Saturday, December 20, 2008


Today my friend Bill took me shooting. This was my first time firing anything larger than a 22, so I was a little nervous. I really got into it though! We shot his gun which is a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. We also rented a Smith & Wesson 686, which shot .357 rounds, and a 1911 handgun which shot .44 rounds. The picture is of a normal target with a special sticker over it so that the holes show as bright green.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I just made Bratwurst today using a simple but awesome recipe! I boil the brats in a mixture of 1 part water to 1 part Budweiser for about 25 minutes along with a yellow onion cut into rings. I used 1 1/2 cans of beer for 5 brats. After boiling I then broil them for about 3 minutes. Served with rice is always good. Pictured are the leftovers. Om nom nom nom nom.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lake at Walnut

Standard Pacific Homes has been building a lurxury condominium complex called 'Lake at Walnut' in Pasadena for the past several years. I have had a love/hate relationship with Lake at Walnut. First, I hate them for causing severe traffic headaches on the way to my favorite restaurant, Mediterranean Cafe. However, I love them for providing me with loads of amusement over the last year or two. Early 2009 they will be having their second grand opening. The first Grand Opening was unfortunately cancelled by the city of Pasadena for safety reasons, they were behind schedule but they went ahead anyway with tours even though the building was still undergoing major construction. I know this because I have been on the interest list since the beginning. 

The model I have been "interested" in is a 1200 sf 1 Bedroom, 1.5 Bathroom Townhome that at the first grand opening started at 530k. That is 440$ per square foot! For the second grand opening they claim that prices will drop to the mid to high 400's. This still seems very high. I am curious as to how they are going to sell these, because the model I was interested in is the second smallest plan out of 11, the larger units are closer to a million. 

The salespeople now pitch the Lake at Walnut as a hip urban community for young people. However, they require a 20% downpayment, which makes a lot of sense given the recent fallout in the housing market, but 20% of the cheapest model is around 100k. What young hip people are going to be able to fork over that kind of downpayment? FHA loans which require a much smaller 3% downpayment are not available until a complex reaches 60% occupancy. They are stuck in a Catch 22. The only way out that I see is to lower prices, but 530k to say 475k is a drop in the bucket.

As extravagent as this place sounds, it was actually originally pitched as a conservative and affordable alternative to the Prado just down the block. The Prado had much smaller units for almost double the price. The HOA fees were around 1000$ a month because the amenities included a pool, a movie theater, an over the top communal kitchen for throwing parties, consierge services, etc... I later found some irony that the salesperson at the Late at Walnut that I was speaking with revealed that she had purchased a unit at the Prado.

However, the biggest irony is that Standard Pacific Homes, the builders of Lake at Walnut, began construction  about a year ago on another luxery condo complex about a mile away called the Dalton. This place is over the top with penthouses that have rooftop balconies and more. And don't get me started on the Cinema Lofts next store which are 500 sf lofts for 370k, that unbelievably people have actually purchased. 

It is a little sad to see Pasadena change over the years. For decades to come the housing bubble will leave a scar on Pasadena with all of these rediculous complexes. Hopefully they won't end up abandoned and leave some real scars.

My new commute

Recently the company I work for moved offices. Luckily I now live 1.5 miles away, which is the closest out of all of my coworkers.  It is close enough that I can walk, as long as it isn't raining. And holy crap did it rain today. Usually the walk takes about 30 minutes each way and until the rain the only difficulty has been resisting the temptation of the rediculous number of coffee shops along the way. 3 Starbucks, 1 Peets,  1 Coffee Bean, and more. Thankfully my wife was able to drop me off this morning, but it meant that I arrived at work at 7:10 am. Hopefully this rain will end soon. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The housing market

Because the UCLA game is too painful to watch I figure I might as well write a real post. The housing market is a topic that is on my mind all of the time, and inevitably ends up in lots of my conversations, and even a few arguments! For years my wife and I have been saving to buy a house. We are trying to do it the old fashioned way, saving for a 20% down payment, making sure that the payments will not exceed 28% of our gross income and that our total debt obligations will not exceed 36%. Furthermore we want to be able to do it with only one income so that when we have kids they will be able to have a parent stay in the home. After a long wait we have been excited to watch home prices move toward normal levels so that we can partake in what generations' of Americans have been able to do, own a home. Unfortunately our leaders keep trying to place roadblocks in our path. Recently I read about a plan to use Fannie and Freddie to offer 4.5% fixed interest loans to homeowners. Do they not understand that house prices ballooned because of artificially low interest rates and an artificial supply of credit? It seems that they are poised to repeat mistakes made just a few years ago. It is unbelievable that they have this misconception that solving our economic crisis involves propping up bubble era home prices, and allowing people with poor credit to stay in homes that they never should have been capable of purchasing in the first place. They are right on the point that the housing market needs to "stabilize" before we can have an economic recovery. They are just very wrong in their definition of "stabilization". The housing market will stabilize when people like my wife and I are able to buy a home. That is when housing prices return to normal. I can't remember where I read this little quip, but I like it: "The one law that the President can 't veto is the law supply and demand." Thankfully even with all of the government interference the best they can do is delay the inevitable, there are simply too many houses, prices must go down. Meanwhile we will reluctantly wait on the sidelines.

First blog post!

After several failed attempts to create a blog from scratch I figured it would be easiest to use blogger for now. Perhaps one day I can finish one of those projects. I am not sure what will come of this blog, but my interests are personal finance, cooking, programming (both professionally and as a hobby), and gadgets. So look forward to posts on any of those subjects, and probably much much more. However a post of any substance will have to wait because the USC vs UCLA game just resumed. Go UCLA!