Saturday, October 25, 2014

Paranormal activity looking isn't it

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This is what the night-vision image from the expensive webcam baby monitor I bought the other day.


We tried using a Dlink webcam which has an app for watching on your mobile devices. Unfortunately, it only remains active for a couple of minutes  before timing out by design.  So I opted for the more expensive BabyPing Webcam that has support specifically for i-Devices, of which our family heavily relies on.

Couple of issues

First, it does not recognize my wireless network.  In fact, unlike many devices out there, it doesn't even scan to see what available networks exist.  You can get around this by manually entering your wifi network SSID like some sort of caveman would.  If that fails, you can use a wired connection.  I have done so, using one of the NETGEAR Powerline Adapters .

And this works fine for ME, especially since I would prefer a hardwired connection on something like this.   [I suppose someone might argue it's not a true hardwired connection but let's not mince words.]  However, many people only have their wireless signal coming from their modem/router and have no idea how to bring the connection across the house.  Because, end user.

Second, the app itself looks and feels like a baby monitor.  I'd prefer it if it worked more like a simple web or surveillance camera as I'd like to re-purpose it for that once the kids are beyond the monitoring while they sleep age.

We have about 25 more days left to evaluate this device if I want to return it and get my money back.  I'm of the mindset that if it doesn't work for us, we need to do that.  Otherwise, I just pissed away $200 that I could definitely use for other purposes.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Post Condo Sale analysis

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So the condo officially sold after essentially four months on the market.  We listed just after Fourth of July and got an offer after Labor Day so there is something to be said about Real Estate and holidays. In the days and weeks to come I'll either write some more posts about specific components and events from the last four months (probably on the ChicagoNow blog) or just put the whole thing behind me.

How did I do?  Well I sold it for $50K less than I paid for it.  After the transaction costs were paid, I got about $2500 back.  However, it has been vacant since July so that is 4 months of mortgage that I had to cover.  When you factor in all the expenses of being a Reluctant Landlord such as finders fees, property manager fee, vacant months before and after renters, it would have required a sale price beyond what I could conceivably obtain in the next few years to theoretically break even.


I have friends who sold their condos during the bust in order to move onto a SFH.  Many of these friends brought money to the table.  I don't recall any specifics because people usually brag about the good and downplay the bad but at least one friend did admit the amount was five figures. So the fact that I was able to finagle getting a SFH.

Did we start out with too high an Asking Price?  Conventional Wisdom says yes, since it took over two months and two price drops to get a buyer.  So that is on Gary Lucido since he set the price although I do share in that because, as the seller, I did have final say.  There were some comps and we did get enough traffic that the starting price might have been justified but we failed to lower the price quickly.

In the final analysis, if I could change one thing, I would have listed at the sale price in exchange for a quicker sale. All and all it might have saved me one month of lost rent. Water under the bridge at this point.

One question that people have asked is, why not just wait another year to see if you could get a little more?  Well then I have to find a renter and hope that they don't trash the place and move out in time for me to try again. Plus some of the transaction costs are percentage based and not flat fee so though I haven't worked out the numbers, my gut feeling is it would have required more than one more year to make it worth the effort and risk.

My former condo was converted from apartments to condo units in 1998, I do believe.  And to be honest, like many condo conversions the rehabbers took some short cuts with our building, my unit included.  The floors in my unit went to crap over time and really needed to be replaced.  I explored options and I could have gone the cheaper route of sanding and refinishing but that wouldn't have addressed some of the loose and broken boards.  to do it right would have meant replacing the floor
boards entirely.    This was just a cost I could not justify, let alone afford, when I lived there and once the place was a rental/sale, it didn't make sense to put the money in.  The thought was to just discount the unit and let the new owners (I'll call them the Silvermans) deal with it.

The thing is the building itself has some deferred maintenance  In fact the Condo Association finally got around to starting on the long promised tuck pointing which I'm hoping helped encourage the Silvermans to purchase said unit.

At least I didn't have to change this
The other thing is now I have this off my credit report so in theory it ought to be ever so slightly easier  to get a home equity loan for our current house, if HELOCs are ever in vogue again. 

At least Gary and his colleague Marco were easier to work with than Eric Rojas back in 2010.   Once the listing got stale, Rojas bailed like the jerk his reputation makes him out to be. And unlike Gary who acknowledged that we might have started too high, Rojas accepted no responsibility whatsoever for setting our price even though I told him back in 2010 that I could not afford to go lower based on what I owed the bank at the time.  I had stated that if he didn't think it was possible we shouldn't even bother to list. 

This was another reason why I was hesitant to put the condo on the market again and only did so when my tenant moved out.  It doesn't cost a realtor much to list a property at any price.  What they pay in MLS fees and marketing they usually make up for in self-promotion and advertising.  But the property gets a reputation that something might be wrong with it when it is repeatedly listed and delisted.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smart Running Decision: Don't Do It

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Photo Credit: Robert Horowitz

According to DailyMile I've logged 345 miles so far this year (350 when you add in my run from Sunday).  Given that we are in the waning weeks of October, I really doubt I'm going to close in on 500 miles.  In fact, it will be a larger effort than you'd think to hit 400 truth be told.  Besides not being able to consistently make time to run, when I do run my knees ache and my endurance is toast.


211.8 pounds
The Monster Dash is this weekend  and I believe I'm signed up for the half marathon distance.  While I could certainly walk/run 13.1 miles and maybe MAYBE even do it under two hours, I'm in no condition to do so and it would be a terrible race experience.  So the smart thing to do is to take Nightingale's 10K entry and give my HM entry to Mr Lumpy.

The best thing I can do is rest my knees.  I'd like to think taking a few months or even a year off from
running will revitalize me.   Unfortunately I think I will need to see the knee doctor again and come up with a long term plan. For the time being, I have to also accept that my weight is going to linger around 210 lbs and hopefully doesn't rise much more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SYPP, PHH and the Polish Consulate

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Polish Consulate General
1530 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60610
One of my Polish Peeps posted this picture on their Facebook Feed.  Apparently one could go inside last weekend because Chicago was having it's annual Open House. a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to 150 buildings across Chicago.  The selling point being that you will "explore repurposed mansions, hidden rooms, sacred spaces, private clubs, iconic theatres, offices, hotels and more—all for free."

Actually, for this place and I think one or two other buildings, you needed to pre-register for places like this because, security. 


What is the difference between an embassy and consulate?  I imagine size and day to day activity so I looked it up.  While the terms embassy and consulate are used synonymously, the two are very different.


  • An embassy is the larger and more important of the two and is described as a permanent diplomatic mission which is generally located in a country's capital city. 
  • By contrast, a consulate is a smaller version of an embassy and is generally located in the larger tourist cities of a country but not the capital. 
  • There are special cases and several unique situations making some examples complicated. 

I've been inside this building three times; once for a (Society of Young Polish Professionals (SYPP) social event and twice for Christmas Parties.  Not speaking much Polish was definitely a liability in all those cases.  The decor is very traditional and old, it looks like the parlor time forgot. 

And so a post that was just meant to be a picture of the Polish Consulate and some throwaway text becomes a post about a group of Poles I met in the early 2000.  One of my Polish Princess friends tried to start a social group with the intention of networking young polish professionals with the idea that we could help one another start businesses, land jobs and get laid meet a polish person one could take home to mom and dad.  This was before LinkedIn and Meetup and it never really saw the light of day because of a variety of reasons.

Another group called Polish Happy Hour (PHH) leveraged technology, specifically a free yahoo group, and managed to pull off more of what Polish Princess wanted.  PHH petered out around 2009 for various reasons as well, particularly because there was no strong recruitment for new members.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Where was this weather six hours ago

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By that I mean it was raining this morning and early afternoon so I had no chance to work on the winter prep chores.   Now it's chilly but otherwise gorgeous.   

The wrong kind of stone pavers

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I'd like to give the former owners of my home the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a lot of things around the house.  Perhaps there was a really good reason the kitchen doesn't have insulation in the walls and ceiling.  Maybe different crews finished the basement at different times which could explain why the master light panel is behind the bar and requires one to walk through a dark basement to turn most of the lights on.  In the almost two years we have lived here there are countless times Nightingale and I have asked: "WTF were they thinking!"
Before Power washing and sealing

Our front walk, side driveway and backyard are comprised of paver stones.  They are nicer than asphalt or concrete but do require some maintenance upkeep.  I did my Google and YouTube research and found that paver stones require you periodically sweep in paver sand between the joints at least three times a year.  This keeps them from moving and if they were installed properly (level) then you don't have too many puddles after a big rain.

After: sealed and power washed
Unfortunately, the pavers used by Previous_Owner are not the kind of paver stones that look pretty when power washed like my neighbors.  I have to wonder, was it cost, technology or both that went into the decision not to use the prettier ones.  I can only assume that either they were not available when this project was done or they were hugely cost prohibitive.  

My research yielded a chemical enhancer/sealer that you can apply to paver stones to keep them looking good.  Unfortunately, again the enhancer doesn't do much to my type of paver and at $50 a half gallon, it is cost probative for me to do my entire backyard and driveway, so only the front walk got treatment.  

It might be hard to notice the difference in the pictures.  I meant to take better before and after pictures but it was a very busy week when I did this project and I had a short window between good warm weather to dry the sealer and the upcoming storm.  I got a deal on a power washing on Angie's List so I outsourced that part. 

Driveway

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Marathon Blues

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Today was the Chicago Marathon and as usual, many of my running group friends are participating in it.  Having just had twins I have an automatic excuse for not only not participating but also not going through the effort to view it live and support anyone I know.

The thing is, if I could run 26.2 miles today, I probably would participate in a marathon although probably not Chicago - I've done it a dozen or so times and it is in the Been There, Done That bucket. 

Alas these days my body cannot run 26.2 miles, it can barely run 2.6 miles.  It's not so much soreness or pain, though there are aches and issues with both knees.  It's almost as if my body has decided that because I ran so many miles and marathons during the late 90s and 2000s that it is done.  No more running.

I want to believe that if I can get the right therapy treatment I could make a comeback and still BQ.  On the other hand, it is more likely that my marathon days are over.  When I go out for a run, I barely get over a mile when I start to feel sluggish or achy or both.  Time was that I would toss on my running clothes and head out and before I knew it, I had 3 or 4 miles knocked out and had to remember to turn around.

At the end of the 90s, I gave up volleyball so that I could focus on marathons.  Now is the time to give up marathons to focus on the kids.  Occasionally I still found a pickup game of volleyball and even joined a rec league a couple of summers during the noughties, so there is no reason to believe that I couldn't do the same thing in the running world.  I just don't want to struggle with a 6 hour marathon time like one particular friend did today.