Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sugarcomb Salon, Rhonda Porter, and a question

Saturday (which I just spelled Satyrday on first type) was delicious. At 10am I saw my hair stylist, Sean, at Sugarcomb Salon for highlights. They are sort of caramely, golden things, which are awesome. I've been seeing him for 2 1/2 or 3 years now and yes, I recommend him. He recently opened his own salon by Green Lake, a couple of blocks from Beth's Cafe, if you know it. Very cute place, light, and open.

At 1pm, Jeremy and I met with Rhonda Porter and we signed some mortgage paperwork to kick off our very big debt. She patiently answered my questions about the Good Faith Estimate and walked us through what we were signing. She has continually made our mortgage process easier and has been a pleasure to work with. As I've mentioned here before, I highly recommend her.

If you need a mortgage, go with the person, not the rate. Rates change constantly, ethics shouldn't.

Then we stopped at the market and bought two kinds of cheese, two kinds of salami and crackers. We picked out a brie-like one, Fromage d'Affinois and then I threw in a Brillat Savarin Truffle. I am now fully committed to the opinion that truffles make everything better.

The salami we chose was Molinari Hot Salami and Finnochiona Salumi Salami. The Molinari didn't have as much flavor as I would've liked. It was also cut thinly and felt overly greasy. The Salumi salami is excellent. (I am eating it now, for scientific purposes) Some of the listed ingredients are spice, salt, and garlic, and yep, you can taste it. It also features nice, sturdy slices. Well done.

When we got home there was a message from our Redfin agent. The seller has agreed to fix everything we listed on our home inspection report. That gets a YAY.

Overall it was a big week for home stuff. We had our inspection done (with sewer scope), locked in a great rate, and paid the earnest money (about 2% of the sale price). Next I'll need to figure out homeowners insurance. I'm currently shopping around and open to suggestions or warnings. I plan to switch auto insurance to whoever we go with and would like to have the option to set up term life with the same company as well.

Do you have anybody we should look at?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A week in bullets

It's the first night in many nights where I don't have anywhere to be or anything to prepare for. Just me and my hangover and the soft whir of computer fans.

I want to thank Maya, kermitfan, and Dan for making the trek out to Folklife over the weekend. It was great to see some friendly faces.

My schedule has been full lately. Let's do it bullet point style:

  • Last Wednesday I loaded the car with all of the festival supplies. About 200 pounds worth and many trips with a dolly.
  • Thursday night I worked late -- partly to help with a product release and partly to join in on a rare dinner opportunity with our CEO.
  • Friday I was up by 5:30am and at Folklife by 7:30am. I didn't get home until close to 9pm.
  • Saturday and Sunday was more Folklife with days lasting from 10am to 9pm.
  • Monday was the last day of Folklife and I got home around 11pm.
  • Tuesday was tough. I got to work a little late. That night I unloaded the festival supplies from my car then took it to Costco for gas and a car wash.
  • Wednesday we had our home inspection, I went back to work and that night I picked up C Ro to go see a friend I haven't seen since high school play in one of his bands.
  • Tonight I worked until 7pm after arriving at 10am. I plan to get back on a regular schedule again now.
Next up I need to decide on homeowner's insurance. And probably sleep. Sleep sounds fantastic.

As for the home inspection, it went okay. We also had a sewer scope done and determined there are no problems there. There are some places where water appears to be coming in and a few minor issues, but nothing to kill the deal so far. Fingers still crossed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dirty words

The good news about Folklife is that the weather was fantastic. Just about the best four days I could have hoped for. Unfortunately sales didn't follow. It was my second worst show ever. I can't blame the economy; the festival just wasn't a good fit for my type of work.

For example, I have never seen so many people eating out of trash cans. And not just eating, but relishing the hunt for half-eaten morsels of food. This was not about being poor and driven to the indignity of dumpster dining... this was a whole new attitude I admit I don't understand. There was pride in digging through the garbage, pulling out a treasure, and rubbing it on their faces.

It totally squicked me out. How bourgeois of me.

So in between the constant drumming, Peruvian flutes, saxophone, and main stage jamming, I felt like I was under aural attack. By themselves, these sounds can be beautiful, but together they make chaos, cacophony, noise. 36 hours of constant sound.

I have never been so happy for silence.

On Sunday night I closed my booth for the night and walked around the outskirts of the festival. At 8:30pm, the place was packed with young people, bouncing hacky sacks between their feet, strumming guitars, pounding the bottom of buckets with their hands, dancing barefoot in the grass. I admired their carefree attitude. It looked like an awful lot of fun.

I stopped at the beer garden and drank my Mirror Pond slowly, watching. Like the picket fence between us, a huge gulf has always separated me from that world and the one I've chosen. I do not let loose like that. I do not make instant friends with everyone I meet and find myself having crazy adventures with a reclaimed burrito. Nor have I ever worn a sign scrawled with the words, "Free Hugs."

And that's okay.

But maybe this weekend, just for fun, I will walk barefoot through the grass and see if it still feels just as good as I remember.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last chance for Folklife

Last day at NW Folklife today. My booth, "On Focus Photo," is over by the Intiman Theatre at Seattle Center, pretty close to the piroshky booth. I'll be there from 11am-7:30pm today if you want to stop by.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Come see me tomorrow through Monday

I’ll be at the Seattle Center (under the Space Needle-ish, close to the Intiman Theatre) Friday - Monday in my On Focus Photo Booth. 11am-8pm Friday through Sunday, and 11am-7:30pm Monday. I’ll be selling bookmarks, cards, and prints. Stop by and say hi! Or just come out and enjoy the festival.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recommendations and see me at Folklife

Today I'll start with a quick plug. If you are looking for a mortgage I unreservedly recommend Rhonda Porter. She maintains a fantastic web site full of useful resources and has been a pleasure to work with in our house purchasing process. Of course we're not at the finish line yet -- knock on wood! -- but I thought you should know she sends personalized, video emails! Is patient and responsive! Extremely knowledgeable! (I might be a little excited.)

It was a big day. We achieved mutual acceptance on our home offer and scheduled an inspection for next week. I'll be handing over my earnest money check soon and plus we got locked in at a very good rate. (Fingers still crossed for no major problems.)

So far my experience with Redfin has also been very positive. Online I was able to narrow down the homes I wanted to see without commitment. Scheduling home tours was a straightforward process. During our three trips out we met with two different field agents and saw 10 or 11 places. On our own we went to another two places we found on the site. Today an agent sent me a clear list of dates and actions I need to take to close, and scheduled the inspection on our behalf with the person I chose. So far I have absolutely no complaints.

It's funny that I've never met several of the key people in this process, but based on a few emails and phone calls I feel like I can trust them to help me make the right choices. Basically I love the internet. I hope my controversial stance does not offend you.

Last but not least, I loaded the car tonight since I have to work late tomorrow. The only thing that hasn't made it in yet is product, but the booth is a-okay for transport. So we're good to go for this weekend's Northwest Folklife Festival.

Come see On Focus Photo Friday through Monday, rain or shine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Maybe I spoke too soon

The bidding war could have gone worse... Tomorrow morning I am sending back a signed counter offer for a house, which will put us at mutual acceptance. Looks like we'll be scheduling a home inspection soon. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

If it works out we won't be closing until the end of July and then would move in sometime in August.

It seems like a really nice place. I sure hope we can navigate all of the hoops and make it ours.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yeah, right

If one more person says this is a buyer's market I will slug them. Last week our offer wasn't accepted and this week we're in a bidding war.

Maybe they are operating under a completely different definition of "buyer's market."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Here we go again

The sun is throwing me off. It feels earlier than 6:30pm. I just keep sitting here, trying not to think.

We put in an offer for a home we saw yesterday -- the reason for the self-imposed lobotomy.

I don't know if watching "Rapper's Wives" is helping or hurting the situation.

Knowing your AGI

I'm up early thinking about money, as I do. I've been searching for articles on how Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is calculated, and how to reduce the number, if necessary. I've been contributing to a Vanguard Traditional IRA, but as far as AGI is concerned, that's dumb. If I contribute the same money to a 401(k) for the exact same purpose of retirement, I get more from my money.

I think that's wild.

There are so many things that AGI controls. Like, first-time homebuyer tax credits and Roth IRA contribution limits, and student loan interest deductions.

I've never understood why a 401(k) is treated so much differently than an IRA. First, you can contribute three times more and second, you get huge pre-tax benefits. (Being married screws up all sorts of traditional IRA deduction possibilities) What's that about? The catch is that it's not in my best interest to use a 401(k) for retirement planning because of all the hidden administrative fees, high expense ratios, and 12b-1 type stuff. So if I use a 401(k) the government gives me tax advantages right now by lowering my AGI, but the plan administrator can nickel and dime me as a reward, and my retirement fund suffers. Go-go-gadget lack of transparency!

I guess the key is to change jobs frequently and roll the 401(k) into somewhere like Vanguard ten minutes after the exit interview.

Just to be clear, this isn't about looking for tax loopholes. It's about looking for gotchas, where if I happen to put my retirement money in one place versus another place there are all sorts of unintended consequences. It's not like I'll see any of this money for 30 years anyway. And since I don't have a pension, this is the fine line that will (hopefully) keep me from fighting the felines for a can of cat food someday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Night photo, bronze statue

I'm cross-posting this photo at the photoblog. On our first night in New Orleans, we walked back to our hotel from d.b.a. by way of the waterfront.

This beautiful bronze statue of a woman resting at a fountain was tucked (I imagine she still is) between two buildings, down a covered walkway. I came back and visited her in daylight and she was just as lovely well-lit.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Dear Internet,

The house I loved is being sold to someone else. Our offer was not accepted.

Now I have sadness.

- Me

Not that kind of green

I am in full-on money mode over here. The urge is always there, but I've been swimming in it lately. I don't normally allow myself to sink so deep on account of it being an obsession. A sweet, sticky, dark hole I never want to leave.

Yesterday I exchanged some funds from my Vanguard IRA (VFINX and Star) to purchase VGSIX, a REIT index fund. It was disturbingly satisfying.

Then I edited my budget text file for awhile, playing with hypothetical housing costs. I used to rely on fancy money-themed software until I realized Notepad worked better for me. I may have just decided to pay off the last bits of student loan. Or maybe not.

Then I bought 50 shares of a stock on eTrade. Nothing special. Just something I've been watching for awhile and the price was good.

I don't actually have that much money to invest, or even that much invested yet, but small amounts over time slowly add up. My only investment strategy is to keep chugging along, make the best decisions I can with the information I have at the time, and if I lose it, I lose it. It's just money.

Although it's a lot more fun to go full-blown money mode when there's actually some money to play with.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Northwest Folklife is coming

I'm watching the fake Hannibal Lecter movie -- the one with Julianne Moore. It isn't a bad movie. And it isn't technically fake. It just feels like they took the same actors and put them in a salad spinner.

Tomorrow a thick package of prints should arrive. And then I will mat them. I've cleaned off the kitchen table, arranged the mat boards, the rolls of archival linen tape and the bone folder. My pencil is dull, like I like it. The blue ink is ready to stamp.

I've decided not to sell note cards at this festival. I will concentrate on 5x7 prints matted in 8x10 boards, 8x10 prints in 11x14 mats and bookmarks. I don't think Jeremy has gotten the time off, so I'm anticipating long days. The merchant account is reactivated, the rubber stamp with the business name is ordered...

Come see me at the Seattle Center, May 22-25. My business, On Focus Photo, will have a 10x10' booth. It's my only show of the year. Let's make it a good one.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I have house on the brain. Specifically, one house. I don't want to talk about it too much except to acknowledge that it's worming its way around my cerebral stalks such that focus is ... difficult.

Of course I am falling for a difficult property. One that is lender owned. Apparently when you work with banks all of the timelines expand and you find yourself playing an advanced version of "hurry up and wait: home edition."

I know it is poor practice to make a home decision based on emotion. So I tell myself it is only a little crush, a harmless fling, an exercise in flirtation. We'll soon discover a life together is impossible and possibly part ways, never to see each other again.

But we'll always have that sunny afternoon. Those stolen moments. Shhh. Don't speak. It will only cheapen it.

Not a place for after dark

The door was extra wide, that was the first thing we noticed -- the front porch covered in a thick, gray layer of deck sealant. Our agent struggled a little against the lock and then pushed the door open, "I think you're really going to like this place..."

The bamboo floors and lemon walls seemed reasonable. Someone had recently painted the popcorn ceiling an interesting beige, and two severe arm chairs were the only furniture in the living room. Two plastic orange, pocked vertical window panels flanked the door, filtering the rare spring sunlight to the color of Tang. We moved on to the kitchen.

Hardware was missing from the freshly painted cabinets, but it was a fairly light, open kitchen. Not spacious, but enough room to move around. The kitchen windows overlooked a backyard devoid of greenery; the earth was entirely cemented over. A wheelbarrow filled with stagnant water leaned against the chainlink fence. We began opening closet doors.

One unassuming door at the back of the kitchen revealed a set of dark stairs leading down. "Oh," we said. "That is a surprise."

The agent descended first. It was dim, but illuminated enough to fumble for a light switch. With fresh paint still stinging our nostrils, the smell crept upon us slowly. As we moved between small, odd, wood-paneled rooms, we became aware of a pervasive odor. "Does it smell like urine to you?" asked the agent. "I think it's cigarette smoke," I said.

At the base of the stairs was a full kitchen, although dingier and more dated than the upstairs kitchen. A refrigerator, a sink, another set of cabinets.

One door led to a walled off laundry room. A narrow space led behind the stairs to another small room. A door off the kitchen led to a room with a false closet back, which led to another room. Cobwebs everywhere, a few work lights hanging around, dust, and darkness, concrete floors, and -- although outwardly I say I don't put much stock in it -- the worst energy I have ever felt.

It was as if we had wandered into a warped mirror of the upstairs. And terrible things had been done in this section of the house. The smell and the gloom and the stillness and the contrast between sun and shadow, well, it felt like we had invaded the home of a serial killer. I half expected to see a room covered in newspaper clippings and stalker shots of a pretty young female. All the little rooms could make perfect dungeons. That refrigerator would be perfect for storing body parts. The cement backyard would be a great way to destroy evidence of fresh graves.

After some nervous laughter, the three of us fled upstairs. The only thing creepier would have been if the two chairs in the living room had been rearranged. That house had a presence. I can't really explain why. We've looked at other houses with partially finished basements -- that doesn't seem to be a prerequisite for evil.

Maybe next time I will tell you about the house that had a roof going through the shower.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

True confessions

I eat an embarrassing amount of Hormel Chili.

In the next two days I am scheduled to tour six homes. One of the tours is during my lunch hour.

Today I completed the first draft of my first requirements document, co-written with an Application Architect. Also, I named a new product.

Today I drank more coffee than water.

I haven't had any alcohol since New Orleans. That will change.

I would rather be playing World of Warcraft.

I'm not sure what I'm going to wear tomorrow.

The best barbecue I've ever had was at the airport in Houston last week. I ate it twice, once on the layover there and once on the layover back.

I just spelled ate, "ait."

I only have 2 weeks until I have to play craft vendor for four days.

I feel like talking but I don't have anything to say.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

New photo posted

I'm cross-posting this image at my photoblog as well:

It's a handheld shot, through the bars of a fence. As I took about two dozen shots of this statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, two young men had a rapidly escalating, heated argument that nearly came to blows. On the one hand, there's Jesus, on the other hand, these guys are going to kill each other.

Hello, French Quarter.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Orleans

We're back. It's 8pm and I've been up since 2:30am, so I'm not going to last long. First, I want to thank everyone who provided me with suggestions. It was very much appreciated. We didn't have nearly enough time to do it all, but we made a dent.

I would like to talk about the details more later, but at a high overview... the weather was warm and humid, but not too bad. Most of the days it was actually comfortable. We walked over to d.b.a. for beers the first night and Cafe du Monde for beignets. There were twenty-five cent martinis at Commander's Palace with my sister and her boyfriend, dinner at K-Paul's, muffaletas at Central Grocery, live jazz with Jeremy Davenport at the Ritz-Carlton, fantastic Bloody Mary's at Pere Antoine, walking down Bourbon Street with a House Special (3 types of booze mixed together in a styrofoam cup), visiting a couple of cemeteries, the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, a catfish po-boy at a neighborhood bar called Parasol's, lots of Abita beer, and fried chicken with Crowder Peas at the Praline Connection...

This trip was all about eating and drinking. And it was fantastic. I'll be posting some photos over at as I get them sorted out.

And a special thanks to C Ro for watching the cats! :)