Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Doctor is in...

In a previous role in my company, I did a lot of contract negotiation, which meant dealing with customer requests and internally dealing with multiple entities that were looking for their own protection.  It's an extremely hectic role and one I'm suited well for given my talent for listening and approaching an issue from multiple sides.

A sales rep. I worked with, used to refer to me as the "Contract Doctor" and advised that if we were in an office setting, he'd put up a huge poster outside of my office of Lucy from Peanuts during contract negotiations, stating "The Doctor is in".

Today I'm expanding my practice, and offering service to all of those that are despondent from the election results yesterday.  I'm here to reassure you that the world will not end and our country as we know it won't look much different 4 years from now.  Now you may ask,"How do I know this and what experience I have with this sort of thing?"  Those are fair questions, and my response is, "I've handled this before."

While most of you, that are despondent celebrated during the two terms of the Bush administration, there were an equal number that felt the same way as you and they ranted on the same things. (Supreme Court Justices, economy, education, social issues, etc.)  They also thought it was the end of the world, and I counseled as many of them as I could and tried to set them straight.  We know we are constantly bombarded with information and opinion in today's society, but we don't always understand how much of that opinion is true.

Let me give you some examples of the messages that people received during the Bush administrations.

1. He'll elect Supreme Court Justices that will always vote along party lines.

2. The war in Iraq will never end and we will be spending money on Nation Building throughout our children's lives.

3. He'll ruin Social Security by taking it private.

4. "No Child Left Behind" will ruin our education system.

These are four that come to mind off the top of the head, trust me when I tell you there were many others.  Let's break them down.

1.  He did elect Supreme Court justices and the effect on the populous has been fairly minimal from their impact, the thing people forget is that by and large Supreme Court Justices work to stay true to the law as they see it, while it's influenced by their background, if you look over history, you'll see this, that doesn't mean there aren't things that don't affect the populous, but belief that they are all out to get the other side once they get on the court has proven for the most part to be untrue.  This goes back to our Constitution, they answer to no one once they are there.  Besides go back and look at how well George Bush (Sr.) picked 'conservative' justices, or even take a look at John Roberts and how his vote for the health care reform  played out.

2. The war in Iraq.  The war that was originally about Weapons of Mass Destruction, where they never found any.  It's over, and we survived.  The wars outcome will be debated over time, but it's over for now and done with.  We won't know for some time (if ever) on how it will affect the world, or whether it lead to "Arab Spring" or how those funds spent on the war contributed to the debt that so many point the finger at the current administration for.

3. After Bush's re-election, his main focus was trying to privatize Social Security, it didn't happen.

4. No Child Left Behind didn't push the school systems into oblivion, did it make it more difficult in some areas and better then others, likely, but that makes it no different then most other government programs. 

There are other examples, but I've long since forgot them, our politicians seem to struggle with getting real messages across so they rely on fear tactics to try and get their point across.  The Republicans did it this campaign, the Democrats did it for Bush's reelection.

I'm here to reassure you that you'll survive.  Let me point out a couple things that I would suggest focusing on.

1. Health care reform: It's unlikely to look like it does now when it's fully implemented, rarely do bills look the same at the start and their implementation.

2. Businesses will whither away under the current policies and taxes that the evil health care law will levy on them.  Take a look at some of these businesses that are cutting hours for jobs and health care coverage.  Many of them didn't exactly have the best track record in the first place.  Over the past 20 years all we've seen from businesses is continued cost cutting at the sake of their employees, while continuing to focus on rewarding shareholders and executives.  Pensions cut, health care too expensive, part timers hired en mass.  These atrocities have happened under both administrations, while bickering between parties goes on, isn't it time we took a harder look at what corporations are doing?

3. Spending and deficit: Congress has a role in spending, maybe it's time to put some pressure on them to cut some of the fat from the budget, that isn't a deceptive way to try and legislate morality. It's also time to acknowledge how awful spending has been for the last 12 years.  Some of you maybe too young to remember this (or choose not to), but a big reason that George Bush (Sr.) was beat in his re-election bid, was the deficit was too high, want to know how it looked when Clinton left office?   Spending needs to be corrected, but the model that says cut taxes and increase spending on the programs that we like (military, etc) doesn't work either.  Both sides of the aisle need to do a better job of that, and as long as we let them manipulate us into pointing fingers, none of it's going to get done.

4. The moral fabric of our society will break due to initiatives the president will launch.  Ah one of my favorites and the last one for the day.  Here are a couple questions to help you think about this a bit differently.

1. How many years of your lifetime has abortion been legal?

2. Did you know gay people currently live together, get married in certain states that allow it, and that many large corporations already offer same sex partner benefits?

Think about abortion, at this point in your life, it's probably been legal far longer than it hasn't (if it hasn't).  Has the earth crumbled?  This isn't to say your opinion on the matter is irrelevant, but realize this it didn't change under a president like George W. Bush, it was unlikely to change under a Social Moderate like Mitt Romney.

Now onto gay marriage, my point from the above statement is that no matter what fear the parties try and instill with you, it doesn't change what's happening today and the fabric of our society isn't going to rip apart because same sex marriage is legalized.  It's an easy issue to see people trying to inspire fear with, because if you really think about it, there is no good reason why an individual would oppose it, as it would have no effect on you whatsoever.

That's enough counseling for the day though, remember the sun will come up tomorrow and over the next four years (unless the Mayans were right) and that.....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney and Star Wars: You don't know the power of the Mouse House

There was some big news yesterday for Star Wars and Disney fans.

George Lucas has sold Lucasfilms LTD to the Disney corporation.  I've looked over a lot of forums and social media channels, and the reaction seems to be mixed, those that are fans of Disney, like the move, those that don't like Disney, don't like the move.

I happen to be someone that likes Disney, so that means I like the move; however I'm going to tell you why this is a great thing for big Star Wars fans. (I'm one of those too)

George Lucas lost his touch and held things way too tight with such an imaginative property.  In order for me to clarify this, let's look at the good and bad things of how Star Wars has been treated over the years.

The good:

1. Merchandising, no toy sells like Star Wars toys, every character that's ever appeared in a movie on or on the TV show gets an action figure.  There are times when you are convinced in watching the new movies that whole plot lines and characters were introduced, just so they could make the toys for it.

2. Novels, Star Wars novels have been plentiful and broadened the story in a ton of ways, allowing creative writers to broaden the world in ways that one person would not have been able to do.

3.  The first 3 movies, they were great.  (As they were released).

The bad:

1. 6 movies in 40 years, even if the prequels weren't what most fans wanted, that's entirely too few.

2. George Lucas' CGI infatuation.  From 'updating' the old movies to what I think is the biggest problem with the new movies.  Lucas became obsessed with CGI to the point where it affected the ability to tell a story.  My suggestion to Lucas would have been if he wanted to experiment with CGI so much, go do it with some other movies and take a hard look at what really worked.  Another suggestion would have been for him to go direct some other movies as well, since some aspects of movie making have advanced so much since he was directing the movies and it was painfully obvious that there were things he missed in putting the prequels together.

3. The reach of the Star Wars universe wasn't enough, a small previous partnership with Disney and some other companies isn't enough to meet the demand that is out there for Star Wars related things.  While there are those that think it protects the brand, it also means things are severely disappointing when they aren't excellent.

Disney is going to take care of the bad.  The fact is, there isn't a better company that's better equipped to handle the Star Wars franchise and legacy.  Putting everything (eventually) under one company that is best in class at providing experiences is the best thing imaginable for a Star Wars fan.

I know there are those that do not like Disney, and the company has it's share of problems, but you'd be hard pressed to come up with a large company who handles content, brand protection, and allows artists to produce things that are special. This isn't to say they are the best place an artist could work, but if you factor in the size and goals of a corporation, I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find one that is better to work for then Disney, that also is able to deliver those results to its fans.

Lucasfilms could never get away from being a company that made 3 special movies, 3 ok ones, and a lot of breakthroughs in CGI and sound.  George's shadow loomed heavy over the franchise and his reluctance to let go of the reigns risked making the franchise obsolete.

That's all about to change in the coming years.  Not everyone will like all of the directions that Disney will take it, but at least there will be some directions, think of your favorite nerd style conversations, would you rather rehash whether Jar Jar Binks should have been included in the prequels or discuss what's new that's coming out?  Even if the new stuff doesn't meet the level of special that the originals did (sorry to say, but they likely won't).  I'm confident that you'll see something good and at the end of the day, good is much better then nothing.

For a comparative nerd example, take a look at Dungeons and Dragons and TSR their original company, management wasn't able to sustain the product and it was in danger of dying out in the 90's, Wizards of the Coast came in and breathed new life into it.  While it might not have been the direction that fans wanted, at least it survived and has a very nice run since they purchased it.  George hasn't had incentive to produce something special for the past 25 years, at least Disney has the incentive to try and appease their shareholders and given how they need to succeed to do so, there should be something there for diehard fans too.

Friday, September 14, 2012

My two years of exile are almost at an end

Today I feel good, my exile is finally coming to a close.  I feel like Michael Jordan returning to the NBA after his suspension retirement  or Batman returning to Gotham after climbing out of a hole and having his broken back fixed while in a pit.

Almost 2 years to the day and we are moving back to Northeast Ohio.  My wife landed a job in one of the suburbs in the area.  She starts next week, and I'm in process of finishing the packing and getting things organized for the move next week.

I've enjoyed the time here in Columbus, but Cleveland is still in my blood and I'm looking forward to going back with a new perspective.

Our plans are to look for a place over the next couple months and hopefully find a place that we can pick up on the cheap, and rehab over the winter.

In the meantime, we'll be staying with my parents for a couple months, who graciously have let us move it, which will let us get our daughter into a school for a year that we are familiar with and give us a chance to get a head start on some house savings from the two incomes being applied to it, the luxury we didn't really get in moving down here since we maintained our mortgage for 10 months of our old house and my wife was laid off shortly after we would have started to gain some advantage.

Luckily this housing arrangement should make for some interesting dilemmas and situations, that might lend itself well to the blog.  Perhaps I'll even give my father a chance to 'guest' blog with his thoughts on the living arrangement.

I will say that these last two weeks of trying to re-visit some of our favorite Columbus spots has not been good for my waistline, although it's been a fun way to close out our time here.

We will be sad, as we've made a number of friends in the area and had really started to plant roots, although we were cautious in doing so, I'm glad there will be outlets to keep in touch with many of them in the future, and I'm thankful for those friendships. 

The best news, of course, is that my blog will be back to being correctly titled, and I'll warn the city now, I have a whole new perspective on things.

As for this weekend, I'll be spending it, trying to recover from already pulling a muscle in moving things up to be loaded onto the truck and spending tomorrow at the local parade, which was the first event, Bronwyn and I went to, the week after we moved down here two years ago.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The "Dad" part of my life

Today was the first day of school for my daughter, they start on a staggered schedule for first through 3rd grade, and her letter of the alphabet was up today.

She's been demonstrating a mix of excitement and fear over the past couple weeks and when I asked her about her fears she shared with me that she was scared that she would be the one farthest behind in her class.

I reassured her that she would do fine and continued trying to focus her on how much she'll grow in knowledge over the year and the fun she'll have seeing friends daily and getting to be even more independent.

We left for school this morning and my wife and I walked her to school.  After taking the necessary 1st day of school pictures and getting the hugs out of the way, we started out on our fairly short walk.  I walked ahead for the most part, letting her walk at her own pace and sort of next to her mom.  Usually we'd make her hold hands crossing streets, but since we were both there and at a leisurely pace with no cars in sight, we dropped that requirement today.  She's not old enough to be 'embarrassed' by her parents, so while I wasn't concerned about that, I did want to give her, her own space in preparing for the day.  As we got close to the school entrance and near some welcoming teachers, she moved up next to me and picked up her pace, walking with determination.  Right before we got to the door, she reached up and held my hand as we walked into the school.

You don't get a ton of moments to reflect on in life, this was one of those for me and I thought I'd share.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Perspective and Thoughts on Norway tragedy

I was reading an article on potential expenditures and the problems Norway is having with sentencing of Anders Behring Breivik and I thought it would make an interesting blog post.  It's entirely possible that some of things I discuss could be applied to smaller scale atrocities that we've experienced here in the U.S over the past couple months as well. 

For those that aren't familiar with Anders Behring Breivik, a quick web search should fill you in on his crimes.  Here is a Wikipedia link.  (For those who aren't fans of Wikipedia, feel free to click on the referenced links at the bottom of the page to go directly to content on Breivik)

Here is the article that inspired this blog post. Link

Let me start with my thoughts,

1.  They are going to spend how much on a separate mental health ward for him?  (Oh wait, they've already spent how much on a potential ward for him?)

2. They spent how much on a special courtroom setup for him?  

3.  Norway is not the United States

4. Those Norwegians have some interesting views of how to treat criminals.

Those are the first 4 thoughts that scream out at me as I read the article.  I'm stunned that a government would spend the kind of money it did on a potential ward for him before he is even found sane/insane and equally stunned that they built a special courtroom for him.  Are Norwegian laws so strict that they couldn't find an alternative to spending money in order to provide the murderer with his fair trial?  

Let's not forget the key point, there is no debate on whether this person killed all of these people, he's gleefully admitted it, and the country believes he did, so all of these procedures are simply to determine what should be done with him. 

Maybe I should be impressed by Norway's government? 77 teenagers killed through ones man's actions and the government goes through this process to ensure his human rights are met. Amazing. 

I realize that my view of Breivik is through the perspective of the writers I've chosen to read on him, but when I read about him or think about his actions, my blood boils.  I can't fathom allowing this person to live or to give him any trial.  Isee a man that is so broken, that nothing is ever going to fix him and his actions have been so deplorable that the world would be a better place without his existence.

The problem is I'm having a hard time justifying my thoughts on this, because I don't necessarily feel that way about some of the other killers in recent incidents in the U.S. although perhaps that is just due to the fact that their trials have not taken place yet. 

I think that perhaps it's the difference between crime and war.  Breivik declared war on Norway and his actions and comments offer evidence to this position.

If you made it through this mish mash of thoughts, I'd love to hear your opinions on this one.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Thoughts 8/17/2012

There are just too many ridiculous stories and news items that I need to comment on to not have another rendition of Friday Thoughts.  I do realize that maybe I'd just be better making the whole blog in that format, as I haven't done a serious blog post in some time.

1. More sad news from Russia.  Pussy Riot story  I continue to be fascinated by Vladimir Putin, if I haven't mentioned it before, I believe he's either the best thing for Russia right now or the worst thing.  However, it doesn't change the fact that what he's done to get back in power goes against the principle of letting the people choose.  As the protests continue to mount, Putin does what he does very well and retaliates.  Here's hoping the Russian people get this mess figured out and that the punk rockers aren't in jail for 2 years.  (and we thought we had something to talk about here with the Bush/Dixie Chicks controversy).

2. If the crumbling of Russia's democracy isn't enough of a downer for you, may I suggest checking out the Rich Kids of Instagram website. Nothing says the 1% like offspring of rich folks spending frivolously.

3. For further ridiculousness, you can read about pour Vanessa Bryant's struggles in raising her family while her husband works, and why is he working if he's not winning rings?  Oh the humanity.

4. Since I haven't been writing, Lebron James has won a gold medal and a championship, and all is right with the world, he's persevered and overcome so much.  I become more sick of sport talking heads and reporters all the time.

5. In keeping with the sports run I have here, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about how sick I am of the national NFL media talking about how running backs don't matter anymore in the league.  While I can certainly understand that we are going through a period with less focus on them, its only a matter of time, until someone breaks out the Marty Schottenheimer style of football from 1985 and those same writers talk about how important it is that you have a good running back.  Let me offer some anecdotal evidence, that this will come to pass.  For the past 10 years, all we heard about was how the tight end was no longer a relevant position. Now it's an integral part of any passing game.  The NFL is a copycat league, what works one year, is mimicked for many until someone gets desperate and tries something new.

6. For all the activism we see for musicians and actors that we roll our eyes at, I'd like to see more US musicians speak up about what happened in Russia, considering it's something they can directly relate to.  Green Day, I know you are mainstream now and doing Broadway plays and shit, but you were once a punk band, please pickup on line 2.  Nice to see that some in the UK get it, my search for musicians that have spoken up yielded little results.

7.  I should have labelled this the music and sports edition.

8. My father asked me to comment on the Cleveland Browns sale to Jim Haslam.  (It's ok Dad you can pick up the phone and ask me directly :) )   Anyway, my thoughts, it is much better then we have. I'm relatively sure that Randy Lerner is in fact an 'idiot owner' as Tony Grossi, formerly of the Plain Dealer, called him.  Considering after his father passed, that the organization has made one mistake after another, his soccer team is losing buckets of money regularly, and Bank of America sacked him from their board as soon as they took over MBNA, I think there is a reasonable bit of evidence to suggest that he might not have been the brightest bulb in the pack.

9. The biggest positive from the Cleveland Browns sale though is that they finally have an owner that is separated from the move.  Al Lerner was no hero to Cleveland Browns fans, as he was fully involved in Art Modell's move to Baltimore and in many whispers might have orchestrated a whole lot more then that to own the team himself.  The franchise may finally have the opportunity to operate without the emotional baggage of 'the move' hanging over it's head.

10.  Julian Assange, is he a musician or athlete?  Unfortunately not, but he's worth mentioning.  As I grow older there are times, I long for the type of news stories I remember from my youth.  (Bernie Goetz, those Beluga Whales in Alaska, Oliver North).  I'm always a bit sad that I don't recognize one as it's happening.  This is one of those.  I have no opinion yet, on whether Assange should be tried for his release of confidential information and have no idea whether the Swedish charges are pure bulk, but it is an interesting moment and allows us to see how our governments interact with each other in ways we typically don't get to see.   By the way, reports are Assange is bored and stressed.  And let's face it, would this story be as cool as it is, if he didn't have a cool name?  If it was Bill Baker, I don't think it would read as well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Jedi Academy Training at Disney Hollywood Studios

Here's a video I shot at Disney Hollywood Studios during our one trip there during Star Wars Weekends.  My daughter is face painted as Queen Amidala in the video.  She had been chosen to be a part of the parade, but it was rained out, like most of the other activities for the day.  Too bad too, as they started the day with a stormtrooper performance on top of the entrance and things looked promising.

Makes me wish they had something like this when I was a kid.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Friday Thoughts 5/11/2012

It's been awhile, I know, but I just haven't felt like writing much.  I chalk it up to post-traumatic short sale syndrome.  I'm finally starting to come to the realization that the house is actually sold (5 weeks after closing).  I no longer dread going to my mailbox or opening my email and receiving bad news.  I'd call that progress, although I do still have a couple clean up items with the house.

Anyway, since I went and visited my father last week for his birthday and he was giving me a hard time for not writing, I thought I'd try and pick it back up.  (Hi Dad, or reader number 5 as I call you :) )

1. We are truly safe when we fly now.  The TSA has outdone themselves again.

2. I don't love this new blogger format, that I'm being forced to type in.  I will say it is better then when they first introduced it and I stuck with the classic look.  I wonder if it's my age that makes me hate this change, or I just hate the change because I don't think I need the additional functionality at the expense of ease of use.

3. I'm completely fascinated by Vladimir Putin and what he's done in Russia.  So much so, that I'm amazed that more Americans aren't interested in what's been happening there.   I am glad to see the Russian people aren't taking this sitting down. I do disagree, that this image is Moscow's new Tienanmen square image. It's powerful, but it's not on the same level of that picture or that uprising.  I'm absolutely sure that Russia's democratic process is being run over, however I do believe that the world needs a leader like Vladimir Putin in the mix as we see the worldwide economy changing.  It's an interesting quandary.

4. The Avengers is worth seeing for any comic book fan. It's a spectacle and a true modern 'popcorn' style movie.  Well done.

5. I've started a weight loss challenge with my brother and friend, where we see who can lose the highest % by October 1.  This unfortunately made me have to weigh myself.  I was not happy, however, I was less then I feared it would be, so I guess that's a minor victory.

6. President Obama came out in support of gay marriage this week.  Many want to praise him for for doing so. *$#@*#*@!!, the problem we have with politicians is that we allow this type of politically motivated behavior and then applaud the politician for doing so. 

My suggestion would be that  we treat our politicians like children, we don't 'praise' them for taking actions that are right and correct, and if they delay in doing actions that are right, we punish them. 

7. Gay marriage should be legal The fact that it isn't, shows how messed up our system truly is.  It has no bearing on anyone's life besides those that wish to spend theirs together.  I do wonder about the segment of society that is so stupid that they can't see this, and allow politicians to play this political game with people's lives while avoiding the serious issues we are facing.  How many more years are we going to allow this type of political diversion while important issues suffer?

8. As soon as I get back going with this, I'm likely to hit another snag as summer is here, along with a work trip, I have another family trip to Disney on the horizon, rough life I know.  I'm looking forward to the trip though, as we'll be making it out for Star Wars Weekends and with my daughter being a huge fan of Lego Star Wars it should make it doubly exciting.

I'm just sad I don't have an extra $100 lying around, as I must admit I'd probably get this.  Have your face frozen in carbonite.

9. Happy Mother's Day to my Mother, who put up with me and my wonderful attitude and sense of humor  for so many years.  Just remember Mom, I got half of that attitude from you :)

10.Just 9 for the week, well 10 if you count the opening paragraph.  Hope you have a great weekend wherever you are and Happy Mother's day to all of the moms out there!

Friday, March 30, 2012

I'm so sad

Today is a sad day, I can no longer tease my parents about forgetting my birthday when I was 16.

The title transferred on our house in our short sale this afternoon. The 12 month ordeal is over. (18 months if you count the 6 prior to receiving an offer).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time's ticking

"The tick tock of the clock is painful, so sane and logical, I want to tear it off the wall" - Eve 6 "Inside Out"

Ah, it seems to come down to this. Our latest extension on the house offer ends tomorrow. Supposedly the bank and the title company are working on the final HUD for the offer, although that's been happening 2 weeks. If things go right, then it should be signed off on tomorrow, just ahead of the foreclosure proceedings. (I should also note that the buyer and his realtor appear to not want any further extensions)

Some fun facts if tomorrow is the closing day.

1. It will be almost 1 year to the day since the offer came in. I received news of the offer last year on April 3rd, as I was up in Cleveland for opening day with friends.

2. If it closes tomorrow, it may be the best birthday present ever. Hoping for a little birthday karma to get it through.

3. My birthdays and houses seem to go together. After my parents built their house, we spent 6 months in a 1 bedroom apartment waiting for it to be finished. (it was supposed to be done in 1 month). Those 6 months almost tore my parents marriage apart. We got to move into our house on my 16th birthday. My parents were so relieved and thrilled with the ability to move, they forgot to wish me happy birthday :( . I've used that as a constant barb since then :) . They no longer find it amusing!

4. I promise to never mention it to them again if my house closes tomorrow. Unfortunately for them, the odds are not on their sides.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Thoughts 3/2/2012

1. Deep sympathy to the families of the victims in the Chardon, OH school shootings. It's a terrible tragedy and hits home, as that's an area that many of my relatives still live.

2. School shootings always bring up a lot of difficult topics. I have one I want to talk about, but I'm going to wait a bit until things calm down some. Especially since my topic may have nothing to do with the motives or situation in Chardon and I don't want to make any assumptions about the event anyway.

3. Man brings cell phone jammer device on bus to prevent loud talkers. I have a bit of advice for him, invest in noise blocking headphones or ear buds.

4. Creepy school teacher resigns. Unfortunately I have no advice for this couple. If and I stress "If" the relationship developed as they said it has, there maybe nothing legally wrong with it. However, I do believe their is an ethical obligation for a teacher to not take advantage of their relationship with a student. I try to refrain from judging people, but 'falling in love' with a 15 year old or (even an 18 year old) would make me question your mental capacities. Any adult that has a conversation with a teenager can easily see that there are significant differences in interests, conversations, and just about everything else. My amateur psychology analysis, would say that this man has confused a mentoring role and an interest in a student with love.

5. Thank you "Mother Nature" for this mild winter. After a number of hard years with the economy, I think it's one of those things that people in the Midwest and Northern climates may get a real emotional boost from.

6. Another 1st quarter brings more layoffs for my company. I was caught off guard by it and hadn't gotten any wind of these. Which means I haven't been able to establish the same inside network, that I had in my old position. I hate days like this, as you realize that it's likely to be you on that list someday. Considering the fact that the company I work for is rather successful, I cringe when I try to imagine what people in other businesses are experiencing.

7. Burger King chicken sandwiches are 2 for 1 this week. I consider them to be the crack cocaine of fast food and a direct contributor to my 300lb+ days. However, I do think I'll be indulging in them tonight.

8. Next week brings another job fair for my wife, and some visits from friends from out of town. One of my friends is likely coming down mid-week while the wife is off at her job fair, and over the weekend, another one of my best friends and his wife are coming down and the four of us will be heading out for a night on the town. It's always nice to visit with friends, even more so now that we don't live in the area anymore.

9. My wife is obsessed with the electric cake pop maker I got her. Between the dozens of cake pops she's made, we also regularly have pancake balls (as I call them) for breakfast now. For a $20 appliance, it's sure getting a workout.

10. Have a great weekend, stay away from tornadoes and snow.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

At least I'll only have to think about it once every four years

Late last week, we received approval from the bank to complete the short sale, after the buyer sent over the addendum extending the offer to 2/29. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough time for the realtors and title co. to get things processed, so I sit hear waiting on another addendum from the buyer for an extension of that date.

From the trail of emails, I can see that the buyer's realtor has consistently tried to convince the buyer that they have assisted in delaying this process and that they have some obligation in trying to see things through on the sale. The buyer's inability to provide required paperwork has caused as much grief as the bank's requirements for it. It's also left us completely handcuffed to any other options. I'm thankful to the buyer's realtor for having an understanding of what's truly been happening.

From my understanding the buyer's realtor is now trying to convince (beg) them to sign another extension, the bank had requested an extension to 3/15, of course the buyer chose 2/29. It's amazing to me how people create more work for themselves and like to blame everyone else for problems that they contribute too, in no instance have I seen as much of this as I have in the short sale process.

So I sit here waiting and refreshing my email, hoping the file comes over before 6pm eastern time, in order for us to sign, scan, and send back to our realtor, so he can send off to the bank. (who of course will close the file today if the extension isn't processed, they of course are not blameless either in this debacle).

It's interesting sitting here waiting with anticipation for the email. I'm feeling a range of emotions. Excitement, disappointment, and exhaustion are three that I can identify. I haven't sat with this level of anticipation of something in a long time, it reminds me of waiting for a call during my teen years from a girlfriend in a new relationship. (That reminder also likely explains the disappointment I'm feeling as well).

So within the next 90 minutes we shall see how things go, either we'll have an extension and we can close on the house, or we'll likely find out what the next steps are during foreclosure mediation.

Earlier in the week, when I thought the finish might be possible by the 29th, I was thankful for the extra day in February, it appears it doesn't matter now that we need an extension, however maybe an unusual day will result in an unusual outcome.


Well it appears I've developed some wisdom over the years, instead of waiting patiently for an updated addendum that didn't come. I proceeded with my plans and took a trip to a restaurant about 30 minutes away to pick up some deep dish pizza, to bring home. It was delicious. I have no idea what the outcome is now, since we didn't get the extension in by the bank's deadline.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Weird thought for the day: "Who to really blame for Guy Fieri"

I'm fascinated by society, although I earned my degree in Psychology, my Sociology classes were far more interesting. I believe there is a lot of value in trying to understand one's own society. It's an important tool in understanding situations that develop during our social lives.

That leads me to my weird thought for the week, while catching up on 'Shark Tank' episodes last week. In the episode I was watching, an inventor of a truck rack that was collapsible was adamant that he wanted to produce the rack in the United States. The investors of the show rejected his offer based on the business principle that we just can't produce things here in the quantities needed at a price that's competitive with those that are producing in other countries.

I won't get into the global economic arguments related to it (those can be handled with far more skill by others). It did make me ask the question, "How has the loss of manufacturing changed our sociological outlook/makeup?" Since this is just a weird thought for the day and I'm working on being less verbose, the thought that came to my head is that we have an emptiness that comes from not creating. I believe there is a strong inherent desire in us as individuals (and as a result society) that drives us to create. Manufacturing would be one way for people to satisfy this need. Without it, I'd expect that from a sociological point of view, we'd see this desire manifest itself in other areas.

I believe you can see the results of this in many aspects of our daily lives and trends we've seen over the past couple of years.

1. Explosion of food programming. Don't you know at least 5 foodies right now and those that are talking about there new recipes and creations?

2. Social networking: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think those participating understand they are creating something for those that interact through these tools. (even ones like this, where you get me typing as I think, which I'm sure means its a mess to read on certain days)

Those are the only two I came up with right now, but I do wonder if the newer toys we see today could also be a factor of the change. Lego is enjoying huge growth with their new kits and licensed properties, and I've seen more Moon Sand/Dough, Pixos, Orbeez, and foam kits advertisements then I thought were possible.

Anyway, that's my weird thought for the day. The Food revolution is an indirect result of America's manufacturing base being moved offshore. As I wrote this post, all sorts of fun headlines came to mind for the title, here are some of them.

"Is America's Food revolution the result of it's manufacturing demise?"
"Model T's and TV Dinners"
"How to make a country fat"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Life definitely does not imitate movies

Sometimes life just doesn't imitate art very well. The only familiarity I have with papers being served in a suit is from the movies. I can fondly recall actors dressing up in elaborate costumes in order to get in front of the named plaintiff in order to deliver them the papers. (although I admit I can't remember what bad movie it was I'm thinking of with scenes like that).

Today as I worked in my basement office, I heard a knock on the door. My wife answered, I heard them talk for a moment and then she came to my door and told me someone was there to deliver me papers. (she totally ratted me out)

I came upstairs and answered the door and the processor, went through his pile trying to find the right ones to give me. (he seemed to be struggling to read them)

He handed them over and that was it. No snarky comments from him (a "boom, you've been served" would have gone a long way), no chase scene where I duck out the back door and take off running. (I totally would have out run him based on a size comparison and let me tell you that's not saying much). Not to mention, no elaborate costumes where he pretends to be an exterminator or maintenance person in order to get face to face access.

Very anti-climatic. I'm a little bummed about this as I was looking forward to it. The only saving grace is I can now regularly accuse the wife of 'not having my back'

All I got is this, "Hey Mike, come up here, a guy is here to serve you papers." Thanks dear.

*Considering my previous posts on the matter, I should clarify, that the only "disappointment" I have at this point is how it was delivered. I was fully expecting this and have no emotion in regards to the matter any more.*

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Thoughts 2/10/2012

1. As I posted on Facebook, I think we have a new internet star. This video by an angry father is a lot of fun.

2. I had a chance to speak with an attorney a friend referred me to. He confirmed what I had been thinking for some time. Since our house is an FHA loan, the bank loses nothing once the foreclosure goes through. Given our circumstances, we won't need his assistance, I'll respond to the court case myself as we try to complete the short sale and then we'll go from there. It was nice to finally have some confirmation of things I believed were true, by someone who understood the situations.

3. I've been playing for a while at a local poker club. Thursday night is there big game and while I've cashed in it, I've never placed first. I finally accomplished that last night. I'll also say that over the last week, I've begun to realize that my game has improved a great deal from when I started playing last year. (Previous experience with cards was home games and while I had a strong familiarity with Hold'em, I was still relatively new to playing live with strangers). It's always fun to realize that you still have the ability to learn. Guess I'm not an old dog yet.

4. Apologies for those that are Facebook friends, but here is another video favorite for the week. Ever wondered if those before and after weight loss/workout pictures are done. Here's a pretty decent description of what might be taking place.

5. I'm starting to get the itch to give singing another shot. Now that I've settled into the new job schedule, I have a better idea of what type of time I have. I'm guessing it's not a coincidence that it coincides with starting workouts again, as I'm still amazed at the amount of energy I get even from just a few workouts.

6. I've read a lot of articles about gas prices potentially being very high this summer. Looking at airfare for the summer, I'm guessing the airlines believe it's going to be too. Prices border on ridiculous right now.

7. I've only caught one new show on TV this year, but "Once upon a Time" is a lot of fun and has kept me interested.

8. From the looks of the new foreclosure legislation, they barely attached a band aid to the bullet hole. It appears from initial reviews, that this is more likely a smaller scale bailout for banks, then it is for homeowners.

9. My daughter is now a video game addict. After struggling to find games that we could enjoy and together that would help her develop some dexterity in her hands, I purchased Lego Star Wars and she loves it. It's something we play together when we can, although she plays quite a bit after school as well, when I'm working. Her progress in mastering the controls is amazing to me.

10. I'd also like to thank Lego Star Wars for being the 1st game in many, many that I've played that seemed to truly capture some of the most riveting moments from the original trilogy in game format. It only took 20+ years, but I finally had as much fun playing the Hoth battle at the beginning of "The Empire Strikes Back" as I did in watching it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Some more "House" stuff

I'll try and put something house related in the title if the post relates to that, for those that aren't interested.

Interesting angle on this new lawsuit by a professor in a community less then 5 minutes away from my former house.

I've met with an attorney in regards to the current foreclosure action. As wrote Monday, not much has changed, it's essentially the bank trying to cover all of their bases at the moment.

I'm at the point, where I'm trying to decide to whether to retain the attorney, who would try and assist with the short sale, or represent myself with the courts as we move forward. This whole process has been one big vacuum on cash. Add in the debt that we had prior to moving and wife being laid off at the end of October and there is a part of me, that rejects the notion of investing any more then I have to at this point. We aren't desolate, but hiring a lawyer at this point seems potentially silly. I have to believe that even if the banks pursue a deficiency judgement (and I can't tell whether they will or won't), the amount of it would be fairly trivial from their perspective (in my opinion) and my attorney fees, could potentially be 10-15% of that. Not to mention, with the current crush of debt and a deficiency judgement, I'd likely have to play my last card and would likely file bankruptcy. Which would mean that spending dollars on the potential help of an attorney in this matter only to see it fail and then having to spend more cash on a bankruptcy attorney seems sort of stupid.

I'm talking with the attorney this afternoon in regards to it. I could understand if there was a potential 6 figure deficit out there that the banks needed to close the gap on and I if had any type of resources for them to come after, but my slate is pretty clean as far as green money goes, although I have no idea how the courts view these types of things. Perhaps the bank would like my rusting 10 yr old Dodge Stratus, that I just sunk more money than it's worth into last month (cringe).

I feel like I'm playing poker and losing regularly.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Remember that post where I admit I'm wrong

It appears my forecasting powers for the Super Bowl were way off. I will say at least I put my own money where my mouth was and am silently cursing Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Giselle right now. (Ok, not really cursing Giselle, just cursing Tom more for such a rough life to go home too.)

Also to follow up on the house sale. I talked to my attorney on Friday, as I had started to suspect, this foreclosure action really does nothing other then hopefully get the bank to internally deal better with a short sale on my account. We also have a new negotiator for our sale, this would be about the 9th over the past 6 months. I'm hoping the buyer sends over the revised date offer on Monday, which the new negotiator has finally asked for one with a 6 week out expiration. (the first negotiator that appears to care about this rather significant detail).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Friday Thoughts 2/3/2012: Foreclosure edition

1. It's been too long and I realized I'm overdue for some rants and updates.

2. Starting with I received a letter today from an unsolicited attorney, referring to the court case the bank appears to have filed last week, foreclosing on my house. I didn't know they had what amounts to ambulance chasers in the housing litigation side of things. It appears the bank did in fact file on 1/24 and my notice from the court appears to have been mailed out 2 days ago.

3. There is a bit of relief here, that I'll now have a chance to work through an attorney on this. To this point, I don't think I've worked with a competent person through this process. The bank contacts, the realtor, and the buyer all were severely lacking in skills for something like this.

4. I want to thank my daughter for a moment of levity as I was digesting the foreclosure news. She went upstairs to get ready for the bath, as I heard a shriek followed by crying, that her Wuggle pet had fallen into the toilet. I arrived to her holding a sopping Wuggle pet and sobbing. Said Wuggle pet was quickly put through the washing machine with far more detergent and hot water then what was needed. Going forward, I'll refer to him as the "Pee Pee pet."

5. I'm way behind on the whole 'weight loss' resolution for this year. I like to blame the lapse over the past couple months on the house stuff.

6. Reese's pieces are superior to M&Ms

7. The Patriots will beat the Giants in a route on Sunday. Neither team is a favorite of mine, but after watching Bill Belichick get his start in Cleveland, I can tell you that the last Super Bowl loss has him ready to prove a point and when he's zeroed in there may not be a better game planner in the game. Tom Brady fits that model too.

8. Given the lack of updates over the past couple months, it's bad form to say this, but I have a lot of thoughts on my current career path and some fascination of where it's potentially at. Much of this came from a large company event I attended in January. I'll have to figure out how to keep it obscure without droning on if I do get a chance to write up my thoughts.

9. I'm happy to report that Downtown Disney has a rather nice "Cigar bar" that serves some premium rums. A really nice getaway spot during a conference and being surrounded by co-workers and customers for 12 hours out of the day.

10. There's a part of me that's happy that we've progressed a bit on this housing issue. I'll sure have more to say as the process plays out, but for now, I'm just going to enjoy a couple glasses of Oronoco rum and get a decent night of sleep.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My House saga

*I wrote this up about a month ago, right before the buyer came back with the notarized paper we've been waiting on since July. We are supposedly in the final stages of the sale, my guess is it either happens this week or it doesn't. I also received a note from the bank this week advising me that they've accelerated the loan and instructed their attorney to start foreclosure procedures. I had been holding back posting it as I wanted to see how things played out and there was a part of me that was being superstitious but given the time this ordeal has taken, I decided that there wasn't any logical reason to keep it under wraps.

It takes a lot to break me emotionally, and I've come close to that point recently. These last 14 months have been a roller coaster ride in terms of emotions and it's probably about time that I broke down some of what has been going on.

There is going to be a lot of opinion in this piece related to my current situation, I make no apologies for my subjective view. I will say that I consider myself average in the total population, so to me it wouldn't be a reach to apply it to others that you hear about in one bizarre way or another.

I'll try and recap as detailed as I can get, there is still a side of me that prefers to keep things a bit vague, due to the nature of putting information out on the internet.

My wife is a social studies teacher, prior to 2010 she had been a substitute for 4 years and had been looking for a full time job for those four years with no luck in the Cleveland area. She would typically get 1-2 interviews a year and considering the number of candidates they told her they had, it was a pretty decent accomplishment. She was never able to get any of those jobs though. 3 years ago she did get an offer in Florida, we heavily considered it. The housing market had just collapsed and it was apparent in talking to multiple realtors that there weren't many options available. We bought our home in 2002 and having so few years in the house had no real equity on it. After much discussion and heart break we decided that the move was just not something we could risk at the time.

We purchased the house for $87,000, our balance was about $77,000 in March of 2011. I can still remember the mortgage broker telling me that we could afford a much bigger house at the time of purchase based on my salary. I'm fairly thankful that I ignored him, knowing then, that the house we chose was the best case we could find in a decent area and if we wound up as a one income household as we soon would after moving in, then we could handle it. I hit it right on that estimation.

Cut to the summer of 2010 and the market was still depressed, but I had been keeping my eye on it. Home values had plummeted further but there was more information available for homeowners on what you could do if you needed to make a change. My wife also got offered a job in Columbus, a much easier and less expensive move for us. We decided to go for it and made the move, putting our house on the market.

We selected a realtor my brother used and who at that point was familiar with the short sale process, many realtors I talked too weren't very familiar with it. We secured a townhouse for rent in Columbus and did the typical cosmetic repairs on the house for viewing. In addition to that we had to have the city review the house for violations. We went through and corrected all of those violations the city listed, including the need to paint the house, not exactly a minimal expense, but required by the city to be corrected in 90 days from their review.

As expected we had no interest in the house for the first 8 months, our realtor correctly handled dropping the price through the process and as it finally got to $25,000 we had some interest in the house. We got two offers on the house and I preceded to call my bank. I should note that previous to the offers, I had talked to the bank and they wouldn't even discuss a short sale option without an offer on the house. Since we were trying to buy ourselves time, we had been paying our mortgage up to that point and our rent on the new place. We essentially were net zero for new income on the move because of it and if you factor in moving costs, upkeep on the old place, and the crush of debt we had already accrued through 4 years of unemployment, well you get the picture.

I did come to find out later, that since our house was an FHA backed mortgage, we could have applied and been pre-approved as a short sale candidate as soon as 90 days after we had the house on the market. I chalked up the bank's responses at that point as ignorance and moved on.

Once we had the offers, the examination began, where the bank asks you to send them your first born, and they apply alien probes to them. (Oh wait, sorry hyperbole). The bank requested a stack of papers on our financials that we provided to them and we were pre-approved for a short sale, except for one point, we couldn't proceed as our mortgage was current, we had to be in default. Crap, the offer came in 2 days after I paid my last mortgage payment and knowing now what I do, I probably should have asked them to back draft it. However, I didn't, perhaps that was my mistake, anyways, we had to wait until June 1 for us to be technically late on our payment and qualified for a short sale. That seemed like more then enough time for everyone (buyer, realtor, and bank) to have things confirmed and then be able to proceed.

It was plenty of time for things to be done, the house was appraised by the bank at $21,000 and our offer was above that, a key point in short sales which should mean there was no discussion necessary. By this point with the bank, we had been passed between about 4 people during the process, which at the time seemed a bit excessive, but knowing how big companies are, not overly concerning.

As June 1 hit, I followed up with the bank and my file was submitted to the negotiator, that's suppose to review the offer, the appraisal and the paperwork and then make a decision. That is supposed to take 5-7 business days once it's been assigned to them, as of June 16, and multiple calls from me, we still had no responses on it. Finally they came back in the last week of June asking for an updated offer as the one they had, had some unreadable parts (their words) due to the passing between entities and they asked for the buyer who was with an LLC to provide a notarized list of the LLC partners. They asked for a number of other documents over May and June too, but we had no issues in turning those around. (proof of funds from buyer, arms length affidavit, notarized response that liens county assigned on the property were not mine, etc)

The bank rejected four different copies of the agreement, saying they were unreadable, the buyers also became unresponsive in the request for the LLC notarized list.

We proceeded to have the negotiators now who were too busy to review the file in time the bank advised on, kick the offers out of the cycle and back into the queue. Starting the process over again each time and with new contacts. At this point my bank assigned a single point of contact for me, who never returned my calls, never answered her phone, and had a voice mail that was often full. They would finally assign me to a new contact over the next couple months that had same issues, and then finally assign me to a third, that I've actually been able to communicate with. Now mind you my single point of contact is basically a message taker, they effect nothing on the results or reviews, they read messages on the system to me, the negotiator is not supposed to be in contact with me, just the realtor. The Realtor advised they went through multiple negotiators as well in that period of time due to unresponsiveness etc.

In the meantime we have a buyer and their realtor who seem to be unable to come up with this rather critical piece of information, as it drags on into September, the bank comes back and says they are submitting my house to the Deed in Lieu (DIL) of Foreclosure office for review, since it appears that we cannot proceed with this offer.

The DIL comes back and says that there are a number of liens on the property and they can't proceed without them being cleared. Part of the problem with a fairly common name and living in a large county, is that you run the risk of having someone with your name around and the Cuyahoga county government will attach a lien to a property at the request of a debtor even if they aren't the same person. There were 5-6 liens attached to my property from the state and federal governments, that an affidavit stating that they weren't mine, wouldn't suffice on. We had to have the entities provide documentation that they weren't mine. So we had to hire a title company to handle the work. Which they remarkably were able to in the time we had to do it. I say remarkably, as the title company's response to me when they provided the information, was "We are so glad we could help, we run into many situations where we can't get this done".

At this point, our buyer is also back and sends over an updated readable offer and asks us to have the house re-approved by the city for sale (we only have 1 year from their 1st review). The buyer wanted to ensure there were no violations, so we paid for the review and scheduled it with the city and luckily only had a minor fix we needed to do this time.

Our buyer sends over the offer and a state of Ohio certification on their LLC, we send it off to the bank. Bank advises negotiator will take 5-7 days to get back to us, after 1 week we get a response from the negotiator asking for 2 papers, that realtor and I quickly provide. Another 2 weeks with no response from the negotiator. Finally I email the negotiator asking for a status and he responds two days later that he's working on it. Another week passes with multiple phone calls to my contact, which finally escalate enough for the negotiator to send a note to my realtor, asking for a host of other corrections and information. One of those is the LLC notarized list. My realtor requests additional insight into the negotiator's requests with no responses to his calls or voice mails and my attempts at having it escalated do no no good either for a response, as of yesterday, they've reassigned it again to a new negotiator. I've lost track of how many negotiators we've dealt with.

In addition to the bank's inability to work on the requests, we have the buyer who has been unable to provide a key document the bank has requested and pulled their offer last Saturday. The buyer's response that it's just not possible to get all of the LLC members together is laughable, all they need to do is sign a list and each could have it notarized, sometimes I do wonder how people are able to do anything sometimes.

So that leaves us with no offer and a mortgage that is now 7 months past due. I should also point out that my credit limits dropped as soon as we missed the 1st mortgage payment and the wife was laid off from her job. Talk about missing the mark on this plan. Phew.

As it sits today, we did receive a lowball offer, that I don't have the amount for yet, but I expect is below 10k, which we'll submit to the bank, can you imagine buying a house for less then 10k. A house that's not in a demilitarized zone that's in move in condition, with a pool and a fairly new furnace and central air system. Bizarre I tell you. There is no guarantee the bank accepts the offer, and I'm guessing they won't, they'll also be considering Deed in Lieu I guess, but at this point I almost don't care anymore. After reviewing some more forums and seeing how many are experiencing similar issues, I sort of welcome the aspect of foreclosure, and a chance to have the courts review the issues and come up with a decision (Ohio is a judicial foreclosure state). At least when it happens, I can put this whole mess behind me and try and start focusing on how to put things back together. In today's discussion with my point of contact, he mentioned, that he has 25 short sale clients assigned to him, since I'm sure there are at least two others that do a similar job, it's absolutely mind boggling to think of how many cases there are that are similar to this, just at my bank, and instances I'm sure repeating across the board.

I suppose there are those that might think it's wrong to have the debt default as it did. I struggled with it at first, but given the market parameters and how business was being done, I believe I proceeded with the right intent and have gotten nowhere with it, factor in that the wife lost her job and the deficiency amount on the house is too much to overcome due to credit being closed up due to having to deficient and I view it as a vicious circle, that I'm happy to get out of at some point.

The thing that gets me though, is I don't think we as a society really have and idea on what's going on right now in the housing market. My neighborhood wasn't the best, it may have been one step above the city, but we've seen almost an 80% drop in home values, and possibly more. The city I'm in now has at least 20 houses with for sale signs out on the yard and these are just the ones with signs in the winter, when we know no one buys in this part of the country.

The impact from this is still going to be felt, as these properties are bought off the market by investors or whoever can purchase it and the tax dollars drop due to the sale price. These municipalities are going to run into serious issues. I read a report the other day that my old city's school hours were cut to 5.5 per day because they didnt' pass another levy.

I wish I could tell you the answer to this problem, but I have no idea what it is. I see people bagging on occupy Wall Street people and I wonder if they really have an idea of what's happened to many aspects of the marketplace that these companies are in control of. While they dismiss the occupiers as a fringe hippy protest, I know that many of them are also part of this due to similar stories like mine.

At the end of the day I'll point out a couple other points as well, my bank has no incentive to sell my property short outside of convenience and time, my loan was an FHA loan, so any money I default on will be paid by the government, in addition to that they've handcuffed the realtors into ridiculously low amounts that they make from these sales, there's little to no incentive for them to get the work done. Especially considering the work is now 10x more and takes about 6-7x as long. How this system makes sense I'll never know.

There is a part of me that will be happy that it ends one way or another.