Thursday, April 27, 2006

Personal Update

So, the temporal coincidence with Jane Jacobs is that just today (actually, Wednesday) I finished taking my comprehensive written exams for my Master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona, and one of the essays I had to write this morning was based largely on interpreting Jacobs's Cities and the Wealth of Nations. This degree is something I've been working on since 2002, and assuming I passed all of my exams, this means I'm about 99.9% finished with my degree, with just a short oral follow-up to my written exams in a few weeks to complete the requirements.

The way the comp exams work is that Monday and Wednesday of this week we had both morning and afternoon sessions. Each session involves three hours of typing away like mad to answer essay prompts based on the core classes of the program, in a small, stuffy computer room with 13 other students doing the same thing. Since January we've had weekly meetings for study and review, and the questions were all open-book and open-note. So by and large we all knew pretty much what to expect, but still, it's a fairly tight schedule for organizing one's thoughts for an average of two essays per session, each of which have to make coherent arguments backed up by the literature. We have to get a passing grade on each section; I'm pretty confident that I did a pretty good job, except for one of the essays in which I think I really had to stretch to make my points, but from talking with the other students, it seems just about everybody was thrown for a loop by that prompt. So I feel pretty good, but I'll feel better when I found out that I passed.

If that weren't enough, this coming Sunday is my wedding day! Needless to say, there has been a ton of preparation going into this... I don't want to begin trying to calculate the man-hours involved in this thing. Not to mention the trouble of trying to please as many people as possible while keeping within a budget, trying to maintain sanity and prevent family feuds, etc. I'm sure everything will go great, but if I had known all of these headaches at the beginning, a quickie package in Las Vegas would have been awfully tempting. My one piece of advice is to make sure that the two families and/or the couple themselves clearly establish and agree upon an arrangement of who is going to pay how much for what as early in the process as possible, and to keep the lines of communication open between the various parties involved as early as possible.

One unexpected side effect of all of this is that over the course of the last year I've bought or been involved with the purchase of one diamond, three rings, and one pearl necklace. My knowledge of jewelry and the jewelry-buying process has now reached a level far beyond what it was at the beginning of last year. All the same, I still would not be able to pick out a good pair of earrings for my wife.


At Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 5:50:00 AM PDT, Blogger xradiographer said...

Congrats on all fronts, Adam! I must not be paying attention....

At Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 9:19:00 AM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Thanks! It's stressful, but it all seems to be coming together.

At Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 11:23:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the best, Adam. I am confident that you will sail through both the exams and the wedding with grace and finesse. Look forward to raising my glass to you and J this Sunday.
This is indeed a time to celebrate!

At Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 6:56:00 PM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

Rita Rudner says that "men with earrings are ideal marriage material. They've felt pain and bought jewelry."

At Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 9:08:00 PM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

Also, what's the idea with a Sunday wedding. Weddings are supposed to be Saturday; Sunday is the day of rest.

At Friday, April 28, 2006 at 3:19:00 AM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Since Saturdays are the most popular days for weddings, venues have more Sundays available for weddings, they charge you less money, and they have lower minimums. Also it will be in the evening, so think of it as a Monday vigil.

At Friday, April 28, 2006 at 5:42:00 PM PDT, Anonymous clynne said...

Awesome, you can explain to my husband that buying jewelry isn't that hard.

At Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 3:49:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Well, the really nice stuff ("fine jewelry") is easier to buy than the everyday stuff ("fashion jewelry"), because they generally stick to the classic, simple designs, and you can just work from there or a description.

With "fashion jewelry," you actually have to make more of an aesthetic judgement.

For buying a diamond ring, though, here's what I would recommend:

1. Look on to get a brief primer on how diamonds work.

2. Go to a Robbins Bros. and have one of their salesmen hold your hand through the process of selecting one; they will tell you what to look for, etc. Let them know that you're still deciding at that point. They have a very complete selection and are very instructive in telling you what to look for, but their prices are significantly higher than what you can get in the Jewelry District.

3. Now that you know more about what you're doing, go to the jewelry district downtown. There are many places, many stalls, etc. By this point you should have a good idea of what you're looking for. If a place does not have what you're looking for, don't waste your time hanging around while they try to push jewelry on you that you don't want. There are lots of different stalls, and keep moving until you find one that has what you're looking for.

Talk to the people there and find out how much they will sell you what you want for. Thank them, have them write down the quote on their business card, and move on. Try to get quotes from 3-5 places on rings that you like, maybe use the quotes to bargain off of each other, etc., and make your decision. You should be able to get stuff at a significant discount from what they offered you at Robbins. Bros.

This whole thing is an exercise in trying to bargain, resist salesmanship, etc. If somebody rubs you the wrong way, move on; there are lots of different vendors and many of them are friendly and helpful, so don't bother with jerks.

4. For the diamond itself, basically follow the above pattern, but a couple of notes. 1) It will really help if you can find someone who will take the time to show you a bunch of different diamonds to educate you on how the "four Cs" that you read about on Blue Nile look in real life. You will be able to narrow down your selection more easily and get an idea of what the prices are like. 2) You can buy your diamond in a different place from the ring, and the ring people will be happy to put them together for you. I ended up eventually buying my diamond from Blue Nile and getting the ring at a place called Jewels By Joe in the International Jewelry Center, the big modern building at 550 S. Hill across from Pershing Square. I think it was marginally less expensive than downtown, but it was the same ballpark. Jewels By Joe did a custom design for us, combining a mounting we saw on one ring with the actual ring part of another, in platinum. For our wedding rings, we went with Lena Odesho, who has a stall called Eternal Diamonds in the building at the southeast corner of Hill and 6th. She was friendly and helpful and got us a good price.

5. For pearls (we got a strand for Jen's mom), find a place that specializes in pearls. We found Ikeda pearls in the IJC. The lady there spent something like 90 minutes with Jen and me demonstrating all sorts of differences between pearls.

It's kind of like looking for diamonds, but the differences are not as precise but are more obvious to the naked eye. You are looking for size, lustre, color, shape/roundness/evenness, flawlessness. Like with diamonds, selecting pearls is a matter of balancing these characteristics with your budget.

I have to say that the difference between average diamonds and pearls and the really nice ones are more evident to me now than the differences between a $10 bottle of wine and a much more expensive one are. So if you're going to pay that much for a tiny bauble, it feels good to know that the premium you pay for a high-quality bauble is evident from looking at it.

At Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 3:38:00 PM PDT, Anonymous missy said...

Happy wedding day! And congratulations all around.

At Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 9:44:00 PM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

(Victor blows TAPS) ...

At Thursday, May 4, 2006 at 7:54:00 PM PDT, Blogger Donna B. said...

Congratulations! Here's hoping you're still honeymooning. And please wrap all those jewelry tips into a nice archivable PDF and send it to all the husbands of your acquaintance, or better yet all the wives, so when this blog bubble bursts and Blogger goes down like a wilted kite in the Doldrums we'll never have to be without a diamond guide.

Oh wait, do we have to go to L.A. or something to use these tips? Dammit.

At Saturday, May 6, 2006 at 3:58:00 AM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

And please wrap all those jewelry tips into a nice archivable PDF and send it to all the husbands of your acquaintance, or better yet all the wives

Villani ... you have betrayed the entire male sex.

May your land be infertile and your plough useless.


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