Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Moving To Bend Oregon Was Probably The Smartest Thing I've Done In A Long Time

I know Bend natives are not happy with the influx of transplants like myself who have moved into town over the past decade, but I don't really care.  I love living here.  And sorry to be the bearer of bad news to the natives, but more and more people will keep moving here in the decades to come.

Bend is a gem as long as you can bring your high paying telecommuting job with you or as long as you can bring your home equity from Seattle or a coastal California city plus your retirement nest egg to live on.  At present, it's attracting retirees and others like myself who can live anywhere as long as they have an internet connection and cell phone reception.  

I've heard a lot of people talk about the lack of high paying jobs as an obstacle to moving here.  Many Portlander who are tired of the rain can't or don't want to make the move unless they already have a job lined up.  It's pretty tough to live on tips or on retail wages in Bend.

In due time though, new industries will emerge as more and more bright, intelligent, and entrepreneurial people move here for the quality of life that Bend offers.  Plus, Oregon State Cascades will attract more people and offer many higher paying jobs that will create a demand for additional businesses that serve the growing number of people in the area.

And that quality of life thing is going to be a major factor for the future transplants.  I shot that photo above Monday afternoon while taking the dogs for a hike along The Deschutes River Trail just off Century Drive.  My cell phone is filled with photos like this as I try to take the pups on a different hike every day, all within five minutes of my house.

It's hard to beat living here, at least for me.  Seattle was great right out of college.  San Diego was perfect for my mid-twenties to early thirties.  Orange County's materialistic culture was exhausting.  In Portland, I felt like a visitor in a city trying to live up to the parody of Portlandia.  Now, having settled in Bend, I feel like I found my home.

And one of these days in the decades to come, I'll probably tell recent Bend transplants that I too was a native.  I promise that I'll lay out the welcome mat for my new neighbors in our great little town.

My Day Job Financing Real Estate Investors And House Flippers

I've been in the mortgage industry for nearly 15 years, having spent the past three years originating private money or hard money loans, which is basically short-term non-bank financing for real estate investors.  Many of our clients are house flippers who have been doing it for many years and have a good thing going.  They are smart, know the market, manage their cash flow conservatively, and usually make a nice $30,000 to $150,000 profit on their projects.

The profit potential of real estate investing and house flipping attracts attention, especially the attention of cable television producers in need of compelling programming to compete with 700+ other cable channels.  Therefore cable TV is filled with real estate house flipping and home remodel shows that compress a 6-8 month project filled with all kinds of pitfalls and triumphs into a 22 minute show that makes it look pretty easy to the layperson sitting on their couch.

And that's the hook that lures tens of thousands of people into the fantasy that they can flip houses successfully just like the people on TV.  Well, maybe they can because it's not rocket surgery.  But, it takes real estate market knowledge and experience, an understanding of construction, and capital / cash / liquidity to do it successfully.
This isn't a business that somebody off the street can just jump into with $5,000 in the bank and in three months they'll magically turn a profit of $50,000 with their new little side business.

No, it's stressful and it's all consuming.  Contractors often don't show up when they were scheduled, materials aren't readily available, mold appears in unexpected places in formerly distressed homes, permits are delayed, theft happens in the middle of the night, etc.

But that part gets glossed over in people's fantasies about becoming a successful house flipper.  They fail to see that with every project they take on, there will be numerous obstacles they'll have to overcome in order to earn that $50,000 profit.  It will be stressful and frustrating.  Maybe they'll get lucky and have a few easy ones.  But those will be rare.

It's not an easy business like it appears to be on TV.  Just like everything else in life it takes many years of hard work to build up the knowledge and capital base to make a business of it.  Things don't happen overnight even though the TV shows convey this image that even the person watching at home could do the same thing and could become an overnight success.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Having Kids And Steering Them Away From Playing Football

My closest friends and I grew up playing football, baseball, and basketball with a pretty high level of success in terms of playing on winning teams at Gresham High School. Our senior year we went 11-1, despite losing some key players along the way to injuries like multiple concussions experienced off the football field and hereditary spinal condition that put an end to their football playing days.

Each of us had the ability to play football or baseball in the small colleges in the Northwest had we been in interested in pursuing that avenue.  In fact, my friend Mike walked on at UW as a freshman, performing pretty well in their Spring Game in 1996.

What's interesting now that most of my friends have kids of their own is that they're not encouraging or steering their kids toward playing football because of all of the evidence of concussions which could eventually lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.

Many people who don't follow the news are becoming aware of football's concussion issue right now because Will Smith is starring in the new movie, "Concussion".

Prior to Smith's movie, I had watched PBS Frontline's "League of Denial" twice over because it was a riveting story of what the NFL knew, when they knew it, and what they were doing to suppress the scientific data.  Frontline did a great job working with doctors, scientists, reporters, and most importantly, the living players along with the deceased player's family members, shedding light on this very important story that needed to be told.

My friends and I have had a few discussions about football, as most of us have seen "League of Denial" at least once.  The consensus is that the kids probably won't wind up playing in college and definitely not going to play in the NFL.  If they developed the talent in high school, my friends would have that discussion about the long-term risks that could arise from playing college football and that maybe the kids could channel that talent into another, much safer sport or activity (golf, cycling, running, skiing, Crossfit, baseball, basketball, etc).  

All of us had the chance to play on some excellent teams in high school, which created great memories and lasting friendships.  What we know now is that football most likely will take our kids to age 18 and then they'll have the rest of their lives to lead.  And, having a healthy, highly cognitive and functioning brain for 75-80 years is much more important than putting it all on the line for short-term glory during their teens and potentially their very early twenties.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Early Returns On The Ski Season In Central Oregon Have Been Excellent

Ski season 2015-2016 at Mt. Bachelor has been better than I expected.  As I write this post on Sunday December 27th, Mt. Bachelor has a 126 inch base after getting 4-5 feet over the past couple of weeks.  The knee deep powder days have been incredible.  

If I was the type to have a Selfie Stick, GoPro, or even take dozens of selfies on the chairlift, I'd document all the fun that I've been having this year.  However, that's definitely not me so you'll just have to trust me when I say that I've been having the time of my life skiing this year.  

The snow reports show just a little bit of snow coming before New Years Day.  Hopefully the big storms will return at the beginning of January, so I can ski the bowl off of the Summit Chair along with exploring all the terrain off Northwest Chair, which my neighbor said has the best runs on the entire mountain.  

If El Nino holds up his end of the bargain, I expect to ski 50-75 times this season.  Oh, and for those of you who loved Chris Farley, here's his take on El Nino! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Looking Forward To The Presidential Campaign Coming And Going

At this point, I'm pretty tired of the presidential election and the actual voting is still 11 months away.  Both parties have uninspiring candidates and they're all pretty much full of crap except for Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, who sadly do not have the big money behind them to win the nomination.  Yes, Hillary Clinton is uninspiring because she no longer seems like the populist first lady in the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt and comes across as just another politician who will carry out the needs of the American Empire's ruling class.

Though, I did find her recent Saturday Night Live appearance pretty entertaining:

The GOP candidates are awful.  I mean AWFUL!  It's like they are all trying to be more outrageous and flamboyant and offensive than the next guy in order to appeal to the voting masses while they promise to wage more wars and give more tax cuts in order to appease their big money backers.

While promising the wealthy more unneeded tax cuts, they're promising the voters that they'll balance the budget and reduce the deficit that sharply increased under Obama (but has come back down) due to the counter cyclical deficit spending measures that kicked in during the recovery from the Great Recession where 15+ million people lost their jobs.

Sadly, giving deep tax cuts while balancing the budget is a mathematical impossibility.  But hey, who's keeping score?

The rank and file voters that they are appealing to don't care that they're being sold another incarnation of Voo-Doo economics which won't trickle down to them.  They're being told that the country needs tax cuts because the economy is struggling so badly due to Obama's socialism (which mysteriously looks just like George W. Bush's capitalism).  The economy has been recovering and could have recovered faster had Congress not blocked nearly every proposal at stimulus during the Obama years.

(Note - I'm a biased New Deal fan who felt that the federal government should have embarked on a much greater deficit spending infrastructure and temporary jobs program starting in 2009 rather than the $787 billion stimulus bill.  If the Federal Reserve could have secretly loaned the Too Big To Fail banks $16 trillion after the TARP bailouts, the US Government could have issued trillions in long-term debt at 2.00%-ish to finance much needed improvements to water, sewer, bridge, highway, rail, electrical grid, energy, environmental cleanup, etc.)

I'm guessing that we have another 11 months left of all kinds of verbal whoppers that set the the GOP candidates up to be the most far right candidate and that after the eventual winner receives the nomination, we'll see him converge back to the center to try appealing to the undecided voter who cannot see any difference between the republican or democrat candidate.

In the meantime, we'll see an unrelenting effort to demonize minority groups like Muslims, Mexicans, LBGT, Syrians, Russians, immigrants in general, the poor, atheists, Planned Parenthood, the Chinese, the left, the moderates on the right (RINOs), Hilary, and so many others that I cannot even fathom at this point because my brain doesn't operate this way.

Throughout all this nonsense, we know that the media will be eating it up and laughing all the way to the bank.  The entire thing is a charade and the biggest beneficiaries are the shareholders in these media companies who know us silly simple Americans all too well and know that we cannot not stop and stare at a car accident on the freeway.

And for some reason, as much as I don't want to pay attention, I will follow this crap over the next 11 months because I'm just as weak a human being as the next guy.  I realize that I'm being played and manipulated by the media to want to know what the candidates said, but I just won't be able to look away as much as I try.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mt Bachelor Gets Snow Again!!

It's an understatement that I'm looking forward to ski season 2015-2016 here in Central Oregon.  I moved to Bend at the beginning of October so that I'd only have a 25 minute drive up to Mt. Bachelor any day of the week.  Plus, it's beautiful here and since I can work from anywhere, why not live somewhere awesome like Bend?

As I drove back from Portland this morning after running the 2015 Run Like Hell yesterday, I saw Mt. Hood had fresh snow as did the seven mountains from Mt. Jefferson south to Mt. Bachelor.  The picture above is Mt. Bachelor at 1:55 PM on October 26th.

Hopefully the El Nino brings a lot of snow to the Pacific Northwest, giving us a Thanksgiving to June ski season.  I'm really hoping to go up to Mt. Bachelor 75+ times this year.  That's the goal.  Hopefully the weather gods cooperate and bring this to fruition.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September Snow In The Oregon Cascade Mountains

I know that this is just a tease, but still it's pretty awesome to see a light dusting of snow on the mountain cams for Mt.Bachelor (top) and Mt. Hood Meadows (bottom) this morning.  Soon, ski season will be here and I'll be well on my way to accomplishing this year's goal of skiing at least 50 times during 2015-2016.  

In order to reach that number, I'll be living in Bend part-time this winter and spring.  The nice thing about Bend is that from the west side of town, it's only about 25-30 minutes to Mt. Bachelor versus the 75-80 minutes it takes to me to drive from NE Portland to Mt. Hood Meadows.  Plus, Bend is just beautiful and feels like my second home (for now) and possibly my permanent home someday soon.  

Hitting 50 ski days this year is within reason especially if I can work until 8:30 AM and be back at my desk working by 11:30 AM for the rest of the afternoon.  And if this year's El Nino delivers more snow than last year, I should be in good shape for skiing 50 times. 

Have a nice Wednesday this little blip of chilly weather. We're back to regular September weather tomorrow. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Joy Of Getting Kicked Out Of The Phone Tree

I've been trying to obtain the amount for my business's quarterly tax payment from the State of California Franchise Tax Board for the past few days and they don't seem to want to take my money.

Their phone tree continually tells me that they are too busy to assist me and to call back during regular business hours.  Well, during regular business hours is when I call in to get the answer.  But apparently, that's when they are busy and cannot take any more calls.

In fact, I also can't go online to find out the balance either.  That's a work in progress, according to the website.

So therefore, I'm back to calling in during regular business hours, which leads me to the recurring message that they are unable to take any more calls at this time and to call again during regular business hours.  

There's a stark difference between the state of California and the state of Oregon.  California is massive with nearly 39 million residents.  Oregon on the other hand, is relatively small with 3.9 million residents.  Whenever I call down to Salem, I get a live person on the phone in less than a minute.

When I call into most of the agencies in California, it's not very likely that I'll reach a live person.  Though over the years, I've maintained the magic phone numbers that I can use to reach someone, but those are few and far between.

I wish that California had the staffing, infrastructure, and/or systems to handle the volume of inquiries they probably receive every single day.  In time, the online system will be ready to go and will accept my payment.

However, in the meantime, I'm going  to keep calling (like this guy), and hopefully I'll reach a live person who will gladly tell me the exact dollar amount to mail in.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

From The Department Of "Who Cares?"

It's football season again and my fellow Oregonians will be going apeshit over their beloved 18-22 year old tackle football players from UO and OSU.  And me, well, I'll be spending my Saturdays riding my bike out to Multnomah Falls or hiking up on Mt. Hood.  

This afternoon, I saw this link to an article on about the uniform combinations the OSU Beavers will be wearing this year.

Seriously?  This is actually news?  Come on.  Do people actually care about this stuff?

Answer:  Yes they do!

People Tweet the heck out of this stuff.

As for me, I'm once again going to be a fish out of water as I spend time outdoors in the beautiful Oregon Fall. It's hard to beat hiking along the Salmon Huckleberry Trail in Welches and seeing a school of salmon spawning.  Or, riding along the Old Columbia River Highway, where few tourists venture in September and October, seeing the leaves turn along the 30 mile round trip ride.

It sure beats the heck out of watching college football all weekend long.

Sorry to be such a spoil sport about America's new past time.  Enjoy going apeshit over college football.  I'll be outside enjoying what should be a spectacular Fall in the Northwest.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Funny Democrat Bumper Stickers In My Neighborhood

In my neighborhood, there are way more political bumper stickers favoring the "home team" Democrats over the "bad guy" Republicans.  Actually, there are no Republican bumper stickers whatsoever on all the Hybrids, Subaru and Volvo wagons that make up 60% of the car population of Alameda.

There's a pretty nice collection of bumper stickers going back to the 2008 election, when candidate Obama promised to bring Hope and Change to the American people.  And did you know that Advertising Age named him Marketer of the Year for the brilliant Hope/Change campaign?  

Instead of change, the American people lost hope with the surprisingly seamless transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration.  Call it four terms of George W. Obama policies. Nothing has really changed, has it?  Bruce Bartlett wrote a compelling article in the American conservative that Obama is a Republican.  (You should definitely read it!)  

With that being said, I'm pretty certain both parties have become (and probably always were) one and the same, doing the bidding of big business and the super rich (their re-election campaign underwriters) while sticking it to the middle and lower economic classes. Sorry to be so hopeless (or realistic?), but to me, there's just not that much difference between the two parties and the laws they write since they're both funded by the same wealthy people and influential organizations.  

Yet, some people's bumper stickers still view the president and the DNC as the progressive party of the New Deal (FDR) and Great Society (LBJ) whereas the modern-day GOP is comprised of war mongering religious zealots who worship money. 

Case in point, there's a bumper sticker in the neighborhood that brings a smile to my face every time Artie Vandeley and I walk by:  "Obamacare: Signed, Sealed, Delivering."  

I laugh every time I pass this bumper sticker because the history of the Affordable Care Act has been a nearly two decade long bi-partisan effort started in 1993 by republicans as an alternative to president Bill Clinton's national health care proposal and eventually signed into law by democratic president Obama in 2010.

It's pretty much the exact same thing from 1993 to 2009.  This is funny to me because my neighbors want to claim Obamacare as the home team's great accomplishment even though it was originally a republican idea.  And republicans, the party of big business, denounces Obamacare as socialized medicine, even though this was their plan back in 1993.  And, Obamacare, or Chafeecare, benefits big business (health insurers) at a cost to the general public since they are now required by law to have private health insurance.  Talk about influencing the flow of funds!  

All this stuff is entertaining to me.  Obamacare/Chafeecare is going to be debated for years to come with all kinds of ridiculous rhetoric and catchphrases emblazoned on bumper stickers all over the country.  In the meantime, I'll keep smiling when I walk by my neighbor's house and see their bumper sticker, proudly proclaiming a huge win for the good guys.  Even if the good guys, along with the bad guys, did it all for their real constituents - big business.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

From the Department Of Who Cares: Unfollowing People On Facebook

I've been phasing out Facebook from my life over the past six months after "Unfollowing" nearly everyone besides my closest friends (who never post anything but get tagged in a post by their wives), immediate family, and a few friends from high school, college, or Southern California that I haven't seen in awhile but we remain good friends to this day. Out of my 1000 friends, only about 30 people infrequently appear on my Newsfeed, which is exactly the way I like it.

Facebook to me has become something that I view as kinda stupid.  The majority of the "unfollowed" people got unfollowed because they posted so much stupid shit way way too often. Stupid shit to me is wondering to the world about what they should make their kids for dinner?  How about who cares and why do you need to share that with your family, friends, and acquaintances?  And why do ten people "Like" that stupid post?  Why do they encourage this ridiculous behavior.

My current life is a small little bubble consisting of working ten hours a day, Crossfit, Crossfit Endurance running, skiing, dating, taking my dogs on walks or hikes in Forest Park, and being lazy at least one day on the weekend where I spend time on Twitter following some of my favorite investigative journalists and other interesting articles, feeding that void that I don't know what I don't know, which is also one of my highest values.  I like this little bubble I live in at the moment.

I highly recommend Unfollowing nearly every one of your "friends" on Facebook.  It's a very liberating experience to no longer see 10 posts a day from people you haven't seen since high school graduation or unemployed Tea Party patriots re-posting some conservative echo chamber crap comparing mythical Ronald Reagan to mythical Obama.  Your life will be so much more fulfilling when you no longer see stupid crap from people who aren't doing much with their lives!