30 June 2014

9 years

Today is the ninth anniversary since we closed on our first house. We were supposed to be here for 2, maybe 3, years. But here we are almost a decade later, stuck in a starter house we probably should never have bought in the first place. Why?

Yeah, that. 

Having a house--well this house anyway--is exhausting. The house is old, it has a Michigan basement, it has a shared driveway in need of replacement, the list goes on. It's exhausting to think about, exhausting to work through the neverending lists, exhausting to skimp and save to finance that work. We haven't so much acquired a house as been sentenced to live in it.

As we mark this anniversary and reflect on the many things learned through home ownership, one constant has entered our conversations. Resentment. We resent this house more than anything in our lives. We have to be careful that we don't turn that resentment on each other, something else we didn't plan on having to do. We resent the bankers who've not paid any price for effectively killing the financial mobility of millions of people, something they did through fraud.

There is no silver lining in this house, at least not for us. As we continue to squirrel away money to cover the cash we'll inevitably have to bring to the table when we sell (20% underwater!), every dime is something in our life we can't do. Every dime is also another added to the lesson we learned the best: everyone in the financial sector is making money by taking yours, especially when buying a house.

26 June 2014

Moving to Blogger, for real this time

I'm done with WordPress. After being compromised, again, I'm done. No matter what security extension I install, no matter how automatic the updates, no matter what I tweak, WordPress continues to be compromised.

I even went so far as to nuke the install, the database, and the users for both with my host only to find that WordPress can't handle importing 1400 entries. So, I'm done. Aside from DNS propagation, this blog, now hosted on Blogger, took less than an hour to set up, import, and configure. The import, which failed for days on WordPress, was imported in less than a minute. For a blog I rarely update, this is good enough.

So, see yeah WordPress. I may even get out of my hosting package by porting my other URL over to a Blogger-hosted site.

07 April 2014

Student Loans - Fin

Yesterday I paid off my last student loan. It took nearly 16 years to do so, a stretch of time that, frankly, is embarrassing. I financed my college education completely on my own; my parents held to the belief (in the mid-90s) that one could still pay their way through college. You couldn't, there wasn't even a chance of that happening.

My college education was financed on the backs of loans, a single grant for 2 semesters, and credit cards. I have paid off the loans. 16 years after the fact, I still have 2 credit cards within striking distance of being paid off (read: less than 5 figures).

I will not claim I was (or am) the best manager of my own money, but the cost of simply attending college set my finances back a decade. The real estate crash simply pounded the lid closed on my financial coffin in the late 2000s. We are working to dig out now, but we are purposely struggling.

There is a movement to reform college financing, something I completely support. I can't imagine the pressures of graduating today with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. For now, I'm a few hundred dollars closer to being in the black; budget projections here show that is years away, though.

Openly questioning the value of a degree is a smart first step. Evaluating the value to yourself is just as important. Either way, this country needs to have a frank discussion about education, K through PhD. I hope we have it soon.

07 February 2014

Snow Removal in Chelsea, MI

Chelsea MI's relevant ordinances regarding removal of snow and ice.
Sec. 26-89. - Ice and snow removal.

It shall be the duty of the owner or occupant of every parcel of real estate within the city which adjoins a public right-of-way upon which there has been constructed a public sidewalk, to remove any accumulations of ice and snow which obstruct the free use of the sidewalk by pedestrians, within 48 hours after the accumulation of such snow or ice.

(Ord. No. 94, § 271.003, 6-21-1985)
Sec. 26-90. - Failure to remove snow and ice.

Any owner or occupant of real estate which adjoins the public right-of-way upon which there is constructed a public sidewalk, who shall fail to remove accumulations of snow and ice, as provided in section 26-89, shall be guilty of a violation of this article, and the city police officer may make complaint and request a warrant from the appropriate judicial officer, or issue an appearance ticket or citation, as provided by Public Act No. 366 of 1984 (MCL 764.9c), directing the appearance of such owner or occupant before the appropriate judicial officer to answer the complaint.

(Ord. No. 94, § 271.004, 6-21-1985)

Sec. 26-92. - Violation a municipal civil infraction.

Any person or persons who shall violate any provisions of this article shall be responsible for a municipal civil infraction.

Does anyone know any of these have ever been enforced beyond the line of sight from McKune?

24 January 2014

Myrt Hulst - 1929 - 2104

I'm getting sick of writing these.

On January 19, 2014, Myrtle Hulst passed from this Earth. She was 84, 4 months short of her birthday. She is survived by 2 sisters and countless nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews, and friends. I am one of those grand nephews and Myrt was like a third grandmother to me.

Myrt never married or had children, but not for any of the previous generations' reasons for excusing such things. Not that my family would ever discuss such things, but I believe Myrt found companionship in her multitude of friends. I have been to many funerals and many visitations. Myrt's was easily one of the most well attended.

Myrt was my grandmother's sister and a constant presence in our family. From my earliest memories, she was there. She spent her life as a hair stylist, first working in salons and then owning her own for more than 30 years. Her partners and staff were as much her family as we her blood relatives and wept as we did at her funeral.

We always referred to Myrt as "Aunt", not because we couldn't trace her place in the family tree (a skill we children of Dutch immigrants learned well), but because she was as much a part of our family experience as anyone else.

Myrt left suddenly, diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer five weeks before she died. The family is grateful to Holland Hospice for the kindness and expertise they brought to her and her situation. If you have the means, please give generously to your local Hospice in her name.

Rest in peace, strong, stoic, faithful aunt.  You are missed.

30 December 2013

The Captain Kirk Problem: How Doctor Who Betrayed Matt Smith

Lots of good pulls in this Atlantic article, but some highlights:
The entirety of Season Six is when Moffat’s fascination for plot twists and open-ended mysteries (in our house, we describe this unfortunate tendency as “plotty-wotty”) took over the show, and the whole product suffered.

...

As Moffat checked off the boxes, ... all I could think of was The Eight Deadly Words that doom all forms of storytelling: I don’t care what happens to these people.

...

If only the problems with this show had anything to do with the cast.

I've said it so much on Twitter it should be embarrassing, but Moffat has to go. Who do I write at the BBC? Someone has to be keeping tabs on this kind of criticism, yes?