Friday, December 21, 2012

Rasheed Sulaimon

It has become almost conventional wisdom within the Duke community that Rasheed Sulaimon is a "better fit" for Duke than Austin Rivers. Obviously there is some disappointment from last year's team that started off well, beat UNC in one of the greatest games of all time and then become one of only six teams to lose to a 15th seed in the NCAA tournament. A lot of the team's shortcomings were blamed on Rivers. He seemed like a natural target since he was very highly recruited, the son of an NBA player and overall carried himself as a jerk. There was somewhat of a "over promise / under deliver" aspect that left a bitter taste with Rivers.

Before we get to Sulaimon, lets first look at this year's Duke team. Nobody will argue this team is playing much better than last year, but if you needed any proof the top 5 returning players (Plumlee, Curry, Kelly, Cook and Thornton) all have better FG%s than last year. Mason Plumlee in particular has gone from a *curse word to possibly the best player in the country. Because of the entire team's improvement this team has gone undefeated through the nation's toughest schedule.

*I would often yell Plumlee after a turnover, missed free throw or stupid defensive gamble.I can only assume my wife thought Plumlee was some type of curse word. Really I just thought Mason was Josh McRoberts 2.0 and would never live up to the hype.

So the team is playing much better and has had an amazing start to the season. With that start people have looked for a reason why. Is it because Mason Plumlee worked on his free throw shooting? Is it because Quinn Cook has made huge leap? Is it because Ryan Kelly improved as a defender? All of those are factors, but a lot of people seem to be pointing soley to trading out Sulaimon for Rivers.

The thing is that I don't disagree that the switch has helped the team. I tolerated Rivers, but love watching Sulaimon play. Give me even 2.5 more years of watching him play and he might reach Nolan Smith/Jon Scheyer/Shane Battier level for me. However, I find it confusing that people automatically point to Sulaimon being a better fit or more of a Duke type player. What about this? Sulaimon is just a better player than Rivers.

Let's compare.

Sulaimon was the 12th ranked recruit compared to Rivers being 3rd, so while everyone assume Rivers was going to be a NBA level talent, it isn't like people thought poorly of Sulaimon. And then when you look at actual play you see that Sulaimon has a better FG% (44% to 43%), better FT% (84% to 66%) and better 3PT% (40% to 36%). He also has more rebounds and assists per per game, while averaging almost a turnover less. And if stats aren't your thing then just watch both of them play and see who you think is a better defender. So yes he is a better fit and this team does have much better chemistry. However, I think it is also clear that Sulaimon is just a much better player than Rivers. That combined with the improvement from everyone else has made this team a legitimate threat to win the national title. Now can we get back to wondering if Jabari Parker is enough of a Duke-type player?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 - 1 year anniversary

It seems like a decent amount of people are noting the uniqueness of today's date of 12/12/12, but for me I can't help but think of 12/12/11. One year ago today I started my current job at Limited Brands. It has been a long and fun year, and if you received my Christmas card and letter then you would have seen the big highlights. Some of the lesser highlights is just how different life is right now on a daily basis. I still generally feel the same (happy), tell the same stories (sometimes repeated) and drink the same whiskey. Still the little nuances have added up to a point where looking back there has been a big monumental shift in what I do. I don't want to write anything negative amount my former company, because I liked working there and still consider a lot of former coworkers to be friends. It was a good way of spending four years. However, my job right now is just so much better. I feel engaged with the work I do and with 365 days under the belt, I can say with complete disclosure that I like what I am doing.

Of course there are days of frustration, but for the most part this job is a great fit. I love the analytical work, the people and the unique experiences that come with this job. It would have been almost unbelievable a year ago for me to know that I would be traveling on a private jet to Boise, California, Chicago and Texas. The work that I do is almost completely different than the work I did at the Well.

And in my personal life things have changed even more than professionally. My wife and I have had to get used to living in Columbus, and while we still miss Minneapolis it is pretty clear that this is now home. One of the most obvious reasons for that is because we bought a house here. I feel very fortunate to have found a house in the area of the city we wanted and at a price that gives us some financial flexibility. Also, after having lived in this house for a few months now we both really just like the house. This weekend I worked on the basement and every day it feels more and more like this place is coming together.

And to announce some bigger news (that you probably already know if you are reading this) - M is pregnant. We are thrilled/blessed/excited and are looking forward to adding to our family in May. Also, we find out in 8 days the baby's gender, so that should be a great early Christmas present.

It really seems like everything is coming in place. I wish sometimes I could tell the people that doubted me or questioned my decisions that right now I can't imagine being in another spot. Life isn't perfect, but it is still pretty good.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama and Stats

Obama is projected to be reelected on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. From all indications he will stay the President for the next four years. Obviously I am happy. I thought he accomplished a lot and can only hope for another four years like the previous four years. In addition if I was to get greedy I hope for more progressive steps on social issues like gay marriage. Finally, I'm hoping for a deal in place to raise taxes and cut spending to help balance the budget. I think it is possible, but will be difficult with Congress still being controlled by Republicans. My hope is that this vote was a humbling experience, but my thought is that they will probably just dig in their heels.

Besides Obama, the real winner of this election was Nate Silver. I've been a pretty ardent support of his work. I've followed his blog and read his book. I might not have been an early adopter, but I tried to at least join the bandwagon earlier on than most. That bandwagon is about to get a lot more crowded after his success in this election. The final results are being counted, but it looks like he has been very accurate. Based on his work I placed a few key bets and will cash in on the election. One particular bet was a straight up ($1 for $1) bet on Obama winning the election. When Silver predicted Obama at 91% I felt like that was too good of a deal to pass up. My only hope then and now was that I could get the dollar amount as high as possible.

In the end stats matter. Being rational matters. I don't know if I have much faith in the country (especially when people talk about moving to Canada/Brazil because of our socialist President), but I do have faith in Nate Silver, Bill Barnwell and other statisticians that back up their work. TV pundits still might not be anymore accurate, but you can get the correct information by checking out a numerous websites. Questions about Obama's "Apology Tour" can be answer by checking out PolitiFact. The answers are out there. Sometimes you have to work a little bit harder to get rid of your bias, but there should no excuses left for someone who wants the truth.

Congrats Obama on the win. It is a Pappy's whiskey night.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day

Only one more day until the election, which means soon enough this blog can hopefully get back to both non-political and more frequent posts. However, until the election is over it is hard not to think about that - especially when you are surrounded by it in Ohio. This has been an interesting race between two people that could possibly would make decent Presidents. The case for Romney as I see it is something of a peculiar one. I think Romney is like John Kerry in 2004 in that people like him because he isn't the current President. The true conservatives will vote for him because they hate Obama and the moderate conservatives will vote for him because they believe he was a moderate governor. For my standpoint he strikes me as a guy who will say anything to get elected. Lower taxes! Less debt! Better national security through increased defense spending! Medicare/Social Security stay the same! Vote for Romney and you can have it all.

I really think Romney would have done better in this campaign had he stuck to core convictions (even if he doesn't have them) and offered a moderate option. The crazies on the right would vote for him regardless, but when Romney tried to pivot to the middle it seemed awkward and forced. He also missed an opportunity to explain how he would simply the tax code. Currently taxes are too complicated and it seems right in the Republican wheelhouse to go for a simple tax code. (And by simple I don't mean a flat tax.) That being written I think if Romney is elected, then Democrats will work with him and there is a chance he would be a good President. He seems to be a little bit more restrained than other Republicans (ex. W), and my hope is that he would govern more moderately than he campaigned.

For Obama it has sometimes been frustrating. He hasn't always seemed willing to fight for this election, and more seemed hopeful that people would just start acting rational and understand on their own what he has accomplished. I don't think he really respected Romney as an opponent, and became somewhat complacent. (Of course he isn't complacent in asking me to give him $5.) He has accomplished a lot of the past 4 years, but it isn't something that he always sells to the American public. One big example that he rarely (if ever) brings up is how the stock market has done in since he took office. If you remember we were at a low point in 2009 and since then stocks have had a steady climb upwards. Anybody that invests through mutual funds,  401(k), IRAs, etc are better off financially then they were four years ago. It isn't great that 7.9% are unemployed (and many more are underemployed), but that doesn't mean that the middle class that both Romney and Obama talk about so much aren't doing better. My issue with Obama (and it really shouldn't be his issue) is that I don't know if the middle class knows they are doing better.

The main complaint I've had following this election is the lack of objectivity. Maybe it was never this way, but I feel like in the past people could at least agree on the questions if not the solutions. Now the questions are muddled with talking heads from MSNBC or Fox News taking sides. It isn't like there are options out there to weed through the partisan bs, but most people either don't look for them or don't want to hear unbiased viewpoints. It angers me to hear people on the right question the validity of Nate Silver's predictions because they go against Romney. It is upsetting when people question the stimulus when 92% of economists believe that it reduced the jobless rate. It isn't ok to say that "all politicians lie" without knowing that overwhelmingly Romney lies more than Obama and that Ryan is the worst of the bunch. People mistake not being 100% certain on something as meaning there isn't any value in that subject.

Also, people have invented their own reality. In the world that some people live in it seems like Mitt Romney is the savior and that Obama is a socialist. I heard from one Republican friend that he was going to move to Brazil if Obama is elected. Enjoy living in a country with a female president, who is part of the Workers' Party. In reality Obama is the worst socialist ever (capitalism is doing fine) and it seems to me that he is slightly left on social issues, slightly right on defense (hello drone attacks and killing Osama Bin Laden) and wants to be progressive on taxes.

The issue is that people don't do the critical thinking to come to their own reasonable conclusion. Obama is terrible and there is nothing anyone can say to make them change their minds. That upsets me. The level of finality due to being close-minded is something that I find hard to understand. There are things I think (and am willing to bet on), but besides a few issues there aren't many things that I am 100% sure on. I think the stimulus was a good thing. I think saving the auto industry made sense. I'm happy with how the stock market has gone, and I think that another 4 years of Obama probably won't hurt that industry. I think he has been a fine President, who has helped repair how other countries view us after the 8 years of W. I think Romney will say whatever he wants to be President. I think Romney/Ryan stand very little chance of balancing the budget in 4-8 years by reducing tax rates by 20% and getting rid of nothing substantial besides Obamacare. I think that overall Obama has done a good job and would like to roll the dice with 4 more years. And finally I think he will win tomorrow.

Am I sure about any of this - no? I will try to keep an open mind and look at things from every angle. I hope that in this day of biased politics that it is enough.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Letter to Paul Ryan

You were supposed to be different. I remember reading about you a few years ago in a Time magazine article that touted an early edition of what is now your "Path to Propriety" plan. The main theme from the article and form most media coverage over the past few years has been that while a lot of people might not like some of your ideas at least you were willing to crunch the numbers and come up with something to tackle the national debt. You understood that nobody will balance the budget without coming up with a plan to either a) raise taxes/revenue b) cut spending on defense, health care and/or social security, since those three buckets alone account for 78% of the federal budget or c) both.

I appreciate your honesty even if I disagreed with some of your policy proposals. Turning Medicare into a voucher program is something that was a clear difference between you and President Obama's policies. I didn't understand how this would do anything more than shift health care costs from the government to individual people, but at least you were willing to address one of the sacred cows.

When you were selected as Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential candidate, I was told many times that this was something that was good for the country because we could have serious conversations now. I was optimistic. It was time for you to explain to the country your Atlas Shrugged influenced worldview and let the country vote on those issues. This is what I thought your talking points would be:
  • Medicare will be a voucher program starting in 2022.
  • The age of eligibility on Medicare will increase to the age of 67.
  • Your plan to decrease non-defense discretionary spending.
  • The specific deductions, exemptions and subsides you would remove from the current tax code.
  • The details of your tax code that seems to favor the wealthy.
  • Why reducing the deficit is critical for the country and why you will succeed when so many other politicians (especially Republican Presidents) have failed.
I haven't heard any of that. I've heard why Obama has failed the country and how you love America, but you act like a normal politician and not the "policy wonk" that I was expecting. You were supposed to talk details and give us the hard, honest truth about our budget. Instead now you talk nothing but generalities and say stuff like "I don't have the time, it would take me too long to go through all the math." Not to be like the ESPN announcers on Monday Night Football, but come on, man. This was your moment to be the wonk that we all wanted and needed. Explain the math. I have the time and am curious how you plan on reducing taxes without reducing revenue - what deductions are you getting rid of. Are you planning on getting rid of the mortgage interest tax deduction? Are you going to cap the amount of deductions you can make?

When I hear you speak it doesn't give me pride in the fact that we both have degrees from Miami University. I would like to think that a Miami alum wouldn't be judged to have had 44% of his statements be mostly false, false or pants on fire.  (If you were curious Obama comes in at 27% and Romney is at 43%). It was supposed to be different with you. You were supposed to elevate the debate, and maybe it is because my expectations were too high, but right now I've never been more disappointed in a VP candidate.

There is still time to change. There is a VP debate. You can be honest about your plan and vision for the country or you can lie like you did with your RNC speech. I will probably never agree with your policies, but I hope some day soon you will better represent Miami's motto "to accomplish rather than to be conspicuous." Right now you would rather attract attention than actually get anything accomplished.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First month in a new home

I can say that almost everything about owning a home has kind of met expectations. Do I enjoy being part of a neighborhood? Yes. Do I struggle with basic home-owner tasks? Yes. Am I getting better? Slowly, but yes. It is nice to finally have a place to call our own here. When looking at the advantages of buying a home compared to rent one one thing we focused on was finally being able to put roots down in Columbus. We still miss Minneapolis, but things here should hopefully get better now that we have a place to entertain friends (like they say on all those HGTV shows) and meet neighbors.

The good and somewhat surprising thing about owning this home is the feeling that we have so much space. If you followed the home search you know that we fluctuated between very large (very expensive) homes and smaller, less expensive homes. At first we were under contract on the large/expensive home, but when that fell through we decided to pivot to the smaller type of homes. The great thing about all of this is that the smaller home doesn't feel small. It is amazing how much bigger this home is after going from a 2 bedroom duplex and then more recently one bedroom of borrowed space. We have ample room and don't feel constrained at all by the size of the place. Now that all might change in the future, but at the time things seem pretty good.

As for the basic home-owner tasks there are a few things that we've needed to work on. I'm trying to get better about 1) learning how to do stuff and 2) not becoming frustrated by failure to do stuff. The second one is especially important, since I've kind of been like Steve Jobs when faced with an obstacle. It doesn't really help anyone when I say stuff like "it should just work" because unlike Steve Jobs I don't have the power to actually get somebody to make it work. The good news is that M and I put together a bookcase on Saturday morning in pretty good time and even better spirits.
Anyway, below are the pictures of our place:

Outside (obviously)

A small family party

Our small dining room table and the liquor bar

Our bedroom

The picture of the cherry & the spoon and the rest of our living room

The man cave - it looks better now with a bookcase

Our freshly cut backyard

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hello again

I started this blog five years ago and up until last month had never missed a full month without some type of update. My apologies. I don't really have any good excuse. I have had plenty of things to write about and just haven't sat down and put my thoughts to the computer. Here are the things I missed and if you want one to be written about then just let me know:

-An open letter to fellow Miami alum Paul Ryan
-AT&T Park review
-Yankee Stadium review
-Comerica Park review
-Minneapolis trip recap
-Napa trip recap
-Pictures and thoughts on our home
-The wonderful feeling of being a Dolphins fan
-Duke 2012/2013 basketball preview

As you can see there are a lot of things that I've been meaning to write about. I will try to get to them soon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We own a home

A year and a half ago I wrote a blog post called The Lenten Season of My Life. The main point was summarized by the one sentence - "I feel like my life is now focused on what I do not have and what has been given up." Now looking back I am happy to report that we can cross one thing off the list because as of Friday M and I are officially home owners. It might have taken a little bit longer than expected, but in the end everything worked out. We got a home that I absolutely in love with and while I might not want to do the previous 9 months again it was a good experience. M's mother welcomed us into her home and I am extremely grateful for the hospitality.

Now instead of looking backward or only at the near future, we are able to really look at things years down the road. We have a house. We have the neighborhood. We have the mortgage payments. It is something we have prepared for mentally and financially since early on in our relationship, and the plans are coming to fruition. This entire weekend I walked around with a smile on my face because of all the great things that have happened and how pleased I am with the house.

I will have more to write (and talk) about with the house in the future, but here are some pictures.

The POD after 9 months. Somewhat surprisingly everything seemed to be there and in working order.

Right after closing

Our living room.

The wine/liquor rack

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Income distribution by state

I've spent time looking over and analyzing the tax policies of both parties. There should be a way of figuring out what is the most fair and hopefully best for the country. Is the top marginal tax rate too low? Should capital gains and dividends be taxed as ordinary income? Should there be another *level in addition to short term and long term capital gains?

*I like the idea of "longer" term capital gains tax. If you hold a stock for 5+ years then you pay only 5% in capital gains. Something like that.

I spend time thinking about this because there are good things the public sector can do that the private sector won't do. I thinking improving the roads, police force, public schools, healthcare, etc are all worthy causes. These things cost money and even though nobody really likes paying taxes they are necessary.

The debate between both parties seems to be settled except that Obama wants the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthy. You would think this would upset people making a lot of money. Now who makes this money? Where do they live? Who do they vote for? I combined the 2008 electoral map with the census data of income by state to come up with the following facts.
  • The average (not weighted) income for a state that voted for Obama was $54,219. The states that McCain carried averaged $45,484.
  • The % of the electorate that made $200,000 or more was 4.4% in Obama's states and 2.8% in McCain's states.
  • The % of the electorate that made under $25,000 was 23.2% in Obama's states and 28% in McCain's states.
  • There are more households making under $25,000 a year (28M) than those that make over $100,000 (22M). (That isn't a political point, but more something that just surprised me)  
Anyway, I don't know why I care. 1) I won't really be able to affect this policy. 2) Why should I be upset that poor states (the bottom 9 states in % of population under $25k voted for McCain) continually vote for a party that doesn't seem to care about them? Does anyone else notice that out of the 22 states that had less than national average (24%) of population making under $25k there are only 3 (Wyoming, Utah and Alaska) that voted for McCain? These are facts that I probably shouldn't be thinking about the day before I close on my home.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Deferred Payment

Someone always has to pay. When you go to war and don't plan a way of paying for it (ex. LBJ and W) then it gets added to the national debt. When you drastically cut tax rates and increase defense spending (ex. Reagan) then it shouldn't be a big surprise when the national debt increases by 189% during your 8 years. When you have a system where every patient has to be admitted to a hospital regardless of their ability to pay then you shouldn't be surprised when health care costs are a large % of the national budget.

Tough decisions have to be made or at least recognized. Politicians on both sides annoy me to no end by talking about how this simple thing will make things completely better. If you elect Mitt Romney he will no longer demonize success in business and by doing just that he will grow the economy. Does anyone really believe that? Does anyone really believe that Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity can really keep spending at 20% just by saying it will keep spending to 20%.

Unless you come up with truly new, efficient ways of controlling certain costs then you really just shifting the cost from one entity to another. Giving people health care vouchers doesn't really decreases health care spending, but really just means that once the vouchers are up the individual will have to pay for something that the government is paying for now. The really tough decisions are ones like this - is it more important for me to pay a long term capital gains tax of 15% or to let a poor family go hungry because spending on food stamps were cut? If someone doesn't have the money, the insurance and/or the vouchers than do we just let that person die if they are in critical condition? 

Those are tough decisions to make if you are completely strict on controlling costs, refusing to increase revenue and also want to balance the budget. No politician will make that decision. Paul Ryan is suggesting something that would probably scare 75% of Americans if they truly understood the consequences of what he is proposing. Someone has to pay and just shifting the cost from the public sector to the private sector doesn't solve that issue.

My final criticism is an idea that has angered me the more I think about it. When I read that 62% of Paul Ryan's cuts would fall on low income households it makes me a little concerned. I don't mean to be a socialist, but I would rather err on the side of caution in protecting the poor than the rich. The rich do not need the government's help. Mitt Romney will be fine whether he pays 14% in taxes (last year) or 35% (Obama's proposal). Poor people on the other hand do need the help. Sure some of it might be wasted and the idea of someone living off welfare instead of getting a job goes against the American Dream. Still I would much rather have the government try to solve the issues of hunger (food stamps), education (pell grants, public schools), and healthcare for the poor than in trying to address a non-existent "class warfare" issue that so troubles the rich. From a strictly economics side the money invested in poor people is likely spent immediately and spent in the local economy. I doubt many lower income households will be spending their money on a lavish trip to London. However, it goes farther than a strictly economics side, and from a pure humanity side of things I would rather live in a country that helps out the poor than the rich.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Politics (random thoughts on the financial side of things)

Why are politics such a difficult discussion topic? It seems like whenever a presidential election is coming up people draw sides and stick to their respective corners. I was born and raised in one of the most conservative states, lived in the only state that didn't vote for Reagan in 1984 and now currently live in the biggest projected swing state of the 2012 election. I can't say that I've seen it all, but I have certainly been introduced to many different viewpoints. And I'm afraid that in my effort to find out why people think a certain way I've offended people by questioning their entrenched ideas of what is right and wrong.

I tend to lean a certain way (if you know me at all), but I like to believe that I reached that conclusion through independent analysis and reflection. My parents aren't very political (or at least it wasn't obvious to me growing up), and until the 2004 election I never really cared who won or lost. After that each election has been a big deal. Maybe it shouldn't be such a big deal since things don't really seem to change that much regardless of who is elected president (my one very political friend thinks the Presidential election is extremely overrated compared to the US congressional elections), but I really tend to judge the country on who they put in the highest office.

Anyway, I've tried to do as much analysis on the overall trends of certain presidents. I've looked at the top marginal tax rate, the national debt by year and the overall 2012 budget proposal by President Obama.  From that I've reached a few conclusions:
  1. If the national debt is an issue then any chance of a balanced budget needs to include an increase in revenue and a decrease in spending. Nobody is suggesting we go back to a top marginal tax rate of 92% (1953), but can we all calm down about possibly increasing the rate to 39.6% (the Clinton years). 39.6% isn't socialism unless you believe that we have been a socialist country since 1932.
  2. From a spending side there is also zero chance of having a balanced budget without cuts in some of the "sacred cows" of social security, defense and medicare/medicaid. The total deficit planned for 2012 was $901B, which is more than the non-defense discretionary spending of $568B. 
  3. I will bet anyone whatever money they want that neither Obama nor Romney will have a balanced budget in the next 4 years. 
  4. Any unique proposals (like Simpson-Bowles) should be considered. Increasing the top marginal tax rate (and the top marginal tax level), getting rid of the mortgage interest tax deduction (among other deductions) and decreasing defense spending shouldn't automatically be off the table.
I think we can improve things with an increase in information. Just like the gay marriage debate has been extremely uplifting (my opinion is that we have made an incredible amount of progress in a short amount of time) I think the facebook/twitter/etc world will make these discussion easier. With more information and exposure should come a better debate. This hasn't happened so far since both sides seem to camp out on their MSNBC/Fox News side right now, but I really believe that is going to change. People growing up now seem to be more cynical about the information given to them, which seems to make them more independent in their thinking. If those people stay independent then they will hopefully do their own research instead of focusing in on the talking points from both sides. From that my hope is that people will make their own decisions based on this research instead of just what their parents or community thinks. For example if they come to the conclusion that the 2nd amendment predicted and protected assault weapons then go ahead and vote Republican. And if maybe their research comes to the conclusion that Democrats are actually much better at managing the budget then they will vote Democrat. 

I really don't mind if someone votes Democrat or Republican as long as they understand what they are voting for and have reached that conclusion on their own. I've gone over my reasons for voting for Obama, but one of the main reasons I won't even consider Romney is because of the lack of information coming from this side. I've tried to follow his campaign by reading magazines (Time), newspapers (NY Times, Columbus Dispatch), anything online (Yahoo news, and by visiting his website. The lack of details are stunning. He talks like a machine version of a Republican candidate. He seems to be extremely afraid of sharing his opinions on anything more than "Obama sucks." From that he doesn't seem to giving independents a viable option to vote for instead of Obama, which makes it seem unlikely that Romney will win this year. Maybe I am wrong and this election will be more of a referendum on Obama than a vote in confidence of Romney? I thought that way in the 2004 election and was proven wrong, so this time around I am feeling fairly confident that Obama will win.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Mall(s) of America

I've never been that big of a shopper. When I was a kid my Mom always joked about how I had about a 30 minute window at a mall before I was ready to leave. It must be a little ironic now that as a non-shopper one of my job's main functions is traveling to different Victoria's Secret stores. From my count I've now been to 59 (I might be missing a couple) stores in cities like Miami, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas and Myrtle Beach. This past month I was actually only in Columbus for 15 of the 31 days because I was traveling the rest of the time.

From this I've started to notice the differences in malls and shopping centers. I can pick out the similarities, the differences and the types of malls by a quick glance around. Maybe this doesn't seem too impressive to the general public, but for me it really is something I never would have expected. For me growing up malls were just malls. I never gave much thought to Northpark being that much different than any other malls in the country. I know now how ridiculous that statement is, but at the time I just never really thought of other malls being different from my *local mall.

*You know the saying "all politics is local." Well, there is probably even more truth to "all malls are local." During some of my store visits I end up going to malls that are various friends and coworkers former local malls and whenever I bring that up I am guaranteed to get a spirited conversation.One coworker and I talked for a good 20 minutes about her local mall and why it was superior to the mall just 3 miles down the street.

Anyway, I've developed certain criteria to judge malls and also since it is my normal lunch spot now how to handle the food court dilemma. (Order - 1. Local speciality option, 2. Chick-Fil-A, 3. food court Japanese.) It is actually a lot more exciting than I ever thought it would be. I'm starting to understand the passion certain people have for retail, and that makes my job that much easier. I can't say that I've completely reach the point where *Confucius would be proud of me, but I'm getting closer.

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

789 Vernon Road

After looking, finding and then having to look again M and I agreed to terms on a new house in south Bexley. We looked at three homes last weekend (the 2nd showing for two homes) and decided that the one in south Bexley was the home for us. The negotiations were relatively easy (even though it took 4 contracts to finally agree) and assuming our inspection on Monday goes well then we close on August 17th. This has been a much longer and more difficult road than we imagined, but I really think that this is going to work out well for us. The home that we are purchasing has a lot of what we were looking for and should end up being a great next step in our lives.
789 Vernon Road

If I run that home through the criteria that I wanted in a home it actually checks out pretty well:
  • 4 bedrooms - There are only 3, but the basement could be used as a guest bedroom if we add a bathroom downstairs. That doesn't need to be an immediate fix since we already have two more bedrooms than what we will be using.
  • 2.5 bathrooms - There are only two bathrooms, but both are full and the 3rd one again can be added to the basement.
  • Finished basement - Check. This was rare to find in Bexley and something I had pretty much given up on. This was definitely a big difference maker for me.
  • Backyard - Decent size for Bexley. It certainly is big enough to have a cookout, BBQ or throw a football around.
  • Good school district - Check. Also, it is only 0.2 miles away from the lower school.
  • Character home (as opposed to a McMansion) - I love the 1950 Cape Cod home feel. It looks like a South Minneapolis home and is something that has great curb appeal. Also, even though it is a character home the home has had a lot of updates inside. One thing that I looked for when walking through homes was whether or not it was move-in ready. For this home I can move in and not have to change anything. 
  • Driveway for a basketball goal - This was part of the compromise. The home only has a 1 car garage in alley and doesn't seem to have a place for a basketball goal. The good news is that there is a gym that is only a 2 minute drive away and an outdoor basketball playground only a 5 minute walk away.
  • Family Room - The main floor has a living room/family room combo, which is fine with me especially considering there is the extra space in the basement. Also, for the family room we negotiated with the sellers to leave the tv and tv mount, so that there would be one less thing for us to work on when we moved in.
  • Good walk score - 78 - very walkable. We will only be a block and a half from Main Street, which was a huge bonus. It might not be quite as high as the 83 walk score at our old place, but it is much better than most of the homes (including the one we were under contract on) we looked at.
  • 15 year mortgage - This was another big bonus for us. From the start I loved the idea of having a 15 year mortgage and paying off a home early. Since we bought a home under budget then we will be able to do that and start paying off this debt quickly. I don't like debt and while that might be a simple way of viewing personal finance it is part of my philosophy.
Anyway, M and I are both ecstatic for this home. I'm looking forward to meeting the neighbors (I heard people in south Bexley are very close) and beginning to establish myself in Columbus.

Monday, July 9, 2012

New homes

For those of you that are tired of blog posts about the never-ending story (our home search) then feel free to skip this post. However, I know a few people are interested, so here is a quick update with pictures.

Since we became free agents (end of June) two of the three homes we liked are now under contract. We also ruled out the 3rd one out, so as of our San Francisco trip we were starting over again. The big change we decided to make was to consider 3 bedroom homes instead of the 4 bedrooms that we used to consider non-negotiable. We looked at a fresh batch of homes on Sunday (literally right after we were picked up from the airport). Out of that group yesterday and a few others we saw tonight there are two homes that we both are really considering. Both are 3 bedroom places and are reasonable prices. They also both felt right (for whatever that is worth).

Option 1: 789 Vernon Road, South Bexley

Pros - Move-in ready home. They recently redid the bathrooms and kitchen. Also, the basement is finished and provides a great multi-purpose room. I could see watching tv, hosting super bowl parities, and when need be use as a guest bedroom space. It would need a bathroom down there, but that is something we could hire someone to do later on. The home has a great walk-score (very close to Main Street) and looks to be in a really nice, friendly neighborhood. I think the home kind of has a South Minneapolis feel to it, and I love the curb appeal.

Cons - The main one is that there is only a 1 car garage. And also there is no place to put a basketball goal. Also, the master bedroom is on the 2nd level, while the other two bedrooms are on the 1st floor. This was a concern for two of our friends in Minnesota. Other than that the home is pretty much perfect for us.

Option 2: 245 N Cassingham, North Bexley

Pros - This home has a lot of charm and a lot of great functional space. The owners have lived there for 40 years and they look to have taken great care of their home. The first floor has a nice hardwood floors and the second floor has a recently updated carpet. The first floor has a nice living room, kitchen, porch, and dining room. The second floor has three bedrooms of decent (not great) size), but the key is that there are two bathrooms upstairs. Also, the master bedroom has great closet space. Finally, there is a two car garage (hurray) and a place to play basketball (another hurray). This home might not have a lot of the wow factor that other homes had, but it felt like such a great home for us.

Cons - The main bathroom needs to be remodeled. There is great space, but it just needs to be updated a little bit. Also, the walk score isn't the best since there isn't as much near North Bexley as there is in South or Central Bexley. The final con is that the home isn't actually on the market. These people are very close to purchasing another home and are looking at putting it on the market. However, looking isn't the same as actually being on the market, so it might not work out. And since it isn't on the market, I can't link to it. I did take some pictures below if you were interested:

Entering the front door into the living room. You can also see the porch through the windows in the top right.

It is kind of hard to see the home with the trees in the way. I could probably have taken a better picture.

I loved the way the home looks when you enter through the front door. The exposed wood on the ceiling is a nice touch.

Future basketball court?

Family room with built-ins


Dining room

Master bedroom

2nd bedroom

3rd bedroom

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

San Francisco (pictures)

There will be time later to go over my thoughts on San Francisco, but in the interest of time here are some *pictures from the trip:

*These are just from my cell phone and haven't been edited, so there should be better pictures later.

Breakfast at a place with a really long line (and really good food)

M and the Painted Ladies

The Giants celebrating a win


 Lombard Street

The Golden Gate bridge (if you didn't know)

Outside AT&T Park (I realized there were no pictures of me, so I thought I need to include this one at the end.)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

San Francisco (Day 1)

Greetings from San Francisco. M and I arrived late on Friday night and have a full week to enjoy both SF and Napa. Yesterday we had a "local's day" with our friends Nancy and Nicholas. And apparently the first thing the locals do is walk to a hipster breakfast place and wait an hour in line to be seated. The good news is that the food at the place (Zazie) was excellent. I had an eggs benedict with crab and avocado that lived up to the $18 price tag. We then walked around Buena Vista Park and the Haight-Ashbury area. Both Nicholas and I picked up retro minor league t-shirts of the New Orleans Pelicans and the Rochester Red Wings and tried to avoid getting a contact high from the air in the area.

Later in the afternoon after watching all 8 Full House theme songs (with video) consecutively before going to visit the Painted Ladies (or also known as the Full House houses). Below is a picture Nancy took of Mary enjoying the view:

Last night we got Japanese food and I was overruled on going out, so instead we stayed in and watched a movie.

Today is a big day in that we have tickets to go see the Giants play the Reds in downtown San Francisco. Now I might get the Sunday NY Times and try my best to assimilate into the culture.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 Draft Preview

Tomorrow is normally one of the most exciting nights of the year. It is a time when I think of my favorite teams in my favorite sport getting that impact player that will lead deep into the playoffs. The NBA draft is about blind optimism, but this year's edition is a little bit different than previous years. This year neither of the two teams I've followed (my favorite team the Jazz and my former local team the Twolves) have a 1st round pick. Before I get into that though below are my previous years draft previews.

Anyway, it is a little tough getting excited about a draft when the Jazz don't draft till the 47th pick and the Twolves don't draft untit pick 58. Jazz fans were only a few games away from the Jazz having two lottery picks, but Golden State completed the incredible choke job and kept their top 7 protected pick with of course the 7th overall pick. Also, the Jazz lost their pick because they made the playoffs (congrats on getting swept by the Spurs). For the Jazz and the draft it is wait till next year, which is exactly the position the Twolves find themselves in thanks to a couple trades.

Still there are possibilites. The Jazz could trade Golden State's future pick and/or any of their many post players (in order of likehood to get traded: Jefferson, Millsap, Kanter and Favors). The Twolves are always a wild card, so who knows with them. Also, maybe I should pay more attention to the Cavs, since they are the most local team from Columbus.

In anticpation of the draft, I won't give any advice for the Jazz or Twolves and also I'm not going to try and predict any crazy trades. It is hard to say trading Jefferson for the 5th pick makes sense, when I don't have a clue if that is even realistic. I will however provide my thoughts on the 6 players I've seen play plenty of times. As a Duke fan I feel qualified in writing about Austin Rivers, Miles Plumlee, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes. I feel especially confident after rating the 2009 UNC players as Lawson, Green and then a distant 3rd Hansbrough.

Here are my thoughts on those 6 players in terms of ranking:

1) Tyler Zeller - He is old and doesn't rate well in John Hollinger's Draft Rader, but I actually think he will be a solid pro. Would I draft him ahead of Harrison Barnes? It might depend on the team, but yes I think I would. He is a smart player and a very good shooter. Also, he is a legit 7 feet tall, which doesn't really hurt. I would have concerns about his strength and that he probably won't get the call where he leans into the defender and tricks the refs into a foul. However, I could see him being an effective pick and pop post player. I would draft him and immediately put him in the weight room.

2) Kendall Marshall - I really want to rate Kendall Marshall over Zeller, but a 7 foot post player who can shoot is hard to pass up. However, I do rate Marshall over other players partly because I believe he will be a better shooter than he has been so far. And if he can even be an average NBA shooter then the rest of his offensive game will be pretty amazing. He has a great feel for the game and knows exactly when and where to pass the ball to his teammates. It had to have been amazing to be a UNC fan and watch the transition from Larry Drew II to Marshall. Of all the players on UNC, I was most happy to see him leave early. He will be a good (maybe not great, but certainly a better chance of that anyone else on this list) NBA player.

3) Harrison Barnes - As much as I like Marshall, I can't stand Barnes. He is a much better athlete, shooter and has a higher ceiling than anyone on this list, but that doesn't make me want to draft him ahead of either Marshall or Zeller.  He seems like a jump shooter, who isn't even elite in that category. I don't know what the best way to desribe Barnes is, but I think he will be a bust. Of course I think more highly of the NBA potential of Barnes over the next player on the list....

4) Austin Rivers - It probably isn't a good endorsement of you as a player, when a fan is indifferent about you leaving their favorite team. That was how I felt with Austin Rivers, and even though Mason Plumlee drives me crazy sometimes, I was so much happier he decided to come back to Duke than Rivers. The reason is that don't really like Austin Rivers. I don't like his attitude, the way he plays the game and how somebody who is supposed to be so good could go 5-14 with more turnovers (2) than assists (1) against Lehigh. He is a shooting guard who can't really *shoot.

*Every single Duke regular that didn't have the last name Plumlee (5 players) shot better than Rivers from the free throw line. Rivers shot worse than team average from 3 (36.5% compared to 37.1%) and the field (43.3% to 45.6%).

He has an unbelievable ability to get to the rim, and he will never have to buy a drink in my presence because of this shot. However, I don't think he will be a good NBA player.

5) John Henson - Henson either becomes Andrei Kirilenko or he doesn't make in the NBA. My prediction is that he won't make it in the NBA. He is tall, but unfortunatly weak and he can't shoot. Every single time he took an outside shot against Duke, I think I audibly cheered. He has a unique game that translates to a few years as the 10th man on some NBA team before going overseas. Unless he completely transforms his game, I predict John Henson to be the biggest bust out of the 5 players listed so far.

6) Miles Plumlee - Easy pick for the last spot. I've seen some mock drafts with him as a possible late first round pick. That would be a wasted pick. I enjoyed my 4 years of Miles Plumlee and agree that he is a great athlete, but he just isn't a very good basketball player.

We will see how the draft goes and in a few years how my predictions line up with what ends up happening. When Barnes is a 3 time All-Star and Henson is the league's defensive player of the year then feel free to point this post out to me.

Missed Opportunities

I'm glad this blog is written online and not for a newspaper, because a lot of ink would have been wasted on homes that ended up not working out. The summary - we are now 0-4 in homes that we have offered contracts on. It is supposed to be a "buyer's market" and it isn't like we have any contigencies (financing is good, no homes to sell) that should hold things up, but for whatever the reason we are 7 months into living in Columbus and are no closer to owning a home.

I've been reviewing my notes and calculations on the homes we've liked and feel pretty comfortable with the concept that we should get something that fits what we need in our price range. The homes that we've missed out on have been because of an average difference of $15k per home. While $15k is a large amount of money, it seems strange to me that we haven't been able to make up that difference on at least one of the four homes that we've put contracts on.

Anyway, in case you looked at my last post you can take 25 Bullitt Park off the list. That was the 4th home offered a contract on and again it didn't work out. We were outbid (by how much I can only estimate) and were not given a chance to counter.

I think we are going to need to take a break from a little bit of home searching. Of course I write that knowing I just reviewed the list of homes we looked at last night, and was upset to find out that this one home I liked (not in Bexley) just move from "active" to "under contract." Still we need to find out what we want and hope for the best.

Next up on the blog list needs to be reviews of Yankee Stadium, Comerica Park and AT&T Park. It's been a good year in terms of visiting stadiums.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

House Update - Closing

Do you know that house I kept writing about? Like on June 7th or May 31st or April 30th or all the way back on February 26th. That house was supposed to be the "forever home" that M and I had always wanted. We spent more than a little amount of time making decisions on paint colors, fixtures and other things that were going to be part of the home. There had been plenty of frustration throughout the remodel project, but we kept telling ourselves that it would work out and it would all be worth it.

It didn't work out.

The inspector pointed out a problem with the roof and this past week we had a roofer come by and give his assessment. It wasn't good. The number was high enough to make us start to question whether or not we wanted to live in that home. It was already a pretty expensive home, and a new roof just added to that. We asked the contractor if he would be willing to pay for some of the roof costs and he was unwilling to contribute anything.

At that point we had to make the decision if we wanted to buy the home and take on the burden of putting on a new roof ourselves. I could understand the logic of being "pot committed" on this home, but really we were still at the point where we could back out without much of financial hit. It was tough that we had spent so much time with the home, but I think that this is a lesson in sunk costs. The amount of time and effort we spent on the home didn't change the fact that we were going to be paying a ton of money for a home that we didn't think was worth it. The home no longer felt right, and I am happy that both M and I came to that same conclusion.

So....we were supposed to close on Friday, but instead we were back house hunting yesterday. We are moving on and the good news is that out of the 5 homes we saw yesterday we really liked 3 of them. Below are the links if you want to check them out:

25 Bullitt Park Place
Pros - Feels like our type of home. Nice backyard, quiet street, great kitchen and updated bathrooms. I loved they layout of this home and how every space seems to be usable. They list 5 bedrooms, but really one of the bedrooms is the finished attic upstairs, which seems to be a perfect place for a movie/play room. And one big pro for this house that we didn't have with the 134 S Cassingham home is that we have our own driveway instead of a shared driveway.

Cons - Low walk score because it isn't that close to Main Street or the school. The house also doesn't have a formal living room, which doesn't really bother me that much right now. There really isn't much else besides a few cosmetic things like the walls needing a fresh coat of paint.

212 N Remington Rd
Pros - Really incredible family room and Florida room. Also, the master bedroom had plenty of closet space. This was a really nice home that had pretty much everything we could need or want.

Cons - Its in North Bexley, which isn't considered to be as desirable as Central Bexley. There is a shared driveway, but we did meet the neighbors and they seemed to be really nice. The main issue with the houses (and there really isn't that much) is that there isn't a backyard where any kids could play. The owners of this house seemed to customize it exactly what they were looking for, and I give them credit for creating a wonderful looking home.

345 N Ardmore Rd
Pros - This home was very unique and seemed to have the look and feel of a vacation home. The backyard was incredible. The kitchen and family room were open and looked to be in pretty good condition. Also, a big pro is that the lower level was finished.

Cons - There are only 3 bedrooms right now and one of the bedrooms is downstairs. It is set up, so that you could pretty easily create a 4th bedroom on the 2nd floor, but I am little hesitant on doing any work on any home. Finally, the basketball goal is on the garage in the alley, and actually playing basketball would be tough because the garage is on an incline.

All three of the homes are places I could see us living in, and considering what we saw in December they are big improvements over that crop. I would rate the homes in the order that I listed them, which conviently enough is how they are ranked in price. We will see what works out, and if need be we can attend some open houses again. However, one home is having an open house today that we won't be visiting - 134 S Cassingham.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Obama and LeBron

There are two arguments that infuriate me. 1) Obama is a socialist. 2) LeBron always chokes. It seems like those two arguments are based on the "perception is reality" theory without any consideration of the facts. And if perception is reality and your perception won't change then there is nothing that can be done to change your reality.

I will get to the Obama part first. In judging his first first term as President, I keep thinking that either by choice or by circumstances he has governed as a moderate Republican. Now if I said this to probably 95% of Republicans they would almost definitely argue that point. To them he is a Kenyan born, socialist who is out to replace free market capitalism with a government run country. He has raised taxes, personally increased gas prices and also did everything possible to foreclose on your home. In addition to that he has increased the national debt, and made the US a poor place to invest in. People don't like Obama and agree that he is an ultra-liberal President.

In actuality I agree with Bill Maher in this segment about Obama being a lousy socialist. Here is the recap with quotes:

"How can the same guy, Barack Obama, make these people feel that America has changed so completely, and yet make me feel like it has barely changed at all....if Obama were as radical as they claimed here is what he would have already done: pulled the troops out of Afghanistan, given us Medicare for all, ended the drug war, cut the defense budget in half, and turned Dick Cheney over to the Hague."

He then goes on to list examples of how Obama has done a lot of thinks Republicans have wanted and pointed out one of my favorite points about the performance of the stock market during his presidency. "Corporate profits are at there highest ever. If he is a socialist, he is a lousy the question remains - how can you guys be so unhappy with Obama, when I'm so unhappy with Obama."

Added to the above is Paul Krugman's article called This Republican Economy. Reading that combined with what I already know makes me really confused when Republicans showcase their hatred to Obama. Is it racism? Is it ignorance? Does it just come down to the fact that Obama is on the wrong team?
In general I think Republicans have gotten a lot of good things from Obama. In fact a lot of things that W probably would have done have been accomplished by Obama. Consider -
  • He didn't let the Bush tax cuts expire. This is a big one for me. He could have done nothing and immediately accomplished some (not all) of what he is trying to do with the Buffett tax. Reading this announcement, I am confused as to why Republicans would be upset with a President who hasn't raised taxes. Look at the top marginal tax rate and tell me why Republicans are upset?
  • He killed Osama Bin Laden. In a place where W failed (and he had his opportunities to succeed) he accomplished the main goal in the aftermath of 9/11.
  • There have been no terrorist attacks on US soil. While part of this has to due with luck (no matter how powerful I doubt that one person can control everything) it is something that Bush ran on in 2004. I remember the point that you should vote for Bush because he prevented any additional terrorist attacks after 9/11.
  • Bush bailout vs. Obama stimulus. It seems like both Presidents were willing to use government money to try and help the economy out. Here is W in his own words "I'm a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct is to oppose government intervention." But "these are not are not normal circumstances." How is that theory any different than what Obama was trying to do? He entered office during the same not "normal circumstances" and did his best to help the economy out. There are a lot of great charts on the economy if you were curious about how the economy has performed under W and Bush. 
  • Deficit: Bush increased the national debt by 89%. Obama is at 41% right now. If Obama gets reelected it will be a close call to see which President increased debt by a higher %. Neither will come close to Reagan, who increased debt by 189% during his 8 years. Anyway, some will argue that the reason the national debt under Obama has risen is outside of his control.
    1. Tax revenue declined because of the recession. And please note that the recession started Obama took office.
    2. Republicans blocked any attempts at balancing budgets because they refuse to raise taxes even one cent.
    3. Obama was continuing on the wars that W started.
    4. There are so many budget policies set before Obama took office that blaming him for the debt is like blaming a firefighter for burning the house.
  • Deficit (continued): Regardless of the blame you can't be a Reagan/W Republican and say anything poorly about how Obama has handled the national debt. Look at the % increases by year for each President on this chart. Republicans can try to blame Obama on the economy (unemployment is high), but it is hypocritical for them to attack Obama on the national debt. 
Again before anyone gets too upset with the comparison, note that I have left many things out. I didn't touch on the health care bill or any social issues. There are still plenty of differences between W and Obama for you to work yourself into a lather. However, my points above are just trying to bring up some counterarguments to some of the right's critique of Obama.

However, it doesn't really matter. If you hate Obama then you will believe what you want to believe. I didn't try to cherry-pick those stats above. Sure, I used a clip from Bill Maher and an article from a liberal economist Paul Krugman. However, just because those two sources are liberal, doesn't mean they aren't also correct.

The same rationale comes true when people attack LeBron James. Before I get to anything look at his numbers. For those that says he always chokes in the playoffs then pick between the two lines below:

LeBron 1: 27.6 ppg, PER 27.2, TS: 56.9%, reb: 10.5%, assist: 34.1%,WS/48: .233
Lebron 2: 28.4 ppg, PER 27.1, TS: 56.5%, reb: 12%, assist: 33.5%, WS/48: .235

Which player is better? One is LeBron career regular season line and the other is his playoff line. To say he always chokes in the playoffs means not looking at the stats, not remembering game 5 against Detroit in 2007 or the shot in Game 2 against the Magic or him shutting down the Bulls last year.  He is 27 years old and hasn't won a championship yet. Do you know who also was 27 and hadn't won a title yet - Michael Jordan? This is despite having a much better supporting cast (Pipper or Mo Williams?) for a longer period of time.

People will pick and choose what they want to fit their narrative against LeBron or Obama. For the LeBron haters it his last two games against the Cavs or how the Finals ended last year. There are even examples when LeBron does the right thing and is blasted for it. In 2007 he made the absolute correct play in passing to Donyell Marshall for a wide-open corner 3 in game 1 against the Pistons. He was questioned on that play despite the fact that the corner 3 is 2nd most efficient shot in the NBA (right behind a dunk) and also that a 3 pointer would have won the game by one point. It doesn't matter that it is the right play if you have already made up your mind that LeBron always chokes. Just like it doesn't matter if people write well-researched pieces debunking the myth that Kobe is clutch.

For Obama it is the birther argument, or the death panels or any of the other socialist conspiracies that you want to believe. Like Maher, I just can't understand the extreme hatred for Obama. It can't because of facts, since Obama has come no where close to being the most liberal President in history.

It is just sad sometimes trying to talk to people who make completely irrational arguments. If you want to discuss whether or not Obama has been a good President or if LeBron will win a title this year then I am all for that. If you want to just bring out the same tired arguments as others without doing any research then save your time and effort. The world would be a much quieter place if people only talked when they actually knew what they were talking about.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

House update

The house is coming along well and depending on how the inspection goes we should be closing on June 22nd. It is much better walking through a home that actually looks ready as opposed to what we saw last week. Below are the new pictures:


Living room


Master bedroom looking into the dressing area

2nd floor bedroom




TV room (except we don't know where to put the tv)

1st floor bathroom

Monday, June 4, 2012

2 years and counting

I've looked up to my sister my entire life. A combination of her age (6 years older), intelligence and maturity equaled someone I could use as a role model. That isn't to say I always or even often followed her path, but still I like to think I learned some things from her. One big learning was how she handled her relationship with my now brother-in-law. For her and Buck it has always been about equality. They are equal partners on the day to day decisions, but also on the important things like where to live and how to parent. And the best thing about the equality is that it seems to come natural to them. It doesn't even seem like something they have to work at, but rather comes from the fact that they respect each enough to treat each other a equals. I know that might sound simple and expected, but there are plenty of other relationship examples that don't seem to have this base.

I've learned from them and would like to think that M and I have a similar relationship. Again we don't always have the same interests as my sister and brother-in-law, but as I age I think I can recognize and appreciate the similarities that we do have. Also, (and don't think this is a small thing) I enjoy hanging out with them. In many I still look up to my sister and now my brother-in-law as people that have experienced things that I probably will be experiencing soon.

The reason I am writing about both of this is that it is anniversary week. For my sister and brother-in-law it was their 10 year anniversary. For M and I we have our 2nd year anniversary tomorrow. This is kind of a strange anniversary for us because we still haven't settled down. As any regular reader of my blog knows (or pretty much anyone who talks to me) we don't have a house yet and are still living with Mary's parents. This has been a better experience than expected, but it is still something I am looking forward to ending as soon as our house is ready. I enjoy living with M and want to start our life in our new house.

For their anniversary my sister and brother-in-law have a tradition of writing a "state of the union" letter to each other. I'm not going to do that here. 1) It's their tradition. 2) It would be something to be shared with M alone and not in a public forum. I will say that I am happy with how everything is going. One of my good friends told me that she thought the decision to get married would provide a lot of relief and clarity to my life. She talked about how her husband kind of chalked it up as "well, I've made that decision and just move on." I liked that viewpoint in that it means that there is no more analysis and not coincidentally that provides more time to relax. I can just enjoy being married. I no longer have to worry about whether or not so and so likes me or about who pays for dates or the other questions that seem so daunting in retrospect.

Now with 2 years under the belt it is fun to look ahead to see how we will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Will their be kids? Will there be job changes? More importantly - do you think our house will finally be finished by then?

Whatever the answers, I am happy to have M by my side. Happy Anniversary.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do your job - home inspection edition

One of Bell Belichick's favorite lines for his football team is "do your job." (Side note - I don't like Belichick at all, but that doesn't mean I don't think he is a brilliant football coach.) If you are a quarterback then make the right throw and if you are a receiver then catch the ball. It seems like a pretty simple concept, but then again a lot of people seem to worry about things that are outside their area of expertise. Also, on the flipside there are plenty other people who seem to be incompetent at their chosen profession.
Continuing on with that theme, I am livid right now because of what I think is complete incompetence on something that should be routine. Today we were supposed to have our home inspection. M had *lined this up with the inspector and talked to the contractor on Monday to make sure that today was a good day. We both made arrangements and took time off from work to be there for the inspection. Everything looked to be going well in preparation for our closing next Friday.

*Shouldn't the real estate agent do this?
I show up at the house and the inspector is just shaking his head. Immediately he told me that this house was in no way ready for an inspection, and a quick walk through reveled all the obvious reasons why. It still looked like a work site with many, many things left to do. There would have been no point in starting an inspection when the house was so far removed from actually being finished. The inspector said the home should be "98% finished" by the time he should be there, and I have no idea how our contractor could think this home was 98% finished.

What is really baffling to me is that this isn't the first home our real estate agent has sold or the first home our contractor has remodeled. How do they not know this home isn't ready for inspection? I don't mean to be indignant or unfair in any way, but these are the questions in my head. Maybe that makes me mean - I don't know and I don't really know if I care. All of this is making me question the big decisions that we've made. Was it the right decision to buy? Was it the right decision to pick these people? Was it the right decision to sign a contract on this house? I know that right now is a low point, and that I will calm down about the state of this home, but this day was (as you can probably imagine by now) very frustrating.

On our end we saved enough for a down payment, secured a loan and met every single deadline that has been given to us. I know we have a lot less to do than actually remodeling our home, but then again it isn't our job to remodel homes. It is just upsetting to me for us to be so close to buying this home, but also to feel like things just aren't working out in a way that I expected.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Good News / Bad News update

I have done this in the past, so here is another round of good and bad things going on:

Good - Brian Dozier is a major league shortstop. After watching him in the college, seeing him get drafted in the 8th round by the Twins and making his way through the minor leagues it is wonderful that he has already played in 21 games.

Bad - He started off well, but has really trailed off. His overall line of .238 / .258 / .357 for an OPS+ of 70 (100 is an average batter) adds up to a WAR of -0.1. Basically Dozier rates as a slight worse than average triple A shortstop.

Good - I saw my first Twins game on Thursday against the White Sox. It was a well-played game with 8 home runs, and I had great seats thanks to my lawyer friend Ben. Mauer and Morneau combined for 3 home runs and Dozier had a two RBI single. Also, M and I are going to Cleveland this weekend to see the Twins play the Indians.

Bad - The Twins gave up 5 home runs (one being a grand slam) and lost. They are still the worst team in baseball despite the Cubs losing 12 straight. It is a lost year for the Twins.

Good - Our contractor thinks the house will be finished for a closing date of June 8th. The house is looking really good and should be exactly what we wanted.

Bad - The amount of time it has taken to get a house has lessened my excitement about actually owning our first home. It is really unfortunate, since this is easily the biggest purchase in my life, but it probably isn't a good sign that I no longer really like answering questions about the house. Also, it is disappointing that  something that M and I have prepared for by saving, investing and budgeting now seems to be somewhat anti-climactic.. This whole process was supposed to the culmination of our plan, and right now I am just kind of tired of it. I am hoping it changes when we actually move into the home, and get to enjoy what should be a wonderful house. 

Good - I really enjoy my job and am happy that I made this move. It doesn't hurt that I keep finding out that the SAP project I was working on has been pushed back again. I had signed up for October 2011 go live, and it is right now projected to go live in September 2012. 

Bad - I still have a ways to go in actually understanding my work at PINK. I like pulling the reports and managing the Swim forecast, but just when I think I am fully up to speed I have times like today where I realize how far I still have to go. It is a cliche "learning process" and I just need to work harder and more efficiently. Also, one side note that is bad about leaving the Well is that Obama is going to be there on Friday. How is it that I get to see Al Franken and Tim Geithner and a few months after I leave they see Obama?

Good - My vote counts in Ohio.

Bad - Since it counts I am already starting to get a lot of ads from both sides. I don't care about Romney's experience at Bain Capital or how Romney is going to restore "confidence in this country." For the record I don't think Romney's experience running a business should either be a that big of a pro or a con in determining him as a candidate. Also, I don't think Obama can magically make gas prices decline or improve the housing market (which is what Romney suggests). 

Side note - Do people really blame Obama for the recession? It is a fact that it started before he was inaugurated. He possibly could have done more to help the recession, but I haven't heard anything specific from Romney that makes me think of something he did incorrectly. What I disagree with (extending the Bush tax cuts) aren't exactly points that Romney is making against Obama. Also, I feel like I need to spend an entire post talking about the national debt over Obama. 

Good - I beat M in shuffleboard in 6-5 in an epic two day shuffleboard match in Lakeside, OH.

Bad - There isn't really anything bad with that.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reasons why I am voting for Obama

Despite the subtitle in this blog's title, I rarely talk politics on my blog. Why? I know this is an open blog that is only a google search away from being read by whoever. Politics is a sensitive subject, and I didn't want to offend anyone. It is much easier sharing updates on buying a house or what I think about the NBA draft. Still with the upcoming election, I wanted to write down the few reasons why I will be voting  for Obama.

1) Gay Marriage - Obama is for it. Romney is not. I support gay marriage because the arguments against it seem to be irrational at best and hateful at worst. In no ways do denying the option of marriage to anybody help strengthen my marriage. It is the same way that Kim Kardashian divorcing Kris Humphries after 72 days does anything to weaken my marriage. The reason is that my marriage to M is between the two of us, and I really don't care what other people decide to do with that decision in their life. If Romney or other Republicans think that the are on the right side of public opinion then they have no clue how this world is changing. In 10 years it is likely that their opposition to gay marriage will come across as very strange to the general public. The world is becoming a more accepting place, and I would rather have a President who embraced that world.

2) Taxes - I'm a big fan of Miami University, and because of that I love talking about any Miami alum. One exception to that is Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. His tax plan is crazy. In a time where taxes on the rich are at a near low, it makes zero sense to try and lower them more. I think cutting spending on things like "education, training, employment and social services", while cutting tax rates on the rich is a terrible reverse Robin Hood idea. Romney has supported this plan, instead of something more sane as the Bowles-Simpson plan. Now if Romney would have said that he would have supported Bowles-Simpson, then we might have an actual debate on who is better candidate on this issue.

Personally, I would rather have more taxes if those taxes meant things like great public schools, national health care and bridges that don't collapse. Now will Obama do that? Will he be able to cut the deficit?  It is unlikely with the cliched gridlock in DC. There needs to be a compromise on both sides, and when I look at the debate in DC I see one side willing to compromise and one side that isn't. It appalled me that every single Republican said that they would walk away from a 10 to 1 spending cuts to tax increase deal. That shows that none of the Republicans candidates (Romney included) are willing to compromise. I would love for President Obama to do the following:
  • Convey to the public the need for taxes. Also, try to point out that taxes historically right now are very low. Basically do what no politician will do and tell his voting public to stop complaining.
  • Let the Bush tax cuts expire. If the Republicans are going to play chicken on that issue (Obama wanted the Bush tax cuts to be permanent just for people making less than $250k. Republicans wanted everyone included.) then call their bluff. The Bush tax cuts on capital gains and dividends have helped investors out (like me) and helped rich people out in general. How President Bush was able to propose a budget with massive tax cuts AND an increase in spending through the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is beyond me. It is like LBJ all over again with Vietnam and his Great Society. If you want to increase spending then there should be a subsequent increase in taxes. Maybe more people would have cared about the war in Iraq if they knew they were going to have to pay for it.
  • Keep pushing the Buffett tax. It is fair and makes sense. Someday I hope to make enough money to pay the top marginal tax rate, and if I ever do get to that point then I won't mind having my capital gains/dividends tax at my ordinary income rate.
  • Support Bowles-Simpson.
I have more confidence in Obama doing any or all of the above than Romney. Obama might get a C in the way he has handled, but that is a much higher grade that I would give a Romney presidencey.

3) Life changes - While, I don't think there is much President Obama has done that has directly affected my life, I do know that in the past 3.5 years things have gotten much better for me. I think the economy's recovery has been primarily because of things outside Obama's control, but I do give him credit on the stimulus bill and for bailing out the auto industry. And while Republicans like to blame him for the poor economy, it actually has been a very good economy for me. Since he took office, I have found no shortage of good jobs and the stock market is up 50% since he became President. Again, I don't think there is much that he actually did to affect the stock market, but it isn't like I can fault him for what he has done to an economy that has been very good to me.

There are other reasons to vote for Obama, and if you want to talk about other issues then just let me know. The three big ones for me are above, and unfortunately for Mitt Romney this Ohio vote is going to President Obama.