Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering

Yup, here's me, who hasn't been posting.  Not going to talk about that today though.  As an airline employee, I traditionally do a post on 9/11 with the names of the employees who lost their lives that day.  I'm going to do that today also.  I will say, for better or worse, this is probably the first time where it seemed close to "just another day" for me.  Trust me, while I will never forget it, perhaps that is a good thing...just to remember the day without being overwhelmed by it.  I don't think anyone in my industry will ever forget it though.  Anyhow, hope everyone has a good day, and if you have time to take a moment for quiet reflection, I think that would be a good thing.

American 11 (Boston to Los Angeles)
Crashed into World Trade Center
John Ogonowski, Dracut, Mass., Captain; Thomas McGuinness, Portsmouth, N.H., First Officer; Barbara Arestegui, flight attendant; Jeffrey Collman, flight attendant; Sara Low, flight attendant; Karen Martin, flight attendant; Kathleen Nicosia, flight attendant; Betty Ong, flight attendant; Jean Roger, flight attendant; Dianne Snyder, flight attendant; Madeline Sweeney, flight attendant

United 175 (Boston to Los Angeles)
Crashed into World Trade Center
Victor J. Saracini, Lower Makefield Township, Pa., Captain; Michael Horrocks, First Officer; Amy Jarret, flight attendant; Al Marchand, flight attendant; Amy King, flight attendant; Kathryn Laborie, flight attendant; Michael Tarrou, flight attendant; Alicia Titus, flight attendant

American 77 (Washington/Dulles to Los Angeles)
Crashed into the Pentagon
Charles Burlingame, Captain; David Charlebois, First Officer; Michele Heidenberger, flight attendant; Jennifer Lewis, flight attendant; Kenneth Lewis, flight attendant; and Renee May, flight attendant

United 93 (Newark to San Francisco)
Crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Jason Dahl, Colorado, Captain; Leroy Homer, Marlton, N.J., First Officer; Sandy Bradshaw, flight attendant; CeeCee Lyles, flight attendant; Lorraine Bay, flight attendant; Wanda Green, flight attendant; Deborah Welsh, flight attendant

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Another Moving Day

If you ever have moving needs, and you see me coming your way with a recommendation for a moving company, you would best be advised to cover your ears and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction.  At least, that is what I felt like last week on the day of my big (albeit local) move.

As long-time readers may recall, I have not had very good luck with movers.  At least not when I pick the moving company.  My move back to the Midwest from Texas, while stressful, was fairly uneventful since my company picked and paid for the moving company.  However, I've been living here for over a year now, and as my employer just signed a 25-year lease on our current office building, I thought it was finally safe to buy some property again.  Also, I needed more space, wanted a washer/dryer, and I was tired of paying rent.

The whole process of my finding a place, securing a loan, and agreeing to a closing date has been recounted here but I'll just say for now that it was a quite lengthy process that seemed to have minor complications occurring right up to closing day.  On a positive note, I found out I needed far less money to close than I had originally planned for, so I used some of that leftover money to pay off my car.  Anyhow, after closing on Thursday, June 27, I was scheduled to move on Monday, July 1.  My apartment building had agreed to give me a couple days to move at the start of the month since the end of the month occurred on a weekend.

For this move, I had picked a moving company that had a Daily Deal with Amazon.  I saw the deal, and I had an upcoming move, and I figured that hey, Amazon surely wouldn't pick anyone disreputable to deal with, would they?  You've probably already figured out the answer to that question.

I got up early the morning of the move to finish getting my apartment ready.  And by "finish" I mean "do everything I should have already done over the weekend."  Still, I labored away, throwing away a lot of trash and moving kitchen items and clothes down to my car, until I reached the end of the time period "window" in which the movers were supposed to show up.  I tried calling the number on the voucher - no answer.  I looked up the company online and called that number - which went to an answering machine.  The answering machine gave me another number to call if you were calling about a move in progress.  I tried that one - disconnected.

At this point it was about an hour after the movers were supposed to show and I was panicking.  I then made my best decision of the day and went to the concierge desk at my apartment complex.  The guy working the desk has worked there for decades and knows a lot of people.  I told him, hey man, I'm desperate here.  Do you know anyone that might be able to handle a last minute move?  He did have a guy for me to call, who was available to do the work.  The guy's quote was not cheap but it wasn't highway robbery either, so I gladly accepted.

The mover and his crew arrived a few hours later and began moving stuff downstairs via the freight elevator.  While I had a nice view in my old apartment, I had known shortly after moving in that it really wasn't a big enough place for me and I didn't want to stay there long-term, so a lot of boxes (books and things) I had never unpacked.  They did have to pack up my kitchen dishes and such but that didn't take too long.  I arranged to meet the movers at my new place around 6 PM.  

When we got to the new place and they set up and began unloading, we were greeted with severe frowns by the building residents.  I was soon met by the condo association president who seemed very flustered and informed me that the movers had to come in through the garage, not the reception area, and that we needed to put pads up in the elevator.  I also got the impression that some of the tenants may have been extra suspicious of my movers because they were all black.  Evidently, I was also supposed to have scheduled my move time in advance and paid a $250 deposit.

I assured the building president (who seemed nice enough but a bit of a fussbudget) that the movers had been very professional, and that I didn't have a huge amount of stuff and that we would be finished soon.  I also told him that I had no knowledge that scheduling the move in advance was required, and at any rate, my original move company had done a no-show that morning.  He seemed to stare somewhat condescendingly at the beer I was drinking (what can I say, it had been one hell of a day) but he did set up the pads in the elevator for us and let us continue the move.

The movers finally finished about 9 PM and I did give them a tip on top of the original charge.  I also invited them to have a beer if they wanted and two of them did.  They did a really good job, no paint damage or walls run into (I did some of that myself the next day inside my unit, but such is life.  I've got touch-up paint.)  

On a semi-positive note, the original move company did call me and apologize the same day, although it was after I had hired the new movers.  Evidently they had had at least one person (maybe more?  I wasn't quite sure) quit over the weekend and that had thrown their schedule into chaos.  I thanked them for calling but told them I had already called Amazon to cancel their voucher and found a replacement company.  I also told them that if they knew in advance there would be issues, they really should have let me know before the day of the move.  They apologized and said the owner would be calling me in the next day or two (which so far, he has not.)   I also got an email from the property management company of my new condominium building a couple days after I moved in asking me to fill out a form with my planned moved date which I thought was amusing (I did reply to that one saying it was too late, but the management company didn't have a problem with it once I explained the circumstances.)

The day after my move, I had hired a cleaning service to come and do a move-out cleaning for me.  They showed up right on time and did an excellent job.  I then turned in my keys and wrote my final check for the utilities there before heading back to my new place to unload all the junk that was still in my car.  I finished that and due to having an extra bedroom at my new condo, I already feel more moved in there than I ever did in my apartment.  Of course, I have a lot of boxes to unpack and go through, but I'll get there.  

I don't want to include a link with my exact address but I will share a picture I took from the courtyard of the building outside my back door.  I think I will like living here.  At the very least, I am looking forward to not having to move again for a very long time.  


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Go Blackhawks! Also, I won a bet.

So, I presume most people reading this post have heard about this happening...



I am not a huge hockey fan...in fact, I was at work the night game six was on and I had given up hope.  Rather than staying after my shift to watch the game's end, I headed out to my car and missed one of the greatest hockey comebacks of all time.  Ah well....anyhow, this is a very big deal in my neck of the woods, and I had a bet on this one that I made with Jim Sullivan of Suldog fame.  He has graciously made good the terms of our wager on his blog here.

Thanks Jim, it was nice betting with you!  Thanks for the linkage.




Monday, June 24, 2013

Summerland - Kickin' It Old School

So as promised, here is my review of the Summerland concert I went to over the weekend.  Summerland was organized by Everclear and featured acts by Sponge, Live, Filter, and Everclear.  As I am a big Everclear fan (and a fan of Sponge, Filter, and Live as well) I was very excited to hear about this show so I ponied up money for a VIP ticket.  What this ticket got me was a pre-show meet and greet with Everclear which included a short acoustic performance by them, along with a "goodie bag" that included their latest CD and some other schwag.

I was a bit nervous to meet Art, who is one of my personal musical heroes, but he was totally cool and very friendly and approachable.  Some people might say, well yeah, you were paying to meet him so of course he would be!  However, I think he wasn't acting - he really did seem like a very cool, laid back rock star.  I didn't say a whole lot to him as everyone at the meet and greet also wanted to say hi, but I did thank him for following me on Twitter.  I was wearing an old Everclear tour t-shirt that I'd gotten back in 2001 or so, and he said he liked my shirt, that it was "old school."  I also got to meet all of his band members, who were equally friendly, nice, and approachable.  I also got photos of myself with Art, along with the band.



In his photo I am laughing because Art was joking about how much taller I was than the band and said something like, "OK everybody, get on your tiptoes now!"



I was also able to record the band's acoustic performance of "I Will Buy You A New Life" which I have shared below.  In hindsight of course, I should have turned the camera so it would post better on YouTube but in the spur of the moment I didn't think of it.  Anyhow, other than that, the video turned out pretty well.



The regular show started about twenty minutes after the meet and greet event ended.  I won't go into details for every act, but I thought ALL the bands rocked, all the sets were great, and every set felt like it was the right length.  There was also a nice break time between sets so you never had to miss any music while waiting in line for the bathroom or whatever.  Seriously, great show and great sound by all the performers.

I am probably...ok, defintitely prejudiced because I liked all the bands, but it was one of the best concerts I've ever been to.  As another reviewer pointed out, none of the bands performing featured their original lineup, and Live did not feature their original lead singer, but I didn't mind in the least or notice in the performance of their songs.

It was kind of funny observing the crowd - now that all of us original fans are in our thirties and forties, it was definitely a more mellow watching experience than some of the concerts I went to in my youth.  While far from a sellout crowd, it was still good sized and everyone really seemed to enjoy the music.

I won't try to include videos by all the bands that performed - anyone interested can do a search on YouTube to find the music - but I will say, if you do like the bands, try and support them by buying their music, even if it's just individual tracks.  But if you DO like the bands, why not pony up some cash for a CD to show your love?

I do want to include this video of a cover of "Happy Together" by Filter as I think it's an interesting, well-done take on the song and I also think it's an excellent video.  I guess it's gotten some more airplay recently since it was featured on the soundtrack for the new Great Gatsby movie, and I'm happy for the band that it has.



In short, I thought Summerland was an awesome show, and I hope Art brings it back again next year.  For more information on tour dates, you can go to click here and see if it's coming to your town.  More linky goodness...to follow Live on Twitter, click here.  To follow Sponge, click here.  To follow Filter, click here.  To follow Everclear, click here.  Art also has an individual Twitter feed you can access here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I write like...

So, this is kind of cool...


I write like
Chuck Palahniuk
I Write Like. Analyze your writing!



The only book I've read by him is Fight Club but it was very good.  And, it's always nice to find out that a computer thinks my style is similar to a famous person also named Chuck.

I just saw Everclear, Sponge, Live, and Filter in an awesome concert organized by Art Alexakis called Summerland.  I want to do a post with the pictures and video that I took but I also want to do a decent job of writing it, so give me a few days and then check back here for details.  If you're a fan of alternative rock and want to see if the show is coming to your town, go check out www.summerlandtour.net for information.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Friendly Wager

As I am now a Midwest resident once again, and the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I have agreed to an online bet with Jim Sullivan of Suldog fame.  If the Bruins win, I am obligated to write a post complimenting Boston and the Bruins, along with displaying their team logo.  If the Hawks win, Jim is obligated to do the same for Chicago and the Blackhawks on his blog.  He said it would bring more traffic to our blogs, but since he is a regular blog updater and has hundreds of followers I think that it will benefit me more than him...still, I'm happy to take his bet.  Jim is a great guy and a really good writer, and I look forward to reading about Chicago on his blog once the series is over.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Real Estate: The Agony and the Ecstasy

I am currently looking to become a property owner again.  I guess technically a homeowner, although the property that I'm trying to buy is a condominium.  HOPEFULLY, this will be happening soon, like within a week or so.  As I will describe, though, with all that's happened so far in the process, I am not counting on anything until the closing takes place.

I have owned real estate just once before in my life.  That was in Nevada, in the early 2000s.  In that case, I decided to buy a single-family home, even though I didn't need all the space, since I thought it would be a better investment.  While I was waiting to buy the house, the airline that I was working for there went into Chapter 11.  I ended up deciding to buy the house anyway, even though I liked my apartment that I was living in at the time, and closed on it in April of 2001.  Great timing!  As I'm sure everyone reading this is aware, 9/11 happened later that year and the airline I was working for, already struggling, never did emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Still, they did keep flying until late 2002.  

My first job that I found after that airline went under was in Wisconsin.  My new employer did include a paid move but I still kind of hoped to keep living in Nevada, so I decided to rent out my house there initially.  I had fairly good renters but my goal of getting a job with another Nevada-based airline never panned out, so I ended up selling the house after I had rented it out for about a year.  Fortunately during that year the property values went up a lot, and I ended up making money on it - not a fortune or anything but it was better than the alternative.  However, the whole experience of being forced to move, rent, etc. left me a little gun-shy with regards to owning property, and I had no desire to buy any sort of real estate in Wisconsin -  because I had no big desire to keep living there.  As long-term readers know, I ended up getting a job in Texas after about three years of living in Wisconsin.

I did look at some properties when I was living in Texas after I'd been living there for a while.  One in particular I did really like, but I also felt like I couldn't afford, so I never pursued financing or anything.  Shortly after we got a new contact at my workplace, thus enabling me to afford to buy something, they announced our merger and pending move to the Midwest, the kaboshing any interest I had in buying a place once again for a couple more years.

I decided I would like to buy a place where I am living now, and I don't expect to be moving again until I retire, but I didn't want to buy right away either.  In my experience, it's always best to live somewhere for a while first to get to know the good and bad areas.  Plus, I don't like being rushed when working with a realtor, especially if I decide I want to switch realtors.  Anyhow, several months into living here, I did find a realtor I liked and started looking at places - townhomes and condominiums.  I couldn't find any townhomes here that I liked but we did finally locate a condo that I am pretty fond of.    After several rounds of negotiating with the buyer, we agreed on a purchase price.  

Now comes the rub - the whole financing process.  As I am a veteran, I wanted to buy the property with a VA loan.  Banks usually like this, you have to put less money down, and you don't have to pay any mortgage insurance because it's insured by the government.  Closing costs can be a bit higher but overall it's usually a good way to go.  When I got my house in Nevada, the process was pretty easy, and I don't remember having to put much money down beyond my initial earnest money on the house and a little bit more at closing.  So, I wanted to get the same kind of loan for my condominium.

The VA has certain requirements for condominium buildings, and while my potential property easily met all of them, this particular condominium association also has a requirement that all the units be either owner-occupied, or only rented to a relative.  That requirement doomed my chances with the VA.  I was informed that they require renting the unit to be an option in case the veteran who buys the unit is forced to deploy with the military.  Even though there is zero chance of that happening in my case, as I have long since left the inactive reserves, the VA does not make exceptions to this rule.  So, I was stuck with conventional financing, or finding a new place.

I decided to go for conventional financing even though it was quite a bit more money down (5% of the purchase price required) since that is the only path I saw towards getting this particular unit.  I went over things with the banker my realtor had recommended, and he told me how much money I'd need.  I am doing a 401K loan for that money, so in essence I'm financing the whole purchase, but from two different sources.  The banker assured me this would not be a problem based on my current income and expenses.  

I had to do a LOT of paperwork for this loan - far more than I remember doing in 2001 for my old house - but after a few weeks, I finally got a letter from the bank saying my loan was approved.  There were some other hiccups - we had to extend the closing date a couple of times, which  at one point we thought the seller was not agreeing to, but ultimately everything seemed to be on schedule.  I had the money for the down payment deposited in my bank account, and things were looking good.

Earlier this week while getting ready for work, the bank called.  "Well, I have some good news and some not so good news," said my banker.  "The good news is, you're all approved, but the bad news is that you're going to need $4000 more than I said you would when we started the process.  I don't know if you need to get more money from your 401K, or what you want to do there."  As I was in the middle of walking out the door I told him I'd call back.  I did initially consider a couple different ways to get the extra money, but the more I thought about it, the angrier I became.  I was especially annoyed with the casual way that the banker had referred to me getting more money, like it was no big deal and whoops, well, these things happen, you know?

I called my realtor after I got to work and left him a message.  I let him know that I was tired of all the paperwork and running around, and that I was not interested in putting down any more money than what I had already been told I'd need, and that if I couldn't close with that amount then I felt like I probably shouldn't close on the property.  This got a fast response, as he called the banker (the guy he had recommended to me) and I guess read him the riot act.  The banker suddenly was able to find a way so that I could close with the amount I'd been planning on, although it will raise my APR slightly.  So for now, everything is on track (again.)  

I hope it works out since my apartment lease is ending at the end of the month (although I could extend it if I have to) and I really would like to get this deal done so I can get moved.  In the meantime, if anyone is looking to buy a house, I wish you the best of luck but be prepared for lots of paperwork and negotiations!   Hopefully I will be able to update soon with good news.