Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Now I look forward to this... [#4]

Having a backyard.  The housing market, though soft, in Chicago is still too high for Amanda and I to purchase a house with a yard in the city.  I know I could go to the burbs... but why?  Why live 40 miles from a city when I could live 10 miles with a yard in Charlotte.  We want a yard so we can have a dog... maybe an English Bulldog, maybe a Lab, maybe a Golden Retriever.  


Now I will miss this... [#4]

I am going to painfully miss going to Cubs games at Wrigley Field.  I have been to more than 20 since I have been here.  Being a Cubs fan has become this infectious thing that I really can't shake, so I won't.
Wrigley Field

Fitting In

Oddly, even though going back to Charlotte is going home, I am thinking about what I can do to fit in.  We are not sure what community in Charlotte we will be joining, but I am pretty sure it isn't Southpark or Meyers Park.  I have been considering joining a couple social groups to help extend my network and stay busy.  If you have any suggestions for some groups to join, drop a comment on me.  The retail hours I will be working make it hard to fit a social/community service group in.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Now I look forward to this... [#3]

I guess a picture is worth 40 million words....

thanks to Meredith @ Lawyerish for these photos of Maggie.

Now I will miss this... [#3]

I will miss the abundence of greenery.  I know we live in a city, but it is not the concrete jungle that New York is.  Chicago gets all four seasons and I think that somehow makes the green on the trees so much more intense when it comes fourth in May.
..oh yeah, the sailboats too!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Scary TV

There is a horror movie channel, there are multiple reality tv channels, there are even multiple CSPAN networks.  The scariest thing in the world is on right now... MSNBC Investigates.  This episode is about housing contractors... it makes me want to rent forever.  They are certainly helping out new home builders... oh, wait... we are back from commercial and talking about a new neighborhood.

Now I look forward to this... [#2]

I look forward to once again being a season ticket holder to Charlotte 49ers basketball.  I am going to make every game, earn my green jacket, and give back to the school that gave so much to me.  
Charlotte 49ers\' Halton Arena

Now I will miss this... [#2]

I will miss the CTA, the ability to get anywhere for two bucks.  No paying for parking or risking the DUI, no, my wife and I never have to worry about how to get home.

Green Line "L" Train

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Now I look forward to this... [#1]

As much as I will miss Potbelly's, I cannot help but remember my favorite place on earth which is Zaxby's.  If they create a dessert that is a as good as the Oatmeal CC Cookies, I would be about 400lbs in a year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Now I will miss this... [#1]

Much like missing Zaxby's and Chic Fil A in Charlotte, there will be some eateries here that I will miss greatly.  None probably more than the chain sandwich shop Potbelly's.  
It will be missed because of the wonderful toasted subs, but primarily because of the kick butt Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.  You can get them made into an ice cream sandwich as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We're Coming Home.... For Good

I just wanted to post here, so everyone has the opportunity to know at the same time.

Amanda and I are moving home.
From Daughtry's "Home"
Sums up my feelings about dying to get out of Charlotte, 
and now I'm dying to get back.

Be careful what you wish for,
'Cause you just might get it all.
You just might get it all,
And then some you don't want.
Be careful what you wish for,
'Cause you just might get it all.
You just might get it all, yeah.

Oh, well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I'm not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
I don't regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old.
I said these places and these faces are getting old,
So I'm going home.
I'm going home.

There are many unknowns as we move back home, so I thought I would assemble some FAQ's that I have gotten thus far.  If you don't see your question below, please feel free to post a question.  I intend to answer them all when I can, it will be good for those who also have that questions.
WHEN ARE YOU MOVING HOME?  We are not really sure at all.  It looks like the week of July 13th but is subject to change based upon store needs in Chicago and Charlotte as well as our housing situation.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO LIVE?  This one is the hardest to answer.  We really want to buy a house, but, with the current housing and mortgage markets, it is a difficult and scary time.  We have a realtor and she has been researching homes for us.  We are looking anywhere along the beltway from Huntersville to Weddington.  If we don't find the PERFECT home, we will get a short term apartment until we find it.
WHERE IS AMANDA GOING TO WORK? In da hood... her school is near the downtown area in a school off West Blvd.  This year she will be teaching 5th grade.  Her orientation is July 17th so you can count on her being down in the QC by then.  
WHERE IS JON GOING TO WORK? I will return to my home store on Independence Blvd, but like before may do a year at South Blvd as well.  
DOES THIS MOVE HURT YOUR CAREER? No.  Lucky for me, through promotions and relocations, the Charlotte store needs help and especially experienced help.  My store has hired many people and we are actually able to replace me with two people (though realistically, it will take three regular buyers to match my awesomeness).  
WHY ARE YOU MOVING?  It was a decision we made together.  We have new priorities that we did not have 20 months ago.  First and foremost, Amanda belongs in the classroom.  She put in the effort, job interviews, and is a fully certified Illinois teacher.  It is very tough to find a job up here.  So Charlotte is the best place we could think of to get her back in front of the whiteboard.  The second is that Amanda and I plan on starting our own family pretty soon.  The nearest place we can afford to buy a modest house in this area is roughly 40 miles from Chicago.  Living that far away would defeat the purpose of us moving here, that was to be close to a large city.  We can be 15 miles from Charlotte in any direction and afford a home big enough to raise a family.  The third reason is family & friends.  In order to raise a family, you must have a support network in place so that when you need a babysitter in pinch, advice, or anything else, you have your family & friends close by to help out.  

I hope these answer a lot of questions, if not, please post a question and I will gladly answer it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ready to sell that SUV yet?

Today AAA released that the average gas price in the United States went from $4.03 to $4.08 per gallon of regular gasoline.  One thing that I have seen in my line of work is the massive flow of large & medium SUV's into the marketplace.  I know I do not have to explain the law of supply and demand, but you have a massive influx of product and no one wants it.  Most SUV's are worthless!  I do not mean devalued, I mean worthless.  

Before you let your Urban Assault Vehicle get repossessed or go pick up the hybrid vehicle, I want to warn people to do what is best for their financial situation.  I come from a long line of practical decision makers.  Most of my relatives who drive any kind of distance have fairly fuel efficient cars and the only one who drives a gas guzzling Hemi, she is retired.  I just want people to think, think about what you buy and the implications it will have down the line.  That is part of the reason that people are stuck in SUV's, they bought more car than they needed.  

First, think!  Do you need an SUV?  If you do not own a cabin in the woods, if you do not have 3 or more children, if you live in a place where it snows less than once a year and rarely over 3 inches.... you do not need a SUV.  For those who will counter with my favorite dumb arguments, I say this.  You say you see more while sitting up higher, SUV's have more blind spots than a car, you see LESS.  You say you feel safer, more people die in accidents in SUV's because they are not capable of evasive maneuvers, they are far less safe than your average sedan.  Buy a car that meets your needs.  There are so many crossovers and body types in the market today, you can certainly find something that will work if you shop across the brands.

Second, analyze!  Will getting out now payoff?  Case in point.

If you bought a 2005 Chevy Trailblazer LT 4WD with Leather, Sunroof, and Bose sound, you paid in 2005 about $35,385.  Today, Kelley Blue Book says it is worth about $10,600.  Kelley Blue Book collects data at 6 month rolling increments, they are close but incapable of keeping up with the daily changing wholesale market.  This Trailblazer is worth about $8,000.  So without selling the truck, you have lost $27,385.  
chevy trailblazer
Here is the situation, if you just put enough money down to cover your sales tax and dealer fees, you are likely paying about $600 a month for that Trailblazer.  Three years in, you will owe on average 42% of the amount financed.  That is roughly $15,000.  So you are facing $7,000 in negative equity.  Ouch!

Furthermore, if you drive 15,000 miles per year as most Americans do, it costs you $91.80 per tank, annually that works out to $3,825 at 16 mpg. according to the EPA estimate calculator.  I cannot begin to work out what the finance charges have been and the maintenance.  

If you don't have $7 large on hand to bail yourself out... you can either try to sell it on your own in a flooded market.  That will be like getting rid of a condo here in Chicago, good luck!  The other option is to roll that negative equity on your new car.  Most people will want to retain the "utility" of the Trailblazer and a natural choice is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Selling at a leading nationwide retailer for $39,325 and that is without the leather, sunroof, or Bose sound.  A Highlander Hybrid will cost you $2,354 annually at 26 mpg for that same 15k per year.  An annual fuel savings of $1,471.  Nice chuck of change huh?  

Remember how you rolled that $7,000 in negative equity?  Oh yeah, that monkey on your back.  Well you had to finance that, when you finance a loan with negative equity you have to pay a slightly higher interest rate.  So with fantastic credit, you will get a 10% rate.  So that 7 grand a year will add $148.73 to your monthly car payment.  Annually, that is $1784.76 in extra payments.  So the Highlander Hybrid not only costs more from the start, but actually costs you $313.76 a year more to own.  

Now this doesn't work in all cases, but this is very common for people to make these irrational "green" decisions.  Many times, Hybrids are a good way to go, the more you have to drive the closer to saving money they can get you.  The best way to lower your automotive expenses is to think before you go shopping, plan your route, and limit air conditioner use and rush hour use.  I hope I help one person figure out how complicated the car buying thought process SHOULD be and keep them from making a mistake.  

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Six Flags: Great America

Yesterday we enjoyed a full day of amusement park fun at Six Flags: Great America.  We rocked out on Roller Coaster after glorious Water Slides.  
It was quite an eventful day as we got a late start and decided to go.  Checking online, we got a sweet BOGO deal.  Granted, it is $55 per person and we had the option to upgrade both of us to a Flash Pass for $39 additional bucks.  This has to be the worst invention in the history of theme parks.  It isn't bad enough that you charge $55 to get in the doors, you charge $4 for a coke, and dinner for two cost Amanda and I $31, but then, oh then, you invent the Flash Pass.  This contraption allows one to skip ahead of the line and get right on the rides.  For those who can afford it, you never have to worry about waiting.  You can only skip one ride per half hour, BUT, if you upgrade even further, for an additional $59 bucks you can go GOLD.  That means you can skip an unlimited number of times as often as you wish.  I interviewed a guest in the park named Amanda and she said "I think this is stupid, it makes me jealous to see them skipping by."  
The rides were great except for the over-hyped Batman: Dark Knight.  It was very similar to Kennywood's Verminator, but, it came with a 2 hour wait time.  The Superman coaster and V2 were my two favorite rides.  
We also went to Hurricane Harbor to ride the Tornado and when we got off that ride, a storm began to blow in and it got Chilly fast, so that ended our visit to the water park.  In retrospect we would have gone there first.  We wanted to ride the coasters first so all the kids would be in the wave pool while we were riding.  The reverse psychology would have worked well if the weather had held out.
Overall it was an exhaustingly fun day.  It was another day that affirmed that just because you are married, it doesn't mean you can't have fun and act like a kid.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I have been wanting a tattoo pretty much since my junior year of college.  
One might think "man that was a long time ago."  
To that guy I would say "yeah, it was a long time ago, but I am having commitment issues."

I have been bouncing around ideas for years, I used to want a Claddagh with celtic knotwork connecting the two hands on my upper arm.  But since the armband has been such an overused piece of body art I have have a hard time falling in line.  

Recently, since my departure from this great city seems all but certain, I have been wanting something from Chicago incorporated into my tattoo.  I do not want multiple tattoos, just one, so I need it to be encompassing. 

The most recent idea I have had is to have a piece of Frank Lloyd Wright's stained glass art used as an armband.  I worry that it would have to be huge to fit all the details in but damn it would be a cool looking tat that no one else I have seen has had.


It needs to be on my upper arm or lower leg, tasteful, not generic.  I would like something that incorporates my background or Chicago or both.  Apart from that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reality Check

At times I get a bit restless and think that I should be doing more, having more, succeeding more.  Then I step up to the counter at my local Subway during my week long at-home vacation and order a sandwich.  The lady who is making my sandwich looks to be wearing a book bag.  Upon further inspection, it is a baby carrier.  She was working with her toddler on her back!  My life is good.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jon for VP

I have to admit I am somewhat shocked that I have not been contacted by either candidate for the VP nod, I know that I am not of age to hold the post, but they are both senators and I know the public wants it, I am only a constitutional amendment away from being there.  But since I am the guy who will be taking their jobs in 8 years, you would think that they would at least ask.  

I hope that Barack doesn't pick Hilary, I am a loyal Clinton Family fan, but really, don't bow into the pressure.  If you cave now, there is no way people will think that you won't cave in to other political pressure.  I hope you pick another agent of change, no old guard stalwarts.*  

I hope that John doesn't pick a woman or minority to try to pluck voters, not that I want him to be racist, but if you look that the republican pool of "talent."  No female or minority politicians in the GOP are in a prominent position now, and they won't be ready when old man McCain takes a dirt nap (and he will w/in 4 years).  Just pander to the conservatives that hate you and hope you get a 48% Bush "Majority" come November.

*the exception to the old guard rule is Joe Biden, he has the foreign policy experience Barack lacks and is a total smartass, I like the guy.

Vacation Update

The worst of all vacation days is one where you have to make a cameo at work.  I have to go in and write the schedule for the inventory associates, I tried to do it last Friday but ran out of time and will power.  So now I have to trudge up there and do it, in the dead center of my time away.  The Cubs are playing a throw back game from 1948, they will be wearing uniforms and broadcasting the first two innings in black & white with only one or two camera angles.  Even the announcers will be dressed in era-appropriate garb.  On my list below of things I wanted to do, I have accomplished all but the "ride my bike a lot" and "read the new David Sedaris book."  So, after the Cubs game I will ride my bike to Northwestern's island in the lake and sit down and read a few chapters.  Retirement is still scary, but I can see how appealing it can be to some.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

guys like me need a hero too!

Thank God that today, a little girl can look up at her parents and say "there is a race car driver that looks like me."

Danica Sue Patrick
... and there are little African-American boys who can look at their parents and say "there is a guy that looks like me running for president."

barack obama
... and finally, Chubby kids like me can look at their parents and say "there is a superhero that looks just like me."

kung fu panda 1
That movie was pretty darn cute.  :-)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Vacation Time

Today was my last day at work for a week... here are some events planned.

Clean the apartment
MINI drive down Lake Shore Drive
Entertain Tim & Sara
Go to Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me
Read David Sedaris' new book
Ride my bike a lot
Enjoy Chicago in the spring
Nap daily!!!!

Wow, busy busy.