Friday, February 27, 2009

A little optimism in a difficult time...

Hey all. This is just a quick repost of a short article by Dave Ramsey. If you haven't heard of him, he's a really great finiancial guru and his program has been extremely helpful to Michelle and I. Dave isn't shiny-happy about the economy, but he does have an optimistic outlook and an uplifting attitude about the trouble we're in. Check out what he has to say here. And if you think your finances need a reboot or you're up to your neck in debt and stress, look into Dave's site. Talk to you soon! -J

Friday, February 20, 2009

How to Eat an Elephant

Well, Michelle and I have placed our house up for sale. It's the first bite of our elephant. You've possibly heard that old proverb. "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." In other words, if your goal is too big, cut it into smaller pieces that you can manage one at a time. Michelle and I have a huge goal. We want to build our house on the hill. About a year and a half ago we bought a piece of property that pretty much fell out of the sky and was perfect. It's a little two acre plot overlooking the peaceful village of Chesapeake Ohio. You have a beautiful view of the valley, the river, and the Huntington bridge. The land is covered in trees and boulders with a flat, house sized spot amongst them all, and there's an honest to goodness rock face back there as well. It's very Middle-Earth. Close to town, with the illusion of seclusion. That's where Michelle and I both want to end up. So, we bought it. Now here we are, anxious to build and excited to be in our new place, but living in our tiny little house in Ironton and still trying to be responsible financially. What do we do? Well, here's the plan. 1. We sell our house. Could be a tricky step in this whole plan, owing to the market doing what it's doing. BUT! I have done a little looking around and the market here does not seem to be as bad as in some places. Perhaps the cost of living and the economy here was already dodgy to begin with and we haven't seen as much of a slowdown as a result. For whatever reason, home values do not seem to have slipped as drastically, and the market is still moving pretty well in our part of town. Now, when, not if, the house sells.... 2. We bank the profit on the home, and find a place to rent. I've done a little looking at rental properties and the costs thereof. We can live about the way we are now without jumping too high on a payment. We'll probably also have to rent a little storage space to hold the stuff we don't liquidate. And we plan on cleaning this place out! 3. While we are renting, we are still saving. We start to shop builders and excavators. From them we acquire estimates to put us under roof and so forth. Then we head to step... 4. When we have the contractors and pricing we need, we go to the banks and start to shop loans. Hopefully, and also according to our realtor, we should be able to land a pretty good interest rate. At this point we'll know exactly how much we'll need up front for a down payment and all that. 5. We start the build. (Still saving) 6. As soon as the house is live-inable we're out of the rental and we start moving stuff in. At this point, we're pretty much there, with the exception of the finishing inside and so forth. I do plan on calling upon the cosmic power of "The Dads" as Michelle and I like to call them. They're excellent for saving costs on labor and such. Are you reading this dad? :) So there's an outline of our plan. No strict time frame as that is largely contingent on selling the house and shopping before the building starts. Anyway, if anyone would like to donate to "Project: Cook Manor" feel free to send checks, cash or change! Should I put up a Paypal button? Here, by the way, is the house plan we have picked out. We haven't been able to think of a thing we don't like about it, which is fairly amazing! You guys can start picking out your rooms and all that. :) -J

2009 Skills Update

Here's a quick update to let you know that I have started on my Basic Japanese skill for 2009. I will be moving the progress bar to 3%. Tonight I picked up an audio course, and have completed the first lesson. It's basically a little grammar and an introductory conversation. I can say a few phrases like, "I am an American." and "Do you understand English?" and "I only understand a little Japanese." I can also say the various permutations thereof. I'll be going over lesson 1 several times to solidify things before I move on to lesson 2. I decided as well, that I should take time to look up the words I'm saying. That's the one drawback to an audio only course. You can't see what the words look like. In other news, my dad has informed me that one of the members of our church who is an ex policeman is going to be teaching a gun certification for a donation to the Faith and Fitness Center Building Fund. This was fantastic news! Michelle and I are going to donate and take the class together, which should effectively knock out the Firearms Certification goal! I should probably follow it up with attaining some level of proficiency beyond the basics if we do this one in a hurry. Maybe some sort of accuracy percentage or something. I have a customer that I call on who is a master class pistol shooter in Ohio. Maybe he can give me some pointers. (Oddly, no one has ever robbed his pharmacy. He even pays for his employees to become certified with a handgun.) Lastly in this update, I also bought a basic navigation book for my orienteering goal. I'll get started on that as soon as I get a chance. This whole goal thing seems to be working pretty well! :) I need to think of some more. Oh and yes Coopers. We're totally camping this year. See you guys soon! -J

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2009 Goals

Evening everyone. First, let me explain that I feel asleep earlier than usual, and that I'm having trouble going back to sleep for a few reasons. One, I'm restless because I'm kind of excited that Michelle and I are about to try to get our house sold so we can get our new house built in Chesapeake. The realtor is coming tomorrow to get the preliminary paperwork started and to take pictures and so forth. Also, there's a Woot-Off going on over at I can never sleep when there's a woot off happening! :) Anyway, I've been meaning to write this blog for awhile and I figured that I'd go ahead while I'm up and thinking about it. I kind of made a resolution this year. Normally I'm not given to resolutions, at least not New Year's resolutions. I usually make one when I think of one, or I put it off until I'm really ready for it. You know how it is. :) But this year I decided to make it a big year for improvement. You'll notice that over on the side of my blog I have a 2009 Goal section now. This is where I'll maintain a "percent to completion" progress indicator for each of my 2009 Goals. What they amount to is a set of skills that I want to learn the basics of, as well as things I want to finish in 2009. Yes it's mid February, but I've already been at work researching and so forth, so I'm on my way! :) The list isn't complete. I'll probably add to it. But the starting ones are there. Let's take a quick tour shall we? 1. Basic Orienteering - I'd like to be able to find my way in the woods or anywhere for that matter without the aid of a GPS. In other words, I'd like to be able to navigate with a map and compass. I love the outdoors, and this, I think, would be one of the best ways to prevent the outdoors from killing me someday. :) 2. Merrick: First Draft - Merrick, as most of you may know, is the novel I've been working on. My goal is simply to finish the first draft of the book in 2009. I am one quarter, or perhaps a third of the way finished with this already and so I have the percentage set at 25 to begin. 3. Firearm Certification - I was reading a list of "Things I learned from action movies..." and one of them was that anyone can automatically pick up any weapon without training and use it with the ease of a practiced marksman. Well, my goal is to be able to pick up a handgun and actually know what I'm doing with it. Not that I want to carry one with me, but I think it might be handy to know something about it beyond which end to point at the target. So what I intend to do for this one is go down to the police department at some point, and enroll in a handgun certification course. 4. Basic Wilderness Survival - This kind of follows with the orienteering. I guess orienteering is a part of basic wilderness survival, but I decided to list them separately, just because the navigation is usable even when I'm not surviving in the wilderness. :) By basic wilderness survival I mean I want to have a good idea of how to conduct myself if lost in a hostile environment. I've done quite a bit of reading on the subject already. For example, I already know that the first priorities are shelter and water, followed by food, etc.. but to solidify things, I want to take some kind of basic training for this as well. I think what it'll ultimately take for me to achieve 100% in this one is to actually go out and survive for a night in the woods. (The upcoming Appalachian Trail hike doesn't exactly count, but it'll help the progress bar a good deal.) 5. Basic Japanese - I plan someday to go to Japan. Michelle and I are kind of Japanophiles. We like the food, we're fascinated by the culture, and we really like their horror movies. :) Anyway, I want to pick up enough Japanese to be able to travel there. There are a few audio courses that I'm looking into. At some point I'll pick one up and get started! 6. Basic Python - I have felt the need for some time to learn a programming language. Python by a lot of accounts is a good language to get into as a beginner. I already have my book for this one and I've started reading the introduction. I haven't gotten into really learning the language yet, but soon this one will be underway. Alright, I'll probably add more as the year goes on, and I'll certainly have some blogs along the way pertaining to specific goals and accomplishments. As it stands right now, It's starting to get pretty late, so I think I'll go and at least TRY to get to sleep. I'll keep you posted! Thanks for reading! :) -J