30 December 2006

A Risk That Few Should Gamble

Should You Pay Points on Your Mortgage?
This is the easiest question to answer : No.

The results of a recent study suggest that only 1.4 percent of people who obtain a new or refinanced an existing mortgage held their loan long enough to reach the break-even point.

An equally tiny 1.5 percent of people (who did not) should have paid points.

It's that simple. Take the higher interest rate. You'll be refinancing or selling before you reach the break even point.

Remember : Points paid on a purchase loan can be deducted (in total) from your Federal Taxes for the year of the purchase. Points paid on a refinance loan can be written off (amortized) over the life of the loan.

29 December 2006

Constant Gentle Pressure

Constant Gentle Pressure... Took me up through the switchbacks climbing Stile Ranch trail to Mine trail. Dropping down into the valley and climbing again through the switchbacks to pass near IBM Almaden Research Center.
Climb again on Hidden Springs to reach Coyote Peak and drop through Rocky Ridge and out to return through the path of valleys and switchbacks --- finally to Calero Creek trail taking me to Los Alamitos Creek trail and then to return at Coleman & Winfield a split second! before the Ranger locked the parking lot gates.
Before she left, she asked me to wrap the chain through the 8-foot high chain-link fence gates and then close the padlock. I had to lock a couple cars inside the park overnight. Ouch. The beauty of the day was in the slight cloud cover -- as a contrast to yesterday's flawless sapphire skies.
For a few moments during the sunset, a flag of red clouds wove above Mt. Umunhum, the white cube building in sharp contrast.
Across the valley, golden light bathed the east foothills and the white observatories at Mt. Hamilton.
More random views:
~ The striking orange and red lichen growing on crumbling brown-grey rock.
~ The nine deer mindlessly grazing on a sloping hillside meadow; not a care.
~ The sunlight reflecting off the bottom of the bay as an airliner descends into SJC.

28 December 2006

Saint Joseph's Hill on a clearer day

Hauled the tripod and the small digital camera up to St. Joseph's Hill today for clear shots across the bay. I've been on this spot during clearer weather, but the southern part of San Francisco and the western tip of Richmond/Oakland were visible through the mist.
High winds prevented many hikers and bikers from lingering. I, however, had the best shell ever. Marmot Oracle Jacket with PreCip Plus. It has high ratings for wind proof and water proof attributes. Plus, the new Fox ThermalPaw gloves that Santa brought me. Keeping warm was easy.
Here's a shot of the medallion installed in concrete behind the guardrail on the primary trail there. Over one shoulder, a person sees Lexington Reservoir and Highway 17, over the other, it's the Lexington Quarry.

A near miss by two types of planes at very different altitudes. There's nothing to this little climb straight behind the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co. and the Ferrari dealership. It's on the way to higher mountains, for sure. El Sombroso and Sierra Azul are along the next ridge and beyond.
Click this one to see it.

27 December 2006

Wilder Ranch - Home Away From Home

Before the big, bad storm arrives in the valley, I race off to the Santa Cruz mountains for an equidistant and opposite view of Mt. Umunhum. A mixture of earth, pine needles and sand, the area along the coastal redwoods drains fast from the winter rains. The top layer is rarely muddy and when the soil is exposed, it's sticky like silly-putty.

The same trails that are dry, dusty and a little loose during the summer become magnetic. Biking through the forest and the exposed fire roads is FAST!

There's a few spots in this "bike park" where cellular service is surprisingly clear for Cingular customers. I can make business calls as long as I'm protected from the chatter of the wind.

It was 63F there with little wind and clouds very high. Compared to last Sunday, with a raging flu exiting my nose at 38F in Big Basin Park.

Good stuff all around. No issues.

Ride Stats
15.6 miles

Snow, Snow on the Range...

Snow, Snow on the Range...
Where the beer and the cantaloupe taste strange.

C'mon, I know you know that song. Maybe the words are a little different.

There's a good amount of snowboarding to be done.We don't really need snow for snowboarding, right?

25 December 2006

A Good Experience at Fry's ???

This is nothing, really.
I went to Fry's Electronics to buy a new bulb for that halogen torch lamp that everyone owns. I couldn't remember if this lamp needed a 100W or a 150W bulb, so I bought one of each. Return home, and I needed a 300W. A day later, I return to the same Fry's and return the two bulbs for store credit and go to the bulb aisle and find... ONE 300W halogen bulb for the torch lamp. I won't be able to feel sorry for the next guy very long --- I'm happy I got the last one.
Then, over to the fuse aisle, because this torch lamp has an inline slider switch that lies on the floor and is operated by yer foot. The second pack of fuses I picked was the right one! I looked for alternates to be certain I had the correct fuses. Again, I got the last one.
Occasionally, a good thing happens at Fry's.

All I Want for Christmas...

All I Want for Christmas . . . Are some trails to be re-opened.
A little rain and the best trails get shut down for the season.
Sometimes they're re-opened when they've dried out.
They're not THAT dangerous!


Why bother?
I heard on the radio two days ago that Americans spent 9.1 Billion that day.
Christmas - for many industries - is their year of sales. For the other 11 months of the year, barely a sale is made for these companies.
So, do your part : spend freely.
Your nation's economy depends upon it.

23 December 2006

Something Old, Something New

It's a great feeling to have Christmas traditions to anticipate each year. Some families have a growing list of traditional activities, foods, songs, whatever. The family in our study adds new traditions to their longstanding traditions.
Instead of every family member buying a gift for every other family member, a newer method was agreed upon.
Wildly popular in offices across the country, the randomly-chosen Secret Santa single gift purchase concept was recently adapted. It works to decrease the stresses of shopping, parking, affording, etc.

Here's an idea incorporating tradition that came to us recently:Buy an Encyclopedia Set and use a gift card (to the baby store?) as a bookmark for each volume presented as a gift for each birthday, graduation, etc. for a newborn until the child is old enough to have collected the entire set at the age a reference set would be useful for... schoolwork. As time passes, the different stores sponsoring the "gift card bookmark" would be the variable in the equation that made the (predictable) constant of the encyclopedia tradition bearable.

Baby Jogger Racing Equipment

Click on the photo for full size.

21 December 2006

All Set for Snowboard Season...

Picked up one of these SnoBlast packs. I use a CamelBak Mule for mountain biking, but the one I use doesn't have an insulator for the drinking tube. You simply activate one of those hand warmer packets and put it in the special pocket and it keeps the water from freezing in the drinking tube. That's happened to me several times last season.
With shipping, this SnoBlast was $41.
These guys want $70 for one. Not to be confused with the 100 oz version. Bought the 70 oz that was offered.
Arc'Teryx? Yes, I found a few that I liked -- but for $160 USD I could not justify this time.

The Therminator™ Harness is a fully insulated harness that has a pocket for a handwarmer next to the tube where it exits the harness to keep it from freezing. The bite valve and delivery tube are fully enclosed. Te delivey tube is insulated in neoprene and the reservoir is insulated with a closed-cell foam barrier.

  • Big Bite™ Valve delivers double the flow
  • Expandable, organized storage holds extra clothes, goggles and food
  • Easy to use retention system holds skis diagonally or a board vertically
  • Therminator™ harness and insulated tube keeps water from freezing
  • Padded front pocket with ehadphone port holds CD/MP3 player and smaller items
  • Easy fill, easy clean via the OMEGA™ Reservoir

  • Dimensions:
  • Capacity: 70 oz. (2.1 l l)
  • Volume 732/1184 cu. in. (12/19.4 l)LI>
  • Dimensions Closed: 19 in x 10 in x 6 in (483 mm x 254 mm x 152 mm)
  • Dimensions Open: 19 in x 10 in x 10 in (483 mm x 254 mm x 254 mm)
  • Empty weight: 2.22 lbs (1.0 kg)
  • Filled weight: 6.46 lbs, (2.93 kg.)
  • Solid Deal.

    I've owned several Smith sunglasses. They're nothing really special, normally some type of plastic frame with poly- carbonate lenses. I use the interchangeable lenses for cycling. Dark brown for bright conditions and amber for riding through the forest during the day --- or on the way out after sunset.

    These Bauhaus shades are photochromic. Meaning they adjust darker or lighter, according to the amount of light. For $30. I cannot find them anywhere for less than $60. Thirty dollars. SOLD!

    20 December 2006

    Is this a deal for $80 ???

    Oakley sunglasses w/MP3 storage of 256MB. What's the going price?
    I find them as low as $164 on BackCountry.com --- which is the primary site that Steep and Cheap operates behind.

    Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

    I'll perpetuate the bumper sticker politics being perpetuated online

    That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

    Nice War, Jackass

    Is It Vietnam Yet?

    They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

    We Need a President Who's Fluent in At Least One Language

    Bad President! No Banana.

    1/20/2009 : Hang In There, America!

    I'll be judged by twelve before I'm carried by six.

    19 December 2006

    Forgot to Mention this Earlier

    These are a hoot!
    For a net of $10 + shipping, you can have a 1GB thumbdrive slash MP3 player. Buy some great earphones (hint, hint) and you've all that you need for personal music.

    These are THE shit

    In any audio system, the most important component is : The Speakers.

    If you'll put some saran wrap on your ears, I'll let you use 'em. Otherwise -- I'll show you where you can buy them cheaper than list price. Don't. Pay. List. Price.

    Top rated speakers for your MP3 player. Top rated company for that technology.
    Get the 6 or the 6i. The 4 series are not intended for MP3 players, like the 6i. The 6 has highest accuracy of frequency response. 6i has better bass response. That's about it.

    Slippery Roads + Frantic Shoppers =

    There's a lot of DUI checkpoints set up between now and January 2nd... from 25 different agencies. Used to be a campaign called "Avoid the 13" referencing the 13 law enforcement agencies that participated. Now, the number is up to 25 (or more?).

    I prefer to avoid the traffic bottlenecks -not because I'm drinking- because there's enough traffic tie-ups w/o the additional drunk funnels where the police search for expired licenses, bench warrants, equipment violations, etc.

    So, if you're out and about, remember to read the signs:

    I Need a Massage

    18 December 2006

    On Your Christmas List?

    Don't you hate it when you receive clothes as gifts? How few people can get that right.

    I can remember in clear detail a Christmas when my younger two cousins from my hometown received clothes for Christmas from our grandparents. They were so disappointed at 8 or 9 years old that the youngest said, "Grandpa! You're not supposed to get clothes for Christmas!!"

    I can still hear it.

    Well, I hope that if Santa brings you clothes, you at least receive something that is age-appropriate.

    It Could Happen to You

    If you ever find yourself as the only person in a room full of people speaking another language, open your eyes and pretend that you're in a foreign country. It works for me.

    16 December 2006

    The Mystery of the Universe

    Does life originate on Earth, or does it originate elsewhere and land on Earth?
    Many people believe that God created evolution. This theory arrives at a balance that satisfies the two primary theories that divide the theologians and the scientists.

    Just as seeds travel by wind to pollinate across the land - so does the life form (bacteria) that travels through space to pollinate across the galaxies. Some planets support life. Some do not. A seed from a tree may fall onto dry soil and die, another may fall onto fertile soil and germinate.

    Here we are.

    15 December 2006

    Steep And Cheap Dot Com

    UPDATE 17 DEC 06
    Sometimes, the items don't sell out and we see a repeat.
    Still a great price.

    CLICK the PIC above

    I really recommend this site if you're seeking instant and frequent info on hot deals on outdoor equipment and clothing. Items sell out quickly as only one is available at a time.

    Picked up some Flow AMP 5 snowboard bindings for $64 and saw them in a local winter sports warehouse for $144 today. No shit! Also, offered at $260 USD in the UK. And, for a limited time, on a well-known online auction site.

    Bought some "Tex" cargo pants for snowboarding made by Sessions, with GoreTex for around $82. Retail online price is $144-$130. Auctioning at $108. Worth the effort.

    You can find sunglasses, baby joggers, backpacks, campstoves, pants, really everything on SteepandCheap. Hot items sell out quickly.
    Think : Concert tickets. It's pretty smart for them to sustain the hype, one item after another. It's the online equivalent of the Home Shopping Channel on TV.

    The site can be set up to notify you by email, SMS, messaging pigeon...

    The Devil Is a Red Crab

    With that bright red exterior with spiny edges and armor-piercing claws... A crab will drag its prey into its home : a hole in the earth.

    13 December 2006

    Gotta have yer tunes on the 'board

    I bought one of these.

    You should, too.

    Fed Tax, State Tax, Mechanic Tax...

    Nice thing about riding in the rain...

    ...is that you're nearly the only person out. Today, it provided meditative descents =and= higher value wildlife sightings.

    Rode the backup bike today since I delivered the primary ride to a perfectionist mechanic for a fair fee. Last week, I got 3/4 through my ride when the rain began and I took the bike in that afternoon as the 4-day rain forecast kicked off. Nearly perfect timing.

    The inagural tune-up for this newest bike is about 5% of it's cost. Not today's value, it's original cost. Because the technology is currently evolving, damn bikes prices move like computers. It's obsolete at the time of purchase. But... for gravity junkies, bikes are pretty effing great!

    So, disassemble, clean, lube the fork, bottom bracket, wheel hubs, install new frame pivot bearings/bushings, true the wheels, replace some cable/housing. . . there's more.

    The backup is a 1998 Tazmon from Santa Cruz. It's set up much lighter than the way my Superlight is built up. Shorter top tube makes climbs feel lighter. The RS Judy SL fork is definitely a pound lighter than the Marzocchi Atom Race 100.

    The "mud" tires on the Tazmon are a little more narrow with wider gaps between the blocks of rubber on the tread. The Superlight's tires were a WTB 2.55 LT front and an IRC paddle 2.1

    Flickable is an overused word in the MTB community. It's flickable. The prototype XC bike that was very easily improved upon with all of SantaCruz's products which followed the Tazmon. Disc brake tabs would reeeeeeeeally improve this swingarm. I'll talk to a welder about it...


    I think I saw Santa's reindeer on the trails today. So many deer chowing down on the hillsides. Some run away briskly, some stand and stare.

    09 December 2006

    Anyone Can Use the Phone to Make Money

    We've long known about the parallels between insurance companies and mortgage companies. Here's a reminder with a personal connection.

    I called several insurance companies for quotes on my truck. With the same coverage details for each quote, I was able to lower my insurance and learned a few crucial details about insurance pricing.

    Seven business days have passed since I first contacted my existing insurance company, GEICO. Two more calls to the confirmed correct division, and I still have not had a conversation with anyone there that could provide a revised quote for comparison.

    Progressive returned the highest quote I received.

    I received the most information from Auto Insurance Specialist – a broker with a local office. From this broker, I received quotes ranging from $506 – $2,231 for a 6-month policy.

    There were 23 companies in that pricing range. For the same coverage. What’s the difference? If I ever have a claim, the difference could be the paperwork and response time. There are several parallels between insurance and mortgage. The first is that many mortgage companies are funded by insurance companies. Insurance is the largest source of investing in mortgage loans.

    Another parallel : both insurance companies and mortgage companies have customer profile preferences based upon perceived risk. So… some auto insurance companies accept only high risk drivers – and some accept only low risk drivers.

    Both also have sliding scales of commission payout to the brokers. In addition to the non-refundable broker fee ($75.) the broker will receive 10, 12.5, 13.5, 15, 16, 16.5, 18 or 20 percent commission from the insurance company for signing a policy with a driver.

    Mercury Insurance provided the lowest price and the highest commission to the broker. It was win-win in my view.

    I saved 131 dollars over GEICO. And, my phone calls were returned.