Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
1. Calculator Watches
2. Andy from WKRP
3. Walking with a limp
4. Post-apocalyptic Survival
5. Staying up all night
And 5 things I thought were super cool as a kid, which are still super cool:
1. Ben Saari
4. Jonny Fever from WKRP
Monday, October 30, 2006
I've seen it in person, and it is brilliant.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
As a reminder my email is: (what I say to my dog when he's running around the house) AT gmail.com, or
That is all.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
The Wrens: Everyone Chooses Sides (I cannot get this song out of my head...I'm singing it right now *while* i'm listening to another song, it's freaking musical super-glue)
31 Knots: Chain Reaction
Saturday Looks Good To Me: Meet Me by the Water
I'm sure more will pop out...
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I just got back from my meeting with a mortgage broker, and the news was mixed (which is exactly what I expected). Basically, with my assets, and credit score, I was only eligable for a $270,00 loan (which won't buy much in this area), but with a little work I could make myself into a much more attractive Lendee for the banks. He outlined 4 steps which would put me in a good position a year from now.
1. Pay off your back taxes
2. Clean up the student loan listings on my credit report
3. either pay down my (small) credit card or get a bigger limit, in order to reduce my balance to under 50% of the limit.
4. Get another, larger credit card.
Yes, I know this stuff is obvious, but talking to a professional who could also prioritize what steps to take made all the difference in the world.
The other good information I picked up was the 'ballpark' figures I would dealing with on a loan for $480,000 (which is right about what we are looking at for a quasi-decent 3 bedroom in Santa Rosa). One thing that has had me flummoxed was the online mortgage calculators that talk about $3300 monthy payments on a loan about that size. I simply can't afford that kind of money. But, he pointed out, you can write off a large portion of those payments (which I knew), and what you should do is talk to a tax accountant and have them revise your W4 to take that into account. Then end result is that instead of getting a fat check from the IRS at the end of the year, you break even, but your take home pay is much bigger throughout the year.
He said that a $3300 mortgage payment (once the W4 has been adjusted) is akin to a $2300 rent payment (note, my figures are even more ballpark than his, because I don't have my notes in front of me, but you get the idea). Now I *could* afford a $2300 rent payment so it does look like it will be possible, at some point, to buy a house. Phew! Waiting may be good as house prices are likely to come down a little more over the next few months. I just hope I will be in a good position to buy before prices and interest rates rise again.
Now comes the hard work: Saving (you've got to squeeze every penny!), paying off debt, and being patient.
PS. Given that it will be awhile before we're ready, I suppose I can divulge which house we are currently in love with as it will be sold long before we are ready to buy. I think it's a great, great buy. It's certainly the nicest thing we've seen anywhere near the price. The bad news? It'll need a new roof within the next 5-10 years.
This weeks House we'd buy if we could
Clark Rosen, Realtor: http://www.clarkrosen.com/
Brent Blaustein, Mortgage Broker: http://loans.princetoncap.com/brentblaustein/
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Friday, July 21, 2006
And the transformation happened so quickly. Just two Sunday afternoons driving around looking for open houses. Sigh.
Yesterday we rose to the next level. I spoke to a realtor. Clark Rosen. He's my friend's dad, and in one conversation I knew he was the guy I'd like to work with. Not even to mention the past history we share, and the general 'good, honest, stand up guy' qualities I know he has in spades, but his friendly, knowledgable, cheerful demenor. I never felt like he was applying to be my realtor (which was a first from all the other realtors I've met over the past two Sundays).
Today we actually made an appointment to see a house. Luckily it was not *the one*. It was one of the first three bedrooms in our price range that wasn't a condo. On the other hand it was a bit too much of a fixer upper. It had all the classic styling faux pas. Astroturf on the front steps, wood paneling, and that lovely 70's two-layer shag carpet. The yard was red lava rock in the front, and dead and sunbaked in the back. It had originally been a 1920's cute bungalow with a full width porch, but the late 60's remodel had undone most of the great details you normally find in such a place. In order to update it to something I'd like to come home to would require a complete, stem-to-stern interior remodeling.
And all that for only $500,000. Ah Bay Area real estate.
Now the realtor who was showing us the 'diamond in the rough' knew of another house being sold by it's owner nearby that was the same price but was 'ready to go' in his words. And, almost unbelievably, he was exactly right. It was perfect. 3 bedrooms, hard wood floors (freshly refinished!), new paint all around (good colors), nice, if unedible landscaping, fire place, great kitchen with a classic wedgewood stove, garage with painted/sealed concrete floors, the list goes on and on. Meredith was practically beside herself with house-desire. If we had been in a position to make an offer she would've signed any paper necessary. It would've been a done deal.
By the time we get our collective financial house in order, I'm willing to bet that this particular gem will be gone. Anybody who's looking in that price range will immediately see what a good buy this place is. Which, in true house-buying-twit fasion, is why I won't tell anybody where it is.
Just in case.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
The thing of it is, that I know very little about buying a house, other than there's a lot to know.
Many of my friends now own houses (even Chairmen Ben!) and their advice is all over the map, from "if I'd known how easy it was, I would've bought much sooner" to "it's the most nerve-wracking thing ever."
Now there are some hurdles to get over, not limited to house prices in the North Bay, to my credit not being as stellar as I could hope. But I think it's possible, and with the market cooling down a bit, probably a good time to start looking.
Of course the problem with looking is finding something that you love before you are in a position to buy. Like this one. But that's bound to happen.
Ideally we'd like to find a house in our current neighborhood (cheap and cheerful!) with a decent sized lot. But frankly almost anything with a decent roof and a good foundation and garden potential will have our interest.
I keep dreaming of landscaping and a garage with a concrete floor (something I've not had the pleasure of since I was 18). The house in the above link, already has us envisioning how we'd remodel it, and what we'd do with the yard. But that's putting the cart before the horse.
In reality I'd like to buy into something in the next two years. That would give me some time to clean up my credit, get together some semblence of a down payment and school myself on all the ins and outs of real estate.
Friday, July 14, 2006
And as my life is increasingly involved on-line (calendars, to-do lists, reference materials, shopping, etc) I've started doing some serious thinking about how vulnerable much of that data is. Granted, with most things I have little control over 'my' data held in banking computers, or goverment laptops (SSU comprimised thousands of it's students SSNs last year), I do have some control over some things. My email is one of them, and it's probably the least secure method of communication I have. Encryption is a toddle, and on a philisophical level I feel it's critical that everyone becomes aware of the issue, and starts using encryption.
It's not that I feel that my forwarded funny cat videos from youtube are critical to keep secret, and I'm smarter than to put anything important like SSNs or credit card numbers in an email, but with my email unsecure, there is no way to be sure that email you recieve from is actually from me. It doesn't take much to 'spoof' someones email account, and then the cracker is able to siphon all my emails without my knowledge. So the easy thing to do is encrypt my mail (and thus move away from gmail).
Encrypting email is really quite easy (especially after you set it up). I use a combination of free tools on my mac that integrates nicely into Apple's default Mail app. It's the open-source variant of PGP, called GnuPG. It's a very good, respected, encryption scheme that relies on "public-key cryptography."
Here's how it works: I make two different keys, one public, and one private. I put the public one where anyone can get it, and keep the private one...well..private. Then if you want to send me a message you use my public key and encrypt the message. When I get it, I can decrypt it with my private key.
Think of it like your voicemail: your phone number is your public key. I can leave you a message using your phone number (public key). When you call in to your voicemail system, you enter a number that allows you to hear your messages (the private key). I can't hear your messages, but anyone can leave one.
Got it? If not, let me know or google PGP, or public-key encryption. There's volumes on the 'net about it.
These encryption tools also allow you to encrypt files on your hard-drive (or your whole hard-drive!) and 'watermark' any message so that anyone who receives your message can verify it really came from you.
So, any message you recieve from me should start containing something that looks like:
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
The message would be in here.
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.4 (Darwin)
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
If you install GnuPG (or PGP), and download my public key, it will instantly verify if that message really came from me, and then if you reply you can use the same key to encrypt it to me.
Really this stuff is easier to setup than a home network, and it's a basic precaution all of us who use email should take.
As an aside: All the 'data losses' that keep showing up in the news (laptops with 65,000 SSNs, or credit card numbers, etc.) wouldn't be nearly so catastrophic if these people used some decent form of encryption. Frankly I'm surprised no one has sued these various companies/agencies into mandating encryption.
*There is some version of GnuPG/PGP for every OS and almost every mail client out there. If you want some help setting one up, let me know I'd be happy to help.
Monday, July 10, 2006
And that's only the coffee shop. Along the walk I pass by a large building that used to be a lumber yard (and it's many fond memories of Saturday morning visits with my dad). Now it houses a bike builder I've known for years, a kayak shop with a pair of blue heelers that I've played with on several occasions, and a textile company that several friends have worked at over the years.
I walk by the spot I spent countless hours studying while in college, the space that until recently was my regular cafe, which was run by a friend from high school and staffed by my doppelganger.
And this all takes place in a neighborhood I spent many hours in as a teenager taking pictures of decrepit warehouses.
During my early to mid twenties I felt stifled by all those associations, but I've settled in, begun to enjoy them. They are what connect me to the world, they add depth to my landscape. I think that's why I don't enjoy traveling as much as I feel I should. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing new things, and visiting new places, but without any connections, I grow bored really fast.
I am a townie.
Ironically, I don't even live here anymore.
Friday, July 07, 2006
20,000 in 8 months. In that time I've commuted to Oakland, driving over the sierra (2 or 3 times), through flooded areas in Sonoma County during our wet wet spring, almost the entire length of California (from Trinidad to Mammoth lakes, admittedly not in the same trip) and daily errands in stop and go traffic. So far my mileage has stayed at 22 mpg almost without change that entire time (one dip to 19, and several tanks at 24 or so).
High Points of ownership: The car has got to be the absolute best vehicle I've driving in nasty weather. Torrential rain on the freeway? No drama. Snowy icy roads? Surefooted and predictable. It's comfortable and bland (e.g. no tickets! unlike my BMW 2002 which was a cop magnet). As a wagon it can hold an impressive amount of stuff. It's handling is better than any other car I test drove (except for the Prelude). The cappuchino cup holder in dash.
Low Points: Brake rotors have gotten horribly 'warped.' Rear windows only roll down halfway. The interior fake-wood dashboard is still ugly. One of the oxygen sensors has crapped out. The rear license plate *still* rattles. The windows are 'frameless' and have gotten noticblely loose in the door when they are rolled down. Wind noise on the freeway is suprisingly loud. I've read that it's fixable by doing something with the window guides, but I haven't taken that on yet. It can be hard to find in the parking lot. There are so damn many of them.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Just to get you oriented, I no longer have a boat, but I still work for the same company, and live in Santa Rosa, um..yeah.
Upcoming posts? Several art shows of good stuff. Another pill-party at Laurel & Andy's for their upcoming show in....SF?
Corporate ropes course day, Laguna Beach, GTD, bikes, motorcycles, Linux, pvrs and fuzzy fuzzy cats.
Friday, May 05, 2006
I know there's been a lot of gnashing of teeth over who has responsibility over NOLA, and that the Feds can't solve all the problems, etc etc..But I have to wonder. When a major city gets destroyed, who should be responsible for fixing it? What happens when there's a massive earthquake in California and LA or the Bay Area gets seriously damaged? I always assumed (wrongly perhaps) that massive tragedies, and the rebuilding were one of justifications for hte Federal Gov'ts existence.
So I guess that Colbert's snarky remarks just seems like a weak jab at a President who should be getting pummeled daily by the press and public alike.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
I think I would like to see it snow here more often. I wonder who'd I could write to about arranging that.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Ahearne, Brian Bayliss, and ANT bikes were among my favorites as well.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The Tour of California (for those who haven't been bombarded by newspaper articles like we have) is hoping to become THE premier U.S. race, attracting lots of Euro competitors (which is key) and hopefully vaulting more U.S. cyclists onto the international scene. I hope they succeed.
If anyone has cable, and can record the coverage on ESPN2 for me, I'll be infinately obliged. I think it's on 10pm PST every night.
It must be because the vice-principal of my junior high used to bartend there.
The pizza was good though.
Friday, February 17, 2006
I've been trying to control my bike collection lately, but really...rod brakes?
Of course it didn't look this good there. It was half taken apart, covered with weeds, mud, and just looked heavy.
I did a google search on the brand (Breda) and found nothing (!). After making sure I wouldn't be making a grave error by bringing another bike home, I woke up early Sunday and rushed back to the dump. I pulled up just in time to watch some guy poking at MY bike! And he already had a pile of bikes picked out. I wandered around feigning interest in kids BMX bikes, until he gave it up as a lost cause. Whoohoo!
I swooped in before he had a chance to reconsider. Paid my $10 and scurried, well drove, home.
To my delight, Orion showed up, and I immediately put him on polishing duty. Within a couple of hours we had fixed all the major problems and cleaned of most of the gunk. The tires even held air!
That afternoon Meredith and I rode around Roseland enjoying the warm sun.
Someday I'll probably sell it, but not yet.
A lot of people swear by brooks saddles, and an almost equal number hate them with a passion. I was unsure, but curious for a long time, but I tried many different modern saddles and none of them were comfortable for long.
Then I bought this. After a couple of weeks riding, it started getting really comfortable. Now every time I ride on anything else I wish it was this saddle.
I also bought a green one and I'm still (months later) breaking it in. It's taking much much longer.
So I though I should document my bikes as they are right now (because I'm always tinkering and changing them).
This bike is my favorite to ride. It fits me just right, and handles really well, even with that atrocious aluminum fork. This was my main bike for commuting to school, and midnight mass rides. It is a lugged steel frame from davidson in Seattle. I traded an early 80's Merckx that was too small for it at Recyclery in San Rafael. The fork was the only thing they had that fit the frame, but someday I'll pony up the dough for a proper Davidson fork, but I don't have $250 sitting around...
These are great tires, Avocet Cross II in a neato grey sidewall. High volume, cushy without feeling sluggish, and so far (3 different bikes, over a couple of years) very flat resistant. The rubber rots pretty quickly though.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Radio Newsguy Voice: On a sad note, famed comedian and former member of Monty Python's Flying Circus committed himself to a mental institution outside of London. Several years ago we intervied Mr. Cleese on this very subject.
Cut to taped interview:
Interviewer: You work over the years has been called loopy, crazy, wonderful, and strange. How do you determine what is sane or crazy?
John Cleese: Well, I know my work has had crazy moments, but it's intentional. I think if elements of my work started showing up in real life, then I would in trouble. If naked organists, or silly walks began making a regular appearance then that would be it, wouldn't it? I'd have myself committed.
Radio Newsguy Voice: One of Mr. Cleese's well known skits was reading nonsense newscasts. Evidently the proliferation of nonsense spam emails appearing worldwide was enough to for him to decide that enough was enough. We wish well, and hope he makes a speedy recovery.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
This Motobecane Mirage came as a gift from Meredith. She found it languishing in a thrift store, and decided to suprise me with it a couple of months ago. Seeing as how I have a roadbike, a mountain bike, a folder, and a fixed gear, I knew I needed to build a sweet town bike. I've wanted something with fenders, baskets, and a comfy 'cruising around town' feel for some time now. But that's the future. Let's deal with the present. Here's the bike as it came from the thrift store: Steel rims, rotted flat tires, and rusty drive train. The frame is in good shape. It looks like it wasn't ridden much at all. First I'll stick a wheelset on it, and get a sense of it's geometry, and see how it fits.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Whoohoo! There's two new bike stores in westside Petaluma. I'm always happy to see more bike stores because maybe it means that more people will ride bikes. And I'm especially happy to have two new stores downtown because a little over a year ago we lost our last downtown bike store. I was very troubled by it's closure. Sure I can order all my odd-ball goofy bike parts over the internet, but I like going downtown and talking to someone, and supporting my local-bike-shop. So far, I've spent a little money at both of them, and once they get some more stock (they are both under a month old), I'm sure to spend more money there.
the two shops (Bici, and Eastside Cycles) cover a similar range, if slightly different styles of bike shops. Eastside (so named because it's first store was on teh eastside of town) is your more standard bike shop. Bigger than Bici, it covers a lot of the mountain/road mid-range market. It's got a some small selection in helmets, shoes, clothes, accessories and bikes, with a decidedly Moutain Bike slant. But they also work on bikes, and the guy told me they are still setting up and getting stock in.
Bici, is decidedly more stylee. The fixed gear in the window, the pale wood floors, the large plasma tv on the wall, mark it as much more boutique. But I liked it. Good bikes, actually some fixed gear stuff (lock rings, cogs, etc..) on hand, and the Bici guy (whose name I didn't get) is really hoping to make it a 'destination' type bike shop, with group rides, clinics and the Tour on a bigscreen plasma on the wall. Also: coffee. So he's got my business.
Bici Sport: Kentucky Street, Petaluma. Nice guy.
Eastside: In the new parking garage building (ironic, huh?) near the new theater.