Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mine’s fine I suppose, but teepees come in all shapes, sizes & colors


This past Tuesday, we had some terrible storms.  (Well, terrible for the poor folk who woke up to flooded basements or worse—personally I love ‘em, especially at bedtime.) So that night I laid in bed & enjoyed the light show outside my window, and the following morning after I get up to get ready for work, I’m shaving & I hear a persistent PLOOP… PLOOP… PLOOP…  what the devil?

I had a leak in my bedroom ceiling last winter, so I’m familiar with that sound.  I race in there & check it out—nope, all dry.  I head into my livingroom, and directly between my tv & bookcase is a 2 inch circle of wet on the floor.  I look up—there’s a big drop of water hanging from the ceiling.  PLOOP!

I wasted no time calling my building’s management & yelling into the phone that this was the second time this year, I was fed up & no I will NOT put a bucket under it, I hope it’s acid rain and it can eat thru the floor and right into the apartment below for all I care.  (They sighed and assured me they’d send someone out to take care of it right away, and they did.)  Later at work, I grumbled to my friend Kathy that I had it coming, this is what I get for living in the ghetto.  She said “you don’t live in the ghetto”  & I said “Sure I do, my rent’s only 600 bucks, there’s a reason.”   She said “Well, it’s helped you save for your retirement” and I said “was it worth it though, living in a dump for the last umpteen years?!”  Kathy said “McDougall, It’s not a dump, it’s your home!”  I wanted to hug her.  

She’s right—I’m just a renter, but this IS my dump—I mean home.  I’ve always felt that way, and I’m always surprised and a little hurt by the people in my life who don’t.  But I HAVE been here a long, long time & I’m thinking that when & if I can cut those work-strings, it might be time for a change.  Do I want to move back to my hometown, where I grew up?  I’d be closer to family but it’s been 25 years and I’m not sure that feels right to me anymore.  Do I want to try and fix up the place I have now, with some paint and new artwork & furniture?  Yes, I think I’d like that.  Or do I want to sacrifice some living space, pay a little more rent & move into a better building?   Yes, I kinda want that too.

studioFloorplan of the studio that caught my eye (click on it for larger view)

I don’t know why, but I’ve always had an appreciation for confined spaces—I think they speak to the agoraphobe in me.  (I’d probably do just fine in a prison or padded cell, and yes you should be worried for me.)  All I know is, I don’t require a lot of room.  So recently, when browsing some apartment listings in my general area, I came across an old condo building converted into modern apartments (but with modern pricing too, a one bedroom is 850.00, a 2 bedroom is 1150.00).  Ouch!  That’s a bit steep for my budget, but the property has several studios too, and only a hundred bucks more than what I’m paying now.


Their studios come with a nice balcony, bamboo flooring and a small kitchen with new cabinets & granite countertop; but there’s no bedroom!

I’m going to see it in person later this week (just out of curiosity, my current lease doesn’t expire for 5 months anyway; but they said that’s okay, they have a number of these studios available).  The heat’s included (yeah!) but you have to pay for parking (boo).  So we’ll see.

And finally, when I called to make the appointment, the woman asked me where I lived now.  When I told her, she said “Oh this isn’t far from there… why are you looking to move?”  I said “A change of scenery I suppose… plus I have a ceiling that keeps springing a leak!  I’m sure my landlord wouldn’t mind seeing me go.”  She said “Hey wait.. is this Doug over in the Monroe Building?”  I said “Huh?” 

She said “Hi Doug, this is Sarah from Lobs Management!  We own this rental property too!”  Shifty

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Where’s my doppelganger… dammit I want a twin-who’s-not-really-my-twin too

I’m in shock.  A little bit ago, after making my breakfast and setting up camp on my livingroom sofa for some Saturday morning tv watching, I’m leafing through a magazine and crunching into a slice of peanut butter toast when I hear a familiar voice from the tv. 

I look up, and on an episode of Pawn Stars this haughty, arrogant dude is clearly miffed his antique trinket isn’t worth the thousands of dollars he assumed it was.  My toast literally drops into my lap.  He’s my older brother Duke. 

But he isn’t Duke, he’s some dude who lives in Las Vegas who looks and sounds just like my brother.  The head, the hair, the face, the glasses, the tone of his voice, his expression—it’s not just a resemblance, it’s HIM.



Duke, Mom (& her dog Frankie) 2002

This is ironic… just a week ago I spotted my friend Erin’s doppelganger on the bus ride to work, and alerted her to said fact.  She said “Schmoog, you need a smartphone with a camera!”    

But the more I thought about it, her so-called twin was “what Erin would look like if she was 20 lbs heavier and 5 years older” so I guess the chick I saw on the bus isn’t truly Erin’s doppelganger… unlike the dude up above who really is a dead ringer for my brother.

Remember when Peter Brady met his doppelganger at school?  He brought him home & fooled his entire family, even Alice. 

Of course, while the real Pete was yukking it up outside, his dorky lookalike was telling Mr. Brady sure, he’d be happy to go on a date with his boss’ nerdy daughter.  Oops!

Oh and as long as we’re on the subject of Bradys and doppels, here’s some interesting tv trivia.  For years many fans believed Christine Baranski (“The Good Wife”) played Marcia’s sneaky friend Molly in the “slumber party” episode. 

Christine vehemently denied this to no avail.  Finally, the lesser known Chris Chaney stepped forward and confessed it was she who filled Molly’s shoes in that classic story.  Isn’t their resemblance uncanny? 

I wouldn’t say they were doppelgangers though.  Would you?

Well, I’ve decided enough is enough.  I want a doppel too, and registered my face with  They told me I’d be alerted when they find a closer physical match, but I’m not holding my breath; after I loaded the first photo and then a second, they compared the two and this second me is only a 21% match to the first!


Saturday, May 3, 2014

It’s one year later, maybe it’s time now for a “Hmm...” moment

Hmm… where am I going with this?  This post was originally titled “One year later: It’s not a ticker-tape parade yet”.  If you know me in real life, you probably know from my incessant chatter that it’s now been one year since I decided to take the bulk of my personal savings out of the bank & throw it into the stock market.

I’ll spare you all the gory details as 1) they’re boring  2) I’m a step away from investment-illiterate 3) I’m embarrassed by the number of mistakes I made (after making an initial 25,000 investment, I lost 831.00 the very next day and panicked and jumped right back out).  But a day or so later I got back in the pool, and suffice it to say it was a good year on Wall Street.  I lucked out.  

From April 2013 to May 2014, my ‘taxable portfolio’ earned around 3K in dividends and 23K in capital gains—and it could vanish tomorrow!

I learned a lot of hard lessons this past year (like not investing in gold or REIT funds in your taxable accounts or spreading your money out too thin in a dozen different ones—and don’t get me started on all the headaches come tax-time, omigod the paperwork!)  But it was still a smart move.  If I had left those savings in the bank, I would’ve earned a thousand bucks tops.

(FYI, there is NO WAY I expect to earn in the next 12 months what I did up above; in fact, just the other night on the news they reported the market has only had about 1% growth since December.  It’s now May and I’m remaining hopeful, but that’s how this stuff rolls.)

Anyway, I must admit that all of this has gotten me thinking a lot more about those possibilities of early retirement again.  I don’t want to do anything rash or emotional, but I’m beginning to wonder if I can maybe, just maybe, bow out of my rat race a little sooner than expected.

wcfIf you haven’t noticed him yet, I have this little Indian dude on the lower right of my homepage with a very hopeful ‘Early Retirement Date’.  The date is calculated (by Intuit) based on how much you estimate you’ll need yearly, how much you have invested, and how well (or poor) the market’s performing.  There’s also a couple other variables, which I always leave blank to play it safe.

But let’s just suppose that one night out of curiosity (and stress and fatigue over my job) I did a little bit of fine-tuning on that date calculator… let’s say I changed my “Investing style” from conservative to “moderately aggressive” (because it is) and changed my monthly contribution from blank to $700.00 (because I do).   Wow, that just pushed the date back a good year!  

Now let’s suppose I took it a step farther, and convinced myself that I don’t need quite as much as I thought I did… hmm.  I’ve lived on 21K a year for as far back as I can track my annual expenses, do I really need 75% of my salary?   What if I could get by on 60%?  55%?  

I don’t know, I’m probably pushing my luck.  But right now I am just supposing, and thinking how awesome it’d be, and “technically doable”.  Time (and that damn stock ticker tape) will tell if a parade’s coming my way.