House Update

So far we’ve had no offers on the house, but we have had a steady stream of showings. It seems that every time we’re tempted to drop the price, we get some more calls for showings, so we haven’t have to drop the price yet, which is good because our list price is just about the break-even point. Since I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey lately, I’m kicking myself in the butt for maxing out our equity three years ago, and for the two second mortgages before that.
Our first Realtor, let’s give the benefit of the doubt, wasn’t quite up to the challenge of selling this house. We had two showings right away, then nothing else happened for the rest of the two months we were listed with her. It was very discouraging, and when I started asking how to get people back in the door she suggested a short sale then let us go from our contract "to refinance." Our current Realtor is a professional associate of a friend of ours, and she is working hard. I a so thankful to have the hope that not all Realtors are created equal, and not all brokerages are created equal. With our current Realtor, it seems that her entire brokerage is involved in selling our house. There are three brokers on the name, and they’ve visited and brought clients to the house. Other Realtors in the brokerage have shown the house as well. It seems like they’re personally involved. I plan to give a glowing recommendation when this is all over.

Cell Phones and Plans

My wife and I have been with AT&T for many years. We started in 2000 with Cellular One, and were bought by Cingular shortly after. We left Cingular for AT&T Wireless in 2003, only to be bought by Cingular two months later. In 2005, we renewed our contracts with Cingular, and were then bought by "the new AT&T." I upgraded my phone last year and got us on another 2 year contract. Our contract will be up in January next year. My wife doesn’t like AT&T. She had a lot of problems with the network and her phones, but that seems to be fixed. As far as I can tell, the network works well enough for me. My company issued me a Verizon RAZR, and I can’t tell a difference in service between that and my unlocked GSM Pocket PC phone on AT&T’s network.
When I look at prices from the other companies, I’m honestly not inspired. Even T-Mobile doesn’t seem that impressive price wise. Verizon and Sprint use a proprietary architecture which is on the way out in some countries, although our telecom giants have enough clout here that I see it remaining for a long time.
I would love to see some true competition and innovation in our telecom industry.

Interesting Site: DEBT-ective

I think I’m going to be drinking the Dave Ramsey Cool-Aid. I read his Total Money Makeover book over the weekend. I’ll write more on that later. This is just a quick post about a site I found, the Debt-ective. I read a couple of his stories, and they’re amusing. Check it out.

Fellowship, Family, Parties, and Time

My wife’s cousin had a graduation party yesterday. Nobody told me about it until we got home from church. Our church is having VBS (Vacation Bible School) this week and as part of VBS, we always bring in an adult speaker. Teens from another church come to run the children’s classes and nursery so that our adults and teens can sit through the sessions, then our teens will travel to another church to do the same later this summer. We have one of our favorite speakers this year, Dr. Patrick Mead. He’s doing a series this year on "Re-imagining the church", and it’s very enlightening. Somehow we interpreted the command "Go into all the world…." to mean "Put up buildings and invite people to them, then wonder why they rarely show up." Granted, we need buildings for various reasons. They are highly useful, but the building is not the church; the body of believers is. Patrick Mead made a comment I may adopt: "I believe in air conditioning; it’s one of the tenents of my faith." Anyway, if you’re interested, keep watching our website. You should be able to listen to the lessons once they’re posted.
That aside, we got back to my in-laws’ house after 11 AM from church. We’ve been staying there on weekends, and we had an open house yesterday, so not being in our house was a good idea. We had to be back at church by 6 PM for the evening session. I found out upon return to my in-laws’ house that we had a graduation party to go to at 2 PM, from which we would leave to go to church. There went my afternoon.
I got to thinking about it though. We had a busy day. Going to this party would make it even busier. We did go, of course. However, the family throwing the party hasn’t had time to come to one of our parties. We’ve invited them to several, but they always have something else to do no matter how much advance notice we send out. While we were at the party, I noticed that many other members of the family weren’t there, and most of those members never show up for parties. I thought of all the people from church that we’ve invited to parties, and most always have something else to do.
I’m honestly not sure what to make of it. I’ve studied time management for years. Hyrum Smith says that telling somebody "I don’t have time for this" is lying. When you say "I don’t have time" what you really mean is "I value another event during that time more." Time management is a value judgement, and I can respect that, but it can be hard not to take it personally when the same people always value another event more during the same time period as an event that you have invited them to share the time with you.
At one point, I was tempted to start refusing (or kindly ask my wife, who runs the social calendar) if we could stop going to events from people who never find ours important enough to come to. I haven’t though. There are worse things in the world to be known as than "the family who values spending time with other family when invited."

The Why Train

What is a “Why Train?” If you have toddlers, you no doubt have experienced this phenomenon. It all starts with a question. No matter what answer is given, the next question is “Why?” That answer generates another ""Why?", and it continues on down the line until God Himself would run out of explanations besides "That’s the way I wanted it," to which the toddler would respond with yet another "Why?"

I’ve told my children they are an epistemological nightmare. While cleaning out my car in Buffalo on Sunday, Caleb saw an item in the box and asked "Why is it a Jelly Bean?" I’m an engineer, and went through the list of qualities that make the item that he saw a Jelly Bean. He followed with "Why?"

All that aside, I just went through one of the more amusing "Why Trains." I have my desktop computer set to a pictures screensaver. I can occasionally buy myself a few minutes to work on my laptop if I put "the pictures" on for the kids. Joshua followed me upstairs and the screen saver had already activated. He started pointing out events in the pictures. I tried to say I was trying to read something. Then he got really excited as a picture of my wife in her bridal dress flanked by her youngest sister and cousin as bridesmaids appeared. He said "Look! Mommy getting married!" Without looking up I replied "I know, Joshua. I was there."

He asked "Why?"

I said "Because I married her."

He asked "Why?"

My mind went into a terminal reset mode as I started wanting to answer honestly while realizing that there was little I could say at this point that he would understand. The only thing left to do was bust out laughing. Seriously, get asked by a toddler why you married your wife when you’re off guard and see how you react.

Bank of America Issues 6 Year Old A Credit Card

Listen here. A woman was getting credit card offers for all members of her family, including a three year old. She had the 6 year old fill out the application and send it in. The application clearly listed his birthday as 2002, his income as $0, and his status as "other" rather than homeowner or renter. BOA granted him a card with a $600 limit. As Dave Ramsey says, this is the same industry that goes before Congress bitching and moaning about how much money they’re losing and they need tighter bankruptcy laws.
I keep wondering how the "Debt Industrial Complex" got so loose. 1992 wasn’t that long ago, and in 1992, when I was 18, I could not get credit to save my life. Nobody would give me credit, for the reason "you don’t have an established credit history." No kidding, how the heck did they expect me to get a credit history? I used to belong to Security Service Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, TX. I think I still have $5 in savings there but I’ve long since closed my other accounts. I went to visit Security Service when I was home on leave to see if I could get a credit card from them to establish a credit history. They told me that if I saved up $500, I could probably get a secured Visa. It took me a year to save up that money, but I came back on leave about a year later with $500 to set aside for a secured Visa. Then they told me that my income had to be a certain amount. I think it was $1200 a month. At the time I was an E-4 making just over $1000 a month in base pay. This time I tried another tactic, the good old fashioned "Oh, sure, I can die for my country but I can’t get a SECURED VISA card from my federal credit union, which I have been a member in good standing of since I was 13." That actually did the trick, and I got the card. A year later, I was able to have the $500 put back in my Savings account.
I wish Dave Ramsey had been around back then. Looking back, I should have just left debt alone. I should have just taken my dad’s 1987 Hyundai Excel with me into the Navy rather than buying a Mazda truck.Kids, remember this: Debt is bad. Say it with me.

Is The Internet Doing Something To Our Brains, Besides Making Us Wonder If It’s Doing Something to our Brains?

An Atlantic Monthly article has been the subject of discussion on many blogs lately. I’ll link to Michael Hyatt because his is easy to remember. The actual article is “Is Google Making us Stupid” by Nicholas Carr. Many of the bloggers discussing the article claim that the Internet has caused them to develop short attention spans, and they have lost their ability to read books and longer works. I’m not aware of any so-called “scientific” research into the subject, so my ability to discuss it is limited to the same subjective experiences the other bloggers are limited to. Of course, you didn’t come to this blog for objective scientific peer reviewed research, did you?smile_wink

Is the Internet making me stupid? I don’t think so. I follow more than 80 blogs on Google Reader (they don’t all update every day.) I do a lot of reading and research online. Yet, when I sit down to read a book, I’m still able to digest works written on a Master’s or even Doctorate level, assuming the material is interesting.

The one thing the Internet has done to me is make me lose patience when a written work fails to get to the point. I skim magazines a lot more because it seems like most of the text is extraneous. The same goes for newspapers. I don’t actually read newspapers, but when I read news articles, I quickly get bored. I want the headline, and some supporting facts. I don’t care what kind of BS the journalist needs to fill whatever word count he or she has.

Honestly, that’s the only thing I notice. It’s not my attention span the Internet has wrecked. It just taught me how to maximize time by finding the point and moving along. It taught me to ignore the work of lesser writers.

Deadliest Catch Websites & MySpace

I haven’t thought about MySpace in a long time. I rarely think of it, except for those rare moments anymore when I get a friend request that I need to log in and check out. I had a slow day a while ago, and started reading Wikipedia. I drifted through various topics, and came across Deadliest Catch, a show I have enjoyed watching for several years. For some reason, the show didn’t resonate with me the first season, but by the second season, I was hooked. For some reason, I’ve always considered the Northwestern my favorite boat, although I’ve come to enjoy all of the boats, captains, and crew members involved. I guess like watching Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch portrays one of those jobs we would love to be able to do, but can’t or won’t for whatever reason. Having been in the Navy, and seen some seriously bad seas (I can remember taking a 36 degree roll and looking straight down at the ocean) I can appreciate the Bering Sea storms from the safety of New Jersey.

When I started reading about Deadliest Catch on Wikipedia, I learned that most of the boats involved have websites, like the Northwestern, Cornelia Marie, and the Wizard. The Cornelia Marie and Wizard have blogs, which I subscribed to. Most of them now have stores selling merchandise. I have to admit, these guys have done a great job of capitalizing on the success of the show and building bridges to their fans.

Back to the subject, I even found myself this morning before work searching for sites on MySpace. I sent friend requests to a couple of them.

When reality TV first came out with Survivor, I hated the entire concept, but I have definitely found some reality shows I enjoy. The only one I should enjoy, but don’t for a funny reason, is Tougher in Alaska. I’m sorry, but the first time I watched the show and it cut to a commercial break and I heard “Tougher in Alaska is brought to you by… Viagra,” I have been unable to even think of the show without laughing. I seriously wonder why the History Channel seems to think it’s main demographic is men with erectile dysfunction (otherwise referred to as ED.) It’s starting to make me ashamed of watching the History Channel. I don’t want to be lumped in with guys who have a problem that I wish would have remained unmentionable in the company of other men. Why can’t we just go back to the good old days when if a man’s “stuff” didn’t work, other men didn’t have to hear about it? Oh, that’s right, pharmaceutical companies. Doh! I’m getting tired of hearing politicians bitching about “big oil.” Seriously, why not go after “big drugs?” Starbucks coffee costs like $54 a gallon. Go after big coffee.

Revelation 20 Fulfilled?

I couldn’t resist this one. When I first saw the title in my RSS feeds, I got a little apprehensive. When I started reading, I thought “Surely, this is going to frustrate me.” Then I crossed the line in the post when I realized it had to be as far from “serious” as possible, and I was able to sit back and enjoy the read, even though it is on a topic that I frankly couldn’t care less about.

From the blog:

Nearly 2000 years ago the Apostle John wrote the apocalyptic writing we know as the book of Revelation. This book has been the center of theological controversy for nearly two millennia. The interpretive difficulty of this writing has spawned a plethora of biblical doctrines to unfold. Perhaps the most controversial section of these writings has been chapter 20.

Well, I’m delighted to say that after all this time it has finally become clear as to what the meaning of part of this chapter really is. Let us observe together by evaluating a few verses, namely 7-10.
In chapter 7 we read, And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison. The thousand years here is clearly metaphorical. What John is saying here is not a literal thousand years, but rather only a few years. To be more specific, he is really only speaking of a period of 4 years, bare with me on this. As far as who Satan represents, well, because John is speaking in metaphors, he is not speaking about the spiritual nemesis of God. Rather he is speaking of the long awaited entity knows as the Los Angeles Lakers. The four years represents the period of time from 2004 to the present, 2008.

I will merely say that I endeavor to take the book of Revelation seriously. Sure, there’s some symbology, but every single sign is explained elsewhere in the Bible. I fail to see how God could make things so clear, then release a book into circulation that we’re not meant to understand in any possible way. I know a lot of Christians who stay away from Revelation. Some are afraid of it. Personally, I’m not afraid of the book, nor am I afraid of the conclusions that one can be drawn to by taking the book seriously. I’m far more afraid of the fights and contention this can cause with Christians who have other views of Revelation than I am the conclusions I have been drawn to by it, in it’s proper context.

In any case, I enjoyed the “conclusions” the blog I linked came to regarding Chapter 20.

More on Dave Ramsey

I told my wife that I came across Dave Ramsey’s website last week, and read and listened to some of his content during slow points in my day. I found out that somebody gave her the Total Money Makeover book, which she was able to find. I guess I’ll read it. We’ve been fairly good at not letting a lot of debt build up, but we still use debt "as a tool", no matter how smart we think we’re being.