Pangea Day – May 10 2008

Why is this not on the TV News every night? Oh yeah right, never mind. In any event mark your calendars, host an event, attend an event, just watch the films. This will definitely be interesting, Pangea Day.

What Is Pangea Day?

Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.

In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.

On May 10, 2008 – Pangea Day – sites in Cairo, Dharamsala, Kigali, London, New York City, Ramallah, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv will be videoconferenced live to produce a program of powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music.

Who wants to live forever?

Have you seen TED? TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It began in 1984 as a conference that brought together people from those three worlds. It’s now a much bigger deal and it’s online. At night while coding I’ve been listening to the videos and I must admit not getting much work done but my brain feels well fed. LOL, fed on ted.

The video above is not father time although this fellow has definitely nailed the correct persona for marketing his ideas. Dresses like a young kid, father time beard, English accent, definitely the eccentric professor you’d expect to be talking about putting a stopper in time and prolonging life. I’m going to learn as much as I can about his work… maybe I won’t live forever but I bet my health will improve. Check out TED

6 Projects To Save My Equity

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I’m actually fairly handy and know how to build and make stuff. I’m also a do-it-yourself-er to a fault. So my solution to the mortgage nightmare many of us are beginning to see come to our neck of the woods is to make my house bigger and better as frugally as I can.

Before you take my word for it check with a real estate appraiser but there are a few things that usually increase a home’s value.

  • Square Footage
  • Number of Bedrooms
  • Number of Bathrooms
  • Remodeled Kitchens
  • Remodeled Bathrooms

So I’m putting a plan into place to fix up my place as fast as I can. I’m not planning on moving or selling anytime soon but I want the option to be there and when I do move I want the most equity I can get. I’ll also sell my house without a real estate agent to save money there. I’ve done it before and it’s actually pretty easy to do, look into it.

My plan consists of 6 projects I can do myself or with a little help. The order of the projects has more to do with scope, cost, benefit, and skills. For example I want to build my own kitchen cabinets so I want to practice on the bathrooms first before I tackle the kitchen. The garage and laundry room will have the least impact (me thinks) on the value of the home but a big curb appeal value. There is a seventh project (landscaping) which will happen on it’s own as I work in and on the yard.

Project 1 : Refinish The Master Bath

My wife Julia has been asking for this for some time. It also buys equity back fast if I do it myself and keep material costs low. I’m not going to move any walls just pull the existing cabinets, put in a big tub/shower where a old tiled shower is now. I’ll refloor the whole thing with big nice tiles and build and install a new vanity and sink. I’d like to use a solid surface counter top but only if I can find a good price on it. I’ll also install new light fixtures and paint everything ina neutral color.

Project 2 : Refinished Bath

I’ll leave the existing cast iron tub since it is in great shape. I’ll pull the cabinet, sink, mirror, and light fixture. I’ll build a vanity that matches the master bathroom and finish it the same. I read somewhere that buyers like how everything matches in new model homes so I’ll try to keep the cabinets, colors, and themes consistent on all six projects.

Project 3 : Remodeled Kitchen

By this point I should have my cabinet building skills honed. I’ll begin by building all the cabinets in the garage before ripping out the old kitchen. I’ll keep the layout pretty much the same, especially where all the plumbing, gas, and electric connections are located. If Julia will let me keep the same appliances I will but I suspect she’ll want new stuff. If the budget allows I’m all for new appliances and they tend to really be appreciated by buyers… if we decide to sell and build a new home.

Once all the cabinets are ready I’ll rip out the old kitchen, repaint and install the new cabinets. I really hope to install top quality counter tops for us and resale value. I also plan to get into the ceiling a little and add some recessed lights. They always seem to create a much richer atmosphere for little money.

Project 4 : 380 sqft addition

Actually I hope to add as much square fottage as I can up to 500 square feet. A friend who just rebuilt his whle house told me that additions less than 500 square feet are much cheaper to get permits for. I think I can go as close as five feet to my property line so when I actually get out the tape measure to draw up my real plans I’ll try to get as many inches as I can.

In my current plan I think one bedroom, one bathroom, and an extension to my family room would buy me the most equity in my area. There are a lot of homes in my neighborhood with 4 bed and 3 baths. The dollar per square foot value of these homes is quite a bit more than the 3 bed, 2 bath homes. There are not many comparable five bedroom homes with similar square fottage so I think it’s better to add only one bedroom instead of two in my case. I may be wrong but I think it makes sense. If I change my mind I could convert the family room extension into a bedroom with a wall and closet.

Project 5 : Refinished Laundry

I want the laundry room to match the bathrooms but I don’t think it will add any value.

Project 6 : Finished Garage

Guys love garages right? Gals love clean garages right? I don’t think finishing the garage will cost much and the curb appeal is big. I don’t think it will add value so if I can do it cheap I’m definitely doing it.

Getting Started

First I need to solidify the plan with Julia and then get going on the first project. We don’t have to have everything mapped out to begin making progress, just some time and a little money. If I actually follow through with it I’ll be sure to post my progress here.

Right now Zillow.com has my house valued at $388,500.

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Have you seen the latest news on the home mortgage crisis? Check out this disturbing article. Here are a couple quotes that pretty much sum it up.

“That marks the first time homeowners debt on their houses exceeds their equity since the Fed started tracking the data in 1945.”

And…

“Moody’s Economy.com estimates that 8.8 million homeowners, or about 10.3 percent of homes, will have zero or negative equity by the end of the month. Even more disturbing, about 13.8 million households, or 15.9 percent, will be “upside down” if prices fall 20 percent from their peak. “

It seems that as the walls come down it may be even smarter to start building new walls, literally. Maybe adding a bedroom to my house to save my equity isn’t such a crazy idea afterall. I’ve been drawing up sketches for my own house; but my real concern goes much further than regaining some of the equity foothold I’ve lost. I’ve begun to wonder if the whole delicate economic fabric that has been built on top of consumerism has now started to come a bit thread worn and even begin to unravel.

I’m not saying we’re looking at the end of the world (haha) just that this current recession might be more than just a down cycle; but don’t take my word for it, I’m no expert on the economy. But I’m observant enough to be able to but a couple simple ideas together… for example…

  • A need to rebuild the American economy after WWII lead to…
  • Consumerism (thanks in part to Victor Lebow), which lead to…
  • Bankes and other lenders finding better ways to lend money, which lead to…
  • Inflation, like in home values, which lead to…
  • Increasing personal, corporate and government debt, which lead to…
  • People feeling like they are running on tread mills, which is leading to…
  • Big Trouble.

I’m a simple guy but I think this oversimplification paints what many say is an accurate picture of what is actually going on. (The Story of Stuff is a good example example.)

You could also think of it like this. Over the past 60 years we’ve seen an incredible increase in… well just about everything… more people, more money, more pollution, more stuff. In other words if growth continues the way it has been we’re going to be neck deep in more than our mortgages.

So what to do? I don’t know about you but there are a few things I can do for myself to improve the rest of my life and my daughter’s life.

  1. I’m immediately slowing my consumption of everything.
  2. I’m trying to reduce and reuse before I recycle.
  3. I’m eating better to get healthier and feel better.
  4. I’m driving less and working from home.
  5. I’m planning to add a bedroom to recapture some of the equity I’ve lost.
  6. I’m looking into building a house on the cheap. Nice, green and cheap.
  7. I’m working to eliminate all debt.
  8. I’m finding alternative way of earning money.

There’s more but those are the things top on my list for myself. All of these things have immediate and long term benefits. They also help me reduce the risk becoming increasingly overextended. Maybe I’m crazy but I think that if I can lighten my load I’ll have more time for my family, me, and all the things I like to do most. My house, my belly, my car payment, my debt, are all a drag on my personal freedom and happiness. Could it be the road to the real American dream is actually paved with less not more?

What are you doing? Just curious, not a judgment.

The Democratic Party’s Mojo Has Been Recovered! …in Brattleboro?

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Brattleboro, Vermont has passed a resolution (passed by a vote of 2012 in favor to 1795 against) to hold Bush and Cheney responsible for violating their oath of office and crimes against the Constitution. This means that if they are not impeached before they leave office and they step a foot inside Brattleboro, thay can be arrested for criminal acts. This is what they voted YES on:

“Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictments for consideration by other authorities and shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and prosecute or extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them?”

It looks like more towns across America might also be jumping on the “WANTED in My Town” band wagon. Here is a quote from ImpeachBush.org.

“The Brattleboro resolution is becoming a powerful organizing model for cities and towns around the country. The impeachment movement has sunk deep roots throughout this country. The people of the United States are demanding not only that the Constitution be restored, but that the President, Vice President and other officials be held accountable for committing high crimes and misdemeanors. “

Start a revolution in your neck of the woods… with words and votes… not guns please. :-)

Welcome Akash!

Akash

My brother Jon and his wife Atashi just had a baby boy! Welcome to the world Akash, which means ‘heavenly sky’ in Sanskrit. I think I got the stats right… he’s 7 pounds 9 ounces and 19 1/2 inches long. Now my little Katie (21 months) has a little cousin. :-)