Month: June 2014

Let the House Hunt Begin

I really like where I live. It’s very convenient to work (I’m less than four miles from my office). We have a good selection of places to shop, restaurants, and parks. It’s quiet. All in all, I think we made a pretty good choice when we selected this place in February 2012.

Here’s the thing; our rent just increased… again. This is the second increase we’ve had since moving in. Initially rent was $890 (that’s in USD) and we signed a 14 month lease at the time (so it wouldn’t end in the short month of February). Last year, when it was time to renew the landlord increased the rent by $50. We asked for a two year lease, which he was ok with if we agree to there being a clause to allow him to raise it again this year by no more than another $50 if the average market rent for the area increased. We agreed; I now regret that. This is why our rent, effective June 1, is now $990 per month. To be fair, I checked Zillow and the places near us are going for around $1100-1200 per month, so our rent is still pretty reasonable given that fact. My biggest beef is that they really didn’t follow the law by giving us a 30-day written notice of the increase; we got an email on June 7 instead.1

So, since I was on Zillow anyway I started looking at houses for sale in the immediate area. I found several and was quite surprised at how many are less than $200,000 and have estimated monthly mortgage payments substantially less than what I have paid for rent over the last two years. This got me to thinking, “Why in the hell, at the age of 42, when I have a good job am I still renting a townhouse instead of buying my own home?” The idea of buying a house, though, is a bit scary. Renting a home means that any maintenance issues fall to the landlord to take care of, but being the owner means I’d have to pay for it myself (or at least pay for really good home owner’s insurance). Since we rent a townhouse, the home owner’s associate pays for yard maintenance and landscaping, but if I buy a house I’ll have to invest in a lawnmower, weed-eater, and other gardening tools, not to mention have to spend my Saturday/Sunday mornings doing yard work (which I currently don’t have to do). None of that is the scary part though.

The scary part is, can I even get a mortgage with my horrible credit? I had to have my fiancée get a credit card at Micro Center so I could buy a laptop because I was declined. I’m pretty sure that applying for a mortgage is way bigger than a store credit card. On top of that, I need to be able to make a down payment. I was wise enough to “hide” part of my tax refund from myself this year, but it’s far from enough to make a down payment on a house and I really intended that to be a backup fund if needed. I have a 401k that I suppose I could look into borrowing from, but then that takes away from my retirement plan (granted, I’m nowhere near retirement, but the thought of borrowing money against that still makes me nervous). Then, of course, there would be the requisite home owner’s insurance (which is probably going to make my overall monthly budget go right back up to where it is now when you add that to the mortgage payment).

Still, the thought of owning my own home where I can paint the walls whatever color I damn well please and not have to hear the neighbors’ kids running up and down the stairs is a happy thought. Why should I put money into some else’s equity and not my own? I’ve already marked several places in Zillow that I really like (one of which is literally right around the corner from where I currently live) – hopefully, when we get closer to the lease expiring some of these will still be available, or there will still be ones in those price ranges and in areas we would rather live.

~ JC

Sidenote: My sister and brother-in-law just recently bought their first house; so, congratulations to them, and needless to say that’s inspired me to want to buy a house too. Deciding to try to buy a house also means I’ll have to (temporarily) put aside my thoughts of buying a new car.

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  1. I’m going along with it only because getting an attorney would surely cost a lot more than the $50 more per month that the rent is increasing so it’s just not worth it.

Kick The Rainbow to Re-Start It

This may very well be old news, but in case you haven’t heard, LeVar Burton is re-launching Reading Rainbow. It’s highly possible that I can trace my becoming a bibliophile to shows like Reading Rainbow and programs like Reading is Fundamental that existed when I was in elementary school.

Reading Rainbow started in June 1983 and ran on PBS until November 2006. In 2012, an interactive reading and video field trip app was launched for iPad and Kindle Fire.1 While I’ve often attributed my love of reading to my discovery of the game Dungeons & Dragons, it was Reading Rainbow that help start my love for books (ok, so it took me a little bit of time to go from loving the books to loving the contents as well, but whatever).

Even though I’m blogging about this a bit late, that certainly doesn’t lessen its importance. Mr. Burton set a Kickstarter goal of $1 Million USD by July 2; they did it in 24 hours! Within 48 hours they were already up to $2 million. Who knows how much higher that will climb by the time the campaign ends on July 2? An acquaintance and former co-worker of mine said he had never seen a Kickstarter act like this before – well, that would probably be because it’s a worthy and noble cause that deserves the money instead of someone trying to get the internet to pay for their business startup.

I’m really excited to see Reading Rainbow make a comeback. I don’t have a child of my own, but I am a very proud uncle of a niece who already loves to read and reads two grade levels above her age. I want her, and her cousins and friends to have a show like this to grow up with like I did and bolster a love for reading and learning. I want real life people to have more scenes like this one from The Princess Bride:

The Grandson: A book?

Grandpa: That’s right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I’m gonna read it to you.

The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?

Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…2

And of course, by the end of the film, the Grandson loved the book so much he wanted Grandpa to come back and read it to him again the next day.

The problem now is, we have the internet:

Jay: What the fuck is the Internet?

Holden: The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.3

We need less of that and more of what LeVar Burton is trying to accomplish with the Reading Rainbow re-launching as a web based media. We have a world of knowledge at our finger tips, and we use it to post cat pictures, porn and generally bitch about things on social media. As has been said, we have smartphones and dumb people. We need Reading Rainbow and the like to help prevent the movie Idiocracy from becoming a prophecy of our future. Star Trek: The Next Generation (and yes, that is a nod to the fact that LeVar Burton played Chief Engineer Geordie Laforge on that show) regularly showed Captain Picard in his Ready Room reading a book; that’s the kind of future we should be striving for, the one where technology enhances our knowledge and understanding, not causes us to say things like “too long, didn’t read” because we’ve developed short attention spans.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to head over to the Kickstarter page for this, and make a pledge. You should too, if you care about education for this and future generations. By the way, the minimum pledge is only $1; even a dollar can help because all those dollars add up.

~ JC

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  1. Reading Rainbow,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, last modified 30 May 2014 at 23:58, accessed May 31, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Rainbow.
  2. From The Princess Bride (1987)
  3. From Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2005)