Ever heard of Dick Van Dyke Appliance World? If you live in east central Illinois, you have. They have this catchy little jingle that they litter the airwaves with.. If you buy from us, you get the whole store! And, it’s the home of the $25 service call!

Last Thursday evening, the refrigerator at one my homes started making abnormal clicking noises every few minutes, and this continued throughout the night. It sounded kinda like a cricket, to be honest. The next morning, Friday, my resident that lives in that home emailed me to tell me about it, and I dropped by before work to look things over. My knowledge of appliance repair can basically be summed up on a sheet of notebook paper, and I didn’t have a clue what might be wrong, since all of the exterior things looked approximately normal (except for the dripping water from the melting ice in the freezer).

So I called up Dick Van Dyke a bit after 9am, explained the situation to them, let them know that this was for a resident and not for me, and that they needed to do their best to get this taken care of as soon as possible. They let me know that, even though all of their trucks say $25 service call, that it is actually $28 dollars, as of February 14. Strike 2. (Where’s strike 1, you ask? See down at the bottom)


Ok. I know this isn’t a good picture, but I hope you get the idea. I was driving into work this morning and, at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Florida Avenue, in Urbana, this site presented itself on the southeast corner of the intersection.

This snow plow was, literally, plowing the snow off of a field of grass. Not pavement. Not a parking lot. Not an improved surface at all. It was plowing… a field…

I’m sure that there is a good reason for this. I’m not sure what that reason might be. But I’m confident there’s a reason. In the summer they often play soccer in the area south of this, but I’m not sure what they would be planning for mid December.

Oh well. You gotta spend all that extra money that Illinois has on something, right?

Do you live in Illinois?

I’m going to guess there’s a good chance that you didn’t realize your taxes were about to go up on a few items that you might purchase on a regular basis.

I am registered with the Illinois Department of Revenue as a business (because I thought, once upon a time, that I might sell some photography). As a result, I get bulletins on tax related things. I recently got the Illinois Department of Revenue Informational Bulletin FY 2010-01.

I’ll summarize it for you. Starting on September 1, 2009, taxes on a few groups of “things” is going to go up by 5.25%. So, your tax on $10 of this stuff is going to increase by 52 cents.

As many of you know, I’m trying to involved in real estate investing.

You might think that right now would be a great time to be buying homes since the market is depressed. In some ways, you’d be right. In other ways, you’d be wrong.

Here’s what I’ve experienced recently that frustrates me, but there isn’t anything I can do about it. I’ve been trying to buy some houses that were purchase in the early 2000’s.. 2003-2004.. that timeframe. If you do the market analysis (which I do) you will find that the market is currently very close to where it was then. Homes are worth very close to what they were worth then.

Let me repeat that in another way: A reasonable price for a home who’s condition hasn’t materially changed would be the same now as it was in the 2003-2004 timeframe.

<rant on>

Alas.. sellers don’t see it that way. There are a few different reasons for this.. 1) they are holding onto the fantasy that a home always goes up in value, and, the one I want to talk about, 2) they are underwater.

Underwater, you ask? Yes. Underwater. In other words, they owe so much on the house that they can’t (or don’t want) to sell the house for a reasonable price.

Perfect example: Someone pays $100k when they buy in 2003-2004. In the 2005,6,7 timeframe the house goes up to $150k in perceived value on paper. The market drops and the home is now back to being worth $100k.

The problem, however, is that the people refinanced when the home was worth $150k. They then took this extra money and spent it on wine, toys, education…. what they spent it on isn’t important. They spent it. They spent money that they didn’t have based on the paper value of a house that they weren’t selling at the time.

Now, though, the home is worth $100k, and they owe more than that. So, they won’t sell their home for a reasonable price because they “just want to break even”. That’s what they say. They say that “they aren’t looking to make money. They just want to not lose money.”. If I’m offering them the same amount that they paid, they aren’t losing money! If they refinanced and spent the money, they have already spent money that they didn’t have in the first place. I’m not responsible for that. It’s not my fault that they spent that money. I’m not going to now offer them more than their house is worth just because they essentially took money out of their home already, before selling it.

Anyway, I don’t expect that me writing this will actually accomplish anything, but it makes me feel a little better, anyway. Have a great day!

</rant off>

(This page is certified Lynx-friendly)

So I heard this one at lunch today. I’m not normally a joke telling person. Quite frankly, I just don’t usually have the delivery for it. But, I’m thinking that I’ll nail this one.

Anyway, I was sitting there in the office, eating my Healthy Choice dinner, and in walks a coworker, and they say:

It’s cold here in Central Illinois.

View Larger Map

The radio was saying thirteen degrees below zero this morning when I got up. I often use the external thermometer on my Camry as an indication of just how cold it is. When I got in the car to head to work, it was showing 37 degrees in the garage. I can tell, by how fast the temperature drops, just how cold it is outside.

I hopped in the Camry and headed to work. The temperature gauge started dropping.. four degrees at a time. (Normally it drops by two). By the time I got to Kirby Avenue it was showing 12 degrees. By the time I got to State Street it was at 5 degrees. Neil Avenue brought one degree. It stayed at one degree for a couple of minutes. I temporarily wondered if the Camry had trouble going below positive numbers. But, as I was heading up Neil it dropped to zero. By the time I got to Green Street it was at four below, and on Springfield it settled into nine degrees below zero and stayed there until I got to work.

My officemate said that he rode his bike in. He’s tougher than me. He said that he had to stop once and put his hands under his arms to warm them up. The parking garage is emptier than normal. People don’t seem to be real excited about coming in today.

Someone just said:

“They’re running short on adjectives in the weather pages, they start doing things like saying “very very bitterly bitterly cold” LOL”
and a response:
“insanely cold would work”

It’s supposed to be around twelve below again tonight. After that it is supposed to warm up. Let’s hope that happens.

I know that others have it a lot worse. I’m not complaining. Just wanting everyone to know what it’s like here in Illinois.

On the hunt to have some auto work done (brakes, to be specific), I asked around for some suggestions on places to use, and places to avoid in Champaign Urbana. Here, for your viewing pleasure, the results of a simple, informal poll:

  • SpeedLube on University (near.. 3rd or so) gets a thumbs up for being fast and cheap.
  • Midas on University gets a thumbs up for free labor on a minor repair
  • O’Brien gets a solid thumbs down.
  • The place on Cunningham north of University (Meineke?) gets a thumbs down for upselling.
  • Ron’s in northeast Urbana gets a double thumbs up
  • Myler Automotive (off of Parkland Ct) gets a thumbs up from two different people
  • Beaumont Alignment, Gasoline Alley gets a thumbs up
  • Peter B’s gets a thumbs-up from one person, and another has heard good things about them
  • Good things have been heard about the Brake Shop (on Springfield) but no personal experience.

Official Google Blog: Our position on California’s No on 8 campaign

Google, you disappoint me. And I don’t know that I’ve ever actually said that before.

I fear that you are starting to channel your inner movie star. I fear that you are starting to think that, because you are famous, that you need to make a political statement about your stance on political issues. This disappoints me. You aren’t a PAC. You are an internet company.

I’m not going to discuss what I think about the stance you have taken. Whether you come down on the side of gay marriage, or the side against gay marriage isn’t relevant to this blog post. I’m just disappointed that you felt that, as a company, you needed to choose a side in an issue that isn’t relevant to your business.

Focus… Focus.. Eye on the prize, G.. Eye on the prize.

Next Page »