Options for the House

Background: three years ago, my wife and I combined a first and second mortgage into "one good mortgage", maxing out the equity in our house. We were put on a two year ARM with a huge interest rate blow up after two years, but the mortgage agency was going to refinance us after those two years. Last year, about this time (April), my in-laws asked us to consider selling our house and taking over theirs. The plan is to either build a second floor or finish the basement or something, and have four generations living under the same roof like the "good old days." During that timeframe, the housing bubble "burst", and the company we refinanced with, Decision One Mortgage, disappeared off the face of the earth. Seriously, I called the cell phone number of the broker I worked with and it had become an emergency number for a forest service in San Bernadino (I knew he moved out here from California.)

As we had just refinanced, our equity was maxed out (we planned to stay in the house for a while), so we listed with BuyOwner to avoid the 6% realtor’s commission, allowing us to price the house lower. It took us a couple of months to get the house ready to go on the market (lots of clutter), but we finally went up around the end of June. Then very little happened. The ARM ran out and our mortgage interest blew up to astronomical proportions, but we couldn’t refinance as we were on the market and the closing costs would eat up any equity we might have had.

In February, we listed with a realtor in the hopes that the MLS listing would generate more exposure in time for spring. We had two showings and that was it. We were growing frustrated. I had a discussion with my realtor the other day in which she released us from our listing agreement and referred us to a mortgage broker to refinance. Although more than a week ago I became very frustrated and posted two entries on this blog (thus deleted), I believe that we parted business amicably.

Now we’re at the decision point. We’re out of our listing agreement, but still listed with BuyOwner for all the good that’s done us. We could stay with BuyOwner, we could list with another realtor, or we could just refinance and apologize to my in-laws for failing. I’m not so sure that would be best for their situation, which I will leave vague.

With BuyOwner, we could drop our price to rock bottom, to just what we need to cover the closing costs in the hopes that would bring in buyers. We’ve had our price as low as we could get anyway with just a little room for negotiation (like, drop the price $500 to appear willing to cooperate), but we could go the last few bucks to "rock bottom."

We could list with another realtor. We’re not sure that ours gave us the best possible exposure. She didn’t believe that open houses brought in buyers, and only held one in the entire two months we were listed with her. All we could see is that she put us on MLS and waited for calls to come in, which is what we’d done with BuyOwner anyway. We weren’t even on her web page, but to be fair that appeared to be externally operated. I also discovered last week while we were working out a communications issue that led to those two deleted posts I mentioned, that her expertise is in short sales. She did recommend a short sale, but I need my credit for the mortgage and construction on my in-laws’ house. My credit could also have a negative effect on my job, so I’m not going to screw with my credit. Perhaps a little bit of pride is involved as well. To paraphrase Forest Gump: "Momma always tole me to make mah payments on time." Seriously, my parents gave me a really crappy financial education that has taken years to overcome, but my mom ALWAYS stressed making payments on time every time.

We’ve been seeing the "We buy houses, any situation" signs for a while. My wife wanted to call and check them out. We have an appointment on Thursday to see if that could be an option. Considering that we used up the equity in the refinance three years ago, we’ve known all along that we’d be happy to get out for what we owe and walk away even. Our realtor said she liked that mentality. She said some of her clients sign a listing agreement then spend $100,000 before the first showing, then get mad when offers come in much lower.

Technorati Tags: Realtors,short sale,selling a house,we buy houses

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Mike Rowe gets down & dirty with the HP tx2000z notebook

This is interesting. I do remember Mike Rowe, during the first season of Dirty Jobs, using a Mac. I assumed it was a white MacBook, but it could have been an older iBook. In any case, it looks like he’s using an HP now.

Maybe this should be my wife’s next laptop. She doesn’t like Dirty Jobs. When I fall asleep with Discovery Channel on, she usually ends up laying awake listening to Mike Rowe say such witty  phrases as "I got poo in my mouth." She says the mere thought of Dirty Jobs makes her want to throw up.

If we had the money, I’d get this for her.

Mike Rowe gets down & dirty with the HP tx2000z notebook.

Technorati Tags: Mike Rowe,Laptop,HP

Are Technology Journalists (in general) Really Experts, or are They Closed-Minded, Elitist Parrots?

I’ve been following technology (specifically personal computers, but also consumer electronics) for more than a decade. I’ve used every version of Windows since 3.11, I’ve used 3 versions of Mac OS X plus Mac OS 8 and 9, and several versions of Linux. I’ve also worked with HP Unix, Sun Solaris, and Open VMS. Every desktop computer I’ve ever had I built myself. I’ve cracked open laptops (including an Apple iBook) to upgrade RAM and repair broken components and replace hard drives. I also recently completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology. I’d like to think I can speak with some authority on this topic.

I listen to several technology podcasts, and read several technology blogs. I also read magazines like ComputerWorld. Some of my favorite podcasts are from the TWIT network by Leo LaPorte and his friends. I also really enjoy John C. Dvorak’s Cranky Geeks video podcast. Many of these tech journalists seem to be part of some kind of inside circle. Many are friends. Many of them use Macintosh computers and completely shun those of us who use PCs with Windows.

I see a very common theme in tech journalism that is very much against anything Microsoft does. Many tech journalists, like Scott Foley and Leo LaPorte, will publicly declare "I still don’t recommend Windows Vista", despite the fact that it’s been in circulation for over a year, has had a service pack released, and is stable and capable. Articles and blog entries routinely emanate from these technology luminaries about the demise of Microsoft and the rise of Apple and/or Linux.

Let me say one thing: if you thought political journalists were completely biased and lived in elitist circles totally removed from reality, you know nothing about tech journalism. A recent slew of articles about the impending demise of Microsoft makes me want to get up in the morning and watch the regular news (which I avoid like the plague in election years.)

First, let me say one thing: it is perfectly acceptable to like Windows. It is perfectly acceptable to use Windows. If you follow tech journalism, remember, just because these people get paid to be mouthpieces does not mean that their opinions should overshadow yours. You have the right and responsibility to do your own homework and research.

People in technology hold to silly positions. Here is an editor of a major PC Magazine (appropriately titled PC Magazine) who still carts an old PC to work. It has Windows 3.11. He likes it. He writes his articles in an old word processing, and somebody else have to manually transcribe his writing back into Microsoft Word for publication. Good for him. I’ll tell you one thing though: I got into technology because I like shiny new things. I don’t want to stick with "the way things were". I like to see changes and improvements and enhancements. That’s what drives my participation in this field.

Take everything you read in tech journalism worth a grain of salt, just as you should in political journalism. Seriously, the people who rise to these positions, (and there are not a lot of paying jobs in tech journalism, so there are very few people who make it) may know a lot of general information, but they have their own opinions. They live in very small circles, full of people who see the world almost exactly as they do. Remember that. They don’t live in your world. They don’t work in your job, or maintain computers for your family, or make purchasing decisions for your company. They have huge budgets or get review units. I’m not likely to get a review unit MacBook Air, nor is my wife likely to let me buy one. I don’t have $30,000 a year to set aside for computers and iPhones like Leo Laporte does. Neither do you. I can’t afford to have one HP laptop, three Dell laptops, one legit iPhone on AT&T, one unlocked iPhone on T-mobile, three Blackberries, a Nokia N95, two MacBooks, a Mac Pro, and all of the other stuff most of these people, like Leo Laporte and Robert Scoble cart around. Of course, you might make fun of me for going through airport security with a Pocket PC Phone, an iPod Touch, and a laptop.

I also notice that most of the criticism leveled against Microsoft from tech journalists tends to come from people who have no idea how to build and support a world class, run on everything under the sun operating system. It’s one thing to say "Windows should do this", but it’s entirely another thing to actually make it happen. Just like in political journalism, the mouths running the loudest are the farthest removed from actually making anything happen in real life.

Just remember to make your own decisions. Remember that some tech journalists have their own viewpoints and/or agendas, and they may not live in reality like you have to.

Technorati Tags: Technology journalism

Chances of a Man Winning an Argument

I was trying to keep my kids busy by going through some picture archives on my computer, and I came across this. I wish I knew who to attribute for creating it, or even for sending it to me. Although I’m sure there is no scientific evidence backing it up, there sure is enough circumstantial evidence.

Argument Graph

Technorati Tags: Humor,arguments,marriage

Stories: Do You Like the Destination, or the Journey?

I can’t remember the name of the movie, but around 1999 I saw a Robert DeNiro movie with some friends. The premise of the movie is that DeNiro was a former special agent of some agency or other, and he was hired along with other former agents in Paris by an unknown employer for a mission. About all I remember about the movie is some car chases in those small European cars and at the end DeNiro and company retrieved a briefcase. Part of the suspense of the movie is that we never did find out what was actually in the briefcase. I also remember the sound quality being very poor. Here’s how you can tell: if a character smokes, pay attention when he or she lights up. If a Zippo lighter is pulled out, remember that a Zippo has a very distinctive click. If the Zippo doesn’t make a sound, that means poor sound quality. It also means a lack of attention to detail as professionals typically add those sounds in later. DeNiro’s Zippo was silent, and for some reason I remember that to this day rather than the title of the movie. Back to the original point to this post, the next day I told my roommates about the movie. The asked what I thought of it. I said "I didn’t think it was that great. I just wish I knew what was in that damn briefcase." My roommate’s fiance (now wife) suddenly became very angry with me. It turns out that they were on their way out to see that movie and I just "spoiled the ending" for her.

I have honestly never had a problem with knowing how a story ends before I begin it. I don’t mind movie spoilers, and with the exception of the Bible I don’t read the last chapter of a book out of sequence yet still don’t mind hearing discussion of the end before I begin. I have always been like this. I believe it is because I focus a lot on details, so knowing how the story ends frees my mind up to focus on how the story actually gets there. In the case of a good story for me knowing the ending does not ruin the outcome. Some TV shows are a case in point. Take for example the show House. How often has House been on the verge of a firing or serving time in jail? We know that unless Hugh Laurie is leaving the show or the show is being canceled, the likelihood of House being fired or thrown in jail is about zero, but the stories are constructed well and we still feel the suspense even though we know the ultimate outcome.

Also consider the Star Wars prequels. We all know how the story was to end with Episodes 4, 5, and 6. We all know that Luke Skywalker wins, and Darth Vader dies. But, we watched Episodes 1, 2, and 3 and endured the idiocy of Jar-Jar Binks because we wanted the gaps in the story filled in. We all knew how the story was to ultimately end, but we were along for the ride.

For me, for whatever reason, the "journey" through a story has always been more fun than actually getting to the end.

My approach to life is similar. My wife and I have been trying to sell our house for about a year. We started working on it a year ago, although we didn’t get on the market until the end of June 2007. I wish I knew how this would eventually work out, so I could concentrate on the finer details in the middle.

What about you? Do you prefer not to have the ending spoiled, or like me, does it free your mind to pay attention to the path the plot of a story takes in getting to the end?

Technorati Tags: Stories,Movies,Endings,Spoilers

Since I Can’t "Problog", I’ll Write What I Want

I’ve been wanting to break into problogging for quite some time. (Probloggers are those gifted few, like Darren Rowse or Yaro Starak, who get paid 6 figures from ad revenue for blogging.) For some reasons, I just haven’t been able to. I’m sure the hard facts are that I haven’t yet figured out who my target audience is yet nor have I been able to keep a consistent writing schedule. My posts are all over the spectrum varying simply over what I’m pissed off about this week.

Ever since I added a bunch of blogs to my Google Reader feeds, I’ve definitely seen what I don’t want to do. I get very frustrated to see a bunch of new posts on one of my feeds only to find that they are little more than "A Summary of this week’s posts" or "One year ago on Lifehacker." Even worse are when five or more of the blogs I follow do nothing more than echo each other. Chances are that at a minimum, I will read the same ten posts each week on Lifehacker, Lifehack, Dumb Little Man, and several others. To be honest, I’ve grown sick of hearing about GTD and I’ve unsubscribed from many blogs that focus on it. I think the term GTD cult is an understatement. I do maintain a few that present unique and interesting information, but I’ve gotten rid of many of the "Gospel of the Law of Attraction" blogs.

Another thing I’m growing tired of among the problogs are the lists. I know; Darren Rowse and many other pobloggers says that lists are a great way to bring in traffic but they’re also a great way to have me unsubscribe from your blog’s feed. I can only read so many iterations of "5 ways to smile" before I puke and terminate a feed.

When I first started blogging I wanted to do socio-political commentary, but that’s little fun for me to read so why should I subject anyone who haplessly stumbles by my blog to it? I’m not sure how things are on the "liberal" side of the aisle, but on the conservative side most political news is whining, especially among Christian conservatives. I can’t tell you how many email alerts I get with a subject similar to "The Liberal Media Is Ignoring Christian Issues!" No kidding. How is this news, especially when I get the same email from three different organizations six times a month? Sometimes I want to email them to say "Stop wasting my bandwidth!"

I’m not entirely sure where my niche in the blogging world is, but I think I may retool my format once again. I’m a computer geek but I also like history and philosophy. I also consider myself an amateur Bible scholar. There are a lot of things I want to write about, and since I’m not sure that anybody reads my blog, I guess I can write about whatever I want to anyway. I’ve decided that I’m not likely to get paid to blog, so I might as well have fun with it. I assure those few of you who type whatever search into Google that lands you here, I won’t do blog tricks that annoy me. If I do comment on another blog’s post, I will make sure that my comments are unique.

Technorati Tags: Problogging

Food and Wine Festival

    This prospective blog post has been sitting on my Pocket PC for months. I figured it’s time to publish it. That’s why I’ve been testing One Note publishing. I can’t get MS Word to publish with pictures, so I’ll have to compose on the go with Pocket One Note, then transfer to Windows Live Writer when I get the time.

    Last October, my wife and I went to the food and wine festival in Atlantic City. We met some food celebrities like Tommy and Adrien from last season’s Food Network Star, and we had our picture taken with Guy Fiere. We sampled some good food and wine and beer. I found a new restaurant to go to the next time we’re in Lancaster County.

    The celebrity chef was Chef Morimoto. I felt very bad for him. For whatever reason, nothing worked. Here was a world class chef who did not have a properly set up kitchen or a microphone, his sound crew was horrible, and his cameraman did a slightly less professional job than a fifth grade audio/visual club could have done.

    clip_image001

    The picture was taken by my iPaq 6945 Pocket PC. I’m was just trying to show how bad the quality of the camera work was. You’d think a competent cameraman would have centered the picture on what Morimoto was doing with his hands, but this guy did not.

    I wish I had put together this post sooner, while the experience was fresh in my memory. When we watched Morimoto, I had just finished my classes at the University of Phoenix, so I was especially sensitive to the unprofessional work of the camera and sound crew. I’m sure a world class chef like Morimoto would be used to showing up and finding nothing working, and he did a good job of working around it.

    Technorati Tags: Food and Wine Festival,Food Network