy out of depth, not breadth. It’s about finding and keeping the best relationships possible with the people around you. It’s about immersing yourself in your friendships and your family. It’s about being there for the people you care about, and knowing that they’ll be there for you.

I know. It’s not easy to go all in on love. I’m 35 and I’m married and I’m still learning how to do this completely. But I’ve found someone who makes me want to try, someone who makes me want to take that risk. And it’s made all the difference.

Now, I’ve already talked about the power of love in your work and your personal lives. But I also want to talk about how love changes the world. There are 7 billion other people out there. 7 billion strangers. I want you to consider what it means to love them too. What does it mean to love people we don’t know, to see the value in every single person’s life?

Think about that. It’s a pretty radical notion. It means your daughter or son, your neighbor’s daughter or son and the daughters and sons of people who live thousands of miles away, all deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It means we let go of fear and see each other’s humanity. It means we don’t see Trayvon Martin as a walking stereotype, a weaponized human. We see him as a boy who deserves the chance to grow into a man, even if he makes boyish mistakes along the way. It means American lives don’t count more than Iraqi lives. It means we see a young Palestinian kid not as a future security threat or demographic challenge, but as a future father, mother and lover. It means that the nearly 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria aren’t just their problem. They’re “our” girls too. It’s actually quite a challenge to love humankind in this way.

Professor Cornel West gives us a word for what this kind of love looks like in public. That word is justice.

If you’re committed to loving in public, it requires you opening your eyes to injustice, to see the world through the eyes of another. This is not a passive activity. You have to read. You have to travel to other neighborhoods, other parts of the world. You may have to get your hands dirty. You have to allow people to love you, and you have to love them back

My team and I met a young girl named Rose from a small, impoverished village in Ghana. When you’re working with development organizations and visiting the communities they work in, you’re not really supposed to single out one child to fall in love with. You’re supposed to stick to the program and focus on the interventions that lift the community as a whole. But we couldn’t help it. We fell in love with Rose. Something about the spark in her eyes and her indomitable spirit made us want to go the extra mile to help her. So we decided to use our own funds to sponsor her tuition to secondary school.

We’ve stayed in touch with her over the past 7 years, and we’re so proud of what she’s done individually. But we’re also happy that she inspired us to formalize and expand our scholarship program to many girls in communities like hers throughout Africa, communities where the parents often invest in the boys’ secondary education, but don’t do the same for the girls.

In my travels around the world, I’ve looked in the eyes of many young girls and boys from Africa to Southeast Asia to Harlem, kids who had big dreams and needed someone to believe in them and invest in their future, in their education.

What would our schools look like if we were committed to love in public? If we cared about every kid in our school system, we would make sure they didn’t go to school hungry. We would make sure they had proper health care and counseling. We would make sure they had excellent teachers in every classroom. We would make sure we weren’t unfairly suspending them and criminalizing them for minor behavioral problems. We’d make sure all of them had the resources they need.

Every religion has this idea of philanthropy, love for mankind, at its core. But you shouldn’t do this just to make sure you get into the “pearly gates.” Look at the work of Marty Seligman here at Penn, who has literally written the book on happiness. Look at the work of Adam Grant, whom I hear is the most highly rated professor here: He has the data to show that giving works. There’s an increasing body of research and knowledge that tells us that living a life of love and compassion is the true path to success and contentment.

So what’s going to stop you? What’s going to stand in your way? What’s going to keep you from achieving your success? What will prevent you from going all in on love?

We’re taught when we’re young that the opposite of love is hate. But it’s not. Hate is a byproduct. Hate is a result. Being a hater isn’t cool. Nobody wants that. But hate comes from one thing: fear. And fear is the opposite of love. It’s not a coincidence that when we talk about bigotry, we often talk in terms of fear: homophobia, xenophobia. Fear is what blinds us. Fear is corrosive. Fear makes us hold back. It whispers to us, tells us that we’ll fail. It tells us that our differences are too much to overcome. Fear locks us in place. It starts fights. It causes wars.

And fear keeps us from loving. Even though we’re made to love, we’re often afraid to love. We’re afraid of being hurt deeply. Afraid of feeling the pain I went through when my parents divorced. But you’re never going to really love something or someone unless you put those fears aside. Don’t hold back. Being in love means being ready to give freely and openly, and being ready to risk something. Risking pain and disappointment, conquering your fears, and becoming anew.

Alice Walker once said, “The more I wonder, the more I love.” Love calls you to open your eyes, to seek, to search, to wonder.

Love is all-consuming — it infiltrates your body, it’s what allows you to experience bliss, joy and true friendship. You’ll be more disappointed when something goes wrong. You might fall harder. But the only way you’ll reach any height in life and in love is by taking the chance that you might fall.

You have to give your all.

Yes, I’ve been not-so-subtly working in my song lyrics. And some might think it’s all a bit too much. Here I am, this R&B singer with an album called Love in the Future, who’s recently married and wrote the biggest love song of the year, and what did I choose to talk about? Love. It’s so corny, isn’t it. It’s much cooler to be detached and apathetic, right? We all like a little snark and cynicism and irony, especially from our favorite artists and comedians and writers. I get it.

But that cool detachment only gets you so far. Passion gets you a lot further. It makes you a better entrepreneur, a better leader, a better philanthropist, a better friend, a better lover.

I want you to live the best life you can. You can be world-changers. When you leave here today, you’re going to be looking for a lot of things: security, money, friendships, sex, all kinds of things. But the most important thing you’ll find is love.

So love your self, love your work, love the people around you. Dare to love those who are different from you, no matter where they’re from, what they look like, and who they love. Pursue this life of love with focus and passion and ambition and courage. Give it your all. And that will be your path to true success.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014 and thank you so much!

 

Meals By Genet

Rating:2/5

Headline :too spicy for my personal preferencegenet

What: 
Veggie combo-the waiter recommended  we order a protein dish and a veggie combo because it came with all the veggie sides.  There were sides like lentils, salad, carrots,beets, puréed veggies, etc.  I didn’t realize that half of the veggie items were spicy.   
Dorowot-spicy chicken
Injera-spongy bread that comes with the meal

Ethiopian food is analogous to Indian food for me..both cuisines use their hands to eat and dip bread into spiced curries or purees.  This meal put my mouth on fire, so unfortunately I can’t rate my experience higher.  I’ve also been to a few other Ethiopian restaurants in little Ethiopia that are more cheaply priced and tasted very good.  This was on Jonathan Gold’s (Pulitzer prize winning food critic) top 100 list so there was probably a premium.

Service :Very attentive..4 different people waited on us within the first 10 mins.   The chef/owner also came out to greet everyone, which was nice.

Parking: Free in the lot behind the restaurant.  It’s tight but there should be enough space.  You have to enter from the alley behind 7-11 or Carls Jr

 

Shows in China

I once sat in a Seaworld show (I never saw The Cove sorry) and smirked to myself at all the Chinese acrobats there were.  The entire troupe was Asian. Even Cirque du Soleil shows I’ve seen have had solid Asian contingents.  I supposed out of a billion people the odds for finding lithe aerodynamic performers are pretty high.  Oh that and the state sponsored training system.
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“Impression West Lake”-Hangzhou show on Westlake
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“Impression West Lake”
Famous shows in China?
In China, shows are a major crowd pleaser.  Zhang Yimou, renouned Chinese filmmaker who directed the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has marquee shows in Guilin and Hangzhou integrated into the natural scenery.  With a flourish of laser lighting and acrobatics, he brings to life a performance that costs a month’s wages for the working class .  The official opinion from friends who’ve seen both performances is that the Guilin show is much better.  I didn’t find the Hangzhou show to be as interesting as shows I’ve seen elsewhere in China.  In fact I’d skip Hangzhou unless you are dying to witness the hype.  The crowd is also very loud and rude, quite willing to conduct loud cell phone conversations during the show.
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Hongcun: A Ju
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Hongcun: A Ju

 

Favorite Shows?

My favorites were the shows nearby Huangshan(Yellow Mountain) in the Anhui province.  “Hongcun: A Ju” stood out in particular, chronicling the story of an Anhui village and set on a lake .   It’s an excellent mix of cultural and acrobatic entertainment.

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Show in Tunxi, China
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if you’re indoors, they will bring the outdoors to you

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Scaling Sri Pada(Adam’s Peak)

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along the drive from Sri Pada

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in a few amazing cities (Philadelphia, NY, LA, HK, Singapore), but when I’m traveling, I’m blown away by natural beauty.  Sri Lanka is one of those unmistakably awe-inspiring countries.  Its lush, untouched lands have appropriately earned it Garden of Eden references.

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that tip is Sri Pada-taken on the way down
Why is it called Sri Pada/Adam’s peak?
This 2,243 m (7,359 ft) mountain has the distinction of being a holy site for Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Islamics.  Sri Pada means “sacred footprint” in Sinhalese (native language of the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka).  The footprint shaped mark at the summit is claimed by each respective religion to be the footprint of Buddha, Hindu god Shiva,  St. Thomas, and Adam.  Islamics and Christians say this was the first spot Adam set foot on Earth after getting kicked out from paradise, which is why the mountain is called Adam’s Peak.
How bout that footprint?
The elements have probably taken its toll on the footprint, so it’s enshrined in a small temple at the top.  After waiting in line to see the footprint, I stared at the area for awhile, baffled, but honestly couldn’t tell what anything was supposed to be.  My husband thought the footprint itself was actually covered.  Online research indicates  “the real footprint is believed to be set in jewels beneath the visible rock.”  Don’t go up expecting to see the footprint, but do climb the mountain for the views.
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view from the summit
2013-03-07 06.57.28What’s the hike like?2013-03-07 07.05.53
Since it’s a religious site, there is a constant flow of devotees making pilgrimages.   Weekends/holidays apparently get the most crowded.  We went on a weekday in March and it wasn’t teeming  with people.  The shortest route is the Hatton route beginning in Dalhousie.  Once you arrive, there are no shortcuts for the 5200 steps, but they are well paved, surrounded by safe railings, and during pilgrimage season the mountain is well lit.  Hiking takes anywhere from 2.5-4 hrs.   We started walking up the steps at 3am so that we wouldn’t miss anything.  Relatively active people can finish the hike in under 2.5hrs.  It gets cold at the top while waiting for the sunrise, so bring a warm layer.
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waiting for sunrise

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What will I see?
Travelers climb at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise and the triangle of Sri Pada, a shadow of the mountain imprinted on the clouds, only the 2nd place in the world where this phenomenon occurs.
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Triangle of Sri Pada

Zucchini Chips

Oven baked zucchini chips, delicious for an appetizer or snack.

Prep time: 30 mins (I’m slow) Cook time: 30 mins

Image

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (panko or even crumbled crackers work)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (unnecessary if your bread crumbs are salted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices zucchini (about 2 small)
  • Oil/Cooking spray

Preparation

1) Cut the zucchini into 1/4″ inch thick slices (for speed, slice in a food processor.  Place in strainer and salt heavily.  Let stand for 30 mins.  Then rinse salt off and pat dry with paper towels.  Cucumbers are 90% water – this takes some of that out so your chips are crispier!  I haven’t tried skipping this step yet, but it could be optional if short on time.

2)Preheat oven to 425° F.  Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl and mix.  Whisk egg in shallow bowl.

3) Dip zucchini slices in egg, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture (coat at least a thin layer on the each side)

4)Prepare baking sheet with cooking spray or oil.  (I typically use a baking pan with aluminum foil and brush olive oil on) The oil ensures the slices don’t stick so make sure there’s an even coat.

5)Place coated zucchini slices on sheet and bake at 425° F for 30 mins or until browned and crisp.  Serve immediately.

This recipe makes zucchini a bit less boring.  The parmesan and crispy texture come together to make this snack a household favorite.

*recipe modified from recipe.com