Friday, July 27, 2007

Alternative Nation

I'm feeling a little bamboozled, having now moved to what many consider to be the alternative rock capital of the world, only to discover that Seattle radio stations contain a dearth of my much needed musical sustenance.

Enter the most self-proclaimed ambasadors of the alternative rock capital of the world:
103.7: Claims to play "world class rock." Emperically, most songs belong in the same genre as "I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone, Pave Paradise & Put Up a Parking Lot," and the newest and lamest Dave Matthews songs available, such as "Beautiful Baby and Stand Up."

107.7: Plays 8 hours of music, 8 hours of commercials, and 8 hours of morning, mid-day, and afternoon DJ tomfoolery. The topic of conversation the other morning was a Swiftian diatribe about how legalizing prostitution would bring about a more stable family unit.

90.3: What I like to call "Myspace Radio." Music so random and bizarre, my simple words can't describe it. Poetry reading to an African drum beat, followed by a hard core punk / ska trio. Tollerable jazzy tunes mixed throughout.

What Seattle lacks in music, it makes up for in dialogue. Not even in Houston, where every station is owned by Clear Channel, have I heard as much small-talking, questioning, answering, pondering, and laughing as I hear in Seattle.

The best alternative radio station in the country may be 94.7 in Portland, OR. Check out their website, where you can listen no matter where you live. (I requested a Ben Folds song when I lived in Houston). Austin, TX also has a truly world-class alternative rock station (101.5).

Mr & Mrs Belldar

We wish many happy nights (and days) to Andy and Joanne. Their vows exchanged, Andy and Joanne are off to an exciting start as a married couple. Their wedding was one of the most fun we've been to - and not just because it was family. (Any wedding that avoids "Celebration" and "YMCA" automatically earns bonus points). The greatness was due to the combination of great weather, low-key environment, excellent food / cake / beverages, and great conversations with over a hundred down-to-earth cool people. We were both thrilled to have no responsibilities other than looking nice and socializing.

Zany Bellamys: Brecia, Heather, Jeanne, Rachel, Andy.

Good looking couple and Pastor Rick

Friday, July 20, 2007

Starter Home Blues

A quick back of the envelope calculation reveals that virtually no one can afford a home. Below is the average household, but with no children. Both working adults are young, receive health insurance, and have no student loans. In other words, the most "financially ideal average household."
All in very gross approximations:
Average household salary: $60,000
Less 25% Federal Tax: $45,000
Less state tax & SS: $40,000

Monthly Equivalent $3,333
Less food, gas, insurance,

utilities, etc. $1,600
That leaves the average household with about $1,600 to a) save for retirement (experts suggest young workers max out their 401(k) limits, currently $15,500 / yr or $1,300 / month), a child, life insurance, coffee addiction, a rainy day, and b) pay monthly mortgage payments.

Say the misses wakes up one morning and - taking my father's advice - says, "I think I'll make more money. Yes, I think ... yes, that's what I'll do. Make more money." Her boss, agreeing with her sound logic, increases her income 133% to $60,000. With their household income now at $100,000, well above the 25th percentile of all American households, this fictitious family should have no trouble affording a home. Unfortunately, because the family is young (or because they were stuck in the Peace Corps for two years) and this would be a first home purchase, the couple still cannot afford a house in the hyper-inflated market.

If any young couple wishes to buy a home where they work (not move to Porterville or Detroit to pursue a career in home flipping), then it takes superstar circumstances: income in the top 10% of all Americans, rich parents donating 10% for a down payment, or buying a home and renting out the downstairs to a random family from Craigslist. This is not the way our parents or grandparents experienced first-time home buying. For many of them, the difficulty of buying a $450,000 first home is inconceivable because they are already sitting on an $800,000 track home.

On a similar vein, Rachel and Rob find it tragically amusing that home sellers can't seem to find anyone to buy their $500,000 nondescript homes with hastily installed granite counters and hardwood. We know that the intrinsic value of the home is probably closer to $200,000, and that the other $300,000 is "entitlement equity." If you want your home to sell, don't lower the price by $10,000, lower it by $150,000. That's still a reasonable return on investment.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Open House

We are happy to finally post pictures of our furnished house. Granted, collecting furniture hasn't been a priority over the past few years, but do note the groovy rugs we found at the Pottery Barn outlet in San Marcos (TX). The upstairs "master bedroom" (not pictured here) is still a work in progress due to the bizarrely constructed 1940s staircase that prevents shimmying up anything bigger than a bookshelf.

Couch from Austin-American, rug from Pottery Barn outlet, coffee tables from Craigslist. So everything together is like 50 bucks.

We have cable tv, the first time ever (except in the Peace Corps ... in Eastern Europe)

Out guest room, in many ways, is much nicer than our "master bedroom" which has no dresser.

Our dining room has a view of Puget Sound, Vashon Island, and Mt. Rainier.

Our retro bathroom ensures a fun and invigorating bathing experience.

Other than our home, I must say that we simply love our area - West Seattle. The other Sunday we visited the West Seattle Farmer's Market, picked up a glass of strawberry-lavender lemonade, a 4 lb. marionberry pie, some veggies, a bouquet of flowers, and samples of goat cheese. Above us stood the stunning, snow-capped Olympic Mountains, across the street one of 5 amazing local coffee shops (serving Stumptown and cupcakes). We feel very fortunate to be living in a resort-like community. If any of this sounds fun, come by and stay the night! We like company.