Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Time To Get Sliced!

In 2009, after much deliberation, I decided… OK, let me start over. My wife and I decided last year that it was right time for me to get a vasectomy. After all, we’re done having kids, she’s the one who took the birth control pills all those years prior to that, she’s the one who carried the kids, she’s the one who had to launch them- all I did was coach her breathing, encourage her and try and comfort her.

When we got married we had what I thought was a pretty ingenious rationale for the number of kids to have. You see, I come from a small family with just me and my brother. My dad came from a family with just him and his brother. But my mom comes from a family of 8 siblings. My wife comes from a family of 8 kids and her mom came from a family of 8 kids. So I wanted a bigger family than what I came from but not crazy big. So we settled on two for sure with a mutual option for three (with a limited buyout clause). Here’s the math. If we had one boy and one girl, we’d definitely have a third. But if our first two were girls or both boys then we’d have to go to winter meetings with that option thing- after all, the idea of having a four to one ratio in a household was just too suffocating for me (and my wife. But if we started with one and one, then who cares what the third kid was. Make sense?

Well our daughter enjoyed the spoils of well educated parents- and when I mean well educated, I’m talking about baby-educated. We read all the books and we took the birthing class. When she was born, we kept her on the perfect schedule and she was sleeping through the night by week 6. She enjoyed lots of classical music and enrichment activities. We read the books on what to expect with your kid and we kept on top of it. And I hope I’m not jinxing myself by putting it down on paper, but up until this very moment in time, she’s a pretty good kid.

When we finally decided to have a second child we got a little cocky. Let’s just say that we didn’t review our coursework like we should have. Couple that with already having a first child in the house to share attention with, and our second (this time a boy) got a very different set of early development guidelines. We knew we were in trouble when he wasn’t sleeping through the night- after his first birthday. We knew we were in trouble when he’d pee in his humidifier. We knew we were in trouble when he’d run away from us into traffic- we're talking about stuff our daughter would NEVER do.

Because of our son, (who is a wonderful and sweet boy whom we love dearly), we lost interest in having any more kids- so there went my super perfect trifecta plan for a “bigger” family. In fact, it was quite humbling as it was yet another example of how we aren’t able to make these grand plans and we’re stupid to think that we can control our lives so perfectly.

Our son is now almost six, I’m 40 and my wife is officially in the first year of her perpetual “39s”. So even if we wanted to have another birth child, it’s not in our best interest to do so from a medical persepective. Now here’s where we get a little personal. Ready? Wait for it… we’ve been using condoms only for the last 8 years. (I know, it’s gross just thinking about it. And if you know me personally, then you’ll never look at me the same way again) And when you consider that they say that condoms are like 98% effective, then that means that we should technically have about 7 more kids than we currently do… (again, sorry for the visual)

So getting back to me getting a vasectomy, we decided that it was the best thing to do. I love my wife. Although we may want to go Jolie-Pitt style one day and adopt a child, we’re getting too old for doing it on our own, and it’s just the responsible thing to do isn’t it? But wait, now we’re getting into a morals/ethics issue aren’t we?

I think child molestors and rapists should be castrated. I think people on “permanent” welfare who have multiple kids should be sterilized. I think there should be some sort of government tax break/incentive for getting sterilized regardless of your social situation. I think the solution in Africa should not be only raising money for food and clean water, but birth control. There, I said it. And if you disagree with me, the too bad. I remember about 25 year ago when Bob Geldof and all the British bands I grew up with (but had no idea that many were gay), sang a song about Christmas and Africa and feeding the world. I remember taping the entire Live Aid concert back then too. And just last year, on American Idol, they raised something like a billion dollars for African aid. And my very own church has adopted a village in Chikudzulire, Malawi, Africa where we have drilled wells and built buildings and sent clothing and medical care. But is my church the very first one to ever do something like this?... So my point is that some people in this world have too many other challenges that are only made more complicated by having more kids that can’t be taken care of properly- BY THEIR OWN PARENTS.

So, even though my wife and I have the resources and love that a child should have, we don’t want to have any more babies. Did you know that some religions consider any sort of medical procedure like the one I’m doing to be sinful? Now I’m a Christian, but if God didn’t want us to get vasectomies, then he wouldn’t have wanted us to get stints in our hearts or take antibiotics when we’re sick, or have cavities filled, or put on band aids, or shave (like I have to do to my privates tomorrow morning) or wipe our butts. Yeah I know I may be getting a tad extreme with the whole slippery slope attitude, but I consider a vasectomy a moral responsibility.

Enough with the uncomfortable and polarizing talk, let’s talk about what's actually happening with me getting my balls decommissioned!

When 2010 hit, I promised my wife I’d get it done. Of course the idea of it makes me a tad squeamish, but I told you why it’s a small price to pay considering the discomfort she has endured. Well guess what happened in January- that’s right, I got a kidney stone. Never had one before, but I was sort of forced to meet a urologist who helped me get through the concept of sitting down to pee in a strainer to hopefully catch a rock that would come shooting out of my… self. He even gave me a telescoping portable cup like I had when I was a cub scout- except this cup had a strainer at the end. “Is that a can of Skoal in your pocket?” “No, it’s a cup I use when I sit down to pee at Costco”. So this went on for like 5 weeks and no stone came out, so I had to go in for a CT scan to see if it was still there and sure enough it was gone… so now I could look back in retrospect to all the wonderful memories of sitting down to pee for 5 weeks when the stone most likely passed between the Sunday night that I went to the ER and they saw it on the scan til the next day when I first visited the urologist who analyzed the 12 hour old scan which showed a stone. Awesome.

Couple this wonderful experience with a few unrelated but significant life changes with our family and the vasectomy talk took a back burner. But then in November, my wife had her annual visit to the doctor and while she was there she got a prescription for the old tried and true birth control pills. When these gave her bad headaches and I googled the medication that said “you shouldn’t take these when you hit your perpetual age 39 milestone” and I immediately told her to stop and called my urologist.

Back when I was going through the kidney stone, I mentioned the vasectomy to my doctor and he gave me the rundown. I jokingly said that I’d let him film the procedure so he could put it on Youtube if he gave me a discount, but he then enlightened me that there was already one online of his technique (notice that I'm giving you the option of clicking that link if you really want to see how it's done instead of forcing you to watch it). When he said “What I really need is a video on proper scrotal shaving”, I felt like C3PO excitedly talking to Uncle Owen. His response at the time was to get through the kidney stone. But, there's already a video for that one- and don't worry, it's PG.

So I had my real initial consultation a few weeks ago and of course his office is staffed with attractive women, and they all know why I’m there. He comes in and bluntly asks how many kids I have, why I want it done, etc. He then goes into warning about how it’s not reversible and that if I get a divorce I won’t be able to have kids naturally again. Now this is perhaps the biggest challenge with men who choose to get a vasectomy. Regardless of your relationship with your wife, the idea that you are cutting off your ability to procreate- by choice, is a harsh reality. Going back to our plan of three kids and the fact that we are a little older now, there’s no reason why we couldn’t logistically have another child now. We know plenty of couples who had an unexpected late child- heck my wife is ten years younger than her next youngest sibling and she’s the most wonderful person in the world. So officially saying “I’m done”- not “We’re done” can really affect a man’s ego. But I’m ready.

My doctor was humorously candid about it all. He pre-empted the typical questions with the answers- “Will it affect my ability to enjoy things?” “Won't I feel all pent up all the time?” etc. He then jumped without inquiry with “By the way, the amount that guys do in porno movies is not normal”. And then, for the first time in my life, I let a man play with my penis and balls... and I paid for him to do it... and it was perfectly legal... and he complimented me on my wonderful vas deferens...

And here’s the kicker- my out of pocket for this whole thing- $52. Remember when I went off on how the government should encourage these sorts of procedures? I’d say a small tax incentive is a small price to pay compared to an individual’s drain on our public school systems and depending on how they end up- our welfare systems, prison systems, etc.

Oh, so I’m getting this done on December 23rd- that’s right, sort of a Christmas present to my wife… And guess what gets delivered to our house the day of my procedure- that’s right- a very large and heavy trampoline for the kids that needs to be set up either by Santa in the middle of the night or on Christmas day.
So if you don't hear from me for a few days, now you'll know the reason. I probably won't bore you with the aftermath recovery stuff as my will to live will be gone :( I'm sure I'll find something else to go off on. Don't look back!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Can My Kids Be Happy?

Its weird how at certain times your brain goes into different modes- there’s work mode, play mode, shutdown mode and unfortunately for me right now at 2AM on a Sunday night, I’m in high anxiety mode, and the only cure (so that I can fall asleep) is to get it down in writing.

At 40 years old, I have come to recognize this brain mode. It’s when I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about what needs to be done. Or what hasn’t been done, or that I haven’t reached a life goal that I was hoping to achieve. It’s when I reflect on my life so far and think of the failures and the successes, and what else I need to do.

When I was a teenager, I’d think about social acceptance. I was by no means a loner, but I was the kind of guy where I’d always liked girls above my comfort zone and the girls who liked me were below my comfort zone- I guess I was never happy with my social caste. I did get teased some for several reasons- I was half Korean/half Honkey in an era where that was weird- but now I can say that I was a pioneer! My dad was 60 when I was born which limited physical activities and resulted in lots of “why is your grandpa here on father-son day?” I was given a name that was a little past its heyday- (sorry George Washington and George Westinghouse and Babe Ruth, but you dudes were dead way before I was even a glint in my father’s eye). But now I’m confident in who I am. I think I’m pretty friendly with pretty much anyone. I still may judge those who are above or below me, but I don’t envy them, and I try not to be a total dick to them. When an ex girlfriend of mine (who was white) broke up with me and married an Asian guy, I always rationalized that she missed me and wanted kids who looked like me.

As I got older I’d have anxiety about money or career or meeting the right spouse. As a B student ADD type I was always reasonably intelligent, but always found a way to slack off enough to let my grades suffer, so that I couldn’t go to a top tier college. I learned music and could play piano, clarinet and guitar… but I could never jam or make music (like my brother can). I pretty much learned how to play songs. My dad loved music and had a huge reel to reel tape collection- I ended up working at a CD store and have a huge CD/MP3 collection... I played soccer and baseball long enough to know the games well. I loved baseball and hated soccer… but I was mediocre at baseball and good at soccer- that translates to no high school sports and hence no real team camaraderie beyond youth. But by golly I can watch any baseball game at any skill level and enjoy it.

After college or even when college was almost over, I was a typical Generation Xer and had no real focus or expertise. Unfortunately my own father had passed by then, so when I really needed and wanted some guidance, it was too late and I had no other father figure or mentor. My dad was actually a career Army guy- a colonel who served in World War II. Then he was president of a major metropolitan chamber of commerce. Then he was VP of a start up company- but in my youth, he was stay at home retired dad. Although no Malcolm Forbes, the guy had some decent life experiences. And unfortunately for me I let that slip away without tapping into it.

When I was engaged to my wonderful wife, I had an anxiety dream that I was losing my hair. I got out of bed, went to the mirror and it turned out that wasn’t a dream, I was really losing it. Oh well.

So now that you know a little background on who I was, keep in mind that that’s not why I’m awake. I now can’t sleep because for once in my life it’s not about me. I mean, of course it’s about me, but I’m actually thinking about my family and how their brains work and how they have these same sort of anxieties. I’m anxious on how I can use my past to help them through their present and their future- all without sounding like a preachy parent.

I’ve been married for 12 years now, we have 2 kids and I am a business owner and am also gainfully employed in an industry that I am very capable at. We’ve gone through a few rough patches with the economy and like others; we have our medical scares from time to time. But now we have food in the fridge and a roof over our head. That’s the 10,000 foot view of my life today, but let’s zoom in a bit.

I have a short fuse, I’m lazy, I complain, I’m selfish. But are those bad traits? I get my temper when something doesn’t go the way I plan, or when people don’t meet my expectations. I find the negative in many things and vocalize it much to the chagrin of others. When I’m tired or hungry or burned out I need to sit, eat, watch tv and surf the internet. You remember that I’m folically challenged right? I sound like a real catch don’t I? Well, I’m not putting together a personal profile for eharmony. I don’t want to impress anyone. I love my wife and in fact we just renewed our wedding vows last weekend.

You see, part of tonight’s anxiety is my worry that my kids will end up like me… And any adult with kids can recognize that this is pretty much what happens in life. We may end up in different careers or environments, but our personalities are our parents’. Unless we have just plain bad parents who are abusive, negligent or dishonest, we really don’t have a reason to hate them. Assuming that a parent loves their kids and tries to provide for them and gives them a safe home, that’s pretty good in today’s world. Many kids go through the phase where their parents “just don’t understand”. But then later in life, assuming that they make it through to the other side intact, it all comes together. And then the cycle repeats and we end up having many of those same character traits for better or worse. My mom has a temper and her own idealistic mindset of how things should turn out. My dad was studious, curious, an alcoholic, an adventurer, and eloquent- perhaps that’s why I like to write sometimes. But forget about my parents. Let’s talk specifically about my kids.

I have a 9 year old daughter and a 5 year old son. Now assuming that they never read this, or when they do they are much older and wiser and self assured, then I’m going to lay it out there.

My daughter is very intelligent, very calm, creative, a quick learner in music, good with money, considerate, funny, an avid reader, a cook, an idealist, independent and she’s a daddy’s girl. But at the same time, she’s in 4th grade and has no real close friends, and she is already questioning why she needs to learn things, and she doesn’t practice piano much, and she’s forgetful, and she’s scared of getting hurt and she cries when I try to help her with her homework or piano lessons. Now I have no problem saying all these negative things about her because that was me at that age and I turned out OK. But at the same time, I had that point in my life in between riddled with teen angst and social awkwardness- all that other stuff that she is on the cusp of going through.

My son on the other hand has a few years before teenage stuff, but he’s very intelligent, a good reader, a troublemaker, a crybaby, belligerent, good with math, greedy, fearless, stubborn, and one who is prone to cause calls home about his behavior at school, bus, church, etc. Since I called our daughter a daddy’s girl, unfortunately I need to call him our mama’s boy… Our primary concern is that my wife and I are already fearful of how he might be categorized or shunned for his behavior despite his abilities or that despite watching episodes of Super Nanny and parent coaching (which we have completed), it might require a medical solution.

So, here am I with my traits. I won’t even go into my wife and her traits which are by no means terrible but just as human as anyone else- not to mention her completely opposite upbringing compared to mine, and two very different kids that we call our own. That is why I can’t sleep.

I always pray for guidance and I pray for individual needs for my kids and wife, and I know that worrying does not make it better- just ask my sparsely populated scalp. I feel confident that God will show me the way- whether it’s helping me to be a better person or bringing the right people into the lives of our children or his actual touch on our children’s souls. At this moment, I actually feel like my own needs are third on the list. I really want His will to be done, and then I want the welfare of my loved ones. But by golly, when I get hungry or tired then I shove my way to the top of the list and those who need my prayers or example just see the opposite of what they need. And those that I love observe my selfish actions and although they might not say anything, they sure as heck act on it.

I’m only speaking for myself, but when I look at how my son acts, I usually blame myself. And when I look at how my daughter acts- in a very different way, I feel that it is a result of my actions. My boy fights back and my daughter clams up. In either case, that’s not the right way to raise kids.

I want to be a good example. I want my kids to do well in school. I want them to be musical and creative and athletic and funny. I want them to have “a motor” – not necessarily a cutthroat drive, but a relentless motivation to put thoughts into action. I want my kids to be finishers- not a jack of all trades and master of none. I want my kids to have good friends and meet good people and find true love. I want my kids to be happy so that when they are adults they won’t have such a tough time passing it on to their kids.

Sadly, it really is about me isn’t it?


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Transaction Fee? Really?

We all need to make a buck don't we? You get your hourly pay, or you get your sales commission, or if you own a company then you strive for profitability. If you're a kid you do your chores. Or if you're an American, then you can always count on the government to bail you out for doing nothing! But there's some things that just upset me when I see a little inconsistency.

I use my debit card about 95% of the time. Dining, clothes, groceries, gifts- it's the ultimate way to keep your hands clean so that you don't have to be fiddling with cash. I know there's a fine line between debit and credit cards- especially when one can be used for both purposes, but it is very convenient. But did you know that vendors in many cases get charged a transaction fee for accepting plastic? It's how the transaction companies make a buck- I get it. But do they jack up the price accordingly to cover that fee? Actually, in some cases they do. I remember buying furniture once and they told me they'd cover the tax if I paid cash vs. credit. So in essense they were charging me less to avoid that cost that they'd have to bear. But they didn't give me a total and then tell me it would be more if I paid with credit. And besides- this was not a chain furniture store it was some boutique mom and pop shop. So how they keep their books is fine with me as long as I got what I needed at the price I wanted.

But what really irks me is when big chain companies charge you a transaction fee for buying with debit. Two cases in point are Carls Jr. and AM/PM. Now I haven't been to Carls in a while but I remember actually avoiding that place just for that reason- unless I had cash- but it always chapped my ass to only eat there if I had a ten-spot in my pocket. But AM/PM- I just went there last week.

I live in Arizona and used to live in California so perhaps you don't have this company where you are. It's essentially a big convenience store that also sells gas- the brand of gas you ask? Well it used to be ARCO and still has that label but that's now owned by BP... (how timely!).

So before you get your gas, you put in your card and they warn you that they're going to charge .45 cents to use your debit card. 45 cents divided by 20 gallons is 2.25 cents per gallon- so since their prices are about 3 cents cheaper than their competition in many cases it's no big deal right? Right? WRONG!!!!

Why should they and only they charge this stupid fee in the first place? I'll tell you why they shouldn't.

1. More pay at the pump activity means decreased staffing needs. Less employees means less payroll. Pretty simple
2. More pay at the pump activity means fewer accounting errors. Humans make mistakes and clerms might give the wrong change or accidentally accept counterfeit money
3. I can't imagine the staff at a convenience store making a ton of money so you have the risk of employee theft- the more cash transactions, the more cash on hand
4. Along those same lines, more cash on hand means a higher likelihood of robbery which would mean increased security measures and associated costs.

So by accepting debit in a seemless personless transaction, the company benefits- thus justifying the transaction fee that the processor takes! And I don't even work for one of these companies or any other interested parties. I'm just a dope who sees a ridiculous policy carried out by a very very large company!!!

But anybody who's ever bought gas there knows about this charge so when they drive by and see the price per gallon which is a few cents cheaper than the Chevron across the street then they already know the game. I flat out avoid AM/PM/ARCO/BP exactly for this reason... unless I'm out of gas and there's nothing else around which then fuels my anger and makes me write about it!

Here's another bone of contention regarding this recent experience.

When I was done, the machine then told me "Out of paper, see attendant" Are you kidding me? Don't they get notified when they are out of paper? Now I need to walk into the actual store to get my receipt? Add to this the recent BP spill in the gulf and there's no wonder why I'm the only guy in the parking lot! And another thing- I get in there, tell the guy that I need a receipt on 12 (his nationality is unimportant), and he asks me "How much was it?"


alright, maybe I didn't need the quotes on that last part. I'm not sure how to emphasize what goes on in your mind.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We need to talk about your TPS reports

So I took on a contract position auditing fraudulent appraisals for a major national lender. I wasn't too thrilled about potentially going back into the corporate world- even if it could turn out to be a home based situation- but either way, I'm in and for the month of March, we have a designated trainer in the offices. It's a cube farm- lots of grey, identical setups for each and I was "contracted" along with 13 other appraisers and we all started on the same day.

After the first day of classroom training where I realized that there are a lot of computer-illiterate people out there, I started the second day at my cube and got crackalacking.

So about 10AM I decided to relieve myself and when I came back to my cube, I saw a bunch of random browser windows open, plus MS word and excel. I stood over the keyboard and thought "what is all this crap on my computer?", so I quickly closed all the windows and sat back down. When I looked over to the yellow pad on the desk, I realized- "that's not my handwriting- this isn't my cube!". I stood up, moved one cube over and hunkered down.

About an hour later, someone was at my cube "George, can you show me how to do something?" I had no idea who it was, but I'm a helpful guy, so I said sure and followed him to his cube- right next to mine... He asked me how to move something from one monitor to another and then asked "How do I save my work?" I wasn't sure if he was trying to call me out, so I matter of factly told him how to do it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Plan Update 5- Gardening

This past Saturday, the kids were all geeked out about playing baseball as a family. Spring training is in town, soccer season is over, we just got a new baseball bat, and it was a beautiful day in Arizona. So I loaded up the car while the family was chilling in front of the Wii and then I announced that we had about an hour to play before our church's grand opening pre-party. Cole got all excited and went out front with just socks on trying to hit rocks with the bat, Madison got all dressed, and then I noticed something on the counter- a FedEx envelope.

I asked Nadine how long it had been there and she said that it was on our doorstep after soccer. My eyes went wide and I announced that it was the loan modification package. I ripped it open and found 8 pages and a FedEx return envelope. I didn't want to read, I just wanted to look at terms. Page 1- words, Page 2- words, Page 3- three payment coupons which are 80% of our current payments, Page 4- words, Page 5- words and three date/payment items that corresponded with the payment coupons from page 3. I felt like I was missing something (and considering that I'm not a speed reader, and that I opened the package 30 seconds prior, perhaps that was why my daughter's worst subject in school is reading comprehension). So I enlisted Nadine to read as I read.

We started from the beginning.

  • Page one says: I qualify for the workout plan. My monthly payments are based on the income information that I provided, and my payments during the test period are an estimate of what it will be if I pass the test period. They will charge me for an appraisal or BPO (broker's price opinion- which is provided by an Realtor) or in my case, I heard the last rep say that he'd order an AVM (automated valuation model). Page 1 continues with saying that if I can't handle the payments, they will still work with me to figure out a solution. It concludes by saying that if my payments are received, they consider that I have agreed to the terms of the plan.

  • Page two is: three payment coupons that are about 79.8% of what my current payment has been. Now keep in mind probably the biggest challenge with loan modifications- A mortgage payment can consist of a handful of line items. Those line items can include (but aren't limited to) interest on your mortgage, principal on your mortgage, private mortgage insurance premium, property tax estimates, property insurance estimates, late fees. Now what a lot of people do is pay as little as they can to the mortgage company and figure they can take care of the rest on their own- specifically the taxes and insurance. Now these items are required for everyone who has a mortgage, but in our paycheck to paycheck society, a lot of people would rather pay those specific items exactly when they are due and perhaps with a credit card- as opposed to setting money aside each month in anticipation of those payments. So mortgage companies set up what called an Escrow Account specifically for this purpose. If you haven't been set up like this prior to your loan mod, then your revised payment can easily be MORE than your old payment. Say your mortgage payment was $2000 per month and that is just principal and interest. You pay $2500 a year in property taxes and $500 a year in homeowners insurance but you pay those on your own. If your mortgage company reduces your payment to $1800 a month, that's pretty cool isn't it? But now they will require that your taxes and insurance are escrowed, so your monthly payment will now be about $2050 per month- hardly any monthly relief, but in the big picture, you're still saving $2400 a year in immediate cash flow. If you're not clear on this, feel free to add a comment below- I'm in real estate so it's easy for me to understand, but that doesn't make me smart in whatever it is YOU do for a living!
    So, bottom line is that we already had an escrow account and so if and when my loan was modified, I knew that those items were already part of the equation. To summarize, my new trial payment is now several hundred dollars less than what it was.

  • Page 3 tells me what to do now: to accept this offer, simply pay the coupons on the previous page instead of what I had been paying. I have to send payment to a different address and if I send the wrong amount, it screws up the process. They don't require any additional documentation. They gave me a phone number to call if this new plan is not practical. They say that any foreclosure sale would be cancelled if the terms are complied with. It says that my credit score may be affected by accepting the modification. It states that my debt-to-income ration is 31.01% (I assume that means with the new payment). It states that if my debt-to-income ratio is over 55% I'm required to seek credit counseling from a HUD-approved agency.

  • Page 4 looks like a contract/agreement and is full of "legaleeze": It is a statement that says that they will modify my loan permanently if everything I've provided is true and if I make the three payments. It says that the modification will be an amendment to my current mortgage.

  • Page 5 is the second page of the agreement: It says more of the same plus: "the lender will hold the payments received in a non-interest bearing account until they total an amount that is enough to pay my oldest delinquent monthly payment in full (I have no delinquent payments). It says that if I miss a payment during the three months or if they find out that any condition of my documentation is not true, that the plan will terminate. It also says that this is NOT a modification and that the modification only goes into effect if I've met the payment terms of the trial period and if my documentation remains true.

  • Page 6 is a FAQ (frequently asked questions). Of note are "How was my payment determined?"- 31% of total gross monthly income. "How will my credit be affected?" If already late, then normal reporting, if my payments are current then no effect on credit as long as I make the payments. "When will the modification be permanent?" If all three payments are made they will re-evaluate my qualifications and a decision will be made within 20 days of final payment. "Will my interest rate and principal and interest payments be fixed after modification?" Interest rate and monthly payment will be fixed unless the new modified rate is below current market interest rates. If that's the case, it will be fixed for five years and then it may increase by 1% until it reaches the cap- the cap is determined when the loan modification is made permanent- so you have five years advance notice of what that cap will be. "Are there incentives for being current?" (this was the interesting one) Once modified, you may qualify for a pay-for-success incentive, where if you make your payments in full and on time, you'd get sort of a cash benefit of up to $1000 per year for five years (to help built equity). But the benefit is lost if 90 days late on a modified payment.

  • Page 7 is a boilerplate HUD statement warning the consumer about foreclosure rescue scams as well as contact information for the Special Inspector General for TARP (troubled asset relief program) in case you do encounter any fraudulent activity.

Now it only took about 1 minute to really get the gist of the letter, so no time was lost on the day. So, I guess you can say that a solution has been reached (sort of). Until those three payments are made and the loan is permanently modified, then this is only an interim solution, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Then Nadine disappeared. I gleefully rangled the kids into the car to go play baseball, but when I called Nadine, she was in the backyard, trimming a bush... I snapped at her about baseball and then I realized what she was doing. And so for the next hour we trimmed the bushes that hadn't been trimmed in over two years- a little bit of home ownership pride was restored and she wanted to get right on making out house beautiful again. I wish I could have gotten a picture of her jumping in the trash can to compress all the clippings.

Don't give up hope in your situation!


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Friday, February 26, 2010

Another Straw on the Medical Back

I believe in health care reform- not socialised medicine, but a tweaking that would limit lawsuits, lower costs and make health care more of a pleasant financial endeavour. And although it sucks to have to pay $1000 out of pocket on a $9000+ 4 hour hospital stay to monitor a kidney stone, it sure as heck beats paying $9000 out of pocket. So $1000 is a big chunk of change- no doubt, but I'm more concerned with the $28.41 bill I got a few weeks ago.

I turned 40 this year so over the past 5 years I've dreaded the idea of a doctor "using the whole fist" to check my innards. In December, I scheduled a physical to go over where I am physically- you know, a physical. I went in, perfectly healthy and they checked my vitals, ordered blood, urine and stool tests and the doctor asked me if I had any questions. I told him that my wife and I are pretty much done procreating and I want to find a urologist for a vasectomy. I also told him that I've had one of these fungus toenails- you know those nasty jobbies. I actually got that about 1988 when skiing with my buddies Neil and the Whip. I had long toenails, rented equipment, and my left big toe went black, fell off and never grew back correctly. My dermatologist back then called it "20 year athlete's foot" Well, by golly, 2009 was 20 years and I've still got it.

Now, I can't really sue Dr. Brossia since he's dead, but I'm holding this whole "20 year" thing at its word. My buddy Matt used to work for Novartis and he has been bugging me about getting it taken care of, but I finally brought it up with my doctor and got a lab request and then prescription.

So flash forward to mid January- I paid my $25 copay, but all of a sudden I get a bill from the doctor for $28.41. I called the billing company and they tell me that on top of the physical, I was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and that was the reason for the additional charge...

I then call the office manager at the doctor's office and she reiterates this- but then adds that a physical is for when you're not sick, but the line item for upper respiratory infection was not a "well visit". I hate to be a jerk, but I wasn't sick when I went in. So I present this logic:
"Was I charged for the urologist referral?" No
"Was I charged for the toenail diagnosis?" No- but I did pay to have lab work done
"What does the doctor have down as the course of action for this supposed upper respiratory infection? Did he prescribe me anything? Did he suggest over the counter medicine? Did he say it will run its course?"
Now the office manger hits me with "Dr. ***** wouldn't have put this on there if it wasn't true." to which I replied that I wasn't questioning his honesty, but perhaps that this was input/charged by mistake. The office manager took offense to this and before she could say another word I said "If I was sick when I came in I don't remember it, but why wouldn't it show a course of action?" She's just not getting my logic (BTW, I've lost well over $28.41 in productivity so far by writing this blog)

I then ask her to check with the doctor on what the recommended course of action was for this URI. She tells me that she will get back to me- I ask when, and she replies "Next Week", I ask what day and she says Friday.

So this morning, she called me up and said that she had a conversation with the doctor and that he did not enter it by mistake and that the staff did not key it in by mistake. I ask her what he has down as the course of action for the URI and she doesn't answer. I ask her again and she said that it was in the late stages and that it would run its course. I ask her why she didn't tell me that in our conversation last week, and she basically ignored that question.

Does our health care system need reform? Sure. Does it require Obamacare? No. Is it fair for me to spend another $28.41 out of pocket when I shouldn't have to? No. Are there idiots in the world who don't understand that it's crap to get away with this sort of thing? Absolutely. Have I wasted too much time on this? You betcha.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Plan Update 4- Returned Serve

My last entry was from February 16th- 4 business days ago. We sent in our loan modification package to our lender with the expectation that they'd call in 10 days to confirm receipt and discuss any additional information they require, with a total 60 day turnaround time before a solution is offered. Got a call today from the company and she had a simple income question which we worked out in about 5 minutes. She said that everything was complete and I'd have an answer within another two weeks- That would be 3 weeks total!

However, after talking with a Realtor friend of mine I had a question, so I called them back and first off, the guy answered my question, but secondly, he actually went through my package again- despite the fact that I just told him that I was informed that it was complete. He pointed out that we didn't send a signed tax return and that we needed to provide the lender contact information on the form that would be used to request a copy of my taxes from last year. So, he proactively helped ensure the completeness of my package. Very cool.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Plan Update 3 "Real Action"

Eight months.

That's how long it's been since I've done anything at all related to our loan modification/housing situation. To get you up to speed, check out the post from way back in April 2009

To summarize, we have a 5 year interest only loan coming up to the "adjustment" in July 2010. It will essentially become an adjustable rate loan at that point with our loan amount of a shade over $300k. We bought when values were high and now they're low.

As our standard of living has been manageable for the past year, the loan mod has not been a top priority. However as that July 2010 date creeps ever faster towards us, the time to act is now.

The irony of these sort of situations is that when business is good, it's easy to make your mortgage payment. When a family member loses their job and thus regular income, it's sort of difficult to qualify for a new loan in today's tightened lending environment. So, the right time to do something like this is while you still have stable job security- something that is becoming more difficult for Americans every day.

So my wife is gainfully employed and I own my own company and 2009 was a decent year for us. But unfortunately, I've had a real negative attitude about our home for the past 2 years. A plant dies- I don't want to replace it. Carpet has a stain- I don't want to clean it. Don't get me wrong, we're not slobs by any means (despite having two kids and a dog). But why would you want to put another dime in your upside down home when nobody appreciates those investments any more. I'm not saying that nobody appreciates a clean nice looking home, but when you're in the black and you want to sell, you want to get as much out of your home- for yourself. When you are going to get foreclosed on or if you are short selling your home, it really doesn't affect your personal bottom line whether you have a dead tree in your yard or dirty walls.

So finally, in December 2009 I called my lender- and surprisingly, it went pretty well. I called the main 800 number on my statement, was channeled to customer service and was transferred to the loan modification department. And here is where our fearless leader- Mr. Obama stepped in- The lady asked me three questions:

  1. How much are your homeowner's association (HOA) dues?
  2. Do you have less than $4700 in liquid assets?
  3. Is your gross monthly income less than $5000?

Based on those three questions, within 30 seconds it was determined (based of course on our particular loan) that we do NOT qualify for the "Making Homes Affordable" plan. So the kind lady transferred me to the Loan Servicing Department.

Once there, the gentleman whom I spoke with told me his employee number and told me that I would need to fill out the Financial Analysis Package which is on their website. He told me that once that application is returned, I'd get a call within 15 days confirming receipt of said package and that within 60 days, they would have a loan modification option that I would be able to accept or decline. The only cost associated with this would be a drive by appraisal of my home at the cost of between $100-$150, which would then be tacked onto our loan balance.

As you may already know, I am a real estate appraiser. I actually do appraisals for my lender (coincidentally), and I actually do them for the department that I was contacting. I could tell a side story of why my 2009 was pretty good, but that's too much of a tangent- let's just say that appraisals are more in demand when the market is going bad. If you'd like to learn more about my work you can check out my professional blog at Appraiserdude, or follow my on Twitter @appraiserdude.

So since I "talk the talk", I asked some questions which I'm sure are not uncommon (remember, these are with my lender only and might be different with another lender):

What is the typical solution? A chunk of your principle is deferred as a balloon payment and your new loan is based on the reduced principle balance. So if you owe $300k, they might defer $100k, and give you a new 30 year fixed loan with a $200k balance- When you sell your home, you still owe the entire balance. They typically give you "step" interest rates on your payments, so for the first 6 months, your interest rate might be 3%, then it kicks up to 4%, etc.

How does this affect my credit? It does not affect your credit as there is no credit check. The decision is based on the information you provide along with your payment history with the lender.

What out of pocket costs are there? None- the only cost would be an appraisal and the fee is rolled into the loan balance.

What other stipulations are there? If you don't have an escrow account for property taxes and or homeowners insurance, they would be required. So if your current mortgage payment covers principle and interest and you pay your property taxes and or homeowners insurance as those bills arrive, they'd require those to be rolled in. This typically freaks people out since their new payment might actually be more than their current one, but the lender is simply making it more practical for them as those two required payments are now part of the deal (and don't get me started on the fact they the lender earns interest on that escrow money before it's actually due to the insurance company or municipality).
Also, they would require that your mortgage payment is automatically drawn from your checking account- so no more mailing payments.
Finally, he told me that the new loan would not be assumable. That means that if i sell the home, the new buyer wouldn't be able to take over my loan and its terms.

Fortunately for us: our escrow is already part of our payment, our payment is already automatically withdrawn and assumable loans are not common in the first place and I have no need for one.

Also of huge importance for this sort of situation, we only have our first mortgage. So there is one loan on our house. On past homes we've had second mortgages or home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) which means that two entities (besides us) had a financial interest in our home. If we owed $300k for our first, $75k on our second, and our home was worth only $200k, then it sort of throws a wrench into the whole process as the lender who carries the lien on the second mortgage will probably get shafted in the process.

As I had built a rapport with the guy from loan servicing, and since I understand his world (a little) I flat out started venting to him a little. Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a lot. So I expressed that it sucks that responsible people who try to play by the rules are getting hosed for trying to do the right thing while people who know the system are taking advantage of it, walking away from loans even though they can pay them and in fact profiting from the situation our housing market is in. Sure there are guys like Bernie Maddoff who flat out commit fraud, but there are those who take advantage (legally) of the fact that the real estate market is inundated with foreclosed homes, the government has bailed out banks and any other loophole they can find to make a buck.

He then told me that I could simply skip a payment and the bank will automatically send me a preapproved loan modification package... that's what floored me.

So, if I play by the rules, fill out a form, put together a profit and loss statement for my business, show my family cash flow, get copies of pay stubs, copy my 35 page tax return, and then send that in, I'd have the same results as if I simply skipped a single mortgage payment. Doesn't that make you sick? Whatever happened to being responsible? Whatever happened to maintaining a good credit history?

When a friend of mine can short sell a million dollar house simply because he's upside down and immediately buy a $500k house- while at the same time buying a Cadillac Escalade and Jaguar, it makes you wonder.

So, bottom line is that today, I sent the loan modification package to my bank. Yes, I've really started the process. Stay tuned for updates and post a comment if you have any questions about this or anything else. I look forward to it.

PS. If you haven't figured this much out yet: You can do it yourself. Turns out that banks are willing to get something done (at least they claim to). So before you call a "loan modification" company to help you out, call your own bank and see what needs to be done in your situation.

PPS. After I posted this blog, I got a new follower on Twitter whose website is an absolutely FREE loan modification help site. Check it out.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Monday, February 1, 2010

Where's the Beep?

Since all the morning shows talk about the awards shows, I decided to tune in a little for the Grammy awards so I didn't "miss" anything... Just a little to whet my appetite. Lots of lame musicians, some politically incorrect conversation between my wife and I about why there's the Black Entertainment Awards, the Latin Grammys, yet no "White Grammys" awards (but that's an entirely different subject).

We watched part of a live performance by Eminem and Lil Wayne. Now pardon me for not being hip to hip hop. I hate to age myself, but the hip hop I like is Coolio and LL Cool J and Beastie Boys. Sure I know Eminem and I think he's ok, but I couldn't name a song by Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Kanye West or any of the "newer" crop. But even that's not the point. I grew up with plenty of vulgar lyrics to songs, whether it was Nine Inch Nails, Two Live Crew, or heck, "Skyrockets in Flight" by Starlight Vocal Band. So I'm hardly offended. I just choose what I want to listen to.

But during the aforementioned Eminem/Lil Wayne bit, there were huge gaps of silence. Of course the first thought is that it was a transmission problem with the satellite, but of course, the realization that they're being "bleeped" out was a more practical answer. So since the track seemed to be about 30% obscured, it was really annoying. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks it was annoying. So my question is, why did they change the censorship from the "beep" to just plain silence? And what's the protocol for that? Any reality show has the beeps and in fact Jimmy Kimmel has his weekly "This Week in Unnecessary Censorship" to make fun of the beeps.

So why weren't the Grammys beeped? Perhaps would it have been.. TOO ANNOYING? And then maybe with so much beeping, people would have realized that the track had a ton of inappropriate lyrics (for network tv), and complained to the network. Jimmy Kimmel is late night. Most reality shows are on cable or the cursing is accidental or incidental. But in the Grammys they knew what songs would be performed. And they knew what the lyrics were. Yet instead of beeping like they should have, they went with silence. Does that equal less complaints? Is silence golden? Is that one heck of a cop out excuse for allowing this crap on TV with minimal pushback?

Am I the only one who see's rigth through this schtick?!?!?!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Wife's Pain, A Husband's Journey, Who's the Jackass?

Our daughter Madison was born September 10, 2001. She was our first and because we were ignorant newliweds we were slow at going to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy. So at about week 12 (after a full 3 missed period), we called her doctor and the receptionist basically freaked out and scolded us for waiting so long. So we go into her doctor and lo and behold, she was pregnant. So besides the joy of knowing that we would be parents, we were met with 2 pieces of bad news- 1) we'd have to deliver at a hospital 45 minutes from our house because everything was already booked in advance at the nearby hospitals 2) our embryonic child's kidneys were too big- a red flag for Downs Syndrome. The hospital situation was chalked up to ignorance, but the kidney thing was a conversation stopper.

The doctor quite bluntly said that we had a very short window in which to terminate the pregnancy and that we'd need to do the amnio test and meet with a genetic specialist to confirm and advise us in more of a specialized manner. So between that doctor visit and the genetic specialist appointment we were faced with the discussion of how to proceed once we had that second appointment. Now back then, Nadine was Catholic and I was Christian, but we weren't practicing our faith. And our faith was more based on how we were brought up instead of any sort of Road to Damascus moment.

Well, for the first time since we got married, we prayed together about this and to be honest, there was no decision to be made. It was not our will, it was His. Flash forward to the genetic counselor appointment and the results- we were actually a month more pregnant that we though. So our daughter's kidneys were big because they weren't that big. You call that what you want, but to us our faith in Christ was renewed that day.

Now for those gentle readers who are reading this next paragraph despite the possibility that you might not be Christian and perhaps you belittle religion or you you are pro-abortion, you can rest easy because my little testimonial is complete. It's time to return to what I do.

So on September 10, 2001, I was getting ready to go to work and Nadine was home for the final few weeks before she was due (doctor's orders bedrest). I head to the home office to check my fantasy baseball stats when Nadine calls- "It's time". To this I reply "Just a second, I need to check my baseball stats..."

Next thing I hear is a banging into a doorway. I run downstairs to see Nadine dragging her overnight bag to the car. Needless to say, she was not happy. I got the message, loaded up the rest of our stuff and we headed to the Scripps Hospital in La Jolla- in rush hour traffic- 45 miles from our house. The conversation on the way there went a little like this "Are you ok?" "..." "Are you doing alright?" "..."

Now although I'm sharing the story of our first child's birth, that is not the point of this post, it's just background. But to finish off this part of the story: water broke when we walked in the hospital, 45 minutes of labor, Ed McCafferey broke his leg on Monday Night Football, nurse woke us up the next day to tell us that the World Trade Centers had been destroyed. Happy birthday Madison.

Flash forward to yesterday- January 27, 2010: I had been having some back pains a few times this past week- not muscle paid- Nadine said it was gas, so Tums, hotpad and some whining by me. Two nights ago, I finished my work at 4AM so I got 3 hours of sleep, and last night I wrapped up my work (and politial analysis) by a respectable 3AM. I rest my head and wake up to excruciating pain in my back- it's now 3:12AM. But this time I couldn't get comfortable no matter what. I'm talking about debilitating, leg shaking pain. Nadine got up and donned the Google MD hat and figured that I've got the symptoms of kidney stones. Meanwhile, the cheapest man in the world (who just finished paying $6000 for his son to spend the night at a mountain resort hospital) was wondering how he's going to get to the hospital. I could tangent about the fact that there's a brand new state of the art hospital 5 minutes from my home, but I'd only get upset that it sits dormant- 1 year past the grand opening date due to the economy. So I know that the next closest hospital is 20 minutes away. It's good that it's raining and that I couldn't sit down or stand up or lie down.

And get this- for the sake of keeping our kids dreaming of Mario Kart Wii, I grabbed my cell, and my bible and got in my car to drive myself. I turned out of our neighborhood and the sweat began. Did I mention that it was raining? I got 5 miles away and I was basically between any commercial development, and I thought I was going to die. I really thought I was going to pass out- I figured that if I pulled over on the side of the dark road, I might get stuck in the mud, get out of the car and fall iinto the road, or I'd call 911 and they wouldn't be able to find me. So I pressed on. I got about halfway there and pulled into the Dunkin Donuts center. No, I wasn't hungry, I just needed a checkpoint, a halfway house, a well lit place to die in dignity... I got out of the car and tried to walk it off but felt worse. So I prayed for just a little more strength and got it on. No choice but to get it on.

The rest of the drive was a blur. A little under the speed limit, the most comfortable position was my chin resting on the steering wheel, Nadine was texting me like crazy, the Classical music station was playing 1812 overature- hardly Baby Mozart material, the Christian station was playing some hardcore praise music- not really bringing me closer to God. Maybe in the Nine Inch Nails way, but not in the way I was hoping for. I got to the hospital, drawn in by the bright EMERGENCY light and I pulled into the emergency vehicle dock by mistake. No time to freak out, I calmly flipped one and found the real parking. Got out of my car (did I mention that it was raining) and walked up to the lobby like a jell-o man. The hall monitor jumped up and shoved a thermometer in my mouth. I couldn't look up, I couldn't tell you what color hair she had, and I spit the thermometer out and asked her grab me a something to throw up in. I almost asked her hold my hair back so it wouldn't get puke on it as my memories of college flashed back to me, but then I realized that I had no hair. The feeling passed for a moment. I went into the admittance room, staring at the ground now, sweat pouring and then I expelled. The non-MDs were singing "Kidney Stone" acapella and I was admitted.

IV, CT scan, morphine, 3 units of saline and it was confirmed. Did I mention Morphine? I've never had it before. I was expecting the nurse to put a big M on my forehead. And while I didn't need a cathedar to blow up the stones, I still thought I was going to die. Once I peed in a cup, I was sent home by 8:15AM with a prescription for FloMax- that's right, the old guy medicine! I had a conversation with my nurse during a later bout of more pain
Me: "Am I being a wuss about all of this? I mean do I really need this pain medicine?"
Her: "Passing a kidney stone is the male equivalent of childbirth"

So now it all comes together. 8 years later, kidneys, a painful drive, trying to find cheap punch and judy hitters on the waiver wire. I have finally made up for my inconsiderate actions of 2001. As I left the hospital, Nadine called me to say that the kids were off to school and that she's on her way to work. In my croaky and exhausted voice I said "We're even". She laughed and I love her for that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who's to Blame for McGwire's Steroid Use?

I'm a baseball fan first and foremost. I've had periods when I was really into hockey or football, but I've always been a fan of baseball. Back to my youth of little league, trading my extra Ricky Henderson rookie cards away, cherishing my oversized Brooks Robinson card, growing up watching the infield of Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell all those years, standing on the rail of the right field foul pole at Anaheim stadium and watching Dave Henderson kill the Angels, rooting for a team in a French speaking non-American country and year after year watch them cut payroll by getting rid of more stars than you can imagine, and yes, turning on the TV during my honeymoon to watch the homerun chace of 1998.

But then Ken Caminiti started saying that 40% of players use performance enhancing drugs (PED), and Jose Canseco came out with allegations of rampant steroid use- even going so far as naming names. Now some of our biggest names of recent years have been labeled PED users or cheaters. We're talking Sheffield, Tejada, Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Palmiero, and now Mark McGwire. And with those players I just named, through the 2009 season, they have made $889 MILLION dollars... and they are cheaters! And that's just some of those who have admitted it. You and I can both name two giant names who are still denying allegations, and who else knows the truth about other offenders.
Now I'm not defending the use of these drugs in the first place, but why were they using these drugs in the first place? To hit home runs? To return from injury? To get a job? To keep a job? Because everyone else is doing it?

Sorry to jump ahead, but allegedly, Barry Bonds was upset with the attention that Sosa and McGwire got in 1998, so he decided to put himself on the same level by using PEDs (allegedly). This is a guy who was already a superstar as far as stats go. He was already beloved by the fans of San Francisco. He already had a ton of money. But the longball is what people wanted.

My favorite baseball team IS the Montreal Expos. The experiment to the north started the year before I was born and they went through the typical expansion team era where they were just plain bad. But then they developed a team, got fan support and by the late 70's the Montreal Expos were THE game in town. Sure the Montreal Canadians hockey team was always popular, but the Expos had enormous fan support. But just like a majority of teams (no not the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox), when the team doesn't win, the fans don't come. And when the team doesn't win consistently, then that fanbase gets worse and worse as people change their lifestyles away from going to the stadium.
Now this is not an essay about the Expos, but they are the perfect example of what went wrong with baseball in the early/mid '90s. The Expos had an awesome team in 1993 and in 1994 it was even better. The fans were there and the team was in first place- by a lot. But then a players strike killed the end of the 1994 season and for the first time in 90 years, the World Series was cancelled. Come 1995, the Expos had to get rid of their stars because they deserved more money and the team couldn't afford it, and the true decline of the Expos ensued.
But beyond the situation in Montreal, baseball fans in general were upset. What about the Yankees of 1994- they were on track for the postseason- and Don Mattingly was probably upset. Tony Gwynn was close to hitting .400 and with his friend Ted Williams still alive, that would have been a great storyline. Frank Thomas and Matt Williams and Carlos Baerga all missed out on record breaking seasons.

The fans suffered and Major League Baseball as an entity suffered, and they needed reasons to come back. Sure we had feel-good stories in the next few years- like Cal Ripken passing Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games, a world series won by an expansion team and othe rindividual milestones, but it was the home run that brought fans back.

Guys like Bonds, Williams, Bichette, Galarraga, Walker, Thome, Beltre, Jones, Belle, Griffey, Ramirez and Ortiz were crushing it. Guys like Luis Gonzalez suddenly became home run hitters. Heck, one year there was a commercial with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux (and Heather Locklear) talking about chicks digging "the long ball". Home runs became the reason for fans to come out to see the games.

Did anyone question this power surge? Was anything done about it? Were PEDs allowed in MLB? As you may know, I'm a real estate appraiser by trade. Was the housing boom caused by individual loan officers, realtors and appraisers? Or was it caused by lax policies coupled with hype? But when the real estate market crashed, who got the blame? The loan officers, realtors and appraisers.

Who promoted home runs? Who benefitted from the additional fans at the park? The merchandise purchased? Naming rights? Television contracts? Concession sales? It was THE OWNERS and the head of the PLAYERS UNION, and yes, THE COMMISSIONER himself.

I just saw "8 Men Out" again a few weeks back and in the end, the gamblers and owners got away clean- and rich. And it was the players- the face of the team, who suffered the consequences. Never mind that some of them took bribes. Never mind that our current crop of players got huge salaries. They are still the pawns of this big scheme.

Guys like Canseco and Caminiti spoke out and were criticized (by whom?)
Guys like Giambi, A-Rod and Pettitte denied then admitted and they were praised
And guys like Bonds, Clemens and McGwire have denied amid overwhelming evidence.

Mark McGwire finally came clean for his own reasons. Perhaps one day Clemens and Bonds will too. Will they do it to get in the hall of fame? To free their soul? Heck, pretty soon, players will be considered a minority if they didn't use PEDs.

But how many players and past players have escaped suspicion and finished off their careers without incident? I'm sure the hallworthy ones will be under a cloud, but what about the career .280 guy who played 13 seasons and finished off his career with 1800 hits, 260 home runs, a few all star games and perhaps a gold glove- I'm not talking about anyone in particular, but that's a pretty solid career isn't it? And a player like that could make $5MM a year in baseball. Not bad if you're taking PEDs and not getting caught.

I've forgiven Mark McGwire because it was the system that failed him. It was the leaders of baseball who failed him. It was the greed of rich men who wanted to get richer who failed him. And they've done a disservice to the game.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Midnight Sun- a Twilight Zone Analysis

OK, so I'm brining to the table a "no duh" revelation. It's the sort that's similar to the old joke of building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. to keep illegals from coming in, "Yeah, but who do you think is going to build the wall?". Yuk yuk.

So, it's dang cold out there. Orange juice crops in Florida are on the brink of devastation, the rest of the South is seeing the rare snowfall. Record snow is falling in South Korea and China, and Europe sees no end to the cold snap (of course all of this is as of January 11th, so I'm sure things will improve soon).

But since it's the hot topic, the subject of global warming is what I'm thinking about. Yes I know it's not about seasonal extremes- heck I live in Arizona where it's routinely 115+ in the summer and I had to run barefoot in my skiivies today to get the newspaper (barefoot of course). But with more attention to Climategate, and the seeming disappearance of Al Gore, you've got to wonder what the heck is going on.

No real commentary besides my opinion that the Al Gore/Ted Danson camp is wrong. No, not wrong about the world needing to change its habits for our future, but wrong about the impact of human polution and activity. We're more likely to end up like Wall-E earth than Waterworld and the fact that my town voted AGAINST curbside recycling made my stomach turn (but that's an entirely different topic).

So for the uninitiated, I bring you the third part (can't find the complete episode uncut, but the first two clips are available on youtube) a classic from almost 50 years ago- a Twilight Zone episode I remembered watchin with my dad in the 70's. The plot is simple- the earth has been knocked off its orbit and is moving closer to the sun. People move to colder regions, but some loyal city folks stay behind- and suffer the consequences as the rising temperatures either kill them or drive them insane. When the heroine passes out the scene cuts to reality- it was all a dream... and the reality is actually the opposite of what the dream was. Compelling.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"The Sherriff is a..." *GONG*

Groups like the ACLU have a certain standard to maintain- I touched on that in a previous rant about racism. But now there's more fuel for my fire.

While not exactly the ACLU, a publisher in the Netherlands has decided to change the title of a Joseph Conrad book from "[profanity word used to describe a black person] of the Narcissus" to "N-Word of the Narcissus". Is that absurd? And get a load of my own hypocritical crap! I won't even spell out what it used to be called because I don't use that word since it's offensive!

At least when it was first published in America, the publishers took the liberty of changing the name to "The Children of the Sea: A Tale of the Forecastle". I like that better than "N-Word" of anything.

Let me ask you this, when you hear a newscaster say "the N Word", what do you think of? When said newscaster says that and your 8 year old asks "what's the N Word", how are you supposed to answer so that she will never have to wonder again what it means while at the same time never use said word?

"The N-Word" is actually worse than the word it stands for. And now that the press is all gaga about this edited title of a book, "The N-Word" has been uttered countless more times. Had you even heard of this book before?

I F-word ing hate it when these S-word head mother F-word ing politically F-word ing correct C-word sucking P-words, waste everyone's time fixing every F-word ing thing that may be offensive to some stupic J-word C-word with a fragile ego. As far as I'm concerned, N-words, H-words, TH-words, D-words, S-words, C-words, K-words, G-words, F-words, or any other "minority" of which I consider myself a part of (after all, i'm a HB-word- just like Cher) can shut the F-word up and focus on important things in this world.

I'm out!